Monthly Archives: December 2013

Who on earth expected us to like that?

Is Steven Moffat taking us for granted? I found myself watching the Christmas episode of Doctor Who with mounting surprise. ‘Is this it? Whatever happened to the idea of a special something for Christmas?’

The 50th anniversary episode a month earlier was so very, very good that I somehow imagined they knew what they were doing. Perhaps they used up every ounce of great ideas for that, and now there was none left. My loyal in-house Whovian pointed out there were some nice in-jokes. Maybe there were. Maybe the hardcore fans always get more out of an episode than the mere spectator. But even idiot viewers should be given some fun, while the experts chuckle over the cleverness of whatever they’ve come up with.

If I was Peter Capaldi I’d sue for getting such a crap entry to what should be a fantastic new job. If I was Matt Smith I’d sue for getting nowhere near the kind of exit David Tennant had. I was just sitting there willing it to be over. Die and let’s see this new Doctor and then we can all go and watch Downton Abbey.

I’m gladder than ever that I watched the 50th shebang in November. It made me pleased to ‘be part of it.’ (So for the sake of clarity; I had nothing to do with the Christmas failure. Not the 50th either, obviously, but, you know…)

My in-house fan then showed me the Peter Davison half hour programme about the other former Doctors who – supposedly – weren’t part of the 50th show. That was terrific! I could happily watch it again.

Thankfully Doctor Who won’t be back for a while. They will need time to write something we will want to watch.

The icing on the cake

As a foreigner you hear so much about English Christmas cake. It sounds so nice. It looks nice too, especially for people whose eyes have been conditioned by a lifetime of lovely marzipan covered cakes, which do taste wonderful. (But you don’t realise it isn’t what it looks like.)

I met my first Christmas cake about 35 years ago. Mother-of-witch and Favourite Aunt were fairly easily persuaded to spend Christmas in London, at a hotel which offered festive packages. It was an OK hotel, somewhere in Earl’s Court, and we probably got our money’s worth (we sort of had to choose the cheapest Trust House Forte hotel package, instead of the Browns Hotel one I’d have loved).

There was much that was new to us, but we took it in our stride. The hotel seemed quite cosy, in a charming English sort of way, and we knew no better.

I forget which afternoon it was that tea and Christmas cake was on the programme. We were really looking forward to it. But what a shock, and what a disappointment! The cake was dry and unsweet, crammed with mainly currants. The pretty cover tasted like cardboard. It was hard and thick, and while sweeter than cardboard might be, not really any better.

You live and learn. We were none of us in a hurry to try it again. And as we came from a country where you could expect cake to be better for being ‘eaten out’ I have since realised that Christmas cake is best home made.

I make my own these days. I don’t eat my own, however, even though I know it’s not covered in cardboard. The marzipan and icing is too sweet and the cake too heavy, and I can’t tolerate the brandy. I make it for my loved ones, who – surprisingly – have a fondness for both the sugar on top and the fruit and brandy inside.

NCIS – Homesick

NCIS

Gibbs and team

If it’s the Christmas episode you have families and children, and you know it won’t end too badly for most of them. Phew.

McGee and Bishop

So it’s not too much of a spoiler that the sick children don’t die, but it was enough to make DiNozzo reminisce about his brush with the plague.

Ducky and Gibbs

Vance had family trouble again and, not unexpectedly, it was Abby who sorted him out, while not being aware that she did or that it was important. I suppose we needed something positive in the year that saw Mrs Vance killed. Let’s hear it for optimism, joy, selflessness, kindness (twice) and forgiveness.

Abby

I just don’t get what Palmer and his Breena are trying to do in regard to having children. Perhaps I don’t know the facts of life, or maybe this is just an American way of making a family. But I hope it ends well for them, even though poor Palmer was staggered to find Gibbs siding with him, ‘for once.’

Breena, Carol, Abby and Palmer

And Bishop has family, including a husband, to go to for Christmas. She has seemingly normal relationships. Which is so weird! (I still don’t feel she is right for the team, however nice and normal she might be.)

Vance and children

Nice to see Abby’s friend Carol back. We gained something from when Marty had to be written out. It’s all rather unlikely, but why not?

Carol, Abby and Palmer

This was a good Christmas episode, if not exactly the best, and not as Christmassy as some. But at least we looked into the business of Christmas and family through other characters but those in the main team.

Gibbs

(Photos © CBS)

Happy 2013 Christmas!

Here’s hoping you have a lovely 24th/25th December, whatever you may call it, and whatever you do. And that 2014 will be good for you all.

Christmas tree

Farvel og tak, Borgen

‘The last episode ever’ said the BBC4 announcer. That might be for the best. You can milk an idea for too long, but I don’t believe they did that with Borgen. Three seasons would seem about right for length, although when you work out that it’s only four weeks from start to finish when you get two episodes every Saturday, it does seem fairly brief.

Borgen III

As some reviewers have said; it’s unusual, but good, to have so many women in a television series. Women in big roles, at that. So not only do we have a female lead as the politician, but she gets herself a female spin doctor.

Perhaps Katrine let the side down by being a ‘useless’ mother at times, but on the other hand, we do need to see that people are normal, average, poor, at what they do. And it was nice to see how well Kasper took to fatherhood, considering his own childhood and how hard he finds it to commit to a woman.

Borgen III

I can’t say I thought much of Birgitte’s ‘bit on the side,’ as boyfriend Jeremy described himself in the Guardian. I didn’t particularly like him, and the English dialogue was too perfect. We know that actors can do foreign langauges well, because they have a script, but what works well for a political state visit, doesn’t really do for intimate chats between lovers. Besides, female viewers want to see more of Mikael Birkkjær.

Borgen III

Torben’s wife was an interesting character. And I don’t know what to call Torben’s boss. But it would be unprintable. Personally I found Søren Malling’s acting very good indeed. He really came into his own. For fictional characters, I very much liked Hanne.

The recycling of actors in a small country leads to weird situations, like when The Killing’s Troels came face to face with his PA. And for child actors, how can you possibly predict that one will grow tremendously over the years of filming, and the other one will hardly change at all?

Borgen III

Birgitte’s ‘cheaper’ flat seemed anything but. It was very trendy. Even the broom cupboard conference room at party headquarters had a certain charm.

Finally, isn’t it good that politicians can come up against laws they have put into existence, so that it’s ‘impossible’ to question them?

(Finally finally, how many people have stopped eating Danish pork?)

Borgen III

NCIS – Devil’s Triad

Gibbs and DiNozzo

Thank goodness! A really funny NCIS this week! Totally unlikely, but fun. We even had the proximity to Christmas and the Adams Hotel without DiNozzo Sr.

Diane

What are the odds that Gibbs and Fornell would have shared a wife, in the first place? And then that Diane keeps turning up. And then that… well, you know. Ex-husbands all over the place and the odd boyfriend. Not to mention McGee. Let’s not mention McGee. I think he’d feel more comfortable if we don’t.

McGee and DiNozzo

Bishop continued taking disproportionately too much time, but I am allowing for her settling in. She dealt nicely with HR, and learned not to warn people when someone is behind them. (Bishop is clearly on the autistic spectrum, which does bring me back to The Bridge…) Reading the book on autopsies. Honestly.

Ducky and Palmer

Young Miss Fornell was an interesting person, and I’d say the screenwriters just about got her age right, considering she was crayoning at the start of season four. Weirdly, I had read about exactly such a contraption as Emily Fornell had, hours before watching. ‘I don’t believe in coincidence!’

Fornell

Let’s hope all the unlikely stuff that happened this week will be allowed to mature and develop. If not they had no business setting it up.

And I never expected Gibbs could get as tired as he did… Looking forward to what they will do next. So they’d better not disappoint!

(Photos © CBS)

Ask the manager

I ‘had a drink’ with author Elen Caldecott today, between an event she did in Manchester and her catching a train home. We went to one of the bars at the station, because time was short, and it was raining outside.

I’d done a recce before Elen arrived, and had come to the conclusion the Mayfield Bar was the best place; looked nice, not too full nor too empty, had a sign saying it does coffees, and – always good – it has a toilet. Just in case, you know.

It was fine. I had water. Elen had tea. We talked. At least until the music on the nearby speaker (very nearby) suddenly decided to get a lot noisier. Could have been the music. Could have been the volume control. Hard to say. But too noisy, anyway.

Elen asked a waiter if he could turn the sound down a little. Just so we could hear ourselves speak. He looked doubtful, and said he’d have to ask the manager.

I’m guessing he never did; either because he forgot, or he simply felt we were stupid.

It’s an interesting world when staff have to ask their manager before making a customer more comfortable, after an actual request. Is it avoidance of fuss (either the asking, or the turning the volume down himself), or are there rules that absolutely everything passes through (ew) the manager?

The customer is obviously always wrong.

Have a very Scandi Christmas

I’m impressed. No, really.

I’ve been reading more than my share of house interiors magazines recently. You could say I’m addicted. You’d be correct. I am.

In all honesty I found the Christmas editions tedious. I hate being told how to decorate for Christmas or what to cook, and how and when.

But it seems that a Scandinavian style Christmas is what one should have this year. Or Scandi, as the short form is. And apart from showing such good sense in wanting to be all Scandi, they are getting it right. 98% of the time, anyway.

In the past people have done their best, while leaving me cringing over the mistakes. (And also worrying about all the howlers I’ve made trying to do something that I’ve not known enough about.)

So, it’s pale rooms and simple red and green decorations. None of this ‘the glitzier the better’ which I feel has nothing to do with Christmas. Parties yes. Christmas no.

What amazes me is that you don’t even have to go to IKEA but can buy from more mainstream British shops.

There’s hope for you yet. (I’m not saying Scandi is better. I like it best. But I appreciate it when it’s right.)

Poinsettia and Lucia

A much needed NCIS break…

Don’t they have any presidential elections to run, or something? There usually seems to be stuff that takes precedence over television shows, forcing us to wait a week or two until NCIS is back.

I’m not complaining. It’s been wonderful having an uninterrupted run of NCIS this autumn. Nine episodes and not a single week off. But the thing that worries me is that at some point they will take a break (yes, I know we’re having one right now) and it will of necessity have to be much longer than normal. And I don’t want that.

We seem to merit two more episodes before Christmas, which I think means we are at least one ahead on other seasons. Which in turn must mean more or longer gaps in the spring, or that they will finish much earlier than before.

In my perfect world shows would have more than 24 episodes every year. I suppose it would be too much to hope for 52? Maybe 40? Preferably taking breaks when I’m away or busy… Or perhaps just available on demand, whenever fans want to watch.

I know. It would be too expensive. Actors would get exhausted. I’m just thinking of me.

Wonder if the new pace had anything to do with Ziva leaving and needing to find a replacement? The two week break right now is deviously timed, leaving us gasping for more (or less) Bishop. We haven’t had time to form a proper opinion, so they are teasing us. At least, I think they are.

Just one more week until they are back!

Two cinemas and a pavement

My back was killing me.

I will blame – almost – all that happened on the unreliable trains we have in Britain. The ones that make you travel too early in order not to be too late. The trains, but also what I might label ‘data protection act’ behaviour, which is when unthinking caution and unhelpfulness win over human kindness and common sense.

It’s not every day you go to a world film premiere. It’s not every day I turn into a crabbit old witch for real, either. But as I said; my back was killing me.

So once I’d picked up my comp ticket I wanted to sit down for the spare hour before the world premiere. The venue has a bar. But this was a Friday night and it was busy. Very busy. I always say it’s a nice place to go, because when it’s busy it’s generally busy with more my kind of people than other people’s kind of people.

I spied three empty chairs and thought I could move one over to the side where I’d not be in anyone’s way and I could do some work (i.e. read a book) so as not to waste 60 minutes because of stupid trains. But I overlooked how unattractive I am. All three chairs would be ‘required soon.’ (I’ll say this again; I wasn’t actually intending to ‘join’ you.)

On recalling that the cinema screen I would eventually go to, has a few chairs in its foyer, I crossed the road and asked the nice young man on the door if he’d let me rest on one of them. No, they were ‘about to close to make things ready for their special event. Sorry.’

This kind of asking isn’t something I do lightly. While my advanced age now makes it easier to glare at (more able) people on public transport, here I only forced myself to ask because I was desperate.

I didn’t cry. Not really. But it was close.

Wondering what to do next, my gaze fell on the chairs on the pavement outside the café across the road. It was dark. It was wet. And cold. So surely no one would object to me sitting there without buying something from inside?

So I crossed the road and sat down. Nice chairs. It was a bit dark and damp and chilly, however. The first ten minutes were not too bad. After that I felt not only cold, but dismal. At the 20 minute mark I came to the conclusion I should restore my self respect and simply get a train home and be comfortable again. I discussed this with me and told me that once the film began I’d forget all about this and that persevering was a good thing.

After 40 minutes I wasn’t shaking too badly, but went back into the bar area and used the Ladies room and then crossed the road again to the film venue. ‘Ah,’ said the back, when I sat down. ‘This is comfy.’ ‘Yes,’ said the other bits of me, ‘we feel warm and toasty again. Nice.’

My mind got a little impatient when the film didn’t start on time. Eventually someone introduced the film’s director and asked if he had something short to say before the screening commenced. ‘No,’ he replied. He then used several minutes not saying anything in a longwinded sort of way, finally giving us a quote about the making of the film. Someone had commented to him that ‘if you’d known what you were doing, you wouldn’t have done it.’

By then I wished he hadn’t. The smirk on his face as he walked back to his seat was that of the man who made the emperor’s new clothes, and hadn’t – yet – been found out by the teacher.

It’s all very well selling the idea of a film as being unusual and quirky. But you have to deliver on that promise. It’s not enough to say it is.

Fifteen minutes into the film I was bored stiff. The audience laughed at a close up of one of the film crew sleeping on a bus (in the film). That wasn’t funny, but I’m pleased they were amused. My brain said ‘we’re leaving.’ ‘No,’ protested the back who was feeling good, and the other bits which were nice and warm joined in.

We left. The restoring of my self respect was long overdue. We missed – avoided getting on – the direct train home. It was full to bursting and would have entailed more standing. Warm possibly, but sardine style. Instead we went and sat on the London train in the warm, reading and resting. Thus needing a lift the last couple of miles home, we went in search of the Resident IT Consultant at our local Cineworld where he was enjoying the advertising.

I reckoned I might manage to stand for ten minutes in the warm cinema foyer, if I really tried. But the staff waved me in past the ticket barrier, and I was able to wait in comfort. Sitting down. Without a ticket.

Thank you.