Monday, 29 February 2016


I've just been over to see what joyful Melanie of bag and a beret fame is up to, she always cheers me up and delights me. But, guess what, the frumpy style police have given her a drubbing. What! How dare they! Don't they know that fun and fashion belong together? What a lot of piffle they talk. I'm thinking of starting a title,  STYLE OVER SEVENTY. I've put in the years, I'm all fired up, 
I'll put on my rose-tinted spectacles
 and wear WHATEVER-THE-HELL I like!
I so enjoy the colour of the coat that a daughter bought me for Christmas that when I saw these reading glasses I had to buy them.
The frames were very inexpensive, but the prescription lenses, which I need in order to see anything at all, were eye-wateringly expensive -  such are the trials of seeking a rose-tinted life!
I offer the dvd of Iris as a suitable response to the style police with their belittling and ignorant remarks about exuberant dressing and intelligence.
Her specs are far bigger than mine!

I'm a rather plain dresser myself but it doesn't mean that I don't enjoy creativity and a bit of dottiness in others. I wear a lot of black, white and grey. This Wallis dress is about thirty years old - I hope it never wears out!
I've commented before on bloggers whom I consider young and their concerns about wrinkles, age-appropriate dressing and so forth. There are better things to bother about. Aim to be healthy and happy and then, dear ladies, you will be beautiful!
Linking up with Patti at Not Dead Yet Style.

Friday, 26 February 2016


We've been in North Yorkshire, staying in the bolt hole that we converted from a stable block way back in the early '70's. There is no t.v. and no mobile phone reception; we take a pile of books, stack up the wood burner  and, if the weather is bad, just hunker down.
Some days the wind howled in the trees and the rain was horizontal, other days the sun shone in a cold, bright sky
and we ventured out. I dug up snowdrops from the back garth and planted them on my parents' grave.
The few that I had planted on the roadside verge outside our place are starting to multiply and look rather pretty.
Of course there are always a few jobs to be done. Himself set to work on the house front.
Not my usual sort of sky photo for Skywatch Friday!
If we finish reading the books that we've brought with us then we go to the book swap in the next village.
There's no knowing what you might find - and the setting is rather fine!
Himself thought that there might be something interesting on the bottom shelf.
On a crisp, cold day we went to the small Catholic church to attend the funeral service of a friend. We had crossed the bridge by the church with him many times over the years on our way out to lunch, always happy occasions.

I was happy to have such a beautiful day in which to say goodbye.

Monday, 15 February 2016


The subject of Alzheimer's suddenly seems to have become popular and features in books and films. It put in an appearance in Ann Tyler's 'Spool of Blue Thread' and is the main theme in Emma Healey's, 'Elizabeth is Missing.' The book has a prologue, the opening sentence of which is

'Maud? Was I boring you so much that you'd rather stand out in the dark?'

It was Maud being addressed and not me, but actually, yes, as the book progressed I was bored. It must be difficult to create a narrator with memory problems and still keep the dialogue sharp, I found the blanks and repetitions tedious and ultimately annoying.

It is Londoner Emma Healey's first book.
Here's the first page. Would it tempt you to keep on reading?
The next book for discussion at our book club later this month is another first novel, this one by an American,  Matthew Thomas. Once again we are dealing with Alzheimer's. I'm half way through it and finding it upsetting. If it were not on our book list I wouldn't be reading this book. (But that's precisely why I'm in a book club - to be taken out of my comfort zone.)  
The opening page would never have attracted to me to the book because it seems such a cliche of an Irish family. 

This book also has a prologue.  I found it disturbing.

His father was watching the line in the water. The boy caught a frog and stuck a hook in its stomach to see what it would look like going through. Slick guts clung to the hook, and a queasy guilt grabbed him.

I still haven't worked out the relationship of the prologue to the main body of the story but you could describe me as hooked!
Joining Bibliophile by the Sea for her Tuesday Intros.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

St Valentine's Day

What a lazy and lovely day we've had for St Valentine's, I hope it was the same for you. We ate at home, but with no effort because we had bought our meal the day before with everything prepared and ready to pop in the oven. In Britain the major stores now compete to offer a meal package for special days such as St Valentine's and they are very good value for money.  £20 bought us a starter,
a main,
with vegetable side.
Dessert, to which I added a slice to two of banana and a spray of the gold dust (it came in my Christmas stocking and I love it!) Heart-shaped chocolates and a bottle of Merlot completed the deal.
Then we slumped on the sofa and watched the film, 84, Charing Cross Road. Do you know it?
I saw it when it first came out in the '80's and loved it. The main actors are Ann Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins and the story takes place in New York and London.
It is a story about, and for, lovers of books and is pitch-perfect on the period detail of post-war London - all those grey mackintoshes! Ann Bancroft plays a feisty New Yorker (is there any other kind?) who enters into a correspondence with an antiquarian London bookseller, played by Hopkins.
There were two tantalising glimpses of New Look fashion when this New York actress popped into the dusty London shop.  

It is a quiet, gentle film - just what I like!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

War and Peace

The television series of War and Peace finished last night. It was a lavish production that has received general praise. It's years since I read the book and it has tempted me to return for a re-read. It interested me that whilst I could remember the general storyline and many of the characters very clearly, some others, such as Natasha's brother, I had completely forgotten about.
I've now seen four depictions of this novel, two films and two television productions. An image from the American film illustrates the box of my two-volume set.
I sat through the first half of a very long Russian film but didn't return to the cinema to see the second half! The television production of 1972 was a lengthy twenty-part series, giving time to develop the characters thoroughly and it impressed me greatly. Pierre was played by Anthony Hopkins and Alan Dobie was a memorable Andrei.
Here's the first page of my book for Diane's Tuesday Intros. Without any knowledge of the story would the opening lines invite me to continue reading? I'm doubtful.
And yet.. immediately there is a swipe at society behaviour, descriptions of clothing that put pictures in your head; scarlet livery, an embroidered court uniform with silk stockings and buckled shoes.
Oh, go on then, I'm hooked!
The costumes in the latest production came in for criticism in the papers for their historical inaccuracy; colours not yet invented, styles and fabric inappropriate, medals and tailoring making those with knowledge wince. 
How important is accuracy? I, for one, would like the producers to try harder. (Are there others out there who, on seeing Darcy dive into the lake in 'Pride and Prejudice' would echo my very disgruntled voice saying, "well, THAT'S not in the book!")

A few years ago I went to St Petersburg with my elder daughter, a city that I knew only through reading Russian novels and had long wanted to visit. We stayed in the centre at the Astoria, below, within walking distance of everything that we wanted to see.
And there was a great deal to see, including wonderful art from all over Europe,
and delightful objects in the folk museum.
I didn't see a purple off-the-shoulder dress anywhere!

Saturday, 6 February 2016


I went to the pictures this week, to a matinee performance; it seemed a good way to deal with the miserable weather that we have been sunk in for what feels like months. What an indulgence it feels to be sitting in a darkened cinema in the daylight hours! The film was, 'Youth' by the Italian director Paolo Sorrentino. I have always been a soft touch for Italian films and although all the main characters in this production were American and British the underlying quality of the film remained essentially Italian. 
The story is of two long-term friends visiting a Swiss sanatorium for a health check and reviewing their lives, talking of what they remember and what they have already forgotten. It is a quiet, reflective film, a piece of work in a minor key. There are some beautiful images, artfully arranged; those in a steam room looking like a de la Tour painting and, viewed on a large screen, a sequence in a flooded St Mark's Square that was simply stunning.
Jane Fonda puts in a cameo performance with a fine show of vitriol followed by regret.
It's a very gentle film overall and rather sad, which seems to be the flavour of things at the moment.  Donna Baker said of my book choice, "is that all there is?" and she could well have the same comment to make about this film. But I enjoyed it.
There are few examples of youth in the film, but one is the New Yorker, Paul Dano, currently receiving a lot of attention for his portrayal of Pierre in the BBC production of 'War and Peace' which comes to an end tomorrow night. I haven't read the book for many years but this production is tempting me to do so. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Too many books?

This is the time of year for sitting by the fire and reading or sloping off to bed with a novel that can't be put down. I've just finished reading Anne Tyler's 'A Spool of Blue Thread'.
I can't recommend it highly enough and I'm joining Diane at bibliophile by the sea to link the opening sentences just so that I can spread the word!

Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny. They were getting ready for bed at the time. Abby was standing at the bureau in her slip, drawing hairpins one by one from her scattery sand-colored topknot.

Why do I like it so much? You can tell from the opening sentence that the writing style is straightforward and that the characters are 'ordinary folk'.  Her people are real, their foibles and flaws are displayed but not judged, they are people with whom it is easy to identify. The structure of the novel is clever, it isn't linear, so that only when we are well into the story do we get information that gives insight into the actions of various family members. There is no pat, 'happy-ever-after' ending and  although I've now started on another book I am still living with the Whitshank family and mulling over their lives.
If you have read this book I would love to know what you thought of it.
Our book shelves are overloaded, some of them are sagging rather under the weight!
Books are scattered all about the house. In the dining room china has been ousted from the china cupboard and filled with books.
We are in a reading group and this results in sometimes reading books that we positively dislike. It's easy to pass those books on to the library or put them into a redundant telephone box that acts as a book swap. But it's difficult to part with most of the books that we've read. We keep promising ourselves a great clear-out but it hasn't happened yet!