Sunday, 11 March 2018

Sunday Summary | And at last I see the light // and it's like the fog has lifted ...

Dear FOQ

First of all, may I take this opportunity to wish Ma QB a Happy Mothering Sunday?

I'm slightly perturbed by the fact that my card and gift didn't arrive πŸ˜ž(and I promise I'd organised both!) but hey, that's the post for ya.

Probably still playing catch-up after last week's sner.

Anyway, without further ado ...

This week, I have mostly been ...

Reading πŸ“™

I may have got through a few more pages of Little Women since last we spoke ... but yet again I've been preoccupied with:

Writing ✍

My motto? Have surface, will write ...

{Aaah, my spiritual home, Costa, the institution of which will doubtless end up in the acknowledgments of this novel if when I ever finish the blighter.}
{... even on the corner of Ma's pasting table desk!)

{Note-making in the pub because the bl__dy tablet ran down its
own battery, like the defiant machination that it is.}

Watching πŸŽ₯πŸ“Ί

(Oh, now, brace yourselves: I've been a right ol' square-eyes lately, comparatively speaking.)


(Season Six, in case any of you are keeping track.)

Florence Foster Jenkins

This is just a wonderful film.

Meryl Streep can do no wrong, ever; and she plays FFJ, music aficionado and deluded opera-singer, with just the right amount of whimsy and empathy, while Hugh Grant as her husband plays, well, you can imagine. (Hugh Grant, basically.)

Quick upshot of the plot for those of you still awake at the back there: FFJ decides in her latter years that she wants to sing, and hires a pianist and a tutor to help her fulfil her dream.

Except she can't sing.

Ooh, look, Charles and Bernard reunited! {#pointlessfourweddingsandafuneralreference}

But she's such a dear, lovely woman who has poured a vast amount of money into the New York music scene (oh yes, and she's had syphilis for decades) that no one dares tell her otherwise and so she is actively encouraged to sing, right up to the point where she books herself in to sing at Carnegie Hall, and thus risks humiliating herself – but becomes a national treasure instead.

(Well, that's the film interpretation anyway.)

There are some wonderful comic moments in the film and some gorgeous performances – look out for Simon "Howard Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory" Helberg as FFJ's pianist, CosmΓ© McMoon; he's utterly adorable.


Watched this with Ma last weekend: it's the biopic of Robin Cavendish who contracted polio as a young man while in Kenya, and was paralysed, but who survived far beyond his predicted years with the help of a breathing machine and an adapted chair invented by his friend Teddy Hall.

As ever, the story was rather Vaseline-smeared for the purposes of Hollywood but Andrew Garfield is just wonderful to watch in what is otherwise quite a slow-moving flick.

Fans of The Crown will enjoy Claire Foy: she's a little too, er, Helena Bonham-Carter-ish for my liking (plus as Robin's wife Diana, she did not age a day from the 1940s to the 1980s, which, considering the makeup artists did a fine job ageing Robin, was just a bit weird).

Oh but Tom Hollander, playing both of Diana's twin brothers, is just marvellous.

The Girl on the Train

Warning: the trailer is a bit grim ...

(Are ya ready for another considered film critique full-scale tearing-apart?)

You'd think that I, hardened, seasoned, embittered stalwart commuter, would be the first in line to appreciate a book, and a film, entitled The Girl on the Train.

I'm afraid, dear FOQ, that you think wrong. Wrongity-wrong.

Did I enjoy the filmic translation of Paula Hawkins' lauded 'thriller'?





At this point, dear reader, now you've got the general idea that no, I did not enjoy this film, you can Choose your Own Blog Post Adventure: either you can read through my damning diatribe (and you can imagine me, shrieking, in my effusive way, and another thing as a preface to every point forthcoming).

Or you can skip right on ahead to the part of the blog where you'll find this picture collage of me in the snow looking hella tired:

If you choose to follow me on this journey, beware – BEWAAAAARE!

I enjoyed TGOTT: the fillum almost as much as I used to 'enjoy' waiting at East Croydon for hours on end back in the day, only to end up on a late-running service, in an aisle or a vestibule, wedged under someone's armpit, or downwind of their coffee/lager breath

or, nowadays, anticipating a tight connection only to see the outgoing train slide out of view as I press on the door release button and hop, raging and cursing, onto the platform.

(So basically none; I enjoyed it none.)

I'll tell you for why.

Actually, first I'll tell you for why not.

It wasn't down to the cast, the cast was comprised of some decent, acclaimed actors – and (Jennifer Aniston's ex-husband) Justin "Allegedly Collects Human Teeth" Theroux.

Add in to the mix:

  • Emily Blunt (wondrous as she is, she is in some danger of being a little too ... English and Emily Blunt-ish sometimes, in most everything, but she's terrifyingly skilled at playing drunk)
  • Allison Janney (who is utterly wasted in this film)
{via here}
  • Laura Prepon (most latterly of OITNB fame; she's still rocking quite an Alex Vause vibe but we'll allow)

  • Haley Bennett (whose name I recognised but who I mistook for Blake "Gossip Girl" Lively for the first ten minutes of the film before I realised she's the teenage popstar in Music and Lyrics)

{via here}

  • Oh, look, there's that non-singing opera singer from The Greatest Showman, Rebecca "Not the X-Factor finalist" Ferguson again (far be it from me to get a little overly... fangirly about an actor to the point of watching everything they're in and yes you can count Florence Foster Jenkins in that number, too ... eh, OK, I totally do, but y'know what, I own that).
{That's a freakishly tiny hand you have there, Anna...}
  • And, spotted but scarily barely recognisable, Lisa "Phoebe from Friends some 25 years later, gulp" Kudrow.

Poor old cast, poooor old cast, why are you doing this?
Poor old cast, poooooor old cast, it's not your fault.

I'll tell you what is wrong.

It's the flamin' storyline.

The achingly implausible, contrived, riddled-with-inconsistencies storyline.

I'm sure Paula Hawkins is a very nice person and a very hard worker who spent hours, days, weeks, months, years on crafting TGOTT and hey, who am I to cricitise one who's a published novelist when I, dear reader, am not? but why on earth didn't anyone take a heavy-duty iron to her plotline and smooth out all the bumps? (Yes, friends, I'm quoting myself, again. And, Evie, check out our dialogue in the comments for this blog post! I'd forgotten this!)

There were many flaws, and they were all carelessly translated into the film adaptation. Maybe if the film-makers had waited for the book's publication before they got all excited about it, and read a few reviews before adapting it, they might have been able to right all those wrongity-wrongs but as Rachel herself might say:

I am still trying to fathom out what possessed the filmmakers to transpose the location from London to the outer boroughs of NYC ...

Although, I can imagine that budget and practicality had a lot to do with it, plus London according to Hollywood is full of red phone boxes and bankers in bowler hats so the story simply wouldn't make sense (!).

Also, it may be down to the mere fact that if Rachel really were travelling in and out of London pretending to commute (and who does that?!), there's no way she'd have been close enough to a window to be able to follow the everyday shenanigans of Megan and her husband, because she'd be rammed in an aisle or a vestibule, or wedged under someone's armpit, or downwind of their coffee/lager breath.

{Picture: Getty via here}
As it happens she had all the space in the world in her huge American train in which to sit, and quaff her vodka, and then rage at her fellow commuters: oh, but, hey, Rachel, you flawed heroine: it all adds to the mystery, right?


Maybe I've spent too much time napping, gob open, on trains lately (I live a charmed commuter life these days: even the conductor – sorry, OBS – commented on how lucky I was to be able to have three empty seats around me, and a table to write on, this past week), but even on the quietest of journeys coming into the most built-up parts of the city, are you really, really able to see the everyday goings on of people living in the buildings by the tracks?


I mean, how good must her long-distance sight have been to be able to discern all the things she did from looking out of the window?!

I call tommyrot.

Admittedly, years ago, when I was on the train, I saw a dead sheep in a field somewhere between Edenbridge and Tonbridge but, y'know, I didn't know its name; and I certainly didn't get out of the train, and hunt down or stalk its husband or anything.

{"Can I interest you in a set of encyclopaedias?"}

Mind you, that's probably because I'm not a ghastly fictional anti-protagonist.

Also, it was a sheep.


At least in the film, the police were given enough gravitas to at least seem like they knew what they were doing; but riddle me this, other people who have lost two hours of their lives to this film:

Maybe I wasn't paying attention to the timelines (because, if you recall my previous criticism of the book, the whole Morning/Evening time shift thing bored me; it bored me, people) but, how did Rachel go from not knowing who Megan was, and imagining what her name was ("Lisa, or Amber, or Jess") to suddenly knowing she was Megan Hipwell, and suddenly having information about her based on seeing one photograph of this woman whom she'd only seen from afar on the train?!

{Aaah, just imagine how much one can deduce from this
fleeting scene ...}

I know Rachel was an unreliable narrator but coooooome onnnnnnn!

And how long had Megan and Scott been Anna and Tom's neighbours? Scott knew Rachel was 'Tom's crazy ex' but ... had they been Rachel's neighbours as well? Or did they only move in after Anna moved into what was Tom and Rachel's house, and had that adorable baby who seemed to age then regress from scene to scene (OK, to be fair, there may have been more time lapse notices that I wasn't paying attention to).

Ooh, so many questions.

... It annoys me when I dislike a film and it throws up all these questions to which I really want the answers if only to prove me wrong, but it's such a terrible film I can't go back and watch it and fill in the gaps because that's tantamount to smacking myself about the chops and why would I even do that?!

Oh look, here's me in the snow. That's your cue – the rest of you can come back into the room now.


I have also been ...

Celebrating the significant birthday πŸŽ‚πŸŽˆ

of Pa QB in a typically but pleasantly low-key Harwoodian fashion, with a scrumptious lunch at the Poacher and Partridge in Tudeley followed by gift opening and giggling at home.

{Setting the gift standard high with a spangly new rain mac!} 

{Piggeh cake! πŸ’“}


Happy birthday, ol' man.

I know you don't read this blog (and to be fair, I probably wouldn't either if I didn't write it – oh, who am I kidding? I'm hilarious) but props to you for being the person (well, one of two!) who made me the reader/writer I am today. (And admittedly the oddity I am today but, hey, you can't fight genetics.)

Hanging with the Ginger Yoda πŸ’œ

... and putting the world to rights over some substantially-sized pizzas.

{By the by, Facebook Friends ... the water was what happened after the wine in case you
thought for a moment that I'd gone all puritanical on you. Nooooo. | photo by Natalie}

Singing with my Voicerox Lovelies 🎡🍟

... twice in a day, first at Part Two of our a cappella workshop; and if you come along to either our free Sing into Spring event on 24th March, or our proper concert on 9th June, you'll hear us perform it for reals so I'm still not divulging what song it is – as Ma always says in her wisdom, you'll have to Wait and See.

... For our second liaison, we parked up round our Jess' gaff for what we like to call Kebabaoke and no, I'm not even going to explain for why, it's too easy; nobody likes a FOQsplainer.

{"Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Elton ... John!"
Just kidding; they were singing Suspicious Minds.}

{Sensible ... | photo by Mimi}

{Slightly deranged ... | photo by Mimi}

The night may have drawn to a close with a very high-pressure game of Chubby Bunny from which Charlie emerged triumphant with a total of seven? Eight? marshmallows wedged in her mouth.

{The aftermath}
Action shots do exist but I'm pretty sure I'd be exorcised from the Kebabaoke Krew if I were to source them and share them on here so ... you'll just have to imagine the high jinks and japes that ensued.


With big shout-outs to, of course, Jess (HWTM*) and Mimi (and Mimi's friend); Alun, Charlie and Al, Jenny, and Steve, quality duetting partner – yes, friends, we tackled this number which I kind of just learned yesterday afternoon:

And very nice to meet Jess' new man Marc (and young Isla); hope the lot of us combined weren't too scary a prospect.

(*first word is hostess and I'll let you work out the rest)

Pinterest Pins of the Fortnight πŸ“Œ

Fortnightly Web Finds πŸ•ΈπŸ”Ž

Serious πŸ˜‘

• My Life as a Bookworm | Lucy Mangan (yay!) for The Guardian | via Goodreads

• When cooking for one, we need to banish the "why bother?" feelingSigne Johansen on The Pool
• My workmate Emily is blogging, and cooking, and baking, and she has a reet good turn of phrase | This Cookbook Calendar

• Love this (and I think you will too, Natalie): wise words on self-love and self-care from illustrator Mari Andrew:

| Mari Andrew | via A Cup of Jo {Joanna Goddard}

Silly 🀑

• Google Translate Sings ... The Greatest Showman | Malinda Kathleen Reese on YouTube

Well, as Ma QB very often said to Sis and me in our youth "That's enough!" (usually suffixed with, "I'll bang yer heads together").

More in a fortnight, probably.

qb xx

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Sunday Summary | I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I'm meant to be ...


In the spirit of the titling of most episodes of Friends, please consider this post to be 'The One Where QB Bangs On at Great Length about The Greatest Showman versus Moulin Rouge'. 

You may want to forego such waffle but maybe not because sometimes I make a good point.


Dear FOQ

How are we all? Hunkered up, wrapped in all the onesies and awaiting what the cynics (aka the forecasters) are calling the Beast from the East, or, as we like to refer to it, Late Winter.

This fortnight, I have mostly been ...

Writing ✍πŸ“–

Brace yourselves for a confession here but, I feel like such a fraud including a reading portion when technically I've read nothing properly lately, other than a backlist Guardian Weekend, my authors' text for their books (at work), and my own writing. 

So until I get my reading groove back, I'm parking the portion until I can rightfully say I've picked up a book and read a few good pages.

Considering I think of myself as a bookworm, I'm such a 


I have, however, been invested considerably in my own writing, so when I profess to be a writer, I'm actually not kidding myself.

Which is nice.

Watching πŸ“Ί


Which throws up all the great gifs, all the time.

Mind you, having reached Season 5, please tell me I'm not the only person who thinks it's cruel of Joey's friends to joke about his tiny girlfriend punching him, right up until the point where Rachel realises this girl is actually causing him physical pain.

Very uncomfortable for a myriad reasons.


Chan + Mon 4eva.

The Greatest Showman πŸŽͺ

(aka The Greatest Jackman)


If you're not into this sort of thing, I'd advise you scroll right on down until you see a picture of my Voicerox Lovelies...!

Ma QB and I paid a rare visit to the Movies – or, as we like to call it, the cinema – last weekend (and sneaked in our own popcorn because we could) to take in TGS.

It's a spectacle!

Here are some good things about the film:

• Hugh Jackman is a beautiful, beautiful man and I love his singing voice. (Also, he seems like a genuinely nice, good chap in real life and that's always reassuring.)

• Zac Efron seems to have grown up and far, far away from his geeky pretty-boy High School Musical manifestation with considerable aplomb.

• And from a visual point of view, TGS is a slick piece of work with some amazing effects (although someone needs to reassure me that the elephants were a CGI creation and no animals were harmed for the purposes of this film).

• Also, the music is insanely catchy and has been trapped, earworm-like, in my head all week.


(I should mention, people, that I studied Film and TV at university about sixty years ago, and sometimes this makes me more critiquey, smug and judgmental than usual ...)

This is a big however, pre-empted with a great:

I really, really wanted to love it.

On the first viewing, I didn't love it.

Not in the way I loved Moulin Rouge from the get-go so much I redecorated my whole bedroom in sari fabrics, wept like a complete sopster every time I heard Come What May, wanted to get married in an elephant, or failing that, a theatre whilst wearing this dress:

and for a brief spell in about 2001, became a Victorian courtesan with tuberculosis for funsies.

(OK, one of those facts is untrue.)

That's not to say I didn't enjoy TGS; I did. There were some really wonderful moments (notably every scene featuring Le Jackman) and I've had the soundtrack in my head almost constantly for a week (not to mention on the iPod!).

Especially this absolute belter of a song, which – whilst being cheesier than an 'exotic' Swiss fondue – is the sort of song that everybody needs as their empowerment anthem:

(with thanks to Emma J for bringing this video – from the studio greenlighting meeting – to my attention before I'd even seen the film: This is Me was already rocking my self-righteous little world).

Keala Settle has pipes. All the pipes.


(and this is a big but)

There were flaws.

Many flaws.

• One of which was the way in which the music, and the dance moves, fitted uncomfortably within the supposedly Victorian setting.

Now, referring back to Moulin Rouge, I'm fully aware that nobody in a music hall circa 1899 would have been rocking out to Nirvana.

A lowly British poet would not have serenaded his fated love with a mashup of Bowie, Beatles and U2 songs (to name just a couple).

What Baz Luhrmann did for Moulin Rouge with such skill was to allow the music, and the dance, to convey the energy of the time and the emotions of his characters, and for the songs to work as their dialogue.

The Greatest Showman didn't quite make that magic happen.

There felt like a huge disconnect between the energy of the setting, and the energy of the musical numbers.

And the characters all fell in love a little too quickly. Poor boy sees rich girl and makes her laugh. They get told off. They run off together, start singing.

... Next thing you know, they're still singing, they're adults, and she's pregnant.

Ah, yes, I know, it's a cinematic device to convey the passage of time but still.

Good job Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams had enough chemistry to transcend a) the twelve-year age gap* between the two actors, and b) audience cynicism.

Similarly, there were enough adoring looks between Zac Efron's and Zendaya's characters to mean that their inevitable romance was ... well, fairly inevitable even if it was largely depicted in one poignant moment of hand-holding and an ill-fated date at the theatre. Followed by a rather wonderful duet and a whole acrobatic routine.

I enjoyed that.

That was clever.

(I was slightly less sold on how little risk there actually was in their relationship.)

* Mind you, ageing gracefully is clearly in the genes for the faux-Barnums as neither of their children aged in the whole time span of the film as Ma QB pointed out.

• One of the other huge flaws was to tear apart and reconstruct the characters of real, historical people for the purposes of the storyline.

Barnum himself for one, although apparently the film does not purport to be historically sound and is inspired more by the 'imagination' of Barnum than by his actual historical documented life.

So that's OK then.

But ... forgive me for harking back to my university education (in case you thought for one moment I had no basis on which to found my ramblings) ... I wrote my dissertation on the perks and perils of depicting historical figures in fiction.

Conclusion: it's a minefield.

{Sorry to break it to ya, Fake Barnum}

Of course, Moulin Rouge (yeah, that again) took that risk by popping Toulouse-Lautrec into the mix:

but with a certain amount of historical research to back up the way he was depicted.

Not so much for TGS by all accounts but I am happy to be proven wrong with a bit of wider reading (for instance ... did Barnum really leave his family to take Jenny Lind on tour? Oh, well, apparently they definitely went on tour so, sort of yes.

Did he really give up his circus to watch his girls grow up? Did he really trade in the bonds of sunken ships to finance his first show? Did he really steal a loaf of bread to save his sister and her child, and then spend years on the run from the law and Russell Crowe's monotone? ... Hmm.)

Which brings me onto my last Flaw of the Film.

• The portrayal of Jenny Lind, the Swedish nightingale.

{Actual Jenny Lind | via WikiCommons}
Who, in spite of being a soprano, apparently sang alto with all the gusto of an X-Factor/America's Got Talent contestant about to receive this kind of approval from the Cowell:

And, I'm rather stunned to say, that was a dubbed alto. (Dubbed, ironically by a finalist on the US version of The Voice. That'd explain that, then.)

Oh, Hollywood, you can do better than that.

What was your thought process here, people?

With absolutely no discredit to Rebecca "Not the X-Factor Finalist" Ferguson, whose Jenny Lind ruthlessly allured Barnum with all the alluring allure of someone alluring (and who has a musical background according to the Interwebs so I'd be interested to know why the heck she was dubbed over) ... the whole inclusion of Jenny Lind, the actual historical figure, in a musical without any allusion in the music to her being an opera singer even though it was mentioned in the dialogue made absolutely no chortling sense.

(Bit like this whole diatribe, really.)

All that aside, I am rather enraptured by Never Enough on its own merits, aside from the wrongity-wrongness of its whole context.

... Eh.

Perhaps I just need to see the film again and compartmentalise all attempts at historical accuracy and credibility. It's clearly got its claws into me to warrant this much overthinking and what my dear workmates refer to as 'Beffling'.

I have also been ...

Meeting and eating with ... πŸ’œπŸ˜‹πŸ²πŸ·

... My Voicerox Lovelies (and honorary Lovelies)

Why yes; at the very end of a Voicerox-less week, I met with Charlie, Jenny, Jess, Al and Mimi, for a rare Sunday-night dinner treat and Social Fix Because We Missed Each Other, at the Air Balloon carvery in Horley (accessible by bus for those of us classy enough to require such transportation).

Sunday nights are the new Friday nights, people, you heard it here first.

(Actually, no, if you follow my fluffy Facebook feed you probably read it there first.)

... Natalie

{Photo by Nats}

for a Winesday Wednesday catch-up.

This consisted of me hotfooting to Tunbridge Wells after work, holing up in The Barn (yay, the Barn) to wait for the Bestie and write for a while with a glass of Merlot (accent on the 'lot' for maximum pretentiousness).

Witness this missive exchange between she and I:

Reader, I did in fact have to chug a sizeable quantity of said Merlot (which apparently made me very tipsy and very effusive in a dangerously short period of time).

Result: the inability to a) read the word 'fontal' correctly; or b) cut my own pizza, when we got to ASK.

{Disclaimer: the Salsiccia is a very tasty pizza}

{My poor liver | photo by Nats}

{Waiting for Natalie to wield the pizza wheel | photo by Nats}

{Sober sister | photo by Nats}

Still. We had a jolly good catch-up in spite of my rather unnecessary pickledness.


Other events of the fortnight, not depicted pictorially, have included

Singing 🎢

... a cappella with the Voicerox crew.

I shan't give away what this year's a cappella song choice is, but come along to our concert in June and see us perform it live. And bring tissues. It's all a bit emosh.

Getting a long-needed massage πŸ’†

... at Serenity, at a very reasonable £45 for an hour, having my every twinge ironed out (and sleeping like a well-massaged log as a result).


No Web Finds this Fortnight but heeeeere's my ...

Pinterest Pins of the Fortnight πŸ“Œ

See you again in a fortnight, you righteous beauties.

qb xx