This year’s Annual Fathers’ Day Ramble [there have been two] was in and around Dedham Vale, the River Stour and the Suffolk-Essex border. Constable country. The weather was kinder -and warmer – than had been forecast and the first and last thirds of the walk through really beautiful countryside. As more or less everywhere it seems, buttercups are flourishing strongly this year; in addition to which, there were poppies, water lilies, irises, enough horses to start a small ramada – and several splendid churches, testament to the region’s earlier wool-based wealth.
Sarah, Molly and I kept up a goodly pace, arriving at Flatford Mill – site of what is possibly Constable’s best-known painting, The Hay Wain – in time for a well-earned afternoon tea with a view of the river and the meadows beyond.
Way to Go !
Monet, Eat Your Heart Out !
Amongst the other people I was happy to see on this year’s Birthday Honours list – Grayson Perry, Anish Kapoor, P. J. Harvey and the marvellous cinematographer Roger Deakins ['No Country For Old Men'/'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford'] – I was especially pleased to see the name of Albert Irvin, now in receipt of a much-deserved OBE.
Now in his early 90s, Bert is still working as both a painter and printmaker, constantly affirming and advancing his position as one of the foremost artists in this country.
You can find out more about Bert here, on his website, and look at examples of his work.
With all the disturbing news about American security service interception of this country’s (and others’) email and internet use, there couldn’t be a better time to read LeCarré. [Or Orwell, for that matter, whose 1984 is shooting up the Amazon list.]
In his acknowledgments to his new novel, A Delicate Truth, LeCarré cites the British Government for its “latest assaults on our liberty, whether implemented or planned.”
And the plot, which revolves around the taking and possible rendition of a terrorist by members of the British army, with the aid of American forces and private mercenaries – a plot which goes nastily, bloodily wrong – leaves us in no doubt as to the lengths, including murder, to which the powers-that-be will go to keep their violent indiscretions from the judicial or pubic eye.
It’s a good book, eminently readable – LeCarré’s best for some time – but those critics who claim he is back to the absolute top form of The Honourable Schoolboy or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, are, I fear, as driven by wish-fulfilment as the film critics who hail every slight improvement in Woody Allen’s recent movies as a return to the heights of Manhattan or Annie Hall.
Come on, now – these guys are knocking on some – Allen’s 77 and LeCarré’s 81. What do you expect? A little falling off is permissible, surely? A fact of life.
[Now you see why I'm keen to quit while I'm (just about) ahead ... ]
Okay, I know endings are difficult, but, after what had been, I think, a superlative series, the final episode was disappointing. No getting around it. From the moment the realisation finally sank in, somewhere around the half-way mark, that they were going to let the killer get away so as to set up the situation for a second series, most of the life seeped out of it.
There were, admittedly, some good scenes, a couple especially between Jamie Dornan as Paul and Bronagh Waugh as his wife, but even Gillian Anderson failed really to shine, shorn of a moment of triumph or resolution. And, in the narrative, there was a real and unfortunate sense of too many loose strands coming not too convincingly home to roost.
After the excellence of what had gone before I felt cheated, sitting there with my glass of Scotch, watching not the true end of something, but the trailer for something yet to come.
A nice example of Thelonious Monk’s dealings with his fellow musicians comes in Robin Kelley’s recent book*, where he describes a recording session involving the renowned saxophonists, Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane, both of whom were having difficulties with the arrangements they’d been asked to play.
When Hawkins asked for some explanation, he got an earful. Art Blakey remembers, “Monk said to Hawk, ‘You’re the great Coleman Hawkins, right?’ Hawk agreed. Then Monk said to Trane, ‘You’re the great John Coltrane, right?’ Trane blushed, and mumbled, ‘Aw … I’m not so great.’ Then Monk said to both of them. ‘You both play saxophone, right?’ They nodded. ‘Well, the music is on the horn. Between the two of you, you should be able to find it,’”
* Thelonious Monk: The Life & Times of an American Original – Robin D. G. Kelley
And there’s a good web site devoted to Monk and this book about him here …
I missed out on this series when it was first shown here, not having the requisite channel, but caught up with it recently via DVD. Made in Australia and based upon two of Peter Temple’s Melbourne-based crime novels – Bad Debts & Black Tide – the series features Guy Pearce as Jack Irish, lawyer and trouble shooter, a private eye by any other name.
As one of the screenwriters says in the Behind the Scenes extras, it’s impossible to boil down a whole novel into some 90 minutes of screen time; what you can hope to do is create something based upon the novel which works in its own terms while, hopefully, preserving the mood and atmosphere of the original. Something I think these pieces, adapted by Andrew Knight and Matt Cameron and directed by Jeffrey Walker manage to pull off.
Maybe the action scenes, well filmed as they are, are given a little too much prominence and – something that brings the series far closer to American TV than British – there is a much stronger emphasis on guns and gun play; our hero seems to kill two bad guys towards the end of Bad Debts without getting as much as a slapped wrist.
Much depends, of course, upon Pearce’s ability to make the main character likeable, both because of as well as in spite of his weaknesses and insecurities. Kick sand in this bloke’s face, though, and he’ll be coming after you, no matter what. As well as which we’re led to believe he is pretty irresistible to women [it's a long way from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert], pulling – I believe that’s still the expression – journalist Linda Hillier, played by Marta Dusseldorp, within moments of their meeting. Which, since it means Ms Dusseldorp gets a goodly amount of screen time has to be a good thing. A mix of Vera Farmiga, Robin Wright and violinist Viktoria Mullova, to my old eyes she’s a stunningly attractive woman [whatever the political correctness police may think of that statement] and fully deserving of the extra screen space this blog allows.