Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Food and Film-Time

Over the weekend I wrote a blog entry which I will be publishing next week, as I would like it to coincide with a particular date. As a result I've been left with no time to write up this week's post and so I'll play it by ear.

I'd promised myself, and even mentioned on here, that come Autumn when routine picks up for my family again, I would find the time to start eating more healthy. And so I am doing! I have not totally omitted fattening or unhealthy foods but taking them sparingly is to my mind no hindrance on the healthy diet. Unfortunately however, what is proving to be tricky is breakfast time. Now that's ironic considering it was the one healthy meal I never forgo, whatever the day or season. However it has now become the most complicated choice to make! I am just a bit lactose intolerant (I can take tiny amounts of milk or condensed milk) and so not able to take cereals with milk, therefore ending up with very dry options!! I also found out the hard way that the negligible amount of nuts in Minibix fruit and nut (I don't like the chocolate variety) is affecting my frequency of getting mouth ulcers. Meanwhile I read lately that as someone with blood type B positive I should be avoiding wheat and chicken as they tend to cause lethargy. Although a little sceptical of this news, I did try to find alternatives to Weetabix, which is one of the few cereals I can actually enjoy eating (with a small amount of condensed milk diluted with hot water) and I was surprised to find that I do feel better on mornings when I avoid wheat and take muesli instead (quite a parching option I'm afraid).

But enough about foods, and on to TV series, which I don't talk about on here as often as I do about feature films. The thing is, few series grab my attention so that I am willing to go back for more the following week (or following day or hour if it is an old one that I am not watching on a first airing but on DVD). I can probably count the number of series I've watched in a lifetime on my fingers. With Downton Abbey back on air for its final season, I'm savouring each episode willing it not to end after the forty-five minutes are up. (Here's my article with what I expect out of the sixth season, which was written before any of the episodes aired: http://www.eve.com.mt/2015/09/17/its-time-for-downton-abbey/)

Meanwhile, for the first time in my life, I am watching three other series at the same time. You might be wondering how I find the time, considering I'm always whining about not getting enough rest and not catching up even. That is exactly why mealtimes come in useful. I watch the weekly Downton episode whilst taking a mid-morning snack on a day I'm not at the office, then continuing to watch it as I hang up the washing on a clotheshorse and then sit down for the remainder of the episode sorting through the clean laundry. At times I even manage the ironing at this time! And back to more food (for someone who dreads mealtimes I'm talking quite a bit about my eating habits today!) I watch Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with my hubby whilst we have our evening meal, sans kid, who would be asleep already by that time.
Some series and mini-series

The fourth and last series that I'm currently watching is the very old A Very Peculiar Practice, a BBC series from the eighties (I so love watching old stuff, just as I love owning replicas of stuff from previous decades and dream of living in a house right out of the fifties). I usually watch this series on days when I'm not at the office but when I've already watched the weekly Downton episode on another day. As with Downton, I find I can follow what's on screen whilst not stopping my chores (after all I always have enough laundry in the house to occupy me in this way.)

I am now off, having eaten my lunch hour sandwiches whilst writing finishing off this entry (see how useful mealtimes can turn out!).

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Time for a review - The Bengali Night or La Nuit Bengali (1988)

It's a film I have seen twice, and the second time I was no less shocked than the first at the fate of the protagonist and more so his erstwhile fiancée.

This is supposedly based on an autobiography that was named Bengali Nights. I say 'supposedly' because not only have some details been changed (like the nationality of the main character Alain as well as the name of his promised Gayatri) but also because it is debatable whether the autobiography is really correct at all.

You see, the biographical novel by the Frenchman Mircea Eliade (rather than British as the film implies) tries to recount the love story of a young Alain (Mircea himself) and Maitreyi Devi (in the film renamed Gayatri to avoid further problems in a nightmare legal battle that ensued when the filming started in Calcutta). Mircea suggests in the book that a passionate love affair happened between himself and his Indian employer's daughter. Meanwhile Maitreyi retaliates in her answering novel It Does Not Die, which gives her own version of what she believes has been turned into a fantastical and semi-fictional story in Eliade's book.

The film's outline, in concise form but with SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH, would be something of this sort: British engineer Alain (played by Hugh Grant) moves to India on a voyage of self-discovery and falls for his boss's daughter Gayatri (Supriya Pathak), who returns his affections. Whilst she knows that her family would never approve of the match, she falls hard for Alain and slowly gives in to his courtship. Their intents are honourable, wanting to get married, and yet it is not easy to tell this to Gayatri's parents. With her father taken ill and her younger sister giving her away to their mother, the young couple's secret love is so no longer. In a scene pretty difficult to understand but which seemed to me to have much to do with the Hindu religion, Gayatri's mother seems to be punishing the young woman for what she believes are indiscretions. The news of the match reaches also the father's ears (probably through the mother) and he who had previously treated Alain with much affection and as though he were his own son, turns against the young lad, throwing him out of his house, where Alain has been living for a while. In an ending that I would class as worse than that of Romeo and Juliet (for after all they did both die in the end and so avoided the pain of not being together anymore), Alain is heartbroken at having been made to move away and never contact his beloved Gayatri again. He also receives that final twist of a dagger in his already wounded heart by Gayatri's cousin, who looks him up purposely to divulge that after Alain moved away, Gayatri got nothing but physical abuse from her family and that her already troubled little sister, having witnessed the cruelties of her family towards Gayatri, killed herself.

Whether a passionate affair took place or not and regardless of what nationality Alain should have been, the truth at the core of this story remains very simply the same - the interracial romance could never have gone on as long as the lovers lived in India. Harsh as it sounds, it is Gayatri/Maitreyi's family that not only pulls the two apart but is also responsible for the young people's ruin, if the film is correct in its ending.

I must confess I have not read either of the two corresponding books, which were ultimately released by the University of Chicago Press as companion volumes in 1994a few years after The Bengali Night was filmed. The reason it took so long for the books to be thus published was Maitreyi's request to Mircea that he do not publish an English version of his book (originally in Romanian) till after her death. In fact this very promise is what caused such trouble for the French production team when they started filming in India. With Mircea dead and his wife giving her consent for the film to happen, Maitreyi felt this was in breach of his promise to her, seeing as the film was going to be translated to English, just like the book she'd pleaded should not appear before her death. But this was not all, Maitreyi took the production team to court for 'insulting Hinduism' and 'being pornographic'. Not only so, producer Philippe Diaz promised the film would not get released in India unless he had the government's blessing and ultimately The Bengali Night was only shown in India once - at the Indian Film Festival of 1989.

NB - whilst most of this feature is in my own wording, I did read through and even copy a couple of phrases off the following article:




Sunday, 18 October 2015

Review of book 'The Best of Me' by author Nicholas Sparks

As I am still not done with the film review I intended to post here this weekend (I have to admit I only managed the intro as yet!!), I will be linking you instead to a very recent book review of mine that's been published on EVE:



Saturday, 10 October 2015

Too much packaging!!

I am very often writing blog posts on the spur of the moment lately, but I realised something just last week that I knew I'd have to eventually expand into a post on here. You see, today I'm going to talk about packaging.

Yes, you read right - I'm going away from films and books and Hugh Grant mentions and even away from 'life' itself which has been a frequent topic of late - and delving into a more-serious issue. Because you see, I believe in recycling and I always have a recycling garbage bag ready on hand in the house for all those junk items that quickly find themselves in the bin. You are probably thinking of junk mail and well, I do get quite a bit of that (no, I did not put a sticker on my letterbox saying 'no junk mail please' because I do look through all the magazines I get sent and tear out adverts of stuff that I know I am going to eventually get round to buying/getting quotations for as well as checking any supermarket offers that are on). But added to all the paper items that make their way from letterbox to our dining table (which is their 'station' where I go through them before discarding) to that grey bag, I also find myself almost daily throwing plastic and carton packaging into the mix. Just to give you an idea, I took this photo of just two days' worth of packaging that I was about to throw into the bin (in fact that was the day I had my 'eureka' moment).


You might argue that it's not our fault that factories are 'using' so much packaging on their products and that you do your bit by recycling rather than throwing it all away. I can very clearly hear the marketing gurus advising me that it's all about selling your product and that presentation is key. Students of design will also put their two cents' worth in by advising that colour is key and different kinds of stuff is more easily saleable when it's packaged in certain colours (I was once a design student myself so I know exactly what they mean). However the point remains that in a world that is constantly harping about taking care of the earth, we should be striving to use up less resources and throwing away less things that take even hundreds of years at times to decompose totally.


What upsets me even more is that some decisions taken in recent years in our country only serve to make the situation worse. A few years ago saw the introduction of a penalty tax on plastic bags given out by shops to customers. The idea was to dissuade people from using the disposable bags at all, instead turning to reusable cloth bags. However, as people tend to, they found this a hard habit to crack and were complaining about it at first. As obviously always happens, the shopkeepers tried to appease their clients and so they found the loophole. The law referred to plastic bags with handles and so they started giving out plastic bags without!! As a result, customers kept getting their free bag, which now was of no use to anyone after the trip as the handle-less bags are not comfortable to carry (and easily break as I realized when I tried punching handles in them myself.) So guess where that leads us? Back to the recycling bin rather than storing them for reuse, which people did used to do.

Another example relates to soft drink bottles. Whereas soft drinks used to be bottled in glass containers that could be returned, washed and reused, it is now illegal to be found with a glass bottle outside of the house. As a result, factories have turned to bottling up anything in plastic containers or metal cans... both of which are thrown away rather than returned for reusing.

The same idea of reusing used to hold true of plastic egg packaging. For a while after these
small plastic egg holders came into being, they could be returned to the seller for a small refund and, I assume, get reused. After only a little while this policy changed and now you cannot return these hard-wearing containers for reuse. So what to do with them? I started looking at them with a sorry expression on my face and then throwing them into the recycling bin. That's till I noticed that the greengrocer shop selling eggs that's closest to me would get the eggs in big cartons and then give out the smaller orders in paper bags (which is quite a risky business given the contents we're discussing). After I found myself going home from the shop always with one broken egg due to this new system, I figured I should keep the plastic holders from when I buy them at the supermarkets and take them with me to the greengrocer for refilling. I started noticing, too, that the greengrocer would try to get hold of such containers. So in the end, I decided it was worth my keeping all egg plastic containers, even if I'd been multiple times to buy them from the supermarket, and I would take them all to the greengrocer's (who of course understands that I might be buying my food elsewhere when I go to a big store to get everything from one place). So every time I'm buying eggs from the shop around the corner, I take all my 'saved' containers to him, telling him to fill up one or two of the smaller ones with my own order and to "keep the rest" for others. Imagine if everyone were to do that, just how many less 'new' containers would have to make their way out of the plastic factory and onto the garbage heap.

Meanwhile my son reuses quite a few carton boxes and trays such as the ones from cereal packets and Kinder snacks for his crafty creations so at least those too get to give a little more service in our home before going anyway into the recycling bag.

Have you any other ideas yourself as to how we could reduce through reuse before recycling in the end?

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Upcoming films worth a mention

There's a whole bunch of films coming out between now and next summer that are worth a mention. So here is my Part 1 of 2 of films coming out between now and January: