Weblog (home)


Pattern of
the Month

On the Needles
(...and Off the Needles)



About the
Idle Hands

Archive Entries for September 2010

« August 2010 | Main | October 2010 »

Thursday September 30, 2010

Books in September

  • The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill House Kate Summerscale
    MrWhicher.jpg I can highly recommend this book as a fascinating read. Some other reviewers say that there was far too much detail based on the author's research and complain that it's not much of a mystery novel; my conclusion is that they were misled by the cover blurb which does the book an injustice if it implies it's in the detective fiction genre. I would class myself as a fairly lightweight reader who enjoys murder mysteries - and yet I was really gripped by this book, in the same way that I loved The Victorian House (Judith Flanders).
    I really appreciated the frequent references, and also the absence of material where there is no historical information available. The picture of the early detective force in the 1850s seems to show their reliance on keen observation identifying somewhat naive criminals, and arrests of the form "come along quietly now lad" followed by immediate confession. Not to underrate their skill, but it makes an interesting contrast to today's methods of detection, where increased skill in producing hard evidence seems to have led to increasingly sophisticated criminals. It is very interesting to understand through writings of the day, how much social class influenced the role of the police - they had an odd status, having the power of the law behind them but no power at all in social standing - their need to pry into everything to uncover the truth was not considered right or decent. [In fact, I even noticed something similar in a contemporary TV episode of Midsomer Murders where on being asked whether the suspect had "stayed overnight" with the witness she replied stonily "how is that possibly any of your business?" - even though the question had a clear purpose.]
    I find it hard to see how this book could be taken for a conventional murder mystery as such - the actual murder is really so horrid (as real-life murders always are) that it does not make for a good fiction story. It was the sensational news of the day akin to Ian Brady or Ian Huntley, and seems to have spawned the original police detective story. A number of authors of the day produced fictional stories, using the (then) police methods, but none reproducing anything like the actual Road Hill House murder.
    The author cited The Moonstone frequently, showing how it very much followed the pattern of clues in the true story and how the detective (Cuff) was an amalgamation of Whicher and some of his fellow detectives at the time - so I thought I had better read it again to compare...

  • The Moonstone Wilkie Collins [Read by Peter Jeffrey]
    Moonstone.jpg I say "read it again" but actually I am not sure I ever made it through the whole book before even though I have owned the book for a number of years. This time I listened to a spoken-word version - and it was great. The tale is told in sections by a number of different narrators; the story has a conversational style which changes according to the "writer" and therefore is well-suited to the spoken word, especially as Peter Jeffrey seems exceptionally adept in giving the characters voice. So I found it very digestible; in addition, there is a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour in the book, and I must say even though I think I take an interest in Victorian history, I was surprised by how much the humorous content felt quite contemporary. The story was originally written for serialisation in a magazine, so it is episodic in nature and somewhat "spun out" - and this also worked well as an audiobook.
    Given that the story is about a theft and not a murder, it is astonishingly similar to the Road Hill House crime, and is very obviously inspired by it. It follows the form: crime in a "posh" house, (erroneous) suspicion falling on a young lady, the key clue of the "missing nightgown" (stained with paint rather than blood), the character and fall from grace of Detective Cuff... and so on. Unlike the real world of course, it concludes with a satisfyingly happy ending.
    [Sadly, no happy ending would ever have been possible for the real murder story.]

Posted on September 30, 2010 at 10:11 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday September 18, 2010

Bound to be (more) Beautiful


Chrissie and Diana were back with us today with a project entirely different from our previous workshop with them.
We were all a bit slow - except Felicity, who you can see calmly knitting in the background as she has finished her step of the process while the rest of us struggle.


We made 4 little Japanese bound booklets with sewn bindings and folded pages - each one slightly different. They fit into a little cover - which I finished off once I got home.


Posted on September 18, 2010 at 5:30 PM. Category: Crafts.

Friday September 10, 2010

IKnit Weekender

I went to IKnit with Felicity


Herdy was there selling his (her) mugs and we shared a set between us.* Felicity bought an extra ball of pink mohair wool from the Natural Fibre Company to finish her pink cardigan - started at Woolfest. I bought a ball of sock wool.

We had lunch watching a Rowan fashion show introduced by Erika Knight - and I tried on a few of the latest Fair Isle designs with Felicity's reassurance that they did not enhance the benefits that nature has bestowed on me. The afternoon was spent in a class on "Continental Knitting", which I found a lot more interesting than I had hoped - and has made me see moss stitch in a whole new light.** Our tutor was Biggan Ryd Dups - she was excellent.

* George was not amused at the addition of another mug to our cupboard - especially as it was pink so he cannot clearly identify a "his" and "hers" theme.
** Since the course I decided to practice on a sock. I know for fact that so-called continental knitting is the fastest technique and is traditionally used by Fair Isle Knitters who used to produce a sweater in a day for day-trippers to the Island, (I saw a "Look at Life" film at an impressionable age!). I got George to time me and found that although I thought I was knitting pretty fast, it took me 2 minutes to knit rounds using my usual method but a disappointing 2 minutes 50s using the new method. I guess it takes practice...

Posted on September 10, 2010 at 10:54 AM. Category: Knitting.

Wednesday September 8, 2010

House of Ghosts

HouseofGhosts.jpg A new Morse play starring Colin Baker. So far so good. But....
Let me focus on the positive - I liked the set very much - it covered for a stage set for Hamlet, a church, a country house, a police station ... and was generally very evocative of the idea of "Morse" and Oxford. I was (and I am not being ironic or sarcastic) glad to see the actors were clearly enjoying their tour. It made the audience join in the fun and also produced excellent acting - some dramatic scenes were played with particular skill and conviction.
I did find that there were some very heavy handed references in the script to the setting in the 1980s - unnecessary in my opinion - I know some people did not live through the era but I am sure they could have kept up!
But the fundamental flaw was that the main cast were basically too old. This is not an ageist statement but the entire plot hinged around the premise that the main characters were at college together "25 years ago" and I think either you have to cast accordingly, or write around it in the script. The writer did actually pen some of the Morse episodes, which meant that some of the linguistic foibles of the TV characters really jarred when repeated by different actors on stage ( I am thinking of Chief Superintendent Strange) - and in the same context there was really no particular reason to make Lewis a Geordie in this play - I think he was (as his name implies) Welsh in the original books.

Rob and I loved the truly high quality TV adaptations - and this was lots of fun - well worth an evening out.

Posted on September 8, 2010 at 11:30 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Sunday September 5, 2010

Lizzie's Party

Unbelievable but Lizzie has reached 21! This fabulous cake created by her Mother.


Opening that special gift from Granny and Grandpa.


Posted on September 5, 2010 at 6:31 PM. Category: Red Letter Days.

Wednesday September 1, 2010

Green (...and white and orange)

All summer we have been eating our own vegetables. The results have been variable - mostly we have had very small crops as we grew only a few plants.


Above are the butter beans - I am very proud of them - we had only 2 plants that made it to maturity so we have had literally 2 or 3 beans with each meal....! The runner beans are highly productive and undemanding as usual. This years carrots are great - different variety from last year but just as successful in containers. We had some tomatoes this year - the blight did not get them. I have been eating these cherry ones every day for lunch.


These larger tomatoes are from G's Mother who grew them from seed. They were very late developing and are still very green - but we will ripen them indoors later on if necessary. We used some interesting little pots designed to work with a grow bag, and they have their own personal greenhouse.


Posted on September 1, 2010 at 9:41 AM. Category: The Garden.