Friday 31 January 2020

I wouldn't say that the mushroom exhibition - three small rooms at Somerset House - is terribly vaut le détour unless you happen to be in the courtyard already and it's a very short détour. (Though why would you be, until the Courtauld re-opens?)
But I did like the tiny display of Alice editions, especially this very anachronistic one from 1932.
Shoes and lampshades made from mushrooms, though, were hideous - and the lovely Beatrix Potter watercolours of fungi were hung too high, which was a shame.

Alas, not nearly enough Mrs Gaskell - and far, far too much of the deeply-uninteresting on-and-off love life of Nell Stevens. Sorry, Nell - but I just don't care!
Of course, I should have read the author's blurb before I started. You teach creative writing ... enough said!

Saturday 18 January 2020

Christina Georgina Rossetti in a Tantrum (Dante Gabriel Rossetti)
Has there ever been such a lethargic January! (There probably has!) Last Friday evening, I nipped out   for a loaf of bread, then on a whim - the Co-op is opposite the Tube station - thought I'd jump on a train and catch the last hour of late-opening at the National Portrait Gallery. What an inspired idea, though I'm not wild about the noisy music there on Friday nights. 
Loved this sketch of Christina Rossetti in a paddy ... quite a change from the usual Pre-Raphaelite stunners. (There's still time to catch Pre-Raphaelite Sisters, if you're quick.)

And after she'd calmed down ...

This is what Christina wrote about her brother Dante Gabriel's muse Lizzie Siddal, after Lizzie's death from post-natal depression and an opiate overdose.

One face looks out from all his canvases.
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
We found her hidden just behind those screens ...

He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him ...

Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

It was sad to see a lock of Lizzie's dark, auburn hair, rather darker than in this portrait: 

The Awakening Conscience (William Holman Hunt)

Annie Miller met Holman Hunt when she was a 15 year-old barmaid and he paid for her to be educated in the manners of a lady, worthy of being his wife. He ended their engagement on the grounds of her frivolity - and offered her assisted emigration to keep her from going astray. (You're so pretty, you will lead men into temptation - so get thee to the colonies - they used similar arguments to imprison girls in the Magdalene laundries!)
But Annie carried on modelling and lived to be 90. 

 The Blue Bower, Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Lazy laughing languid Jenny, Fond of a kiss and fond of a guinea ... 
wrote Rossetti, inspired by Fanny Cornforth's harvest-yellow hair. She also posed for this and this: one critic called her a 'nasty, common-looking creature.' When she put on weight, Rossetti called her 'my dear elephant' (but he was her 'old rhinoceros.' )

I was very taken by this photograph of a delightfully pretty Angela Thirkell in 1910, wearing a dress inspired by the one her grandmother Georgiana Burne-Jones wore here.  That must have been some dressing-up box!

Wednesday 15 January 2020

You know when you've been looking forward to a real treat, saving it up for a special occasion ... well, I've been saving my last EH Young (last, that is, aside from a handful of early works - A Corn of Wheat, Yonder, Moor Fires - that aren't so easy to find).
The title was so promising and I've loved every single one of her other novels.
Aaarggh  - but not this one! Slow - ponderous - repetitive. I'd have abandoned it except I chose it for book group, so felt I had to plod through to the end. Think I might need to bring cake!

Tuesday 7 January 2020

'Tis the 13th day of Christmas, when children go back to school and traditionally there's a good chance of a bargain at a matinée of A Christmas Carol. And so I found myself at the Old Vic this afternoon, gleefully - seat knocked down to £10 from £65 - in an audience that might have arrived on a Saga coach trip. Free mince pies and oranges, Christmas carols and bells - and the feeling that Mr Dickens would have been in his element.
I didn't warm to the BBC version at Christmas - still haven't seen episode 3 but it was all too gloomy and modern for me and though I daresay Mrs Cratchit might have been forced on the game in real life, I prefer to think of her cooking a goose the size of a sparrow.
But the Old Vic production is Dickens just as I like it, pleasingly ghostly with a snowstorm or two (huge foamy flakes smelling of Persil) that must have frizzed several shampoo-and-sets. But the best bit is when the whole audience joins in to deliver Christmas dinner to the Cratchits ... passing down jellies and platters of oysters and dishes of cake and baskets of bread rolls and strings of sausages that would have stretched to Waterloo station ... not to mention the arrival of a XXXL flying goose.
It was a happy ending to the Christmas season, now all that is left in the cupboard is one mince pie and  a chocolate reindeer. (It runs for another week or so; the ticket sale that I found has expired but it's always worth keeping an eye out for these last-minute offers.)
Happy New Year, everyone.