August 12th, 2015


The King's Speech, by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi

A nice little book to go with the film, though this is not a novelisation but a biography of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue by his grandson (who never knew him) and a Sunday Times journalist. It's a fascinating and intricate story of reverse migration - at a time when Australia was still absorbing newcomers from Britain, Logue and his family went in the opposite driection, to try and carve out a career in a new field for which he had no professional qualifications; and he succeeded, and what's more, he made a lot of people's lives better, one of whom unexpectedly became King of England.

The film, of course, telescoped the time line and injected dramatic elements to the story where they were needed. One of the most cheering things to find out was that Logue and the Duke of York were friends pretty much from the start; the plotline of the duke needing to be convinced that Logue's therapy was worth trying was more or less invented for dramatic licence. It is, however, true that Logue was in attendance for the new king's first radio speeches from Sandringham. It was also rather heartwarming to read their continued warm correspondence even after the king no longer needed Logue's professional services.

I thought I spotted a Northern Ireland link, but it turned out to be bogus: in the mid-1920s the comptroller of the Duke of York's household was one Captain Basil Brooke. Was this, I wondered, the future Prime Minister of Northern Ireland? Wikipedia seemed to indicate a gap in his political career in the mid-1920s which was just the right fit; also his highest military rank, achieved in 1920, was Captain. However, further digging revealed that the comptroller was a navy man (and in fairness an exalted naval captain is a more likely candidate for uch a post than a humble army captain), who was Rear Admiral Sir Basil Brooke by 1928. Wikipedia lists two Royal Navy officers of that name and roughly the right age, one born in 188 and one born in 1895, but neither of them seemed quite right - certainly neither was a Rear Admiral in 1928. It turns out that the royal official was yet another naval Basil Brooke, the first cousin once removed of the future Northern Ireland Prime Minister, born in 1876 and living until 1945. His wife Olave is the subject of a painting by Australian artist George W. Lambert, The Red Shawl.

Doctor Who - The Drosten's Curse, by A.L. Kennedy

This is an expansion of Kennedy's short 2014 ebook The Death Pit (I seem to be one of the few people who read it), featuring the Fourth Doctor immediately after The Deadly Assassin, investigating horrible deaths and strange goings on at a Scottish golf course. It includes all of the good stuff from the earlier version and quite a lot more incidental detail. Not much more to say than that it is very entertaining and catches the mid-Fourth Doctor era well, with perhaps a few nods to how the world has changed since the mid-1970s.

Isn't it interesting that the only two Doctor Who novels published this year both feature the Fourth Doctor, the other being City of Death? And it's also interesting that the show has been much more successful at getting women who are big names in written fiction to write novels for it (last year's Time Trips sequence featured Kennedy, Jenny Colgan, Trudi Canavan, Cecelia Ahern, Joanne Harris and Stella Duffy) than at getting women who are any sort of name in television to write scripts (Catherine Tregenna and Sarah Dollard's episodes this year will be the first by women since Helen Raynor in 2008).

Anyway, three more Twelfth Doctor novels to look forward to next month, one of them by altariel.

Pork and leek sauce

Another recipe that I found in my files, not sure where from.

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Two problematic moments. First, I find it difficult to judge when the meat is "nicely golden and cooked through". Another time, to avoid that hassle, I might cut it into strips to stir fry. Second, there's not a lot of fat and moisture left over to fry the chopped leaks in for a full 5-6 minutes. I kept stirring, but the leek was pretty brown well before the five-minute mark.

However, the medley of flavours chucked in from that point on worked a treat. I was worried that there was too much mustard, but the cooking process seemed to mellow it; the lemon and basil at the very end gives it a real lift, almost joyous.

I served it with potatoes. It would have been better with rice per the recipe. But people seemed to like it.