Turtle Diary:  Book by Russell Hoban, but I was watching the 1980s film version, starring Glenda Jackson and Ben Kingsley.

The book has many details left out of the film, but the film is also full of details not in the book.  Neaera H stirs her tea with the handle of a dodgy spoon.  William G holds the steering wheel of the van in a death grip, peering through huge lenses.  And doesn’t the M4 look empty?  Wrings the heart, warms the cockles, teases out of thought.

“Bum a ride on the turtles?”

“Isn’t that what we’re doing?”

“I don’t know, I hadn’t really thought.”

“No, I hadn’t thought either.  Makes a change, doesn’t it?”

My ancient VHS tape is starting to go, and I can’t find a DVD version to buy, so what will I do then?

Mind your feet


The Seramas are occupying the conservatory and occasionally the kitchen.  Failing to watch the feet leads to small smelly squelches.  I fear it could also lead to small flat chickens, and how would I ever explain that?

When they go to bed they indulge in a curious ritual.  I’m not sure if this is nesting behaviour or a dustbath to condition the feathers.  They sprawl, flap, turn themselves upside down.  Tonight Lena looked like a destroyed feather duster, such was her ecstasy of flufferation.



Telling off the screen


is a pointless activity.  However I did quite a lot of it during Mount St Elias, a film about some lunatics who climbed a large mountain for the sole purpose of skiing down its vast, sheer and appalling slopes, and a few other lunatics who helped them do it.

The chaps were pretty annoying; my rebukes rotated between “Oh for goodness’ sake shut up”, “What are you THINKING?” and “UUUURGH!“.  But the the images were extraordinary.  It was a crime to watch it on a laptop; a 60-inch HD screen would be the minimum it deserved.  Should you happen to have such an item to hand, watch the film – but maybe with the sound down.

Vibrating eyeballs and other 21st century ills


In no other century …

The online systems against which there is no protection and no appeal:  fellow-feeling, while watching Henry Marsh, a consultant neurosurgeon, fail to complete his electronic timesheet in that excellent documentary The English Surgeon.

Then there is the horror which is unscrumpleable money:  tradition requires one to scrumple all new notes, whether sterling or dollars, and this vile currency is made of plastic and simply won’t.


And finally, the sonic toothbrush.  I wondered why I felt as if I couldn’t see while using it.  Turns out I really can’t see properly while brushing.  Cleaning the top teeth transmits vibration via the skull into the eyeballs.

Making rainbows


Yesterday I ambled sedately along the sand, occasionally galvanised by the inrush of the seventh wave:

1 inrush

An epitome of the past:  fragments of fossilized wood, embedded in the dense grey-green matrix, which then eroded out so that a boulder of it was overwhelmed by sand, which was compressed to rock, eroded out again into a lump, displaying the deposition patterns of the sand (windblown? waterborne?), and now on the loose ready to be enfolded in yet another epoch.

2 embedded

Remember you are British:

3 obscurePretty:

4 reticulate A glim of sun crept through and went away again.

5 glim

The landslip lays a rainbow on the beach:

6 rainbow

Plenty of samples for potters.  But I had forgotten the carrier bags.

7 plastic bag

Salmemaraton thanks


Thanks are due:  Strikkelysten has led me to the Salmemaraton which is ‘slow TV’ from Norway – never heard of this before, but a wonderful idea in a rushing, chattering age.  I gather Norwegian choirs are patiently singing the whole of a hymnbook.

I don’t understand a word of the hymns, and am thus preserved from literary criticism and aggravating theology, while the range of music is similar-to-but-different-from English hymnody.  At the same time, if I watch the scrolling information bar,  small clumps of Norwegian occasionally pop into meaning, which is a good parlour game for one.

The Salmemaraton is here.  At time of writing they are on hymn 521 of 899.




Apparently a ‘classic’, written in 1964 and still in print today, outlining the Russian campaigns of World War Two.  Quite solid going, but interesting.  The scale and human cost of the war in Russia is shocking, indeed unimaginable to those of us with the good fortune never to have been invaded. Most detail had to be omitted, or the work would have been 5000 pages instead of 500, but it is a good jumping-off point from which to pursue individual characters or campaigns.

Clark was fairly clear explaining the main actions, adding memorable details and quotations to fix the characters in mind. My feeble geography was usually helped by the maps, though one or two rather heightened the confusion:


Of course the book is dated.  The sources used are predominantly German, including word-for-word transcriptions of Hitler’s conferences with his generals and interrogations of surviving Germans, which were publicly available.  In 1964 access to Russian sources would have been more restricted, so there is less insight into the Russian decisions and underlying activity.  This is a weakness which Clark acknowledges in the 1995 preface.

Clark’s viewpoint is always partisan, very much that of one far closer to WWII than we are, and deep in the chilliest phase of the Cold War.  His blanket assessments of the German nation would not be acceptable now (though given the kinds of primary material he had to read, perhaps he can hardly be blamed):

How agreeable to combine duty and sport; to bask in the glow of the crusader while enjoying the particular physical pleasure which so many Germans derive from the infliction of pain.

He acknowledges the brutality of the Russians, tending to excuse it as a) incidental rather than integral, and b) the Germans started it.  Perhaps with a fuller knowledge he would have let them off less lightly.  As a sop to even-handedness, he also comments on Roosevelt’s incidental role with barely-concealed contempt, and, in the context of Polish independence, describes

the alternating perfidy and impotence of the Western Allies …

How could it ever be otherwise, when blood is the argument?