Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Small cat diary

Christmas began properly with all six of us gathering in the New Theatre in Oxford for a performance of Cats. It's the fourth or fifth time I've seen it over the years since the girls were small and, although I enjoyed it, I always have the same sense of dissatisfaction with the absence of plot. And what plot there is is either sickeningly sentimental (Grizabella) or meaningless (Old Deutoronomy has the right to choose one cat to start a new life - why?).

The individual numbers are great (apart from the ghastly "Memory") and the dancing great fun, and of course the lyrics much improved by being based on the words of a real poet, but really it could have been SO much better with another real writer to give it a proper book.

Still, we were in a mood to enjoy ourselves and did. Having Christmas on a Monday felt like having an extra day in which to make preparations for the meal, wrap presents and get the tree decorated by all three girls. This year we have a big one in the living room and had to spend a lot of time batting cats off it, as they tried to catch baubles or bite light bulbs. So far no major disasters though.

And we managed all the planned Christmas Eve things - log fire, mince pies, roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and carols - before Midnight Mass. It was a classic, really. I gave Stevie an Armillary sphere and he gave me two walking poles, both equally romantic. I didn't take the poles on the Boxing Day walk, because it was on the flat. The radio told me there were three traditional ways of dealing with Boxing Day blues - a walk, a board game and planning a summer holiday. Well, we did all those, although no-one was feeling blue.

The holiday planning took hours, because the one we'd booked, as far back as last August - to the place in Campania where we had 3 memorable holidays when the girls were small, beginning 20 years ago - fell apart just before Christmas. The apartments in the 17th century palazzo have been upgraded to be 5-star accommodation - which means removing all the kitchens! So we decided to go back to the beginning and it's now looking like Corfu.

The most popular board game was Articulate, at which Bex is specially good. Her acting training is not wasted. She has a wonderful new job as Theatre Administrator at the Old Vic, so I'm looking forward to a lot more plays in 2007.

I read the new translation, by Simon Armitage, of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It's a strange exercise. A simply beautifully produced book by Faber. The version most in the high style but every now and again an odd colloquialism like "Arthur kept his cool". I imagine Armitage is trying tro mirror something in the original but it's something I don't remember from reading the original at university 40 years ago.

I heard the Beatles "Love!" album, with songs re-mixed by George Martin and son. It was a Christmas present from Bex and I'm delighted to have it but it will take some getting used to.

I saw the Doctor Who Christmas special; didn't he get over Rose a bit too quickly? Even Owen in Torchwood stayed miserable for one whole episode. I also saw the Holbein exhibition, which was wonderful. What a first-rate painter and draughtsman he was! As good as Rembrandt. And it is astonishing how he formed our mental image of the Tudor court.


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