Tag Archives: drama

Don’t panic


(!YES!  !PANIC!)

It all started so promisingly.

The baby 5″ is quick to set up and I took a couple of snaps for the fun of it, before the sky was properly dark.

I even managed to catch a little of the earthshine, though it needed a time long enough to over-expose the lit crescent of the moon.

The 5″ was, however, not giving a good image of Jupiter, and I lugged out the 10″.  Given that we’re talking astronomy here, no surprise that the clouds came up in a moment, and wiped the sky like a sponge across a blackboard.  At this point everything began to go wrong, a maddening saga involving collimators, flat batteries, lost screws, and the impending disintegration of the whole primary mirror assembly on the 10″.  And it wasn’t even April Fools yet.  I secured the primary before sulking off to bed, but it’s going to be a vile job to realign everything.

This afternoon was bright but it was the mist in the downs which was making me happy.

Driving home, I could see four complicated sky layers, all apparently doing different things.  By the time I could photograph, only two of the layers were obvious: the low grey layer which was the one sitting on the hills, moving quickly to the right, though there was almost no breeze at ground level; and the high white cumulus, drifting almost imperceptibly to the left.

Made me think of Jupiter all over again.

The sistren


suffrageWatching Suffragette gave me time to contemplate how my own feminism is getting on, how male interpretations sneak into everything (yes still), and how small girls are indoctrinated with pink and dollies and make-up (the pages of any toy catalogue are a perfect horror show).

One seasonal example:  Mary is the only woman appearing in the vast majority of Nativity scenes displayed at this time of year.  And I don’t believe it.  Quite apart from female solidarity, women buzz round new babies like wasps round jam.  So when I knitted up Jean Greenhowe’s crib scene a few years back, it acquired an improvised figure:  the innkeeper’s wife, who has looked out a  blanket left over from her own babies, and is about to give it to the infant Jesus.

with-blanketMaybe this year I could knit the bossy WRVS lady who lives in Bethlehem and has just heard about Mary.  I can practically hear her rushing up the road, full of good advice for a first time mother (possibly rather more advice than Mary actually wants), and bringing a pot full of nourishing stew, which will, of course, be incubating efficiently in a hay box.



Pacific campaigns:  one of the big ones.  Since this was written the internet has happened along, giving access to photographs, maps, Pathé snippets, reminiscences, obituaries, and modern documentary films with truly dreadful moronic American chauvinist narrators who make the Pathé commentators look restrained and unsentimental (yes I am thinking of one in particular).  These are all useful supplements, but the value of a systematic and dispassionate account becomes even more obvious as you google.

okinawaThe tone is mostly dry and academic, preoccupied with numbers (which are in themselves shocking) and dates.  The occasional concession to human interest is made, for example restrained thumbnail sketches of the senior commanders:

“Nimitz had had a varied career … bold and skilful … accessibility, regard for his subordinates and his quiet strength of character … ”

“Spruance was an intellectual, retiring man not given to seeking publicity …”

“Fraser, a gunnery specialist … a relaxed and easy-going style … ”

One description breaks the pattern:

“Described as ‘an awkward bastard’, Vian believed people could take him as they found him.”  I did have a little chuckle; having heard Admiral Sir Philip Vian’s character assassinated in highly coloured navyspeak, I’m guessing this thumbnail still counts as academic understatement.

But I’m afraid one detail took my attention above all.  Shangri-La?  An aircraft carrier called Shangri-La??  Sorry, people over the water, a joke is all very well, but how on earth could you do it to her, poor thing?

Reading list


Dallying with audiobooks has left a few gaps for the written word.

As always, fond of factual books.

1 factThe make-do-and-mend and terrifying precariousness of the early SBS exploits is of course gripping stuff, though the later missions are still under security and social wraps to some extent.  I’m guessing that the unvarnished details which may emerge in the future might be nearly as remarkable.

Steve Jones’ book carries many fairly gloomy ecological messages, but also a faith in the adaptability of organisms which may be summed up in his own words as ‘grim optimism’.  Along the way, he adduces a number of attention-getting statements, of which my favourite is probably that human sperm are attracted to the scent of lily of the valley (p 146).  What I want to know is, why did it occur to some bright spark to test this proposition?

Visiting a second-hand bookshop is always risky.  I managed to confine my purchases to three:

2 fictionIt was interesting to re-read the title story of Consider her ways with an adult and post-feminist-movement eye, and see the mysogyny which Wyndham would barely have been aware of in himself.  Salutary!  I enjoyed some of Trader to the stars, especially the conceits of Hiding place, though the admittedly cartoon figure of Nicholas van Rijn presents other gender-related difficulties and is pretty irritating in any case.  Pohl’s anthology at least represents women SF writers of the period, and a good variety of classic story types.

And then there is the family saga, which lightened my burdens as an undergraduate and cheers me up still:

3 saga… the ludicrously dramatic but true story of the Hauteville clan, petty knights from Normandy who made it from hired mercenaries to royalty in two generations. Robert Guiscard, in particular, is an unforgettable character, an extraordinary combination of guts, cynical realpolitik and joie de vivre. I’ve just re-read the first volume, The Normans in the south, and will save my re-reading of the second part, The kingdom in the sun, for another time.

These are some of Norwich’s earliest books, and have a rollicking zest in the language which makes things and characters memorable:  the ‘glutinously emasculate statue of the Archangel’ of Monte Sant’Angelo;  the unreliable historian Radulph Glaber with ‘a fair claim to have been expelled from more monasteries than any other littérateur of the eleventh century’; Empedocles’ ‘long and tedious apprenticeship as a shrub’; Sichelgaita, ‘the closest approximation history has ever dared to produce of a Valkyrie’; and Abbot Desiderius, who ‘felt safe from his enemies; but God … refused to protect him from his friends’.

The last few chapters were helped along by some little herby stars, a surprisingly successful experiment except that the lovely big salt crystals tended to fall off between the plate and the mouth.

4 starlets

Not entirely as we like it


Off to the National Theatre Live screening of As you like it; which didn’t quite live up to its billing.

Setting the court in some febrile open-plan office rather disguised both its potential role as a source of honour and high culture, and its actual dangers if the fount of honour was toxic at source.  Similarly, although the grand suspension of the office furniture was great fun, and the forest looked convincingly cold, it was hard to believe in it as a purlieu of the Great Wild Wood, or in the lion and the serpent.  It followed that the moral pattern and allegory of the play became blurred, and the usurping Duke’s repentance actually got a laugh from the audience.  Jacques’ departure, unreconciled and irreconcilable, so chilling on the page, was a nothing.

Perhaps being somewhat ailing made me captious and too aware of the nasty cinema chair.  It was As you like it, and there was, after all, a good deal to enjoy. But when the top memory of the evening remains the flock of sheep (admittedly an outstandingly enjoyable flock) I have to feel that it was a production which had parted from its anchor, and I would not trust my heart to it.



In mournful ritual the two of us put on Galaxy Quest, rollicking blissfully through all its joyous spoofs (and I am a first-generation Star Trek watcher, AD 1969 or so).  Quest could never have been in the same league with a different Dr Lazarus.  Can one imagine it minus the world weary air, the curling lip, the voice fit for Shakespeare emerging from among rubber gills?  And priceless:  Alex / Lazarus encased in blue slime.  When the credits rolled, we said goodbye, and hugged each other consolingly, sharing the sadness.

blue slime

So now I’m alone I’ll run Truly Madly,  and perhaps if I iron the sheets at the same time I won’t snivel very much.

Must be nearly Christmas


I made a tour of the tree festival and then settled down for the afternoon.  (Click an image for the gallery)

Passionate pedagogy


RitaIt was strange to look back to a world where part-time university-level distance learning for adults was a revolutionary concept; the OU by success paving the way for every other university to take up that role.  The tape, retrieved from an ancient VHS collection, is almost clapped out, and its wavery sound and errant image proved on my senses how long ago, indeed, it all was.

The story of Pygmalion is always worth revisiting in its many retellings.  Frank thinks for a while that he is Mary Shelley, but, even without that darker shadow, Pygmalion is a questionable role, the powers of creation and ownership being so closely allied.  Endorsing this connection poisons the ending of My Fair Lady. Russell, following Shaw, had more sense than to ladle syrup into the closing scenes of Educating Rita, for which thanks.

So yes; Rita loves Frank.  And maybe Eliza loves Higgins.  Maybe, even, the statue loves Pygmalion.  But not without qualification.  And they all deserve to have slippers thrown at them.

Phryne’s frocks


And now the self indulgence of a borrowed boxed set.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries:  the lead characters are quite attractive; the Strine voices fall welcome on the ear, evoking a grateful nostalgia;  the mysteries are occasionally genuinely mysterious when I fail to understand them.  I put my confusion down to the distracting gloriousness of the period costumes.  Essie Davis must have been given hundreds of outfits by a lavish costume department, and the dresses (and hats and coats and undies) are good enough to eat.  They held me spellbound – and I’m not even interested in clothes.  I’m going to have to watch all three series again, possibly with the sound off, so that I can totally embrace the effulgence gifted to the world by Marion Boyce.

Phryne's frocksI’m not the only one to be impressed.  The fan who is lending me the series has christened her new Orpingtons Phryne and Dotty.  The actresses in these name roles might not be entirely flattered, but it has to be said that their namesakes have wonderful plumage and especially gorgeous bottoms.

two booffy bottoms