Christmas Pudding, Luv?

As often happens when I either read, exchange e-mails with, or actually talk to my friend David I end up buying a book. David and I met three years ago through our blogs and I had the good luck to meet him and his Diplomate face to face for a concert and dinner when I was in London two years ago.  Brief though my recent trip to London was it still gave me the opportunity to meet up with David and the Diplomate on the Friday evening.

A lithograph from the London Illustrated News showing the new quarters of the Garrick Club in 1864.  The club had become so popular that its original building proved inadequate and a new building was constructed on King St – which was soon to become Garrick St in honour of both the club and the great actor it was named after.

The afternoon began with drinks at the Garrick Club with Diplomate and several of his friends who made this wide-eyed colonial bumpkin feel very comfortable amongst the theatrical splendor of one of the most prestigious private men’s clubs in England.  I would have liked to post a few pictures from the Internet of the interior with its incredible collection of theatrical art work but as a privileged guest I would be breaching etiquette by doing so; so you might want to click on the link above to see some of the splendors I saw at 15 Garrick Street.  Conversation – and several rather delicious Manhattan Cocktails topped up with champagne – flowed easily with one of England’s finest young countertenors and a member of the clergy from St Paul’s Cathedral.  Topics ranged from upcoming performances in Chicago to arts gossip to the Occupy London situation at the Cathedral to a charity project in India.   We then headed over to Chinatown to meet David and a lady friend for dinner at the New World – one of the top rated restaurants in the area.

 The lady friend is an editor with a small publishing house – yes they still exist – and her house had just had a title that had astonished everyone by making the best seller list over the Christmas holidays.  More astonishingly it wasn’t a new novel but a reissue of a book originally published in 1932.   Christmas Pudding was the second of Nancy Mitford‘s nine novels. Perhaps most astonishingly in recent years Mitford has been more thought of as one of those sad, bad, mad Mitford girls than the fine novelist she was and here she was once again a best selling author.  The reissue of Christmas Pudding climbed to #4 on the British best seller list and may well have started a mini-Renaissance for, as I’ve discovered, an unjustly neglected writer.  The general consensus at table was that it was a good read so I immediately added it to my mental list of books to read in 2012.

Those sad, bad, mad Mitford girls:  Jessica, Nancy, Diana, Unity and Pamela Mitford in 1935.  Ben MacIntyre a journalist with The Times characterized them as:  “Diana the Fascist, Jessica the Communist, Unity the Hitler-lover; Nancy the Novelist; Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur”.

And is there any better place to read a book than at 32,000 feet as you head across the Atlantic – particularly if none of the 72 video options are either interesting or current.  And surely if it was on the best seller list it would be available at the W. H. Smith bookstore at Heathrow.  I mean you can get Stilton cheese, Hermes scarves, Pink’s shirts (I bought two) , Clinque, 12 year old Scotch (Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or) and Molton Mowbray Pork Pies at the shops in the concourse  – so a best seller from this past Christmas should be there right?  Wrong!  When asked if she had Mitford’s Christmas Pudding, the pleasant lady at the till – in a voice that would have done Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins proud – suggested I look in cookbooks or if I wanted the real thing that it was a bit past the season but I might try Harrod’s.  Sadly I had to make do with the latest bit of Stephan Fryery as reading material and graciously passed on the idea of a Christmas pud from the Disneyland of Department Stores.

But I knew it would be available here – if not from Amazon then one of the small bookstores that still manage to do business in Ottawa.  Well I discovered that from the former I could order it and it would appear in my mail box sometime in the next three months and from the later possibly – if it could be ordered – it would be in my hands a month or two later.   Even a search of the Ottawa Public Library came up empty!  Now there is nothing quite like the inability to get something to whet the appetite for said unattainable item. 

Finally there it was, good old dependable Penguin had published all nine of Mitford’s novels in one of their marvelous “complete works of” series.  I was going to get to my fill of Mitford – 997 pages, excluding “new introduction by….”  – of a writer that I had neglected in the past.  So the reading project for this winter:  The Complete Novels of Nancy Mitford.  All nine! All 997 pages!  Ah well one shouldn’t do anything by halves should one?  Dear god I’m starting to talk like a Mitford Bright Young Thing!!!!!

 04 February – 960:  The coronation of Zhao Kuangyin as Emperor Taizu of Song, initiating the Song Dynasty that would last more than three centuries.

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Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

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