Open pleasure


A wonderful painting by Max Beckmann of his wife Quappi and daughter in law enjoying oysters in wartime Amsterdam.  Currently on show at The Met in New York,  photo taken on my visit this autumn.

For all the saints

As with last year, I’d like to take today to honour my friends, and also like last year I’m not mentioning family because they’re just too privately dear:

Your friend who sets up home with blankets, knitting and a pumpkin and brings you rose chocolates for dark nights.

Your friend who brings you a hygge book to  be comfortable with.

Your friend who makes you laugh even over breakfast, who is going to absolutely rip the piss out of you this week, and whose secret, secret bodyguard you are.

Your friend who wrote a PhD – a bloody PhD – and still stayed sane and nice and full of the best showbiz gossip. Also, cocktails.

Your friend who makes you smile every time you get their texts and was your first proper uni friend.

Your friends who are also fighting in the trenches of working life, and share with you theatre, wine and kick-ass Victorian heroines in your time off.

Your friend who took you to Helsinki and the best tea place in Tallinn, even though you completely fucked up the accommodation booking and there was only one real bed.

Your friend who is a poet and a rebel, mystic soul.

Your friend who let you drag her to Rosslyn Castle on a bumpy, shuddery bus in the rain.

Your friend who is your neighbour soon, and your friend who already is.

Your friends you get to go to New York to see and who lend you boots and give you malaria pills advice on a muddy walk.

Your friend who knows exactly what period dramas you like and still has time to text about Mr Darcy even with a newborn.

Your friends who come back for a party they think they’ve missed and still send you lawnmower jokes.

All the new, new friends you’ve met this year: thank you for being so welcoming, honest and warm.


Time for tea



Photo from Orlando and the Fountain (Luke Edward Hall), in this very calming post. Writing this makes me realise how north European I am if pictures of rainy, damp air and muted light make me happy, (see exhibit B) and also reminds me of Robert Elwall, whose photos of country life were so evocative it was said he always managed to  capture the feel of 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon in April. I might have to feature some of them here as the autumn draws in.

Anyway, I chose this shot not just for the comforting light in it but also because I’m looking forward to birthday tea with friends today. The cake is ready.

Summer parties

Carney looked around with satisfaction. Everything possible had been done to give the house party an auspicious start.

The house was immaculate and Carney’s bedroom was as fresh as the sweet peas in the dressing table. Isobel’s rack in the bathroom was a snowy drift of towels. Olga had polished the silver. She had roasted a ham and baked a pot of beans; she had made a moulded salad, two kinds of cookies and a cake….

The perfect start to a summer party, in Carney’s House Party by Maud Hart Lovelace.


Part of the reason Lovelace’s writing is so evocative of hot summer days and home comforts is that her books are based on her own childhood and adolescence:

The boys were scrubbed so their cheeks shone. Mrs Sibley had put on a fresh silk waist. Carney was proud, too, of her father, not only because he was so well groomed and handsome but because he talked so well. He had read the new novel, Queed, which Isobel had been reading on the train…