Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Monday, 15 March 2010
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
What happened? Where did the year go? Time seems to get much faster as I get older - and I often wonder what happened to those long, endless summers? I would spend hours drifting around my mother's garden - the mossy lawn would spring between my toes as I would go down to the vegetable patch to pick whatever my mother needed for our supper. Balmy evenings would be spent watching the swallows whilst lying on my bed with the windows wide open - the warm breeze nudging me further towards a sleep which seemed a thousand sleeps from the morning in September when I would wake to a stiff collar, crisp pleated skirt and a new pair of sturdy, awful shoes that I would 'grow into'. I now have an irrevocable aversion to ever being 'sensibly' shod - much to my mother's annoyance.
Time seems different now and in acknowledgment of this I have not written a list for this year. The only thing I would like to do is ride in a hot air balloon at the end of a hot summer's day, (with a bottle of cold champagne, of course) to listen to the silence of the air as I look down on a patchwork burnt by the sun. This, I think I will do.
I had a very lovely birthday weekend spent wandering the streets of Oxford in the early spring sunshine and a day spent at my parent's in the company of my family including my lovely eight week old niece who stole the show entirely - understandably. My mother baked me a fantastic cake bedecked with glitter and I have just scoffed the last piece with a cup of tea.
The secondhand copy of Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree and Sylvia Townsend Warner's Summer will Show were bought in the Oxfam bookshop in Oxford with some birthday money from my Granny. The Lovely Bones and The Other Queen were given to my by my Sister - here is where I confess my dirty secret that I read Philippa Gregory, still everyone needs a bit of mental chewing gum now and again; surely? The snob in me is screaming to deny my ever having heard of her - the shame. My lovely friend bought me Elizabeth Goudge's The Bird in the Tree and Coco Before Chanel which I have wanted to watch for ages as I adore Chanel and my mum gave me Meals in Heels (I did mention my aversion to sensible shoes - it pervades every aspect of my life) which has me salivating already. The still wrapped Persephone is House-Bound by Winifred Peck which I am sure will render me house-bound for a while. And finally, Rachel (Book Snob) gave me Elizabeth Goudge's Green Dolphin Country which I have wanted to read for ages.
The long, endless summers may have become short but this hardship is counter-balanced by the realisation that I would rather a shorter summer with no starched school term looming ever closer - now I can decide my own reading list and while away my Sundays with books that I enjoy rather than a maths textbook or my MA thesis to write (of which I still have nightmares) - and that is absolutely worth getting older for.
Friday, 5 March 2010
So, to take my mind off warm fantasies I am currently reading Henry: Virtuous Prince by David Starkey (with a frightful cover design). So far, I cannot put it down. Starkey writes in an incredibly accessible way. I have, perhaps a misplaced notion that non-fiction is often dry and laborious but this is a real page turner.
It has also reminded me of one of my favourite places in London. Eltham Palace was Henry VIII's childhood home. Now owned by English Heritage, the ruined medieval palace was bought by the millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld who built an extraordinarily stunning Art Deco mansion on the site. The original Great Hall exists and medieval and Art Deco architecture sit side by side and work together to present an outstanding and unique palace.
The Courtaulds turned the ruined moat into a lawn.
The medieval Great Hall, built by Edward IV in the 1470s
I Capture the Castle
The ornate Art Deco interior is beautiful but my favourite room was Stephen's bathroom. I love the pattern on these curtains and the colours of the leaves against the blue tiles. The simplicity of his choice of decor is both striking and comforting. In contrast, Virginia's bathroom was covered in gold mosaic tiles, containted a Grecian statue and boasted a rather large mirror framed with lightbulbs.
Before I return to my longing for the warmth of spring I have to announce the winner of the copy of Iris Murdoch's The Book and the Brotherhood that Random House kindly gave me to offer for my book giveaway. I am pleased to let Hannah Stoneham know that she is the winner! Just email me with your address and I will pop it in the post. Thank you to everyone who entered - I hope that some of you will go out and read an Iris Murdoch - perhaps in the warmth of the sun in your local park?