allochthonous: (Default)
Have an easily accessible injury is the worst. I am unable to stop myself from taking off the bandages every few hours and poking it to see if it's better yet (it isn't).

Oh, we landed on a comet! I follow space exploration somewhat less obsessively than I used to, but this is a major, major achievement and I got rather teary watching live footage of mission control during the landing. Ten years. xkcd as usual is on the case.

I loved this article about The Knowledge, the test all London taxi drivers must pass before they can drive a black cab which requires the memorisation of all 25,000 streets within a 6-mile radius of Charing Cross. I defy anyone to watch the video in the article of an aspiring cabbie calling a route from Rotherhithe to the Natural History Museum and not be impressed. Puts my language-learning tribulations into perspective.

What are you reading now?

Racing through Foxglove Summer, the latest Rivers of London which turned up on my kindle this morning. Enormous fun so far, but the rural setting means I am missing Peter's geeking out over London.

What have you finished reading?

Dave Hutchinson's Europe in Autumn, which I think someone on the flist read recently and I thought sounded interesting. It's set in the near future as Central and Eastern Europe have splintered into dozens of tiny polities, and an organisation called the Coreurs facilitates the transmission of people and things across the new borders. It's mostly set in and around these new statelets, and Hutchinson clearly knows the region well - the world building really works, and there's a sympathetic protagonist. But it starts off (and continues for most of the book) as a pretty good spy story, then takes a left turn into something awesome, and then the book abruptly ends. I will pick up the sequel if there is one, but it would have been a better book if (twist) had happened earlier and the implications had been allowed to play out a bit more.

What will you read next?

I am hearing good things about The Goblin Emperor, but the kindle edition seems weirdly expensive. Otherwise I have a whole bunch of actual meatspace books from the frankly eccentric collection that ends up at our English bookswap that I should probably get around to tackling.

In Real Life, I am having to make decisions about my future and I don't like it. Georgia is wonderful and I have a pretty good job, but I'm getting a bit too comfortable here, and I want to move on (God knows what it says about me that getting comfortable somewhere makes me immediately want to leave). But to where and to do what is a little more difficult to work out. Real life is hard.
allochthonous: (then you can tell if it's summer)
It is so disgustingly hot. The warm water dripping from air-conditioning vents makes it feel like even the buildings are sweating and everything is flat and heavy and there is squashed fruit underfoot everywhere which normally I find charming but now is just yuck. In protest I have holed up in my flat with three books of Russian grammar and a bottle of wine in an attempt to crack Russian dates. No luck so far, but a lot of Sebastian Stan (I have finally worked out what tumblr is for).

I was briefly in London the other week, which meant (almost) All The Theatre.

Julius Caesar, The Globe )

The Crucible, The Old Vic ).

Titus Andronicus, The Globe )

I had a ticket for Antony & Cleopatra the day before I left, but sadly had to go emergency shopping instead (stupid Sunday opening hours). My annoyance at missing Eve Best and Clive Wood is mitigated by the fact that the Globe now DVDs everything, and they usually do it quite well too.

The forecast is for 37 C tomorrow. I am so ready for autumn right now.
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If your day so far has lacked joy, I highly recommend this photoessay about a young girl who is training to be an eagle hunter in Mongolia.

What are you reading now?

Finally out on kindle in the UK is Hild, by Nicola Griffith, which I have seen praised to the skies all over the place. Lovely so far, and what Griffith does very well is the sense of what it’s like living in the ruins of a far more advanced civilisation, which is something I have always thought must have been very strange in Dark Ages Britain. The book is set about two hundred years after the Romans have left Britain, and in Caer Luel (which it took me a while to work out was Carlisle) there’s a fountain that still works. Hild’s wonder at the fountain, a piece of technology so much more advanced than anything she’s seen before. I have to read it with google handy to work out the place names, but it has got me fascinated by a period of history I knew almost nothing about, which is never bad.

What have you just finished reading?

Also recently out on kindle was Blood of Tyrants, which is Temeraire… 8? Given that there’s only one more book, I’m in it until the bitter end, but I’m finding the books increasingly less interesting, with too many near-identical aerial battles and lightning visits to various countries to learn about their dragons, but nowhere near enough character development. The amnesia plotline here dragged like crazy, and they could have skipped the whole Japan bit. I love Laurence and Temeraire, but it would have been a far better series if it were all about Jane Roland and Excidium instead.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which is an otherwise terrific book where the central conceit (of a woman living her life over and over again) is almost entirely unnecessary. The story works well enough without that, and the constant rehashing of events again and again without any apparent reason behind it began to irritate me after a while. The parts set in the Blitz will stick with me for a long time, though.

It took me until halfway through David Mitchell’s first novel Ghostwritten to realise that I had in fact read it before and I wasn’t just getting flashbacks to Cloud Atlas. Really feels like a dry run for the later novel, and while there are some lovely bit (the China and Mongolia stories were my favourites), it doesn’t really hang together terribly well and the stuff about technology and artificial intelligence feels pretty dated (I think it came out in the late 90s).

What will you read next?

A colleague gave me And the Mountains Echoed as a leaving present. I somehow haven’t read any Hosseini so far, so I’m looking forward to that.

Off to Prague tomorrow for the long weekend. Happy Easter to all who celebrate, and extra day in bed to everyone else!

allochthonous: (london)
I think I may have a new job. It's kind of dfficult to tell. More on this as it emerges.

For reasons best known to themselves, over Christmas Amazon decided to replace my broken and very out of warranty Kindle Keyboard with a Kindle Touch. The touchscreen alarms me somewhat, but hey, free kindle, and access to books again! I had reached the stage where I was forced to try and play sudoku on the in-flight entertainment to distract me during take off (I find I like flying less and less the more I do of it. I took 38 separate flights last year. It's becoming a bit of a problem).

What are you reading now?

Let Our Fame Be Great
by Oliver Bullough, which I bought without looking too hard because I thought it was about the South Caucasus; it’s actually about the North Caucasus and all the more interesting for it. Whereas the primary cultures of the SC (Georgians, Armenians, Azeris) more or less came to terms with the Tsarist armies and in several cases actively preferred them to the Persian and Ottoman threats to the south and west, the north Caucasian peoples were less convinced, and consequently got genocided (under the Tsars) and mass deported (under the Communists) in a pretty hideous way. Fascinating and depressing reading, and gives you yet another reason to feel icky about Sochi (slap bang on the 150th anniversary of the Circassian genocide).

What have you finished reading?

A reread of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, just because. Also, I have been having great fun with Amanda Downum's Necromancer series. The Drowning City is a cheerfully swashbuckling fantasy in an interesting SE Asia setting (protagonist is from a fairly standard W Europe setting though) and The Bone Palace isn't too shoddy either. Good female heroine and large percentage of female characters not defined by their relationships (not all heterosexual either). Depressing that this should be such a selling point, but there you go.

What will you read next?

A lot of people on a forum I frequent have been raving about Gun Machine, so I'll give that a crack. I've also got the first volume of the Earthsea Quartet (can't believe I've never read those) on reserve at the English book swap.
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I have had a fairly hectic couple of weeks - a nastily timed bout of flu means that I am about two hundred quid out after missing two flights to the Netherlands, and then I was at one of those conferences last week which has stuff basically scheduled from 7am to 9pm, and you find yourself having extended meetings until 1 in the morning while the restaurant staff are just begging you to leave. But now I am back in Tbilisi, which is lovely and autumnal, and I had the odd realisation that for the first time my flat feels more like home to me than my parents' house. Better late than never, I suppose.

Surprisingly, I went to the theatre a bit in London!

Edward II )

Much Ado About Nothing )

What are you reading now?

Nearly done with The Moonstone, which was free on the kindle, and long so good for plane trips. It is apparently one of the first detective stories in English, and very similar in tone to the Sherlock Holmes books (though obviously much longer). Good fun, give or take the very of-its-time attitude towards those wacky Hindoos (sic).

What have you just finished reading?

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, which I got from a recommendation by someone on my reading list. One of the best YA fantasies I've read for quite some time: dragons, excellent worldbuilding, ace female characters, and a love interest that doesn't overwhelm the whole plot. Although I agree with the original rec post, which said that it would have felt slightly more realistically if Seraphina herself had been aged up a bit. She pinged me far more as late teens/early twenties than sixteen.

What will you read next?

It's nearly Republic of Thieves time! I loved The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies (now containing actual women!) and can't wait to see what Lynch does with this.
allochthonous: (then you can tell if it's summer)
There is such a back-to-school feel about September. Even when the weather is lovely, you feel you should be cracking out the boots and opaque tights.

But! September is also Great British Bake-Off time, aka the highlight of the televisual calendar. Even better, the gospel is spreading and this year courtesy of Youtube, there is also the Great Australian Bake-Off (I think I love Dan Lepard and Kerry Vincent even more than Paul and Mary on the original), Heel Holland Bakt, Hela Sverige bakar and Den Store Bagedyst (it almost impossible to watch a Danish TV programme without trying to guess whodunnit. My money's on Annemette). Upside-down cake panic is universal to any language, and I love seeing what other countries pick for their technical bakes. I may be a little obsessed.

What are you reading now?

Nearly done with A Place of Greater Safety, which I have been enjoying, although it could have used an editor (I find it tricky to judge book length on kindle, but I think in hard copy it runs to nearly 900 pages, which, no book needs to be that long (are you listening, George R R Martin?). Mantel sure does enjoy writing lengthy books about doomed lawyers, doesn't she? You can really see the beginnings of Thomas Cromwell in Danton, although Cromwell is much more sympathetic, even when doing awful things. I am not too fussed about the fact that everyone is going to end this book headless (OK, maybe I am sad for Camille and Lucille), but I am actively dreading the end of Cromwell #3.

What have you just finished reading?

My holiday fluff of choice was The Girl King, a cheerfully swashbuckling retelling of the early life of Queen Tamar, national icon and all-round Good Thing, who presided over Georgia's medieval golden age. The focus on the romance with her second husband is a bit silly (she probably thought about other things, occasionally), but as a whole it rattles along, and Shota Rustaveli turns up as palace steward, thus ticking all the boxes for Famous Medieval Georgians.

I also read Mansfield Park for the first time since I was eighteen, and liked it a lot more than I remembered. It's more difficult to relate to, I think, than some of the other Austens, because of the extent to which the reader is invited to join in the moral outrage about adultery and, erm, amateur theatricals, and the assumption that anyone involved in this or who doesn't express the correct sentiments of disgust towards these things is A Flawed Person and almost as bad as the participants themselves, which is obviously a little peculiar to modern sensibilities. That said, I had a good deal more respect for Fanny this time round; yes, she's far more passive than other Austen heroines, but it takes a huge amount of strength to consistently refuse Henry Crawford in the face of all her relatives' desires, and even though Edmund is a terrible prig, she doesn't strike me as the kind of person who is bothered by that, so while they won't have as much fun as Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney, they'll probably do OK.

Oh, and Snow, which is the Pamuk one is obliged to read if one is visiting Kars. I didn't like it very much (except for the bits about the local politics), and was delighted Ipek decided not to go off with Ka in the end, because no one deserves that. Fortunately the real Kars was short on black-clad, whiney, man-child poets and military coups so that was a relief.Maybe they only happen in winter.

What will you read next?

Ugh, whither Temeraire #8? No UK publication date for either the kindle or hard copy, but fortunately I have a conference coming up with US colleagues who I think I can probably suborn to bring me a copy. Otherwise, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush was on sale on Amazon, and deserves a reread.

allochthonous: (Default)
The enthusiasm with which the electricity company here will cut you off if you fail to pay even 0.5 Lari (about 20p) of your bill (not even electricity; water. Apparently you can't cut off the latter, but the former is dead easy) never fails to impress me. This is about the third time I've been caught out, and I am lurking in a cafe until 5pm when the electricity, and hence, internet, might be back.

What are you reading now?

Frustrated as I was by The Magicians (see below), I am having a reread of The Secret History, which is also about an obnoxious college clique, but more interestingly so.

What have you just finished reading?

Broken Homes, which is Rivers of London #4, and I managed to zoom through it the day it came out. As usual for this series, I loved the characters and enjoyed the book perfectly well, but I have trouble, now I've finished, recalling exactly what happened. The problem is that I am much more interested in the backstory - I want to know what happened in Ettersberg, dammit! - and the pacing generally tends to be a bit off. I did like seeing more of Abigail, and Nightingale in action, but I would either like Aaronovitch to get a move on with his Big Series Arc Mystery, or just give us a book about Nightingale's WW2 exploits.

As for the ending... )

Also, The Magicians, by Lev Grossman, which is billed as a grownup Harry Potter, which apparently means that everyone involved has to be thoroughly unlikeable and self-absorbed and think about breasts all the time, because this is more realistic or something? I actually liked the worldbuilding, and learning magic at college level makes way more sense than at secondary school (the lack of basic maths and science in Hogwarts students' lives bothered me), but could not get on with Quentin at all, which was a shame as he was the only person with any development. Plus, you know Hermione Granger would kick the arse of every single one of the Physical Kids.

What will you read next?

I really did like the worldbuilding in The Magicians, despite everything else, so I will probably hit up the sequel at some point. I also picked up A Discovery of Witches and a book involving Troy and Nazis at the bookswap last night, so I should be set for a while.

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The most productive thing to come out of my trip to Germany was a bag of brown sugar. I made kanelbullar this morning for the office breakfast meeting and they were epic (plus only need an hour total of rising time, so entirely possible to whip them up the morning of without having to keep traditional bakers' hours). Having not eaten much else today, I am now on stiff G&T #2 of the day (the bottle of Hendricks was the second most productive thing to come out of said trip) which may or may not make my landlady's visit this evening easier. I have yet to determine the ideal blood alcohol content for improved foreign language ability.

What are you reading now?

A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar which I found via a link from [personal profile] newredshoes . Beautifully, beautifully written (Samatar is best known for her poetry, and it shows) but if the plot doesn't start coalescing soon, all the stunning descriptive writing in the world isn't going to save it.

What have you just finished reading?

The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis, which has been on my list since forever. I enjoyed it a great deal, and was surprised to find when I finished it that it was the best part of six hundred pages (I read it on the kindle) but didn't love it the way that I know some people do. There was plenty to like: the relationship between Kivrin and Dunworthy was great, and Dunworthy's fretting about Kivrin were very nicely done, the time travel logistics were dealt with in a sensible way but without too much technobabble (and although the future-set scenes were a litlle dated (wot no mobiles? Kivrin's recorder was a whole 2.5 GB?), it wasn't that noticeable), Roche and the Ashencote family were fantastic. But the ending was a little too abrupt to be satisfying, and Gilchrist was such an pantomime villain that there wasn't a whole lot of tension there. Plus the constant references to cholera, which didn't exist outside the Indian subcontinent until the nineteenth century. That bugged me rather more than it should've.

What will you read next?

Schedule cleared for Broken Homes, aka Rivers of London #4, which is out tomorrow. Despite my best efforts I have yet to find a series that makes me so homesick and so happy at the same time. Peter and Leslie fighting crime and loving London while being snarky, awesome and magical is not getting old for me any time soon.

Hamlet, RSC

May. 5th, 2013 12:09 pm
allochthonous: (then you can tell if it's summer)
London in three consecutive sunny days shocker! Honestly, this is the loveliest spring I can remember in London for years. If only it holds out for the bank holiday. I am sitting in the garden painting my nails and trying not to get cat hair stuck to them, which is tricky, since Oscar has decided the bowl of yoghurt and raspberries I am eating must be the most delicious thing ever and refuses to be rebuffed. I have a friend's wedding this afternoon, at which there should be many people I have not seen in months and lots of booze, which is always a good combination.

The other day I headed up to Stratford (upon-Avon, not the one with the Westfield and the Olympic park) with my mother to see the new RSC Hamlet. I hadn't been for years (in fact, possibly not since Historiesfest '08) and I wanted to check out the new theatre; plus, I am a Jonathan Slinger fangirl and will watch him in anything, even Hamlet. The theatre was lovely and felt agreeably like the Courtyard, of which I have so many fond memories, and the atrium was decorated with old props and costumes, including an excellent bear which I was sorry to find out hadn't actually been in A Winter's Tale.

Hamlet ) 

Right, time to get outdoors for a bit, then just time to catch up on last night's Doctor Who before the wedding.
allochthonous: (london)
Tbilisi was particularly lovely yesterday, and I was all set for a whinge about having to leave a place where it was 27 degrees and sunny and springlike to return to the, but then it turned out that I was going somewhere where the conditions are very similar. I seem to have caught London during its two-week spring, and it is absolutely gorgeous. This morning I had eggs with posh bacon (you can get most stuff in Tbilisi, but bacon is strangely absent) and Ethiopian coffee and got on my bike and cycled into town (something I really miss) and the weather was glorious and I remembered how much I love this town.

What are you reading now?

China Miéville's Kraken. Few authors are as hit-and-miss for me as Miéville: I loved The City and the City and Embassytown, enjoyed most of Un Lun Dun and found Perdido Street Station almost unreadable. He is hugely original and creates surreal, disturbing images that stick in your mind like no other author, but his prose can be far too much of a good thing at times. So far,  Kraken is falling firmly into the "enjoy, but not love" category, which is fine. It has made me want to visit the Natural History Museum, though.

What have you just finished reading?

In my ongoing quest to find the best of the London-based urban fantasy/supernatural detective/whatever genre, I picked up London Falling, by Paul Cornell. A bit of a disappointment really: the first half was hampered by an unnecesary need to keep arbitrary things about each character a mystery, and so there was an awful lot of confusion for very limited payoff. Things picked up a bit once the magic turned up, but none of the characters did much for me (four POV characters is too many) and it just took itself so seriously - I would've expected a novel by a Doctor Who writer to have at least a touch of humour. Plot wasn't bad though, and in fact the epilogue piqued my interest much more than anything else, enough that I will probably take a look at book two when it comes out. Ben Aaronovitch still winning this genre by a mile, though.

What will you read next?

My parents are reorganising their bookshelves, so probably a reread of one of the many long-buried books they keep on turning up. I found a whole pile of those Geoffrey Trease kids' historical novels yesterdays; I particularly remember liking Cue for Treason which (I think) had a girl dressing up as a boy to run away and join a group of players and then discovers a lot against Queen Elizabeth and meets Shakespeare? Or something? Those were some great books.

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In the week I've been gone, all the leaves have come out and Tbilisi has become bright green. I had a great time in Ethiopia doing lots of interesting work things, but it's very nice to be back somewhere with a good internet connection and where it's not 32 C in the shade and where drinking the tap water is not considered an extreme sport (hardship missions: I am not cut out for them).

What are you reading  now?

Midnight Mayor, which is book two of Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift series. These are yet more of my London Supernatural Detective crack, quite good fun and set in an eerie, Un Lun Dun-esque London. Full points for originality of the hero's magic source (the blue electric angels are either genius or batshit, I can't work out which) which is unusual in this genre, but so far there seem to be rather more breathless things-go-boom action set pieces than plot which make things difficult to follow. I am spending an awful lot of this book mentally imploring Matthew to stop running around so much and just once, go to bed early and get a decent night's sleep.

What have you finished reading?

I spent a lot of time on planes and in cars the past ten days, so I finally read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and OK FINE they are brilliant, despite the occasionally confusing narrative voice and tha fact that every second person is called Thomas. I enjoyed Wolf Hall more, possibly because I've read far more about the downfall of Anne Boleyn than the early days of that particular crisis. But I love Mantel's characters, and the decision to focus on Cromwell is genius: his sheer competence is so thoroughly appealing (I love a good manipulative bastard). Good portrayals too of Anne (gets demonised or idolised far too often) and More (who I have never liked), and a good attempt at making Henry's constantly-shifting personal and political allegiances seem understandable, if not necessarily rational. Mantel does what the best historical novelists do, which is to use the reader's knowledge of history to heighten the tension, not decrease it: knowing the fate of every main character did nothing to spoil my fun as I was enjoying the journey far too much. One thing I didn't know was  the significance of Wolf Hall itself, and when we finally find out who lives there (not until about 80% of the way through, as far as I remember) it was a lovely "oh.... oh" moment.

I recommended the books to a Dutch friend who doesn't know the history of that period at all (but loves a good historical novel), and I wonder if that will make them tricky to understand or even better? I can't imagine reading them without at least knowing that we were only on wife #1 of six and that we had the split from Rome and many, many rolling heads to look forward to, but maybe that would make them even more exciting? We'll see.

What will you read next?

After all that Literature, I have my eye on a hilariously terrible-looking romance I picked up at the local English book-swap meeting. The cover has acres of heaving bosom and ripped shirt. I think Sheikhs might be involved.
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Good things: it is a beautiful day, I have tickets for David Tennant in Richard II (DO WANT), Jude Law in Henry V (...not sure if want? I am taking a friend to see it as she is desparate to see a H5 in the theatre and this is the first one up, but Law annoys me as an actor, although I haven't actually seen him on stage, so he might be fine. Still, should be interesting) in December, and, oh yes, I get a day in ISTANBUL en route to Ethiopia in ten days' time. I have never been to Turkey before, so I am massively excited (it does put paid to my long-standing dream to see Istanbul for the first time from the sea, but I suppose I can make my peace with that). I am also trying to entice my family over to Rome for a long weekend in May. Sometimes having no direct flights home is a bonus.

What are you reading now?

Firebrand, by Ankaret Wells - swashbuckling steampunky goodness. Airships? Of course there's airships. I am crossing my fingers for sky pirates.

What have you just finished reading?

Thicker than Water, the fourth Felix Castor novel. I liked this series quite a bit at the beginning, but I am slightly over Fix's manpain and the way he acts like a total ass to anyone who tries to help him. Seriously, you're fighting some unspecified Big Bad of Supreme Evilness, you take all the help you can get (Buffy would have had a few sharp words for him). I will probably read number five just to see how the arc resolves, but eh. It's possible to write a good supernatural mystery with less angst, you know.

What will you read next?

I keep saying Wolf Hall, but now I actually have it on my kindle, so there's no excuse. I have a lot of flights and hanging around in airports over the next two weeks so maybe it will stick.
allochthonous: (Default)
“…and as for the husband, neither the Royal Geographical Society’s list in their ‘Hints to Travellers,’ nor Messrs. Silver, in their elaborate lists of articles necessary for a traveller in tropical climates, make mention of husbands.” – Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa

Happy International Women’s Day, one and all! Being as it was originally instituted to celebrate the contribution of Soviet women to “communistic construction” and commemorates the day in 1917 when Russian women went on strike for “bread and peace”, precipitating the revolution, it is a day off here, which is most civilised. I am celebrating with bread (well, a croissant is close enough) and peace (a long lie-in) of my own, and by dusting off my blog with the pictures, which is definitely due a resurrection.

A rundown of Tbilisi’s myriad charms will have to wait, however; since today is all about celebrating impressive women (communistic and otherwise), I want to talk about a particular hero of mine, the explorer and ethnographer Mary Kingsley. Being someone who is fond of getting to interesting places whenever possible, and inevitably doing so while being a) alone and b) female, a state of affairs that still raises the occasional eyebrow, I have long admired the Victorian ladies who upped sticks and headed with enthusiasm for the farthest corner of empire and beyond, often on the most tenuous of excuses, at a time when a woman alone faced considerably more difficulties than the odd amorous taxi driver. They wrote books with excellent titles like A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, and had unsubtle between-the-lines affairs with all sorts of interesting characters and in general lived a life full of excitement and incident, at a time when this was considered somewhat less than decorous. The considerably less intrepid nature of my own excursions notwithstanding, it is sometimes comforting to know that whatever slightly idiotic situation I may have gotten myself into, someone else has got out of much worse, often while wearing long petticoats and a corset, and Mary Kingsley is particularly useful for this.

Reasons why Mary Kingsley is the greatest )

Travels in West Africa is available for free as an ebook all over the place (for example, here and here), and I thoroughly recommend it, because it contains some fantastic writing. While I am unlikely to ever head up a Gabonese river in a canoe or, frankly, engage in any kind of similar activities even in a more congenial climate, Mary Kingsley is my inspiration in situations when I am losing my nerve, sense of humour and occasionally, both. Because in the end, if she could do it in a good thick skirt, I really have no excuse.
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Great developments in that I now have a) a flat; b) an internet connections; and c) a bottle of Bombay Sapphire and ready supply of tonic. This means that I can work from home (the office internet connection is appalling) with a G&T to hand while BBC World on the telly enthuses to me about the mating behaviour of the pandas at Edinburgh zoo.

What are you reading now?

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson (which is, incidentally, available for 20p on Kindle at the moment) in which Allan Karlsson dreads his centennial birthday party at the old people's home so much he makes a break for it and ends up on the run from the law with a band of accomplices and an elephant, while we learn about his thoroughly eventful life. I haven't got very far yet, but I am glad to report that the comparisons between Allan and Forrest Gump I have seen are entirely wrong: Allan is a highly-intelligent explosives expert and also the book does not want to make me punch things the way that movie does.

What have you just finished reading?

From a recommendation on [ profile] spectralbovine 's LJ, I burned through 14 by Peter Clines in a day. SB describes it as "Lost in book form if the Island were an apartment building and the characters were ordinary people instead of people with overly complicated tragic backstories" which is about right: a man moves into an apartment, and mystery upon mystery piles up as he and the other tenants try and work out what the hell is up with the building. It's best read unspoiled, and I would absolutely recommend it as a fun, pageturny mystery; that said, I did think t it took a turn for the daft by the end (but my patience with the kind of genre it turned into is not that great in the first place).

What will you read next?

I have sworn off my current crack (London-set supernatural detective stories, which is apparently a whole genre, now) for a while, and so will try and read something that takes me more than a day or two to get through. Wolf Hall's size always put me off a bit, but maybe if I get it on Kindle it will be psychologically less intimidating?
allochthonous: (london)
When I was away I had a vaguely drunken conversation with a Parisian expat about how living abroad makes you appreciate your home town more, and about how when we go home we stand on bridges and love our cities. And that is exactly what I do when I come back to London, I come out of Embankment and cross the Hungerford Bridge and look at St Paul’s and the Eye and the Gherkin and the Shard (which has certainly come on a bit since I last saw it) and Tower Bridge in the distance and think that there are not many places so beautiful. I estimate it will be at least a couple of months before the usual irritations start welling up and I shall want to be elsewhere again. But for the moment, wandering around my town which I love with a pretentious coffee in my hand (a cortado from Notes tastes just like burnt caramel, it really is outrageously good), I am perfectly content and know I will always come back here.

I am also going to the theatre a lot too (by which I mean the Globe, because £5 tickets are a wonderful thing).

Henry V, BBC (contains a lot of ranting) )

Henry V, The Globe )

Richard III, The Globe )

So that’s my life at the moment: theatre and London and seeing people who I haven’t seen for months (if you are in London and I haven't seen you then I should! Let's go to the pub!) and also jobhunting (that is a lie. I am not jobhunting at all). I have no idea what's going to happen next (in which respect I haven't advanced much since graduating four years ago, which is not an encouraging thought), but no doubt something will turn up. In the meantime, London is awesome. That is all.

allochthonous: (Default)
So that was a bit good. As [ profile] angevin2 predicted, part 2 was lots better than part 1, mostly because the overall mood of the play is much more sombre, so SRB's take on Falstaff in particular fit the tone very well. Also, the play ends on such an emotional gutpunch, that anything is forgivable so long as the last scenes between Hal and his father and Falstaff come good, which they did here, and how.

All things considered, this is not a very uplifting play )

I am very curious as to how much of the plot is clear to people who don't know the plays at all. The political thread running through the tetralogy has so far been almost completely lost, which makes me think that the motivations of a lot of the antagonists must seem a bit opaque (people rebelling just for the hell of it? Why not?), and is Henry's guilt about Richard coming through at all? Hmmm, it'll be interesting to see whether they keep the line about reinterring Richard's body in Henry's pre-Agincourt prayer in Henry V next week. Which I won't actually get to see until the end of the month, but at least when I do I'll be back in London. Once more unto the breach.
allochthonous: (Default)
I have to go buy a compass, but it's too hot and I don't wanna. Instead I am ambling from cafe to cafe drinking iced coffee and rewatching Henry IV part 1. Things could be worse.

In before Part 2 (just)! )

Anyway, overall judgement reserved until I've seen part 2, but so far, so good. Also, I still don't have a Shakespeare icon, how is this possible?
allochthonous: (Default)
I am having issues with the weather at the moment. Belgrade, this is not OK.


This was a particualrly nasty shock coming straight after a week in Amsterdam, which required a blissful number of layers and the frequent use of an umbrella. In response to this unprepossessing weather, I am resolutely working from home this week (home air-conditioning unit >>>>> office air-conditioning unit) which has the added benefit of my colleagues not having to put up with a constant muttered refrain on the subject of the weather in Foreign Parts in general and the Balkans in particular. Two weeks to go before I can escape off up a mountain somewhere.

In the meantime, it's histories time! I've been looking forward to the BBC adaptations of the second tetralogy for ages, and last weekend was Richard II.

Dodgy religious imagery ahoy! )

So yes, good stuff (I wouldn't have had nearly as much fun watching them without plenty to complain about), and I am very much looking forward to the Henry IVs (the buzz at the moment is that they are the best of the four). Bring on Falstaff as a Jesus-St Ursula hybrid (only joking, Richard Eyre, please don't).

PS on a still-Shakespeare-but-not-histories note, somebody tell me why we haven't had Chiwetel Ejiofor's Hamlet yet? I was wondering this earlier today and I googled and found him doing the Hecuba monologue from Hamlet on youtube and ow, I need the rest. Preferably at the Donmar Warehouse, so you can get close enough to see him properly. Somebody want to get Josie Rourke on that stat?

ETA Important point related to medieval headgear: anyone know how historically accurate the scarf/turban/giant sock combo everyone was wearing on their heads is? They really distracted me for a good proportion of the indoor scenes.
allochthonous: (Default)
Man, LJ hates me this evening, I've tried to post this about four times. Clearly LJ is not a fan of the second tetralogy. 

Anyway. Although I knew very little about the play apart from a few YouTube clips of the BBC Jacobi version and the odd historical novel, Richard II was probably the one I was most interested to see this weekend. Julia and Cherie talked it up like mad to me beforehand (never mind the acting, the shoes were apparently something special) and, of course, there were certain members of my flist who might've been the tiniest bit keen on this play. 

Alright, that? Was terrific. Compared to the other plays it was light on the action (I realised at the end it was the only one without a battle or six), but it never dragged at all, and having set things up so perfectly, it leaves you with a dreadful sense of inevitability about the ensuing events over the next century. 

Briefer (somewhat) notes for the H4s, as I'd just be repeating myself for a lot of it. But overall, these two were vastly better than when I first saw them six months ago - way, way more polished. J and C were seeing them for the third time and confirmed that there'd been a big improvement every time. 

allochthonous: (Default)
We had what must have been a professional snorer in our room Thursday night, so I awoke Friday feeling slightly zombified myself. Plays at 10.30 pm, 3 pm and 7.30 pm were a slightly scary prospect on two hours sleep, but fortified with a triple espresso, I managed not to embarrass myself by nodding off.

Oh, these were fun. I realise that I haven't been especially critical, largely because I don't know the text very well at all, so my review has sort of degenerated into a list of "bits that were cool". A lot of the stuff I've said is probably really obvious to anyone who knows the plays well, but it was a great treat seeing them for the first time so superbly done.

Richard III I know slightly better - I've never seen it in the theatre, but I have seen the McKellen film a couple of times, and I think I must have seen the Olivier version as well. Still, by this point the lack of sleep was catching up with me slightly so I wasn't especially on the ball for this one and I have far fewer notes.


allochthonous: (Default)

April 2015



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