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.