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

Thursday, December 27, 2007


The whole of December seemed to be spent organising Christmas - and it's still going on! I had very little time to work on Troubadour research and thus might have been getting in a state about starting to write it late, but I took a conscious decision to stay very Zen about the whole shopping, wrapping, card-writing, entertaining, cooking thing.

We had an officially Zen Christmas once - even had a former Zen monk to it - but all I can remember being different about it is that we bought cranberry sauce instead of making it. Everything home-made this year but only 5 of us on the actual day. We have seven or eight tomorrow and six on Sunday and just one extra on New Year's Eve. Not huge gatherings, any of them, but we are making completely different meals each time.

And I had a reminder of the dangers of stress before Christmas, when I heard that a friend's wife had killed herself, leaving him and their four-year-old daughter.That certainly puts a bit of work delay and hospitality into proportion.

I saw the last episode of Cranford and the TV dramatisation of Ballet Shoes - both the work of Heidi Thomas, who is now a name to look out for. Also the Doctor Who Christmas Special, which was a bit w***y.

I also saw the film of The Golden Compass, which I've reviewed for Armadillo but the latest issue hasn't gone up yet. We went to the Siena exhibition at the National Gallery, which was a disappointment - everything at least 100 years too late to be really good. The best item was a bronze Donatello relief of the deposition , so not Sienese at all. I also liked the Griselda panels, but it's SUCH a hateful story.

We watched the rest of the documentaries about the British monarchy; Prince Andrew is really a nasty-tempered piece of work. Charles seems much more harmless if a bit goofy.

I read Alan Bennett's the Uncommon Reader - if only the Queen really read all those books and wanted to write like Proust!This was a Christmas present but I've been given lots more books so look forward to catching up in 2008.

I listened to LOTS of carols.

We went up to York for a family party, which coincided with a big wedding anniversary of ours. So saw the inside of York Minster (and quite a lot of the outside since our hotel was opposite it) and also the inside of Betty's Tea Rooms quite a lot.

This was the first of our cathedrals in the project to visit all 17 extant medieval cathedrals, inspired by Jon Cannon, whose book was published and pounced on in October.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Well, I finished Shakespeare's Kings, which was very good. And I read Leonardo Sciascia's "La Scomparsa di Majorana" (The disappearance of Majorana). We had a class on it today and our teacher got very upset with people who pronounced the "j" as in English, because that sounds like "maggiorana" which = Marjoram, rather than with a "y" sound as in mayonnnaise. Ettore Majorana was a Sicilian physicist who disappeared or committed suicide in 1938, having seen two lots of writing on the wall, as it were, the persecution of the Jews - he was Jewish - and the development of the atom bomb. The Italian racial laws came out six months after his possibly faked death (no body was ever found) and he had met Heisenberg and Nils Bohr, as well as being a genius in his own right.

I saw Cranford, which is getting sadder and sadder and the middle episode of The Blair Years, which is beyond sad. It kept me awake fuming and grieving. There is nothing that man can do or say to make reparation for what he did and I'm glad he has become a Catholic; he can explain it all to his Maker in due course and be judged by Someone we hope he will take notice of at last.

Also saw lots of TV about the Queen - she is very moody, isn't she? Sometimes a delightful smile, others in a right old grump. But I don't blame her being acid with Annie Liebovitz - the woman tried to patronise her. And Her Maj (or Mayesty) must be the last person on earth drinking gin and Dubonnet! It's like asking for port and lemon or Babycham. Not that she asks, of course. Her sommelier just pours one out for her and she knocks it back - maybe she went off it years ago and doesn't like to say - but she doesn't seem the type to hang back. I saw the documentary about her marriage to Philip too (much too much TV this week) and she just about ordered up that delicacy the way she does her tipple. "I'll have that Greek prince with a touch of German."
Maybe she went off him years ago too but doesn't like to say...