The Woman in Black

It is a few years since I saw the movie with Daniel Radcliffe. I don’t like ghost stories or stories that are supposed to scare you. If I’m going to read or watch stories like that, I prefer psychological stories. I saw the movie for two reasons: it had Daniel Radcliffe in it and although I’m not a Potter-fan I’m quite impressed by him. Second it seemed like a well made film. It was and scared the shit out me. It was one of those that gave me nightmares.

I was sort of wondering if I had lost my marbles when I pick up the book written by Susan Hill. Did I really want to revisit this particular story? Well, it turned out that I was right to pick it up and read it. The book didn’t scare me half as much but was a really good read. The atmosphere and how the events affected the main character, was well written. I think I especially liked the naivety of Arthur Kipps at the beginning of the story and how the events change him. Like all young people he believes himself able to face up to anything, despite his fears.

There is something to be said about reading a book and seeing the film based on the book. In this case the book and the film has a slightly different time line. I’m not always in favour of making these kinds of changes in the story line but in this case both time lines work very well in their separate ways which also adds to the book and the film being enjoyable, for lack of a better word, as individual stories, connected and at the same time unconnected to each other.

I don’t think I will ever watch the movie again but I don’t mind re-reading the book.

 

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The Cellist’s Friend

It’s hard to write reviews for books written by friends. On the one hand you want to sing their praise because you know how much work they’ve put in and you want them to do well. On the other hand you want to treat your readers to the same level of honesty as you do with other books.

So here it goes, my attempt at sing Robert Fanshawe’s praise while being honest, but first an introduction. This book starts with an execution during the first world war. An unusual event in many ways yet ordinary in the realities of life at the front. However, most of the story, actually takes place on the home front, as main character Ben tries to deal with his experiences in the trenches while faced with the impossible task of build a new life.

The Cellist’s Friend is not a book I would have read if it had not been written by a friend. Although the war years fascinates me I don’t read a lot of war-time historical fiction. When Fanshawe explained the premise of the book before it was published, it peaked my interest. It is a war story in that it is set during the end of the first world war in mostly military surroundings but focuses more on the thoughts and feelings of Ben. I really enjoyed his story, the questions he was asking himself and that he tried to make sense of his experiences through poetry. It made it different from other stories I have come across. I also felt, not only because I know the author, that he is very knowledgeable about the time, the military traditions and the war itself.

My main criticism is that the Fanshawe includes a lot of different issues – racism, women’s suffragette, apart from the philosophical ideas of the purpose of war, what bravery is, redemption and finding your own sense of self. I’m tempted to suggest that the story should have been simplified. The social issues that’s going on around the character sometimes takes away from the main story – this young man trying to understand the world when he has seen so much suffering. Perhaps then, the cellist himself could have been given a larger roll. I do wish I had been given more of his story.

I truly enjoyed reading The Cellist’s Friend and I would really recommend reading it, especially if you have an interest in this time period with a local flavour for South East London.

 

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Book Release Celebration

No sadly not my own book release but just as much cause for celebration. Last Thursday was the official book launch of my friend Robert J Fanshawe’s book The Cellist’s Friend at Global Fusion Music and Arts’ open mic night in Woolwich.

Robert decided on self-publishing. I had a very small part to play in the process when I acted as adviser and general bouncing board while Robert was going through the different stages of preparing the book for publishing. Author House is supposedly one of the biggest self-publishing companies out there, with the usual offer of preparing different parts for you or you can choose to do it yourself.

After the usual open mic readings and music performances, Robert introduced the book and read two sections from it. It is very different to hear the author himself read the text as he intended it, in comparison to reading a book for yourself, especially since Robert happens to be an excellent reader and actor. It adds a layer to the story that you wouldn’t otherwise get. I won’t say too much about the story now. A review, or my thoughts about the book, will come soon.

What I will say, is that no matter how small a venue, perhaps even just your closest friends, you should celebrate your book release. Whether self-published, via independent or major publishers, or even vanity publishing – there is a massive amount of work behind and a published book is a great achievement.

 

Easter means no writing

Easter break, a time to relax and spend time with family. I foolishly think, every holiday, that I will get so much done while I’m home. Foolishly because it never happens.

Somehow my family’s home has become a comfy bubble I entre every time I visit. Each morning with the promise and ambition of writing an hour or so. This promise accompanied with a list of editing to do and research I need to progress with the writing. Each night realizing I haven’t done any of it.

To be fair, I’m not there to write. I’m there to hang out with my parents and sister, maybe see a few friends. For once writing is not priority, although the free days should be ideal for writing.

Almost one week at home and all I ticked off my list was three submissions and updating Goodreads with old books I read a long time ago.

Tunnel Vision at the Barbican

Recently I went to see Tunnel Vision: Array at Beech Street near the Barbican Centre. As part of the Barbican’s Open Fest, the tunnel was closed off for this light show – a collaborative venture where 59 Productions created digital projections to Esa-Pekka Salonen’s music Karawane as recorded by BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

We walked into the closed off section of the Beech Street tunnel. The popular event was sold out but the large tunnel still let people have space enough to move around. Along the wall are the projectors but there is nothing to indicate the display of light, colours and patterns that will soon play over our heads on the ceiling and walls.

There are lines and checker patterns that move and change colours. Lines chasing each other, criss-crossing over the ceiling. Bright red sequins or chain-mail that shift into the appearance of sun light through leaves. Green mesh and the pattern of African cloth fill out vision. A single line of light snakes over the ceiling like a living thing. Later changing into lightning that flashes at intervals. Flowers appear in the tight lines. They circle and vanishes. Smoke flutters over the ceiling and rain drops splash on the surface of water that doesn’t exist.

The modern classical music is complicated. It rises and falls. Obviously written with the full potential of an orchestra and chorus in mind, to show off their range. The light patterns are amazing, running over the ceiling, changing, shifting, playing games with the music. It’s easy to get mesmerized.

59 Productions are not new to this game, having done the video design for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, for War Horse theatre production and for David Bowie is exhibition, to name a few. Array is the latest of installations within Culture Mile, which lets public spaces be seen in unusual, new ways.

The light show is amazing. It’s hard to imagine that we are still standing in what is normally a busy road in central London. The music is fantastic as well, on an intellectual level. I must confess that I tire of it after a while. There is another problem as well. The music is so complicated that at time the light show doesn’t seem to keep up. There are moments when so much is happening musically that the colours and light fail to highlight anything in particular. At other times the light show is perfectly timed with what’s happening in the music and the ceiling becomes a fluid screen of impressions that beautifully follow the music in atmosphere, colour change and patterns.

We walk out into the grey day. It’s snowing again but in our minds the vibrant colours still lingers.

 

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Maggie Smith biography

I love Maggie Smith. She must be one of the best actresses/actors alive. And no, I didn’t discover her when watching Downton Abbey. I was aware of her already with A Room With A View, if anyone remembers that film.

The thing I loved about the book Maggie Smith by Michael Coveney, was to discover more about her off screen personality and about all the stage acting she has done, especially in the beginning of her career. This is not a gossipy book and thank god for that. If anything it is a bit heavy on the factual side, relying a lot on reviews of the plays, the TV shows and films Smith has done over the years but that also seems to fit with her person. An actress to be fascinated and impressed by, if not for anything else, than the determined work methods and commitment to what she does.

My main criticism is that it is a lot of name dropping in the book. Yes, I get it, she has worked with pretty much everyone who was and is anyone within her business. Very cool but half of them I don’t know who they are because I wasn’t even born when they were the best actors/actresses alive. Secondly, because I’m reading a book about Maggie Smith and I don’t need to know what happened in the life of everyone else that she came in contact with. A lot of that could have been cut down to focus on a few that had a larger part to play in her personal or professional life.

In any case, if you are a fan of Maggie Smith, I would still recommend this book.

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The image is from the back cover. Photography by Terence Donovan in London 1964

Back to Normal

I have no big news to tell you this week, instead I’ve had a normal week in my life of full-time lighting designer and part-time writer.

Saturdays are my main day writing. One of my writers groups meet every other weekend for a write-in but most Saturdays I’ll go to the pub or to a coffee place to write, edit and whatever else I need to do that’s writing related. I find it easier to write at the pub/cafe but I dream of having a proper writing corner in my home where I can lose track of time for few hours.

This weekend I submitted a new article for the mental health magazine Equilibrium that I have been writing for before. I also started re-writing a short film script, converting it into a short-story or possibly a novella. I had an idea of telling this story about a couple, not from their point of view, but from the point of view of those they come in contact with. I have continued researching for my next more substantial story which may or may not be a film. It’s leaning towards becoming a novel. It’s been going back and forth since I had the idea for the story.

I seem to have picked my next editing piece as well. I’m going back to a story I started years ago and that is told through a series of poems. I’m really keen to try to find a proper publisher for it and over the weekend I was reading it through from beginning to end to get familiar with the story again.

During the week it’s harder to get any proper writing done. I always read a lot while getting to and from work and to write short pieces and poetry can be squeezed in while waiting for dance classes or writers groups. Until Saturday’s big block of writing comes around again.