Midnight in Paris

owen wilson

As this is the Hiddlesbingo movie I was most dreading, I decided to watch it first and just get it out of the way so I can power through the rest. I’m stocking up on pinot grigio, M&S ready meals, and Halo Top, and I’m making a note of all Mr. Mulberry’s late shifts.

I used to like Woody Allen movies until I found out how gross he was and that put me off my Annie Hall. Now I can’t bring myself to watch them. Allen is disgusting, and I don’t want to take pleasure in his art. However, I am only human, so when it came down to a matter of principle or Hiddles, I went with Hiddles.

Look, it’s not my fault he’s so damn pretty. Fucks sake.

bored hiddles

yes, i know you’re all sick of his face but idc

I was torn about this movie. On the one hand, rich people being awful for long chunks of the hour and a half runtime hardly seems like a fun time, on the other I got quite attached to the idea of frustrated author Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) walking around Paris late at night bumping into his literary idols of the 1920’s. I mean, I hate Paris, Parisians are so rude they give the rest of the French a bad name, but I like the idea of the movie very much. Meeting your idols is every writer’s fantasy. I felt like I could have happily climbed into the movie and lived it.

Gil could have used some better idols, however. I’m not that fond of American authors. Hemingway was an absolute arse. I once read A Farewell to Arms because I was interested in WW1. At the end when Catherine goes through the most stoic labour imaginable and both she and the child die, I remember thinking it was absolute pile of shit. Also his prose is horrible.

Scott Fitzgerald too. Not a fan. I’ve only read Tender if the Night and The Great Gatsby, and that was as a teen to be fair, and I remember thinking they just weren’t as good as they’d been made out to be by everyone. Nothing wrong with them as books, even if some of the subject matter is unpalatable, but they didn’t blow me away.

Enough of my unpopular opinions, anyway. Gil soon has Gertrude Stein critiquing the manuscript for his novel and he’s hanging out with all the big names. He falls for a woman called Adriana (Marian Cotillard) who is mistress to various members of Gil’s new 1920s set. Like Gil, she’s a nostalgia junkie, but she craves la belle époque. When she finds herself there, Degas, Gaugin and Tolouse-Lautrec are all hanging out wishing they could visit the Renaissance. Its then that Gil realises there’s no golden era and he’s better off changing the life he has rather than dreaming about another time. Adriana, however, decides to stay.

I am obsessed with several periods of history, and literary and artistic circles. I don’t think I’d come back if I was walking through Grantchester and there’s Rupert having tea with Virginia Woolf. Or I’d go hang out at the Villa Diodati with Byron, Polidori and the Shelleys. I mean, I’d bring a hundred pack of extra strong condoms and a whole cocktail of antibiotics with me, but it would be a laugh. Southwark in the 1590’s—now there was a time and place to be alive, if you’ve got a strong enough immune system.

It’s easy to romanticise this stuff when your day to day is humdrum, particularly if you are a writer, like me. I tend to live in my imagination as much as I do in the real world. So this movie fed into my own fantasies in a big way.

The parts set in the twenties were definitely my favourites, though modern day Paris made for some funny scenes. Michael Sheen’s pseudo intellectual arse was great, I laughed and laughed at the bollocks he was talking. When he said Turner was his favourite impressionist! Haha! He was just like me when I’d had a few and got on a roll at university.

I thought he was excellent, as was the chap who played Hemingway. I might not be a fan of Hemingway but he is a big character, he really stole the show, and every scene he was in was brilliant. Adrien Brody as Dali too. Hilarious! And Rachel Mcadams was fantastic. I love her in everything I’ve seen her in. Oh and Owen Wilson. Who knew just how good he could be? One of my favourite movies is Zoolander, but though I enjoy him immensely, I wouldn’t have picked him as an obvious choice for this movie. My bad, definitely, because he carried the whole thing perfectly with his naive charm.

I hate to say it, but I think Hiddles may have been the weak link in this film. He didn’t have a particularly good accent and he didn’t have much of a character for Fitzgerald either, besides calling Gil Old Sport once. It was like he’d just turned up and had a go, bless him. Not his finest performance.

As a whole, however, the movie was utterly charming. It’s something I’d watch again if Woody Allen weren’t a child abusing piece of shit. But I hate the thought of giving him money or attention so I won’t be.

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Release Day Review: The Centaur of Attention by CB Archer

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Regular blog readers will know CB Archer is my great friend and that I became his friend through reading his books and becoming a fan of his crazy sense of humour and love of puns. I dedicated almost all my books to him and then bugged him for ages to dedicate a book to me, pretending each and every one he released had my name on it.

Then this book arrived in my inbox and it is dedicated to me! The dedication he wrote was rubbish, however, so I rewrote it for him but he has gone with his original one. That’s okay. I’ll guilt him into dedicating another book to me, no problem.

Dedication aside, this is another fun instalment in his College of United Monsters (CUM) series. I read Centaur of Attention before I wrote Top of the Class and it’s what gave me the idea for having a centaur in my CUM fanfic, and for making CB major in World Building, amongst other things.

This is a tale of seemingly star-crossed lovers. Hugh is a geek. He and his friends like to get together of an evening and play Condos & Commoners, an exciting human roleplay game for monsters. Scott is a jock. He’s a star on the sportsfield and he has a killer body. How will they ever get together?

Obviously I loved this book. One, it’s dedicated to me, it would be impossible for me not to think it’s the greatest work of literature the world has ever seen; and two, would I have plundered it and fanficced it if I didn’t adore it? But wait, there’s more! This one has a particular focus on puns and eagle eyed readers should look out for clues to a pretty major twist in the tale.

Also, this represents the first in a three part story arc that is taking place in the college. See if you can spot the future villains!

Available at Amazon

The Night Manager (So many spoilers!)

night manager

Ah, it took me a long time to get around to this. Part major Hiddles fatigue, part distinct lack of interest in this sort of television drama, I only ended up watching it because Mr. Mulberry made me sit through a couple of episodes of The Bodyguard and that wasn’t completely horrible. As I kept receiving news alerts on my phone comparing the two shows, I thought I’d finally give it a go.

The Night Manager is only six episodes long, but it took an age to watch. You can’t binge it. It’s far too choppy and bonkers. One minute mild-mannered Jonathan Pine is doing the night shift at a Cairo hotel during the Arab Spring, next he’s playing amateur spy, after that he’s pretending to be a criminal, beating random dudes up, faking a murder, breaking a fellow agent’s arm, all sorts of unrealistic stuff and that’s just the first two episodes. With very little in the way of actual motivation he turns into a complete psychopath to avenge the murder of an expensive sex worker who gave him a freebie once when she wanted something from him. This proves to be the one weakness Jonathan has: high-class prostitutes. He seems to think it’s his calling in life to shag them and save them, in that order.

So he throws away his entire, admittedly very dull, life because of a combination of war guilt, sex, and English manners. Apparently, he has no family, friends, or anything else he might wish to keep. You’d have thought MI6 would have snapped him up fresh out of school because he was born for this sort of thing.

By episode three he has usurped his rival, Corky, secured his position at the top of the criminal organisation, charmed all the women and children in the place (one woman, apropos of nothing, spills a bunch of secrets to him just because she’s feeling vulnerable and he’s rubbing suntan lotion on her back!), and provides a whole bunch of evidence to the career intelligence team who have never managed to get anything about the villain before now.

Then we come to episode four. Corky has long suspected what Jonathan is up to and even has some evidence, but he won’t say anything because he is so overwhelmingly in lust with Jonathan that he can’t bring himself to dob him in to the Chief. Johnny boy then has a literal Pretty Woman style makeover where he gets some new suits and a credit card of his very own with which to pay for them.  Hugh Laurie’s character, Richard Roper, spends most of the episode gazing fondly at him like a proud parent. By the time JP got his bum out, Mr. Mulberry and I were convinced Roper would let him share his girlfriend if he asked.

Episode five sees Jonathan blowing up a village, beating Corky to death and letting a man and his kid be killed because he has to go get fake info out to MI6. It’s a low point for his character, and honestly, I kind of hated him and didn’t care if they found out and killed him. But the tension really amped up, and by the finale, it was all go. Roper works out what’s going on, but Jonathan plays a blinder, stealing Roper’s money and blowing up his weaponry. It was so exciting!

hiddles night manager

omg tho

Jonathan Pine is a full-on Marty Stu, which is a notion I support and love—men deserve Marty Stu’s too—but it wasn’t really to my taste. I’ve nothing against thrillers; they simply don’t thrill me the way romance does. Watching a man kick butt leaves me cold. My current fave Mary Sue is Edith in Crimson Peak. You can tell how I get my jollies, and it’s not The Night Manager.

That said, however, it did have a certain appeal. That was mostly Hiddles.  He does have a very shapely bottom. I could feel the Hiddles fatigue I acquired by trying to watch Every. Single. Bloody. Thing. He. Has. Ever. Been. In. lifting considerably, I won’t lie.

Just a few months into my Hiddlesbingo I had gotten to the stage where he was like that big chocolate cake in Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Intellectually you know the chocolate cake is delicious. It’s rich, it’s creamy, it’s sweet, it’ll go straight to your thighs, it’s got lovely curly blond hair, big blue eyes, and a very attractive smile. But trying to eat the whole thing in one go is hard work. Nobody wants to have chocolate cake for dinner every movie night.

However, after a couple of HiddlesBingo free months, I feel I could go for a slice of him on the semi-regular again. Well, right now I’m looking at that gif thinking he’s so gorgeous I could Man vs. Food the rest of his backlist no problem, but I suspect I’ve still got that Woody Allen movie he was in to watch and I just don’t think I have the stomach for it yet.

I feel like I’m making this sound like it’s really bad, or that it is a chore to watch him, which of course it isn’t. I wouldn’t have decided I wanted to watch all the Tom Hiddleston stuff if I hadn’t first decided to fancy Tom Hiddleston. Even without the fact he plays Loki—a character who I am clearly a smidge obsessed with—he is, in general, extremely fanciable (see above gif and video of him with a baby leopard in the sidebar if you are unconvinced). But he also happens to be in a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t have bothered watching if he wasn’t in it. Some of it I have loved and am pleased to have discovered. Some of it I don’t think you could pay me to sit through again. The Night Manager is a solid maybe. On the one hand, it is bonkers fun and hot. On the other hand, six hours is a long time, even if you do get to see his bum.

In this, I mostly fancied him when he was in full hotelier mode in the first episode. Such great customer service. I’d rate five on Trip Advisor all day. The night we watched the first episode I had a dream I was staying at the hotel he worked at, and he helped me put my coat on in the lobby. I woke up feeling all girlish and swoony. It was the best dream I’ve had in ages. When we watched the second episode, he’d turned psycho and I didn’t fancy him anymore.

The attractiveness of Hiddles aside, I think, if I had to describe it’s best attributes, I’d say The Night Manager looks expensive. I suspect it cost a hefty chunk of Auntie Beeb’s license fee. Mr. M. and I used to be obsessed with House, and I know for a fact that Hugh Laurie isn’t cheap television these days, Hiddles cannot be cheap either, and the locations must have cost a bomb to film at/in. From that perspective, it was very impressive.

The acting was pretty good too. Hugh Laurie has long been a fave. I’ve been watching him since I was a kid, taking him seriously since he was in House, and he makes a killer bad guy. Love him. Hiddles did a good Hiddles, as per.  Elizabeth Debicki was great. She’s a real goddess, a proper statuesque beauty and I did feel sorry for her character, Jed. Tom Hollander was amazeballs. He is always a joy to watch, but most especially when he’s playing the type of role he was born for: pint-sized psychopath (though he reads a pretty good bedtime story on CBeebies too). “Piss off back in, Frisky,” is my new catchphrase.

But Olivia Colman was the star turn. Love her. Love love love her! And despite being heavily pregnant throughout, she’s the toughest bitch in it. I’m surprised she wasn’t the one going undercover and breaking arms. At the end when she’s sat in Roper’s hotel room, about to drop that baby at any moment, enjoying her triumph, that was the best scene of the entire show. I was in hysterics just at the sight of her, I was pumping the air, bouncing up and down in my seat. Wonderful stuff!

Mr. Mulberry loved it. He only watched the first episode when it was on TV and promptly abandoned it, but he was asking to watch it this time around and was far keener than I was. As much as I wouldn’t watch it again soon, I’d watch a sequel tomorrow if they made one. I want to know what Jonathan did with the missing $300m, and does he follow Jed to America? My heart says yes, but my head says no. If he loves her he’ll let her go. Also I suspect he quite enjoys murdering bad guys, and you can’t really do that with a wife and kid in tow. Mostly I’m interested in Angela’s baby and did she ever make a proper go of it with Mr. Burr. They should do a follow up six-part miniseries about their love triangle with Steadman.

Rating: An exciting bit of fun.

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On Love

love

Warning: Soppiness ahead.

Today is my tenth wedding anniversary, or at least it will be by the time this is posted. I met Mr. Mulberry when I was eighteen years old, during my first two weeks of university. We got married at twenty-five, and ten years later we have a five-year-old daughter.

I love them both. I tend to throw around the word love a lot but not in this instance. I love pizza and poets and watching Ultimate Beastmaster on the telly, but I love Mr. M and my piglet.

I love my mum and dad too, my brother, my buddy CB. I’ve got a big heart. And, obviously, my piglet gets the most love of all, but I want to take a bit of time right now to talk about Mr. M, or Tom as he’s known in real life.

I fell in love with him immediately, told him after one week, and feel as strongly about him now as I always have. We fall out sometimes, we grump at each other, and we’re different people today than we were at eighteen. But that’s all right. The love is still there.

I was living in halls when we met, but we moved in together during my second year and, in the sixteen years since, have probably spent less than a month accumulated apart, the odd holiday and work trips getting in our way occasionally. He’s the main constant in my adult life, as towns and cities, jobs and friends came and went.

He knows all my secrets. He always forgives me. He makes me cups of tea. He gives the best cuddles and kisses. He is ridiculously handsome. Oh my God, I’m punching so far above my weight with him. He’s got big blue eyes and glasses and dark hair and a beard, and he’s a foot taller than me. He’s got shapely legs and a cute cuddly tummy.

He’s got such a dirty laugh. He’s got a childish sense of humour, just like me. He shares my ideals and calls me on my bullshit. He takes care of me when I’m ill. He does housework. He’s the family breadwinner. He’s a good Dad.  He puts up with a lot. He’s a feminist, and he’s not afraid to tell other men when they’re disrespectful. He sends me kisses over WhatsApp.

He’s everything I could ever want. He’s the only person I’ve ever fallen in love with. He’s the only person I want to spend my life with.

He’s quite simply the best thing that ever happened to me.

So, thank you, Tom. Here’s to seventeen more years.

The Poems of Wilfred Owen—Edited by John Stallworthy

I said I was rereading this, and reread it I have, with much pleasure. Wilfred Owen’s war poetry is brutal, at times, and is the sort of unpleasantness you’d like to turn away from, but it’s brilliantly done, and John Stallworthy’s comprehensive notes are a fantastic addition.

This may well be the definitive collection of Owen’s poems. The effort Stallworthy put into picking through the original drafts to try and decipher when and where the poems were written, and which of Owen’s many corrections were the latest, ought to be applauded. I’m not entirely sure of his method—sometimes he’d ignore the dates Owen gave in favour of trying to match pieces of paper to one another and determine if they came from the same sheaf.

Maybe Stallworthy worked with only one pad or notebook a time, but if Owen was anything like me, then his work was all over the place on whichever happened to be to hand. I’d say Owen’s dates would be a much more reliable marker, but that’s just me.

Not that it matters anyway. The work is superb, albeit often highly derivative. I mentioned before that as a young man Owen wanted to be Keats, but as he got older, he tried on the styles of, amongst others, Shelley,  Oscar Wilde, Houseman, Swinburne, Tennyson, and most obviously, Siegfried Sassoon.

He was at his best writing about the war, and much of the book is given over to war poetry. He wrote the bulk of his work in the last eighteen months of his life after he met Sassoon in Craiglockhart, the military hospital where they were both treated for shell-shock.  That is what he is most famous for, and I need not reproduce the brilliance of Dulce Et Decorum Est here, which is, without doubt, his best poem, and one of the most graphic.

The best of the work before that is pretty homoerotic, and therefore, far more in keeping with this blog. Here’s a particularly fun one for you:

Long Ages Past

Long ages past in Egypt thou wert worshipped
And thou wert wrought from ivory and beryl.
They brought thee jewels and they brought their slain,
Thy feet were dark with blood of sacrifice.
From dawn to midnight, O my painted idol,
Thou satest smiling, and the noise of killing
Was harp and timbrel in thy pale jade ears:
The livid dead were given thee for toys.

Thou wert a mad slave in a Persian palace,
And the King loved thee for thy furious beauty,
And all men heard thy ravings with a smile
Because thy face was fairer than a flower.
But with a little knife so wantonly
Thou slewest women and thy pining lovers,
And on thy lips the stain of crimson blood,
And on thy brow the pallor of their death.

Thou art the dream beheld by frenzied princes
In smoke of opium—thou art the last fulfilment
Of all the wicked, and of all the beautiful.
We hold thee as a poppy to our mouths,
Finding with thee forgetfulness of God.
Thou art the face reflected in a mirror
Of wild desire, of pain, of bitter pleasure.
The witches shout thy name beneath the moon,
The fires of Hell have held thee in their fangs.

All right, it’s not his best poem by a long shot, but it’s a bit of fun, isn’t it? Stallworthy includes a quote from a chap called Dennis Welland, who wrote a critical study of Owen’s work in the late seventies. He called the motivation behind the poem “a surfeit of Swinburne and Wilde.” I think he’s probably right. But while he picked out “furious beauty”, “wild desire”, and “bitter pleasure” as “naively employed sensuous imagery”, I think they are half the joy of it. I quite like a bit of furious beauty!

From the high camp of Long Ages Past, we then come to How Do I Love Thee?, which, of course, owes it’s title to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

How Do I Love Thee?

I cannot woo thee as the lion his mate,
With proud parade and fierce prestige of presence;
Nor thy fleet fancy may I captivate
With pastoral attitudes in flowery pleasance;
Nor will I kneeling court thee with sedate
And comfortable plans of husbandhood;
Nor file before thee as a candidate….
I cannot woo thee as a lover would.
 
To wrest thy hand from rivals, iron-gloved,
Or cheat them by a craft, I am not clever.
But I do love thee even as Shakespeare loved,
Most gently wild, and desperately for ever,
Full-hearted, grave, and manfully in vain,
With thought, high pain, and ever vaster pain.

It’s tempting to think that Owen might have planned to fix the final line up, but otherwise, it feels finished, and it’s ever so sweet. From “wild desire” we’ve moved onto “gently wild, and desperately for ever”. If someone wrote a poem like that about me I’d be their’s, no question.

And, because I love purple, here is Owen’s poem about his favourite colour.

Purple
 
Vividly gloomy, with bright darkling glows
Of nebulae and warm, night-shimmering shores!
Stain of full fruits, wines, passions, and the cores
Of all quick hearts! Yet from its deeps there blows
Aroma and romance of violets;
Softness of far land, hazed; pacific lift
Of smoke through quiet trees; and that wild drift
Of smoulder when the flare of evening sets.
 
Solemn, columnar, thunder-throning cloud
Wears it so stately that therein the King
Stands before men, and lies in death’s hand, proud.
Purest, it is the diamond dawn of spring;
And yet the veil of Venus, whose rose skin,
Mauve-marbled, purples Eros’ mouth for sacred sin.

 
Again, not his greatest piece. But I often find the poems I like best in a collection aren’t the ones that are technically brilliant or that have something profound to say; it’s the ones that speak to me personally. And I like that he wrote a poem about purple, and he chucked in my boy Eros for good measure (he comes up several times in Owen’s work).

There are probably twenty to thirty more poems I could pick out as being either especially well done or, at least, to my taste, but I shall have to leave it here.

A Very English Problem

I was back in Cambridge today, purely because the biddies coach trip was on again and I couldn’t say no to myself.  I did my usual walk to Grantchester for lunch at The Orchard and while there read Lithuania, Rupert Brooke’s one-act play based on a real Lithuanian murder case. It’s a sort of prodigal son tale, the twist being that he’s not prodigal at all. He went away poor, became rich and is then brutally murdered by his family when he returns home. Poetry may have lost more than the theatre did when Brooke died.

I also got myself my usual Chelsea Bun in Fitzbillies and had a drink in The Eagle, which is something I’ve never done before but it was pretty cool in there, and I sat in the fireplace to have my drink! It wasn’t half as touristy as I’d assumed it would be and the bar staff were cute. I’d go in there again.

I even did a bit of shopping, buying myself a bronze plaque of Rupert. It was in a shop window marked “Not for sale,” but when I asked the lady behind the counter, she offered to sell for a very reasonable price. Now it’s mine!

So, what’s the problem? Well, it was the coach itself. Most of the seats were unsold, but we were all squished together at the front. I got on the coach, couldn’t tell which was my seat from the two presented as they weren’t individually numbered, so took the window seat. I have no preference for the window seat (I’m thirty-five years old, come on), I just thought it would be easier as I’d have to get out anyway if I had to let another passenger on. I didn’t want to end up blocking the flow of oncoming passengers, and surely whoever I was seated with would say something if they knew which seat was which and had made sure to book the window.

Anyway, my seatmate got on a little after me, and I had definitely taken her window seat, either that or she just didn’t want to share. I’m not sure what caused it, but ooh, I was getting the evil eye and the huffs and everything.

bean lol

Super passive aggressive. When I looked up at her innocently, inwardly screaming “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS WOMAN?” she sat down in the aisle seat.

Now I couldn’t say anything without accusing her of being passive-aggressive. So I’m sat there for forty minutes thinking, how do I offer this woman the seat without pointing out she was being a bit cunty? It was quite likely my mistake, after all, I ought to remedy it, but somehow I felt her behaviour was ruder than mine. But pointing that out felt ruder still. And the longer it went on for, the more awkward and impossible it seemed to rectify.

I started planning what to do. If I arrived back at the last minute for the evening pick up then she’d have time to take the seat she wanted, assuming she arrived before me. If she was sat on the aisle I could offer the window seat to her. If she had shopping bags and things I could offer to sit somewhere else, if I noticed a free seat elsewhere, so she could have more room and sit where she wanted. I was covering every scenario that would allow me to rectify the situation without implying that it was specifically her behaviour had tipped me off that I was in the wrong seat.

So, we get to the last pick up point and discover there are thirty odd spare seats and we can sit wherever the hell we like. Now, if that were me in the aisle, I wouldn’t have moved without asking her if she’d like the extra space because I have no preference on the one seat or two seat matter. A seat’s a seat. I’ve only got one arse and my legs are short. I don’t particularly need the extra room. And I would hate her to think the move was in anyway personal. But this lady was out of the seat and away from me in a split second, settling with a huff into the opposite space by the window. What are you implying with that move, Love?

So there’s me, literally too polite to say anything and dreaming up ways to settle this most English of problems in a dignified manner, and there’s her thinking it’s more polite to have a quiet tantrum than to say anything. And then it’s resolved in the most unsatisfactory manner because I don’t get to apologise for my possible faux pas and she doesn’t get to be redeemed!

I feel like this is the story people will tell about me and my cultural neuroses at my funeral.

It may also be the second most English thing that ever happened to me. The first was when Paul Hollywood refused to jump ship when Bake Off moved to Channel 4 and my mother quietly commented on the fact I was still buying his part baked seeded bread from the supermarket. Good bread is good bread, even if Paul Hollywood doesn’t know the meaning of loyalty.

Navel-Gazing

My dad rang me yesterday and asked how my latest book was going—the one I was supposed to start writing a few weeks ago when my kidlet returned to school.

The answer is that it’s not going at all. I’ve spent the time bopping around the house to French pop music (flawless bisexual, Etienne Daho, mostly), doing chores, going for long walks and short runs, shopping in Oxford and doing a jigsaw. Thrilling, I know.

I have, over the last six months, written a 75k word book and finished it to first draft last weekend but it’s not something I intend to publish, more a sort of catharsis for me after crashing out of MM, plus proof to myself that I can still write books. Ironically it’s got the best structure of any book I’ve written, making sure to follow the protagonist’s inner and outer journey at about the same speed. It’s been good practice if nothing else.

We talked about a young adult trilogy I’m kicking around instead, which will probably be the next books I try to write.  I think they’ll need quite a lot of work regarding planning so I might not start writing them for a while anyway.

I didn’t tell him I had a go at writing a poem for the first time recently either. I was quite pleased with the result of said poem, but again I don’t think it’s something I could attempt to publish. It’s a riff on Keats’ Ode to Psyche (if it’s good enough for Wilfred Owen to rip off Keats willy-nilly, it’s definitely good enough for me!), but I think it might embarrass my husband. And while I like to think it’s a particularly good poem, I have an above par marriage to a decent sort of man. That’s worth more than the poem to me.

Six months ago I thought I should write stuff that was more relevant to who I am but I just can’t do it. Well I can, and I like the results, and I don’t even mind exposing myself in my work. But I suppose Mr. Mulberry didn’t sign up to be my muse. I need to respect that.

Loki Day: Agent of Asgard

 

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I’m not a comic book reader. Well, I am, but not a superhero comic reader. Up until recently, I was a Viz subscriber. I only stopped subscribing because I didn’t have the time to read them and several piled up. If you are unaware of what Viz is then I urge you to go Google “Viz Letters Page.” Of course, it’s not as funny as it used to be.

As a small child I read Buster, The Beano, The Dandy—British comics that you could pick up at the newsagent or supermarket for not much money. I found the American comics too dark and frankly rather confusing. We didn’t have a comic book shop in my town, so if you managed to find one on sale in WH Smiths it would usually only be the latest edition and if it was in the middle of the story, incomprehensible. I bought very few of them.

I was reminded of those childhood experiences while reading this. I am by now familiar with Loki and Thor from watching the movies, and I figured I’d pick up the rest on the way. Unfortunately, so much of it refers to crossovers with other series that great chunks of the story were missing. That was less of a problem in the first volume, though it was still a minor issue, but the second was crossed over with something called Axis and made no sense at all. The quality of the art dropped too in a couple of the issues, presumably because it was done by someone working on Dr. Doom, who got most of the panel space. I would have expected changes between series, but it was a bit of a surprise for it to happen in the middle of the story.

The majority of the art was gorgeous, though. There are a lot of Lokis in this, but for the most part, it’s “One Direction” Loki, who had to move house because he told his neighbours he was Harry Styles. Unlike movie Loki, he’s properly queer. He likes to write slash fiction, sometimes lives as a woman, and turns into a handsome rainbow-maned unicorn at one point.

There’s actually four Lokis. Kid!Loki, a good version who was reincarnated after the original villain Loki died, and was killed sometime before this starts; HarryStyles!Loki, who killed Kid!Loki and is the echo of the original Loki; King!Loki, who is HarryStyles!Loki’s future self and can travel through time; and Loki the God/Goddess of Stories. Confused yet? I was until ten issues in and they hadn’t even introduced Story!Loki at that point.

HS!Loki is very likeable and funny. There’s lots of angst about wanting to change, and about how his path is set by his future self. He can’t escape villainy, but he’s really trying. At one stage the villains become heroes and the heroes become villains and Loki is able to wield Mjolnir while Thor is no longer worthy.

The ending is an interesting one. It’s pretty meta, but I liked it. I’d be interested to see what happens next.

Masterpiece. > A bit of fun. > Toss.

Bonus Loki!

 

OMG Mr Mulberry  has just WhatsApped me a link saying Loki is getting his own spin off TV show and it is going to be MCU movies Loki with Hiddles in it which means Loki definitely isn’t dead and SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Scant initial details here.

loki yeaaaah

To Poesy by Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen has been on my mind lately. My mum lives in Caversham and with her foot broken, I’ve been going to visit her, taking a bus that travels through Dunsden Green. Wilfred Owen lived there for a time.

It is an unassuming little Oxfordshire village that would be of no interest to anyone if Owen hadn’t lived and worked there at the vicarage, but because he did, I get excited riding through, announcing to my bored five year old and a busload of strangers that Wilfred Owen once lived there and taught at the village hall. One day, perhaps next month, I’ll get the chance to get off the bus and look around.

I love Owen. He is, in my mind, the greatest poet who ever lived, but his talent is by the by. I just want to go back in time and be his best friend.

You see, Owen was obsessed with Keats. He visited his homes, went to see his manuscripts, fawned over his paintings and death mask. He nicknamed him Junkets after seeing his signature. He loved poets and poetry in general, but Keats was his idol, and a lot of Owen’s brilliance is owed to his obsession with Keats and the impact of that on his own poetry. A lot of his early work is highly derivative, with Keats being his main influence, and then later he met Siegfried Sassoon and under his tutelage, really hit his stride.

Obviously the war poetry is his best stuff, but when you look at what he produced as a teenager it’s incredible. Imagine a seventeen or eighteen year old boy writing something like this today:

 

To Poesy

A thousand suppliants stand around thy throne,
Stricken with love for thee, O Poesy.
I stand among them, and with them I groan,
And stretch my arms for help. Oh, pity me!
No man (save them thou gav’st the right to ascend
And sit with thee, ‘nointing with unction fine,
Calling thyself their servant and their friend)
Has loved thee with a purer love than mine.
For, as thou yieldest thy fair self so free
To Masters not a few, so wayward men
Give half their adoration up to thee,
Beseech another goddess guide their pen,
And with another muse their pleasure take.
Not so with me! I neither cease to love,
Nor am content to love but for the sake
Of passing pleasures caught from thee above.
For some will listen to thy trembling voice
Since in its mournful music warbling low,
Or in its measured chants, or bubbling joys
They hear beloved tunes of long ago.
And some are but enamoured of thy grace
And find it well to kneel to thee, and pray,
Because there oft-times play upon thy face
Smiles of an earthly maiden far away.

Before the eyes of all thou hast the power
To spread Elysium. Gorgeous memories
Of days far distant in the past can flower
Afresh beneath thy touch; yet not for these
Thy mighty spells I love and hymn thy name;
Nor yet because thou know’st the unseen road
Which leads unto the awful halls of Fame,
Where, midst the heaped honours, thine the load
Most richly prized, of all the crowns the best!
No! not for these I long to win thee, Sweet!
No more is this my fervent, hopeless quest—
To stand among the great ones there, to meet
The bards of old and greet them as my peers.
O impious thought! O I am mad to ask
E’en that their voice may ever reach my ears.

                             Yet show thou me the task,
That shall, as years advance, give power and skill,
Firm hands; an eye which takes all beauty in,
That I may woo thee thus, if thus thy will.
Ah, gladly would I on such task begin
But that I know this learning must be bought
With gold as well as toil, and gold I lack.
What then? Dost bid me first seek out the Court
Where this world’s wretched god, the money-sack,
Doles out his favours to the cringing herd,
There slave for him awhile to earn his pelf?

E’en should I leave him soon, my heart is stirred
With glorious fear and trembles in itself,
When I look forth upon the vasty seas
Of learning to be travelled o’er.
                                                       I fain
Would know the hills, the founts, the very trees,
Where sang the Greeks of old. I would have plain
Before my vision, heroes, poets, kings,
Hear their clear accents; then observe where trod
E’en mythic men; yea, next on Hermes’ wings
Would mount Olympus and discern each god.

All this to speed my suit with Poesy
Meseems must do; and far, far more than this;
In divers tongues my thoughts must flow out free;
And, in my own tongue, with no word amiss,
For all its writers must be known to me.
My hand must wield the critic’s weapons, too,
To save myself, or strike an enemy.
Oh grant that this long training ne’er undo
My simple, ardent love! Throw early dews
Of inspiration oft-times on my brow.
Let them fall suddenly and darkly as thou choose,
Uncertain, fitful as the thunder-drops
Which sprinkle us then cease, to splash once more
Rapidly round, still pausing for long stops,
Not knowing if to vent their heavy store
Upon the parching ground, or wait awhile
Till hasty travelling winds bring increased worth.
But as at last the concentrated pile
Of seething vapours flings its might to earth
In spurts of fire and rain, and to the ground
Flashes its energy, yields up its very soul,
So, midst long triumph-roars of awful sound,
Flash thou thy soul to me at last, and roll
Torrential streams of thought upon my brain,
So give, yea give Thyself to me
At last.
We shall be happy, thou and I. In me
Thou’lt find a jealous guardian of thy charms,
A doting master, leaving all to be
Ever with thee, ever in thine arms.
Forget my youth, forget my ignorance,
Spurn not my lowliness, and lack of friends
Who might help on my progress and perchance
Present me fearless at the throne where bends
Full timidly my lonely being now.
Friends’ service would be naught if thine own hand
Uplifted me; do not thine eyes endow
Far brighter wealth than books, and far more grand?
Then come! Come with a rushing impulse swift,
Or draw near slowly, gently, so it be
Never to part.
                         Round us the world may drift,
Some with scoffs and frowns, with laughter some: T
heir hateful mockery I shall not heed. H
ow could I feel ashamed to stand with one
Who deigns to stoop and be my life’s high meed?
Yet if I would not for its jeering shun
The world, no more would I parade its courts
To change those jeers to applause by showing men
Thy power. Publicity but poorly sorts
My sacred joy, if thou should’st guide my pen.

Loath would I be to show my exceeding bliss
Even to closest friends. But all unseen,
And far from men’s gaze would I feel thy kiss;
No witness save the speechless star-lamps keen
When thou stoop’st over me. No eye
But Cynthia’s look on us, when through the night
We sit alone, our faces pressing nigh,
Quietly shining in her quiet light.

 

That’s written by a boy who was really obsessed with honing his craft. It’s not perfect–it’s juvenilia, for a start, and all but five of Owen’s poems might be considered to be unfinished as there was never a final clean manuscript produced for publication–but it is written in iambic pentameter, and just look at the language. He’s got all the thees and thous he can shove into it, of course, he’s a boy trying to be Keats, but there’s a bit of the later Owen there too.  A “cringing herd”, “seething vapours”, “speechless star-lamps”.  That’s all a bit good for a teenager.

And, I mean, he’s writing a poem to Poesy (a nod to Tennyson, who wrote his To Poesy at nineteen). Such a darling.

Apparently the goddess was listening. If anyone can greet the bards of old as their peer, it would be Wilfred Owen. He was acknowledged by his contemporaries too, shortly before he died in combat.

I’ve decided to re-read John Stallworthy’s collection of Owen’s poetry and this is the first one in the book! So there will probably be more to come of Owen in the next week or so.

The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli

orderoftime

What a lovely book this was!

In a parallel universe where I know how to work a calculator, I am a student of physics. Unfortunately, in this life, I cannot maths. I just cannot. Everyone in my family has a BEng or BSc except me. I am the humanities thicky and can only deal in abstract concepts. Explain equivalence to me, don’t tell me E=MC^2 . I know by rote that Pythagoras’ Theorem is a^2 + b^2 = c^2 when c is the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle. The only problem is, I don’t know what a hypotenuse is. I can spot a triangle, and a right angle one at that, but beyond it I’m stumped.

However, I love a bit of popular science. My favourite show is the recent remake of Cosmos with my forever nerd crush, Neil deGrasse Tyson (seriously, I love you Neil. Call me. I’ll leave my husband). Physics blows my mind, and I love the humanity mixed into the show. The cartoon sequences about the scientists are fascinating and often quite exciting, and NdGT presents like a big cuddly bear telling you a terrific story—a story he is excited to share. His wonder and pleasure are infectious.  I’ve shed more than one tear over it, and never fail to blub when he mentions Carl Sagan. You can feel how much love and respect Neil had for him as a mentor and friend, and it is beautiful.

So, I’m perfectly primed for a popular science book about time that chucks in quotes from Shakespeare and Horace to help you understand the universe, and is written so beautifully it might as well be labelled prose poetry itself. But, I didn’t buy it for that. I bought it because I had a credit to spend on Audible and it was read by Benedict Cumberbatch, who did such a cracking job of reading Casanova’s memoirs that I thought I’d have a bit more from him. The Order of Time was my choice from the thirty titles that come up when you put his name into Audible, and I highly recommend it.

First of all, it is exquisitely written. The language is rich, the concepts are complicated, but it’s accessible. Covelli uses multiple analogies whenever he wants to introduce a new idea, all of them easy to understand, at least in the moment. I don’t think I could sit down and explain the reality or unreality of time after listening to the audiobook, but that’s not what the book is for. This is not some dry and dusty textbook designed to get you through a physics class. If you did nothing but let the ideas wash over you, didn’t think about what was being explained, you’d still have a good time with this book because it is so beautiful.

Some of it is like stepping into the Total Perspective Vortex, which is a device from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series meant to show you how small and insignificant you are to the universe, unless, of course, you’re Zaphod Beeblebrox.  However, like Cosmos, it has a lot of humanity. There is plenty of gentle humour and a lovely sequence where Rovelli talks about scientists he admires in his field (quantum gravity). I shed a tear listening to it.

There were a couple of quite dense chapters towards the end that did make me think I’ll need a second go, but otherwise, it’s a relatively easy listen. There’s only one equation in the book, which I don’t think was read out, but I might have just missed it. It’s harder for me to concentrate on the details in an audiobook version, usually because I’m doing housework or out for a walk and though Audible does have a feature that allows you to skip back thirty seconds, that’s only so useful.

Bumblesnatch’s performance added to the text. He reads with emotion rather than authority, which works for the tone of the book, and it’s cheerily conversational for the most part.

And as ever I’ve learnt how to correctly pronounce more words. ‘Analogous,’ was one. And ‘reprise,’ though Bumbles pronounced ‘reprises’ differently to ‘reprise.’ He had ‘penguin’ down pat, though.

pingu

Overall rating: Masterpiece