Today’s window peeps into one of the most famous Christmas stories. A Christmas Carol, is a novella by Charles Dickens, first published in 1843. It recounts the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. After their visits, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, gentler man.
The story has been filmed or inspired films many times and as you are probably busy getting ready for Christmas, why not watch this five minute Lego version?
Today is the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, or at least the anniversary of the day he was baptised, but he has been celebrating all year; though like everyone else, he had to cancel all his live concerts and parties. So today’s window opens in Germany once more, to a very special Christmas performance and plenty of Freude!
Freude! Freude! … Alle Menschen warden Brüder. / Joy! Joy! … All men shall become brothers.
On December 23rd 1989, only a month and a half after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Leonard Bernstein led a concert in West Berlin. Two days later, on Christmas Day, he led an identical concert across the border, in what was previously East Germany. The music was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Ode to Joy was first written in 1785 by German poet Friedrich Schiller as a celebration of the brotherhood of man. Beethoven set the words for the final, choral movement of the Symphony completed in 1824. Having soloists and a choir burst into joyful singing in a symphony was revolutionary, but it has obviously stood the test of time.
Bernstein made one change for this two-concert series: he directed the choir to sing “Freiheit” (freedom) instead of “Freude” (joy).
The Ode to Joy is also the anthem of The European Union; an instrumental ( and much shorter ! ) version for a continent of many languages. Alas for British Remainers, this music is now a bitter reminder of the Brexit disaster and all that we are about to lose. Luckily Tidalscribe will be remaining in the European Union and adhering to Schiller and Beethoven’s optimism and belief in the brotherhood of man – brotherhood in the figurative inclusive sense .
I hadn’t read the previous novel about Kate, so knew nothing about her, but Kate knows nothing about herself either when she wakes up. This is a thriller with no heroes, the Snowman is desperate to help her and it seems at last he can, but it is not to be. If this was a television thriller the Snowman would save the day, but the story becomes more complex. We follow the killer’s thoughts as well as the other main characters, an advantage of books over screens. The reader will never sympathise, but we might comprehend what’s going on in Jack’s mind. Michael is another character who we think might save the day, but he is a mix of flaws and must face up to the grief he has caused the woman he loved and the other woman who loves him. This is not a novel for the faint hearted; what starts as a mystery of unconnected murders is also the story of those unfortunate enough to be in the path of a killer or know his intended victim. We know from the news that bizarre killings can occur when a murderer becomes obsessed and this murderer is obsessed with Kate.
I downloaded this novel onto my Kindle as it sounded fun and we have relatives who have become DFLs* on the Isle of Thanet. But this is a story that would make an enjoyable read for anyone with family or lively family as neighbours. Whether you are married, divorced or thankful to be single, the lives of Tess and her family and friends will probably sound familiar. The story bowls along, with prospects of romance dashed at every twist and turn and plenty of modern life problems.
*‘Down From London’ – a good train service from St. Pancras, lower property prices and the seaside have made the Isle of Thanet, Kent a popular choice for workers needing to commute and also artists and entrepreneurs.
How do you watch television these days, perhaps not even on a television set? But drama serials are still ever popular, whether we sit down each week, catch up digitally or binge watch. I like the idea of the TV schedule, but inevitably if we’re out or have visitors I am thankful we can record or catch up. PAUSING programmes is also a brilliant asset as my good intentions to leave the computer or the kitchen by 9pm always fail.
There have been so many good dramas lately we have some still to watch. My two recent favourites were very different.
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray is a long novel that many people on social media have confessed to not having read. But with a film and at least four television adaptations we can be forgiven for not being sure if we have actually read the book. BBC 1967, 1987 and the one I remember really enjoying was a few years ago – no it was 1998! So how would ITV’s new production compare?
Thackeray, played by national treasure Michael Palin, took his rightful place as the narrator at the beginning and end of each part; he watched his characters go round and round on a carousel.
The story starts in 1813 England, a turbulent society embroiled in war for twenty years. Thackeray introduces a world where everyone is striving for what is not worth having. The impossibly smart red and white soldiers, beautiful women, lovely horses and clean streets were not out of place because he wanted us to watch his characters in a performance. The battle field sequences contrast with this.
Becky Sharpe has nothing, but is determined to have everything, whoever she hurts on the way. We are whirled through years of love, heartbreak, family troubles, business disasters and tragedy with one love story ending happily.
BBC4 on Saturday nights is a must if you love Scandi Noir or anything with sub titles. We have followed Danish politics, Swedish thrillers, Sicilian detectives, Paris police, Belgian undercover in French and Flemish, but most recently it has been Outback Noir.
Mystery Road in six episodes, was filmed in the Kimberly region of north Western Australia. Having lived in Perth, Western Australia and with family there, I try and watch any Australian series that come our way. I have never been to that part of the state, another country to suburbanites in the city. The series was worth watching for the scenery alone, wide landscapes of dusty red soil and long roads, a fascinating country town and a cattle station homestead that makes you yearn to live somewhere with endless space. A great cast did justice to a complex story linking past and present with layers of secrets. The old landowning family, the indigenous people and European backpackers all find their lives bound together in small town life.
On Monday we paid a long overdue visit to Jane’s house; Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, Hampshire. I had always imagined the little cottage under siege by coach loads of tourists, timed tickets and queues. Perhaps a Monday school day, arriving soon after opening time, made it a simple and civilised visit that Jane would appreciate.
We parked in the free car park as instructed on the website; all was quiet, rain threatened, but never happened. The wet winter has left the gentle Hampshire countryside lush and green.
Jane’s friends were cheerful and welcoming, the tulips and primroses in the pretty gardens were at their best. It was a bit early to call on the Misses Austen so we roamed the gardens, looked around the bakehouse, enjoyed a moving picture of family life and admired the beautiful quilt given to Jane for her anniversary last year. Everything was seemly, nothing tawdry presented to visitors.
We felt immediately at home when we stepped inside the red brick cottage. The Austen ladies do not own this house, but I would never let on that I knew this. What does that matter when Jane feels so at home here, at peace to write while Cassandra and their aptly named friend Martha take care of the housekeeping. Left an orphan, with just a little money I gather Martha Lloyd became part of the family long ago, not in a position to be independent or find a husband.
The Drawing Room is newly papered in a pretty yellow pattern, Chawton Vine. It was here we met a relative of Jane’s brother Edward, Jeremy Knight, who invited us up to the Great House, as Jane calls it, for lunch later. Who could have foreseen when the Austens sent their son to be adopted by the Knight family that he would be instrumental in making sure his sister’s novels were published.
Upstairs the floorboards creaked and Jane will not have the creaky door fixed as it is a warning of someone coming so she may hide her writing. Mrs. Austen’s room is the largest and is newly decorated with a pretty ribbon trellis pattern wallpaper. The ladies have stitched a beautiful patchwork coverlet. Every window sill had a pretty cup with a posy of spring flowers, testament to how beautifully the ladies keep the cottage.
We didn’t stay too long, Jane’s health has not been good and like all authors she probably can’t wait for visitors to leave so she can return to her writing.
Back outside the rain still held off and we walked up the road in Jane’s footsteps to Chawton House, the merry sound of the local children at playtime ringing in our ears as we passed their school. With fields all around one can see why Jane and Cassandra enjoy two hour walks every afternoon. Up the long driveway to the house it was very quiet, we rang the doorbell and it was quickly answered; we were welcomed inside and shown into the cosy kitchen. We only had time for a scone and tea, as we had another appointment, but promised to come again when we return to see Jane.