Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Doctor, Downton, a Dover bound Poirot and Dolly. Some Cash.

Along with too much food comes too much television. I wouldn’t mind having it spread out more. At least the entertainment. The food might be healthier to get over and done with, and we can go back to porridge and salad. But since I’m in a minority, I’m guessing my careful consumption of television over Christmas will not be noticed at all. Or missed.

Although, since we’re on one of those things that keeps track of who watches what and when, I have to own up to being so technically incompetent that I had the Grandmother watch Dolly Parton last night. She didn’t, but there was no way I could delete her after she went to bed.

Dolly Parton at the O2

So, it was just me and Dolly and most of the O2 arena. Nice blue dress, although having heard that she looks totally different without make-up and wig, I kept wondering what she looks like. Really. Concert was good, but I’d go mad if I had to have those bodyguards escort me everywhere.

I did actually watch a little Johnny Cash afterwards, but found it so painfully embarrassing I had to turn it off. As Roger Whittaker would say, he didn’t have Dolly’s two advantages.

Geoffrey Palmer and David Suchet in The Clocks

Before the country greats we sat down to Poirot. Couldn’t remember much about The Clocks except for the clocks. Could have sworn that I saw bits of Brighton, and I wonder where the crescent-shaped street can be found? Possibly in Dover. Doesn’t matter. It always looks good, and this time the plot wasn’t too outrageous, either. Watched parts of it twice to allow the Grandmother to catch up with the bits she slept through.

The Doctor and Lily


After Christmas dinner and two lots of dishwasher on Sunday, I was more than ready to sit down with the Doctor. Despite its Narnia theme I liked it. How like a childless man to take children through a snowy landscape wearing only their dressing gowns and slippers. The only thing that grated somewhat was Matt Smith smirking ‘I know’ each time the children discovered something they liked.


A good cry was had by all at the end. Nice tree. Nice trees, in fact.

Maggie Smith

In my next life I will come back as the good Dowager at Downton. Those one-liners are a dream. (In my life as a witch I’m much too kind to utter anything like that. Naturally.)

Didn’t expect Matthew and Mary to get their act together quite so soon. And I still want to know what happened to Patrick from Canada. My hopes for Edith and her beau with the trembling smile have grown a little. Might be a case for the ouija board. Shame about Nigel Havers. He’d have been a good addition to this upperclass zoo.

I’m one of those who didn’t mind all that much about the slipping standards of season two, but it was certainly noticeable how much better the Christmas episode was. We’ll have more of the same for next year, please.

Downton Christmas

Red herrings, toys and the Christmas baby


If I’d been thinking properly, I’d have worked out that the only reason we ‘knew’ so long in advance that Deeks was leaving, was because he wasn’t. Just a plot trick. Have to remember this in future. But The Debt was still – very – good, because we learned a thing or two about people, and especially about Deeks and Kensi. So did they.


In Higher Power we had the LA Christmas version of parent needing tearful reunion with estranged adult child, similar to NCIS a few years ago. I felt the actors even looked the same. Again, a repeat of an earlier NCIS in the search for the must-have toy of the season. I almost lost my respect for Sam when I heard the $1000 mentioned. It’s too much, even if you are a good parent.

I wonder how Nell ended up with her parents? Or possibly the reverse. And how long is the ‘romance’ between Eric and Nell going to go on? It needs to end, but it needs to end extremely amicably. Although it is fun.

NCIS: Los Angeles

Newborn King turned out to be more of a Newborn Queen story, except girls don’t count. As with other Christmas episodes, it had less plot and mystery, and more snow and seasonal soppiness. I’m all for soppy, and it was obvious from the start that someone would have to give birth in the snow and that Gibbs would have to be midwife. Ziva did what she does better, which is dispatching people on to the other place.


But if you think of where to have a Christmas night birth, where better than a garage? It’s almost the new inn/manger. It has food (of sorts) and a toilet for that necessary ‘my waters have broken’ line, and even somewhere to repair the car.

Palmer and father-in-law

And although I feel they need to steer clear of in-acency romance, I do believe that Palmer may well end up married. This is despite his awful future father-in-law. The man was more of a moron than you’d think possible.

But even he thawed at the sight of the newborn baby. Don’t we all?

Christmas baby on NCIS

NCIS Christmas greeting

Gibbs and bike

NCIS: Los Angeles Christmas greeting

(Photos © CBS)


‘You must tell me the significance of, erm, this thing,’ said Mrs Tumbler in her thank you note to Daughter. Maybe she didn’t phrase it exactly like that, but it was close. You could visualise how she was staring in total bewilderment at the little piece of wood she’d been given for Christmas, by her Y5 pupil, aka Daughter.

I wonder what happened to Mrs T and her wood? They changed the teachers around at the start of spring term and I don’t think an explanation ever forthcame, so to speak. We’d gone to experience the wonderful Christmas fair at Liseberg in Gothenburg, taking Offspring out of school for one day. I told Son’s head teacher that it was a most cultural thing to want to do, this once.

And it was.

We bought stuff – mainly for ourselves – as though we’d never seen anything like it. And we hadn’t really, stuck in exile as we are. The teachers needed gifts. I vetoed a lot, on grounds of cost and weight. So in the end we got Mrs T a piece of wood, aka a wooden butter knife. It had a painted Father Christmas at the non-business end. Quite nice, albeit inexplicably odd.

Liseberg - Christmas fair

Last December when Son and Dodo went over for more happy shopping, I asked him to find me some wooden forks. Not to go with the butter knife (I do have my own, you know), but for stirring bread dough with, so considerably larger. And almost impossible to find. But he managed it.

I gather Dodo as a proper Englishwoman found the Disney music piped all over town somewhat strange. (Surely not as strange as the butter knife?) But it’s what Swedes expect. Ever since television was invented we have sat ourselves down on Christmas Eve to watch an hour of Mr Disney’s finest, only some of it remotely to do with Christmas.

When you wish upon a star..!

Christmas bliss.

The 2011 Christmas Card

My rather nice card comes from the children at Charnwood. This is a Stockport nursery/playgroup with a difference. ‘Normal’ children can be found there, nicely mixed with children with special needs of varying type and severity. Both Offsprings attended Charnwood, and both received much needed skills and support from the fantastic staff. The place looked such fun that it was all I could do not to kick off my shoes and jump into the indoor sandpit, not to mention the ballpools.

© Charnwood

Definitely the Inn Crowd.

As with the place in Bethlehem, places are at a premium. But it was well worth persevering.

Just Henry

That was a nice film, featuring postwar Britain and cinemas and some family shenanigans. But it wasn’t Just Henry as I know it. Having blogged on Bookwitch earlier today about the difficulties of adapting books to screen or stage, and having to cut viciously, this ITV production proved it.

Characters went missing to the point of confusion and had to double up, also to the point of confusion. But it’s a necessary evil, so is OK. Simplifying the plot is also necessary, cutting subplots you can do without. I’m just wondering if Just Henry could have done with being 30 minutes longer? If you hadn’t read the book, did it seem like a complete and understandable story?

I was sitting there thinking, ‘oops, there went more part of the plot,’ and ‘oh, dear, there we lost another…’

But, as I said, it was a nice enough period film. This time with both my green teacups as well as their yellow sister teacups.

The movies aspect of Michelle Magorian’s book was almost totally gone. They went to see a few films – someone likes The Third Man a little bit too much – and the cinema was a glorious venue in which to meet, but the movies and the school project were severely lacking. And  I missed the marvellous sisterhood development between all the mothers.

Sheila Hancock, Josh Bolt, Dean Andrews and Elaine Cassidy in Just Henry, ITV

So it was mainly the messy family situation left, with dead father, remarried mother, new stepfather, nasty grandmother (Sheila Hancock certainly knew what she was doing there! She was magnificent! I daresay she had to make up for John Thaw’s kind old man in Goodnight Mister Tom…) and the not so dead father after all. That’s enough plot for any film, albeit confusing for us book-readers. (I spoke to Daughter who had slight problems getting to grips with the abridgedness of the tale.)

Cutting bits out is OK, when time is at a premium. So why add new things that weren’t in the book? Mrs Beaumont and the belt was a very unpleasant addition. What good did it do?

Stockport Plaza

Finally, the Plaza cinema felt awfully familiar. And that would be because it was ‘our’ Plaza. Filmed on location in Leeds, it is clear that Leeds has grown a lot and now incorporates Stockport as well as some sea or other. And on that basis I have to agree with Grace when she tells Henry that Manchester isn’t so very far away.

Some Forbrydelse that was

I’ve been going round muttering ‘The Mousetrap’ to myself for some time now. There’s been this feeling that it’s downright weird that no one has given the game away in The Killing. It’s not as if BBC4 had a world premiere or anything. It’s been shown elsewhere and you could buy the DVD if you wanted to. Without the subtitles, maybe, but if you’re keen enough you take a crash course in Danish.

So, a bit reminiscent of the silence you are sworn to at the end of The Mousetrap. There’s another coincidence, but we won’t go into that.

Now we know who did it. At the end I’d have been half surprised and half not, no matter who it was. And it seems as if there was more than one who-did-it as well. It was a crime at many levels, and many people did things they mustn’t be proud of.

And what was the BBC4 continuity announcer thinking, suggesting that we stay with them when we got to the break at ten o’clock? I doubt that anyone in their right minds would get up and leave, feeling they’d had enough at that point.

I was quite worried about the end, seeing as my trusted, regular commenter on here had warned me about feeling bad. Yes, it was disheartening in some sense, but it’s the way I look at the world most of the time, cynic that I am.

And rest assured, just like my awkward French waiter only spoke English when it suited him, so it goes with the rest of the world, too. After all, how can anyone not speak English?

The club of those who won’t be returning to The Killing next time grows. Selvfølgelig.

All I want is a good Christmas movie

A Grandmother is not just for Christmas, but for the whole year. But as it happens, we have her with us for a week or so over Christmas. And Son and I agreed it’d be nice to find a suitable film we could all go and see.

That’s where I thought Hugo would be perfect. Cosy, feelgood film with nostalgia. But I doubt it will remain on offer.

So when I read about silent movie The Artist I felt I’d got it. Not that she’s that old, but it’d be good. But oh no, The Artist is out for New Year. That is too late.

What will we do? There is Puss in Boots, starting now. Not sure the Grandmother is up for a kittenish Antonio Banderas. We might be down to Sherlock Holmes. Again. It’s what we took her to see (was it two years ago?) when the first film was brand new. She’ll think we have no imagination.

What we have is a peculiarly timed cinema programme.


The book – The Invention of Hugo Cabret – was better than the film Hugo. But only because it’s an extraordinary book, both as a story and for its wonderful pencil drawings that fill this very thick volume. And I can’t help but think that despite being a bit of a mouthful, the original title would make the film sound more intriguing. I’m hoping the lack of audience today was due to time of day and location. This film deserves huge audiences.

Christopher Lee and Asa Butterfield in Hugo

The timing is odd. I’d expected it to be a Christmas film, but a release date in early December might well mean it doesn’t last that long. I would have saved it another two or three weeks, but was afraid of missing it altogether by doing so.

I chose to watch Hugo in 2D. Maybe I missed out, but I don’t think so. I’m also of the opinion that less use of CGI would have been preferable, but perhaps it would have been too big a job to find the right locations without it. Just a slightly plasticky feel to the townscapes and the railway station, which would have been nice to lose.

Asa Butterfield and Ben Kingsley in Hugo

This is the story of orphan Hugo who lives in the walls of a Paris railway station looking after its clocks. He makes friends with Isabelle, whose guardian Papa Georges is an angry old man who can’t stand Hugo. The story slowly moves from their antagonism in the station, to the old man’s past and the childhood of movies. This is a work of fiction, so naturally the two stories meet, and everything ends happily.

That’s not a spoiler. Saying much more would be, so for anyone not familiar with the book, this is as much as you get. The end is big hanky time.

Pleasant change to have Ben Kingsley as someone nice. I’m used to him being one of the bad guys. Lots of great cameos by all sorts of people, and I especially enjoyed Frances de la Tour and Richard Griffiths. Christopher Lee is a charming bookshop owner, and even Sacha Baron Cohen wasn’t too dreadful in the end.

Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz in Hugo

Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz as Hugo and Isabelle were perfect, and Chloë’s English accent passed muster with me. But then, what do I know?