Friday, 4 June 2021

London was buzzing last night. Warm. balmy evening - lots of people out and about - everybody in a sunny mood. It was our first night out in the West End since before Christmas - no point when everything was closed - and it felt quite exciting seeing the city lights again and just being out! In the Heights turned out to be a perfect summer movie. It's no West Side Story - the storyline is feeble - and to be honest, it's a good half hour too long: our interest was flagging by the end. But we wanted something lively and colourful and energetic and it hit the spot. How do you juggle popcorn, mask and a beer though????

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

It still feels a wonderful novelty to walk into a cinema - I like an afternoon screening before I do my supermarket shop - but there were only three of us in the cinema yesterday which seems a shame as this was such a lovely film about a Korean family in Arkansas, and the father's dream of swapping his joyless factory job as a chicken-sexer for his own small farm growing Korean vegetables. I'm resistant to cute kids in films but the cheeky little boy and his formidable granny (a well-deserved Oscar for best supporting actress) are a delight. Minari is water celery, a resilent herb that springs back undaunted.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Day 1 of freedom ...and by lunchtime I was getting fidgety because I hadn't got anything booked until today. How had I let that happen? The lure of the great indoors proved too much and I checked out the local cinema which to my delight was not only showing Nomadland but has also dropped its ticket prices considerably. That was a surprise! So I really have the hit the ground running and made it to the first screening on the first day! It must be almost a year since I was last in a cinema - and last summer there didn't seem to be many new releases - so I'm pleased to report that Nomadland proved to be a very worthy triple Oscar winner, that Frances McDormand is brilliant - well, she always is - and this is definitely worth saving until you can see it on a big screen. Most of the migrant workers in the film are real 'nomads' playing themselves. Swankie, Linda May, the 62-year-old widowed Fern played by McDormand - they're women much the same age as me - and most of you reading this - whose secure, middle-class lives have been recast into a 21st century update of The Grapes of the Wrath. They're Ma Joad with a cell-phone. There's a freedom and romance to being on the road, a sense of community when they run into each other for the beet harvest or a seasonal gig at the Amazon warehouse. But all I could think was how utterly weary they must be - how knees must ache - how cold it must be at night in a camper van - and how frightening when serious illness threatens - and what a complete and utter wimp I'd be in their shoes. First film of the year and I'll be surprised if anything tops it because it's definitely 5* from me.

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Uncle Matthew hated Huns, foreigners, sewers, the EU if only it had existed - and I can't abide Lily James and simpering Emily Mortimer. Even so, I was looking forward to The Pursuit of Love - oh, what a crashing disappointment. To start with - the actress who plays Fanny is sooo much much prettier than Lily James that it hardly seems fair that she gets Alfred and tweeds instead of a duc. And the anachronistic music is simply annoying. I read the book when I was exactly the right age - old enough to travel to Paris, daft enough to believe in coups de foudre at the Gare du Nord. Alas, the only man who challenged my virtue was the ticket collector on the night train from Milan - and I whacked him with a rolled-up copy of Cosmo and that was that. Perhaps I'm simply too old; I do feel Mitforded-out - but I far preferred the last adaptation of Love in a Cold Climate although I nearly passed out when I realised it was 20 years ago. I mean, I even remember the one before with Judi Dench as Aunt Sadie. I binge-watched to the end and the last clunky scene when - in the words of Emily Mortimer rather than Mitford - Aunt Emily tritely expressed the hope that Linda's and Fanny's great-grand-daughters would have more choices in life than simply to be Bolters and Stickers. Whereupon I let out a Matthew-worthy harumph at such heavy-handed womansplaining. . The clothes are nice. It's 3* from me.

Friday, 7 May 2021

The Arrival of Spring ... could there be a more a joyous title for an exhibition that's also the Arrival of Normal! I've booked and I can't wait!

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Still 12 days to go before cinemas reopen - and I've got a list of films in mind. (I'm not bothered about a shortage of blockbusters but I do hope there's more to choose from than last summer.) Meanwhile, this is a delightful Ethiopian film about a homesick boy, who has inherited his dead mother's cooking skills, and his lamb. Still on for a couple of days here; I've been meaning to watch it for weeks and only remembered tonight.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Shamed by a comment from Pam, who was kind enough to say, 'Come back, Mary!' ... well, here I am, wishing that Boris prioritised theatres and galleries over pubs, but alive and kicking and although it isn't fashionable to say so, sick to the back teeth of slooooowwww living - lockdown feels like God's waiting room! - and willing London to open up again!
I did go into town last week to pay a farewell visit to Persephone Books - there was a little queue outside the door - as I'm not likely to be visiting their new shop in Bath anytime soon. It did feel a bit like the end of an era: those lovely grey covers and discovering writers like Dorothy Whipple, then a browse in Pentreath & Hall over the road (which was closed) and maybe an all-day breakfast and a mug of proper tea at Sid's café next door (which looks properly closed for good like so many other independent businesses around town). It still feels very quiet everywhere; the suburbs seem busier than the West End. But I did go for an amble around Mecklenburgh Square because I've been enjoying this book:
I celebrated the re-opening of book shops with a browse in Hatchards and bought this, which I've been meaning to read for ages:
And, happily, although all the big galleries remain closed, the smaller ones count as non-essential shops. So although I'm not always the biggest fan of Gilbert&George, it was a real treat to see their take on 2020 and the new normal: plus I only booked as I was putting on my coat and leaving the house, and when did I last do anything as spontaneous as that!

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Happy New Year! Anyone else holding off from buying a new diary? Let's just say that I'm not exactly having any difficulty keeping track of my social engagements/walks in the park. The V&A obligingly e-mailed yesterday to cancel next week's birthday outing to their handbag exhibition and invited me to make a new booking - but when? Were there any highlights of 2020? Oh, the years when I was spoiled for choice and couldn't decide! But looking back from the doldrums of Tier 4 at the heady freedom of summer and autumn in Tier 2, I should have been clapping on the doorstep for all those in the arts who went the extra mile to give us a bit of the old normal. Mrs Miniver's Rose-Bowl Award goes to the Bridge Theatre for a most inventive Christmas Carol and for the best-designed social distancing in a public space I've experienced all year. We don't normally have a music award and Mrs M has cloth ears but the Royal Philharmonic reduced me to tears of gratitude for being out at a live performance at this lovely concert. I'm splitting the visual arts prize between the National Gallery - I wasn't quite first in the door, but I was there on the first day! - and the V&A whose exquisite kimono exhibition would have been a winner any year. Not forgetting Feast and Fast at the Fitzwilliam, Cambridge - what a day that was, gilded peacock pies and a train ride out of London! Rather to my surprise, I see that I've been to the cinema 13 times, but that was a flurry at the start of the year. I think I'll give the cinema rose-bowl to London Film Festival for going ahead and to Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci for Supernova. But I don't know what's happened to my reading mojo this year. So much time ... so little to show for it. Hilary Mantel still gathering dust. No improving classics challenges. Some book-group stinkers (My Sister, the Serial Killer - more flat-pack literature from our creative writing schools). But I enjoyed Elizabeth Goudge's The White Witch - a good, old-fashioned historical novel that reminded me how much I loved her books in my teens; Dinner with Edward (Isabel Vincent)made me long for an Edward of my own and if he were still alive, he'd be the ideal vulnerable friend with whom to bubble with his perfect Martinis and apricot soufflés - an immensely cheering book if you're getting very tired of your own cooking! I enjoyed The Binding, rather to my surprise as I don't do fantasy but maybe this was the year for it; in the British Library women writers series, I couldn't resist Tea is so Intoxicating - wonderful title, but the book proved rather feeble (and there wasn't even much cake!). I'm appalled that I didn't even manage a book a week which isn't like me - but have binge-watched whole TV series in a single afternoon. But , hey, I bought my first bunch of daffodils yesterday - even if they do look slightly odd paired with the red roses that have lasted since before Christmas. I spotted several clumps of primroses the other day, though oddly no snowdrops yet. And on Lockdown Day 276 - I finally got around to clearing that cupboard. One hour to do the job; but I had thought about it very hard indeed for at least two years. Hope you are all well and hope that normal service will one day be resumed when I have something to write about!