Well, the start of a new year and a month nearly done, which seems to have flashed past! Don’t think I’ve done much more than usual to make it go so quickly. We’ve been to dear friends for lunch and entertained the whole family to a second Christmas as one half of it had Covid on Christmas Day. I’ve had a good turnout of my wardrobe and taken things to a dress agency to be sold, and then bought some wonderful items at charity shops: the boots, skirt and coat (recently featured on Instagram) were the outstanding buys of the month, and all three from Outfit@Emmaus, which is the best place for pre-loved and vintage in the whole of Brighton, I think.
My hair is shorter, as I went to the hairdresser twice this month. All those years with long hair and I never ever thought I’d hear myself say, oh blast, the hairdresser’s not cut it short enough! But I did say that and went back again. I realise now that cutting the hair to be near the jaw-line is by far the best for my face.
And talking of faces, I had a lovely facial. Taking extra care of the face is, I think, so necessary during these winter months with the cold winter winds buffeting our skin. I know we don’t get the extremes of cold here but when the wind blows it can get very cuttingly cold – and don’t forget it’s a damp cold. Mind you, there’s me wrapped up like an Egyptian mummy, including a woollen scarf, hat and gloves and yet I see some people wearing next to nothing. Like one particularly cold day I was in a queue next to a young girl wearing a pair of shorts so short they were like big knickers – amazing! I kind of admired her for her youthful chutzpah and she didn’t seem to have a single goosepimple!
Recently I went up to London to meet Gail from is This Mutton again. We had tea in a very posh hotel.
Glad to say, I wore that new dress with the sweetheart neckline. Here I am getting ready.
Note the fingerless gloves! Over the dress I wore a green cropped cardi, my faux leather jacket and my long wool coat and a mad hat.
This was the first time I’d worn this hat and I rather think I shall wear it again as it’s great fun. I was so glad to get this hat out and wear it as it was the first time it’s been worn – I’d bought it years ago.
In fact, the hat made me laugh!
And the cakes and sandwiches were divine!
Look at those little cakes!
Thank you Gail for organising this and btw, thank you, dear readers, for your thoughtful comments on the first theme of our new venture, Tell Us About It. I hope to continue the conversation on ageing and the reality of being older, as opposed to the gung-ho way it is often written about, usually by much younger people. In the meantime – let’s turn to books, films and television.
I realise when I see your comments, and read other blogs that mention best reads, that our choices are always subjective and invariably suit our own particular tastes. For me, I prefer quite weighty books (and weighty might mean literally as the current one I’m reading is a paperback as big as a brick and heavy too!) filled with jeopardy and war and history, not the bodice ripper history type though.
This month I’ve read two books based in the past, which I thought might have been too light for me but they were good reads. The first was The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell, based on the true story of the marriage of 15-yr-old Lucrezia, daughter of Cosimo de Medici to Alfonso, d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara. In real life she died a year later who knows how: poison, strangulation, or maybe tuberculosis? Spoiler alert, the ending isn’t quite as dark as her short life implies. It was an enjoyable read as was the second book set in the past, The House of Fortune, by Jessie Burton. This is a sequel to The Miniaturist and features all the characters within that first book, setting out their mis-fortunes as their wealth and status declines. It was actually a very well thought through book and an excellent read. I don’t like giving a blow-by-blow account of plots so do give this book a go!
Another good buy was Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. When I think of Ishiguro’s writing I always feel that there’s something infinitely sad in his tales (do tell me if you’ve read a jolly novel by this author) and this is no exception. The voice throughout this novel is Klara’s, a solar-powered sentient AF or Artificial Friend bought by parents for their children. Ishiguro’s writing is a perfect example of the power of never telling but just letting slip glimpses of what is happening so that very slowly we begin to realise what an artificial, anxious and dystopian life these humans lead. It is a masterpiece in my view of what it is to be human, what it is to love, what it is to lose one’s love and slowly leave this world. Ishiguro is a genius.
Another genius is Hilary Mantel, the author of the Cromwell trilogy, and I’ve just started A Place of Greater Safety which is a huge tome (this is the brick) on the French Revolution. It’s a kind of, phew, am I really reading this book – I’m enjoying it hugely!
A book which I have been dipping into over several weeks is Food for Life. The Science of Eating Well by Tim Spector. I am quite the fan of Professor Tim Spector as he leads the academic team that monitored Covid symptoms throughout the pandemic and is now leading the huge study on Intermittent Fasting in which I am taking part. The first half looks at food in detail, what is healthy (mainly plants) and what is not (sugar, sugar, sugar) and in the second half looks at food categories and all the scientific evidence that there is on meat, veg, cheese, dairy, eggs and so on. It’s actually very readable making it a fascinating read. I highly recommend it.
We seem to have not watched all that many films this month. Maybe that’s because we have temporarily stopped going to the cinema while we’re in the middle of the ‘flu and Covid season. But talking about Ishiguro we watched the film of his book, The Remains of the Day (BBC iPlayer) starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. It’s an old film made twenty years ago in 1993 but still retains good production values. Interesting to see a much younger Hugh Grant. Four**** from me for this one.
Another excellent film, a new one this time, was the inspiring and uplifting The Swimmers (Netflix), a biopic of two teenage Syrian sisters who had swum for their country at an international level. You see them flee the war and suffer enormous hardship as they make their way to Germany as refugees. The pair had been trained by their father to be top-class swimmers and while one sister, Sara, begins to lose interest in swimming the other sister, Yusra, is determined to get to the Olympics. It’s an uplifting tale and both an insight to another culture, and to the plight of the refugee and the dangers they encounter as they travel across the sea and through many countries. Five***** from me for this one.
And then a very different Eddie Redmayne in The Good Nurse (Netflix) playing a serial killer nurse who (rather like our Dr Shipman) managed to murder many old and vulnerable patients. Yikes, you’ll think that’s not for me. But it’s actually a gripping watch and we sat mesmerised held there mainly I think by the incredibly authentic acting coming from both Eddie Redmayne (usually such a pretty boy) and Jessica Chastain, playing his stalwart friend who later helped the police to stop his ghastly acts. Honestly, I didn’t expect this to be as good as it was, in fact, it was a brilliant film and Redmayne surely deserves an Oscar for his portrayal of this role. Five ***** from me for this one.
We’re rather short of good things to watch – please send me some recommendations!
I’ll start with a documentary. We watch a lot of documentaries too numerous to name, but one to look out for, especially considering that it was Holocaust Memorial Day last Friday is the Storyville documentary, Three Minutes: A Lengthening (BBC iPlayer) which looks at three minutes of a 16mm home movie footage taken in a Polish town just before World War II (found on the brink of deteriorating to nothing) and examines it in detail. So very very poignant, even more so when you realise that out of 3000 Jewish people in that town only 100 survived. We see the lives in that film and hope that never again….and yet….see above for the plight of refugees….
We’ve just finished watching Mystery Road: Origins (BBC iPlayer) which was excellent. This is the precursor to two other Mystery Road seasons. In this the newly qualified aboriginal detective Jay Swann returns to his hometown where his estranged father lives and joins the police force there. I say police force but it’s a small town and the police presence is small. This is really good television as the writing is brilliant and we come to care about the characters. It also helps that Mark Coles Smith who plays Jay Swann is really hot!
Also finished watching the first season of Deadwind (Netflix) which is the usual Nordic Noir set in Finland this time. It’s very good and we shall watch the next two seasons as and when.
We’re slowly getting through the episodes of Wednesday (Netflix) the remake and slightly different take on the Addams family, and billed as a coming-of-age supernatural comedy horror! It’s OK but a bit juvenile.
The best thing we are currently watching is the French language series, Women at War (Netflix) which tells the tale of four women caught up in the horrors of World War I. It stars Audrey Fleurot who you might remember from Spiral. This has great acting, a good script and is an all-round good watch.
Here’s to the coming Spring – and a reminder that there will be warm days again and beautiful flowers, plants and gardens to look at!
That’s all for now. I so appreciate you reading this to the end – thank you!
With love, Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper
P.S. I have just listened to Sunday’s Omnibus edition of The Archers on the radio. This radio soap, for those of you outside the UK, is one of the world’s longest running daily radio drama ever as it’s been on for 60 years. I am a devoted fan so (Spoiler alert) RIP Jenny. What a shock that was!