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Archive Entries for March 2012

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Saturday March 31, 2012

Books in March

  • Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves [read by Charlie Hardwick] BOM-SilentVoices.jpg
    Vera appeared in the opening chapter of this novel, and so I was hooked from the start. She is the most interesting character and, in the earlier books, I was always willing her to appear as soon as possible. Ann Cleves does not simply churn these novels out at a great rate, and so there is not a huge canon for the TV series to take up. Thus I am sure that the next series will have new plots written for TV. This is always dangerous; in my estimation they absolutely ruined the Dalziel and Pascoe novels by doing this - they deviated dramatically from the characters own stories and reduced it from a work of near genius to a run of the mill cops and robbers drama. However, lets look on the bright side: often, a great novel is too big an enterprise to reduce to a couple of hours (eg the Rebus novels - which have never been successfully dramatised, even after they chose a suitable leading actor - purely due to their short duration*) - and Morse seemed to survive well even with the "written for TV" episodes.
    * I had just read Ian Rankin's "Fleshmarket Close" when I watched the TV drama. Although it retained the title, as far as I remember the "action" referring to the place was presumably considered extraneous to the main plot and therefore cut out - consequently I remember no reference during the episode to its title.

  • BOM-HiddenDepths.jpg
  • Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves [read by Anne Dover]
    So smitten with Vera that I went straight on to another novel. This one was the first to be shown in the TV dramatisation, and the 3rd chronologically. It involved a very memorable "MO" (not horrific I hasten to add - just sad - as any murder would be), so I remembered the story but not so much who "dunnit" - luckily.
    I'm looking forward to the 5th (latest) Vera book which came out in February this year.

  • The Vault by Ruth Rendell [Read by Nigel Anthony] BOM-TheVault.jpg
    This is a library download, which I chose as part of my reawakened interest in Ruth Rendell, only to discover that it is the latest Wexford mystery set after the Inspector's retirement. I had heard more than one reference to this book - mildly scathing comments about the premise of allowing the hero to continue working with police business after retirement. However, I found this entirely forgiveable - certainly as reasonable as, for example, allowing Dixon of Dock Green to never rise through the ranks and to continue to be played by an actor in his 80s, and certainly more appealing than having him die rather than retire. After all - how realistic is crime fiction and murder myteries at all? I think Oxford had more murders in one episode of Morse than they ever had in reality in the course of an entire year.
    As to the plot - it's as well that I find myself such a source of amusement. While reading, I began to find the story a little familiar - similar to what is possibly the only non-Wexford Ruth Rendell thriller that I have read - no idea of the title - researched on web to find that it is "A Sight for Sore Eyes" (I title I have no memory of at all) and that in some places The Vault is actually described as a sequel. Anyway - I enjoy writers revisiting old plots or characters from a different perspective (eg Ian Rankin's "Blood Sport" - and most of Michael Connelly's novels), and this one did not disappoint.

Posted on March 31, 2012 at 10:59 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Friday March 23, 2012

Henry VIII and Hampton Court

Some colleagues came over from the US and at the end of the week, we went out to be tourists for the day at Hampton Court (always popular with Americans). Here is Lee, obligingly pretending to be a tourist for me in the Great Hall.


We began our tour with the kitchens which were very interesting given the audio guide narration by the experimental food archaeologists. These ovens - a variation on a modern barbecue - are considered by them to be a more versatile and superior method of cooking than those used today.


You can see Lee listening with rapt attention while warming himself by the spit roasting fireplace (it was chilly out of the sunshine).


From here we progressed to an exhibition of Henry's early days on the throne, and then on to his apartments. This is a view of the frieze in the Great Hall, showing the motifs of the Tudor Rose, the French Fleur-de-Lis, and Henry's Coat of Arms, which incorporated the English lions with the fleurs-de-lis - emphasising the English claim to the French throne. This claim illustrated in the arms from the 1300s was only finally relinquished, and thus dropped from the Coat of Arms, in 1801 during the reign of George III, (some good few centuries after we seriously held any territories in France I think!).


We were actually lucky enough to run into His Majesty, Henry, in the courtyard, where we found him exhorting his (younger) subjects not to forget their weekly archery practice on the village green. There were a lot of period actors around - amusing and educational for the school parties (and us!) - plus opportunities to dress up if you chose to do so.

The weather has been wonderful, and I was so pleased it continued thus - last time my friend Lee was here, I subjected him to a challenging tour of the Thames Embankment in a really bitter wind, and by the time we got to the Millennium Bridge he was begging to find a cafe to get warm.
Despite the glorious sunshine, and an amusing excursion through the maze, ("Christina, what is the point of a maze...?"), I failed to take any photos outside, but was a bit obsessed with the ceilings.
Here is the amazing hammer-beam roof in the Great Hall....


...and here a couple of views of the beautiful gold-leafed ceiling in the Great Watching Chamber (or Guard Room, where people would wait for an audience with the King. The ceiling incorporates the badges and coats of arms of Henry and Jane Seymour (third and favourite wife who died 2 weeks after giving birth to the longed-for male heir).


The intricate ribs and pendants are of oak. In the centres of the compartments are oaken wreaths bound by ribbons, enclosing arms and Tudor badges, including the white Yorkish rose within the Lancastrian red rose, Henry VIII's hawthorn bush, Jane Seymour's phoenix rising from the flames, and her castle with rose bush and phoenix, fleur-de-lis, the arms of France and England quarterly, all in their proper colours and gilt. These ornaments are carried out in a form of gesso, apparently a kind of papier mache, pressed into moulds.


The only thing I felt we missed seeing was the Real Tennis Court, which was closed for the day.

Posted on March 23, 2012 at 6:15 PM. Category: Days Out.

Saturday March 17, 2012

Máximo Laura and Woven Colour


Pete and Della Storr came to talk to us about Woven Colour, which promotes the work of Peruvian artist Máximo Laura. It was a fascinating afternoon and we were all utterly smitten by the fantastic colourwork and skill of the artist.


Some of us even went home with a tapestry.



Posted on March 17, 2012 at 4:04 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Sunday March 11, 2012

Ride a Cock Horse

As we prepared to leave the area, we fell to talking about the nursery rhyme. I resolved to check it out. As expected there's a lot of information and misinformation on the web. As I read one explanation after another, I preferred each one to the last, and finally I came upon this summary of the various suggestions, which I think provides a balanced view, and is well worth reading.
One thing that does seem clear is that "Banbury Cross" probably refers to the road intersection rather than a physical cross; the proven dates associated with the rhyme, compared with the various identities mooted for the "lady", demonstrate that, however tempting, some of the explanations really cannot be true. The link with pagan Irish rituals seems tenuous and yet at the same time highly plausible.


Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes

So I'm off home now - and never did get to eat a Banbury Cake. Maybe next time...

Posted on March 11, 2012 at 2:11 PM. Category: Days Out.

Saturday March 10, 2012

WTHS Oxford and Banbury

A day out in Oxford.

The evening meal was the usual curry at the Sheesh Mahal in Banbury - followed by some further refreshments at a local hostelry... (back to the Reindeer of course!). Sad to say there were even more absences this year; Nicolette is not well, and Robert was planning to be there but his Father was taken ill. Our usual toast, with warmest wishes, to absent friends...

Posted on March 10, 2012 at 11:08 PM. Category: Friends.

Friday March 9, 2012

The Reindeer Inn

Time again for the WTHS reunion. This year it was "Oxford" but hotels there were way off our budgets so we are staying in Banbury. Those who arrived today dined at the Reindeer Inn which offered excellent pub food served in fascinating surroundings.

The pub is steeped in history. The Globe Room in which we ate was where Cromwell is said to have planned the Battle of Edgehill, and which was also used as a courtroom to try the Royalists. It still has all the original oak panelling - though it has been on a bit of a journey between now and then.
On top of all that, I cannot emphasise enough how truly wonderful the staff there were. I can thoroughly recommend it - and all at excellent prices.

The pubs seem to have been key in housing both sides in the Civil War and the following quote particularly pleased me with the reference to pub names: The Roundheads (the Parliamentarians) and Cavaliers (the Royalists) - used to billet their troops in alehouses, taverns and inns. As the progress of the war swung in favour of one side and then the other, an alehouse would change its name from say, the King's Head to the Nag's Head and back again.

Posted on March 9, 2012 at 11:16 PM. Category: Friends.