Friday, 2 August 2019

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

I’ve been watching this book doing the rounds on Twitter and reading comments about what a wonderful guide it is to assist you with living in the modern world. Do I need a guide to tell me how to live in the modern world? I already know the world has gone to the dogs, and as a cat person that makes me unhappy. This book is not going to change that for me though, nor tell me anything I don’t already know…is it?

If I pop into Tesco, I invariably end up going to the book bit first! I saw a book that had received rave reviews (and a friend had said it was good) that I wanted to buy. I noted it was part of a “buy two for a fiver” offer and obviously that’s a bargain not to be missed, so I decided to add Notes on a Nervous Planet to my basket as well so I could see what all the media fuss was about.


I had no intention of doing a book “review”, but things have been a bit crappy at home recently (family issue, starting a new job and having to make the awful decision to put Gerrard my beloved cat to sleep.) My way of dealing with things is to face reality and then go and bury my head in a book to stop me overthinking. (I can overthink things a lot if I’m not careful…why didn’t I say this…why didn’t I do that?!) As I read, I found that “Notes on a Nervous Planet” actually resonated with me, so I thought I’d stop moping around and share some thoughts with you all. This isn’t a book review as such…more about the things that sprung to mind whilst reading it! (And I started writing this before I went to see The Souvenir…but never finished writing it. I have now!)

We all look at how we can make our physical state better. We are told to go for a walk or to the gym, or if you are of a certain vintage you might remember the kids TV show where you were told to “switch off the TV and go and do something less boring instead!” We need to stop eating so much junk food, get more vegetables into the diet and eat less meat. Stop drinking as much alcohol, stop smoking, don’t self-medicate, all good advice; but how much of that advice contributes to our mental welfare?

How do we live in a mad world without ourselves going mad?

Well that’s easy…stop using social media and I don’t need a book to tell me that! I have only used social media for about 5 years, and during that time I have found that it has gone from being an environment of fun chats with people, to it being a means of outdoing one another. I get fed up of getting bogged down trawling through either negative or inane comments. (I follow lots of save wildlife and the planet sites and some of the comments posted on them…OMG they fill you with you with dread and despair for our planets future.)

An Ode to Social Media
When anger trawls the internet,
Looking for a hook;
It’s time to disconnect,
       And go and read a book. (Matt Haig)

So, should I stop using social media? Would it make my life better? I use social media to advertise my artwork that I have for sale, to share pictures of interesting places and events I have been to that I think others might enjoy. I even “advertise” when I have a new post on my blog as people tell me they enjoy reading it and like to know when a new post is available!

I’ve met some wonderful people via social media and I feel guilty that I don’t engage with them as much as I did in the past; so there are benefits to its usage, but what I’m most surprised about is how addictive

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

The Souvenir (Film by Joanna Hogg)

There is a cinema within walking distance of my house. I can’t remember the last time I went there. I’m not really a cinephile, I'm happy watching the classics on TV or DVD. The Souvenir by Joanna Hogg is not a mainstream film, but obviously I wanted to see it because Tom Burke was the male lead in it. The film isn’t released in the UK until 30th August 2019, although my local Curzon cinema was showing it 20th July, at 11am. I say my local Curzon cinema…it’s 40+ miles away, but what is 40 miles to see a film when I’m prepared to go to the other end of the country to see Tom in a play?!

My friend and I met at the cinema, got a cookie and a cuppa (served on a china plate) and went forth into this intimate cinema screening, where there were small side tables by the seats…and reclining chairs! I’m so easily pleased. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the film, I knew the subject matter was likely to be harrowing, but at least I would be in comfort when my eyes started to leak.

Where purity of soul meets morality...

To put some context into the film, “The Souvenir” on which the film is entitled, is an enchanting painting by Jean-HonorĂ© Fragonard, completed in 1778. It depicts a young girl who has received a letter from her lover (which lies discarded on the ground) carving her lovers initials in the truck of a tree. Her devoted dog, a spaniel, a symbol of fidelity, stares towards her. The sale catalogue of 1792 states the girl is the heroine of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s epistolary novel Julie (or New Heloise.) The protagonists are Julie, of privileged descent and Saint Preux her tutor and a commoner. The story follows a complex maze of feelings and intellectual debate, where purity of soul is entwined with morality, and the fate of these two lovers is left to the effects of the society in which they live. (If you haven’t read the novel, think along the lines of when Tom narrated Pamela by Samuel Richardson – as I’m sure many readers will have listened to Tom’s work!)

This small painting measuring a mere 19x25 cm is housed in the Wallace Collection in London, and whilst small manages to evoke a serious of emotions and questions. How will this love affair work out for this girl of such innocence and purity? Will it end in joy or sorrow? Is there more to this girl than meets the eye? Is she as fragile as she looks, or is there a hidden strength and determination to her?

British director Joanna Hogg uses her own life experiences to produce a film which is mesmerising, xxx and xxx about her early life as a film student, and echoes elements of the painting. Honor Swinton Byrne plays Julie, the awkward, yet privileged film student, whilst Tom Burke plays her suave and sophisticated older boyfriend Anthony. But looks can be deceiving, there is more to Tom’s character than meets the eye, and there is a hidden strength apparent in Honor’s portrayal of Julie. These are world class performances and worthy of all plaudits that both actors have and will receive for this film.

I was transfixed

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams (Victoria and Albert Museum - London)

I love fashion in the creative sense of the word. I love the history of fashion. I enjoy looking at timeless pieces and seeing the creativity and attention to detail. I also enjoy making my own clothing…things unique to me. There is a beauty and wonderment to carefully constructed garments that does not exist in the overly mass-produced tat that we find on the high street. That’s probably why you may find me at a fashion exhibition, but you’re not likely to entice me out of the house for a spot of retail therapy.

The V&A is currently exhibiting over 200 Haute Couture garments under the title Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams. Tickets for the exhibition have been hard to come by, and it is so popular that the V&A has extended the run until 1st September 2019 and has already sold out (this from its original closing date in July!) You cannot begin to imagine how impatiently I have been counting the days to see this celebratory exhibit of Dior’s couture collection.

The exhibition starts with Dior’s famous Bar Suit “The New Look”, ten of his most famous looks during the period 1947-1957 in “The Dior Line” and the influential role the romanticism of Britain played to his work in “Dior in Britain.” In these first few rooms we get a sense of the former Hollywood glamour of the 40’s and 50’s, and sight of Princess Margaret’s gown that she wore for her 21st birthday portrait.



The house of Dior has had many artistic