Sunday, 8 October 2017



My new guilty pleasure ...Bake-Off-Vlaanderen. (You can watch it from the UK. I hope it won't prove too addictive!) Of course, I can't understand a word of it but they're looking for de beste koek - de top koek - de koek der koeken - de koekoek en de flopkoek ... so you get the gist of it and niet goed is niet goed, no matter where your Bake-Off tent is pitched.

Saturday, 7 October 2017



I felt a bit sorry for the handful of people who turned up in white tie and evening gowns for tonight's premiere of Journey's End; it might have been more glam in the stalls, but up in the circle they were sitting next to riff-raff like me who'd rolled along after work. Saw one girl (un)dressed to the nines in the kind of gown that demands a bikini wax; she must have been frozen ... I wriggled back into my coat and longed for a woolly jumper; you don't need the A/C on full blast in London in October!
I so wanted to love the film more than I did, but I couldn't help thinking back to that wonderful stage production with David Haig that left me so emotionally wrung out I could hardly stand up at the end. I'd forgotten how huge the Odeon, Leicester Square is; perversely, I think I'd have felt more involved in my cosy, little local cinema (where the seats are comfier, too!). Somehow, that claustrophobic feel of men in a dugout had been lost. Reviews have been mixed: the Guardian gave it 2* which seems harsh, 3* from the Telegraph and 4* from the Times. I'd say 3.5. If I hadn't been cold - and I hadn't skipped lunch - who knows? Yes, I know, this present generation, it's all about creature comforts ...

London Film Festival has just opened and, though I've had the brochure on my desk for weeks now, every time I flicked through it, I felt overwhelmed by the choice. But tonight - inspired by chatting to the woman sitting next to me who is seeing two or three films a day -  I got home feeling ready to go for it ... only to discover that everything I really want to see (On Chesil Beach, Loving Vincent, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) is already sold out. Oh well, there will be other chances.

But I have seen a couple of other films this week, nothing to do with the film festival.



In some ways this is the sequel to Journey's End, when the men have returned home with PTSD. I snuck into the cinema while I was shopping, only too aware that friends would sooner pull the teddy bear's arms off than sign up for two hours of this. (There was hardly anyone in the cinema.) Oh, there's part of me that loved it; when the credits rolled, there was a knitwear consultant - how can you not love that? But that appalling child ... how can you not want to throw up? Or cheer when Christopher Robin gets kicked down the stairs? I wasn't raised on Winnie-the-Pooh and it's too late now; I can hear my mother's damning verdict, 'It's very English!'

The Glass Castle (film).png

I wasn't expecting much from The Glass Castle; it had mostly ropey reviews, but I do like a Sunday morning movie and that's what was on, so that's what we saw. I wasn't keen on Woody Harrelson hamming it up and it did feel like something you'd watch on telly with a bad cold and Lemsip - but it held my interest and I was fascinated to see the real family members at the end. It did make me want to read Jeannette Walls' book about her outrageously feckless parents which sounds rather better than the film and has the advantage of being Woody Harrelson-free.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017



The book I should have abandoned after 50 pages - because it didn't improve! Are there no editors out there prepared to say, 'Go back to the beginning - and slash it by half!' 400 pages of tosh! Is it a rom-com? Is it a satire on the art world? `Is it supposed to be funny? It might have been if Hannah Rothschild had a lighter touch. Oh well, when the Daily Mail calls it a masterpiece, that should be warning enough! I did feel slightly uncomfortable with Nazi war crimes as the backstory to such a silly book. And no, it was not a good idea to have a long-lost painting by Watteau that talks to itself ...
I'm asking myself why I plodded on? Perhaps because a very unenticing book group book is nagging from my pile; still, if I leave it a week longer I can skim read without any guilt! (Bill Bryson. So predictable, I just can't be bothered.)

Monday, 2 October 2017



I've been practising my Christmas baking; I know - I'll peak too soon and by Christmas it'll be Mr Kipling if you're lucky! But I enjoy it more when there's no pressure and cinnamony, nutmeggy smells go with autumn. Last weekend I made an Italian spongata, from a 19th century recipe - like a big mince pie stuffed with honey and walnuts - but they're much older than that and this picture dates back to the 1690s. (That's not my best profile!) I cheated and used ordinary shortcrust because last time I used the original pastry - made with olive oil and white wine - and it turned out like old boots. This time I decided it was a success and I'll make it again.
But this weekend, I went back to my favourite old-fashioned seed cake - which has now officially replaced lemon drizzle as my default bake setting. (Nigel Slater says be frugal, a pinch of caraway is quite enough; I say go for it, I stir in a full tablespoon.) I do think it's time for a seed cake revival.

Friday, 29 September 2017



Feeling the need for a bit of light relief after binge-watching Vietnam, so I've been enjoying this RadioFour adaptation of Cold Comfort Farm - a repeat, but new to me. Waiting for a cottage pie to crisp up and pondering whether a jug of sunflowers looks a bit much against a shelf of orange Penguins.

Thursday, 28 September 2017




Two hours in, eight to go. I'm in it for the long haul - BBCFour's mammoth documentary about the Vietnam War is completely gripping. This war was the backdrop to my childhood, on the television news every night; we'd be hushed so my dad could listen, but nobody ever explained what it was all about. This is epic television; watching these first episodes - 1858-1961 and 1961-63 - I'm shocked at how much I didn't know.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017



The main event yesterday was supposed to be King Lear at Shakespeare's Globe - though I'm not sure that I didn't enjoy the Audrey preview rather more.
It's always a bit chancy booking for the Globe, especially in late September - but how lucky, I couldn't have had a more glorious day, and it was gorgeous walking along by the river. I hadn't been to the Globe in years; we used to make a point of going every summer, then I lost interest after a run of gimmicky all-female productions - and we drifted away.
So what's changed? There's clearly more air traffic overhead - and, while I get the fact that in Shakespeare's day audiences could drift in and out as they pleased (though if Generation Snowflake could stop guzzling water from crackly plastic bottles, it might discover that it could hang until the interval for the loo!), nevertheless I could have happily lynched the stupid woman whose phone went off - lengthily - as Lear carried on Cordelia's dead body. How about three hours in the stocks until the evening performance? And chuck her damn phone in the Thames! No, she was patted on the back by sympathetic staff to ease her embarrassment.
Still, it was a nice afternoon, if not a memorable production; bizarrely, at times it seemed to be played for laughs! I've only seen one Lear who truly wrung my heart and that was Ian Holm.