August 30th, 2014

earthsea

August Books 9) A Winter Book, by Tove Jansson

Lovely collection of Jansson's short fiction, arranged loosely by age of the protagonist who in most cases clearly reflects Jansson herself. There's a vivid picture of her war with a squirrel on her island; there are poignant letters sent to the author by Moomin fans; there are vignettes of family life. It's all very absorbing as we celebrate her centenary.
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August Books 10) Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis

Famously the basis for a film which won three Oscars (and which I haven't seen), it's a novel published in 1946 but mostly set in the early 1930s, about an intellectual young chap who gets put in charge of a mine in Crete and becomes friends with the sensual older man he chooses as foreman, Alexis Zorba. While our narrator struggles with deep philosophical issues and his relationship with Buddha, Zorba enjoys the landscape, the food, the drink, the dancing and the women of Crete and shames the narrator into taking himself a bit less seriously while favouring him with nuggets of folk wisdom - though death and violence (both political and domestic) are never far away. Zorba ends up in Skopje during the second world war, which is where the bloke he is based on is buried; Serbia and Macedonia also claim links to him. I enjoyed the lyrical descriptions of the setting (and the food), though I felt the central narrative point of brain vs heart was rather overdone in the course of the 350 pages, and our manly central characters' attitude to women is pretty unenlightened.

My strangest memory of the syrtaki dance comes from much later, when I attended a NATO conference in Belgrade in 2001. This was the first NATO event in Serbia after the Kosovo war, held in the InterContinental Hotel (where Arkan had been gunend down in January of the previous year), two blocks from the Ušće Tower which was still standing despite having been hit by several Tomahawk missiles in 1999 (this was September 2001, so collapsing tower blocks were on everyone's mind). Rather surprisingly, the atmosphere between the local military and the NATO visitors was rather cordial, and I vividly remember, as the band struck up Mikis Theodorakis' music at the conference dinner, the somewhat rotund chaps from Brussels and the Yugoslav officers draped arms across shoulders and danced together as the rest of us clapped in time. (Except the Russians, who were looking very grumpy indeed.)
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Doctor Who / Northern Ireland

So, am I right that Michael Smiley as Colonel Blue is only the third character ever in Doctor Who with an Ulster accent?

The other two that I can think of are Harry Towb as McDermott in Terror of the Autons (1971) and Declan Mulholland as Clark in The Sea Devils (1972). Both appeared in other Who stories with non-Ulster accents.

(The daughter of the 7th Viscount Bangor was pretty visible in Who at one stage, but she sounds pretty English these days.)

Edited to add: I had forgotten Jonjo O'Neill as McGillop in Day of the Doctor (2013).