...and in with the new. A belated Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful and peaceful Christmas and that 2010 has started well. I had a simply lovely time over the holiday, spending Christmas Day itself with my mum in the heart of a beautifully frosty Gloucestershire. Rather than stay at home for Christmas, we decided to take ourselves off to the Priory Inn in Tetbury, renowned for its excellent, locally sourced food. The restaurant has a 30 mile food policy, meaning that 90% of its ingredients come from nearby farmers. As they are just down the road from Highgrove, we were spoilt with scrumptious Duchy vegetables from the Home Farm there, to accompany the melt-in-the-mouth pigeon I had for a starter, and the truly delicious venison I chose for my main course. After the mock Christmas Day my friends and I had enjoyed in Oxford before the vacation, I felt I'd already had enough turkey to satisfy my seasonal craving! I was also happy to have the chance to show off a new dress I'd bought just before Christmas -- part of the collection designed by Coast only for sale in their outlets inside Debenhams. The meek and mild front...
... makes the pretty draped back a nice surprise, giving it an elegantly mischievous frisson which appealed to me:
I always love the chance to get dressed up, and Christmas is a great excuse as we toasted the season with some local (and surprisingly nice!) bubbly. I was also pleased to toast a particularly successful present haul, as I opened pretty parcels to find jewelry, gloves, a new watch, various other bits and pieces, as well as my current reading material -- Saplings by Noel Streatfeild -- and, some tokens of the best kind: one from the marvellous Persephone Books, to feed my grey cover fetish once Saplings is done with, and also some theatre tokens, which I'll be able to exchange for tickets to one or two of the many productions I want to see this year! Wonderful! Long-term readers might also be interested to know that my presents also included some of the beautiful travel guides from The Little Bookroom I wrote about here, and *all* of the beautiful items from Fey Handmade I lusted after here, courtesy of my lovely grandfather, who has obviously been keeping a weather eye on this blog! Thank you again, Grampa!
Boxing Day was spent with family back in Staffordshire, and so the festive season was a perfect combination of good food, relaxation, and good company. I was only at home for a week, which was just enough to refresh me before returning to Oxford just before the New Year, when an American friend was visiting from Los Angeles. He and I and another friend travelled together to London on New Year's Eve, joined by others to see in 2010 at another friend's flat there. We were all thrilled when it actually started snowing bang on the dot of midnight, as we crowded onto the balcony to watch the fireworks over the dark sky. Sadly my camera broke almost on the stroke of midnight as well, so the snowflakes were lost to posterity (this sad calamity also means my blog might be a little sparse when it comes to pictures while I get a new camera sorted out. Sigh).
I was particularly excited on New Year's Day, as my friends and I were -- as I mentioned in my last post -- off to see the much touted production of The Misanthrope at the Comedy Theatre that evening.
As I think I mentioned before, I was particularly eager to see Damian Lewis on stage, and I am glad to say I wasn't disappointed. He had tremendous energy and presence, and made a wonderful Alceste. Obviously the main draw for many in the audience was Keira Knightley, in her widely publicised theatre debut. Personally, I thought she was fine, but nothing more, and her American accent was unfortunately terribly distracting, and at times rather wavering (as my American friend, who is a BIG fan of KK, was forced to admit). She did, however, have a couple of very nice outfits! I particularly liked the 1930s-style silky black jumpsuit and black and gold drapey cardigan she wore in the first act, which you can see a detail of here:
The play itself, a modern reworking by Martin Crimp, sped along at a zipping, zinging pace, with the rhyming couplets flowing easily from most of the cast, as it rushed through its slim two hour running time (this included the interval -- it's a while since I've been out of an evening performance by 9.30!). I've never read Moliere's original, and seeing this really made me want to, so at some point I'll have to seek it out (although the sad state of my French means I'll probably be forced to read it in translation, unless I'm feeling very virtuous. And have a lot of spare time).
Since then, I've been back in Oxford, which has looked beautiful under the deepest covering of snow I've ever seen here. I can't believe my camera has died at such an inopportune moment! Still, I must admit I have been spending quite a large proportion of my time tucked up indoors, drinking much hot tea and snuggling under blankets, as (you may not be surprised to hear this) my footwear collection is not really very compatible with the icy conditions! It turns out that the only shoes or boots I have which have any tread on the soles at all (excluding, of course, The Walking Boots, which are huddled at the back of a cupboard at home -- little did I think I might have need of them away from the alpine slopes) are my new knee-high boots. Which have heels. Chunkyish heels, sure, but still heels, which is enough to make many passers-by give me sidelong glances and a wide berth as they wait for what they assume is the inevitable graceless topple. Luckily, this hasn't happened yet, and I am convinced that heels and tread is infinitely safer than flats and smooth sole. In comfort, I also draw upon my demonstrable (and long-honed skill) of walking in Adverse Weather Conditions in surprising footwear, rembering that skirmishofwit and I survived a three day sojourn in Paris last December without any mishap, despite the fact that we were both trotting (well, okay, Very Slowly Edging Our Way Along) over the icy pavements in ankle boots with, shall we say, heels of a height which might make some people question whether I truly do suffer from vertigo. Saying all this, I shall probably leave the library today and fall flat. Well, just as long as I don't damage my laptop!
Although I sincerely hope I don't injure myself before this evening, as tonight I am ... DRUM ROLL ... having my very first Pole Dancing Lesson. Yes, that's right: pole dancing. Two friends and I are going along tonight to be initiated into its wonders, having being reassured by another friend who is already a fan that it is excellent exercise, a great confidence booster, and quite simply a fabulously sexy and fun thing to do. We'll see! If I can move enough tomorrow to drag myself to my laptop, I'll be giving a report on my first experience. Talking of which, I'd better go, as my friend and I are meeting up shortly to buy some hotpants which, for some reason, neither of us happened to have lying around our wardrobes already...
Although my posts have never been entirely regular, I've so much enjoyed having my blog over the tail end of 2009, and I look forward to continuing with it this year. And what better start to 2010's blogging than to find that I've been given A Lovely Blog Award!
Many thanks to Karen at BookBath for this! The idea of the award is that if you receive one, you then give it to others, so I'll be nominating some lovely blogs of my own over the next couple of days, as well as sharing with you tales from snowy Amsterdam, and a few other bits and pieces. I can't wait! Thanks so much to everyone who's been reading and commenting over the last few months -- I never thought that anyone I didn't actually know would ever read what I wrote, and it's added so much to my enjoyment to 'talk' to you all in the comments section!
Rather than leaving you with the usual quotation from Sir W, I thought some of you might like to see this wonderful engraving from the 1632 edition of his Essayes, by Thomas Cecill. There is an old story that the two men are Sir W and his father, Sir Charles, but as they look more like twins than father and son, this hardly seems the case. So sadly it brings us no closer to knowing what Sir W looked like, although that he was wonderfully dashing seems unquestionable. Well, through my rose-tinted eyes, anyway...