Sunday, March 14, 2010
Of course, what I should be doing, but what I am not doing, nor really have any intention of doing, is looking at bridal magazines. I have, as it transpires, no idea how to plan a wedding. My idea of a wedding is a ceremony with no more than ten guests then a pub and maybe a long weekend in Paris afterwards, but this apparently this is simply unthinkable. I wanted to do it somewhere abroad - Monkey's brigade are from Dallas, my father is in Los Angeles, my mother is mostly in Oxfordshire but London is my home...so I quite wanted to marry quietly in, say, the Caribbean or a small Indian Ocean island and without any family at all, thanks all the same. But this isn't allowed either.
It doesn't help that until a matter of weeks ago I was actually single. I mean, mostly single. To clarify: my life had become a little bit like season 9 of The X-Files, in which I'm Scully, Monkey is Mulder and various Possibles are Doggett. To the effect of: I quite liked various Doggetts. I even went on dates with the Doggetts. But although Monkey was gone in a very real sense, in many also literal senses he wasn't - he would swing by whenever he was in London, he would ring me up, he would, in short, like Mulder, keep re-appearing unexpectedly before disappearing, and each time might be the last time, and although the Doggetts were really nice, ultimately, none of them were Mulder so any relationship other than friendship was doomed because every time Mulder came back from the dead I just fell on his hospital bed weeping - metaphorically speaking. I explained this to Cecile one night over chardonnay and she rather curtly pointed out that Monkey isn't exactly David Duchovny either, and, unfortunately, this is true. She was also a bit offended that she might be Monica, although for the record, I don't think Monica was QUITE as bad as people say, although her arrival really heralded the end of the series as in any way a satisfying entity, but that was probably more Mulder's departure than her arrival, and as such she is the victim of an unfortunate coincidence. But ANYWAY. The X Files actaully have nothing to do with my sudden engagement.
On Valentine's Day I had fallen asleep on my bed with my six-year-old niece, having been reading her The Once and Future King, and trying to work out how my stepfather had managed to so skillfully skip over the ickier bits of it when he read it to me as a small child. We are now up to the incest bit, including a helpful family tree just to clarify that yes, Arthur did knock up his sister, and I was getting increasingly worried that my ex-sister-in-law would come around and beat me up, for truly she is scary. Then helpfully my little niece, rather than being scandalized, fell asleep, so I did too.
I was woken by the sound of Gary Barlow warbling that he wanted me back for good. An iPod and speakers had been put through my door and I opened it, to find Monkey sitting on his backpack in the landing. "Yo," he said. I won't forget that for a long time. I looked grim, all rumpled and still dressed from the night before.
I asked him what he was doing. He said "proposing" and pushed past me to go and make himself a cup of tea. I followed him, my niece came out and was thrilled to see him, and I said "what would you have done if I was out?"
He said, "asked one of your neighbours to marry me instead" and, satisfied that he had thought this plan through carefully, I said "yes, all right then".
And that's that. I have no idea where we're going to live - LA, I guess, it'll have to be - or even for certain when the wedding is (at a guess, next year, there isn't a lot to organise, even if my mother wants to advertise it in Tatler) - but that's that and I think I echo a lot of my dearest friends when I say - THANK GOD.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Which is not to say I do not find flying stressful. I do. I'm naturally disorganised, so when there are certain aspects of life where you HAVE to be organised - on location, or flying - where there are no options for talking your way out of things and certain things have to happen at certain times in a certain order, I find it incredibly stressful.
All of which is a protracted way of explaining why last night I did not sleep, because I'm flying later to Nashville, I'm still at the House in Oxfordshire, and my mother is having an aneurysm over terrorist attacks and threatening my uncle with severe reprisals should he fulfill his promise of driving me to the airport later.
Which is how I ended up watching the Swedish Wallander at about one in the morning on iPlayer (squirrelled away as it is on BBC Four, presumably because the BBC thinks only the viewers of that channel can speed read). I love Swedish Wallander, but had been planning to watch it at a more civilised hour upon my return, and I wish I had. It went out with a bang, in this case, the bang of a main character shooting their brains out. In UK dramas, cops Take It Personally by drinking too much, sleeping with a witness and hitting a suspect. In Swedish Wallander, they go off the deep end by drinking too much, murdering a suspect and killing themselves. Of course, in UK dramas, cops Take It Personally because they are soppy. In Swedish Wallander, they Take It Personally because they have been systematically abused as children.
You probably can't learn any more about Sweden from Wallander than you can learn about Scotland from Taggart, but there are several interesting facts I've learned. Firstly, nobody ever takes their cosy parkas off indoors. I find myself shrieking at the screen "you won't feel the benefit!" like my mother. Do they not have central heating in Sweden? Secondly, Swedish is a weird language. Thirdly, people regularly go to the beach (and indeed are murdered on the beach) in Sweden while snow is on the ground, apparently without a second thought. Fourthly, they really do all seem to furnish the homes exclusively from Ikea. Fifthly, you can be beaten to death in Sweden, or you can shoot your own head off, and there will be no blood and no visible injury. There is NEVER ANY BLOOD in Swedish Wallander. Like everything else in the show, it doesn't need to be shown. This episode opened with a small boy silently taking off his top and trousers, while you could just see on the edge of the screen someone holding a camera. It was creepy as all hell. Words are at a premium. Linda gasping out the words "I loved him" were like squeezing blood out of a stone, but they weren't needed - we knew she did already.
Swedish Wallander raises massive questions and then leaves them unsaid. Was it really Kurt's fault? No, he didn't listen to Stefan, but can he be held responsible for the suicide? Stefan killed the wrong man - but what if he had killed the right man? Could anyone have saved Stefan? Linda's terrible but understandable rage at her father, can that really go away with a hug on the beach?
It's very different from the cosy Lewises and Midsomer Murders of the world - chilly, unrelentingly bleak and completely engrossing. But not ideal midnight pre-flight viewing. Extremely unsettling, and quite haunting.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
My mother, contrary to what might be expected given her son's locality, does not become in the least maudlin. Her greatxwhatever grandfather fought in the Civil War - on the wrong side, incidentally, but gallantly the family didn't let that put them off - and they have thrown their young into harm's way every single generation since, generally speaking, on the right side - all of the young of which have sallied forth from, indeed, that very village and several of them have their names up on the war memorial there. Rather than regarding this heritage, and the plaques up in the village church not to mention old schools and university chapels, as a sombre warning from history, my mother and her brothers instead view it as a point of pride. They take part each year - my mother and her elder brother, who is ex-Army, of course - to remember their brother killed, to honour an uncle who is up on the memorial and because they used to take part in the ceremony with their father, when he wasn't off roughing up the one or other of the Colonies. It's such a big family occasion even my father sends a wreath of poppies, even though he hasn't been part of that family, or this village, for twenty years.
So now I go along and I hate it because I'm afraid I'm not thinking of my uncle, or great-uncle or my grandfather or any other of those old soldiers. I'm thinking of my brother in Afghanistan and not liking it much. I'm not a very good soldier's sister. When I was little, my oldest brother served in Northern Ireland - I'm used to it, or should be. But when my brother's current tour started this summer, it was horrible. Whenever my mother calls me unexpectedly and I see her name come up on my mobile I have a moment of little less than utter panic. It isn't the glorious dead that worry me, it's the glorious living and it isn't the remembering of them at the rising or setting sun which is the effort but the forgetting them during the rest of the day.
Frozen to the bone this morning out by the war memorial in a beautiful quintessential southern England village in beautiful quintessential southern English countryside, it occurred to me that, very probably, in twenty years or more my brothers and half-sister and I would still be there, and probably one or more of my little nephews would be off in whatever part of the world will be on fire then, and so the whole sorry cycle continues.
So yes. Current mood: maudlin. Back to London and reality and work tomorrow, and all this to be brushed under the carpet until mum calls me in the middle of the day to tell me the latest gossip of my aunt's and scares me half to death again.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I love Merlin. It is one of the few series I genuinely looked forward to the return of, and independent witnesses could confirm I actually squealed a little with excitement when I saw the trailer advertising the second series. But it is sad to say that things are a-changing in Camelot, and not necessarily in a good way. The first series rocketed through cheerily enough, but it ended on something of a sally which foreshadowed future misery. Merlin voluntarily gave up his life for Arthur. The deal wasn’t sealed in the end – obviously – but the thought was there, and that thought, once had, were always bond to inform their relationship later, despite, or maybe because, only Merlin knowing about it. And never more was this new dynamic more obvious than Saturday’s little romp whereby Cedric, a small-time thief, sometime massively scary sorcerer, deposed Merlin of his role as Arthur’s closest advisor without passing Go. He made it look easy. Indeed, it was easy, mainly because Arthur was not in the least bit bothered by whether Merlin was around or not, despite Merlin fighting off gargoyles etc etc, exhorted on his way to possible death by Gaius shrieking “do it for Arthur!” In the name of God, why?
There was a point during the first episode of the second series of Merlin when I finally clocked what the Merlin/Arthur relationship had begun reminding me of. An emotionally abusive marriage. “It doesn’t matter what he does, he loves me anyway.” “It doesn’t matter what he says, I love him anyway.” Or, as Merlin put it in a genuinely distraught scene “everything I do is for him, but just he thinks I’m an idiot.” Yes, exactly! But unfortunately, Merlin has reached that uncomfortable position where his sense of perspective is completely skew-whiff and even brief moments of clarity are not enough to lead to following the obvious course of action. The boy desperately needs an intervention. I thought Gaius, carefully washing horseshit off the aforementioned sorcerer’s face (long story), was going to finally give Merlin the long-overdue “girl, please” talking-to. But instead he fed Merlin the same tedious “your destinies lie together” bullshit peddled by the dragon. And none of Merlin’s other friends seem able to sit down with him and explain that the sun, in fact, does not shine from the royal arse and just possibly the one or two times Arthur hasn’t just stood by and let Merlin die doesn’t completely equal the eleventy-three times Merlin has saved Arthur’s life, not to mention the aforementioned memorable time he voluntarily swapped his own life for Arthur’s. “His life is worth a hundred of mine,” Merlin said then, with the burning eyes of the fanatic. Yet Gaius panders to it, Gwen is too blind in that direction herself, and Morgana is well on her way to being so thoroughly off her rocker as to have no really valid opinion on anyone else’s healthy mental state.
Perhaps the most troubling thing about the whole situation is when you recap why Merlin has devoted life and limb to Arthur. Merlin is not from Camelot himself, or even from a land under the rule of Camelot. He accepted at only a crazy, imprisoned dragon’s word that he is destined to protect Arthur from surprisingly regular and frequent attempts on his life, in order to create a Camelot where magic is allowed and, indeed, a Camelot which, via military campaign, will ‘unite’ the other pesky kingdoms on the island to create Albion, in what sounds like a sensationally ambitious and sinister adventure in imperialism. Where the dragon gets his intelligence from is not at all clear, but presumably it is from this ‘Old Religion’ everyone bangs on about without actually ever talking about the New Religion. So to recap further: Merlin is taking up arms to expand a foreign regime which persecutes magic in the name of a religion no one believes in – including, presumably, himself until he met a mad dragon kept tied up in cave for reasons Merlin doesn’t categorically know. Considering Merlin – and our – exposure to magic has, with the exception of Merlin and Gaius, been entirely negative it makes his eagerness to accept this extraordinary claim sometimes difficult to sympathise with. Nimueh, Sigan, the Sidhe, the dragon, Morgana, Mordred, the Black Knight, Knight Valiant, the Questing Beast, that chap with the unicorns – why wouldn’t Uther fear magic?! Why wouldn’t Arthur fear it, and why would Merlin naturally assume that the dragon is right and an imperial superstate where magic can run riot would be some sort of idyll? I’m not saying Uther’s violent authoritarian regime is any way acceptable, but I am saying the writers need to put in some legwork on the pro-magic front and demonstrate the ‘normal’ face of magic – presumably Camelot is full of sorcerers being oppressed from practising their perfectly peaceable and harmless arts. We just never see them. If Merlin really were fighting the good fight on their, and his own, behalf then his valiant struggle would be sympathetic and honourable. But because the magic folk we see are all utterly bonkers and because Merlin’s thoughts on the subject of freedom to practice magic are entirely based around wanting Arthur to see his magical powers, it sort of comes across as pathetic.
Merlin doesn’t really get his faith in Arthur, the dragon’s predictions of Arthur’s future wonderful reign and the trust that legalised magic wouldn’t, in fact, be a bad idea from a crazy dragon. He accepts his destiny so eagerly because he is, quite simply, obsessed with Arthur. The answer to why Merlin so quickly takes on the responsibility is not just a matter of ego – he is allowed an ego, given that he seems to be the only magician who isn’t a homicidal maniac – but because he is, quite simply, obsessed with Arthur. There is no other way to read the situation. It was even clearer in the latest episode. He is hopelessly devoted and, in the time-honoured tradition of a person in such a quandary, seems to actively seek out opportunities to be humiliated by, angry with and resentful of the object of his deluded affections.
Even as Merlin becomes ever more bonkers for the prince, Arthur becomes even crueller and less faithful, wise as he is with his royal power, he is power mad in his relationship with Merlin, because Merlin lets him and because that is generally what happens in such a set-up. In good times he teases, in bad times he drops Merlin altogether. His indifference and lack of gratitude has become so expected that his reaction to Merlin saving his skin again – ordering Merlin to perform his menial tasks without acknowledging Merlin had demonstrated more wisdom in distrusting Cedric (notwithstanding the fact it was a distrust based patently on jealousy rather than any sort of character insight) – has become a standing joke to Merlin and Gaius, albeit one Merlin clearly doesn’t see the funny side of, given his tears over the very subject earlier in the episode. It’s possible the whole surrendering his life for Arthur’s which ended the last series has finally sent Merlin completely over the edge – he’s mad enough about Arthur to do that, and Arthur ditches him the first time he falls asleep in a stable. It would make you cry, it would make you angry, and it would make you in even sorer need of the sound philosophy of Our Ladies of the West Side.
So, Merlin, since no one else seems capable and/or inclined to man up and tell you this, I shall: He’s just not that into you. Do what you have to do, but do it for yourself and your own, not for him. Get on match.com and find some other nice sorcerers, find your ongoing cause there, at least until Arthur begins to change his tune just a little. Because, and I say this as someone who has been there, you need to stop, look and listen to what you are getting back from him and it is NOTHING.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Thus discouraged and humiliated by the hopelessly inaccurately named NHS Helpline I boarded a transatlantic flight, and infected everyone from Heathrow to LAX with my horrible, horrible spores of disease. My father, who only sees me every eighty-five years or so, consequently spent most of my visit trying to keep me away from his newborn son and feeding me drugs. Monkey then caught it and, in turns out, infected flights both ways from LAX to Dallas/Fort Worth, and a transatlantic flight the other way. So - thanks, NHS. Nice one.
My latest stepsister has an interesting variety of DVDs, but the most alarming one was "What a Girl Wants", which stars Colin Firth who was, presumably, closing his eyes and thinking of his family throughout the making thereof. I mean, he's obviously giddy-makingly gorgeous and dreamy and just deliriously wonderfully cute and frankly just the sight of him makes me drool and twitch a bit and he wouldn't be safe in the same room as me - but fuck me that's an awful film. Like, I've seen Hope Springs - it's entirely possible I own Hope Springs somewhere at home - anyway, I've seen it, and What A Girl Wants makes it look like a fucking Hollywood glory days classic. I mean, honest to God, dreadful. Almost genuinely shockingly bad. There is nothing redeeming about it. I mean, much as I like to criticise etc, I have to say, what a depressing set that must have been because you would have needed to be either high, stupid or incredibly blinded by money to have thought you were doing anything remotely worthwhile. Amanda Bynes, the notional star, is just terrible in it (although she is by no means a generally terrible actresss - I loved her in Hairspray), the script (such as it is) is woeful, even the basic idea behind the script is shit and in a strange way Colin Firth, Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins sort of make the experience even more painful because they're obviously fantastic, but how they got pressganged into it, I'll never know. In the end my dad and I decided there must have been some sort of incident at the Groucho one night and someone got photographs. This is irrelevant. Insulting as it is to common sense, intelligence, wit and the whole English nation, Colin Firth somehow, somehow made it all tolerable just by being so utterly scrummy. He may not be smoldery as he was as a youngster, but there is something so innately decent about him he's....I'll shut up. But God, where are all the men like THAT?!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” begins with Harry covered in blood and stunned, and things don’t much pick up for him from there. After a brief flirtation at Surbiton station of all places, Harry is pretty much back in Hogwarts and up shit creek.
I like the Harry Potter films, and I’m not here to diss this one. I liked it. It was alright. It was slightly embarrassing, as the only person in the cinema to apparently not know the book off by heart, as I kept jumping and gasping with each plot twist. Not that there is much twisting. The first half of the film is essentially teenaged hijinks involving those terrible and scarring first forays into romance we all know too well. The second half was frankly terrifying and had been shrinking in my seat. But then I’m one of approximately three people in the world over five years old that haven’t read the books. This gives me a rare perspective on a global phenomenon. It’s an extreme downer, is my concise summary.
1. Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix
Not in it nearly enough, but utterly fabulous, completely and unreservedly mental, yet weirdly attractive and totally wonderful. I love Helena Bonham Carter. I have a huge girl crush on her.
2. Ron and Harry Experimenting with Drugs
Rupert Grint is by far the best actor out of the three, but Daniel Radcliffe and he perfectly nailed the comic parts. The stand-out moments were Ron stoned on a love potion and Harry speeding on luck potion. Hilariously written, directed and performed.
3. The Opening
Fabulous shots plunging you through London, culminating in the Millennium Bridge wobblin’ like it’s the year 2000 all over again.
4. Innuendo? What innuendo?
Ice cream licking and unfortunate timing of the question “did you do it?” Way above the kiddies’ heads but chucklesome for it.
Or rather, I suppose, Emma Watson’s interpretation of Hermione. I’m being generous and saying it’s her interpretation and not her total lack of acting talent, because I think, after careful consideration, it must be. The girl has been in front of a camera since she was 10 or 11 years old. Surely to God she isn’t that tense unintentionally? Throughout the entire film – and the last film too – Hermione has been resolutely emotionless. Every exclamation or facial expression seems to be a force of desperate will, overcoming a rigidity that’s extraordinary and even distracting at times. In this one, when she cries over Ron, it was painful to watch because of the sheer physical strain which it seemed to be to try and squeeze out one solitary tear, which incidentally I don’t think she actually managed, she just scrunched up her face. Is Hermione solid ice in the middle? That’s not how you cry over boys when you’re sixteen, the water pours out your eyes, the snot pours out of your nose, your face goes all squidgy and you howl, yes howl on your best friend’s shoulder. Hermione just sort of scrunched up her shoulders, closed her eyes tightly, and lay her head on Harry’s shoulder. Emma Watson may be beautiful, brainy and rich but surely even she has cried over a boy before? In which case, it must be a choice to play it that way, but it was weird. Even her love for Ron is so chilly – it seems to have by-passed adolescent devotion and landed at marital intimacy – that when she looks at him it’s mostly with disgust. Promising to stand by Harry sounds like a threat. Please God let Hermione melt at some point, because the wringing out of basic human emotion is starting to get really hard to watch.
2. Harry and Ginny
Oh dear oh dear. Well, there were two problems here, neither of which are anyone to do with film’s fault. Firstly, I am told by sources in the know that the relationship is deeply unconvicing even in the books. Secondly, Harry and Ginny were cast as children, before either had chemistry. It is unfortunate that they have grown up to have absolutely zero with each other. Below zero, even. If anything, it’s a sibling-like thing, which just makes a weird situation creepier. Watching the kiss, I swear to God, was like watching the forcing together of two repulsing magnets. They just about made it, but sprang away from each other with evident relief, shared by the audience. It made my skin crawl, it was so unnatural and hideous to watch. Re-cast Ginny, is the only advice I can think of. It’s cruel and unfair because she’s an okay actress, but I implore the producers not to make us watch them all through the last two films, I don’t think I can stand it.
1. Draco’s Feet
Just sayin’. Not meaning to get personal here, but....yikes. Excellent performance from him, though. You felt more fellow feeling and sympathy between him and Harry than you did between Harry and Hermione, which says everything you need to know about the aforementioned Ice Queen.