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!