Writing about things I love and things I didn't know - oh and things I want to eat and cook

Thursday, 23 July 2015

George Bernard Shaw, Chris Riddell, Aladdin ( a bit )

So I have been thinking about youth. I was a serious, bookish, youth. When my peers were dancing like nutters to rave music I used to decide which black polo neck to wear, transcribe Lloyd Cole and the Commotions lyrics and deliberate over which cheeses I should serve at dinner.

By virtue of a great love that has come into my life over the last few years - not looking or what - I have met - sadly only via email as he lives a long way away  - a great friend of my love who is now a mentor to me as well as great friend.

You know how they say people  - i.e. trolls are more unpleasant and vitriolic online as they can hide behind a false identity or a screen ?

Well ever the optimist I would say the converse is also true. Some people I have only email conversations with usually by virtue of geography have become incredibly open and revealing and very kind and perceptive.

The man who lives across the sea - I don't actually know how old he is, was saying that reading and writing are keeping his mind active. I couldn't see it that way - he has such a keen, beautiful mind and his wisdom and life experience certainly guide me. A gift of a life well lived.

Is youth wasted on the young ? Like most women I do wonder why I didn't run around aged 18 looking at my flat tummy and sports fit legs saying 'look, I'm in bloody good nick' instead of feeling self conscious and covering myself up in baggy jeans and shirts.

I didn't know George Bernard Shaw was co -founder of the London School of Economics.

There is the wonderful fearlessness, the intense literary absorption  - in mine and my peers' cases - intense evenings reading Auden or William Blake.

There was lots of fun too but I have lots of fun now.

Part of my current mid life crisis which I rather like in fact absolutely adore is my acquisition of mentors - I am blessed to have made friends with people of quite an arbitrary selection - most a good bit older than me and I am thrilled.

I just read Aladdin with my daughter - she asked and she is 7 so....Jasmine is quite a sparky woman - rejects the notion of arranged marriage and wants to marry for love.

The story - admittedly a slightly spangly Disney story book version - went on about 'being yourself' and being loved and admired for who we are. Then she swooned a bit when Aladdin took her off on the magic carpet for a really cool late night picnic. Anachronisitc ?

Anyway part of this blog is to mention things I come across that I think shouldn't be lost to history.

A recent visit to the fabulous St James' Piccadilly had me come across a memorial to John Hunter often called the patron of scientific surgery. HIs collection and bequest to the nation was phenomenal.

I have also been thinking lots recently about Chris Riddell - also I heard a Desert Island Discs with Anthony Horowitz. I had a certain - moment - thinking how bloody lucky we are to have these wonderful gifted powerhouses in modern life, culture.

I have a lifelong thing for broad beans. This is faultless. Grilled halloumi.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Moving, the seaside, J Brand jeans, Jack Wills

There is something very very wonderful about moving. I am moving shortly. I love packing boxes - I am a non hoarder - every bit of baby kit went to one or more than one round robin new homes - even the little Bonpoint cashmere hat and boots I had for my baby.

I am clearing out, clearing up, thinking of what to come, to replace, to revitalise.

There have been moves and moves and yes possiblys and other countries maybe but this is the one I just know.

Already there are great friends in situ - by complete coincidence and lovely new friends I have only just made but I know I will treasure.

Illness in the family keeps me in Blighty for a bit but I don't mind one little bit  - we have the seaside, great food, green fields.

I am in clothes mode as well as book and food mode. My boy is full on Jack Wills  - adult  - and I make no apology I love it.

Look :

Not him, the sweater. My sisters and lots of friends are super duper on Facebook. I am not but I get the emails and post comments. I love Instagram.

For example  :

I have obviously never grown out of school uniform - the occasional evening or weekend when I put on a dress and very heely heels and frankly love it but day to day it's J Brand or Made in Heaven jeans, breton t shirts, Superdry t shirts or my faithful layering - Jack Wills and Hollister. Converse or Supergas.

I've been wearing these for a good few years now and they are, to my mind, faultless :

They look much better being 'worn' just look up cool bloggers and you'll see - the white ones are terrific if tanned and brave.

As ever I rely on my adored Nuxe to keep my skin happy - now with a website 20% sale.

Reading all sorts of things in slightly irritating instalments as reading has to fit around packing : as ever I love Tim Harford, Harry Mount's Amo Amas Amat and in small slithers to be enjoyed with absolute concentration, Richard Holmes' The Age of Wonder. 

I have read Melanie Reid's column since she first had her accident - I listened to a wonderful interview with her this am on Radio 4 - if you can catch it on catch up do - it was quite spellbinding. Like most of us she only had a wobble when talking about her son.  

Food: odd really, latest crush which I have to have every morning ( lycopene, a good thing ) plum tomatoes, hot, natural yoghurt and lots and lots of jalapeños. Love it. 

Friday, 27 March 2015

Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfred de Vigny and The Ashmolean

Today I am in full on French mode. I am cooking Toulouse sausages so the kitchen smells amazing. I am going to prepare for lunch tomorrow the watercress veloute so beautifully photographed on Mimi  Thorisson's  wonderful Manger blog. I can't get enough of it at the moment. Blog and food.

I was intrigued, amused ( by many of the funny emails that came in - 'he was a tyrant, he lost, that hairdo...' ) to see the media coverage of the King in the car park. There is an interesting piece here on the naughty pretender Perkin Warbeck.

On the French theme I saw a version of Ionesco's Rhinoceros a few years ago at the The Royal Court - a play I studied, know and love.

Saying goodbye to a friend at the tube we chatted briefly to a very nervous Benedict Cumberbatch then the lead actor. See the link to Richard III ?

Alfred de Vigny was born on this day in 1797. I loved his work Chatterton.

Sir Henry Royce was born on this day in 1863. He would with his friend and colleague go on to do something with cars. Which COULD lead me to comment on Jeremy Clarkson  but I won't other than to say I never have watched Top Gear but for the Producer involved to be castigated and vilified is surely bananas ?

I did shyly tweet this week as the understandable media storm raged  - please look at the wonderful Amanda Vickery's Suffragettes Forever. I loved it and think it wonderful this is brought to a current audience. I was debating just last night at dinner where the 'feminist movement' places itself in today's world.

I watched an old episode of Sex and the City recently - I wasn't a fan at the time but I am rubbish at following things on TV. I rather enjoyed it and found the four woman dynamic interesting. I am thinking of preparing not just a work of fiction but a 'treatise.' Free association in written form.

French women were able to vote for the first time on the 29th of April 1945.

Today is the Feast day of Saint Augusta of Treviso.

This is terrific from the Ashmolean Museum, a cast of James Gillray's Georgian caricatures - keeping the scandal mongers of their day busy. Plus ca change ?

Bon appétit.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

On Luck...David Livingstone and Humphry Clinker

My son just had a lovely birthday. He became in years what has always been my lucky number. St Patrick's Day just passed - the luck of the Irish..

Spring, daffodils, lambs gambolling and mewing for sustenance. Emerging from a long winter. A wonderful coloured, scented bloom in the garden.

This makes me think of luck. I am a huge believer - call it what you will. Fortune, good luck, karma, fate, coincidence. I have a great friend and mentor who is a lifelong sailor and yachtsman - he has so many lyrical superstitions and tales - I am endlessly enchanted.

I had a wonderful conversation yesterday on how lucky we are to be aware of the blessings of that which money can't buy - I hate to sound all worthy - it was mainly a conversation about the untold joys of Radio 4 Extra - currently with an adaptation of one of my favourite books Sons and Lovers.

I thought I might add the books I have on the go, I seem to have a particularly engaging Spring Selection :

Every Contact Leaves A Trace   Elanor Dymott
Tales of Unease                            Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Happiness By Design                  Paul Dolan

I'll report back as I go.

I also can't get enough of the Shakespeare's Restless World podcasts. I play them on my Mac whilst I am working.


Tobias Smollett was born on this day in 1721. The link is to his work The Adventures of Humphrey Clinker. There is also a great Guardian piece from 2013 about the sad in my view demise of his influence and popularity. Got to love the name Roderick Random. He would of course be a huge influence on a certain Charles Dickens.

Today is also the birthday of David Livingstone , in 1831. He seems to have certainly established a connection between mosquitoes and malaria and enjoyed a good strike rate with his 'Livingstone's Rousers'.

Rembrandt's Titus was sold by Christie's for a record 760,000 guineas on this day in  1965.

March the 19th is the feast day of St. Joseph always falling during Lent and therefore a period of abstinence - dishes without meat are traditionally served.

Which leads me to the rather marvellously named sfinci di San Giuseppe traditionally prepared in Southern Italy on this day.

Tuck in.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

To move is to stir; and to be valiant is to stand

Several people have kindly asked what I would like for Mother's day - including my children. I had some friends for dinner on Monday - all mothers, we discussed it:

A gardenia
Cashmere socks
The new Ishiguro
J Brand jeans / chinos / anything
A Roberts radio
Risotto rice
To be able to find the hairbrush

Then we all pretty much said, you know what we have it. We have beautiful children, we're warm and fed and we enjoy good health.

This morning I thought:

A country walk
People I might have been a bit arsey with understanding I didn't mean it and am truly sorry
To swim in a moat again like I did last summer
The smell of a really good tomato
My son's quick wit
My son's quirky wit
My daughter's kindness
My dog conked out on my feet, snoring
My dearest boy who I call / email and vice versa morning and evening and who seems to put the marrow in my bones
My family


According to Shakespeare today in 1302 was Romeo and Juliet's wedding day.

In 1702 this day saw the publication of England's first National Newspaper - The Daily Courant.

On March the 11th 1835 HMS Beagle anchors off Valparaiso in Chile. If you have never read Isabel Allende have a go, she's fab.

A monumental one for me, Henry Tate was born on this day in 1819. If you have a chance, I suspect it is still running, you can take the Thames river boat from Tate Gallery to Tate Modern - called Tate a Tate and great fun.

Image courtesy of tate. org

Today is the feast day of St.Constantine who was King of Cornwall. I've visited Cornwall a few times and utterly loved it.

Food. People tweet tweet about twitter. I love it, I find it to be a great mine of information about all the things I love - museums, art, books, food, what's going on, great blogs, recipes.

I'm in a happy frenzy with Cheltenham so this for Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and everyone who works with such dedication to make the whole thing quite so spellbinding.

Friday, 27 February 2015

But words are things, and a small drop of ink, Falling, like dew, upon a thought produces That which makes thousands, perhaps millions think

Henry IV was crowned King of France on this day in 1594. I utterly love Stratford Upon Avon. Great food at the Dirty Duck and the abundant joys of the RSC.

February the 27th saw Byron give his first address as a member of the House of Lords in defence of Luddite opposition to industrialism in his home county of Nottinghamshire. More here with as ever copious thanks to Wikipedia.

An interesting read on Byron's maiden speech here.

The British Labour Party was founded on this day in 1900. Some sources say 26th or 27th but I'll put it on today !

Elizabeth Taylor was born on this day in 1932.

The Saint Feast day for today is St Gabriel of our Lady of Sorrows.

Food. This is quite full on but I have a friend coming to stay who is a serious dessert supremo so I think we'll have a go.

A total aside but how superb is this - footage of the new arrival at one of my all time favourites, The Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge. I give you Clare.

Another aside. I love love love Mumford. I know they have the posh farmer with banjo thing going on but I think they are talented, unique and there is something very Gabriel Oak, fresh cut grass about them. Wholesome.

Is it a reaction to lots of female singers, and believe me I try not to look, wearing not an awful lot and being a bit mangy ? Probably .

Going back to the title of my post I think he / they are gifted lyricists. For those of us prone to overthinking and complication, I find this terribly pure and lovely, from Ghosts That We Knew.

"So give me hope in the darkness that we will see the light, 
because it gave me such a fright. 
I will hold on with all of my might, 
just promise we will be alright.' 

This from the astonishing Elizabeth Taylor:

"The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues.” 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?

George Frederic Handel was born on this day in 1685. Wikipedia gives a great account, not least of a feature of his work very close to my heart,  a performance of The Messiah in  1750 to benefit The Foundling Museum. It is well worth a visit if you happen to be nearby, I love it. We could do with a few Thomas Corams today ?

John Keats dies on the 23rd of February 1821 in Rome, of tuberculosis aged 25. A comprehensive account of his life and work here.

On February the 23rd 1886 The London Times published the first classified advertisement.

Emile Zola. Les Rougon-Macquart. The delicious Le Ventre de Paris. He attended the same College as Paul Cezanne. He was found guilty of libel on this day in 1898 as a consequence of his letter 'J'Accuse'.

Today is the feast day of the rather marvellously named St. Polycarp.

I planted the horseradish. Sunflowers too, tomatoes and broad beans. Horseradish got me to thinking of beef and then I found and now adore this.

I just love this from The Guardian. The title really made me laugh.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

To Dream.....

I was telling the some friends at copious length about the day I discovered my dream - I was in the office of a man named Jim Douglas Henry - a friend of my parents. Not far from Foyles. The office that is. He had one of those brushed cotton checked shirts and faded cords - I'm so so on the cords but I have a thing for the checked shirts to this day.

All around were piles and piles of books - book books, pages of yet to be bound books, papers piled high in what I am sure to him was order.

Names of books to be scribbled on paper and taped to the wall. Ideas for plays. Quotes from Shakespeare, Wilde, Proust.

The smell of cigars. The unique smell of fountain pen ink.

That was it. I was a bookish child and from that moment on I decided all I ever wanted to do was read and write books.

There is a quote which I will hack a bit about, if you do what you love you'll never work a day in your life.

I also really really love growing things. I bought this in a hurry food shopping - I love horseradish. On closer inspection I wonder if someone at Waitrose marketing department is having a really really good laugh ?

Today is the 22nd of February. 22.2.  Look at this : the feast day of a holy chair, rather lovely.

I think I will eat this : from Jamie. I have been several times to Jamie's restaurant in Cambridge, it is quite excellent, great service, great food and a beautiful building. If you happen to go to Cambridge I can't recommend The Sedgwick Museum highly enough, it's magical. They have a new T Rex, called Clare.