I know everyone thinks it rains all the time in England. No one’s skipping about in the sunshine in those Hugh Grant romantic comedies set in an idealised London where everyone lives in Kensington town houses and has a motley crew of eccentric and attractive friends with very interesting jobs. No, rather than picnicking in the park, they’re cowering under umbrellas, running through rain storms, getting caught short in unexpected showers, or looking longingly out of rain covered train windows. Apparently it would seem that we’ve all been labouring under a misapprehension, however, as we are officially in a drought. There are slightly patronising WWII style informational posters on the tube talking about being ‘all in this together’ alongside phone numbers you can call to shop your neighbour if you see them using a hosepipe. It’s like we’re living in Stalinist Russia. Or McCarthy’s America. But someone upstairs is having a laugh, because ever since the drought was announced the heavens have opened, non-stop. Apart from a brief respite yesterday afternoon, the rain came down thick and fast all weekend. I had planned to go shopping in Hampstead and mooch around on the Heath, but who can be bothered when leaving the house involves getting soaked to the skin? So here’s what I did instead.
1. I went to see The King’s Speech – the play! – with my mummy in this very beautiful theatre. It was amazing – arguably better than the film, as it explores much more of the back story of Lionel Logue, the King’s speech therapist, and the reasons why he came to England in the first place. The actor who played the Archbishop of Canterbury was dreadful but everyone else was wonderful, and the set was brilliant too. The King’s Speech was a play before it was a film, but sadly this production has come too hot on the heels of the film’s success and will be closing early for lack of ticket sales. If you’re in London or its environs, see it while you can – you won’t regret it.
2. I made cookies from this wonderful recipe. Felicity Cloake always does brilliant recipes in The Guardian – she takes things that you actually want to cook/bake, tries loads of different versions, then comes up with an ‘ultimate’ that is easy to make and doesn’t involve you buying loads of random jars of spices/raising agents/dried/grated/ground fruits and nuts that you’ll never use again and cost a fortune. I have never made good cookies before – not for want of trying! – but this recipe really took the (pardon the pun) biscuit. There will be a scary moment when you add the flour because it seems like there is far too much of it to ever work its way into the dough but persevere – all will be well. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to add milk. I was very close to succumbing, but I kept beating with my spoon and eventually it all worked out. Felicity knows best! However, Felicity says to chill the cookie dough for at least 24 hours before baking the cookies but I totally ignored this as WHO ON EARTH is sufficiently prepared to decide what they want to eat 24 hours beforehand?! I wanted cookies and I wanted them now so I baked half the dough immediately and left the rest in the fridge for the following day. Felicity says chilling the dough makes them taste better, but I noticed no difference in taste whatsoever – both batches were absolutely delicious and I’ll be making more this week!
3. I cut my hair. My flatmate was away this weekend and whenever I am left to my own devices I get up to no good. After reading a book, cleaning my flat and eating my weight in cookies I was at a loose end. I couldn’t go outside, there was nothing on TV, and I was restless. I’ve been thinking of having a proper fringe cut into my hair for ages, but always panic at the last minute and get a side fringe instead. I was going out in the evening (yes I did brave the rain) and had nothing nice to wear, so in lieu of buying a new outfit, I changed my hairstyle. A quick tutorial video on YouTube made me feel I had sufficient knowledge to do a half decent job, and armed with my sewing scissors, I got cutting. I’m pretty happy with the result. The last time I cut my hair, I plaited it and cut the end off – not a great look. Before that, I used a hole punch, thinking I’d end up with an amazing pattern running through my hair that would be the envy of all my school friends. Logic has never been my strong point, but I’ve got better. At least this time I thought to get some instruction first!
4. I learned more about pre-war British art and got the inspiration for a new reading project. I have been reading the wonderful Ravilious in Pictures: Sussex and the Downs, which the magnificent Mainstone Press kindly sent me (more on this later in the week), and marvelling at the gorgeous paintings of the British countryside and the fascinating juxtaposition between traditional country ways and the encroachment of modern technology. I have had Romantic Moderns sitting by my bed for months, so I desperately need to start reading that to get more of a context for Ravilious and his contemporaries. I have also discovered the work of Brian Cook and the Batsford publishing house he worked for, which published a series of books in the 1930s and 1940s called ‘The Face of Britain’, exploring the soon to be forever changed landscape, architecture and cultural traditions of pre-war Britain. It’s not hard to pick some of these up, with their original, beautifully designed dustjackets, fairly cheaply from ebay. I have some winging their way to me as we speak. I can’t wait to get stuck in!