Tuesday, 29 December 2015

New Year's Greetings

I do hope that your Santa have not too practical a turn of mind in her gifts. I believe there is always room for frivolity in this life, of course I do. We do wish you good strength and fortune for 2016.



Thursday, 24 December 2015

Thursday, 10 December 2015

A Night Out: More Opera At The Cinema

We are taking advantage of the live broadcast from Covent Garden again... via our local cinema in Penzance. This time it is The Old Man who makes an agonisingly slow decision to have a go at "Cav & Pag" - more properly known as the pairing of two short operas: "Cavalleria Rusticana" by Mascagni and Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci".
In truth I don't know anything about the "Cav" bit and can only think of clips of numerous well-known tenors taking turns to be tragic in pierrot clown suits for the "Pag" offering. So... as with all things so familiar as to be parodied on a regular basis ... I am a bit reluctant to try them out. But a new production directed by Damiano Michieletto and a night away from the Telly means I say yes and off we will go. I tell you these live broadcasts be a lifesaver for those of us who fancy some big opera but live in ruralia far from the big theatres.

PS. I'd like to have found you a trailer but to be honest the Opera House trailer be like a short advert clip promoting tours of Italy. Oh my word... just thought... perhaps that was the intention? I do keep getting caught out by the possibilities of irony....

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Bending The Truth: Old Spines And Possible Remedies

When one is somewhat elder ... one begins to accept that one cannot bend as well as when young. But in truth I do get very blue spending the best part of this year unable to straighten up first thing in the morning without climbing me own legs with me hands, so to speak.

Finally I take meself off to a recommended chiropractor (McTimoney. No that's not his name, that's the "school of"... so to speak). Well dears, the primary verdict is that one leg lies longer than the other... and me spine... Well, it do not know which way is north and which way south!

But what do you expect when I am subject to the makings of Mrs D? I mean naturally my spine be twisted this way and that. Look how she do make me. All sorts of sticky tape and plastic bindings.... 
Remember how my hand do drop off on occasion? She do not have a clue with those joints and screws. I swear I did last longer in my first incarnation based on pipe-cleaners and cotton wool. Oh, tut-tut and la-di-da, that lady is a lummox in the puppetry department.

But.... I am feeling so, so much better, now that I'm marching off to the chiropractor. My word but I am gradually straightening up. My leg lengths are starting to match and ... do you know... but I don't feel so old. Absolutely. Younger every day.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

In Front Of The Telly - The Living And The Dead: River, The Bridge And The Last Kingdom

Yes this is how it is. I spend my life watching telly... when I am not writing posts for this blog. Some of my viewing has been a disappointment... some has been stupendous.

Let me say I do not know what has got up the nose of the telly writers on a certain national TV listings magazine when it comes to the detective series "River". (I know that this finished several weeks ago but I just had to say something about it.) I thought it was a fantastic show. It wasn't "depressing", it wasn't dreary, the lead actors were brilliant, subtle and wonderful (Yes, this includes Stellan Skarsgard) and pardon me for being a viewer that does not mind an "art house ending"... though I am not sure what such a thing is. True, I did lose The Old Man's company after a couple of episodes. Those who follow this blog will know that The Old Man can be challenged when it comes to telling one face from another (this is very variable... some times he sees resemblances that I have not spotted). Add factors such as flashback scenes and "hallucinations" and his brain do give up and he stomps off to do the washing up. Me, I loved the concept of a cop who chats to dead people. In fact I loved it all, acting, plot, photography....

However both The Old Man and I are present and swashing and buckling in front of "The Last Kingdom" - BBC's adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's historical novel series The Saxon Stories. (Well look there are Scandinavians in it, yes?) There are criticisms of the occasional chronological lapse in the prop department... and some reviewers have lashed out at the production as a whole. I did dread a cod CGI'd world of action, stereotypes and gore. But I got drawn into the plot and the action and...by the subtleties. Blimey I wouldn't want a night out with Alfred... I expected a man who burned the cakes to be much more fun... and as for his wife..... Thankfully and praise-worthily (such a word?) the CGI is largely reserved for the landscape. Which is understandable. 9th century England was much emptier than it is now. So...if it is possible to swash, buckle and be thoughtful then "The Last Kingdom" does it for me.

Meanwhile Scandi-Saturdays on BBC Four continue in style with the return of Swedish-Danish production "The Bridge" in its third season. Episodes 1 & 2 set it off to a good start but I suspect that lead character Saga's new Danish cop partner may prove a challenge to The Old Man again.... for I'm not sure who that Danish cop talks to at home or what realm they are in.

On a disappointed note... I am persisting with the second series of French "dead" and "living" drama "The Returned"... but I think it has lost its way... or me. There are an awful lot of scenes between characters involving silent stares and very little conversation. So, so disappointed. I loved the first series.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Bit Of An Autumnal Break: Somerset

 ...and the village of my grandmother.... apparently.
Bit of an orchard. And plenty of mistletoe comin' for Christmas.
Come to speak of it.... mistletoe all over Somerset this year. The Old Man says he don't remember it ever being so .... "mistletoe-ish".

Monday, 9 November 2015

The Dolls Criminal Travels: Northern Ireland, Libya and Italy

My dears, I have been travelling as usual. With my crime fiction reading that is.

Firstly I visited Northern Ireland with Stuart Neville's latest book, Those We Left Behind, built around DCI Serena Flanagan who appeared in his Jack Lennon book The Final Silence. (Neville has written a series featuring detective Jack Lennon whose perilous slide down the career ladder signifies the predicament us crime fans doubtless recognise - the hallmark of the independent but rackety, if not rocky, investigator who is tumbling towards a perilous edge. But do not doubt that I am a great follower of Lennon and hope he will return.) Those We Left... is a slight departure again. Although still full of suspense and chill, I think this book goes more deeply into psychological territory. It  deals with the consequences of the release from prison of nineteen year-old Ciaran Devine, after serving a seven year sentence for the murder of his foster father. A child "killer" released back into society where his older brother is waiting for him. The probation officer assigned to his case starts to have doubts about the brothers' relationship and she turns to DCI Flanagan who had gained Ciaran's trust and his confession those seven years before. It's a brilliant book in which Neville seems almost to have crossed into the realm usually the property of Scandinavian crime fiction - the dark psychological/socio-thriller. Read my review over on Euro Crime for more detail.

I also managed a long trip to Libya and Italy with Roberto Costantini's The Root Of All Evil. Make sure you have plenty of time and powers of concentration for this one. But if, like me, you have a liking for crime served up on a social, historical platter - it will be worth it. The second book in a trilogy featuring the frankly unlikeable Italian detective, Balistreri, this one runs from his youth in Tripoli as the son of an influential fascist family together with the run-up to Gaddafi's coup in 1969 and then Balistreri's investigations into a murder case in 1980s Italy. It's a case which starts to remind him of events in his Libyan youth. Detailed, painstakingly constructed, hard realities painted with neutral strokes (it is no mean feat to make readable a book which centres on an "unattractive" protagonist) this is a rewarding book. Again, you can read the full review over on Euro Crime. And you can also read a good interview with Costantini over on the Crime Thriller Fella blog.

Phew! I'd tell you of more foreign criminal adventures but I'm off to put my feet up. Be back soon.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Madame Deficit On Literacy And Language In Cornwall

Bonjours, mes amis... Je suis desolated that I have not been paying attention to you recently. Instead, I have been tending my pretty lambs. After all, hard times are depressing times. Better to dress prettily and dance in the meadows, I think. No. Really. Let us not discuss the price of bread.

But on the subject of financial management.... Cornwall Council have taken a leaf out of the Good Government's book. If you can't pay for something... delegate payment to those beneath you. And so they propose that libraries and the accompanying luxury of books and reading (to be accessed by all) be the privilege and financial responsibility of local and parish councils or "volunteer groups". (After all, my dears, there is nothing to this business of running libraries but the timely application of duster to book and keeping shelves tidy, n'est-ce pas?)

Meanwhile they do intend to place serious emphasis on their campaign to promote the Cornish language. (Why not remove all books in English from the library shelves, I do wonder? And replace them with books in Cornish? This will save space also, I believe.) Mais Non. They intend to encourage their staff to answer the phones in Cornish. Wonderful. A great move towards understanding all round.
However... for my silly self... I do neither speak nor understand Cornish and may have to move to Oxford and encourage council staff to greet me in Latin...

Monday, 2 November 2015

Autumn: The Robin Sings

I go up into the bedroom where the window is open to the autumn sun and hear the sound of a robin singing its soft autumn song in the hedge nearby.
I spot something on my chair. A tiny pile of bird .... waste. It do appear that the robin may have popped in for a call before he popped out again to sing so sweetly in the hedge.
Robins. Cheeky little beggars.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Wonders Of Halloween

All alone on the beach it was.....
Where had it come from? What had it seen? Had it bobbed alone on the waves to end up here.... on the tide-flattened sand?



Meanwhile, over on Syb & Me .... Mrs D is being traumatised by her dead mother.


Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Old Man Eats Crumpets

The other day I do practise making crumpets. Because... I like crumpets. The Old Man did have points of criticism to make of course, but did eat quite a few. Next day he plomps a few more on his plate whilst still passing comments on their consistency, structure, and so on.
"Well, warm them up!" I say in outrage, "They be all cold and flabby."
At which point The Old Man do look at his crumpet, pause, huff on it like he be polishing the silver and do stuff it into his mouth.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Old Man's Hair Do Grow Long

 The Old Man do not like getting his hair cut. He complains that he cannot find anyone to cut it well more than once. (Pause for thought.) His favourite cutting man did give it all up in favour of martial arts and I can understand how this could come about.

When ... the other day... The Old Man is at the local farm shop, our abrasive host asked him if he is going to get his "winter" haircut any time soon. This do annoy The Old Man who recounted our friendly farmer's remark when he came home. I did suggest he might like to tie his locks in a bow a la Yorkshire Terrier ... for the purpose of shopping trips.

Such are the thought processes of The Old Man, he do seem to think this a good idea.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Thrillers - Talking To Dead People

So it's not just Mrs D that sits and chats with dead people (see previous post)...
The Old Man very obligingly joined me in watching the first episode of "River" on BBC ONE this week. (13th October).. in which DI John River, played (.... a bit inexplicably...) by the very excellent Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard, chats to murder victims much to the alarm of his colleagues. Hang on, in some ways this sounds like a plausible plot for a slightly cheesy American cop show, but let me tell you they did this first episode really well.Original, convincingly uneasy, emotive and nicely photographed/filmed. If this continues I shall most certainly be watching the whole six episodes. (BBC do not let me down.) And... The Old Man survived this episode even though I thought he would be challenged... not by the concept... but by knowing when he was seeing "dead" people. It's complicated... but The Old Man doesn't always understand certain transitions and his hopeless-facial-recognition thing don't help.

Tonight there will be more dead people taking to live people on the telly. I look forward eagerly to sitting in front of the second series of French "undead" drama: The Returned on More Four (Fri 16th Oct) at 9 pm. The Old Man is more unsure of this one but I was hooked by the first series... dead child victims of a coach crash, one by one return to their families in a French Alpine village... followed by other people who died some years earlier. Far from being a horror-fest, the series explored the psychological impact of their return... but eventually, of course, things got a bit spookier. It's taken some time for The Returned to "Return" but now it has. Good.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Mrs D And Me

It's very hard when a Doll has to review her career future. I wanted a taste of being a film star, a life in films... And Mrs D was supposed to give me that. Then The Old Man muscled in. Never one to dodge the limelight, that one. And now here I am... a would-be film star of a certain age. You know that there are no decent parts written for older women, don't you. OK, so I have lost my head and hands occasionally and things don't bend the way they should. (Mrs D is a slave-driver when it come to animating... a cruel and brutal director I must tell you.) I suppose I have to accept the fact that Mrs D is spending a lot of time elsewhere ... on a new project... a new website... a new life... Well, hardly.
It's all right for some.

Mrs D claims to be "devoting this new space to animating" ... but I have taken a quick look and I don't see much filming going on. I'm not bitter. If Madam prefers playing with plasticine at the moment I suspect it is probably a reversion to childhood. You will find her (frankly weird) site at "Syb & Me" .... and if you pop over there now, you will also find that she is bickering with her dead mother over a cup of tea. How long can this go on?

Look on the bright side... I know you will.... Me and The Old Man are still here. That will be a great comfort to you I am sure.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Henning Mankell: 1948-2015

I am a determined fan of crime fiction.... of crime fiction in translation and... of course... of Scandinavian crime fiction. It is therefore a great sadness that Henning Mankell, creator of Swedish detective Kurt Wallander, has died at the age of 67.

Mankell, the reluctant crime writer, was my introduction to Scandinavian crime fiction. (Although to be strictly accurate, the first Nordic crime story I read... and it did knock me off my feet... was MISS SMILLA'S FEELING FOR SNOW by Danish writer Peter Hoeg. But Hoeg is not a crime writer, his books roam across a range of potential fiction genres.)

Mankell also wrote a wide range of books (fiction, plays, children's books) and stated that he only turned to crime so to speak as a means of writing about social issues. And I think this makes him one of the formative Scandinavian crime writers.... a school of crime fiction often marked by its strong roots in social and psychological issues rather than guns, shootin' and cliff-hanging suspense. Though, come to think of it, many Scandinavian crime writers do manage  the guns and suspense bit to good effect.

Henning Mankell gave me the luxury of a consistent series to follow and be rarely disappointed with when I discovered his books featuring a determined, middle-aged, policeman with less than winning ways.... Kurt Wallander. And not just me, judging by the evergreen success of the several film and television series based on a combination of this character and Mankell's plots. Wallander entered the heart of so many readers that quite a few found the final book of the series THE TROUBLED MAN hard to take.

I was writing a review of a "Wallander" novella, AN EVENT IN AUTUMN (Vintage, 2015), when the news broke that Mankell had died. Originally written for Dutch publication in 2004, the English translation has only just been published in paperback (hardback - last year). In it Mankell gives us a late-middle-aged Wallander, tired, looking back on his career but looking forward in his life... a house in the country and the company of a dog.... Of course the house he is thinking of buying turns out to have a surprise buried in the garden, a bony surprise. And so Wallander has another case to investigate. It's a short book but a beautifully written one and it comes with a final chapter in the form of an essay by Mankell on how Kurt Wallander came to be and his relationship with the character. For those left bereft by the loss of Kurt (with THE TROUBLED MAN) and of course by the death of Henning Mankell himself, I really recommend you search out this last short novella for a gentler good-bye.
You can read my full review of AN EVENT IN AUTUMN on the Euro Crime blog here.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Grey Doll's Criminal Reading Takes Her To Miloszewski's Warsaw

I won three crime novels a while back .... and the first one I chose to read was "Entanglement" by Polish writer Zygmunt Miloszewski. [Bitter Lemon Press, 2010]. Nice timing for me because, according to Bitter Lemon Press, BBC Radio Four is broadcasting a two-part dramatisation of the book - at 3pm on Sundays October 11 and 18th - as part of its "Reading Europe" season. There should also be a BBC Radio 4's "Front Row" interview with its author, former journalist and editor Miloszewski, at 7.15pm on October 9th.

"Entanglement" is Miloszewski's first crime novel featuring State Prosecutor Teodor Szacki and is set in Warsaw in 2005, during the political reign of the Kaczyński twins. It opens with the discovery of a body (naturally). The body is that of printing-business manager Henryk Telak, a participant in a tough, weekend-long, role-playing, psychotherapy workshop taking place in the rented rooms of a Warsaw monastery. The dead Henryk is found on the floor of one of these rooms with a skewer in his eye ... and the case lands on the desk of be-suited, prematurely white-haired, Prosecutor Szacki who, roused from his Sunday-morning bed by his seven-year old daughter, gives a bleary-eyed wave to his equally bleary-eyed wife in her faded "Disco Fun" t-shirt and makes his way to the crime scene. Szacki wonders how to play the interviews with the workshop participants. The Lieutenant Columbo method, let them stew? But he tells Police Inspector Oleg Kuzniecow to interview them now – as witnesses – careful questions, take good notes, soften them up for Szacki to get back to them a few times. Kuzniecow  bristles at the precise instructions but agrees to meet for coffee next morning to summarise progress and to work out a strategy. You're buying, says Kuzniecow. Can't afford to, replies Szacki....


The book that follows is in some ways a conventional police procedural in which Szacki is partnered by the ironically (we hope) savage police detective Oleg Kuzniecow as they interview workshop-participants, therapist, witnesses and other interested parties. But alongside this structured plot Miloszewski gives us subtle reminders of the changes undergone by Polish society during the late twentieth century and paints a detailed evocation of Warsaw's streets and buildings(Us non-Polish readers must chose whether to master a mental pronunciation act or blast through the names and places with reckless speed in this smooth and convincing translation by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.) The plot deepens as clues lead back to another murder whilst Szacki's frustrations at marking time in his career and marriage push him towards the distractions of a young, attractive journalist.
Miloszewski creates his characters with an objective yet empathic eye and I love his dialogue. With psychotherapy, suspense, wit and the tensions of Poland's political history...  this is a book I greatly enjoyed.

I shall definitely be putting the second in the Prosecutor Szacki series - "A Grain of Truth" - on my Christmas List ... ready for The Old Man's wallet.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Four Wheels On Our Wagon ...

...as we have another car and have been lurching around the autumnal lanes of Cornwall whilst The Old Man do get used to driving petrol again after years of diesel. It will get better we tell ourselves ... as he do make the umpteenth attempt to get out of our impossible parking space in this new wagon... or do try the key in the door and set off the alarm.
All this is good timing... for next week we do sample the heady delights of Penzance for a live broadcast of "The Marriage of Figaro" at the cinema and I do not believe the local buses would be obliging enough to be operating still by the time we emerge, definitely staggering, from the performance.
But the week have taken its toll ... and we stare at another barrage of medical appointments amidst our nervous and financial exhaustion. All together now....
"It will get better."

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Disaster Strikes Our Mobility

What can I say? The car goes in for an MOT. Gets through the physical check... and when they roll it onto the emissions detector set-up... the back wheels fall off.
I mean... anyone would think the car had been made by Mrs D.

We have to buy another second-hand car toot suite! (Parp! Parp!)

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Hard-Boiled Nightfall

A darkening room and the sound of two shots cracking out. In the blaze of light I see the stooped figure of The Old Man. He have flexed his knees, stood up and turned the light on. Supper time.
Watching "Beck" later.
Naturally.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Discussing St Ives

A friend says how much she would like to visit St. Ives... although she knows I don't like it much. I do explain again the changes it is undergoing in the building rush, etc., etc. She do look at me and say:
"But I thought the light is supposed to be so special in St Ives."

I explain that this is not a property of St. Ives per se. West Cornwall is a narrow peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean and as such is surrounded by sea... it is this that effects the quality of the light in the region.

Later... an image.... "The Myth of The Serotisation of The Light of St. Ives" do conjure up before my eyes.


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Hard-boiled Foraging: Doll-Style

Pick your sloes. Wash them, stab them with a needle... several times. Pack them in a jar. Pour some sugar on them. Drown them in gin. Let them "stew" so to speak, for quite some time.
Then come Christmas... throw the sloes away and drink the gin.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Scandi-Crime Saturdays Are Back On BBC Four

Starting last Saturday (12th September) ... I am sitting back in me telly chair for a Scandinavian crime drama slot on BBC Four... the Swedish series "Beck". I can't work out from their schedule if we have only two feature-length episodes ... so maybe next Saturday is the last of these already.
"Beck" is drawn from the books of the pioneers of Swedish crime writing as we think of it - the duo Per Wahloo and Mai Sjowall who established their detective Martin Beck back in the 1960s and 1970s.

It has also been announced that we are getting a second series of "Arne Dahl", the Swedish telly series centred on the A-Unit or Intercrime police unit created by Swedish crime writer Arne Dahl. I shall look forward to these as well although, having just finished reading Dahl's "To The Top Of The Mountain", I want to emphasise that the books are definitely worth reading even if you have seen the telly series. Dahl's writing has a depth to the characters and a wry style that is greater than Series One of the telly version would have us believe, enjoyable though that version is.

There is also supposed to be a return of "The Bridge" with Season 3 minus Kim Bodnia, co-star of the first two series.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Nights Out in West Cornwall


Last night I went to Manderley... and did thoroughly enjoy Emma Rice's production of "Rebecca" at the Hall for Cornwall. The Kneehigh approach, working well, makes for a wonderful ensemble piece - and so it was. I admit that you might be lost if you have never read the book or seen the classic 1940 Olivier/Joan Fontaine film of same name. With this dramatic but quite rollicking production there is music, lights, flashes, booms, spirited dancing (Aah! The wonderful Katy Owen as houseboy Robert... I did love her... as did the whole audience, I think.) and a puppet dog. No. I said "puppet" not "puppy". I was not so sure about Emma Rice's final vision of the post-traumatic heroine, the ever nameless second Mrs De Winter, though. The set - an already partially ruined Manderley which embraces both boat and cove - worked well. The Old Man do ask why it was part-ruined already. And I was a bit puzzled... but decided to meself that in some ways the book/work is a recounting of memories... so a ruin is OK. Lord knows what the set designer thought... but contemplating what one has seen is about pondering what is/was communicated as much as having a good time. And I did have a good time. It be all good stuff. Give it a go if you can. It's still touring the country until Dec 5th.

So what's next for us furious gadabouts (more furious than gadding) confine to West Cornwall? Ah! That be a touch of the live relay opera again at our local cinema. Soon... early October... "Marriage of Figaro" from the Royal Opera House. Jolly good!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

The Old Man As A Dog...

Today we have walked about on Long Rock beach... which is full of activity. People jog, run and cycle along the path and the air above the waves be full of surfing kites and waves be covered in  kite-surfers and wind-surfers. The tide is out, the sand is firm and so above all the place is full of dogs... running, ball-catching, meeting each other, trotting, jumping the waves... it looks like Lowry on sea out there.
So of course I ogle dogs. Part of me is a frustrated dog owner but the other part is the irresponsible flibbertigibbet that can fantasize about owning one... without taking the little critter for a walk or in any way looking after it. My latest passion has been a French Bull dog... and these must be "the thing" cos I saw two more on the beach today.

But it is all academic cos The Old Man be not keen. And the reason is, I do believe, that he be a dog himself. All the signs are there. The rushing to the door when someone knocks... followed by frequent growling and snapping if it is a stranger... and possibly over enthusiastic greeting if it be friend. Frequent requests for walks and an overwhelming interest in food do complete the picture... and the rushing out into the garden when he do spot a cat. So you see... there can be no competition indoors.

We come home. I bake a cake. And we indulge in an Incredible String Band fest.
Old curmudgeons... we try to make life sweeter.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Old Man Glues His Ear To The Radio... The Corbyn Result

It's all go in the household this morning... baking bread, eating breakfast, washing up... but The Old Man is out of the house like greased lightning ... beetling off to get his paper so that he can rush back to hear The Result. He has to know if Corbyn will be the Labour leader or not.
And we do wonder if he is leader... how long he will survive as such. The knives have been sharpening all along... and they are rasping on the grindstone at hectic speed even now.
Ho-ho-ho. The joy of political discipline and good will.

Result: Jeremy Corbyn wins.
Tom Watson is Deputy Leader.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The Doll Is Pointed Towards Michael Leunig.

The Doll was introduced to the work of  Australian artist and cartoonist Michael Leunig the other day. Although he do seem to have attracted a bit of flak recently with his "anti-Vax" (vaccination) cartoons.



Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Doll In Love - An Awful Lot Of Grey

It happened one afternoon. I saw him in the car park. He was short, muscular and dark. I looked at him. He looked at me. He stuck out his tongue and panted... and I was his and only his....

Where are you now, mon amour?

By fenway.faith (Own work) [<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>], <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AStella_Brindle_French_Bulldog.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>
French Bulldog by fenway.faith
 CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 29 August 2015

The Doll Is Still Ranting: Stop Privatisation At The National Gallery

While I am in protesting mood... how about joining me in signing the petition against privatising 400 of the 600 staff at the National Gallery? Some 200 staff members have been on strike on and off over this issue since February 2015 and since August the strike has become indefinite. The petition is due to be handed in to the new Director, Dr Finaldi, and Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey next week on Thursday 3rd Sept 2015. So hurry up and sign now!

Do you want a private security firm to manage the gallery's security and interaction with the public? ("There is no leaflet here for you. Step back and move along please.") The argument is:

  • that the NG needs to be more flexible with its opening hours and with "out of hours events" in order to get more money ..er.. "funding". (I suppose it must reckon that it's current employees and systems aren't sufficiently adaptable for such a task.) 
  • The NG assures us that there "will be no redundancies". The effected staff will transfer to the new provider and maintain their existing contracts and service conditions. 

Explain the logic of these two ideas side-by-side? How does that work?  Why can't they just say..."We can't afford to employ these people so we will pay someone else to do so."

I dislike the idea of workers being forced to change employer and contracts in order to keep their jobs. And I get fed up with treating information providers as interchangeable units. "Sorry, don't know any more than what's on the leaflet.. I was based over at Imperial War Museum until yesterday."  I am also tired of the idea that an outside firm naturally provides better service than in-house employees. It seems to me that when this idea fails... and it does... outside service providers are all too often NOT held accountable for irresponsible actions or shoddy service - be it in border security, prisons, health care, hospital catering, cleaning or wherever. They get handed another service to run instead.
It is beginning to seem to me that keeping services "public" in "public" institutions is the only way to keep the providers of these services accountable. Privatisation, or should I say "outsourcing", doesn't appear to provide accountability. But who cares about accountability when money is to be made or saved?
Sign the petition!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Doll's Dander Is Up And She Do Agree: "Save Treloyhan Woods"

I have posted before about the pace of development in St Ives in Cornwall.... yes it may be nostalgia... but I really do think this is now beyond fond memories of the past.
I don't often write a post like this.... but an area close to my teenage-years heart is about to get the natural stuffing knocked out of it.
So I ask you to watch this film and consider contributing to the GoFundMe:Treloyhan Appeal against Cornwall Council's planning approval for 16 houses to be built in the wooded grounds of Treloyhan Manor owned by Methodist Guild Holidays Ltd. These woods form an important "green corridor" for St Ives/Carbis Bay and a stopping place and breeding ground for nationally rare bird species.
The campaign has launched a judicial appeal .... which costs money.


Saturday, 22 August 2015

Animated Goings On: Mrs D Gets Personal With "Our Mothers"

I can't get much help out of Mrs D these days.... she keeps playing with plasticine.
This is her latest "work". Don't blink or you'll miss it.... and clearly she hasn't mastered the art of focus yet.


Our Mothers from Mrs D on Vimeo.

Mrs D says that this is about ...."The realisation that... I am my mother."
The animation and sound is all hers (sigh) with some "sound advice" from The Old Man, of course.
The music is "Baltic Levity" by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Criminal Viewing: "Witnesses" and "Ripper Street"

Alors! I am enjoying the exceedingly mysterious and dark French crime drama "Witnesses" currently showing in the UK on Channel 4.
We are in a coastal town in Northern France (pas de Paris) and someone is digging up freshly buried corpses and tableau-ing them in estate show houses. Is this a developers' macabre tiff? Or some act of revenge on the limping, cane-toting but appropriately named former detective - Paul Maisonneuve?  And... there is the reappearance of a serial killer who clearly has seen one too many Batman films judging by his killing maquillage. With chalk cliffs and sea mists... a chain-smoking female detective avec un peu de difficulté with her spouse... it is all very Gallic I do say. And I do enjoy it.

Not so The Old Man, I fear. He is nervous of French crime dramas, will not stay in the same room as "Spiral", so whilst he do keep me company watching "Witnesses"... he is getting grumpy. For I have made the mistake of pointing out that the actor who plays Paul Maisonneuve is known for comedy roles and had in fact played the French "Doc Martin" in their version of the Martin Clunes' series. The Old Man now complains to me that the actor is not very funny. I roll my eyes.
The Old Man have also complained that a scene on a ferry be shrouded in mist one minute and not... the next. I roll my eyes again and point out that he... who do live on the western tip of Cornwall... where nowhere is more than eight miles from the sea... should understand better the nature of sea mist. There one minute, gone the next... back again when it feels like it.... Alors... c'est le brouillard de mer, n'est pas?

Anyhoo. For sure The Old Man do not stay in the room whilst I do enjoy the return to terrestrial telly of "Ripper Street"... my steam-punk, fave of an almost-over-the-top Victorian crime series. Oh them baddies be so bad. I did bewail the BBC mad decision to axe it in a previous post but Amazon Prime did step in with filming and streaming and now BBC is showing the new series on terrestrial telly. Hope they paid a nice amount for it... and hope it remains a success with more to come.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Concert-Going : The IMS Prussia Cove Season

And another musical outing be coming up. The September chamber music concerts from the International Musicians Seminar.
Got to book some tickets soon. The concerts take place 11th to 27th September and are pretty local to us. No way of knowing yet what they will be playing but we look forward.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

The Old Man Has That Hi-Fi Gleam In His Eye...

There has been much heaving around of the Hi-Fi furniture this afternoon as The Old Man determines that he do need a new amp. But the amp he be offered will not fit the current shelving arrangement... So he do need new shelving....

I tell you, hi-fi requirements be mighty similar to that old ditty, "I knew an old woman who swallowed a fly...", if you know what I mean.

I expect to be moving house shortly to accommodate the whole paraphernalia what do result from purchasing "a new amp".

Monday, 3 August 2015

Coming to Cornwall soon: Kneehigh Theatre's "Rebecca"

It's time for me to book tickets for an outing to the Theayter.
My favourites, Kneehigh, are bringing "Rebecca" to the Hall For Cornwall next month. We shall be there.
Emma Rice, who has adapted and directed for Kneehigh since time immemorial, be moving on to take up the role of artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe in London next year. This is her version of Du Maurier's classic. I be ever so pleased for the chance to see it because sadly we do find Kneehigh's current summer venue (Heligan) for their lovely, tented Asylum project be a step too far for us old uns of an evening. We can just about manage Truro though. And so we shall.





Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca - adapted and directed by Emma Rice - a new production by Kneehigh Theatre | Kneehigh

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Grey Doll Boosts Her Criminal Reading via Bitter Lemon Press

Well, I don't usually win competitions but last week I do. Hurray.
I like to read crime fiction from foreign lands (as you may know) and in order to keep an eye on new releases I subscribe to a newsletter from Bitter Lemon Press... an independent publisher which specialises in translated crime fiction and "roman noir" titles.
I entered a quick competition in the last newsletter .... and did win three books of my choice! Thank you, Bitter Lemon Press.



I've picked Entanglement by Polish crime writer Zygmunt Miloszewski (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)... his first book (I think) in his crime series featuring State Prosecutor Teodor Szacki.

Hotel Bosphorus, (translated by Ruth Whitehouse) and first in Turkish writer Esmahan Aykol's "Kati Hirschel" mystery novels.

And... Nights of Awe by Finnish writer Harri Nykanen .... the first of his Inspector Ariel Kafka books. (Translated by Kristian London.)

Did you see what I just did there? I take my crime fiction addiction very seriously. If it is a series, I like to start at the beginning. Then I know there's plenty more to come, if it's for me. I'll let you know how I get on with them. But for sure, if you like crime in translation... take a dip in Bitter Lemon Press's catalogue.... it's a tempting box of chocolates for crime fans like I.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Jumping Pink Grasshoppers

Chorthippus parallelus (pink form)
Wildlife is being a bit wild at the moment. At the time I was hosting a fledgling sparrow in the bathroom.... I spotted a pink grasshopper on the granite hedge of the garden. See?

Apparently these are a variation of the Meadow Grasshopper. Though first I wondered if it had some kind of "chameleon" quality because it did blend so well with the pinkish leaves and stems of the surrounding campanula.
Maybe it just knew where to be.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Guest In The Bathroom - Part 2

... All Monday my guest chirps in the bathroom. The weather is full-on Cornish mist but I keep the window wide open (for the parent and the fledgling) whilst worrying about pneumonia in fledglings and such like. I can see that my guest is being fed - a very small clump of bird-feeder seed and several legs that were once attached to a Harvestman litter the box. The guest itself is on the floor again. I put it back in the windowsill box and close the access door to the loft.

But my guest is a magician. After an hour or two, I take a look... I can see no birdie but there is chirping coming from the loft. Heaving a sigh, we remove the access door again. There is a flurry of wings but nothing to be seen in the gloom. Perhaps the adult is coming to feed its chick by the roof space? Hearing loud chirps later in the day, I go into the bathroom again. No baby bird to be seen, not on the floor, not in the box. I look up at the loft hatch and there.... is a gapey yellow beak pointing at me from the dark of the roof space. Chirp.
How did you get up there? Or... are you a fledging sibling? I give up and mop up some of the bird poop and harvestman legs.
As it grows dark I go up to close the window. All is quiet. No birdie to be seen. I guess it is sleeping wherever it is. Tuesday morning - all is the same. No chirps. No bird. Peace and quiet. A sense of "Gone".
I close the loft access and wonder at this last conjuring trick.
Then I mop up and gratefully run a bath.
Bye-Bye Birdie and good luck.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The Guest In The Bathroom

It is the second day since our guest took up residence in the bathroom.

We have had fledgling problems in the past and on Saturday morning... there are chirps behind the bathroom wall where chirps should not be heard. During the course of the day these chirps move upwards and grow louder. On Sunday morning I remove the ceiling trapdoor and cautiously stick my head through the access hole. I can see a yellow, gapey beak pointing at me in the gloom. I slowly lower myself back to the floor, open the window wide... and leave, closing the door behind me. Later in the day, I am indeed cheered by the sight of an adult sparrow flying out of the bathroom window. But the chirping goes on and grows louder. The Old Man thinks the bird is now in the bathroom itself. The day grows dark. I open the door. The fledgling is on the floor, next to the bath. I close the window against the dark (surely Parent Sparrow have gone to bed now?), collect my night dress... and leave.

All night long I suffer guilt about small sparrow in the cold, dark, bathroom corner. I feel sure he have died of cold and hunger. So this morning, as dawn strikes, I am relieved to hear the chirps start up again. I creep into the bathroom. Very small sparrow is in another corner... delicate spatters of poop are growing in number. I open the window wide, creep out again, closing the door and returning to my bed. The next time I look, on my way to breakfast, the baby bird (it has all its feathers but is still very yellow round the beak-corners) is in yet another corner of the room. And I realise that there is nowhere for it to drop down into flight. Flying will mean lift-off from the floor. Doubt if it can manage that. And does the Parent still come to it? A flurry of shocked wings behind me tells me that it does.

The Old Man comes up with a temporary solution. He finds his polystyrene propagating tray with its sawn-off end (don't ask... can't remember why). I put it onto the bathroom's deep windowsill, with a towel covering part of the unsawn-off end (shelter). Next I pick up the outraged fledgling and pop it into its new "nesting box", on the sill and by the open window. I sigh, gather my toothpaste and brush and leave the room again.

It be chirping loudly as I write. But I do wonder when I get a wash.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Animated Goings On: Mrs D's Hair

I have a dreadful feeling that Mrs D will be having some kind of discussion with her Long-Dead Mother soon ..... About hair.

Mrs D's Long-Dead Mother will have views.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Boxed Set Time: Fortitude

The Old Man and I have just worked our way through the boxed DVD set of "Fortitude: Series 1". (Series 2 is due out in 2016)...

This £25 million budget chiller looked right up my Nordic-Fandom street... Set in the Arctic; murder and mayhem in an isolated town; greed, hints of skulduggery and plenty of gore; big name actors and actresses. What's not to like?
Ah-Hem. Let me just say that viewing the entire series took all of me and The Old Man's ... fortitude. I don't mind stretching the boundaries of my imagination, psycho-chill..and sci-fi tolerance but the final episodes broke us. And set me back greatly in my attempts to build up The Old Man's tolerance of crime thrillers. The bad science enraged The Old Man... and the script and editing enraged me. Oh Dear! I couldn't agree more with poor old (Stanley Tucci's) DCI Morton when he do say towards the end ....
"I hate this place."