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Sunday, 11 August 2013

Veering off High Street Ken

This week I ventured twice into West London's cultural heart with friends. First to tiddly om pom Proms. I don't know a huge amount about classical music, I wish I did but sometimes it is just lovely to sit back and listen to something beautiful. I got a pair of tremendously cheap seats sitting right at the back in the Alps to Holst's Planets. The tickets were only £7.50 each so the argument that the art form is elitist is redundant,  besides good old Auntie is screening this years season on television and radio. I love The Planets, having only ever heard it on my tinny laptop hearing it at The Royal Albert Hall is something else quite entirely. Mars made we want to invade France or something.

I only did realise there and then that the middle section of Jupiter sounds suspiciously like I Vow To Thee My Country,   which to me thoroughly explains why they use it on on sentimental TV adverts.

My second outing to that  part of the woods wad for an outdoor (this is England, it was under a waterproof tented construction so it was essentially indoors) of Breakfast at Tiffany's in Holland Park. Free Häagen Dazs, nom! Is it bad that sometimes I watch films just for the clothes, because the Givenchy in it was deliciousness? I absolutely love that film. I think it was. the best thing that Audrey Hepburn ever did. If you watch too many of her films you come to realise that she is playing herself in a different circumstance.  Nonetheless she is glorious in BaT. There was some talk a few years ago about a remake starring Keira Knightley but nothing has been mentioned as of late that I'm aware. I wonder how close to Truman Capote's original novella it will be or if it will stick to the same romantic lines that the Hepburn version did?

Monday, 5 August 2013

Game of Thrones

I've bitten the bullet and have started reading the books.
Hello geekdom, it's been awhile!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Hampton Court Shoes

When the summer weather is so fine, there is nothing I prefer more than a wander around a creaky old building of notoriety. Hampton Court, marketed as the home of Henry - don't marry me or you're for it - VII (and y'know later less BBC period drama inspiring monarchs too) beckoned. I'd been told that the Tudor kitchens would leave a lasting impression, but I have never really been one for social history - or the history of what the people used to eat - so found it really only vaguely interesting. I enjoyed the banqueting hall and chapel much more, partially because they were aesthetically much more pleasing. I like pretty things.

I did love Mantegna's Renaissance masterpiece The Triumph of Caesar, as all who know me will testify that I am both an art geek and classics freak. Thankfully, yet also sadly, the exhibit had very few visitors when I went so I got to drink the procession in in relative solitude. Mantegna was the first painter to become famous, in the modern sense, outside of his own city. The lack of footfall for such splendid and historical importance made me think of a documentary I had seen by the late art historian and critic Robert Hughes, The Mona Lisa Curse. I feel this may warrant a post of it's own at some point.

The Secrets of The Royal Bedchamber Exhibit was quite interesting, although I had noticed some foreign visitors, who have no need to have knowledge of the throne's succession over the last 400 years or so, struggling somewhat as the exhibit to an extent assumed that the visitor would be able to jump across time as easily as walking into another room. I was very grateful of the chance to lie down on the giant mattresses provided at the beginning of the exhibit as by that point my silly shoes had started to rub. The film, cleverly being shown on the ceiling, imparted very little clever knowledge. 

In all truth I can get quite snobby about museums as I always assume that average person must be aware of history to a much greater extent than the curator presumes and that the public are being treated like children (same goes for most TV documentaries).

All in all a lovely day was had, I bought some pear drops, wandered round the gardens, paid through the nose for a sandwich and saw the early modern tennis courts. Being unpatriotic though I have to say that I preferred visiting Versailles...

Thursday, 18 July 2013


I like to thing I'm a rational human being. Wait who am I kidding, I'm a woman. For the first time ever I read my Tarot Cards. I am terrible for magpies, shoes on tables, touching wood and my horoscope in the Metro (which is pretty good), so I thought I should add to my repertoire. Although I wouldn't mutilate my palms...

Sheldon and Astrology

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Tube Music:or how the Muses sound on the Underground

The tube station that I commute through plays classical music through their loudspeakers. Supposedly this is a dispersal tactic to stop loiterers. What has the Western world come to, well Kanye West's burgeoning Messiah complex... Anywho, I'm waiting for the day when I get to hear a bit of Purcell or Holst going down those terrifying escalators that feel like you're descending a precipice. They, and the awfully cramped (and now sweaty, thanks British weather gods for coming through this year, we'll hold barbecues in your honour!) are more than enough to make one loiter.

(Told you I'd gone all Regency)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Bling Ring

I have a crush on Sofia Coppola. I fell like a tonne of bricks for her after Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette. I think maybe it's the colours in her films, and Bill Murray. So it was somewhat inevitable that I would wind up in a multiplex with an extortionately priced packet of popcorn to see The Bling Ring.

I have an odd relationship with celebrity culture. I almost feel ashamed for buying a copy of Glamour, believing instead that I should spend my time better employed, like knitting, reading stoic philosophy or charity work, but I do buy them. Call me Mary-Sue. These magazines spend pages, made from some poor unfortunate tree, to tell me that I should love my body and then have a larger number of pages with adverts for the liposuction that would allow me to keep a boyfriend, get that job and the happy self-respect I truly deserve. I don't like myself for it, but I could see why those kids did it: a celebrity and their life is already public property so why not take their private property too. You're almost entitled to it, they have so much already. And besides they're famous so they aren't real people. It really is a tale of greed. Greed and consumerist fantasy, where objects positively define you and you allow yourself also to be defined and thus objectified by them. Yet theft is theft and stupidity is stupidity. But seriously who leaves they house habitually unlocked...


Everyone's favourite functioning sociopath is on iPlayer again! Oh Benedict, those cheek bones. I don't care that it is a repeat, it's that good and it shall have to sustain me until the next series. I need to know how he survived the Reichenbach Falls. 

I fully intend on a unlikely day mid-week to go to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, although getting in without being aggravated by tourists may outwit me. I have always loved watching Holmes, it's something me and my Granny are inclined to do together. Jeremy Brett holds a small corner of my sentimental heart, partially because he was so very dashing as Freddie Eynsford-Hill in My Fair Lady.

I also should get round to reading The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles to knock them off my list.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Bibliophile Challenge: 1

So the challenge begins! I've looked at the list of 1000 books that everyone should read by everyone's favourite lefty rag and I have only read the following:

Categories are: Comedy; CrimeFamily & Self; Love; Science Fiction; State of the Nation; and War & Travel

  1. Lucky Jim by Martin Amis
  2. Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes
  3. Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm
  4. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
  5. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
  7. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
  8. The Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan
  9. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
  10. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  11. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  12. Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
  13. Les Enfants Terrible by Jean Cocteau
  14. The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath
  15. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
  16. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  17. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  18. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (current)
  19. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  20. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
  21. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  22. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  23. Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer
  24. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
  25. Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
  26. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan 
  27. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  28. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  29. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  30. The Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  31. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  32. The Man who was Thursday by G K Chesterton
  33. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
  34. The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  35. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J K Rowling
  36. The Hobbit by J R R Tolkein
  37. The Lord of The Rings Trilogy by J R R Tolkein (I feel like I've been mugged of two extra here)
  38. The Time Machine by H G Wells
  39. When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs
  40. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  41. Cold Mountain by Charles Fraser
It's pretty easy to see where my prejudices lie: feelings, farce and fantasy. I've not read a single State of the Nation selection. Although in my defence I have read 3/4 of Vanity Fair as a thirteen year old but that book is a beast of a doorstop. 

If my readings were to be the pillars of the English Language then I lack the columns to uphold the structure. There are a few books like Brideshead Revisted which I love and yet aren't featured. Props to the British education system though, as five of those were forced upon me at some point, in varying states of willingness.

So in short, 41 down 959 to go. 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

It is a truth universal acknowledged...

There is a 12ft tall statue of Mr Darcy wading through the boating lake in Hyde Park complete with clinging wet look shirt a la Colin Firth. This is in honour of an open air production of Pride & Prejudice currently playing in the park (unfortunately I have been unable to get tickets).

I have been having a rather Regency time of it at the moment. I perennially find myself to falling back into the arms of dearest Jane when modernity fails me. There are too many Wickhams and Willoughbys abounding in my life.There is an awful part of me being English, that wishes for the monochrome social rules of the era (I know this is foolish, I'd be bored, poor, or on a plantation somewhere, not the mistress of a grand house with Corinthian columns) Today I have been watching Regency House Party on 4oD, wandered around Putney because the Thorpes were resident there, trying to imagine it two hundred years ago and read Mansfield Park in the sunshine. Although I must confess that of Austen's six completed works I have only read four, having been somewhat put off by the 1990s version of Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow and just having never gotten round to picking up Sense & Sensibility, but did love the Emma Thompson version. I do sometimes worry that Austen is a backwards step for feminism, but I cannot give her up, just like a thumb-sucking child.

Being beaten by a book, and being challenged

At heart I am a Victorian who thoroughly believes in self improvement and yet I am also one of those people that even if I'm quite enjoying a book, will sometimes put it down and never pick it up again. I only recently read The Great Gatsby - pleasantly vapid and purposefully shallow, I have been informed by a friend that she believes it not to be Fitzgerald's finest - all the way through, as I felt duty-bound to read it before I saw the film . I started to read I, Claudius summer '09 as my holiday reading in Paris, thoroughly enjoying it, and still have failed to complete it. With that in mind Katy Guest wrote an article in The Indie about saving yourself the time and the agony of persevering with a dull book. I really, really want to love Henry James and yet I can't. I can't bare his prose, it's so unnecessary and meandering. Perhaps one day I will come to appreciate his works in the same way that I enjoy his compatriot Edith Wharton's, but right now I have neither the time nor the inclination to stick it out.

For all my quasi-intellectual posturing  I wish I was more well-read than I actually am. As I get older it becomes more and more apparent how deficient I am. The Grauniad a few years ago published a list of the 1000 novels that everyone should read and twice I have challenged myself to have a good crack at it, as I'm only in double figures. I reckon that if I make a public announcement of my intent, then I should at least have it a bloody good crack at it.

The Rules:

  1. I will not count a book as read unless I am acquainted with both covers and all the troublesome content in between.
  2. If, by Chapter 3, I cannot bear it any longer then I will put it down.
  3. I won't allow myself to become a dinner party bore as a result of the challenge. 
  4. I will choose books at random so as not to reaffirm my prejudices.
  5. If it costs me more than £7 on my kindle then I won't read it either.
  6. I'll bother you all with updates. 

So many words so little time!