Giving us life

1000% joy with Audrey Lorde. Photo posted by The Myopia Project, which is dedicated to expressing black, Asian, queer, gay, trans and other marginalised voices often through beautiful poetry or art from those communities.


Heartlifting things

I think many of us could do with cheering up at the moment (and for those who are joyful, it’s always nice to have another moment to celebrate that), so here’s two things I’m finding sustaining right now. First is this Magnificat by Monteverdi from 1640. (Early readers will remember that I’m also very fond of Bach’s setting of the same text.) If the harmony at 5:56 doesn’t send shivers of the best kind down your spine, listen again:

And next, the 80 year old Bertrand Russell being positive in the early 50s that there was cause for optimism:

A forgotten Marchesa


The Marchesa Margherita Sarapani Gentili Boccadapuli (1735-1820) seems to have had one of those lives that are incredible not to be better known. According to the biographical sketch on the website where I found this picture, she was a scientist, classicist, traveller who collected widely, kept a (no doubt fascinating) diary and a member of the Roman academy Accademia dell’Arcadia that had been founded in 1690 to reform Italian poetry and commemorate the death of another influential woman, Queen Christina of Sweden who’d abdicated her throne and moved to Rome in the 1650s where she then converted to Catholicism. (Garbo later played the Queen in an early silent film and memorably said that she decided to act the final shot – where Christina sails away from her kingdom – by keeping her thoughts entirely blank and allowing the viewer to project their own emotions onto the scene.)

Anyway, back to the Marchesa she was no doubt a formidable intellect and personality in her time and this portrait deliberately reflects her many interests, as well as a rather masculine colour scheme for the sitter. Clearly the Marchesa wasn’t interested in pale chintzes and now Rococo pastels! The bowl of goldfish looks rather 19th century orientalist to me, but the marble table with pharaoh’s heads and tray of butterfly specimens is pure Enlightenment. My favourite is the statue behind the Marchesa: an allusion to her classical studies, but also possibly to a less cerebral side of her life?

A village in England or a villa in Greece

My dearest Jock,

How exciting the world is with all these comings and goings! I shall be proud to godmother little John. What fun! When the war is over I think I shall dedicate the remainder of my life to my godchildren – three girls and two boys at present. I shall either live in a village in England or in a white washed villa in Greece or of course both of you provide me with the income. In the English village I should like to keep the shop: that is the only way to have a finger in everybody’s pie unless you are the squire or parson – and it would be a much more amusing angle from the shop.

Freya Stark to John Murray VI, 1941

Podcast of the week – another bumper round-up

And as lockdown continued, the people (or some of them who were able to), continued also to devour podcasts until their ears were begging to have a day without earbuds in them, and their right thumb was weary from hitting download. However, the need continued and here is this list:


Thirst Aid Kit, for anyone who can’t get enough updates to the Isolation Hunks page.


Friends at the Library, for something more wholesome than TAK but no less enjoyable in a different way. Found 3 new-to-me authors on here, and this also fills my need for Aussie friends talking to each other (eg Chat 10; Dispatch to a Friend)


MotherFood, presented by author and cook Alissa Timoshkina, is a series of interviews with other mothers who are professional chefs unpacking their family history around food, experiences of pregnancy and birth, and the link between their job and how they feed their families.


Also on food, Cooking with an Italian accent, is a relaxing listen with Juls’ soothing Tuscan accent and musings and recipes.


For something else soothing, this kitchen garden pod is as good as a guided meditation. To the sound of birdsong and footsteps crunching on gravel, Mickey walks you through her garden kitchen half season by half season and bed by bed, always in the same order so that you can imagine how the plots are laid out.


Changing pace, The 11th is a gripping political thriller, a walkthrough of the real life fall of the Australian govt in the 1970s over a series of scandals and American intrigue over the Vietnam war.


Finally, another thought provoking podcast, the East is a podcast. Episodes might cover the colonial history (and identity) of cricket in the Indian subcontinent and Carribean, a look at the Ba’ath party, or a paper on farming techniques. Political, social and always engaging.

Eiderdown Books

I placed an order with Eiderdown books shortly before the lockdown begun and I’m happily anticipating some of their volumes arriving on the other side of this, my version of the Ingalls’ Christmas barrel in The Long Winter (if you know, you know).

B35215A0-59A9-4BFB-8032-3519E83EDDC4The imprint features groundbreaking women artists of the 20th entire and male me think back to the colourful and joyful Lee Krasnerexhibition last year, or to Lee Miller’s Farley Farm House. Reasonably priced and well illustrated these would make delightful gifts for anyone.

Podcast of the week: bumper edition

For anyone else who either is attempting the couch to 5k and thus needs something engaging to take your mind off your lungs and legs, or who just finds another voice a comforting sound to go to sleep to (colleagues on a Zoom call not included), here’s some fun and varied podcasts to enjoy.


First up, investigative journalists telling the story behind the story with The Longform


Next, the cosy and warm You’re Booked with Daisy Buchanan. Daisy explores the interviewees’ shelves and there’s some fabulous dirty laughing in between the new discoveries and old friends.


Talking of which, you’re guaranteed a snort or two with Heaving Bosoms,  two long dis trance fans rue da time eating their brought a  romance novel a week and navigating the tricky eras of Highland Times and England Times, weigh ins with army, cat food for the dogs, werves and consent boners amongst other things. Try any Alyssa Cole episode to start with.


Higher up the intellectual scale (but no less enjoyable and coming in under 10 mins an episode) is Hitha Palepu’s 1 Smart Pod. Hitha’s 5 Smart reads are the only news I can bear to consume at the moment and her podcast is just as good, covering so far the science of COVID-19 and what the electoral college is.


Intersectionality Matters does what it says on the tin and if you’re not sure where to start I’d recommend “Stonewall 50: Whose Movement Is It Anyway?”


Related to this is recommend Third Culture Africans, which profiles creative stars and business owners in the African diaspora.


The Perfectionism Project again does what it says on the tin and gave me one of my biggest realisations listening to it, namely that perfectionism is an (ineffective) cover for shame. It also has wise words from Brené Brown in it, although it’s the host Sam Laura Brown who makes this so engaging.

As My Wimsey Takes Me is a deep dive into Dorothy L Sayers’ detective novels, which has sent me to buy a few of the pre Harriet Vane stories from my local bookshop. This is also the counterpart to Francesca Wade’s “Square Haunting” which you should also go and buy buy buy.


And finally, the once a month beauty that’s the Slightly Foxed podcast. Softly spoken, dogs in the background, books all around this is a delight. I recently bought a couple of books they mentioned in the month end round up of what they’re not each reading, and the pieces from the Slightly foxed archive read with suitably accompanying music is also wonderful. If this sounds precious, it isn’t and each month’s piece is a moment of calm.

If you want more, just search Podcast of the Week and a whole bundle of other booky, folklore, social, sociable, business, relaxing, esoteric and friendly series.