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Monday November 1, 2021



George was also the driving force behind our second cinema visit. Like (in my mind) everyone in the 1970s, we all read the sci fi trilogy sensation "Dune" - which then promptly spawned a 4th volume. [G tells me there are a good few more now and Frank Herbert's son has taken over the "franchise"].
There was a David Lynch film made in the 1980s, which was led to much disappointment and general criticism - but it is now, like some other notorious "flops", (OHMSS), deemed to have be misjudged and unjustifiably maligned. Considering it was said to be "unfilmable" at the time, and without the possibility of CGI, I think it was quite an achievement, staying true to the spirit of the film.
This latest film is excellent, overcoming any slow plot development, and creating great tension and excitement in the assassination attempts, and battle scenes. This is all aided by modern filming techniques, and also by splitting the story over more than one film, which is almost a necessity for such complex plots. In this "part 1", we get only hints at the astonishing way the native Fremen use the giant worms, and in the final scenes, just a glimpse of their ingenuity. [No issues now in visually depicting worms "the size of an airport runway".]
I read that prior to 1984, there was a lot of other film production preparation, with various scripts - one associated with Ridley Scott, which was also due to be split over 2 movies. He dropped the project and went to work on Blade Runner. One can only imagine what might have been, I suppose.

Posted on November 1, 2021 at 10:28 AM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Sunday October 31, 2021

Books in October

  • The Night Fire by Michael Connelly BOM-TheNightFire.jpg

    Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch join forces once again... In fact we have essentially three story lines loosely interwoven - each one featuring his three main protagonists: Bosch, Haller, and Ballard. Along the way he includes a few interesting police anecdotes, which I am sure he has picked up from real-life reminiscences. The latter makes it almost a short-story collection, along the lines of the Frost novels - a technique that served the TV serialisation very well.
    Although some readers did not much appreciate the book, and see it as pointing the way for Bosch's exit, I enjoyed it very much. I can see Connelly might be thinking along these lines, but, although his days as a paid police investigator may be numbered, Bosch is only slightly older than the author himself, so I see no reason why he would not continue as long as Connelly continues to write. All he is showing is that Bosch can be a key player without having to be the "main (wo)man". As far as Bosch's health is concerned, I am sure Connelly is including realistic (if not his own) experiences of what it's like to age.... His days of great physical exertion are over - even to the (realistic again) degree of not being able to tail a suspect reliably for any prolonged length of time.

  • A Step So Grave and The Turning Tideby Catriona McPherson
    BOM-TheTurningTide.jpg BOM-AStepSoGrave.jpg
    We are into 1935 and Dandy has to cope with the prospect of her eldest's forthcoming marriage. The families are united at the potential in-laws' island home, with Dandy having great misgivings, which are only confirmed as she perceives that Donald seems more entranced by his potential Mother-in-Law, Lavinia, (says it all), than with Mallory, his betrothed. That aside - in fact, we are observing the great social changes of the period, and Mallory proves herself to be a dependable "modern" woman with relatively socialist ideas who is destined (in the fullness of the next two books) happily enough to take on an estate without the erstwhile expectations of a full complement of household servants.
    Needless to say all does not go well at Wester Ross, where they have to deal with a gruesome murder, which does nothing to enhance the mood for romance and wedding bells.

    In the second book, Dandy and Alec are called away to help solve the problem of a ferryman (woman) who has apparently experience a psychotic episode. The solution might seem simple ie engage the help of the medical profession, were there not an added mystery surrounding the drowning of a young man known to Dandy, who apparently fell into the water while inebriated....
    It seems that everyone has secrets and each tells a different story; nothing seems to add up.

    As usual, these books are splendidly researched, and set in marvellously historic locations - obviously with some imaginative embroidery. I always want to visit these places after reading the books, such that I begin to think Catriona should be sponsored by the Scottish Tourist Board.

  • The Woolly Hat Knitting Club by Poppy Dolan [Read by Lizzie Wofford]
    The story begins with Dee Blackthorn, a highly focussed PR executive working in a (I hope not quite realistic) cut-throat company, when she is unexpectedly (and undeservedly) fired. This is a disaster on many levels but it does mean she can more easily step in to help her brother, who badly needs assistance - and along the way she reconnects with some old friends from "back home". I originally chose this book on the strength of the title, (which seemed to nicely encompass my interests), and also the cover, (which - along with the title - implied it would be a light-hearted story about a club). I had a preconceived idea that it would be like, for example, the Jane Austen Book Club, ie mainly about the meaning of life etc, and which could have centred on any activity.
    However, likening it to other works doesn't give it enough credit. I loved it as a romcom, and I cannot praise Poppy enough for a really delightfully fresh and entertaining book.
    Poppy's conversational style means it is perfect as an audio book, and Lizzie Wofford gives excellent voice to Dee. The conversations are so natural, they read almost like a script; along with the highly visual descriptive detail, I felt it could translate easily into a live performance.
    Surprisingly to me, I identified probably more with Dee than the "lovely craft people" (even though I hope I am one), and new Mothers, (definitely not one); oddly, I found the details about Dee's business and commercial life of more interest than the knitting. After the first few chapters I did begin to wonder who exactly the book was aimed at as it seemed a bit Mills & Boonish - and I hasten to say I don't necessarily mean that in a derogatory sense since M&B are very skilled in what they do. A bit more reading, however, and it became much clearer to me that, of course, this is a romantic (comedy) novel and as such, anyone who knows this author's work will know exactly what to expect and thoroughly enjoy it - as I did.
    [In addition, I have to mention that, although there is a lot of knitting, we're not too bogged down with it, and congratulations are due that all the technical detail is completely correct - nothing worse than constantly being bugged by inaccuracies in a subject you know well!.]

  • Murder Under the Sun by Agatha Christie [Read by Hugh Fraser]
    BOM-MurderUnderTheSun.jpg The stories are:
    • The Rajah's Emerald - featuring James Bond (no - not THE James Bond)
    • The Oracle at Delphi - featuring Mr Parker Pyne
    • Wasp's Nest - featuring Hercule Poirot
    • A Death on the Nile - featuring Mr Parker Pyne (no - not THE Death on the Nile)
    • Problem at Pollensa Bay - featuring Mr Parker Pyne
    • Have You Got Everything You Want? - featuring Mr Parker Pyne
    • Triangle at Rhodes - featuring Hercule Poirot
    • The House at Shiraz - featuring Mr Parker Pyne
    • Double Sin - featuring Hercule Poirot
    • The Gate of Baghdad - featuring Mr Parker Pyne
    • The Regatta Mystery - featuring Mr Parker Pyne
    • The Pearl of Price - featuring Mr Parker Pyne
    • The Man from the Sea - featuring Mr Satterthwaite and Harley Quin
    Some I have listened to before as part of other collections but with different narrators.

Posted on October 31, 2021 at 6:57 PM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Tuesday October 19, 2021



Heaven knows how but my little house plant caught a spider.

Posted on October 19, 2021 at 4:34 PM. Category: The Garden. | Comments (0)

Monday October 11, 2021

No Time To Die


George was very keen to see this so it meant our first trip to the cinema (Reigate) since February 2020 - the moment when time stood still for my cultural activities.
The story, and Daniel Craig's, exit was a little strange, leaving unanswered questions, and leading to much speculation. [The most popular seems to be that 007 will be the franchise trademark rather than Bond himself - giving lots of "Dr Who" like possibilities for new actors; it seems to have been hinted at by having the 007 number reallocated to another agent as part of this plot.]
I liked the story line as it returned to the more normal Bond formula of a simplish plot, an evil villain (with a lair), and vividly memorable stunts. For me, this kind of action movie doesn't need a complex plot.

Posted on October 11, 2021 at 7:42 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Sunday October 10, 2021

Pooh Corner


We went to Ashdown Forest, taking a walk to Pooh Corner and Poohsticks Bridge. The latter has been replaced with a replica (mostly because much of the old one rotted away). We played Poohsticks but not very competitively; according to Poohstick champion Eeyore, it is won "by letting your stick drop in a twitchy sort of way."

Pooh's House was also to be found but I am ashamed to say that it took me a while to remember that he "lived under the name of Mr Sanderz"


We also enjoyed a really wonderful (no - REALLY wonderful) Sunday Roast dinner at the Anchor Inn. Many pubs serve perfectly adequate Sunday lunches which most of us happily accept - but this one was truly exceptional... the moistness of the cooked meat, perfect vegetables and roast potatoes with fresh Yorkshire Puddings.... mmm.

Posted on October 10, 2021 at 2:58 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Saturday October 9, 2021

Knitting and Stitching at Alexandra Palace


The show was, by necessity, a bit restricted this year - and even though in many respects there was plenty to see, (because in a "normal" year you don't even get round to see half of it, as it's so overwhelming), everything was very spaced out and there were fewer visitors. This was good for feeling "safe", but at the same time, it was all a bit sad. Personally, I missed some very specific vendors that I usually see every year.
Above you can see the Stitch a Tree project - a vast textile hanging made up of around 6,000 embroidered trees. The project is a message of support for displaced people around the world.
And below - a cheerful if slightly dishevelled pair after our jolly day out.


As an aside - we travelled by public transport this year which seemed the better option owing to petrol shortages and green protesters randomly blocking major roads. However, it ended up having challenges of its own, since Alison's local station had a "replacement bus service" and mine had delayed and cancelled trains due to signalling failures!
On our way home we found the whole of the area on the South Bank was utterly packed with people (Saturday Night Fever) - and there, like everywhere it seems, flouting Public Health advice with apparently only "old people" choosing to wear masks. However, in all the general melee, we were quite lucky to find somewhere that was prepared to serve us a meal without pre-booking.

Posted on October 9, 2021 at 2:59 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Thursday September 30, 2021

Books in September

  • A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin [Read by James Macpherson]
    BOM-ASongForTheDarkTimes.jpg I've been saving this book to listen to as a special treat. In that respect it did not disappoint. It is clear that the author is now desperately trying to keep Rebus in the action - as we all love him - with some creative (though nicely plausible) strategies. In this book, he achieves it with essentially two story lines - one revolving around Rebus and a murder affecting his family, while the other is a "normal" police case handled by Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox. The cases have a tangential link, allowing for necessary communication between our heroes, but equally could have stood alone.
    I am glad Rebus still has his place in the books, but I do think Clarke and Fox are strong characters in their own right, and could easily carry a plot without him.

  • Guilty Not Guilty by Felix Francis [Read by Martin Jarvis]
    BOM-GuiltyNotGuilty.jpg Overall a well-plotted thriller, despite not being my favourite kind, as we "know" the murderer all along. However there is a certain delight in the totally unexpected twist at the end - playing excellently on the book's title. The final resolution (though not the "guilt" aspect) is left open - but even if you don't like that kind of ending, I think everyone will feel one way or another that they "know" what will happen.
    We all know Martin Jarvis is a genius so I expect to be largely ignored if I say "I would not have read it like that". As I'm not a professional - actor or narrator - I could never have voiced the characters in any plausible way to allow the listener to understand who was speaking and generally what was going on. However, I think the hero's agonised pontifications about his dear wife and her problems - which were, in all seriousness, extremely tragic - could have struck more of a cord with me if voiced a little differently. Even though we are hearing the character's inner thoughts, which may indeed be desperate, he has a long-term agony which I think just catches him unexpectedly when he thinks of her - rather than a continual wailing lament. As I've said before, I don't think Felix writes emotions very well, but I do think that that part of the story could have perhaps been improved by reining in what was written on the page by tone of voice.
    Other than that, I did find the hero's attitude to being suspected of a murder a little different from how I feel I might have behaved. Luckily it's never happened to me, so who knows...? Maybe it's a man/woman thing. I think I might not have stood up to the police - which undoubtedly would have been a mistake in any case - and tried to persuade them to look elsewhere.

  • The Complete Steel by Catherine Aird [Read by Robin Bailey]
    BOM-TheCompleteSteel.jpg I've had a few Catherine Aird books on my radar for a long time without knowing anything about the author or her style of story. I now find she writes slightly-tongue-in-cheek police procedurals, with a suitable inspector (Sloan) and his sidekick (DC Crosby) - whom I internally equated to Lynn Truss' (did I place the apostrophe correctly?) Constable Twitten, despite the fact that Sloan is a very intelligent copper with a very dry wit, rather than an idiot, and the stories are not outright comedies.
    The tone of the novels is definitely nostalgic, and a bit cozy; the author has been likened to M C Beaton and Caroline Graham - I would say somewhere between the two, and if you like them you will probably like Aird. Lastly but no means least(ly), Robin Bailey provides the perfect voice for the narrative.

  • The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [Read by Glen McCready]
    BOM-TheLostWorld.jpg This is an excellent adventure story. I did wonder if it pre-dated the first Holmes book as in A Study in Scarlet the solution to the murder mystery is explained in the "story within a story", which takes up half the book. It led me to think that Doyle was perhaps happier writing tales of adventure. Indeed I think Doyle found it hard to sustain complete novels based on the Holmes type of mystery and deductive reasoning, finding it more suited to the short story format. However Lost World was serialised in 1912 - long after his interest in Holmes had essentially ceased.
    At any rate, Doyle's output was prolific, so by this time his writing was no doubt sharpened to a point - and his ability to tell a tale is second to none*. Despite knowing the basic story and having seen the film on TV from time to time, I found it wholly gripping, most entertaining, and worryingly plausible (!) throughout.
    * (maybe second to Kipling...).

Posted on September 30, 2021 at 8:31 AM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)