Thursday 23 December 2021

I saw a primrose ... only one, but I thought you'd like to know.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

I was looking forward to A Very British Scandal but after watching the first episode, I can't say I'm desperately bothered to watch the next. It's more sympathetic to the raunchy Duchess than I was expecting. Hardly Christmas viewing though, but maybe I'll catch up with it later ... if we're locked down again, I might even be glad of it! I was far more intrigued by The Girl Before - and the minimalist house from which books are banned.I gasped in horror - then thought how soothing life would be without 'stuff'.

Monday 20 December 2021

Yes, I'm still here - still out and about despite a certain amount of Covid-lethargy and 'can I be bothered?' Though when I did go into town on Friday - for the first time in years Christmas shopping in actual shops rather than online - it was lovely to see the Christmas lights and hear the carol singers on Piccadilly. No crowds and I got all my gift-wrapping done for me! It's so long since I last posted that I'm struggling to think what I've been up to. I was looking forward to seeing Operation Mincemeat - so I'm happy to report that it's just as good as I was hoping, quite gripping even though you already know how it ends! Definitely one of my top films of the year, and it made me want to read the book by Ben Macintyre.
I do love a tiara - so I made a dash to the Fabergé exhibition at the V&A, just in case we find ourselves in another lockdown. (I know it was sold out until March/April, but they must have had a flood of cancellations because it was easy to get tickets last week.) It's a mix of the breathtakingly expensive and exquisite - this little rose was unsold stock when the London shop closed down in 1917 - and the downright naff, much of which was made for the British royal family. Though I had to admire the teeny-tiny snail bought by the future George V in 1905 and lent by the Queen - if only because in the intervening years nobody has lost it, trodden on it, and no royal toddler has inadvertently swallowed it or stuffed it up their nose ... I must be common to the core as it wouldn't have survived a week here. The nouveaux riches clientèle are almost more fascinating than the royals. The Watney 'beeress' had a gold and diamond bootlace hook so impractical for everyday use that it had to be re-enamelled after six months. And imagine having a portable bellpush especially for picnics ... press the garnet and the butler will appear with a soggy tomato sandwich. Those Downton Abbey folk were clearly the poor relations of Edwardian society! But I did love the snowflake 'winter jewellery' and the exquisite Easter eggs. Who would have thought, though, that there was such a thing as 'Austerity'Fabergé, bowls stamped with the word 'war' and a miniature cooking pot - that might have been just about big enough for one portion of rationed rat stew in the trenches?

Sunday 14 November 2021

The shortest book I've read this year - a very slim novel indeed, I started it in bed last night and finished it this morning - but quite the most compelling. Published in 1938,it's a series of letters between a Jewish art dealer in San Francisco and his cultivated, liberal German friend - who very quickly becomes a Nazi - and the disintegration of their friendship. The postscript by the author's son describes how the story was inspired by real events. The twist at the end of the book is simply breathtaking. It was a best-seller in America and England, a prescient indictment of Nazism - and then largely forgotten after the war. There was a film in 1944 which I see is on YouTube. You know when sometimes you want to jump up and down, and press a book on all your friends and say, 'You simply must read this...'

Wednesday 3 November 2021

Just what we need ... Silent Night: a movie full of cheer for the second Christmas of the pandemic. Spoiler alert ... Think Nevil Shute's On the Beach - the Yuletide version, with Keira Knightley and designer frocks. The planet is doomed, poison gas will be here before Santa, the water is a funny colour so there's nothing to drink but Fanta or prosecco - and do you fancy a sprout with your government-issued cyanide tablet? Would you really forget to cook enough roasties for your last meal on earth? Surfacing into a gloomy, grey afternoon - yes, I felt quite depressed. Might need to watch It's a Wonderful Life, or even Love, Actually to take the taste away. Luckily I'm off to a concert tonight at the Festival Hall. Though it was depressing, the film did keep me amused and gripped ... which is more than I can say for The French Dispatch last week when I confess I slumbered through most of it.

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Still enjoying Mary Lawson, and the jacket art has improved, although I think I preferred Road Ends. (Has anybody read A Town Called Solace? It slightly fell apart for me because I couldn't understand how the adults, including a policeman, could be so ineffectual about tracking down a local teenager who might have information about a missing girl.) I heard a radio interview with Mary Lawson talking about how she didn't start writing until her 50s - when she felt she had something to say. If only some of the much-hyped young graduates of creative writing-by-numbers classes felt the same.

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Well, I wouldn't recommend Mothering Sunday which was soporific - snooze through it in your own armchair if you must. But I made good use of my afternoon on the South Bank and saw the Tate jellyfish which seemed quite menacing in a John Wyndham kind of way ...
And the much-hyped Infinity Mirror Rooms, now sold out until April - although bizarrely there was hardly anyone there. I'd seen one of the rooms before - at an exhibition some years ago when if I remember rightly, you could just walk in - but I did find the Chandelier of Grief was quite entrancing, especially as I went back for a second go and found myself in there quite alone. But you're allowed two minutes ...two rooms, two minutes each, a few videos and photos - as exhibitions go, it was a bit in-and-out. The previous exhibition was much more informative - this is one for the Insta-crowd. But nice.
Then I rounded off the afternoon with Sophie Taeuber-Arp - wishing I could hire her to design and furnish a house. With stained glass windows. Her lovely tapestries far surpass the raggedy textile offerings at the Summer Exhibition.

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Ohhhh, what a lovely film - Belfast, Kenneth Branagh's semi-autobiographical reminiscence of his childhood,is simply stunning - as beautiful as a Cartier-Bresson photograph, brilliant performances all round, and my money is on Best Picture, Best Actor (the little boy) and Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench as the old granny). Quite a starry night at the Festival Hall as everyone turned out - Branagh himself, Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe in a stunning gold Stella McCartney frock, Ciaran Hinds - and Judi Dench, but she's so tiny and as the whole of the Festival Hall stood up to clap, I didn't even catch a glimpse of her from the back of the stalls.

Monday 11 October 2021

So pleased to see London Film Festival back to normal after last year's somewhat restricted offering - and, once you've survived the scrum/Covid soup of ticket collection at the BFI (possibly my least favourite building in London), the Festival Hall is a massive improvement on that chilly marquee with rickety seats at the Embankment. My first excursion wasn't a huge success - whatever induced me to book for The Souvenir Part 2 and how on earth had I managed to forget how bored I was by part 1? But what do I know, it failed the Mrs Miniver snooze test but it's 5* from the Guardian. Nothing daunted, I have booked tickets for Mothering Sunday - which I thought looked promising although I now see that the same Guardian reviewer was underwhelmed by its 'tasteful ennui' (which is exactly what I disliked about both Souvenirs). Colin Firth, Glenda Jackson, Olivia Colman ... I'll report back. And I've also booked for Kenneth Branagh's autobiographical film Belfast - which sounds delightful. Alas - in one of those eye-opening moments when you realise you're no spring chicken of 50-something any more - I pondered the George Clooney movie that didn't start until 9.15pm and thought 'That's a bit late.' The spirit is willing but the knees are starting to creak on a chilly evening!

Sunday 3 October 2021

It has been many years since I read this and I'd forgotten how terribly sad it is - but tonight I came across this old Book at Bedtime read by Juliet Stevenson and had a good autumnal wallow!

Monday 27 September 2021

Off to the National Gallery on Saturday for an 'olfactory journey' which was interesting as far it went, but turned out to be a tour of only three paintings. The lovers in The Morning Walk evoked the scent of honey and vanilla ...
Less convincing was the pungent scent of lemon (think Lemon Jif), which apparently masked the smell of death, for the memento mori in The Graham Children ...
And a damp Gainsborough landscape was petrichor although I picked up a scent of lilac leaves in the rain. Not cow manure. Well, that was fun but it only took 20 minutes so I went for a browse and quite by chance found myself in the company of The Duke - having watched the very funny film with Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren only a few days ago.
Not the faintest hint of this painting's chequered career will you glean from its label. Stolen via an open window in the gent's, held to ransom as part of a campaign for free TV licences for OAPs, returned via a left luggage locker at Birmingham New Street ... yes, The Duke has seen life!
And quite by chance again, there in the same gallery was poor Lady Jane Grey - who featured in this book that I'd only finished reading a few days previously. I do love a story about a house - a London house, for a change, not a country house, and Rumer Godden weaves the layers of time and memory and family history very skilfully.
I was quite looking forward to seeing The Larkins, despite feeling that we didn't need another adaptation of Darling Buds of May. But aaarrgggh .... not a politically-correct, multi-cultural Larkins. Why? If HE Bates had wanted a Nigerian Charlie, that's what he'd have written! Charmless, vulgar - Joanna Scanlan is the spit of Pam Ferris, but the new Mariette doesn't come within a mile of the luscious beauty of the young Catherine Zeta-Jones and I doubt she'll end up as Hollywood royalty. I watched two episodes and doubt I'll bother with the rest. Filed away under 'only to be watched if absolutely desperate for something to do.'

Thursday 16 September 2021

The Barn, Charleston, in Winter: Vanessa Bell Off to the Royal Academy's Summer/Autumn exhibition yesterday - which could be subtitled Britain's Not Got Much Talent - and lord knows why they still bother after 253 years except I don't suppose anyone's brave enough to ditch it. I didn't stay long but strolled down to Pall Mall to a little gem of an exhibition about Charleston, hardly a soul there and it's free to get in.
The Kitchen at Charleston, Vanessa Bell Some I hadn't seen before and some old favourites like Grace Higgens in the kitchen. I think I must feel more energetic in autumn because we also went a few days ago to Shakespeare's Globe to see a rather rumbustious Twelfth Night; I don't know why I was so surprised that there were so many people there but it was a gorgeous day. On Sunday we went to a big band concert - and that really was packed. The band was terrific, the bassist looked the spit of Winston Churchill: they normally play the kind of seaside resorts that are god's waiting room and it's not often that the rest of audience is 20 years older than me! But our feet were tapping - you can't beat the old ones!
I thought this sounded promising but found it tedious in the end. It did make me take a look back at the excruciating 60 Minutes interview on YouTube - when Hillary says she's no Tammy Wynette and you wish she'd have the gumption to slap Bill round his smug chops and stomp out.
I'd never come across Mary Lawson until she was longlisted for the Booker Prize - and there's no way I'd normally have picked this up because to me the jacket says 'Old Lady's Large Print Library Book.' Well, don't judge a book by its cover. I only started it yesterday and now I'm nearly finished - because I haven't been able to put it down. I haven't been so engrossed by a book for ages.

Tuesday 31 August 2021

Flopping around the house yesterday on a miserably grey bank holiday, I felt myself reverting to my inner teenager - but 'Mu-u-um, I've nothing to do' is a bit feeble coming from the over-60s, especially when you don't need a Mum to remind you that there's plenty of housework. So I decided a 'beguiling drama of war-torn young love' might do the trick, phoned my most reliable last-minute friend and off we set ... Ladies, it was truly awful. Like somebody else's off-springs' school play. Memo to self: sometimes it's better to stay in with a book. 4* from the Guardian. 2* from me. 0* from friend who hated every minute.

Friday 27 August 2021

This is the most gorgeous book to browse and flick through - but I don't think I've ever read less enticing recipes! (The author warns that results can't be guaranteed!) To be sure, the famous boeuf en daube from To the Lighthouse sounds mouth-watering - 'its confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats, and its bay leaves and its wine' - and I'd happily lunch off soles and partridges and fine wines at a Cambridge men's college, if not off plain gravy soup, beef and yellowed sprouts and prunes and custard as offered to Virginia Woolf at Newnham in 1929. The Bloomsberries were a greedy lot - but this wasn't a high point in our national cuisine. I've a soft spot for a suet pud - made with proper butcher's suet - and I've no qualms about offal ... but Lydia Lopokova's boiled beef and brain in a wine sauce didn't have me running to the butcher (maybe I'm being unfair as I've never tasted brain) - and so much aspic and bechamel sauce with everything. I felt a longing for colour and crunch. Chocolate and Chivers' strawberry jelly mould, anyone?
Time travel, magical realism ... I'd normally run a mile, but I was very taken by this gentle Japanese story about the Cafe Funiculi Funicula where, if you sit in a particular seat, you can travel back in time - but only for the time it takes for your coffee to get cold. There's a film - but I don't know if it was ever released over here. It would be unbearably twee and sentimental if written by a British author, or god forbid an American - but its Japanese reticence saves it. A summer read that I finished in a day.
More radio! I can't seem to find anything I fancy on television - I'm soooo bored with murder! (Though I enjoyed belatedly catching up with the repeat of ITV's Lucan last night which, though first broadcast several years ago, offered an intriguing new explanation that hadn't occurred to me before.) The Fortnight in September is one of my favourite Persephone Books - so I listened to the first few episodes of the new Radio 4 adaptation over my dinner earlier this week. But wouldn't it make a great TV series ... the seaside boarding house and the bathing huts and the prom, I wanted to see it all! I'm not sure about the pace of this adaptation, though. I'm half way through - episode five - and it's still only the first night of the hols. Much better to re-read the book!

Tuesday 24 August 2021

I've only listened to the first episode - with the Nazi top brass held in the Grand Hotel at Bad Mondorf, in Luxembourg, otherwise known as Camp Ashcan - and so far this Radio 4 series promises to be fascinating.

Saturday 7 August 2021

'Mother, housewife, novelist, expert radio technician, spymaster, courier, saboteur, bomb-maker, Cold Warrior and secret agent, all at the same time ...' I'm soooo gripped by Agent Sonya and we've not even got to the Cotswolds where she made excellent cakes and sent messages to Moscow from the outside lav. Someone must be making a film!

Thursday 29 July 2021

Blue plaque find of the day - spotted on a walk around Kensington this afternoon which also netted Terence Rattigan, Ivy Compton-Burnett and an SOE heroine who turned out to have had a very colourful life - even by SOE standards - when I googled her when I got home. Which just goes to show that no matter how long you live in London, there are always new discoveries to be made.

Tuesday 27 July 2021

I don't think I'm the only one who, with all the time in the world for reading this year, perversely lost the urge - but it's creeping back, and the library has re-opened because - although I'm sure I could fill a bookcase with books I've bought, new and secondhand, and never got round to reading - nothing is ever as enticing as the book that's newly-acquired. This week I have romped through this book of essays that has left me feeling slightly sad that Ann Patchett isn't moving next door to bake cookies and be my new BFF - she just seems so nice! And I'm sooooo sorry, Ann, that I always get you mixed up with Anne Tyler! The essay of practical advice for would-be writers should be required reading for aspiring novelists - essentially, sit down and don't get up until you've written something. And the word game in 'The Paris Match' had me tearing my hair out - until I got it!
This was a real page-turner and the post-apocalyptic theme seems all too believable after a year that has proved that anything really can happen. The characters are cardboard - the American naval commander is such a stuffed shirt that no hot-blooded Aussie young woman would fancy him if he were the last man on earth! And 60-odd years after it was written, I can't imagine a world that would face obliteration with such stoic good manners. No looting - no orgies in the streets ... just planting bulbs for a spring that will never come, working one's way through the best port (I'm all for that!) and bizarrely signing up to learn up to shorthand and typing. Well, I've still got my certificate for 120wpm with the wind behind me - so I guess I'm ready for anything! It was a good read, though - and I do like a proper story.
This has been my most disappointing read recently - and I was so looking forward to it! It's one side of the correspondence between Eileen, a young Cambridge graduate from a wealthy and well-connected Jewish family and the boyfriend - eventually her husband - who has been posted to Egypt. There is very little of the Blitz in these letters .... it's all about Eileen, the neediest, whiniest, whingiest young woman and oh, how I longed to conscript her into the ATS or the Land Army which might have been the making of her. Reading between the lines, her darling solace - feel free to make sick noises - seems to have been lukewarm about her to start with - and I was rooting for him to chuck her and make his escape. Reader, she married him. Poor bloke. In fairness, the love letters turned up at a house clearance sale and were never intended for publication and I should think Eileen would have the grace to be mortified if she knew how her privacy been betrayed. In a way, the letters reminded me of the Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt - another plain-as-a-boot young woman yearning for love - but somehow a more sympathetic, if exasperating character.
This, on the other hand, was simply riveting - a compelling account of daily life on the home front through that summer of 1940, from Dunkirk to the start of the Blitz, when the phoney war became all too real.And how could I resist a book that has been described as 'Mrs Miniver with the gloves off?'

Monday 26 July 2021

I have ventured to the theatre occasionally since lockdown ended ...but this was my first experience in a non-socially-distanced audience since I don't know when! You know, sitting next to a stranger! (Well, to be fair, we were at the end of a row, I sat next to my friend and she sat next to the stranger - but hey, we're both still alive!) And theatre feels so much more energising when you're part of a proper audience - I'd missed that feeling. As for Oleanna, it was a hot day - I dillied and dallied and couldn't decide if I were in the mood, then at 1pm phoned a friend who's very good at getting her skates on ... by 2.30 we were in the Arts Theatre bar with the windows thrown open on Soho, breathing in the curry fumes of the city streets with a cold beer. I'd seen the play back in the 90s - boy, was David Mamet ahead of his time! It was riveting. Afterwards, we walked - very slowly, via the ice cream shop and Fortnum's - down to Green Park to see herds of elephants under the trees. I'd been meaning to go for weeks - always some excuse, too rainy/getting too dark/too tired to walk/just forgot - and I'm so glad we seized our chance because I think they've migrated! They really were magnificent.

Wednesday 30 June 2021

I'm enjoying the epic Hemingway series on BBC4, especially the contributions from Edna O'Brien whose beautiful voice I could listen to all day. She makes me wants to read the books again.

Tuesday 29 June 2021

Spent a happy rainy afternoon today in the tiny Jermyn Street Theatre (where the seats are actually comfortable!) watching this very engaging play about Amy Johnson, about whom I realise I knew absolutely nothing other than that she was a flyer and died in mysterious circumstances. Who knew she worked in ladies'knickers in Peter Jones? Silks and satins! After my boring summer in knickers in British Home Stores many years ago - stretch cotton and saucy messages - I felt quite a bond. And I once had a flying lesson!

Thursday 17 June 2021

I'm so looking forward to tomorrow and not only because it'll be my first ballet performance in more than a year ... but the thought of lovely air-conditioning at the Royal Festival Hall! For the first few days post-lockdown, I went everywhere - and rather wore myself out! You'd think it all had to be accomplished in a week! The Alice exhibition at the V&A was enormous fun, worth going for the Mad Hatter's tea table alone - and who wouldn't enjoy virtually tumbling down the rabbit hole - even if I did turn out to be completely rubbish at catching hedgehogs and hurling them through croquet hoops.
And Hockney's The Arrival of Spring: Normandy, 2020 was a joyous reminder that pandemic or not, life goes on and lovely things happen. But then came those days and days of biblical downpours - and the realisation that I wouldn't make it as far as the bus stop without getting soaked to the skin. And lethargy set in ... Still, that didn't last and here I am back again and moaning that I'm too hot! I spent a lovely afternoon here sitting under a tree with my book, watching the dragonflies and a family of six tireless ducklings swimming round and round -
And I've discovered a new-to-me ice cream stand on the river (outside Riverside Studios) which is very good indeed, if not quite as good as Gelupo. Marmalade and sour dough highly recommended, but not quite hitting the heights of Gelupo's pear and blackberry crumble. I am rather appalled at how much financial support I have given to the ice cream industry this week and wonder if Boris might consider a Slurp Up to Help Out initiative. Still, I felt I deserved ice-cream after a sunny afternoon on a very uncomfortable chair with Samuel Beckett. I've always been timid about dipping my toe into Beckett, assuming that he's 'difficult' but I saw Lisa Dwan some years ago in a shattering adaptation of this book - one of the best performances I've ever seen on stage - and she's the renowned Beckett interpreter, mentored by the famous Billie Whitelaw ... so this was my chance. Happy Days seemed almost topical, Dwan - who is six months pregnant - gave a virtuoso performance as Winnie, incarcerated up to her waist in a sand dune - and if I rose only partly to the occasion, it was only because I was too damn hot (and those chairs!). Didn't flag for a second though at The Father, which I knew would be good - but this wasn't just good, it was heart-wrenchingly terrifying as the audience is drawn into Anthony Hopkins's confusion, never quite knowing what is really happening, what happened in the past and what is a figment of Alzheimer's. Word of warning, though - if this is close to home, it could be very distressing. What a terrific run of post-lockdown films we're getting - and what a shame that, apart from a good socially-distanced turn-out for In the Heights, the audiences, at least in my experience, have been out-numbered by front of house staff.

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!