My weekend began with an auction for Flannels for Heroes at Burton Court. The amiable Chris Cowdrey was the compere, while I conducted the auction which raised £17,500 for this excellent cause. (Photo by David Betteridge)
From there I dropped into David Weston's book launch for Dodger Down Under. David's come up with an inventive and clever idea for a novel - to send Jack Dawkins, Dickens' Artful Dodger, to Australia as a criminal. The book has already received rave reivews from Ian McKellan and Julian Fellowes and I'm looking forward to reading it.
On Saturday morning, Mary and I attended Trooping the Colour. However many times one sees this annual event on tv, watching it from the stands is even more dramatic, and I know it's a cliche, but only the Brits can stage such a truly magnificent spectacle - and didn't they get lucky with the weather? In the evening, we went to the St James's Theatre to see the highly acclaimed production of Rutherford & Son. If you like J B Priestley you'll love this play by Githa Sowerby. It's set in the north of England, and tells the story of a dysfunctional family led by their bully of a father. This fine piece was directed by no less a figure than the great Jonathan Miller, and the lead actor, Barry Rutter, is an old fashioned actor/manager in the tradition of Sir Donal Wolfit. The play only has one more week to run, and I highly recommend it as one of the best performances in London at the moment. By the way, the restaurant on the first floor is also well worth a visit, and although this theatre is slightly off the beaten track, it deserves the support of serious theatre-goers.
It's rare to come across an author that you've never heard of before, who turns out to be top of division one. I was at a dinner party last week with our old friends the Kumars, and sat opposite a lady who told me her favourite book was Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig. I jotted the name down on the back of my place card, and tapped it into my Kindle when I got home later that night; a stupid and foolish thing to do, because it only took the opening paragraph to realise I was in the company of a genius. By the end of the first chapter, I realised I would have to go on reading until I fell asleep.
Mr Zweig was an Austrian Jew who migrated to the US when Hitler came to power in Germany. In fact Hitler burned his books, despite the fact that in the late 1930s, Zweig was the most popular author in the world. He is a simple storyteller, and indeed Beware of Pity is a simple story, but it's beautifully written with such philosophical insight that there isn't any doubt that it's a masterpiece. Don't be frightened of the word masterpiece which usually puts off the average reader, because you will become so involved with the characters and so desperate to find out what happens to them, that you'll have sleepless nights.