Friday, April 28, 2006

It's back!

And it only took me 6 weeks to notice.

Go and play!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

this week I have been mostly watching Henry V

That's what it feels like anyway. On Monday night I watched Olivier's 1944 version and last night it was the turn of Branagh's 1989 version. Sunday (23rd April, St George's day and Shakespeare's birthday) would have been a highly appropriate day for watching lots of Shakespeare, but I was otherwise engaged, driving back from Exeter. It's been fun and it counts as work since I've got an essay to write.

Olivier's Henry V is deliberately theatrical. The first few scenes take place on an Elizabethan stage, complete with groundlings, basic scenery and rain. Later scenes expand to take in fleets of model ships sailing to France and landscapes filled with tiny castles and houses. The whole thing has an air of unreality and staginess, which fits with the form of the play. Any piece of action too difficult to stage is narrated by Chorus, reminding the watching audience that they must "Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts" (Act 1, Prologue).

Branagh's version is equally clear about its unreality. Chorus, played by Derek Jacobi, starts on a film set. The first half of the film is almost entirely interior shots, only moving outside with the first battle at Harfleur. The look is cinematically dramatic rather than stagey. At the battle of Agincourt though, the blood and mud and rain look all too real. It's clear that Henry's men are exhausted and outnumbered by the fresher French and their victory is hard won.

There's a difference in tone between the two films. Olivier's version, especially in the theatre scenes, is played for laughs. Branagh's, from the very beginning is more serious and more tense. Olivier's battle scenes are in full daylight with vibrant colours and flashing swords. Branagh's battle scenes are a bloody, muddy mess. Henry begins the battle of Agincourt looking suprising clean, but by the end of it, he's as mired in grime and gore as any of his men.

Both films pack an emotional punch. Olivier's film, made in 1944, was partly a deliberate exercise in morale raising during the war. Henry's rousing speeches are as much for the audience's benefit as for the characters'. It reminds me a little of A Matter of Life and Death and other Powell and Pressburger films of that era. There's a seriousness to it, but it's all a little unreal and disconnected from real blood and suffering. Branagh's version on other hand, almost moved me to tears. At the St Crispin's day speech, I was totally carried along with him. At the end of the battle, the battle worn king and his men carry the bodies to be buried in a gritty and moving scene that would be out of place in Olivier's film.

I could go on and on. I'm glad I watched these films in quick succession. Both are brilliant, in their different ways and true enough to the text to make them useful for someone studying the play. Go and watch some Shakespeare!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

the picture not taken

Photos I would have taken in the last week if I'd got to my camera quicker, or not been driving at the time.

A grass snake wiggling through the grass at Ivychurch
A dinosaur by the M5
A field full of identical white Shetland ponies
The sun setting over the A406 on Tuesday
A pheasant running up the steps in HP's halls of residence
A swallow (possibly) flying over our heads
Red fields amongst the green of the Devon countryside

I've had a nice little break. Not long enough to do everything I planned and now I'm back at work I wish I was till at home. Perhaps these remembered moments will help.

Friday, April 21, 2006

road trip

We're off to take HP back to Exeter, via my Grandparents' house in Cheltenham. It should be fun if the three of us (Debs, HP and me) don't squabble too much. I'm coming back to London briefly on Sunday night, then back to Cambridge all ready to go back to work Monday morning.

It feels like this week's gone far too quickly. It's been a good little break from work though, even if I haven't done all the things I wanted to do this week.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Open Book this afternoon (love not being at work and being able to listen to Radio 4 ALL DAY!) was all about re-reading. So I started thinking about the books I read and re-read. Some books I re-read because I wasn't paying attention the first time. I have been known to finish a book and then start it again immediately. This is partly because of the way I read. If I've got to read a book to study it, I usually have to read it twice. On the first time through I'm reading for plot, structure, the big picture. Then the second time through, I notice the details, the individual sentences and words.

But that's not really the sort of re-reading the programme was about. What are the books that you re-read again and again? For me, there are several. The Bible, obviously, although that's a different sort of reading. But for escapism, Pride and Prejudice is pretty high on my list. Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate come to mind as comfort reading, the familiar books I go to when life is a little scary (I last read them in January this year just after moving to Cambridge.) It's about familiarity and (mostly) happy endings. A Room with a View fits into that category too. I suppose all four are partly about romantic dreams and wish fulfillment. Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time is a re-read for different reasons. I've read it twice so far and I can see myself returning to it at different points in my life. I think I've blogged about it before as a sort of measure of life, of where one is in relation to the progression of the various characters.

I've just looked around my bookshelves and I can't see many books I've loved reading that I haven't subsequently re-read. I'm currently re-reading The Once and Future King by T H White, in a paperback edition I used to carry around in my blazer pocket at school, as I later carried around The Name of the Rose. Both books I read and re-read countless times, because I loved them.

I think that's my verdict. If a book's really worth reading, it's worth reading again. There have been books I've finished and never wanted to read again, indeed books I wish I'd never read. But many books, oh so many books, that I come back to again and again and again.

What are yours?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Debbie in the woo park

Debbie in the woo park, originally uploaded by the pig wot flies.

Debs has been putting up pictures of me swinging around in a park in Melton Mowbray, so here's a picture of her in the same park just after Christmas last year.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

let's go to Dungeness

That's what the song said, so HP and I did. I've wanted to go there for ages. It's a strange place, a very flat and simple landscape, mostly just shingle and sea. And two big power stations. We walked along the shore looking at the sea and found egg cases, dead fish, seaweed and things that had drifted in on the tide. All the houses are small and squat. There aren't many fences, boundaries and garden merge into each other and the beach. You can visit the power stations. We declined and went to the bird sanctuary instead. There were oyster catchers, coots, swans, swallows and ducks, cows and sheep and lambs. On the way home, we stopped at Ivychurch to eat ice cream and looked at the church. In the long grass of the churchyard, we disturbed a grass snake. It wiggled off before I could catch it on film.

It was a fun day, as much good for talking on the journey as for the things we saw.

Edited to add: We found stones with holes in too. HP wondered if there were any. As she said it, I saw one at her feet.

Monday, April 17, 2006

oh look Monday again

But this time it's a bank holiday and I'm taking the rest of the week off. I'll try to blog a little more. What happened last week? I was tired and busy and just didn't have the energy to blog. Plus I'm still feeling a bit uninspired.

If you want to know what I've been up to over the Easter weekend, go and look at Deb's blog. She has pictures and everything.

Did anyone see the Manchester Passion on Friday? Possibly the most interesting bit of the BBC's Easter programming. It was a bit like a modern Jesus Christ Superstar with songs by Manchester bands. Some of it worked ('Love will tear us apart' at the Last supper, Judas lamenting what he'd done with 'Heaven knows I'm miserable now', Jesus appearing right at the end at the top of the clock tower singing 'I am the resurrection and the life'.) Some didn't, quite, like Pilate and Jesus singing 'Wonderwall' as a sort of duet/duel. Sounded a bit silly. And 'Angels' should just be banned under all circumstances, even with the words changed to "He offers me protection". There were interviews with people in the crowds carrying a giant cross interspersed with the action which were kind of what you'd expect, a cross section of people from different backgrounds and religions saying why they were there. A couple of good, clear as you can be in a snatched 30 second interview quotes from Christians though. The whole thing was probably not to everyone's taste, but it was certainly innovative.

Monday, April 10, 2006

is it Monday?

I'm a bit sleepy.

The weekend went really well. The speakers were good, most things went smoothly and I got loads of positive feedback from people on the course. I'm going through the more formal feedback survey now and so far it's all postive.

I got back about 6 Sunday evening and had very little brain power, so wallowed in a bath for a while and then sat in front of the telly with some mindless knitting and watched The Princess Bride (ooh, and managed to catch Belle and Sebastian on TOTP. That still seems a very odd thing to happen. They've been on twice in the last few months. This time they were all dressed in denim and sounded vaguely like T-Rex, but also unmistakely themselves.) and then a repeat of The Christmas invasion episode of Doctor Who on BBC Three. (Yay! New Doctor Who on Saturday! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I'm a bit overexcited at the prospect. No other TV programme ever in the history of the world is as exciting or as eagerly anticipated.)

Debs has been documenting her weekend in pictures. It looks like a very typical family weekend chez ma famille.

I'm aware this blog is becoming little more than a record of stuff that has happened to me. Hardly riveting stuff. I'm frustrated by my own decision not to blog about work stuff. There's so much cool stuff happening, but I can't blog about it because that would inevitably reveal my workplace and I don't really want to do that. I've been so busy with workstuff lately that there hasn't been time for anything else exciting to happen. I'm taking a some time off next week, so perhaps I'll manage to have some interesting thoughts. Or at least go to new places and take pictures to show you. Would you like that?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

bizy backson

It's super busy at work. I've got my first weekend conference starting tomorrow. I'm not as stressed as I thought I might be, but I'd still like to squeeze in another day between Thursday and Friday. Ah well.

See you Monday.

Monday, April 03, 2006

I am not ill

It's just that someone has submerged me in treacle and replaced my brain with cotton wool. I can't be ill, there's too much to do this week.


I had a fab weekend. Went to a friend's house Saturday night, met her housemates and some other people came round and was all good. Sunday, went to church, gave someone a lift home, sat in the sun in her garden for a bit. That was a first for 2006. Sun! Sitting outside and not freezing! Cooked myself lunch, aubergine and tomato sauce. Don't quite knw what I did to ruin it, but the aubergine wasn't very nice. Went to the same friend's house to watch the boat race (Oxford won! Cambridge looked like they might sink!), went for a walk, came back and ate fondue with assorted housemates.

It's the first time in ages I've actually had a social life at the weekend. Hurrah!