Sunday, 22 May 2016

My Retro Photography: Drawing A Veil Over It

Last week I got the strong urge to have an "instant" picture camera again... after seeing one being used on the telly recently.
I used to love my/Mrs D's Polaroid camera and I have had my share of modelling for its pictures, way back in the 1990s. But supplies of Polaroid instant film disappeared alongside Polaroid's final bankruptcy in 2008. I knew that plans had been afoot to resurrect the concept and technology but at that time it didn't include my particular camera model.

And of course I have a digital camera and do like it very much... including the camera in my ancient Nokia phone. (I specialise in out-of-date technology.) Where would this blog be without such a thing? But most of my digital photos remain on my pc or camera, I just never get round to printing them off and I do not think I am alone in this.

And so my little hands did quiver with desire to get themselves wrapped around a new equivalent, analogue instant camera. Perhaps a Lomo'Instant or a Fuji. There is something very special about the one-off, one-time-only magic of the Polaroid snap; not just an instant result, but an object in its own right. I love them. I just had to buy another camera. And that was when The Old Man did stay my hand and got me to check to see if I could now get film for my old Polaroid Image Spectra. And I can.

Impossible Project, the outfit that have spent some years resurrecting what they could of the Polaroid process, cameras and do a film pack for my old camera. Times have changed, as have rules for Health & Safety, etc., so the chemicals are not the same nor the construction of each print module. Now, you only get 8 prints to a pack, they take longer to develop and they are more expensive. I ordered up a pack right away. But very stupidly... not from Impossible themselves. Daft girl.

When the pack arrived the very next day, it was stamped with a 2014 manufacture date. Well past its sell-by-date. Impossible recommends a 12month life for their films. And this is the explanation (I do hope) for my atmospheric results. Such as this image of an old man, looking very pleased, clutching a pot of iris.

Next time I shall buy from Impossible. And fervently hope that the image will develop properly and that any atmospheric veils are under my control. Because otherwise ... it is my beloved 25 year old camera that is in trouble.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Women With Knives Part 2: Lucia di Lammermoor

The Old Man and me sat ourselves down in our local cinema last week for the Royal Opera House broadcast of its new production of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor".

I'm quite happy to see new interpretations of operas and this production has certainly caused controversy and do give a melodramatic deal of blood and savagery albeit perhaps not in the form anticipated. Director Katie Mitchell relocates it from Donizetti's Scotland of the 1700s to the mid-1800s by way of bringing the action closer to Donizetti's own era (she says in an interview on the ROH site) and because she views Lucia not as a young "victim" but as a mature, cultured woman... and the mid-1800s was a period filled with "brilliant [unmarried] women artists".
OK. But perhaps "pax" to earlier feminists such as Mary Wollstonecroft (1757-1797). Not to forget Wollstonecroft's daughter, Mary Shelley, who happened to beat the boys (Byron and husband Percy) at late-night horror stories by creating Frankenstein in 1816 and succeeded in publishing it, albeit anonymously, the year before Sir Walter Scott's own publication of his original "Bride of Lammermoor".

Mitchell's production has a split stage to enable a continuous line of action for Lucia. We see her dressing, reading letters, waking up in the morning, etc, regardless of whether she is part of the musical scenario, which takes place on the other half of the stage. Cinema-goers watching the live broadcast version with its close-ups and different points of view may not have been exposed to the full effect of this device. I do wonder if it proved distracting for the theatre audience, certainly in the case of the silent masque murder-scene which traditionally takes place off-stage. And what also troubled me about this scene was that it seemed to depart so much from the traditional view of poor innocent Lucia that I couldn't really make it lie down with the notion that she then proceeds to go mad... tout suite. Though I did enjoy the addition of Donizetti's originally scored glass harp accompaniment to Lucia's hallucinatory insanity. Certainly Diana Damrau as Lucia earns her keep and sings pretty lovely as well and we were both impressed by the acting and singing of Charles Castronova as Edgardo.

I enjoyed my night out at the opera thoroughly. In retrospect the production is device-heavy and overthought in its details... which don't always hang together. (But then Donizetti's own scenario doesn't leave much room to "explain" the sudden descent of madness onto poor Lucia's head). But I enjoyed the performances and if the director enabled some of these, then so be it. Ultimately, me and The Old Man were still arguing and discussing the whole thing a couple of days later which many would say was a mark of a good, meaty show. Or is it? Dunno ... but I'm glad I went.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Springtime: The Bird That Wants To Make A Phone Call

It's definitely spring. The Old Man and I get in the car to go walking .. as you do. A short drive to Penrose Estate and cars are decanting children, dogs, and walkers with sticks. The car park is packed and The Old Man do attract some attention trying to park in the last slot. His frustration at the current car do infuriate and defeat him, causing some outraged stares at an accidental horn beep. We give up and turn round to leave for another car park in Helston, at the lower end of the "trail". That's when I realise that quite some of the sniggering walkers are marshaling their sticks, children and dogs to walk out onto the road again and not into the wooded estate. So it dawns on me that they are parking up here to walk down to Porthleven for the Food Festival (sorry folks, last day today) which by all accounts has been packed out this year

But we manage our walk along the Cober and the woods of Penrose Estate. The first thing I see when I get out of the car ...  are swallows flying above the river. In the woods themselves birds are singing fit to bust: robins, wrens, blackbirds, chiffchaffs. Something more melodious. Blackcap? And then a song I don't know, probably some kind of warbler. I heard once that if you are trying to remember a bird's song then concentrate on catching the rhythmn and make up a phrase that echoes the rhythmn. So I do.
Definitely it's: "I gotta make a phone call, brrrr, brrrr."

I rushed (or hobbled) home and do try out the thing on the internet, starting with warbler songs. Maybe a reed warbler? But I am not convinced. So if anyone knows which bird sings "I gotta make a phone call, brrrr, brrrr." - I'd like help with the answer.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made Of

I dream I am with The Old Man in this place where everyone, including the staff, is old. We sit at a dining table and the lady what takes our order is determined that I will eat ham... and I keep telling her that I don't eat ham. Suddenly a man of same sort of age, addressing us as if he is a security man, wheels on some hi-fi equipment. Truly 'orrible looking speakers with fake marble and stuff. He do play Rossini to us... and I do not like Rossini. Then the elderly waitress comes back with a colleague. She is still insisting that I ordered ham. Her colleague, of same age, do join in the discussion. Suddenly The Old Man do tell them how grateful we are for how well they did look after my mother and everybody starts crying. I wake up.

When I come down for breakfast in the morning... in real, daily life this is ... I do tell The Old Man my dream. And he answers that he too has had a dream. He dreams that he has tickets for the cinema and so he drives to the town and parks the car, apparently having left me behind at home. Then he realises that he has forgotten the tickets (and me). So he goes back to the car park but cannot remember where he left the car....

See the nightmares of Old Age? I am stuck in a home where I am fed stuff I don't want and made to listen to stuff I don't want to hear whilst The Old Man do go round and round forgetting everyone, everything, and every place. Mind you, it could all be a comment on the state of the nation.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Women With Knives: Iphigenie en Tauride at Hall for Cornwall

No... I don't mean cutlery when I write "women with knives"... but a long lost phrase in my head to do with plots in opera. The English Touring Opera production of "Iphigenie en Tauride" provides "women with knives" in spades ... and axes... with its opening scene of human sacrifice on the shores of Tauride. The orchestra plays an overture whilst ladies dressed in impressive butcher aprons of bloodied white subdue their struggling but unseen captive and wield knives and axes, draining blood into bowls and through grills and chopping up various bits (again unseen but inferred) and thrusting them into sacks. Members of the Truro audience were heard complaining about the gore in the ice cream queue during the interval. But... naturally... I thought they did it rather well.

I think if I had any complaints about the violence it would be the inaccuracy of the torture of Orestes's friend Pylades, whose suffering as mimed by his tormentors would have deprived him of enough body parts to prevent his participation in the rest of the opera. In the spirit of crime review I must say... "If you are gonna show violence... make it relevant. You went a little over the top there, boys." And in the main the violence of this production is relevant I think. Gluck based his opera on the play by Euripedes in which the saved sacrificial victim, Iphigenie, is made a priestess by her saviour Diana and as such doomed to sacrifice any foreigner who steps on to the shores of the tyrant king Thoas. What follows is a catalogue of family disaster, culminating in Iphigenie finding herself about to sacrifice her own brother, Orestes. Labelled a tragedy and a melodrama, the company's own programme notes point to the Euripedes work as an anti-war drama. And my word, seen from that point of view it do fit in with the spirit and geography of the times.

I can't praise English Touring Opera highly enough. This is the third year we have managed to see one of their productions. Their sets and designs are necessarily stripped down but work well  given that, with us, they manage just two consecutive night in the theatre with a different performance each evening. Well that's a triumph of packing if nothing else. But above all the performances are smooth, the productions brave and the singing and orchestral work are good. I have to single out Catherine Carby as Iphigenie in this one: warm and singing beautifully. If you live far from metropolitan delights and miss an evening at the opera... you must look out for ETO.
I just wish we got a sample from their autumn tour as well ... but we never do.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A Night At The Opera: English Touring Opera "Iphigenie en Tauride"

It's time for me to creep out of my wintry shell and kick a best foot forward into the night. I've booked tickets for the opera, the opera what visits Truro's Hall for Cornwall that is. So thank heavens for the English Touring Opera and its annual visit to the HFC. Two nights only, a different production each night, bless them.

Seats are popular for their Mozart's "Don Giovanni" on March 15th  but we have opted for the considerably less well known "Iphigenie En Tauride" by Gluck... on the basis we don't know it and we might never get the chance to see it again. A risky policy this one... but when the walking frame looms... why not give it a whirl. So we are off in a few weeks time to sample the fleshpots of Truro. Erm...

I'd have liked to share a sample video with you but there isn't one. So let me just quote the blurb/plot: "Vampire-like villains and human sacrifice form a bloodthirsty backdrop to this timeless tale from Greek myth. A brother and sister are thrown together at the end of the Trojan War, and find their path to redemption. One of the most refined and perfect of operas, from a composer who influenced future
generations from Mozart to Wagner..."
Oh la-di-da says I. Better put my best frock on.

Friday, 12 February 2016

The Old Man Loses His "Independent"

The Old Man is bereft. The days are counting down (end of March) to the loss of his beloved "Independent" print-copy newspaper. The thing he adores most in his life. The thing that puts structure into his days. The thing he drives a six-mile round trip each morning to collect. The thing that accompanies him on shopping trips, into doctor's and dentist's waiting rooms, on long drives and the occasional forays into pastures new. The thing that dictates where he lives and stays... "Where can I get my paper?"

The answer my dear, I'm afraid, will be ... on the internet. And the Internet be a place that The Old Man do rarely visit. Hard-wired as it is into a cold and cheerless room in our granite cottage in the Far West whose reluctant wi-fi do not penetrate its interior granite walls.... whose mobile phone reception be limited to whatever inconvenient spot within the house or the garden a bar of signal can be obtained....

It is no good telling him that he will still have the i - albeit under new ownership. He has only ever bought this paper as a "completist" gesture. (See previous post). He cannot read any other newspaper... they are all dross as far as he is concerned or else owned by unspeakables.The man is genuinely bereft. He do feel he will be deprived of news of the modern world: politics, economics, the arts, society ... and I do feel for him. I too do worry that we are slipping away from an informed view of the wider world (by the time the Govt will have done for the BBC and flogged off Channel Four, us traditional, Murdoch Empire-avoiding couple be scuppered....)

And of course I do wonder what else I can use to mop up the gales of rainwater what do sweep under the back door on a regular basis.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Goodbye And Farewell: Dan Hicks 1941-1016

Another of my musical heroes has packed his guitar and left the stage.

I have listened to the one and only West Coast man Dan Hicks for some decades... my first purchase being a cassette of his 1972 album "Striking It Rich". Like many others I listened to the track "I scare myself" until my head whirled. I don't know about you but I frequently did scare myself also. The Old Man became a convert and, cos that's what he does, he set about buying up all the Dan Hicks vinyl he could find. And when Hicks started recording again as Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, signing with Surfdog Records and releasing "Beatin' the Heat" in 1998... The Old man scooped up a couple of CDs also.

Actually... The Old Man's habit of buying up everything he can find of a favourite (a man's thing perhaps) has in the past annoyed me to the point of putting me off my own faves cos he do play everything day and night until I do scream and leave the room. Is he obsessive? Well, the thought do never cross my mind, officer. But the splendid consequence, this time, is that we have quite a few recordings of the man himself - Dan Hicks and his scat-singing, swing-playing, off-the-wall Hot Licking ensemble.

I'm embedding this YouTube video ... which was a trailer for Dan Hicks' 2009 album "Tangled Tales" .. cos to me it serves as a good tribute to the man and his music as well.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Criminal Travels: Poland - Miloszewski & "A Grain Of Truth"

I am just back from immersing myself in the late arrival of spring to the picturesque town of Sandomierz, Poland - which I visited courtesy of "A Grain Of Truth" by Zygmunt Miloszewski, his second crime fiction novel featuring State Prosecutor Teodor Szacki. [Bitter Lemon Press, 2012.]
I read the first "Szacki" book - "Entanglement"- late last year and posted my thoughts on that one here. I certainly enjoyed it enough to want to read this second installment and I am glad I did....

"Like a china doll floating in the mist, thought Myszynski as he gazed at the dead body lying below the synagogue. It was unnaturally, unsettlingly white, shining with lack of colour."

April 2009: Nighttime, and from a high window in the Sandomierz State Archives, housed in a converted synagogue, a soon-to-be traumatised genealogist spots the pale, naked corpse of a woman lying below. The death summons Sandomierz's new State Prosecutor, Teodor Szacki, to the scene. But what is Warsaw-man Szacki doing here, living and working in provincial Sandomierz? Answer: mid-life crisis.
Visiting the area during an investigation of the murder of a prostitute in a Warsaw brothel, Szacki's solving of the case brought him fame in Sandomierz. The weather and surrounding countryside is beautiful. He thinks, why not start a new life here? Had they a post vacant? Well, in fact, yes. And so Teodor leaves his stranded marriage, his wife and child, his big-city ennui, for a fresh start and a new life in the bosom of a beautiful, historic town.
Except it hasn't turned out that way. Teodor finds himself to be, not the big, prosecutorial fish from Warsaw, central to the town and his own life, but an outsider in a provincial city, mistrusted, isolated and lonely. He misses night-life, good wine and the bouts of bracing sparring with his old police partner Oleg Kuzniecow.

The death of the woman in Sandomierz suggests ritual slaughter. Szacki soon suspects her husband, a respected Councillor, until he himself is found dead in an even more gruesome and bizarre ritualistic setting. Does the town harbour a serial killer whose pattern of murder has its roots in the town's difficult anti-Semitic past and myths? Jewish revenge or the misleading twists of an anti-Semitic nationalist? In order to find the killer before they kill again, Szacki must investigate both the past and the present of his country and community - a community whose inhabitants know their combined history like the backs of their hands.

Beautifully translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, "A Grain Of Truth" is a meticulously considered and well written book that builds a convincing portrait of Teodor Szacki. It also examines Polish history and Jewish relations from all angles whilst still managing to remain a gripping crime story which had me reading into the small hours, hanging onto its pages with clenched hands, despite my internal reader struggling with an imagined pronunciation of all those Polish names; that's a nothing... a small problem compared to the crime story told. I do hope there will be a third Teodor Szacki ... or rather a third Teodor Szacki translated into English. Miloszewski has a permanent place on my bookshelf.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Last Night I Dream ...

... that I live in a caravan in the woods. A huge old caravan...enormous inside... but rickety and lined with white material. Is it me or someone else who lives here? Not sure now. With her children perhaps? How will they keep warm? Whatever next? I don't know. But I woke up feeling more cheerful. 
Mmmmn... Warning: Woo-woo Alert:
I like Kneehigh Theatre and this morning I picked up a web link from them to Good Chance Calais, a theatre/community centre project in "The Jungle" camp at Calais, which two Kneehigh company members visited recently hoping to help out with the theatre work with Cameron's notorious "bunch of migrants" .... but ending up giving more practical help.

Yeah.. I know it's easy for me to write woolly, liberal stuff but I'm a woolly, liberal kind of old girl. Just you see how many sweaters I can wear at once.