Life goals


I don’t know who Lady Stern is/was, but there’s something about the no-nonsense gaze and stack of books, combined with the comfort of that rug, vase  of flowers and cornflower suit that I can get behind. Portrait by Lance Cattermole, an artist who lived till he was 94 (1898 – 1992); his style reminds me of Enslin du Plessis.

Photo via Art UK, the renamed website of Your Paintings and the Public Catalogue Foundation. It’s a free website, dedicated to cataloguing all the public art across Britain, much of it held in provincial museums, fire stations and council buildings and provides a fascinating social history survey of a time between 1890 and 1960 when local pride and a belief in the inspiring powers of art were strong.

Love’s Labours

Some people think that Much Ado About Nothing is the second half of a pair of Shakespeare plays called Love Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour Won, others that Love’s Labour Won was another play now lost, or that it was never ever written but only advertised on a playbill.


One of the problems for those who prefer the Much Ado theory is that it features completely different characters, but the RSC has found a clever gloss on this, which is to cast them as before and after the First World War. This adds a poignancy to Love’s Labour Lost, which is  usually a play that like The Taming of the Shrew can feel irredeemably anachronistic, and an extra note of tragedy to Much Ado, adding a ground bass to the delightful sparring of Beatrice and Benedict above.


I’ve booked tickets for both and I can’t wait. Photos from the RSC website here and here.

As time passes

A beautifully illustrated children’s book with pictures by Madalena Matoso.




Each page has its own caption, from the mundane to the profound. Rubbers rub out and computers slow down.



Fringes grow, ice-creams melt and thread sews.



Hard things become easier, new goals appear, people turn pink and books turn yellow, and the hands of the clock turn again.


Available here, all images from the website.

Home comfort



You know you’re getting comfortably middle-aged when you start thinking tea towels would be a nice gift (or re-usable wrapping paper), or that your idea of an internet shopping splurge is a cherry tree (only £12.99!), or maybe a pear.

Berry teatowels by Emily Gilmore via her Etsy shop; Otomi teatowels also via Etsy but found on Cup of Jo. Also check out Emily’s beautiful berry paintings on her Instagram page.

A Gentleman In Moscow



More autumn reading? I also saw this in New York and sort of regret holding off buying it. The cover might be carefully designed to appeal to current taste but the writing seems good (funny, well-paced, rhythmic) & has whetted my appetite:

“However the table is arranged!” the Count would exclaim. “Delightful conversation! I’ll have you know, dear sister, that careless seating has torn asunder the best of marriages and ended the longest of detentes. In fact, if Paris had not been seated next to Helen when he dined at the court of Menaleus there would never have been a Trojan war.”

A charming rejoinder, no doubt, reflected the Count from across the passage of the years. But where were the Obolenskys and the Minsky-Polotovs now?

With Hector and Achilles.

“Your table is ready, Count Rostov.”

“Ah. Thank you, Andrey.”

Justus and Hortense


Presumed Portrait of Hortense Mancini, by Justus van Egmont. I want sleeves exactly like that on my next dressing gown.

In my imaginary world, Justus and Hortense like Lucien et Aristide very much. I imagine they all hang out at a bar drinking kombucha together of an evening.

More seriously, Hortense was a serious power player in mid-17th century Europe. The niece of Cardinal Mazarin, she secured the protection of both Louis XIV and the Duke of Savoy when fleeing her husband, whilst Charles II installed her as his chief mistress when she came to visit her niece Mary of Modena (James II’s wife, and Charles’ sister in law) in England in the 1670s.

Despite a series of scandalous affairs with women of the aristocracy, including with one of Charles’ daughters, and a public fencing match in nightgowns with the Countess of Sussex, she managed to retain a pension even after the Glorious Revolution. Her life criss-crossed Italy, France, Switzerland and England, a reminder that for those at the centre of power it has always been an international world.