Sunday, 25 November 2018

Five books and their films

My first book post went down so well that I had demands for another.  So this time we've got books and films.  Some you will have definitely seen or read, but there might be a couple of surprises in there too.

Chocolat

It was a rainy Friday night in Bristol, and I was in my student room with nothing to do.  On an impulse, I biked down the hill to the small independent cinema, and immersed myself in a world of sweetness and sunshine.  Chocolat was the perfect film to warm me up on a rainy evening.


Joanne Harris' book Chocolat also wafts the smell of sweets from its pages, but with a slightly darker edge.  Vianne has spent her life running from the Black Man of her mother's fears, but hopes that she, her daughter and her chocolate shop will find a settled home in this new village.  But the troubled priest there becomes her own Black Man, that she must face down to be able to stay.  The characters, the lilt of magic and the chocolate itself provide the reason to read this book.

Bridge to Terebithia
Not a well-known book in the UK, my grandma sent me this classic American children's story.  A boy in a deprived rural community finds an unexpected friend when a girl called Leslie moves in next door.  They help each other to deal with the bullies at school and Jesse's annoying sisters, but there's one thing that Jesse has to face all by himself.


When I was studying for an Open University course, it included a weekend away.  My choices were to slog down the motorway to Slough, or... fly to Dublin.  It was worth going to Dublin for the library at Trinity College by itself - a book-lover's fantasy - but when my feet got tired of exploring the city, I sat in a cinema for a while to watch Bridge to Terebithia.  It's always nerve-wracking to watch a film of a book you've grown up with, but I thought it was done well.  I only wished they could have done the forest scenes without going cartoon-y; that's the difficulty of showing imagination on a screen.

Lord of the Rings
I'd never read the Lord of the Rings until the epic movie series came out.  I'd read The Hobbit and disliked it, but after I'd seen the first Rings film, I decided the books must be worth reading after all.  They were.  They go on and on and the language gets more and more formal and the battles get bigger and bigger, and it's a great story on a grand scale.


The films are much the same, on perhaps an even grander scale, plus you get to feast your eyes on magnificent New Zealand scenery.  And elves.  At over 3 hours each, it might take you longer to watch the three movies than to read the three books.  I'd recommend you do both, but not all on the same day!

The Sound of Music
Everyone has heard of the film, of course, but did you know there was a book?  Maria von Trapp wrote about how she joined the Trapp family, how they fled to America and started a new life in Vermont as The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.  My mom had an old paperback copy on her bookshelf, and I read it long before I ever saw the movie version.


Which meant, of course, that I found the film a severe disappointment.  I felt like it had been made to conform to a Hollywood ideal - summed up by the moment when Maria learns that she should marry Georg von Trapp.   In the movie, they fling themselves into each other's arms to suitably romantic strains.  In the book, Maria seeks wisdom from the convent that she had been intending to enter.  When she returns, she sobs out, "They s-s-s-said I have to marry you!"  How much more real is that?

I admit that Julie Andrews skipping over a mountain singing The hills are alive... is pretty special.  But if you want to know the real-life story, track down the book.

About a Boy
Nick Hornby's novels often involve slightly dysfunctional people.  This one brings a dysfunctional guy together with a dysfunctional boy and his even more dysfunctional mother, and leaves them to try and sort each other out.  Reluctantly, they actually do.  While that's going on, the boy, Marcus, becomes the friend (or possibly pet) of the hardest girl in school, who is obsessed with Kurt Cobain.  Somehow they all end up in a police station trying to explain themselves.


It stars Hugh Grant.  That tells you at least half of what you need to know about the film of About a Boy.  There's a completely different ending to the one in the book, but for once I agree with the screenwriters on that.  Cinematically, it works far better than the Kurt Cobain / police station storyline, and gets you to effectively the same place in the end.  Dysfunctional or not, people need each other.

Do you have any favourite book/film combinations?  Let me know!

Monday, 12 November 2018

Autumnal celebrations

October and November have been busy around here!  A lot of events fall in and around the half term holiday, so here's what we've been up to.

Toby's birthday

Toby celebrated his 8th birthday in Super Mario style.  He invited a bunch of friends over for the afternoon, and they all divided their time between video games, trampoline and pizza.  Graham and I pushed our ear plugs in as tightly as possible and supervised from a safe distance!

Graham's brilliant home made game

The cake request this year was a Super Mario pinball game, so I did my best to deliver:



And next on the agenda was a trip to town to spend his birthday money.  It's all about Smiggle right now, which is a trendy (read: overpriced) brand of stationery.  Fortunately they do have sales, so Toby managed to acquire a lockable notebook and a selection of pens for a not-too-eyewatering sum.  He's using the notebook to plan his own business, either in car design or selling bicycle bottle holders, so if he's a millionaire before his 18th birthday I'm sure it will have all been worth it!


Halloween

Our local summer fruit PYO, Scaddows Farm, branched out into pumpkins this year, so we went to choose a couple on a gorgeous autumn Monday just before Halloween.  The boys were desperate to carve them as soon as we got home ("Put the knives down!").  We soon had pumpkin seeds all over the kitchen, two jack o'lanterns, and no severed digits, thankfully.  After the pumpkins had been used for their initial purpose, I chopped them up and roasted them, and they've been reincarnated as soup and cake.

 

The village gets pretty busy for trick or treat, with a nice family atmosphere.  Our two went out as a skeleton and Spiderman this year, and collected a ridiculous amount of sweets!


Bonfire Night

Just a couple of days later we were into firework season.  We're never quite sure whether going to a display will result in screams of fear or cries of delight.  This year we managed both.

On Saturday we went to a local display which was pleasantly uncrowded, but the fireworks were let off barely 30m from the crowd.  Theo did not like it at all.  However, we won the prize draw to light the bonfire, so the evening was redeemed by the opportunity to turn a pile of rubbish into a blazing inferno.

On Sunday we joined several other families from school at the Mercia Marina fireworks.  Toby was up on the fence with his friends, cheering and whooping, and even Theo was persuaded to have a little look.  We marked bonfire night itself by toasting marshmallows over a fire with some friends, which was much more Theo's idea of fun!

Photo: Phil Watts

Remembrance Sunday

And finally, Toby joined Cubs just in time to participate in the Remembrance Sunday parade service.  He was very proud of his new green uniform as he marched down the aisle with the other Scouts and Guides.