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!
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.
Following my previous post, here are some pictures of Haworth Parsonage. (And some things I’ve got to say at the end.)
Haworth Parsonage was the home of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë and is now a museum. It’s mostly unchanged from what it looked like then and contains furniture, clothes and other possessions and artefacts owned by the family. Certainly interesting for any literature lover, but an absolute must for fans of any of the sisters.
St Michael and All Angels Church, where Patrick Brontë was a parson.
The tickets cost £9 for an adult, but can be used for multiple visits within 12 months. The museum also has a little shop that sells their books and souvenirs. They have mugs, notebooks, tote bags, stationery, you know that sort of stuff. I bought myself a fridge magnet with the picture of that famous painting of the three sisters, made by their troublemaker brother Branwell.
I couldn’t help but feel there was an underlying sadness, but that sadness is always there when it comes to the Brontës, isn’t it? They all died so young. I felt such sorrow for Patrick Brontë, who lost his whole family; first his wife to cancer, then all six children one by one. Aside from literature, should another word associated with the Brontës be–tuberculosis? What’s interesting is that Patrick lived to be 84 and for one reason or another, had a strong immunity that was not inherited by his children. Although I wonder. If Charlotte really died from a form of extreme morning sickness, could she have lived longer had she not got pregnant?
The graveyard between the Parsonage and the church.
I want to say a few words about the books now. The ones I’ve read so far are: Jane Eyre by Charlotte, Wuthering Heights by Emily and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne. My favourite out of these? The Tenant of Wildfell Hall! And this is not me being a hipster. It’s because–how could it not be? The real question is, why is it not more popular? Why is Anne known only as the “third Brontë sister”, so much so that Family Guy had a cutaway scene about that?
Charlotte prevented re-publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall after Anne’s death because apparently she found it too shocking. Well, it was, but why did Charlotte find it so? This is what she had to say about it: “Wildfell Hall hardly appears to me desirable to preserve. The choice of subject in that work is a mistake, it was too little consonant with the character, tastes and ideas of the gentle, retiring inexperienced writer.” Like, sigh… So because someone is gentle, they can only write… gentle? Do you even fiction, Charlotte? And who are you to decide it was not desirable to preserve and what makes you think the subject of the work is a mistake? Anne didn’t put in the book anything that she hadn’t seen while working as a governess, which included Branwell’s affair with Lydia Robinson, the mistress of the house and mother of the children Anne was a governess to. It’s likely she left her position because of that.
What can you do, Branwell gonna Branwell.
Really, I don’t understand why Charlotte was so easily shocked. She was the oldest. She spent time in Brussels, she had a huge crush on a married man, she worked as a teacher and as a governess, she must have seen things. And then there was the alcohol-prone, opium-addicted, debt-incurring brother. Branwell inspired all three of the sisters to some extent, at least I think I can find him in every book. John Reed in Jane Eyre, Hindley Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights and Arthur Huntingdon in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. All of their work was quite groundbreaking at the time. So why the outrage, Charl?
I found this article about Anne by Lucy Mangan on Guardian, which ends with “I’d like to think her time has come.” I’d like to think so too and that, in the #MeToo era, there’s no better time than now.
Link to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall on Gutenberg. Also, hello Netflix, Amazon Prime or whoever, if you’re reading this: we urgently need a new adaptation. Sort it out for us, please.
I keep this photograph among my important possessions.
I’ve never personally used an instant camera–never even held one in my hand. The shot is from an event in my home town of Bratislava, organised by Kia, the car manufacturers, when they opened their first plant in Slovakia.
It was in one of the squares in city centre, where they set up a stage for traditional Korean performances (I remember we watched some cool drummers). Among the promotional material they were giving away, like key rings and stickers and bags, that sort of stuff, I don’t really recall exactly, they did Polaroid shots for people.
As you can observe, there is a Kia car in the picture and those two people in front of it are myself and my younger brother! I was 23 and he was 12. I had already left for UK by then, but was back for a visit.
So, the year was 2004. An interesting year, because that was when Slovakia (with 9 other countries) joined the EU. Here in UK, you bet they had a lot to say about that and not in a good way. But on one news program they also said that with Kia now establishing themselves in Slovakia, potential other car manufacturers will follow and the country might one day become a second Detroit. Amazingly, to this day, it was the only positive thing I heard about my country on British TV ever. Now fifteen years later, we have Brexit and car manufacturers are leaving Britain.
And that thing with second Detroit became true.
Obviously I wasn’t the one who took this pic, but I was the one who took the pic of the pic, so is it my pic or is it not my pic?
These ones are filled with chocolate, I bought them frozen from Tesco. They just looked so nice in the glass oven-proof dish, I had to take the pictures!
Like somebody once said “churros are pieces of heaven that us mere mortals don’t deserve”. Actually, I saw the first part of it somewhere on Yahoo Answers years ago and made up the rest. At least something nice came out of that god-awful site. Lol!
I’ve not done this ever but I had such a productive year of photography, I decided to post some pics from this year that didn’t make it to Some Photoblog. I will also look back to some of my memorable posts from this year.
A snail, snapped not far from my neighbourhood.
City Tower in Manchester city centre. Taken by my smartphone, from the Piccadilly Bus Station. I like this angle.
Radcliffe area, near Bury, north of Manchester. Not quite the moors of Yorkshire, but still offers a great scope for imagination, as Anne of Green Gables would say.
This is in the above mentioned Bury, away form the town centre. Proper farm area, I heard cockerels and everything!
Save the best for last, this is Formby. Visiting Formby was definitely one of the highlights of the year for me. Here I am holding a pinecone, which I have actually kept and even used it in my autumnal and Christmas still life posts!
To say 2018 has been a turbulent year is not an exaggeration. The Beast of the East freezing conditions in February and March were followed by scorching hot summer (there was like four months, of no rain in Manchester and that happens, like, never). Climate change is here–so what are we gonna do about it?
Elsewhere, politically, I best not to even talk about it–but a huge shout out to Ireland, who knows how to do referendums right! (They voted in favour of making abortions legal, which is an issue I will never not feel strongly about, even when I’m dead in the grave.) I also went to two anti-Brexit marches, the second of which was attended by 700,000 people; an event I will never forget for the rest of my life.
Creatively for me it’s been the best year ever. I took over 1000 photographs between May and July, ran a dystopian series, blogged about Kindle eBooks, ducks and trees that look like Yggdrasil. Although I wish WordPress didn’t kill their Weekly Photo Challenge. That was not cool, guys.
So there it is, my 2018 end-of-year recap.
Raise your glasses for 2019 and let’s hope for the best.