‘The Road’ – Cormac McCarthy. (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

Well. This book’s quite moving isn’t it. Eye-opening. Enthralling. Amazing? Amazing.

I quite liked it yes. YOU NEED TO READ IT. EVERYONE needs to read it.

I am rather interested to see the film now – even more so than I was, except most cinemas don’t seem to be showing it much or at all currently.. Alas!

So. Cormac. I finished this last night curled up in a comfortable bed with Lapsang Souchong, listening to Classic FM. These are all things I am now that much more grateful for. Be warned, recovery time is definitely needed, post-reading.

Despite being easy to read (in that you don’t have to read a sentence twice to understand it – a rarity at the moment I find), McCarthy sucks you into the world of ‘The Road’ – I believe “suck” is an appropriate word here, as it’s not really an enjoyable world and you wouldn’t want to live here anyway. The frailty of life is so disturbing you HAVE to know what happens – you have to find out whether they get through this. I think Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn for those uncultured types) said of his character “the man”, that he is essentially learning from the child throughout the whole journey. This is indeed true to a certain extent, as the boy has qualities that the man lost a long time ago – innocence, faith, types of wisdom the man cannot cling onto – but then both characters need each other far more than you first realise. This is quite representative of the need for community in human life, as the boy needs the man to find him food, but the man needs the boy to continue human life. Is the man driven by his love for the boy and his survival, or by his own survival instinct? The two are surely almost the same, as even if the man is going to die, life can still continue after he is gone.

300 pages Cormac? How the hell did you do it? It’s all the same! Yet all so good. So how did you do it? The plot just revolves around two males fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. I certainly could not have made this last so long.

I was slightly fascinated by the sick images McCarthy conjured up, like the humans being held captive and being harvested for food, and, worst of all, the idea of a new-born child being wheeled around on a spit. How is that survival instinct?! To kill something newborn? To kill life? Moronic characters.

I suppose it was also slightly moronic of me to not see death coming (I was racking my brains as to how it was going to end), as they had survived for so long, so why stop now? But the death was so mortifying! So utterly tragic and so sad. He has led the boy through so much and kept him alive for so long that it just seemed so cruel this would happen. But was this some sort of moral tale? That the boy had faith in human life so he survived and was saved by “the good ones”, was able to continue to “carry the fire”, and live? And the man was not allowed to do this because he saw no hope in humanity apart from in his own son? The boy showed his naiveté, but brought a ‘freshness’ to the view on human life – he seemed to know there was some good left in the world and that it was worth fighting for. I was almost as terrified as he must have been when they were at the beach and the boy was ill. Now that would have been a depressing end to things wouldn’t it.

So much of the time you don’t even have the emotional capacity to consider what they have lost, as you are so caught up on what they still have to lose. This does make you think about our lives now, and appreciate that we do have community, we don’t eat each other, we are able to experience still the first snowdrops in spring, or a good pint on a warm summer’s evening, the cosiness of the bed after you’ve tumble dried the bedsheets and the warming glow of the open fire. In your living room. And if you don’t have time to consider what they already had lost (a wife, friends etc), then you don’t really have time to relate it to your life, so you don’t get to consider what it would be like losing your life partner or best friends, and yet someone you still attach yourself emotionally too them and begin to understand their situation. HOW does the author do this?! I say only “begin to understand”, as I don’t think anyone could really comprehend such a situation unless they’d lived through it, which is currently unlikely.

I found the end of the book somewhat more abrupt than I thought it would have been – I needed more words McCarthy! Although it was a very good ending, and it was an actual ENDING. Unlike in books like ‘Disgrace’ (Coetzee) and ‘The Bell Jar’ (Plath-o-rama). I adore good endings. Despite them sometimes, especially in this case, being ones that actually make you cry. There was a glimmer of hope though, as the boy is found and he survives, and there is a girl his age. Is this what they had been fighting for? The boy grew up very suddenly too, although this was no bad thing. As soon as the man died, the boy was almost the new man – he went from being helpless to carrying the fire in a matter of pages.

I found it odd how the weather had continued yet life had died, although I imagine this just shows how nature will always be there – it was very much a nature over humans book. There were also times when I couldn’t put the book down because the characters hadn’t eaten for days and I needed to know they found food. I couldn’t relax otherwise. It was also ironic that a weapon used to take life (the gun) was their saviour on so many occasions, and their hope for life also. Very odd. But well crafted.

Just one small criticism Cormac. You cannot punctuate to save your bloody life. And I swear you make up half those words. Is “crozzled” really a word? There was a fair amount of American-English in there, something which I don’t normally care for, and how, really, is it possibly for such an author to miss out apostrophes?! Has no one proofread this? Do you not need a system Cormac? Is it not called Language? Did no one tell you each new sentence NEEDS A CAPITAL? I also do not care for mangled English, yet somehow the vast quantity of it in this book didn’t actually detracted from my enjoyment of it. Another plus for McCarthy, his words and story telling over take everything else.

If ever you are feeling bad thoughts about the world, you must read this book. It is a necessity.


Martello Tower.

Night has finally fallen. I have my back against the Martello Tower and my eyes to Eastbourne. I have the seagulls for company, and the sea rocks gently back and forth. The milky white moon dazzles the water. In the distance out to sea, very faintly, and only twice in quick succession every few minutes, Sovereign Lighthouse twinkles back at me. If I were the Shipping Forecast, I’d be talking about it right now. Shingle is my seat, and I can feel dried out seaweed scratching at my legs. Little wayside shrubs have nestled their way up through the pebbles, poking out only to be battered by the south sound winds. But they’re resilient little things, and the gales do not vex them. All is so sedately quiet.

A resident of the Tower screams it head off in the dark, and suddenly a flock can be heard, congregating together. Not fit for humans now, seagulls are the only ones who can access all areas. The ideal inhabitant for any letting agency. The Lighthouse blinks absently again, and I run down to meet the sea as it washes over the dirty sand. The wind blows through my hair and I do not think to adorn my feet with my flip-flops. I take a place on the bedraggled and tumbled-down break water, who, like the Tower and the Lighthouse, never really change. After many minutes of watching the mesmerising ebb and flow of salty water, the chill begins to set in, and I walk a few paces up the beach to a very special house.

In the morning, we find the vivacious sea has spat many of its pebbles into the garden. That is the only downside of a house upon the beach. My father and I, instead of taking the car, walk the two miles into Pevensey Bay, and return later with kippers and fresh bread for breakfast, and humongous chocolate chip cookies for ‘elevenses’. We eat looking out over the sea in the morning, and to the hills in the evening. Every so often, the sound of train can be heard, and there’s a rush to the North-facing balcony to guess two things – what direction? And how many carriages? In early evening, there’s a walk a few miles in the direction of Bexhill, to find a pub for a summer’s sunset drink. We walk back along the fields, say hello to the sheep, cross the level crossing, and are once again, on the beach. One day we may make it further than a few miles, but it doesn’t really seem necessary.

Basterds of the Inglourious Nature.

I cannot believe it took me until last Tuesday to first see this. It’s like ‘Pulp Fiction’ but with Nazis! So many merits on so many aspects, I have no idea which to divulge into first.

Seeing as I’ve sampled a few pieces here, let’s try music (if you haven’t yet pressed PLAY, you’re a fool. Get on it) Usually I’m not a fan of injecting contextualised films with contemporary instruments (such as in ‘Sharpe’ – the electric guitar just didn’t seem to fit), but it worked so well here. Is this possibly because the cinematography allowed it to look normal, and not with that slight twinge of colour so as to make it ‘1940’s’? I find this happens in so many British/American films set in the earlier part of the 20th century – ‘The Reader’, ‘Glorious ’39’ and so on – and to be completely honest I find it incredibly patronising. Just because they were living 70 years ago does not mean they didn’t have vibrant colours… You don’t have to make a film look sepia just because the aged photographs look like that now. The score is out of this world too – it’s the first piece of  Ennio Morricone I’ve really enjoyed, and somehow – somehow – it fits brilliantly. In any context, the piece ‘Un Amico’ seems to be a content, even slightly happy, piece, and yet it’s used when everyone’s dying. And it still works. How is this?! It seems to sort of say “Yes I know it’s tragic, but that’s life and it’s happening now so you might as well accept it”, almost like the contentment is one of “there’s no point worrying because there’s nothing I can do to stop it. So panic not.” Beautiful. Just epic. There was a lovely mix of authentic French 1940s ‘hits’, contemporary pieces (how does David Bowie fit in a film about Nazis? Is it because Tarantino is so damn good?), and the score, and I loved every minute of it. Nothing fits like a very satisfying glove more than an appropriate soundtrack. Go musicians!

What now?! So much to talk about! I think we should give time to the acting. I’ve researched a little and discovered most of whom ended up in the cast list were not the first choices of Mr Tarantino. But I think you’ll all agree they did an epic job. As annoying as he can be, Brad Pitt was brilliant. Absolutely, stunningly brilliant. From his brash Southern American tones and temperaments, which he kept going so well throughout the film, even when his character was trying to be Italian (“Bon-jor-no.” Yes Brad.), to his wonderfully unsentimental treatment of the Nazis and his courageous stand against them. And Christoph Waltz – yes yes fucking yes. Evilest man ever maybe? The fact I never want to meet him even as an actor (and probably a normal and nice man), does rather suggest his immense talent at playing this role. I believe he initially declined, stating the role was “unplayable”, but clearly he was lying. Michael Fassbender should also get a special mention, partly because of the name, partly because I loved his character, and partly because he did such a fantastic job with it. Eli Roth as the ‘Bear Jewwww’ was a brilliant idea – he’s so terrifying anyway (and so weird?!), it’s hard to imagine anyone else could have played it as well as he did. All actors made their characters so so believable. I think, obviously aside from Brad Pitt (who seems to be so bloody versatile anyway), Tarantino did very well to work with lesser-known actors, thus making them less typecast and more character based. Well played Quentin. Well played indeed.

I was also impressed with the story line – I haven’t seen many films involving Nazis where the Jews actually fought back. It took a refreshingly new angle on the persecution of the Jews, which I was not expecting and actually liked – even if it’s fictional, it’s nice to believe they were content to accept their ‘fate’ and just get on with it. ‘Tarantino gets lost in a fictional World War 2″ might be true, but there are so many conflicting answers and occurences in history that maybe Tarantino was playing on this, and saying “Would it not be great if…?” This is probably the first film I’ve actually enjoyed that was obviously historically inaccurate – and that never happens. I consider it to be the story telling which made it believable. Films like ‘The Boy In The Stripped Pyjamas’ – so inaccurate it is almost laughable, and that distracted from my full enjoyment of said film, but I found no qualms with ‘Inglourious Basterds’ doing this. It would be awfully good if the three most powerful men of the Third Reich were stupid enough to collect themselves so obviously into one room (sitting targets!), but alas.

In true Tarantino style, his ‘chapters’ featured too, but I find this can be good. Although sometimes he seems to want his films to be books. But it’s a good mini break and a good catch-up for the not-so-intelligent-viewer. The only thing I didn’t like was the amount of gore involved (when he says “scalps”, he really means scalps), but I assume this was aiming to be quite realistic, and I’m a bit of a ponce anyway – it’s not an actual criticism of the film.

All in all, there was a general feeling of “this is actually brilliant”, and it’s one of the best I’ve seen in ages. In many ways I hate Tarantino for being this awesome, but then if he didn’t make the films there would be nothing to view, and it’s awfully relieving to know that films of this calibre can still be made today. Very good work!

Sunday News.

Today’s headlines are…

The NHS have saved, and continue to save, many thousands of lives this weekend.

The government have kept people off of the streets for another week running.

We also continue to live in a democratic society, where no  one dies unfairly and we can vote for who gets to power.

Most of us are able to spend today with loved ones, friends or family, or both. And we should be grateful!

Someone actually smiled at me on the street.

I get to see my family at the end of this week. Inc. Brethren!

The sun is shining.

Half term has begun!

Into The Bleak.

Out of the hotel room, I see two or three men huddling around a bin fire. Although no snow is blowing around, it is inches and inches deep on the ground. Night has quite set in by this point, and I feel awfully glad of my bed, despite the characterless decor and undrinkable tap water from the bathroom.

The next morning, I awake my comrade by playing ‘The Soviet National Anthem’ – a rousing tune by anyone’s standards – but she disapproves greatly, thinking post-Communist St Petersburg would too. Even though it is bitterly, bitingly cold outside, I discard my thermal vest on dressing, finding it warming abilities an uncomfortable test of my body’s acclimatisation. We breakfast looking over the River Neva, with the Cruiser Aurora in the distance. It is a long way from the soggy green garden at home. At this stage of the Russian winter, the Neva has frozen over, and tracks of one man can be seen in the thick snow. He had trekked straight over the river, without a care the ice might collapse.

That day was a visit to the Winter Palace. The Winter Palace! This is the stuff of revolutionary legends, and it is quite surreal walking into the grand, audacious, and, quite frankly, ridiculously over the top – palace. That word fits it stunningly well. No expense has been spared on its decor, and the monstrous gap between the luxuries of the royals and the dire life of the poor was more crude and poignant than ever. There were some parts of St Petersburg that looked like Dostoyevsky had just written about them, ‘Notes From The Underground’ did not first emerge 150 years ago, and the Tsar was still on the throne. It looks, to put it plainly, like there has been no real equality here at all.

Eleven PM. Our Sleeper Train waits patiently at the station as we flap about with heavy bags and, for some slightly less bright ones, stilettos. Nothing yells “tourist!” more than multi-coloured coats and inappropriate footwear. All aboard, I hope for some stray Russian called Sasha to be carrying a ukulele, and maybe we could all have a nice sing-song, reminiscent of something from the war, but sleep seems to be on everyone else’s minds. I take the occasion to stay awake, looking out of the window, as each station we rattled past was lit up brilliantly for a moment, then lost again in the quiet darkness. The gentle rocking of the carriage, and the somewhat intense (yet very welcome) heating soon takes its hold over me, and we awake a few hours later, all a little groggy and sleepy, in a rather foreign place called Moscow.

(Russian Travels, February 2004)

Like dancing? Watch this!

Now this is REAL dancing. I am so fed up of the incessant barrage of television programmes with titles like ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ (which is, disgustingly, so frequently abbreviated to ‘Strictly’.  *vomits*), ‘Got To Dance’, and so on and so forth, and the level of dancing in it is usually just so appalling, it makes you wonder who is actually watching these things and thinking “Ooh.. nice. I wish I could do that.” Clearly, no actual dancer watches them because they are so technically awfully, and innovatively boring, and no self-respecting artist of the dance world would really like such a thing. It is aimed at people who cannot dance (hence rendering the universally asking question ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ obviously pointless), and who will never dance. This programme is also not about dancing itself, which covers a HUGE range of activities, including, obviously, the dancing, musicality, costuming, choreographing, setting… etc etc., only one of which is actually achieved by the so-called ‘talent’ on this show. Also, what the fuck is Louise Redknapp doing on the panel? She knows literally nothing about dance. And says THE most retarded things on it. But the more she’s on this, the less I have to watch her on the Thomas Cook adverts. You know, the ones where she and her husband ‘Sicknote’ brag about how fabulous their holidays are, and the cherished memories from it. I can’t even afford food for crying out loud.

Anyway, for your education and entertainment, here is some actual dancing. Before it was a fashion craze in pop-culture, and when it was still an art.

HOW does he do this? He is dancing with a partner, and yet there is only him in the room. Absolute genius. This is innovative.

I’m aware most don’t like ballet so this is only a short piece… And I know he’s a bit of a ponce, but look at him go! Nureyev’s the sort of chap you feel a little insecure for, that he’ll not keep the performance going, or he’s going to mess something up, but you don’t really because, well, it’s Nureyev.

It’s a little cliché and long, and starts off a little dull, but look. At the. Precision.

So. This is good dancing. All dance shows on television feature less good dancing. And don’t you forget it.

A Few Questions..

Why is it a cup of tea always makes you feel better?

Despite replicating the recipe, how come I can never replicate my mother’s food?

Why must AutoGlass adverts use Birmingham accents?  Literally the most irritating region dialect ever?

How does Charlie Brooker manage to write down my thoughts exactly and say them before I do, and much more eloquently?

How does The Word write itself so well? Everytime?

Kettle Chips? Or Tyrrells? Or Burts?

Why do buses not offer returns that last longer than a DAY? Just like trains? Hm? Useless.

Why must the teapot always drip? And why haven’t people realised it’s all in the wrist action?

How do people have the audacity to continue to walk three-a-breast right up until the moment when you have pass ech other on the pavement, and then look at you like it’s entirely you’re fault? Generally, these people are obese too. Comedy.

Will people always be interested in Katie Price’s life?

All ‘Come Dine With Me’s are the same. It’s true. And yet I still watch them. And they’re all so entertaining!

Will ‘The Simpsons’ ever be better than ‘Family Guy’? (No it won’t).

Who the hell invented the hideousness that is Valentine’s Day?! I mean come on!

And finally…

What’s the deal with ageing, suit-wearing, middle class, white, male television presenters on day-time quiz shows?! Surely no one wants to see that? Or is it just me?