Tag Archives: Don Quixote

The Moonstone, pom-poms and birthday cake

I finished reading The Moonstone yesterday, I’ve been eating birthday cake and I’m in the middle of a massive pom-pom production session, so at least the the title was easy today.

Julia and Vicki have birthdays on successive days (though the years of birth are not quite so close) so we always have a surfeit of birthday cake at this time of year. I like the word surfeit. King John was said, in some reports, to have died of a surfeit of peaches at Newark in 1216 (they have been commemorating the 800th anniversary of his death recently), though it is more likely he died of dysentery. Henry I died of a surfeit of lampreys.

Lampreys have always seemed an unlikely thing to surfeit on, but it seems they were popular in the middle ages, and still are in some parts of the world. King John fined the City of Gloucester the equivalent of £250,000 for failing to provide his traditional lamprey pie one Christmas. In more recent times Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation pie was a lamprey pie provided by the RAF, and her Diamond Jubilee was marked by the gift of a lamprey pie from the City of Gloucester. Sadly, from a historical point of view, the latter pie was made with lampreys from the Great lakes in North America, as we don’t have many lampreys left, and they are now a protected species.

However, back to The Moonstone. It’s an irritating title because the Moonstone of the title is a yellow diamond, and not actually a moonstone.  T. S. Eliot called it “the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels in a genre invented by Collins and not by Poe.” While some of this praise might be open to argument, it’s certainly long. Similarly, it introduces many classic elements of the modern detective novel, including a country house setting, red herrings, a quirky policeman and a twist at the end. It’s just a shame that the twist in the end is such a long way from the crime.

You may be getting the idea by now that I think it’s a little longer than it needs to be. It is. So are many classic novels. Moby Dick, for instance, could do with being reduced in length and a spot of energetic abridgement would definitely improve Don Quixote. I may have touched on this before, but the book, in my hand, would open with the body of Don Quixote lying on the library floor (probably beaten to death with a big book of heraldry), as the crumpled Detective Sergeant Sancho Panza looks for clues. I don’t know what my ending would be, but I do know it would be a lot closer to the beginning than Cervantes managed – about 300,000 words closer to the beginning in fact.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Varnished frames – almost ready

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pitifully paltry pile of pom-poms…

Yes, despite all setting to work in the middle of the day, we managed just these 16, well 15¾ really, as one is still to be cut and tied. That’s enough for one wreath. Of course, the process isn’t quite as linear as wrap, tie, trim.

It’s more in the region of wrap, stop and help someone, wrap, stop and help someone else, wrap, stop and try to rescue one, sweep away a pile of woolly scraps as the attempt fails, wrap, tie, swear, find the scissors, hack, look for a decent pair of scissors, stop and help someone, trim, try not to look too disappointed, start again…

As Julia pointed out, as I moaned my way through the afternoon, the best days of my life are like a pantomime villain.

“How’s that?” I asked, in my role as perennial straight man.

“They’re behind you!”

Musings on Mortality and Muesli

There’s a sort of league table in my mind regarding death.

There are people who have always been dead while I’ve been alive, so not only am I unmoved by Shakespeare’s death, I probably contain several molecules of the man himself.

There are icons from my youth, the people who always seem to have been famous, like the recently deceased Ronnie Corbett. When one of them dies it feels a bit like someone has chipped a bit of me away.

Then there are the others, people like Victoria Wood and Prince, who are uncomfortably close to my age. In the case of Prince, exactly my age.

When my mother reached her early 70s we had to stop here reading the obituaries in the local paper  because most of the people in there were her age or younger and it was starting to worry her.

Anyway, back to Shakespeare, I suppose. I won’t add much to the pile of words, except to say that the best Shakespeare I remember reading was a comic strip of Macbeth in Look and Learn. I think many of them, at least the ones worth reading (by which I mean the ones without all that soppy romance) would benefit from the graphic novel treatment -“Dredd’s Tales from Shakespeare” anyone?

Some trivia for you – Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same date (which is why it has been chosen as UNESCO World Book Day) but died 10 days apart. There is no prize for the answer, just the satisfaction of knowing.

As for Don Quixote,  voted the best book ever written by a panel of experts, I can only say  that having recently tried and failed to read it that it would be best served by severe pruning and a murder in the first chapter, preferably Sancho Panza. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before – sorry if I have (it’s my age you know) but I’m a philistine and I like crime fiction. 😉

As for the rest of the day, I’ve taken a booking for two days of visits from a school (5-7 years old – my idea of purgatory as I’m not allowed to mention mummification, the Assize of Bread and Ale or eating guinea pigs). Nor am I allowed to mention Waterloo teeth, guano or CJD/kuru ( in relation to either cannibalism or modern farming practice). How am I supposed to teach with that sort of restriction hanging over me like the sword of Damocles? Which is probably something else I’m not allowed to mention.

It’s not particularly that the subject matter is considered too gruesome (though that probably enters into it) but that I might ask the kids a question they can’t answer. This includes asking why Henry VIII didn’t eat chips of why the Romans didn’t have tomatoes on their pizza.  After all, we wouldn’t want to teach them something would we?

End of rant.

The pictures scattered through the post are taken with the new camera with new batteries. I’ve discovered that you can get 80x zoom sometimes – not sure how I did it but bird pics are bigger as a result. And shakier. If I read the manual (as many of you are probably about to suggest) it would  spoil the surprise of discovery.

The picnic area is next to a local lay-by which has a some interesting plants, interesting birds and an excellent catering van. It also, as you can see, plays hosts to some people who don’t deserve decent facilities.

The Jackdaw is at 80x zoom, and we just picked the first rhubarb of the year.

I had muesli for breakfast as I wanted something smallish in case I set my socket off. Well, actually it was fruit and fibre, but it’s similar and a title with fruit and fibre in it is a difficult beast to tame on the road to alliteration.