When I did my Gloomscapes series two years ago, I never imagined we would soon be in the midst of our own dystopia. I expected some things, of course, with Brexit and Trump and the wave of right-wingery on one side and climate change on the other, but I never expected a pandemic. And now here we are.
Following the advice of staying at home and social distancing is for me, pretty much, just living my life as I do. I stay indoors and don’t go anywhere anyway, unless I take a trip for my photography and I don’t socialise. So I thought I would post some currently appropriate shots of my home. I put no quality in these, I basically just snapped them and uploaded to my computer.
I’m very much about Kindle books, as I blogged about before, so these physical books are from the time before eBooks started or titles that are not available in digital format. I’ve got some Game of Thrones characters figures, funko pops of Captain Marvel and Black Widow, a tiny model space shuttle and cats!
This is an older photo, as you can see more effort was put in it. This pile represents so many of my interests: Anne of Green Gables, Agatha Christie, history, maps, Star Trek, A Song of Ice and Fire and Sherlock Holmes!
Jaime Lannister with a catapult pencil sharpener from Chester and a tiny globe. The doll with the red braids is, of course, Anne Shirley.
The dog is called Snoopy and I’ve had him since 2003. Obviously I’m a cat person but Snoppy is special.
I’ve posted some of my Polaroids before, here they are again.
Elizabeth Gaskell House is in Plymouth Grove, Manchester and was a home of, obviously, Elizabeth Gaskell, the writer, who lived here between 1850 and 1865. After recently reading her book North and South, I thought I should go and see it, so I did.
And here’s the pics:
This is the study of William Gaskell, Elizabeth’s husband, a Unitarian minister, teacher and and all round remarkable person.
The drawing room:
Pictures on the wall in the drawing room. Portrait of Elizabeth on the left, the one on the right you may recognise as fellow Victorian author Charlotte Brontë , who was Elizabeth’s friend. After Charlotte’s death, Elizabeth wrote The Life of Charlotte Brontë, biography of Charlotte on request of Charlotte’s father Patrick Brontë. (My Haworth Parsonage post is here, if interested.)
The dining room:
Table in the dining room where Elizabeth did her writing work:
The contents of the house are not originals. Elizabeth and William had four daughters, two of whom never married and lived here till their death. The last one, Margaret, nicknamed Meta, died in 1913 and after that the house and its contents were sold. Later, the house was used as accommodation for students (Plymouth Grove is not far from the universities), until it was acquired by Manchester Historic Buildings Trust and reconstructed to look as much as possible as how it did during Elizabeth’s life.
The Gaskells used to have a lot of famous visitors, aside from Charlotte Brontë these included Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens and John Ruskin. You look at that nice tea set and think, hmmm, I bet there was a lot of tea spilt!
Here’s the link the Elizabeth Gaskell House website, which has all the info.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s books are all now in public domain so you can read them for free or download them from Gutenberg. I’ve only read North and South so far, it’s her most famous novel and it’s a fantastic story but… on my dears, 19th century literature is… well, 19th century literature. Why use two words when you can use twenty in a sentence, eh? I don’t think I’m ever going to not struggle with it *long sigh*. But in the case of North and South, it’s worth it. The 2004 miniseries is pretty good too and it’s on Netflix, so go check it out. (Also, Richard Armitage as the love interest Mr Thornton, need I say more?)
Have you read any Elizabeth Gaskell? Have you visited the house? Tell me in the comments!
Marple is a small town near Manchester. Its name may remind you of a certain old lady sleuth.
The town’s station embraces it 100%.
There is also this, on the other platform.
The poster lists all the ties Agatha Christie to the North. I’ve already covered Abney Hall on the blog.
This was the first time ever I visited Marple. I always thought it was a coincidence, but it turns out that Miss Marple’s name was indeed inspired by the town. I actually found out about the posters at the station from the Twitter account Agatha Christie in the North. And I found out about the Twitter account because they followed me after I tweeted something (I think it must have been that Abney Hall post–all my posts are automatically tweeted as soon as they’re published.) So really, it was me being a fan that helped me discover things related to the thing that I’m a fan of!
Although to be fair, I most likely would have gone to Marple at some point anyway.
I’ve never seen Anne of Green Gables series in printed format, she said.
She was looking in the wrong section.
The other day I was in Waterstones, an incredibly wonderful UK bookstore, which also sells stationery and other cool silly stuff. While I was paying at the till, for one reason or another (I don’t know where I get the urge to talk to people these days, I never used to be like that), I asked the checkout guy if they ever had Anne of Green Gables in stock. He searched the database and confirmed they did have it–in the children’s 9-12 years section.
You know how much Anne means to me. So yesterday when I was in Waterstones again, I went to check the said section and indeed, there it was. I picked the hardback, because when it comes to physical books, I prefer them to paperbacks.
This is the treasure.
Actually… a few days before I bought it, I was in Paperchase (a mega cool stationery shop) just browsing around and I saw this same edition. They don’t normally sell books, so I thought it was some hipster thing and didn’t pick it up and open it. So when I saw it at Waterstones, I was like, OMG it’s real!
Can I just say… okay, I know nothing about categorising books, but it doesn’t seem right to me to have the Anne series in the children’s section. Little Women gets to be with the classics, yet has a similar theme. Anne is also far more fun, far less patronising, has better characters and the right people end up coupled at the end; as opposed to wrong people marrying the wrong people in Little Women. Maybe I shouldn’t be bothered about it, because after all, there is nothing wrong with children’s books, but why can’t it be in both sections at once? I spent ages desperately looking for Anne when I came to UK, in libraries and bookshops. When I couldn’t find any LM Montgomery books here, I concluded that she wasn’t as popular here as in Slovakia (where her books certainly aren’t in the children’s section). I know you think I could have just asked the staff in library or a bookshop, but well, I didn’t. I have social anxiety for one and I hate asking for help and then, I used to feel stupid about liking certain things. Like, nobody cared about Anne anymore after they’d finished all the books and I was the only one who did. Also, I could not have been sure what the book was called in English. Green Gables is translated into “green house” in my language. I don’t think we even have a word for “gable”, Anne’s room in east gable is translated as “east attic room”. Different countries, different architecture styles.
For the inside the book shot, I chose this unforgettable chapter, in which Anne and her friends Diana, Jane and Ruby decide to play out Elaine (I believe it’s the poem The Lady of Shallot by Alfred Tennyson) in real life and Anne nearly drowns in a pond. After this, she makes a sensible decision to not be romantic again. “It was probably easy enough in towered Camelot hundreds of years ago, but romance is not appreciated now,” she says to Marilla. This however saddens Matthew and he tells her:
Don’t give up all your romance, Anne. A little of it is a good thing–not too much, of course–but keep a little of it, Anne, keep a little of it.
Dear, dear Matthew Cuthbert. We need more like him.
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 class 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 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 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 are 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!
So here they are, as promised in my previous post.
These pastures are right beyond the Haworth Parsonage and the church–there are several little paths that lead out on the moors.
I believe Top Withens, carved on the above sign, was Emily Brontë’s original inspiration for the setting of Wuthering Heights.
I wish I could have seen more of the moors, but I had to rush back to town to catch the bus. Yeah, literally I ran on the moors, though for much more practical and much less romantic reason than that I wish I were a girl, half savage and hardy and free. (Well, I am ever an indoors person.)
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.
I’ve always had hard time with Wuthering Heights. It was a struggle for me to read it in English (when Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall weren’t) and I don’t like the narrative style, though I can get past that. What really was the problem, as it is probably for many people, was that the book was promoted to me as romance–when it isn’t. It’s a story about revenge and cycles of abuse, as brilliantly explained in this Tumblr post. Once I understood that, I got it. And what I always liked, even before I knew all of this, was the ending and how Catherine the younger and Hareton get together. I have no doubt the first Catherine and Heathcliff loved each other, but they were both awful and hurt everyone around them. Whereas Catherine Jr and Hareton chose kindness in the end and they lived happily ever after. (And let’s not forget, in the 1998 adaptation Hareton is played by Matthew Macfadyen, who went on to play Mr Darcy in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice!)
After seeing the moors with my own eyes, I no longer wonder why Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights. How could she not?
My own video, made by smartphone.
You may have recongised the first line of this post, out on the wiley, windy moors, as the line not from the book, but from the 1978 song by the magnificent Kate Bush. I wonder, could this song be considered a musical version of fanfiction?
Fun fact: Kate Bush and Emily Brontë share the same birthday, 30th July.
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.
Today’s post is another attempt of mine at still-life photography. It also combines some of the things I like: coffee, croissant, Star Trek, one of my favourite music artists and, well, since I titled it A Saturday Morning, weekend.
If you look closely, if you can see it, you’ll notice the magazine is an April 2018 issue, which would make it a year old. I confess I’ve not actually read any of it, I only bought it because I loved the cover so much. Naomi Campbell and Skepta just look so gorgeous on it. It was the magazine that first gave me an idea of a photoshoot like this, but it took me a whole year to actually do it. For some reason I decided I must have a croissant there and the problem with me and croissants is that anytime I buy some, I have to eat them immediately, so by the time I remembered to take out my camera, they were gone.
I’m quite pleased with how the shot turned out in the end.