Category Archives: Books

Afternoon tea

I’ve been craving some ‘posh’ afternoon tea for a while. Contrary to what people might believe about me, I don’t tend to do the touristy and extravagant stuff when on home ground, so not only do I not do afternoon teas, but I don’t know where to go.

When Pippi came to Edinburgh this week, she needed a tea companion, and she’d heard of Colonnades at the Signet Library, and wanted to try it. And while pretty expensive, it was about the lowest price of all the places I found online.

Colonnades at the Signet Library

The library is just off the Royal Mile, next to St Giles Cathedral, and they have two-hour sittings throughout the afternoon, so you can treat it as lunch if you start early enough. And you need the two hours. I reckon they couldn’t serve all that food faster if they tried.

Colonnades at the Signet Library

Soup in a coffee cup to begin with. Then silver cake stands with around six savoury things plus a couple of sandwiches. A second stand for the cake, meaning six sweet things and two scones with jam and clotted cream. As your arteries begin to clot I recommend a discreet doggy bag if you feel you can’t manage it all. All this can be washed down with tea, or coffee, and the optional champagne, which I’ve never understood how it goes with afternoon tea.

Once you’ve reached the end, you are rescued by a cleansing sorbet.

And I recommend a trip down the many stairs to see the toilets.

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And then what?

When do you give up on the work by someone you’ve liked and admired?

I’m thinking – again – of the latest film producer to have caused a public storm and upset. But – again – it could be anyone discovered to have seriously misbehaved and sometimes not getting found out. These [usually] men have often done great work, in film, music, theatre, literature.

And when the news breaks, some of us find that we have been fans of a monster. If it’s really bad, it’s not too hard to stop watching their films or listening to their music.

But if it’s a bit more borderline? Or they have been involved with so much on the cultural scene, that it can be hard to draw a line, or even to know where that line is.

I was relieved to learn I didn’t have to ‘respect’ Jimmy Savile, so that was no hardship. Likewise OJ Simpson. But it took me a while to know what to do about Rolf Harris. It’s not that I didn’t believe the accusations. I just couldn’t tell how it would affect my fondness for his work. It was gradual, but not slow, and I knew when it was time to delete his albums from iTunes. The books went to the local charity shop, where quite possibly they languished until pulped.

Speaking of books, I have a friend who meets famous people through her work. Luckily I’ve never read anything by the very well known, older male writer she mentioned once. I can’t unsee that unwanted kiss in my mind, and I’m just grateful he wasn’t someone I liked. But whenever I see a photo of this author, it’s all I can think of. No literary merit whatsoever.

And I know what I said in my other post, about being too polite. I was far too polite about the last Rolf Harris concert I went to. It was lacklustre. He was clearly under pressure already, except we didn’t know it.

This Weinstein business is awkward. I have no hesitation blaming the man for anything that’s being said. But he’s been involved in so many films. Good films. Do they need boycotting from now on, or was he too far removed from them, for it not to matter? I mean, I generally don’t even know who produced a film.

To go back to iTunes, I have a couple of albums on there, sung by someone I used to know. Someone who behaved in an unacceptable manner to me about a year ago. I have no problem skipping past the new album, which I didn’t like much. But the really old one; I have always loved it. It’s just when one of those tracks comes on, it’s difficult to forget what she said. It takes the edge off my enjoyment.

So I don’t know.

Bye to the Saint, Ivanhoe and 007

Roger Moore died earlier today. He’s not someone I have thought very much about in recent years, but when I was a child and teenager he was right up there with the best.

Most people refer to him as James Bond, but his 007 days were almost a bit late for me. I’d liked Ivanhoe, and I’d loved The Saint, and sort of enjoyed The Persuaders. But that’s quite a bit of screen entertainment from one man, and enough to cover many of my early years.

Roger was a good 007; I think it’s mainly that I was never big on Bond.

But almost nine years ago when Roger appeared in Cheltenham, there was no question but we had to go to his event. He’d just turned 80 at the time, and had a book out, I believe, which is why he appeared at a book festival.

He showed his age, which I suppose is unavoidable, but his acting skills carried him through. The one thing that surprised me was his dislike of Hjördis Niven. Well, no. More that he didn’t mind airing it publicly.

Roger Moore

Goodbye to this handsome man who gave us so many screen adventures!

A Monster Calls

This was the film we tried to go and see all week. We should be grateful it made it to the local cinema, because who would want to be deprived of a good long cry? As it was, Kleenex were required, and there was a bucket too.

A Monster Calls

I can no longer recall the exact details of the book by Patrick Ness, and by that I mean the minor characters and any minor plots. I think there were some. They are not in the film, which is good, as you don’t want to detract from the main story about Conor, his dying mum and his angry grandma. And the school bullies, because to be beaten up every day as your mother is dying is obviously [not] what a 13-year-old boy needs.

A Monster Calls

The film let us concentrate on Conor’s nightmares and the subsequent meetings with a tree monster who comes to the house (voiced by Liam Neeson) to tell him stories.

Then there is grandma, played by Sigourney Weaver, doing a good British accent, while going around being at least as angry as her grandson. And who can blame her; she is losing her child, and gaining a grandchild who hates her.

A Monster Calls

At first the film went so slowly I was afraid it would ruin things but, almost imperceptibly, it sped up and before we knew it we were hooked, by Conor’s dismal daily life, and his mum’s sufferings, and you could literally see her getting worse.

Beautifully filmed in the Northwest, it looked like home to us (not quite as I’d imagined it from the book or from Jim Kay’s illustrations).

And it was only on the way out I remembered I had tissues in my bag, after casting around in my mind what we could possibly use to mop those tears with.

(Also posted on Bookwitch)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

This was absolute bliss. Whereas it is generally ‘quite nice’ to revisit a film and its characters, the concept of J K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them beats most that I have seen. Even though I obviously read the book [by Newt Scamander] however many years ago it was published, almost as an afterthought, the new film is such a tremendous bonus!

It’s something you didn’t see coming, separate but still belonging to Harry Potter’s world, and it couldn’t have been better. I never thought of Newt Scamander as anything but an obscure historical character, with an interest in animals. The film about Newt shows how wrong I was, and how Rowling’s magic just carries on and on.

As someone said the other day, it’s rather a relief to have a film like this with almost no children in it. It meant we could see Muggles and Wizards in the New York of 1926 as it might have appeared in just about any film; it was all about adults going about their business, which in Newt’s case was rescuing creatures at risk, and trying to teach other magic people that the beasts have a place in the world too.

Kowalski, the wannabe baker Muggle, was a Rupert Grint kind of man. Quite ordinary but also quite brave and someone who adapted well to the seemingly crazy world of magic. The two main female characters, sisters Tina and Queenie, were just as intelligent, kind and beautiful as you needed them to be. And Eddie Redmayne’s Newt was mysterious and enthusiastic and kind, with a nice sense of humour towards his ‘walking stick insects’ and dragons and all the other creatures.

The bad guy was so charmingly bad that you almost believed he might be all right. And the remaining characters made for a rich background.

Isn’t it wonderful how you can have a spin-off like this from a ‘mere’ children’s publishing sensation? Something so good and fun and mature, which wasn’t born from the usual film mould?

I don’t often float away from cinemas, especially not in the middle of the night. But I did this time. And I felt happy.

(Also published on Bookwitch.)

Music en route

The bad thing about the Edinburgh festival season during August is that travelling turns into a nightmare. I find myself choosing not to go to events at times or days of the week when I suspect travelling will undo any good the event might offer.

So yesterday my trusted photographer and I picked a train earlier than we had to, just so we could go on the King’s Cross train, with four or five times as many coaches as the local one. It was even worth waiting for it as it ran late, just not to get squashed on the little train.

As the Resident IT Consultant dropped us off it was mayhem by the station entrance. There was an interview being conducted on the pavement, complete with BBC camera and everything. Loads of people wearing t-shirts or hoodies with Stirling Orchestra on the back, and an unusual number of double basses for a railway station. Even in August.

I remembered reading something in the local paper about the orchestra; they had been chosen for something special. My photographer googled as we waited and could tell me they were going to London to take part in All Together Now: The Great Orchestra Challenge, a ‘four-part series, which will celebrate the breadth and quality of amateur orchestral playing across the UK, will follow five orchestras as they compete for a place in the Grand Final. It will begin on BBC Four at the end of August, with the final episode to be broadcast on BBC Two.’

That’s pretty good, and I’m sufficiently pleased for them that I didn’t even mind the squeeze on the train. The double basses and the stools, etc, got stowed elsewhere, and it was only the smaller instruments that were all over the place, along with the BBC crew’s junk, carefully blocking the Edinburgh exit door…

Now, if they could only have whipped out their instruments and serenaded us as we went!

Paddington

Paddington

It’s a fun concept to have the Earl from Downton fighting Mrs Coulter over a bear, with some assistance from the Doctor. Paddington was lovely. I’d heard he would be, but you still want to make sure.

Going to see Paddington was our New Year’s Eve treat, and it was (shock, horror) our first cinema outing after moving. We will be back soon again, and as the car parking has been paid until tomorrow lunch time, perhaps we should hurry.

I don’t know the book about Paddington as well as I ought to, but on the plus side that meant I didn’t have to sit there wondering why they left things out or why they put new things in. It was all rather sweet, and I now feel I have a deeper understanding of the background to the marmalade.

The bear jokes were funny and obvious, and so much better for it. ‘Bear left!’

There is something deliciously scary having Nicole Kidman looking like a sweet, young thing, and being so truly bad. And Hugh Bonneville didn’t really have to alter his Downton personality. The Earl would also disapprove of a bear moving in, until he saw the light and changed his mind and started loving the bear.

Mrs Brown was perfectly cast, and I’d love for Sally Hawkins to be my mummy, too. London looked great (if fairly romantically portrayed), and little Paddington was a charming young man. Bear, sorry.

Peter Capaldi was fantastic, and I’m only pointing that out because I’ve not seen him in much. And when I move to London, I’ll go and live in that street, too. Please?

Paddington