Thursday, March 31, 2011

Poor Flavia is at it again!  Not only does she discover some injured and dead people near her family home Buckshaw, but her sisters are still torturing her.  Quite a full and exciting life for an 11 year old.  The child chemistry prodigy Flavia de Luce makes her third appearance in A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley.

This novel begins with Flavia, not unexpectedly, having her fortune told in a gypsy's tent at a local fair.  When the gypsy tells her something that seems to come from her long-dead mother, Flavia jumps to her feet, upsetting a candle and setting the tent on fire.   Feeling guilty about destroying the gypsy's property, Flavia invites the gypsy, Fenella Faa, to camp on her family's land.  Checking on Fenella later, Flavia is horrified to find her severely beaten.

This is just the first in a series of strange events.  Eventually a dead body turns up impaled on a fountain at her family's estate.  As usual, it's up to Flavia to put the pieces together (ably assisted again by her loyal sidekick, her bicycle Gladys) and solve the crime.  The police, not surprisingly, are not keen to involve her in their investigations, nor to listen to any of her theories.  In the meantime, her odious sisters Daffy and Feely spend a lot of time thinking of ways to torment Flavia.  In addition to her sleuthing, Flavia also faces the first realization that all is not well with her father's finances.

I greatly enjoy the time spent with Flavia, although I'm always a bit puzzled as to why neither she nor her sisters ever seem to go to school.  I guess maybe the 3 books all take place in the summertime?  There's never any mention of schooling, though, so it remains a mystery!

Final Verdict for A Red Herring Without Mustard:  Four Gherkins, for being an enjoyable visit to the English countryside with a precocious companion

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yesterday marked the release of the DVD of the film Made in Dagenham starring Sally Hawkins.  This film tells the true story of Rita O'Grady, who fought for equal pay and helped to shake up the male-dominated workplace in 1960s England.

Synopsis: From the director of Calendar Girls comes this extraordinary story based on true events. Dagenham, England 1968. At the town’s local Ford automobile plant, Rita O’Grady (Golden Globe® winner Sally Hawkins) is one of only 187 women in a workforce of 55,000 men. Facing overwhelming opposition in this “man’s world,” Rita rallies her female co-workers to fight for equal pay — a stand that defies the corporate status quo, threatens her marriage, and ultimately exacts a tragic toll. But with the support of the shop’s steward (Golden Globe® winner Bob Hoskins) and the government’s Employment Secretary (two-time Golden Globe® winner Miranda Richardson), the women become the sensation of the nation — and the catalyst for a profound turning point in time.

Here is a clip from the DVD:


video

With stars such as Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins and Miranda Richardson, this is sure to be an enjoyable and uplifting visit to the past. I'm sure after watching it, it will be amazing to think "it wasn't so long ago that women had to fight for their rights." While current statistics and the recent Wal-Mart discrimination case prove that there is still work to be done, this look at a pioneering woman who bravely fought for equality in the workplace provides lessons for us all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


The BBC is looking for some of us rabid Anglophiles to participate in a project about the upcoming Royal Wedding.  If this applies to you, please use the contact information to get involved!

The BBC are calling all Royal enthusiasts and Anglophiles!

Are you a Royal fanatic?

Are you excited about the forthcoming wedding?

Are you planning on trekking to London for the big day to see the King and Queen-to-be?

If this sounds like you then we would like to hear from you....

Please email:  louise.bartmann@bbc.co.uk

Monday, March 14, 2011

I work in a library, and we frequently get donations of books.  In one box a few years ago, I found an interesting old photo.  There is, unfortunately, no identifiable information on the photo.  I'd love to know about the people in the photo -- who they are, what year the photo was taken, what happened to them, how they are connected, etc.  So many questions!  Since the box of books the photo was in came from Lexington, Kentucky, it's possible the people in the photo are from that area. 


The photo is mounted on an old, brittle piece of cardboard-ish backing.  The backing has seen better days, but the photo itself is undamaged:


There is some writing in pencil on the back, but it's hard to decipher:


I'd love to be able to figure out where this came from!  Any detectives with any ideas??

Friday, March 11, 2011

Archie Bunker is such a well-known American character, most people probably don't realize that he was based on a character from a British TV series.  Till Death Us Do Part tells the story of Alf Garrett, his wife Else, daughter Rita and Rita's liberal layabout husband Mike.  Alf is quick to express his opinions to everyone, blaming politicians (especially liberal ones) for the problems in the country, and expressing his disdain for people who are unlike him in skin color or national origin.  Most people in the three episodes I saw seem to stand and listen to his rants in a somewhat shocked manner, without attempting to argue or set him straight. 

He does have frequent ideological arguments with his son-in-law Mike (played by Antony Booth, Cherie Blair's father), who seems to spend most of his time lying on the couch with a book.  In the episodes I saw, there was never any mention of Mike working.  Alf's long suffering wife Else also argues with him, but Alf is (to say the least) stringent in his opinions.

In one of the episodes, Alf and Else enjoy a holiday at the seaside in Bournemouth.  Looks relaxing, doesn't it? 

Since this series was filmed in the early 1970s, most of the references to politicians and political situations are unfamiliar to me.  Still, it wouldn't matter who was in charge.  I get the feeling that Alf would have plenty to say, no matter who was running the country.

One thing that is very shocking to modern viewers is the near constant smoking by Else.  She is often seen with a smoldering cigarette, ash dangling, as she holds her infant grandson.  That's something you wouldn't see in a modern sitcom!

All in all, the series in enjoyable (in brief doses) for the over-the-top antics of Alf.  Still, a lot of drunken yelling goes a long way, so I wouldn't recommend watching many of these episodes in a row!

Archie and Edith are probably looking pretty out of date by today's standards, too!

Final verdict for Till Death Us Do Part Three Gherkins, for being an interesting look at a landmark show in TV history

About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

5gherkinsb Brilliant!

4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

0gherkins3Don't be givin' me evils!

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