Thursday, August 29, 2013

And one sink (kitchen)


What a great question!  I've never, in all my list-making, floor-plan-drawing, map-copying, outfit-sketching obsessiveness ever actually thought about what Dandy Gilver carries in her bag.

I know she has little notebooks, because Alec Osborne - her Watson - ribs her about them and lately she's taken up a propelling pencil too.  She has a cigarette case and a box of matches, a lipstick and powder compact, a handkerchief - white lawn, some embroidery, a purse (= US wallet) with bank notes, coins and postage stamps, and a nail-file.

I know she doesn't have any keys because her house is never empty.  If she wants to get in, she rolls up the drive and waits for someone to open the door.  I can't see her with locks of baby's hair or photographs of her husband either, somehow.  Maybe she'd have a scrap of leather from Bunty the Dalmatian's first collar, but even that is a bit mawkish for Dandy.

I imagine it would be quite a small plain thing and easily decanted into an evening bag without a lot of triage.

I, on the other hand . . . here's a run down as of  28th August 2013 in order of excavation: 

promotional postcards for Dandy Gilver
promotional postcards for AS SHE LEFT IT
sunglasses
reading sunglasses
reading glasses
another pair of reading glasses
ibuprofen (I've had a cough)
Strepsils (ditto)
paracetamol (ditto)
phone
camera
another phone
baby wipes
Tigi Bedhead
glasses case
three blue Bic Cristals
skeleton bunch of only three keys and three keyrings because away from home
lipstick
mascara
rouge
sunscreen
large pink hanky (was white and my dad's until a laundry incident)
five earrings
toothpaste I bought yesterday and forgot was in there
1UKP off The Guardian coupons from the Edinburgh Book Festival (expired)
wallet containing skeleton staff of only nine cards because away from home
stamps
lucky 2 dollar bill
earplugs
receipts (various (for tax))
receipts (various (for no reason whatsoever))
four business cards from the Crimewriters' Association lunch last Friday
money
seaglass
two dead batteries
twenty nine Christmas cards

And the thing is that I only bought this bag a month ago so it's still building up its foundation layer.  There are whole pockets in there I haven't even assigned yet.  There are no wedding favours with happy memories that I can't throw out, no orders of service from funerals that I can't throw out, no 3D specs from films I've enjoyed and can't throw out, my bike lock and front light aren't in there, not a single packet of seeds, no CDs, no unrelated CD cases, no charger cable for either of the phones . . . why it's practically empty.  I could almost be fictional with a bag as empty as that.





Thursday, August 15, 2013

No Ballet for Catriona

Funnily enough, I'm answering this question in my childhood bedroom, in the house where I was born, where my three big sisters taught me to read, playing at schools every day (I can't remember not being able to read; certainly I was well away by the time I got into my first real classroom with a non-sister teacher).

And in the bedside cabinet is ... pause to look ... Five Go To Smuggler's Top by Enid Blyton (1945).


I must have read it a fair few times, along with the other stories in the Famous Five series.  In each one, a group of cousins (four of them) come home from boarding school for the summer, shake off the grown-ups (Uncle Quentin and Aunt Fanny) and disappear off with their dog (the fifth one) on a hike, in a caravan, after a circus, to a treasure island . . . there to be posh, solve crimes and eat picnics.  Hogwarts food was pretty much Famous Five food and Scooby-Doo will give you an idea of the plotting.

Much, much better than these though was Ballet for Drina by Jean Estoril (1957) and five of its ten sequels.  No, wait - hear me out.  Okay, Drina is an awkward little shrimp of a girl, orphaned, living with her grandparents, who blags her way - Billy Elliot style - into ballet classes and, predictably, becomes a ballerina.  But besides the clich├ęs, there are friendships, passions, secrets, betrayals, concern for social justice, wrongs righted, triumphs, disappointments and some the best Mean Girls ever. 

As well as all that, once Drina knows her arabesques from her elbows, she starts to tour with the corps de ballet and, an intrepid Londoner, she takes Paris and New York in her plucky but dainty stride.  Then she goes to the Edinburgh Festival.  That story was my first experience of reading a book set in a place I knew - having resisted Walter Scott and being too young for Jekyll and Hyde - and the detail was enchanting.  I had been on those streets and looked at those views.  It made me want to see how accurately Estoril had depicted London, Paris and New York too. 

Luckily, it didn't make me want to be a ballerina.  I was five foot eight at the age of twelve and could trip over the pattern in the carpet.  But the reason I can't take a quick phone picture of Ballet For Drina is that it's not here; all six books are in my house in California in the glass-fronted bookcases where the treasures stay.  I've read them many times and I still reach for them when life gets the way life does.   If anyone else has read them - sssshhh! (There's a massive plot twist at the end of book 1) - but let me know if you too love them.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Five Identical Red Herrings

I can't quite believe I'm doing this - because I do love her; honest I do - but my bad classic is by Dorothy L Sayers.  Not only that, it's the one set in Scotland - land of the purple liver, land of my heart forever.  And not just Scotland - Galloway!  Where I lived for fifteen happy years, swimming in the icy pools under waterfalls and swatting midges with fern fronds on the bonny banks and braes.
I've done the literary walk around the real places used in the book. I've had a picnic at the bit of the Mennock Burn where the body tumbled into the water.  Heck, I've probably been on the fateful Girvan train.

But still.  The Five Red Herrings by DLS is (IMHO) a stinker.


Some of it is the dialect representation.  I know a bit about this one way and another and much as it hurts to write that someone says: "The moon's none the worse for a dog's bark" when what you hear in your head is: "The meen's nane the waur fur a dug's howf" you really can't, can you?  I mean it makes little enough sense in English as it is.

So the apostrophe-tastic depiction o' Sco'ish people talkin' is one thing.  But the main difficulty with the Five Red Herrings is the five red herrings (and the guilty party).  I think it would be possible to find six actual herrings, in a fishmonger's, that were easier to tell apart than Strachan, Fachan, Gachan, Wachan, Grachan and Fergachan. 

I'm kidding.  They're called Strachan, Farren, Gowan, Waters, Graham and Ferguson.  But they're all artists and they're all exactly the same.  In fact, for once I don't have any worries about spoilers slipping out because, although I've read FRH a couple of times and listened to a BBC radio dramatisation too, I still have no idea which one of them did it.

I know what you're thinking, by the way.  Yes, I read it again even though it's bad.  And then I listened to it in the form of a radio play too.  (In fact, when I was looking for jacket photos for this blog I saw that the telly version is on youtube and I might well watch it later.) What can I say?  I told you I love her.