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Saccharin And The War

How is it possible?! I appear to have mislaid twelve pounds. No, not legal tender, dear heart; I am talking about flesh - mine, not a freezerful of viands. This is mysterious, for I am not (have never been) banting. (Isn't that a lovely, quaint word? Much more gentil than 'slimming' or 'dieting'.)

My habits have not changed. I do not eat like a bird, nor do I take part in formal exercise. Nor am I one of those people whose weight fluctuates. Stately-glacier-progression is more like it. In my late teens I weighed eight stone; by the mid-twenties, it was eight-and-a-half. At thirty-something, a well-formed nine stone. (I'm 5' 6", slim but not skinny, sufficiently-upholstered everywhere but nothing hangs over the waistband. ;-P A model scout would think me short and fat; your well-meaning aunt would think me a little underfed; all in all, it is rather more the post-war look than the post-millennium.)

Yesterday I could feel my breeches slipping orf me hips, and out of sheer curiosity, stood upon the scales. (I rarely stand upon the scales - there would be no point, I've always been stable to the point of ridiculousness in the poids net dept.) Eight stone, two pounds (that's about 114 lbs)...? Er...?! I am truly mystified. Of course, it could be the scales, but I have of late noticed looseness in the waistband area of various garments.

I feel perfectly well, am an hilariously good and regular sleeper, and rarely succumb to any kind of germ. I'm at a loss to explain the phenomenon. Perhaps, perhaps, my metabolism is as adaptable as my soul. Something's chrysalidic here - a dissolving, a refashioning, a rescripting, right down to the very DNA. In all things (In All Things), I know myself to be Mercury, not Granite. Etse-sa Mira in Flux.

(Is it a sign of the times that I almost feel I should apologise for reporting these facts? Well - I don't think I shall. Have a song instead.)


Lordy heck, it seems there's another television serial about the Borgias! - thus providing at least one answer to the riddle: How is a Borgia like an Omnibus? My early impressions of this version (it's a big pan-European co-production) are that they seem somewhat more keen to give a nod to actual history than t'other lot (for whom it really is just Fucking, Fighting, and Upholstery Fabric) but at the same time, they have gone in for quite a lot of Conjectural Character Development.

So far, Juan (the elder brother in this version) mostly stands around looking like something left over from a cologne ad; meanwhile, Cesare chews a lot of scenery and may well be diagnosably paranoid. Rodrigo seems well cast - Mr Irons, in t'other one, is as delightful as he always is, but not exactly authentic. (He - Jezza - reminds me of one of the cuter mustelids - an otter, perhaps, or a marten - with his slender figure, large brown eyes (he always looks slightly surprised, in the way of all cute animals) and his sinuous elegance. I bet he could fit down a rabbit hole, but would not have a clue how to behave in it.) So, whatever his name is, this other actor, he has a more solid, head-of-a-powerful-Italian-family demeanour. He does do a lot of verbal exposition - "Your Uncle, Prince Whoever, would not like to know about the time you were naughty in the town of Wherever, which lies not a league from your ancestral city of Whichever!" - but that's historical drama for you!

Historical drama, of course, does like its tick-the-box tropes. For example: poor Lucrezia gets one of those "OMG blood aaghh I'm dying nope dear it's just your first period You're A Woman Now" scenes. (And Now: Obligatory Moment of Silence in which to feel grateful for modern hygienic appliances and analgesics!!)

I think the costumes are much better in this version. They have obviously spent a lot of time looking at portraits - everything fits at chest, waist and hip; the sleeves are frankly to die for (and to die in, there is a lot of claret spilled; they must get through gallons of Persil in the cossie dept.!); and the hair is more realistic. Unfortunately, though, the Cardinals' scarlet looks a little low-rent compared to everything else. It's less high-end upholstery, more "Oh send Bruce down to Jo-Ann's Fabrics and have him buy ALL the scarlet velour, no really ALL OF IT." They don't really look resplendent - it's less Papal Conclave, more... Inner City Community Choir. Oh Well.

The music is better - at least, the theme tune is pretty blah (not really a 'tune' as such, and kind of like a more boring version of the rather-good theme tune from t'other series), but the incidental music/score is good. You can't always tell whether you're hearing period-appropriate contemporary music or something the musical director has composed specially.

I'm inclined to feel that historical TV dramas need to be just good enough and just bad enough to be entertaining. If everything was totally accurate and the script wonderfully-written, you'd probably get bored - much better to read a factual book and go to the museum to see some paintings and objects. But if it looks sumptuous, has a good-looking cast who can act just sufficiently well not to make you want to throw your shoe at the screen, and has enough 'spot the howler/anachronism' to keep your quizzing attention, it'll probably work.


That reminds me, I still hate hysterical navels historical novels (mostly). I decided to try and read one of these 'Railway Detective' books that have become really popular. Mostly because I love stories set on or around trains (this is always great in a film, too - several Hitchcock films, the Railway Children, that surprisingly-good recentish thriller where the guy has to relive the train journey over and over to solve the bomb plot...). I was thinking, Victorian murder mystery with steam trains - that's got to be hard to do wrong, if you're knowledgeable about the period, and it could be so great.

How Wrong Was I?!?! On page one, we find one character saying to another, "Are you serious?" - we're in 1850-something, by the way - and it is all downhill from there. Also, there was a character named.... Dirk. (Were working-class Englishmen called Dirk in 1850-something...?) I managed a few pages, but... sheesh. If you can't write dialogue (and remember, there's usually a lot of dialogue in a detective novel), please... don't, is all I can think to say on that. (Or at least... go away and read a lot of Victorian shockers, if that's the period you're into, and get the vocab and cadence straight in your mind.)

There is an alternative approach, which would sit at the literary fiction end of the spectrum - if you could manage it, a clean, unadorned, modern narrative voice, with minimal talking from your characters, would work brilliantly. But for that you have to be a pretty skilled, disciplined writer. I know I couldn't manage that. But...

...one day I'm sure I shall get so peeved about all this rubbish that I'll write my very own rubbishy period detective novel; So There. But unless it could fulfil my fantasy of uniting the humour and whimsy of Edmund Crispin with the rule-trashingly elegant manipulations of Francis Iles, I would never stoop to publishing it!


The other day I bought a book in the bookshop - I had to, really; it lived up so wonderfully to its title.

It's a humorously-written fictional diary.

It's called 'Diary of a Misplaced Philosopher'.

I found it - and how can I not smile as I write this? - misplaced, in the Philosophy section.

Really enjoyed reading this one - our diarist has just got his PhD (actually in Philosophy) and decides, in the face of limited career scope in academe (Philosophy depts. closing hither and yon) to train as a lawyer. The writing is of that very English style that unites mundane events and minute detail in order to give us Humour. The characters are just eccentric enough to be realistic. The book was published in 1989; I was eleven, I can remember the world as it was then just well enough to be tantalised utterly by setting the writer has created - the life of a youngish adult (he's about thirtyish) with all the freedoms and strictures that swoop around one at that age. In some quarters, too much choice - in others, too little. But he wades through it all as briskly and optimistically as possible, and though it's a silly book it also feels... genuine.

Finishing the book, I instantly wanted more. (Always a good sign!) But I'm unlikely to find more, at least by this author - 'Joseph North', which, as that is the name of the fictional-diarist, must have been a nom de plume. I want to know who he is and what else he has done! Ack, tantalised again!


I saw a sign the other day (another one!), outside a funeral director's showroom, that would undoubtedly have made it into the pages of Joseph North's diary - 'WANTED: CASUAL PALL BEARER', it said.

Davey was with me; we just looked at each other, with That Look that we pass back and forth in such situations.

"Presumably they don't want someone too casual," I said. "Sloping shoulders would make the coffin very unstable..."

"There you go," play-acted D., miming the action of someone slouching along before lobbing a large, long, heavy object in the general direction of a large, long, deep hole.

"Mind yer backs," I supplied, dusting imaginary dust off my palms.

"Maybe they're referring to the dress code," said D. "Ditch the smart black suit - put on a black cloak and carry a scythe..."

"That's not very casual," said I. "Velour leisure suit is more like it!"

...You will be relieved to know, if you live close to both death and Exeter, that neither of us will be applying for the gig.

And on that note... tatty-bye, darling heart, for now.


( 6 confidences — Confide in me... )
Oct. 21st, 2013 02:02 pm (UTC)
I bet he could fit down a rabbit hole, but would not have a clue how to behave in it.
I do enjoy your imagination!

Perhaps the advert was looking for pall-bearers for deceased football hooligans? In any case, it reminded me of a song :

Invalid video URL.
Oct. 29th, 2013 03:13 pm (UTC)
I do enjoy your imagination!

Why thank you, so do I...! :-D

Perhaps the advert was looking for pall-bearers for deceased football hooligans? In any case, it reminded me of a song:

Alas, 'invalid video URL' - a silent song! :-(
Oct. 29th, 2013 04:09 pm (UTC)
Curse Livejournal and its continued struggles with embedded videos!

Try this here link instead - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okaTj5IXh5A
Nov. 3rd, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC)
Ah, a many-times-interpreted classic! :-)
Oct. 31st, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC)
Following your posting of this song, which I had never heard before, I have purchased the attendant album...
Nov. 3rd, 2013 07:12 pm (UTC)
Hehe, what can I say other than "Reaction: elation, joyyyyyyeeeee"! ;-)

I hope you enjoy the album; it's kind of... sweetly weird pop music. Sparks are always slightly off-kilter but their weirdest songs* are always the ones Russell occasionally writes. 'Roger' on the same album is another of his oddities. ^_^ [*Having said that, this disc also features Ron's 'Fa La Fa Lee', whose subject matter is not, as you might think, a popular Middle Eastern lentil-based snack, but... er... incest.] I'll be interested to know what you think!
( 6 confidences — Confide in me... )

Eavesdrop, snoop, and sigh with yearning...

This journal is not a private diary, it is more like an occasional, imaginary column. Therefore, much of it is on public display. However, if you want to read my occasional attempts at creative writing, my Caution Elf tells me I should only show that stuff to my friends. You know what to do. :-)

NB: If you add me in an unsolicited fashion, please introduce yourself. Otherwise I will probably ignore you.

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