Photographers of WordPress, do you ever print your pictures?
I did, towards the end of last year, so that I could decorate my living room walls. After all the works done on my flat, it was time for change. I bought a new string of lights with the little pegs to attach the pics. The string runs horizontally over my sofa, rounds a corner above the book shelf and ends vertically next to the book shelf. (I hope that makes sense enough for you to picture it). Here I share with you three pictures from the vertical section–you can spot the common theme:
The robin and the duck pictures have featured here before, the crow one hasn’t.
Some Photblog is not short of pictures of crows and ducks. It was the robin that was a true scoop–I was so lucky that day!
The year has been… strange. World as we know it will never be the same. But there has been success with vaccines.
For Some Photoblog, however, 2021 was the most productive year ever–89 posts! The major theme was pictures of flowers taken by my smartphone on my walks, with an occasional bird thrown in.
My DSLR camera, bless the poor thing’s mirrored heart, got some work done at last, after mostly idle 2020. The lens cap got stuck in the course of this long idleness, sending me into a state of panic (easily happens to me). I had to consult Google for a solution. Thankfully I managed to get the cap off. I even wrote a short flash fiction story about it! Which was actually inspired by a prompt at Online Writers Guild, but funny how that prompt, erm, mirrored, exactly what was going on in my life.
I didn’t get up to much this year, I only visited two places outside Manchester–Lyme Park and Halifax, but the visits were that much more enjoyable. I also took a walk to Castlefield one Saturday at the end of February to have a look at the sets of Peaky Blinders that was being filmed there, and I came home with some fantastic shots–not just of the sets, but of early spring too. I think there are altogether four posts made out of that one single walk.
Autumn has also been good, we’ve been really lucky with the leaves this year.
On the pop culture side, I covered some of my favourite things: Agatha Christie (a reposted entry from 2019 with new photos taken this year), Game of Thrones, Star Trek, and most of all, actor Sam Claflin to whom I dedicated a 5200-words-long post. (I didn’t realise it was that long!) I pretty much carry a flag with his name on it–because someone has to.
In the world of movies, after a dry 2020, we’ve finally seen some delayed cinematic releases, and more. Marvel have treated us to four films in total, and they were all fantastic (Black Widow, Shang-Chi, Eternals and, most of all, Spider-Man No Way Home), plus five series on Disney+. While I’m not a big fan of James Bond, I did go to see No Time To Die, as it was Daniel Craig’s final outing, and because it was the first major picture to be delayed in the early months of the pandemic. I can say it’s my favourite now–it really was something else–and I loved the gorgeous cinematography. Cary Joji Fukunaga also directed the 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre; if you’ve seen it, you know it has the right gothic feel. (I acknowledge that, as much as I’m fond of butchering that story.) Dune also finally made its appearance, a difficult book to translate to screen, but Denis Villeneuve pulled it off. The soundtrack was just *chef’s kiss*, Hans Zimmer outdid himself–and that’s saying a lot!
In the streaming world, everyone went mad for Squid Game, and I’m happy for a non-English language show to achieve such a huge success. Speaking of non-English shows, French series Lupin also enjoyed big popularity–I love me some heist. The last show I want to give a shout out to is The Irregulars, a Sherlock Holmes adjacent series featuring the group of street kids known as Baker Street Irregulars. Unusually for Sherlock Holmes-verse, it’s a paranormal mystery, with a diverse cast. I liked it so much more than that bloody Enola Holmes last year (this is an unpopular opinion and I stand by it), but unfortunately it has not been renewed by Netflix. In episode three, I spotted a familiar sight–The Cage at Lyme Park. Thus I became the Leonardo Di Caprio pointing at the screen meme.
Just like last year, I listened to a lot of Taylor Swift, who has been re-releasing her old music to get back her rights. Most memorable is probably the ten-minute version of All Too Well, to which she recorded a short film as a music video. My most streamed song this year, though, was Wellerman, a remixed sea shanty that went viral thanks to TikTok at the beginning of the year. Not surprising since I played it on loop!
Elsewhere on my writing blog, it’s also been a successful year. I particularly enjoyed myself by murdering an English classic (guess which one), dreaming about being seduced to the dark side by hot villains, and experimenting with a day in the life of a very fictional Home Secretary in a fictionalised version of Britain. But the most popular story turned out to be I Fall In Love With You Every Day. Same as previously mentioned The Camera Smiles, it, too, was a response to a prompt by Online Writers Guild.
I think I went on for long enough, so let me wrap this up with Pepper, my constant and only companion. In October I had some massive work done on my flat (landlord at last realised what terrible state it was in), so I now have a brand new kitchen and bathroom–a side note, you don’t realise how a thing like that can completely change your mindset–and one of the builders remarked that every time they brought something new in, such as tools or materials, the cat “must come and check everything”. Of course, as all cat owners know, this is a completely normal cat behaviour, but the builder clearly didn’t know it, and it still makes me laugh to this day.
Thank you for visiting my blog in 2021 and all the best for 2022!
So I managed to squeeze in one more Christmas post.
Very impromptu still life smartphone pics, brought to life by the Christmas bouquet I got at Tesco, instead of a Christmas tree. I quickly took the photos so that I could remove those red berries–I think they might be poisonous and I don’t want my cat to eat them.
Fun fact about me: I don’t drink alcohol. But I can’t resist me some Baileys during festive time. This one will last me till the end of the year.
And of course, the true Christmas classic:
The movie Die Hard. You can stream it on Disney+ if you’re a subscriber, though no doubt it will be shown in TV too.
Because it is not Christmas until Holly Gennaro McClane punches that douchebag reporter in the face!
Have a merry Christmas if you celebrate, peaceful Christmas if you don’t feel like celebrating, or just good chillout time if you don’t celebrate.
This is a good one for me, for I do have a festive memory–as a child, I was very much into Christmas. What I used to love the most about the holiday was the Christmas tree. My mum used to buy a real Christmas tree and we would always decorate it together (well, she’d have done most of the job, as I realise now). And I would spend my whole time by the Christmas tree and I would play there.
Once, probably like 1986, sometime in the limbo between Christmas and New Year, I was once again playing near the Christmas tree and my mum was sitting on the sofa watching TV. I was suddenly struck by an idea of sliding under the tree and pretend I’m a Christmas present. Being a kid, that’s exactly what I did and I said: “Look, mummy, I’m a Christmas present!” Next thing, the Christmas tree fell.
Nothing serious happened, to me or to the tree, my mum put it back up and collected the fallen decorations and hung them back onto the branches. One of the decorations, a bauble, got stuck on the net curtain. I don’t know how, it was the glittery stuff it was covered with that must have somehow made it stick to the net curtain. (Is this where I say: “it was the eighties”?)
So that is my festive memory.
Because this is a photography blog, I have pics to share too.
Being a Christmas obsessed kid, and a kid who drew a lot, I started for myself a Christmas book. It was just a sketchbook where I drew Christmas things every year. I still have it to this day. When it looked like I was settling in the UK, I brought it over from my home country. It is not such a relic as it would seem, it has undergone a lot of changes throughout the years (decades!) and only two years ago I redid the cover. But some of my old drawings still remain. The oldest one is dated 1989.
This one is from the following year:
Vesele Vianoce means Merry Christmas in Slovak, in case you couldn’t tell.
More contemporary, this is 2019 (although it feels like a lifetime ago). Not much effort put into this one, it’s just a fanart of Mariah Carey’s Christmas album.
Actually, speaking of memories, I remember when All I Want For Christmas Is You was released in 1994. Little did we know it would become such a classic.
The topic of this week’s Weekly Prompt Weekend Challenge is Sharing. I scrolled down Google Photos on my phone to see if I had anything. The thing I find with prompts is that if I don’t find a suitable picture for a challenge within a minute, I don’t bother. It has to feel real, from the heart, not forced. You get me.
So here is my contribution. What is better to share than chocolate?
Lindt are my favourites–when an occasion comes, I visit the Lindt shop and fill a box with their chocolates. This particular selection was for my birthday, which was recently. As you can see, it already includes a Christmas bear.
You can’t go wrong with Ferrero Rocher–and they look so aesthetically pleasing! Picture is dated January 2021, but honestly I tell you, my friends, I don’t remember buying them at all. Presumably I ate them too, and I probably enjoyed them.
It’s that time of the year when the city, by which I mean Manchester, gets dressed up in the theme of Halloween. There’s so much fun stuff and I took a lot of pictures; it was a though decision to pick the ones for a blog post.
“Can you believe the utter stupidity?”
“Howdya like my new tentacles?”
Welcome to our castle. Don’t worry, we don’t eat people.
Without cooking them first.
Dragons make wonderful pets, I hear. As long as you’re fireproof, you’ll be fine.
“There’s something in my eye.”
Wanted: vendor for our market stall. We’re not sure what happened to last one.
A skeleton collection: I don’t know what it is, but I really do enjoy skeletons. I think it might be that they always look like they’re laughing at something.
And this one’s in a wheelbarrow. I love wheelbarrows.
“Hello, honey, I’ve been waiting for you!”
“Oh, look, kids, daddy’s home!”
There’s nothing like seeing monsters or villains deeply in love with each other. I went to see Venom Let There Be Carnage the other day, and the romance between Cletus and Frances (played by Woody Harrelson and Naomie Harris), the villains of the film, melted my heart. They were just so tender with each other, and you know they’d destroy the civilisation to be together. They even danced in the flames!
Since I’m on this topic, how about Gomez and Morticia from Addams Family? I think they legit might be one of the best married couples in all of fiction.
Anyway, Happy Halloween, and beware of the monsters. The true scary fact is, the most dangerous ones don’t look like monsters at all.
I took many, many photos here and it was a struggle to pick ones for the blog. Here’s some of the rooms:
At the back of the house there’s The Folk Museum; workshops with displays of traditional crafts such as blacksmith, wheelwright, cooper, etc.
Park surrounding the house:
Anne Lister is the subject of TV series Gentleman Jack, which was also filmed here (they’re about to film some Season 2 scenes here, or they might be doing it at the time of this post’s publication, unsure about exact dates). Suranne Jones plays Anne Lister and Sophie Rundle is Ann Walker, her last lover. I can’t comment in any way on it, as I haven’t seen this show.
I bought the customary fridge magnet at the gift shop. Also a pen. That is a new thing for me. Not buying pens, but buying pens from museum gift shops.
Note: This post was originally published on Some Photoblog in April 2019. However, I deleted it after I realised I hated the posted photographs. I took some new ones and now I hereby, with some minor changes, republish the post, in time for Agatha Christie’s birthday.
No spoilers for any books or short stories ahead.
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. And here it is now.
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.
Of course, I’ve mentioned Agatha Christie multiple times on this blog. I will probably keep mentioning her.
I got into Agatha Christie sometime in my mid-teens; my first book was The 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. Not a surprise at all, I’m sure everyone has at least heard of it!
(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, a 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, age 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 the heart (as in, love, not the organ). 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–and who also makes an appearance in Poirot novel Three Act Tragedy. Harley Quin short stories have this spooky atmosphere, almost touching on supernatural.
Similarly, stories in The Hound of Death collection have the same feel. There have also been new short story collections released in recent years, which include such short stories.
Apart from all this, Agatha Christie’s work includes 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 pen name Mary Westmacott. I’ve seen them boxed under “romantic novel”, though I’m unsure this is entirely correct. At least, I don’t think they’re strictly romances. So far I’ve read Giant’s Bread and Unfinished Portrait and enjoyed them both a lot. The latter is semi-autobiographical.
And that’s not all. She was also a playwright. The Mousetrap is the longest running play in UK–it was only the pandemic that halted its run, but it reopened as soon as it was possible. I have seen it performed here in Manchester on their 60th anniversary tour, in 2012. And kept the ticket for nine years!
What’s interesting also is that, although 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 (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. A domestic thriller, in fact.
I went to see Love from a Stranger year in July 2018.
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 Suchet portrayal is iconic. He is so much associated with the little Belgian detective that he wrote a book about it!
Currently Hercule Poirot is being played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directs the films. Murder on the Orient Express was released in 2017, the next one is Death on the Nile, which was set to be out in October 2020 but keeps being postponed. (Latest date is February 2022.) 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 Peter (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:
So, as you can see, I’m an Agatha Christie fan. I know she’s not literally acclaimed–some male author or other apparently wrote some essay titled Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? (and who cares about your essay, male author?)–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. Agatha sometimes quotes Shakespeare–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 innocent. I first came across this in the 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 the 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 that is why the recent BBC adaptation got it so wrong. All the adaptations by Sarah Phelps (with the exception of 2015’s And Then There Were None, which is impossible to ruin) were bad. That is because the woman had never read any Agatha Christie book when she was tasked with adapting her books. She had previously worked on Eastenders, a degenerate soap opera, and is high up in BBC, but is in no way, shape or form qualified to adapt Agatha Christie books. Thankfully, those adaptations were not very memorable or popular with the audience, and hopefully will be soon forgotten. People still turn to David Suchet’s Poirot, or the older Peter Ustinov movies.
Two tropes that Agatha handles so superbly are: the dysfunctional family (examples: After the Funeral, A Pocketful of Rye, Crooked House, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas) and the love triangle (no examples because that would be telling). Don’t let the latter put you off, this is no YA fiction! It’s possible she reused the trope so often because of her own experience. Her husband, Archie Christie, left her for another woman. That’s when she went missing for 11 days, that incident she never talked about, or mentioned in her autobiography, and that still fascinates people to this day. She was found at a hotel in Harrogate under a fake name, with the surname being the same as her husband’s mistress’s. She may have had a memory loss, or she may have been the original Gone Girl, who knows. She and Archie divorced, and she later met the archaeologist Max Mallowan, who became her second husband, and with whom she was much happier. She accompanied him on his digs and even set one of her books, Murder in Mesopotamia, at an archaeological dig.
Fun fact: when she went missing, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, consulted a psychic to help find the missing writer, using one of her gloves. He was into that stuff.
Some of my favourite Poirot books are: Sad Cypress, Five Little Pigs, The Hollow (mentioned in my Yggdrasil post), Murder of Roger Ackroyd, of course that will always remain my beloved. From Miss Marple collection I rate The Moving Finger and A Murder is Announced the highest. But the one I name as my top Agatha book is Endless Night. It’s a surprisingly good late gem from the author, whose late work is not as good as her earlier one. It’s got an aesthetic of a gothic novel… until it doesn’t. I recommend everyone to read it, if you haven’t already.
I make a point in my post about eBooks that works that enter public domain are available for free on Gutenberg to download in various formats. As of September 2021, Gutenberg has the first six books of Agatha Christie, link here.
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!
Star Trek has had several mentions on Some Photoblog, but no dedicated post yet.
Not sure if this is exactly a dedicated post, to be honest. I’m certainly not going into any analysis, or anything like that. I’m a bad Trekkie anyway. I still haven’t watched Voyager and Enterprise. Or the original animated series. I can’t recite any starship specifics or any technobabble whatsoever. I don’t speak Klingon and I don’t intend to learn it. I just enjoy watching Star Trek, any Star Trek.
No hating on any Trek in my house! Each one has something going for it. And if not, the ones that have things going for them will always remain.
Sure, there are nerds that cannot accept the newer Treks, such as Discovery for example. “All this political correctness!” they scream, as if Star Trek hasn’t always been woke. “Do we HAVE to have gay relationships?” they whine, as if Kirk and Spock haven’t always been gay for each other.
I’m very partial to Deep Space Nine myself. I’ve seen someone call it “the bastard step child of Star Trek”. Maybe that’s why I relate to it… Set on a space station, not a Trek-typical spaceship, it includes main characters who are not Federation citizens, neither they are officers of Starfleet. We also get a more developed Ferengi. Quark and his cop-and-robber banter with Constable Odo is never not entertaining. The friendship between Jake and Nog is so cute, and they get to actually be kids. The commander of the station is Benjamin Sisko, who is a widower and a single father to Jake. Kira Nerys belongs to my favourite female characters of all time. And let’s not forget Julian Bashir and Garak–and whatever was going on there.
As for the movies, my favourite is probably The Next Generation’s First Contact. I loved the scene where Captain Picard reveals to Lily that she’s on a spaceship. Another favourite is the original series’ The Voyage Home. You know, the one with the whales. “They like you very much, but they’re not the hell your whales.” Ah, you can’t beat Spock.
(Both movies involve time travel, I just realised, and I’m not a big fan of time travel. It depends, I guess.)
Star Trek’s influence on pop culture, and life generally, has been phenomenal. NASA even has an article on the tech of Star Trek.
Live Long and Prosper!
Oh yeah, I saw Patrick Stewart at an anti Brexit march once.