Travellers

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This could easily be yet-another half-written survey of nazi Germany intended to cash in on our society’s fascination with this period, but it’s actually a well-researched, gripping and often unexpected survey of the times. The opening chapters reflecting on the poverty and hunger of early 20s Germany and the starvation that led many church groups to offer aid are particularly interesting as they often get passed over in a few sentences in history books, but the analysis of the reasons why so many visitors kept their heads in the sand is also far more subtle than the usual they-hoped-to-avoid-war explanations. Highly recommended and a very easy read: I tore through it in a day.

Laura Mvula

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Intrigued by the newest commissions in the National Portrait Gallery. Part of me loves the bold stars and colourfulness of this portrait of Laura Mvula; part of me is a little bored by the imitation of an early Lucien Freud or a Stanley Spencer piece, whilst also thinking that this 50s/60s vine is very on trend right now and therefore still representative of the late 2010s.

Podcast of the week

The Lifestyle Edit Podcast (not to be confused with another podcast that is just called “The lifestyle edit” and had two women – Rosie and Flo – talking about life in a robustly jolly, Claire Baldwin-ish manner) by Naomi Mdudu is a regular listen & one guaranteed to leave you feeling fired up in the best possible way after listening.

Each week, Naomi interviews a female business owner about how they found their business idea, what made them go solo on it, how they’ve built their business and what tips they’d share with their entrepreneurs. It’s as far away from The Apprentice and macho, ghostwritten memoirs as you can imagine.

Instead you’ll come away with gems that help you decide when to take views and when to have confidence to do it your way; how to think about the financials behind your business (not all will apply, but it’s the fact that there are different models that make these interviews useful to me) and tips to help you identify the best opportunities for you. Some I loved recently were:

– The interview with Anna Hart (*so impressive*)

– the concept of looking for flexibility that is inherent and that which is on offer as an option

– the point that flexible working needs apply just as much to non-parents looking after ageing baby boomers as it does to parents

– the question “what would the village idiot say your brand is?”

– the idea that a recurring client doesn’t just help financially, but also with defining what your business is and does

So many gems here – go and listen to it. Naomi is a fantastic interviewer too, which I think really drives the quality of these sessions.

Achille Castiglione

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An Italian designer who would have been 100 in February, his studio in Milan is one of the most fascinating things I’ve seen.

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He collected objects endlessly, getting a sense of how they worked, of how they could be stretched or improved and what the most practical next steps would be.

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All photos April 2018.

Blunt pencils, rose-sprigged cup

Ravening through the persistent bric-a-brac

Of blunt pencils, rose-sprigged coffee cup

Postage stamps, stacked books’ clammed and yawp,

Neighbourhood cockerel – all nature’s prodigal backtalk,

The vaulting mind

Snubs  impromptu spiels of wind

And wrestles to impose

Its own order on what is…

“On the difficulty of conjuring up a Dryad”, Sylvia Plath

Where did you think this scene was set? Initially I thought it must be a desk in Islington, overlooking one of the squares, and then I thought of the mid western prairies…

Emmaus

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This is actually Titian’s Supper at Emmaus, a far too early time in the year to be showing it (this occurs after Jesus has been dead for a while as he reappears to console his disciples), but I’ve never really liked the Last Supper scenes that would be appropriate for Good Friday, so here we are instead.

Feed of the week

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While @arthusiast could easily just be another insta-formula-friendly meme, what this post doesn’t show isn’t the thoughtful, erudite and lightly-written intros to the work of each artist featured in the shot. It’s this that pulled me in and kept me coming back for more. I also like the fact that she doesn’t post a huge deal, which reinforces for me the sense that it’s real passion behind this feed.

If you like this kind of learning and fancy more, then also try @katestrasdin for textile history, @sophia_stories for world literature and poetry and @disraeli81 for the British aristocracy.

Podcast of the week

My love of podcasts is still going strong, and the latest one to cross my radar (very much in a sequence of Backlisted and The Reading Women) is the LRB podcast.

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The first pieces were very much in the nature of 20 minute reviews, so if you want to know what a Giorgione painting is or isn’t, and the chicanery is art attribution, or an investigation of if “international relations” is just “race studies”, then it’s here.

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But there’s also a longer-form interview style that develops, so you can also hear the Asia editor of The Times on North Korea, discussing with an American South Korean author the common iconography of north and south Korea, or a riveting, freewheeling, incisive interview with Carmen Callil of Virago fame (“such a lot of short malnourished people with bad teeth”) on Angela Carter and why Bohemia is bad for women.

In fact that latter one was ringing in my ears as I went to the Rodin Museum recently and thought of Augustus John saying with complete seriousness what a “great pleasure” it must be for his sister Gwen to serve such a man as Rodin…