Hello! Me and my self-diagnosed SAD are extremely pleased the summer is finally away with and are much looking forward to the winter months, full of days cold, and dark, and dreary; it rains, and the wind is never weary. I am yet to recover from an extraordinary intense week spent in Birmingham for the #cpc12 (as you do), where I mostly gate-crashed receptions trying to consume my body weight in wine (and half-succeeding one might add). I did get to rub shoulders with the high and mighty although am gravely disappointed that I did not get satisfactory close to BoJo AND that both Hugh Grant and Brian May escaped me entirely. Oh well, better luck next time.

I had one mission and one mission only in Birmingham (well, I had many to be honest but only this one succeeded) and that was to visit the Birmingham Art Gallery. They’ve got an absolute goldmine of Pre-Raphaelites there. Except for the fact that I was insanely hung over it was definitely the best gallery show in ages. I went to the big-ass PRB exhibition at Tate but wasn’t overly impressed. The narrative (Victorian Avant-Garde) was completely lost on me. Or rather, it is so obvious and tedious that it brings about nothing new. I also blame my own endurance, or the lack of it. I lose focus rather quickly, so after being bored to death through half of it (the bold, bright and bad stuff), by the time I got through to the PRB that I like (that actually isn’t very PRB at all) I was too tired to really appreciate any of it. Maybe next time I’ll start from the end.

A most splendid thing at the Tate show

And a little something from Birmingham

I’ve spent a rather wonderful weekend in Wal… eh, Somerset, trawling though picturesque villages, pubs and fudge shops, climbing up and down hills, exploring caves and excavation sites (did you know…no, just kiddin’ I’m not gonna go there). Again, drinking my body weight in wine seemed like the only proper thing to do. This weekend I had a rather splendid time at the Battle of Ideas at the Barbican. Again, I was too hung over to get there at a decent hour but I managed to catch a mucho interesante discussion on creativity, originality and tradition (meaning, is it good to have a canon? Yes, of course it is!). It’s so awesome when panelists actually debate rather than just agree with each other all the time (consensus is usually given at Westminster “debates”). But then again, I found myself less impressed with the liberal arts crowd (yes, I have definitely become a snob since the days when the NT was my second home). Now, leaders’ speeches analysis and Downton.

Sisters by David Hamilton

L’avventura

I begin somewhere where work ends.

We have moved from Dionysus, through Orpheus, to Adonis and

each of us like you
has died once,
each of us like you
stands apart, like you
fit to be worshipped

I have stopped eating dairy (except when drunk or hungover which, in effect, means I still eat dairy). I have seen the House of Bernarda Alba set in الشرق الاوسط‎ (which worked better than Bernarda Alba set in Pakistan but, please, what would be so terribly wrong with a Bernarda Alba set in an ordinary Spanish village?) and a flamenco version of Fuenteovejuna (which was so good I think I might give up theatre for dance). I have been inside parliament and been sat next to Lord Howe – that was grand (Hanging out with lords in the day and wiccan high priests in the night? Well, that’s just how I roll). I have listened to Roger Scruton talk about the supremacy of European culture (as you suspect he would); A.S Byatt talk about Ragnarök and other things I like; Richard Holloway talk about faith and doubt and speaking in tongues. This was also the week I decided that mixing every kind of alcoholic drink that exists on the planet would be a good thing to do at my boss’ birthday party – went down a treat. Coincidentally, at the same party, I realised my true vocation in a grande dame who, sat in a regency chair, was holding court throughout the night: “daaahling, do you remember Paris?” “Hockney? Well, daaahling I knew him in the 60’s”. Yes, such aspirations.

(Waterhouse, Adonis; H.D. Adonis)

So, if you had been there and seen these things, you would have approached this god, whom you now hold cheap, with prayers.

One single post so far this year. What can I say? It’s the cult of Dionysus these days. I have plunged my fennel rod into the earth’s surface and the god has spurted up a ceaseless spring of wine.

I was told a while back that Dionysus wasn’t the right fit for vegetarians like moi as the maenads were in the habit of voraciously tearing apart and eat raw animal meat. Well, let’s just say I proved them wrong – you don’t need to eat meat to be possessed by Bacchus.

Except for work, work and work, I have this year, in addition to the العربية, embarked on the mystery traditions, which seems to have catalysed a sequence of most random events and an endless amount of that Bacchic drink. I have been to my very first literary salon (in Bloomsbury one might add); and spent a dangerous amount of time with a Wiccan high priest; I have attempted to join a community effort to build an orchard for what I suppose I thought would be the-lesser-privileged, am now of the opinion that people can build their own bloody orchards; I have finally been to see Swan Lake (unfortunately tainted by Black Swan and a much too svelte prima ballerina); I have been to hear Richard Sennett talk about the pleasures of co-operation; I have ventured South-of-the-river to meet old men at Irish joints; and ventured down alleyways to meet old men at Soho joints;  found Collier’s Clytemnestra hanging in the Guildhall Gallery; and, most recently, been to seen Master Class with Tyne Daly –  Maria Callas idolatry has now commenced.


Inside by Maurizio Strippoli

bye bye!

I’ve left my job. No more cloister views, lunchtime antique browsing, Maggie Jones’ lunches or Caffe concerto ice creams in the old cemetery. I shan’t miss it much though. I’m in Westminster now, opposite the Holden building on 55 Broadway – I love Holden! My view is of Henry Moore’s west wind sculpture. Not that I get to look out of the window much.

This week I have, besides having started some sort of career (as someone said: it is better to be a swineherd in a castle than to be a king in a pigsty), been to hear Maurice Glasman talk about blue labour. I really like him, mainly, I think because of the jewishness (yes, I’m one of those). He reminds me of Jeff Goldblum et al. – should’ve been an actor with that face. I’ve been to a Roxette concert at Wembley which was just as amazing as you can imagine it would be for a Swedish expat like moi. And to a Terry Eagleton lecture at St Martin-in-the-Fields where an argument was being made for power and against compassion – muy interesante. I’ve also been to the Christmas fair at the Swedish Church and whad’ya know – it was exactly the same as last year. I guess that’s what Christmas is all about: repetition – or tradition as we like to call it.

For someone who has trawled through the better part of the In Our Time archive, it was a real treat to see Melvyn Bragg IRL at the National aka my second home. Melvyn (yes, I think we’re on first name basis here) is how I imagine the Victorian polymath from the public lecture halls would be. So jam packed with knowledge that it can barely be contained, it spills over in anecdotes, in jokes, in semi-unrelated facts, accompanied by gesticulation so wild, hand written notes flies all over the place.

They are celebrating the anniversary of the King James’s Bible which is the subject of Melvyn’s new book The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible (I went to some of the bible readings as well but I don’t know if it works, you know. I like costume and bit of spectacle when I’m at the theatre, and I don’t fare well with monologues.). A lot of this talk – on the social and cultural importance of the KJ Bible – resonated with the talks on the gospel and social justice that’s been running at St Martin in the Field, where Neil MacGregor did an amazingly good speech on Compassion in Art – or lack thereof.

Now, I can’t show you any Christian art of radical compassion because apparently there isn’t any but I will show you this. Engraved in ONE single circular line, starting at the tip of the nose and moving outwards (click on it, it’s awesome).

Sometimes, like Flaubert, I believe in nothing but art.

All the wild horses
All the wild horses
Tethered with tears in their eyes
May no man’s touch ever tame
May no man’s reigns ever chain you
And may no man’s weight ever defrayed your soul
And as for the clouds
Just let them roll
Roll away

The sky behind the townlet and the church was orange-red; the flower-garden was flooded with a strange warm light that lifted every leaf into significance. Paul passed along a fine row of sweet-peas, gathering a blossom here and there, all cream and pale blue. Miriam followed, breathing the fragrance. To her, flowers appealed with such strength she felt she must make them part of herself. When she bent and breathed a flower, it was as if she and the flower were loving each other. Paul hated her for it. There seemed a sort of exposure about the action, something too intimate.

Sons and lovers, D H Lawrence