Wednesday 31 December 2014

Are any of you planning to listen to tomorrow's War and Peace marathon on Radio4? I got a head start and listened to episode one over dinner tonight. It's very good, though I'm still trying to keep up with who's who as it's far too many years since I read it. (Anyone else remember the 1970s TV series with Anthony Hopkins?) I'm making no promises about sticking it out to the end - but for now I'm turning up the sound to drown the fireworks outside. If only I were a bit further into the story, they'd stand in for cannon.

Monday 22 December 2014

You're never too old ... and it's made my Christmas. Ursa marmalada is a complete delight. I don't know how many grown-ups (including one grown-up film director) have told me in the last few days that they really, really wanted to go but they didn't have a child ... well, I say go anyway.
I did manage to invite myself along with some younger friends and we all laughed and laughed. Got the last few seats in the front row at 10.30 am, scrunched through the popcorn on the floor and sat engrossed. It's the best film for Notting Hill since - well, since Notting Hill. It does London proud. Though I'm wondering whether the Natural History Museum might sue because they do NOT come out of it well.
And now I think of it ... I didn't nod off once. Not even 'resting my eyes.' Which either means that Paddington is my Film of the Year 2014 - or that 10.30am is a jolly sensible time to go.

Sunday 21 December 2014

When you notice that your library book carries a label that says it's a 'two week lone' ...
Time to start a Campaign for Real Librarians.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

On this very cold, damp day, I've just found out that this is where I'll be going on holiday next year. I put it all down to reading this book.

Friday 12 December 2014

You will see, my child, if you keep your eyes open, that there is a strong line of demarcation between the people who can't seem to wait for the summer, and those who understand the quality of chrysanthemums, and an early dusk, and the magic of lamplight. And nearly always, as I say, it's a case of breeding. 
Mrs Marie Leighton, in Tempestuous Petticoat , the biography written by her daughter, artist Clare Leighton

I've been enjoying Jane's anthology of dusk which is maybe why this sprang out of the page at me. Marie Leighton would have been Vera Brittain's flamboyant mother-in-law had her fiancé survived WW1.
I'm afraid I must be irredeemably common - Mrs Leighton was quite a snob - because much as I love chrysanthemums, I find the dark, grey dampness of winter rather depressing.

I am still mulling over tonight's screening of Testament of Youth. There was a polite ripple of applause at the end. But it fell short of that visceral rage and grief in Vera Brittain's book.
There was a Q&A at the end with the screenwriter and the beautiful Swedish (yes, Swedish) actress who plays Vera. They made a big deal of how they were wary of emotional overkill and melodrama.

And so ...

When Vera gets the telephone call at Christmas telling her that her fiancé Roland has been killed when  she's expecting him home on leave ... they had to go one step further and make out that it was their wedding day.

Although it's true that Vera's brother turned up injured at the hospital where she was nursing, he was tucked up in his pyjamas in hospital in London ... and she didn't simply trip over him in a casualty clearing station at the Front.  

How mawkish is this! Having Vera learn the brutal details of how Roland died in agony, not from his Colonel, but from George Catlin the man she would later marry. Trouble is, it was several years after the war before Vera even met him.
Oh, that last one got me muttering and grumbling. What a crude, clunky, pointless invention. It's not as if the true story is devoid of drama and emotion, is it?

Of course, it looks stunning - the costumes are wonderful - and you couldn't fail to be moved when the camera sweeps across so many rows of stretchers outside a battlefield hospital. But it has a glossy, Pride and Prejudice quality that doesn't pack anything like the punch that I remember from the old BBC adaptation when I was young. (I had a long wallow a few months ago watching it again on YouTube.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

It's not that I didn't enjoy it. I did. But I couldn't help feeling that I'd seen The Imitation Game before, in any number of guises (Enigma/Atonement/A Beautiful Mind).
Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent - Keira Knightley no more irritating than usual - but how depressing that Joan Clarke, the fiercely intelligent codebreaker who was briefly Turing's fiancée, has to be glammed up for the demands of film audiences.
It smacks of rather too much American involvement, too much of an eye on Academy Awards and I came away thinking that I'd probably find the book rather more satisfying.
(Anybody else find themselves distracted, thinking Ooh, there's the chauffeur from Downton Abbey ... especially as Tom seems to have recycled his Downton tweeds?)
I'm always fascinated, though,  that they recruited people for Bletchley who could whizz through the Telegraph crossword. Especially as crosswords then were very feeble compared with today's. I prefer The Times - but I'm not sure that I'd have been much help with cracking Enigma.