Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Listening to and watching .... Verdi's "Don Carlo" - Kaufmann at Salzburg 2013

OK. I admit it. The Christmas gift of the Met's "Ring Cycle" boxed DVD set won me over to investigate Jonas Kaufmann a wee bit more. Or rather... The Old Man do seem to be doing such a thing with a purchase of a  CD of Kaufmann singing Schubert's "Winterreise"  (not sure, but it seems to gather strength) and ... most recently.... a DVD of Verdi's "Don Carlo" recorded at the Salzburg Festival in 2013 with Kaufmann as Don Carlo, Thomas Hampson as Rodrigo and  Anja Harteros as Elisabetta di Valois. It's a Peter Stein production and is conducted by Antonio Pappano (with much perspiration, warmth and passion).

And I do enjoy it. The production makes the story very clear ... as The Old Man (still facially-and-name-challenged) do definitely think too. I like the rather austere set design which seems to echo the severity of the plot .... ('tis all very tragic) .... and Pappano does a jolly good job as does just about everybody involved.  Yeah ... relished and enjoyed.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

I Have an NHS Health Check...

......and find I am an officially inactive, overweight, near-alcoholic with high cholesterol.

See, the Check was offered and I thought I would have one because I never see a doctor, cos I be so "healthy". No-one have taken me blood-pressure for years... so I was interested to get that done... I also thought maybe they'd do some kind of diabetes check, cos they be all up-in-arms about diabetes at the moment.

First I had to fill out forms saying how much exercise I took, hours of housework, walking, gardening, etc... as well as active sports and exercise like cycling, swimming, etc (can't do neither of they, I'm afraid). And I had to do a score test on my alcohol consumption. Well... I do like my weekend bottle of wine... which do last me three days.. and maybe I have another couple of drinks over the week.

Then I be measured, weighed, blood-pressured and had me finger pricked for a cholesterol test .....That was it. The Health Care Assistant then asked me if I had kidney disease or be diabetic. (So I be a bit disappointed that she wasn't going to test that.) And asked if any immediate family had suffered heart disease. Then she gave me my results based on my questionnaire and those things which she have measured.

The good news is that I have beautiful blood pressure.

Otherwise... the BMI index rated me overweight and 2 points below obese. Cholesterol at 6.07 be declared "high". I be labelled "physically inactive"... and, to my horror, presented with a further questionnaire about my alcohol consumption which included questions like "Did I need a drink first thing in the morning?" - "Did I suffer guilt or remorse over my drinking?" - "Had I ever caused injury to others due to my drinking?"... On and on it do go and although I laughed and joked... I went into shock and when I recalled it later... I be furious.
I was issued with a diet sheet for my weight and cholesterol level, only being asked as afterthought if I be vegetarian... so I be given the veggie option in addition.... and be waved good-bye with the promise of another blood test for cholesterol in six months time.

Actually. I am rather angry and disappointed. Sure... some of this is guilt. I would like to be more active and to weigh less... so I shall try. But there is controversy over the use of BMI as a calculating tool for estimating weight problems...(I just did an online test which gave me a top weight of 9st 11lbs and at my most active and slim (work, walking, dance classes and a full on vegan diet) I was probably around that.... But never in a million years since childhood would I manage the bottom weight of 7stone.
And the diet sheet? My "breakfast" should be what I normally eat... plus the addition of a low-fat yogurt. The diet sheet includes plenty of low-fat, no-fat dairy products. Nowadays some pundits are pointing out that low-fat products are routinely stuffed full of sugar and salt to make them taste better.

Time for this Free NHS Health Check to become more up to date and genuinely informative... not just a box-ticking exercise.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Travels With My Film Life: Naples, 1963 - Rosi's "Le Mani Sulla Citta"

Ciao! We are having a very noisy and dramatic time in what has turned out to be a very noisy, dusty city. All this building going on... And the music is very loud also. The Old Man is getting grumpy and looking for ear plugs.
We spend most of our time amongst the wheeler-dealers of Naples - Councillors, politicians, developers .... Councillors who ARE politicians and developers...
We are watching "Le Mani Sulla Citta" of 1963 by Francesco Rosi. Starring American actor Rod Steiger (dubbed) as property developer and councillor Edoardo Nottola. (This is the same year that Rosi's mentor Visconti released his film "The Leopard" starring another American name - Burt Lancaster.)
Nottola's building practices cause the collapse of an adjacent tenement, killing two people and maiming a young boy. But most of the film is about what goes on in the City Hall as elections come up - much wheeling and dealing.
The music is loud, the people are loud... there is much arguing and shouting going on all the time. But above all this is a film about corruption... about the underbelly of the development race going on in Rosi's native Naples at the time. Certainly the opening shots are jaw-dropping as the aerial shots of the buildings reveal new blocks perched on "stilts" over the frail sloping land.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Grey Doll Gathers Her Criminal Telly Thoughts

So how have you got on with recent euro-telly crime dramas.... Particularly those for the BBC4 subtitled slot on Saturday nights? I am a bit disappointed that BBC4 has decided simply to re-broadcast "Inspector Montalbano" in that particular slot ... starting at "Numero Uno" of what is a lo-o-ong multi-series. I don't know how many they are planning to show.....
I have to say that it has not been one of my favourite series... although I know that the novels by Andrea Camilleri are much loved.

I did however enjoy the"Inspect De Luca"trilogy - set in Fascist Italy around World War 2 and based on the books by Carlo Lucarelli. Though it has to be said that it too featured a high incidence of luscious ladies falling out of their frocks.... Maybe a higher incidence than even Inspector Montalbano is privileged to witness.

I very much enjoyed the look and feel of  the Welsh series - "Hinterland". I am a sucker for "the look" ... and the photography and landscape are key in these films. The plots, acting and atmosphere aren't half bad either. Moody, dark stuff. Who knew Wales be Scandi-Noir?

Looking further back there was the Belgian thriller "Salamander" ... which I started by enjoying. It had pace, plot and paranoia... but towards the end it seemed to fall into the absurd. I was a bit disappointed there.

Meanwhile on BBC1... there was 1950s Irish-set "Quirke", based on the books by John Banham writing as Benjamin Black. With the first episode I got a bit distracted by the elaborately worked "period" setting and costume dressing. Moi, being so old, I kept staring around the rooms going "That lamp? Then? Surely not..." Instead of getting into the drama of the thing. But the second and third episodes had me... and I would look for more I think. I haven't read the books. I should, shouldn't I.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The New Me Arrives

 Mrs D do finally get back to my re-construction. She do take off the green hands, thank heavens. And do join on some wire ones (without that screw-in wrist thingy) and do give her hands a "skin" of masking tape... frail but replaceable.

So here she is... or I am... depending how you look at it.

Blimey, Mrs D do go overboard on the hair this time but at least the new-me do look like she have shed a few pounds, and......
She can stand on her own two feet.
Which be more than I do.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Beautiful Day On The Lizard

The other day we surprised ourselves with an impromptu visit to The Lizard ... Well OK ... we got lost.
We parked up in the village itself and took off along a road and footpath into a valley leading to the next little cove, a beautiful nature reserve stuffed full of flowers and the song of whitethroats, Caerthillian.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A Child Digs In The Garden...

...what do they find?
As a result of a breakfast talk between me and The Old Man... I do think of all the gardens of me childhood and what I do find buried there.

First garden... well I be too young to have unearthed stuff there... spending most of me time in me pram and toddling about. I may have found worms. I may have tried eating them. This may be family gossip.
Second garden. Newly built house on a resulting field of clay. Absolutely... clay. So I dug up clay and made little pots.
Third garden... a flat near the station... no garden to dig in as such... fascinated by the red-bodied harvestmen (daddy long-legs) that lived under the gate-pillar cap.
Fourth garden... (we traveled about a lot)... bright cut glass "beads" about the size of pound coin... clear and colours ... I remember blue... Someone said there used to be a glass factory on that site... and I guess these were for chandeliers.
Fifth garden. Yes, fifth.... A heart-shaped sea urchin fossil.
Sixth garden.... Too old for digging having transformed into a moody adolescent....

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Animated Discussions: "Big Bang Dog" from Parquerama Studios

A wonderful, surreal, anarchic animation from the Argentinean team Parquerama Studios (see some artwork at this link) as seen on Vimeo via Animated Review.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

In The Garden - Havoc Wrought

...Not least on me... I seem to have developed some kinda late-onset hay-fever. My nose runs like a tap and glows like a beacon. My eyes are small, shrunken and peppery. I sneeze and sigh and feel very sorry for myself. Ah well.

But we do eat potatoes from the garden. In fact, I do dig up all the first earlies on account there is no doubt but we have been blighted. First time that it's got to the lovely tatties themselves. Had to wash and sort them, dry the survivors lovingly and put them in a box in the cool garage. Meanwhile The Old Man do cut the foliage from the second earlies what be showing dire signs of same. Hoping to have caught it before it trickles down to the tatties beneath.

This morning I do go to check my poor broad beans what have suffered weevil depredation and snails (snails don't usually bother them but I guess they saw an opportunity...) To my outrage I find the finally healthy tips are weighed down by fat dark greenfly with black legs... each the size of a tank. I have no option but to pick out these healthy tips with their sitting tenants... revealing as I do, the scurrying black ants what be placing the fat, reproducing beasts on my lovely bean plants. Blimey! The veg garden is challenging this year. But... am eating the strawberries... Yum! And eyeing up the peas for a first pick this evening. If something doesn't get there first.

In fact the whole cycle of life is a bit challenging this spring. Birds are fledging and quivering in fat, feathery bundles deposited in shrubs and trees whilst the parents hunt high and low to satisfy their hunger. The other day I skip like a ninny to film a caterpillar spinning its chrysalis on a sedge stem by the side of the drive. Truly, I be borbling on about the miracles of nature and so on. Next day I do find the chrysalis.... gone. Along with several of its brood-mates. I realise now it be likely that the desperate bird parents have taken them off to eaten by their children. One miracle of nature have been devoured by another.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Grey Doll & Criminal Reading: Sweden (Two Soldiers) and Spain (Blood Med)

I been all over the place with me reading.
Firstly I was on a grim Stockholm satellite housing-estate and in a prison - in a story by Swedish crime-writing team Roslund & Hellstrom....called Two Soldiers. Written in part from within the mindset of a gang, its members, and the tribal "one luv" that replaces flesh and blood family - it is a tough and realistic read around prison life, a startlingly organised prison escape, the brutal ambition to become king of gangs and the police's frantic attempts to find a kidnapped prison officer and the gang members themselves. It is also a suitably dark analysis of the roots and perpetuation of gangs within our modern societies. You can read the complete review over at Euro Crime.

Then I also visited Spain and did some criminal reading tinged with political comment over in Valencia with Jason Webster  and the fourth in his Inspector Max Camara series - Blood Med. (This is the second title in this series that I've read and really liked both, so must try to fill the gaps with a retro-read.) In this one Spain is in crisis. The King is ill and everyone is on tenterhooks as to Spain's political future. Increasing unemployment means a homelessness crisis, whilst disillusionment with the rich and politically powerful breeds discontent and protest in the streets of Valencia. Against this backdrop a young American woman is murdered in a particularly brutal manner but Camara is sceptical that "the husband" did it. So who did? Plenty of excitement and chewy social observation.  You can read the complete Euro Crime review here.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Me And The Slow Worm

I be busy this morning... sanding filler, hoovering and such and do look into the utility porch in passing to find myself staring at the front half of a slow worm  poking in under the back door.
What you doing?... thinks I, You stuck?
I bend over and give it a gentle poke... and it do appear to be alive. But my dilemma is how to open the door fully to let the creature go, if it is stuck that is, or... change its mind about coming indoors if that's what it fancies doin'.

I tell you it was a nerve-racking and tricky manoeuvre to open that door without squishing the animal further. I could feel its body's resistance and was worried I be damaging its skin if nothing else. It tried to turn around the way it came but that didn't seem to work.

Eventually, together, we did manage it, and it did scent around, flicking its forked tongue, and did wiggle off into the undergrowth. It's tail had been in a crack in the concrete next to the door. I bet it be searching out ants and do decide to investigate our utility room for more.. (quite likely to be some)..
Bet it thought "Phew" too.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Thinking Of Animating....

So if that Mrs D cannot get a move on and finish my own "makeover".. I shall just give up and get behind the camera.
I've been thinking about that Car Image... what do stay in my mind....

And...... I do get the Car........  

And I do get the actors... 
Dog and  Bike Girl......

 But Bike Girl says ..... No way she will get in that car even if she could.
Already we have temperament.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Animated Discussions: Wrinkles

Ha! Have acquired a DVD of Wrinkles - a Spanish animation feature about... Old Folks... and....Alzheimer's.
Great. At least it's good to know I shall be truly catered for with relevant subject matter....
Once again it is an animation based upon a graphic novel. This time by Spanish comic artist Paco Roca.

I'll leave you with the trailer for the film.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Dreaming Up Stuff And Digging Up Stuff

Sorry to be so slow in posting. I have just laid around and stared at the Miyazaki skies we is having, it's true.

Dreaming up? We-e-ell.... can't forget an image from the other day...down at the petrol station. The Old Man do drive in to get his paper. I notice we do pass a parked car with an Alsatian dog sitting in the driving seat... upright, eyes ahead, full of dignity. The Old Man do park up and goes in to the shop. A moment later the dog-car passes and pauses to pull out of the forecourt. A man now sits in the driving seat (of course) and the Alsatian sits in the passenger seat by his side.... side by side... same height....both of them... upright, eyes ahead, full of dignity.
Image just won't go away.

Mrs D has become similarly obsessed and appears to be constructing a cardboard "pick-up truck" for the dog and bike-girl to sit in... in similar manner.
Heigh-ho. The artistic mind is a mind capped by a bonnet containing a bee.

Digging up? Mmm. My first new potatoes.