October 2021

It was a Sunday and I decided it was time I gave my camera a good workout. I have been using my smartphone only to such an extent that I wonder if my Canon thinks I don’t love it anymore. This story here I wrote in January is no fiction, it really happened. Autumn is the time I enjoy taking pictures most, this blog was started on the second day of September in 2015. So, workout the camera got and here are the results:

The leaves have only just begun to turn so I hope there will still be more!

Home 2

Well, it’s been a while–and a long one at that–since I took part in a challenge on Some Photoblog!

Almost exactly two years ago, I posted an entry Home, hence the number 2 in today’s title. I had in my mind an idea of the comfort and cosiness of home, the warmth and blankets and cups of hot coffee or tea, the snug leisure wear, that sort of thing. As the days shorten and weather gets colder (in the Northern Hemisphere, of course!), this is appreciated even more.

I also made “home” a tag on my blog, although it only features a few posts so far.

A letter addressed to Poirot’s home, Whitehaven Mansions in London

Hercule Poirot, one of my favourite fictional characters ever, liked being at home–he was definitely not an outdoors person. Quite a contrast to your traditional English country squire, fond of sports and hunting!

My Amazon Prime app opened in my phone, showing my purchased films, all starring my favourite actor and celebrity crush Sam Claflin

I’m very much like Poirot in this, though I do like to take my walks and photograph the outdoors. Staying in and watching movies or TV shows on streaming is how I spend a lot of my free time. I have three streaming services, so there’s always something good to pick. I like a lot of stuff of various genres.

“You were saying?”

My home is not only a home for me, it is also where my cat Pepper lives. She doesn’t go anywhere else–she’s an indoor cat, and no doubt she considers herself the boss around here!

There is a lot I could write about the subject of home, with regards to immigration, for example (where is home, really?) but I’ve talked about it enough and I’m tired. So, I’ll end it here.

For the Weekly Prompts Weekend Challenge – Home. I have enjoyed this, I will try to participate more often!

Halifax, West Yorkshire

Following on from the Shibden Hall post, the actual town of Halifax deserves its own entry too. So here it is.

The Minster:

The Minster inside:

Flowers growing outside the Minster:

Hill outside the town:

Shopping street:

Sign on the shopping street:

Some house I thought looked nice:

Fun fact: Halifax is also a bank, so if you’re in UK and Google it, you’re more likely to see results for the bank first, before you get to results for the town. It’s understandable; the bank is one of the largest ones here, with branches all over the country, and the town is not that big, nestled between the giants of Manchester and Leeds.

There is also, of course, the one in Nova Scotia in Canada. I knew about the Nova Scotia one before I ever knew there was one in England. That is because I started reading Lucy Maud Montgomery books long before I moved to England. I learned a bit about Canadian geography from reading L.M. Montgomery. She studied at the Dalhousie University in the Canadian Halifax.

Shibden Hall, Halifax

Shibden Hall is an estate in Halifax, West Yorkshire, that used to be residence of the Lister family, and is now a museum.

I visited the place and, naturally, this is the pics:

The diarist Anne Lister lived at Shibden Hall.

I took many, many photos here and it was a struggle to pick ones for the blog. Here’s some of the rooms:

fireplace in the kitchen
the study
portrait of Anne Lister, attributed to Joshua Horner
spill the tea!
Anne’s bed

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.

Agatha Christie

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:

I have rearranged them since

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.

that chocolate is Belgian chocolate, of course!

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!


Check out my other Agatha Christie posts.

Good people of WordPress, any of you a fan?

Star Trek!

It’s one of my most favourite things to exist.

Star Trek has had several mentions on Some Photoblog, but no dedicated post yet.

small model of Captain Kirk’s Enterprise

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.

The famous scene from The Wrath of Khan (screenshots from YouTube)

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.)

collection of special stamps released by Royal Mail

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.

Happy 55th Anniversary, Star Trek!

Mysteries For Summer

A quick and lazy still life today, featuring the new collection of short stories by Agatha Christie. To complement previously released Midwinter Mysteries, the stories in this collection all centre on summer.

To emphasise, the stories are not new, they’ve all been released before as part of different collections.

It would have been better had the book been released on actual midsummer, but it wasn’t so. A missed chance, I say.

Is The Only Way Up?

Some Photoblog

Optimism

noun

  • hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something
my local park, smartphone shot

I’ve never thought about whether I’m an optimist or a pessimist. I’ve never called myself either. I may say that I feel optimistic or pessimistic about a particular situation, but that’s as far as it goes.

Prestwich Clough (Manchester), Canon DSLR

Maybe it means I’m a realist? I don’t know.

Lyme Park (Cheshire), Canon DSLR

I know I have anxiety, so to me the future seems terrifying at the best of times.

way from Hebden Bridge to Heptonstall (West Yorkshire), Canon DSLR

These shots are all aiming up, not down. But then again, it’s easier to take a picture that way.

tower steps in York Minster, smartphone shot

One thing is sure and that is that walking uphill (or up the stairs) is a good exercise!

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Is The Only Way Up?

Optimism

noun

  • hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something
my local park, smartphone shot

I’ve never thought about whether I’m an optimist or a pessimist. I’ve never called myself either. I may say that I feel optimistic or pessimistic about a particular situation, but that’s as far as it goes.

Prestwich Clough (Manchester), Canon DSLR

Maybe it means I’m a realist? I don’t know.

Lyme Park (Cheshire), Canon DSLR

I know I have anxiety, so to me the future seems terrifying at the best of times.

way from Hebden Bridge to Heptonstall (West Yorkshire), Canon DSLR

These shots are all aiming up, not down. But then again, it’s easier to take a picture that way.

tower steps in York Minster, smartphone shot

One thing is sure and that is that walking uphill (or up the stairs) is a good exercise!