Most of my reading over the past few weeks has been for the McKitterick Prize, for a first novel written by a person over 40. As someone whose first novel was written well over that benchmark, I support this as a worthy cause. But, oh dear, I wish there were more original submissions. However, I have found one gem – 24 for 3 by Jennie Walker, a droll account of an affair structured around a cricket test match. Besides that, I have just finished the proof of an entrancing little book about food and magic, Madame Pamplemousse and her Incredible Edibles, published by Bloomsbury in the autumn.
Others have raved about No Country for Old Men but for my money The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a more powerful film by miles. Brad Pitt is an astonishing Jesse. My other big film was I'm Not There, which took a brave artistic risk, always to be applauded. Cate Blanchett was a captivatingly youthful Bob Dylan. More remarkably, so was Richard Gere as Dylan's hobo reflection.
I have still to visit the Royal Academy Russian exhibition but I know I shall find several favourites there, especially the Cezannes.
I have been listening to the two Bach Passions. The first, the St John, while on a smaller scale and apparently more modest, is in many ways the more intense.
The Royal Opera House has been in sparkling form lately, and the singing in Salome and in David McVicar's conception was so thrilling that I had to dig in my purse and go twice. I have been lucky enough to read David Harsent's taut libretto for Sir Harrison Birtwistle's new opera, The Minotaur. With the matchless voice of Sir John Tomlinson in the title role and a Birtwistle score it promises to be another treat.
Salley Vickers' 'The Other Side of You' has been shortlisted for the 2008 Le Prince Maurice Prize, www.princemaurice.com