Tuesday, January 31, 2012


The thriving metropolis of Oberkorn, Luxembourg
I'm having a bit of an early Depeche Mode phase - currently listening to Construction Time Again (1983) and Music for the Masses (1987). I was talking with my new colleague Dave Huxtable, a proud Essex man, and turns out he knew them quite well when they were starting out. Indeed, he tells me that it was he who titled the atmospheric instrumental flipside of their fifth single, The Meaning of Love. They were on tour in Europe at the time and Dave had gone along with them. Apparently, Mute were pressing for a title of the B-side track and it was Dave who came up with Oberkorn, the tiny Luxembourgian town they were playing in at the time. Fascinating, huh?

Monday, January 30, 2012


On Mondays, Alyssa & Naomi go to a little gallery within the Landmark Hotel, next to my office, to have a drawing class. We've got to know the couple who run it: the husband teaches the girls drawing techniques while the wife gives Liz a Chinese class. But the real draw - if you'll forgive the pun - are the hamsters, who scamper around in a cage in the back of the gallery. This is where we got ours.

So, here's a cube - by Alyssa as it turns out, but Naomi's was great too. They've done triangles, spheres, cylinders, hectagons, you name it. It's a good discipline, being able to draw, shade, create perspective - and they seem to enjoy it. Afterwards they go to a little Japanese restaurant, also within the hotel, for udon & sushi. I try to join them whenever I can, and did today. A nice little Monday routine.  

Sunday, January 29, 2012


At risk of being accused of fetishism, I love Kinko's - the 24hr printing, photocopy and (fnaar fnaar) binding shop. There's something very satisfying about popping in there with a USB stick anytime of the day, and coming out with an A2 laminated photo or three copies of a perfectly bound 24-page A5 booklet, both of which I did today. I used to be a frequent customer of Kinko's in Tokyo, and they've recently set up shop in Beijing. Kinko, by the way, was the nickname of its American founder, who had curly hair. And that's enough inuendo for one day. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sticky Toffee Pud

Had the owners of our apartment, the Jias, round for a New Year's lunch today. Couldn't wish for better landlords - always quick to respond to things, always friendly. Their son is studying at Imperial College in London so there was a good connection from the start. Liz served up an excellent western meal. Of course all the items are presented together on the one plate as opposed to a succession of bowls as would be the Chinese norm, but the Jias (indeed many Chinese) are used to it. And Delia's sticky toffee pud seemed to go down well.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Farewell My Concubine

The fireworks were back with a vengeance tonight. Not sure why. But it was like a warzone cycling back from the office, dodging bangers & rockets.

We watched Farewell My Concubine tonight, Chen Kaige's 1993 film about two Peking Opera stars - from boyhood in the 1920s to old age in the 70s. I'd not seen it before. Good, well-acted and as much about China's tumultuous mid-century history & politics as the stagecraft of the title. But overlong at 3hrs. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Office Alone

Second afternoon in an otherwise empty office, trying to keep on top of work while everyone else is away. Cold, dark and deathly quiet. The same outside - there seem to be much fewer fireworks than last year.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


In advance of his nibbs' 200th birthday and the fact that we're organizing various Dickens-related activities in China, I thought I'd better re-acquaint myself with his life & oeuvre. A bit like Shakespeare, he's one of those writers we all read at school but only experience as adaptations in films or on stage thereafter. Anyway. I'm immersed in Peter Ackroyd's 1990 biography of the man and tonight watched David Lean's 1946 version of Great Expectations. I've seen it before but so long ago that I'd all but forgotten the plot. It's still a cracking story and the look is classic Lean. Here's Jean Simmons, who would have been about 17 playing the young Estella; Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham; and Anthony Wager as the young Pip. I often wonder what happened to certain child actors, like all the Von Trappe kids in The Sound of Music.  Antony Wager ended up in Australia working in various film & TV-related jobs and died in Bali in 1990. A slightly more interesting fact was that this was Alec Guinness's first film - although he'd starred in a stage version in 1939 playing the same character (Herbert Pocket). 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


A grand day out skiing. It's a bit of a faff - getting up early, putting on all those layers, getting ourselves to the bus pick-up point, and going through all the pallaver of renting skis & boots, getting the damned boots on, paying for chairlifts, finding lockers and negotiating with an instructor for the girls - all in our basic Chinese. However, when all that was done, it was definitely worth it. An absolutely beautiful, clear, blue-sky day and not too crowded given that it's only an hour away from Beijing. The girls are progressing well, fearlessly zooming down the Blue slopes. I did OK too, and even got onto a Red slope without ending up on my backside. I think we'll only ever be once-a-winter day-trip skiers but good for the girls to learn young.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Random Music

Quiet day spent at home, me doing photo albums, Liz spring-cleaning, girls playing. I listened to more music than I have in months & months. A dozen or so family-friendly albums, picked almost at random, the girls shouting out letters of the alphabet - T, V, S, H, G, P, F, X D, I, A... So:

- Tycho Dive (newie electronica, reminiscent of Ulrich Schnauss)
- Verve Urban Hymns (an odd choice for me, but vocally refreshing)
- Anoushka Shankar Traveller (Indian flamenco on Deutsche Grammophon of all labels)
- Hatchback Zeus & Apollo (soothing but not bland recent electronica, from Wolfgang)


- Pierre Moerlen's Gong's Downwind (not that good, but worth it for the marimba's & Mike Oldfield's guitar on the title track)
- Pet Shop Boys Release (lost for ages - the disc was hiding in Verve's CD)
- Fairport Convention Liege & Leaf (sudden folk urge, on vinyl no less)
- XTC Wasp Star (a letter with not much choice...; their last album proper)
- Duet Emmo Or So It Seems (classic 1982 12" single by Daniel Miller, Bruce Gilbert & Graham Lewis)
- Isan Salle d'Isan (mid-period mini-album from Brit analogue duo)
- Aufgang Aufgang (lively trio of Julliard-trained pianists & electronics)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chinese New Year

Out with the Rabbit and in with the Dragon - considered to be the luckiest of the 12 'animals'. Apparently, this to be "a very energetic year, filled with optimism, power and entrepreneurship". Let's hope so. In the evening we went to an Aussie-hosted, 17th floor CNY party with the girls and watched the fireworks from the windows. Amazingly managed to get a cab back having been prepared for a distinct lack of them.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fave Films: 1950s

What a decade!  It was the era of Cinemascope, the continued predominance of the Hollywood studio system, early 3D gimmicks, the US blacklisting of 'leftist' actors & directors, and the creeping influence of television. Very difficult to pick a Top 15, there are just so many great films. But here goes:
- All About Eve (Mankiewicz)
- Sunset Boulevard (Wilder)
- Singin in the Rain (Kelly)
- Rear Window (Hitchcock)
- Vertigo (Hitchcock)
- North by North West (Hitchcock)

- Tokyo Story (Ozu)
- The Seven Samurai (Kurosawa)

- Sansho the Bailiff (Mizoguchi)
Apu Trilogy (Satyajit Ray)
- Some Like It Hot (Wilder)
- Le Salaire de la Peur (The Wages of Fear) (Clouzot)
- A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) (Goddard)
- The Ladykillers (Mackendrick)
- La Dolce Vita (Fellini)

Hollywood dominated for sure. All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard, Singin' in the Rain would have to be in there. Hitchcock was at the top of his game and, really, I'd have to include three of his ten or so from that decade - Rear Window, Vertigo and North by Northwest.  I could have easily chosen three Brando films - The Wild One, On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. It was fairly easy not to go for James Dean's angsty trilogy nor Elvis's light musical romps. But I could have gone for a couple of westerns, High Noon and Gunfight at the OK Corale, along with Peck & Hepburn in Roman Holiday and Kirk Douglas in Lust for Life... Or Touch of Evil, House of Wax, Baby Doll, Mitchum in Night of the Hunter, From Here to Eternity, The Big Heat, The African Queen, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness... Charlton Heston's bliblical blockbusters Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, some more musicals - An American in Paris, OIklahoma!, South Pacific and The King and I... and the last decent Chaplin film (Limelight).

And then there was Marilyn Monroe. Some Like It Hot was probably the best, but I could have chosen The Asphalt Jungle, Bus Stop, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Niagara, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven Year Itch, whatever. Oh and some cracking sci-fi films: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The War of the Worlds, Forbidden Planet, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Incredible Shrinking Man, the immortal Plan 9 From Outer Space etc etc... And not forgeting a few good Disneys in Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty. 

It was also the decade when Japanese film-makers hit the international stage. I've picked three but could happily have picked half a dozen others, including Kurosawa's Rashomon & Ikiru, Ozu's Early Spring, Late Spring and Tokyo Twilight, Kinoshita's charmingly sad Twenty-Four Eyes and of course the first of the Godzilla series.

The Wages of Fear and Breathless top a very good decade of French films. Could have included Les Enfants Terribles, Vadim's And God Created Woman, Truffaut's The 400 Blows, La Ronde, Les Diaboloques, Resnais's Hiroshima Mon Amour, Lamorisse's short film The Red Balloon or two Tati's - Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday or Mon Oncle.

Other notables: Fellini's La Strada and La Dolce Vita (the latter just within the 50s and gets into the Top 15), Bunuel's The Young and the Damned, Bergman's The Seventh Seal, Tarkovsky's first, The Killers... Oh and this is cheating, but I must include Satyajit Ray The Apu Trilogy, if not Mehboob Khan's Mother India.

There were quite a few decent Brit films, notably the Ealing Comedies; The Ladykillers makes the Top 15, but on any other day it could have been The Lavender Hill Mob or The Man in the White Suit. Then there was The Dam Busters, Look Back in Anger, the first of the Hammer Horror films (The Quatermass Xperiment, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula, Mummy) and that strange early animated version of George Orwell's Animal Farm. But perhaps not the early St Trinians or Carry On capers.

Some of these I would have watched in re-release in the cinema (La Dolce Vita at the Everyman in Hampstead, Plan 9 from Outer Space at the Scala, Hiroshima Mon Amour at the Duke of York in Brighton...) but most, sadly, would have been on the small screen. Some of them - Wages of Fear, The Apu Trilogy, Mother India etc - I only saw quite recently on DVD.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Year of the Dragonettes

Sneaked out of work for an hour to attend the school's Chinese New Year show, which I've got to say was very good - even informative!  Kicked off with a traditional Lion Dance, then various classes - all dressed in Chinoiserie - sang songs & told stories in basic Chinese. There was an 'ancient fashion show' of traditional costumes where the audience had to identify the correct dynasty (set to, I noted, Byrne & Sakamoto's The Last Emperor music), the results of a mask painting competition and one of Alyssa's classmates, Hilary, performed a beautiful piece, Liuyang River, on the guqin. Nice to see the school taking Chinese culture seriously and all the children making a big effort and enjoying it. And it was packed out.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I read in The Wire today that the British Music Collection, containing some 30,000 scores, will re-open to the public this month at Huddersfield University. It used to be housed at the British Music Information Centre in an anonymous but quite grand building opposite Chrysalis Records in Stratford Place, a tiny cul-de-sac off Oxford Street in London. 

I worked just across the road from it in the late 80s and used to go there every now and then for the odd impromptu concert, usually organized by and featuring Laurence Crane, Graham Fitkin and chums. (I remember Crane performing the world premiere of David Elliott's Record Collection - a typically minimal piano piece rarely played these days). Afterwards we would adjourn to The Cock & Lion on Wigmore Street or the The Golden Eagle on Marylebone Lane. Those were great evenings.

Anyway, the Collection continues to expand, part of the reason I think for its relocation to bigger premises up north, and is now managed by something called Sound And Music. There's every chance that the concerts will continue, given the on-the-doorstep presence of Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the UK's largest international festival of new and experimental music.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cai Wu

This evening I went to the Ministry of Culture's Chinese New Year party at the National Museum. It was a reasonably modest affair compared with others'. Finally got to meet Cai Wu, the Minister. Interesting chap: born in poor, rural Gansu province and worked in a coal mine and then a clerk in the 70s; moved to Beijing to study Law at Peking University when things started opening up; and got his first job in the Communist Party (in its Youth League) in 1983, thereafter making his way up the Party ladder. Such humble beginnings are in fact quite common amongst the older political elite of course: being a good, idealistic worker from the provinces was more important than being an urban intellectual, say.

Incidentally, I didn't look this up on Wikipedia, which is blacked out today - not through through Chinese intervention but by its own hand in protest against some internet legislation going through US Congress.   

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mini / MINI

Had a meeting with Mini's China office today in the hope of persuading them to sponsor an exhibition. Of course they're owned by BMW these days and as a result are a rather more sophisticated 'package' - design, engineering, the whole brand.

Very briefly in the early 70s, we were a 2-car family: a big yellow Bedford campervan called Buttercup and a sporty green & black Mini Mk II. Nice little thing. When we went camping in France one summer, we took both, with my brother Andrew, having just passed his test, driving the latter. It was when The Italian Job came out (which being a car-obsessed 10-year-old at the time, was my then fave film) and the Mini Cooper S was the rally-car of choice. Whether it was that, his long hair or the fact that he was foreign, I don't know, but there was a rally in one town and I distinctly remember Andrew being mobbed for autographs.  

The first car that he bought for himself was also a Mini - a rather clapped-out blue Clubman. I have a less glamorous memory of this: being stopped by the police on the Westway because of its condition.

Anyway, Minis look rather different these days, like they've been inflated and at the same time squashed. They're still trying hard to look like Minis, which is commendable when every other car looks the same, but it's an uphill struggle. Oh, and they're MINI now, not Mini. 

How many people can you fit in a Mini?  Apparently 28, according to the Guinness Book of Records, funnily enough recorded in China in 2008. In a MINI not a Mini I should think.  

Monday, January 16, 2012


Incredibly busy day. Twelve hours flat out, a sandwich at my desk, just non-stop. Ended with a one-and-a-half hour teleconf. I do quite a lot of these, usually at the end of the day Beijing time, just as London colleagues are starting theirs. I'm trying to master the art of writing emails while simultaneously contributing to the discussion. Much of the time is simply listening, but every now and again I'm put on the spot and invariably I have to ask for the question to be repeated. Coming home, I was treated to a piano & violin 'recital' by Naomi (not at the same time) while Alyssa got me a beer and showed me the Maui plaster-of-paris face-mask she made in Art class today. Sweet innocence.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Today is our 13th weding anniversary. So what's that? Cotton, paper, leather, fruit & flowers, wood, sugar, wool, salt, copper, tin, steel, silk and... lace. Traditionally, these were gifts given by friends & family. After 15 it's only every five years: crystal, china, silver, pearl etc, right up to your 70th anniversary which is platinum. Actually, 80th is oak (which is a bit of a comedown) and 90th is stone. Can you imagine: reaching your 90th wedding anniversary - you'd have to be 110 each - and being given stones? Anyway, we went out for dinner in The Hidden City. Nice evening. Food so-so to be honest, but good to have some time to ourselves

Saturday, January 14, 2012

On thin ice

Beautiful, bright, blue-sky winter day. We went skating on Houhai Lake with Colin & Vanessa and children. I have been skating once and once only, in the late 80s at Streatham Ice Rink. So it was with some trepidation that I donned hired skates and cautiously inched my way onto the frozen lake. Luckily, there were those rickety chair-cum-sledge things which I treated like a zimmer frame. Pathetic! I blame the boots, which didn't fit properly and hurt like hell. Liz, the girls and our friends were all much more confident. Anyway, it was kind of fun, watching some seriously good speed-skaters in their frankly rather revealing skin-suits, and some figure-skaters tossing each other about while performing backwards pirouettes. And I didn't fall over. Lunch afterwards was great, even if we had to share a tiny balcony room with a Canadian ice hockey team.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Taste of Cherry

End of an exhausting day/week, so Liz and I slumped in front of the box for movie night. We watched Abbas Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry from 1997 which I've had on DVD for some time but never got around to watching. Why couldn't we watch Die Hard or something like normal people?

Anyway, we liked it. To say that it was minimal would be an understatement. A man is intent on committing suicide (we don't know why). He has the pills and has dug a hole in the arid hills on the outskirts of Tehran. He drives around in his Range Rover, looking for someone to cover him with earth at dawn after the deed is done. The first two decline, the third reluctanty agrees. The film ends with him in his hole, staring up at the night sky.... before suddenly cutting to prosaic camcorder footage of the actor, director & film crew doing their stuff in the same location.

So, did he do it? I like the fact that we don't know. If it was revealed that he did, then it would have been a miserable ending and what would have been the film's point? If he didn't then it would have been too Hollywood, too trite an ending. So it was left for the viewer to decide. The fact that Liz and I talked about it for an hour afterwards and that I am writing about it now is enough in my books to say that it was a thought-provoking and worthwhile work. And so did the critics: it won the Palm d'Or at Cannes.     

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chunjie Cèilidh

We had our Chinese New Year office party this evening. After last year's big production number, this year was a fairly modest affair, necessitated by a collective Christmas and (Western) New Year hangover. And for some unfathomable reason, it had a Scottish theme. So, we had a Scottish-related quiz, lots of whisky and - yes - Scottish dancing. I like a bit of the latter - we had a great Cèilidh band at our wedding - but the combination of office and tinny MP3 player squeaking out a version of the Gay Gordon lacked a certain atmosphere. Nevertheless, we gamely mucked in, went round the wrong way, took the wrong partner and made the wrong moves, with much hilarity. Alex Salmond would not have been amused. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Joined a lunch hosted by Li Zhiqun, a senior politician and son of Li Lanqing who was Vice Premier of China in the late 90s to early 00s. The latter recently retired but continues to be active in, amongst other things, calligraphy and seal cutting (and I don't mean the slaughtering of marine mammals). He organized an exhibition in China which then traveled to Indonesia and his son is trying to bring it to the UK.

Seals were - and remain - extremely important to Chinese (and East Asian) officialdom and are the equivalent of Western signatures. They're also known as 'chops' and the nicer ones are made of wood, stone or ivory with the characters cut into the bottom. Most people in China have a personal seal. The script varies from basic modern characters to impossibly intricate and archaic ones which only academics can decipher. The ink used is usually red. It's a whole other world...

As was lunch, which included sea cucumber and abalone.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Santa's diplomatic sack

Home. Weather cold, bright & dry as opposed to mild, dull & damp. Dumped stuff and straight into work. An afternoon of catching up really, made sweeter when a large Santa-like sack of post was deposited by my desk containing Amazon books and various delayed presents which we opened in the evening - a sort of Christmas 2. Girls managed to stay awake all day in a successful effort to beat the jetlag.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Homeward bound

Hard saying goodbye to everyone this morning. This wekend and the weeks before have brought us closer. But back to Beijing we must. 

Kate & Thomas met us at Carlucci's in Terminal 5 (good food and exceptional service I have to say). Nice to catch them - we missed them last week. Then the long flight home. Watched just the one film, a so-so recent(ish) Brit caper called Kinky Boots based on the real story of a traditional Northampton shoe company which switched to making boots for transvestites in order to stay in business. Very Full Monty.    

Saturday, January 7, 2012


In the morning Mary and I went to the crematorium to pick up the ashes. They were in a large-ish brown plastic urn. The lady unscrewed the lid and took out a little plastic bag containing some paperwork which we had to sign and then we put the urn in a bag and carried it out. Weird feeling, though walking over to mum's bouquet of flowers, still looking very fresh and glistening with dew, was weirder. We thought for a moment about bringing them back home and pressing some of them, but changed our minds.    

The rest of the day was spent going through mum's stuff: hundreds & hundreds of books, grandad's paintings, blue & white china... All relatively straight-forward. We chose what we wanted to keep and took a lot of the remainder to Oxfam. You hear of squabbles on these kind of occasions but we weren't expecting any, nor were there.

Over lunch & dinner we talked about the house. Liz and I are seriously thinking about (horrible term) 'buying out' my siblings and keeping it on. It would be very tight financially but aside from the emotional attraction, it would make sense, even if we wouldn't live there in the short term at least - if we can make the sums work. Everyone being very supportive of the idea.   

Friday, January 6, 2012


A dignified send-off for mum. Lovely sunny day. Siblings and families arrived by noon. Lovely to see everyone despite the circumstances.

The funeral cortege arrived at 2pm with the undertaker walking slowly and respectfully in front of the hearse, like they did in the days of horse & carriage. He bowed to mum's coffin bedecked with flowers (not too many, just right), before greeting us. We set off, and for the first few hundred yards the undertaker walked in front again.

THere was a large crowd of friends and relatives waiting outside the crematorium. Andrew, Patrick, Ben and I shouldered the coffin into the chapel. Heavier than I was expecting and we had to really concentrate. The service was nice & dignified, led by Father Paul who had only arrived in Chichester three months ago but paced it well and talked about the link betwen mum and St Richard's through grandad's paintings. Patrick did a great job with the printed Order of Service, and the music (Andreas Scholl singing Vivaldi, and Bach's Tears of Grief from St Matthew's Passion), though sad, was comforting.

Florence read a poem by Joyce Grenfell, we all sang Jerusalem and I read the eulogy which went alright, just a tiny quaver at the end. It was very emotional of course, but not miserable as I was half-expecting. Then out into the fresh air to talk with relatives and friends, some of whom I'd not seen in over 10 years. Ben had flown in from Ethiopia, cousin David from Norway, the rest from all over Britain.

The wake was at Millstream Hotel in the village of Bosham, where nana & grandad and mum had lived in the late 40s & early 50s. Caught up with everyone: a good turnout with all the surviving uncles & aunts on both sides of the family, many cousins, neighbours, friends... so nice that Simon & Chris were there.

And finally back to the house, forever 'home', just immediate family. The children (who were fantastically well-behaved all day) played together, the adults reminiscing. Aside from the fact that I still can't believe this has just happened, it was as good a send-off as one could have imagined.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

David O'Connell

Morning in the office, then back to Sudbury Hill in time to welcome Liz & the girls who'd driven up from Cornwall, then immediately off to Chichester. Very windy. In fact, the Midhurst road was blocked by a fallen tree so we had to go via Petworth.

On arrival, we called in on St Richard's church to go through tomorrow's service with a very young looking, coolly coiffured priest, Father Paul. Afterwards, he took us through the sacristy and into the modernist church which has a large number of paintings by David O'Connell, my grandfather on my mum's side: the main altar-piece, 14 stations of the cross and a few others in the Lady Chapel. They were painted in the early 60s and are very distinctive and quite radical ("not everyone's cup of tea" says the church's own website), sort of Vorticist meets Cubist. Here's no.8 of the Stations, and you can see the others here.

Needless to say, the church hasn't changed much since the days Paddy and I were altar boys in the 70s. I can still remember putting on the cassocks, ringing the gong and the smell of incense. I'm a classic lapsed Catholic: don't really believe anymore but retain a minor fascination with the mysticism of it all.    


More meetings, but ending with a particularly pleasurable one selecting photographs for an exhibition of rock photography from the Rockarchive Collection (see also post last July). Great fun working with photographer Jill Furmanovsky in her Kentish Town studio, picking out classic images of everyone from The Beatles & Bowie to the Pet Shop Boys and P J Harvey. 

And also, after a couple of pints with Stan, buying CDs, DVDs and books in FOPP... More 'stuff', which Liz won't thank me for. But a Future Sound of London compilation, Zhang Yimou's The Banquet and A History of the British Film Industry, for 3 quid each (amongst others). How could I resist?   

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Talented females

Popped into the National Portrait Gallery this morning to see a couple of exhibitions, including The First Actresses. Less interested in the actual paintings, but the social & cultural context of 17th century England was intriguing. Before 1660, all actors were male. It was only when the Restoration came in that women were allowed to take to the stage. Here's Nell Gwyn, popular actress - and misstress of George II. 

While in the gallery I bumped into someone I've not seen in seven years: Lydia Gommersall, ex-wife of Sir Stephen who was Ambassador in Tokyo while we were there. Very nice to see her.

Aside from that it was bumper-to-bumper meetings in our Spring Gardens office - productive and good to see people, including Leigh who got an OBE in the New Years Honours List. Good for her.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Way We Were

A day with Mary & family - and joined by Andrew - in Beaconsfield, while Liz & the girls drove down to Cornwall. We talked through all the funeral arrangements, house and everything and by the end of the afternoon were emotionally drained. Amazing the amount of detail to be considered but good that we did it all now. Meanwhile, Liz is helping settle her mum into her home after her 2 month convalescence in Rome. She seems OK.

I'm reading Dominic Sandbrook's State of Emergency - The Way We Were: Britain 1970-1974. Economic gloom, strikes, power cuts, Northern Ireland, the Common Market, Enoch, football hooliganism, Idi Amin, 'Pakis', Benny Hill, Oz trials... blimey, they were some five years. And yet there were great things too: Bowie, glam, prog, and music generally, hard-hitting plays, Mexico 70, Leeds United, Monty Python, Biba...  I guess any formative years (I was 9-13) are going to stand out, but by any standards the early 70s were tumultuous. Good stuff, meticulously fair, but perhaps not the most cheery book to be reading right now.