Monthly Archives: March 2011

Life, The Universe and Everything

It’s Pauley Perrette’s birthday today, and seeing as another of my favourite persons was also celebrating his very same number of birthdays earlier this week, I have borrowed his blog headline for today. After all it wouldn’t be very polite to mention that NCIS’s Abby is 42.

Abby with parasol

Oops. Not that that’s old. Especially not for anyone wearing those clothes. Abby even gets a mention in Sara Paretsky’s latest V I Warshawski novel. I’d say that’s good.

Happy Birthday Pauley!

It’s amazing

that no one seems to have given away who did it. In The Killing. It wasn’t the butler, but I suppose it wasn’t far off. In a way. Daughter said ‘I told you so’, and in fairness, she did.

I had plenty of suspects, but the way they went round most people at least once and sometimes twice, what is a person to think?

It’s amazing that they could put together twenty hours of suspense like this, and even more that no one said. I didn’t even go out of my way to avoid spoilers. Solidarity, I imagine.

And in the hour leading up to the two final episodes, I felt more excited than I’ve felt for most television programmes. It’s a television programme, for goodness’ sake! Though I will feel differently about landing at Kastrup airport in future.

So, well done to all. And the taster for series two will assure everyone that the jumper will indeed get an airing again. Though I have to say that Daughter’s solution to all this is to buy the DVDs. As she said, they have to be available in some language somewhere. Will have to check.

No sex please, we’re so very British

Not that I am, but I won’t let that deter me.

You know, coming from that den of sin, formally called Sweden, I’m used to the idea that we are a bit less concerned about sex and other horribly immoral things. Oh the joy of being propositioned by all and sundry as soon as you divulge your origins!

But I’m rapidly drawing the conclusion that it’s Britain and the US who are behind everyone else. More or less. That goes for both books and films and television.

My foreign reading challenge on Bookwitch proves that people in other countries can write books, too. It’s like fashion, though. If totally immersed in one ‘culture’ you think you’re on the edge of fashion, or at least not too dreadfully behind. But once comparisons are made with other countries, a certain dowdiness emerges. Clothes definitely. School Friend was most disappointed at being unable to spend any money at all on clothes when visiting Manchester a few months ago. ‘They’re so ugly!’ she exclaimed.

And yes, we do get sex in Young Adult fiction in British books. But not surprisingly, the Swedes have gone further.

It’s not just Swedes or books. Having seen some (well, only two this time, because I seriously ran out of time) Spanish language films in the Cornerhouse ¡Viva! film festival I realised they were saying and doing things in both the Spanish and the Chilean film that surprised me for a 15 film. Much more nudity and seemingly much more normal. They even let fat people undress in Gordos. And the discussion about different types of sex that the main character in La Vida de los Peces had with the two boys aged about ten or twelve at a family birthday party, was most refreshing.

I don’t often watch foreign films other than Scandinavian ones, but what I have seen tends to have an almost total lack of concern for what’s ‘decent’, the way we still stumble over here in Britain. And the Americans couldn’t even let Colin Firth swear in the King’s Speech.

It’s time for a rethink and some loosening up of silly rules.

Btw, I have found out that it’s going to cost me £80 to prove that I’m not. British. So glad they keep coming up with new ways to make money. A few foreigners like me and we’ll soon have paid for a library to remain open. Or does it not work like that?

Roger Whittaker is 75!

Flowers for Roger Whittaker

I know. He doesn’t look a day over 73. But that will be because the photo is from the day before Roger Whittaker’s 73rd birthday. I just didn’t have an opportunity to pop over and get a fresh photo for today. I would have liked to.

Here’s the Witch Towers clan wishing Roger a very Happy 75th Birthday!

McFly, again?

Miss Vet called round for tea and scones again today. No, make that orange juice. And scones. It was very nice to see her. But this was her fourth trip to the UK in less than nine months just to see McFly. Over the scones I was foolish enough to enquire if she knew when they’d be appearing next. Well, yes, she’ll see them in London in two weeks’ time.

Danny Jones and Tom Fletcher of McFly, photo © Anna Bernström

Of course she will. She’ll just McFly over here again. I suppose I’m relieved I’m not the only one around here who is mad.

And I do like the way you can hang out near the hotel where your stars are staying and get to see them and talk to them. I now have a good idea of where to search for the famous when they come to Manchester. Whether I ever will is another matter.

Harry of McFly with Anna

Miss Vet came with some Belgian McFly fans/friends, which just goes to prove how you can make friends with the help of the internet and jet-setting.

For someone like me where my favourite act only tours every two years, and then always as his final tour, this business of McFlying several times a year sounds great. At her age she has the stamina, although there are the clashing interests of whether she naps on the plane or studies for the Chemistry exam on Wednesday.

Over the scones we descended deeper into the world of light music by discussing Eurovision songs old and new. It seems the pretty boy in the red leather jacket will be representing Sweden. Looks before song or voice. On the other hand he is no puppet turkey.

La Vida de los Peces

La Vida de los Peces

‘That was a beautiful film’ said my companion at Cornerhouse yesterday. And she was right. We didn’t know what to expect from the Chilean film La Vida de los Peces, The Life of Fish, screening as part of the ¡Viva! festival.

Beautiful – and sad – the film happens in real time at a party, so in just a little over an hour. Andrés has been away for ten years and has only this short time at his friend’s birthday party to catch up with all his old friends before heading for the plane back to Berlin where he lives.

La Vida de los Peces

He is still a bachelor while his friends have married and had children. The film starts with all the men in the bathroom, talking about sex and friendship. Andrés then walks slowly round the house (formerly?) belonging to his friend’s parents and chatting to an old flame and to his friend’s maid in the kitchen.

There is a hilarious scene with two young boys playing a video game, and another with his friend’s young sister and her girlfriends. Slowly the viewer pieces together what might have happened ten years ago. Andrés seems to have been involved in an accident which killed the brother of his host, and he sits in his dead friend’s room, thinking about the past.

La Vida de los Peces

But more than anything this is a love story, with Andrés first avoiding, and then seeking out, Beatriz. They used to be a couple, and now she is married and has children. It’s hard to work out quite what happened all those years ago. It’s even quite hard to work out what happens in this film.

It’s very low-key, quite beautiful and very sad. Probably.

The cast of La Vida de los Peces

And Chilean Spanish is really hard to understand.

The Dubliners in a dirty old town

They could be prescribed by GPs. In fact, they should be prescribed, if we could be sure the Dubliners themselves are up to it. Two of them are already performing sitting down, which didn’t stop Sean suggesting the audience should jig or waltz or even reel in the aisles. Not enough aisle space at the Lowry for too much of that, or we would have.

I was curious, because I distinctly remembered how calm they made me feel last time I saw them, four years ago. I wanted to see if the feeling could be repeated. It could, if calm isn’t the wrong thing to feel after some rousing Irish songs? It’s the feeling you get when you know you are in capable hands and that someone knows what they are doing. John started off by saying they weren’t ready, but they did pretty well on automatic, which is to be expected after 49 years.

Patsy, the baby of this group of grey-haired and bearded men was actually milling about in the foyer when I arrived. So was Eamonn, but he milled slightly less. You somehow don’t expect the star turns to take turns in the public areas of a venue. Saw no fans prostrate themselves at anybody’s feet, so either the audience’s eyesight is failing or they are mature enough not to.

But they can sing! The audience, I mean. We almost didn’t need the Dubliners, seeing as once they started people off the audience sang long and well, which you rarely get in this age of the computer.

The Dublin boys don’t sing badly, either. And he might be the newbie, but I do like Patsy’s voice. He’s no Luke Kelly, but why should he be? (How a boy can be called Patsy, on the other hand, is one of life’s mysteries, which I won’t deal with here.)

Barney roused himself sufficiently to sing his own style sea shanties and love songs. He must also have kissed the Barney stone at some point, as there appeared to be no off-button for his monologues. At one point I feared Eamonn had fallen asleep while waiting for Barney to finish, but he woke up swiftly enough when it was time to play. And the audience loves Barney. We’ll wrap him in that oilskin, I imagine, if the need should arise.

John is a bit of a poet and I think we had three poems from him in the end. He writes poems about his dead Dubliners pals, which are moving and funny in that very Irish way. His tune in honour of St Patrick’s cathedral is lovely. He strikes me as the Daddy of the group, and he encouraged us to buy CDs and anything else, so that they can support their large families.

Sorry John, but I didn’t. I don’t think anything can match that Auld Triangle song just before the interval. It has to be live, but you can come round to my house and sing it anytime. Anytime.

Two local songs, with not just the Manchester Rambler but the old stalwart, Dirty Old Town, which as someone pointed out as we left, could hardly be more appropriate than at the Lowry. So true.

Two encores before Barney and co shuffled out into the night. With so many grand Irish songs to choose from, it’s hard to see what they should pick to finish with. Molly Malone worked well. Even my Resident IT Consultant sang, loudly and badly. That rarely happens. The singing, that is. The badly always happens.

So, these five old boys, fully dressed and with not a single bare tummy in sight, and with such simple stage lighting that all I could think was ‘why doesn’t everyone stick with this?’, were exactly what the doctor should order. A wonderful night out, and let’s hope we are all here for their 50th next year.


Somehow Fat People sounds less attractive. I know Gordos means the same thing, but still. The ¡Viva! festival of Spanish language films at Cornerhouse showed Gordos yesterday, to yet another full house. They could barely squeeze people in at the end, and it wasn’t all to do with our gordo-ness, so to speak.


Five fat people in therapy, talking about their fat lives. Through the film they lose weight or put it back on or stay the same or get a little fatter. They talk about why. We see their lives away from the therapy sessions.

It’s described as a comedy, and it is a comedy. Sort of. Plenty of laughs, but possibly mostly from the non-gordos of the audience? Eating more pizza or having sex is more amusing for being done by fat people. Yes, it was funny. But it was also sad to see the lives people lead.

At least it didn’t follow the routes of either proving you become happier when you’ve slimmed down, or that you can love yourself despite of or because of being fat. You just are.

Antonio de la Torre

What did surprise me was to find that it had been filmed in real time with the actors eating themselves fat or starving themselves thin and again and again. I hope none of them suffered lasting problems from this. One apparently couldn’t make himself fat (I disliked him from the start!) so was killed off in the end, as an alternative to ending up fat. Which is one way of looking at this sad state of affairs.

And not once was I tempted to eat the spare sandwich in my bag…

(Antonio de la Torre, left, who reputedly put on 33 kg.)

Kilo away!

Catching up with those jumpers

Sarah Lund's jumper - white

Seems I can’t leave the country even for a week without Guardian readers starting a jumpers thread on the letters page. You wouldn’t have thought so much could be said about a fictional Danish policewoman’s choice of clothes. What I find even stranger is that viewers covet the jumpers for themselves. I even found a blogger who was working out how to knit one, in order to save on the £200+ price tag. Someone is making a fortune out of this.

Sarah Lund favours the cream one, and I check every time to see if I can find any evidence of it having been mended after the stab wound. I can’t. The black one is better, to my mind, and I don’t like the red one at all.

Sarah Lund's jumper - black

The other slight problem with being away for two Saturdays was the number of episodes we needed to catch up on before the next Saturday evening, because the Resident IT Consultant who’d been left at home had watched them all. So from Friday evening Daughter and I watched a total of six hours of The Killing in around 24 hours. And that included sleeping.

Checking what else was on at the same time gave the impression that the other channels had a lot more attractive programmes and films on offer than is the usual Saturday night fare. Perhaps they are suffering from The Killing and need to compete with little BBC4?

Sarah Lund's jumper - red

What’s more, newspapers are writing about the programme repeatedly, proving it’s the latest must-watch, including a full page article in the main section of the Guardian.  And the BBC have bought the next season as well.

Hopefully xenophobia is on the way out as far as television drama is concerned, and one day soon people won’t think twice about subtitles.

I’m thinking the Swede did it.

A different kind of Lent display

Semlor - Shrove Tuesday buns

This is what we ate in Sweden the other week. I can’t help but feel that these Lent buns are nicer than pancakes for Shrove Tuesday. I love pancakes, and I’ve just spent far too long in the kitchen making some for dinner. But for me they are just not special for Lent. Pancakes are pancakes.

The buns have been scooped out in the middle and filled with soft almond paste before being topped with whipped cream. Seeing as we don’t make it to Sweden in February every year, we have to make the most of the buns when we are there. I’m not saying how many I ate this time, but it was more than one.

Semlor at Regnbågen in Halmstad

We were amused to find this display in the window of the best bakers’ in town. For Lent Swedes put thin tree branches in containers and decorate them with coloured feathers and maybe chickens (not real ones!) and artificial eggs and stuff. The baker just used buns, although I doubt they’re real. For one thing, they are far too small.

On my way to visit School Friend I received the perfect text on my phone. She asked ‘Do you want tea and a Lent bun as soon as you get here?’ That’s the kind of message I could get used to receiving. Consider that a hint.