Wednesday, December 31, 2008

best exhibition of the year

The British Museum and the V&A are putting on tremendous shows at the moment. My best of year award goes to Francis Bacon at Tate Britain. It has to, really - Francis Bacon is without question the greatest British artist of the 20th century; and this is a fantastic appraisal of his work. It’s still on, and I am planning to go again to spend some quality time amongst the carcasses.

best book of the year

Although it was published years ago now, I’m going to nominate Thomas Pakenham’s The Scramble for Africa . Another category with very meagre pickings - I resolve to do better in 2009!

best movie of the year

Yikes! According to my blog I hardly saw any this year. Out of a very slim field, the stand-out is Burn After Reading. Apologies to all those who preferred the Coen brothers’ other movie No Country for Old Men; I’m just too cowardly to see really scary films.

theatrical experience of the year

A good year for me. Very memorable was the London premiere of Damon Albarn’s/ Jamie Hewlett’s Journey to the West at Covent Garden - a spectacular and joyous production in a house feverish with anticipation. I didn’t enjoy the CD nearly as much, though.

Peter Hall’s production of Pygmalion at the Old Vic was a complete delight; however my most memorable theatrical night night this last year has to be the NT’s mind-blowing Revenger’s Tragedy.

my meal of the year - Wapping Food

Every meal out was pretty special this year. Hakkasan with Liz back in March for my birthday was absolutely wonderful; a real pleasure - even down to the hard-won doggy bag.

Trinity still slightly disappoints - my first visit was with the tardy relatives, who arrived two hours late for Sunday lunch, and one can’t blame the restaurant for the food in those circumstances. I chose badly on my second visit. The neighbours rave about it, and it is good to have a smart and decent restaurant within walking distance. I just need to be won over; for me it seems to be missing the Xfactor.

Wapping Food has the Xfactor in spades. Ingrid, Peter and I went just before Christmas an it’s absolutely magical. It’s in a refurbished power station across the road from the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping - modern art covers the towering walls and courtyard; banks of candles gutter on the old power station machinery. A really full-on event space, with bags of character and charisma. But the food is wonderful too - quite simple things superlatively cooked. I had a chunky, intensely fishy potted mackerel to start and a barbecued pork chop for my main course, which was the platonic ideal of pork chops - perfectly, juicily piggy, yet subtly enhanced with smoky barbecue flavours. The custard for my wonderful apple and plum crumble was just to die for. Some criticize the service at this place, especially the owner’s allegedly uncertain temper, but we had excellent, friendly and helpful service and the owner herself graciously put us back into our coats and gave us directions to the docklands light railway. So no complaints from me there.

Whoever selected the music has exactly the same taste as me; however, I have to say it was slightly too loud. But Ingrid and Peter didn’t complain.

I very much look forward to my next visit to this place; I might be brave enough to invite the tardy relatives.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The book is kiddie fiction - a bit Mills & Boone candy with some bite; very entertaining nonetheless: the film is faithful to the novel’s wonderful sense of place and atmosphere but improves the plot in crucial respects: notably, it increases the sense of menace as the evil vampires approach the little town of Forks, and speeds up the story. The special effects are a bit average, but are made up for by some delicious camerawork and the beautiful actors. The acting is uniformly good. Altogether, a quality adaptation and one the sequel’s director will have a challenge to better. I would pay more attention to the vampires’ make-up, especially in the neck areas. They were a bit white-face from the chin upwards.

The soundtrack is excellent too; quite adventuresome for the target audience - Muse, Radiohead and Debussy feature.


I can’t recommend this exhibition at the British Museum highly enough - the sculptures have been chosen and placed so intelligently; they really open up a dialogue with their surroundings. There are only 5 works, but all of them are fabulous. Tourists were clustering around Marc Quinn’s solid gold life-size Kate Moss with cameras; there were ‘no photography’ signs in front of Damien Hirst’s gaily coloured ranked skulls in the 18th-century bookcases in the Enlightenment Gallery: boo hiss. I really feel like sneaking back and taking a surreptitious one.

Mr Hirst has really gone down in my estimation: after making in excess of £100 million from his autumn auction he laid off the staff of assistants who actually made the works - into a savage recession. Lovely.

Round and Round the Garden

I finally saw the third part of Alan Ayckbourne’s The Norman Conquests trilogy early in December. Despite my reservations about the first episode, and despite reports that Round and Round the Garden was the weakest segment, I loved it. in the timeline of all three plays, RRG starts earliest and finishes last. Therefore, strictly speaking, I think one should see this one last, as it gives the final perspective on Norman’s shenanigans - although the plays convincingly demonstrate that humans are not susceptible to “final” analyses.

Appropriately for its outside setting, there is far more physical comedy in this play; but also some of the funniest lines. The audience was in raptures - the night I went had the most tumultuous applause of all three evenings.

Table Manners
Living Together

more prezzies

My niece and nephew gave me a box of hand-made (by themselves) chocs - absolutely stunning. F made brandy-soaked chocolate cherries and T made whisky and champagne truffles. They are actually spectacular - far superior to shop-bought. I arrived in Cambridge to find T looking a bit like a truffle himself: covered in a light dusting of cocoa powder and with hands, face and t-shirt generously smeared in melted chocolate. His mother was beside herself, but determined he finish his task. Making boxes of chocs for relatives and friends seemed to be their Xmas party trick.

I'm back!

Back from the Xmas festivities in Cambridge, with my final deadline for 2008 looking quite daunting. Never mind, just get stuck in. Here goes . . .

I came back to find my poor tree in a very desiccated condition. Oh well.

Apart from humungous quantities of food, we had lots of wintry countryside walks in Cambridge - usually at sunset. That’s when my relatives usually come out to play.

I got Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight for Xmas - devoured it in hours; it’s highly readable and entertaining despite its many glaring faults. Funny to have socially acceptable, conservative “family values” vampires - my vampire frame of reference has always been the far more subversive Anne Rice version. Have to see the movie.

I’m very impressed with my mother. Fresh from her pre-Xmas “nervous breakdown” she scored a new boyfriend just before Christmas - in a target poor and competition rich environment. I’m impressed. And surely, if my 77-year old mother can do it, I can too?? The lucky 81-year old boy is showering her in flowers and meals. They had a date picnic with the Xmas hamper I sent.

That’s enough for one post - got another 9 to go!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Festive visits

It's annoying that whenever life speeds up and I have lots and lots to write, my writing time shrinks.  In fact it's shrunk so completely I haven't blogged for a while, so must start catching up as quickly as possible because I'm off to Cambridge tomorrow and will be off-line again until the weekend at the earliest.

Company lunch today, plus massive work deadlines, plus my friends from SA who are doing the tourist thing in London are quite determined to visit me again tonight.  Could have been a bit of an imposition, but I'm so totally organized for Christmas this year it's pretty remarkable - ALL my presents are wrapped already, and everything I'm taking to Cambridge is in a neat pile ready to be stashed in an overnight bag at a moment's notice.

It seems I have a talent for entertaining children. I'm not all over them, not do I talk down to them, but for Ingrid's two I did plan to keep them entertained on their first visit chez moi - the little boy I plonked in front of my computer (He's a Mequest fiend), and the little girl helped me decorate my tree while I chatted to her parents.

I had an extravagant pile of pastries from Macaron awaiting them for tea. My inner domestic goddess's camp predilection for cake stands has been thwarted by a lack of storage space in the kitchen: however, said goddess was thrilled and inspired recently by a window display at Zeitgeist (I think) - one can make one's own cake stand out of plates and wineglasses.  Luckily I have comedy wine glassses (an unfortunate gift) which were just perfect as makeshift cake stand supports. Very effective, and the children loved it.

So much so that whenever they saw "Clapham Common" on tube maps afterwards they demanded their mother take them back to my flat. Even if was was working, which I most assuredly was.

So I wasn't really expecting to have to entertain again, but hey ho here we go.  I suppose one of the things children have to learn is that repeat gigs are never the same. Luckily Mequest is still there; Romy will have to make do with my Tintin collection.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


O.M.G. !!! - like a vampire fresh from the tomb, the 80s are back!

I have so pre-ordered their debut album already from Amazon; gives me something to look forward to in January! (comes out January 12)

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Hard as it is for me to believe, but this is my third anniversary in my very own little flat - already I’ve been here a third of the time I was in the previous house with Ivan and Liz.

The shock of events in the last three years has really changed me; time flies when you are struggling to cope!! My finances took a massive tumble after my redundancy and almost every day since I’ve worried about keeping the flat; it’s quite extraordinary that I’m still here and just-about solvent after three years. Where will I be next year?

Hopefully, still on an upward track. My income streams are now diversified so another redundancy by itself will be less traumatic financially (and emotionally, I now know I can survive) - and also I now have insurance against loss of income.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


As we near the end of the seemingly interminable Bush years, even the President himself turns to the question of his historic legacy:

“I don't spend a lot of time really worrying about short-term history. I guess I don't worry about long-term history, either, since I'm not going to be around to read it -- (laughter) -- but, look, in this job you just do what you can.”

Andrew Sullivan, from here.