Category Archives: Television

Catching up on season one of His Dark Materials

That’s before season two. And no, that’s not me doing it.

As I might have mentioned, neither Daughter nor I were convinced by the first season of His Dark Materials on the BBC. As I suggested at the time, for me to continue watching after the first two episodes seemed fairly unlikely. And I didn’t, so when the time came two weeks ago to settle down with season two, the thought didn’t even cross my mind.

In fact, it was almost an afterthought that made me mention it to the Resident IT Consultant, seeing as he did sit through all of last autumn’s. He’s more open-minded, it seems. So he has by now watched the first three episodes, and is reasonably happy.

But Daughter, who decided to catch up on season one, on the minute off-chance that she’d watch the new one live, has been anything but happy. As a serial audio book listener, she knows the story inside out. And believe me, BBC, that does not make for satisfaction right now. There have been little – and not so little – screams over every wrong thing.

We both understand and accept that for film technical reasons you need to adapt, abridge, and so on. But writing a new story and changing the characters when you have a perfectly good story already?

No.

I get that this version looks good. But it could have looked good while sticking to the original story too.

I suspect that the nice people I know who actually like it, are those who have not nerded over HDM for the last two decades. Perhaps they read the books, liked them, and promptly forgot any details, and thus the BBC series comes as a new thing of beauty.

Perhaps.

Handsome in Hemsöborna

Sven Wollter is dead. For anyone not in the know, this actor was the most handsome man in Sweden, or so the saying went. Back in the day, which was quite a while ago. 86 is a good age, but I’m sure Sven had plenty more life in him, had it not been for that bloody virus.

I was first aware of him in August Strindberg’s Hemsöborna, some time in the 1960s. The whole country watched. The young Witch thought he was very good looking, and it seems she wasn’t the only one.

I know. I shouldn’t go on about something as unimportant as looks. In Sven we had an excellent actor and a good communist. It always felt as though you could trust him.

Living in exile like I do, I have missed most of what he did in later years, but I do remember trying to tell Adéle Geras about his good looks, when she borrowed my Van Veeteren DVDs, about Håkan Nesser’s detective. And I was always pleased to discover he was still alive. Until today.

[T]OBE or not [T]OBE

Sorry about that. I was trying to think of some sort of heading, but as you can see, I failed.

Translator, and general facilitator of all things literary, Daniel Hahn has been awarded an OBE in the [rather late] Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Many of us are very happy about this, and we’re hoping Danny is too, and that he didn’t accept his OBE just to please the rest of us. Although that would be a perfectly good reason, too.

Children’s laureate Cressida Cowell is another new OBE.

It’s rather lovely to be a little bit involved in a trade like children’s books, where some participants go on to be recognised in this way. Last year it was Theresa Breslin, and I’m very proud of her efforts too, especially considering how purply she dressed.

To return to this year, I’m also happy for the new Dame Mary Berry. I’m not into baking in any great way, but she has a nice crinkly smile.

Bookwitch bites #147

Sigh. It’s time to stay at home again. I mean, more so than the last two (?) months. We didn’t exactly go to town during this time, but went out a little bit. Even considered going out for a meal, but on careful consideration couldn’t really face it. We can cook. Or we can order delivery of either pizza or Indian. Not much else the three of us agree on, foodwise.

So we will heed this t-shirt advice again. We started back in March or April, but haven’t got to the end yet. And there is more Mandalorian to look forward to, with the baby Yoda.

This post will be full of borrowings and stealings.

Having said that, I am obviously heading straight to the Lowry theatre. Not really, but for someone who no longer pays too much attention to theatre news from the place I no longer live near, my eye was caught by the press release about the Nightingale Court, so I read on a bit. The Lowry is to host several court rooms so that trials that have lagged behind for too long this year, can start taking place. This means the theatre receives some welcome revenue, and the jury members get to sit in comfort in theatre boxes; one each. (I could almost be tempted…)

Temptation can go both ways. I’ve heard from a reliable (cough) source that Camilla Läckberg’s recent novel has a lot of sex in it. Don’t know if this is good or bad. But according to e-newsletter Boktugg, lots of people dislike Camilla. It can be hard feeling happy about someone else’s immense success. Suffering from the green monster isn’t much fun. One day I might read one of Camilla’s books, if only to irritate the person who told me so many bad and, I suspect untruthful, things about her.

So what do you know about volcanoes? Do you have a gut feeling for where you might find them? That is if you don’t actually know about eruptions or remember where some of them took place. I was intrigued when reading in the Observer that someone had been stranded by an ash cloud after a Finnish volcano stopped flights. I tried to imagine those pine trees going flying as the volcano volcanoed. I know the Nordic countries are ‘all the same’. But doesn’t Iceland stand out at least a little bit if we’re going volcanic?

And finally some nice normality. This week, the day before the renewed lockdown, Theresa Breslin came to town. She was here to sign books at the Tinkerbell Emporium, which is where we last saw her, just over a year ago. (Theresa is the one on the right!)

It would have been even lovelier if I’d been able to pop over to say hello…

but I would love a talking horse!

I read Sunday’s Observer’s New Review with rising levels of panic and and a feeling that I really didn’t want to.

I didn’t want to anything. There were films recommended. Television programmes. All the kinds of things that reviewers review, in fact. Books, even.

They didn’t leave me cold, as they might once. I just didn’t want to read or watch or listen to any of that. It sort of confirmed that while this ghastly situation continues – and it does; we are not out of it yet – it is preventing me from doing most of the things I’d normally be doing.

Until I came to the page about Kit de Waal, whom I saw – heard – in Edinburgh (was it last year? No, it was two years ago) and liked very much. She said good stuff. But towards the end she says ‘as soon as you introduce a talking horse … I’m just not interested.’

I mean, that’s fine. Kit doesn’t need to like talking horses. In fact, what she wants in books are things that can happen in real life. That’s totally fine.

But I can’t help feeling that a talking horse would cheer me up.

End of Review

It’s not good news. The Guardian is about to stop publishing its Saturday Review.

It’s also not surprising. Costs everywhere, for everything, are escalating. Newspapers are not made of money any more than we are. You have to cut somewhere. It would just have been nice if the Review could stay. It means a lot not only to its readers, but to authors whose books are reviewed by them.

I understand that the other smaller parts of the Saturday paper are also disappearing, with plans for all to find some space in a new supplement. Hopefully this means that some of our most favourite bits will survive in some form or other. I know I have several that I really don’t want to lose.

Back in 2007 they published a lot of [paid for] blog posts. I know, because I was one of the paid people, having been introduced to the idea by Adèle Geras and Meg Rosoff who both wrote for the Books section. I also strayed into the film and television and music sections, because ‘I obviously knew so much about those subjects’.

It was fun. Chatting to other commenters was fun. Being able to earn the money to pay for my first laptop was rather nice. I know that the Resident IT Consultant would have been happy to pay, but for a non-earner like myself earning a bit of money was nice.

But I could tell when things went south. Most of their blogging needs were taken care of in-house. It was their version of not buying grapes every week when money gets tight. It’s just that as their purse shrank, so did ours. We’ve tried to be as supportive as we can. But it’s not enough.

Personally I am fine with there being fewer pages to the paper version of the Guardian. I like the idea of saving on paper; I don’t mean waste, but still it can be a lot of paper. The news  section could save some of its speculation on ‘what will happen’ to online pages. We will know soon enough what happens.

But I do like some of the more literary pieces on paper, and the recipes for things I won’t cook because I don’t have the latest outlandish ingredient. Some things are meant for paper. I won’t say whether I think the price could be allowed to be raised again, because I don’t know what people can afford.

Sitting in Limbo

How can those people working for Immigration, and in detention centres, live with themselves? Can you really do what they do at work and then go home and be normal? The politicians are obviously a lost cause.

I knew I had to watch the BBC drama Sitting in Limbo. I’ve been following the Windrush scandal in the Guardian for the past few years, but I still felt I had to actually ‘see’ what they put totally normal citizens through, to prove they are just that.

This was the story about Anthony Bryan, who came to Britain at the age of eight in 1965, and who went to school here and worked and paid taxes and fathered British children, and who suddenly lost his job and subsequently his home, because the Home Office wanted to get rid of a few people who don’t belong.

First, that’s not a nice thing to do. Second, this was not such a person. Anthony has the right to live here. And just think how much tax payers’ money was used on ruining one man’s life. Not just his, either. His family were in bad shape after all they had to go through, trying to save him from being deported to where he no longer belongs.

There is a passport at the end. It made me suddenly think of my own, which will expire far too soon, and of the one I actually threw away after decades of hanging on to it. I’ve been to Lunar House, which was very similar to where Anthony had to report every two weeks. And I carry a plastic card, showing my entitlement to live in the UK, acquired through the Windrush scheme, without me being black or West Indian. None of this should have had to happen.

Today is Empathy Day. Please use it well.

All locked down and nowhere to go

Forgive me for mentioning another 64th. But I am simply gasping for events to write about, and I have no handy authors or launches* or anything at all.

I went to bed on Friday, feeling quite unusually chirpy. Actually, it was more like Very Early Saturday, and the strange thing was I wasn’t tired. I’d made the Resident IT Consultant watch the programme about Tom Jones turning 80, until he pleaded for permission to go to bed.

I allowed myself to sleep in, but I woke bright and early – for me – feeling chirpier than normal. When the Resident IT Consultant finally joined me for breakfast, I asked if this was a thing when you’re 64, but he assured me it wasn’t.

Could have been Tom Jones?

We spent the day eating.

After morning coffee Son FaceTimed, and we discussed lockdown haircuts and friendly, but incomprehensible Danish literary agents. Then lunched on the Lebanese food he had sent over. Son, not the agent.

Hung around while Daughter finished the special birthday cake.

Did the first two laps of my Land’s End to John O’Groats walking round the block, which I imagine should have me somewhere in their car park. As I need about 3000 laps, I will have to up the number per day. Or give up. That would work too.

Met the neighbour from across the road. She was wearing the mask we’d got for her, colour co-ordinated to go with her coat. We discussed who the man who keeps saying hello to her might be. (It’s her son’s virus-denier pal.)

Ate the cake in the garden, because it didn’t rain and it wasn’t too cold. West side New Neighbour kept singing all afternoon. It was nice. Just weird, because for her first year here she’s not done any of that. Maybe it was her birthday and she was feeling happy?

We finished the day with pizza from Papa John’s – who, by divine intervention, opened up in town mere days before lockdown – and a film. Took a break from Star Wars and Marvel and had great fun with the nuns in Sister Act.

By then I really wanted the day to end, because all this good stuff was simply not normal. (Luckily I felt wiped out in the ordinary way when I woke up today.)

* Last year I launched the Edinburgh International Book Festival on this day. The year before I hung out with Children’s laureates past and future in Glasgow. Most other years I attend the public flag day for me in Sweden.

Malory Towers

Speaking of fluffy entertainment, we tackled the first episode of Malory Towers the other evening. It was thoughtful of the BBC to stream it immediately, rather than wait. There are many of us needing light fun, and not all of us are school age.

I am very sure I read Malory Towers when I was the ‘right’ age. It’s just such a long time ago that I remember nothing. Because it wasn’t the only boarding school book for young girls to read. I read many of them, thanking my lucky stars I didn’t have to go there.

The funny thing was, when I suggested watching this new adaptation, both Daughter and the Resident IT Consultant went blank. Not as in they wouldn’t want to, but more ‘what is it?’ So I explained about Enid Blyton and midnight feasts. The Resident IT Consultant could remember how the other children staying at the holiday centres he went to as a child, would want to organise midnight feasts in the dormitories. The poor boy didn’t get it.

Neither did Daughter, although she vaguely recalled something similar at the place her Junior school took children for a few days for outdoors fun and education.

Episode one was fine. Except if it was set in the 1930s the train rolling stock was too modern… Well, at least the Resident IT Consultant got to contribute his usual ‘they’ve got it wrong on the trains’ and everyone was happy.

But Darrell. As a name, I mean. I didn’t know it, until six years ago when we sold the old Bookwitch Towers to a woman by that name. Now I understand. Her mother was presumably a Malory Towers fan.

Malorie tweets

And for those who happen to believe that the world in Noughts & Crosses is fantasy, made up and not in the slightest real or likely to be:

Malorie Blackman – mostly – flipped our world to her alternative world, so what happens to white people in the books/television series, happens to black people, right here, right now.

Also, for anyone who feels she must be OK, because she’s famous, here is an earlier tweet from Malorie about what it’s like to be her. I’d like not to believe it, but I’m afraid I do. I mean, not that I ever expect Malorie to tell lies; I’d just want our world to be rather more advanced than her tweet suggests. The many replies to that tweet, should you decide to go and have a look, show quite how many black people are not expected to do anything except clean, and serve the coffee. Not even drive the buses.