Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Monday, 22 December 2014

A Christmassy Grumble

Every year, usually but not necessarily starting November, shops deck up in Christmas gear and start selling it too, sometimes even before the month dedicated to the dead (now see... that in itself should already be indication enough that we are not to be festive!)

Maybe it's due to my childhood and mum's yearly grumble about 'having to do' the decorating, or maybe not, that I am not so keen to decorate the house early. Whilst my target for getting into the festive mood is the 8th of December (a feast and therefore always a day when I am home, whatever day of the week it may be), my husband postpones even further and we find ourselves putting up the decorations and the tree on the 13th (well make it the 14th this time around!) so that really, is it even worth all the effort when they are only going to be on view for three weeks max?)

As Christmas draws near, my excitement starts building I must admit, as I let my friends' love for the season spill over into my lesser-inclined mind. However, not only do I dread all the tinsel-sweeping that comes with setting it all up (and the headache of where to store the empty boxes till they are to return, filled, to the garage in the new year), but I also get fed up of it all really quickly! This year is no exception. Or rather, to be more precise, this year our tree had no place to go since our house is now much more ready and therefore full of furniture, than it used to be and it now stands as a roundabout in between the kitchen area and the living room, leaving us only the space to pass one at a time between it and the back of the sofa, which didn't used to be there last year (and actually when we still had some space left for the tree that was not in the middle anyway!)

And so I ashamedly admit, I can't wait to put it all down. Well, not all exactly, maybe. Crazy as it sounds, knowing the cushion behind my back as I watch something on the telly has a red cover and is something Christmassy makes me smile. And I really love my husband's idea of decorating the new shelves we've installed and how he did it. As always, the Christmas wreath with its flowers and candles in red and gold seems to me lovely and the snowmen standing guard on the top of the cabinets that have, since last year, moved from my office area to the dining room, I also well-appreciate.

So I think, after all, it's just the dreaded tree I'm after removing when I count down to the new year and mentally see myself packing it all up in boxes again for a year. Now aren't Christmas trees ornamental beauties as a rule? I do think that when I see other peoples, but try as I may, excluding one time which was last year, I never seem to think our tree has been properly set up. There is either too much red or too little tinsel, not enough decorations or maybe too many. There were times I wanted to do away with all the old ornaments that were passed on to me from mum's tree (she stopped setting one up when she last moved house and she seemed to announce it with relief!) but now I seem to love the old things, some of which date back to the seventies I am sure.

As you can see, I don't even myself know just why I keep looking at our too huge tree and asking it to be better next year. Maybe, just maybe, it is because of memories embedded in our histories after all.

Friday, 19 December 2014

As it is almost Christmas... A Christmas Classic, Actually

As of yesterday morning, my latest entry on EVE is up and I must say, it was a nice surprise (I never know for when exactly it is scheduled). Given what a horrible day I was having, it was one thing that put a smile on my face! Not going to keep you in suspense any longer now, here goes the link:

http://www.eve.com.mt/2014/12/18/a-christmas-classic-actually/

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A Michael Hoffman Film - Restoration (1995)

Michael Hoffman is an American who won a scholarship to an Oxford college in England where he realised his fascination with the young pompous Englishmen's ways on campus, so different from what he was used to in his own country, could easily translate into a film. And so the student film Privileged was born. However since I have unfortunately still to find this treasure to add to my DVD collection (yes, as you guessed it does star a young Hugh Grant in his first ever role), I will instead today be talking about another film that Hoffman directed in later years and which is Restoration (1995).

Whilst in this film, too, Hugh Grant makes an appearance (Hugh does seem to love to work with the same people over and over), the main star of this venture is definitely Robert Downey Jr., around whose character the story evolves. For Downey is Robert Merivel, a bright young doctor much more absorbed in worldly things than in his vocation, to the chagrin of his best pal John Pearce (played by David Thewlis who is better known for his part as Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter series).

The story follows Merivel through what he thinks is his lucky break, which turns out to be also a disappointment when the one lady he falls in love with is very clearly the one he can't have. But life must go on and unfortunately also without his previous fortunes, so that he ultimately goes back to caring for the sick, first at his friend Pearce's sanitarium and later, following more bad luck (and some valuable life experiences too), back to where he started in London, caring for the ones that really need a physician. This time it is the plague and under the name of his now-dead friend Pearce, Merivel does good wherever he goes until the time comes when he is once again summoned to the King's palace where his good fortunes originally started. It is there that his conversion to a better man really becomes complete and not only so, but I believe also where he finally totally lets go of his love which had gone unrequited. Despite the plague and the Great Fire of London of 1666, Merivel's story ultimately ends on a happy note.

I must confess I was impressed with Robert Downey Jr. in this project, most especially because in this film he is stripped of his usual confident onscreen persona for most of the two-hour journey. It is his soulful eyes, in fact, that work overtime this time, portraying all the inner feelings of the worldly-but-naive Merivel who, for the most part of the film, is subjected to disappointments of every kind. The character in question is the kind that starts out as a cad but ends in conversion to a better person  but which has the audience on his side from the very first. Downey is one of few people who can pull off this stunt.

Meanwhile, if Downey plays the cad, this time real-life hottie Hugh Grant plays only a minor role and even that, in a ridiculous costume and wearing too much make-up, so much in fact that I am quite ready to believe that a non-fan might miss it being Hugh altogether. Dan Whitehead's unauthorised biography suggests this role might have been his way of staying out of the spotlight directly following the press-storm around his 1995 arrest. I concede to the fact that only a hard-core fan could possibly like his character Elias Finn and then only on the merits that we (fans I mean) can never get enough of the typical Hugh-character stutter and fidgety type.

If I were to rate this film, I'd be quite confused on whether to rate high or low, simply because it excels in some aspects whilst disappointing in some others. The storyline (borrowed from a book by the same title and which refers to England's Restoration period) is original and the historical setting and costumes impressive, but there still seems to be something lacking in this film, especially in its first part, something I can't quite seem to pinpoint. And to add insult to injury, Merivel's excessively frilly clothing and curly wig, despite being in keeping with the era in question, are quite unnerving on the usually self-proud figure of Downey, making him look like a fool. But that could be because I am only reviewing this nineteen years after it was filmed, and quite a while after Downey's name became synonymous with Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

That Tiny Silver Lining For This Week

There isn't much to say this week because frankly, nothing much happened. Or rather, a big something called surgery happened at the start of the week and has left me a little out of it and doing not much else all week. It was supposed to be just a little something, a tiny incision to remove the roots of a wisdom tooth that broke so bad they wouldn't come out when the dentist pulled it out, in pieces. But as things are bound to be, it turned out more complicated than not only I but even the surgeons thought it would be.

So I am now nursing the stitches whilst looking each morning at a swollen face that had me in the A&E last Thursday for being so bad. Apparently this is the one case in the world where sleeping actually makes your situation worse! The surgeon kindly explained to hubby and me when I turned up panicking that it's something to do with oedema and the body trying to keep safe from infection following the bruising bla bla bla and which seems to happen when I lie down. So he warned me that this would be happening every morning for a few more days, this gross huge swelling that even reduces my ability to open my left eye properly whilst turning my cheek right below the said eye a seeming purple at times. Meanwhile talking of purple, my lip ain't looking too good either, mostly due to the repeated blows it received during surgery because of my extra-small mouth (my small mouth only every seems to cause complications on the health front, and I used to think it looked cute!!)

The one thing interesting that did happen on Monday just before surgery turned out to be something of a booster for the literary side of me. Always wary of bus timetables, I made my way to the hospital early in order to avoid chancing lateness. Which left me with two hours to spare after I got there (trust the bus to be early when you are!) So for lack of anything better to do, I stalked an Agenda newsagent for over an hour as I willed the time to pass so that I could get the procedure over with (little did I know what I was in for!) One hour in a shop is a long time you know? After I mentally scanned all the rows of magazines for at least three times, finding none worth parting with money for, I moved on to the books sections. I say sections because they were spread over more than one area.

Each bookshelf got a good seeing to, and many books with interesting names, covers, authors I'd heard of, made it into my searching hands. What was I looking for? As I turned each one over to read the synopsis and mull over whether I thought the storylines original, intriguing, worth reading and so on, I put each plot in line with that of my own novel, as yet partly in draft and partly sitting in my mind or in little notes in my files. I will not diss any of the books that I saw, and I am sure that there are many as interesting or even more so than my own little imaginative literary project. But that said, I think I can safely say the exercise made me believe that my novel, too, deserves a space in that Agenda and only another writer can understand me fully when I say, the thought of seeing my book in print gave me a moral boost so big it helped me write a scene I'd been stuck on for months.