Saturday, April 30, 2005

Into town we go, we go

Got such a splitting headache today I can't remember what I was supposed to write about - and it's beautiful outside. So I'm sitting at home drinking lotsandlots of water. But don't worry, I won't go pop.

I went into town yesterday. Must have walked miles, not in a straight line of course, between Bond Street and Green Park, with a side trip into St Christopher's Place. It's got the same restaurants and cafes as St John's Wood! (Street Sensation is such fun to use.)
Only the day before, I had gone to the London Library in St James's Square to return and pick up some lovely old books for work. We scan any of the good engravings in old volumes for addition to the picture library. Again I passed Christie's, and the doorman smiled at me - oh I miss that place. It was such a joy to bowl down St James's Street once again.

So back to yesterday:
When I got hungry, I went to McDonald's. Yes, the day after the UK network premiere of Supersize Me, I *ate* at McD's. I wanted to eat there. And I enjoyed it. Muah-ha-ha-ha-ha! Behold the power of ..... oh never mind.

By 7pm, I was strolling down - or up - Piccadilly on the other side of the street from Fortnum's. The light was gentle, ethereal; twilight is my favourite part of the eve. Suddenly I looked up, which is something we in London forget to do. (Did it last year on Regent's Street, and the year before on St James's Street - you should try it sometime.) And I was stunned to note how gorgeous the buildings are! I've walked up Piccadilly countless times and never noticed - the humble strip of shops between St James's church and Fortnum's are in what once was, undeniably, the Royal Institute of Painters of Watercolours. It's an impressive classicist do-dah with columns and niches with the named busts of various now-forgotten watercolourists - and proud letters above all proclaim its purpose.

Speaking of 'looking up' in London, nearly every time I walk down St James's Street I notice something I never noticed before. Like watching an interesting movie.
BY THE WAY - the new Patisserie Valerie is now open on the corner of Picc. and St J.

And you know The Wolseley - much more suited to the neighbourhood - which replaced the China Gardens/Palace (?). It looks as if it's been there for centuries. That's the nature of 'establishments' in Mayfair. Gotta love it.
Can anyone recommend it?

Certainly one place I'd love to try out sometime is The Criterion on Piccadilly Circus. It's a real turn-of-the century pleasure palace. There were loads more of those fantastic eating places around back then, sort of to please the exacting Edwardian middle class senses.

*sigh* the headache is reluctantly retreating and...

(otherwise I'd just keep rambling...)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Le soleil brillait

We had a rare sunny afternoon today - isn't it amazing how, when the sun comes out you can see everything?
After reading a book about St John's Wood last month, I couldn't help but notice all the lovely little architectural details on the houses. That's how bright the sun was today. Passing down Acacia Avenue, I suddenly felt the good intentions of the architects.
This is such an interesting neighbourhood that I gawk while walking along the same street every day!

Sunday, April 24, 2005


My cousin Michelle and her hubby Tony - the ones with the twins if you follow my photos - also have a 4-yr old son, Zack.

Having too much in his mind, I wish I could keep a collection of his sayings. Mich sometimes remembers to write them down, when she's not pacifying those babies!

After his birthday party in March, he was bopping a balloon around the living room and it got close to one of the babies. Someone told him to be careful, as he wouldn't want to hurt the twins. He said, No he didn't want to hurt them - and he didn't want to hurt their feelings either. Awww.

Today I heard the coolest one. They were all driving up to a holiday in Centerparcs, when the voice of Zack came from the back of the minivan: "Daddy, why do we have to be here?"
Tony replied, "Where, at Centerparcs?"
Zack said, "No, in life."

[My jaw drops.]

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Art and Beauty

Thanks once again to all my friends who keep up with my blog. Some of you tell me about it by email but I would love it if you left me a note! You can leave Anonymous comments without signing up, so remember to leave your name at the bottom.
Your comment exchanges with each other are soooo amusing!!!

I am in a hellishly literary mood tonight.

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.

Oscar Wilde, preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray

So today I decided to give you something other than A Room with a View, and yet it is George Emerson in this book who brought Dorian Gray to mind.
One day last week, the two merged into one for me. Why didn't I see it before? One with occasionally the profound silences of George Emerson, broken with momentary currents of a deeply-flowing philosophy, as well as a little tremor of uncertainty and discovery. In better moods, there is the grace of Lord Henry, his beautiful voice and the world captured in phrases that work their charm on Dorian...............................

"...that is one of the great secrets of life -- to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul. You are a wonderful creation. You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know."
Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray

......................................or on me.

Snap out of it! OK, when I spoke of Marx and Ruskin in Issues & Contexts, I could have connected their treatises to what Wilde said at the end of the aforementioned preface:

All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself. We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

(Isn't that ending little bit Ruskin-y?)

Wilde, however, goes on to snatch the profundity away by adding "All art is quite useless."
Which could be the logical conclusion to his argument, though I see it as a little Wildean thumbing his nose at us before signing off.

I came home this afternoon about 6.30 pm. From the dark stairway, even before I reached my room, I could see the sun bursting from under the doorway. I opened it with tremulous expectation, and was enveloped by pure golden light...!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

For the same price near London, in Hampstead Garden Suburb, you get this 2 bed, 1 bath end-of-terrace cottage. HGS is full of lovely Arts & Crafts cottages in stucco and brick along villagey walks, or purpose-built mock-Tudor or Lutyens-style flats facing peaceful courtyards. It was part of the early 20th century attempt at cosy communities. We used to live in a similar garden suburb, in a late A&C house (1918). If I could have one in HGS........ Posted by Hello

Is this not the cutest house you ever saw? It looks like a fairytale. It's a 3-bed, 2 bath thatched cottage in Cumbria, going for 399k. Posted by Hello

Habemus Papam!

I'm not a Catholic, but at the sound of those words and the bells in Rome, I came out all in goosebumps!
Cool, I wrote that just as the BBC reporter said there is a very medieval, goosepimply atmosphere in the Piazza S. Pietro.

Cardinal Ratzinger - Benedict XVI - appears to be a controversial choice. The first German in 1,000 years, and not just German but Jewish. I don't know what he stands for and surely will be learning in the days to come, but I admire the fact that a Jewish convert to the Church can eventually become its head.

Please forgive the comparison, but wouldn't that be like Schwarzenegger becoming the President of the United States?


I was in the old neighbourhood today!
Elbie sent me to the London Library in St James's Square to drop off some books and pick some up.
Of course I walked past all the old familiar galleries and CHRISTIE'S (shiver of delight) and it was all I could do not to go in and see what was on view. It looks as if the offices are expanding into the upper floors of the old Education half of the building, too bad the lovely staircase downstairs is still unused. Every time I visit St James's and King Streets, something has changed.

I was tempted to drop in to the very interesting Arts Club on Dover Street - have been meaning to for ages, but I was on work time and will leave it for another day. Does anyone know anyone there???

Forget this sunshine - what with the cold breezes and the rain showers, when I came home and turned on the news the first thing I saw was Rome bathed in late afternoon sunlight, and yet again my heart longed to be there...*sigh*

It's funny how, since leaving Christie's, I have felt the need to keep feeding my eyes. At work, between projects I take down an old book and flip through it. Today I spotted a 1948 publication called "The Best of Aubrey Beardsley".
This morning, Sara was scanning an engraving after Moreau. What looked like a Loge at the theatre during the ancien regime. A courtesan being presented to two gentlemen? She was all curled and flounced. They were powdered and simpering.
Yesterday, I walked to the end of St John's Wood High Street by the churchyard, to the antiques dealer. Since moving here, I have never seen that place open. Yesterday I went in 5 minutes before closing and got chatting with the proprietor. It had been a hard day at work, and I really needed to see some antiques. They have lots of tiny things that I would love to handle one of these days.

Been a long time since I shared any pics with you. Will remedy that in a minute...

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Chatting and Blogging

Tonight I am chatting with Michelle (Jia Li). Somehow we got onto the subject of the Plague. Oh I know why, I am sneezy today and quoted, "Ring a ring of roses, a pocket full of posies, A-tishoo! A-tishoo! We all fall down."
And we were talking of the morbid origins of that nursery rhyme. Most nursery rhymes have extremely ghastly origins...

I was first enthralled by the symptoms of the Black Death as a 12-yr old, reading Mum's copy of Forever Amber. It's by Kathleen Winsor, a captivating historical novel following the fortunes of an English country maid (Amber) who is seduced by a charming Royalist Cavalier before the Civil War, and she basically throws herself on his charity in order to go to London with him. During the Commonwealth, she marries a puritanical old man to fit in, until he dies.
But Amber and Bruce always find each other like magnets throughout their parallel careers - there is a lot of love and hate there. After the Restoration, she works her way up in society as a courtesan, until she catches the king's eye, and of course attains his bed. Oh. Maybe I wasn't 12...And in the end...I think she ultimately rejects him, as he has done so many times before. In fact, I think she is expelled from the Court.

Mum and the other school girls passed that book around in sections, like a forbidden text. Well, it was the early 60s and so it was quite risque. They'd keep it under the mattress and sneak it out for a quick read whenever they could. Haven't things changed, Mum gave me the entire book to read very easily.

Anyway, back to the Plague. At one point, Amber and Bruce are forced together when they both suffer from the Plague. Amber nurses Bruce, lances his boils and all the other dangerous tasks. She makes it through about 3 public nurses coming down or dying of it in their house...Mrs Spong's death rattle in the living room...Amber dragging the body down the stairs to dump on the dead cart. Then Amber succumbs and Bruce, still quite an invalid, nurses Amber through the valley of the shadow of death.
This may have been my first reading of the portrayal of illness in a work of fiction.
Another fascination: radiation sickness. I remember Chernobyl. It is an amazing invisible killer. First watched it on film in Fat Man, Little Boy.
No wonder I went for biology!

I need to cheer you all up now...
I had dinner the other night with my best friend Lydia. Haven't seen her since January. We have been friends for 25 years. (I have friends who are younger than that!) So...I can't even remember meeting her and Tony. (He's the one I had dinner with in March.)
We did loads of girlie catching up, and no one makes me giggle like Lydia. Her mum is another one who gets me going.
She gave me a belated birthday gift: The Jane Austen Book Club and my usual supply of Body Shop White Musk in a gorgeous gift bag. She says every time she and Tony smell it they think of me. Uh-oh. Mother always told me that a lady should never tell anyone what scent she uses. Sometimes you can't help but tell.

One time at university, Vanessa and I were walking with a friend, a Viking-like, red-haired giant of a guy who could probably carry us one in each arm. (Vanessa and I are such tiny girls.) And he asked what perfume I use! I can't remember what I replied, whether I evaded or revealed. But I distinctly remember being rather taken aback by the question, specially from him! V, what was his name...?

I talked to Vanessa today in Thailand. We can talk for hours. We say bye about 5 or more times over the course of half an hour before we can finally wrap it up. There's always another segue...


Today is a bad headache day, and I didn't even touch the champagne. AND it's gloriously sunny out and I can't go anywhere, the tablets aren't working and I'm a bit light-headed. Another "and", and I'll scream. [Cue scream here.]

I've never gate-crashed a party before. It's not bad, but explanations get long as to how you know or don't know the guest of honour.
Well here's the story, my friend H came over for tea (we got halfway through the brownies) and his old school chum Andy (a lord no less) called inviting him to a party he was at, so H dragged me out with him. One cool bit - we were going down a curving road off Sloane Square. H asked if I drive, I replied in the affirmative and he said, "Take the wheel." So I did. Then he said, "Say: I am in control. Say it." I said firmly, "I am in control!" Then he exclaimed loud approval, which made me jump because he's never shouted before.

It was at the Cheyne Walk Brasserie down in Chelsea, with lovely night views of the Thames. So alright, it wasn't a party, more like a reception with champagne and canapes, and loud music that no one danced to.

H and I spoke to the bartender in French simply because we couldn't understand what he was saying in English! He obliged us by responding en francais, and we rattled along quite well. As he was driving, H had orange juice and Angostura bitters. Anyone else know what that is? Only if you've been to the Caribbean - as my mother is from Guyana, and H's parents have lived in Barbados and Guyana - do you know.
I was impressed by the choice, and made the bartender concoct for me a combo of OJ, Perrier, and Angostura. Very refreshing.

I can't remember how A. knows Jo, the birthday girl, but it generally went like this:
-- So how do you know Jo?
--I don't know Jo, I came with H.
--How does H know Jo?
--He doesn't know Jo either, he came because of A.
--Who is A.?
--The guy with the glasses.
--How does he know A?
--They went to school together.
--How does A. know Jo?
--I don't know!

I did this a few times, it was quite circular.

At the beginning I'd been chatting with Jo's
brother Nick, and we were having a good laugh about how weird French is, and how fun it is to muddle up other languages. He told how at a dinner once his mother was chatting up a storm in Italian to the person beside her, who was speaking in Spanish, and neither of them realised it until they noticed the people around them staring in disbelief!
He studied French and business (I thought of you, Vanessa!) and is moving to Paris next weekend to be with his girlfriend who is also working out there.
One girl I spoke with teaches English to French businessmen in Paris. She encouraged me to come out there in a couple of weeks, visit H who will be at that point of his tour, and try to find a job. What a temptation...I would still prefer Italy though...

I hadn't realised until just now, but ... at this point I am compelled to point out that H is much more lordly than A. In fact, he was the most distinguished person in the room - gather everyone in the room and he'd be the one to point at as having a title. He certainly does ooze a certain je ne sais quoi and said it baffles even him sometimes.

Fortunately, I was not the shortest but there was an overabundance of tall blond people and I wish I'd worn my higher boots. The other short girl (way shorter than I) was someone from the wine department at Sotheby's who encouraged me to apply to their HR. Then it occurred to me that I am much more assured at Christie's functions because, not only are the people of more manageable height, but we have a few things in common even though we don't know each other.

Andy was in the car with us on the way back, and as we entered St John's Wood, commented that he'd honestly never been on this side of town before. Well, SW London is where the titles tend to congregate, but the NW certainly rivals it for money any day.

I am sooooo ready for another Christie's reception....*sigh*
Preferably one where I can win another DeBeer's diamond. Just kidding, one is enough. Maybe something else really nice ;-) A nice fellow perhaps?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Treasures and Beethoven

Today is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen Belsen. This is the camp where Anne Frank died. In her diary, she said that she wanted the world to hear her voice. The fact that she died before she was heard, makes that wish only more poignant.

I am completely predicting Dan Cruikshank tonight, on 80 Treasures Around the World. This episode he's in Turkey, Russia, Poland and Germany.

He was walking from the Zentral Flughafen in ... I forget where, and he began talking about the car commissioned by Adolf Hitler. Isn't it ironic that, having destroyed the Reich, the world went on to embrace one of the greatest icons of the 20th century. The Volkswagen Beetle of course. Designed by Mr Porsche. More icons follow eh?
Dan also visited the Bauhaus, closed down by the Nazis. Another irony, the Bauhaus in its revolutionary ultra-modern designs. All our institutional chairs and much more in furniture design that we take for granted was designed by Mies van der Rohe and his lot.

I forgot the point I was getting to before that.........HOw about another quote from A Room with a View.
Lucy wanted to go on the tram - alone - after playing the piano at the pension. Mr Beebe and Miss Allan disapproved, saying it would be more appropriate if she went for a walk.
"Italians, dear, you know," said Miss Alan.
"Perhaps I shall meet someone who reads me through and through!"
So Lucy concedes that she would go for a little walk on the safe tourist streets.
"She oughtn't really to go at all," said Mr Beebe as they watched her from the window, "and she knows it. I put it down to too much Beethoven."

I agree. Beethoven is dangerous. Those of you who know me know I looooove Beethoven, and that I like to reiterate that good girls of the 19th century were not allowed to listen to his music because it would evoke emotions they were not allowed to feel (i.e. stir the passions, and good girls weren't allowed to experience passion!)
Lucy Honeychurch is a good Edwardian girl pushing against the restrictions of her upper middle-class society. There has been social progress: she is allowed to play Beethoven. But her bouts of freedom are blamed on Beethoven.

Mozart was my first more innocent love, and I have those moments when I hear his music and my soul breathes a sigh of relief, and I can laugh at his musical jokes. But Beethoven is my later more passionate love, for when I want to hear Beethoven it's a sort of yearning. His music comes from deep within, and he is sharing that with us.
Music is powerful because the composer is imparting himself to us, sharing his state of mind.

"You ask me where I get my ideas. That I cannot tell you with certainty. They come unsummoned, directly, indirectly — I could seize them with my hands — out in the open air, in the woods, while walking, in the silence of the nights, at dawn, excited by moods which are translated by the poet into words, by me into tones that sound and roar and storm about me till I have set them down in notes."
Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1824

I won't even begin to quote from his letter to his angel, his all, his other self....

Beethoven composed as one of the early Romantics. Mozart preceded him a little bit (d. 1791), perhaps paving the way for the Romantic movement. Poets, writers, composers, artists.
I was browsing through the Lebrecht art library, for familiarity, typed in a few composers and came across a lithograph of the young Beethoven playing in the Mozarts' drawing room. Beethoven did at one time ask Mozart to tutor him, something Wolfie hated doing, but after listening to him at the klavier, did comment that here was one young man the world would keep its eye on.
On hearing Beethoven, Haydn also commented that music would never be the same.

While Mozart was employed as part of a household and composed on demand (a situation he continually rebelled against), Beethoven was essentially freelance, supported by patrons who didn't always commission works, but gave him the freedom to pursue his own inspirations. Listening to some of Beethoven's sounds, it is hard to believe they were composed two centuries ago. There is something impressionistic about them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Violets from end to end...

...referring to the passage in A Room with a View when Lucy Honeychurch unexpectedly encounters George Emerson. The party is taken on a country drive and scatters across the picnic site. Lucy wanders off and asks the driver for the 'buoni uomini' (good man, in her mind the clergyman Mr Beebe) but he thinks she's asking for George:
"Eccolo!" he exclaimed.
At the same moment the ground gave way, and with a cry she fell out of the wood. Light and beauty enveloped her. She had fallen onto a little open terrace, which was covered with violets from end to end.
"Courage!" cried her companion, now standing some six feet above. "Courage and love."

George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment, he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her.

This scene was suggested to me this morning when I was walking to work. The trees are in blossom this month. There was a gust of wind along the road and I found myself passing through a flurry of snowy petals.


Rather funny, not Overheard but Seen at Number 33 today:

In the kitchen getting breakfast. Crazy Eric the dog is still with us. He was hanging around because Michael was in the dining room. He stands there expectantly, like any dog does, but then he started chewing his toe, with his nose pressed to the floor. He kept snuffling and stepping backwards, thus creating a circle of nose-wet on the floor around himself. Of course he didn't care but it did make me laugh.

N.B. I've made artsy additions to my Photo Annex so check it out!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Umm and Ahh...

It's been a few days since I last wrote. That signifies something negative. At the moment, some particularly beautiful classical music is on my radio, thus balancing my mood out somewhat and detaching me a little from my melancholy.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I described myself as having "died a thousand deaths". I think the Fig is gone (mentioned a couple of times despite my policy of silence).

And so on to a proper blog here while the music soothes my troubled soul. Monday at the picture library was tough but not as bad as it could have been. It was just me and the boss. The other 3 employees were not in, and when Elbie (the boss) went to lunch I had the office alone. Then, today everyone was in, but I had just as much work which is why I didn't find Monday so hard.
Monday I dealt with lots of graphics and captions. Today I was invoicing and my hands were Paper Cut Central.
Since starting there, everyone has eaten at their desks but I made a point of going out to lunch so that I don't get drained (hey, they're only giving me a tenner a day). Rather nicely, after I took off lunch the first day, Elbie has made a point of sending me out each day.
Today was jaw-dropping because we had two cool breaks:
-1- After the mid-morning snack and cuppa tea, I was still flagging and really muddling myself up. E. came back and asked if I'd gone to my usual lunch and I said, no I was stuck. So she said, Alright, everyone go off to lunch (at 2pm mind you). So Sara, Anne and I went! Poor Anne has just broken up with her bf of 3 yrs.
-2- About 4.30, E. said she didn't want us all getting drained, and why don't we girls go for a walk round together to post the letters and drop off the recycling. So we did. Eeenteresting.

Then her husband came round to get in the way. He's written a lot of books about classical music, and he started the library in 1996. It's in the basement flat of a house in SJW, and it seems they live upstairs.

Hm. It seems I have written about work. I promised myself I wouldn't, but you can't really help it when that's what you do all day! I won't say anything out of turn then.

For once I've omitted to Google something. But good grief, look what it just turned up:
The Lebrecht Weekly Index - weekly columns
Norman Lebrecht's Official Site
I wonder if I've heard his programme on Radio 3.

Well the music stopped working and I've hit a slump. Another time then.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Tom and Laura Parker Bowles chat with Princes William and Harry (AP) Posted by Hello

Pope and Prince

I start this post with a thank you to Vanessa, who is travelling in SE Asia, for taking the time to catch up with my blog since leaving Phuket. V, you're a dear!

As I watched the funeral of Il Papa yesterday, I wondered: did Karol Wojtyla have to disown his family in order to become Giovanni Paolo II, the representative of Christ on earth?

Just as Christ effectively disowned his mother and brothers when he was told that they were outside and wanted to see him. He said that his mother and brothers were anyone who followed him.


I'm watching the wedding celebrations of Prince Charles and Camilla (now HRH the Duchess of Cornwall). I saw them emerge, rather awkward but content, from the civil ceremony at the Windsor registry office.

Over the next couple of hours the wide array of wedding guests arrived at St George's Chapel within the grounds of Windsor Castle. The weather is frigid today but at least it's dry. I couldn't help but think that the women in their gorgeous suits and dresses must have been frozen to the bone. Even the men's splendid morning suits would not be enough, and the interior of an English church is never fully warm.

The only two guests to wear top hats were Stephen Fry (of course, Jeeves) and for some reason, Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean, Blackadder). The two sought each other out for a good chat, two kindred souls in a sea of hatless heathens.

After the guests were seated in the nave, the royal family, minor royals, and the Duchess's family were ushered into the Quire through another entrance. William walked down the drive with his brother, uncles and cousins - and I was stunned to note how much he has grown into his father's son. As he ages, he is losing the Spencer traits and becoming a Windsor. He no longer does Diana's shy peep through the eyelashes. It is good that he gains confidence as he matures. Our comfort is that he is a wiser, more balanced, more prepared young man than his embattled father ever could be.
As the royals were seated, they were waving, blowing kisses, and making signs at each other across the aisles like any family would. Even gawking around as if they'd never been there before.

I have to admit, Camilla looks good today. I've never, ever seen her look half so acceptable as she does today. The dress she changed into for the church blessing is really graceful, and the feathers in her hair are quite nicely done.

The more I learn, the more I begin to think she's not so bad after all. I hear that she and the prince share a cracking sense of humour. She is down-to-earth. And in the end, they suit each other and balance each other out quite well.

...As long as she never becomes more than Princess Consort, I think the nation is fully behind the marriage. Since the wedding was announced last month, they've been sneaking more and more titles in for her!
Interesting to note that as much as has been made of Charles's 30-year affair with Camilla, he is in fact the only Prince of Wales who has had one affair. Thinking back, they've always been such playboys.
In that respect, good for him. To give himself more credit as the future king, he's made an honourable woman of her. :-)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Finally done...

Finally, I have finished that book! For the past few weeks I have been struggling through a book of nonfiction: The Child that Books Built by Francis Spufford.

At first, I identified with him in the details of a book lover's life - the palpable silence that falls over a house when every inhabitant is absorbed in a book. Things like that. And I also rather enjoyed his Jungian discussions of the forest as the necessary uncertainty in childhood stories and fairytales.
But soon the book turned into a sort of autobiography through his book phases and I lost interest, but, unusually for me, kept plodding through to the end. Ah well. Over now.
I bought it over a year ago because of the title and because the cover image was one of Archimboldo's overcreative images called The Librarian - a man made of books. He was what, the Dali of the 17th-18th C.?

Goodness me, in the past week, we have lost Il Papa, Prince Rainier, and some American novelist.
Is Prince Charles's already-jinxed marriage to Camilla to be sandwiched between a papal and a state funeral? Dear me. It bodes ill for the couple.
Anyone noticed how sneaky they were with the public? First, they announced the wedding and that she would be princess consort and merely Duchess of Cornwall (the Prince's own duchy which funds his private life with MRS Parker-Bowles). That smoothed us all over for a while.
Now they are telling us that she will be called HRH, and to top it all, Princess of Wales - which means whoever William marries will be bereft of that such thing as a Dowager Princess, is there?
They've practically already hinted to us that she'll be Queen next! Spare us...

Verbal exchange coming home today:
[Eric barking wildly as he does when anyone enters or exits the house]
Me: It's alright Eric, only me! [more barking] Er du vitless Ericur? (Are you crazy Eric? in Icelandic)
Suzy: What?
Me: Er du vitless, Ericur?
Suzy: What?
(Then I explained.)

He is, I believe, Michael's nephew's dog which they are dogsitting for a couple of weeks. In a burst of goodwill this morning, he followed me up to my room with my breakfast tray. Usually he just pretends I'm not there unless I'm in the kitchen, when he comes in to wag and make eyes at me. He's a funny-looking old (?) with floppy, bat-like ears and his eyes are close together. He's good until he does his old donkey bark.

Well, I shall take my sehr verlassen self and get some sleep for my third day at the picture library. Oh yes, my German improved much through translating captions today. It is such a silly language, no offense to anyone. I love the way they make compound words, which literally translated come out hilarious.

Right, am off for real this time.

P.S. If you liked the Overheard in New York website, I might start my own Overheard at No. 33 comments. M & S say the funniest things to each other sometimes.

Monday, April 04, 2005


Between the new Casanova series on BBC and the Overheard in New York site, I haven't taken a proper breath in hours!

Disdainful man: Casanova, you have the look of a peasant about you. What do you do? What is your profession?
Casanova: I'm a spy. I spy things. For instance, over there's a canal. I spied it. Ooop, spied it again...!

As you can see, it's completely modern in spirit and dialogue but the costumes and settings are authentic. Some interesting effects too. It could be called a pretty farcical romp, and a bit silly at times, but still....anything for a laugh these days, my new motto.
Throughout is the sort of phrasing that would make you guffaw in spite of yourself, or perhaps choke on a mouthful of tea. They were a bit wicked back then, weren't they?

Casanova to dodgy Castrato: I hear you're from Bologna. Good singing. You reached those one-fifth notes like......oh go on, you're a girl, aren't you?

I am sooo glad I got cheered up by this. Because if I'd written this blog in the afternoon, I would have had a proper rant. I was feeling distinctly disappointed, let-down, frustrated, and dejected about everything and by everyone. Well...I still am...a bit...but it doesn't smart as much as it did earlier.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

France and Italy

Hey everyone, my France and Italy photos are now online! It didn't take long at all with Hello and Picasa, compared to the usual lumbering uploads.

*sigh* It is that time of year when my thoughts wander to Italy. This morning I wanted so much to go there, it was tugging at my heart.

By now we have all heard of the Pope's passing. He has "serenely abandoned himself to God" and of him I will say no more. I was flipping through photo albums at my grandmother's house last night - lots of pics of Iceland, Denmark, London, ancestors, friends, family. I turned the page, looked up at the TV to note the news of the Pope's death, looked back down at the page, and lo and behold! There he was! Helga's grandkids were standing in front of his waxwork at Madame Tussaud's. Needless to say, Amma and I freaked out for a minute.

Amma gave me some awesome old books with embossed hardcovers.
--A 1960 publication of some O. Henry short stories
--Her own childhood copy of "The Children of the New Forest" by Capt. Marryat, apparently a 19th century print bought at a boksali in Reykjavik
--A version of Dumas' Three Musketeers, so old the pages are brown, and apparently once belonging to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.
--A copy of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, inscription page torn out but the impression on the next page looks like it was a gift from my grandfather to Amma and my uncles John, Lawrence and Andre in 1943.
--The Old Curiosity Shop by Dickens, inscribed with the wonderful name Octavia Grace
--and finally the oldest one - so old the canvas on the cover is unravelling, a 1903 version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, inscribed by my great-grandmother Ethel Roe at East Park College in 1903.

My g-grandmother Ethel Roe was apparently up in Southampton society circles, and was engaged to the son of the consul in Rio de Janeiro. She didn't hear from him for many months so she wrote to break off the engagement and tell him she would marry the first man who asked her. Well, that was the Icelandic captain Einarsson whom she met at a party. Soon the ex-fiance came looking for her, with the explanation he'd been deathly ill. There must have been countless similar misunderstandings in those days with slow or no communication.

Now for a funny story, my uncle Lawrie was studying art at the Regent's Street Polytechnic (now part of the U of Westminster). One day Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh visited the art students there, and when he asked my uncle what he was studying there, he quipped, "Agriculture" to which the prince replied, "I asked for that, didn't I?" Common occurrence when it comes to Prince Philip.

I am again watching The Queen's Castle about Windsor. It's about the annual Gartering, when the current Knights of the Garter join Her Majesty to garter the new appointees, of which there are never more than (12 or 23) at one time. Also about the races at Royal Ascot, and how intimately the Queen knows her horses and their bloodlines.