Week-end: YELLOW CROWN IMPERIALS (and crimson roses)

Yellow bell-shaped flowers in flat light

Absolutely everything is going under ‘mixed’ this week.

The mixed

My manager retired yesterday. I’m going to miss her. She’s been my manager for ten years of the thirteen I’ve worked for the union, three at the beginning and then seven after we ended up in the same team again, and she’s been supportive and encouraging ever since I was a temp who couldn’t say boo to a goose.

Anyway, that meant a team meal out on Tuesday, and a party last night. I caught up with some people I haven’t seen in years, and I danced. I haven’t danced that much since… probably before the pandemic. My feet were complaining on the walk to the station last night, and I’ve spent most of today doing absolutely nothing.

What’s working

Allowing for nap time.


Finished These Violent Delights, which ended with some blatant sequel bait. I don’t think I shall search out anything further. It had a fantastic premise but really needed much more editing. (Also, reading it in the current climate it was somewhat galling to have a strike presented as an incident of disaster, though I realise that at least part of that was the appropriately warped worldview of the protagonists.)

Then I moved onto Plain Bad Heroines (emily m. danforth) and finished it in three days. This was what I’d been missing: a slick, confident prose style. It had the kind of assertive narrator my friend Kit calls an Oi Pal; they’re always intruding themselves into the page to point out something they think you should be looking at, or to give their own take on events, or make some kind of sarcastic interjection. In some books this grates, but in this case it worked; it strengthened the sense of being in the hands of someone who knew what they were doing. This was mostly fulfilled, with the two timelines (early twentieth century boarding school and present day Hollywood) unfolding in tandem and a delicious sapphical-gothical feeling across both. It faltered a little at the denouement, with what should have been the climax taking place offstage, and (I thought, anyway) an unnecessary diversion into the backstory. I also hadn’t much time for Mary Maclane, the Not Like Other Girls author of the book that drives a lot of the plot. Very readable, though, and I’m glad it’s not wasp season.

And I have started Wildfire at Midnight (Mary Stewart) for the romantic suspense bookclub. Very different, but equally skillful, prose.


Die Tote Stadt (The Dead City) – English National Opera. I knew pretty much nothing about this beyond the fact that it was set in Bruges and based on a book called Bruges-la-Morte, so bought a programme. I do wonder if it’s one that might in fact be better watched unspoiled. So all I shall say is that it’s a very twentieth-century opera; it couldn’t have existed before Freud, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a mental breakdown put on stage in quite the same way. It does have the perennial opera problem of being sold as a timeless tale of love and loss and actually turning out to be about a creepy entitled man, but there we go. The music is gorgeous, and also loud, and you can see why Korngold was so good at film music later in his career.

Looking at

I went to the V and A yesterday and, after pausing to look at a fantastically detailed micromosaic panorama of Rome, went round the exhibition on musicals – costumes, set designs, and an awful lot of LP covers. Plus a long reel of extracts from archive recordings from the last couple of decades, which made for a nice excuse to sit down. Must go back another time to look at the model theatres.


Pork chops with cabbage (the cabbage comes out very soggy, but very tasty).


Italian, mostly. We went to Wildwood with the in-laws on Sunday (bruschetta, chicken and asparagus risotto, panna cotta with a pleasantly tart blackcurrant compote); then Tuesday’s lunch was at Albertini’s (fusilli with tomato, sausage, and greens, followed by tiramisu).


Quite a few rabbits out in the fields. And pheasants.

In the garden

The tulips are beginning to show what colour they’re going to be. The plum blossom is out and the apples and pears are on the way. The grape hyacinths have gone a gorgeous deep blue.

In the conservatory, the cosmos seeds have sprouted very satisfactorily; so have some of the beans, and something is going on in the big herb pot, though the tarragon seems to be doing nothing at all. The cat grass has come up and been put into service.


All the excellent people I have in my life.

Deep red roses with dark green leaves; general clutter and a cat's paw just visible around the edges


Flowers! Along with the pram, which was the official purpose of the visit, the in-laws brought one of those lovely tiny rose plants. It has four crimson blooms and is doing well despite the best efforts of the cat. And at the market on Sunday I bought a yellow crown imperial and planted it in the garden. It wasn’t very impressed by the wind and rain, so I’ve tied it to the trellis for support.


I’m still thinking about that teapot dress. It’s occurred to me that a lot of my summer dresses are not going to be much use to me this year.

Line of the week

There were several contenders this week. Here’s one from Plain Bad Heroines:

The night was drunk on the liquor of late spring, on wet grass and pale moon, on air still warm even after the sunset, air now scented by the rain-smacked lilac bushes planted at the back of the theater, their branches so heavy with blooms and moisture that several were bent against the ground.

Saturday snippet

Started adding to Starcrossers again:

[I was still on Crew territory.] Even if I hadn’t known that, I’d have been able to tell from the broad street that gave me nowhere to hide. When I’d ridden through earlier it had been crowded with the booths and stands of the ten-day market, and I’d had to be careful. Now I wished they were back.

This coming week

Holy Week. And getting to church at all will be an improvement on last year.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

August Moon day 7: the city with the green carpet

I pull back the curtain and I see the ruled-out Venetian blind. Blurred white lines. The light gets in, but not much else. A sliver of damp drive, a laurel leaf or two. There’s nothing much to see, really.

Never mind the curtains. What about the blinds? I love being the first one in the office. Last night the sun will have sunk low enough to shine directly into the eyes of my colleagues who linger until six or seven, and they will have shut the blinds.

When I raise the blinds the next morning the light washes in, and I, four floors up, have the trees at my feet. Resilient London planes, stolidly breathing in all the foul fumes of the Euston Road, spread a lush green carpet out before me. A church spire rises from the mass of leaves as if it were a freestanding pyramid.

I look across to the other office blocks (nobody there, yet), down on the roofs of the other buildings. Way down, below the trees, the buses line up in neat queues and swing around the corner each in turn. Buses aren’t just red, seen from up here. I see their white roofs and their fleet numbers writ large across them. Pedestrians swim in and out of the green canopy, some swift and purposeful, some trailing unwieldy suitcases behind them.

I was one of them, only a little while ago. Now I’ve gone inside, and climbed four flights of stairs, and pulled up the blinds, and have found myself in a different city.

Give us a paragraph or more prompted by the Edgware Road (even if only the name). Evoke, please.

I had to look it up. In London I walk north to south, Euston to Waterloo – Bloomsbury, Holborn, Charing Cross. Where I do not walk I do not know. What is the Edgware Road? Merely a notch on the Bakerloo. ‘What is the Edgware Road?’ I asked.

‘It goes whoosh to Marble Arch.’

And so I must have been there; I have eaten Tesco sandwiches in Hyde Park; I know Marble Arch. Or am I thinking of somewhere else? I like London, but it has never felt as if it belongs to me. Knowing it would take more time, more energy than I have to give it.

Marble Arch at one end, then, but where does it go the other way? After all, a road must have two ends, perhaps more, and if you can’t say much about the one, follow it the other way. Back to the A-Z, and run out of pages at Maida Vale. Just as well: show me a map that took it further and I’d be planning to follow it.