I’ve not been on my blog for a few days and so it passed me by that it was its birthday on 2nd September.
I get “dry” phases when I don’t post on my blog (because I don’t have anything to post, or I don’t know what to post or I’m too tired to post). This time around it’s not exactly the case as there is something I want to post about, only it’s more text-heavy so, as is ever the case with me and writing, it’s going to take me time to come up with the words.
Well that’s it, I don’t have anything else. Here’s my cat in a box:
Content warming – extreme grossness, though it’s probably too late if you’ve already seen the pic in the image preview.
I can’t for sure declare this was a prophecy, but I think it was, because what else could it have been?
I first saw this piece of street art on the very day of the Brexit referendum, 23 June 2016, at the Shudehill Metrolink stop. I remember the day quite clearly, I wasn’t at work because it was my week off (this was really lucky, though I didn’t book that week because of the referendum). I was going to Didsbury to take some pictures and saw the poster from the tram. Two days later I went to Shudehill to photograph it, though by then it was, obviously, too late. People didn’t heed the warning on the poster.
It seemed totally wild then. Boris Johnson was only an MP that campaigned for Brexit and Donald Trump only a candidate, who many people still believe would lose to Hillary Clinton.
I don’t know if I myself believed it, though I had a feeling things would turn out badly. But that’s not important now.
There was another one underneath.
He doesn’t even need that wrecking ball, he is one himself.
Election of the Members of the EU parliament, that is!
And this time around, I AM allowed to vote–and sure as hell I AM voting!
You may be astonished, shocked even. Are you telling me that EU is actually not unelected? Are you telling me I can vote for MEPs?
Why yes. How else do you think that horrible nicotine-riddled repulsive frog-face that shouts so much and whose initials are the same as National Front got that job? (I am not typing his name here because I refuse to soil my blog with it–not because he’s Voldemort. He wishes he was Voldemort, but he’s more like Uncle Vernon.) He also passionately loves that job, because why else would he lead such a loud campaign for his new party? Because he wants to get elected again so that he can still have the said job.
But forget about ugly fascists, that’s not why I’m here, I’m here to tell you to GO AND VOTE. If you don’t want Brexit, vote for a Remain party. (This would be Greens or Lib Dems in England.)
Something else I want to say now.
As I say in the linked post, I am–as an EU citizen–allowed to vote in local elections but not in general elections or referendums (yeah, that one that affects my life most, isn’t democracy great?) I am also allowed to vote in EU Parliament elections–but this was not so straight forward.
The way it works in UK is: you register to vote at your local electoral office. Every time you move house, you should do this, so that your address is up to date (also it helps with getting credit). Before an election takes place, you will receive a poll card, like the one on my picture. You don’t need to take this with you to vote, it’s just for information. Now, like lots of people, I never paid attention to any EU elections before 2016. I didn’t even know when they took place and were not on my radar. I was under the impression that I couldn’t vote in those either, because of something someone told me (someone who was either lying or didn’t know). I only found out I could because now I’m connected with other EU citizens in UK and activists through social media. And wouldn’t be connected to them if it wasn’t for Brexit, so ironically, it was Brexit that made me learn about my right to vote in EU parliament elections.
Why was it not so straight-forward, though? Well, because I had to register for EU Parliament elections separately from the usual register. Someone I follow on Twitter, a fellow EU citizen, tweeted a link to the necessary form. So I printed the form, filled it in and posted it to the electoral office. A few days later I received the form back, not the one I sent but a new one, same but with my details filled in by computer and with a barcode at the bottom. So I sighed, filled the fields I needed to fill in, signed it again and personally dropped it at the council offices in their mailbox, while out on a lunch break. I heard nothing from them. In the meantime, poll cards arrived for the other tenants in this house (I live in a house converted to flats with shared letterbox) but not for me (don’t you just love being excluded?) I felt so stressed about it that I rang the electoral office and they confirmed I was indeed registered. I was so relieved.
And my poll card eventually came.
The reason I write all of this is: why does it take grassroots activists for me to find out about my right? Why was I not informed about this?
And it’s not just me, I know the other EU citizens also didn’t know. Luckily groups like The3Million have been doing a great job raising awareness to get everyone registered. But it’s not their job to do so. The councils know if you’re an EU citizen. They know it well enough not to let you vote in general elections and referendums that may ruin your life. So they should know it well enough to inform you in time that you need to register separately for EU elections. The issue is not that there is a separate form for a separate register. I don’t mind filling in another form to get what I need. The issue is that we were never told about it.
Why is there a separate register for EU citizens to vote in EU Parliament elections? If I’m not mistaken it’s because the form is also a declaration that you are not also registered in another EU country, so you won’t vote twice, in two different countries. If you’re an EU citizen living in UK, you can vote either in your home country, or in UK, but not both. I get that.
Of course we don’t do that. That’s cheating and we don’t do cheating because that’s what bad guys do and we’re not bad guys, we’re good guys. For me it makes sense on every level to vote for UK MEPs. Like, I left Slovakia before it even was an EU country, I don’t even know how it works there and what parties there are. I don’t follow Slovak politics. I know they recently elected a woman for a President but I already forgot her name. (BTW, Slovakia is a parliamentary democracy and the Prime Minister has bigger power than a President.) Point is, I want to vote for UK representatives.
How it should work, in my opinion is: electoral offices should send every EU citizen who is registered to vote a letter some time before EU Parliament elections, informing them that they are eligible to vote either in their home country or in UK, but not in both and that if they wish to vote in UK, to complete the enclosed form. Simple.
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!