July 31st, 2019

Talking Pictures

We have my mother watching Talking Pictures most of the time now. It makes no difference to her what she's sat in front of- and I like the sound it makes- each film a little different- better than I like the noise of the daytime TV shows on the mainstream channels- the reality shows and the quiz shows- which sound essentially the same day after day. Mostly we don't watch with her but going in and out with cups of tea I get little glimpses of fascinating things- the images of a London that no longer exists in an Ealing comedy, the extraordinary expressionist visuals in an obscure film directed by Cameron Menzies, the outback landscapes in an otherwise tedious movie about bushwhackers, Kenneth More and Charles Hawtrey doing an unlikely double act in a mild comedy about mild criminality. Every so often- tall trees among the cinematic scrub- they'll show a bone fide classic. Yesterday we had Rene Clement's version of Shaw's Pygmalion- with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller- which is a delight- and I watched it all the way through.

Current Reading

I've finished Iris Murdoch's The Green Knight- which I love and think of as her late period masterpiece and started the first of Edward St Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels- which I don't love at all but everyone else thinks is a masterpiece. It's short so I'll probably finish it, but whether I'll read the sequels is currently up in the air. It's like Evelyn Waugh without the champagne bubbles.

I'm also reading Wilding- Isabella Tree's account of how she and her husband stopped working their West Sussex farmland and let it revert- with a little gentle assistance- to a state of Nature. It's inspiring and controversial and- incidentally- makes the case for ragwort as a native plant that is mostly harmless. I go out and look at our own ragwort and tell myself I'm never going to fret about it again.