Friday, 25 March 2016

after me comes the flood

Having mentioned Sarah Perry in my Virgin Suicides post, I should write up my post about having finished reading After Me Comes The Flood around Wednesday 9 July 2014. (Yes, I do have quite the backlog, thank you for noticing.)

Thursday, 24 March 2016

murder on a honeymoon

On Wednesday 26th February 2014 we watched an old, short Hollywood movie (a B movie, I presume), Murder On A Honeymoon (1935). It was a pleasant enough, if unremarkable film, very much of its time in it acting style, and the best thing about it was, I seem to remember, the interaction between the police detective (James Gleason) and the old lady amateur sleuth, Hildegard Withers (Edna May Oliver). There's a surprisingly detailed Wikipedia entry on the film and associated films - it was part of a series, but I don't feel the need to seek any more of them out specially, though I wouldn't turn my nose up at them, or seeing Edna May Oliver and her idiosyncratic face and manner again (Wikipedia: 'When asked why she played predominantly comedic roles, she replied, "With a horse's face, what more can I play?"').

martin carthy

On Friday 21st March 2014 Bethan and I went to King's Place for the first time, for an anniversary outing to see Martin Carthy in Hall Two.

the virgin suicides

On Wednesday 23rd I finished The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. The writing was good and enjoyable, up to a point, but the story was unsatisfying; atmospheric, but punctured by droppings of the suspension of disbelief. Ultimately, disappointing.

Monday, 21 March 2016

the titfield thunderbolt

On Saturday 27th February - at the point between setting up the new TV and set-top box and getting them to work fully, when we fancied watching something but could only get a DVD to be watchable, as happily I had managed to set that up - Bethan and I watched The Titfield Thunderbolt in the evening. We were looking on her Ealing boxset for a light film which we hadn't seen before, and that was it (we'd seen most of the good/light ones). It was really quite disappointing, and not up to much, which was surprising, and its name had endured enough to be very familiar.

miss atomic bomb

On Saturday night Bethan and I went to see Miss Atomic Bomb at the St James Theatre in Victoria. It's had 'mixed' reviews, we hear, but we both enjoyed it, to different degrees.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

maisie on anarchists

Maisie was asking about what anarchists were this afternoon. I said, roughly, that they believed that nobody should be in charge and that people should do what they liked. Maisie thought this was very naive. 'Have they *met* people?', she said.

She said that when you see how people break the law even when they might be punished, think what they would do if there was no punishment. That's very well put, I said. 'I'm well known for the putting of things,' she said.

death of the digibox

When we came back from our half-term holiday, we found that not only had our digibox (which is what we've always called it, but I see now everyone knows as set-top boxes - the box which gave us Freeview and recording facilities) not recorded most of what we'd set it for while we were away, but that it wouldn't stay on for more than a minute or two before going dead, and before too long wouldn't come back on at all. It had always been a bit glitchy, but this seemed to be the end of the road.

tales of the city

On Wednesday 16 March I finished Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. Well-written, but - I think unintentionally - depressing, to me at least.

epigraphs and dedications

Having decided to note first and last lines, I'm thinking I'll also start noting epigraphs and dedications, which can be interesting. I have often thought there would be an interesting biographical article in going through Agatha Christie's dedications, for example; I don't know if she's unusual in one who wrote so many books, in giving dedications so often, perhaps always.

Of the books which I've done first/last lines for, then, here are the takings:

Stewart Lee, How I Escaped My Certain Fate:
Dedication: To Ted Chippington [inspirational comedian mentioned in the book]

Agatha Christie, Dead Man's Folly:
Dedication: To Humphrey & Peggy Trevelyan [Cornish surname, so perhaps someone local to the setting of the book]

Friday, 18 March 2016

half of st matthew passion

This evening Maisie and I went to see Bethan in her new choir doing Bach's St Matthew Passion at St John's Waterloo. As is not unusual, we didn't stay for the whole concert but left at the interval; it started at 7, because it's 2h30 (possibly without the interval, not sure), and we left what I presume was towards the end of the interval, about quarter to 9.


This afternoon Maisie and I finished watching Twilight, which we'd watched a bit of on Wednesday. She/we hadn't read the books, but I had a pretty good idea of the general story (we're well behind the times with this one). It's an interesting combination of genres, primarily vampire and love across a divide, and if you think about it a lot there are some odd features to it (which I'm sure are explored more thoroughly in the books), but the film was pretty well done, and I'll be happy to watch on. (I got the set of the first three in Cex a few weeks ago for £1.50.)

the young visiters

On Saturday 12th March Maisie and I went to the 4pm matinee of The Young Visiters at The Tabard Theatre, which we both enjoyed.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

star trek

I watched Star Trek, the 2009 movie, again last night, with Maisie. I didn't give it my full attention, as I'd seen it before, but it was better than I remembered, and certainly I preferred it to any of the films in the first two volumes (originals and Next Generations).

Given that I enjoyed The Force Awakens better than any since the first (possibly including the first) Star Wars, perhaps it's JJ Abrams' magic touch.

I didn't stick with Lost, however, once I began (quite early - I didn't watch to the end of the first series) to believe that there was going to be no proper resolution or explanation for everything being thrown at us (or that those things lay very far in the future), which I find very frustrating and unsatisfying. I got the impression from what I picked up subsequently that I may have been right, though there were six series in all.

quartet in autumn

On Thursday 10 March I finished Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym, which I enjoyed very much. It was one of a batch of small - well, what used to be just normal size, my preferred size, the size which fits nicely into a coat pocket - secondhand paperbacks I got at Kirkdale Books in Sydenham last Saturday (nine for £15.50, something like those numbers I think), in advance of our meal out with Marina.

Friday, 11 March 2016

the case of the borrowed brunette

On Monday 7th I finished The Case of the Borrowed Brunette, a Perry Mason novel by Erle Stanley Gardner.

I see when I blogged about reading The Case of the Lame Canary I didn't think I'd read any Perry Mason before, but that when looking at a list of them the Borrowed Brunette rang a bell; I suspect it rang a bell because I'd bought it, and bought it for Bethan, because I hadn't written my name in it (and ones I've bought for Bethan are the only ones I tend not to write my name in).

There's a good review of it here (which looks like an interesting blog) - good, in that I largely agree with it on both the pros and cons. I preferred it to the Lame Canary, but it was just 'not bad'. It was pretty convoluted, and a bit stretching of credulity, not just in plot but in Perry Mason's behaviour and what he got away with (although within that there are interesting insights into criminal law and the courts, the author being a lawyer himself). The perfect, devoted secretary is underwritten and notably old-fashioned (first published 1951). The dialogue in particular is very 'written', with people continually telling each other things they know already, overelaborately explaining what they're talking about for the benefit of the reader; all dialogue in plays and novels is unrealistic to an extent, but this was particularly so.

Again, I won't be seeking out any more Erle Stanley Gardners.

First line: At this hour, Adams Street was a pedestrians' no man's land.
Last line: 'At that, next time I run across anyone who is borrowing a brunette, I'm going to let him keep her!'

The cover. The warm green of the cover hasn't come out, though I tried a couple of times. That's phones for you. It's the classic Penguin Crimes cover, though they don't always have either a tag line (a way to get Perry Mason's name on the cover?), and certainly don't always have a 'complete and unabridged' line, both of which reduce the cleanness of the design. I don't know if they always have a price on the cover, though - possibly? I wonder how the cover-price practice varied across time and publisher. You don't tend to see prices on any covers now, although sometimes they might be on stickers (more likely in supermarkets than bookshops, I'd guess, though they latter would have '3 for 2' or 'buy one get one half-price' kind of offer stickers).

Thursday, 10 March 2016

morris's february folk club

The Morris Folk Club for February was on Tuesday 23rd. I sang California Earthquake and Peggy Gordon.

Here's the Club Facebook post with the playlist for the night.

When I shared that post on Facebook I said, 'Who couldn't love a folk club where song sources include Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Mama Cass, Taylor Swift, The Levellers and The Specials, and none of them sound out of place alongside the more typical folk songs. (I sang California Earthquake - it was I who brought Mama Cass - and Peggy Gordon.)'

When I commented on that Club post, I said, 'So many highlights last night, seems invidious to mention any in particular - but Jonathan's Gangsters and Tanja's Oj Javore sounded like they were written to be performed that way (I don't know if banjos are big in Croatian folk), and Suzanne's Boatman and Anja's Bella Mama round were lovely, and the communal singing was great.'

first and last sentences

One Instagram account which posts photos of books also posts the first sentence of the book, which I thought was interesting. I don't think I'll do that on Instagram, but when I remember I will do that here in the posts about books I've read. I think I'll also include the last sentence, if it doesn't give anything away.

Here's a catch-up from books in the charity shop bag (I'll probably go back and drop them into the related posts too).

Stewart Lee, How I Escaped My Certain Fate:
First line: I never wanted to be a comedian.
Last line: And that's how I escaped my certain fate.

Dylan Thomas, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog:
First line: The grass-green cart, with 'J. Jones, Gorsehill' painted shakily on it, stopped in the cobblestone passage between 'The Hare's Foot' and 'The Pure Drop.'
Last line: The light of the one weak lamp in a rusty circle fell across the brick-heaps and the broken wood and the dust that had been houses once, where the small and hardly known and never-to-be-forgotten people of the dirty town had lived and loved and died and, always, lost.

Edgar Wallace, Flat 2:
First line: A shot rang out sharply, and Captain Hurley Brown did not need the direction of the sound to guide him to Robert Weldrake's door.
Last line: God bless you!

Agatha Christie, Dead Man's Folly:
First line: It was Miss Lemon, Poirot's efficient secretary, who took the telephone call.
Last line: 'There are some things that one has to face quite alone...'

Edgar Wallace, The Joker:
First line: Mr Stratford Harlow was a gentleman with no particular call to hurry.
Last line: He was an excellent judge of human nature.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

recording with the deutscher chor

I don’t seem to have blogged about our recording experience with the Deutscher Chor London last summer. They were recording a CD of arrangements of German folk songs, and thought it would be good to make it a double CD, with the second CD made up of other guest choirs from London singing an English folk song, and then the other choirs invited to join in the recording of a commissioned setting of a German folk song, Der Monde ist Aufgegangen. As the Morris website says, 'It's fair to say we were the least classical choir involved in the project! We were very pleased to be invited to be part of it, and think it turned out pretty well.'

ceri james videos

I’ve blogged about the Ceri James recording before, but since then they’ve put two videos of it online - the video of the live recording evening in the St Barnabas Mission hall where we practise, and a studio version video (which we are on in the background, from takes done earlier in the evening before we sang it with the band). As it says on the choir website, 'It's not typically us, but we're up for anything, and a good time was had by all! Our thanks to Ceri for inviting us to join him.'

morris folk choir railway songs concert in November + two more in December

On Saturday 28 November Morris Folk Choir had our Railway Songs concert in St Barnabas Mission. It wasn’t as packed as the Drink concert, but was still pretty full, and went pretty well, I think. (Although I did make a hash of one of our small group songs’ verses, for which I apologised to my fellow group members, but they were very generous and said it was a collective effort.) I also played an instrument on one of the songs for the first time, simple rhythm guitar alongside Tanja’s banjo on Old Reuben/900 Miles (which I’d asked if I could do, as I was keen not to sing that particular song (trying to minimise singing words I’m not comfortable with singing), and was very graciously accommodated; it’s good to have a range of instrumentalists to draw on, so that the load isn’t too much on the same people all the time).

four choirs

[another draft post from last year which was pretty much finished]

Saturday 25 April 2015 was a day of music. We all went to the Museum of Childhood for the afternoon, where they were having a day of St George's Day celebration music. We heard the Sea Shanty Choir (which Fiona is in) and the Cecil Sharp House Choir (which I was in for a term at the start in its earliest form as a community choir, and which Julia who used to be in Morris is in), and also the Becontree Brass Band and Hedge Pigs. While the other choirs were enjoyable, it affirmed to me that I was in the right choir for me.

In the evening the others went to an election hustings in Southwark Cathedral and I went to St Barnabas' Church for a late afternoon/early evening performance of the Morris Folk Choir along with the Shacklewell Community Choir (we sang separately, and Freedom Train together). We were a relatively small group, but it went fine; again, I think an indication of the increased confidence Michelle has given us that we feel at ease performing in much smaller numbers.

Monday, 7 March 2016

dead man's folly

On Thursday I finished Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie. It was fairly good, though, as is regularly the case, I found the ending unsatisfactory, being pretty preposterous and with a solution containing elements which would have been I think unreasonable for the reader to deduce from the story as recounted (and unsatisfactory in that I think several other solutions could have been equally (im)plausibly presented, which I always think is an admission of failure - you want at the end to think yes, I see now, that's what happened and that makes sense, and I see how that's evident from what I've been told and shown). The journey is enjoyable, but the destination/explanation/resolution/denouement is unsatisfactory. That this is true so often in all kinds of fiction demonstrates how hard it can be to write a good ending, even when your book is full of good ideas.

First line: It was Miss Lemon, Poirot's efficient secretary, who took the telephone call.
Last line: 'There are some things that one has to face quite alone...'

Sunday, 6 March 2016

murder is easy

[found this saved as a draft just now, from Wednesday 9 July 2014. I'm not sure what else I had thought I might add that made me not post it at the time.]

Around Tuesday 20 May [2014] I finished Murder Is Easy by Agatha Christie. Not a great one, of the kind that I don't like - amateurs unnecessarily taking it upon themselves to investigate a murder and putting themselves in danger to do so, long stretches of hypothesising about possible murderers, means and motives which are just a waste of time (but also often equally as plausible as actual solution, which always feels like cheating).

The Wikipedia entry is unusually long, with a very detailed plot summary (including ending), and extracts from several reviews, the first, most negative of which is the one I most agree with (others saying it's among her best just go to show there's no accounting for taste).

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

portrait of the artist as a young dog; instagram

On Saturday 9 August 2014 I finished Dylan Thomas's book Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. I'd picked up an old paperback of it - a Guild Books paperback reprint of 1956, 2 shillings (first published in 1940) - and was intrigued, as I'd never heard of it; in fact I didn't realise he'd written any prose apart from Under Milk Wood and A Child's Christmas.

Its title obviously alludes to James Joyce's book, and is a little reminiscent of that. It's a collection of shorts stories which feel like a sequence of autobiographical episodes. It was okay but pretty unremarkable; not a hidden gem or a lost treasure undeservedly forgotten. At this remove, I can't remember anything particular about it beyond that.

First line: The grass-green cart, with 'J. Jones, Gorsehill' painted shakily on it, stopped in the cobblestone passage between 'The Hare's Foot' and 'The Pure Drop.'
Last line: The light of the one weak lamp in a rusty circle fell across the brick-heaps and the broken wood and the dust that had been houses once, where the small and hardly known and never-to-be-forgotten people of the dirty town had lived and loved and died and, always, lost.

It's a nice little edition, small format and only 128 pages long. In fact what prompted me to pull it off the shelf of 'books I've read and have to blog about before reshelving or discarding' is that I was thinking of taking a photo of it for Instagram.

I signed up for Instagram just last Friday, after a conversation with Marianne, mainly with the idea of seeing photos by my friends, rather than posting up photos of my own. I did think I should use it for something, however, and, prompted by the idea of the combination suggested by the name of a visual telegram, I thought of photos of things which incorporated words. In the first instance, then, book covers - not necessarily ones I've read, but ones which are well or interestingly designed. I thought of album covers also, although a glossy CD reproduction doesn't have the character of a battered old vinyl sleeve (and I really don't want to get into buying secondhand vinyl just to take a photo of the cover; could maybe sneak photos in charity shops...); but I may still go for that. And there's also dates on buildings, which I had a phase of taking photos of some years ago but which I never did anything with.

My instagram account is here. I started off with a username relating to my email address, but managed to change it to iainphotos. Anotheriain is taken already, apparently, although whoever's taken it doesn't seem to be using it.

I am still exploring how to use it - appropriate ways to tag and comment and like, appropriate ways to follow. A number of my Facebook friends are on it, for example, but mostly showing the kind of photos I can see from them on Facebook. I'm not sure what kind of accounts people follow, or for what reasons; but I don't just want to replicate other things I'm already doing. We'll see how it develops.

I posted my first Instagram on Saturday, the cover of Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie.

Later: here's the Instagram of the cover of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. It's a lovely old illustration, possibly deliberately putting one in mind of Under Milk Wood; nice lettering too.

Much later: the Instagrammed image now posted here: