Thursday, 26 November 2015

In Front Of The Telly - The Living And The Dead: River, The Bridge And The Last Kingdom

Yes this is how it is. I spend my life watching telly... when I am not writing posts for this blog. Some of my viewing has been a disappointment... some has been stupendous.

Let me say I do not know what has got up the nose of the telly writers on a certain national TV listings magazine when it comes to the detective series "River". (I know that this finished several weeks ago but I just had to say something about it.) I thought it was a fantastic show. It wasn't "depressing", it wasn't dreary, the lead actors were brilliant, subtle and wonderful (Yes, this includes Stellan Skarsgard) and pardon me for being a viewer that does not mind an "art house ending"... though I am not sure what such a thing is. True, I did lose The Old Man's company after a couple of episodes. Those who follow this blog will know that The Old Man can be challenged when it comes to telling one face from another (this is very variable... some times he sees resemblances that I have not spotted). Add factors such as flashback scenes and "hallucinations" and his brain do give up and he stomps off to do the washing up. Me, I loved the concept of a cop who chats to dead people. In fact I loved it all, acting, plot, photography....

However both The Old Man and I are present and swashing and buckling in front of "The Last Kingdom" - BBC's adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's historical novel series The Saxon Stories. (Well look there are Scandinavians in it, yes?) There are criticisms of the occasional chronological lapse in the prop department... and some reviewers have lashed out at the production as a whole. I did dread a cod CGI'd world of action, stereotypes and gore. But I got drawn into the plot and the action and...by the subtleties. Blimey I wouldn't want a night out with Alfred... I expected a man who burned the cakes to be much more fun... and as for his wife..... Thankfully and praise-worthily (such a word?) the CGI is largely reserved for the landscape. Which is understandable. 9th century England was much emptier than it is now. So...if it is possible to swash, buckle and be thoughtful then "The Last Kingdom" does it for me.

Meanwhile Scandi-Saturdays on BBC Four continue in style with the return of Swedish-Danish production "The Bridge" in its third season. Episodes 1 & 2 set it off to a good start but I suspect that lead character Saga's new Danish cop partner may prove a challenge to The Old Man again.... for I'm not sure who that Danish cop talks to at home or what realm they are in.

On a disappointed note... I am persisting with the second series of French "dead" and "living" drama "The Returned"... but I think it has lost its way... or me. There are an awful lot of scenes between characters involving silent stares and very little conversation. So, so disappointed. I loved the first series.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Bit Of An Autumnal Break: Somerset

 ...and the village of my grandmother.... apparently.
Bit of an orchard. And plenty of mistletoe comin' for Christmas.
Come to speak of it.... mistletoe all over Somerset this year. The Old Man says he don't remember it ever being so .... "mistletoe-ish".

Monday, 9 November 2015

The Dolls Criminal Travels: Northern Ireland, Libya and Italy

My dears, I have been travelling as usual. With my crime fiction reading that is.

Firstly I visited Northern Ireland with Stuart Neville's latest book, Those We Left Behind, built around DCI Serena Flanagan who appeared in his Jack Lennon book The Final Silence. (Neville has written a series featuring detective Jack Lennon whose perilous slide down the career ladder signifies the predicament us crime fans doubtless recognise - the hallmark of the independent but rackety, if not rocky, investigator who is tumbling towards a perilous edge. But do not doubt that I am a great follower of Lennon and hope he will return.) Those We Left... is a slight departure again. Although still full of suspense and chill, I think this book goes more deeply into psychological territory. It  deals with the consequences of the release from prison of nineteen year-old Ciaran Devine, after serving a seven year sentence for the murder of his foster father. A child "killer" released back into society where his older brother is waiting for him. The probation officer assigned to his case starts to have doubts about the brothers' relationship and she turns to DCI Flanagan who had gained Ciaran's trust and his confession those seven years before. It's a brilliant book in which Neville seems almost to have crossed into the realm usually the property of Scandinavian crime fiction - the dark psychological/socio-thriller. Read my review over on Euro Crime for more detail.

I also managed a long trip to Libya and Italy with Roberto Costantini's The Root Of All Evil. Make sure you have plenty of time and powers of concentration for this one. But if, like me, you have a liking for crime served up on a social, historical platter - it will be worth it. The second book in a trilogy featuring the frankly unlikeable Italian detective, Balistreri, this one runs from his youth in Tripoli as the son of an influential fascist family together with the run-up to Gaddafi's coup in 1969 and then Balistreri's investigations into a murder case in 1980s Italy. It's a case which starts to remind him of events in his Libyan youth. Detailed, painstakingly constructed, hard realities painted with neutral strokes (it is no mean feat to make readable a book which centres on an "unattractive" protagonist) this is a rewarding book. Again, you can read the full review over on Euro Crime. And you can also read a good interview with Costantini over on the Crime Thriller Fella blog.

Phew! I'd tell you of more foreign criminal adventures but I'm off to put my feet up. Be back soon.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Madame Deficit On Literacy And Language In Cornwall

Bonjours, mes amis... Je suis desolated that I have not been paying attention to you recently. Instead, I have been tending my pretty lambs. After all, hard times are depressing times. Better to dress prettily and dance in the meadows, I think. No. Really. Let us not discuss the price of bread.

But on the subject of financial management.... Cornwall Council have taken a leaf out of the Good Government's book. If you can't pay for something... delegate payment to those beneath you. And so they propose that libraries and the accompanying luxury of books and reading (to be accessed by all) be the privilege and financial responsibility of local and parish councils or "volunteer groups". (After all, my dears, there is nothing to this business of running libraries but the timely application of duster to book and keeping shelves tidy, n'est-ce pas?)

Meanwhile they do intend to place serious emphasis on their campaign to promote the Cornish language. (Why not remove all books in English from the library shelves, I do wonder? And replace them with books in Cornish? This will save space also, I believe.) Mais Non. They intend to encourage their staff to answer the phones in Cornish. Wonderful. A great move towards understanding all round.
However... for my silly self... I do neither speak nor understand Cornish and may have to move to Oxford and encourage council staff to greet me in Latin...

Monday, 2 November 2015

Autumn: The Robin Sings

I go up into the bedroom where the window is open to the autumn sun and hear the sound of a robin singing its soft autumn song in the hedge nearby.
I spot something on my chair. A tiny pile of bird .... waste. It do appear that the robin may have popped in for a call before he popped out again to sing so sweetly in the hedge.
Robins. Cheeky little beggars.