Hamlet at the Barbican. Yes, that Hamlet.

I don’t think I’ve ever waited 15 months to see a play before.

Films yes – I can spend an extraordinarily long time waiting for those – and books… well, let’s just say I really hope Pat Rothfuss is in a writing mood this month (though I know he’s not my thingy).

Anyway, 15 months it has indeed been and finally, finally we got to take our seats for one of the most talked-about theatrical experiences in London in recent years. So I feel like – if for no other reason than the epic wait – I should plop down a few thoughts about what I saw.

I was fully expecting an excellent central performance, and I got it. One friend had said she was concerned Benedict Cumberbatch would have too much gravitas – frankly, be a little too old? – to play the university-aged prince of Denmark, but actually when he’s adopting his own tones and not Sherlock’s moody baritone he does, anyway, sound younger (although it is in Sherlock, I think, that we see proof that childish peevishness is well honed in his repertoire). And his finely honed sense of the ridiculous is simply perfect here. But what I wasn’t quite expecting was the set.

Holy mother of set design.

When we were last at the Barbican, for Richard II (I swear I do go and see plays that star people other than nerd heroes, promise), the staging was so spare; a huge space to fill – and a difficult one to dominate – it was all simple chains and metal walkways. This time the halls of Elsinore unfold and… well, I won’t give too much away for those watching in cinemas or with tickets still to be used. But I couldn’t not comment. As a character, the palace itself almost overwhelms the action; that we were quite near the back and all occasionally struggled to hear Ciaran Hinds’ Claudius probably only made the detailed construction and beautiful lighting all the more obvious.

So… was it worth the 15 month wait? Damn right it was. And now I look ahead into a week of London Film Festival screenings already beginning to feel hints of the sadness afterwards when all the fun is over.

Although after Hamlet, Suffragette, Trumbo and High Rise, some form of therapy might be required…

Jewish Museum London: Tiger, Mog and Pink Rabbit – A Judith Kerr Retrospective

#teawithtiger

#teawithtiger

I’m ashamed to say I’ve never visited the Jewish Museum in Camden before. I mean, I’m not actually Jewish, but that’s a terrible reason (arguably a greater impetus to visit in fact), and my husband is and therefore our child has Jewish heritage. Two of my friends have worked there (one still does). But this post isn’t about how I’m a terrible person; it’s about how I’m a ludicrously emotional person.

What finally shoved me through the doors was this small but beautifully curated exhibition of the work of Judith Kerr. I don’t know of a child who didn’t grow up on The Tiger Who Came to Tea; it was one of Ramona’s first memorised books, that she’d ‘read’ to me before she knew which word was which. It has charm, more than a touch of the bizarre, lovely touches of mundane realism that ground it and, most of all, gorgeous illustrations – the deft work of a talented woman who is still announcing new work at the age of 92.

Kerr was very nearly silenced before she started. Fleeing Nazi persecution in childhood, her family ended up in the UK via Switzerland (see what ‘migrants’ can offer? Not that it should matter whether they turn out to be artistic genius or not; human beings are always human). Here she has been ever since, and both the famous Tiger and her series of Mog books based on the adventures of her gorgeous tabby have won and broken the hearts of three generations of children (and their parents). I finally read Goodbye Mog for the first time, at Ramona’s insistence, sitting in the museum, in a giant cat bed. I cried and the beginning, and I cried at the end, and Ramona gave me a gentle cuddle and then sprang off to see more.

The four sections of the exhibition take in Kerr’s childhood, with a smattering of her youthful works of art – and a funny aside about how she failed the book illustration module of her first formal art training because she was so focussed on painting – leading into the more serious side of her work through novels such as When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. More teary eyes.

Suddenly, you turn right into Sophie’s kitchen, where a Tiger sits, devouring the all the sandwiches on the plate and all the tea in the teapot. Yep, as I sat in Sophie’s Daddy’s armchair, and tried on Sophie’s Mummy’s orange coat – Ramona in Sophie’s red one – I cried some more. I’m ridiculous.

Finally, kids can crawl through a cat door (adults don’t have to) into Mog’s world, and dress up as her as they curl up in her bed and have a catnap. Perfect.

Although we missed it, there is daily storytime at 10:30 while the exhibition is on, and there are arts and crafts workshops and activities available at other times. I’m absolutely gutted that I missed the opportunity to book a slot at Kerr’s talk – in person! – about her work.

The exhibition continues until mid-October. Entry to the recently beautifully rebuilt museum is £7.50 for adults and £3.50 for children (5-16) with concessions and family tickets available. That of course includes access to the rest of the museum too, which is rich with all aspects of Jewish history; the Holocaust, yes, of course, because how could it not be, but also the reality of Jewish life today, and Jewish practice in real homes of varying observance. It’s a gorgeous, airy, space and I intend to go back and explore properly, possibly without an overexcited 5yo, on another occasion. A note: the museum is open on Saturdays, which is when we went, but due to the kosher licence the cafe does not operate during Shabbat.

No disclosure needed – although I do have a friend that works there she had no idea I was going!

A Lovely Day

No, not that proposal video that’s doing to rounds. To be honest I find that really cringey and would hate the attention and pressure of such a proposal. But that’s a story for another day. A less lovely day.

Today was a really lovely day.

After getting Ramona up and sorted and handed over to her eager grandparents, I had a leisurely morning to do little more than shower, dress and fart about on the Internet. I gently strolled up to the station, got a train quickly, headed into town and killed some time around Liberty, where I also managed to have a rare celeb sighting. I say sighting; I elbowed the poor woman before I managed to get upstairs, via the stunning Christmas Shop, to meet the gorgeous CupCate.

It was such a luxury to be able to spend two hours over lunch, enjoying Cafe Liberty‘s delightful salmon fishcakes (me) and chicken, pancetta and blue cheese pasta (Cate). A cup of tea each, some laughs, and some great relaxed time with a funny, interesting friend were all just perfect.

Having wandered to Covent Garden we went our separate ways, and I spent a thoroughly relaxed hour and a half or so just pootling semi-aimlessly around the piazza and drifting up and down side streets. I found a lovely orange dress on sale in Joy. I footled in and out of Cybercandy and L’Occitane, picking up a crafty spritz of their Green Tea Eau de Toilette, which I love, and spent an indulgent ten minutes just hanging around like a spare part in the Disney Store, listening to What’s This? from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

At one point my serene, contemplative stroll was marred briefly by a woman charging into me, tripping over my foot and then giving me a foul look when I immediately asked her if she was alright and held out my hand to help her. Oh well, she won’t stop me being concerned the next time someone collides with me, whether it’s my fault or not.

But back to ambling I went, circuitously ending up back at Tottenham Court Road. To home, where I had an hour to do sweet nothing, before my daughter came home, and offered me the kisses and cuddles that simply mean everything to me.

There are days to be busy. To focus on work, or personal interests like writing. There are productive days, and they are important.

And then there are days to remember the sweetness of a sheer lack of particular direction, where meandering as the mood takes you is nothing short of therapeutic.

For one afternoon, I forgot all else and was just… Alex.

Lovely.