Tag Archives: Josephine Tey

Bloody 2016 Scotland Programme

Bloody Scotland programme makers have this terrible habit of putting really interesting events on early in the morning. I mean, I will obviously have to get out of bed for Josephine Tey on the morning of September 10th, but how to last until the end of the day? Regrettably they won’t have the real Josephine Tey, but Val McDermid talking about her is good enough for me.

And from there the rest of the programme goes on and on with tempting combinations of topics and crime writers. There are the really famous names, and then there are the authors I’ve barely heard of. I ought to pick a row of sessions of new-to-me writers for the simple reason that new can mean tremendously exciting discoveries.

But then we have the old favourites. What to do about them? Scotland the Grave, and MC Beaton?

This year’s Bloody Scotland was launched in Stirling on Wednesday, and down south the following day, and being away I was unable to go to either. I shall have to give up holidays.

BBC presenter Theresa Talbot has a debut crime novel to introduce, and England and Scotland have a football score to settle. By how many goals will Scotland beat the English?

Stuart Neville returns to Stirling, as does super-scary Helen Fitzgerald. I am very keen to hear Erwin James talk to Martina Cole, which sounds like a fascinating event. Author crime quiz or Nicci French? How can you possibly choose?

The Curly Coo pub on a Saturday night, followed by a competitive measuring of the relative tartan-ness of people’s noir. Orkney or Northern Lights? Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is back, and with her are Agnes Ravatn and Erik Axl Sund. James Oswald. Craig Robertson. And finishing the weekend with Ian Rankin and Quintin Jardine.

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The Daughter of Time

So to my Christmas present book, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. It is not about an unconscious detective raving about Richard III while on his sickbed. Once upon a time I imagined it to be. I – quite rightly, I feel – thought that a detective in a coma isn’t really what you want.

So it was the one crime novel by Josephine that I ignored. I want my detectives alive and well and jumping about. But people would insist on praising the book. And recently I read, yet again, that it’s the best Josephine Tey. And then when I went to get it off the shelf I found we didn’t actually own it! That’s not what you want once you’ve given in, after years of strongly held prejudice.

Basically, Alan Grant has injured himself. Some kind of dramatic fall has put him in hospital, and as this is 1951 he has to stay there a very long time and he has to lie still and not get up. Unlike today when you’re lucky to stay overnight, if you manage to be admitted in the first place. And moving about is what you do to get better. So not surprisingly, Inspector Grant is bored stiff. The ceiling is apparently not terribly interesting, and his two nurses (!) are strict with him.

It’s also been a while since I read a ‘historical’ crime novel, if 1951 is history. It’s very cosy for those of the right social class, but less so for the woman ‘who does’ for Alan Grant or even for his sergeant. Grant buys his cleaning woman an unwanted, but expensive, handbag every year. Whereas he hobnobs with an actress who can buy her own fancy handbags.

King Richard III

She, the actress, brings him portraits of people to get him interested in something other than the ceiling, and Grant falls for Richard III, and then he sets out to determine whether this King really did murder the two boys in the Tower, all with the help of his nurse’s school history book.

This being a civilised hospital, both his surgeon and the matron have opinions on Richard. Grant gets his sergeant to go history book shopping, and then his actress finds him a sidekick for the adventure. All through the book Grant is flat on his back, ruminating about good old Richard.

And I believe him when he presents his case for whether or not uncle Richard murdered his nephews. You also get a very large dose of English history and I’m much wiser now. Though I could probably do with looking up a few family trees to see exactly how the Edwards and Henrys go together. Lots of Elizabeths and Margarets, not to mention Warwicks and other counties.

But of course, in 1951 I would have been educated enough to know all about these Tudors and Lancastrians. And anybody else. Archbishops, monks, and so on. (Not that I was born then.) Lots of gay people of the happy kind, which was easy enough to deal with. It took me some time to decide that the gel mentioned wasn’t something you rub onto your skin.

Seeing as Grant was not in a coma, this made for an interesting mental puzzle. I grew quite fond of his ‘sheep’, too.

Stocking fillers and other details

We have nearly thawed the Grandmother. She arrived three days ago – almost as deep frozen as Debi Gliori’s Strega-Nonna – courtesy of TransPennine. She has to put up with a lot when visiting Bookwitch Towers, one of which was an evening of Boggling.

We were thwarted in our plans for a Christmas Eve service in the Bookwitch church in Liverpool by more freezing, this time of water pipes. The plans dried up in the wake of flooding. (Couldn’t resist. Sorry.) Needing to replace our intended outing with something else, we went to the Plaza for elevenses. My past incompatibility with the Plaza should have told me not to try. We repaired instead to good old M&S, where we commandeered three tables and bathtub sized coffees. At least it was warm. After a last minute purchase of apples, Daughter and I managed to mislay WH Smith. We found it behind the Merry-go-round, and Daughter had a look at their teen books section, finding very little that wasn’t black with a dash of red.

Back at BWT we found, as had been expected, that the parcel that was 24 hours late had managed to deliver itself to the neighbours. It would never have arrived had we stayed in for it. Son has a way of writing pleading missives to delivery men and taping them to the front door, wishing them a Merry Christmas. That’s the missives. We have as yet to tape delivery men to our door, but I suppose it could be done, if only as a warning.

I didn’t feel nearly frozen enough, so went for a brief walk, encountering our poor postman on his very late round. Felt so bad that we offered him tea and a mincepie when he finally made it to our house.

Our presents insisted on being opened post-mincepie, accompanied by some suitable carols. A few weeks ago I read about the excellence of Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, so went to the shelf to get it out. Found to my surprise it seemed to be one we didn’t have, so its appearance under the tree on Christmas Eve was most welcome. As were two DVDs with the really old Famous Fives from my childhood, if not my television, since we didn’t get such wonderful things on our foreign screens. I know the Tey will be good. It has a sticker on the back saying ‘Used. Good.’

We dined on Daughter’s cannelloni in the company of Alan Bennett on the making of The Habit of Art. (I know. We are really boring.)

And this morning I have the meaning of the word ‘stocking fillers’ on my mind. Are they clementines and packets of raisins, or are they iPods and similar? Some weird kind of inflation would seem to have occurred in the nether regions of dress. Surely stocking fillers are tiny items of smaller value than the ‘real’ presents? Hard to manage in our case, but even so.

While you ponder your reply to this, I’m off to bounce some cranberries. According to my newspaper, it’s how you test their freshness.

Holly and snow

(Yes, I know. Those are holly berries.)