A bookish Resolution

Loretta Young’s private library, 1943:

Loretta Young with her library

So first of all, Happy New Year! I can’t deny I was glad to see the back of 2016, even though I was lucky enough to make some wonderful friends which outweighs all the bad stuff for me. There is something a little daunting, as well as exciting, about being at the start of a fresh new year, wondering what it will bring.  Do you ever make New Year’s Resolutions? Mine have been the same for years – to be tidier, to throw things away I don’t use, to keep my papers in good order, to stop biting my nails, to buy fewer red lipsticks, to keep in touch with my friends regularly instead of just thinking about them often and then writing apologetic emails once or twice a year. I fail miserably with most or all of them, so this year have decided to make just one main resolution which is to read more.  I’m a slow reader but intend to take advantage of every opportunity available to open a book which means having one with me at all times whenever I leave the house, reading while the dinner is cooking and most of all, trying to stay awake for more than 10 minutes in bed each night to get through at least 1-2 pages. I don’t have a set list of things I wish to read this year because my book choice depends on my mood but here are some I’m hoping to get around to:

‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley

‘Put out more Flags’ by Evelyn Waugh

‘Hunters in the Dark’ by Lawrence Osborne

‘Stoner’ by John Williams

‘Northanger Abbey’ by Jane Austen

‘Eugénie Grandet’ and ‘Le Père Goriot’ by Balzac

‘Les Trois Mousquetaires’ by Dumas

‘Buddenbrooks’ by Thomas Mann

‘Ungeduld des Herzens’ by Stefan Zweig

Let me know if there are any books you have your heart set on this year. To finish off this post, I thought I’d include some Old Hollywood stars enjoying some reading for inspiration.

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James Stewart who rightly understood the need of a comfortable place to read.

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Rita Hayworth

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The famous photo of Marilyn Monroe reading ‘Ulysses’ by Eve Arnold, 1955.

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Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint on the set of ‘North by Northwest.’

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Bette Davis with the morning papers in 1939

Fred Astaire via the tumblr Old Hollywood Stars Reading:

Fred Astaire

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Sophia Loren

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Marlon Brando by Cecil Beaton, 1946

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Clark Gable

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Barbara Stanwyck – I dream that one day someone will bring me breakfast in bed.

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Gene Tierney in ‘Leave Her to Heaven.’

Happy reading!

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Winter light

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Photo taken on the train to London, 2009

December 1990: A blizzard swept over the country, bringing down all the power lines and, to my great delight, closing my school. The world became an enormous playground where everything was an adventure. The garden was a place for snowball fights and building the craziest snow creatures and people. When my father and I drove out (what madness without snow chains or winter tyres) to collect my half-brother who was studying at university nearby, we stocked up with vast quantities of chocolate and biscuits for worst case scenarios, although these mysteriously  disappeared without trace later. Every day, we all ventured out for long walks to buy fresh supplies as our freezer was out of use. But best of all were the evenings when we toasted bread in front of the fire, lit the candles and read to each other from our favourite books. A particular highlight was my mother reading the classic section from George and Wheedon Grossmith’s ‘The Diary of a Nobody’ where Mr. Pooter paints his bath red and ends up looking like Marat in David’s painting after using it. She could never quite forgive my father for falling asleep at that part or for him using the antique bed warmer. An heirloom which had been in the family for some time, it proved to be disastrous and leaked water everywhere, forcing my parents to spend a miserable night in the living room until their bed had dried. Utterly worthless, it hangs on the wall today, superfluous but never failing to make me smile each time I see it.

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The sight of snow brings back memories of that winter and those quiet nights in the time before computers and smartphones. What that in mind, I’ve selected a few classic winter images which I hope you will enjoy, even if you consider snow more of a nuisance than a delight.

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A streetcar stuck in New York after a freak snowstorm in 1936

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Traffic chaos in New York, 1967

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A man walking through Montmartre cemetery, 1946, by Ed Clark

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The Eiffel Tower, 1948, by Dmitri Kessel

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The Paris Opéra in 1942 by Robert Doisneau

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On the Rhine, 1956, by Henri Cartier-Bresson

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Washington Square, 1954, by André Kertész

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Car tracks in the snow by Bramham Gardens, London, 1940s, by Eileen Agar

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A snowball fight in Trafalgar Square, 1931