Monthly Archives: September 2013

Catch-up

Oh, gentle blog, I have neglected you of late. I’m very sorry. I have been busier than anyone in their entire life has ever been.

As you know, I work with teenagers, and this particular group are staging a musical in the next few weeks. I’m in charge of costumes. And with three weeks to go, one of the principals ended up in hospital, so I’m now also doing their role. So I’ve been learning lines, songs and dances (including my solo song which I loathe) and frantically sewing. And doing my actual job. And still trying to do all that while looking presentable and feeding myself with better stuff than junk food.

This afternoon I had to sing my solo song (which I loathe) in front of the main cast for the first time. It wasn’t as bone-crushingly awful as I was afraid of. Rehearsal was pretty fun, and I didn’t miss the bus home. I think I have used public transport more times in the last two years than I ever did before I could drive.

We came round one of the many bends on Highland roads, and the sun came blazing on. It was spectacular. I smiled. My mp3 player decided to play all my favourite and most rocking songs. I feel good about the weekend. There’s still a lot to do – you should have seen last week’s to-do list – and I have to be up early and on the train at half eight in the morning for some more town centre trudging, but I’m thinking positively.

I need to make another list tonight. My laundry is already on, and I have a yummy chicken casserole in the oven. I’m sooooooo domestic. Hashtag goddess.

In the midst of the maelstrom, I did manage to catch the first episode of Orphan Black, now showing on terrestrial TV in the UK. So cool. Quite looking forward to episode two tonight. Also quite excited by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D coming next week. I think they clash actually, so I will be torn on what to watch live and what to watch on catch-up…

Hashtag firstworldproblems. On the other hand, maybe I can just watch Avengers again tonight while I do more hand-sewing? I do love Avengers. AND it’s almost time for Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing to come out on DVD! Spoilt for choice the next few weeks, eh?

Now back to the sewing.

Also, mental note: Don’t pin a russet coloured blanket around yourself while also wearing a forest green jumper. Similarity to a Hobbit evident.

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Autumn

I’ve not really done much in the last twenty-four hours apart from watch a bit of Angel and not be nearly productive enough. I think it’s the turn in the weather.

~

Autumn

He called me the other night: back in town again. He gets me every time; eyes as blue as a late September sky, auburn hair just starting to frost at the edges and stubble sharp as a conker case. How can I say no?

We walk together through the park and he showers me with gifts of rubies and gold. With every breath he turns up the charm. I bathe in his warm sunlight, but I am not completely taken in. I remember how quickly the clouds roll in and the darkness can fall.

Last time he was there one day and gone the next. I thought he had settled. I thought, foolishly, that he would stay just a bit longer. One morning, I rolled over and reached out for him but there was only the morning chill to greet me. I sank into a depression that lasted until the following March.

Here he is again. Like a child, I reach up to him, anxious to cling to his shirt tails and keep him near me. Under the shimmering downpour of the storm he captivates me with flashes of brilliance and that deep burr that sends a shiver down my spine. Every time he calls I answer; staring dreamily through the window at the wind ruffling the leaves on the trees. The branches wave to me and the leaves rustle in warning. As if on cue a cold wind blows and the leaves that were lustrous and golden, fall, dull brown, to the muddy grass below.

Each time he appears I give him my heart and I know, sure as the sky darkens by five in December, that the next time will be the same.

I can already feel him slipping away. They say winter this year will be a harsh one and with each crisp dawn I can only agree.

Autumn has barely arrived but he is already preparing to leave.

~

Autumn is my favourite season and always has been. It’s wild and colourful and unpredictable. Walks in wellies in the woods; apples and spices and digging out the jumpers; leaves and rain and wind and rushes of everything…

 

Misty

Shirley Hughes

Mist in the morning, raw and nippy

Leaves on the pavement, wet and slippy

Sun on fire behind the trees

Muddy boots, muddy knees

Shop windows lighted early

Soaking grass, dewy, pearly

Red, lemon, orange and brown

Silently, softly, the leaves float down

 

I had this poem in the Out and About book with gorgeous illustrations. That’s autumn. That’s the thrill of it. Mist and murk and secrecy. Autumn is a very furtive season, I’ve always found. Until Friday, kids, stay cosy.

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Angelic

Late again, I know. I’m just so busy!

I have recently rediscovered Linkin Park, thanks to hearing some vintage tunes on Rivka’s playlist when she was working in the attic. Whippety-quick, I got Hybrid Theory on my phone and have been rocking out on my way to work. The whole album just brings a smile to my face and makes me want to throw myself around. I don’t think I’ve listened to it in its entirety since I was… nineteen..? It reminds me of how things were back then but I’m also hearing things in the lyrics I didn’t at the time. I suppose that’s normal, though. A lot has happened in eight years that could be interpreted through those lyrics. It’s been fun reconnecting with it, though.

I started watching Angel the other night. I was stuck for something to watch when Bake Off wasn’t on (GBBO is the only thing I watch, most of the time) and thought… meh… I’ll give it a go. I’m four episodes in and while not addicted, I’m certainly enjoying the ride. I think my favourite bit so far is Spike’s entrance monologue in Episode 3. I wanted to find a clip of it because the delivery is so spot on, but the text will have to do:

“(as Rachel [a girl Angel has just saved]) How can I thank you, you mysterious black-clad hunk of a night thing?
(as Angel) No need, little lady. Your tears of gratitude are enough for me. You see, I was once a badass vampire, but love – and a pesky curse – defanged me. And now I’m just a big, fluffy puppy with bad teeth. [Rachel moves to touch Angel] No, not the hair! Never the hair!
(as Rachel) But there must be some way I can show my appreciation.
(as Angel) No, helping those in need’s my job. And working up a load of sexual tension, and prancing away like a magnificent poof is truly thanks enough.
(as Rachel) I understand. I have a nephew who’s gay, so…
(as Angel) Say no more. Evil’s still afoot. And I’m almost out of that Nancy-boy hair-gel I like so much. Quickly, to the Angel-mobile! Away! [Angel swooshes off in his long coat]”

Pretty much sums up the whole series. If you have any recollection of Spike’s accent, you should read it in his voice. I could not breathe through laughing. If you’ve got the series, just go watch that bit. You should know yourselves how great it is.

I wrote myself a massive to-do list for today and this blog post was only one item on it. So I’d better type quickly, eh? I have been telling everyone I know that they should watch Ultraviolet. I still want to have its babies. I also want to devour Jack Davenport’s entire filmography. But I’m just faaaar toooo busy! I haven’t even finished re-reading Ocean, though you may possibly guess I don’t feel that tortured about it.

I went to a craft night on Thursday though, and made a mobile phone case from scratch by hand! That’s my achievement for the week. Back on Tuesday, hopefully! Best add it to my to-do list…

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Depth of the Ocean

Right. At the moment I am re-reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Mr Neil “Pretention is genuinely my middle name; check my gold filigree birth certificate” Gaiman. Just joking. It’s carved into a narwhal horn.

In all seriousness, I do like a lot of stuff Gaiman writes: Stardust, Neverwhere, Anansi Boys and one of the best New Who episodes, The Doctor’s Wife. No disputing, when he’s on form he’s pretty good. My main issue with him is the massive fuss over American Gods which is overlong and the tangent sections are way more fun than the main story.

Anyway, Ocean. I mentioned on the Fantasy Faction forums that as a “child story for adults”, I prefer the superb The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. Mind you, I’ve read that more often. They have some similarities: a young boy obsessed with books, a trickster, a quest to save a family member from doom, and some personal growth along the way.

TBOLT is a little darker, in true fairy tale style. I think it is perhaps a little unfair as Connolly adapts a lot of existing stories (the stories from the books on David’s shelf) and weaves them through the narrative whereas Gaiman’s tale follows the structure but with completely his own characters. Perhaps that familiarity is what I prefer about TBOLT, or perhaps it’s the descent into almost the unheimlich (showing off my university education there, folks) that I like about it. The unheimlich, or uncanny, is something familiar that is twisted into the unfamiliar, or something that should be safe that is dangerous, or something that at a glance looks normal but on closer inspection isn’t. The uncanny is a lot of things: overly realistic dolls, or living dolls (Chucky is a good example); mirror worlds; false eyes that are actually real eyes… things that unsettle without us quite knowing why. When David is on his journey, he meets the real Snow White and her Socialist Comrade dwarves, Red Riding Hood’s wolfman, flowers with the faces of children at their centres, and animal-child hybrid creatures among other things.

Ocean stays in the real world and sticks with more conventional surreality, and magic hidden in our own world. The Hempstock’s farm is the centre, where every meal is the best ever, and chores possibly do themselves. Lettie, Mrs H and Old Mrs H seem perfectly at home with a foot in each camp and their practicality makes a lot of the weird action seem normal. This is good, because to them of course it is normal, but bad because it makes the story a little less fraught and a little more child-safe despite being for adults.

TBOLT is for adults or mature teens. Connolly sinks his teeth into the macabre and doesn’t let go. He is writing for adults and he knows it. There is a seediness and a sleaziness –a roiling underbelly of loathing and peevishness – that I really like. It is unsanitised. David is a child moving through an adult world. The world was created by someone else and he is reacting to it; there are things he doesn’t understand because is not old enough but they are seen and described nonetheless. The narrator of Ocean is in his own world and perhaps it’s the first-person POV but there is an innocence to his description that I just can’t warm to. I suppose that says more about me.

I do like Ocean, and I am re-reading it to see if I missed anything the first time round. I like Ursula Monkton and her development. She is my favourite thing, I think. The Brollachan-style first appearance, the sweet exterior (I can almost smell her makeup), the slyness and the pride… once again proving that Gaiman really can write – if only the whole book was as strong.

Mentioning the Brollachan, Ocean compare quite nicely with Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath where children combat evil magic in our own world. They are children’s books with a simpleness perhaps borne of its time of publishing, but there is a mature feel to Gomrath especially that keeps the interest as an adult reader. Maybe sixties children were just more gung-ho. Gomrath wins on the Wild Hunt alone, to be honest.

I know I will continue to read and re-read Garner’s two Alderley Edge books, but Ocean just doesn’t grab me. I’m really trying to give it a fair go. Perhaps it’s because the protagonist of Ocean is really quite young. He has a babyishness that colours his view of the world a little too much. He’s, what, seven going on eight? David in TBOLT is eleven or twelve (and more on a level with Lettie Hempstock) as are Colin and Susan in Garner’s books. Maybe that’s what I don’t like. He’s not practical enough.

Fairy stories are all about really nasty things happening to children. The relish is in either snotty brats getting a hideous comeuppance, or in the children overcoming the villain by being smarter or more cunning (often having been underestimated by adults). Ocean sort of… aims for that but just falls short. It’s too stark and clean. It’s just not twisted enough.

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