Katharine Whitehorn had the church in stitches

Ťhe memorial service for the 观察者’s beloved columnist Katharine Whitehorn, organised by her sons Bernard and Jake, and held at St James’s church, Piccadilly in London last Monday, was completely marvellous and I feel certain that she would have loved every moment of it (Katharine died in January 2021, 在年龄 92). Not only was the Revd Dr Mariam Ifode-Blease’s sermon reflexively feminist; her leopard-print spectacles spoke joyfully to Katharine’s first job at the paper (she joined the 观察者 在 1960) 什么时候, as its new fashion editor, she decided that it was her solemn duty to get the British woman out of her “limp cardigans” once and for all.

When Bernard asked me to speak at the service, I responded by bursting into tears – I owe her such a lot, not least because from the moment I first read her as a little girl, I never wanted to be anything other than a journalist – and on the day, I was as nervous as hell. But in the end, 当然, she did all the work for me. Quote Katharine once and everyone will laugh; quote her half-a-dozen times and you can spend the rest of the afternoon basking in her reflected glory.

The biggest hoots came when I recalled how she put hats into three categories: offensive, defensive and shrapnel. 后者, in case you’re wondering, are the kind of “frilly bits” that might have landed almost by accident on the heads of random wedding guests.

上周四, my long-standing fascination with far-off St Kilda took me to a London theatre I’ve never visited before – the tiny Finborough, in Earl’s Court – to see a revival of Sue Glover’s 1988 玩, The Straw Chair. It was a good production: Rori Hawthorn, who plays Isabel, a naive young woman newly married to an Edinburgh missionary, is destined to be a star.

But I’m afraid that my deepest interest lay throughout in what this piece, based on the true story of Lady Grange, exiled to the islands by a cruel husband, inadvertently reveals about life there in the middle of the 18th century.

Can it be true that, just as there are no trees on St Kilda, there were then also no chairs? Was it really the case that even the islanders’ breakfast porridge was taken with the fishy-tasting flesh of the seabirds (gannets, fulmars, puffins) on which they largely subsisted? A discussion of rotten eggs – early on, an islander insists that the more addled an egg, the better it tastes – distracted me so much that for a time I lost track of the plot entirely.

At Easter, a miracle. Thanks to the kindest friends a person could ever have, I spent the weekend on a Caribbean beach, where I indulged once again a now well-established holiday tradition. It goes like this: the hotter and happier it is wherever I am, the more damp and miserable it must be in the novel I’m reading.

On this score, Elizabeth Taylor’s The Sleeping Beauty exceeded all expectations by being set almost entirely in a postwar boarding house in an out-of-season south coast resort called – wait for it – Seething.

Everyone in it is sad and thwarted, sleeps alone in their chilly bedroom and considers an hour in a milk bar whose windows are weeping condensation as no more than they are due by way of enjoyment – and yes, each page increased exponentially my own pleasure every time I lifted my eyes to the wide, turquoise sea.

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