An Easter treat from the ABC!

I have two favourite daughter-in-laws (and one favourite son-in-law).

Easter has brought Jessie with grand-children, Emily and Michael, to stay; along with group watching of Seven Types of Ambiguity. This is a lush, compelling, psychological thriller in six parts. Night-scapes of Melbourne help to make the setting a showcase, almost an additional character….as is the cinematography. The cast is excellent, though I gather the whole a “tame adaptation of the book, while retaining some weight and substance.” The novel (2003) by Australian writer Elliot Perlman, is described as Rashmonian, after a 1950 film called Rashomon. “The Rashomon effect is not only about differences in perspective. It occurs particularly where such differences arise in combination with the absence of evidence to elevate or disqualify any version of the truth, plus the social pressure for closure on the question.” Wikip.

The full six parts were provided to iView immediately after screening the first part, so viewers could watch all over Easter.

 

 

The other glut watching, with Miss J, so far are Seasons 1-3 of Friends, which  I had studiously avoided forever before, never having watched a full show before, mainly due to hangups about Jennifer Aniston and her celeb associations, but am now feeling 20 something again, and love all the girls clothes and jewellery (90s), and general joi de vivre, and clever scripts. Lots of laughs, vino, and nibbles.

E happy making Friendship bands, M highly conversational into his Slither iPad game.

The Tide of Life

W, K and J have been away in the USA for the past couple of weeks. Life is quite dull for myself and Holly, but, I have been devoted to bringing closer to the end, the digitisation of an enormous photographic record spanning five generations, including multiple branches of family, concluding a 6 year effort in all; as well as Photoshop cleaning of 1140 photos and slides (up to 440 to date) of W’s Aunt, Ede, who was a missionary in Ethiopia in the 50s. She had the French eye for a great photograph.

As this work is so repetitive and inane a lot of the time, the current co-task is watching in a small adjacent window, old YouTube movies. Have been driven to this as even SBS On Demand is now being eroded, so sad.

Having put “Period Movies” in the YouTube search box, Coming Home was the first movie watched/listened to. The novel was written by Rosamunde Pilcher in 1996, following her breakthrough novel, The Shell Seekers in 1987. The TV series was made in 1998. It is set all around Cornwall, before and during WW11 initially with a teenage Keira Knightly playing the young Judith Dunbar, then Emily Mortimer (lovely daughter of Sir John Mortimer, author of the Rumpole books) playing the adult. A lovely 3 hour sojourn in this family saga.

Similarly long sagas on Youtube have been some of the numerous Catherine Cookson novels, later made mini-series. All are set in the 1800s, some early in the century, most set in Northumbria. They are universally romantic with a girl, often followed from youth who persists in life against the severe hardships of the day, to find true love.

The final credits of The Tide of Life and The Secret are both accompanied by the following beautiful folk lilt.

Lyrics
I cannot get to my love if I would die (dee)
For the water of Tyne runs between her and me
And here I must stand with a tear in my ‘ee,
Both sighing and sickly, my sweetheart to see.
I cannot get to my love if I would die;
For the waters of Tyne run between her and me
And here I must stand with a tear in my ‘ee,
Both sighing and sickly, my sweetheart to see.
Oh, where is the boatman, my bonny hinney?
Oh, where is the boatman? Bring him to me
To ferry me over the Tyne to my honey
And I will remember the boatman and thee.
Oh, bring me a boatman, I’ll give any money
And you for your trouble rewarded shall be
To ferry me over the Tyne to my honey
Or scull her across the rough river to me

It is a Northumbrian lovesong. Anywhere along the Tyne could claim it, from Hexam, through Newcastle, to Gateshead and Tynemouth. The ferry is believed to be the one caught at Haughton Castle, Hexam, on the North Tyne.

 

The Passing-Bells

Over the last couple of years, I have deeply enjoyed various contributions of the BBC to the Centenary Commemorations of WW1. One was the movie Testament of Youth, the powerful true story of Vera Brittain, from her memoir of the same name. The cast was very strong, including the increasingly recognized and lovely Swedish actress Alicia Vikander (her English accent is perfect).

 

As we are only halfway through the Commemoration years, I decided to pass the recent 34 degree C (feels like 40!) weekend heat in our front room air-con, knitting and watching the BBC’s series, now on SBS, The Passing-Bells.

The title required a little investigation, as it is not directly explained…….passing bells are those (usually Church) bells which might call hearers to awareness of, or prayer for the passing of a soul, commonplace in British villages a hundred years ago.

The author of the television drama The Passing-Bells, Tony Jordan, wrote this drama specifically for the young. It needed to suit a 7pm time-slot, and be true to the theme but not so gory as to make it unsuitable for that time-slot. He was inspired by Wilfred Owen’s poem:

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent maids,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Wilfred also wrote that other remarkable poem, Dulce et Decorum est (pro patria mori), which calls out ” the old Lie”, it is sweet and right to die for ones country.

We follow a British and a German youth and their respective families, from their enlistments from their home villages, and through each year of the war. It is interspersed with real film and audio at times. The experience offered is that of this war on Youth and these youths, not the politics of the war, or rights or wrongs. One of the aims was to draw for today’s youth some understanding of the inexplicable awfulness of war. We feel that the honour of dying for one’s country may be a lie, especially as, in this particular war, it was significantly inflicted by vain ego’s on both sides; and, by the middle and end of the war, we see the futility of terrible human losses.

A great watch, taken in it’s full context. The music by is haunting as it suggests the hope and aspirations of these teenage youth and the lightness of home, which they lost……for so many, life ended in the slime and mud of the Somme and Paschendale.

I think it drew enough of the facts, without being excessively traumatizing, to give modern youth a glimpse of that reality.

Poet, Wilfred Owen was killed Nov 4, 1918, a week before the end of WW1, at the age of 25.

 

Thoughts seguay to Rudyard Kipling, who via his contacts helped, his son, John, enlist as an officer. John was killed after leading (leading at 18?) his troops into battle at the Battle of Loos, France, disappearing in September 1915, six weeks after his 18th birthday. Rudyard never really recovered from this loss. John’s body was not recovered at the time, Rudyard searching for the next four years for him, tracking down his battalions survivors, his military contacts, the Red Cross, Swedish contacts and German ambassadors, before finally accepting that he had been killed, rather than taken prisoner.

Having been a keen supporter of the war, Kipling became critical. His haunting poem Common Form reads: “If any question why we died, / Tell them, because our fathers lied.”

In 1992, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission changed the inscription of an Unkown Soldier to John Kipling……he had lain those years un-named due to clerical errors:

He had been promoted in the field to First Lieutenant, not the original assumed Second Lieutenant, confused with another Lieutenant who had died in the field hospital, and, freshly geographically pinpointed due to a clerical error with the grid reference of the day. We now know on Rudyard’s behalf, where his son’s body lies.

(I did not previously know that it was Kipling’s idea that all war graves have equivalent headstones and crosses, there to be no distinction according to rank….and, Also, on war graves everywhere “Known unto God” is written, rather than “unknown”, again, Kipling’s words…..)

I want to re-see the movie My Boy Jack, now.

Kipling Poetry I have noted

The Thousandth Man

If

My Boy Jack

Jane’s Marriage – in this poem, Kipling gave to Jane (Austen) in Heaven, that which she had missed in life -the love of her ideal man.

This latter was my Aunty Bell’s favorite poem. She was born in 1901, so at coming of age, the flower of Australian youth had been killed in WW1. She never married.

Poor Aunty ABC!

I am afraid I give credence to some conspiracy theories, and have felt for a while that the ABC was being dismantled from the inside, especially as external attempts by government entities bring so much public outcry, to which they defer. I was shocked a couple of years ago to learn that, due to a deal between the BBC and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox, our ABC would only be drip-fed good British drama, after it had been used by Foxtel for a couple of years. Hence, there has been a serious deterioration in drama on offer via the ABC, live or on iView, with a little added embellishment……often, after watching a couple of episodes of a series, one is offered to “buy” the next episode from the ABC shop!

No wonder Australians are the world greatest illegal downloaders in the world!

Michelle Guthrie, the lately appointed CEO of the ABC, is regarded by conspiracy theorists, as a Rupert Murdoch stooge. She has just appointed a Skye honcho to assist with “internal restructuring”, and is generally unavailable to ABC staff.

I am very sad……so far, SBS has not had reduced quality, although it was mooted  earlier in the year, that it be merged with the ABC, presumeably then to co-emasculate it with the ABC. We were shocked when in Scotland earlier in the year to see that the BBC news, was a channel of fluff, non-news…….😲😥

(My conspiracy leanings were already primed by having read Bad News by Robert Manne in a Quarterly Essay, and Hack Attack by Nick Davies some years ago…)

Great SBS Pickings…

Have just treated myself to the full ten episodes of Versailles, currently streaming on SBS. This is sumptuous in every way. It seems historically correct enough to my poor knowledge, the settings and costumery are great. Where would we be without Louis 1V building Versailles Palace and Gardens…although he is far less appealing in his portrayed nature than his younger brother Phillipe 1, Duke of Orleans. He is played by young Welsh actor Alexander Vlahos. Phillipe, in the series, as in real life, was  gay, though did his duty having two wives (one at a time) and children. He was fond of his wife, though cruelly flamboyant in front of her with his homosexual partners. He is portrayed as being basically decent and loyal to his brother the King, in the extreme circumstances of the time. I was very taken with Alexander Vlahos as an actor.

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I do not cope with some historical series which are populated unnaturally by ONLY young actors, no doubt trying to corner the younger adult market – not so this series! The principal actors are all about 20 something, because they were that age in the real life time setting, but plenty of older fogies bringing depth and realism.

Also, who’d have thought men with long curly locks, stockings and high heels, could look so delicious!

(Alert, plenty of realistic violence and blood…..as there was!)

Slightly more of a pot-boiler is the Icelandic noir police story called Trapped. I really enjoyed this 10 parter. There is a fierce blizzard for the first several parts…. notwithstanding, the scenery and view of life in the Icelandic town of Seydisfjordur is great – travel without travel!! Danes, Swedes, Icelanders etc, masters of the Scandinavian noir genre, feel no compulsion to make their actors routinely “good-looking”. I love this, and find myself REALLY liking many of the characters. Plenty of surnames in the credits at the end with surname endings -son for boys, and dottir, for girls….that is, plenty of Icelanders involved in the making!!

 

 

 

 

 

Musing on old and new times and great narratives…….

I think the need to do this must be part of a late mid-life review……!!

Over the years, Mum made it known to me with regularity, that she was re-reading The Forsyte Saga, and indeed, in her last few years… again! (with selected others), “one last time”. She had come to feel so attached to the characters, especially the old Aunts, at the Forsyte ‘Change gatherings, that each reading was like visiting loved and familiar family again.

I must have been late teenage when, in 1968,  the black-and-white Forsyte Saga series came onto TV, probably bargaining permission to watch rather than study. I additionally adored those same characters through film, thought Irene (pronounced Irenie) exquisitely beautiful (the actress also had an exotic name  – Nyree (née Ngairi) Dawn Porter, a New Zealand actress). I have ended up loving both reading Galsworthy’s first trilogy, with its two interludes, and watching the 1967 TV series. Perhaps about 1992, I read The Man of Property aloud to Jen. Also listened to an audiobook version several years ago, while cooking in the kitchen.

Galsworthy’s three books of the Saga are The Man of Property written in 1906, In Chancery, 1920 and To Let, in 1921.

image

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Anne left numerous bits of paper with messages, I am sure, not only for herself, but me also. With the above note left within my copy, I am very clear now, what “In Chancery” really means……”to get into chancery, to get into a hopeless predicament…”

I also came across the two interludes in the 1990s. These copies are both very satisfying as they are very old, with all the sensual embellishment which that brings. I am not sure if they were originally acquired in Mum or Dad’s household, editions being 1934 and 1935 respectively.

Indian Summer of a Forsyte…….it is Old Jolyon’s Indian Summer……aged, alone at Robin Hill (then outside London) with grand-daughter Holly, while Young Jolyon is abroad, unexpected companionship and delight occurs with visits from his nephew Soames’s estranged wife, Irene. As the end of his life approaches, his perception of beauty and love is sharpened. He indulges and basks in the beauty of Irene herself, the home at Robin Hill (built originally for Irene, by Irene’s loathed husband Soames, the Man of Property), and the beautiful surrounds of the countryside. I could almost feel the soft warm stillness of the summer air, perfume of the wildflowers and buzz of bees myself…….so evocative. At the end of the book, Old Jolyon passes away, sitting in his chair under the great old oak tree, waiting for Irene’s arrival (imagine her full Victorian summer dress and umbrella) walking up the road to see him, he feeling so content, with the dog Balthasar at his feet, which faithful devotee alerts us to that passing with his whimper and howl……such a beautiful step aside from the main story. The words “Indian Summer” entered by own lexicon then, understanding them and on occasion using them, always for something spiritually uplifting, special, and late in the season…..I remember an Easter at Straddie which felt like an Indian Summer.

My copy of Indian Summer of a Forsyte, 1934
My copy of Indian Summer of a Forsyte, 1934
The first paragraph...
The first paragraph…
The last paragraph
The last paragraph…

Of course, “The soundless footsteps in the grass!” is Irene arriving to find her unexpected friend had died in his chair awaiting her…..

Awakening was similarly delightful, and which mothers of sons may find secretly dreamy and affirming. It is narrated by little Jon, the son, the truelove child of Irene and Young Jolyon, as he comes to realize how beautiful his mother is (Awakening), and that at once she is his, but also has to be shared, particulary with his father, about which he comes to terms. Irene is a lovely spirit, wafting (I imagine with soft skirt rustling) in and out of his daily life….we see her only as  his mother-presence, not directly, as with her more detailed formed self, in the main story. In spite of his new awareness and anxiety, she is his child’s ultimate comfort and reassurance. Jon, too, basks……

My copy 1935; dust cover in poor condition! The rest is in brilliant condition!
My copy 1935; dust cover in poor condition! The rest is in brilliant condition!
Lovely gilt embossing on the cover...dear little Jon...
Lovely gilt embossing on the cover…dear little Jon…

image

 

Profile of little Jon coming down the stairs....
Profile of little Jon coming down the stairs….
The first paragragh.....
The first paragragh…..
Analysis of little Jon’s mind, by The Public Analyst…

I love it that “Sentiment” only gets allotted half  point nearly at the bottom, the rest being high adventure. How little boy!❤️

We are drawn deeply into Jon's imagination by R.H. Sauter's wonderful illustrations
We are drawn deeply into Jon’s imagination by R.H. Sauter’s wonderful illustrations
The last paragragh....Every word is beauteous!
The last paragragh….Every word is beauteous!

 

This illustration says it all....
This illustration says it all….

The anatomy of Jon’s heart has changed forever……that which was a vacant plot has now been entirely filled by “Mum”. One notes that this is just marginally larger than the plot for Dad, which has been assigned of old.

Having now re-seen a lot of film which, somehow, in spite of an excessive focus on study and education in early years, I did manage to absorb…..I realize now that the stories’ characters have become my old friends. It brings the realization that film and books have been very important to me, unconsciously back then, with re-viewing and re-reading now bringing nostalgia, even aspects of grief, for the old days, for absent family and similarly for the absence of the characters when the book is finished or film ‘glut’ is over.