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Archive Entries for December 2008

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Wednesday December 31, 2008

Books in December

  • The Death of Dalziel by Reginald Hill
    DeathofDL.jpg I love these books - and I used to love the TV series - until they started to deviate so substantially from the novels. I have no purist objection to additional stories written for TV (as in "Morse") but Ellie Pascoe and "Ivor" Novello were two of my favourite characters - played by really strong actresses - and they were just written out. I was sad, as they left the door open in the script at one point to get back on track with Ellie - but then closed it again. Ivor was replaced for a while by "Harris" Tweed - which was a bit daft as they could have simply changed the actress, if that were what drove it, though I don't think a changeling would have worked for Ellie.
    In this book - and increasingly - Ellie and Peter's relationship is really important to the novels, so once they removed her from the picture they have been forced to change the plots more and more. The disconnect happened at around the time of Arms and the Woman - again one of my favourites, being a lot about Ellie - and I can see it would have been very hard to portray this book on screen, at least hard to portray it within the straight police mystery genre into which the TV series falls. It, and this book, Death of Dalziel, have a surrealist or sci-fi element which is both humourous and witty/intellectual, as well as excellent writing - but (unsurprisingly) absent from the TV interpretation.
    I should also say I admire Ellie for representing a class of woman all too often absent in mainstream drama. [Although increasingly common in mainstream "life" I think]. Namely, a strong intelligent middle class woman portrayed in a supporting role. Some might imagine that she appeals to me as a Bolshy feminist lefty - well she might - or she might not - but that's not it. She has her own life, and I do not think the substance of that life matters; it just matters that she has one. And she chooses to live it with Peter Pascoe and their daughter.
    PS - you don't really think he's dead, do you?

  • The Secret Hangman by Peter Lovesey
    SecretHangman.jpg Peter Lovesey is what I would call a traditional English crime writer - as Agatha Christie probably was, prior to her somewhat surprising rise to megastar status. His settings are ordinary contemporary situations, not 1930s period piece locked-room mysteries, but happily with the expected (unrealistic) high body count. In the books I have read, (The Circle and The House Sitter), he writes about police detectives rather than amateurs, even if the police are not necessarily the main players.
    Having said that, his first books in the 1970s were the "Sergeant Cribb" series, which is set in Victorian London. Cribb is probably his best known character due to the 1980s TV series starring Alan Dobie.

  • All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye by Christopher Brookmyre
    [Read by Cathleen McCarron]
    AllFunGamesBook.jpg This book seems to have had mixed reviews. It seems that Brookmyre fans have had expectations stemming from what they subjectively felt he was expressing in his previous books, rather than maybe what he really was expressing. Some readers put off reading this book owing to the apparently negative reviews, and were then pleasantly surprised when they finally read the book.
    It is definitely not a very realistic book - at many levels - it involves a fictional international Bond-style organisation from the outset, and progresses through a middle-aged woman's wish fulfilment. I was a bit neutral after the first chapter, but it swiftly drew me in, and as usual his witty writing and plot digressions were a lot of fun.

Posted on December 31, 2008 at 9:01 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Tuesday December 30, 2008

The Rose

Finally managed to go to the Rose theatre in Kingston, which officially opened in January of this year. We saw A Christmas Carol - and it was really excellent, with a small cast playing many parts, a narrator, and excellent use of carols to carry through the plot and scene changes. It was witty, entertaining, and altogether everything that the Hound of the Baskervilles at Richmond should have been, but was not.


I knew nothing about the theatre and its construction prior to going but was delighted that it is (almost) theatre in the round, and as well 3 levels of seating, there is a traditional "pit". It struck me that the design and the name might be in some way connected with the Rose in London - and indeed, of course it is...

Posted on December 30, 2008 at 12:18 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

Monday December 22, 2008

Relaxing (or: another go at the apples).

Now the pressure is firmly off finishing any last minute knitted gifts due to lack of raw materials - I can relax in the knowledge that extra wool is at least on the way. So I made some mince pies.


To use up more apples, I had already made a small amount of mincemeat - which to reassure you Americans - especially those with jobs in US customs - there is absolutely no meat in mincemeat - but there are apples. The mincemeat recipe is from Delia (but I was given a similar one at school). The pastry and mincemeat construction is from my Jocelyn Dimbleby Christmas Book - as before. The pastry is a very buttery mixture, not the usual half and half, making it very short (12oz butter to 16oz flour or that proportion in whatever units you like) and it is a sweet pastry - so you have about 3oz of sugar in there as well - and she adds zest and juice of orange to mix. The final secret ingredient is that as you build each pie you not only put a teaspoon of mincemeat in each one but also a dab of cream cheese before putting the top on.

Due to the unexpected missing knitted gift for... someone..., I went (unsuccessfully) last minute late-night shopping in Kingston. I may have just popped into the local John Lewis branch - and bought some Rowan Big Wool to knit a gift for my friend Helen. I have already sent her the Interweave Knits Dumpling Bag for Christmas - so hope she will not be too tired of my little woolly offerings. I bought the whole project on a whim, along with yet another book by Kim Hargreaves Amber. The pattern is for a little cape called Charity, (as in "cold as charity" maybe).

Posted on December 22, 2008 at 7:13 PM. Category: Kitchen and food.

Sunday December 21, 2008

Gold Star Service

So the panic flurry of finishing off Christmas gifts was in full flood when....


So the question was - could I get delivery in time to carry on and finish before the big day? To this end, late Friday night I submitted my request to my "LYS" - which is local to where I lived as a kid, and I buy from them on-line as they still have shop premises, which I like to support (nothing quite like feeling and touching...). To my horror, on Saturday the store called to say they no longer had my dye lot! (Full marks to them for a speedy response of course...)
This I did not expect, and the panic shifted from 'could I get delivery on time' to 'could I get delivery at all, ever'?
I then started to call all my LYSs (local to where I live now) - more in hope than expectation - but no luck - and even worse it was clear that this was an early dye lot - no-one had anything near. After I had thrown the net as wide as I could within the context of the word 'locaI' I then started to call shops listed at the back of the latest Rowan book, in alphabetical order starting at "A". Many of the local yarn stores had completely closed for the holidays, and by this time it was after 5pm so I was restricting my call to John Lewis branches which were opening late. I finally got (almost impossibly) lucky at "C" Cambridge where "Jenny" pulled out the whole display and found me what I needed. So I would like to offer my special thanks to her and all the JL departments I called. Plus, I would congratulate JL on maintaining a cheerful and consistent method of managing all calls, and producing members of staff willing to go and check their shelves, with great good humour, on what must be the busiest Saturday of the year. Sadly, although everyone helped me, I did not get such a pleasant response from all the privately-owned stores I called.

Every time this happens I swear I will never do it again - and then somehow I forget.

Posted on December 21, 2008 at 3:10 PM. Category: Knitting.

Saturday December 20, 2008

Finger of Fate

Said finger seems to have singled out the village of Banstead to be at the forefront of the defence against the Great Downturn. Our local Waitrose supermarket there has been rased to the ground last Friday night by a huge fire; it was a remarkable event in the village. It took 15 hours to put out the blaze and the High Street was closed for almost a week.

I was ignorant of the fact all week, since I went elsewhere to shop in larger towns (Christmas shopping). All week I meant to pop into Banstead and failed to do so; I can't imagine how stunned I would have been to see such a sad sight without being pre-warned. In fact, I still have not plucked up courage to go and look. George says the saddest part is that it still has the basic shape of a supermarket (so not quite rased to the ground). However, they estimate it will take up to two years to rebuild.

[This picture submitted to a local website by Nicola Court]

So - it is a very sad event for the locality, and much speculation that it will add to the pressures on the local shops to try and retain customers without the draw of a major supermarket in the village.

[Waitrose (Mr Thompson) wrote to their customers (me) "apologising" for the fire and giving me vouchers to spend in other stores - it is so devastating (in the context of the comfortable environment in which I live) - I felt it would have been more appropriate for me to write a sympathetic letter to them! To everyone's relief, it was only property that was damaged - no people.]

Posted on December 20, 2008 at 2:28 PM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Thursday December 11, 2008

Goodbye Woolies

A shop on every high street. From Lancing, (village of my birth), to the present in Banstead village. A permanent fixture. Until now.


I went to the closing down sale of one of the saddest victims of the financial crisis. It's all sentiment of course - all us middle aged middle class middle-of-the-road folk, who no longer shop there but remember it fondly as the only affordable place of our teenage youth. Now where will I get my minit-mop replacement heads and my "old stock" range of dyes?

The whole store was full of people saying "I remember when..." and "...how sad..." - but what can we do? all club together for a nationwide buyout? Because the truth is we certainly did not shop there enough to keep it going.

Goodbye Woolies - I hope you have gone to a better place.

Posted on December 11, 2008 at 3:17 PM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Sunday December 7, 2008

Sunday Matinee

In which we go to see the film Quantum of Solace - the new(ish) Bond film (where have you been?), and I eat a whole overpriced bag of toffee-coated popcorn.

As I understand it, the film had mixed reviews, but I found it everything a Bond film should be. Perhaps lacking a Sean Connery or two but you can't have everything - and we all knew about that before we bought the tickets. I found the Times Online Review expressed my positive feelings about the film. Daniel Craig portrays a Bond for our times.

George and I both noticed that the plot very much followed on from the previous film - as pointed out in the Times review. We felt it would have been fun to have maybe rewatched the DVD of Casino Royale before going to see this one. That's my only advice - and if you like Bond that's no hardship is it?

Posted on December 7, 2008 at 8:48 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Saturday December 6, 2008

Time for tea (or Yet More Apples...)

"Any cake?" [Peter Ustinov anecdote as retold by George's Father...]

My cake of the week is Delia's Date and Walnut Loaf. In the recipe I used (taken from her Complete Cookery Course) she specifies apples (not prunes), for which "you may substitute prunes if you wish". (I did not wish).


So if you use the link to her "new" recipe online, just use a medium cooking apple, roughly chopped, instead of the prunes. Her earlier instructions in the book do not follow the usual cake method as given online; they say: mix the butter sugar eggs and flour with an electric mixer, and then add the dates, nuts, apple, and milk. I used a hand mixer, but did cream the butter and sugar prior to throwing in all the rest.

It is jolly good, but best eaten very fresh - as is the case with most tea breads.
No real problem there.

Posted on December 6, 2008 at 4:11 PM. Category: Kitchen and food.