Thursday, 31 July 2014

Kneehigh Coming To Cornwall: Dead Dog In A Suitcase

Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) - Official Promo from WeAreKneehigh on Vimeo.

Aah.... but I would like to see this. Because I am a great Kneehigh fan. This year their Cornwall Asylum venue is at the Lost Gardens of Heligan with performances of this new work, based on John Gay's Beggar's Opera with music by Charles Heazlewood, running from 30th August to 28th September.

But... we live down the western end of Cornwall... and Heligan be up towards the eastern end. Think it's too far for The Old Man to drive back of an evening... So... sadly ... prob'ly won't manage it this year. Boo-Hoo!
But if you are in the area... you must go!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

By Heck... A Fledgling Where It Shouldn't Be... (Episode Two)

Having established that a baby sparrow have somehow got itself into the tube of our extractor fan... and be shouting out to the world through the outlet grille .... (see yesterday's post)...
The Old Man and me do decide there is nothing for it but to try to release it from inside the house. There have been many a tradesman who do nearly come to blows with The Old Man over his insistence that things be done a certain way. And in this case he insisted that we be able to get at the extractor fan outlet, which is hidden by a cupboard, rather than being walled in.

And so it be that I do empty everything including a kitchen sink .... (well, no, not quite)... from said cupboard and The Old Man sets about unscrewing its backboards. Next, he removes the insulation... (paff... pthah... archoo!) .... which do leave us staring at a coil of extractor hose running up from the floor below. Slowly The Old Man disconnects the hose from its solid junction and I hurriedly fix some paper over the junction pipe ... else all will be lost if the fledgling plummets downwards. Finally, we do peer into the hose and see for ourselves the feathered bum of a small bird standing on the bend before the grille.

Well, I do try a small box held underneath the end of the coil... a bit of judicious wiggling and shaking. No good. A careful hand creeping up the pipe... just causes the bird to shuffle out of reach towards the grille. In the end we cover what gaps and remaining insulation we can....and carefully close the cupboard door.

I am scratching me head wondering what to do next, when The Old Man shouts that the chirping is now very LOUD. We carefully open the cupboard door... and there on the floor is a small but perfectly formed sparrow.

Long story shortened... I do manage to catch it and decide that The Old Man's advice to put it out of the window onto the roof is perhaps not the thing to do. I go downstairs and into the yard and put it into the thick shrubby clematis that covers the house wall under the nest boxes. The little thing do immediately plummet into the shrubbery under the clematis stems. But tis the best I can do. The clematis heaves with sparrows on occasion and I think it must form a landing platform for the the fledglings who manage a more orthodox entry into the big wide world.

Oh. Yes. How did it get into the pipe in the first place? It must have bounced along the top of the house wall as far as the hose... where The Old Man do spot that something have made a nice raggedy hole. Some years ago we did have a slight mouse problem....

And, yes, 36 hours later, there still be healthy chirping from the shrubbery and an adult bird in attendance.... so we live in hopes we did the best we could.
Next step... a new hose perhaps.

Monday, 28 July 2014

By Heck... A Fledgling Where It Shouldn't Be... (Episode One)

'Tis a strain during the fledging season...
Every year we do have sparrows who insist on nesting under the gutter above me bathroom.... despite the bird boxes fixed close by on the house wall in an effort to tempt them elsewhere.
Last few years this do cause some anxiety as the odd fledgling jumps the wrong way so to speak and ends up bouncing around in our minimal roof space. (No fatalities that I know of... but it has caused extreme measures of removing loft hatch... opening the window wide and leaving the bathroom alone... for days sometimes....)

So it seems this be shaping up to be another wayward year. On a couple of occasions, above my head, I do hear some small thing flapping about where it shouldn't, although eventually all seems well and all "cheeps" do be back where they belong. However, the other morning I do grow suspicious as (like a submariner listening to sonar) I track a small cheep, travelling above me down the the room.... away from the nest.... its appropriate fledging point.

I do fret. But then I hear The Old Man shout that the baby have got out. He can see a bird on the roof of the kitchen porch below the bathroom. We both heave a sigh of relief.....
Until I pick up a watering can in the yard and hear a nearby adult sparrow cheeping like billy-o and answering chirps from well above the kitchen porch.
I do look up. To my horror I do see a tiny yellow beak, flapping in time to the chirps... from behind the grille of our extractor fan outlet in the middle of our upstairs wall.

"Ecky Thump" I do swiftly paraphrase, appalled.

There is no way we can reach the extractor grille .... above that thin plastic roof of the porch .... and also some distance from our solid but complicated house roof. We be too old and dizzy for such acrobatics.
There is only one route left....
It will have to be an inside job.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Animated Discussions: "The Maker" by Zealous Creative

The Maker is an award-winning animated short by Los Angeles based production company Zealous Creative - who produce ads, corporate videos and short films.
Devised as a vehicle for a music score by Paul Halley and using the puppets of Amanda Louise Spayd the end result is a wonderful tale of the excitement...and pain behind being "A Maker".

You can watch an accompanying, fascinating, short that describes the long journey of  "making" of "The Maker" here.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Grey Doll & Criminal Reading: Scandi-Noir - Camilla Ceder's "Babylon" & Karin Fossum's "I Can See In The Dark"

Two very different psychological crime books by Scandinavian women - Camilla Ceder (fairly new to the genre with Babylon being her second book) and Karin Fossum, an award-winning great of Nordic Noir.

Ceder is a young Gothenburg-based Swedish writer with a background in social work and Babylon (2013, UK Publisher: Pheonix) is her second novel, featuring Inspector Christian Tell and journalist Sejer Lundberg.
A young man and an older woman, his tutor, are found shot dead in an apartment. The young man's girlfriend, who has a history of violent jealousy, is a suspect in the murder. As it should be in crime fiction... things are not always what they seem.... and some of the events touch on the consequences of the sack of archaeological treasures in a war zone. Ceder has an acute sense of individual psychology and the story, anchored by the young journalist Sejer, twists about masterfully, building suspense in its final race to save lives. Its excellent translation by Marlaine Delargy, who has also translated Johan Theorin and Asa Larsson, ensures it reads well for an English audience.
You can read a full Euro Crime review  here.

I Can See In The Dark  (2014, UK Publisher: Vintage) is a short standalone book by Norwegian crime writer Karin Fossum which gives us the chillingly dark portrait of its narrator, Riktor - a loner, a nurse in a local care home and a man whose careful manners and smile masks the urges and hallucinations of his world. A true sociopath, his manipulative actions escalate, reaching a dreadful conclusion. One day a police inspector walks up his path - and accuses him of a crime.... which he has not committed. Fossum has performed a feat of empathic writing with this story, full of unease and suspense but leaving me with an appreciation of the damage in Riktor and some pity for him. .... (But maybe I'm a bit crazy that way.) Not everyone's cup of tea, but I think it is a brilliant book. A full Euro Crime review is here.

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.