Monday, 31 December 2018

The Turn of the Year

The last day of the old year, and the anniversary of the birth (in 1869) of Henri Matisse. A reproduction of this painting of goldfish, from 1912, hung on the main corridor of my old grammar school and it is almost certainly the first Matisse I noticed. I've loved his work ever since, and my opinion of him as an artist has only risen (whereas my opinion of Picasso has fallen steeply – the great Matisse Picasso exhibition of 2003 for me only confirmed the former's superior greatness).

From the sublime to the ridiculous – this morning Radio 4's Woman's Hour was devoted to an impeccably 'diverse' panel of right-on ultraliberal feminists talking among themselves on the theme of 'Books that Changed Your Mind'. The title could hardly have been more ludicrously inappropriate, as they talked only about books that endorsed and amplified their view of the world in handy book form – books, moreover, that had almost all been published in the past few decades. It was only when the discussion was opened up to listeners that a more interesting and diverse range of titles started to emerge (though 'interesting' is pushing it). I listened aghast and numbly appalled, as I so often do at this time of year, what with Today's 'guest editors' and the endless ignorant reworking of classic material to conform to the BBC's all-conquering world view. Thanks heavens Radio 3 endures.

But enough of all this – it's the end of another year that has been, for me, full of blessings and pleasures. There have been many changes of scene – New Zealand, the Mani, Normandy, Brittany, Edinburgh, Venice, and countless richly rewarding journeys into deepest England in pursuit of my researches (the book is on schedule for completion next year). The summer was one long heatwave, resulting in the most amazing butterfly season in years. I discovered more fine books (of which more later perhaps), poems and music, and enjoyed many great paintings and much great architecture. And the year ended in abundant joy with the birth of a new grandson and the arrival of our daughter and family from the Antipodes. So much to be thankful for – and thankful I am.
Happy new year, everybody!


  1. Happy New Year and thank you for your blog, always interesting, often inspiring. I would value more posts about books in 2019. I have read everything you recommended this past year and appreciated your suggestions very much.

  2. Thank you both – and I'll aim to put up more book posts next year!

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