Saturday 29 August 2015

I think I have a new favourite bookshop, now that the book barge is permanently moored by the canalside steps at Granary Square. On a blazingly hot day a couple of weeks ago, I went on board and had a lovely sit-down and a read in a comfortable armchair. (Last year the steps were lined with thousands of pumpkin lanterns for Hallowe'en and it looked amazing. I do hope they repeat it this year.)  
If you're in the vicinity and looking for a takeway cuppa, and you're not in a hurry - there's a lot of faffing about with tea filters - they do an excellent brew here. I'm a plain English Breakfast/Assam girl, and it's not often you get a plain cup of tea that's full of flavour ... so maybe the faffing method beats dunking a teabag in a mug! 

Friday 28 August 2015

Portrait of a Lady known as Smeralda Bandinelli

It was a great treat at the V&A this morning to find this Botticelli portrait displayed on an easel - so I could engage eye-to-eye with this Florentine lady. Definitely a stroke of luck: the painting only went on display this morning after being restored and in the next day or two, it's off to Berlin for the opening of this exhibition which reaches London next year. (I love her gauzey summer gown and the delicate shadows of her face.)
Botticelli was completely forgotten for three centuries after his death in 1510, only to be rediscovered by the Pre-Raphaelites. This portrait of Smeralda was bought by Rossetti for £20; he spent a further £4
having it cleaned. He did a bit of retouching, and over the years people have wondered if Smeralda owed her strawberry-blonde hair to Rossetti's penchant for redheads. Apparently, no; she's Botticelli through and through - except maybe for her white cap - and strawberry-blondes are prevalent in that part of Italy.

When I was about 12 or 13, spending my school holidays happily wandering around London on my own, Botticelli's Venus and Mars was far and away my favourite painting in the National Gallery. I'd  pay a visit several times each holiday and sit in front of it for ages. (Hence my passionate support for free museums because my pocket money would never have stretched to admission fees.) Now, of course, I can see exactly why this wispy, floaty ideal of beauty so appealed to a child of the Sixties. Not only had Botticelli inspired Isadora Duncan - and the image of Ursula Andress emerging from the sea - but look at Flora's fabulous Ossie Clark dress.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Tame or pornographic? Put me down for mildly boring and toe-curlingly embarrassing.
Not a good start to the BBC's 20th century classics series. However, Lady Chatterley does wear some stunning hats. Although somehow I don't think that's supposed to be the point.
Also, I was mildly disappointed in Mellors when they eloped, bowling along in Sir Clifford's expensive car. Wasn't he supposed to be a man of nature, against the industrial machine etc etc?
Oh well, Like I said. Some fabulous millinery.

On the other hand, I've just watched the next in the series, An Inspector Calls - with an excellent cast - and it's very good indeed.

Next up,  remakes of The Go-Between and Cider with Rosie.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Far and away the best treat of the holidays has been this absolutely fabulous production of The Railway Children at King's Cross. I've been wanting to see it for ages; it was previously on at the Railway Museum in York and then Waterloo. Well, you can't have a real steam train chugging through your average West End theatre.
You could feel your seat shaking every time it went past ...
(I'm already fretting about our half-term treat because I'm never going to be able to top it!)
I dabbed a tear when Bobbie cried, "My Daddy -" because I can remember the movie. But this time it's the fabulous set that's the star of the show.

Before we went in, we splashed about in the Granary Square fountains. Grown-ups, too. Yes, we were the people on platform 2 with wet pants.

In the morning, we went to this show at the National Maritime Museum. And one boy thought it was even better than The Railway Children. There is lots of Audience Participation.

Next day, I stayed at home with my feet up.

Saturday 1 August 2015

This morning, to my surprise, I opened the last jar of homemade marmalade 2014. I didn't make any this year to give myself the chance to catch up - and now I'm sorry. I was so shocked - my kitchen cupboards are always cluttered with jam jars, empty and full - that I got up on the stepladder to see if marmalade was lurking in corners.

Meanwhile, apricot jam 2015 is disappearing fast. The single precious jar of rosepetal jam is eked out in teaspoonfuls on Greek yogurt.

I think of all those pounds of sugar on my hips. And wonder if I should make some more?