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!

The Sam Claflin Appreciation Post

Today I’m doing something a little bit different from my usual forte, because today, my dear friends, I dedicate a post of my blog to the beautiful and talented British actor Sam Claflin.

Sam is probably best known for playing Finnick in The Hunger Games movies, but other than that, he mostly flies under the radar. Which results in people who take a deeper dive into his filmography emerging with: “OMG, WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT THIS GUY??? He has the range!”

That’s what I’m here for!

Link to Sam’s IMDb page.

Finnick card from Etsy

Sam Claflin

  • actor
  • also known for his dimples
one of the most beautiful smiles in showbusiness

I’ve been racking my brains for months, but I cannot for the life of me remember how I first got to know him. It was definitely a case of knowing the name before seeing any of his movies, most likely in connection with The Hunger Games sequels. I remember Catching Fire being on TV once, but not deeming it essential, I didn’t bother watching it, though I vaguely recall just having it on as a background. I think it was the Snow White and the Huntsman movie I saw him in first, and I went to see My Cousin Rachel in the cinemas when it was out. And although I appreciated his outing on Peaky Blinders, it wasn’t until summer last year that I finally discovered all of his talents.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that IMDb ratings don’t mean shit.

So, onto the actual post. I tried to avoid as many spoilers as possible. Although… spoiler for everything, his characters have a habit of not being alive at the end, but I maintain that even if you’re aware of this fact, the films are still worth watching, end of spoiler for everything.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) and Part 2 (2015), directed by Francis Lawrence

I’ll start with the most obvious one. Catching Fire is the second instalment in The Hunger Games series, the movies adapted from books by Suzanne Collins. Sam plays Finnick Odair, victor of 64th Games from District 4 and a tribute in the Quarter Quell, alongside the main heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). No other actor could have done a better job portraying Finnick. He captured his arrogance, but also his vulnerability, brilliantly. Finnick appears to be a playboy at the beginning, your typical boyband member/underwear model type (and he’s blond and has an American accent!), until we learn what he had to go through after his victory in the Games, and how deep his love for Annie is.

I have a very difficult and very complicated relationship with The Hunger Games. I found the last book, Mockingjay, especially painful, and the ending made me want to throw my Kindle against the wall, so you understand why I didn’t bother with the movies. Then I got into Sam, and the movies happened to be available on Amazon Prime at the time, so I decided to give Catching Fire a go. Luckily my conflicted feelings have nothing to do with Finnick, who is, together with Johanna Mason, my favourite character. Aside from the fact where he, you know, dies. With that at least I’m not on my own–Finnick is a popular character and majority of the fandom is unhappy about his death. They should have made a change from the books and have him survive, the movies would then have something going for them. When it comes to that, they should have changed a lot about Mockingjay, and dividing a book where you expect revolution to happen, but get “Peeta-Peeta-Peeta waah-waah-waah” instead, is not the best of ideas. I never watched the second Mockingjay and only fast-forwarded through the first one for the Finnick scenes. It’s surprising how little he’s in it. He has two conversations with Katniss, and towards the end he’s recording the video where he talks about his experiences post-victory, but even here the camera keeps switching to Katniss’s dumb, open-mouthed face.

Catching Fire has 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the highest of all THG films, and it’s also the one with most Sam Claflin. NOT a coincidence! The soundtrack is also sick and happens to feature my favourite band, Imagine Dragons. (Spotify link here.)

Their Finest (2016), directed by Lone Scherfig

Now onto some quality! A drama with some comedy and romance mixed in, Their Finest takes place during WW2. The main character is a young screenwriter, played by Gemma Arterton, who joins the production crew of a propaganda movie for the Ministry of Information–yes, this is a movie about a movie! Sam is Tom Buckley, a fellow screenwriter, who hires her to write “slop”, as he calls it, meaning “girl talk”. The film they’re working on is about Dunkirk evacuation (of course it is…).

The cast is phenomenal; there’s Bill Nighy, Richard E Grant, Rachael Stirling, as well as Paul Ritter and the great Helen McCrory, both of whom have sadly passed away this April.

Their Finest is hilarious at times, but poignant too. Buckley has a bit of an ego on him, but he’s likeable. He and Catrin (Gemma’s character) banter a lot, but you can see they begin to truly care about each other. They have great chemistry.

how cute is he in glasses?

Why do you think that people like films? It’s because stories are structured; have a shape, a purpose, a meaning; and when things gone bad they’re still a part of a plan; there’s a point to them. Unlike life.

Buckley, Their Finest

Churchill is only name-dropped once.

More importantly, we have a lesbian character (the one played by Rachael Stirling), who is alive at the end.

This is also rated 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the second time Sam has worked with Lone Scherfig.

Journey’s End (2018), directed by Saul Dibb

While Their Finest is set during WW2, Journey’s End is set during WW1. This one is an actual war movie, adapted from the play by RC Sherriff, yet it’s not your typical war movie. Because in this one, it doesn’t matter whether they’re allies or Germans–it’s all about the life in the trenches, and the effects of it on the soldiers. Don’t expect much military action.

Sam plays Captain Stanhope, who leads the company of soldiers when it’s their turn to spend six days at the dugout near St Quentin in northern France. They expect a big German offensive is coming, they just don’t know when, so nobody has any idea which men will be in the trenches at the time they attack. (History note: it’s the Operation Michael on 21 March 1918). A young, naïve, still idealistic officer Jimmy Raleigh (the young talent Asa Butterfield) requests to join Stanhope’s company, as he knows him from back home; they used to play rugby together and his older sister Margaret is engaged to Stanhope. As the General’s nephew, he gets his wish, but he’s not prepared for how much the war has changed Stanhope.

This is truly an outstanding performance by Sam. Mentally shot to pieces and almost an alcoholic, Stanhope is not exactly thrilled to come face to face with an old friend in this state. Especially as the said friend would doubtless report everything to Margaret. When Raleigh arrives, his reaction is a literal “Shit!”

My favourite scene is Lieutenant Osborne (Paul Bettany), tucking Stanhope into bed. Osborne acts like a father-figure to the men, they call him Uncle. Here’s a collage of my screenshots of that scene–it’s very dark, which is the general feel of the movie:

The only thing missing is a bedtime story. As a matter of fact, Osborne was reading Alice in Wonderland in the opening scene, shame they didn’t add that!

It’s a really moving film that hits right in the feels. Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 91%.

There are no women in this movie, apart from Margaret reading a letter from her brother at the very end, though she has no lines. In this case it really doesn’t matter. Stanhope carried her photograph on him at all times, and didn’t want her to know what’s become of him.

My Cousin Rachel (2017), directed by Roger Michell

The best Daphne du Maurier adaptation in recent years.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I saw this on the big screen when it was released, because I like the book. (It was out around the same time as Wonder Woman, which everyone was hyping about, but I went to watch My Cousin Rachel instead. My most favourite book of all time, Rebecca, is, of course, by the same author.) The titular Rachel is played by Rachel Weisz, with Sam in the role of the narrator Philip Ashley. He actually has a double role here, he also plays Ambrose, though that’s only for a couple of scenes at the beginning without any lines. Iain Glen is Nick Kendall, Philip’s godfather and legal guardian, and Holliday Grainger is his daughter and Philip’s childhood friend Louise. Everyone is good in this and everything is good in this. Roger Michell knows his stuff.

In one interview, Sam correctly referred to My Cousin Rachel as gothic thriller, and gothic thriller it is. (Same as Rebecca. NOT a romance.) If you’ve read the book you know that Philip swears revenge on Rachel, whom he blames for the death of Ambrose, his closest person, only to fall head over heels in love with her when he meets her. It’s a very ambiguous story, and we’re not given any answers at the end. The film sticks pretty close to the book, any changes are minimal. There’s only one major difference and that’s at the end, with an added epilogue, which does not really contradict anything from the book. Sam did a great job with Philip, who starts out as completely clueless about women, almost loses his mind, and ends it in some dark places. His misogyny is only a result of his upbringing by Ambrose, a woman hater that wouldn’t even allow female dogs in his house. It’s really Rachel Weisz that steals the show, as she’s supposed to. Daphne du Maurier was a master with her intriguing female characters whose names start with R!

Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, bluebells. This is the perfect picture. Everyone else go home.

Above screenshots are an example of a change from the book–in the book it was primroses, not bluebells.

Rotten Tomatoes rates My Cousin Rachel at 76%. Compare it to 2020 version of Rebecca on Netflix, which completely missed the point of the story, but got a bigger hype, so more people know about it.

The Nightingale (2018), directed by Jennifer Kent

All the trigger warnings apply–this is not a joke!

The Nightingale is set in 1825 in Tasmania. This is the story of Clare, a young Irish convict (Aisling Franciosi), who pursues British officer Hawkins (Sam) through the wilderness, to avenge her family. This is Sam as a villain, and truly a despicable one he is. He likes having the power over those below him. And that’s precisely it, it’s by playing a villain that actors showcase their true talent. Anyone can play a love interest in a romcom, but not anyone can sell a villain. Sam does.

Bad Sam!

Heads-up, this movie is really violent. Multiple rapes and a murder of a baby happen. You can guess why Clare is on her quest for revenge. She recruits a native tracker Billy, played by Baykali Ganambarr, to help her get Hawkins. Clare, although a survivor of terrible violence, is not exactly without prejudices, she calls Billy “boy”. As the movie progresses, she starts to look at him as a human being. We see more examples of trauma caused by colonialism too. A hard to watch film, but important.

You might know Aisling Franciosi from her total of five minutes on Game of Thrones as Lyanna Stark. Personally I care nothing for Lyanna (Team Elia Martell). It’s not relevant to anything in this post, I’m just saying. Anyway, The Nightingale was an opportunity to flex her acting skills, and flex them she did, and she deserves all the praise for it. So does Baykali.

Rotten Tomatoes rating is 86%.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), directed by Rob Marshall

This one got a mention on Some Photoblog before.

No complicated feelings for this franchise! Pirates of the Caribbean is my second favourite cinematic universe. The first is Marvel. There’s all the good stuff: adventure, action, humour, horror, romance–and good romance at that. Sam appears in the fourth instalment of the franchise, his first big movie (prior to that he starred in TV mini series only). He plays Philip Swift, a missionary captured by Blackbeard (Ian McShane). The first time we see him, he’s tied to a mast of Blackbeard’s ship. As mutiny breaks out, Jack Sparrow and another pirate go to untie him, and Salaman, the other pirate, tells him he’s either with them or against them, upon which Philip responds: “I’m not with you, neither am I against you.”

Salaman to Jack: Can he do that?

Jack Sparrow: He’s religious, I believe it’s required.

Sam’s first scene in his first major movie was with the legend that is Johnny Depp*–not a bad start!

The pirates are on a quest for the Fountain of Youth, which guarantees the drinker eternal youth. But they also need a mermaid’s tear, so they go on a hunt for a mermaid. Mermaids in this universe are malevolent creatures (or it depends how you look at it, if they lure men to their deaths, I say good for them), but nevertheless they manage to capture one, with the help of Philip. He regrets this almost immediately and spends the rest of the movie protecting her, and names her Syrena. She’s played by Astrid Berges-Frisbey.

I’ve never been one for any characters of religion, but between Philip Swift and the Hot Priest from Fleabag, I might just change my mind. Philip is a modest man of God, who believes everyone’s soul can be saved. The way he protects Syrena gives me all the feels. She falls for him too.

This is Sam’s cutest love story.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this one is irrelevant. What do they know?

Okay, well, for consistency, it’s 33%. Out of all the POTC movies, it can be objectively said On Stranger Tides is the weakest, but Philip and Syrena’s storyline is the best thing about it. And there’s always fun in swashbuckling action. What a great way to start a film career!

*Some Photoblog loves and supports Johnny Depp

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), directed by Rupert Sanders

A dark retelling of the classic tale of Snow White. You know the story, the evil queen, here named Ravenna (Charlize Theron), wants Snow White (Kristen Stewart) dead and orders the huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth) to bring her back Snow White’s heart as a proof. The huntsman saves her instead and, with the help of the seven dwarves, they set off to take Ravenna down. Sam plays William, a childhood friend of Snow White and a duke’s son. For years he believed Snow White was dead, but when he hears she’s still alive, he rides off to save her without a moment of hesitation. He joins the bad guys, pretending to be one of them. And he’s very skilful with a bow and an arrow.

The film is okay, a bit uneven, and it’s not clear who is actually supposed to be Snow White’s love interest, Eric or William. I ship Snow White with William, of course, and we know from the sequel, The Huntsman: Winter’s War that they got together. A son of a duke is a better choice for a queen than a huntsman, in any case.

But they don’t fight for her, the two men actually become friends.

wet hair and still looks good

The dwarves are also funny. And the movie is nice to look at. Every time I see it’s on TV, I always leave it on. I like it.

People like to give Kristen Stewart shit, but I don’t.

49% from Rotten Tomatoes.

As for the sequel, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Sam is only there for one single scene, where he talks to Eric. There’s not much to say about that one.

Sam has worked with both Hemsworth brothers–Liam plays Gale in THG.

photograph from Observer photoshoot

Adrift (2018), directed by Baltasar Kormakur

Survival drama, based on a true story.

Shailene Woodley plays Tami Oldham (now Tami Oldham Ashcraft), a sailor who spent 41 days adrift in the Pacific. Sam is Richard Sharp, her fiancé. Tami arrives to Tahiti as part of her travels, where she meets Richard, a sailing enthusiast and they fall in love. They sail off on Richard’s friends’ boat on a voyage to San Diego, but get caught in hurricane Raymond. Tami finds herself alone, in the middle of the ocean, without a working navigation system.

Tami and Richard’s romance is so… wholesome. There is a scene where he proposes to her aboard. I’m not normally a fan of proposals, the whole going-down-on-one-knee-with-a-ring thing makes me cringe. So if I tell you I like this one, that means something. Spoiler, but not really as it’s a real story, Richard Sharp was unfortunately swept overboard and never found. Tami, though, still sails to this day.

A moving, inspiring film.

Rotten Tomatoes rating is 69%.

Enola Holmes (2020), directed by Harry Bradbeer

Oh dear. This one gave me such a hard time, it took me all of six months to figure out how to deal with its very existence.

Look at the picture below. The man on the right is Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes. Who is the man on the left?

“What are we doing in this movie, Sam?”

I’m going to assume, if you haven’t seen Enola Holmes, that your answer was Watson. He looks like Watson, and he should have been Watson. But no, he’s Mycroft. (Who’s supposed to be seven years older than Sherlock. Sam is three years younger than Henry.) Please be aware that this is NOT a canon Mycroft, as we know him from Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. He has nothing in common with the real Mycroft, apart from his job at the government. His deduction skills, which are superior to Sherlock’s, have been completely erased. This Mycroft is a one-dimensional, conservative cartoon villain, complete with cartoon villain moustache. This change was needed for the sake of an original character, a teenage sister of the Holmeses, the titular Enola. She’s smarter than her brothers, because the narrative wants to her to be so. This butchered version of Mycroft was necessary to provide conflict for the original teenage heroine.

This is the reason why I dedicated a paragraph in my Sherlock Holmes post to Mycroft. It was important to me to put the truth out there.

Okay. Listen. What they did to Sam’s look here was criminal. From the above image you can’t see it, it’s the pic I took of my TV screen, and I wouldn’t post it here if you could see it, and I’m not posting any screenshots. Look it up. I remember seeing a tweet that went along the lines of: “did they have to press Sam’s hair like that? and did he have to have such a moustache?” Sure, you can dismiss the tweeter as being shallow, but they had a point. Because you cannot make a genuinely handsome guy ugly. (Unless you’re, like, using prosthetics to turn him into an alien or a supernatural monster or something of that kind.) You can let him grow any horrible moustache, style any idiot haircuts you can think of. That perfect bone structure is still there. The dimples are still there. Also, he has beautiful lips. What it results in, is that it makes him just look ridiculous.

Sam has a moustache in two of his best movies, Journey’s End and Their Finest. That is fine. In The Nightingale, where he plays a horrible person, he has sideburns. He didn’t need any villain moustache for that, his evilness was clear from his actions. It’s not the fact that he has a moustache in Enola that I object to. It’s the cartoonish-ness of it.

Henry Cavill fans got the better of it–his Sherlock serves as pure eye candy. He doesn’t do much Sherlocking, he’s there to look pretty with his wild curls. A look that Benedict Cumberbatch mastered ten years before. That’s not a slight against Henry, btw. I liked him in The Witcher. It’s the writing.

This film didn’t need to be part of Sherlock universe at all, anyway. It should have been a story of a young girl’s adventure, hampered by a strict uncle–Mycroft character behaved more like an uncle, these guys don’t even have a sibling dynamic. (Trust me. I have siblings.) I wouldn’t have anything against that. But that would not have generated as much attention as Sherlock pastiche, eh?

Enola Holmes has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That kid has some strong connections.

A note on that social issues raised in this film: look, I get it. But it’s not that hard to insert some wokery into your fiction. I’ve done it myself. And I’m here for the feminist retelling of literally anything. God is a woman. I’m the biggest supporter of the madwoman in the attic. But Sherlock-verse doesn’t need to be a place for this, because Sherlock Holmes is not a misogynist. It’s the adaptations that give this misconception. Remember that Irene Adler outsmarted him!

The Riot Club (2014), directed by Lone Scherfig

This one made me feel unsettled.

Adapted from the play Posh by Laura Wade, it’s the story of two freshmen at Oxford University, who join this infamous club. An all-male elite dining club, members must be from private schools and rich. It’s based on real life Bullingdon Club, past members of which include former Prime Minister David Cameron, former Chancellor George Osborne and our current Prime Minister Boris Johnson (sigh). The way the club operates is: they book a table at a restaurant, trash the place, and then give a cheque to the owner to cover the damages.

No wonder we’re in such mess.

Sam and Max Irons play the new members. Sam’s character is called Alistair Ryle, and he’s a spoiled brat who hates poor people. Max’s character Miles is down to earth, and ends up disgusted with the practices of the club. He comes out of it much better.

at least the actors are better looking than the members of the real Bullingdon Club

I like a good villain, but not this type. It’s Draco Malfoy of the first five Harry Potter books, more or less. (I started liking Draco in the sixth book, after he used the body-freezing spell on Harry on the Hogwarts Express, and covered him with the invisibility cloak. I thought, yeah, finally you’re actually doing something, instead of running to hide under your parents’ skirts, and informing on your schoolmates to Dolores Umbridge. You get what I mean.) The reason the movie left me unsettled is because it can’t decide what it is. At the beginning, it seems like a comedy–we see how the club was established in the 18th century and a lord catching his wife getting jiggy with another man. Then we’re in the present, and the feel is like a contemporary drama. Alistair initially starts out as a sympathetic character, he even gets robbed while getting money out of a cash machine. (Also, I think he may have been autistic.) But then we find out he’s very much not. But, as ever, great acting from Sam.

I will say something in favour of the movie, though. Despite it focusing on an all male club, there are female characters, and they’re quite well developed, considering the limited time they get on screen. There’s Max’s girlfriend Lauren (Holliday Grainger), who takes no shit from him, or any of the posh boys. There’s the daughter of the pub landlord, in whose establishment the second half of the movie takes place. Even Natalie Dormer in a cameo as a sex worker. She flatly refuses their demands of being done by all of them under the table, and leaves. The director is a woman.

Lone Scherfig also directed the above mentioned Their Finest. She’s Danish, in case you wanted to know.

It’s got 67% on Rotten Tomatoes.

United (2011), directed by James Strong

I thought I’d give this one a quick mention.

In February 1958, on its third attempt at take-off, British European Airways Flight 609 crashed in Munich. It was carrying the Manchester United football team. Eight players lost their lives. The film is about this sad event, and how the team overcame the tragedy. Sam has the role of Duncan Edwards, one of the footballers who died (typical). He didn’t die at the place of the crash, but later in the hospital.

So, obviously, this is of interest mostly to football fans, but there wasn’t much of the sport itself. We do get to see Sam kicking the ball a bit. Sam likes football in real life, he did Soccer Aid in 2019.

in the present, the shirts are covered with logos of the sponsors

After one victorious game, the teams goes to a bar to celebrate, and Duncan advises newly signed Bobby Charlton (Jack O’Connell) to tell girls that he’s a plumber or an electrician, instead of a footballer. Because they only earn £15/week and their career is over by 30. How times have changed!

There is no rating on Rotten Tomatoes for this film. Probably because it’s not very well known.

I live in Manchester, but I have no interest in football. Still, it was a nice movie.

Every Breath You Take (2021), directed by Vaughn Stein

The latest of Sam’s movies, as of June 2021. You can tell from the title that it’s a psychological thriller. It’s not really much, very predictable, not helped by the fact that the trailer gave most of it away. I also easily guessed the final twist.

In the main role is Casey Affleck as a psychiatrist, whose client commits suicide. James, the brother of the dead girl, played by Sam, befriends his family–and thus trouble starts. He seduces the psychiatrist’s daughter, and also sleeps with his wife. James is the type of baddie I like seeing Sam play. He’s also the one who does most of the acting in this movie. Casey Affleck looks bored throughout, and the wife, Michelle Monaghan, is not given enough to do. As a psycho thriller, it’s very unoriginal, in parts even nonsensical in this age of internet and Google. Yet, for Sam’s sake, it’s worth seeing.

I made a better film out of it in my head–and that was before I even watched it!

The Rotten Tomatoes rating keeps changing still, but it’s around 20%.

What a missed opportunity.

Love Wedding Repeat (2020), directed by Dean Craig

One romcom, for the sake of variety. Could have been better if it lost the male anatomy jokes.

Seriously, it’s 2021, can we be done with the dirty jokes now, please?

Love Wedding Repeat takes place at a wedding. But it isn’t until halfway through that we find out there are multiple versions of the day. Don’t get fooled, though, it’s no Groundhog Day. Eleanor Tomlinson plays the bride, Sam is her brother. Aside from making sure the wedding goes smoothly, he also has to deal with an ex-girlfriend, who is one of the guests, the bride’s former boyfriend, who is not over her, and a misplaced sedative, while also trying to get the girl. He gets a lot to do, and what I liked was how he tried to be helpful to everyone. That doesn’t leave him much time for his own love life, which results in his love interest, played by Olivia Munn, sort of just standing around. She could have had an interesting story of her own, she’s a high flying journalist. At least she gets to wear a pretty dress.

Eh, whatever. There’s worse romcoms.

35% from Rotten Tomatoes.

The Corrupted (2019), directed by Ron Scalpello

Two Claflins for the price of one!

Sam’s younger brother Joe Claflin is an actor too; he appeared on Game of Thrones, the Watchers on the Wall episode (S4 E9). Here he plays Sean, brother of Sam’s character Liam. Brothers play brothers in this crime thriller.

Claflin Clan?

Liam is released from prison, determined to get his life back on track, and to reunite with his girlfriend and son. He gets tangled up in conspiracy and corruption. The caption at the beginning says “based on true events”. It’s to do with London’s Olympics bid, but I’m not sure what’s going on. The film has a decent idea, but the execution is a bit… unimpressive. I liked Sam’s character–showing his range again–and I liked the relationship with his girlfriend (Naomi Ackie). Although at first she is cautious–understandably so, as he’s just out of jail–they do reunite, and live as a family at the end. (Spoiler, but who cares.) Plus, we get Sam in a boxing ring!

Naomi Ackie appeared on Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker as Jannah. When I was watching TROS, it occurred to me that she could be a lost sister of Finn, John Boyega’s character. It seems this theory is shared by some of the fans. I’m not invested in the Star Wars fandom enough to check all the details are correct, so as far as I go, that is my headcanon.

Rotten Tomatoes gives it 30%.

Peaky Blinders (2013-), created by Steven Knight

Oh yes!

Sam does more films than TV, but he did appear on one of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows of the last decade, Peaky Blinders. He stars in Season 5 as a villain, and a juicy one–Oswald Mosley, a real life politician and member of Parliament, who became the leader of British fascists. Nasty stuff.

they showed him entering Tommy’s office in slow motion

Mosley butts heads with Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy), who was elected MP at the end of Season 4.

This is another fantastic performance by Sam, one of his best. Mosley rhetoric was abhorrent, but it was appealing to some sections of the population. We see this happening in our times too. We do indeed.

Manchester is one of the filming locations for Peaky Blinders, I posted pictures of the sets I went to see in February.

Sam will be back as Mosley in Season 6, which will be the last of the series. They’ve now wrapped up the filming and it should be on next year. I sure am looking forward!

Barbour winter photoshoot, from GQ magazine issue November 2020, UK edition

Of course, this is not the complete Sam Claflin’s filmography. These are just the films I thought were worth talking about.

So, what to conclude then, other than that I look forward to see Sam in his future projects. The next one is Daisy Jones & The Six, an adaptation of the book of the same name by Taylor Jenkins Reid, about the rise and fall of a band. Hopefully they should soon start filming, the pandemic has delayed it twice already.

Well, I hope those of you who have lasted till the end enjoyed this post and I hope you give some of Sam’s movies a watch.

And best of luck to Sam Claflin!


About the photos in this post: the captions should be self-explanatory. Screenshots are from trailers on YouTube. Journey’s End screeenshots are from my Amazon account.

Hostile Environment

Greetings, good citizens, today I offer you another piece of work from Manchester Art Gallery.

The label first:

The work the artists sent:

Link to Tentative Collective.

Manchester Art Gallery were no doubt relieved the immigration officer was satisfied that they were in a position to pay for the artist’s travel and accommodation!

This is an example of Hostile Environment. What is a Hostile Environment? It is a set of policies to make life in the UK difficult for immigrants so that they rather leave on their own accord. It turns doctors, landlords, teachers, banks, etc into immigration officers. It intimidates, bullies, separates families, and also probably kicks kittens and puppies.

I only made up the kittens and puppies part–please note that the rest of it is all true.

The Hostile Environment was introduced by then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2012. (The same Theresa May that later became Prime Minister, only to be replaced by the current clown.) “The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants,” was how she put it. On first glance, it might be tempting to agree with her, illegal immigrants are bad, you think. Legal immigrants are okay. Ah, but you see, once someone has the power to wave a magic wand, or snap their fingers like Thanos, and turn legal immigrants into illegal, what’s there to stop them?

image credit: New European

I was always afraid of the Hostile Environment, and it always worried me; it didn’t matter that I was not a subject to it. The immigrant hate, which I observed almost right from the moment I arrived to UK, had always made me feel uneasy. I don’t like hate. I mean, this type of hate, towards groups; I hate plenty of people and things myself but that is more personal and I don’t engage in any activity that would harm the people and things I hate. An example of a person I hate is the afore mentioned Theresa May, against whom I am powerless. The immigration van on the above picture, May’s own idea, should make anyone shudder. I mean, that is some horror movie stuff.

And yet–

a question I used to be asked during May’s premiership

Oh I don’t know, because I can think beyond myself?

Only she knows which option she ticked on the ballot. It’s irrelevant anyhow, she was the one to trigger Article 50 without any plan, she was the one to insist on leaving the single market and customs union, but I digress, this post is not about Brexit, it is about Hostile Environment.

The biggest victims of Hostile Environment were the Windrush generation. Whatever I say about them will not do them justice, so I’ll just leave a link to the Wikipedia article, which explains all in detail. The Windrush scandal has been covered by Amelia Gentleman, a Guardian journalist, from the beginning; she even wrote a book about it. It took long months before the rest of the media caught up and even by now, I don’t think many of the general public realise how bad it really is. I’m sure they just think it was a glitch, unnecessary bureaucracy or incompetence. They have no idea that it’s like that on purpose, that it is a very calculated system of psychological warfare. The present Home Secretary is Priti Patel, a vile, nasty, violent sociopathic bully, who is also hideous to boot, and has a permanent disgusting smirk on her ugly face. (Image Google her by all means, I’m not soiling my blog with her gross presence.) She herself is a daughter of immigrants, but hypocrisy is only a mild offence compared to her other traits. If the reincarnation theory is correct, then she is a reincarnated concentration camp guard. Maybe even Heinrich Himmler himself (side note, Himmler served as a Minister for the Interior, i.e. the same thing as Home Secretary).

The artists in my photo example are Pakistanis, the Windrush are of Caribbean origin, but I have read stories from white Australians and Canadians who were also caught up in the Hostile Environment. And now, of course, with Brexit and the ending of free movement, it applies to EU citizens. It has started already, people are being stopped at airports and thrown into detention centres. Post-Brexit rules allow travel without visas, but border officials have wide powers to exclude visitors. They also, like the writer of the letter in my gallery photos, must have felt “not satisfied”.

And this was the “good Europeans”, you know, Germans and the French and Italians, not “bad Europeans” like me, of former Communist bloc. What chance do the rest have? As for us, already here, the new “settled status” (I hate that name) is digital only, we have no physical proof of residency. When a situation occurs where we have to prove our right to stay, we can only hope that the system won’t be down. Otherwise, bad luck!

The Hostile Environment is not bad now because it affects white Western Europeans, it has always been bad. The only thing I can hope comes from this is that once people see it, they will realise the awfulness, precisely because it now affects white Western Europeans. Because that’s not a group you expect to have problems at the border, if you understand what I mean. It won’t be known for a while, as so far the only media that is covering it is Guardian, which, unfortunately, gets dismissed by too many as “leftist”, “socialist”, “liberal elite” paper. (But it’s okay for Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph to spread hate and incorrect information.) What can you do.

But why this obsession over immigration?

That, my friend, nobody can answer.

BIOS

  • basic input/output system, a set of computer instructions in firmware which control input and output operations
  • British Immigration Obsession Syndrome

Read more here.

A Work Of Art

Following on from my previous post, here is another piece from Manchester Art Gallery.

This is the painting Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse. It hangs quite high up, hence the awkward angle:

John William Waterhouse was an English painter of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and Hylas and the Nymphs is one of his most famous works. This is the gallery’s label:

(Look, I don’t know. Maybe the nymphs were just like: dude, you’re trespassing. It doesn’t have to be that deep. Waterhouse can hardly be blamed for some femme fatale shit, when it’s a story from Greek mythology. Also, I like Pre-Raphaelites. I like nice things. I’m a visual person.)

The image below is a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth film in the series, released in 2011, directed by Rob Marshall:

image credit: IMDb

Okay, I admit you have to squint a bit, but you can’t deny the presence of a tiny resemblance.

The two stunningly beautiful people are Philip and Syrena, played by Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey. Syrena is a mermaid, not a nymph, and there are no water lilies, obviously–I don’t know if that’s supposed to be a lagoon or what–but she does look like something Waterhouse would have painted. He seemed to have a thing for women of mythology and legends, and bodies of water. (Waterhouse, get it?) Philip is no argonaut, he’s a missionary, hence the cross he wears, but he was on a ship. Which is, I suppose, a logical occurrence in a movie centred on pirates. On Stranger Tides is probably the weakest in the series, but it’s still worth watching for these two, if nothing else. Their romance would surely inspire artists and poets alike. There was something so pure about it, stupid as the word is. I love Philip and Syrena, they own my heart.

*spoilers* Interestingly, much like Hylas, Philip was never seen again either. His fate is a bit ambiguous, as he’s injured, likely quite critically, and the above scene is the moment just before he and Syrena kiss and she pulls him into the water. It was established earlier in the movie that a mermaid’s kiss can heal, and she does tell him “I can save you, just ask”, though he doesn’t ask, he says he wants only forgiveness (he blames himself for her capture). She kisses him anyway (get in there, girl!), and the last we see of them is when they float underwater. But I’m positive Philip didn’t die, the reason why neither him nor Syrena appear again is that The Powers That Be decided not to include them in the fifth movie. *end spoilers*

POTC gets a lot of ridicule, which I maintain is unjustified. The movies have everything–adventure, action, a dose of supernatural/horror elements, lots of humour, great characters, one of the most iconic performances ever from Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow–and they always nail their romances. It’s not only Philip and Syrena. Take the fantastic Elizabeth and Will from the first trilogy, and Henry and Carina in the last film. And they don’t take themselves too seriously. Plus, the theme tune is the best.

So. Anyway.

What I wanted to say is:

The resemblance of the Philip and Syrena scene and the Waterhouse painting proves that Pirates of the Caribbean movies are a work of art.

To all you culture snobs out there–go step on Lego!

The Game of Thrones Post

But, Some Photoblog, you’re at least two years too late with this post!

Eh. *shrugs* By now at least (hopefully) everyone has calmed down.

I first started watching Game of Thrones in 2014, when it was in its fourth season. I was hooked right from the start. It was–and still is, really–the rich world and the variety of such great characters, especially the female characters.

After finishing the first four seasons, I read the books (the book version is called A Song of Ice and Fire), I also read some other stories from this universe, like the Dunk and Egg novellas (pictured below in a collection A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms) and a couple of short stories about the Targaryen civil war.

Spoilers for the whole series ahead, obviously, and, maybe less obviously, though not if you know me, there will be some unpopular opinions.

The greatest one of which is, I liked how it ended. I called it!

It was sometime in 2018, I was chatting to a colleague about this series, when I suddenly had a brainwave. “You know what, I don’t think it’s gonna be Jon Snow and Daenerys at the end. I think it’s gonna be Tyrion and Sansa.” If you’ve seen the whole thing, you know I got that right.

Two characters with the most braincells

Both of them ended up in positions of power–Tyrion as Hand of the King, the job he was always the best at, and Sansa as the Queen in the North, which she should have been in the first place back in Season 6.

I never said nobody else would get to be in power, I just knew it would be Sansa and Tyrion and not Jon and Daenerys–and I was never one of the Daenerys Will Go Mad crowd. Though they turned out to be right, so I hope at least they’re happy.

I also always knew that Jon Snow was the happiest in the far north, at the Wall and beyond, with his direwolf Ghost and the wildlings. This came true as well. His parentage is irrelevant, it doesn’t define him and besides, he was always more Stark than Targaryen; his mother Lyanna was said to be a bit wild, like Arya. He has no interest in being a king. If someone doesn’t want to rule, they shouldn’t be forced to. Imagine you tell me you hate swimming and I push you into a pool. You wouldn’t like it, would you?

That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.

Tyrion Lannister

I like nearly all the characters (some of them more than others, some I’m not that interested in but then later I might get interested, I’m like that), but my most favourite is Cersei Lannister. She embodies that pure female rage.

Yeah, what of her wrath, Ned?

The level of hate Cersei receives borders on fanatical–and yet it’s non-sensical. She’s not worse than any other character; Game of Thrones is nothing if not moral greyness. The only thing she’s guilty of, same as about half of us, is being a woman. If she was a man she’d be one of the Top 5 favourites. She’s basically the Taylor Swift song The Man. (When everyone believes you, what’s that like? People didn’t believe Cersei when she said she was pregnant, though we were shown the scene where she and Jaime conceived the child. But when any other couple bangs, it’s an immediate assumption that it’ll result in pregnancy.) For the haters, it wasn’t just enough that she died, she needed to die violently. This despite that fact that the city was being torched by dragonfire and Cersei wasn’t the one who was torching it. They wanted Jaime to kill her, when the truth was that he literally came back for her to save the both of them (plus their unborn child), which was the subject of his last conversation with brother Tyrion, who told him of the passage out of the castle. And this is happening while the buildings are falling down and it would be far more likely that Cersei would die in the rubble anyway! I really wonder if the Cersei haters are even capable of logical thinking. (They aren’t.)

The Lannister twins dying together was quite a popular theory, it was foreshadowed enough, so I don’t know what everyone expected. I’d have preferred if they did save themselves and made it to Pentos, but hey, it’s Game of Thrones.

Thinking about what I’d change about the series, it’s really only two things: one, everything about the Dorne plot. Dorne was not done justice on the show. Originally, I’m a House Martell fan, but I switched to Lannisters, because there was nothing going on with the Martells (and who knows where the Dorne plot will go in the books, if there will be any more books, that is). At least Pedro Pascal as Oberyn was cool. Alexander Siddig, on the other hand, was criminally wasted as Doran Martell. I had been so looking forward to him in that role and it was a disappointment. (Last year, I had a similar experience with another actor, as it happens). Arianne Martell is my most favourite books-only character. I’m thinking that if they had put her into the show, she would have just died, so it’s probably better she wasn’t there. She’s the heir to Sunspear, the seat of House Martell, because in Dorne it is the oldest child that inherits, regardless of gender. The show never addressed this, one of its downsides.

My t-shirts

The second thing I would change is, I’d keep the Jaime and Brienne relationship strictly platonic. That… umm… scene still makes me gag to this day, so much so that I can’t even stand seeing the two actors in the same shot. Interesting that Jaime and Cersei are an incestuous couple, but their scenes never felt gross to me, like the Jaime and Brienne one did. It’s not like either of them could be with anyone else, not for a long time anyway. I wonder if George RR Martin got inspired by that Wuthering Heights quote “He’s more myself than I am, whatever the souls are made of, his and mine are the same”. It’s very fitting for Cersei and Jaime. (Originally meant for foster siblings, may I stress.)

By what right does the wolf judge the lion?

Jaime Lannister

As for Jaime, he essentially fulfilled his promise to Catelyn of returning her daughters–or one daughter as it was believed Arya was dead at that time. He just didn’t do it himself, but delegated the task to Brienne instead, giving her the sword Oathkeeper (made from former Ned Stark’s sword Ice) and Podrick Payne for company. Brienne carried out the task, she saved Sansa from the Boltons and safely accompanied her to the Wall, where she was reunited with Jon Snow. This not only proves that he did what Catelyn asked him to, but that Catelyn wasn’t stupid when she trusted him to do that. She was proved right. Another reminder: Jaime knighted Brienne, making her the first female knight. This enables her to knight more people, which means she can make more women knights.

But, you know, “character assassination” because he didn’t kill the woman that carried his child. You can click this link to see a breakdown of Jaime’s quotes, directly from the script, proving that he always chose Cersei.

[Note: Jaime actor Nikolaj Coster Waldau has stated multiple times that he liked the ending of his character. The haters are coming up with absurd theories that he’s being forced by The Powers That Be to say that, instead of simply accepting that he might have a different view from them. Like I said, with these people, logical thinking is absent.]

Next character I want to give shout out to is Arya Stark. I’m not a House Stark fan. I do like the two Stark girls, in later seasons I preferred Sansa more. I got a leeetle bit annoyed at the way Arya’s storyline in Braavos got handled–it seemed to me that she only used the Faceless Men for her own interests. The Faceless Men served more like a plot device for Arya, but make no mistake, they’re bigger than her and bigger than House Stark. The Free City of Braavos is my favourite location in this universe, I love everything about it, but then again that’s just me and the vast majority of the audience won’t care, they just want to see Arya get her revenge. But I want to talk about something else, something that matters to me very much.

Back in Season 1 there is a conversation Arya has with her father. When she asks if she can be a lord of the holdfast one day (something Ned suggests Bran can be now that he can’t be a knight of the Kingsguard due to his disability), he laughs and says that she will marry a high lord, and rule his castle, and her sons will be knights and lords. She shakes her head and says: “No. That’s not me.”

[Note: Ned’s a conservative]

And at the end, it’s still not her. She rejects Gendry’s proposal of marriage and sails away towards adventures. You don’t know how much it meant to me to see her do that. If there is a female character in fiction who says she doesn’t want to have children (marriage optional), you can pretty much guarantee that by the time the story ends, she will have them. This is disappointing and extremely infuriating. (I’m looking at you, Katniss Everdeen.) I’d rather have the character want children, or not mention anything at all. It certainly doesn’t help when you’re like that in real life and people just go “oh, you’ll change your mind.” But Arya knew herself and she stuck to her guns. I mean, this is a young woman that learned to be a water dancer, avenged her family and killed the Night King. And you want her to become the lady of Storm’s End and promptly get knocked up? No, sir.

Representation Matters.

Another one I’ve got here is Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound, a lover of good chicken and a reluctant adoptive father figure to Arya. Occasionally I like to channel him.

I live in a monarchy.

Last but not least, I want to give a shout out to Samwell Tarly.

I have no Sam goodies unfortunately, so I had to resort to taking a pic of my laptop screen while it played the YouTube video of the scene in question. The scene is from the finale. The noble lords and ladies are having a council meeting where they’re trying to come to some decision regarding the next ruler of Westeros. Sam is present at this meeting. He stands up and proposes that everyone should have a vote, all the citizens of Westeros, including the smallfolk. The reaction to this is laughter and scorn from all those present at the meeting, with unoriginal, lame jokes supplied by Lord Royce and Edmure Tully about horses and dogs having the right to vote too. Nobody sticks up for Sam. Not. A. Single. Soul. So he sits down and shuts up. It’s upsetting and potentially triggering seeing Sam treated like that, a character who has been abused by his father, struggled with self esteem issues, and still found it in his heart to help a poor wildling girl, herself also a survivor of abuse.

It is especially a let-down seeing not even Sansa speak up for him, she who has been through so much, and who has just told off her uncle Edmure. Arya wouldn’t, she’d cut your throat for having a bad opinion on Jon Snow, so clearly she can’t handle democracy (not that she’s interested in politics, it’s puzzling that she’s at that meeting at all), but Sansa could have at least refrained from laughing–though there is a shot where the camera focuses on her face and she looks like she’s having thoughts. Let’s hope so!

I like to think that Sam continued his fight for universal suffrage and I like to think that Tyrion listened to him (in Season 7 Tyrion praises the way the Ironborn and Night’s Watch choose their leaders). Keep fighting the good fight, Sam.

In 2018 I went to a small independent Game of Thrones convention here in Manchester. I brought back three autographed photographs; Ian McElhinney (Barristan Selmy), Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Mace Tyrell) and Toby Sebastian (Trystane Martell). I can confirm they were all very nice.

I don’t know how else to wrap this up other than saying, thank you for reading.

Valar morghulis.

Still At Home

Not that long ago on Some Photoblog I did two posts with a shared theme of home; I imagined they could bring out the feeling of peace and warmth of home. These days, home means not just the place we escape to from the cold weather–it also helps save lives.

Have some pics, with addition of some thoughts of mine.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is the prequel to Jane Eyre, the story of Bertha aka Madwoman in the Attic, here named Antoinette. For a while now, I’ve been her defender; she is always Antoinette to me. The prose in this book is beautiful and it’s a short read–and much easier than Jane why-use-one-word-when-I-can-use-ten Eyre. It also, rightfully, portrays Rochester as the villain.

Although I have my own theories regarding the madwoman. Most of all, I maintain that there was nothing wrong with her. If she did become mad, it was from living in the confined space of the attic–not hard to believe now, eh? I operate from the point of view that Rochester is lying. If you look at it that way, the story changes completely. After all, it’s narrated by Jane, who is eighteen, inexperienced, who’s lived a sheltered life and knows shit about the world. There is no evidence of any madness in the book. Heck we can’t even be sure it was really the madwoman who set the house on fire. We are told that by a stranger, a pub landlord, who for all we know might be as credible as today’s tabloid press. And even he admits it’s only a guess!

They say journalling can be beneficial to your health. I don’t know, I don’t journal. At least I haven’t started yet, I’ve only been using the pictured notebook for journalling prompts I found on Pinterest. So you can say I do journal, a bit, lol.

The Constant Companion

My cat is very unbothered by *points at everything in the world*. What matters to her is what has always mattered to her: that she gets fed and finds a comfy place to chill out. This sometimes means she steals my spot, for which I have to fight her for.

She is constant.

However, she is also constant in other ways.

Pepper came to my life seven years ago. She’s been with me while I went through all the stuff I went through, the good and the bad and the ugly; she’s never left my side. She may not be able to speak human, but she’s still a faithful companion. Better than other humans, often. She’s not the one who, for example, disbelieves me when I tell her something. She’s not the one who dismisses my trauma or handwaves my worries and fears. She doesn’t belittle me and she never laughs at me.

There is evidence that pets are good for our mental health. Of course, everyone who has a pet knows this, but it’s good to have it backed by science nevertheless.

Let’s Try It Again… 2020 Recap

Okay, so the previous post was stupid. Let me do it again, better.

In terms of my photography, overwhelming majority of pictures taken in 2020 were with my smartphone and always in my area. This is the first time since 2016 that I haven’t made any trip outside Manchester. None of this mattered, in the end, as I took the best picture in my life with my phone a street away from my home!

Squirrel in Heaton Park, from September

The year started with storms, I remember there were two or three and they always happened at the weekend, so that that was no going anywhere for me. After that–well, you know. At first it was, need toilet paper? Pasta? Bad luck, mate.

It seems incredible now, but I did go to a concert this year. As in, a live performance by a singer. It was Halsey in Manchester Arena and it was back in March, before the first lockdown. Probably wasn’t very responsible, but hey, nothing happened.

My most streamed song of 2020 was the suitably titled Doom Days by Bastille (my inspiration for the short story The Journal). I also listened to the two albums Taylor Swift released this year, Folklore and Evermore.

It will be a while before live shows are back again. I also had a ticket for Phantom of the Opera, which was supposed to run for two months in Manchester, but like everything else, it was cancelled. Arts have really suffered with this and it’s not like the government cares; instead of supporting them they tell people in the industry to retrain. But don’t touch sports, oh no, not our precious sports, and even more precious football. Heavens help you if you anyhow endanger our football and our obscenely-paid footballers!

So what was I saying, oh yes, the annual recap… this year we were all staying at home and our new best friend was the streaming services. I remember that Disney+ launched here in UK just at the right time for lockdown.

Linda watches Star Wars

One of the TV shows that got much praise this year was Mandalorian. I’ve not watched it (yet), I’m not in the Star Wars fandom (they do have the hottest Latin actors though, Oscar Isaac and Pedro Pascal), however as I got myself a 12-month Disney+ subscription, I did watch the new trilogy and Rogue One. I liked Rogue One best, fabulous movie and might be one of my very favourites. As for the new trilogy, well, my first thought when I woke up the next day after seeing The Rise of Skywalker was: this should have been Finn’s story. John Boyega was right.

Star Trek premiered the Picard series and now we’re on Season 3 of Discovery, which has so far been the best. I thought the tone of Picard was a bit off, as if the writers were anxious (they probably were), but this can be easily overcome in future seasons.

This was also the first year in however-long that we had no Marvel movie released. We’ve been waiting for that Black Widow forever! But it’s good to have a bit of a break and hey, there’s still time to get into it, folks, if you haven’t done so!

Being at home and doodling

I doodle sometimes, I have almost filled my little A6 sketchbook. I once had a phase where I was drawing castles, and it seems I’m back in that phase again.

Tragically, I’ve not done as much reading as I should have done. I picked up The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and it took me three whole months to get through it. Such a slog, also the title is a lie–she doesn’t really steal books. Spoiler, I guess, but who cares. It tries to be interesting by having Death as a narrator but it reads just like any other third-person limited POV, with a “I collected their souls” inserted here and there to keep up the appearance. I swear I’ll never read Holocaust fiction ever again. I’d rather watch a good documentary about it.

But on the other hand I rediscovered my love for Sherlock Holmes and even dedicated a post to the famous detective, which at 2600 words is my longest.

Another thing that happened in Manchester was, the big concrete wall in Piccadilly Gardens was torn down. There is still a concrete wall, but that can’t be torn down because there is a coffee shop and a restaurant on the side of it. People hate them, I know they’re ugly, but for the purposes of my Gloomscapes series, I don’t mind a bit of brutalism. I’ve seen articles online calling the wall “Manchester’s Berlin Wall” and I’m like, can you just not. Nobody is getting shot crossing from Portland Street to Primark! Please. If there is criminal activity or drugs going on in Piccadilly Gardnes, that’s hardly the fault of the wall.

I end with one of my typical phone shot of something random or weird, Sam Call Me written by chalk on the gate to my local park. Well, there is a certain Sam that is close to my heart, so you can say that the picture is not as random as it would appear on first sight. I mean, not in real life, it’s the actor Sam Claflin, lol.

And that, my friends, concludes my second 2020 recap post.

The Sherlock Holmes Post

The game’s afoot!

If you’ve ever been here, you know it’s all about Agatha Christie on Some Photoblog. In the five years I’ve run it, I’ve not made a single mention of Sherlock Holmes. He’s been lurking in the background, I guess, waiting for his time. And as I’ve just rediscovered my love for Sherlockian stories, this time is now.

There will be no spoilers in this post, apart from The Final Problem, which is widely known anyway.

Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), a writer and by profession a medical doctor, born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Now, I feel kind of bad because I always try to promote lesser known works by authors (e.g. Agatha Christie’s books without Poirot or Marple that are not And Then There Were None and non-Anne of Green Gables works by LM Montgomery) but this time around I’m going for the most obvious choice. It’s also a well known fact that the author ended up hating his most famous creation and had wished his other writings received similar attention. (Sorry, Sir Arthur!) I have read other works by him; a couple of Professor Challenger books and a short story collection Tales of Terror and Mystery and the guy does deserve to be known for his non-Sherlock writings–he was quite prolific and wrote sci-fi, historical fiction, non-fiction. I remember a few years ago a commenter on ACD’s official Facebook page post said “I didn’t know he wrote stories other than Sherlock Holmes” and I thought, how stupid can you get? Please. And any of you bloggers reading this, if you blog about Sir Arthur and have covered his non-Sherlock work (or even Sherlock only, let’s be friends), please drop a comment and I’ll check out your posts.

Anyway… today, I’m basic.

Sherlock Holmes is without a doubt the most popular fictional detective in the world and this is unlikely to change, in our lifetimes or perhaps ever. What is it that makes him so appealing, more than a century after his first appearance?

I don’t know the answer. He just is. An eccentric character, with brilliant mind, skilled in detection, what’s not to love? (Yes, I know he took cocaine. But this was legal in his time.) Mystery is a popular genre anyway, people love their detectives. And Sherlock Holmes is a classic. I think there is certain appeal in Victorian and Edwardian era London as well.

Sherlock Holmes first came to life in the 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet. Altogether he features in four novels (the other three being The Sign of Four, The Hound of Baskervilles and The Valley of Fear) and 56 short stories, majority of them written by his sidekick Dr John Watson. The character is inspired by Dr Joseph Bell (1837-1911), a surgeon and lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, for whom ACD served as a clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Dr Bell used observation to carry out a diagnosis and was a pioneer of what we now call forensic science. He also served as a personal surgeon to Queen Victoria when she visited Scotland.

“My friend and colleague, Dr Watson.”

I am lost without my Boswell.

Sherlock Holmes on Dr Watson (A Scandal in Bohemia)

[Note: This is a reference to James Boswell, who was a biographer of the writer Samuel Johnson.]

The lifelong partnership–or whatever else you might want to call it, I’m not going to argue–was born in A Study in Scarlet. Dr Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes by an old acquaintance Stamford as someone to potentially share a place with, as he’s in a precarious financial situation. Stamford knows Sherlock from the hospital, where he, Stamford, works as a dresser and Sherlock likes to dabble with chemicals at the lab.

“Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said Stamford, introducing us.

from A Study in Scarlet

Sherlock already knows of a suitable lodgings to rent, 221b Baker Street. The next day they meet and go view the place, Watson decides it’s suitable, and they move in.

Also can we raise a glass for Mr Stamford, without whom this iconic duo would never have existed?

Watson at first has no clue about Sherlock’s profession and for some reason is afraid to ask. Because he really has nothing else to do, he studies his flatmate and even makes a list of his skills and abilities. I made a graphic of this list, which I posted on my Tumblr and which remains my most popular post of all time on that platform. Now I’m posting it here:

Yes, there is a typo. It is what it is.

Watson is also shocked at Sherlock’s total ignorance of the Solar System. Of course, now it seems funny, because you’re thinking, haha he’s obsessed. He admits as such right there, in the text. He has nothing else to occupy his mind, has no close friends and his health is not in the best condition. This is what, on my recent re-read, made me come up with a theory–I think meeting Sherlock Holmes saved Dr Watson’s life. Hear me out.

So, as we know from Watson’s narrative, he qualified as medical doctor, joined the army and served in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, where he was wounded during the Battle of Maiwand. His injury healed, but then he contracted enteric fever (which a quick Google search informs me is the same as typhoid fever). Afterwards, his health was so poor, he was discharged and sent back to England to recuperate. Having no living relatives in England, he arrived in London and booked himself a room in a hotel. His description of the capital city is amusing: that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained. (You wouldn’t think it of him, but our doctor does have some good burns.) His army pension was eleven shillings and sixpence a day (another quick Google search informs me this should have been quite a comfortable income). He describes this period of his life as a “meaningless existence” and confesses to spending too much money. Hence the aforementioned precarious financial situation. He realised that he needed to change his lifestyle and having just made the decision to look for cheaper living, he bumped into Stamford.

What I wonder about–what was he spending his money on? Drinking? Women? Gambling? It was at a bar where he came across Stamford, so draw your own conclusions. (Also in The Sign of Four, we learn that Watson had an older brother with a drink problem.) Stamford comments that Watson is very thin and very brown (suntan from Afghanistan, presumably). It’s not unreasonable to conclude that he suffered from PTSD. And the “meaningless existence”–could that be… depression? When he moved in with Sherlock, he got his life and finances in order and his mind was revived from idleness by this intriguing new friend of his. Then, when Sherlock finally reveals to Watson what his profession is–a consulting detective–he invites him to come along to view a dead body. The rest is history.

Watson is at first sceptical of Sherlock’s science of deduction, but soon learns that yes, it really does work. It seems to me that Sherlock, whether intentionally or not, pulled Watson back into life. That’s how the BBC Sherlock series pretty much plays it.

In the next book, The Sign of Four, a new client named Mary Morstan enters the scene and she and Watson fall in love and get married. I always thought it happened way too fast. They knew each other only for days. But it seems to have worked for them, so I guess that’s good. ACD needed to marry off Watson, so he did. *shrug* Sherlock remained in Baker Street, as Watson says in A Scandal in Bohemia, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature. In other words, he missed his friend. (The Guy Ritchie movies with Robert Downey Jr showcase this well.)

Screenshot of Sherlock Holmes, The Definitive Audio Collection from my Audible app. The complete works, all for one single credit, (not bad!), read by Stephen Fry, who played Mycroft in Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows movie. Speaking of which:

Brother Mycroft

All men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience.

Sherlock Holmes on his brother Mycroft (The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans)

Sherlock Holmes has a brother called Mycroft, seven years his senior. We first meet him in the story The Greek Interpreter; he also features in one of my personal favourites, The Bruce-Partington Plans. Mycroft possesses even greater ability for deduction and observation than his younger brother, only he can’t be bothered to do any actual detective work out in the field. No ambition and no energy. (I can relate.) He rarely ventures beyond his circle of home, workplace and the Diogenes Club. In The Bruce-Partington Plans Sherlock nearly falls off a chair when he receives telegram from Mycroft informing him of his upcoming visit to Baker Street. It must be something really serious to drag his brother away from his usual territory!

Mycroft’s skills enabled him to create his own position in the Government–this is what Sherlock means about omniscience. He makes himself indispensable, that’s why Sherlock says Mycroft is the Government itself. But my favourite part about the older Holmes is the Diogenes Club. A gentlemen’s club set up for those who hated company, whether it was due to shyness or misanthropy, but who still liked comfortable chairs and newspapers. Talking is not permitted, except for Stranger’s Room and three offences will get you expelled from the club. Mycroft was one of the founding members.

We don’t know what Mycroft’s politics is. From Sherlock’s description, he certainly can make any regime work for him, but I like to think he was at least somewhat progressive. There is nothing in the canon to say he wasn’t.

According to Sherlock, both of them may have inherited their talents from their grandmother, a sister to French artist Vernet. Vernet was a real artist that really existed, in fact there were three of them: grandfather, father and son:

  • Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789)
  • Antoine Charles Horace Vernet, known as Carle Vernet (1758-1836)
  • Émile Jean-Horace Vernet, known as Horace Vernet (1789-1863)

ACD doesn’t specify which one of them it was, but based on the timeline, the youngest one is the most likely one. Horace Vernet mostly painted battle scenes and enjoyed patronage from, among others, King Louis-Philippe. He also took photographs by daguerreotype process, the first publicly available photography technique.

Check out his self-portrait:

image credit: Wikipedia

It looks very Sherlock Holmes, doesn’t it?

Aside from this, Sherlock never mentions any other family. He says his ancestors were country squires, but offers no further details. In The Adventure of the Norwood Builder, after Sherlock returns from the dead, Watson moves back with him to Baker Street and sells his practice to a young doctor named Verner. Years later he finds out that this Verner was a distant relation of Sherlock and it was really Sherlock who provided the money for the practice, which was sold at the highest price. Verner, Vernet, sounds very similar, also R and T are next to each other on the keyboard. Most likely a coincidence, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

The Best and Finest Man I Have Ever Known

So, Sherlock believed his talent for observation and deduction came from his artist great uncle. Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms, he says in The Greek Interpreter. Sherlock is the logical, scientific type. He also plays the violin and is fond of music. I think we can safely say that in the mind of our great detective, science and art combine.

Message Watson receives in The Creeping Man and me trying out some old-fashioned looking font

Watson’s list of Sherlock’s skills is not entirely accurate for the rest of the series. In The Sign of Four, for example, Watson notes that “[Holmes] spoke on a quick succession of subjects,—on miracle-plays, on medieval pottery, on Stradivarius violins, on the Buddhism of Ceylon, and on the war-ships of the future,—handling each as though he had made a special study of it.” Yet none of those subjects are mentioned on the list in A Study in Scarlet. Quite the opposite–any facts he considers irrelevant must be forgotten at once, as to not clutter his mind. When ACD came up with the character of Sherlock Holmes, he couldn’t have known he would still write about him decades later (he didn’t even want to!). With time, he developed his character more, realising that, when you work as a detective, no knowledge is useless. This can be easily explained by Watson not knowing Sherlock that well in their early days yet. There is also another inconsistency. Watson’s wound was in the shoulder in A Study in Scarlet, but in The Sign of Four, he tells us it’s in the leg. Not that it matters much, in any case he could have sustained more than one injury in the war. BBC Sherlock got round it by making Watson’s leg pain psychosomatic–quite clever, I think.

I drew this. It wasn’t hard.

This is a popular outline of Sherlock’s profile, thanks to illustrations by Sidney Paget. It is Paget that gave Sherlock the iconic deerstalker hat, never mentioned in the actual writing. Paget’s illustrations accompanied ACD’s Sherlock stories in The Strand Magazine, where they were published. (Random fact: Agatha Christie also published her Poirot short stories in this magazine.) ACD himself requested Paget to continue illustrating in The Strand when he resurrected Sherlock. Sidney Paget definitely deserves some credit for contributing to the famous detective’s image.

The Birth of a Fandom

ACD killed off Sherlock in 1893 in The Final Problem, hoping this would help him concentrate on the more serious fiction and non-fiction he wanted to work on. Sherlock faces his ultimate antagonist, Professor Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime as he calls him. Interestingly, Moriarty is also a man of science, a mathematical genius. During their last showdown at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, they both plunge to their deaths.

Or not.

The reaction of fans to this move was like nothing else ever experienced before. Angry letters poured into ACD’s mailbox, people wore black armbands, The Strand Magazine suffered 20,000 cancellations. These days you’d shrug your shoulder, just another Tuesday in the fandom. But then, it was new. ACD eventually brought the beloved sleuth back; he needed the money and people wanted their Sherlock. Luckily the way he wrote Sherlock’s end enabled him to explain it away with “actually he didn’t fall into his death, only Moriarty did” and “he quickly realised that faking his death would help him break Moriarty’s criminal network and protect his dear Watson”. ACD though killed another character, Mrs Mary Watson, off page, so that he could reinstate Watson back into 221b Baker Street. (It’s kinda shitty if you think about it, but I understand why it had to be that way, besides, readers likely didn’t care about her. Apart from all the other qualities of the Granada Sherlock Holmes series with Jeremy Brett, I like that their Watson remained unmarried and Mary Morstan exited at the end of The Sign of Four episode.)

And so the adventures continued.

Sherlockians, or Holmesians if you want, were the first modern fandom. (Ahhh, fandoms, yes, fandoms, that’s a discussion I’d rather not have today.)

Aside from the books written by ACD, Sherlock appears in numerous books by other authors–this is called pastiche. Most of ACD’s works are in public domain now–and you know that means you can get them free as eBooks. Project Gutenberg is the best place for this.

I truly hope that if ACD can see from beyond how loved the character he grew to hate is, and how much Sherlock Holmes means to people, he is not too angry. After all, Sherlock, and all the related adaptations and pastiches, bring many of us joy and in the end, that is what really matters.

My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.

from The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

And how about you, readers? Any fans of Sherlock Holmes there? Tell me in the comments!


Note: Apart from the tiny mentions, I don’t touch on any of the adaptations, as the post was already long enough. In the future, I might dedicate a separate post for these.