I was actually planning to see “Iron Man” but once I saw this was showing…well, I had no real choice, did I? Nevertheless, things got off to a shaky start and I was worried that the whole thing was going to be a little too knowing, overloaded with in-jokes and references to what had gone before. The early scenes seemed a little forced somehow, as if they were trying to make a point that no-one really cared about. Fortunately, the writers seemed to realise that the McCarthyism plotline wasn’t going anywhere too and the film soon got back onto more familiar territory. By the time we got to a riproaring chase through the Amazonian jungle – including a spectacular three-waterfall boat sequence – I was sitting there ooh-ing and aah-ing and clutching my knees to my chest (note: never sit next to me in a cinema during an action or horror movie). By the way, dontcha think it’s weird that all aliens in tv and cinema now look like the Roswell alien? And don’t you find yourself thinking that that’s really what they look like because you’ve seen it so many times? Or is that just me? But I digress. Harrison Ford just IS Indy, ’nuff said. La Blanchett turns in her usual impeccable performance, this time as a comic-book Russian baddie (complete with rapier!) and gets the best line: “Do svidaniya Dr. Jones!” – surely a Bond villain contract can’t be far behind? Ray Winstone’s role – much trumpeted in the U.K. press – turns out to be little more than a cameo (and a bit “cor-blimey” to be anything other than mildly irritating). I had major reservations about Shia LaBeouf – mainly, it’s true, based on his hair – but he ends up coming through surprisingly well – I really warmed to his character as the film went on and, by the end, could even see him taking on the Indy mantle…obviously what was intended. Last but not least, the scenery is just breathtaking, totally epic. My one gripe – and it’s not a biggie – is that I found the special effects to be a little too “Stargate” to be impressive. Thoroughly enjoyable and heartily recommended – you can’t say fairer than that now, can you?
It’s a big year for divas, dear reader, what with Kylie turning 40, Madonna celebrating her 50th (yeah, right) and Grace Jones blowing out 60 candles – count ’em – on her cake. To mark the occasion, that august publication the Daily Telegraph has published portraits of all three. For all Madge and Kyles’s ferocious work ethic and “reinvention” it’s nice to see that the coolest of the three is still “our Gracie” – just for being bonkers and decadent. And those choons still stand up well today. Here are my favourite quotes:
Her family left the Caribbean for the US when she was 14 and it was via an American model agency that she wound up in Paris, where she shared an apartment with Jerry Hall. (“We didn’t sleep in it. We just kept Champagne there.”) — Birthday Girls: Grace Jones – Telegraph
If anything, she has become more doll-like over the years, more often than not playing the romantic victim, messed around by some dark-haired cad, denying her the fairy-tale white wedding that Charlene got all those years ago. — Birthday Girls: Kylie Minogue at 40 – Telegraph
It is Madonna’s self-belief that has ebbed away as she has grown older. Suddenly she looks like everyone else, desperate to stay young, to stay in touch. That girl who skipped on to a stage three decades ago didn’t give a damn what anyone else was doing. She was going to do it her way. — Birthday Girls: Madonna – Telegraph
Last night was my first introduction to what I’m told is a hallowed Australian tradition – the TimTamSlam. Bite the corners off the biscuits, place in glass of port, suck the port up through the biscuit and then eat. It was possibly the defining moment of my life. Deeeeelish.
Homemade banana bran muffins, liberally spread with Nutella – who says you can have too much of a good thing?
I suppose I should come clean right at the start and say that while I’m a HUGE fan of Catherine Sanderson, I’ve always been a bit, well, lukewarm (my italics) about her Petite Anglaise blog persona. Not that there’s anything wrong with PA — it’s well-crafted, thoughtful, nicely observed. But it’s like those ads for Vivelle Dop extra-strong hair gel – while its success fills me with admiration and wonder (Can you really get your hair to stick straight up like that? Even while driving a go-kart? How come I don’t know anyone with hair like that?) I know, deep down, that I’m not the target audience. If there were any doubt, a quick rummage through her comments box would give me all the proof I needed. Plus sometimes it’s quite hard for me to tally the person I know with her alter ego. So while I couldn’t wait to read my friend’s book, I was a teensy bit worried how much PA, the queen of passive-aggressive, I’d be able to take. I was surprised. I absolutely loved the opening chapters. They’re engaging, funny, well-paced, pull you right in. And, as always — and this is one of the things I’ve always admired about Cath’s writing — she’s got the “voice” down pat, you BELIEVE the narrator right from the start. Which is more difficult to pull off than you’d think. OK, as seems to be the trend in modern light fiction, there’s a tendency to try and fit two adjectives to every noun that irritates me — how little imagination do you think I have? — but I blame that on the editor. I would happily read a whole volume of these year-abroad memories, they have such a real flavour of Paris and France. But don’t let your guard down, dear reader, because after 100 pages or so, the PA so many have bookmarked and loved rears her head with a vengeance as we get to the break-up with Mr. Frog. I’ve never met the real Mr. Frog, but for me, he is the hero of this book. I suspect that goes for Cath too, given that she’s dedicated it to him. He is, quite simply, the most sympathetic character in the whole thing. Love him and his worn velour top, rainbow jumper and duffel. In different circumstances, I’d suggest he start his own blog. I’d read it. I realise that the split is the bit that most readers will be waiting for — it is, after all, car-crash tv time. Watch PA go to the wall!! Witness unseemly wrangling over the exercise bike!! But I just found it sad and slightly distressing. Would you really end an 8-year relationship, wait for your (now ex-)partner to storm out, switch on the computer and blog about it? And — most disturbingly — CHECK YOUR STATS in front of them the next morning? That way, surely, madness lies. I’ve no idea whether it’s true or not, but I’m not very comfortable with it. Then again, if she hadn’t bared all, I guess I wouldn’t be reading a nice soft-cover version of Petite Anglaise with the famous Penguin logo on the spine. Ho-hum. Anyway, from that point on, the beast is a little harder for me to handle. It’s still nicely written but, as a regular reader of the blog, I already know how things work out with so-wet-I’d-better-mop-the-floor Jim and his corduroy jacket. And “Toby” too. Obviously that isn’t going to be the case for most people who buy the book but, as far as I was concerned, inevitably the tension dipped. On a blog, you can keep the thing afloat because no-one knows what’s going to happen until you decide to post again. In a book, they just have to keep turning the pages, so you need other tricks to keep the suspense going and, for me, they were missing here, as was any real sense of what was driving everyone, what their motivation really was. A bit of that would have perked it up, methinks. I did like the end though, there’s a nice “framing” effect with the last couple of chapters that rounds everything off nicely. So that’s my two penn’orth. Did I enjoy it? Yes, I did. Not just because it’s my friend’s work and I know how much of herself she’s put into it, but also because I think it’s just the first step and there are few things I like more than being in at the start. Those early chapters show a comic touch that a) is much closer to the Cath I know than PA and b) convince me she’ll be able to move past the blogger-turned-writer label to keep us entertained a long time after we’ve forgotten all about Petite Anglaise.
Note to publishers: I have been working on a proposal for my own book – “Petit Anglais, In Paris, Incontinent, In the Metro” – about an ageing Englishman’s struggle to cope with an embarrassing personal problem on public transport. Manuscript available on request.
After being tagged by the delectable Maîtresse with this literary meme – and accepting enthusiastically – I promptly forgot all about it until now, as I sit, eating toasted bagels with Nutella (try it!) and nursing a hangover, on the sofa at Rhino75 Towers. So, as I’m sure you’ve all been on tenterhooks (my italics) over my response, here goes. Given that this is supposed to be a literary exercise, I’m tempted to exclude the first book to hand, Lindsey Bareham’s excellent “In Praise of the Potato” but the answer is too good to ignore:
“Potato Soup Garnished With Lobster – Not, as you might expect, a fancy nouvelle cuisine recipe but an old British one as unearthed by Theodora Fitzgibbon in her Art of British Cooking. The end result is a rich, creamy, thick soup which is incredibly luxurious and well worth the expense of lobster. Shrimps make a good cheap substitute.”
Don’t they always? And isn’t Theodora Fitzgibbon a fantastic name? Tremendous. But, of course, I can hear you asking, is it , strictly speaking, literature? Probably not. Which brings me to page 123, five sentences down, of the second book in the coffee table pile:
“‘Please, General, as if I would,’ answered the captain, his nose redder than ever. He smiled, and his smile showed that his two front teeth were missing – they had been knocked out by a rifle-butt at Izmail. ‘Oh, and tell Dolokhov to rest easy – I shan’t forget him.'”
Now, I don’t think that anyone would deny this bears at least some of the hallmarks – missing teeth, a rifle-butt – of great literature. But from which magnum opus does it come? OK, it’s not much of a quiz but, if you’ve got nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon, or a Monday morning or whenever you’re reading this, shoot me a comment with the answer. In the meantime, I shall in turn throw down the meme gauntlet to the lovely Nardac, Tin Foiled and Meg Le Blagueur. The rules are simple: Turn to page 123, count down five sentences and copy out the next three. Who dares wins!! (??)