This And That

Because I’ve not been taking pictures as I usually do, but still want to run the blog, here’s this silly snap from New Year’s Day:

If you’re gonna spray graffiti, at least make it positive! The shop the wall belongs to is a Chinese takeaway. Which should put a smile on your face just by existing.

The arrival of 2023 welcomes, among other things, all of Sherlock Holmes stories (and I think that means all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s works too, unless I’m missing some of the last ones) into public domain. You can now write and publish any Sherlock story of your own, without worrying about getting into trouble with the estate.

One of Agatha Christie’s best books, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, has also entered the public domain. All these works are available for free in digital format.

I hoped Kenneth Branagh would tackle the case for his third Hercule Poirot film, especially as he mentioned “wanting to retire to grow vegetable marrows” in last year’s Death on the Nile, but it is not so. The next instalment (which is being filmed now) is A Haunting in Venice, an adaptation of Halloween Party. It seems Poirot retired to grow vegetable marrows, not into an English village, but to Venice. (It will be a loose adaptation, as Halloween Party doesn’t take place in Venice.) Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a tricky one to adapt for screen, because of its unique twist, but it can be done. The David Suchet TV episode was unfortunately not good, but I still hope someone will do it well.

I’ve been thinking about writing a lot lately. More than usual, more than photography. Even the algorithms know, I keep seeing ads for writing classes on Facebook and Instagram. I posted three stories in quick succession over on my writing blog, to my own surprise. It turns out the secret to writing is… writing. As opposed to thinking about writing, daydreaming about fictional characters and noting down ideas. It was like discovering the pearl of wisdom. I hope to continue with it this year. I’d like to experiment with different genres.

It’s been raining almost constantly. No walks in the park, no taking pictures. I have to march in my living room to meet the steps target on my FitBit!

That’s about it for my random and weird thoughts. Have a good January.

2022 Recap

The year is ending, it’s time for another recap post.

Do look up – the world’s not ending… yet

Let me get this out of the way first: this is a personal post on a personal blog. This is not a current events blog. There’s been a lot of bad stuff this year. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, most of all, the cost of living crisis, the absolutely insane weather brought on by climate change. But for me, on purely personal basis, it has been a good year.

My mum said the other day when we spoke on the phone, that things happen that we have no control over and can’t do anything about. So what is left but to live one’s life? I’m devastated at the state of the world… I hope it gets better and wish I could do something… I hope Putin’s head explodes… I want a better world, for everyone. I want the Star Trek future to be real, not just a fantasy. But to want something is just that.

So, the recap.

I have made 106 posts on Some Photoblog. That’s not just a record, that’s outstanding. I thought last year’s 89 was an achievement. (Note, these numbers are correct at the time of writing, I sometimes delete old posts, sometimes without a trace, sometimes I republish them later, keeping the original text and adding new pictures, or keeping the pictures and changing the original text.) Over on my writing blog it was 13 posts, also a record. Although not all of them are technically stories, writing is writing.

And in 2022, I’ve had my share of nice things.

Well, it can hardly get any better than meeting one’s favourite actor and travelling to one’s home country after seven years of not travelling to one’s home country, like the proverbial prodigal daughter.

Meeting Sam Claflin was without question a highlight of the year (and one of the highlights of my life), not only because of how nice he was, and how magical the experience felt, and how his smile is really like that, but also because the whole trip to London for the convention (by coach, because one can’t rely on trains anymore in this kingdom united, meaning I had to leave the day before and spend a night at a hotel) thrust me out of the familiarity of my comfort zone straight into the uncharted waters of the big wide ocean. For someone who never goes anywhere and sticks to the same places and activities, my stress levels reached the stratosphere. I knew once I got through it, I’d be able to do anything.

At the convention, aside from meeting Sam Claflin, I also got an autograph of Ben Barnes. He, too, was very nice–and chatty! (Sam seems more quiet.) His eyes are really that dark.

Another favourite I saw was the band Bastille live in concert. They were my most streamed artist on Spotify wrapped.

it’s the stuff I usually listen to

Taylor Swift released her album Midnights. But I still keep listening to Evermore.

And it was a good year for an Agatha Christie fan. Death on the Nile was finally released in the cinemas, after numerous delays (and a scandal involving one of the actors), with Kenneth Branagh directing and playing the role of Hercule Poirot. Then there was the film that directly honoured the queen of crime: See How They Run. A murder is committed in the theatre that hosts her play The Mousetrap and Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan of the London police force team up to solve it. It takes place a year after the play opened, 1953. The film very meta–and the character of Agatha herself appears too. And finally just in time for Christmas, Glass Onion came out on Netflix. After the success of Knives Out, Rian Johnson gives us another case for detective Benoit Blanc, played (with much fun) by Daniel Craig. Rian once again brilliantly combines Agatha Christie-like tropes with current issues and lots of humour. If you hate Elon Musk, you’re gonna love this movie.

I’ve seen a few articles talking about how murder mysteries are back, but I think people have always liked them.

The above mentioned Mousetrap celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2022 and I went to see it when they came to Manchester as part of the anniversary tour.

It was so good to see my home town of Bratislava again. I was so happy I finally took some pics there with my Canon (last time I had gone there I didn’t have a DSLR camera). November is not perhaps the best time to travel (right after the clocks went back too, so days became even shorter) but I made the best of it and I got lucky with some nice weather.

I was a bit worried about putting my cat in a cattery, fearing that she would think I was abandoning her. It was her first time staying in a cattery. But she got through it alright. (Imagine running a cattery, though, it seems like one of those dream jobs.)

I cannot do a 2022 recap post without mentioning the death of the longest reigning monarch, Elizabeth II. I’m not keen on monarchy, it’s inherently anti-democratic, but I can’t deny Elizabeth was an impressive person. She’ll be remembered for centuries to come.

The UK also went through three Prime Ministers. One of them, Liz Truss, was at the job for 49 days–and was outlasted by a lettuce.

The chaos in British politics would not have existed had Leave not won the referendum in 2016. But, you know *shrug* I have said everything that needs to be said about it.

So as not to end the post on a depressing note, let us remember the heroes of the year. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the women of Iran who rose up in protest of the regime. And also you. The person reading this, for getting through whatever you had to get through. Keep on keeping on.

Bring on 2023!

Happy 70th Anniversary, Mousetrap!

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, the longest running play in the world, is celebrating its 70th anniversary. It first opened in London’s West End in 1952 (and has now outrun the reign of Queen Elizabeth!) This milestone is being honoured by a tour around the country, of which one of the stops was Manchester.

Yeah, you know I went, you don’t even have to ask. Duh, I’d lose my Agatha fan card if I didn’t go see it!

Opera House looked pretty nice with the displays.

I was there on the 3rd December, so their last night in Manchester (yeah, it was a few days ago, I just forgot to post it…). From what I could see, it was a sold out performance.

The Mousetrap is a classic Agatha Christie locked room mystery. A group of people at a boarding house are cut off from the rest of the world by snowy weather, someone gets murdered–whodunnit? The tune of Three Blind Mice is a recurring motif, hence the title of the play.

When the murder was about to happen, all the lights went out, including the fire exit signs. Truly spooky!

I didn’t manage to get the program, so I had to look up the cast on the website.

Everyone was excellent–I keep saying I need to go to the theatre more often. It requires quite a different calibre of talent than film and TV acting. Fun fact: in its first opening in 1952, the role of Detective Sergeant Trotter was played by Richard Attenborough.

And finally, as it has recently been announced, The Mousetrap is heading to Broadway in 2023!

Flight

I saw this weekend’s Weekly Prompts Weekend Challenge was Flight–and I knew I had the right content for it!

Taken on my recent flight from Bratislava back to Manchester. The geolocation shows as Karlovy Vary (also known as Carlsbad) in Czech Republic, a popular spa resort not far from the German border.

The fluffy white clouds would almost make you believe you were in a fantasy castle in the skies–but only almost. It’s a Ryanair flight after all!

(For readers outside Europe: Ryanair is a budget airline that operates to and from most of the major cities here, so not very romantic, but honestly, they do exactly what you need them to do, i.e. fly you from A to B, and what more do you need?)

A Work Of Art (With Thoughts On Pirates Of The Caribbean)

Note: A post titled A Work Of Art was originally published on Some Photoblog in June 2021. I have come to a decision to delete and republish it with some changes to the text and expanded title (the pictures remain the same as in the original post). I explain why below.

This painting hangs in Manchester Art Gallery (quite high up, hence the awkward angle).

It’s Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse. Waterhouse was an English painter of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and Hylas and the Nymphs is one of his best known works.

The Gallery’s label:

(Look, I don’t know. Maybe the nymphs were just like: dude, you’re trespassing. It doesn’t have to be that deep. Waterhouse can hardly be blamed for some femme fatale shit, when it’s a story from the Greek mythology. Also, I like Pre-Raphaelites. I like nice things. I’m a visual person.)

The image below is a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth film in the series, released in 2011, directed by Rob Marshall:

image credit: IMDb

Okay, so you have to squint a bit. But you can see it.

The two stunningly beautiful people are Philip and Syrena, played by Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey. Syrena is a mermaid, not a nymph (and there are no water lilies, obviously), but she does look like something Waterhouse would have painted. He seemed to have had a thing for women of mythology and legends, and bodies of water. (Waterhouse, get it?) Philip is no Argonaut, he’s a missionary, which is why he wears that cross, but he was on a ship. Which is, I suppose, a logical occurrence in a movie centred on pirates. On Stranger Tides is probably the weakest in the series, but it’s still worth watching for these two, if nothing else. Their romance would surely inspire artists and poets alike. There was something so pure about it, stupid as the word is. I love Philip and Syrena, they own my heart.

*spoilers* Interestingly, much like Hylas, Philip was never seen again either. His fate is a bit ambiguous, as he’s injured, likely quite critically, and the above scene is the moment just before he and Syrena kiss and she pulls him into the water. It was established earlier in the movie that a mermaid’s kiss can heal, and she does tell him: “I can save you, just ask,” though he doesn’t ask, he says he wants only forgiveness, as he blames himself for her capture. She kisses him anyway (get in there, girl!), and the last we see of them is when they float underwater. But I’m positive Philip didn’t die, the reason why neither him nor Syrena appear again is that The Powers That Be decided not to use them any more. *end spoilers*

So, now for the controversial part. My original June 2021 post was a silly entry about how film snobs need to get over themselves and step on a Lego, because the similarity between the Philip and Syrena scene and the Waterhouse painting proved that Pirates of the Caribbean films were a work of art. Not that I no longer believe this to be true (because the similarity cannot be denied), but it is a frivolous matter compared to… well, everything surrounding the lead actor of the franchise.

However, I maintain that the Pirates movies don’t necessarily have to revolve around the character of Jack Sparrow because they still have a lot going for them that is not Jack Sparrow. (In fact I think the later instalments should have reduced his role). Adventure, humour, horror, romance, and a lot of swashbuckling action. There are plenty of other great characters; the first trilogy truly belongs to Will and Elizabeth. I mean, it’s Elizabeth who becomes the Pirate King. Not Jack. There’s Tia Dalma and Davy Jones. Weatherby Swann (Elizabeth’s father), James Norrington, even Cutler Beckett. And the films always nail their romances. Will and Elizabeth, Philip and Syrena, and Henry and Carina in the fifth film. And I think Geoffrey Rush’s performance as Hector Barbossa is just as iconic as Johnny Depp’s Jack. The scene in The Curse of the Black Pearl “you’d better start believing in ghost stories, you’re in one” where he’s revealed to be a skeleton in the moonlight, is so bone chilling and so, well, iconic! I also love Elizabeth and Will’s wedding in the third film, At World’s End. On a ship, in the middle of a battle, Elizabeth shouts to Barbossa: “Barbossa, marry us!” To which he responds: “I’m a little bit busy at the moment!” But he nevertheless marries them, while all three of them are fighting their enemy.

Plus Ragetti and Pintel are a hilarious duo.

All that and the theme tune (composed by Hans Zimmer, no less) is the best.

On Stranger Tides was Sam Claflin’s first film. You know how I feel about the guy.

In conclusion, Pirates of the Caribbean films are a lot of fun. But if you feel you can’t watch them any more, that’s okay too. And if you’ve never liked them anyway, then it doesn’t matter.

I wonder if Waterhouse would have been a fan?

The Prodigal Daughter Returns

Hello there, world, guess who is back in her homeland like the proverbial prodigal daughter?

Yes, after seven years, I am finally visiting my home country! I’m writing this while staying at my mum’s place (updating the blog from a place other than my flat for the first time since I started it), although it’s unlikely I will post any more during my stay here. I haven’t scheduled any posts for while I’m away, so blog will be dry until I return to Manchester–hopefully with many a great pics!

Alone

This week the Weekly Prompts Weekend Challenge is Alone.

May I just offer my whole blog?

Only joking. Here is a lone crow perching on a fence by the tram tracks.

Most of the time I’m alone. (Unless you count my cat.) All the time, really, except for days when I go into the office. I’m single by choice and not looking for relationship, and I go everywhere on my own. I can’t imagine it any other way anymore. I can’t imagine not seeing a film at the cinema because I have no one to go with, I can’t imagine missing out on seeing a favourite artist of band because there’s nobody to accompany me to their concert. I date myself.

Sure, the system screws over single people. When I recently needed a hotel for a night, I saw how much the price increased when I changed the booking from the default two people to one, even though it was the exact same room. The insatiable capitalistic greed punishing solo travellers for merely existing, but there’s another way to look at it. They wish they were like us. They wish they had the courage to travel alone. But they’re too scared, and so they take it out on us. They hate us ‘cos they ain’t us!

Some of my posts here on Some Photoblog feature solitary objects or animals. The tagline of my Tumblr blog is “in solitude” (also my username is a play on the word “misanthropy”). I have a Pinterest board dedicated to single life.

It’s just my way.