29 September, 2007

"Shadowlands," and Charing Cross Road, finally















Goodness, I just came from seeing "Atonement" again, and it was even more riveting and more admirable than the first viewing. Each shot is like a perfect moment under glass: every object in every room a necessary evocation of a moment in time, every performance, and I mean EVERY, noteworthy. No character is imperfectly cast, the music is completely waterworks-producing (especially this little bit of Debussy's "Clair de Lune," which I remember my mother playing on the piano when I was little, so even more reason to get emotional). It is a wonderful, wonderful film and I only wish it were a little less, shall we say, mature in theme, so that Avery could see it. In a couple of years, perhaps. Please go!

Well, Avery was able to accompany us to the PLAY! On Friday night, in Richmond (little did I know it was coming to London at the Wyndham, next week! ah, well, Richmond's always a treat) It's called "Shadowlands", and I've always loved Charles Dance, the actor playing CS Lewis, since seeing him (as you probably all did) in Gosford Park. Then he was magical in Bleak House, as well as in the new series of Marple. And the silly Woody Allen Scarlett Johanssen vehicle Scoop, from last summer, if you can imagine.

In any case, he has always played supercilious, slightly cruel Englishmen, to my experience, and to see him so vulnerable, not to mention LIVE in PERSON, was really a treat. I wasn't sure Avery would enjoy it, being number one a child, and number two, a rather cheerful sort of person, but we dragged her along anyway. Needless to say, as when we saw "Office Suite" there, she was the youngest audience member by at least 30 years, but she loved it. It's a lovely evocation of the love affair between CS (who knew he was called Clive??) Lewis and an American writer. Great performances and a great set depicting an Oxford don's study. Avery thought they were all clergymen, never having seen a don in robes before! Well, of course neither have I, in real life, but I'm so fond of Dorothy L. Sayers that I feel I have.

On a completely different topic, before I forget: my new writing class takes place in the unexpectedly random and unappealing section of Hammersmith adjacent to the tube station, and it is not in any way a destination. Except perhaps one: there is a fantastic food shop to patronise, and I did. Bushwhackers Wholefoods is a darkish, earnest shop that takes itself very seriously indeed, with many posted notices, "Please do not open the olive oil bottles as it spoils our sales," and "Please take as many carrots as you want and close the bag," and "Please let us know if you do not like the music playing and we will certainly switch it off." I bought a fantastic loaf of French sourdough bread, a lovely bottle of olive oil (no sampling) and very fresh beetroots. It's worth a trip if you find yourself in deepest Hammersmith with some time to kill.

Let's see, yesterday found us with an hour while Avery was at acting, and we trotted up to Maida Vale and picked ourselves up what Avery later described as the "best pain au chocolat since Paris," at Baker & Spice, and a very tempting shoulder of lamb from
Sheepdrove Organic Farm, owned and operated by Peter Kindersley, co-founder of Dorling Kindersley, one of the (to my mind) best publishers of educational children's books and videos in the world. Good for them! I must defend them against my husband's understandable objection to food costing too much: of course the shoulder of lamb cost more (about 25 percent more) than at Tesco, but perhaps the proof of the lamb will be in the eating? I will keep you posted. I do love supporting real people making real food, although of course some real farmer must produce the lamb I buy at Tesco; it's just so far removed from me that I can't feel it.

Our life lately has been beset with some minor aggravations this week: the arduous process of choosing and analysing various senior schools that Avery might be able to attend in a year's time, then the applications to fill out and the worrying over how to decide what's best for her. I would like her to stay where she is forever, but alas, she will all too soon outgrow all possibly sizes in uniform and that, after all, is what determines these things. And to wait to collect our completely revamped and refurbished enormous sofa cushion until after we get back from Ireland? Something deep inside me balks at leaving our neurotic Keechie, she who is responsible, after all, for the awful state in which we found the sofa after our summer's absence... will she fall a victim to recidivism? I can't bear to think about it. I'd call you to get your advice only... I still have no phone!

Yes, stupid me, I left my mobile in Connecticut somewhere at the end of the summer, and poor John has spent literally hours on HIS phone with the stupid so-called service people. They keep insisting that we don't have a real address (a mailbox full of bills notwithstanding). Finally he asked them to send the new SIM card to my friend Becky, just to get them to DO something. Of course then the next day, what's in the mailbox? Three SIM cards. We got all excited for a minute, then it turned out that because he reported them undelivered, they're... deactivated. I thought he would explode. A tiny confession: I like not having a phone! I really don't like talking on mobiles, and it's been interesting to see how much more organised and thoughtful in planning ahead we all must have been before we had them. You actually have to BE where you said you would, because you can't change plans! And it's perfectly possible to do. But John's sick of playing social secretary for both me and Avery, on his phone. It's annoying, the whole situation.

To console us, there's the last-ever season of Parkinson! And my darling James McAvoy and the totally charming Harry Connick, Jr. have been stellar guests. Only 10 weeks left, I think, so tune in.


Yesterday found Avery and me in one of my favorite ever sections of London, and I'm ashamed it's taken us nearly two years of living here to get there: the bookshop alleys of Charing Cross Road! Being the bookworms we each are, it's ridiculous that we've stayed away so long, but one gets in a rut, and just goes to the old walking-distance places. And she's a huge fan of 84, Charing Cross Road as well, so double bad mummy me. But it was worth the wait. We were very naughty at my old stomping grounds, Murder One, quite simply the best mystery bookstore ever, topping even, I think, Murder Ink in New York, although I loved that too. I just found out that it closed permanently in January! What is happening to New York? First Claremont Riding Academy, now Murder Ink. The city is in danger of losing its soul of paying the rent continues to kill off business. I can certainly attest to that, after the glory and then tragedy that was my gallery. Ah wel. I'm told there are great mystery bookstores in Dublin, and when we get back from our half-term break there, I'll be sure to report. Avery is beginning to want her own copies of books in my collection, against the eventual day that she'll "pack up all my very own books and arrange them as I please," was her gleeful imagining yesterday. Mostly Agatha Christies, she chose, and it gave me ridiculous pleasure to hearing her wax lyrical over some of my favorites.

Then we were off to Any Amount of Books, a gorgeous musty old place where we picked some of the classics Avery's been asking for, and some poetry, too, since she's a finalist in the school Poetry Reading Competition! Very exciting. She's unstoppable as far as reciting "The Lady Of Shalott" goes, as well as singing Loreena McKennitt's lovely rendition of it. The finals are on Thursday, fingers crossed.

We finished our Charing Cross adventure with a completely indulgent trip to Cybercandy, an over the top candy store, filled with lots of foreign treats, among them American candy from my childhood. Avery was in heaven, and gloated over her finds during our cab ride home through Trafalgar Square, up the Mall. A great way to spend the afternoon.

Well, we're off to collect her at the stable, so enjoy your Sunday, wherever you are. I'll leave you with a cosy Sunday recipe, a nice variation on my original mushroom soup recipe. So easy and so good.

Cream of Mushroom Soup
(serves 4)


4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 sweet white onion, roughly chopped
3 tbsps butter
1 pound portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped
4 cups beef stock (commercial works fine)
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup light or single cream
fresh black pepper and salt to taste

In a heavy saucepan, saute the garlic and onion in the butter till soft, then stir the mushrooms in the mixture until coated with butter. Cover with the beef stock and simmer high until soft, about 20 minutes. Puree with a hand blender and sprinkle with thyme, then stir in milk and cream, and season to taste. Be careful with the salt; commercial stock is quite salty already. Enjoy.

1 comment:

andrea said...

I have to admit I have fallen prey to the charm of Cybercandy more than once - and end up buying candy I would never buy in the States when home but feel nostalgic for it once I see it here!