Wednesday 25 April 2018

This book - from 1936 - was mentioned in the British Library talk the other night and, of course, I'm now aching for a copy of my own. How could anyone resist Picnic no 54: asparagus in French rolls, cold grouse and pickled plums, salad of lettuce hearts and caramel soufflé?
I'm much more interested in food from the past than today's gimmicky cookbooks, no matter how lavish. (I'm baking my way through this at the moment and everything has turned out brilliantly.) But I admit I was tempted by this new book at an event at Anthropologie on Regent Street last night ... I wavered but didn't cave in!

Tuesday 24 April 2018

I'm tempted by quite a few of the talks in the British Library's ongoing 'food season.' Tonight it was The Art of the Cookbook with Anne Willan and Jill Norman which sent me on a nostalgic browse through my own collection when I got home... I've just pulled out Anne Willan's Observer French Cookery School which was one of my first sophisticated 'grown-up' purchases in my early 20s. Robert Carrier was my go-to for entertaining boyfriends; it was mentioned this evening that cookery book photographs date very quickly and I have to laugh at my youthful aspirations - but his recipes always worked.
Plats du Jour was also mentioned with affection ... and I had to stop myself from bouncing up in my seat to boast that I found a 1957 first-edition Penguin copy last week in a 10p charity rummage bin. (It does smell rather dreadfully of old book.)
Will anyone ever think nostalgically about flaxseed buns from faddy girls with flicky hair? Somehow I doubt it.

Sunday 22 April 2018

More consumer goods for the people!

Let's revolutionise the fishing industry!

Yes, do let's. And let's keep our streets, villages and homes clean and tidy!

And - wait for it - let's do more sheltered-water aqua cultivation! You know you want to!

I was passing through Granary Square this afternoon and saw the signs for this (first-ever) exhibition of graphics from North Korea ... which rather reminded me of an old-fashioned Janet and John.

Run! Run to mother! Let's all rear more goats!

Let's develop more mulberry plantations to produce more cocoons!

A bit pricey to get in but fascinating.

I was dawdling, enjoying the sunshine after seeing this gripping film at my new favourite cinema. No nodding off this week! And what a perfect day to discover a new-to-me ice-cream shop.  Look at these amazing flavours. (I chose greengage ripple.)

Friday 20 April 2018

Well, trust me to book matinée tickets for a heatwave - and after sun-bathing on the steps of the Royal Court this afternoon, when I arrived early, it was hard to drag myself indoors to take my seat.
Fortunately, the play - Instructions for Complete Assembly - turned out to be hilarious, about a couple - Jane Horrocks plays the mother - trying to create an upgraded version of their son from an IKEA flatpack. I hardly ever go to the Royal Court because mostly my heart sinks at the thought.
But if there were more like this, I'd go more often.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

On my way home from the cinema on Saturday, I made a diversion to the British Museum to see this small, but very charming exhibition about the charmed lives of Patrick Leigh Fermor and his friends. (My friend announced grandly that she'd already seen it in Athens.)

Hotel by the Sea, John Craxton, 1946
It did make me long to be staying here. 

The stone flags of the water's edge, where Joan and Xan Fielding and I sat down to dinner, flung back the heat like a casserole with the lid off. On a sudden, silent decision we stepped down fully dressed into the sea carrying the iron table a few yards out and then our three chairs, on which, up to our waists in cool water, we sat round the neatly laid table-top, which now seemed by magic to be levitated three inches above the water. The waiter, arriving a moment later, gazed with surprise at the empty space on the quay; then observing us with a quickly-masked flicker of pleasure, he stepped unhesitatingly into the sea, advanced waist-deep with a butler's gravity, and, saying nothing more than 'Dinner-time,' placed our meal before us - three beautifully grilled kephali, piping hot and with their golden brown scales sparkling ... Diverted by this spectacle, the diners on the quay sent us can upon can of retsina till the table was crowded. 

Don't you just wish you were there? And then, of course, there's the book jackets ...

At last I could stride about the olive groves for hours, putting sentences together and pulling them to bits again!

Beats the irritating TV Durrells - and the exhibition is free.

Tuesday 17 April 2018

The Sunday morning cinema ladies have been lying abed recently so this weekend we've indulged in an orgy of movie-going to make up for it. First up, on Saturday, was the long-awaited Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Don't hate me, I know I'm an old cynic - but I couldn't get that excited about it. Too saccharine for me and I thought Lily James must be mad to jilt a wealthy Yank for a potato farmer who had nothing to offer but his Jersey Royals and a love of books. I liked the scenery and the clothes ... but it was like seeing Their Finest all over again and I dozed off a bit in the middle. My friend, however, was mopping her eyes at the end and loved every minute.

Next morning we reconvened to see a powerful performance from Maxine Peake in Funny Cow, in which she plays a stand-up comedienne on the northern club circuit. (Loosely based, for those old enough to remember, on Marti Caine.) Strong stuff, but it'll stay in my mind long after Potato Peel Pie  has composted down into a mush of ration cards and period detail in my brain.

I was feeling a bit churlish for being so underwhelmed by The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society - but was heartened to see in yesterday's paper that the Times' critic gave it 1* star and his 'absolutely no screen chemistry whatsoever' award. He must be grouchier than me because I'd say 2* for the clothes and lipstick. Coincidentally, he also gave 5* to Funny Cow. You read it here first! 

Monday 16 April 2018

I hadn't realised that E Nesbit wrote adult novels too and this is the last of them, published in 1922 two years before she died. Now I'm not going to claim that it's anything like as good as The Railway Children but it's silly and cheerful and optimistic and has kept me entertained all weekend. (It would be a wonderfully undemanding read for anyone feeling under the weather.)
It is 1919 and two naive girls, fresh from school, have been swindled out of their fortune by a guardian, leaving them with a delightful country cottage and £500 - so not as destitute as all that! Facing up to their situation as a lark, they set about earning a living and managing servants; first they open a charming flower stall, then get into scrapes taking in dodgy paying guests. There are hints in the background that the young men in the story, recently returned from the war, are struggling to find their feet in a world that is not offering much of a welcome home to returning heroes. But for all their independence and lack of any suitable chaperone, these girls are simply filling in time before marriage ... and to be honest, by the end I was getting the teeniest bit bored as if I'd been grazing too long in a box of sugary sweeties. The character I'd have liked more of was Miss Antrobus, the plain-looking, formerly lovelorn heiress whose war work has been the making of her.
But I do love a book with lovely clothes and fabrics and lots of flowers, and here's a taste:

They were occupied in covering two easy-chairs with bright chintz. I am sorry to say that they had cut up a pair of curtains twelve feet long by six feet wide so as to avoid the extravagance of buying new cretonne to brighten the sitting-room which they were arranging for their new guests. The curtains were beautiful, with purple birds and pink peonies and pagodas of just the right shade of yellow to be worthy to associate with the pinks and the purples. The curtains were lined and bordered with faded rose-coloured Chinese silk, and pounds could not have bought their like. Shillings, on the other hand, and not so very many of them either, could have bought the cretonne. Pity, but do not despise these inexperienced housekeepers. They did not know - how should they? Even the most charming girls do not know everything. There was a girl once who cut up a fine hand-woven linen sheet to line a dress with and thought she was being economical, but that is another, and a sadder story.

Saturday 7 April 2018

I love an old-fashioned pudding and couldn't resist this when I saw the hefty reduction on Amazon. And today I tried it out for the first time, with a recipe from 1681 for a carrot pudding that tasted much better (and lighter) than it sounds. In fact, I got a hug from a little girl who said it tasted like Easter. Now ... what shall I make with those leftover egg whites? I always seem to have a fridge full of leftover egg whites.

Thursday 5 April 2018

Another re-released classic. Of course, I've seen Look back in Anger before - but never in a cinema, which makes all the difference. I do love a bit of monochrome squalor but it did seem very stagey and dated and Jimmy Porter, the original Angry Young Man, is nothing but a whinging, ranting bully who needs to pull himself together and use his university degree to get a proper job. I mean, honestly, an Angry Young Man who sells jelly babies on a market stall lacks credibility.
But oohh, Richard Burton ...
I was wondering why today's actors seem so lacking in old-fashioned sex-appeal. Then Burton's hairy chest flashed across the screen ... when did you last see a manly chest on a cinema screen? Are they all waxing? No wonder they seem so girly!

Sunday 1 April 2018


I refuse to believe that it has been 40 years ... but when I said to the young girl ahead of me in the queue that I hadn't seen Grease in a cinema since it first came out, she gave me one of those looks that say, 'That was decades before I was born!'
I nearly didn't go - I mean, I've seen it countless times on TV - but it was such good fun on a grey day and it still has me jiggling in my seat. What I hadn't realised is that it's all based on a real high school in Chicago and the Pink Ladies really existed.