I am nearly in possession of a newly rebuilt conservatory. The old one was single glazed and rotting away – you could see the outdoors at the corners of some windows where the wood was falling off. I managed to get a good deal to have all the glass replaced with UPVC, latest technology with the heat reflective glass on the roof, reusing the existing base.
Only problem was the message that they were coming to do it on Monday got garbled in my answer machine – so it was a shock on Monday morning, when a skip arrived – of course I was in the bathroom when the door bell went! It’s nearly finished – just a couple of replacement parts needed for bits which were delivered dented, some minor plasterwork and sealing to be done now. The inside doors no longer rattle in the wind, which used to wake me up at night. It looks so airy too. My Easter project will be a trip to IKEA to furnish it – I’ve only ever used it for clothes drying and storage as it was unusable as a room before – too hot or too cold with the single glazing. Such excitement.
Then on Monday evening, it was bookgroup. Our theme this month had been a children’s novel – and we picked my favourite ever – Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, which I re-read and wrote about previously here at my old blog.
It wasn’t a universal hit, but I did win some converts and we were agreed that the illustrations by Marjorie-Ann Watts are integral to the story – those stones (below)!
The book was published in 1958 and boy in the story is in an iron lung at one stage which prompted some lively discussion about treatment of illnesses back then.
On Wednesday came part 1 of my Auster experience at the Sheldonian in Oxford, the first of his UK speaking engagements. I’m going to write a post in full about Paul Auster and 4321 very soon now. The event at the Sheldonian had Paul in conversation with Boyd Tonkin of the FT. They came on and the event started with Auster doing a reading – rather a long one (from Archie 3, the one where he discoverers Laurel and Hardy after the death of his father). This took nearly half of the allotted time. The second half was the conversation which was fascinating, but there was no time for questions. Auster did stay to sign books though – but I didn’t need to join that long queue.
Thursday and off to London in the afternoon and a teatime appointment at Faber and Faber HQ in Bloomsbury.
First, I went to the Royal Academy to see the ‘America after the Fall, Painting in the 1930s‘ exhibition. and I finally got to see American Gothic by Grant Wood, painted in 1930.This painting had eluded me on my only visit to Chicago, so I was delighted to finally see it. The skill in the painting is exquisite, the pitchfork glints, the sky is quite moody under the blue, and the stoic expressions on the faces of the Iowan farmers are so iconic. Wonderful!
There were several other Woods: I adored ‘Daughters of Revolution‘ – a head and shoulders portrait of three ageing women standing in front of the picture of Washington crossing the Delaware – it’s a satire apparently (see it and read more here). There were also two Hoppers including one of my favourites – ‘Gas‘ (1940, below) – another iconic painting, which has that dual welcoming yet sinister vibe that Hopper captured so well.
It’s not a large exhibition (three rooms), but definitely worth a visit. It’s on until June. I toyed with the idea of going into their other main exhibition at the moment – Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 but needed a cuppa by this time (so I bought the booklet and postcard set in lieu).
Onwards then, to the London Review Bookshop in Bloomsbury for tea, cake and a dangerous browse (yes I bought books!).
Finally, refreshed by tea – the main event. Just after five thirty, the six members of the 4 3 2 1 book group that could make it to London gathered at Faber and Faber with Hannah, the book’s publicist. A few minutes later we were joined by Paul Auster himself for a private chat about the book. Having chatted online about the book throughout January, the group felt as if we knew each other already when we finally met. Paul was absolutely lovely and not at all intimidating, so we chatted away and then he signed our books (plus my Folio Society edition of The New York Trilogy). There was champagne and patisserie too! Thank you so much to Paul, to Hannah, Faber and the 4321 book group for the best reading experience. Here we all are: