Seven Days of Positive – Day 111

In Actors, Food, Friends, Scotland on January 28, 2015 at 10:26 pm


Gosh so many jolly things have been going on, I’m getting behind.

I had an utterly top weekend last weekend which I must talk about before it’s this weekend.

On Saturday afternoon I went to the neighbouring town of Rye, which is one of the quaintest and most delightful in the whole of the UK.

Henry James lived there for eighteen years in elegant Lamb House, where he wrote The Awkward Age, The Wings of a Dove, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl.


After him it was home to EF Benson who wrote the Mapp and Luccia books there, inspired by the view from the bay window. They have recently filmed a new TV version of it in the glorious cobbled streets.

After dropping Peggy at a friend’s house, I discovered a wonderful lingerie shop (not new, but moved to a more prominent location on the High Street) called Pearl & Siren, where they sell the most gorgeous selection of undies – across a very wide range of sizes.

The lovely owners are highly knowledgeable and totally got it when I vented my frustration at the way the prettiest styles in bigger cup sizes look lovely from the front, but when you turn to the side you realise you resemble the figurehead of a galleon. I can’t bear it. With my limited height, I look completely out of proportion.

‘Ah,’ said one of them, nodding. ‘You have to avoid the ones with three seams, then.’

She then produced a selection of brilliant options for me. This is a shop that deserves a leisurely visit for trying on and consideration, with pleasant chat and I didn’t have time – and husband waiting in the car, which the killer of all relaxed shopping – so I’ll be going back. Although I did snap up a perfect underwired sports bra by Wacoal, which is what I like to wear for everyday.

On Saturday night we went for a glorious dinner, with friends who keep a most generous table. The wine was simply amazing, although it always tastes better when served by a butler…

I had some of the most interesting and entertaining conversations I’ve had for a long time, which you would expect when your dining companions include a member of the House of Lords, an MP, a concert pianist and someone who works for the United Nations.

My brain felt as though it had had the kind of work out you have daily when you work on a newspaper, which is something I still keenly miss about those days. In my working life now the only person I have to talk to is myself, which is the one downside of being a full-time author.

With Peggy at her sleepover, Sunday morning gave me the very rare chance to lie in bed and watch a film I’ve been longing to see since before it even came out: Dallas Buyers’ Club. It did not disappoint.

What an amazing story and it cemented Matthew McConaughy as my favourite actor (see earlier post on Magic Mike). He and Jared Leto, who played transgender character Rayon, so deserved their Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting. I was enthralled.

The deathbed scene of one of the characters (non spoiler) made me sob, bringing back the memories of the amazing friends I lost in those awful early days of AIDS. Never forgotten.

Sunday was Burns Night – the annual Scottish tradition celebrating the birthday of the great Scots dialect poet Robbie Burns. Haggis is served, with great ceremony, the Address to a Haggis is recited, the haggis is stabbed with a dagger, then eaten. Whisky is taken.

It’s a marvellous to do and while a lot of people are disgusted by it, I love haggis and its mashed tatties and neeps accompaniement – as I’m genetically programmed to do, with my seven eighths Scottish blood.


We went to a very jolly Burns Night party to raise funds for the Bare Foot Opera company. The tartan was worn – that’s my friend Wendy above in her heather garland (shame I didn’t get a better background, but I had to snatch the chance) and her husband Lesley was in head to tea of the plaid – and after dinner was eaten and the appropriate poems had been recited and various airs played and sung, there was dancing.

Proper Scottish reeling, which is one of my absolutely very favourite and marvellous things.

At St Andrews, university balls were always centred around reeling and I’ve hardly had the chance to do it since I left, which is a shame because it’s great fun, good exercise and, when done properly, so romantic. You feel like a character in a Jane Austen novel.

I will never forget dancing the glorious Reel of the 51st Division – a very complicated one, created by members of the regiment in a POW camp in the Second World War – with a particular partner one night in Scotland very long ago…

Another highlight of the weekend was reading all your brilliant suggestions and comments regarding my reading drought. I found it interesting how much overlap there was.

It’s going to The Miniaturist next.

  1. Another literary Rye fact. Joan Aiken was born there. Her father (a poet)’s house has a blue plaque. Belou went on a pilgrimage a few weeks ago…

    • Oooh I’ll have to go and find it. Ah – a bell just rang in a distant part of my brain, Was he called Conrad Aiken? I’ve seen that blue plaque there. Did Belou like it? When are you two coming down here? xxx

  2. I, too, loved The Dallas Buyers Club… but I am dead jealous of your fun night of ‘reeling’. Being an Australian of Russian and (distant) English heritage, I have never had the chance ! Oh and to be served by a butler !!! Makes a change from dinner in your pjs, sitting cross legged watching the tele hee hee.

  3. Well, that post was so utterly sick-making that I’m just going to pretend I never read it and say this instead…

    it would be good to have further, occasional ‘recommend me a book’ conversations like the previous post… I have just bought We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves… (also I was going to get H is for Hawk but don’t think I’ll bother now) cheers Maggie!

    • Sorry to make you nauseous Leonie. I started this new thread of Seven Days of Positive, after reading some really interesting work on the new ‘science of happiness’, as a way of programming my brain to concentrate on the good things that happen. So when good things do happen – like that amazing dinner – I want to celebrate them. A lot of shite is going on at the moment too, believe me, but this is all about the good times. It’s different every time, so just skip the ones which make you hurl. x

      • eep, I put that very poorly and I apologise. What I should have said was something along the lines of ‘that sounds amazing and I’m super jealous’. I completely get the focus on positive, and although I enjoy all your writing, these positive posts in particular have been a real help to me as I come to terms with my sister’s death (a year ago on Feb 8th). I try to ‘look for joy’ (part of my daggy mantra phrase) and jot it down, and it’s nice to see somebody more literary that me do that too, and with pictures!

        So that’s grieving-me. What mother-me finds most interesting about your life (viewed through your blog posts) is that your skills, attitudes, wide acquaintance and lovely longstanding friends are the reward for a youth spent trying your hardest to be amazing. I would like my daughter to appreciate this fact of life; it’s the kind of long-term thing a young person may not really consider… and I consider you a bit of a model in that regard.

        So thanks for the 111 days!

      • Oh Leonie I’m so so sorry to hear about your sister, that’s just awful. Such a tough anniversary coming at you. I’m so glad I answered your comment, I probably took it wrong, because I do sometimes worry that this can read very me me me and my marvellous life, whereas you understand I’m actively looking for the marvellous. I could rant on about how I’ve spent today nearly going insane trying to finish my tax return with lost pin numbers and so many frustrations, but no one needs reminding about those times, because we all have them… So anyway, that makes me a bit sensitive to sounding like I’m bragging and I did wonder whether I should even mention the butler ha ha ha. xxx

  4. Oh Maggie, what a wonderful weekend indeed. So happy you found a real lingerie specialist (rare breed these days) to boot. Have loved Mapp and Luccia recently on tele – delightful. Dallas Buyers Club is def. on my list but have been avoiding it till the dust settles a bit for me – I too lost friends in that terrible 80s/90s wave of HIV/AIDS; great people devastated so quickly. A time of panic, desperation and ignorance. Thank God now (at least in the West) people have more medical options for treatment. I will stop on this subject now, we all know the horror that continues in less developed countries.

  5. I derive much vicarious pleasure from your posts … when will I go to dinner where there’s a butler??
    And the brief allusion to the movie was a poignant counterpoint. As a registered nurse I cared for AIDS patients at a Sydney hospice in the early 90’s, and then later at a country community hospital; such a privilege. And so ineffably sad.
    Meanwhile, next time I come to England (was there and in Scotland 15mo ago) … I’m definitely going to that lingerie shop in Rye!! As well as visiting those marvellous literary haunts.

    • It was pretty special and fab because he looked just like a butler is supposed to look… I’ve experienced the new sleek young modern variety, but this one is old school in the best possible way. Don’t go to Rye just for the lingerie shop, I’d hate you to be disappointed, it’s just so great to have such a nice one in my ‘hood, but Rye is worth a visit as a whole. I’m going back this afternoon in fact!

      • How wonderful. Well I own I long to see your corner of England anyhoo, having seen other parts. But who knows when that will happen?

  6. We have slept for the last 28 years in a mid Victorian brass bed with Robbie Burns on the porcelains. I love him. And I love tartan. Haven’t tasted haggis but I do quite like black pudding.

    • Haggis is delicious, lots of black pepper and the unctuousness of the FAT blended with the oatmeal, my idea of heaven. I love the sound of that bed, wherever did you get it???

      • The Robbie Burns bed was our first decent furniture purchase after we’d been sleeping on a convertible couch for our first 6 months of marriage. Home was a very iffy flat in Balfour Road, Rose Bay, with harbour views if you stood on the loo (demonstrated by the letting agent). We could just see into Glen Marie Frost’s back garden and wistfully imagined living there. Funny to see her name pop up on your Facebook!

        Anyway, I digress… the bed was purchased privately from a couple in New South Head Road who assured us somewhat disturbingly that it had always been lucky for them in their fertility. They were redecorating and going all minimalist. We loved it so much we bought it anyway.
        PS I still wear my Stewart tartan scarf I bought from Scotch House in 1984.

  7. Blimey – the fertility thing!!! I still wear a black cashmere cardigan I bought in Scotch House (Knightsbridge, right?) the VERY SAME YEAR. Imagine if we were in there at the same time… It was the most expensive thing I had ever bought (a twinset) but look how those investments have paid us back. Thirty one years of wear!

    • I still have my palest pink cashmere jumper I bought there the same year. No hope in hell of ever fitting into it again, but still…

      It all sounds very Sliding Doors: we seemed to have crossed paths at some distance a few times!

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