Thursday, 18 January 2018

Loved this sumptuous film last night - full of Provençal sunshine and colour - about the lifelong, but rocky friendship between Cézanne and Zola. But you do have to be up to speed on 19th century French history and who's who in artistic circles because if you can't keep up, it'll leave you behind. And now I really must get myself to the portraits exhibition before it closes.

I was much less impressed by Darkest Hour. I'd have given it the benefit of the doubt, for maybe I've reached saturation point with films about Churchill. (It doesn't seem two minutes since we had Brian Cox's interpretation last year.) But then came that much derided scene in the Tube carriage ... as Churchill uncharacteristically hops out of his official car to avoid a traffic jam and takes to the District Line for a one-stop journey from St James's Park to Westminster. In a carriage full of gor-blimey, salt-of-the-earth Londoners. What tosh. What complete drivel. And how many cinema-goers are now convinced that this really happened?

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Since announcing that I really must read The Masters ('the best academic novel in English'), I've discovered that the Strangers and Brothers cycle is being repeated this week on Radio Four. So that's my lunchtimes sorted. Timely, as I am forced to admit that I've rather lost the McMafia plot; anybody else losing track of who's who? All the younger characters look exactly the same!

Monday, 15 January 2018

I'm suffering from a bad attack of January lethargy; not being a morning person, I never seem to catch the day before it's nearly over and it doesn't seem worth setting out. But at long last, having been scheduling a visit to Dulwich Picture Gallery pretty much every day since before Christmas, I made it to the Tove Jansson exhibition for the last hour or so yesterday afternoon ... and it was packed, busier than I'd ever seen it there before. Silly me, when I could easily have gone on a weekday. (It would have been a good idea to book.)

I have to confess that I've never read the Moomin books; I'm not sure that they'd have appealed to me as a child. Now I can see their charm.
But there's only so many Moomins you can take in one afternoon. I was interested to see her satirical illustrations from the 1930s - when, if you look closely, the Snork sometimes appears beside her signature ...

And her extraordinary illustrations for Alice in Wonderland.

This is her take on Gollum from The Hobbit, more like a startled woodland spirit than the slimy creature of my imagination.

For all that she wanted to be taken seriously as a painter, her paintings aren't terribly interesting - apart from a series of self-portraits.

On the way home I kept my eyes peeled for snowdrops - I still haven't seen my first snowdrop, possibly because I've barely been out in daylight. No luck - I'm desperate for a glimmer of spring - but I did pick a branch of catkins and they're now in a vase with a wonderfully garish bunch of tulips which makes me smile every time I look at them. First bunch of the year. There were sweet williams in Tesco but that just ain't right!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

I opted for Dorothy L Sayers as an undemanding read over Christmas, thinking that I'd read Gaudy Night again - but I'd forgotten how terribly wordy it is, all those arch quotations from clever people.  And I still couldn't keep track of who's who amongst all those female dons. Then it struck me that I'd never read Strong Poison, the earlier book that explains how Lord Peter Wimsey saved Harriet Vane from the gallows. Much shorter, much brisker, and Harriet - who can be rather irritating - is safely out of action in Holloway Prison throughout. Funny how Lord Peter seems to have changed over the course of two books; is it spurned love? He seems much more urbane and sophisticated in Oxford and not nearly so much of a chinless but brainy wonder.

Friday, 12 January 2018

The Sunday cinema ladies - both of us - reconvened for the first time this year and just to keep us on our toes, we chose a Friday evening outing instead. I'm never sure if it's worth posting about foreign films when they're on for one night only in London but there was a good turn-out for this Latvian film and maybe it'll show up again at a festival somewhere.  We've seen several films recently with outstanding performances by child actors (Soleil Battant, The Florida Project) and this was another, about a wayward 12-year-old whose mischief is tipping into delinquency; there's a trailer here (in Latvian, sorry).

Thursday, 11 January 2018

I know almost nothing about the life of Jenny Joseph who died a few days ago. I'd have thought that she'd have merited an obituary in the Times or the Guardian, but I can't find one as yet. All that I've discovered is that she wrote her famous poem when she was 29 and that she hated purple - but I do hope that she learned how to spit. What I'd love to learn as an outrageous old lady is how to wolfwhistle very loudly with my fingers in my mouth ... you could have some fun doing that.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

I'm in two minds about this. I love the cover; it's irresistible. (Despite the aberrant apostrophe on the back. Praise for Howard's End is on the Landing! Sloppy.)
But 250-odd pages in the company of Susan Hill? She feels like a grumpy neighbour who makes you feel, 'Oh, god! How long am I going to be stuck?' as she's approaching. (I admit it. I can do grumpy old woman with the best. See that apostrophe grouch above? Typical.)
Anyway, Susan Hill ... She's great chatting away about books and I've made a note to myself that I really must get around to reading CP Snow's The Masters, which has lingered in a pile on Mary's Landing for far too many years, gathering dust.
But then she drones on and repeats herself. On and on, word for word, about the silly questions students put to her about The Woman in Black. And the weather. She doesn't like it when it's hot; she doesn't like the cold. Her opinions seem set in stone. She doesn't like Jane Austen and she's never read Jane Eyre. (We all have gaps in our reading but that's an odd one, and she sounds rather proud of it!) She would love to visit the Northern Lights, 'but I don't suppose I ever shall?' Well, why not? I wanted to shout ... all those royalties rolling in from The Woman in Black. Get out there. Live a life. Stop burying yourself in all those books. Her interest in Antarctica is extinguished once she realises that people go there on holiday and she takes 27 books about the white continent to the charity shop.
Normally I feel that reading is a Good Thing. But Susan Hill depresses me.
But then she's very good on Aelred of Rievaulx and she puts her finger on why I don't much like Barbara Pym and and she makes me want to re-read Olivia Manning's The Balkan Trilogy. Like I said, I'm in two minds. Perhaps Susan Hill is better dipped into and taken in small doses rather than read straight through. But Susan Hill is Due Back at the Library.