First pud

Yorkshire PudI realised recently that I’d never actually cooked Yorkshire pudding – clearly, an intolerable situation that could not be permitted to continue.

On the left, my first.

That seemed to work, then.

The Games

Warning: gushy idealistic Jonathan at the keyboard again.

The stadia won’t be ready. Transport will be a nightmare. Greek organisation will be a disaster. The IOC is a corrupt and wasteful organisation beset with cronyism and financial impropriety. And drug-taking is so rife, none of it matters anyway. I probably would have nodded idly to all of those charges, three weeks ago.

But they’ve all turned out to be either ill-founded, or plain irrelevant: the Athens Games have been an utter joy, a triumph of the Olympic spirit, and a celebration of the world and its people. The IOC might well be fundamentally broken, as has been sagely argued for years, but it really doesn’t matter – incredibly, the Games is bigger even than its own organisers.

Because in the end, what matters is not committees, nor even nations – what we see is individuals, their sacrifices, their failures, and their joy. In the reality TV stakes, Big Brother comes off a pitifully poor relative.

And somewhere, in the middle of all this, one catches a glimpse of what might, just maybe, be possible as a planet and its people. As the problems that beset us appear immutable beneath months and years of political inadequacy, the Olympics serve as a timely reminder that we can, collectively, get things right.

Heh. Sport works. Fancy that.

Living well

The wardrobe is here, finally. It’s huge, at least compared with the gaping hole that’s no longer occupying the corner of my bedroom. Much shuffling of drawer contents, shelves and the like to follow this afternoon and evening.

Meanwhile, out to the local Indian veg shop for some cabbage; it’s increasingly like a deli, lacking only marinated anchovies to be, well, basically, Peckham’s at half the price. Today they had – da-da-daaa! – Earl Grey mustard, a product for which I’ve been searching since I managed mysteriously to lose my last jar almost two years ago. Terrific stuff.

Then a late lunch in the tea shop: more dahl, and a most excellent and surprising red Yunnan tea: smokey, but less so than lapsang souchong, and also florid.

It’s a hard life.

The continued adventures of the furniture deliveries

Hello Mr. Sanderson, we’re just calling to confirm your delivery tomorrow of a chest of drawers and two trunks. It’ll be between nine and eleven o’clock.

A two-hour window; they missed by an hour and a half. To their credit, however, the chaps who turned up were extremely patient with the concept that I was still in bed. And the wood, I discover, is very nearly the same as the backs of my internal doors. I knew I’d seen it somewhere before.

Just the errant wardrobe to arrive, now. It should have turned up yesterday, but apparently there was a mix-up with faxes and whether the shop assistant Geoff actually has a clue, and it didn’t so much as move off the shop floor. Between nine and twelve, they say, but it’s the same company as the other stuff, so…

No, the other film

I should be able to tell you about Jeux d’enfants, having gone to see it at the GFT tonight. But I accidentally walked into the wrong cinema, and saw an Edinburgh Film Festival screening of the Spanish wife-beating story Take My Eyes instead.

I’d love to report that this innocent blunder was the beginning of a marvelous evening, but while I did enjoy the film – not the right verb, but it’ll suffice for the moment – I find myself decreasingly satisfied as the hours post-showing run on. It is, of course, an horrific subject, and one apparently rather topical in Spain at the moment; it seems there’s a culture of hidden/tolerated domestic violence mirroring that in Scotland. The film is nicely shot, elegantly scripted, and the performances range from the wholly competent to the genuinely world-class. It’s also far more watchable, and indeed witty, than the subject matter would lead one to expect. So what’s not to like?

Perhaps it’s the enormity of the subject. In attempting to address swathes of hidden culture, director Icíar Bollaín has taken her eye off some of the fine detail that’s more pertinent to the specific story she’s telling. Confusion over timescales, for example, becomes distracting, as we jump months between scenes with no indication to the audience.

The story centres around the abused wife, and her tragic journey from the moment she walks out, through a reconciliation that’s initially tentative, then passionate, but finally bleakly futile. But she’s a curiously passive character in the story, driving the narrative mostly through her choice of which doors she will enter at different junctures. Whilst this may be a realistic portrayal of a victim, for me it squares badly with the same character’s transformation, apparently overnight, into a confident and enthusiastic speaker on the figurative interpretation of the works of Titian and El Greco. That this sounds ridiculous when written here rings alarm bells for me, but evidently not for the writer.

With the wife dragged along by the film’s message – a stunningly capable performance mildly hamstrung by the dictated chain of events – the husband is left to carry the story. And while his choice and eventual failure is realised in clever and deliberately stark fashion, the eventual thesis, from a male perspective, is unmitigated in its bleakness. His efforts, we are told, were at best doomed to futility, but more likely dangerously self-delusional. This became more apparent through Bollain’s charming, witty, but ultimately somewhat alarming interview after the screening. Much is made, for example, of the husband’s perception of apology; the character’s turning point when he finally does apologise to the wife is not, however, a scene included in the film. This might have been a clever choice, but for the revelation that the director had not noticed.

Is it possible for a story to be over-researched? Perhaps not, but I can’t help feeling that Bollain’s noble attempt to cram as much of her subject into this film as possible has not served her story entirely well. Less would, I think, have been more.

If it’s worth 500 words, it’s worth seeing; on general UK release in the autumn.

Korean Horror

…now there’s a thing. It’s been a week since I saw Ji-woon Kim’s “A Tale of Two Sisters,” and I’m still not sure I’m clear on exactly what happens in it. It’s beautifully shot with startling performances, and it’s nigh-on baffling in the story stakes. I can’t say much more without seriously spoiling the plot, and that would be a pity, since it’s well worth seeing. Preferably before the mooted Hollywood remake.

Of course, it may not have helped my understanding of the plot that I had my eyes shut for a fair chunk of the thing. I’m a bit of a wuss with horror films, you see. Bloody ghosts in cupboards included.

Chernobyl

From where I stood I could see a huge beam of projected light flooding up into infinity from the reactor. It was like a laser light, caused by the ionisation of the air. It was light-bluish, and it was very beautiful. I watched it for several seconds. If I’d stood there for just a few minutes I would probably have died on the spot because of gamma rays and neutrons and everything else that was spewing out.

New Scientist have an interview with one of the workers who was on-site at Chernobyl in 1986.