Goodbye Cranford – Hello Oliver

Sunday saw the last episode of ‘Cranford’. The final episode was very dramatic and there was a happy ending but overall I still felt disgruntled by the combination of three of Elizabeth Gaskell’s books. I suppose that if I hadn’t read ‘Cranford‘ I’d never have known that the difference. I wouldn’t have missed the parts that had been left out and I wouldn’t have known that the order of events had been changed. I enjoyed the non-Cranford scenes much more – the railway explosion and injuries, the Sophie/Dr Harrison love story and above all the Lady Ludlow scenes and the interaction between Lady Ludlow, Mr Carter and Harry. I thought that Alex Etel who played Harry Gregson was excellent.

Tonight the first part of ‘Oliver Twist’ is being broadcast at 8pm (not 9pm as I thought) on BBC1. I don’t have enough time to read the book before 9pm, so I shan’t be disappointed if the 5 part series (being shown in four nightly episodes this week and the fifth and final episode next weekend) is not faithful to the book. I haven’t read it before, but of course the story is so familiar from other films, musicals and TV productions. I don’t expect it to disappoint as ‘Cranford’ did, as I don’t suppose it will be a combination of three of Dickens’ books! Can you imagine combining ‘Oliver Twist’‘David Copperfield‘ and ‘Nicholas Nickleby’?

I’m also looking forward to watching The Old Curiosity Shop on ITV1 on Boxing Day. I haven’t read that either so I can watch it without any pre-conceived ideas.

First Sentences

Kate posted this meme, which she borrowed from Danielle, who in turn borrowed it from Sylvia. The idea is that you post the first sentence from each month in the year from your blog. Like Kate I’ve changed it a bit, skipping to the second post of the month if the first began with a quotation rather than a sentence I’d written myself, or if it was just something like “a good month for reading” as I usually start the month summarising what I’d read the previous month – and that’s just too boring. Not that the following sentences are brilliant at grabbing attention or exciting (note to self – I must try harder!)

I actually started my blog in July 2006 but only wrote one post, so I’m starting this list in April this year.

April
I’ve been meaning to write more, both in this blog and in other writing, but somehow there’s always something else to do.

May
Sunday was sunny, just perfect for a Bluebell Walk at Rushall Farm.

June
Daisy Lupin has started a new blog devoted to poetry and the theme for June is Poetry we loved as Children. (Sadly Daisy died in June, I did so enjoy reading her blog.)

July
It was D’™s birthday last Saturday and the grandchildren painted some beautiful pictures to give him.

August
Can anyone identify this please? (It was a Cinnabar Moth).

September
The year is on the turn and autumn is on its way.

October
Whilst in Stratford last week I browsed the bookshops, one of my favourite pastimes, and couldn’t resist buying The Complete Stories and Poems of Lewis Carroll.

November
Crossing to Safety was Wallace Stegner’™s last novel published when he was 78 years old.

December
The third episode of ‘œCranford’ is being shown on BBC1 this evening. (The last episode is on tonight.)

Any One for Brussel Sprouts?

We had to stay at home today, waiting for deliveries, so we had our shopping delivered as well. All well and good. We opted not to have our shopping put in carrier bags (thinking of the environment), so most things were loose, with just a few items wrapped. Everything on the order was there.

Imagine my surprise to find a little bag containing one tiny brussel sprout. When my husband had done the on-line ordering he hadn’t noticed that he needed to enter the weight required and had just put “1”, so that’s what we got – one sprout costing one penny! Fortunately he says he’s happy to share it with me.

The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson

An intriguing book. This is the first book I’ve read for the From the Stacks Challenge.

I finished reading The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson at the end of November and have now got round to writing about it. I started it with great enthusiasm and found it a compelling book to read. It is a psychological mystery concerning the nature of belief, faith, and truth. It starts with an account of the disappearance and death of Gideon Mack and the discovery of a manuscript written by him shortly before he was last seen. It is clear right from the start that there is mystery and uncertainty surrounding his disappearance, death and the discovery of his body. The book centres on the manuscript with an epilogue containing ‘œnotes’ written by a journalist investigating the mystery, considering whether the manuscript was ‘œanything other than the ramblings of a mind terminally damaged by a cheerless upbringing, an unfulfilled marriage, unrequited love, religious confusion and the stress and injury of a near-fatal accident?’

Gideon Mack was a minister in the Scottish Church, even though he did not believe in the existence of God. He simply didn’™t discuss religion and discovered that ‘œit was possible to be a Christian without involving Christ very much’. He concentrated on works rather than on faith and threw himself into raising money for charity. One of his fundraising events was running in the London marathon and he found that running made him ‘œimmune to the world and its problems.’ Whilst out running in the woods he came across a standing stone that he was sure had not been there before. It is this stone that drew him further into the mysterious events that led to his disappearance. He took photographs of the stone, but they failed to come out. It is not clear whether the stone was actually there or not, any more than it is not clear what actually did happen to Gideon Mack.

Be aware:there are possible spoilers ahead.

As well as being a faithless minister Gideon was married to a woman whom he did not love and he was in love with Elsie, his best friend’™s wife. As I read the book I realised that it’™s just not clear whether Gideon’™s account is truthful and how much of it can be believed. Did he have an affair with Elsie or not? Did he see the standing stone, or was it just a figment of his imagination? Was he mad or deluded or what?

What is clear is that he fell into a ravine, trying to rescue a dog that fell into the Black Jaws and he was ‘œchurned and spun like a sock in a washing-machine, carried along by an immense, frothing, surging force.’ He thought that he ‘œcouldn’™t possibly have survived the fall’ but even if he had ‘œthe river would have killed’ him. He thought he must be dead. And it is at this point that he found he had been rescued by the Devil and spent three days with him before he eventually returned home. He claimed the Devil had healed his leg, broken from the fall, discussed the nature of belief and God with him and swapped his trainers for Gideon’™s shoes. Are the trainers proof that the Devil does exist? When Gideon saw the trainers they triggered his memory ‘“ but is his memory reliable? What is real, what is imagined and what is illusion?

The question of whether Gideon believes in God and the Devil as a result of his experience is not answered directly, although in remembering his near-death experience Gideon thought ‘œthere really is something good on the other side. I don’™t know what, but it’™s not the end.’

The book kept my interest to the end. I wanted to know what happened to Gideon, why he became a minister when he didn’™t believe in God, how he coped with living with the Devil when he had previously believed him to be a figment of his imagination, what was real, what was legend and are myths just metaphors. Like Surveillance this book is open ended. As Gideon said, ‘œYou either believe or you don’™t.’

Booking Through Thursday “Catalog”

“Do you use any of the online book-cataloguing sites, like Library Thing or Shelfari? Why or why not? (Or . . . do you have absolutely no idea what I’™m talking to?? (grin))
If not an online catalog, do you use any other method to catalog your book collection? Excel spreadsheets, index cards, a notebook, anything?”

Today’s Booking Through Thursday questions are spot on for me – as an ex-cataloguer, yes of course I catalogue my books. I did have most of my books in a database on my laptop but when this was stolen I was devastated. I had spent a long time entering in all the details of both my books and my husband’s and did not have a saved copy. I expect the thief was surprised to see my catalogue.

When I found LibraryThing I decided to use that instead. I think it is very good; I like being able to have an image of the book and other members’ listings and reviews. You can find photos of authors and suggestions for more reading. It’s easy to add in books as LibraryThing does all the work for you using data imported from booksellers and a long list of libraries. You can edit the info on each book if you want, add your own comments and sort your catalogue however you like. So far, I haven’t entered in all our books and add in a few more every so often. Although not long after I’d entered in a lot of books LibraryThing was unavailable for a few days and I thought perhaps I’d made a mistake using it. So when it came back on-line I printed off a copy of my entries.

If you haven’t seen LibraryThing have a look. You can see who else has the same books as you and there is a blog as well. Currently there is a photo competition “Holiday Book Pile Contest” for photos of, well – piles of books you receive or give for Christmas (what else?).

You can add a RandomBooks thing to your blog in various ways too – mine is over on the left sidebar.

“Cranford” – the location of Lady Ludlow’s House

Very often when I’™m watching TV I wonder where the filming took place ‘“ the scenery and the buildings can look so familiar and yet usually I can’™t place them. In the case of Lady Ludlow’™s house in ‘œCranford’ I recognised the outside views immediately. It’™s West Wycombe Park, in Buckinghamshire. It is set in beautiful grounds. It’™s been a while since I visited the house and I’™m not sure that the scenes inside Lady Ludlow’™s house were filmed inside West Wycombe Park mansion. Looking at the pictures in the guidebook the grand entrance hall has a similar floor but the columns and walls are different. The colour too is different, whereas the actual entrance hall is predominantly cream and brown Lady Ludlow’™s grand room was overall white and grey, matching the grey grandeur of Lady Ludlow herself. Wherever it was filmed it was impressive. Lady Ludlow is becoming my favourite character in this TV production, stealing the show somewhat from Miss Matty in my view. The view of the railway coming over the horizon onto Lady Ludlow’™s land was astounding ‘“ I could almost believe it was real!

I’™m looking forward to visiting West Wycombe Park again next year. It is owned by the National Trust and is only open to the public during June, July and August. The grounds with its temples, lake and cascade are open from April to the end of August. It’™s a beautiful Palladian style house, remodelled from the original Queen Anne house between 1735 and 1781 by Sir Francis Dashwood. Sir Francis was a most interesting character ‘“ a member of the Hell-Fire Club, and a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries.


Elizabeth Gaskell based her fictional town of ‘œCranford’ on Knutsford, in Cheshire. I suppose it is because Knutsford has changed since the 1840s that Cranford was not filmed there, but in Lacock, in Wiltshire. I had a school friend who lived Knutsford. Every year there is the May Day festival in Knutsford and I remember going with my friend to watch the May Day procession through the town, but the highlight for me as a young teenager was the fairground rather than the coronation of the May Queen. It was all very different from the ‘œCranford’ May Day celebrations, which were filmed on the Ashridge Estate in the Chilterns, not in Cheshire. There were Morris Dancers and a Maypole, but I don’™t remember a dancing bush!

What’s In a Name? Challenge

I can’t resist joining this challenge, even though I’m already doing a few. This one is hosted by Annie, who is ten or eleven. See Words by Annie for the full picture. The idea is that you read one book from each category over the course of next year. Surely I can do that, especially as I can choose books from my to be read list.

These are the books I’ve chosen for now – I may change them later as who knows what I’ll want to read next year? I’ve been meaning to read these books for quite a while now, so this should push me into reading them.

A book with a colour in the title: Half a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A book with an animal in its title: The Tenderness of Wolves, Stef Penney

A book with a first name in its title: My Cousin Rachel, Daphne Du Maurier

A book with a place in its title: Winter in Madrid, C J Sansom

A book with a weather event in its title: Snow, Orhan Pamuk

A book with a plant in its title: Gem Squash Tokoloshe, Rachel Zadok