Happy Little Sherlockian

25 Nov

I am a happy little Sherlockian this morning.

Yesterday I arrived home from work to discover that I had a copy of the “Sherlock Chronicles” by Steve Tribe that the lovely Rebecca in England had purchased and sent to me.

I haven’t started to read it (yet), but did sit down to have a little flick through it.  And was immediately captivated by the photographs.  So many behind the scenes photos that I hadn’t seen before, as well as many gorgeous photos of Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and the others.  And not just Sherlock photos.  I spotted some from other things they had been in such as a photo of Benedict from “Frankenstein”.

The other thing I noticed is that the book also has photos of William Gillette, Jeremy Brett, and Robert Stephens, and copies of Sidney Paget’s original illustrations.  So the book promises to be a feast for Sherlockians, not just Sherlock fans.

As I keep having to point out to people, I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan first; a Sherlock fan second.  I adore Benedict and Martin’s portrayals, for me they are the closest to my ideal of, to me, literature’s greatest friendship.  But I will always love Robert Stephens’ Holmes (my first screen Holmes) and I adored Edward Hardwicke’s Watson.

Then this morning I came online to discover Twitter all abuzz with the news of the read through for the Sherlock special.

Words cannot express my delight at the photo of Benedict and Martin dressed as traditional Holmes and Watson that I also found all over Twitter.

Sue Vertue said the photo shows them as they will appear in the special, which raises some VERY interesting questions.  Is the special going to be divorced from the series and be set in the Victorian period with Benedict and Martin playing their character’s great-great-great grandfathers or uncles?

Is it a dream sequence?  Sherlock strung out on drugs dreaming of a time past?

A friend of mine, Angela, suggested the possibility of a Dickensian “Christmas Carol” type thing with Victorian Sherlock and John as the Ghosts of Christmas Past.

Or is it something as prosaic as the two men attending a masquerade party?

Whatever the outcome, my Sherlockian cup is overflowing… mostly with drool.

Mayhem

16 Nov

“Mayhem” by Sarah Pinborough is a novel that  looks at a little known series of crimes that were being committed in London at the same time as the Ripper murders.  The Thames Torso Murders.

The book starts with the remains of a woman being discovered where Scotland Yard is being built (this really did happen).

At first, the book appears to be a normal crime novel…then things take a twist into the dark and paranormal.

The main character is Dr Thomas Bond, who was a real person.  Considered by many to be the first criminal profiler.  He created the first profile of Jack the Ripper.  He was Police Surgeon for A Division (Westminster) under whose purvey the Thames Torso Killings fell.

Much of what happens in the book, with the exception of the horror elements of the story, did actually occur.  Dr Bond’s autopsy of Mary Jane Kelly is quoted, and his profile of the Ripper is quoted in full in the novel.

Several other characters will be recognizable to those interested in the crimes of Jack the Ripper.

This is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a ripper of a novel.  Fast paced, exciting, with an escalating sense of horror that has you on the edge of your seat.

Ms Pinborough has a dark sense of humour which helps take the edge off the fear factor:

“Found dead.  A verdict as useful as a fucking bible in a Bluegate brothel.”

“Of course she was bloody found dead.” Moore grumbled.  “Some bastard cut off her head and her limbs.  If she’d been found alive I would have been more than bloody surprised.”

I am eagerly awaiting her second book in the series “Murder” which is due for release next year.

Note: Apparently the back of the book was incorrect.  “Murder” was released earlier this year.  Am now awaiting my copy from the library.

London 2015

12 Nov

The next major step on the road to my London trip next year has been taken.

I have booked my airfares and hotel.  I now have dates I will be in London and a place to lay my head.

It is now starting to feel very real.

I had several criteria for the hotel.  It had to be close to UCL (for the Petrie Museum), the British Museum, and the Sherlock Holmes Museum.  My travel agent found me a nice hotel that was snuggled close to these attractions and I accepted his word on it.  It wasn’t until I got home and looked up the hotel that I realised just how serendipitous the hotel selection was.

My long time readers now that I am both a Sherlock Holmes fan and a BBC Sherlock fan.  I discovered that I will be spending 19 days literally just around the corner from North Gower Street where they shoot the exteriors for Sherlock!  Speedy’s Cafe is amongst the closest places to eat to my hotel!

I have a tendency to taking early morning walks.  I can see me quietly wandering North Gower Street playing a mental game of “I saw this on Sherlock” as I spot familiar things.

The Petrie Museum, The British Museum, and The Sherlock Holmes Museum are amongst the top attractions on my lists of things to do and see.  I am hoping the Sherlock Holmes Museum sells deerstalkers, as I have wanted one since I was 10 years old.

So far I have only one day fully planned out.  One of my favourite people in the whole wide world, my friend Rebecca, and I are going to the Tower of London and then doing the London Bridge Experience which is recreations of London’s dark and murky past.  Possibly tourist tat, but I am so looking forward to it.

And my list of things to do and see keeps growing.  Thanks to a documentary on underground London, I discovered that the Guildhall Art Gallery has preserved the ruins of Roman London’s amphitheatre in its basement and you can visit it.  And it is free!

The legendary London Stone in Cannon Street is also on the agenda.  One legend has it that is is the mystical heart of London.  Another legend (my favourite) claims it was the stone from which Arthur’s sword Excalibur was drawn.

This is what I love about London. The wondrous blend of history and mystery that makes it like no other city in the world.

Long Weekend Observations

4 Nov

It was a (unofficial) long weekend down here in Melbourne this last weekend.  Yesterday was Melbourne Cup Day.  We’re one of the few cities in the world where the masses have a public holiday to celebrate a horse race.  However, as the holiday is always a Tuesday, those of us with benevolent employers take the Monday off and make a decent break of it.  I made a few observations over the four days that I’d like to share.  Just some odd moments, possibly interesting, if only to myself, but nothing enough to make a full blog post out of.

Observation 1: Halloween is really taking off in Melbourne.  A visit to Woolworths supermarket on Saturday morning revealed a confectionery aisle that looked like Genghis Khan and his entire Mongol horde had rampaged through it.  No doubt they were holed up somewhere sleeping off the sugar overdose.

Observation 2: When you’ve cut back the amount of refined sugar in your diet Cherry Ripe chocolate bars taste like shit.

Observation 3: Original Source Shea Butter and Honey shower gel smells like Mackintoshes Harrogate toffees.  You remember those?  The ones in the yellow plaid wrappers?  The ones that as kids we considered old people’s toffees because they were the ones the oldies went for first in the bag.  I am not sure if the shower gel makes me smell like a long forgotten toffee, or if it just makes me smell old.  Either way I’m pretty sure I won’t be buying this particular shower gel again.

Observation 4: A can of mixed berries and a can of coconut milk whizzed in the blender and frozen makes delicious ice blocks.  And ones I can tell myself are good for me.

Observation 5: Alphonse Mucha artworks seem to be the latest to be harvested for merchandising purposes.  Came across a tin of French sweets with “la Belle Epoque” on the lid, and a tin of English chocolates with “la Dame aux Camellias” on the lid.  Naturally, the French one was the more attractive tin.  Mostly because it was a direct copy.  The chocolate tin looked like Mucha’s Lady of the Camellias had been reinterpreted by a colour blind spider with delirium tremens.

Observation 6:  It is perfectly possible, with a little planning and forethought, to complete AND wrap all your Christmas shopping by 4th November.   I will now spend the run up to Christmas being unbearably smug.

Super Foods and Me

27 Oct

There was an article in the Herald Sun newspaper here in Melbourne yesterday on how so called “super foods” are heading our diets.

There was a rather snippy comment from a dietician about people not having to spend a lot on good food; that regular fruit, vegetables and grains were just as good.

I would like to point out to the dietician and the reporter and anyone else who read the article that not everyone buys super foods for their unproven abilities.  Mostly I buy them for taste.  I don’t care how super something is, I am not going to eat it if it tastes awful.  Goji berries come to mind.  One company covers them with dark chocolate and tries to flog them that way.  As far as I am concerned, all that does is ruin perfectly good chocolate.

The article mentioned the six most popular super foods as follows:

Kale - yes, I eat this.  But only in the winter in my soups.  I am amazed that anyone actually eats it raw in salads as it is as tough as buggery.  Though maybe that’s the idea.  Chewing as exercise.  And as for juicing it!  *shudders*  I think the most disgusting thing I’ve ever drunk was a sample of kale juice I was offered by a hawker a few months ago.  Yuk doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Cacao – Another yes.  It is one of the expensive super foods, but it is worth the price.  I pay $19.95 for 450gms of Australian Certified Organic Ecuadorian cacao which tastes a hundred times better than the mass produced cocoa you can get at the supermarket.  Also there is no added sugar and shit.  I use cacao to make my own hot chocolate, chocolate cakes, pear & cacao compote, and come the warmest days of summer, chocolate smoothies.

Chia seeds – Another big yes,  These delicious little seeds are a staple in my pantry.  Mostly used in my homemade bread and as a crunchy sprinkle on my breakfast.  I love the way they swell and ooze a yummy gel when they get wet.

Coconut Water – Haven’t really got into this at all.  However, I did spot coconut water with pomegranate at the supermarket at the weekend, so snagged one to try.  Pomegranate is one of my favourite fruits, so if this tastes good, this blend could become a regular part of my diet.

Spinach – Possibly my favourite green (next to chard).  Most versatile leafy green in my crisper.  Salads, soups, stir fries, pastas and curries.  If there is every a spinach shortage I may well have a nervous breakdown.

Berries – Oh hell YES!  Strawberries in particular.  Also blackberries, blueberries, and, when I can afford them, raspberries.  A big favourite for breakfasts, either fresh or in compotes.  Add them to smoothies.  I love them as a light lunch with a few lightly salted crackers and cheese.

The thing is, apart from the cacao, none of these so called super foods are really that expensive.  One of our supermarkets, Coles, does their own in house line of seeds and grains, so I can get chia seeds and quinoa (also for my bread) at reasonable prices.  Spinach is probably one of the cheapest green vegetables on the market.  Kale is reasonably priced here too.  If you buy berries seasonally then they’re not too expensive either.  Except raspberries.  Even in season they cost a bloody fortune!  I think the growers must be fertilizing the things with powdered bloody gold!

I personally don’t believe that super foods are a gimmick.  Like anything else, it doesn’t make good health sense just to live on them.  But part of a balanced diet they add a richness and a delicious fillip to your meals.

The Severed Streets

16 Oct

Quill, Costain, Sefton and Ross are back for their second outing in Paul Cornell’s “The Severed Streets”.

In this, the second book of the Shadow Police series, the team have to deal with the return of Jack the Ripper.  Yes, the Ripper is back, but this time he’s targeting white men.  When one particular man is killed, it stops being police work and becomes very personal.  They’ll kick down the doors of Hell itself to get the answers… and vengeance.

In this book we learn a lot more about the Sight and how this occult world that Cornell has created works.

We also meet two fantastic new characters in the shape of The Rat King… and Neil Gaiman.  The wonderful Mr Gaiman has allowed himself to be turned into a character, and I think we’ll be seeing more of him in future books.  What he does you’ll have to read the book for yourself to find out.  Let’s just say it is NOT a cameo appearance by any means.

“The Severed Streets” has all the bounce and verve of “London Falling” as well as massive character development, and some seriously wicked repartee.

If you loved “London Falling” then you won’t be disappointed by its sequel.

Highly recommended to all lovers of police procedurals, urban fantasy, and horror.

The Last King of Lydia

12 Oct

My good friend Andy on the Good Reads site recommended this book to me.

Written by Tim Leach, “The Last King of Lydia” is about Croesus, King of Lydia who had the reputation of being the richest man in the world.  In fact, we still refer to someone as being “as rich as Croesus.”  And as anyone who has read Herodotus knows Croesus went to war against Cyrus the Great of Persia and lost.

I found it a little hard to get into, mostly because Croesus is an unlikeable sod.  However, I persevered and ultimately became caught up in the story.

I know the story of Croesus from my reading of Herodotus, so nothing that happened in the story came as a real surprise.What I liked about the book was the philosophical themes of it.  Hubris.  Freedom vs slavery.  The nature of slavery.  The nature of freedom.  All of which combined to make “The Last King of Lydia” a very absorbing and thought provoking read.

It is also hard to believe that this is the debut novel of Tim Leach.  The book feels like a master work after years of writing.  I can only anticipate what his next book is going to be like.
I heartily recommend “The Last King of Lydia” to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and anyone who has read and enjoyed Herodotus.

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