Tag Archives: Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials – the BBC version

His Dark Materials BBC

No one could be more surprised than I am. But – so far – I don’t like His Dark Materials. Not one little bit. If I hadn’t read the books, I’d have no idea of what’s going on. If I hadn’t read the books I’d not be tempted to continue watching.

Having missed the first episode live last week I took to social media on Monday morning. I was upset to see that some people didn’t care for it. At all. But having time on my hands I read every status and every comment and came to the conclusion that more people liked it than not, and they’re people whose opinions I trust.

The Resident IT Consultant had liked it, and Son tweeted his approval. But then came the delayed viewing of Lyra’s Jordan, and separately from each other Daughter and I both found it wanting. She, charitably, said she’d give it one more chance. I have just done that, the second viewing, and, well, goody, they have already moved on to The Subtle Knife with some content.

Seeing as the first episode began with a scene from The Secret Commonwealth, I have to say we are getting a wide and varied diet here. We have a square alethiometer. And already Lyra has been told who her father is. Could have kept the suspense a bit longer, I feel.

Apart from Lyra, who’s very well played by Dafne Keen, they seem to have got most of the casting wrong. And there’s a definite lack of daemons everywhere. For instance, we’d never have been shown Billy Costa’s daemon last week if it didn’t have an important role to play later. Poor Ratter…

Meanwhile Lord Boreal is already climbing through windows.

Will I make time for episodes three and four? I am not sure. Can’t watch them live, but possibly curiosity will bring me to the television to catch up before the second half of His Dark Materials, by which I suppose we really mean The  Northern Lights, not the whole HDM, is on.

But oh, the disappointment.

(Co-published with Bookwitch)


Wall angel

Should I be concerned? Even worry? There are an awful lot of angels here now. And you know, I used to think they were nice. ‘People’ to be trusted.

From this point of view it was unfortunate that I read L A Weatherly’s Angel last week. Her angels being of the not very nice kind, I now find myself eyeing the angels in my house rather differently. Might not be as benevolent as I imagined. Not even mostly harmless.

And Christmastime is when they appear. They hadn’t arrived when I blogged about Angel the book last week, but now they are here in force. On the other hand, this ‘beanpole’ looks so very sweet and innocent. Doesn’t she?

GM Angel 2

GM Angel 1

IN Angel 1

HG lookalike angel

The one at the top of the tree has always struck me as sweetness itself. Likewise her sister creature further down the tree.

Friend Pippi’s hand-tatted angels, with and without body, look serene and kind. The Daughter (younger version) lookalike from the furniture giant may have a hole in her head, but is otherwise quite angelic. If that’s not a stupid thing to say.

I noticed the same Daughter had positioned the little dumpy CW-shaped angel in the white tutu near my chair, so that she and I can stare at each other. Her wings are ridiculously tiny and will fly her nowhere.

The tree at CultureWitch Towers has a dozen angels, if not more. We never had angels when I was young, so I wonder if it’s fashion, or maybe the foreign influence of living in a strange country. Very strange. (But nice!)

Perhaps I should simply ignore the badness of Lee’s fictional angels? There are other angels in books. Philip Pullman’s are fairly nice, and on the side of good. Neil Gaiman’s and Terry Pratchett’s angels in Good Omens are a little bad, but not in a terribly unpleasant way.

BW shaped angel

Though I always felt a bit uncomfortable with the angel in David Almond’s Skellig. Might be just me. Tim Bowler has several characters with that same angel feel to them, though I don’t think Tim actually says they are angels. A bit scary, though.

IN Angel 2

And then there is my bathroom radiator…

(This post co-published with Bookwitch.)

Picturing Murdo

I could really have done without Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the nude. But other than that I quite enjoyed the exhibition of Murdo Macleod’s photos at the Guardian.

I wouldn’t ordinarily go out of my way to look at this type of exhibition, but after a couple of Augusts at Charlotte Square in Edinburgh ‘in the company of’ Murdo and his colleagues, I almost feel I know him. He doesn’t know me, of course, and probably doesn’t want to. I’m the Fat Controller of the Bookwitch photographer, and no matter how good her (photographic) equipment is, theirs is always bigger and better. And they are all boys together.

After seeing the article in the Guardian a few weeks ago, I thought I’d pop along to their offices if I happened to be in London at the right time. Luckily the Philippine ambassador saw fit to invite me round, so I did end up in London after all.

But, I would have welcomed more than the foyer of the Guardian. OK, so it has walls. Walls with exhibits on them. It has stairs to the offices. It has a security guard. After my trek all the way there I would have loved somewhere to sit. Many galleries have seats. You can rest, and you can think about what you’re looking at. Here I was in and out in minutes, or so it felt. I had also hoped there would be many more photos not already known to me from the paper.

The photos are good. No question about it. But then if you have access to famous people, especially in unusual settings, then half the battle has been won. Experience in how to get the famous people to pose will help, and I’m sure the superior long lenses do their job. But an amateur could take pictures like these, too. Murdo has a lot of interesting umbrellas, and I’m certain they assist him with the job in hand.

So, just get a politician to stand in front of a derelict cottage, or someone rich to sit down in an untidy room and you’re halfway there.

Or am I being unfair?

Murdo Macleod and press photographers with Philip Pullman at Charlotte Square

Murdo is the one in red. Philip Pullman asked what gave him the right to ‘give the orders’, and I believe the answer was his red fleece. This photo was taken by someone who is not aspiring to professional photography, using an ordinary small camera, which incidentally was bought after our first encounter with Philip, when we were so camera-less that we had to borrow one. But that’s another story.

Oz is 70, too

Things kept happening in 1939, didn’t they?

Over breakfast I learned that The Wizard of Oz premiered seventy years ago today. Didn’t realise it was quite that old. In fact, didn’t realise Judy Garland would have been quite that old, either.

And since I seem to specialise in blogging about that which I don’t know, nobody will be surprised to hear that I’ve never watched this must-see film. I’d like to say I will one day, but it doesn’t tempt me. I’m in good company; with Philip Pullman being another who hasn’t.

Is it OK if I don’t?


As it began snowing in earnest on Sunday night, we watched Narnia, where they also had snow, and some very nice fur coats. So handy that the sizes were just right. We had to make do with the gas fire and a blanket.

Lucy in Narnia

I have never read the Narnia books, and have never felt the urge to do so. Daughter trawled through them, but Son appears to take after me. Or maybe he’s just trying to do a Philip Pullman, who doesn’t care for them. On the other hand; to know that you don’t like something, you need to try it.

Wasn’t very tempted to see the film in the cinema, either. Something to do with over-exposure on cereal packets, I believe. Since the film was on television at Christmas, this seemed to be the cheapskate’s way of taking in a trip to Narnia. I’m just very surprised to find myself watching the video within a month. I’m really good at piling up cassettes for years, so these days I record less and less. Still have piles of unwatched videos.

Quite liked the film in the end. Visually nice, and not such a bad story. Aslan was good, and I liked the professor. Daughter kept saying James McAvoy was cute, but frankly, ears and hairy behinds don’t do much for me. Lovely Beaver, though.

I know there is supposed to be a strong religious message in the story, but I’m afraid I missed it.

The Scarecrow and His Servant

We were lucky to make it to the Southwark Playhouse on Saturday to see The Scarecrow and His Servant. Because it’s based on Philip Pullman’s book, which we love, we’d been hoping to see it, but the time of year wasn’t ideal. And if I hadn’t booked tickets when a suitable date finally appeared, then Lyn Gardner’s rather unkind review in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago might have made me think twice. Finally the state of the railways had a little go with spanners in wheels, but we made it and it was well worth the effort.

The Scarecrow and His Servant

This is really Don Quijote, courtesy of Philip Pullman. It has madness, chivalry and humour, and it was all there in the play, which is magic in itself. The Scarecrow, with a brain the size of a pea (before the pea gets eaten by a hungry bird), but with a loving heart and determination, sets out on a walk with his new servant, Jack. Between them they sort out the wrongs they encounter, and both find love in the end.

The Scarecrow

I liked the way the book had been adapted, losing none of the original charm, and with songs and music to accompany it. I knew nothing of the Southwark Playhouse before, but it’s a good example of how you can do things simply and on a budget, and still get a great result. The stage was made up of pallets, and I passed a horse’s head as I climbed up to my bench at the back. A little bit of audience participation is almost unavoidable under cramped circumstances.

So to the turnip and coconut headed scarecrow; a big thank you from the swede.

UK premiere

The witch rarely gets to go to premieres of any kind, so the UK premiere of The Butterfly Tattoo made a welcome change. It was on last night at Cornerhouse in Manchester, as part of a short film festival, and whereas it wasn’t full, it was very busy. They moved the screening to cinema one, which I assume was to accommodate more people.

The film? It was good. Very good. I’d heard it was very good, and then I read a review somewhere which claimed it wasn’t, particularly. So we went with open minds, and Daughter was warned that it wouldn’t end happily. The script follows Philip Pullman’s book pretty closely, so you do get the bad end at the beginning, so to speak.

Duncan Stuart

It’s Romeo and Juliet, really. Some very intense love when boy meets girl, and then lots of confusion as they lose touch. Lots of searching, to a backdrop of someone else’s criminal behaviour, which eventually comes to have a bearing on the lives of Chris and Jenny as well.

Jessica Blake

You can tell that the film was filmed on a budget, but I wish more films were, if this is the result. There is nothing that would have been better for more money. I was particularly struck by one of the love scenes, which was blissfully quiet. In a more commercial film the couple would have found they were accompanied in the bedroom by a large orchestra. Here, there was nothing. No sound at all. Just as it should be.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with the director Phil Hawkins and some of the cast and crew, with more crew members in the audience. I was going to say that they tried to save on money by having many of them be both cast and crew, but that’s silly, as nobody got paid. I suppose it just shows how versatile they are. Who’d have thought that the drunk was actually the director himself?

The questions were along the lines of, well I don’t remember, because they were so technically knowledgeable that I didn’t even understand the questions, let alone the answers. I did get that they could only afford one camera, though. And it rained for the ball scene, and they had to hurry before the extras all died of hypothermia.

It was all done in five weeks, and I hope that cinemas all over the world will see the light and buy The Butterfly Tattoo. Philip Pullman was right to let someone young buy the rights to his book for peanuts. Sometimes enthusiasm will do more than years of experience and loads of finance. And perhaps I’m just put out that I didn’t act fast enough to buy a share or two in the film.

The Butterfly Tattoo

I see over on Bridge To The Stars that The Butterfly Tattoo was due to premiere last Saturday in Holland. It’s a Dutch film – in English – of Philip Pullman’s early book by the same name. The film team is a young one, and they raised the necessary money for making the film by selling shares to fans. The shares sold like hotcakes, and as usual I was too slow to buy any, which no doubt I will come to regret.

I’d like to know if people here in Britain will get to see the film at some point. I understand that Philip likes the film, and he was supportive in the making of it, by letting them have the film rights for next to nothing. It’s not one of my favourite Pullman books, but I can see that it would lend itself well to being filmed. The trailer certainly looks good.