Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Ever since I was a little girl I've loved looking at portraits. Well, faces in general, but painted portraits especially. One of the books I got for Christmas was the one above, which I can't recommend highly enough. It's about self-portraits, and the writer, Laura Cumming, points out all sorts of things that I would never have noticed about the pictures illustrated in the book. The one I'm trying to forget is that Michelangelo portrayed a distortion of his own face in the flayed skin of St Bartholemew in the Sistine Chapel.
Today we deChristmassed the house. We used to leave it till Twelfth Night, but nowadays I get fed up of tinsel and cards rather earlier than that and it's a relief to be able to dust again. I actually quite like dusting: picking up my little bits of glass and porcelain and rearranging them. Anyway, we rewarded ourselves by a visit to the as-yet-undeChristmassed National Portrait Gallery - above - to see the exhibition of the BP Portrait Awards. They were WONDERFUL. I know that fashionable people admire paintings which consist of a blank oblong with two red dots, but I don't understand why that is art. Today's portraits varied a lot, but they all looked like people and some of them were so realistic that we could hardly believe that they were painted at all. Remind me, however, that if Grandson should ever become a portrait painter and suggest painting my (by then) wrinkly, craggy old visage, I must suggest that he should do a nice impressionistic effort rather than making too much effort to render every furrow, sag and pore, like some a couple of these people did for their grannies.
We made the mistake of going to the gallery shop afterwards and Mr Life unwisely urged me to treat myself to this etched glass vase. I love it but I do not need more stuff. Sorry, children. Something else for you to deal with when I'm deceased.
Afterwards we were not tempted to go on the Christmas big wheel. There in the background is the Scott Monument. As I think I've mused before, who reads Scott now? Yet there he is in Princes Street: a big white statue in a huge Gothic edifice. Ah, the fickleness of fame.
Look! Santa Claus, in mufti, was on this bus. He looked a bit grumpy but I expect he's tired.
These were the other books I got for Christmas. All so lovely! I'm only just at the end of my (July) birthday books, though. Must get reading... . There's not enough time!
In other news: the guinea pigs are fine, Daughter 1 and SIL 1.
And Cassie sat in a box.


  1. Wow, all those lovely books to read!For I think the first time ever I didn't get given even one book!( still have plenty on my to read pile so never fear that I will run out.)
    Are you familar with the (early childhood) book, "My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes," By Lynley Dodd ? I am sure little N would enjoy it.

  2. Love that vase, I am fascinated by is so pretty. In Australia we have an annual art prize, the Archibald Prize, for portraiture - it throws up some very interesting paintings, I'm sure you would like it. It probably has a web site.

  3. I finished Bring up the Bodies today. And that has been waiting longer than July, I think! Exellent. Maybe just a tiny fraction off the excellent of Wolf Hall, but netheless, high score. Deserves all the Booker records, methinks. Also re-read the Hobbit after many years. But I don't know if reading your children's Christmas books counts! If so I've been reading some Mr Man books also..

  4. Catching up on your doings. Happy new year to you and all the Lifes!

  5. One wonders -- do the cats bother the pigs??? You would think they might see them as breakfast?

    It looks like you had a wonderful day. It looks like your family knows you well with all those wonderful books. Your vase is beautiful too. I feel your pain about not needing more stuff. I've been thinking after I dechristmasify that I need to declutterify. But it's oh so hard to part with treasures and memories!

  6. I'm sure Grandson will paint many wonderful portraits of you if , in fact , he hasn't started already .
    I wouldn't worry about the possibility of the odd wrinkle just yet , though .... the number of eyes and the whereabouts of your nose/legs/hair are more likely to surprise you to begin with !

  7. Ah, the old "so many books, so little time" dilemma. What a delightful problem. And what a lovely vase. Such a lovely color and design.

  8. I enjoyed this post so much, Isabelle! Portraits of people have always fascinated me too. Self portraits are particularly difficult to do; we had to do one in an art class I took last year. Painting one's face from a reflection in the mirror is not easy!
    I like the term 'de-Christmassed'. We usually leave ours until 12th Night too, but with the death of Ken's mum on New Year's Eve, we didn't feel like leaving decorations up any longer.
    Agree 100% with your opinion of so-called modern art...dots, dashes and splashes - ugh.
    Lovely vase, but as you said, more STUFF. We brought more stuff home from MIL's room at the nursing home. SIL's hubby flatly refused to have any more in their house, so we took it all. Most went to the opshop this morning.
    This is too long - sorry! Happy New Year to the Life Family :-)