Category Archives: Books

As for pacing ourselves…

I suppose it wasn’t bad that we lasted nine days? Good Omens was great enough that there was a limit to how long we could string it out. (I suppose we could always watch again.)

Good Omens

But as a friend said on social media, she hadn’t really seen much chat about Good Omens. Not like there always is for certain other television shows or new films. Whereas she started a bit of a discussion with that, it was still tame, and a few people didn’t know it was on, or what it was on. (That seemed to go for the religious people of America, as well, as they wanted Netflix to ban it…) And someone doesn’t like Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman.

We do, though, and we enjoyed all of it. I especially felt that Martin Sheen was Aziraphale. Whereas David Tennant as Crowley was mostly the Doctor, but that’s fine. There wasn’t really anyone I objected to, and you know how unusual that is. As for Dog, he was a lovely hell hound. Or was it the other way round?

The question is, watch again, or read again? I mean, in which order? Come to think of it, Son has the book. I might have to get my own copy, not in the slightest signed by either Terry or Neil.

It felt like a long wait, but now that it’s here I marvel at how they did it so fast. I think Neil hadn’t written the script when the news was made public at Terry’s memorial service. I hope Terry is satisfied with it. With an Aziraphale like that, and Dog, he surely must be?

Good Omens

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A good omen

Good Omens

It’s a good start. We watched two episodes of Good Omens on the first day, and we like it. One shouldn’t be greedy and watch it all, but this was a cheering thing.

I’d not been able to think ahead, as to whether Michael Sheen and David Tennant would be right for the roles. They are, though. I remember only enough of the details of the book to know that this is good and fun, and not so much that any dreadful discrepancies are able to howl at me.

But then, do you get those when the script has been written by [one of] the authors?

Now, how to pace ourselves a little..?

The Hate U Give

Recently I have been mentioning Angie Thomas a bit over on Bookwitch. Before Saturday’s EIBF event with her, I wanted to read her books, and ended up reading the second one and watching the film of the first book on DVD. I thought this would be efficient use of my time. One problem now is that I liked the film so much that I might need to read the book too.

Having read On the Come Up, I felt that The Hate U Give exactly mirrored Angie’s writing. I almost sat there nodding my head in agreement with everything, as though I was reading the book. Knowing how most films are not exactly like the novels they are based on, I should probably treat the film with a little pinch of salt. And then read the book.

The Hate U Give

A refreshingly black film, I was aware that I don’t know much at all. I’ve no experience of the lives the characters lead, and it was often hard to hear what they were saying. But that’s me, not them. Just as fans of the books like the fact that the characters speak like them, that goes for the film as well.

The Carter family live in a poor, black neighbourhood, but ambition for their children means that all three are sent to the mostly white school further away. As the main character Starr says, she’s another person when she’s at school. She has to be. And Starr does it so well that none of her friends have an inkling what her real life is like.

Starr is with a childhood friend when he is shot and killed by the police. Her whole life changes. She doesn’t know what to do or whose advice she should take, but eventually she realises she needs to stand up for her friend and do ‘the right thing.’

It’s a bleak situation, handled very well. As Angie said, she needs triumph to balance the trauma, so it’s not all negative. But to stay true to what so many black people face every day, this feels like a hopeless situation. You shouldn’t have to spend every day in fear of what the police will do if they ‘notice’ you. Except this is reality for millions in America.

THE HATE U GIVE

Starr’s family are not perfect, but they work together. Her dad has been in jail, and her mum is another strong mother, just like Bri’s in On the Come Up. There are friends, neighbours, an uncle, even the local crooks.

I rather wish they had not made Starr’s white boyfriend* look like a Republican senator-to-be, but other than that this film was pretty perfect. It’s certainly an eye-opener. The question is whether those who need to see it, will.

(Photo © Erika Doss)

*I understand that the original actor was dropped because he made racist remarks. That proves how necessary books and films like this one are.

Room for art

I knew exactly where the painting was going to go. Even before it arrived in the post, planning my birthday gift to the Resident IT Consultant – who likes trains – I knew it would go on the wall, just outside the door by his desk.

Railway station by Rachel Ward

Six months on, it is still leaning against the wall, next to the television. This is less to do with me being lazy and more because I can’t bear to stop looking at it. Where it is now, I see it every time I sit down in my armchair. I like looking at it. I, too, like trains and railway stations and all that stuff.

And let’s face it, I bought the painting because I liked it. Not entirely selfless. The Resident IT Consultant generously said it could hang somewhere better [for me]. But where? In a house that really wasn’t made for more art at all, I first bought this streetscape, which I had great trouble finding space for. It now hangs next to my desk, but I had to re-home the calendar that used to live there.

Street scene by Rachel Ward

Rachel Ward, who painted both pictures, is a dangerous woman to know. I first met her in her role as a YA author, nearly ten years ago. Those books were good. Now, she paints at least as much as she writes. And she takes photos.

Where some people can barely get out of bed in the morning, Rachel takes the dog for a walk and before my Weetabix is hot, she has put that morning’s photo harvest on Facebook. They are good photos, of attractive landscapes and streetscapes. So as well as painting, Rachel turns some of her photos into cards. And Christmas cards… (You can find her art here.)

As for the railway station, the jury is still out. Where to hang it? Do I need to be able to stare at it in long daily doses?

I suspect the answer is ‘yes.’ The ‘where’ is still unknown.

Comets and comics

‘Is that really him?’ asked the Resident IT Consultant, when Neil Gaiman appeared on the screen in Big Bang Theory (yes, I know. We’re a few weeks behind in our viewing). I’m glad I’m our Resident Neil Gaiman Consultant. And he’s probably the only cameo celebrity on BBT that I ‘know.’

Big Bang Theory, The Comet Polarization, with Neil Gaiman

Is it me, or have they had a lot more famous [for other things] people on the show recently? Maybe it’s just that they are inviting ones I’ve heard of and recognise, without having to Google them after.

With Bill Gates the other week I was shocked to discover I was old, and so was he. When Leonard started babbling about having met Gates as a child – Leonard, not Gates – I did a mental double-take and worked out that it was indeed both possible and probable. And that I too could have met the young Leonard and been an adult at the time…

Back to Neil. It made a lot of sense to have him, with the comic connection. And poor Stuart could really do with some success and attention. I know the Gaiman effect from personal experience. If he links to your whatever-it-is, your hits shoot up dramatically. It happened to me, and when Daughter put a photo of Neil on her photo blog, I said to send Neil the link and sit back and wait. Don’t think she believed me, but the old witch was right, yet again. When Neil says ‘click’ to his fans, they click. And there’s a lot of them, as Stuart discovered.

And speaking of discoveries, ten years ago Penny wouldn’t have cared about having her name on a comet discovery. She’s gone geek over time. But she’s right, we should all have our names on what we find, be it comets or planets, or anything else.

Photo © Chuck Lorre Productions, Warner Brothers

An English afternoon tea

I appreciated the way we were able to sit for a few hours talking, even if the chairs were on the uncomfortable side. But if you charge the going rate for a hotel afternoon tea outside London – around £30 since you ask – you need to do more than call it afternoon tea. The taste and quality of what you offer should be at least passable, and the way you serve it, and when, is worth considering.

Or was the fact that we weren’t turfed out after a couple of hours a sign that not too many people were clamouring for our table? I mean, they knew what we didn’t.

Tea corner at the Randolph

I don’t know whether to feel embarrassed admitting to having gone twice, in two days. The first tea was sufficiently acceptable, and I enjoyed chatting to my friends in an unhurried way, which is why I booked a table for my next meeting, the following day.

And yes, I did get – partly – what I was looking for and again, I loved seeing people and talking for hours. But that was down to me having nice friends to meet up with, more than the tea or the service.

Day one the non-English head waiter was polite and pleasant, if not good at getting a tea order together. I forget the number of times we had to ask for milk. Meanwhile the tea stewed and got blacker and blacker, and the sandwiches dried. That’s what I thought, anyway. Until…

Day two the same non-English head waiter needed to have his sleeve pulled after a search to find him, when the placing of an order for tea got quite urgent. There is only so long you want to wait. Tried the Earl Grey in the hopes of less black tea, but that didn’t work. I.e. the tea was as strong as the previous day, and lukewarm. Later on when we asked for more hot water we were rather alarmed to discover the waiter wanted to simply pour it into the teapot.

The sandwiches were dry. It’s the only description for them. And the fillings had been sparingly applied. For £30 they could afford a bit more egg, say. And clingfilm to cover sandwiches so obviously made well in advance.

Would I go back to the Randolph in Oxford?

Maybe. The hotel is well placed for meetings. The room is pleasant enough. In fact, if you consider the cost of the tea more as a fee for a corner of the room we sat in, then yes, it’s OK. Just about. And I have no problem with non-English waiting staff, as long as they know how to serve an English afternoon tea in a vaguely English way. With milk.

(It can’t have been the wheelchair, can it? The second day? The first day they even wanted to hang our coats for us, while the second day we had all that time alone, putting the wheels away, and waiting for service. Surely not?)

Who dunnit?

Really?

Almost fifty years on, I didn’t remember either the plot or who the murderer was. For that reason, I quite enjoyed the latest BBC version of Ordeal by Innocence. I feel as long as you don’t expect much, these period Agatha Christie rewrites are fun enough. Just not very ‘real.’

It used to be that screen scripts weren’t very true to the book, but since when do you have to change who the killer is? If you have so much better an idea, why not write your own?

I did wonder whether Bill Nighy was going to be the usual nice guy or if they were going outside their comfort zone and have him bludgeon his wife to death. And son Jack seemed quite unpleasant to begin with.

Considering what the theme for some of the reasons behind this dysfunctional family’s problems were [supposed to be], I’m not surprised they felt the need to reshoot all the scenes where the original actor might have an unpalatable sexual past. Or not.

But I felt the changeover worked well. Yes, you could see how cold it was in January, when it should have been summer, but that was all. The car radio scenes were more inaccurate, but I suppose people are too young to know.

So, yes, I enjoyed it. Even Matthew Goode being a bit bad. He’s a disturbingly good kind of bad.

But the satisfying television ending rings a bit hollow, when you consider how it was meant to be.