Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Day Out

Always on the lookout for a cultural event, R and I planned a trip to Toronto to see the King Tut exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. With timed tickets in hand, we set out yesterday and what a day we had. The obligatory first stop was Nicholas Hoare, where I picked up a copy of Nancy Mitford's, Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love along with Elizabeth Bowen's, The Heat of the Day. Thereby making Three Men in a Boat NOT my last book purchase of 2009 (you just really never know do you?). Then we strolled through St Lawrence Market to liven our senses with all the delicious aromas and displays. Can you believe that I bought two large gingerbread men? How many times does one have to say 'I will NOT eat too many cookies this Christmas' before she means it? I digress. Winding our way through the art gallery we came upon the most beautiful photography by Edward Steichen. The exhibit was called In High Fashion: The Conde Nast Years 1923 - 1937 and was such an unexpected pleasure in that we had no idea it was showing. There were so many things to admire in his photographs such as the lighting, the pose, the clothes (tailored and dreamy) and the art deco jewelry. I have officially become an admirer of this man's work. Our tickets were for 5 pm and my blood sugar was dropping. Being much too practical to pay $16 for two cello-wrapped sandwiches we stepped outside and found a small pizzeria. I found heaven in the best slice of primavera pizza ever...and I mean ever, it was to die for! The tiny establishment was decorated with personal photographs of the owner's family on various outings which was an exhibit in itself. Oh yes, and a Scarface movie poster...this place was the real deal, no franchise here. R and I walked back to the gallery and were amazed by the Tut exhibit, there was such reverence from the crowd. The ornate gold jewelry, the intricate carving on statues, the sandals he wore, all the things you've only ever seen in books or on television. It didn't seem real to be standing a foot away from artifacts dating back to over 1,000 years before Christ. I do confess to hearing Steve Martin sing 'King Tut, funky Tut...' ever so quietly in my head for just a moment though. We drove the long way home, admiring the festive lights decorating so many homes. Part way, R stopped at a Tim Horton's and bought me a tea, I pulled a gingerbread man out of the bag and munched away. It was a lovely day and such a nice way to see out the year. And now on to new beginnings...Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Meret

The Heiress has a lovely friend and flatmate, they met on moving in day at the university residence and have been like sisters ever since. The lovely Miss S had planned a visit over the holidays so there was only one thing to do, get out the needles and knit her a Meret of her own. I managed to finish it last night before heading out to an open house with friends, leaving the damp project to block over a dinner plate. Once I got back from walking Deacon this morning, the girls were awake and being ever so accommodating, Miss S modelled her new chapeau. It suits her red-tinted hair perfectly and looks gorgeous with her coat, I love this pattern!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Persephone Meret

It's called a Meret because it was a mystery knit on Ravelry, blend 'mystery' and 'beret', you get Meret. Once it was blocked it was going to be wrapped and put under the tree as a surprise for The Heiress. But there were doubts, would it be too big, too slouchy...I had knitter's anxiety and there was only one thing to do. Creeping into The Inner Sanctum that is a young adults room, I whispered 'are you awake?'. She loves it and it's perfect!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Elizabeth's Women by Tracy Borman

There are more than a handful of books to be found about Elizabeth I but Borman has offered up some interesting and fresh details (for me anyway) about this ruler. The fragility of relationships is a thread that runs through Elizabeth's life. Her mother, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded and four step-mothers followed, although only one other left the marriage in the same manner. Jane Seymour favoured her half-sister Mary, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard favoured Elizabeth, Katherine Parr treated both equally. Imagine being a child and trying to find your place in yet another woman's heart. As an adult, is it any wonder that Elizabeth was reluctant to be joined to a man in holy wedlock. The Queen had many of her family, ladies-in-waiting, members of council and friends held by puppet strings and quite often stamped around and yelled in fury if they didn't live their lives according to her plan. Marriages within the royal circle and court had to be sanctioned by Elizabeth as there was fear that a strong alliance could jeopardize her position as Queen of England. On more than one occasion she had newlywed couples sentenced to the Tower for treason, simply for marrying without her permission. When women would become pregnant and give birth to sons due to the blind-eye of a guard, Elizabeth would be incandescent with rage. Fearful for her position or jealous? You cannot help but be in awe of the power, bravery and intelligence of the woman herself. At a time when women had very little in the way of entitlement or rights, Elizabeth had a long and fairly successful reign of 44 years. Towards the end of her life, people were ready for change and welcomed their new King, James I, but the fascination with Elizabeth never really subsided. Most of us are quite familiar with her parentage, the love of her life, Robert Dudley, and the turmoil of having her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, executed, the thorn in her side that was Arbella Stuart. In Elizabeth's Woman, Tracy Borman paints a slightly clearer picture of a remarkable ruler and I think, a lonely woman who paid a great price for crown and country. Although, with dynastic Tudor blood coursing through her veins, something tells me that Queen Elizabeth I wouldn't have had it any other way. If you love historical non-fiction, this is one to look forward to and I thank Fiona, from Random House, for sending me such a great read!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

No Name by Wilkie Collins

How far would you go to regain something that had been taken from you and your family? Mr Vanstone was married at a young age but it wasn't an ideal situation so the couple parted ways...still bound in legal matrimony. When he falls in love with another woman later on, he confesses that he is married but she chooses to live with him, against social mores. Something which would have been rather shocking in the Victorian era. They present themselves as a married couple and raise two daughters, Norah and Magdalen, in style, luxury and society. With the sudden death of Mr Vanstone followed closely by that of Mrs Vanstone, it's revealed that the young ladies are now considered illegitimate in the eyes of the law. The family fortune is lost to them in favour of an estranged and miserly Uncle who has no conscience about selling the house and turning the girls out. Norah Vanstone, while upset at their situation, accepts that life will be different and finds work as a governess to provide her with essentials. Her younger sister, Magdalen, will find no peace until the fortune that is theirs but for the absurdity of law, is returned to them. The characters in No Name are absolutely fantastic, in particular Captain Wragge and his wife. The Captain's brain is always on fast-forward when it comes to scheming which in turn means that the plot travels at such a pace, you never feel as though this book is over 700 pages! I wouldn't dream of saying anything more about this story as I hope anyone reading this is tempted to pick up a copy and find out the rest for themselves. In reading a bit about Collins life I was excited to learn that he studied law at Lincoln's Inn, a place which I visited on my trip to London last May. Having a visual of the setting and picturing him walking from building to building along the paths has added an extra layer to my memories. It saddened me though that because he suffered from 'rheumatic gout' he became an opium addict, taking it in the form of laudanum. At a later point in his writing the storylines were confusing and disjointed. Collins had no problem writing about his vices as this drug is written about in this book and others. There is some other reading on my horizon but I'm really looking forward, in fact I'm excited, to get back into another book by Wilkie Collins. My only question is why did it take me so long to discover him?