Category Archives: Television

Bookwitch bites #125

You know how interested you are in things I’ve not done? (You are! I know you are.)

Well, anyway, the other week I could have gone to Norröra. ‘Where?’ I hear you ask. Saltkråkan. The summer island Astrid Lindgren wrote about. The place that is summer to many Swedes, especially people my age.

For once I was in the right part of the country, right time of year and with time to spare. Well, I had, but then plans changed and the Norröra idea was no more. My free day disappeared. It was especially galling as people I know had just been and it sounded rather nice. Apparently they have kept the house from the television series intact and you can go back in time.

Sigh.

But let’s look on the bright side! I’m back home. The other home. I’m always home. Mostly.

And the Edinburgh International Book Festival starts today! I’m here for the duration, except I don’t think I can go straight off the plane to Charlotte Square, even though the Resident IT Consultant pointed out it would deal with the taxi issue. He’s right. Again. But older witches need rest, too.

So I’ll be in soon. Raring to go.

Interning

We put Daughter on a plane yesterday, and then she put herself on yet another, bigger plane. She’s off to see whether Dr Sheldon Cooper is real, or not.

I believe he is. (How could he not be?)

Up, up and away

My eleven weeks of Daughterlessness is Pasadena’s gain. She packed a number of books to read for fun, which I applaud. Her choice of reading material was perhaps not what I’d like to tell the world about, so I won’t. Needless to say her suitcase was over the limit, but it appears ‘real’ airlines don’t fuss too much.

Now let’s see what we can get up to… I know! We could move house!

Barbro Lindgren’s prize

It’s no use. I couldn’t make sense of what I might find on the press pages for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. And after all these years when I’ve cracked irreverent comments about what fun you can have on Swedish television, I have been proven wrong.

Not saying it wasn’t good. I’m sure it was. Just not on television. At all. I mean, what do you have a perfectly good Crown Princess for, if not to televise her telling us yet again that Astrid Lindgren was her favourite author?

I tried the links, but I can’t find anything I can use, apart from this lovely photo of Barbro from last week. She looks like she’s having a good time, and I hope she did last night, too.

Barbro Lindgren by Stefan Tell

They did invite me, but it was the wrong part of the country for me. (Not to mention an unexpected train strike striking me rather unexpectedly.) I was cool about it, expecting to watch on television. And then I couldn’t. I thought the email said I could watch online afterwards. Fearing my dodgy internet wouldn’t allow this, I wasn’t even contemplating not being able to find a link that would refuse to play.

She has written nice books. And so did Astrid. I imagine the Crown Princess read and loved Barbro’s books, as well.

An Austen-free upbringing

After wondering why I didn’t read the books by Jane Austen or the Brontës in my early teens, I suddenly realised why, and who I could blame for this regrettable shortcoming. (Always important, because it certainly wasn’t my fault.)

My Swedish teacher when I was 15, is who. The last year of secondary school we had free reading once a week. I am – with my mature adult hindsight – guessing it was a way to get the non-readers to read. Anything. At. All.

We were allowed to read whatever we wanted, and could bring our own books or use the school library. I generally sat down with an Alistair MacLean, or similar. Generally in English (which is odd for a Swedish lesson, but never mind). Naturally the teacher would have preferred me not to.

So she suggested books I might try. The only one I remember is Pella. I am sure the Pella books were fantastic, and the teacher had most likely loved them when she was young. But I was 15, and I was reading MacLean. Pella would – possibly – have been right for me about three years earlier.

All these years I’ve remembered the teacher’s badly chosen suggested books and I have understood what she was hoping for. I just haven’t thought of what she ought to have pointed me in the direction of instead, because she was quite right in wanting me to better myself with something other than MacLean.

I already loved all manner of romances; the kind where a young governess meets her new employer who is a brooding and somewhat strange man, and where they eventually fall in love and live happily ever after. The Jane Eyre copycats. Reader, I had no idea there existed the real thing and that it would have been much more satisfying. (Not better than MacLean, obviously, but as good…)

We knew of Pride and Prejudice because it had been on television. At that point I was of an age where understanding there’d be a book as well was too much to expect. We knew about Vanity Fair, because that too had been on television. Also, Heathcliff ran around the moors on television, and I knew there was a book, but it didn’t tempt me at all.

I knew about Dickens because we had children’s abridged versions. And yes, he’d been on television.

Mother-of-witch was many things, and for someone of her background she had an astounding number of proper books and books in English. But she had not been brought up on the classic governesses, and so she could not point me in their direction. Which is fine.

But my well educated mother tongue teacher could have. And should have.

The deposit

I found my thoughts straying to Seacrow Island the other day. About how handy it would be to be able to put down a 10p deposit on a house, because you’re a nice person and the house owner is another nice person. And you can afford it because you didn’t have that third ice cream, leaving you with 10p for those unexpected needs.

Hands up, if you know what I am talking about! Do you know your Seacrow Island? Any Swede my age, and quite possibly every generation since, knows Saltkråkan very, very well. That’s the book by Astrid Lindgren which started life as a television series, and that’s how we all know it. And because it’s a symbol of everything that is Swedish. And because it’s repeated on television every year, or so it seems.

Snickargården

At the end of a wonderful summer on an island in the Stockholm archipelago, Pelle – a boy of seven or eight – finds himself at a loose end on the mainland, while his father Melker and his two older brothers are running around town trying to find an estate agent. The house they have rented and fallen in love with, is to be sold to some rich man who wants to flatten it and build a new, grand ‘bungalow.’ A last minute windfall means that Melker is ‘in the running’ to buy the house as well. If he can get there first.

Pelle and his friend Tjorven spend some of their money on ice cream. Then they have a second ice cream each. When Tjorven – hopefully – raises the question of a third ice cream, Pelle says it’s good to save some money for a rainy day. And then they set out to find the owner of the house. After climbing onto the balcony where the old lady is dozing, they tell her everything.

When the estate agent and the rich man, with Melker close on their heels, arrive at Mrs Sjöblom’s, it turns out they are too late. The house has already been sold. The rich man is furious and Melker cries. At least until it is explained to him that it is Pelle who has put his last krona as down payment for their holiday paradise.

What’s more, it was Tjorven who earned that money from the rich man for tying up his boat so expertly. He should learn not to tip the natives…

Musketeering

Here I was, ready to have a go at what they’ve done to The Musketeers, and then it struck me that it was on at nine pm, and not at half past six on a Saturday. It’s intended for adult consumption. Hardly surprising the ladies on facebook were sighing with delight over the handsome ‘young’ men in The Three Musketeers. Except it’s called The Musketeers, and is only ‘based on the characters’ of Alexandre Dumas.

So that’s all right. They can do what they want with them. And they have. If I hadn’t read – and actually remembered – the books, I would have no complaints. Other than it being rather 21st century in spirit. But if that’s what viewers want, it’s what viewers get. Enough swash was buckled and it was an excellent action film/episode/whatever you call it.

How I loved my Musketeers! The real ones, that is. For 25 minutes every Saturday evening Swedish children had something good to watch. It was usually British dramatisations of classic novels. We thought it was great. (Well, we didn’t have much else.) I lived and breathed Musketeers. I quite fancied being Milady. I drew Musketeery clothes for my paper dolls. I was in heaven when I found a ring that looked like you could keep poison in it, just like they did on television.

The Three Musketeers, 1966

The television series started me reading all the books, and in this case I really read everything I could lay my hands on. It’s good if you get a push like that, trying a book you’d never have noticed otherwise.

Is there anybody old out there? Someone who can tell me if there was a slightly earlier television version of The Three Musketeers than the 1966 one? I want it to have been a couple of years before. But I suppose it was that one. I have no recollection of Jeremy Brett as d’Artagnan, but I remember what Constance Bonacieux looked like. And it’s definitely Kathleen Breck.

So, anyway, what with the more mature ladies getting the hots for whatever Musketeer took their fancy last Sunday, I presume it’s fairly unlikely that younger people – real children – will look out a copy of The Three Musketeers and read it? I’d been so pleased we were due more televised Musketeers, because I thought there’d be a reading revival.

Me, I’m off to fantasise about Cardinal Richelieu. He’s the only one old enough for me, this time round. Or possibly Captain Treville.

Dumas can’t have had an inkling of what later generations could, and would, do to his action heroes.

Darcy, death and the literary discussion

Death Comes to Pemberley sparked a literary discussion chez Bookwitch, and doesn’t that make us sound ‘intellectual?’ The Grandmother had read the book by P D James, and didn’t think much of it. She was keen to see what they’d done to it on television, though, and I am under the impression we all liked it.

That’s the thing with quality. A good book can be ruined on the screen and vice versa. You just never know. Daughter objected at first that we weren’t getting the 1995 cast from Pride and Prejudice, but warmed fairly quickly to this new Darcy. I didn’t know what to think of dear Wickham, because I need to dislike him, and I happen to like Matthew Goode…

But anyway, it made us talk books for a while (because we never ever mention the wretched things at any other time!)

Who counts as an author of classics? Jane Austen obviously does. Her books are really old. Victorians count. They too are old. But after that my ‘misguided’ companions wanted to put the classic label on all sorts of books by all sorts of recent writers!

I realise that classic-ness is a moving feast. What wasn’t a classic before, will become one at some point. My own gut measure is somewhere around the 100 years mark. If someone alive today was also alive when a novel was written, it becomes questionable. I know that the 1950s was a long time ago, but I happen to have personal experience of part of that decade and the people who wrote books then are not at all old, thank you very much!

So I’m not ready to consider Astrid Lindgren a writer of classic books, whereas I feel that Selma Lagerlöf might have been too recent fifty years ago, but is now definitely to be considered a writer of classics.

On the other hand, I see the flaws in this. Someone younger than me will share that same 100-year-old, but will also see Astrid Lindgren as dreadfully ancient. Is there a right way?

We’re on track

More or less, anyway. The morning will be spent sorting out desserts (because they matter) and putting vegetables in the oven. The rest was done days ago.

Our other main day for Christmas was yesterday, and it went well, despite – or possibly because of – lack of presents. The Resident IT Consultant went into town to pick up a pair of Cats, free of charge, which rather trumped Son’s 20% off his Clarks. So they count as almost presents. He also treated himself to a remaindered Historical Atlas, and has happily browsed through history.

Daughter went along to watch over the Cats, and managed to find a Quiz book to buy. Because we just didn’t have VERY MANY books in the house before!!

Anyway, her quiz book provided us with our Christmas Eve entertainment as we competed against each other to see who knew the least about whichever topic came up.

To keep us company over the evening grazing, Son found us an Ealing comedy about trains. And then he wanted to watch Due South, and with all of us at different points in its viewing history, we needed a ‘used’ episode. I can thoroughly recommend All the Queen’s Horses, and not just because it’s the craziest episode. It felt pretty Christmassy, what with the snow and the trains and those red Mountie uniforms. The horses. And the singing! ‘Gonna riiiiide, foreeever..!’

The Resident IT Consultant helped to finish the evening in style, as he’d missed last week’s Christmas episode of NCIS, and Son had been too busy to watch, which meant I got to watch it again. It was Santa who did it.

Gibbs

Where will you go?

Well, it sort of depends where you take me, doesn’t it? What it really means is that DSB – Danish State Railways – need a translator who does not have Danish as their mother tongue.

In the end I never went anywhere with them, but hopped on the Öresundståg to Sweden, rather than up the other coast to visit Hamlet. And – apart from the fact that Swedes are seemingly incapable of boarding trains with a view to seeing the bigger picture, and getting out of the way, preferably a little quicker, please – things were fine. The couple in front of me were making out before we even got to the middle of The Bridge. That’s the place where corpses are cut in half…

Before the train muddle we’d been on a couple of planes, the Resident IT Consultant and I. It’s a blessing, really, that our electricity bills are so big. (If you are reading this dear, of course they are not…) We hardly ever shop at T*s*o, so it’s primarily the electricity which made our ‘free’ flights possible. And I learned such a lot about the stewardess’s new boyfriend with the seven bedrooms.

The BA mozzarella wrap kept me going all the way ‘home’ in the end. Though I’ve never quite grasped why they are so cautious with their meatfree food. It was assumed I’d be wanting the dead bird.

Their onboard toilet had a faulty light. I was informed that they thought the light would still come on when I went in and shut the door. (It did.) It reminded me of the flight when I left three-year-old Son alone in his seat on the plane as I went to use the facilities. The WC was at the front of the plane, which made me look especially inept when I had to buzz the steward to come and get me out. There was no way I could find the ‘door handle’ from the inside…

The loving couple and I sat in the coach displaying a picture of a man picking his nose. I believe that is why it is often easier finding free seats in that part of the train. People are put off by the finger. After having stared at it for a long time, I worked out it’s someone trying to shush you. Not digging out snot.

Just to be safe, the Resident IT Consultant and I conversed in whispers, and when I needed to switch on my very noisy holiday mobile (to call the vet for a car) I stepped outside for a minute. Outside the nose-picking zone, not the whole train.

In Ängelholm we passed a train, bearing the name of an ancient easy listening singer, going in the opposite direction. None of this Flying Scotsman business when you can have Östen Warnerbring. Tyrolean hats come to mind.

We finally got to our penultimate destination, where we swapped Stilton and oatcakes for a Saab. Mr and Miss Vet left a party to deliver us a car, while Mrs Vet sensibly stayed and had fun. We had narrowly missed Miss Vet two days earlier as she was ‘held hostage’ at Manchester Airport in between flights.

With a bus strike just beginning, we were very happy to have some other means of transport. (I forgot the broom, again!) We stopped at ICA Maxi for fermented milk and other necessities, after which the poor Resident IT Consultant most uncharacteristically collapsed into bed.

It was only later I discovered what his chosen reading matter had been. A book with the title Why Most Things Fail.

(Whereas I read a fantastic new book. Find the review here. Soon. Very soon.)

Ach, it’s Auchtermuchty

‘Did you bring even more books I have to read?’ asked Daughter. ‘Yes!’ I did. With a car you should make the most of not having to carry stuff back and forth.

It was student moving day. While the more normal parents had come from Berkshire and beyond, to convey their little darlings back home after a year at uni, us abnormals traversed half the country (in the last few days I’ve been on more scenic routes than I thought possible) in order to give a lift to someone’s belongings from one room to another, two minutes down the road. And then go home again, with as empty a car as when we arrived.

So naturally I took the opportunity of providing more reading material seriously. Meanwhile, the Resident IT Consultant checked out the new landlady’s library, and found it reasonably satisfactory.

En route for this mini-move we stopped in Auchtermuchty for elevenses at the Tannochbrae Tearoom. Very Dr Finlay it was. Strangely quiet little town, but with lovely cake, and a refill of coffee for the Resident IT Consultant. I was a little taken aback to find a portrait of Alex Salmond perched on the cistern in the toilet, but each to their own, I suppose.

(For anyone who fancies running a tearoom, I gather it’s for sale.)

Oddly enough it was my second ‘Finlay sighting’ in two days. Helen Grant lives near a street called Rintoul Avenue, so my mind was already on Dr F.

David Rintoul

If I’d had my wits about me you could have been admiring a picture of the tiny, but lovely, Auchtermuchty Library here. But I didn’t, so you can’t. I blame it on the lemon & lime cake. And the portrait in the WC. (I’d have understood if they’d put David Rintoul there.)

While all this was taking place, Son and Dodo set off for Sweden, to cut some grass, encountering rather hot weather. Son had a meeting to go to, so parked Dodo in the library park in the sunshine while he talked business.

Halmstad Library

It strikes me that that’s two pretty long trips for two small jobs. I’m glad insanity seems to be hereditary.