Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader
Alan Bennett is an author I hadn’t heard of before moving to England, but his popularity here is well worth it. I read his Talking Heads series of dramatic monologues a few years ago – and there are three screen adaptations (1988, 1998 and 2020), all featuring some absolutely brilliant actors, the likes of Dame Maggie Smith, Imelda Stauton or Penelope Wilton.
This weekend I was in the mood for something short, light and feel-good and I had the inspiration to pick-up The Uncommon Reader. As I said on Instagram, it’s a book about books for book lovers obviously written by a book lover – the best type of book! And even if it has none other than the Queen as the main character, it is still clearly a work of fiction – not stiff or pretentious.
That’s not to say it didn’t feel real. I wondered while I was reading, how might he have so many insights into how a Queen would feel or what she would think or even experience in certain very specific situations? For example a passage about her feeling almost maternal towards the people kneeling before her, as she has the opportunity to notice the beginning of a bald patch or the hair growing over the collar.
Perhaps this is one of Bennett’s amazing powers – to put himself so pointedly in the shoes of his characters… In any case, this was indeed one of those precious treasures hiding in my library, which makes me feel so extremely privileged to have it every single day!
Comfort in Austen
It’s been all about comfort for me this past couple of weeks, with my latest read the above bookish book, and my current listen a beloved classic that will keep me entertained for weeks. It should probably come as no surprise that I’ve also just finished rewatching Pride and Prejudice (both the 1995 mini-series and the 2005 movie) and Emma (the 2020 version, 1996 one to follow).
There is a lot to say about Austen and her particular talent that has given us such books and movies that stand the test of time, I won’t attempt to do it justice now. Suffice to say that sometimes in April last year I purchased and proceeded to listen through a collection of all her books and she did not fail to bring me comfort then, as she has done again this year.
If you find yourself in need of a feel-good/ pick-me-up read, listen or watch, keep Jane Austen top-of-mind. Now I am off to explore the lesser-known (to me) Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Persuasion. Ta-Tah!
LBC – Large Black Cardigan
In keeping with the comfort theme and my latest online crazy searches, I am desperately looking for an oversized black cardigan. Is there such a thing as the LBC – large or long black cardigan, or should we invent it?
The truth is I used to have a very basic chunky one and it was cosy, went with anything, I could dress it up and down. I want that, but better quality, with some shape and maybe also a fun twist. Is that too much to ask?
I didn’t have much luck with highstreet retailers, nor on Vestiaire Collective apart from the above, which is beautiful, but not exactly what I want (too formal) and completely out of budget. So I’ve turned to Etsy for some inspiration. I found quite a few vintage ones that I really like (some not all-black options) and I think this might be the answer… Now to choose!
This article about the tiny but triumphant comeback of art miniatures was a very interesting read! I often find myself drawn to small pretty objects (not actual works of art) with no practical purpose other than decorative, but I always think why would I want to own such an object, what place can it occupy in my life and my home? Surely, it can’t be only for display purposes, since it’s so small that its aesthetic appeal is not immediate, but it needs close examination. Or is it precisely because of that?
136 mini murals painted by artist Rachael Spelling on a Farrow and Ball Paint Chart
I don’t find particularly attractive the purposely-built classic cabinets or vitrines used to display small (and often worthless) frivolous treasures, but how else can these be included in a normal, lived-in house, without seeming randomly scattered or even without becoming more of an inconvenience than a petit plaisir?
I can’t say I’ve found my answer but I was left with the personal conclusion that at least they should have some (sentimental) value, rather than just being pretty (and cheap/free at a car boot sale).
Source (I love this whole photoshoot)
Another exquisite article that I’ve actually been meaning to read for a few weeks and only got around to do it now was this Atlas Obscura one about food or culinary grammar. What food goes with what, when should it be served, what cutlery to use – all according to the cuisine it originates from – these are the sort of things culinary grammar deals with. I chuckled when I realised I absolutely make parmesan risotto (or my idea of it) and enjoy it as a side dish with my fish. Apparently a passo falso!
In short, I devoured the article (pun intended) and I dare say you will too!
Salvador Dalí Cutlery
The best exquisite finds are those that prompt (remembering) other finds or those that send me down a rabbit hole filled with delights. The article above is of the first kind as it somehow made me think of Salvador Dalí’s Cutlery Set pictured above and if this is not something worth sharing in Miss Onion’s letters then I don’t know what is. Artichoke leaf spoon and teaspoon, fish handle and elephant handle forks, a knife with tears and a leaf knife – silver-gilt, rubies and sapphires – one such set sold at Sotheby’s for just over £44,000.
I wonder if anyone ever dared to actually eat using these objects of art?
And as a gift that keeps on giving, looking for an image of the cutlery set I stumbled upon this article also featuring these pieces of furniture by Dalí – the Leda chair and low table (which have inspired this sofa now part of the same series).
Jade Roller and Gua Sha
Full disclosure, I am no beauty connaisseuse and I don’t think I will ever be a true enthusiast – I find it too vast, too hard to grasp, not motivating enough. Still, I sporadically make a conscious effort to see if there is merit in a trend that seems to be everywhere.
Late to the party, I know, but for a while I’ve been meaning to check if there is any real science behind jade rollers and the most recent (to me) jade Gua Sha. When it comes to the first, there is no science to prove any direct benefits for jade or jade rollers. The only way we could regard these as having a positive role is if we consider them a motivator or a tool that encourages a regular self-care routine. They aren’t any more effective than any other type of face massage.
Gua Sha is a more complex topic, for once because it is a type of body massage, not traditionally focused on the face, and also because there is some (limited) scientific evidence showing that it could help with back pain and muscle pain, or improve some menopause symptoms. But these sources did not investigate the use of the technique for the face, which is what interests me. There could be some common-sense reasons against scraping one’s face with such a tool, while equally, as above, this can be seen as beneficial through the fact that it encourages a self-care routine and stimulates the skin.
My find, in this case, is that I wouldn’t invest a lot of money in any of these tools, but if I ever find any of them, particularly the latter, at a bargain price (no more than a few pounds) I will probably get it to see if it can motivate me to introduce and keep a semi-regular care ritual for my face.
If this letter has offered you a moment of inspiration, kindly forward it to others who might enjoy it too. And if you have been forwarded it, indulge in all previous Miss Onion’s Exquisite Finds and subscribe to the weekly letter.
Follow Miss Onion’s Exquisite Finds on Instagram and Pinterest.