Well it was Blackpool week and as per we had pics of overseas professional dancers being forced to eat fish and chips out of a polystyrene carton while standing in the freezing cold and saying that is is better than Sicily....yeh right. OK you might meet up with the Godfather in Sicily but remember that Strictly has Craig...
Judges went bonkers on the marking last night even more so than usual. Ola Jordan has just left the show in a flurry of sequins, or in her case sequin, making nasty remarks saying it is all fixed. Very fond of Ola but do think when leaving a show on the BBC which has kept her and her hubby in fake tan and paid their mortgage for the last ten years, one should leave with a little dignity. I know the Beeb can be a pain in the arse but they are now highly unlikely to ever offer you work again. As it is James has been popping up on the Guardian blog (very amusing I must say) saying he has no work thereby proving my point.
Note: Ola's comments now have a tad more resonance after the results show. See below
Anyway, apart from all this aggro we had the usual over the top reaction to the Tower Ballroom and yes it is great but we know this, you slebs that go there once a year go barmy about it, but us old lags who have been with Strictly from the start know all about it.
Judges went potty about Jay and Aliona's salsa. I thought it was a bit meh myself and Aliona is up to her usual tricks with the choreography that makes her look good and not so much her partner. But all four thought it was FAB - U - LOUS so what do I know?
Anita and Gleb - pasa doble. My vague impression of this is that Anita was fantastic but you have to understand that she was partnered by Gleb who was wearing very little up top except his mustache and I found that rather distracting. Watched it on catch up and this time forced myself to watch her and she was great. Under marked yet again and when this kind of thing happens which it does to certain Slebs each year, one does wonder if Ola is right.
Georgia and Joe Varney aka Giovanni - I am warming to him and now that the prog has ceased trying to make out he is an Italian Stallion, though he may well be for all I know, one can live in hope, he is turning out to be a real sweetie. He and Georgia did a simply gorgeous waltz and I came over all thing.
Katie Sparkly Derham and Anton du Beck - Very Fred and Ginger and suited Anton down to the ground, top hat the lot. Katie, I hate to say this as I loathe her with a loathing which grows by the week (irrational I know) was pretty good though she threw in a wobble or two at the end. Nines all round which sent Anton into paroxysms of joy and incredulity, cue more Katie looking up and twinkling in his face, tossing her head around and being so bloody vivacious. Sorry I must stop...
Jamela and Tristan - I am sorry but she is piss poor. Quickstep messy and loose and lacked any precision at all. Tristan dragging her around. 'Was that good enough to keep her out of the dance off?" asks the Fatuous One ie Tess. No says Craig. Love him.
Peter Andre and Jeanette - jive. Awful. No jive content at all and he was saddled with a pair of hideous trousers that the wardrobe department must have left over from their coverage of the Ryder Cup.
Helen and Aljaz - Charleston. Meh again. This time the production team went mad and we had multiple Helen's at the back a la Busby Barkley. I have always found his numbers a bit creepy and as Helen looks like a mannequin from Selfridge's front window and has the same amount of personality and vitality, this was a serious mistake. So I decided to watch Aljaz all the time instead and felt he should have got four tens.
Kevin and Kellie - nice quickstep routine and she did really well but a 10? And really Strictly Wardrobe give her a decent dress. Some of the stuff she has been lumbered with has been appalling.
Will be watching the Results show in a bit so will post this when over. I do love watching it when I know the result as all people with access to Twitter can find out easy peasy, and watch to see how many times they refer to the show Last Night when we all know that it was filmed at the same time. I know I moan about it each week but really it is getting a bit pathetic now.
And here we go again as well re Tess and her predilection for grabbing, groping and clutching the Slebs as they come off the floor. Anita Rani has perfected the art of getting free pretty quickly, mainly be flinging her arms around Gleb (always a good move) but the others tend to stand there being clutched looking desperate. WHY does she do it?
I know that Claudia follows the Guardian live blog so have asked her to tell her to STOP IT. Not sure that Tess would enjoy reading it somehow.
Off to put supper in oven and then await the results show. Spent most of the afternoon asleep as was with grandchildren last night who wanted to Sleep with Grandma. Should say Grandma got very little Sleep as I was kicked and poked all night and had the duvet yanked off me at regular intervals. Reminded me of the nights I used to sleep with my ex................
Results show - and the proverbial has hit the fan. Jamelia voted out and I, personally, could not get worked up about it as she is a weak dancer and has been in the dance off more times than I have had hot dinners, but at Blackpool she actually did a better dance. Peter Andre who was in the dance off with her was bad and even worse in the dance off and yet three of the judges saved him, Len wanted to save Jamelia. Apparently, the audience were livid and there was a lot of booing going on and they had to re-shoot the result to edit it out. So just as well it was filmed last night, if live, this could not have been shown.
All the forums and blogs are having a go and feel sorry for Peter as I daresay he will be the victim for this and will go out next week. Likely he would anyway, but this makes it worse.
Oh dear oh dear. The words Storm and Teacup come to mind.
Quick round up of the rest of the show, opening dance a total mess, did not know what it was meant to be. Anastasia, who I freely admit I have never heard of, thought she was a member of the Russian royal family, bellowed a song, or rather mimed a bellow and a lot of poncing around in front by assorted dancers. Take That came on later and much though I love them, well Gary anyway, mimed again and more poncing around by assorted dancers. Tess went in for even more clutching as the Slebs tried to manouvre out of the way of her limpet like grip. This has now become a main talking point of the forums so might be a good idea if somebody had a bijou wordette.
I would say watch Strictly It Takes Two for a follow up on this but there never is. They always ignore any complaints or uproar and Rise Above It in true Beeeeeb fashion.
Think Katie Derham, who I was rather hoping would be in the dance off this week, would likely go next week but Peter is defo for the chop now and not really his fault.
And on that philosophical note I am removing my sequinned onesie and putting on my jammies and going to bed.
First on my list is Bill Bryson The Road to Little Dribbling which I have already reviewed here. No matter how grumpy you may feel on Christmas Day (especially if you are cooking up a storm for a huge family gathering) and are fed up with all the pud and turkey, then find a quiet spot (if poss) and read this. I guarantee you will be heaving, sniggering and snorting with mirth within thirty seconds and your equilibrium will be well and truly restored. A simply wonderful book and I loved every word.
The Secret Garden by Johanna Beresford - a grown up colouring book reviewed by me here. Again, this is a must have after any fraught family gatherings over the festive period. I am not saying that all family gatherings are fraught, but even if you have a marvellous time, you will be tres knackered and a sit down with this book, a box of coluring pencils (put them on your Christmas list), a glass of wine and quiet and this book and you will feel totally chilled. I do a flower at a time.
The Complete Peter Pan - J M Barrie. OK hands up. How many of you have actually read the book and how many of you only know the story from Disney? Yep. Me too. So have just started reading this new edition from Alma Classics which those lovely people there sent me. Makes fascinating reading as, of course, it has a wonderfully Edwardian feel to the writing which adds a totally new dimension to the story which I have not experienced before. Beautifully illustrated by Joel Stewart, some of his drawings remind me of Edward Ardizzone, one of my all time favourite illustrators so that adds to the enchantment. A lovely Christmas present for the right child, or adult...
Notes from a Very Small Island - Anthony Stancomb. This is another book by this author on his life on the Croation Island of Vis. I reviewed the first one Under a Croatian Sun, here and this is a delightful follow up. I am half way through and thoroughly enjoying it. Very Bryson in many respects in the self deprecating wit allied with the joy of living in such a glorious place. Another to read to restore calm after the festivities.
Jane Austen's Guide to Modern Life's Dilemmas - Rebecca Smith. This is not a recent publication, has been available for a year or two, but it only came to my attention when Ivy Press (do check out their website and see all of their gorgeous books) sent me their catalogue and sent me a copy. Rebecca Smith is Jane Austen's greatgreatgreat etc niece and she uses selections from books, letters and early Jane writings to answer modern dilemmas. For instance if you wanted to get a tattoo but your parents are dead against it. Now according to Jane you should treat your parents, no matter how unpleasant or ineffectual, with respect but if you really want to go against their wishes, go ahead but do not flaunt the result. Be discreet. Mr Woodhouse is quoted here and also how Emma gets her own way. Whole book is great fun and if you are a Jane lover then pop this in your own stocking.
Finally, today please check out the British Library series in the Classic Crime collection. A whole pile of these would go down very well with a crimefic lover. Beautifully produced and full of fascinating and interesting stores by long forgotten authors. OK I do think that some of them should have remained that way but there are enough goodies to make them worthwhile reading.
I would also like to recommend Charlotte Bronte by Clare Harman. I shall be reviewing this fully for the next edition of Shiny New Books, and you will be able to read my thoughts then but I must say here that it is wonderful. I wasn't sure whether we needed another book on Charlotte but this changed my mind.
I love this time of year in the bookshops, always so much choice available, and I gather that the usual Sleb biographies that appear at this time are tailing off in popularity. Thank goodness for that. I really do not need to read about Katie Price (she has published six autobiogs I gather - six!) or the thoughts of the latest Eastender. I really don't. Sure their family and friends all love them but what makes them think that any of us are interested enough to shell out around £20 (OK £10 if you get it from the supermarket) I really do not know.
Right that is it for today. Quick shop before tennis from O2 starts and then I shall be in situ in armchair for the rest of the day. This is The Armchair which is guilty of tearing my calf muscle in the summer when I arose from it to make a cup of tea. As you know weeks of pain followed so I now get up very carefully.
As I am knitting again I am also watching what I do with my knitting needles with an eagle eye.
So after surviving for seven weeks, by his own admission six weeks more than he expected, Jeremy Vine, Jezza has left the show. This series has always had comedy acts, those who cannot dance but who everyone loves, but Jeremy seems to have been one of the most popular, if not the most liked. We have had some pretty naff ones over the lifetime of the series, Anne Widdicombe was just dire and so full of herself, John Sargent ditto and so sure he was going to win that he held a press conference, yes a press conference, to announce he was leaving. Unbelievable. Of course he had a book coming out so needed all the publicity he could get. Nancy Del Olioloiooo or whatever her name is was just bizarre and totally lacking in humour and the list goes on. I have to say though that most of the hopeless ones were a hoot and just knew how awful they were.
Well next week the caravanserai moves to Blackpool. This has been flagged up for weeks now and on Saturday night the number of times it was mentioned reached epidemic proportions but then those of us who watch Strictly while live blogging on the Guardian realised why. Heidi Stephens blogs it and underneath we comment and over the years this has turned into an on line party and is tremendous fun. Every week there is a Strictly Bingo and every time a certain phrase comes up we have to have a drink. So every time Tess shouts out They're on their Feet (Drink) How much does it mean to you to get to Blackpool (Drink) I am going to pickle my walnuts (Drink)..well you get the drift. It has become clear over the weeks that Claudia and now Tess read these comments as remarks they make on air show this to be true and, in good spirit, threw themselves into the party with mentioning Blackpool as often as they could, practically every sentence. If everyone on the Guardian had a drink when this happened most of us would have been on the floor. It is huge fun.
Right my thoughts on Saturday:
Anita and Gleb - love this partnership and think they will get to the final
Helen and Aliyash - simply cannot warm to her at all. She reminds me of that wind up doll in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and seems to have these dead eyes. Weird.
Georgie and Joe Varney - stunning Charleston and as Bruno said she is not only getting to be a better dance but a better performer. I love that music from Chicago and a sensational routine. Three tens and a nine and well deserved.
Tristan and Jamelia - she really is a shoe in for going out next week. No improvement and a really sloppy untidy dancer. Surprised she has lasted this long. She moans that the public don't like her. Oh No says Tess. Oh yes we cry. Go on TV and diss large ladies and say that they should not be able to buy clothes on the High Street is a sure fire way of alienating the female vote (and most of the voting on SCD is female) and making sure you constantly end up in the dance off.
Jay and Aliona - he seems to have got stuck. Great start but now is making no discernible improvement. He is an excellent dancer but just needs to loosen up a bit. Aliona is beginning to look a bit fed up.
Kellie and Kevin - thought their routine was technically good but looked awful and costumes dire. Kellie reads the blog as well and there were endless comments about her screaming at the results etc up in the Clauditorium and she is now much more muted, though still ear piercing.
Anton and Katie - good rumba and Anton clearly delighted to get through. Don't think he has made Blackpool for years. Producers must think she is in that dangerous middle ground though as they wheeled her husband out in training. Always a bad sign.
Peter Andre and Jeanette - do like him though I know a lot of people think his sincerity is fake. I disagree but he does come across as trying to hard. Claudia clearly dislikes him and I tweeted her and said might be better is she made the effort to hide it just a bit. Lovely Viennese waltz. After the judges were less than overwhelmed with him a week or so ago they wheeled out his children. Always works.
OK who is left? think I have covered everyone. As I said Jeremy has now departed and was lofted up in the air by all the dancers and Slebs at the end of the show. Everyone loves him. Same thing last year with Judy Murray. Lovely person and everyone enjoyed having her on the show.
Back to the comments on the live blog and Heidi was at the live show and told us that the producer of the series reads it too so I have added this comment on the list in the hope that she will read it and take note:
Please stop the audience from their interminable clapping which is soooo irritating (Heidi says they are told to do so) and they are usually out of time
Please can you sort out the camera work so that we get to see more of the feet of the dancers. Yes we appreciate their top line and their extensions but we would like to see the FEET. Quite often the judges comment on footwork which they can see and we cannot
Please get rid of those awful cringe making VTs which are now beyond dire. You should know that when they come on the entire watching nation gets up to put the kettle on, have a pee, put the cat out, whatever... We HATE them
Please have a word with Tess and ask her not to clutch the slebs all the time. She grabs their hands and hangs on for dear life. I noticed Anita freed herself pretty quickly on Saturday night. Not just me who has noticed this, somebody on Twitter says it was getting a bit creepy. I can only assume that she is hoping that some of their wit or style will rub off on her. Tess - it won't. Stop it.
Please get rid of Len's Lens. It is not worth doing. The judges barely get a word in and it is a waste of time.
I will not be able to concentrate on the show next week as I am looking after grandchildren (not complaining) and they will watch a bit of it with me. Beatrice usually keels over pretty quick and her mother puts her to bed before she and husband go out for evening, Florence loves to stay up and watch with me (I believe in teaching her all about the finer things in life) but then half way through tells me she is tired and wants to go to bed. If Gleb or Aliyash is on I make her wait. If it is Katie Derham then off I go up the stairs.....
Quote of the night from Len who knows he is an Old Dodderer:
I try to keep Random a politics free zone. I write about books, Strictly Come Dancing, the English cricket team (but not too often as I wish to retain my sanity) and my grandchildren. I tell you about my cooking, my skidding across a newly washed kitchen floor and crashing into the sink, I write about subjects that I hope will bring a smile to the faces of my readers. But after watching the television into the early hours of the morning last night and seeing events unfold in Paris I feel I have to write something. Not sure what yet, I am just sitting here and seeing what comes out.
I lived in London in the seventies and remember so well the mainland bombing campaign of the IRA. Every time there was an atrocity I wanted to go out and do damage to somebody as this searing anger I felt seemed to demand I do something. Of course there was nothing I could do. I lived 100 yards away from a bomb detonated underneath a car in Colchester Barracks belonging to an army sergeant who lived there with his wife and family and going about his business. He was not killed but lost both legs. I was outside in the garden when I heard it go off and I knew immediately what it was. The moment of silence after the explosion was profound, there was nothing, even the birds were silent and then the screaming began.I have never forgotten it.
I remember the police stopping us in the street in the aftermath and asking where we lived and our names. When I responded McCarthy (my then married name) I felt a stillness come over the interviewing officer - an Irish name - and they came round to our house in force in the evening to interview us. After several cups of tea and slices of cake they realised that we were not bombers but it was not a comfortable experience.
Ten years ago I worked in an office round the corner from Aldgate scene of one of the bomb attacks in the City. A colleague of mine had a relative who was hurt in these attacks which brought it home even more. But what I remember well is two days later when outside Aldgate Tube there was a service. There were speakers and a priest urged us to forgive and to pray and we did. Then we sang hymns and as I looked around me all I could see were crowds everywhere, packing the streets, the traffic had stopped, and when we held a minute of silence there was not a movement or a sound. It was profoundly moving.
I have just read and reviewed The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson and he pays tribute to this bloody mindedness that the British possess.
"When things go wrong and they have a legitimate reason to bitch deeply, bitterly and at length, that is when they are happiest of all. A Briton standing in a minefield with a leg blown off who can say 'I told you this would happen' is actually a happy man. I like that in a people'
This may not sound as funny this morning as it was meant to be but the meaning is clear. We all know that the Parisians can be rude and as bloody minded as anybody (and those of us who have suffered at the hands of a Parisian waiter or taxi driver can attest to this), but this is what will keep them strong. There will be rallies all over Paris and France and people will come out in their hundreds of thousands to say the French equivalent of Fuck off (though I suppose that expression is pretty universal) and will carry on with their lives though those who have suffered a loss will not.
I feel quite heartsick this morning and the grey and dreary day seems to make it worse but one little anecdote I want to share with you which encapsulates what I have said above about the British spirit. I was on the Tube in the midst of the IRA campaign and a bloke was standing next to me smoking, you could in those days, and he went to get rid of his cigarette butt only to discover that the bottom of the litter bin on the wall had been taken out, as had all those on the London Underground, so that nobody could hide a bomb in the rubbish. He was furious 'Bloody IRA' he said 'because of those bastards I can't even get rid of my fag'.
That is a true story. Promise. IRA, ISIS, Al Qaeda whoever they are - they will never prevail just because of this attitude.
I am sorry to be so serious and normal mindless service will be back tomorrow when I review Strictly.
When reviewing a book I like to put the odd quote or two which has caught my attention into my post but if I did that with The Road to Little Dribbling I would end up copying out the entire book. I have spent the last week reading the latest Bill Bryson, normally I would shoot through it in a day, but I was rationing it so it would last longer. Also I needed to rest my aching ribs resultant from the howls of laughter I was letting forth every time I turned a page. The only other writers who make me laugh out loud in this way are Jerome K Jerome and PG Wodehouse but I think Bill affects me the most.
I recently re-read Notes from a Small Island after a long gap and wondered if I would find it as amusing, silly really, as yes I did and snorted and heaved all the way through it again. But I did approach Dribbling with a slight worry to see if the enchantment would still hold as I had read some reviews which were slightly less enthusiastic than I would have thought.
Well all I can say to that curmudgeonly lot is What is the Matter With You? This is a simply wonderful book, full of wit and laugh out loud humour. As Bryson is about my age and now has grandchildren and rants and moans about things that I do too, you will understand that I am wholly in agreement with him on almost everything he says. One passage I have to quote:
"I recently bought a new laptop. It came loaded with some software - I think it is called Microsoft Gestapo - that lets them enter the computer at any time day or not, line everyone up against the wall and install some new software.....almost every time I fire up the computer I get a message that says 'Updates are ready for your computer. Would you like to install now or be reminded every fifteen seconds for the rest of eternity?.......I tried to subvert the process by switching my computer off and then on again. Take it from me right now you should never do that. The next message I got said 'resuming instillation process. Do not attempt anything like that again. Remember we know that you spent a whole afternoon on 10 March watching Paris Hilton home videos. We'll tell your wife. We're Microsoft. Don't fuck with us. Download will be complete in 14 hours"
As I recently downloaded some new software onto my laptop which completely buggered up all my settings, reminded me every five minutes that every virus under the sun was heading for my computer and that malware, adware and every other bloody ware was present, this resonated with me big time.
I simply loved this book. And the main reason why is simple. Bill may moan and groan and poke fun at our eccentricities and daftness and bloody-mindedness, but he loves us and he loves the UK. I love it too and I have traveled to a few places. I have seen the outback in Australia, visited the Great Barrier Reef, sailed in a gondola down the Grand Canal in Venice, marveled at the glories of Rome and Florence, sat and watched the glorious view of Sydney Harbour from the Opera House, walked across the Charles Bridge in Prague in the snow and all of them beautiful and breathtaking in their own way. But, and here is where I want to give Bill a hug, this is how I feel about Britain and he articulates it so much better than I ever could:
"I have said it many times before but it really cannot be stated too often: there isn't a landscape in the world that is more artfully worked, more lovely to behold, more comfortable to be in, than the countryside of Great Britain. It is the world's largest park, its most perfect accidental garden. I think it may be the British Nation's most glorious achievement"
Bill I love you.
I was lucky enough to be sent this for review by Sainsbury's e-books and I am most grateful to them. I may have to say bye bye Waitrose if they carry on doing things like this......
I have refrained from commenting on Strictly for several weeks as I am finding it more and more difficult to sort out who is who and it is best if I wait till half of them are gone. Some of the Slebs this year are unknown to me, especially the soap stars, but after a while it does not really matter as you either get to know them and like them or you don't. Tonight's show was a good one after the crap that is Halloween Week where they all go totally overboard and the costumes and make up overtake the dancing and we had some really poor stuff. This week just back to the dancing and all the better for it.
My thoughts on the current lot who are left:
Anton and Katie Derham - I think that somebody told Katie D when she was a child what a lovely smile she had got and how vivacious she was as she seems to have taken this on board and devoted her life to remaining that way. She twinkles at every opportunity, laughs at every joke no matter how feeble, tosses her hair around and generally wants everyone to think what a fun person she is.(Camera went on her tonight when a fellow contestant was given a good score. Oooh the mask slipped then) I remember her a few years ago taking part in another reality show, Conductor, where she was totally useless at the task, threw a strop, shouted at her teacher and stalked out effing and blinding. Not so sweet. I also am still in a state of high irritation at her commentary of the Last Night of the Proms where she would not shut up for a moment and wittered on and on and on until I was at screaming pitch. Wasn't just me either, lots of folk on Twitter asking if she would just shut the f**k up. Not exactly subtle but to the point. She is dancing with Anton who, and I really do love him, is now beyond his sell by date and it shows. His choreography is poor and I think there was a reason he was lumbered with the likes of Widdy and Del Oliolo as given a partner who has potential he does not know what to do with her. When I think that they got rid of Ian Waite and Matthew Cutler 'sob' and he is still there I do wonder.
Anita Rani who I gather is from Countryfile or Countrywatch or BirdWatch or Cretin Watch or some such prog on the Beeb, great dancer and she is partnered with Gleb a new guy from Russia, who really is sensationally gorgeous and sports a mustache a la Errol Flynn (looked better on Errol) but he is a fantastic dancer.
Georgia May Foote who I gather is a soap actress.She is partnered with another newbie this year, Giovanni. As she has a northern accent of some kind she pronounces his name so that it comes out as Joe Varney which all the bloggers on the Guardian live blog now call him. He is VERY Italian, very charming and a great dancer but seems to have emptied the entire supply of Italy's olive oil production on his hair. I am surprised that when his partner puts her arms around him he does not shoot off and hit the ceiling.
Jay McGuiness and Aliona - gather he used to be in a boy band. First week had hair down to his shoulders, curly and tangled and looked gormless. Second week he had it cut and was transformed. Third week he and Aliona did one of the best jives ever. Argentine tango tonight which lacked a bit of passion (rumours are that they are exuding that offscreen) but he is a very good dancer and getting better by the week.
Jeremy Vine is this year's Fun Turn which we always must have. He is without doubt the worst dancer I have ever seen. One of the Friday panel on It Takes Two said he looked like a giraffe about to give birth and that is it exactly. Just think Dad Dancing but even worse. He is delightful and everyone loves him. So awful tonight doing a tango dressed, for some inexplicable reason, like Woody in Toy Story, that he got a standing ovation and Darcy Bussell was reduced to mild hysterics.
OK will run quickly through the rest.
Helen who I gather was in Call the Midwife which I watched once and never again. Excellent dancer but totally lacking any sort of personality at all. Worth watching though as she is dancing with Aliyash so for that reason alone would like her to stay in. Tonight he was dancing with his shirt open.....
Kellie, from Eastenders I gather, and Kevin. Rather a nice couple but will not set the world alight.
Peter Andre who I love. Lots of sarky comments about him being needy and wanting it too much which I think is not quite true. Any man who survived Katie Price has to have some guts about him. Great dancer and tonight he and his partner Jeanette did a fantastic Charleston and got two tens.
Carol who is a weather lady and is the direst of the dire. She makes Judy Murray look like Ginger Rogers. Again, the only reason she has stayed in is because she is a sweetie and the is dancing with the lovely Pasha.
I am sure I have forgotten somebody but too tired now to write more.
Oh yes I have forgotten Jamelia which is easy to do.
I know who has gone out tonight as it is always on the internet about 10.30 pm on Saturday night if you know where to look. But of course we have to watch the results show tomorrow which we all know is filmed today and then tomorrow after they have switched the audience around and Tess and Claudia have changed their dresses, ditto Darcy, they all pretend it has never happened. Whole thing is totes stupid.
Claudia is great fun as ever but Tess is unbelievably and utterly dire and plumbs the depths of banality. Tonight she was losing her voice and most people on Twitter were praying that she would.....
Something to look forward to in the coming weeks. The BLACKPOOL weekend is coming up so expect Tess/Claudia/Zoe to ask each contestant each week How important is it for you to get to BLACKPOOL. This happens every year and I long for the day when one of the Slebs turns round and says Well actually Tess I don't give a flying f**k if I get there or not. It ain't gonna happen but I like to dream......
Catch up time again. So many books to write about so here we go:
A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup. The Poisons of Agatha Christie. Dame Agatha has used poison as a means of murder in fourteen of her novels and here we are taken through the methodology and uses which were deployed to off the victim. Christie worked as a dispenser during both World Wars and so knew what she was talking about and this book is really interesting as each chapter takes a different novel and investigates the poison used. The author is a chemist and a freelance science communicator and has an engaging style. I found parts of this book most enjoyable but not having a scientific turn of mind at all, found the lengthy explanations of how and why the poison worked way over my head and I skimmed those bits. A fun book though.
George and Martha Washington - Flora Fraser. This author has a very good pedigree being the daughter of the historian Antonia Fraser and the granddaughter of Lord and Lady Longford and already has several successful biographies to her name. I am one third through this and already can see that this is a fine work and very well written. What I know about American History and, in particular, their Presidents has mostly been gleaned from TV and movies (not the most reliable sources let's face it) and my actual knowledge could be written on the back of a ten cent stamp, so am hoping that by the end of this particular book, I will know a little more.
OK and now crime novels of which of course I am a lover. I recently finished The Crossing by Michael Connelly. Harry Bosch is no longer with the LAPD and, despite his reservations, he takes on a job as investigator for his half brother Micky Haller (he of the Lincoln Detective) thus crossing over from chasing the bad guys to defending them. This does not go down well with his ex-colleagues or his daughter, but as Harry is convinced that the accused is innocent he carries on. As with all Connelly's books, the writing is sharp and excellent, witty and pointed and the whole story rattles along and I loved it.
I am a fan of the tv series Castle featuring the unlikely pairing of a crime writer and a female NYPD detective. It is great fun and daft and funny and Richard Castle, the crime writer of the title, is friends with James Patterson and Michael Connelly who appear as themselves in the series. I have never read any James Patterson and I am running out of crime writers who have a long backlist and who write regularly and frequently and so, when I saw a Patterson book in the library, thought I would give it a go. Astonished at the amount he churns out I then realised that they are all co-written. He is quite open about this saying that he comes up with the plots, the ideas and the settings and characterizations but somebody else does the actual writing. He admits that he is not a stylist and his writing is not brilliant but he has the most fertile imagination if the books I have already read are anything to go by.
I have now read several of the Alex Cross series and find out of those that I have read so far that they are a bit violent and gory and sentimental all at the same time if that is possible. Not madly keen on the co-author on these. There appear to be about 18 or so of them. Then I read another series NYPD Red of which there are four, two still to go, and these are much better and tighter as the co-author is obviously a better writer than those of the Cross books. Then there are the stand alone books and books about a private detective and it all gets a bit much. I read four in one day the other day and found, though I enjoyed them, that I felt as if I had binged on too much chocolate with the resultant nausea following. Giving them a rest for a week as I have now already read about 15 assorted Pattersons. They are proper pulp fiction in its worst sense but very addictive. I have to say that I cannot remember the plots of half of them already. Some of them are extremely ingenious with a twist at the end though in the last Alex Cross I finished I said That's the murderer in chapter three and I was right.
What are your thoughts, O Gentle Readers, on all this co-authoring? I am in two minds about it I must admit.
Dungeon House - Martin Edwards. The latest in the Lake District Mystery series by this author who as well as writing these detective novels, recently had a highly successful book The Golden Age of Murder, reviewed by Yours Truly here, and is the editor of the Classic Crime series published by the British Library.
Twenty years ago, a local and wealthy businessman shot his unfaithful wife, his teenage daughter and then committed suicide. Ah but did he? Obviously he didn't else this book would not have a plot. Back to the present day, and Hannah Scarlett's cold case team are looking into the three-year-old mystery of the disappearance of Lily Elstone, whose father was Malcolm Whiteley's accountant. Their investigation coincides with the disappearance of another teenage girl, Shona Whiteley, daughter of Malcolm's nephew Nigel. Nigel now lives in the Dungeon House, despite its tragic history and it is clear that their fates are all intertwined and all is not as it seems.
Daniel Kind, Hannah's boyfriend, seems a figure very much on the periphery of this story which is a shame as I rather like him. We are more involved with Hannah's emotions in this particular title than those of Daniel which were more to the fore in previous novels. However, despite this I sat and read the Dungeon House in one sitting on a wet rainy afternoon and looking forward to the next one.
Charlotte Bronte - Clare Harman. Do we need another book on this subject? That was what I thought when I received it but I have now changed my mind as I am over half way through and have already learned more about the family (and I thought I knew it all....) and find the author's opinions on the character of the three sisters chimes with mine which makes me feel a bit smug. Loving every minute of it and will be reviewing in full at a later date.
Phew. That is all for the moment folks. Back with more in a day or two, in other words after the Test Match has finished.....
When my children were small and had colouring books I used to wait until they were in bed and sneak a page or two myself and colour in. I loved it and always found it totally relaxing and when I mentioned I did this to my friends quite a few of them said they did it too. So it is hardly surprising that over the last year there has been a plethora of colouring books for adults on the shelves. I was in town yesterday and popped into Smiths and there was a whole display of gorgeous books just begging to be taken home and coloured in.
I resisted the temptation with difficulty but managed it because I knew I had a super special one at home which I have just started, ie Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.
This was first published in 2013 as a straightforward colouring in book but now Laurence King publishing has released the Secret Garden: Artist's Edition. This features twenty beautiful pull out and frame posters and each one is printed onto high quality card. This means that when you have finished you can take the drawing out and frame it for display should you so wish.
These black and white drawings are incredibly intricate and as soon as I opened it my fingers itched to start. I have managed one flower so far and it is clear that the pencils I own are pretty poor and I need to get some new ones. For this kind of work a really good pencil or pen is required.
I have tried not to mention Christmas until at least the start of November but this book is just crying out to be wrapped up and put at the foot of the Christmas Tree. A perfect present not only for its beauty, but it seems from all the reviews I have read for the original Secret Garden, it is a stress reliever and relaxer and, let's face it, by Boxing Day you may find this essential.
But do please buy some great pens or pencils to go in the parcel too.
A while since I have had a rambling post about nothing but today as the clocks go back and winter finally sets in seems a good time to sit and waffle. (Those of you in the back row who think I do this all year round please keep your thoughts to yourself...)
It is Saturday and things have been nice and quiet at Random Towers and these days I find it essential to have times like this. I love it when I wake up knowing that I have nothing, simply, nothing to do and could, if I wanted to, sit round in my pjs and dressing gown all day. I don't mind you, I am not that sluttish, but nice to know that it is a possibility.
I have spent an awful lot of time watching the cricket where England are playing a Test series against Pakistan in the UAE. This venue has been chosen because of the political situation in Pakistan and because there were problems and upheavals during the last series. Well if you want to guarantee the safety of both teams you could not pick a better place. I switched on the other morning and what did I see? A bunch of men in cricketing whites in the middle of the ground and acres and acres of blue seats, all empty. Nobody in the UAE is interested in cricket and the only spectators were the respective teams and team mates and a scattering of stalwart souls huddled together in the shaded part of the ground. It is not until you watch a match sans audience that you realise just how much an atmosphere is needed to engage one's interest. Throw in a pitch that allowed each team to knock up about 500 apiece and you will find that the eyes soon begin to droop. Second Test which is currently on, is a tad better - there must be about 100 people there.
I have been watching tennis from Vienna as an alternative to the cricket and it has proved really interesting and engaging as the Big Ones are absent so that the players slightly lower down in the tennis stratosphere take centre stage and some of the games have been really wonderful.
Now to add to all this excitement, I have been knitting. It never stops here you know. The Excitement. Years ago I used to knit all the time but this fell by the wayside. Trying to think what to give my son in law for Christmas I had the idea of knitting him a scarf. Initially, I thought I would use cashmere wool but after working out that it would cost me over £75 with the pattern I had in mind, I soon abandoned that idea. So instead I bought some gorgeous sage green chunky wool and a huge set of needles and got going. I have never knitted with such big needles in my life but boy did the scarf grow and I finished it in a day and a half. I am very pleased with it.
Flushed with success I then decided to practice various stitches I have never done before, using an excellent knitting book I bought a few months ago, Knit Step by Step, and have been knitting small blocks which I will use up for a blanket or cushion later. One of the stitches, a honeycomb stitch, I loved and just carried on instead of casting off and ended up knitting a scarf for Beatrice, which I finished off with a crocheted edge and a small flower to sew on. Of course, I now have to do one for Florence or else there will be ructions!
A riveting week as you can see.
Only drawback has been that my right arm and my neck are aching abominably as I am using muscles which have probably not stirred for some years. I therefore reek of embrocation at the moment (good job I live on my own) and the thought crossed my mind, as it was very painful, that I might go to see my new doc. But then I had second thoughts. First time I visited him it was to treat a torn calf muscle in my leg which I did by getting up out of an armchair. Not sure I want to go and tell him I am in pain from picking up a pair of knitting needles and a ball of wool...