Wednesday, 26 July 2017



After last night's soporific arty-farty tosh at the National ... this riveting play at the Almeida, quite the best thing I've seen in ages. I can't say that I often go to the theatre two nights on the run, but I booked months and months ago to see Ink -  the story of the launch of Rupert Murdoch's super soaraway Sun - and it's terrific. 5* from me, and an audience almost unanimously old enough to feel nostalgia for the rattle of typewriters clearly agreed.  I'll be tempted to go again when it opens in the West End.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017



I spent a few days in Dublin last week and was standing outside the (newly-renovated) National Gallery of Ireland before the doors opened. Luckily, my hotel was only five minutes walk away, in the heart of Georgian Dublin where I'd happily spend an afternoon admiring front doors.
What a thrill to see ten Vermeers, almost a third of what survives, especially as the National Gallery on a weekday morning is a whole lot more conducive to enjoyment than battling crowds in the Louvre. (This exhibition won't be coming to London.)
But it wasn't just the Vermeers. The supporting cast was excellent, too.

The Slippers, Samuel van Hoogstraten




A Woman Playing a Clavichord, Gerrit Dou
Missed my favourite painting when I visited Dulwich a couple of weeks ago ... so that's where she was! 

Woman Reading a Letter, Gabriel Metsu

Feet protesting when I'd finished, I jumped on a hop on/off tourist bus for a sit-down, and found myself outside the Guinness brewery ... All I can say is, DON'T. Don't ever do this to yourself. Hot, noisy, crowded, devised by some sadistic mind for the torture of tourists -  but you have to admire the Irish, extracting €20 for a 'free' pint. And I don't even like Guinness. I managed half a pint in the overrated Gravity Bar, then scarpered. 


Great poster. Stunning lighting design. Impenetrable play.

Common - on at the National Theatre - has had some stinking reviews. This was one of the better ones. It's frustrating to see such a wonderful actress in such an unwieldy, self-indulgent play; but the last time I saw Anne-Marie Duff on stage, if anything, the play was even worse.  William Blake meets the Wicker Man, said the Guardian; I'd throw in a dash of Mr Strange and Mr Norrell, too.

I had a little snooze. Quite a few people didn't return after the interval.

Don't ask me what it was about!

But I'm looking forward to this which promises to be a much better night.

Monday, 24 July 2017



I thought this looked interesting but I soon got rather bored by this Canadian astronaut telling me - repetitively - what a hard-working, humble, thoroughly reliable, all-round decent good guy he is. I'm sure I'd like to have him onside in a crisis, but he sent my Great British cynicism soaring. I was hoping for something more like this.

Monday, 17 July 2017



On a flying to visit to Edinburgh last week, I had a couple of hours to spare and decided to be a real tourist and visit the Royal Yacht Britannia - conveniently berthed outside Debenham's to make HM feel at home because there's a TKMaxx right outside Windsor Castle, too. (I've often wondered if she ever gets the chance to rummage through the handbags and cheap soaps or if she's eaten up with curiosity every time she sails past in the Rolls.)
I'm no great Royalist but the yacht visit was fascinating, and I can see why it's been rated Scotland's best attraction; after all, it's not every day you get to peep into the Queen's bedroom. (Narrow, single bed. Even in the 1950s.) It's a wonderful mixture of the grand - parking space for a Rolls Royce - and the cramped family holiday from hell (cooking smells and sailors swabbing decks before you're out of bed). And despite the photographs on display from royal honeymoons - well, they're pretty well all divorced now and no wonder. All those stories about Princess Di stuffing herself with ice-cream in the galley suddenly rang very true ... there can't have been a moment's privacy, even if the crew are trained Downton-style never to make eye contact with their employers and 'betters.' As for the 'honeymoon suite' and the 4ft6 double bed that Charles brought on board specially ... you'd have more space in a decent B&B.

Sunday, 16 July 2017



It was a damp day for Kew yesterday but although I only live 10 minutes away, I've never managed to visit while they're cooking in the royal kitchens. I browsed through this book - new to me - by a 1780s tavern cook - filed away a few ideas that I really must try - and watched as two chatty cooks prepared a royal supper tray of chicken curry, meatballs, 'Turkish' lamb, asparagus made to resemble green beans, ale-barm bread and homemade cheese, syllabub and raspberry cream. I'm definitely going to make that cream cheese though I'm not too confident about making a yeast starter by leaving a bowl to stand under an apple tree. If only I had an apple tree, I'd give it a try.

Monday, 10 July 2017


























I was so looking forward to reading this after being completely gripped by Burial Rites earlier this year that I suppose there was no way it could live up to such high expectations. And it didn't ... far too up the airy mountain and fey for me, even though it is based on a true Irish story of an old woman who stood trial in 1826 for attempting to exorcise a fairy changeling. I think this reviewer sums it up  but I'll still be interested to see what Hannah Kent comes up with next.



This would be the perfect summer read ... should you happen to be a writing a PhD thesis on what's wrong with the modern novel.
Or a study of misleading jacket quotes:
Kitamura's prose gallops, combining Elena Ferrante-style intricacies with the tension of a top-notch whodunnit.
Did we read the same book? Ponderous, plodding and utterly pointless is more like it. I think entries are now closed for my Worst Novel of the Year award.

Saturday, 1 July 2017



I don't take much notice of literary prizes and longlists, so this passed me by until I saw a great stack in Waterstone's window a few days ago and was immediately drawn to the cover, thinking it would be something Russian. (It isn't!) Anyway, I picked it up in the library yesterday ... and what a page-turner for the weekend, the perfect follow-up to The Handmaid's Tale (especially as Margaret Atwood is Naomi Alderman's mentor). There's clearly going to be a second series of The Handmaid's Tale but does anybody else hanker for the days when TV series ended ... with an ending?  The Power has already been sold for five or six seasons of ten episodes which will probably mean I'll have gone off it long before the end!