Saturday, 14 January 2017



No matter how many times I read it ...

I spent an evening last week re-reading Mr Pooter for the umpteenth time. I suppose these days, he'd be writing a blog or instagraming his red bath-tub.

This time it struck me that he looked rather familar. 

Friday, 13 January 2017


The rain turned into sleet by the time I got to top of the road and it was snowing when I got to the station  ... but by the time I got into town the great blizzard was,  um, well and truly over. So definitely not worth cancelling a night out, especially when the film was as good as this one. (I don't know what's got into me, three cinema outings this week - sometimes I don't manage that all year.) Now I've owned up before to cinema cat-napping but not this time ... Did I do that 'just resting my eyes' thing? No, I was on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happened. Lion is all the more fascinating for being the true story of a lost boy who was missing for 25 years. Saroo inadvertently fell asleep on a train and ended up in Calcutta, nearly 1000 miles from home, unable to speak Bengali and anyway too young to explain coherently where he'd come from or who he belonged to. There were a few gulping back tears moments. There's a review and trailer here. If you've ever zoomed in on your own home on Google Earth you'll be fascinated. Of course, I googled Ganesha Talai and its blue-roofed houses and wondered if I was zooming in on Saroo's home; I wonder how many others will do the same? The true story is here - but don't read it if you're planning to see the film, it contains spoilers.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017


This is a lovely, gentle French film about a country doctor who thinks he's indispensable - made by a director who used to be a doctor himself so it feels very authentic. (How come I go to all these French films and still my French doesn't improve?) The cinema was almost full which maybe shows that French audiences are more discerning, because I can't imagine a film about a rural NHS practice drawing a full house of young and old and people leaving at the end chatting about how much they enjoyed it. (I suppose there was that clunky TV series with Martin Clunes; but I can't stand Martin Clunes.) The actress who plays the inexperienced locum came on at the end for Q&A. She mentioned how much she'd enjoyed Manchester by the Sea. Now that the weight of depression has lifted, I'm glad I saw it ... But who needs feel-bad in January? I enjoyed this gentle film far more. There's a trailer here. This book was mentioned during the discussion afterwards.

Sunday, 8 January 2017



On a very grey day, a very long, very gloomy movie. #Feel-bad #Should have gone to La La Land.

Saturday, 7 January 2017



Thrill of the year so far ... a behind-the scenes visit to the British Library a few days ago where I couldn't believe my luck that I was sitting at a table with Jane Austen's three fat leatherbound notebooks     open in front of me. What a treat to see them up close: thinking that the covers are so well-worn because Jane, during her teen years, spent so many hours working away on these little stories to amuse her family. This page was my favourite - from her History of England, illustrated by her sister Cassandra - with their mother Mrs Austen caricatured as Elizabeth, looking rather as if she's giving a stern ticking-off to a meek, rosy-cheeked Jane in the guise of Mary, Queen of Scots. On my way out, I paid a visit to Jane's little writing desk in the Treasures gallery ... I always find her tiny spectacles rather moving and imagine a sardonic look from her down the centuries! (The notebooks will go on display from next week.)

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Steeple Aston Cope, 1330-1340
                                                                                                                                           
My first exhibition of 2017 was going to be American Expressionism at the RA but it was the last day and when I saw the queue to get in, I couldn't face it. So I hopped on a bus to the V&A where the lovely Opus Anglicanum exhibition turned out to be just the right ending to Christmas. And hardly anybody there. I'm sure that 700 years ago I'd have been a smelly peasant at the back of the church and I'd never have got a close-up view of the bishop's embroideries.


Whalley Abbey vestments
I loved this detail of the Virgin Mary toddling through a meadow of flowers on a baby-walker ...


Panel from a burse, 1335-1345
And St Margaret wrestling with the dragon as if he's done something nasty on her clean doorstep. 
The Fishmongers' Pall, 1512 - around 1538
I'm quite taken by the idea of fishmongers being buried with mermaids instead of ham. This is a small exhibition, just the right size if you're peering at detail. I'm no needlewoman - I can barely thread a needle - and I came away with no more idea of split stitch than when I went in. But it was strangely moving to gaze at the lantern commemorating the names of all those highly-skilled workers, needlemen (if there's such a word) as well as women, long-dead Williams and Alices whose work has survived through so many centuries. Well worth a visit. 

Saturday, 31 December 2016


Self-Portrait, Vanessa Bell, c1915
I didn't go to many exhibitions this year but already 2017 is looking very promising. First up, there's Vanessa Bell ...

The lady with the umbrella, John Singer Sargent, 1911                                
Then Sargent's watercolours ...

Followed directly by the first UK retrospective of Tove Jansson. All three at Dulwich Picture Gallery before the end of the year. Happy New Year everybody.
Mysterious Landscape, Tove Jansson, c1930