“When Shall We Three Meet Again?”

The other night I was fortunate enough to catch some of the BBC’s Macbeth, starring Sir Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood and directed by Peter Goold. I was even more fortunate to have seen it in the original, raw, live flesh on stage in Chichester’s close-quartered, atmospheric theatre, and this televised version took me right back, having lost none of its terse tension, high drama or beautifully acted characterisation. It also reminded me how much I have missed watching theatre critically: whether for university or for the theatre reviews I used to write for University of Warwick’s newspaper The Boar: http://theboar.org/arts/2009/jan/13/wherefore-art-thou/

This post’s opening line also serves another purpose. Recently I visited my very best friend in Northampton and whilst there was certainly no witchcraft or aiding and abetting plots to kill Scottish kings, she did re-teach me the magic of using sewing machines, resulting in the following draught excluder (matching doorstop and cushions to follow: Northampton’s material markets are full of bargains). I was also reunited with the pottery I painted at her hen party. Funny how these things never turn out the way you expect…

Next stop: Christmas!

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“I Learn in this Letter…”

Since university I have done very little reading. The weeks after my finals I think I did none at all. Then, over the lazy summer months I read nothing but trash- quick and easy, but highly enjoyable, fictional trash. Novels I didn’t have to analyse so could just guiltily inhale in the knowledge that the plots were predictable but fun, and that my professors would scorn me – but from a distance, as they had no power over me anymore. Georgette Heyer, Philippa Gregory, Sharon Penman, J K Rowling (again)… Once I’d recovered from the worry that my English Literature BA had killed my love of reading, my ability to endure it and stick with somewhat not always likeable characters for more than 300 pages, and the perseverance to resist the tempting face of other pastimes – such as rather interesting television, I began to rack up bills in bookshops, buying more varied modern classics, poetry, even non-fiction. Whilst I was reading Dickens, Gaskell, Hardy, Shakespeare, Tolstoy (ok, so maybe I didn’t actually ready Tolstoy), the Man Booker prize winners and nominees passed me by (until I bought Hilary Mantel for my mother for Christmas and she raved about it for weeks). I finally discovered Margaret Atwood and devoured The Handmaid’s Tale in 48 hours. It was completely not what I expected, but it gripped me and wouldn’t let go, which was exactly what I needed. I’ve since bought The Penelopiad and am hoping it will be just as rewarding. The Reluctant Fundamentalist followed suit, thought-provoking and fast-moving, its ending left me undecided and challenged, if not a little confused. But because I didn’t have to discuss it for hours in a seminar, I revelled in it and moved on. I’m a sucker for pretty hardbacks (I’m afraid I do quite often judge a book by its cover) so bought The Diary of a Provincial Lady for its gorgeous floral front, without knowing much more about it than the review in the shop, but read it travelling to and from London on the train whilst working for Dorling Kindersley, its epistolary, epilogue style being perfect for commuter journeys. Brideshead Revisited kept me in touch with more “classic” classics and made me nostalgic for university (and long gone eras) and I acquired The Misanthrope after seeing the recent stage production with Damian Lewis and Keira Knightley. Currently I’m buried deep within Angela Carter’s Fairy Tales, luxuriating in the fact that they echo a childlike feeling within me and yet they’re oh so grown up. And I am once again excited about the fact that I have lots of books to read…

(“Much Ado About Nothing”)

“If Music Be The Food Of Love, Play On…”

Gifts. That’s what I’m pondering today, after my recent talk about home-made pressies. What gifts really are the best? Big flashy expensive ones? Rushed, panic-bought bath salts? Fail-safe store vouchers? A poorly composed love poem (from Twelfth Night, perhaps?!)? I’m firmly of the opinion that it’s the home-made, “it’s the thought that count”, “made with love” gifts that mean the most and are the best. But maybe I’m wrong. Please do dispute me. And obviously, if someone wished to buy me a big flashy piece of jewellery, or a car, or a designer handbag, then I probably wouldn’t decline…

To prove my point, here are some gifts given to myself and my family recently. My dad was recently in an accident, and so a work colleague thought to send him a gift. But what? Men are difficult to buy for at the best of times. The perfect answer: homemade Welsh Gower brownies. Perhaps not the most obvious choice, but these brownies were so delectable and melt-in-your-mouth-y that no brownies have matched up to them since. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to eat them all, but believe me if I could’ve I probably would’ve. I heartily recommend them to everyone as the proof that all the best things in life do in fact come from Wales. Check out their website and I challenge you to not let these snaps make your mouth drool! http://www.gowercottagebrownies.co.uk/index.html

Now the Gower Cottage people do say why send flowers when you can send brownies, but I still love a good bouquet. I recieved a bunch as a leaving present last month and I think they’re beautiful. Perhaps the novelty of flowers wears off after a while. I can’t say I’ve got to that stage in my life just yet. Happy gift buying, people!