Monday 31 March 2008

A Woman of Letters

My favourite museum in London is the National Portrait Gallery.

I never tire of exploring the galleries of faces, however many times I visit; many images are familiar friends but there is always something new and interesting.

Yesterday MissM and I had tickets to the Vanity Fair exhibition and while we were waiting for our time slot we explored the smaller display of portraits of the Bluestocking Circle. These remarkable women contributed to the lively intellectual society in London in the late eighteenth century.

Hannah More as the personnification of the Muse of Tragedy 1778

Hannah More was a good example. She came from a poor background but became financially independent and moved to London where she socialised with David Garrick, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Dr Samuel Johnson. Her achievements included many publications, the establishment of schools and participating in the Abolitionist movement.

Hannah More 1745 - 1833 by Frances Reynolds 1780

I was fascinated by the comment beside this portrait:

The Dramatist and Writer, Hannah More, never fully reconciled her creative talents and her feelings about fame with the restrictive codes of female propriety. Her desire for a respectable professional identity can be seen in this portrait by her friend and fellow Bluestocking, Frances Reynolds, Sir Joshua's sister.

With no female tradition on which to draw Frances Reynolds adapted the pose and costume from the way that 'men of letters' were often depicted. Like Hannah More, such men were shown in a dishevelled state of 'undress' when absorbed in their work and away from polite company, making this Britain's first portrait of

a 'woman of letters'

We are all writers in Blogland
and we struggle in various ways
to reconcile our lives with our writing.
I look at this portrait of Hannah More
and I wonder if it merely mimics male portraits
or whether it shows that she, like me,
had to get up and write in the early morning
before anyone else was awake.

Sunday 30 March 2008

Little Women

It is a wet, windy evening.
MrsM and MissM have watched Little Women (1949)

MissM makes the following observations:

I noticed that Beth was the same actress
as Tootie in Meet Me In St. Louis

Did you know that Peter Lawford
was a member of the original Rat Pack
and that he was the last person to see Marilyn Monroe alive?

Elizabeth Taylor stole the show as Amy.

The snow was actually cornflakes! Isn't that amazing!

MrsM wants to contribute to this conversation

I thought it was interesting
that they decided to cut the scene where Beth dies.


They didn't.
You fell asleep.

MrsM feels this high:

Saturday 29 March 2008

The Educational Value of Boxed Sets

"Sharpe" is family viewing here at ChezMagpie
and we all enjoy it for different reasons:

MrM likes military history
MasterM is revising for his Spanish A Level
MissM observes the costumes

And before you even dare to ask...

MrsM appreciates the scenery.

Friday 28 March 2008

White Light

This is what it feels like

to buy a bunch of white lilies

and watch the spring sunshine

transform them to stained glass

as you place them in the vase.

Thursday 27 March 2008

Missing You!

I miss the Lovely MissE.

I know that she is having a wonderful time
scuba diving with her friends in Australia
but I still miss her sweet smile and infectious enthusiasm.

She gave me this gorgeous mirror for Christmas;
every time I use it I think of her on the coral reefs
and send her my love.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

I must ask my mother...

When I was very young
we lived in a house opposite a huge hoarding.
The man who pasted up the posters was a part of my childhood
because my mother chatted to him
and he gave her spare posters for us to draw on.
I can still remember
the feel and smell of those huge sheets of shiny paper.

I think that the poster man fell off his ladder
but I don't remember what happened next.
Did he die?

I must ask my mother.

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Powder Puffs and Persian Carpets

If I stand at my kitchen door

these are the flowers

that I can photograph today.

The early daffodils have finished, battered by wind and rain.

It is time for the first tulips

and the heady scent of wallflowers.

The single Fritillary is much cherished.

Monday 24 March 2008

Easter Gifts

These beautiful little egg cosies
were given to me some years ago
by MrM's mother, my lovely mother-in-law.

They are exquisitely embroidered
with minute chain stitch
on the finest silk and soft satin
and lined with thin felt.

I know nothing about them
but I guess they are Victorian.

The colours are still bright
because they have not been used
and have been carefully packed away.

All that love making them to delight somebody
and they are still being admired now, years later.

You are making your legacy,
you clever, crafty ladies
as you knit and sew.

Sunday 23 March 2008

Easter Sunday


MissM has done a RIDICULOUS amount of baking this weekend.
These are her speciality:
she has made them EVERY Easter
since she was 8 years old.
She regrets that she is unable to share the recipe
because it has a SECRET ingredient.

MrM, MasterM and MrsM LOVE MissM's Easter Egg Nests.

Saturday 22 March 2008

Easter Saturday

Wishing you a peaceful Easter weekend

"In the Springtime of the Year"

- this phrase is the title of a book by Susan Hill which I have re-read many times -

Friday 21 March 2008

Good Friday


Just for today
it is
The Hot Cross Bun Plate.

Thursday 20 March 2008

A Conspiracy of Silence

'fess up you lovely knitting ladies...
Why didn't you let me in on the secret?

I have knitted with aluminium needles for years...

But now I have discovered bamboo.
- sigh -

The Kid Silk Haze glides, my friends,
it positively glides off those needles.

Even MissM has noticed the joyous abandon
with which I am knitting.

My aluminium needles?

They are off to join the steel pins with the hand carved case
in the knitting needle museum.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Michael Frayn

Here is my Michael Frayn collection.
I admit that it is not large
but it is the beginning, middle and end of my obsession.

I picked up Spies from the table in the bookshop
where they display books on special offer.
Spies won the Whitbread award for Fiction in the year
that Michael Frayn's wife, Claire Tomalin,
won the Whitbread award for Biography and beat him to the overall prize.

I understood completely the torment of the mother,
the acrid smell of privet, the whispers and the retained guilt.
It is a haunting evocation of the transition from childhood
and I wanted to read more.

So I went back to the bookshop and bought
Towards the End of the Morning
which describes the now-vanished world of Fleet Street.
The smell of newsprint leaks out from the pages
and the energy of the writing makes me gasp.
It makes me laugh out loud and I love the title.

What can I say about Headlong?
It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
I am therefore a failure because I CANNOT read it to the end.
I start off with good intentions and enjoy the characterisation.
But then I know where the plot is heading.
I have the feeling that I am running
towards the edge of a cliff with the main character.
The second time I tried to read it I was braver
and got even closer to the terrible drop
- practically teetering on the edge -
Then I slammed the book shut
and let the plot and all the characters fall over by themselves.

I should check the bookshop for more books by Michael Frayn.
I admire his craftmanship.
They say he is a modern day Chekhov.
But I am still feeling guilty about Headlong.

Tuesday 18 March 2008

MasterM, Knight.

I was reminded of this photograph
by a young man, Asher, who lives in Missouri
and loves historical re-enactments.

We spent several summers attending
the various displays and battles
organised by English Heritage.

I can highly recommend them
although the Viking phase was a bit hairy and smelly.

My children absorbed a sense of history and timeline
which is not communicated in the classroom.
All too often, the syllabus focusses on
the wars of the Twentieth Century
to the exclusion of everything else.
There is also an emphasis on
the experience of 'ordinary' people
which gives a distorted perspective.
If you are lucky they will understand
that the children wore gas masks in England
at the same time that Hitler was in Germany.
If the teacher is less talented that might not happen.

There is also a lot of history that is not covered at all.

It seems a shame not to understand about the Normans, Plantagenets, Tudors, Stuarts, Georgians and Victorians. Not to mention the Romans, Saxons and Vikings. And the excursions into Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Oh yes...and what about our Colonial adventures and a little bit about Europe. It may sound like a tall order but I think that it is at least as important as learning to decorate cereal packets or make plastic peanut trays in Design Technology.

Goodness, that was a rant.
Sorry folks - I had better go and take the medicine.

Sweet Violets

The honeysuckle waits
For Summer and for heat
But violets in the chilly Spring
Make the turf so sweet.

from "Sing Song"
a Nursery Rhyme Book (before 1873)

Monday 17 March 2008

Paddy's Day at The Mad-Stad

It was a cold, cold day at the Mad-Stad
That wasn't going to stop us having fun.
Oh no!!
There was music,

Irish Dancing,

the traditional hat throwing competition,

big dogs,

stylish dogs,

lots and lots and lots of Guinness

and some Rugby.

There were 23,709 people there
and most of them were wearing hats....


Hats are important - they complete your outfit.

I bring you
The Spring 08 Collection

This is Traditional Irish

Here we see a magical theme - London Irish meets Harry Potter.

A family outing for the dressing up box?

This is Brother Peter of The Order of the Odd Shaped Ball and his hoodie

There is a good ecclesiastical look going on here

Wigs are IN this year

with hats,

with hats and beards,

or just by themselves.

I just had a woolly hat to keep my head warm
I must try harder next year.