Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Beside The Sea.

                                                     "Oh I do like to be beside the sea,
                                                            I do like to beside the sea.."
                                                              (From my sketchbook.)
                                                    "I Am The Walrus Coo, Coo,Ca Choo."

More Fool Me.

More memoirs, more of stephen Fry's memories of days past. Another volume I have just finished, not so long after reading his second collection The Fry Chronicles (which I thought would have served as an over arching title for a series of memoirs, rather than as a title for one of the books in that series. But what do I know. Nought.) with this collection we reach the late eighties, early nineties. So damn long ago when one has progressed through those years on the slow path. One day at a time, the only kind of time travel we are capable of. Like inverted Tardises, only real on the inside.
            As usual when I read anything by this charming man I learnt something halfway through this book. I learned to dispell the foolish notion that you can know people you have never met. With a public figure who has lived in the public sphere for so long, that is, existed in the shared cultural zeitgeist, we imagine we know them when in simple point of fact we do not. Stephen Fry has inhabited that ephemeral location for as long as I remember. In fact, for some reason, he has been most prominent in areas where people of great talent come and go like meteors scraping across the atmosphere which surrounds us. With this volume he surprises and lets us in on the less flattering qualities most would seek to conceal or explain away. it is an eye opener to have a peek into his diaries for a period.To get a glimpse of those far off days as he lived them. Pre-internet days and when Douglas Adams was alive and at the height of his powers. Its quite rude in places but it feels like a celebration rather than a shock fest and they are after all only...words. Its a bit shocking as well to be honest. He has actually probably spent more money on Cocaine than I will ever earn. That is a bit shocking to some one whose idea of a treat is the more expensive Dromore butter on ones toasted pan. Hmmm, creamy and salty.(Yeah, I know.Life on the edge.)
            As a very funny entertainer, comedian, actor and story teller he has been with us for so long. Yet has somehow skirted the over bearing quality such prominence endows. One never gets tired off him. Perhaps it has something to do with how unflinchingly self critical he can be. Aware off and willing to share his self doubts without coming across as slyly narcissistic. (I am going to make a meal of this if I am not careful.) In short he has always come across as endearingly humane.
            Another lovely memoir from a lovely man.
            A stranger I never knew I knew so well.


...found a lovely copy of The Hammer film She, a classic adaption of the H Rider Haggard story. And it really is a classic production (To me, anyway.) It is so well made, great and ambitious direction(By Robert Day.), superb soundtrack( by James Bernard.) and a really great cast. Saw it so many times growing up, even on days when I really should have been at school. My ma and da were a bit lax when it came to school attendances and we did run foul of the authorities on occasion.
           I have watched this film at different stages off my life and over the course of it I have identified with different characters during those stages. For instance, when I was a boy I really identified with the butler/batman character Job as played by the wonderful Bernard Cribbins. He is clownish but loyal and brave. What boy would not want to exhibit those fine qualities. When I hit my teenage years and hormones began to ping pong around my system like an organic pinball machine i was drawn to handsome lead Leo as played by the handsome lead John Richardson. Not really identifying as such but admiring how damn fine he looked in Kallikrates robes. And off course as this grey haired stage of my life I find myself drawn to Holly as played by the magical Peter Cushing, the pipe smoking Indiana Jones senior prototype. Peter creates an iconic turn as the major/prof and as usual never fails to deliver less than one hundred per cent. there you go, three stages of life played out in one film.
            Great set pieces, a boys own yarn with a sexy undercurrent. It also contains memorable turns by Christopher Lee as the ambitious and cruel high priest Billalli and Andre Morell (My favourite Bernard Quatermass.) as the father of poor doomed Ustane, Rosenda Monteros. Ursula andress delivers a career high as the mad undying queen Ayesha. Its a classic adventure tale, with mysterious desert tribes, lost civilizations and a band of brothers on a wild ride.
             Such stories, such friendships should last forever.
             As captain Jack Sparrow once said" The world is not getting smaller, theres just less in it."
             Or was it Basil Brush who said it?

Eerie Weird And Wicked.

Nope, those are not my middle names but is in fact the title of an anthology of weird stories I found recently, on a book jaunt. Its a curious volume to be sure and that is surely  down to the oddly disturbing cover image, of the death drape. The cover and interior artist Alex Brychta provides a quiet back drop to a string of tales that straddle genres.
           There are twelve stories within from writers I am not so familiar with as well as a couple I am most familiar with. A couple of names who often pop up in horror or ghost story anthologies; Algernon Blackwood and Robert Bloch. never a bad thing to see these two gentlemen's names in a collection. It has become interesting to me to avoid knowing who writes what in these collections. In order to prevent myself bringing any baggage to proceedings. Tricky off course, as one often finds the titles and the contributer's names sitting next to each other but I have never felt it difficult to avert ones eyes. Its a catholic thing...
             Sound nice contributions here and it was a collection I found myself passing through quite quickly, enjoying the different textures of the pieces within. Until I got to a story called The Tibetan Box by Elizabeth Walter, a story I enjoyed so much I started reading it again as soon as I finished. The three main characters are three old ladies and their nemesis is an ancient and very cruel Tibetan demon. Its a very arcane tale with some lovely observational characterization, with the three leads very believably realised in a situation where they face terrible danger., its actually quite shocking and even moving by the end.
            And then the same thing happened again with the last tale in this dozen of weird tales. Another story which I plunged back into almost as soon as I finished; First Dig by Miriam de ford, a Shakespearian science fiction (a couple of words that do not normally go together.) treat.
              Its a nice collection which delivers what it promises.
              Eeerie, Weird and Wickedly good.

A Recommendation For The Restless.

Should you find yourself awake in the wee early hours, listening to the wind blow about the house or even the gentle tip tap of skeletal finger tips on the outside of your upstairs bedroom window, I would like to recommend something to cement that mood, to put it in chilling perspective. Why not try listening to Michael Hordern's reading of a Warning To The Curious by MR James.
            What a perfect choice to tackle this subtle and very memorable tale. Mister Hordern brings the text to life as Montague Rhodes James surely intended. Softly, patiently, never the voice raised, all the more terrifying for this delivery. He played Professor Parkin in Jonathan Miller's adaption of Oh Whistle and I'll Come To You, the victim of a vengeful entity which follows him to a seaside boarding house.
              I once heard the work of MR James described as akin to "a pleasing terror."and while this indeed goes some way in explaining the enduring appeal it does not tell the whole story. his work involves so much more and is all the more satisfying for it. You will find this performance on Youtube..
              Terror is just a click away.


Bagpuss By The Book.

                                                          "Bagpuss, Dear Bagpuss
                                                            Old Fat Furry Catpuss
                                              Wake up And Look At The Thing That I Bring
                                               Wake Up, Be Bright, Be Golden And Light
                                                          Bagpuss Oh Hear What I Sing."
                                                   (Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate 1974.)


On a recent book haunt I came across this remarkable book: ritual by David Pinner. It had a sticker/blurb on it proclaiming it the inspiration for The Wicker Man and I thought"Ooh, I'll have that!" and I am real glad I did. Its a strange book, rifting on strange themes, revolving around some strange events in a very strange little country village. On the surface things are all very very rustic and charming but beneath the shroud of normality squirms a seething restless hot bed of olde worlde passions and murderous emotions. Like any small town I suppose...
               David Pinner was a stage actor and quite a successful one at that. He had the lead in a production of The Mouse Trap, the Agatha Christie play, in the West End of London and over as seven week period he wrote this book. There is a story that while transporting the only copy to his agent he accidently left it on the roof of his car and if it had not been for a kindly, and observant, other road user the only copy of the original manuscript could have been lost forever. I do not know if that is true but what a good story, the sort of story an imaginative agent might have come up with..
             The parallels with the wicker Man are all surface. And also bubbling underneath, so to speak. The way the characters talk is all over the place. Their inner monologues and not so secret motivations erupt sickly yellow from between their ears and between their lips. People wear their appetites on their sleeves in this village and the children are a right bunch of little horrors.
              A little girls body is found at the foot of an ancient tree which has Wiccan adornments, batwings and monkey heads(Sound like a song by The Gorillaz.). The Urban policeman on the trail believes there are supernatural elements to the death and throws himself into village life, mingling with the natives, getting down and dirty and disturbed.
              This little town would give Summer Isle a run for its money. The residents are earthy,filled with secrets and driven by animal passions that lead them to dark places and the summer solstice is upon them with all its potency. This is a chilling glimpse into the underbelly of a beautiful little rustic idyll. Its as though a pretty picnic blanket was thrown over a tasty feast which was allowed to rot until the blanket twitched and shuddered at the fever of corruption beneath...
               Also found this image of a cover illustration from the french edition which really conveys the spirit of this book. The dialogue can be quite arch, the characters all speak as though they are channeling the movie Performance.
What A Freak show"

Paul Darrow.

Oh so sorry to hear Paul Darrow has passed away. He was unforgettable as Avon, the member of the Liberator,s crew from the epic space drama Blake's Seven which lit up the Monday nights of millions way back in the dreary days of the almost end of the seventies. He was mad, bad and very dangerous to know. Those who spent too much time in Avon's company were liable to decrease their own odds of surviving considerably. It really was heady stuff, adventure drama sure but drenched in the dark politics of a dystopian era, when man took to the stars carrying all his baggage with him.
            Paul Darrow had ensured his genre credentials with an appearance as a brave but doomed UNIT officer way back in the first season of Jon Pertwee's tenure in the Tardis, standing off against the subterranean menace of The Silurians. He was a great character actor with a patrician features and a resonant voice, just take a look at his IMDB page for an idea of the vast variety of characters he has played over the years. I remember his turn in an episode of The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes A Message From The Deep Sea opposite John Neville. A fog drenched treat for mystery fans.
            It would have been something to see him in character as Avon aboard The Tardis for a dream cross over. It was unthinkable then but by today not improbable. the fans would have bought into it instantly. Paul Darrow's charisma would have assured it.
            "A star has gone out today" was how one of his close friends put it.
             Perhaps one has, but while it shone it shone bright.


Has it really been sixteen years since I first read this graphic novel? How is that possible, it seems relatively recently I read it but it is off course not the case. perhaps it is because Warren's work ages so gracefully, at times it is more like the world finally catches up with his remarkable intelligence.
             Orbiter is a Vertigo graphic novel, written by Warren Ellis with Colleen Doran. Its the story of a space shuttle The Venture which returns to earth ten years after it disapeared. Of the original seven crew only one remains alive and he is uncommunicative. Also there is soil from the surface of Mars in the shuttles landing gear. There is a mystery and warren Ellis provides the answers. startling and exciting answers that may signal a new dawn for mankind and turn the notion of space travel on its head. Its part Quatermass part 2001 A Space Odyssey. A fantastic imaginative and inspiring leap.
              Do not wait. find a copy. Read it. Do not consign it to gap between Walt Disney's wonderful World Of Knowledge and the Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau... Like what I did...

Pirate Zap Action.

Just look at these old comic book advertisments. How class are they! From way back in the day, when pirates were pirates and so were dolphins..er, so to speak. Pirates Of The Caribbean never looked better. There is nothing like a skeletal pirate going zap, whether that is swashing ones buckle while zapping an alligator or hoisting the main sail over the the rotting hulk of a privateer.
              I know..it makes absolutely no sense but is'nt that the wonder of it all.
              "Best Start believing In Ghost Stories Missy, Cause You're In One."