Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Autumnal Love

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness," so said John Keats and I have to admit, Autumn is my favourite time of year. I love the "going-back-to -school" feeling, even though my school days are a distant memory!
The nights draw in and I love putting on the lights and lighting the candles. My favourite dishes of casseroles, roasts, cottage pies and creamy mashed potatoes can be cooked again after the salads and pasta of summer. The Christmas cakes are baked and fill the house with the aroma of tradition and home.
I can snuggle up with a good book and not feel guilty that I should be doing something more useful in the garden. I love the damp, woodland walks, sniffing the air tinged with woodsmoke. I still adore opening conkers and fill my pockets with childish glee.
My dad hated this time of year, he would get depressed and mourn the summer. I could never understand that and as I get older I cherish the autumn even more than I used to. To me, it is a season of warmth, comfort, home and hearth. It is a slowing down, a hiatus before the bustle of Christmas, New Year and the coming of Spring.
The summer clothes are packed away and out come the velvet, jewel coloured jackets, the tweed skirts, brogues and FairIsle jumpers. Woolly hats, scarves and mittens are brought out of the lavender infused trunk.
Yesterday, I made Parkin. It is lying, waiting to be eaten but we must wait a few days for extra stickiness. My mum has already stolen a few slices!
Happy Autumn everyone!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

My August Reads

I read three excellent books this month, and four not-so-excellent ones!
Linda Grant is a an author I really enjoy, her books are intelligent and very well written. "We Had It So Good" follows the life, into late middle-age, of Stephen. He came from Los Angeles in the sixties to study at Oxford, gets sent down and never finds his way back to the States. Grant writes beautifully of Stephen's relationships with his friends, parents, wife and children. His relationship with his father is particularly interesting and the account of their trip back to Poland and the consequent revelations, had me enthralled.

Jane Shilling is a writer who contributes to various publications, and her memoir "The Stranger In The Mirror" consists of her musings on entering "middle age", a subject close to my heart! She is another beautiful writer, she uses many literary allusions, and her prose is exquisite. I would recommend this to anyone of a certain age, but it is not a comfortable read!

"Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?" is a fabulous book. Jeanette Winterson revisits the territory of "Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit" with her autobiography of growing up in a strict Christian household, headed by the terrifyingly bonkers "Mrs Winterson". It charts her extraordinary life, and I loved the descriptions of the North West and its people. Winterson was adopted and is reunited with her birth mother, eventually, but she is searingly honest in describing this difficult relationship. For all her many faults, Mrs Winterson made Jeanette into the person she is, and her writing stems from her strange childhood. She ponders if she had grown up with her birth mother, she may not have been the writer she is today.

I went to Italy in August and took four books that I could leave there and not mind if they got wet or covered in sun cream.
Linwood Barclay's thrillers are a good holiday read and "The Accident" was a great page turner. The twist in the tale was a bit obvious, but it wasn't at all bad.
I usually really enjoy Joanna Trollope, but "The Other Family" was a tad weak. It is a tale of a popular song-writer who had left his wife and son, setting up home with his partner and having three more children. He dies and the action is concerned with the effect on them all. None of the characters were particularly well-written and not an awful lot happens. Rather disappointing.
I loved "American Wife" by Curtis Sittenfeld, a fictional account of a First Lady, based on the life of Laura Bush. "Prep" is set in the world of a rarified American private school. It was well written and I did enjoy it but "American Wife" is much better.
"Never Going Home" by Evonne Warham was not so good. It was reviewed in the magazine we get at the library and looked like a good holiday thriller. However, it was a Mills and Boon type romance, cringe-worthy in the descriptions of the attraction between the main characters. The mother who has lost her only child only recently, falls straight into the arms of the "security consultant" who helps her, after every major shock she is in his arms. It rings so untrue and the plot was so incredible I had to laugh in the end.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A Little Bit Of Glamour At The V & A

As a treat for doing well in her GCSEs, I took my daughter to London for the day. We had been wanting to visit the Ballgown Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum and it was a lovely trip.
The ballgowns dated from the 1950s onwards and were stunningly beautiful. Unfortunately we couldn't take photos in there but believe me, the exhibits were gorgeous. There were contemporary designers on display, I loved an Alexander McQueen feather dress worn by Daphne Guiness. Bel was intrigued by the dresses worn by Beyonce and the Christopher Kane evening gown worn to this year's Met Ball by Shailene Woodley. The dresses from the 1950s and 60s were stunning, truly an age of glamour. The famous dress by Catherine Walker for Princess Diana, her "Elvis" look, was breathtaking. It was encrusted with pearls and showed how slim and tall Diana was. I felt rather sad looking at it, what an elegant lady she was.
The surrounding galleries were filled with designs from history, the top image shows  a dress from the court of George II which was fascinating, we wondered how on earth the ladies got through the doors!
The exhibition is on until January and for anyone who enjoys fashion, it is indeed, a real treat.