This is the post that was always meant to be. I have never specially planned it but I was always conscious of its existence outside Some Photoblog’s space-time continuum. Now, the time has come to publish it.
World, welcome to my most favourite author ever.
Some call her the Queen of Crime and even if you’ve never read any of her books, you know who she is.
I have mentioned Agatha Christie once or twice on this blog, most notably in the Yggdrasil entry, but never made a post about her. I’ve blogged more about LM Montgomery, who is my second most favourite author (sorry LM!) That’s understandable; when you photograph nature it’s easier to quote Montgomery, as anyone who ever read even one of her books will know, because of those beautiful descriptions.
I got into Agatha Christie sometime in my mid-teens; my first book was Murder of Roger Ackroyd, an Hercule Poirot mystery, which also happens to be one of the best. It could hardly have been a better start. But her best selling (and indeed the best selling mystery novel of all) is And Then There Were None. I think all of us who have read And Then There Were None can agree that this is absolutely justified.
(Yes, it’s the-one-that-one-that-used-to-have-that-racist-title, but this was taken from a children’s rhyme, which is not Agatha’s creation. In newer editions, the racial slur in the rhyme is replaced with “soldier”.)
Hercule Poirot, the private detective from Belgium and Miss Marple, an old lady who has lived all of her life in a little village of St Mary Mead are Agatha Christie’s most famous characters. But she’s much more than that. There are Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, the couple that first appear in The Secret Adversary as young adventurers and who unlike Poirot and Marple actually get older with each subsequent book. Then we have short stories featuring Mr Parker Pyne, who is an unusual type of detective, if he can be called that. Are you happy? If not, consult Mr Parker Pyne, runs his advertisement in the newspaper. His speciality appears to be the matters of heart (as in, love, not heart surgery). And then there is the most mysterious character Agatha ever created, Mr Harley Quin (not to be confused with Harley Quinn, the DC comics character). He appears and disappears again just at the right time, with no explanation, and we never get to find out anything about him. The short stories featuring him are written from the point of view of Mr Satterthwaite, a middle aged socialite, who–not in a malicious way–enjoys other people’s drama. Harley Quin short stories have this spooky atmosphere, almost touching on supernatural.
Apart from the above, Agatha Christie’s work includes numerous mystery novels without any regular detective; a few with Superintendent Battle, who also appeared alongside Poirot in Cards on the Table. And so on and so on.
I don’t know how many people are aware of the fact that she didn’t just write mystery/crime fiction. She wrote six novels under the name Mary Westmacott. I’ve seen them boxed under “romantic novel” genre, though I’m unsure how correct this would be. I’ve only read Giant’s Bread so far and I would not classed it as romance/romantic fiction. I’m not that good at labelling things, but if Giant’s Bread got a movie adaptation, I’d call it drama or period drama.
And that’s not all. She was also a playwright. The Mousetrap is the longest running play in UK. I have seen it performed here in Manchester on their 60th anniversary tour. (As you can see from the top picture, I kept the ticket, for all of six and a half years!)
What’s interesting also is that, though she wrote a few plays and even turned her own books into plays (e.g. there is a stage version of And Then There Were None with a different ending; Witness for the Prosecution was a short story before it was a play), her stories are still adapted for stage by other writers. For example, Love from a Stranger is a play based on the short story Philomel Cottage. You can find Philomel Cottage in the Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories collection (maybe in other collections too) or on its own in digital format. It’s a tense story about a newly married woman experiencing sudden anxiety, which she cannot identify. I like to think of it as a predecessor to modern domestic thrillers, though it’s probably not, because I can’t imagine many people/writers know of it. But it has exactly the same feel. I went to see Love from a Stranger last year in July.
Speaking of adaptations, it would be an unpardonable crime not to mention this guy.
David Suchet played Poirot on screen for 24 years and will probably always be the best, the most ultimate Poirot of all time. Not that other actors shouldn’t play him or that they won’t be good as good Poirots; I mean that no one will be the truer Poirot as Suchet. He is so much associated with the little Belgian detective that he wrote a book about it!
Currently he is played by Kenneth Branagh, who has done Murder on the Orient Express and is preparing Death on the Nile next. Branagh’s Poirot is more of a 21st century hero, with a more diverse cast. And that moustache is a legend!
I relate to Poirot in a way that he’s a Continental European living in England and people keep getting his nationality wrong.
My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world.
Hercule Poirot, The Mystery of the Blue Train
The impossible cannot have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.
Hercule Poirot, Murder on the Orient Express
Human nature is much the same everywhere and, of course, one has opportunities of observing it at close quarters in a village.
Miss Marple, The Thumb Mark of St Peters (short story)
This above quote is the most typical of Miss Marple. She usually cracks the mystery because someone reminds her of someone else. I think in this way, her village serves as a microcosm of the world. She observes life closely, which then helps her solve crimes that baffle even experienced Scotland Yard officers.
Some of my collection:
In fact most of the physical books I own are Agatha Christies. I bought them before eBooks were a thing.
So, as you can see, I’m an Agatha Christie fan. I know she’s not literally acclaimed–some male author apparently wrote an essay titled Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? (who cares about you, more like)–but so what. There is nothing like curling up with a blanket, nice cup of hot drink and a good old fashioned mystery. Does not mean you can’t appreciate Shakespeare as well. Actually Agatha quotes Shakespeare sometimes–the novel Taken at the Flood is titled after a line in Julius Caesar. And I want to add another thing, the thing I think about often and which appears in her books quite a lot and is my favourite element of her entire work.
Whenever there is a crime committed, the perpetrator must be found. But the most important thing is not to punish the perpetrator. It’s to clear the people that didn’t do it. I first came across this in Miss Marple short story The Four Suspects. Miss Marple and her companions discuss an unsolved case presented to them by Sir Henry Clithering, a retired Scotland Yard Commissioner. Miss Marple, as is her fashion, comes to the correct conclusion without much trouble. Sir Henry is outraged by the fact that the guilty party got away with it, but Miss Marple points out that it was not the case–the murderer got in with such a bad lot that their end will be inevitable. But she urges Sir Henry to let the other parties know that they’re innocent. Well, she means particularly one party, the one she believes would suffer most from having that suspicion hanging over their head.
One mustn’t waste thought on the guilty–it’s the innocent who matter.
Miss Marple, The Four Suspects (short story)
This is also the whole premise of Ordeal by Innocence. Dr Calgary approaches a family claiming that he can provide an alibi for their son who got charged with murder. It’s too late for the son, who died in prison but he thinks he can at least clear his name. But this causes distress to the family–if it wasn’t him, then who was it? And immediately they start suspecting each other again and their nightmare is back. Dr Calgary then decides to find the culprit–which he does in the end.
It’s not the guilty who matter. It’s the innocent. It’s we who matter. Don’t you see what you’ve done to us all?
Hester, Ordeal by Innocence
And that is why Ordeal by Innocence is such a good book and a rare late one. (To be perfectly honest, the later works of Agatha Christie as not as good, though there are still some gems.) It is also why the latest adaptation on BBC got it so wrong. It’s not so much that they changed the murderer, it’s that they completely misunderstood the story. You can change a lot of things in an adaptation and still keep the spirit of the book. Remember what I said about the new Netflix Anne of Green Gables series, Anne with an E? It differs from the books a lot, adds new characters and plots, but it still keeps the same spirit. The same aesthetics. All the characters are what they are in the books; Anne, the Cuthberts, Diana, Gilbert, Mrs Lynde. The setting, which is crucial, is still the same Prince Edward Island. Sure, it’s dark, but it’s not like that darkness was completely made up by the screenwriter. It was always there, between the lines. The screenwriters knew their stuff. Kenneth Baranagh also knew his stuff when he made the Murder on the Orient Express. Unfortunately the BBC adaptations do not know their stuff. Not. At. All. The last two made me so angry I will not watch them again.
I will end with a quote from the epilogue of Agatha’s autobiography.
I have done what I wanted to do. I have been on a journey. Not so much a journey back through the past, as a journey forward–starting again at the beginning of it all–going back to the Me who was to embark on that journey forward through time. I have not been bounded by time or space. I have been able to linger where I wanted, jump backwards and forwards as I wished.
Ooh she really does float outside the space-time continuum!
Over to you now, readers. Any Agatha Christie fans? Any of you have blogged about her? Come and tell!
When you buy a bouquet of tulips… and they fade too soon and their petals start falling on the table… what can you do but photograph them?
Taken with smartphone.
I’m really disappointed that the tulips lasted only a few days. Those cheap flowers I bought some months ago lasted for ages and feature in three different posts on this blog. But the tulips still served their purpose, which I’m hoping to showcase here soon.
The First of April is commonly associated with All Fools’ Day, pranks and hoaxes. As I said a year ago, I hate them. I hate pranks with big fiery passion and as for hoaxes, I don’t think in the times we live in, with all the fake news and propaganda, it’s appropriate to be indulging in such things. But what if there was another angle to the first day of April?
This time of year is, in the Northern Hemisphere, normally associated with spring. It is also a time of Easter, which is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. So, all new things. Or reborn things, if you like.
In Tarot cards, The Fool is the first card of the Major Arcana, numbered 0. He is the beginning of the journey, he takes a leap into the unknown, so to speak. (I want to stress right here that I’m not Tarot expert and I don’t practise it; I have a Tarot guide that I bought in a discount shop because I wanted to find out more about it. I also have a pack of Tarot cards purely for the aesthetics, I’ve never done anything with them.)
Fool he may be as he knows not much, but he is also hopeful and imaginative. Where will his journey lead him?
So, when was the last time you took a leap into the unknown? For me it is now, with this post, lol. Seriously though, it was actually in April when I moved to UK from my home in Slovakia, though not till the end of the month. That was almost 16 years ago.
The Lego figure on the photographs is one I made myself from the parts in the Lego store in Manchester Arndale. You can make your own Lego figure using five parts (head, torso, legs, hair/hat and an accessory). When I built this one, a shop assistant remarked that it’s a clown with a guitar. A clown wasn’t what I was going for really, but I still kept it and it’s that what inspired me to make this entry. Clown, joker, fool, you get it. Then I had to go buy some playing cards, of course, for the sake of the Joker card. Things I do for love, sigh. But I think these pictures perfectly capture the delicious mess that is my photography.
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
Today’s post is another attempt of mine at still-life photography. It also combines some of the things I like: coffee, croissant, Star Trek, one of my favourite music artists and, well, since I titled it A Saturday Morning, weekend.
If you look closely, if you can see it, you’ll notice the magazine is an April 2018 issue, which would make it a year old. I confess I’ve not actually read any of it, I only bought it because I loved the cover so much. Naomi Campbell and Skepta just look so gorgeous on it. It was the magazine that first gave me an idea of a photoshoot like this, but it took me a whole year to actually do it. For some reason I decided I must have a croissant there and the problem with me and croissants is that anytime I buy some, I have to eat them immediately, so by the time I remembered to take out my camera, they were gone.
I’m quite pleased with how the shot turned out in the end.
If you’ve ever visited my blog, you might have noticed that I’m a fan of Anne of Green Gables series by LM Montgomery. So it only made sense to dedicate a little photoshoot to the red-headed orphan that lived on Prince Edward Island.
I don’t own any of the books in physical format. As I said in my Kindle eBooks post, I have never seen them in print and downloaded them all from Gutenberg. (All of LM Montgomery’s work is in public domain, apart from The Blythes Are Quoted, which was released quite recenly–and which I very much recommend, it will surprise you!)
Well, apart from this very old falling-apart paperback copy that I found in a charity shop.
So for the photoshoot I used the doll of Anne that I got from Etsy and the book Anne of Green Gables Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson.
This book is such a delight! It is sort of a companion to the Anne books with lovely illustrations. It describes things from Anne’s time, such as tea parties, handwork, fashion and gardening, plus the timeline. I found out about the book thanks to Pinterest–someone pinned the cover image from a blog post of a reviewer. (Don’t ever tell me Pinterest isn’t useful.)
It wasn’t until I started thinking about it many years later that I realised what a great heroine Anne is. She constantly works to improve herself, she’s a good student and is always there for her friends. Despite being mistreated as an orphaned child, she remains kind (this she has in common with other popular fictional heroes, Jane Eyre and Harry Potter). She finds joy in everything around her and of course, has that famous unbeatable imagination. And not only does she find love with Marilla and Matthew, they learn from her too.
The adaptation with Megan Follows is a classic, but there is a new series on Netflix that started in 2017. I know not everyone likes that one, because it’s so dark, but in my opinion they got it exactly right. If you think about it, there is a lot of darkness in Montgomery’s work. See this excerpt from Anne of Green Gables Chapter 5 – Anne’s History, in which Anne narrates to Marilla how she was taken in by Mrs Thomas after the deaths of her parents and later lived with Mrs Hammond:
“Were those women—Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Hammond—good to you?” asked Marilla, looking at Anne out of the corner of her eye.
“O-o-o-h,” faltered Anne. Her sensitive little face suddenly flushed scarlet and embarrassment sat on her brow. “Oh, they meant to be—I know they meant to be just as good and kind as possible. And when people mean to be good to you, you don’t mind very much when they’re not quite—always. They had a good deal to worry them, you know. It’s a very trying to have a drunken husband, you see; and it must be very trying to have twins three times in succession, don’t you think? But I feel sure they meant to be good to me.”
Marilla asked no more questions. Anne gave herself up to a silent rapture over the shore road and Marilla guided the sorrel abstractedly while she pondered deeply. Pity was suddenly stirring in her heart for the child. What a starved, unloved life she had had—a life of drudgery and poverty and neglect; for Marilla was shrewd enough to read between the lines of Anne’s history and divine the truth. No wonder she had been so delighted at the prospect of a real home. It was a pity she had to be sent back. What if she, Marilla, should indulge Matthew’s unaccountable whim and let her stay? He was set on it; and the child seemed a nice, teachable little thing.
In other words, it seems that some kind of child abuse happened. And that is just one example. At the end of Anne of Green Gables, Matthews dies and all their money is lost in a bank crash. It’s not all sunshine and roses. Not to mention people dying from tuberculosis and similar. And not many opportunities for women either.
I read about Lucy Maud’s life and apparently her husband suffered from mental illness and she wasn’t always that well herself. She had a child that was stillborn. I think the showrunners got the look and feel right. And because it’s the current year, they threw in extra LGBT representation and a bit of colour. (Though from what I read, it appears that Prince Edward Island really is that Scottish and that Presbyterian.) Also, the acting is absolute top and the series is worth watching for the scenery alone.
Now, I feel bad for talking about Anne so much when I enjoyed almost everything else LM wrote. Emily of New Moon series is just as good as Anne but my favourite book is The Blue Castle. I wonder if we ever get an adaptation of that one, but I’m not optimistic. It’s a bit like with Arthur Conan Doyle, there has been so many Sherlock Holmeses that people don’t even realise he wrote other books. Sigh…
There is something I have to mention when talking about Montgomery’s work, which I think is important. She was, to put it bluntly, kinda racist. There is a short story in Further Chronicles of Avonlea collection titled Tannis of the Flats and it’s awful. Not because of the story–the story is great–but the prejudice, oh dear. It concerns Native Americans and it’s just… bad. That’s all. Yes, I know she lived in a different time and all that, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be acknowledged. So there.
Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.
I’ve never cared for Valentine’s Day ever in my life. Whether I’m in a relationship or single, it just doesn’t mean a thing to me. But it may sometimes present an opportunity for a completely nonsensical photoshoot. Just look at this:
The little bucket is from Yankee Candle.
Two years ago I talked about my favourite fictional pairings, or as they say in fandom speak, ships (short for relationships) and this is a topic I enjoy much more than Valentine’s Day cards or anything else to do with this day. Chocolate I eat all year long anyway, heart-shaped or not–makes no difference once it’s gobbled.
So anyway, if you want to read some f/f love, I wrote a fanfic about characters from Jane Eyre, though not about Jane Eyre. Because I’m so random and because I think that the madwoman in the attic deserved better and because I always care about the least important characters and because I could, I paired Bertha Mason with Blanche Ingram. But in my story they’re called Antoinette and Bianca. So yeah, it’s here if you’d like to check it out.
Who is your favourite fictional couple or who do you wish was a fictional couple that isn’t? Tell me in the comments!
November and December seem to be dry months for me when it comes to photography (and by extension, blogging). Strangely, in January it picks up again, even though the landscape tends to be just as bad. I’m an indoors person all year round and hate the cold, so you can imagine I spend winters at home under the blankets.
So since it’s that time of the year again, I decided to do a little photoshoot using an assortment of Lindt chocolates, seasonal products of nature, decorative beads and fairy lights.
And another one with Christmas cards.
I got the kitten card yesterday from a colleague. Because there are never enough Christmas things with kittens.