In a confectioner’s window


“She walked on, between kaleidoscopic peonies massed in pink clouds, black and brown tulips and fragile mauve stemmed roses, transparent like sugar flowers in a confectioner’s window – until, as if the scherzo of colour could reach no further intensity, it broke off suddenly in mid air”

F Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night.

Regal of tempo and temper


Troppo Allegro

Remember seasons? Seem to recall those once were easier
Reasonably sequenced, regal of tempo and temper,
Reliable change flipped heads-over-tails each quarter
Recovering the hemisphere with four fine suits, knock-off designer.

Recently, someone shuffled, cut the deck into disorder:
Relapse, tic, hiccup, snap, weeks issued like hipster
Rediscoveries…join the club! No closer
Reading required to diagnose this crazy weather…

The start of Christopher Spaide’s “Recycler” and a kitchen sink drawing by Lucinda Rogers. I quite like non music things that reference music; here “troppo allegro” means too fast. I think the kitchen sink anchors it.

At the lounge of everything

When we arrive at the lounge of everything
with our bags
handfuls of earth   the lives of our grandparents
in our memory devices
we expect an exchange of sorts, that is what
we expect
and I think everyone deep down expects
that we will not turn back
Through a high window we will connect stars
like line drawings
translate the sparkles of the poet
we will
sign the fascinating mouth of the speaker
we will sing
lyrics that someone thought were pretty good
we will sing them
and we will not turn back   we will not

Anne Kennedy’s The Arrivals

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.


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.


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…

Quai Voltaire


The hot chocolate and the rich croissants were the most delicious things, there in bed with the Seine flowing past me and pigeons wheeling around the grey Palace mansards, that I had ever eaten.

MFK Fisher – The Gastronomical Me

(photo not mine, but lots from my Paris trip coming up soon)

Windows to the past


It’s a joke on the Backlisted podcast that if you praise an author on Twitter, a kind of intellectual race to the bottom begins, with fans crawling out of the woodwork to ask if you’ve read variously the short stories / letters / journals yet. But it is true that letters are wonderful things to find – full of jokes, turns of phrase and bizarre incidents. Dora Carrington telling an inamorato that she loved him as much as raspberries and cream is one favourite; Sydney Smith recommending warm fires, cheering books and a pleasant bedroom for seeing our depression is another, and Dicke s was renowned for firing off rockets by every post.

So I think Letters Live, which has actors reading aloud a series of letters from the past – a kind of brought to life Letters of Note website – sounds just right for a night out at this time of year.

The tulips are too excitable

The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.

Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in.

Sylvia Plath “Tulips”.

Being Plath this poem of course gets darker and darker, so I don’t want to quote the whole thing here, but her writing is extraordinary.


7 a.m. The light freshens. The plane trees harden in the square. Morning music starts on Radio 3 – the tingling antiseptic earwash of Telemann and Scarlatti – and I come awake at last and am healed.

My Day by Laurie Lee. Something cheering about the morning as we hit the tranche of dark mornings till early January when the tide starts to turn visibly again. Also, don’t forget this. Waking up is not always painful!

The fragrant egg and b.

“Jeeves,” I said, “I am not the old merry self this morning.”
“Indeed, sir?”
“No, Jeeves. Far from it. Far from the merry old self.”
“I am sorry to hear it, sir.”
He uncovered the fragrant egg and b. and I pronged a moody forkful.

From the ever excellent PG Wodehouse whose Leave it to Psmith joined me on holiday last month as I sat pronging Devil’s Food Cake in my pyjamas. Greatly relieved it’s now the weekend after a LONG week.