The Catomato

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The Catomato

M J Lewis 2016; ceramic and organic vegetable matter

The Catomato stands at 10cm high and is currently located on the kitchen table. A unique combination of tomato from the back garden and ceramic cat, it highlights the dangers of genetically modified crops to the environment and to cats in particular. There are no plans to create a large scale model of the Catomato in the centre of Sutton.

Spring at last?

Spring at last?

Are you suffering from a full-blown case of tulip fever or, like me, just a slight but distracting tulip-induced cold?

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Here in the UK we love to talk about the weather. And at the moment we’re moaning about the fact the mild, damp winter has turned into a cold, showery spring. Well all I can say is, get out in the garden, because this is brilliant tulip weather!

We’ve had enough hours of sunlight and just enough warmth to get them blooming, and now here’s a cold snap to keep them that way for as long as possible, with the odd burst of lucky sunshine between the clouds to help the colours glow. Those rippling breezes also show them off a treat.

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My garden is tiny and every little space is filled with plants. It has now and again contained a weed (daisies, buttercups and clover don’t count as weeds). I think a brave nettle once managed to peep out of the back bed. I learnt a new word whilst watching a gardening program this week – underplanting. My spellchecker might not like it, but I do and the tulips don’t seem to mind either. My tulips are underplanted with foxgloves, cat mint, forget-me-nots, verbascum, valerian…If the daffodils and snowdrops were the orchestral warm-up, the tulips are the prelude to the chaotic symphony that, if all goes to plan, will be summer in my garden.

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So if by now you’re thinking I’m some sort of mad tulip-case, who’d sell her children for the latest variety, I’d like to reassure you that I’m actually quite a relaxed tulip grower. No lifting bulbs for me; no keeping them in the fridge before planting in case the winter isn’t cold enough (as I recently read in a tulip confessional, by the otherwise seemingly sensible Deborah Orr of the Guardian newspaper).

I buy them cheap (the cheap varieties repeat flower more reliably), plant them deep, feed them now and again when in flower and after flowering, and then as each bed or pot looks a bit tired, I just replant that autumn. As an added bonus if a few pop up in ridiculous places, courtesy of the squirrels, or a pot turns out to contain only one or two lonely blooms, those are the very few I pick and enjoy indoors.

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So wrap up well, enjoy the brisk breeze and feast your eyes – it’s tulip season!

Miranda

The Most Trivial Post so far…

The Appreciation of Television

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I should be writing an important letter, I need to update my About page and I’ve started, and can’t finish, a poem entitled The Appreciation of Reading. All good excuses for writing something else instead…

I’m sure there are other Brits out there enjoying not only the rugged windswept landscape, but also the gruff windswept  charms of D.I. Jimmy Perez (played by Douglas Henshall), in the BBC crime/detective series Shetland. 

Years ago my son’s favourite Saturday night TV programme was the Sci-Fi creation Primeval, which as Wikipedia puts it ‘follows a team of scientists tasked with investigating the appearance of temporal anomalies across Great Britain, through which prehistoric and futuristic creatures enter the present, as well as trying to stop the end of the world.’ (I’d actually missed that last piece of plot: the end of the world – crikey! I thought it was just mildly threatening dinosaur fun.) Anyway, this also starred the aforementioned wonderful Douglas Henshall.

And there he was in Shetland, in Shetland, on a Friday night (furrowed brow and piercing blue eyes), thinking aloud as he tried to fit together the pieces of the latest grisly crime to afflict his troubled archipelago, when he said it; D.I. Jimmy Perez, formerly dinosaur hunter Professor Nick Cutter, uttered the words I thought I’d never hear again: ‘It’s an anomaly.’ I was so happy I nearly rolled off the sofa.

So now here we are, coming up to the concluding episode, and I’ll be there, glass of wine to hand, ears pinned back hoping (Please, Jimmy!) they’ve dared to put that line in. It goes something like this: ‘Well he wasn’t just evil, he wasn’t just very, very evil; in fact he was prime evil…’

Go on Jimmy – you know you want to. (And for other daft fans, do you think he’ll get the girl in this one or is that too much to ask?)

Miranda

PS Of course he didn’t say it, but it was a good ending and I was looking in completely the wrong direction for the solution. Jimmy Perez meanwhile was doing his job of being suspicious of everyone (including his potential love-interest) and saved the day. Wouldn’t perhaps know it from this post, but great supporting cast too and especially Alison O’Donnell as Tosh McIntosh. Looking forward to the next series.

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Six Word Story – Purgatory

This is my entry to Ben Nicholson’s six word story challenge. For some reason the briefer the story, the darker the results…

So have tried to lighten up a bit. Threw out my first attempts and went with this photo and story. Click on this link for more lightning-quick tales.

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Purgatory

Congratulations – your very own period property!

Parting is such sweet sorrow…or not / Are you an adaptation snob?

During the summer Cindy Fazzi gave us a quiz to try – are you a literary snob? I love to read (anything and everything – almost) but I also love a good literary adaptation; radio, TV, film – they all suit. But Sunday night’s BBC adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover got me thinking – am I an adaptation snob?

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The programme in question (1 ½ hours for the entire book, so yes a tall order) wasn’t so much a dramatic adaptation as a complete re-interpretation for ten-year-olds (who should be in bed anyway) – you might not remember the first world war, so we’ll show you a trench; and look, this is a Coal Mine children. It also played so fast and loose with the plot details it might have been penned by the late, great and largely unknown D.H. Lollipop (creation of satirical comic writer Sue Limb). Events were added or altered, extra characters squeezed in and then there was the ending, which was so far over the top as to perhaps conceivably be a knowing nod to one of the alternative Blade Runner endings – the one where they drive off to the hills. This one involved Mellors driving m’lady away in a brand new open-topped motor. All we needed was the Nottinghamshire landscape. Anyone who knows the book (yes, and not just those bits) will know the real ending is far less conclusive, much more equivocal. Why does that need changing?lge_Persuasion_080606024745140_wideweb__300x300

On the other hand does it really matter? Am I just being an adaptation snob? This weekend I also watched an old ITV version of Persuasion. The music was lovely, the actors very good-looking (that of course is another kettle of fish!) and the whole thing thoroughly enjoyable. Jane Austen endings are always happy, so no problem there. But no – according to the purists reviewing this version on Amazon, the fact that Anne ends up in the house of her dreams, her childhood home, is impossible and ridiculous and you’d know this if you’d been following the intricacies of the plot or had read the book. And then there’s the added ending (and it is ghastly) to the film of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with Kiera Knightley – according to my DVD, only tacked on to the American version of the film. Mr Bennet in his office, totally at his ease, and true to the book, is for some reason not sufficiently dramatic or obvious for our cousins across the pond. Insulting or what?

I’m sure you know other examples. There’s John Le Carre’s The Russia House for instance – the protagonists are waiting to be reunited at the end, or if you prefer in the film version (with Michelle Pfeiffer), waiting no longer. I remember a Jane Eyre TV adaptation, with Damien Lewis look-a-like Toby Stevens as Mr Rochester, that showed him literally holding thToby Stephense baby for a happy family photo – along with Jane and the entire household of faithful servants – as the credits rolled. Must confess I rather liked that one. Reader I married him, had his baby and here’s the photograph to prove it.

So as usual I’m in two minds. These are only books after all, but I suppose I do think there needs to be a certain amount of faithfulness to the plot and I certainly believe audiences can cope with uncertainty, sadness and even tragedy if that’s what the author intended. Don’t know if you have your own examples of dreadful changes to endings or ridiculous plot changes. Or have you come across an ending made more inconclusive, more sad? That would be interesting.

In the meantime I have a new game – adapt the plot or alter the ending to make suitable easy viewing for the whole family, no nasty bits, no loose ends. Here are some examples of doing a D. H. Lollipop:

Anna Karenina spots a poster for a telephone helpline on the way to the station.

The March sisters take part in an innovative childhood vaccination programme – Beth first of course.

Feel free to add your own.

Miranda

What will you be reading?

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What will you be reading this summer?

It had to be too good to be true! As August approaches the rain has set in here in the South of England.  Sad for the younger bucket-and-spade brigade, but for me reading in the garden can be replaced by reading on the sofa.

And here’s a round-up of what’s to hand.

The Leipzig Affair by Fiona Rintoul (also at wee press)

Sex and survival, love and betrayal – the political really is personal, and vice versa – in Germany before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A riveting dual narrative. I switched off the BBC book at bedtime version so I could read it and now I’m reading it for the second time. It’s written in English by a Scottish journalist and translator with an extensive knowledge of Germany. Would love to know if it rings true for any German readers out there. I loved it the first time and it’s standing up to a more thorough, more gently paced second reading.

Bertie Plays the Blues by Alexander McCall Smith

In another vein altogether, although also a Scottish author. I read on a short train journey to work and need quick twelve-minute fixes.  So for a bit of fun I’ll dip into one of McCall Smith’s many books – just depends what the second-hand shop has on offer. (Sorry Alexander, but you are doing a great public service. Does anyone know of a UK second-hand bookshop without an A. McCall Smith on the shelves?) A cast of entertaining characters, a slightly rickety plot (often involving art in some way) and the occasional cameo appearance by another author, e.g. Ian Rankin in the bath – what’s not to like? My daughter and I are fans of Freddie De la Hay (ex-sniffer dog and ex-vegetarian) from Corduroy Mansions in London and Bertie (lovely boy with a lovely but wet father and ghastly controlling mother) from Scotland Street in Edinburgh. Looking forward to a burst of Bertie this August.

I can highly recommend any of the Jackson Brody detective mysteries by Kate Atkinson – great rainy day, stay in bed reads.  And do buy the BBC covers – Jason Isaacs really is Jackson Brodie! The best cliff-hanger scene ever is somewhere in there – involving an expensive birthday car and a vicar. Might have to re-read the whole lot to find that scene again – that’s when I get back the ones I’ve lent out. (You know who you are!) In the meantime I’ll be re-reading (I like to get value for money) Life After Life by the same author.  A ridiculous premise – that the heroine lives again and again and gradually realises this – is carried off with amazing aplomb.  Essentially a wartime story, but one that poses the intriguing question, what would you do if you could live again, and again? Shoot Hitler maybe? And would that work? Contains the best (and possible only) joke concerning a pair of surgical scissors if you stick with it. Now if that’s not a recommendation…

Will actually be leaving the house at some stage to travel to France and before doing so will be loading up the Kindle and hoping to enjoy a few titles by fellow bloggers:

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

Please Say Kaddish for me by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields

HitList by K Rawson

Leave by Kurt Brindley

And finally I have a terrible guilty confession – yes, I have bought my own book (Dream Girl by Miranda Lewis) for the sheer fun of clicking a button and there it is! But I haven’t gone as far as reviewing it myself. At a mere 99p (that’s about 1p per 400 words!) it’s great value. Hope it can become part of your summer reading. If you do read it, let me know what you think, or leave a review on Amazon. (US Amazon link here.)

Here’s my second review:

An intriguing read, which held my interest from start to finish – Miranda has managed to intertwine two very different protagonists excellently – with all key questions answered at the end, whilst still leaving you wanting to know more… A fantastic summer read!

If you have been, thanks for reading. What are you reading this season?

Miranda