Christmas has crept up on me this year. As you’ll be able to tell from my recent silence, I’ve been very busy for the last few months and haven’t even been able to read that many books. My adventurous year finished in grand style with a trip to glorious (and very cold!) St Petersburg last week, during which I spent most of my time either exploring the Hermitage in starry-eyed fashion, scurrying around in -10°C temperatures, or tucking into really excellent Georgian food. Now I’m back in the country with my parents, gearing up for a nice quiet Christmas full of good food, games and festive TV. This is my chance, as usual, to thank you all for continuing to read the blog and a big Christmassy hug for those of you who comment, engage and recommend new things. So I wish you all a very happy holiday, however you choose to spend it, full of fun and relaxation, and a New Year full of health, happiness and success.
Yes, it’s 26 July again! Today is the seventh birthday of The Idle Woman, so light the candles, put on your party hats (preferably at a slightly rakish angle), and get in line for a slice of cake. It’s all been happening here over the last couple of months. We’re halfway through the Summer Without Men reading project, and I promise that we’ve got many more wonderful books lined up for August, including first encounters with Meg Wolitzer, Vita Sackville-West, Doris Lessing and (belatedly) Agatha Christie. We’ll be analysing the function of genes with Kat Arney, delving into the mysteries of the deep with the aptly-named Helen Scales, and exploring the ancient world with Jacquetta Hawkes. Beyond the books, there’ll be posts on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s epic duo of Imperium plays, Glyndebourne’s spectacular Giulio Cesare, and much more theatre coming up. More than ever, the sobriquet ‘idle’ feels a little ironic, but that’s the way I love it.
I’ve always been very clear about the purpose of this blog. It isn’t a confessional exercise and I’m too English to feel comfortable baring my soul in public. But I’ve decided that I need to write this post for my own well-being and sense of closure. Some of you may remember a short-lived, rather anguished post back in early May, begging for time to deal with a personal crisis. So many of you rallied to me in that moment, and yet I never explained what had happened. I wasn’t going to. But I’ve come to realise that I need to do this, as a way to thank you for your incredible support and, more importantly, to close this chapter in my own mind. I was going to save it for the blog’s 7th birthday post in late July, but I’ve decided that that’s a joyful occasion and this doesn’t belong there. Nor do I want this still to be dominating my thoughts in late July. I want to move on.
Christmas has appeared on my doorstep with almost unseemly haste this year. It’s been a frenetically busy autumn, so it’s with a sigh of relief that I sink into the sofa cushions, wriggle a little closer to the log fire, eye up the tree chocolates and raise my glass of sherry to all of you. The point of this post is to thank all of you for continuing to follow The Idle Woman, for reading, for commenting, and for making it such a joy to write. Wherever you are and however you’re spending the holidays, I wish you all happiness.
Today The Idle Woman is six years old! I was shocked this morning to realise that another year has whizzed by, but 2016 and 2017 have been so full of incident that it’s really no wonder. I’ve made a real effort to get books back to the top of the blog’s agenda and along the way I’ve read some fabulous things. Three examples which immediately come to mind are Hanya Yanahigara’s gut-wrenching eloquence in A Little Life; K.J. Parker’s Machiavellian fantasy in Devices and Desires; and Amor Towles’s refined, lovable Gentleman in Moscow, which is the most delightful book I’ve read all year.
I mentioned in my post on Monsieur d’Eon is a Woman that I’d been asked to give a lecture in my professional capacity about the Chevalier d’Eon. I’m pleased to say that it went very well and feedback suggests that the Chevalier’s story exerts just as much fascination today as it did back in the 18th century. Since there’s a lot of misleading information about the Chevalier online, and since this remarkable story deserves to be known more widely, I decided to turn my lecture into a blog post. What follows is, therefore, considerably longer than my usual posts but is amply illustrated. The British Museum has almost sixty prints and other documents relating to the Chevalier’s life in London, many of which I reproduce here. So let’s delve in to a tale of espionage, secrecy, swashbuckling and remarkable self-fashioning.
And so, once again, it’s time to sit back and congratulate ourselves on having got through another year. 2016 has been interesting, hasn’t it? – much in the manner of the old Chinese curse, ‘May you live in interesting times’. However, here at The Idle Woman there has been some light and happiness so, in the interests of peace on earth and goodwill etc., I thought I’d focus on the good stuff.
Today I am five years old! Not personally, you understand, but as a blog. So crack open the champagne and have a slice of cake with me. I can’t remember any more what it was like not to write a blog: not to have a way of recording and thinking about the books I read and the films, plays and concerts I saw. Now, whenever I come across something wonderful, my first thought on finishing is to share my enthusiasm for it, and to hope that others will come to share their own thoughts and recommendations.
And news of a brief sabbatical…
So it’s this time of year again! I just wanted to take this opportunity, a little earlier than usual, to wish you all a very merry Christmas or holiday season, and all prosperity, success and happiness for the New Year. Thank you so much for reading and supporting the blog this year; and I propose toasts of sherry to those who take the extra effort to comment and brighten my day: Heloise, Dehggial and Isi, my loyal regulars, I salute you all.
Rather incredibly, I’ve now been writing this blog for four years. It certainly doesn’t seem that long. Time flies: in fact, I actually entirely forgot the anniversary last year. Oops. My first cautious contribution to the blogosphere was in July 2011 and, in the three years since then, the blog has morphed and changed to keep up with my enthusiasms. However I hope my long-term readers still find things of interest.