Saturday, 23 December 2017

Peace And Comfort And So Forth

I have been pretty hopeless at posting recently. Nevertheless I and The Old Man do send out our warm wishes for this midwinter. And, of course, wishes for Peace.

The time has come for me to stop trying to keep up with hoped for high standards of cleanliness, decor, good food and ultimate Christmassy stuff and wish you all ... good will.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Animated Discussions: Wolf Children by Mamoru Hosoda

I am not so much of a wolf ... as I am a rabbit. But you know that I love my cartoons and that I love Japanese cartoons particularly.
Yesterday I watched "Wolf Children"Mamoru Hosoda's 2012 film release, very reminiscent of the Ghibli tradition of fantasy family tales for all ages.

Its story is about student Hana who falls in love with a mysterious young man she sees at her college lectures. But his dark secret is that he is a werewolf, a race long thought to have died out in Japan. Their love affair continues and he and Hana go on to have two young children: a girl, Yuki (Snow), and a boy, Ame (Rain). Fate forces Hana to lose her lover and soon the intrusions of modern urban life prove too much for Hana and her tiny human-wolf children. Hana moves to a rural community and the film follows the family as the children grow towards adulthood. How can Hana raise them as a human on her own? And how will they live? As wolves or humans?

I enjoyed the film very much but somehow it missed something that I find in the Ghibli classics. It's not so much the visuals, I think, as in the story-telling. Ghibli or rather Miyazaki's characters can be subtly drawn in terms of ambiguity or gender "type". In Hosoda's film it seems that boys are expected to be "tough" wolves and girls to be more human "tender" and perhaps woe betide if they do not conform that easily. Mmmnn! (She do say stroking her old-lady chin thoughtfully.) But it's a great story which involved me and The Old Man easily on a wintry evening.

And I wouldn't mind getting hold of a copy of the the next Hosoda: "The Boy And The Beast".

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Kneehigh Theatre's "The Tin Drum"

At last! Another night out  and a chance to see one of my favourite "local" theatre companies.

Kneehigh Theatre are touring their production of "The Tin Drum" (based on the Gunther Grass novel) and are bringing it to the Hall for Cornwall: November 21st-25th. Written by Carl Grose with music by Charles Hazlewood and directed by Mike Shepherd - they describe it as "a folktale for troubled times: one political, profane and profound" ... and an "extraordinary story of love, war and fizz powder".

Well that sounds like my cup of tea, don't it. So... tickets booked and seeing it soon.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Mrs D Finishes Inktober

So Mrs D has worn her fingers to the bone in fulfilling her Inktober challenge of a themed drawing a day for each day of October. She is covered in ink and her room is full of screwed up paper.

She tells me that she enjoyed it very much and has come to understand her drawing a bit better: don't work on it too hard... she do say ... because all of the life drains out of it; working from photos is fine providing she doesn't slip into previous pitfall - and she do love her fountain pen (Lamy Safari with fine nib).

She is pleased as punch and quite unbearable about having mastered (well ... not quite) posting her drawings on to her blog via her new and unfamiliar smart phone. (Yawn, yawn.)

You can see all 31 drawings over at Syb&Me. Go and find them and give an old lady some pleasure in her declining years.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Short Trip - Alexander Perrin

Well me and The Old Man are off on yet another short trip.

So let me point you to Australian technical artist Alexander Perrin's  interactive illustration "Short Trip".

There you can while away your time, idly traveling a graphite, cat-populated train journey via your keyboard's arrows and spacer key. With its peaceful soundtrack I find the journey reminiscent of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. Or perhaps that's just me because I am a little obsessed with Miyazaki.

Warning: not an experience for gamers perhaps.

With thanks to Brian D Butler's blog "Travel Between The Pages".

Monday, 2 October 2017

Inktober Postscript

Well what do you know! Mrs D has decided to do this challenge of an ink drawing a day and is posting the inky results over on Syb & Me.

Go see 'em there...

I'm off on holiday again soon anyway.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Inktober 2017

Thinking about doing this. (Having found out about it on WordPress.)
But "think" must be "do".

The Inktober challenge is to make an ink drawing each day of October, posting each one (wherever) with the hashtag Inktober.

You'll find details of Inktober over at Jake Parker's Inktober page ... including its official prompt list of kick-start themes for a drawing.

Today's prompt is "SWIFT" - which I am not - as you can see.
Tomorrow's (Oct 2nd) is "DIVIDED" which I frequently am.

Now let me reach for that pen and paper ... Did he say "Swift"?

Friday, 15 September 2017

Back From Holiday

It was an unduly stressful holiday. Not far... just to Dorset. But we do not travel much and are, it do appear, unduly stuck in our ways. This means that a thousand things have to be taken with us in order to maintain routine. For we is aging and apparently do value both our routine and things familiar.

The short of it is - we haven't screamed at each other so much for ever such a long time. Where to go and what to do and which exit to take at the roundabout. Self-catering brings its emotional and digestive costs also. I have never cooked on an Aga before. Slops and toast do seem to be the end result of my attempts ... and baked potatoes. With bad sleep and bad choices of lunch destinations, I have never been so exhausted by a holiday before.

The upshot is ... that both The Old Man and Moi are appalled at the psychological rigidity what do accompany our stiff legs and backs. There is only one thing to do.

Go on holiday again.
And so we shall.
Quite soon.

Electric Palace in Bridport

PS. Things to enjoy in Dorset in September: dragonflies and swallows, terrific coastal scenery, fossicking for fossils and - Bridport with great food at the Soulshine Cafe and for lovers of jazz, rock and collecting vinyl Clocktower Music.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Holidays - Things To Do

It's me again. The Doll. The Old Man and me have decided to get away from it all. Or some of it at least. Not very far. To Dorset it looks like.

We do not travel much. We do not holiday much. When you are a gold-plated pensioner, every day is a holiday. N'est-ce pas? So I am making lists of things not to forget. Because when you are a pensioner one of the things you do best - is to forget.
And we have been shopping. For the things you need on holidays. Sandals for a start. There are bound to be beaches of loveliness in Dorset. I do know there are.
I have already bought one pair of sandals which, after a few hours of pain are to be returned to the shop. Today I bought another pair. This time ... so far so good. The Old Man is inspired to do likewise and buys a very complicated pair of Northwest Territory beach things covered in Velcro straps ... every which way. In fact these are so intricate that the shop assistant is also not too sure which webbed opening to use for foot insertion. But a solution was found and we have returned from shopping and are wiggling our respective toes.

But now I do wonder if I shall be spending silent, wet, holiday afternoons watching the rain dribble down the panes of glass. Silent that is except for the monotonous ripping sounds of The Old Man adjusting and re-adjusting the Velcro webbing on his sandals.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Mrs D Scratches Away With a Pen

Now that Mrs D is trying to draw her animations ... she has realised her drawing skills are somewhat rusty.

Also, she has been infected by an obsession with getting a fountain pen to draw with. See her blog post about just such an obsession.

She hunted high and low in local shops but nothing suitable to be found. So she climbs into the internet and finds a pen site, would you believe, and cheerfully orders a Lamy pen with a fine nib and a converter to fill from bottle ink... and a bottle of ink of course (Diamine ... go and look at all them colours...)

When it all arrives, quickly and accurately with a free packet of Haribos (!!), she scribbles away .... and then ... when she remembers ... she scribbles still.

From a portrait by August Sander

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Streaming Komische Oper Berlin's "The Fair at Sorochintsi" by Moussorgsky

Muggy late summer weather. Out in the garden, hanging me washing, besieged by swallows swoopin' and chatterin'. Why flying so low? Flying ants, that's why, and the birds was swooping in for a meal of fat queen ants on the wing.

But sometimes this weather gives me a right old headache, or the feeling of the start of one. This happened the other weekend and I took to me workroom, feeling sorry for myself, unable to read and nothing on the radio... until I do have a brain wave and try the internet and the Opera Platform.  And I found a piece from the Komische Oper Berlin (same director, Barry Kosky, that brought "The Nose" to Royal Opera House).

Dear friends I spent a pleasant couple of hours, forgetting my headache and lounging around to the streamed pleasure of  Moussorgsky's "The Fair at Sorochintsi" Berlin style: farce, love story, devils and curses, drama, pigs heads and stilt-walkers. And great chorus singing. My kind of opera production.
You can stream it from Opera Platform until 21st October 2017 and I suggest you do.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Animated Goings On: Mrs D Rotoscopes A Clockwork Mouse

Mrs D has been playing around with her beloved with TVPaint animation software.
She says: "My very first rotoscope. A clockwork mouse. Cute ... and another work in progress."

Rotoscoped Mouse from Mrs D on Vimeo.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Animated Discussions: Bitz by James Pollitt

Some of us like a dog.
Some of us would like to animate a dog.
Animator James Pollitt is already doing so with his creation, the whippet Bitz.

I favour the buzz of creating only from what is to hand, which is the challenge which James set himself in creating a critter from a selection of random bits and pieces. Voila - Bitz exists.

James has a kickstarter project going for creating more Bitz.
But meanwhile, for dog - and in particular whippet - lovers everywhere ... just click the arrow and behold the wonders and setbacks of animating Bitz.

BITZ- The whippet made from random stuff... from James Pollitt on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Criminal Reading: Norway, 1969 - Satellite People by Hans Olav Lahlum

Satellite People (K2, #2)Satellite People by Hans Olav Lahlum
Beginning with an enigmatic phone call from a wealthy tycoon wishing to discuss an imminent threat to his life with Oslo homicide detective Inspector Kristiansen (known as K2), Lahlum's crime novel is both tribute to and dedicated to the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie.

Potential victim and detective never keep their Monday appointment as the tycoon is killed during a regular Sunday gathering of family and friends. His killer's identity provides the core conundrum for detecting partners K2 and his young, precociously bright, wheelchair-bound, friend - Patricia. But more people will die before they unearth the killer from amongst the dinner guests.

I try, but have to admit to rarely finding the "constructed" style of detective novel, full of chronological interviews, witness accounts and deductive discussion, a gripping read. So, much as I admire Lahlum's writing from reading his third in the "K2" series The Catalyst Killing a while ago, for this reason alone it took me some time to finish "Satellite People", his second novel in the series.

Lahlum is an excellent writer and this English translation by Kari Dickson works well. I like the way he sets his books retrospectively in the late 1960s and 1970s, a period which can still touch both pre- and postwar Europe (the dead tycoon in this story had been a member of the Norwegian Resistance) and in this way is able to bring a flavour of contemporary Nordic Noir social psychology to his plotting whilst constructing his books as classic, constrained, detective-mysteries.
In his end note, Lahlum pays tribute not only to Christie but to Conan Doyle. I can't help wondering if, given Lahlum's underlying sense of humour, he relishes the fact that Inspector Kristiansen is very much the Dr. Watson to Patricia's "Sherlock".

Believe it or not, despite causing me a slight reading struggle, I really recommend Lahlum's K2 series to fans of classic detective stories.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Opera Nights At The Cinema: Verdi's Otello with Kaufmann

I love Verdi's "Otello" and was not going to miss this week's live broadcast with German tenor Jonas Kaufmann in the lead role. I enjoy both Kaufmann's singing and acting. He has emerged as one of the greats. Although doubtless somebody will disagree.

Verdi's opera is based on Shakespeare's tragedy "Othello" in which a Moorish general (Otello), who serves the Venetians, is maliciously played upon by his aide (Iago) and led to believe that his new, young, Venetian wife (Desdemona) is unfaithful.
Iago is the driver - his jealousy, envy and pathological psychology moving him to ruin and warp everything around him. Othello is the subject, the man played upon, whose passions are worked and driven so that all that follows is tragedy. And Desdemona's constant good faith pushes her relentlessly towards her fate. This drama has always summed up tragedy to me - a collision of people's psychology and the turns of fate which explode into a terrible outcome - and we the audience can see it coming.

Verdi's opera has the drama and psychology of the original play together with beautiful music and a vocally challenging lead role in Otello. Domingo has been one of the great Otellos. I never managed to see him singing it live. But this week I got to see the broadcast of Kaufmann's debut in the role. Of course it seals him into it. I was relieved that he was not "blacked up". (School age trauma caused by my class being taken to see the film of Sir Laurence Olivier's awful performance as Shakespeare's Othello, whom I expected to drop on one knee and sing a rousing chorus of "Mammy" by way of encore.)

This production's sets involve partial walls (they appear as towering, dark, wooden walls or screens) which move around to change the space. As such the set has been described as minimalist. But I don't think it is. I can cope with minimalist. If a production and music is wonderful who needs a box of tricks?  But here it seems as if movements are made sometimes because they can. For instance why does Desdemona appear to rise up from the ground in one scene? As does the Herald announcing the arrival of the Venetian delegation? Throughout, performers have been walking on and off as usual, so why are these two entrances singled out as "magical"? No good dramatic reason that I could see.
And there are glaring additions to the design's "minimalism". A huge statue of the Venetian Lion is hauled on by the visiting delegation and in the final scene it re-appears, "broken". OK, I'm not a fan of heavy symbolism if it is not handled well but poke it into a relatively severe set and it's impact is disproportionate.

Never mind, I bicker ... because I can. The singing and acting of all the main roles is wonderful: Kaufmann (Otello); Maria Agresta (his wife Desdemona) and Marco Vratogna (Iago). It's a moving opera and a moving evening which we both did enjoy very much. And as usual The Old Man particularly looked forward to his interval ice cream.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Animated Goings On - Mrs D's Work In Progress

Mrs D is still sat, for hours a day, drawing her animation...

This is all still part of a work in progress, Mrs D assures me. As is her knowledge of TVPaint. But here's a clip.

I seem to remember those red shoes, flamenco ones from Barcelona. At least they are getting an airing ... and what an airing.

Blown Away from Mrs D on Vimeo.
"Wind" sound effect - by Mark diAngelo.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A Political Propapagandist's View Of My Childhood

Well. The UK Election is done with.
The Conservatives have slipped up and Labour have got their voters in. Onward and upward.

One thing I have noticed ... one thing that has been puzzling me ... is when, exactly, did the word "socialist" become a term of deep abuse in the UK? It may not be your flavour of politics but to some so-called pundits it seems to have become a politics "beyond the pale". Link it to the term Marxist and apparently we should all be running around in circles and checking under the bed for bugaboos.

The recent Labour Party Manifesto kicked this off, talk of getting rid of student loans, perhaps re-nationalising part of the transport grid.. government energy companies and so forth. This... they have been saying... is Marxism.

Did my conservative father realise he was living in a Marxist state during my 1950s childhood, I wonder? As he duly voted for Churchill, Eden, Macmillan? Under whose Conservative governments we continued to enjoy in the main Labour's free schooling, free healthcare, public transport, government owned utility companies? The post-war consensus?

We obviously did not see that these apparent pillars of Conservative Government were being manipulated by Uncle Joe from behind Winnie's "Iron Curtain".

I wonder ... how did my family escape the gulags? What with all those Ladies Nights down at the Lodge? Surely that was punishable under a Marxist regime?
Perhaps I was too traumatised and mistook the gulags for the leafy suburbs of Kent.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Mrs D's Current Obsession ... with Animating

Night and day Mrs D sits at her desk: monitor on; pc on; graphics tablet all lit up and nibs for the stylus worn down to stumps and strewn about the place.

What is she animating? Your guess is as good as mine ... or hers. You can see her Mood Board over at Pinterest. There certainly seems to be a lot of stuff flying about.

Will she succeed in making a short cartoon? Alors! Me and Chunky the dog don't know. But here are a few frames for you to wonder about.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Grey Doll Will Be Watching ... The Handmaid's Tale

Without a doubt  I shall sit myself down for the new TV serial based on Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" -  Episode 1 of which is due to be aired UK telly on Sunday evening (28th May 2017) - Channel 4 at 9pm.

Margaret Atwood  is a great writer, I genuinely think so. I read The Handmaid's Tale and think it is one of the most chilling pieces of speculative fiction, alternative histories whatever you like to call it - since Orwell's 1984. Was that a lazy comparison? Possibly. But I am old, hot, tired and want to get back to drawing. Incidentally, this also means that I am old enough to remember the mindset of things before late twentieth-century feminism reared it's "nasty", "castrating" Medusa head ... and I am referencing just such a mindset here.
Finally and a propos watching the new serial, I just plain want to see what they have made of the book.

I give you a link to Atwood's own article (published in the New York Times earlier this year) on her writing of the novel and her thoughts about it.

Read Atwood, Yeah!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Current State Of Obsessions

We are a household filled with obsessions. Aren't you? For me, Bike Girl, it's fantasising a life on the road with my bike and my dog. Have you met my dog?
 Mrs D "arranged" him for me. I'd thought I'd like one of those rangy Lurcher guys. But I think some Chow Chow got in to Dog's mix by the look of him. Whatever, he is a good-natured old boy.

So what are these current obsessions? Grey Doll still reads crime novels and has just reviewed "Fatal Crossing", a crime debut by Danish journalist turned crime writer Lone Theils for Euro Crime. You can read The Doll's review in this post on the Euro Crime blog.

The Doll's eyes are tired and rectangular from her evening TV-viewing as well. She and The Old Man did give up on multinational crime thriller The Team ... and she is beginning to think that the third series of French dirty-politics and PR-villainies series, Spin, has ... spun. But she is happy to see Hinterland back on the screen. It's a Welsh crime series set in almost total darkness and packed with monosyllabic conversations... except for the Welsh bits. Loves the photography though, does the Doll.
Other viewing she has recently enjoyed includes globe-trotting situation comedy Gap Year. And, Oh, how she misses the weekly slot filled with pillage and war, tattooed Danes, prissy Saxons and the muscular, jaw-clenched Uhtred (nee Osbert) of Bebbenburg in The Last Kingdom.

You may ask about The Old Man's obsessions too. But why ask? Didn't you know that in the UK we have a General Election coming up? Shouting at the telly and radio has gone to maximum decibels in this household. Grey Doll joins in and then Dog starts barking.  Then I have to rev up the bike and dream of faraway hills and open roads.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Artistic Obsessions: Adrian Piqueras Sanchez as an "Animaholic"

Still snacking, dozing and discussing creative obsessions, Mrs D is herself rather preoccupied with the notion of buying a fountain pen (after watching Mattias Adolfsson's video about pens).
Whilst considering creative obsession she fell upon this confession of Madrid-born Adrian Piqueras Sanchez on his own consuming addiction. Mrs D do quote from his website  (original is in Spanish of course but ... here's to the glories or otherwise of Google translate.). 

"The first time a painting came to my hands, I heard a voice in my head that said ... Draw! But since I still could not speak, I ate it. That day I learned 2 things: that it is not food does not mean that it does not feed, and that life can be seen in many ways. Since then I do nothing more than draw everything that goes through my head, creating impossible beings with everything I encounter and encouraging everything that is supposed to be inert. 
And yes ... I do keep hearing voices."

Aaah! Passion! says Mrs D. Oh ... by the way, references to "the dragon" in this film are likely to refer to an addiction to the animation software Dragonframe and not another substance... ahem.

ANIMAHOLIC from Adrian Piqueras Sánchez on Vimeo.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Artistic Obsessions: Mattias Adolfsson on Fountain Pens

Mrs D always says that creative makers/artists need to be obsessive... somewhat. She usually says this whilst lying around with a glass of red and a snack. But I have stumbled across some videos which illustrate this point nicely.

The first comes from Swedish artist Mattias Adolfsson - one time 3D animator and now an "analogue" illustrator. Mrs D follows his blog and enjoys visiting his intricate, fantastic and wittily drawn world on an almost daily basis.

His blog is called Mattias Inks. You can read a Nonsense Society 2013 interview with Mattias .... but above all let him tell you about his obsession with fountain pens himself. Watch the video.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Animated Discussions: Eva Cvijanović and "Seasick"

One of The Doll's previous posts was about Kati Hiekkepelto's "The Exiled" - a crime thriller set in Serbia.

OK, this is a ropy link but I'm continuing the theme of exile with this lovely animation featured by Chris Robinson in his blog "Pictures from the Brainbox: a weekly dose of Indie Animation" on the Animation World Network site.

Canadian resident and "Seasick" creator - Sarajevo-born animator Eva Cvijanović - told Robinson that “Making this film was my way of fighting Canadian winter by immersing myself in memories of swimming in the Adriatic Sea by the Croatian coast.”

... It's a very different view of seasickness ... and a tender, beautifully-made, short film.

You can read an interview with Eva on the Skwigly here.

SEASICK from eva cvijanovic on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Cornish Interlude

First sight of swallows.
The Old Man and me do drive away to eat pasties and drink tea on Goonhilly Downs. Blackthorn is blossoming, foot high willows at the side of the path have bright yellow "pussy willow" catkins, tiny sedges flower. We do walk along and I hear the skylarks - and see one - singing and singing in the sky. Then two swallows dip and scoop over the dry grass, pools and heath. The gorse is so yellow and lush this year and for the first time I do smell it... coconut. Gorse flowers smell of coconut.

The other day... we walk down to the coast at Rinsey. The lane is narrow. Again, blackthorn and bright deep-yellow gorse in the hedges. And with them - the pale yellow-green of flowering alexanders. They look so good together. And the whole lane smells of honey from the alexanders.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Doll's Criminal Reading: Serbia via Finland - Kati Hiekkapelto's "The Exiled"

Finnish writer Kati Hiekkapelto has had all three of her crime novels featuring Serbian-born Finnish Police detective Anna Fekete translated into English and published in the UK. "The Exiled" is her third ... so rather typically of me it's the first that I have laid my hands on and read. So I apologise for any inadvertent series' spoilers I may include in this review.

The Exiled (Anna Fekete)The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto

Finnish police detective Anna has returned to her home village in Serbia for a summer holiday. It's a community she left as a child when her mother emigrated to Finland after the death of Anna's policeman father during the Yugoslav wars.
Basking in the summer heat and waiting for the village celebrations that accompany the annual bloom of mayflies over the river, Anna is caught up in a crime on the first night of her stay when her bag is snatched in the park. The thief's body is found on the river bank the following day. His death is pronounced an accidental drowning but Anna's detective instincts kick in. She becomes obsessed with the scratchiness of the local police investigation and pathologist's findings. And no one seems to know or care what happened to the young Roma girl who was with the thief that night in the park.
Anna's daily life grows increasingly uncomfortable; unable to feel at home, paraded around her father's contemporaries and pressured by her mother to conform to local manners and etiquette. Whilst the village waits for the ephemeral mayflies, Anna is drawn deeper into investigating the thief's death. It is an obsession which also draws her into the past and just as deeply into the mystery of her own father's death.

During my crime-reading travel I have never visited this part of Europe - a Hungarian region of Northern Serbia close to the border of Hungary itself. Its flat plains of wheat and sunflowers, dotted with ancient, neglected farmhouses, parches in the summer heat. In the book it is a region whose borders and way of life has been disrupted by the Balkan wars and now modern conflicts are made evident in the makeshift camps of homeless refugees in the town parks and the growth of nationalism marked by young skinheads prowling the edges of these temporary communities. This is an enthralling thriller which reads well in David Hackston's translation and keeps its realised characters and pace going until the end. I shall be looking forward to reading more of prickly Anna Fekete.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Animated Discussions: Bath House by Niki Lindroth von Bahr

For fans of Nordic Noir ... or "slow film" as in Roy Andersson  ... Bahr's award-winning "Bath House" is a meticulous stop motion film set in a Swedish public swimming bath.
If you think you've had a bad day at work take pity on this shift manager. I think it's funny in a bleak way but then I love the aforementioned Andersson and I adored the Icelandic comedy series set in an all-night garage -The Night Shift.

The film is in Swedish with English subtitles. If you don't get the subtitles, click on the CC button at bottom right on video bar.

Bath House from Niki Lindroth von Bahr on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Greydoll Reads The Women: Angela Carter and Colette

Sleepless nights a month or so back caused me to experiment with short stories as bedtime reading choice. Then too,  I fancied a break from gritty crime and instead to enjoy the company of ... not wolves as such but women.

Spurred on by listening to extracts from a biography of Angela Carter on the radio (The Invention of Angela Carter by Edmund Gordon) I raided my bookshelves and found a copy of her collection The Bloody Chamber and Other StoriesThe Bloody Chamber and Other Stories - re-imagined and retold fairy tales including Bluebeard, Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast and Puss in Boots amongst others. Each is a detailed tale spun from imagination, blood, eroticism, love and identity.  Angela Carter was a writer who loved language so much that her pages spangle and glitter with the relish of it and may not be to your taste if your relish is not equal to Carter's. Verdict: dark and toothy myths from female experience and imagination, rich enough for reading again and again. And if that ain't part of the definition of legend then I don't know what is.

But after this powerful dip into alternatives, I opted for another old favourite from my bookshelf - the French writer  Colette with The Rainy Moon, And Other StoriesThe Rainy Moon, And Other Stories.
This is a collection filled with Colette's sharp observation and description in which, in the main, Colette casts herself as witness to and narrator of stories of love, obsession and relationship all set during the first half of the twentieth century. Her sharp but cool eye is as much a delight as her writing (in this edition translated from the French by Antonia White) and each of these short stories left me with something to think about.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Doll's Insomniac Criminal Reading: Maria Angelica Bosco and Frederic Dard

Pushkin Press have been releasing retro-crime in their Vertigo imprint. Some of the books are new translations of crime classics and some are retro-set as in Martin Holmen's "Clinch".

My first read was "Death Going Down" by Argentinean crime writer Maria Angelica Bosco. My fault was not to notice her billing as the "Argentinian Agatha Christie". I am not an Agatha Christie fan it has to be said.

In postwar Buenos Aires or to be more precise, an apartment block in postwar Buenos Aires... the police set out to find the killer (or was it suicide?) of a beautiful blonde whose body is found in the lift, late one night. (Hence the title - ahem.) A tight cast of expatriate residents, some with shady pasts, provide the gene pool of suspects for the diligent police. The novel reads well in its translation by Lucy Greaves and cannot help but feel authentic and atmospheric as it was written postwar and published in 1954.

I blame my current sleeping pattern for the failure of this book with me - that and my aversion to strict whodunit form - which meant that I just could not get a grip on this set of suspects (the residents of the top floor of the murderous apartment block) whose names swiveled around in my brain as I limped along at a couple of pages per night. But if you are a period whodunit fan you could well love it.

I moved on to top French 1950s crime master Frederic Dard. Another slim book from the Pushkin Vertigo label but this one I devoured in one sitting. "C'est merveilleux, n'est-ce pas?" Another way to ruin your sleeping pattern. But it was worth it.
Below is my Goodreads review. I shall try for more Dard without a doubt.

Crush (Pushkin Vertigo)Crush by Frédéric Dard
Translated from the French by Daniel Seton
Published Pushkin Press in their Vertigo imprint, paperback, October 2016.

A grim industrial new town in 1950s France. Seventeen year old Louise becomes fascinated by a wealthy American couple, the Roolands, whom she spots on her daily walk home from her factory job. In fact it is the car that catches her eye first; a beautiful Dodge, leather seats and chrome. The couple sit on their swing seat in front of their house, casually eating and drinking in a way that no French family would. One day Louise marches up to them and asks for a job as their maid. Nonplussed they explain that they don't need one but eventually they change their minds. Louise insists on becoming a live-in maid and begins to inhabit her dream. As the darker details of their lives emerge nothing warns any of them of what is to come.

Dard narrates this story through the voice of the passionate young Louise, desperate to escape her own poverty and troubled family and to join this apparent haven of comfort and wealth. A wonderfully concise yet gripping thriller, Dard not only lays out a psychological portrait of a troubled marriage but the collision path between such a marriage and Louise's own obsessive needs. It is a collision which leads us to wonder about the possibility of murder and a murderer. Don't blink at the end or you may miss a surprise kick.

I read this book (translated into English by Daniel Seton) in one sitting. Great stuff.

View my Goodreads books

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Wild Works And "Wolf's Child" At Trelowarren This Summer

Just like the Doll and The Old Man, I like a bit of theatre. And I like my theatre a bit off the wall and magical. Cornwall is not overflowing with good theatre spaces and this forces local theatre groups to be more... er ... creative in their performance strategies. So - small venues, temporary venues, unusual venues, the streets themselves...anywhere they can set up and go.

Wild Works is a Cornwall-based theatre group which performs their landscape or site-specific projects all over the world. I don't think I've seen any of their work yet but I found this preview trailer on Cornish Stuff  previewing their "Wolf's Child" which they developed for Felbrigg Estate in Norfolk and which they are due to bring to the Trelowarren Estate near Helston in July 2017.

That's within reach for me so I shall get my waterproofs out and wait with anticipation.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

A New Day - A New Doll

Let me introduce myself ... Grey Doll calls me Bike Girl. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. But those who follow this blog may have seen me before: perhaps on my bike or with my trusty Dog. Often I'll be sharing a bottle of red with The Doll ... like in Mrs D's film "Seating the Guests". Remember that? How could you forget.

So why am I here? Frankly, I told The Doll and The Old Man that if they are reduced to telling the world which flavour of ice cream they last ate... they may as well go to Instagram and get on with it. Besides which, The Doll's foot fell off whilst she was attempting to pose for a photo.

Time for you both to take a break, I said. Let's face it. You are old and tired. Go away and see if you can recuperate. Leave the blog to me for a while. 

So here I am. One hundred percent.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Ice Cool

The Old Man is very fond of ice cream. Any time. Any where. This is what a dear niece marveled at when I told her we had been walking about in the teeth of a gale at a nearby harbour, all the while The Old Man enjoying a huge vanilla ice cream. I let him solo on that one and struggled to work out the identity of a small plump seabird, paddling out past the fishermen's buoys and pausing to wash itself while the waves did rise and the wind did blow. (Manx Shearwater??)

Whatever. So fond of the stuff is The Old Man, he has finally given in and bought an ice cream machine. And so now he experiments. Well, within limits, this is a man who buys vanilla wherever he goes. But the other weekend he did make a very excellent coffee ice-cream, one where you actually heat up the milk with the ground coffee in it before you strain that off and proceed to custard-making stage. It tasted very good but had the bonus effect of keeping The Old Man up all night with eyes on stalks. I shall remember that should I ever need to lash him to the mainmast by way of look-out duty.

I don't think we are getting coffee ice cream this weekend. I expect it will be... vanilla.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Mrs D Cooks Up A Cartoon

Well... what do you know! Mrs D has managed to cook up a cartoon after all. It has only taken her about five months. But people say that the latest thing is "slow-cooking" and Mrs D is the Mistress of Slow.

I should perhaps explain that she has changed technique and is trying out hand-drawn animation instead of traditional stop-motion. As she has no dedicated 2D drawn-animation software, she has tried out a process based on her ancient graphics software program and her stop motion animation software. I could explain how she did it but unfortunately I fell asleep whilst she was explaining it all to me - so I'll spare you the details.

Find the cartoon on her Syb & Me project. It's called "All Change" and involves Syb, Mrs D and a cat. It's very short but it makes The Old Man laugh so press its arrow button and play.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Dream Time: A Woman's Work....

I often dream I am in my home. Except that, although it is familiar, in waking life I have never lived in it. This one is dark, rather old but full of rooms and... for a change... people, although maybe not people I know from waking life.

Anyhoo, I be muddling along quite happily when I do realise that it is almost suppertime and I have not yet started to make the dough for the meal. For some reason... fried onions seem to figure large too. I panic a little but start anyway, confident I will manage somehow. Then I wake up.

Not very profound, is it.
But I wonder... How many men have anxiety dreams about cooking? Do any men have such dreams?

Then maybe also... I do share Mrs D's anxiety that she has left it all too late to cook up some art. She draws and draws her cartoon frames of Syb and Her and Cats even. But there is always something else to draw, or record or edit.

Hmmm. Going to stop pontificating on dreaming life now, shape that dough... and turn it into something.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Happy New Year

Towards the end of 2016 things grew more social for The Old Man et moi.

Now, understand that this doesn't mean gadding about and hob-nobbing at full tilt. No, no. It do mean that occasionally someone crossed our threshold other than ourselves and food and drink was shared and connections made. But even more often it meant that old connections were re-established. And what is most strange is that it seems as if strong bonds made in youth can pick up and conversations continue as if no time has passed and certainly not decades. Such conversations seems less stilted than those between more recent connections. Is that about youth itself do you think?

Alors! If 2017 proves to be an example of "interesting times" I do heartily wish the comfort of of re-connection and reinforced friendship for you all.