Flowers for IWD

No heavy content for International Women’s Day this time. I’m just giving you some flowers. It’s been a tough time.

Communists used to be big on IWD, as I remember, though it’s not like they went deep with it; nothing about women’s rights or anything. Worker’s union (there was only one) would give female employees in all workplaces a flower–a single carnation–and a small present and afterwards there would be little celebrations or a parties. It was just an opportunity for them to pat themselves on the back, look how great we are and respect women! Also, because at that time we didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day, kids at school would make presents for their mums, like a handmade card or similar.

That came out more cynical than intended, ooh.

So, anyway, happy International Women’s Day!

Peaky Blinders Sets in Castlefield, Manchester

If you’re a fan of Peaky Blinders, you probably know that Season 6, recently announced as the final, is being filmed now. Some of it shot here in Manchester, as the architecture offers the perfect environment for the interwar Birmingham that is the show’s setting.

My phone notifications informed me that filming was taking place in Castlefield, so I thought, let me go there to check it out this Saturday. So I did. Not by the order of the Peaky Blinders, only by the order of me. (Before you ask, no, I didn’t see any actors.) This is a selection of pics I took:

I like the props; the chains, the rope, the barrels, the crates, everything.

And last but not least, the Garrison, pub frequented by the members of the Peaky Blinders.

With green screen.

I didn’t want to take my camera; all the pics are taken with my smartphone. It turned out it was better anyway–the phone’s lens is small enough to fit between the bars of the barriers.

I had not watched the show yet when they filmed all the previous seasons, so I’m really lucky that I got a chance to see the sets for the final season. There were supposed to be seven altogether, but due to coronavirus they shortened it to six.

Manchester has been a popular location for filming, among others, some Captain America The First Avenger scenes were filmed here. This article gives more details.

Agatha Christie Paperbacks with (maybe) Tom Adams Covers

I’ve been meaning to do these for a while.

The reason for the “maybe” in the title is that I can’t be sure all of them were illustrated by Tom Adams. I was under the impression they were, but then I checked the books themselves and the name of the illustrator is not stated anywhere. As always, I googled it and found this page, which is a great source. It turns out that some of the book covers attributed to Tom Adams were in fact made by another artist, Ian Robinson, but because they’re done in the same style, people naturally assume they are Tom’s. Here’s my collection (no spoilers, only book covers):

A Caribbean Mystery and Nemesis are Miss Marple stories and both of these are definitely Tom Adams covers.

No idea about The Body in the Library but The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side is a Tom Adams cover. Again, both are Marple mysteries. I’m sure you agree with me that the Mirror Crack’d illustration is beautiful. The title comes from a line in Alfred Tennyson’s poem The Lady of Shallot. Although the woman on the picture makes me think more of the Madwoman in the attic than Elaine, but then again, what does not make me think of the Madwoman in the attic…

By the Pricking of My Thumbs is a Tom Adams. The novel features married sleuths Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Unsure about Passenger to Frankfurt‘s cover. It’s one of Agatha’s late works and it’s not good; the only one I’ve never finished.

The cover for Sad Cypress, an Hercule Poirot story and personally one of my favourites, was made by the previously mentioned Ian Robinson. The Sparkling Cyanide cover is by Tom Adams. The investigator in this book is Colonel Race, who appears in a few other titles, sometimes alongside Poirot.

Unlike the rest of the paperbacks, these last two were not published by Fontana, but by Pan Books. Again, no idea about the covers–N or M looks like a photograph to me–I just wanted to include them in this post. The cover for The Big Four informs us it’s a Poirot mystery; N or M is one with the Beresfords.

I bought these gems about 15 years ago at a charity shop in my neighbourhood. It wasn’t until later that I learned about Tom Adams. I’m not a book collector, I don’t have space for that in my small flat (as you know, am very much an eBook girl), but I like these and I like that I was so lucky to find them. Thank you to whoever gave them away!

And in 2021, I still find Agatha Christie content to blog about!

The Game of Thrones Post

But, Some Photoblog, you’re at least two years too late with this post!

Eh. *shrugs* By now at least (hopefully) everyone has calmed down.

I first started watching Game of Thrones in 2014, when it was in its fourth season. I was hooked right from the start. It was–and still is, really–the rich world and the variety of such great characters, especially the female characters.

After finishing the first four seasons, I read the books (the book version is called A Song of Ice and Fire), I also read some other stories from this universe, like the Dunk and Egg novellas (pictured below in a collection A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms) and a couple of short stories about the Targaryen civil war.

Spoilers for the whole series ahead, obviously, and, maybe less obviously, though not if you know me, there will be some unpopular opinions.

The greatest one of which is, I liked how it ended. I called it!

It was sometime in 2018, I was chatting to a colleague about this series, when I suddenly had a brainwave. “You know what, I don’t think it’s gonna be Jon Snow and Daenerys at the end. I think it’s gonna be Tyrion and Sansa.” If you’ve seen the whole thing, you know I got that right.

Two characters with the most braincells

Both of them ended up in positions of power–Tyrion as Hand of the King, the job he was always the best at, and Sansa as the Queen in the North, which she should have been in the first place back in Season 6.

I never said nobody else would get to be in power, I just knew it would be Sansa and Tyrion and not Jon and Daenerys–and I was never one of the Daenerys Will Go Mad crowd. Though they turned out to be right, so I hope at least they’re happy.

I also always knew that Jon Snow was the happiest in the far north, at the Wall and beyond, with his direwolf Ghost and the wildlings. This came true as well. His parentage is irrelevant, it doesn’t define him and besides, he was always more Stark than Targaryen; his mother Lyanna was said to be a bit wild, like Arya. He has no interest in being a king. If someone doesn’t want to rule, they shouldn’t be forced to. Imagine you tell me you hate swimming and I push you into a pool. You wouldn’t like it, would you?

That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.

Tyrion Lannister

I like nearly all the characters (some of them more than others, some I’m not that interested in but then later I might get interested, I’m like that), but my most favourite is Cersei Lannister. She embodies that pure female rage.

Yeah, what of her wrath, Ned?

The level of hate Cersei receives borders on fanatical–and yet it’s non-sensical. She’s not worse than any other character; Game of Thrones is nothing if not moral greyness. The only thing she’s guilty of, same as about half of us, is being a woman. If she was a man she’d be one of the Top 5 favourites. She’s basically the Taylor Swift song The Man. (When everyone believes you, what’s that like? People didn’t believe Cersei when she said she was pregnant, though we were shown the scene where she and Jaime conceived the child. But when any other couple bangs, it’s an immediate assumption that it’ll result in pregnancy.) For the haters, it wasn’t just enough that she died, she needed to die violently. This despite that fact that the city was being torched by dragonfire and Cersei wasn’t the one who was torching it. They wanted Jaime to kill her, when the truth was that he literally came back for her to save the both of them (plus their unborn child), which was the subject of his last conversation with brother Tyrion, who told him of the passage out of the castle. And this is happening while the buildings are falling down and it would be far more likely that Cersei would die in the rubble anyway! I really wonder if the Cersei haters are even capable of logical thinking. (They aren’t.)

The Lannister twins dying together was quite a popular theory, it was foreshadowed enough, so I don’t know what everyone expected. I’d have preferred if they did save themselves and made it to Pentos, but hey, it’s Game of Thrones.

Thinking about what I’d change about the series, it’s really only two things: one, everything about the Dorne plot. Dorne was not done justice on the show. Originally, I’m a House Martell fan, but I switched to Lannisters, because there was nothing going on with the Martells (and who knows where the Dorne plot will go in the books, if there will be any more books, that is). At least Pedro Pascal as Oberyn was cool. Alexander Siddig, on the other hand, was criminally wasted as Doran Martell. I had been so looking forward to him in that role and it was a disappointment. (Last year, I had a similar experience with another actor, as it happens). Arianne Martell is my most favourite books-only character. I’m thinking that if they had put her into the show, she would have just died, so it’s probably better she wasn’t there. She’s the heir to Sunspear, the seat of House Martell, because in Dorne it is the oldest child that inherits, regardless of gender. The show never addressed this, one of its downsides.

My t-shirts

The second thing I would change is, I’d keep the Jaime and Brienne relationship strictly platonic. That… umm… scene still makes me gag to this day, so much so that I can’t even stand seeing the two actors in the same shot. Interesting that Jaime and Cersei are an incestuous couple, but their scenes never felt gross to me, like the Jaime and Brienne one did. It’s not like either of them could be with anyone else, not for a long time anyway. I wonder if George RR Martin got inspired by that Wuthering Heights quote “He’s more myself than I am, whatever the souls are made of, his and mine are the same”. It’s very fitting for Cersei and Jaime. (Originally meant for foster siblings, may I stress.)

By what right does the wolf judge the lion?

Jaime Lannister

As for Jaime, he essentially fulfilled his promise to Catelyn of returning her daughters–or one daughter as it was believed Arya was dead at that time. He just didn’t do it himself, but delegated the task to Brienne instead, giving her the sword Oathkeeper (made from former Ned Stark’s sword Ice) and Podrick Payne for company. Brienne carried out the task, she saved Sansa from the Boltons and safely accompanied her to the Wall, where she was reunited with Jon Snow. This not only proves that he did what Catelyn asked him to, but that Catelyn wasn’t stupid when she trusted him to do that. She was proved right. Another reminder: Jaime knighted Brienne, making her the first female knight. This enables her to knight more people, which means she can make more women knights.

But, you know, “character assassination” because he didn’t kill the woman that carried his child. You can click this link to see a breakdown of Jaime’s quotes, directly from the script, proving that he always chose Cersei.

[Note: Jaime actor Nikolaj Coster Waldau has stated multiple times that he liked the ending of his character. The haters are coming up with absurd theories that he’s being forced by The Powers That Be to say that, instead of simply accepting that he might have a different view from them. Like I said, with these people, logical thinking is absent.]

Next character I want to give shout out to is Arya Stark. I’m not a House Stark fan. I do like the two Stark girls, in later seasons I preferred Sansa more. I got a leeetle bit annoyed at the way Arya’s storyline in Braavos got handled–it seemed to me that she only used the Faceless Men for her own interests. The Faceless Men served more like a plot device for Arya, but make no mistake, they’re bigger than her and bigger than House Stark. The Free City of Braavos is my favourite location in this universe, I love everything about it, but then again that’s just me and the vast majority of the audience won’t care, they just want to see Arya get her revenge. But I want to talk about something else, something that matters to me very much.

Back in Season 1 there is a conversation Arya has with her father. When she asks if she can be a lord of the holdfast one day (something Ned suggests Bran can be now that he can’t be a knight of the Kingsguard due to his disability), he laughs and says that she will marry a high lord, and rule his castle, and her sons will be knights and lords. She shakes her head and says: “No. That’s not me.”

[Note: Ned’s a conservative]

And at the end, it’s still not her. She rejects Gendry’s proposal of marriage and sails away towards adventures. You don’t know how much it meant to me to see her do that. If there is a female character in fiction who says she doesn’t want to have children (marriage optional), you can pretty much guarantee that by the time the story ends, she will have them. This is disappointing and extremely infuriating. (I’m looking at you, Katniss Everdeen.) I’d rather have the character want children, or not mention anything at all. It certainly doesn’t help when you’re like that in real life and people just go “oh, you’ll change your mind.” But Arya knew herself and she stuck to her guns. I mean, this is a young woman that learned to be a water dancer, avenged her family and killed the Night King. And you want her to become the lady of Storm’s End and promptly get knocked up? No, sir.

Representation Matters.

Another one I’ve got here is Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound, a lover of good chicken and a reluctant adoptive father figure to Arya. Occasionally I like to channel him.

I live in a monarchy.

Last but not least, I want to give a shout out to Samwell Tarly.

I have no Sam goodies unfortunately, so I had to resort to taking a pic of my laptop screen while it played the YouTube video of the scene in question. The scene is from the finale. The noble lords and ladies are having a council meeting where they’re trying to come to some decision regarding the next ruler of Westeros. Sam is present at this meeting. He stands up and proposes that everyone should have a vote, all the citizens of Westeros, including the smallfolk. The reaction to this is laughter and scorn from all those present at the meeting, with unoriginal, lame jokes supplied by Lord Royce and Edmure Tully about horses and dogs having the right to vote too. Nobody sticks up for Sam. Not. A. Single. Soul. So he sits down and shuts up. It’s upsetting and potentially triggering seeing Sam treated like that, a character who has been abused by his father, struggled with self esteem issues, and still found it in his heart to help a poor wildling girl, herself also a survivor of abuse.

It is especially a let-down seeing not even Sansa speak up for him, she who has been through so much, and who has just told off her uncle Edmure. Arya wouldn’t, she’d cut your throat for having a bad opinion on Jon Snow, so clearly she can’t handle democracy (not that she’s interested in politics, it’s puzzling that she’s at that meeting at all), but Sansa could have at least refrained from laughing–though there is a shot where the camera focuses on her face and she looks like she’s having thoughts. Let’s hope so!

I like to think that Sam continued his fight for universal suffrage and I like to think that Tyrion listened to him (in Season 7 Tyrion praises the way the Ironborn and Night’s Watch choose their leaders). Keep fighting the good fight, Sam.

In 2018 I went to a small independent Game of Thrones convention here in Manchester. I brought back three autographed photographs; Ian McElhinney (Barristan Selmy), Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Mace Tyrell) and Toby Sebastian (Trystane Martell). I can confirm they were all very nice.

I don’t know how else to wrap this up other than saying, thank you for reading.

Valar morghulis.

Bloomer

I bought this loaf and when I put it on the wooden chopping board, it looked so nice I had to take a picture. But my white kitchen top made too harsh a background, so I later bought another loaf of bloomer and did it again using a kitchen towel for a background.

Bread is one of the oldest man-made foods and is culturally and religiously significant. It’s also often used as a metaphor for sustenance. The Lord’s Prayer, for example, features the line “give us today our daily bread”. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre says to (that bastard) Rochester: “Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup?” Bread-winner is used to describe the member of the household who earns the largest chunk of the income.

Let’s Try It Again… 2020 Recap

Okay, so the previous post was stupid. Let me do it again, better.

In terms of my photography, overwhelming majority of pictures taken in 2020 were with my smartphone and always in my area. This is the first time since 2016 that I haven’t made any trip outside Manchester. None of this mattered, in the end, as I took the best picture in my life with my phone a street away from my home!

Squirrel in Heaton Park, from September

The year started with storms, I remember there were two or three and they always happened at the weekend, so that that was no going anywhere for me. After that–well, you know. At first it was, need toilet paper? Pasta? Bad luck, mate.

It seems incredible now, but I did go to a concert this year. As in, a live performance by a singer. It was Halsey in Manchester Arena and it was back in March, before the first lockdown. Probably wasn’t very responsible, but hey, nothing happened.

My most streamed song of 2020 was the suitably titled Doom Days by Bastille (my inspiration for the short story The Journal). I also listened to the two albums Taylor Swift released this year, Folklore and Evermore.

It will be a while before live shows are back again. I also had a ticket for Phantom of the Opera, which was supposed to run for two months in Manchester, but like everything else, it was cancelled. Arts have really suffered with this and it’s not like the government cares; instead of supporting them they tell people in the industry to retrain. But don’t touch sports, oh no, not our precious sports, and even more precious football. Heavens help you if you anyhow endanger our football and our obscenely-paid footballers!

So what was I saying, oh yes, the annual recap… this year we were all staying at home and our new best friend was the streaming services. I remember that Disney+ launched here in UK just at the right time for lockdown.

Linda watches Star Wars

One of the TV shows that got much praise this year was Mandalorian. I’ve not watched it (yet), I’m not in the Star Wars fandom (they do have the hottest Latin actors though, Oscar Isaac and Pedro Pascal), however as I got myself a 12-month Disney+ subscription, I did watch the new trilogy and Rogue One. I liked Rogue One best, fabulous movie and might be one of my very favourites. As for the new trilogy, well, my first thought when I woke up the next day after seeing The Rise of Skywalker was: this should have been Finn’s story. John Boyega was right.

Star Trek premiered the Picard series and now we’re on Season 3 of Discovery, which has so far been the best. I thought the tone of Picard was a bit off, as if the writers were anxious (they probably were), but this can be easily overcome in future seasons.

This was also the first year in however-long that we had no Marvel movie released. We’ve been waiting for that Black Widow forever! But it’s good to have a bit of a break and hey, there’s still time to get into it, folks, if you haven’t done so!

Being at home and doodling

I doodle sometimes, I have almost filled my little A6 sketchbook. I once had a phase where I was drawing castles, and it seems I’m back in that phase again.

Tragically, I’ve not done as much reading as I should have done. I picked up The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and it took me three whole months to get through it. Such a slog, also the title is a lie–she doesn’t really steal books. Spoiler, I guess, but who cares. It tries to be interesting by having Death as a narrator but it reads just like any other third-person limited POV, with a “I collected their souls” inserted here and there to keep up the appearance. I swear I’ll never read Holocaust fiction ever again. I’d rather watch a good documentary about it.

But on the other hand I rediscovered my love for Sherlock Holmes and even dedicated a post to the famous detective, which at 2600 words is my longest.

Another thing that happened in Manchester was, the big concrete wall in Piccadilly Gardens was torn down. There is still a concrete wall, but that can’t be torn down because there is a coffee shop and a restaurant on the side of it. People hate them, I know they’re ugly, but for the purposes of my Gloomscapes series, I don’t mind a bit of brutalism. I’ve seen articles online calling the wall “Manchester’s Berlin Wall” and I’m like, can you just not. Nobody is getting shot crossing from Portland Street to Primark! Please. If there is criminal activity or drugs going on in Piccadilly Gardnes, that’s hardly the fault of the wall.

I end with one of my typical phone shot of something random or weird, Sam Call Me written by chalk on the gate to my local park. Well, there is a certain Sam that is close to my heart, so you can say that the picture is not as random as it would appear on first sight. I mean, not in real life, it’s the actor Sam Claflin, lol.

And that, my friends, concludes my second 2020 recap post.

2020 Recap

Hahahahahahahahahahah. Hahaha hahahahahaha hahahahahaha hahahaha hahahaha hahaha hahahahahaha hahahahahahah hahahah ahahahahahaha hahahahahah hahahaha ha haha hahahahahaha hahahahahahaha hahahaha hahahahah hahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahah hahahaha hahahahahahaha hahahahaha hahahaha hahhahaha hahahahah hahah haha ha? Bahaha hahaha hahahaha hhahahahhhhhhh ha! Hahahaha? Hahahaha. Hah! HAH! HAHAH! HAHAHAHAH!!!

Seriously

Sign on the floor in the Arndale shopping centre in Manchester.

At the entrance to my local park where I spent so much walking this year.

Sign at the door to my launderette. It makes it very clear.

Sign on the side of Selfridges department store, a popular spot for sitting. I mean the side of the store is popular spot for sitting, not the actual store. So they put the sign there for people not to sit there.

Narrator’s voice: nevertheless, they still sat.

Sign on the Metrolink tram.

Construction site. The sign is also concealing a wheelbarrow, which was parked further up the road, after the yellow barriers in the distance. You know how I love my wheelbarrows. See what this virus is doing!

Merry Christmas 2020

So it’s Christmas and here I give you 2020-appropriate Christmas pics.

Tree in my neighbourhood.

Lights in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester. At least they still put some in there.

This year, I got myself a Christmas bouquet and put it in a vase. It’s the only kind of Christmas decoration I have in my flat, apart from a string of Christmas lights. I threw away my old Christmas tree, there’s just no space for it in my living room now (I made some changes to the decor).

I wish everyone a good holiday.

Hand Sanitiser Tied To A Tree

You can’t get more 2020 than this picture.

Of course, you find hand sanitisers at all sorts of places these days but what’s funny about this one is that it’s installed there temporarily. As you are no doubt able to observe, these are market stalls. Markets in Piccadilly Gardens only open Wednesday to Saturday (maybe Sunday, but I have no idea, I’ve not been to town on a Sunday in years). So when the markets are not there, neither is the hand sanitiser. I just love it so much.