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Top of my ‘to see’ list for films is the new movie Saving Mr Banks, which just premiered at the close of the British Film Institute London Film Festival and is released in cinemas in late November. The film tells the story of the making of Disney’s seminal film Mary Poppins; specifically, the battle of wills between the author of the Mary Poppins novels, PL Travers (played by Emma Thompson), and Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks).

Having read the news coverage of the premiere, I’m fascinated by the story. I had no idea that Travers held out to Disney for 20 years for the rights to make a film of the first in her Mary Poppins series, and then so hated the film that was eventually made that she refused right up until her death to sell the rights to her other Mary Poppins books. Emma Thomson told the BBC: ‘What was fun was inhabiting someone who refused to let the fairy dust work. I loved her belligerence, I loved playing her rudeness, and her honesty.’

I have to say, I feel rather inspired by so resolute and principled an author! In today’s world, I’m sure most writers would jump at the chance to see a film made of their book – and all the associated merchandise. What integrity for her creative work Travers showed with her reluctance to sell.

I remember reading the original Poppins books, and I quite see how Disney’s children so fell in love with them that he was determined to bring them to life on the big screen. But a look at Travers’ bibliography shows again what a different kind of writer she was to the modern, prolific generation. Her writing career with Poppins was greatly spread out:  Mary Poppins (1934); Mary Poppins Comes Back (1935);  Mary Poppins Opens the Door (1943); Mary Poppins in the Park (1952);  Mary Poppins From A to Z (1962); Mary Poppins in the Kitchen (1975);  Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane (1982); and finally Mary Poppins and the House Next Door (1988). Travers was born in 1899, and died in 1996, which means she wrote her final book in her late eighties. Inspirational indeed!

What do you think? Are you keen to see the film too? Here’s the trailer; I would love to hear your thoughts.

A new British film adaption of Romeo and Juliet opens in cinemas in the UK and the US on 11 October:

Will you go to see it?

Are you swept away by the thought of a new interpretation of the romance (which does not stick to Shakespeare’s dialogue)? Are you excited to see the chemistry between two young actors, Douglas John Booth and Hailee Steinfeld? Do the costumes and the setting (Renaissance Verona) appeal?

Or, alternatively, are you wondering what more director Carlo Carlei can bring to the story; what novel and powerful new edge he can find to move his audience? Are you an ardent fan of the Baz Luhrmann or Franco Zeffirelli version? Are you steering clear of the film for the same reason I’ve never watched Titanic more than once: because you find the ending unbearably tragic? You may, in fact, prefer works inspired by the plot and characters, rather than following them too closely. West Side Story, for example – or even the animated Gnomeo and Juliet!

Is Romeo and Juliet the ultimate love story? Ought we to re-imagine it each few years, or has it all been done before? Should we stay true to the Shakespearean original, or get creative and explore new interpretations and inspirations? Could anyone make a version in which the ending is not so tragic; and if so, would that even work? Whom would you cast as the perfect Romeo and Juliet?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

I love flash mobs, because they are surprising and theatrical and romantic and the very embodiment of the French phrase joie de vivre. Since their inception in 2003 (the first was in Manhattan, organised by the editor of Harper’s Magazine as a social experiment), flash mobs have crept into the public consciousness to the degree that if you are out on the street in a big city and rapidly increasing numbers of people start to do something strange around you, you quickly realise that you’re watching a flash mob.

So a YouTube search for ‘flash mob’ and you find thousands of videos of spontaneous, joyous, non-conformist events. Some of my favourites are those that have been organised by a hopeful suitor who drops to one knee at the end and asks his love to marry him. Here’s a beautiful one: a man who arranged three hundred people to give his girlfriend a flower each, and then appeared in a tuxedo to propose – ah, romance!


But a new trend in flash mobs is pushing through that’s really exciting: creating a new way to express the arts and bring them to the public’s attention. For example, in autumn last year Lafeyette College in the States played host to a literary flash mob for Banned Books Week in which participants read aloud from 30 books that have been banned in America’s history. Not a beautiful sound by any means, but powerful.


Then recently, to mark the reopening of Amsterdam’s wonderful Rijksmuseum, actors re-created the museum’s most famous work, Rembrandt’s masterpiece ‘The Night Watch’.


Of course, you also have wonderful musical flash mobs bringing new life to classical music, such as the following unexpected performance of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus in a shopping centre food court:


What do you think? Would you love to stumble upon such a flash mob – or perhaps even take part? Do you think art belongs in a museum, or out on the streets, intermingled with everyday life? I would love to hear your thoughts.

My novel, Burning Embers, is set in 1970, and the protagonist, Coral, is an English girl very much of her era – fashionable, independent, ambitious, fiery.

The other day, I was browsing music online, and I got to thinking about what kind of music Coral would have been listening to at the time Burning Embers was set. So I had some fun perusing the Billboard Top 100 for 1970, and I came up with the following six tracks to form a soundtrack to the book. I’ve included a quote and a video for each. What do you think? Certainly, listening to these songs made me nostalgic – such simple romance back then.


Diana Ross: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Oh no darling, no wind, no rain

No winter’s cold can stop me, baby…



Elvis Presley: The Wonder of You

Your kiss to me is worth a fortune
Your love for me is everything


Simon and Garkfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way


Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: Tears of a Clown

You’re gone and I’m hurting so bad


The Beatles: Long and Winding Road

The wild and windy night that the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears crying for the day


The Carpenters: Close to You

On the day that you were born the angels got together

And decided to create a dream come true

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