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National Portrait Gallery and restaurant, London

Last December I had an afternoon unexpectedly free up, so I decided to spend it at my favourite big art gallery near Trafalgar Square. Not the grand one with the pillars, the National Gallery, but the one around the corner on Charing Cross Road, across the street from Pret, the National Portrait Gallery.

Both arrange their collections by chronology, so you go forward in time as you move through them. But while the National Gallery’s halls are just by century – “16th: Leonardo, Cranach, Michelangelo, Raphael, Holbein”, you can practically hear the curator yawning – the National Portrait Gallery, which has to fit into smaller rooms, has also grouped each era into themes.

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I’m already not reading books by white men in 2015, here’s how it’s going

Last week my friend Lydia retweeted a mention of “that widely discussed no-white-male writer challenge”, and I said “Er, what?”, and she linked me to this XOJane article by KT Bradford:

I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year.

This was both pleasing and surprising, because I’ve already been doing this in 2015 – I decided to do something like it last November, and here’s what I wrote then (on Booklikes – I like Booklikes a lot for keeping track of my reading, and it’s not-popular enough that I feel comfortable sticking unfinished and quick thoughts up):

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Gloucestershire: Berkeley Castle and Britain’s Best Pub 2015

It’s a golden Tuesday in September and I’m the only person in my carriage on the 9:15 train from Paddington, going west. The inspector comes by after a quiet three-quarters of an hour, and I hand him my ticket. “You’ve been there before?” he says. It isn’t really a question; it’s to a tiny station in Gloucestershire, where there’s no good reason to go unless you know what you’re doing.

“Oh – no,” I say.

“Someone picking you up? It’s out in the sticks, mind.”

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Drunk Theatre: Earlham Street Clubhouse and “City of Angels” at the Donmar

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The drinks: Earlham Street Clubhouse

The evening’s story actually started last October during London Cocktail Week, that most magical of times in the capital. A £10 wristband gets you cocktail bars across the city, from Mayfair hotels to Bethnal Green dives, throwing open their doors and sliding over £4 drinks, most of which are specially created for the festival.

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Friday interesting things

HOO BLOODY RAY an end is in sight.

My news desk has been one person short since October; we’ve been just about managing, but shifts have been tiringly busy and we haven’t been allowed to take any holiday, which has made me feel quite cramped and woolly-headed. Now I know many people such as Americans and freelancers who go several months and more without a day off, and have even done so myself, but when I took this job a big part of the appeal (aside from the money, and being able to say “Well, I report on terrorism” and sound cool at parties) was that it offered a good amount of time off to write and travel. Though it’s a fascinating place to work and I enjoy it, I am definitely not a Live To Work person, and it’s been difficult not having the time and space to really think properly, never mind Do Things.

But we’ve finally hired a new person! Who’s starting in a week and a half! And oh, then we’ll all rush to take our holiday time before it expires in July, and the spring will be lovely and warm and relaxed, unless of course the Tories get in with a majority in May and I am forced to take out David Cameron, Theresa May and George Osborne in some kind of murder-murder-murder-suicide event* (picture a game of duck-duck-goose gone horribly wrong).

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Drunk Theatre: “HVI: Play of Thrones” at the Union Theatre

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The Union Theatre isn’t technically above a pub, though it feels like it might as well be. It is, however, just around the corner from Baltic, a restaurant/bar that does very good cocktails, so good that before heading to the theatre, Louisa and I had four. (Between us. We’re not total animals. Yet.)

Exploring connections between the Game of Thrones series and the historical Wars of the Roses isn’t new. There’s a really excellent site History Behind Game of Thrones and an upcoming book entitled, er, Game of Thrones and History. What Phil Willmott, director and adapter of HVI: Play of Thrones, has correctly picked up on is that there is also a strong literary similarity between the Game of Thrones series and Shakespeare’s trilogy of Henry VI plays, in that they both go, “Oh, the Wars of the Roses? Sounds great, let’s add some pirates, magic, adultery, witches, over-the-top gore, bad jokes, zombies and/or robots and basically just go totally bonkers with it.”

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Header art by Tod Wills.