Tuesday, January 31, 2006

DOG 226

A long time away I know. Let’s just say I didn’t feel like it.

Much cultcher has been consumed, though not a lot of it has been very high-brow. My current book could count as the highest of the lot though probably by virtue of it being well-written in a highly-planned sort of way. It is a re-reading of Delderfield’s To Serve Them All My Days which those of you around my age may remember from the superb TV adaptation from 1980. The book was only written eight years before the TV version and I am coming to terms with the fact that in reality the small-screen version left a lot of depth and colour out even with 13 hours of it. It is a book which creates a believable world, something to step into just to get away from the boring complexities of where we live now, somewhere to relish the certainties that a well-written story can bring out. Yes alright! I know it started with the First World War, one of the most horrific environments you could imagine but that is what the story tells us, of the redemption of a shell-shocked man, made whole again through the nurturing of a remote public school. Reading it again at this age I can appreciate the story line more, the way it doesn’t hang about and yet crams in so much – you get the hero’s internal monologue without it ever seeming arch in the way of more well-known practitioners of stream-of-consciousness. Looking at other books by RF Delderfield, you realise that despite them straying over into potboiler territory, they outstrip others of their ilk because of the depth of historical knowledge, the depth of the characters and plotlines that never seem forced. Maybe there are some examples of Deus Ex Machina but you never think of them as such. Maybe the specific exampleI am thinking of is not.

Anyway, what else?

TV is very good at the moment. Life on Mars just gets better and better. This is up against Balderdash and Piffle so the VHS is getting a basing until the DVD recorder arrives. Daughter wanted to watch The Virgin Queen and was not allowed to because of burnings and other adult content. She is most upset and seems to be retreating into the world of the Romans which she is doing for school. She tells us that Julius Caesar wrote a joke book but that it has not survived. Eg. Why should Caesar be afraid of the 15th of March? Because he’s be on an ‘iding to nothing. Sorry! E for effort! Must try harder. She was off to school with the words Veni, Vidi, Vici (Vicky she says) on a piece of paper. I am not sure why. Watch out for those pens is all I can say!

The books which may be reviewed when I can be bothered are :-

Untold Stories by Alan Bennett.
The Stories of English by David Crystal
Ben Schott’s Almanac
Does Accent Matter? by John Honey.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Not an Episode of Steptoe and Son

When I was a pup I was in the British Association of Young Scientists – a geek’s society if ever there was one but I didn’t care then and I don’t care now. Our one field trip was a day combining a visit to Berkeley Nuclear Power Station with a visit to the Coal Research Establishment (Not currently involved in a legal dispute over the acronym CRE). While the nuclear stuff was fun and big, the CRE was much more interesting, even if I didn’t understand much of it. It was located in two-storey, thirties flat-top buildings – lots of little rooms with the occasional big space for some giant throbbing bit of machinery. We say NMR machines, CAT machines – stuff that everyone has heard of now but then was whizzy and on-the-edge. The big thing for the people there at the time was fluidised beds where coal was persuaded to behave like a liquid so that it could be pumped like oil or gas. I seem to remember a big pipe running down one big room, making noises so unfamiliar that we thought something was about to blow-up. You want a generic laboratory for a film? – go to the CRE and copy it.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Eye To The Telescope

All the neighbours have just been out under the showers of fireworks here. This is the first time we have seen anybody outside for New Year and I have to say it makes me feel quite a lot more optimistic than other years. As usual I got sent out just before midnight, with a little tray carrying bread, salt, a candle, money and two glasses of something warming. Not sure what it all means but you have to go along with these Northern traditions. Jules is on in the background – currently KT Tunstall – not the white-heather club but didn’t the BBC invent that in the 50s? Far better than Natasha Kaplunsky and Andrew “Andy” Marr on BeebieSee won.

Have a good one.