March 14th, 2014


The euro coins in my pocket

Latest in a series of occasional surveys:

Belgian: 16 (36%)
German: 10 (23%)
Italian: 6 (14%)
French: 5 (11%)
Dutch: 3 (7%)
Austrian: 2 (5%)
Spanish: 2 (5%)

(the last time that I set foot in a euro zone country outside Belgium was Germany, in November.)

March Books 4) Doctor Who - The Paradise of Death, by Barry Letts

The second paragraph from Chapter 3:
And it was all so unfair. He’d ["he" = Billy Grebber, who will be bumped off soon] always tried to keep his nose clean. Well, more or less. What was the point of making a pile of dosh, if you were looking over your shoulder all the time for the fuzz – or worse? And as for duffing up the opposition, or having a ruck with every geezer who tried it on, well, leave it out. Look at Tel, who’d ended up splattered all over a car park in Bethnal Green for coming the old soldier with that tearaway from Brum. Or Tel’s brother for that matter, going slowly crazy in Parkhurst.
I actually thought that I had read all of the Target novelisations, but I had forgotten about this, the last of them, published in 1994 just after the broadcast of the Pertwee/Sladen/Courtney radio series on which it was based. I thought the original story was pretty poor; the novelisation brings out its strengths and reduces some of its weaknesses. It still feels like a lot of half-thought-out scenarios jumbled together, but there is a better consistency of tone. Letts did a lot for Who, but writing plots that actually made much sense was not really one of his strong points.

March Books 5) Animal Farm, by George Orwell

The second paragraph from Chapter 3:
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What is there to say about Animal Farm that hasn't already been said? I read it first as a teenager, back when the Soviet Union still existed; it still packs just as powerful an impact now, with the awful fate of Boxer the horse a superb emotional climax of betrayal. As in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the most shocking passages are the perversion of truth and history by Squealer (we've all met people like him), where the writer's ability to convey to the reader precisely the opposite of what the words on paper ostensibly mean is on top form.

What struck me most on this reading is Orwell's deep sympathy for the ideals of equality and community. His scorn is not directed at socialism as such, but at the Soviet leaders for perverting it to their own profit, to the point where in the final confrontation between pig and man, "it was impossible to say which was which". The awful thing is that he offers no solution; the animals have been duped and betrayed, and are now worse off than they were. (Did he write any books with happy endings?)

And I wonder what happened to the cat?