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.