Sunday 22 December 2019

Great start to Christmas howling with laughter with my best friend of more than 40 years at the QEH last night. Even if Victoria Wood deserves a credit for doing some of it first! She really should have copyrighted the word grouting!

Monday 2 December 2019

Word of warning, it's VERY long - I could have done with an intermission/coffee break - but this is an amazing film about the reverberations of China's one-child policy as it follows a group of friends from just after the Cultural Revolution until today. A fascinating glimpse of ordinary Chinese lives. Not aways easy to keep up with the flashbacks; I came out wanting to see it again as I'm sure I didn't always pick up on threads that proved important later on. As ever, it's on hardly anywhere. Sorry.

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Good to see Glenda Jackson back - after 25 years! - and absolutely terrific as a woman with dementia in Elizabeth is Missing.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

What do you get if you cross a lion's roar with the hiss of a snake ... well, apparently the menacing whoosh of a torpedo speeding through the ocean. (That's how they achieved it for the sound track, we were told.)
The cinema ladies - that's me and my friend J - do occasionally venture out of our comfort zone and last night (with resignation rather than enthusiasm on J's part, I admit) we decided on this French submarine thriller ... 
It was very exciting. 'That was a good film!' said J at the end.
I think it's on Netflix but you really need to see it on a big screen.
And who knew about 'golden ears' - the acoustic analysts who can detect anything in the water from an enemy sub to a baby dolphin?
I'm tone deaf but I did think that here's a film that might appeal to musicians. At least, musicians who like submarines!

Sunday 10 November 2019

And here I am again plugging a film that barely features anywhere in London, let alone the rest of the country. The Observer called it one of the best films of 2019 - and although there was only a handful of people in the cinema this afternoon, I think they'd all agree. There's a trailer here. (And the somewhat slicker US trailer here.)

London Film Festival seems quite a long time ago - but I've been lazy about posting lately and never got around to mentioning Harriet, the gripping true story of Harriet Tubman, who led hundreds of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. (Nothing to do with this book but it did remind me how much I enjoyed it.) On general release later this month. Highly recommended.

As for The Aeronauts ...well, I enjoyed that little snooze I had in the middle. (Just resting my eyes ...)
It was - okayish.

Monday 21 October 2019

I've just galloped through this in two days, completely engrossed. Lore Segal - now an elegant and beautiful 91-year-old - is one of the last surviving kindertransport children. At 10, she stepped off the boat quite alone, at least that's how she remembers it - although years later she comes across newsreel footage that shows her in a line of other refugees on the gangplank. Lore was child 152. 

So this book - originally published in 1964 - is described as a fictionalised memoir, although her child's eye view has a ring of absolute authenticity. Lore's father was determined that she should save the rest of the family and tasked her - at 10!- with petitioning for visas to get her parents and extended family out of Austria. At least, that was the child's perception. Imagine the father's desperation. And the burden of responsibility placed on the child. But against all the odds - for the vast majority of kindertransport children never saw their parents again - Lore was reunited with hers on her 11th birthday in March, 1939. They're safe, but still forced to live apart: Lore taken in as a refugee child in other people's houses; her educated, cultivated parents reduced to working elsewhere as domestic servants.

By chance I'd just finished a pair of YA wartime novels - Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire - that were highly-acclaimed a few years ago. Now, in fairness, when I was a YA the genre hadn't been invented. (You'd read a couple of Agatha Christies - your mum told you'd love Daphne du Maurier - and that was it, you were on your own in the big library!) I found the unsophisticated language of these YA novels a bit plodding. (I'm sure the bar could be a set a bit higher ... but how old are YAs? I thought maybe 13-ish?)
The SOE spy plot, on the other hand, seemed unnecessarily tricksy and melodramatic. In dramatic times, there's surely no need to over-egg the (rationed) pudding? It's 50-odd years since I sat beside my mum on a Sunday afternoon watching Carve Her Name with Pride and grasped that these were events that had happened to real, courageous people ... far more memorable than any immature adventure novel.

Saturday 19 October 2019

I've only seen the first episode - and we're nowhere near the frozen North and the armoured bears - but BBC's adaptation of His Dark Materials is already looking very promising (and so much better than that dreadful film version).

Friday 18 October 2019

I've had this on the shelf for ages, seven whole years, rationing myself because I like to know that I have a 'new' Elizabeth Taylor to look forward to. (And yes, I'm impressed by my self-restraint!)
Oh, those old green Viragos with their beautiful covers ... this is Manet, and I was so thrilled when I spotted the dragon on the glass vase, I'd thought it was a rose stem.
And the bliss of Elizabeth Taylor ...
'She seemed to have been made for widowhood, and had her own little set, for bridge and coffee mornings, and her committee meetings for the better known charities ...'
I've just ordered Hester Lilly ... will report back in 2026!

Isn't this lovely? But I don't think I'll be tempted as I fell head over heels for the cover of her last book and it proved rather feeble.

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Hurray ... and said to be even better than the first. My favourite cranky literary heroine.

Saturday 12 October 2019

Imagine a dress of cloth of silver, embroidered with flowers - jonquils, pansies, gillyflowers, a Tudor rose - and fruits - medlars, quince, strawberries - and there's creepycrawlies and a peacock, and a sea monster attacking a boat and a bear hunt ... imagine how it would shimmer in the light of a thousand candles at court, where so many functionaries wore black ...
(Click on the image to see in detail.)
And imagine the excitement of discovering that an altarcloth in a country church is probably - more than likely - a panel from the gown that Elizabeth I wore in the famous Rainbow portrait. (She was nearly 70 when it was painted but she wasn't one for warts and all realism.)
To put it in context, the amount of silver in the gown would have paid for a substantial Tudor mansion. (Lord Dudley's silver court suit cost slightly more than Shakespeare paid for New Place.)

I was enthralled to see altarcloth and portrait reunited in a tiny but exquisite exhibition at Hampton Court yesterday. The flowers and fruit on the original gown - copied from herbal books - would have taken a professional master embroiderer (male) some 600 hours; the quirky bugs and narrative scenes were added later by aristocratic ladies going through the Queen's wardrobe around the time of her death. The restoration - including gentle cleaning with dry cosmetic sponges - took 1000 hours.
There's still a faint winestain - presumably Communion wine - but I couldn't make that out.

Then I had a stroll around my favourite corners of the Palace ... first stop the kitchens, then the Chapel Royal - and the gardens, where the dahlias are simply stunning.

Wednesday 9 October 2019

Oh, dear - looks like Sanditon series 2 for sure.  But is there anybody out there who cares?  My predictions? Otis will return having made his fortune and marry Miss Lambe - Young Stringer will get his heart broken again - and Sidney will find time for a shave  c1825. When George V says, "Bugger Sanditon,' in series 6, the fortunes of Tom's descendants will be assured.
Jane Austen would have wrapped it up so much more succinctly.

As ever, I'm befuddled by too much choice. (And if I'm honest, I much prefer a comfortable banquette to myself at an Everyman to a wonky seat in a marquee on the Embankment.)  Unfortunately I didn't get my act together in time to see the film that I really, really want to see. Doesn't it look fun? 
I didn't make the best of random choices. Susan Sarandon dying of MND in a distractingly gorgeous beach house (West Wittering posing as The Hamptons) was a slow death by mediocrity. (Blackbird, don't bother!)  It was so very similar to Julianne Moore's demise in After the Wedding a few months ago - fab house, daytime soap emotions - that I thought I'd inadvertently bought a ticket for something I'd seen before.
Bill Nighy and Annette Bening as a miserably long-married couple in Hope Gap began promisingly - but her English accent was so weird and her nagging wife character was such a monster that I lost interest and nodded off. (Quite an achievement in the wonky seat!) Ten minutes? Twenty minutes? Who knows - but when I jerked awake, they'd reached some kind of resolution but I wasn't sure how they got there. And didn't greatly care. The Sussex coastal scenery is the best part. Annette Bening appeared in person at the end and said something blandly forgettable. There's often a celeb appearance after LFF movies and they are almost without exception proof that actors are exceedingly dull without a good script. (Directors are better value ... I saw Children of a Lesser God last week - yes, the oldie from 1986 - and the director was wonderfully indiscreet about what a pain it was working with William Hurt.)
Well, after that I was tempted to give up ... then I cracked and booked a ticket for this next weekend. At least it sounds more promising.

Saturday 28 September 2019

Of course, I did binge-listen to The Country Girls and Cait and Baba were dispatched on the boat to England in the final episode over a bowl of soup this lunchtime. Not sure how long we'll have to wait until the start of book three. (It's now officially autumn: I'm making factory-quantities of soup. There is partridge for dinner which sounds grand but it was reduced to £1.)
It must be 30-odd years since I read The Name of the Rose so it's hardly fresh in my memory, but I adored the book; the film with Sean Connery was something of a let-down. So I began the new TV adaptation with high hopes. Hmmmm ... after two episodes I'm not convinced. It's very - busy. What I loved about the novel was the sense of rhythm of the monastic day. Perhaps it's my 30-years-older brain but  I've got the monks all in a muddle. I'll persevere - but not feeling any great enthusiasm so far.

Friday 27 September 2019

Trying not to binge listen to The Lonely Girl on Radio4, the second book in the trilogy ...  I want it to last for a week of lunchtimes but it's 'just one more.'

You could read this in an evening - and I did, utterly gripped. Tense, spare prose - not a word wasted -  and it reminded me of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, the most horrifying short story I have ever read.
There's a review here.

This, on the other hand, I put down thinking, "Why did I bother?" Well, I know why I started - seduced by that 'latter-day Daphne du Maurier" tribute on the jacket. I was only skim-reading by the end as - despite the allure of a ruined country house - I simply didn't care about the unconvincing characters. Did help me get off to sleep as I nodded off a couple of times and lost my place.
Sarah Moss, on the other hand, kept me up half the night!

Tuesday 24 September 2019

I'm feeling quite glad of a night in tonight - but during last week's burst of energy I took a train ride to Reading to see this adaptation of The Night Watch. (I think you probably do need to have read the book; years since I read it but it came back to me.)
It was my first visit to The Hexagon at Reading, as cheerlessly municipal/unatmospheric as a theatre could possibly be. Its saving grace is a lovely little allotment garden outside where you can bring your interval drink on a sunny afternoon.
It was an excellent adaptation, I thought - and the set design really captured the drab exhaustion of 1947, when the story opens, and the horrors of the Blitz. It was a real shame that there was only a smattering of people in audience. (It was a weekday matinée.) The play continues on tour.

Richmond Theatre, on the other hand, is like sitting in a lovely old-fashioned box of expensive chocolates- and that's where I was the following night. And this time the theatre was packed. I'd never seen A Woman of No Importance before - so I hadn't twigged that it's such a very dull play! The West End cast - with Anne Reid - might have dragged it up a notch (or maybe not) but the current cast is very lack-lustre. (Usual cheers from the Richmond audience ... can they all be somebody's mum or second cousin? I always wonder how they'd respond when something is actually good?) Also on tour, but honestly I wouldn't bother.

Monday 23 September 2019

I know ... but I did enjoy it and it was worth it to see Molesley curtseying to the Queen. And Dame Maggie was on fine form. It did feel a bit like a Boxing Day TV special but as the cinema was handing out free chocolate and popcorn, naturally I indulged and felt suitably 'ick.

I got the teeniest bit bored with The Farewell (though I loved all that Chinese food!) The reviews have been great and I felt a bit niggled that I wasn't enjoying it as much as everyone else.

But Greener Grass was surreal and fun - and definitely my most colourful movie of the year. Screened as part of the Raindance Festival, the cinema was packed and they were turning people away - but it returns in November. Think Desperate Housewives meets Mumsnet AIBU in day-glo pastels.
They showed this trailer and I thought Renée Zellwegger looked very promising as Judy Garland but that's for another day.
Also went to see this noir-ish thriller which was suitably gripping, followed by an excellent talk by director Mike Figgis.

I know. I've been very lively this week, out every night. I'm feeling a surge of autumn energy, and I no longer have to feel guilty that I don't much like summer and hate hot weather. I've even made the first 'pumpion' pie of the season.

To make a Pumpion Pie.
Take a pound of pumpion and slice it, a handful of time, a little rosemary, and sweet marjoram stripped off the stalks, chop them small, then take cinamon, nutmeg, pepper, and a few cloves all beaten, also ten eggs, and beat them, then mix and beat them all together, with as much sugar as you think fit, then fry them like a froise, after it is fried, let it stand till it is cold, then fill your pie after this
manner. Take sliced apples sliced thin round ways, and lay a layer of the froise, and a layer of apples, with currans betwixt the layers. While your pie is fitted, put in a good deal of sweet butter before you close it. When the pie is baked, take six yolks of eggs, some white-wine or verjuyce, and make a caudle of this, but not too thick, cut up the lid, put it in, and stir them well together whilst the eggs and pumpion be not perceived, and so serve it up.

Sunday 15 September 2019

One that made me laugh - at the Posy Simmonds retrospective this afternoon. (Sorry, it was the last day!)

Sunday 8 September 2019

Handshake from Paul? #first attempt #veryproud #no-you-can't-eat-it! #tootiredtomakedinner

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Enjoying this new BBC adaptation of The Country Girls on Radio4 - but it'll be a long wait until we get to the second book of the trilogy The Lonely Girl in October.

Monday 26 August 2019

I'm still here ... hot and grumpy this afternoon as I'd convinced myself that autumn was here and, honestly, it suits me far better! I'm a summer person in my head - in practice, I'm lily-white and wilting.  Bought my first bunch of gladioli the other day and they're wilting, too, they didn't even open.
So do I disappear to the beach for the hottest weekend of the year ... no, I disappeared into the cinema with a like-minded friend. We must be a minority because even though cinema tickets were free last night at the local Odeon, it was only half-full. (Well, you had to buy a lottery ticket - but that's £2 for a lottery ticket v £15 for the cinema, even though we only managed one number between us. I gave up on lottery tickets when they doubled the price and introduced 'even more lucky numbers' to choose from - because I'm innumerate, but I'm not quite as innumerate as that!)
Anyway, we loved Once Upon a Time .. In Hollywood. Won't say more in case I spoil it.
To my surprise, I enjoyed it more than our Friday outing to Pain&Glory because I got the teeniest bit bored with Almodovar's film director and all his aches and pains. Possibly because the seats at the BFI are so damn uncomfortable that I had aches and pains of my own.
Oh well, they're both films about the pain of ageing ...
What the ladies with the bus passes really wanted to know, though, was what happened to cheap cotton housedresses like Penelope Cruz wears?

No movie today but I have at last finished Circe by Madeline Miller - not that I wasn't enjoying it, but  work got in the way. I've never had much interest in Greek mythology but this could easily end up as my best read of year.

As for sexed-up Sanditon ... well, I'm enjoying Anne Reid as Lady Denham. But as for the young lady who lost her innocence before she was old enough to know a prick from a pencil ...
Was it really necessary???
What I'm really looking forward to is this adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials which looks very promising indeed (especially after that truly dire film with Nicole Kidman.)
This documentary (coming up on TV) also looks interesting - I'd never realised that, during his wilderness years, Churchill was employed (very lucratively) as a screenwriter and historical adviser in the movies.

And has anybody been listening to Heartburn? My tea-break series of the week (with recipes thrown in ... but the temptation to rise from one's desk to make a key-lime pie can be overwhelming!)

As this post turned into a round-up, I should also mention Never Look Away which is far and away the best film I have seen all year. Three hours long - and I didn't blink! Only one other couple in the cinema and as we emerged into daylight the others confessed that they'd brought three bars of chocolate for sustenance - but been so gripped that they hadn't even opened the first one! Brilliant, as you'd expect from the director of The Lives of Others. Sorry, for this rather too late recommendation but you might still catch it if you're quick. I'd have willingly seen it through again - but might have needed a bite of that chocolate!

Thursday 4 July 2019

I was up on a stepladder at midnight - having enjoyed the BBC documentary about Edna O'Brien - trying to find my old Penguin copy of The Country Girls ... alas, it wasn't there. I'm a messy person but my books are in alphabetical order and this shouldn't happen! I felt a bit sad as I don't want any old copy of The Country Girls, I want the copy I read in 1978 (the next two volumes are named and dated in my still neat schoolgirlish hand!) with a surge of recognition ... recently escaped from the clutches of Irish nuns, I was waiting for Life to begin!
Hard to believe that Edna O'Brien is nearly 90.

After a gloomy French film - based on a gloomy story by Dostoevsky - at the ICA (grey, gloomy and life-sapping but a nice caff!) ... I rescued the morning with a visit to the best ice-cream shop in London where I perched on a pink stool that matched my strawberry and peppercorn sorbet and soaked up the lurid Cinecittà posters. And I was thrilled to see that they were selling (and using) this inspirational book by one of my heroines.

Yesterday afternoon it seemed like every American tourist in town had tickets for The Starry Messenger (that means there's a higher than usual chance of sitting behind the 7ft man who's as broad as he's tall - and sure enough I was!) The play was ... looo--oong.

Monday 1 July 2019

Not so sure about this one ... I plodded through to the end but it did feel unremittingly grim (and a bit boring and repetitive!). The premise is, what would have happened had Anne Frank survived the death camps and been reunited with her father and her diary? I'm not convinced that anybody has the right to take ownership of Anne's story ... let's leave her the truth of her own life and death, at least. She could conceivably still be living today.
The atmosphere of post-war Amsterdam was interesting, though - and the extraordinary fact that the Franks might well have been deported back to Germany.

I hadn't realised that Xinran was Mary Wesley's daughter-in-law and was inspired by Wesley's writing on women's love lives during the war to record the true stories of Chinese women across a turbulent century. I was completely riveted by The Good Women of China when I read it last year. The Promise begins with a story that must have been irresistible to any journalist (and Xinran used to host a groundbreaking radio show in China) ...  a husband's dying request - and this only happened in 2010, not in the dim and distant past - for his wife of more than 60 years to have a virginity test. The story of that marriage is heartbreaking - I was hooked from the first page - and Xinran then goes on to make contact with three younger generations of women from the same extended family. Perhaps it's not quite as good as The Good Women of China but that still means it's very good indeed.  I have some catching-up to do as I realise from the jacket notes that Xinran has written several more books;  the only other one I've read is Sky Burial, also highly recommended.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Ladies, you will see many glowing reviews of this film (starring Tilda Swinton and her daughter). But I will tell you the truth. It is two hours of unutterably pretentious tedium and I would have walked out except I was stuck in the middle of a row and didn't like to disturb people.
So why did I go???
Well, you know when there's several screens, and you're a bit on the last minute and there was a queue at the bar, and it was Screen 1 wasn't it??? And you're kind of bemused to find Screen 1 (or was it 2?) packed to capacity and the woman beside you says there was a waiting list for tickets ... and the penny is just beginning to drop when it starts and you think, oh well, sounds like it must be good if all these other people are so keen to see it ... Ladies, I am a dope, I went to the wrong bloody film!

Saturday 18 May 2019

This is one of those annoying recommendations of a film that was on for one night only in London, part of the ongoing French literature festival at Ciné Lumi ère, which always throws up something good; it left me wanting to read Marguerite Duras's war memoir. Some reviews have been lukewarm but I was gripped - and realised that I knew almost nothing about the immediate aftermath of liberation when France awaited the return of prisoners from the camps. There's a trailer here. Sorry, seems I was wrong and this is now on limited release elsewhere and is on in London until July. 

It has been ages since I've been really engrossed in a book - but I couldn't put this down. After I finished, I came across this report claiming historical inaccuracies - the bit about penicillin had jarred on me as I was reading, I admit. But I do think it's rather harsh - the book makes no claims to be authoritative history and it's based on interviews with an 87-year-old man. And I say that as someone who loathed the well-meaning trivialisation that was The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Saturday 11 May 2019

I set out yesterday afternoon to see the exhibition of Elizabethan miniatures at the National Portrait Gallery ... then felt the tug of Martin Parr's good-humoured take on Britishness. This is his Brexit photo. Anyway, how can you resist an exhibition with an old-fashioned caff in the middle selling tea and slabs of Battenberg cake? Actually, I did resist the cake as - being British - I'd already made a lemon drizzle for the weekend. But I'm all in favour of themed tea and cake to wash down the cultural stuff.
I thought I'd better see the miniatures, too, as I might not get back before the show closes ... sadly there was no caff selling marchpane and tankards of Hippocras. But the paintings were truly exquisite, especially when seen through a magnifying glass - which does mean that there's a lot of queuing but it was worth it. 

Thursday 2 May 2019

Thrilled beyond words to see Dame Maggie last night - one of those rare nights in the theatre when you feel honoured to be there. I skipped past the long queue for returns (not a chance!) unable to believe my luck that only a few days ago I'd spotted a tranche of £15 tickets on the website. I was resigned to the fact that my 'restricted view' seat would probably mean peering around a pillar ... but what a wonderful surprise, the cheap seats are the best in the house - for this performance at least - and I was about 10 feet away from Dame Maggie, as intimately engaged as if I were sitting across the room   listening to her reminiscences of life as Goebbels' secretary.
She was astonishing ... 1hr and 40 mins onstage, alone, and you could feel every eye in the theatre was riveted on this 84 year old. I wondered if it would be my last chance to see her perform live - but maybe not, because she looks in fine fettle! Standing ovations are easy-come-easy-go with today's excitable audiences ... but this was a standing ovation with 900 people on their feet! I looked at some of the young people and wondered if they realised that this was probably one of the ten best performances that they'd ever see in their life.
It was incidentally an excellent play by Christopher Hampton - because even a fine actress is only as good as the writing! (See below.)
Then I skipped (well, creaked, dodgy knees, mentally I skipped) across Tower Bridge, back to the tube station, admiring the view and thinking, 'Wow, what a night!')

Saturday night was another one-woman performance: Avalanche: A Love Story. Now, I admit, a play about IVF doesn't exactly scream, 'Saturday night out' ... but it was Maxine Peake, so I thought I'd give it a go. Aaaarrrggh ... it was like listening to someone's medical notes. A fine actress let down by mediocre writing. I nodded off, bored - woke with a jerk and she was still only on her fifth round of treatment and I just didn't care enough about the character to want to know if she succeeded. I realised I was far more interested in the cynicism of the Bentley-driving doctors who spin a 2% likelihood of conceiving and present it as  40%. Dame Maggie held me enthralled for an hour and a half. Avalanche, alas, had me wondering if it would ever bloody be over. Maxine Peake deserves better.

Tuesday 30 April 2019

As I admitted yesterday, I'm not a huge fan of royalty (but better the Queen than a Trump!) - however, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit at the weekend to catch the last day of the Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs exhibition at the Queen's Gallery (now transferring to Edinburgh, where admission charges are considerably cheaper!).
It's all very topical for those who are watching Victoria on TV ... and I thought I was au fait with who's who, but even so my head was spinning with all those royal marriages across Europe.
I think my favourite exhibit was Princess Charlotte's beautifully preserved Russian dress - as seen in the portrait above. Touchingly, it was a maternity dress - her death following childbirth in 1817
left the throne vacant for Queen Victoria. So rare that the clothes seen in portraits survive.

I'm not sure when 8th wedding anniversaries became a 'thing' and possibly Kate's GCVO from the Queen is a consolation prize for the domestic upheaval that hasn't been reported in the British press but everyone knows about, anyway. (Big topic of discussion at tonight's book group! Consensus: William was good-looking for about ten minutes.)
Anyway, whilst not giving a stuff about royalty - we devoted another five minutes to wondering whether Meghan's pregnancy is really a cushion - it did remind me that eight years ago, I was very excited to have a prime seat at the royal wedding. The Morning After!
And I felt a bit nostalgic for the days when I put a bit more effort into this blog. Apologies to those who carry on reading.  It's not just me ... so many blogs that I enjoyed reading have spluttered out.

SUNDAY, 1 MAY 2011

Not the Royal Wedding ... but as near as I'm ever likely to get.
Maybe the Archbishop had heard that I was a bit miffed yesterday and told them to roll out the red carpet or they'd never hear the end of it. 
What a day I have had. And I only queued ... look away, this might make you jealous ... I only queued for ten minutes. Yes, that's right. 
It didn't bode well for my return trip to the Abbey after I went to bed with a half-plan to compose a worshipful face and go to matins. I didn't open my eyes until 8.15am. (I know, I know, but I'm not a morning person.) I nearly rolled right over and went back to sleep. 
I shot out of the house on a gulp of tea and half a slice of toast. But even so, it was 9.40am before I emerged out of Westminster tube station. Blown it, I thought ...
Until I walked around the corner and realised that there was hardly any queue at all. So I chatted away to three elderly American ladies who were just as thrilled as I was. (They had camped out all of Thursday night on the Mall. I could only admire their stamina.)
And by 9.50am precisely, I was seated in Poets' Corner. (Under Robert Garrick if you really want every literary detail.)
But, oh ... the scent of lilies of the valley as you walk into the Abbey ... it was heavenly. She must have wafted down that aisle on a cloud of perfume. 
Now, having criticised Huw of the BBC for his lack-lustre commentary, I shall have to try to do a better job. And for our overseas readers - that's you, Darlene - and those who haven't been inside the Abbey since they were at school (that's me) ... what can you see from Poets' Corner?
Well, these are the posh seats. Not exactly the orchestra stalls, more the stalls circle. On the Queen's side of the church but several rows behind the immediate family. Think foreign dignitaries and diplomats. But you'd be straining to see much over Princess Bea's Moose Hat.
Needless to say, I was delighted. This was Mission Accomplished. And the music was wonderful, the organ and the choir soaring up into that glorious vaulted roof ... and yes, I did well up. (Tears rolling down my cheeks, if you must know. I think I'd quite forgotten that this was Not the Royal Wedding. Not really.) I'm relieved to realise that - contrary to reports in yesterday's papers - the cart-wheeling verger doesn't seem to be in trouble. At least, the venerable canon cracks a joke about him in her sermon.
And then it was over. I shuffled around Poets' Corner, paying social calls ... Anne of Cleves (heavens, it must have been quite an amicable divorce); TS Eliot, the War Poets, Tennyson, Robert Browning, DH Lawrence (well, fancy that). But despite this morning's unusually large congregation for matins, it is being made abundantly clear by the vergers that Sightseeing is not playing by the rules. Anyway, they're trying to clear the Abbey for the next service.
I'll have you know that my behaviour so far has been impeccable. But I really, really want to stand for a moment looking down the nave at all those trees. (I've only had a sideways glimpse of the flowers over the altar.) So I did what any determined, churchgoing lady would do ... I ducked under the barrier. Only for a quick look ...
And then I realise that people are taking their seats again. The verger assures me that you can sit anywhere you like ...
And that, ladies, is how I came to be sitting - for the next hour - in one of the best seats in the Abbey at the foot of the steps to the altar. 
Because I was in Carole Middleton's seat. Her - actual - seat. Smug ... I've been insufferable all day. I mean, I queued for ten minutes!) 
Now I could see the flowers ... and a glimpse of that avenue of trees. As the bride entered into the quire, it must have been absolutely enchanting as if she were walking out of a woodland glade. (It is completely true what you've read in the papers. Here in the posh seats, the atmosphere is intimate.)
But those flowers .... high, high above me there's a tumble of white rhododendrons, and what might be white wisteria, entwined around the clerestory windows as if it was growing wild.
There's white cherry blossom and azalea. And every so often, a flap of clerical vestments creates a draught ... and that heavenly scent of lilies of the valley washes over me again.
And I realise that this is the stage upon which one day William's Coronation will be enacted. 
It feels overwhelmingly solemn. 
Belatedly, I realise that the floor of the high altar is the famous Great Pavement that supposedly predicts the end of the world. (For years, it was carpeted over and only revealed for a couple of days every three years or so. And I never remembered the dates, so I've never seen it.)
When it is time to leave, I walk slowly in Catherine's footsteps - to music by Elgar - through the beautiful blue quire, under the golden arches ... thank you, all sarcastic remarks have already been made by family members ... and out into that avenue of trees. Where it is heaving with people. And there is plenty of time to bury my nose in all those lilies of the valley. They are planted at the base of each tree ... and suddenly I notice something that Huw didn't mention. They're interspersed with strawberry plants ... tiny white flowers, and tight berries, and just one that's almost ripe. (No, I didn't. It didn't even cross my mind. Actually, there was a chunk out of it as if a mouse might have got there before me. And, anyway, those vergers would have been down on me like avenging archangels. They were already fighting a losing battle against the cardinal sin of Photography.) 
Talking about sins of decorum ... would you believe the woman sitting next to me? Who chobbled her way loudly through an apple and took swigs out of a bottle of fizzy pop. During a service. In a cathedral. In the front row before the high altar.
Anybody still reading? I promise never to mention weddings again. 
Just curtsey on your way out ...
And many thanks to Westminster Abbey.
For a morning I'll remember for the rest of my life. 

PS Almost forgot to mention, that the bride's bouquet had been laid on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The flowers beginning to fade ... more lilies of the valley, hyacinth and myrtle, and what looked like sparkling raindrops but was actually silver wire twisted through the flowers.
The last word promise starts now!

Tuesday 23 April 2019

I suppose there's no way I was going to miss a ballet film, no matter how lukewarm the reviews - but sadly The White Crow really is just a plodding bio-pic. Quite an achievement to make the thrilling Cold War story of Nureyev's defection so very ... flat.