Thursday, 31 July 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Wide Window, Chapter 3

I was really good and raced through these chapters to make sure I could get them all posted at a reasonable time, and then we had an internet issue and I wasn’t able to get online (even on mobile internet) to post anything. Sorry for the delay.

What Happens?

Thanks to the approaching hurricane, Josephine is forced to leave the house with the children and they head to town to get supplies. Violet bumps into Captain Sham, who is obviously Count Olaf in disguise. Of course Josephine doesn’t believe that the Captain is really Olaf and even agrees to have tea with him in the future!

Thoughts as I read:

I like the opening image of this chapter as it shows a hand and I’m hopeless at drawing hands. This hand is holding a large card which reads ‘Captain Sham’s Sailboats – Every boat has it’s own sail’. And yet, that little grammatical error is on the card, it’s not one of mine. It’s highly likely that the hand holding this card belongs to Captain Sham as it appears to be wearing a Captain’s outfit.

Snicket opens this chapter with a brief description of the idea of ‘keeping things in perspective’ and how you can make a bad situation seem better by thinking about those in a worse situation than yourself. Then you turn the page and are told that this isn’t a very effective method to make yourself feel better because invariably, when things are bad, you can’t really focus on anyone who is having a worse time than you. Which is very true.

This is also how the Baudelaires are feeling. Though they’re trying to stay positive; Violet thinks that at least they’re not having to cook for Olaf and crew, Klaus glad they’re not being abducted by Olaf in order to get them to Peru, and Sunny thinks “Zax!” meaning ‘Well, at least there isn’t a sign of Count Olaf anywhere.’ But the children aren’t really satisfied; Violet’s trying to invent something to help Josephine get over her fear of the stove, Klaus is having to sit in the library and read up on grammar and Sunny just wants her parents back.

Luckily there’s a hurricane on its way to force them all out of the house in order to get supplies but they have to walk all the way down to town because, surprise, surprise, Josephine is afraid of cars. She also doesn’t want the children to cook for her and she corrects their grammar at any opportunity. Sunny’s “Niku!” at this means “It wasn’t very nice to point out Klaus’s grammatical mistake when he was talking about something that upset him.” I have to admit, I have to hold myself back from correcting people’s mistakes at inappropriate moments. I do manage it most of the time though.

The search for supplies includes cucumbers, for more cold cucumber soup. Yum. As of two weeks ago my favourite thing containing cucumber is the Pimms that my neighbour brought round. That was nice. Cold cucumber soup? Probably not so much.

Violet is so distracted by the thought of this, the soup, not the Pimms, that she bumps into a man in the shop. He’s clearly a sailor with an eye patch, tall and skinny, with a peg leg. Oh and the one eye she can is is bright and shiny, above it is a monobrow. I wonder who that could be.

We’re informed that this is Count Olaf in a transparent disguise. Snicket helpfully explains that this doesn’t mean his outfit is see-through (what a relief) but that it’s obvious who Violet has just run into. And so, barely three chapters into the book, we can pretty much guess at what Aunt Josephine’s fate is going to be. Olaf immediately starts flattering Josephine which pretty much guarantees that she’s not going to believe a word that the children say about the man. You have to give Olaf credit for how sneaky and conniving he is.

Klaus, to give him his credit, does try to point out who this man is, but Josephine just tries to correct his grammar. This is annoying and I’m definitely going to have to watch myself when I’m trying to help people out in the future because I suspect that I could quite easily sound like a Josephine if I’m not careful.

It’s a little bit ironic that Olaf has adopted the name ‘Captain Sham’. His whole identity is a sham. I like it. Apparently he’s got a new business renting boats out of Damocles Dock. He pretends to be all charming and friendly to the children, offering to take them out for a trip in one of his boats. Yeah, so he could push them in probably. Sunny’s got the right response to this anyway: “Ging!” meaning “I would rather eat dirt.”

When the children are less than polite to Captain Sham/Count Olaf they are criticised by Josephine. She does waver for a moment, or at least seem to, as though she’s considering whether they might actually be right but then decides that it’s unlikely because Mr Poe told her the children see Olaf everywhere.

“We see him everywhere,” Klaus said tiredly , “because he is everywhere.”

On the one hand, this does sound a little like paranoia, on the other hand it is also true. Then again, they’ve only seen him somewhere once and while it did indeed turn out to be him, I can kind of understand why the adults might be sceptical. Ooh, I’m torn.

The children continue trying to give evidence of the fact that Sham is not who he claims to be. I have to admit that the evidence is somewhat shaky. Violet points out that Sham has shiny eyes and a monobrow, though Josephine counters with the fact that her mother-in-law also had a monobrow and only one ear. Then Klaus remembers the ankle tattoo which would be really good proof if it wasn’t for the fact that Sham has a wooden leg where the ankle tattoo should be.

Olaf has obviously done his research on Josephine because he knows exactly what to say to get to her. He tells her that a few weeks ago the Lachrymose Leeches ate his leg after he spilled pasta with puttanesca sauce on it. It’s like he’s just mocking the children because he knows they know who he really is and there’s nothing they can do about it. He even goes so far as to invite Josephine for a cup of tea, passing on the card that we saw at the beginning of the chapter.

Josephine spots the grammatical error on the card, highlighting the lack of the apostrophe in ‘its’ and for a moment Sham/Olaf seems annoyed but then he gets all gracious and thanks Josephine for pointing out his mistake. Hah, sucks to be Olaf. All the same, Josephine clearly loves the guy and the children know that there’s nothing they can say to change her mind:

As they walked up the hill in silence, the children looked down at Lake Lachrymose and felt the chill of doom fall over their hearts. It made the three siblings feel cold and lost, as if they were not simply looking at the shadowy lake, but had been dropped into the middle of its depths.

Things are obviously going to keep going downhill from here because we’ve got another ten chapters to go!

Wreck This Journal/Finish This Book: What Are They?

Now that I’ve finished with my Day Zero Project posts I’ve decided to share another on-going project that I’ve been working on.

I don’t remember exactly when I first became aware of Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal. I know of all her books it was the first one that came to my attention. It probably shows just how much I’ve changed in the three or four years since I first heard of it because my initial reaction was one of horror. Why would you want to buy a book just to destroy it?

Because that’s the whole point of Wreck This Journal. It’s a book that you set out to, well, wreck. It’s a journal and on each page there are weird and wonderful suggestions for ways to wreck it, each more destructive than the one before.

As I said, this did not appeal to me at all. But times have changed. I’ve taken part in ‘Book Tree’s where you exchange books with friends and write in them as you read. I’ve studied literature texts and made notes in the margins. I’ve kind of become my own person and it turns out that sometimes when you read a book multiple times it’s okay to write in it because it becomes a little bit like a scrapbook that means something special to you. I’ve learnt that things don’t have to be perfect all the time and that even though you’re (apparently) grown up, it’s okay to get messy, be silly and do things that other people would frown about.

So when I saw Finish This Book in Oban the day before my birthday it triggered a little spark of recollection. A few weeks later I decided that I deserved a treat and found myself drawn to Keri Smith’s collection of books on Amazon. I’d only intended to get one, but I just couldn’t narrow it down; I wanted them all. In the end I settled for Wreck This Journal and Finish This Book.

Finish This Book is in a similar sort of vein to Wreck This Book except it’s a voyage of discovery rather than destruction. Whereas Wreck This Book encourages you to do the tasks in any order, Finish This Book must be completed from beginning to end, without skipping ahead or sneaking a peek at what is to come. They’re kind of opposites of each other in a way. Finish This Book kind of reminds me of the Series of Unfortunate Events books that I’ve been reading recently; there’s a mystery that you’ve got to discover as you read. I’m still quite close to the beginning and I’ve been really good about not spoiling myself by searching online, so I don’t know what that mystery is yet.

Wreck This Journal on the other hand has no such secret. I was so impatient for it to arrive that I spent hours looking at pictures of what other people had done with their journals. Seriously, go Google it right now. There are some very arty people in the world.

Alas, I am not one of them. But I like to think I’m somewhat creative, so each Thursday I’ll be posting snippets from one of these two books. If you’ve got one yourself, feel free to share you work as well.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Wide Window, Chapter 2

I should really be finishing off my last few moustaches right now seeing as I need all of them first thing tomorrow, but reading never hurt anybody, right?

What Happens?

Aunt Josephine gives the children a tour of their new home, warning them about the inherent dangers of everyday household items. In their rooms she gives them each a gift which don’t really appeal to their recipients; Violet gets a doll, Klaus a train set and Sunny a rattle. They then have tea in the form of cold cucumber soup and learn a little about Ike, Josephine’s husband. She then shows them her library where the wide window is situated and warns the Baudelaires about Lachrymose Leeches which prey on people who go swimming less than an hour after they’ve eaten, like her husband.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter gives us a much closer look at Aunt Josephine’s house balanced on the very edge of the cliff. Very little of the house is actually on the hill, most of it is balanced on very unstable looking stilts reaching right down the side of the hill. Oh and we can see the wide window of the title. It takes up virtually a whole wall on the side of the building and you can see what looks like lots and lots of bookshelves in it. You can’t help but wonder whether Mr Poe actually looked at the home he’d be sending the children to, surely that house can’t be safe.

Aunt Josephine is, how shall we put this, a little bit quirky. The first thing she does on welcoming the Baudelaires to her home is to warn them about the radiator which is never used for fear of it exploding. This not the only thing she is afraid of. Other warnings are applied to the doormat which someone might slip on and injure themselves, and the sofa which could crush a person if it fell on them. Oh, and the telephone isn’t used unless absolutely necessary in case it electrocutes them.

I wouldn’t have thought it possible for there to be a person crazier than Count Olaf but it seems that Mr Poe has found her!

Violet and Klaus try to reassure Josephine about the telephone, Klaus having read about them and Violet invented one, but nothing works. Not even Sunny’s offer of “Delmo!” meaning ‘If you wish, I will bite the telephone to show you that it’s harmless.’

Josephine picks up on Sunny’s random word and points out that this isn’t in fact a real word. When Klaus explains it’s baby talk Sunny objects with “Grun!” meaning ‘I object to your calling it baby talk!’ Clearly she knows what she’s saying. This is important for Aunt Josephine, however, because she is the Naziest of Grammar Nazis.

I mean, I like correct English as much as the next person, but I wouldn’t ever go so far as to describe Grammar as the ‘greatest joy in my life’. Josephine does though, therefore helping to cement her crazy status just a little more firmly. And then she warns them against doorknobs just in case they shatter. O.o

At least Josephine is somewhat prepared for the children. She has beds and a crib for them, much better than Olaf, even if they are sharing a room. She has bizarrely left a pile of tin cans in there as well. I’m immediately reminded of the pile of rocks in their room from the first book. I’m also wondering why she would leave something clearly dangerous in a children’s bedroom, the insides of those things are sharp!

And the woman is trying. There are trunks at the end of the beds and she tells them that there’s a present for each of them in there. Aw, that’s a nice touch. Violet gets a dress up doll named Pretty Penny, Klaus a model train set and Sunny a rattle. None of these things are particularly interesting to the children, but they are polite enough about receiving the gifts. I can’t really fault Josephine here, I mean, she’s trying after all. It’d be really hard to buy a gift for a child you’ve never met, let alone three, and I doubt whether Mr Poe could’ve given her much information about the children’s likes and dislikes (beyond the fact that they’re not overly fond of that guy named Olaf).

Klaus does ask what the tin cans are for. Apparently they’re Josephine’s burglar detection system. Anyone breaking in will fall over them, thus waking the sleeping inhabitants up. Violet mentions the fact that she’d rather sleep through a burglary rather than be woken up and find herself face-to-face with an angry burglar, the prospect of which really freaks out Josephine. Oh dear.

The children then divide up their new toys; Sunny gets the doll (to bite, of course), Violet gets the train set to take apart and Klaus is left with a rattle. When Violet voices the fact that this isn’t very fair, Sunny responds with “Schu!” Perhaps her way of exclaiming ‘Foot!’ although we’re told this means ‘It’s been a long time since anything in our lives has felt fair.’ But the kids are kind-hearted souls and decide that Josephine obviously means well so they shouldn’t complain. Even Sunny chips in with “Twee!” meaning ‘Both of you are right. We shouldn’t complain.”

Klaus walked over to the window and looked out at the darkening landscape. The sun was beginning to set over the inky depths of Lake Lachrymose, and a cold evening wind was beginning to blow. Even from the other side of the glass Klaus could feel a small chill. “I want to complain, anyway,” he said.

Poor Klaus.

For tea they have soup. Not hot soup of course, because to make hot soup Josephine would have to turn the stove on and it might catch fire. I think I’ve just solved the mystery of where this series is taking place. They’re obviously in The Sims!

Snicket spends half a paragraph expounding the good qualities of cold cucumber soup, mentioning in passing time spent in Egypt and a friend who works as a snake charmer. The gist is that there is a time and a place for cold cucumber soup, such as Egypt, not in a chilly house on a cold night.

Conversation turns to Josephine’s husband, with whom she never had children. Anyone care to guess why? Obviously, she was scared of that too. Actually, I don’t blame her, the thought of having children is a little bit scary. Anyway, her husband Ike was a wonderful man who, like Josephine, loved grammar, and like Mrs Baudelaire could whistle with crackers in his mouth. This reveals that Ike was a relative of Mrs Baudelaire, so Aunt Josephine is an aunt by marriage. Not sure if that’s particularly relevant unless someone’s trying to draw a family tree or something.

The loss of Ike meant that Josephine lost all pleasure in Lake Lachrymose and stopped going down. She mentions books here which Klaus jumps at, asking to see her library. The thought of a library excites all of the children, even Sunny shrieks “Irm!” which I think means that she’s full up.

I love the sound of the library. It’s far too long a description to type out here but it’s basically oval shape and filled with grammar books. I’m not so fussed about all the grammar stuff, but I’m sure there’d be some interesting linguistics books mixed in there somewhere. The bookshelves fit perfectly against the walls and there are even comfy chairs in the middle of the room. Oh, and there’s the Wide Window as well. It goes from one side of the room to the other, floor to ceiling, with a view across the Lake. That might make me a bit queasy actually considering just where the house is built.

We’re also told here that Lake Lachrymose is home to a peculiar species of leech; Lachrymose Leeches. You have to wait at least one hour after eating before entering the water otherwise they’ll attack you. Sunny’s response is much the same as mine, “Swoh!” well, not that bit, this bit: ‘Why in the world would you go swimming in a lake full of leeches?”

I couldn’t help but giggle when I read Josephine’s thoughts on the afterlife:

“It’s just that I prefer to think of Ike in other ways. Ike always loved the sunshine, and I like to imagine that wherever he is now, it’s as sunny as can be. Of course, nobody knows what happens to you after you die, but it’s nice to think of my husband someplace very, very hot, don’t you think?”

I can’t be the only one who reads that description and thinks of hell, right?

Violet and Klaus suggest that Josephine might like to move someplace that doesn’t make her feel quite so sad but she couldn’t possibly do that. Reasonable reasons for that might be because there are too many happy memories in the place, or that she couldn’t sell the house because it’s teetering on the edge of a cliff on freaking stilts, but those are obviously way too easy for Josephine. No, she can’t move because she’s afraid of realtors.

I like the paragraph that follows talking about rational and irrational fears, pointing out things that it’s okay to be afraid of (like Count Olaf and monsters under the bed) as well as things it’s not okay to be afraid of (like lemon meringue pie or realtors). And now the Baudelaires can’t help but feel a sense of fear because they’re just waiting for the next unfortunate event to catch up with them. I don’t think we’ll have to wait long.

This was a really long chapter for so early in the book. I actually put off reading it sooner because it seemed so long and I thought it would take me ages to get through. Then on Sunday we had issues with the internet and I couldn’t do all the online and bloggy stuff that I’d planned to do, so I read this chapter instead. And it didn’t take that long to get through after all.

Book 8 of 2014: Smallworld by Dominic Green

I’ve mentioned it in pretty much every book review for the last month that I’d been a bit behind on the required reading for my course. I’d downloaded a whole bunch of free Kindle books to take a break from the children’s books and something about Smallworld by Dominic Green caught my eye. I’ll admit, I totally judged this book by its cover. I liked the cover image, read the description and couldn’t help but be intrigued.

It’s actually a series of short stories, as opposed to one long story, but they’re all tied together as they feature characters from one family who live on a tiny planet. The planet is so small you can walk right the way around it quite easily and the family are basically a group of futuristic Puritans. Various people come to visit their little planet and the stories relate their encounters with these outsiders.

The book started well, but it sort of dragged on a bit after the first few stories. At the beginning it was quite humorous, in a similar sort of vein to Terry Pratchett or Robert Asprin, but as the story went on it became more serious. I think it worked best when it was being funny, rather than when it was trying to make some sort of social commentary.

That said, I can’t fault the structure of the book. I didn’t realise immediately that it was going to be a series of short stories. Each chapter is kind of its own mini adventure in the family saga. It’s a clever idea and the only other book I’ve read with a similar sort of structure is the series of James Herriot books.

I’m a bit of a name nerd so I loved the names of the characters in this book. I’ve always been amused by some of the names of the Puritans who seemed to have been named by sticking a pin in a Bible verse. Well, that’s how these characters have been named so you get names along the lines of ‘Pitch-Not-Thy-Tent-Towards-Sodom Ogundere’. Some reviewers found this naming convention tiresome and while I can see why they might feel that way, I really liked it.

I also couldn’t help but be reminded of Doctor Who in terms of the setting. There was a lot of science-speak that went over my head but it showed that the setting had been well thought out. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if the Doctor had shown up at some point, the things the characters got up to seem to be right up his street.

Although I’ve not really looked to see if Dominic Green has done much else, I would be interested in reading more of his stuff, particularly if it was in the comedy vein.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Wide Window, Chapter 1

Not having been 100% last week I was a little bit unsure about whether I would get through four chapters of this book this week. But I appear to have done it, so yay me!

What happens?

Mr Poe takes the children across the Fickle Ferry to Lake Lachrymose to meet their new guardian, Aunt Josephine. He sends them to her house by taxi as she is afraid to go to Lake Lachrymose. The children discover that Josephine’s house is perched right on the edge of the hill over the lake, almost as if it might fall in, and then they get their first glimpse of Aunt Josephine.

Thoughts as I read:

As always we must begin with the dedication at the start of this book. This one says:

For Beatrice -
I would much prefer it if you were
alive and well.

Maybe not quite as rhymey as some of the others, but still gets the point across quite well. As if the last two dedications hadn’t made it clear enough. Beatrice is dead.

We also have the first picture as well. This one has quite a lot of detail in it. We’ve got the children standing on a dock beside a sign reading ‘Beware of the leeches’. The dock also has a sign above it. This is Damocles Dock and just in case that wasn’t enough symbolism right there in the name, there’s a sword hanging down from it, right above the heads of the children. Subtle. In the background is a tall cliff with a house perched rather precariously atop it. Several of these things are going to play a part in the upcoming story.

The story opens suggesting that if you hadn’t read the previous two books you might have thought that the Baudelaires were going to have some fun adventure. They’ve just come across on the Fickle Ferry (apparently this book is set on my little island as our ferries are notoriously fickle in bad weather, sometimes in the good as well) and are going to be living with their Aunt Josephine.

Clearly nothing good is going to come of this. Once again we’re reminded to go and find some other book because this one has nothing happy in it, it’s all a terrible tragedy with their young lives going from bad, to worse, to even worse than that. To illustrate this point, Mr Poe offers the children some peppermints, because there’s nothing as tragic as a peppermint.

Actually, it’s a bad thing for the kids because they’re allergic to them. We get our first instance of the repetition throughout these books and it also serves to remind us of each of the Baudelaires’ primary traits. So Violet gets hives when she eats peppermints, she also ties her hair up in a ribbon when she wants to invent something. Klaus’s tongue would swell up and he likes to read. Sunny, who shrieks ‘Toi!’ meaning ‘I have never eaten a peppermint because I suspect that I, like my siblings, am allergic to them’ or ‘I wish I could bite a peppermint, because I like to bite things with my four sharp teeth, but I don’t want to risk an allergic reaction.’ Or perhaps she’s wishing for a new toy.

Mr Poe reveals that Aunt Josephine is scared of the dock, which is why she’s not there to meet them. Her husband met his end there and so she’s not a huge fan of Lake Lachrymose, understandable really. This leads to a brief conversation where Violet asks what a dowager is but Mr Poe thinks she’s asking what a taxi is, hehe.

True to form, Mr Poe is not supervising them all the way to the loving arms of their new guardian. He dumps the Baudelaires into a taxi and then tells them he has to get to work. He also seems to imply that it’s entirely their fault that their first guardian turned out to be crazy and obsessed with their money, going so far as to kill their second guardian who did actually care for them. I can never decide whether Mr Poe is a good guy or a bad guy. I suppose he’s an indifferent guy which puts him around the same level as a bad guy since he sees bad things going on but chooses to ignore them in case they mess up his neat and tidy view of the world.

Anyway, everyone says ‘So long’ except Sunny, who says ‘Frul!’ which we can assume means the same thing. And so the children head for their new guardian. I only hope that Mr Poe has sent detailed descriptions and photos of Count Olaf on ahead to Josephine so she knows to be on the lookout.

The stores the children see out the window seem… uh… interesting. A grocery store which has barrels of limes and beets outside, a clothes shop called ‘Look! It Fits!’ (catchy), and a restaurant called ‘the Anxious Clown’ which sounds a little bit like it might be a McDonalds in disguise.

The cabdriver informs the children that it’s currently the town’s ‘off-season’ and as a result is ‘as dead as the cat I ran over this morning’. Oh and there’s a hurricane due in the next couple of weeks, which is unlikely to improve the look of the place a great deal. Looks like Mr Poe has found the usual sort of place for them to live then.

Klaus is confused about the hurricane hitting the lake as apparently they only occur near the ocean. I did not know this, living in Britain where I’ve never experienced a hurricane, but from what I remember of weather reports from overseas this does actually make sense. Anyway, Lake Lachrymose is very big so all sorts of weird things can happen there. Oh, and living on top of a hill is dangerous. Got that?

Barely a page later the children discover that the house where they will be living is not exactly the most ideal spot in town. Josephine’s house seems quite small at first glance, but it’s actually sort of cobbled together from lots of random bits and it juts out over the lake. Really safe, especially with the prospect of a hurricane.
Aunt Josephine answers the door and the children all step inside to begin what is hopefully (but unlikely to be) their third and final attempt at beginning new lives:

The orphans couldn’t help wondering how a woman who was so afraid of Lake Lachrymose could live in a house that felt like it was about to fall into its depths.

And that’s the end of our nice short first chapter. They’re going to get longer from here on in, but at least I’m fairly well on top of things in that department now. Check back again tomorrow afternoon for the next instalment.

TV Series Review: Red Dwarf

For one of our anniversaries Mr Click’s parents treated us to the box set of Red Dwarf series 1-8. When we finished watching The Two Ronnies a couple of weeks ago, we moved straight on to Red Dwarf, having had it hanging around without being taken out of the wrapping for quite a while.

I’m pretty familiar with all of these series of Red Dwarf because we used to have them all on DVD but even before that I was a big fan and they were a staple of my childhood. I actually had a choir teacher at primary school who taught us the theme song, I still sing along with the end credits.

As a child I always liked Cat most of all because he was funny and always wore really weird outfits. This time around I couldn’t really pick a favourite, I even found myself liking Rimmer at some points during the series.

Although there are eight series in this box set, they’re not long. The earlier ones consist of six episodes and then this increases to eight for a couple of series. I’d not seen series seven and eight quite as many times as some of the earlier ones so I found myself enjoying these ones a little bit more simply because the jokes felt newer to me. I especially like the later episodes because they include Kochanski, I liked the addition of her character because it shook up the dynamic of the four man band and allowed them to bring in a few more gender-based jokes that they maybe wouldn’t have gotten away with had there not been a woman in the crew.

Normally programmes that retcon events or get out of things that happened in previous episodes by skipping over them with a brief comment really annoy me. For some reason I just accept it in Red Dwarf. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been watching it for years, or perhaps it’s because it’s just that sort of a zany programme that you can’t help but accept that things are the fluid and liable to change.

One of my all time favourite episodes will always be Backwards, because it’s just so clever. I also liked the virtual reality episodes like Better Than Life and Back to Reality. Obviously there have been more episodes since series eight and so we had to treat ourselves to those as well. Picking up Back to Earth and series ten mean that I’ve added Lemons and Fathers and Suns to my list of favourites.

You just have to love the genius of the Dwarfers going back in time, encountering Jesus and then trying to save Christianity, and being who they are, things get a little smegged up. And the fact that Lister, who by a weird timey-wimey quirk is his own father, trying to offer some father-son advice by getting absolutely hammered to record a video which he won't remember when he's sober. It's classic and fresh and hilarious.

One of the only downsides to the box set that we own is that it is the ‘Just the Shows’. That means there’s no special features. It's a sneaky way to get you to spend a bit more if you want all the extra features. As a child I always enjoyed watching the Smeg Ups and I missed that on these ones. There are Smeg Ups and Making Of documentaries on both the Back to Earth set and series ten. It’s really interesting to see how they went about making the newer series almost twenty years after the very first one. I don’t remember anything about featurettes on the DVDs we used to have but I’d like to watch them if they’re available.

It’s also interesting to see how the comedy and filming style changed over the years, presumably showing the changes in humour, trends and technology as the series progressed. There was a touch of this in the documentary on the series ten set, where they looked back at how things had been done in the past and how they’d had to update them for modern sets and cameras.

We’ve now moved on to watching Blackadder which has a similar sort of vintage, sporadic schedule and sense of humour. I’m quite enjoying our comedy right before bed each night. Again, we're sailing through it so expect another TV series review post in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Weekly Rundown: The Attila Edition

I very nearly posted this on Thursday but I decided against it for two reasons. Firstly, Vodafone has been rubbish about actually letting us have mobile internet access so my connection at home has been virtually non-existent for much of this week (as well as a fair bit of last week as well) and secondly, I had to wait a few weeks for this news so I figured nobody would mind waiting a couple more days. Oh, and Mr Click (and I) also shared it with lots of our friends on Facebook already…

I passed my course!!!

Not only that but…

I got a Grade 2!!!

And as if that wasn’t enough. It means that over all…

I’ve got a 2.1!!!

I’m not sure how that compares for my friends in America, but basically in UK universities you get different degree classifications for an Honours degree. The top grade is a First, then you get an Upper Second Class, Lower Second Class and a Third which are designated by the numbers 1, 2.1, 2.2 and 3. These have comical little nicknames, like a Lower Second Class is known as a Desmond (as in Tutu) and mine is affectionately known as an Attila (as in the Hun), hence this week's subject.

To say I’m thrilled is a bit of an understatement.

I found out on Thursday at work, after learning that a colleague who’s been studying with the OU had got his results. Literally could not stop smiling all day when I looked it up and saw the Grade 2 result. I’d been hoping for a Grade 3, considering this was a Level 3 course and so is relatively tougher than the Level 2s (where I averaged Grade 2 passes).

There’s a nifty little site with an Open University classification calculator and I knew from that I’d probably be looking at a Second Class of some sort. I was luckily enough to get a Distinction in my U211 course which basically allowed me to get two Grade 3 passes through my degree and still get a Lower Second Class. Imagine my joy when I punched in my results and saw that the Grade 2 pass had earned me a 2.1.

I was still a little sceptical about that until I got home and checked a different part of the OU site and discovered that I had in fact earned a 2.1. All that hard work was definitely totally worth it and I’m proud to say that I did it whilst working as well. I passed my first degree (at ‘brick’ university) but I tend to look down on that one because of the circumstances that led to me switching from a B.A. (Hons) to a straightforward B.A., this one I’m really pleased with.

Although if too many more people congratulate me I won’t be able to get my big fat head through the door at work this week!

I’ve been showered with gifts and treats too. I’ve got a shiny new Samsung camera winging its way to me as I a type. My little compact one has needed replacing for about a year now as it’s really showing its age and this new toy has been my incentive to succeed for the last three or so essays. I’ve also had a lot of cake, some lovely cards and some new socks (not technically a celebration present but still, presented to me after I passed so I’m counting them as a gift).

I’m finally able to spend my gift voucher my colleagues got me for my birthday – it’s going towards a case and new camera card for the aforementioned new toy. And I’m feeling a slight sense of relief because we’d already booked the hotel and tickets for the graduation ceremony as well as buying new outfits for it. Now we can get the transport sorted and I’m also getting a trip to the zoo into the bargain as well.

Anyone up for a little blog celebration with me? *hands out cake and alcohol*

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Part 4

I was anticipating this running to another week, but I managed to make some of the other posts slightly longer (mainly because of where the logical breaks fell) so this is the last review of Chamber of Secrets. Next wee I’ll go on to Prisoner of Azkaban which is likely to be just as long as this because I’ve devoted no less than 540 words to the end credits. I’m just that sad!

Before we get ahead of ourselves, we need to wrap up this film. In the last instalment the trio played with Polyjuice Potion, we took a trip down memory lane with Tom Riddle, Hermione got herself petrified and there were so many spiders, oh so many spiders!

99. Aw look, Harry and Ron are visiting Hermione with flowers. I can’t help but wonder whether being petrified would stop someone from aging. And if that’s the case, would Hermione kind of catch up with herself when she ended up doing double time with the help of the time turner next year?

100. They find a bit of paper which Hermione has apparently torn from a library book and written the word ‘pipes’ on. It must have been a desperate situation for Hermione to damage a book like that! At least they’ve established what the creature in the Chamber is (a Basilisk), how it’s getting around (the pipes) and why people have been petrified (its gaze kills you but no one’s looked it directly in the eyes).

101. Unfortunately this little bit of information comes just a little bit too late for them. Ginny Weasley’s been taken and a new note has been left telling everyone that ‘her skeleton will lie in the chamber forever’. Lockhart, a dick as ever, shows up late and is given the responsibility for going to save her.

102. Except he isn’t. The boys go to tell him what they know and find that he’s packing to leave. I wonder what his excuse for running away was going to be, surely he couldn’t have done a memory spell on all the Hogwarts staff when he left before even attempting to recover Ginny.

103. Unluckily for Lockhart, Harry and Ron pull their wands on him and escort him to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom to confirm their suspicions that she was the Basilisk’s last victim. Harry uses this information to find a tape with a snake on it, locating the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. And with a quick word of something snake-ish all the sinks sort of move out and forward revealing a tunnel down into the centre of the school.

104. Of course the best person to check the route for safety is Lockhart, especially as he tries to escape. I love his ‘it’s really quite filthy down here’ when he lands at the bottom as well as Myrtle’s offer to Harry that he can share her toilet if he dies. It’s the little things.

105. Lockhart wasn’t kidding when he said it was filthy. There’s bones and things everywhere. Crunchy.

106. Lockhart proves his worth as a big brave Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher here as he pretends to faint in order to steal Ron’s wand, then monologues before wiping his own memory and causing a rock slide. Handy guy to have around in an emergency really.

107. I do love memory wiped Lockhart. I wish they could’ve done the St Mungo’s bit in Order of the Phoenix because I would’ve loved to see him again after this. It’s one of my favourite parts of the book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

108. This is where things really start feeling like what we’ve already seen before in the previous film. Harry has travelled down a under the school with his friend(s), and has now been separated, forced to go on and face Lord Voldemort by himself. I realise it’s just following the book but it just feels a bit repetitive.

109. Anyway. Harry learns why you shouldn’t just drop your wand anywhere. While Harry’s worrying about Ginny being cold and unconscious, Tom Riddle picks up the wand. We also get some flashbacks of Ginny with the diary. So we understand that she was in a trance the images get all sort of distorted. It was either that or making everything sort of cloudy.

110. I do like the anagram bit, especially the way the wand writes the fiery letters. Also I’ve never thought about it before but it’s like Harry saying he’s loyal to Dumbledore is what summons Fawkes with the Sorting Hat. That’s cool.

111. It’s quite lucky that when the Basilisk is summoned it goes straight after Harry, completely ignoring the unconscious and defenceless Ginny lying on the floor beside it. That would’ve been a bit unfortunate if Harry ran away while the snake thing stopped for a quite Weasley snack.

112. Aw, a rat! I wonder if it’s a friend of Scabbers…

113. There’s not really much else I can say about the Basilisk battle. I do worry when Harry starts climbing up the stone face, mainly because it doesn’t look like a very safe place to stand. Then again, it mostly works out okay for him, it’s just being a bit nervous of heights makes me feel twitchy about other people going up high.

114. The noises that the Basilisk makes when it gets stabbed in the mouth are kind of similar to the noises I make when I stab myself in the roof of the mouth with a cornflake. There’s no pain quite like it!

115. This version of Voldemort even kind of disappears like the one in the last film. Whereas the other one sort of disintegrated this one gets big glowing holes and then explodes into nothing. I guess that’s a Voldemort thing.

116. It’s quite impressive how easily Harry gives in to the prospect of dying at the age of just twelve. I guess it’s kind of setting him up for later in the series. All the same it’s lucky that Fawkes shows up just in time.

117. Love the bit where Fawkes flies them all up out of the tunnel. And Dumbledore’s response to the events where it sounds like he’s building up to expel them. I love Dumbledore’s sense of humour.

118. And apparently Harry’s loyalty to Dumbledore did summon Fawkes to Harry in the Chamber. Clearly I missed that on my last twenty or so viewings. I thought I was being all clever noticing it this time.

119. Voldemort transferred some of his powers to Harry the night he tried to kill him. That’s not all he did! I can’t help but think that this would’ve been the ideal opportunity for Dumbledore to start explaining the whole Horcrux thing to Harry… then again, maybe he was right to wait, he is only twelve after all.

120. Oh look, Dobby is the Malfoy’s House Elf. I like the way that everything sort of comes together in Dumbledore’s office at the end like this. The lighting is kind of funny on Lucius here, most of him is in shadow with the exception of his eyes. I’m not sure why that is, I mean, obviously it draws attention to his eyes but I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to see the rest of him as well!

121. Harry takes Tom Riddle’s diary to give to Malfoy who promptly hands it off to Dobby. Harry acted pretty quickly to get his shoe off, sock off and shoe back on before running down the corridor to catch Mr Malfoy. Today I was shopping for new shoes and you don’t know how hard it is to be balancing in a shop trying to whip your footwear off and on quickly. Perhaps he used magic.

122. We get to see Nearly Headless Nick, Filch stroking Mrs Norris and Colin Creevey as well as Hermione. Everything’s all back to normal. Actually isn’t this the last time we see Nick period?

123. Love. Love. LOVE the bit where Hermione and Ron are all awkward when he’s welcoming her back. It’s so cute.

124. I wonder what cancelling all the exams means for the OWL and NEWT students. Also, LOL at Hermione’s ‘oh no’ when Dumbledore announces that to applause from everyone else.

125. Ron apparently used the family owl to deliver Hagrid’s release papers. It sounds like the sort of thing Ron would do (rather than asking to borrow Hedwig or using a school owl) but what was the family owl doing at the school instead of being home with his parents who would presumably need to use Errol more often than the Weasley kids would. Whatever. Hagrid’s back and he gets standing ovation. Everyone’s pleased to see him back at the school with the exception of the Slytherins. Actually most of them are clapping too, apart from Malfoy and his cronies.

126. So with that we zoom out of the window and around Hogwarts. Everything goes dark, the music rises to a crescendo and that’s the end of the second film.

As I said, next week we’ll start what is easily one of my favourite films, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I had great fun watching it and although I tried to control myself it runs to almost 6000 words, so I’m going to be breaking it up for my sanity and your ease of reading. Or vice versa.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Wanted: Guest Bloggers For Christmas

Why am I blogging about Christmas in the middle of July?

Well, it’s July 25th which means that we’re exactly five months away from Christmas Day. Which is easily one of my favourite times of year and I like to celebrate accordingly. Actually, one of the things I like most about Christmas is the build up to it; listening to Christmassy music, watching Christmassy films, planning gifts, remembering Christmases gone by, you get the idea.

I like to try and have some Christmas-themed posts here on the blog. I started the very first year with a selection of the films I’d watched and followed up with a favourite Christmas song for each day of the month in the run up to Christmas Day.

This year I wanted to try something a little bit different. I guess I’ve been inspired by the A to Z Challenge and subsequent Road Trip.

I’m looking for a selection of people to fill in a little Christmas survey type thing for me about Christmas that’ll be posted between December 1st to 24th as a kind of Advent Calendar, at the very least I’d like to do one or two a week, if I get really lucky I might be able to do one a day. I was all set to do it last year but didn’t get the idea until a week before the start of the month and didn’t have time to prepare.

There’ll be less than ten questions and you don’t have to answer them all. You can write as much or as little as you like and I’ll include a link back to your blog/site in the post as well. You don’t have to be a blogger either, anyone is welcome to take part.

If you’re interested either reply to this post or send an email to and I’ll send you the Christmassy questions to fill in.

Edited to add (27/07/14):
Rather than posting a reply to every comment here I thought I'd just edit this post to say thanks to everyone who's agreed to participate. I'll be sending you the list of questions later on today.

I'm going to leave this open and I'll make a page for it as well so that anyone who wants to join in can. I'm thrilled that I've got such a good response already. I'm really looking forward to December on my blog. :-D

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Day Zero Project: The End

I’ve been blogging my way through my Day Zero Project for well over a year now and I’ve finally reached the end of it. The Day Zero Project list was something that I found way back in 2012 and I made my list on January 1st, the idea being that it is supposed to be 101 things that you will aim to do in 1001 days. I’m well over halfway through the period allotted for completing the challenge, although towards the end I’ve been skipping some of the tasks that I’ve not been able to do because it got a bit boring to blog ‘not really done this’ every week.

And was it worth it?

Well, yeah. It was quite cool to give myself a list of things to try and achieve and then work through them. Some of them were fun or tongue-in-cheek and others were more serious. I’ve not really come close to achieving a lot of the things I listed and because things have changed, circumstances, interests and other things, some I’m completely unlikely to achieve.

I had a lot of fun actually making the list and for the most part blogging about it has been fun as well. I liked looking at my reasoning behind adding particular tasks to my list, my progress achieving them and other little comments.

But it’s not something I’ve followed religiously. The one or two times I’ve tried going back onto the Day Zero Project site it’s been down and I’ve not been so hot on updating my progress on the page I created for it here either. There were a few that I came upon while I was reviewing my progress and I’d marked them In Progress a year ago when I’d long since finished them.

Although I’ve not technically reached the end of the challenge, I’ve reached the end of blogging about it, so it’s kind of the end for me. I’ll probably go back and look at again occasionally, just to see how I’m getting on and how many of the tasks I actually achieve by the end.

Is it something I’ll do again?

I honestly started this blog post thinking, probably not, but the more I think about it, the more I think I might do it again in the future. I think I’d maybe try and come up with 101 more easily attainable/measurable tasks. Maybe blog-oriented so I can blog my way through again. But for now I’m closing the door on this particular challenge and I’m moving on to something new.

Day Zero Project posts are going to be replaced by posts showing my progress with the two Keri Smith books I got a couple of months ago. The main one I’m working on is Wreck This Journal because I’m constantly adding to it so some pages change quite quickly from one week to the next. The other is Finish This Journal which needs more time spent on a page so progress is a little slower.

Now I’ve finished knitting moustaches I’ve got more time to devote to these books a couple of times a week and I’ve really enjoyed looking at the books that other people have wrecked, so I’m looking forward to featuring mine on this blog.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A Conspicuous Absence

You may (or may not) be wondering where I've been for the last few days.

I've explained before that I don't have internet access at home (beyond mobile internet on my phone) so I get my blog posts written in the week before I post them, then get them uploaded on a Sunday. I've got very good at making a schedule and sticking to it. Thus far this approach has worked like clockwork.

Until this week.

When we arrived at my in-laws' house this Sunday there was no internet connection. It did come back briefly for about an hour and was really sluggish for a while. Then it disappeared again and failed to return for the rest of the day.

This obviously threw a spanner into the proverbial blog works because I wasn't able to update. To make matters worse, I couldn't even get my phone to post a brief update. I was stuck in total blog silence.

But I'm back again now!

I was considering back-dating my posts, seeing as I've got them virtually all ready to go. But I've decided against doing that. Instead I'm going to hold off starting The Wide Window Chapter-by-Chapter posts until next week. Most of them are ready to go, but as the day wore on on Sunday and it looked less and less likely that I was going to get anything posted I kind of lost interest in editing/polishing what I'd got down so far. If I wait until next week it'll take some pressure off.

My posts are returning to their regular schedule from this point onwards, but I'll just close with a bullet point list of some of the things I was mentioning in my Weekly Rundown:

  • Spent last week running on approximately 21 hours sleep due to my stomach feeling like it was planning to explode.
  • Was diagnosed with a hiatus hernia with a possible side order of gall bladder issues.
  • Slowly trying to wean myself off some of the medications I was put on to see what I can do without and what I need to get on repeat prescription.
  • Read The Fault in Our Stars. Cried. A lot.
  • Have knitted twelve ginger moustaches for a team Commonwealth Games thing at work. We look awesome.
Me, looking slightly washed out & with messy hair, sporting a stylish handlebar 'tache.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Part 3

Here’s the next part of my multi-part, not-so-live liveblog of the second Harry Potter film. In last week’s post Harry and crew had a Herbology lesson, Lockhart proved himself to be easily as bad a DADA teacher as the guy with Voldemort attached to the back of his head, people started getting petrified and the school duelling club outs Harry as a Parselmouth.

72. If I was Harry, I don’t think I’d be travelling anywhere alone. If there was someone with me at all times then I’d always have an alibi if people did suspect me of turning random people to stone. But Harry’s not that sort of a guy. He heads back to the common room by himself, hears a voice and a second later he’s stumbled across the heir’s latest two victims. Oh and there’s a bunch more spiders being creepy and spidery.

73. We get to see Dumbledore’s office in this film. Not only is his password kind of cute (Sherbet Lemon) but he’s got the funkiest escalator thing in the world to get up there. Dumbledore’s office is filled with all sorts of cool looking metal doodads.

74. While he’s waiting for Dumbledore Harry has a brief conversation with the Sorting Hat, who tells him he’d have fit in Slytherin; not really what Harry wants to hear. As if the day can’t get any better, Harry goes to take a look at a big bird in the office which promptly bursts into flame. It’s okay because he’s a phoenix (and the theme music which plays for Fawkes is lovely). Baby Fawkes is very cute in a fugly sort of way.

75. Things start looking up when Dumbledore explains that he doesn’t think Harry attacked anyone. This is the perfect opportunity for Harry to share the whole hearing voices thing. I’m sure Dumbledore knows that he’s lying but he lets Harry go when he says there’s nothing else to tell him.

76. And now it’s Christmas time. I love Hogwarts in the snow. And the enchanted ceiling in the Great Hall. I would love to go somewhere where it could snow indoors. I love snowy weather.

77. I’ve been on a bit of a diet for the last week and a half and those cupcakes which Hermione has laced with a sleeping potion look delicious. In fact, all the food at Hogwarts looks delicious. I wish my Hogwarts letter had arrived when I was eleven!

78. The kids’ reactions to the Polyjuice Potion are great. I always think of the acting in the first two films as being a bit wooden, but I think they actually improve a massive amount by this one. I don’t feel like they’re just kids speaking lines as much as I did in the first film.

79. Hehe, I love the bit where Malfoy asks Harry, as Goyle, why he’s wearing glasses and when he’s told they’re for ‘reading’ he replies ‘I didn’t know you could read.’ I always find myself wondering how Hogwarts caters for children with learning difficulties like dyslexia. I mean, there’s a lot of Latin to learn, how do they cope?

80. As I’ve watching this before there’s not much in the conversation with Malfoy that is new to me. But I’m noticing things in the background. The Slytherin dungeon common room doesn’t look very cosy. I think it looks cold and damp and there’s a window at the back that might be looking out into the lake. Not the sort of place I’d like to hang out.

81. Hermione’s transformation with the potion didn’t go so well, but I think Ron might be a closet furry. He seems thrilled to see Hermione’s acquired a tail!

82. Myrtle’s flooded the bathroom because someone’s thrown a book through her. I feel sorry for her being so miserable all the time.

83. Does anyone else think of all the old warnings about internet chat rooms when they watch the bit where Harry is having a conversation with Tom Riddle? I suppose the old warnings still hold true, except I don’t go on them any more. The only difference being that the person Harry is chatting to wants to show him a video, rather than asking ‘u got a cam?’

84. Anyway, Harry’s taking a little trip down memory lane, not his memory obviously, but Tom Riddle’s. Someone’s dead and Dumbledore’s looking much younger, which makes sense as it’s fifty years ago (I mean the Dumbledore looking younger thing, not the someone being dead).

85. I like the way that everything is kind of in sepia except Harry. It makes him really stand out, plus everyone knows that black and white and sepia tones are universal signs of things taking place in the past.

86. It always bothers me that you don’t get to see young!Hagrid’s face in this scene. It’s obviously Robbie Coltrane’s voice but it doesn’t sound like it’s coming out of someone who’s supposed to be in, what? Third year? It’s just a little thing that bugs me in this film.

87. Harry shares this information with Ron and Hermione, just as Hagrid appears on the scene. I love that he basically knows they’re referring to him when Ron mentions ‘mad and hairy’. I’ve never thought about it before, but Hagrid telling the trio that they’d ‘best be looking after [themselves]’ kind of sounds like a threat when you consider the possibility that he was the one who was opening the Chamber before and might be on to them now.

88. Harry’s stuff has been thrown all over the room and the diary’s missing. It kind of looks like the room when I’ve been trying to empty the shredder. Bits of paper everywhere!

89. And Quidditch has been cancelled because Hermione has been petrified. She was found with a mirror. Either Hermione has suddenly become really interested in her personal appearance or that mirror is a clue!

90. With McGonagall’s new sanctions for travelling around the school, there’s no hope for Ron and Harry, all that remains of the trio, for getting out to visit Hagrid. So it’s time for the invisibility cloak to come out again. Hagrid is unnaturally jumpy, apparently expecting another visitor.

91. That visitor shows up with Dumbledore. It’s Sigfried Farnon. I mean, Minister for Magic, Fudge. And he’s brought Lucius Malfoy as backup. While Fudge is there to get rid of Hagrid, Malfoy’s getting rid of Dumbledore. Luckily Dumbledore seems to know that the boys are hiding under the cloak, offering them some sage words of advice before going willingly. Hagrid makes an attempt at a similar sentiment; judging by the look on Fudge’s face he thinks he’s doing the right thing by getting him locked up!

92. Harry figures there’s no time like the present and leads Ron out into the woods after the spiders. I agree with Ron as he laments the fact that they couldn’t follow butterflies instead. I think the only thing I’d be less willing to follow than spiders would be things with stingers at one end!

93. As with our last trip into the Forbidden Forest, this one is very dark, resulting in me being able to see the light that the boys are carrying as well as best part of my living room. This suits me fine though. I’m deliberately not looking at the screen because I know that right now there is a really big spider on it. At this bit in the cinema I kind of edged my way up my seat until I was practically standing up. We were right down the front of the cinema as well. It was awful.

94. Ron is making noises an awful lot like the ones I make when I suddenly notice a really big spider in the room. Ironically there’s a little spindly spider above the TV which has been there for a day or so and I’m quite comfortable with it, but the big one of the kitchen wall this morning had to go ASAP!

95. While I’ve been waffling the boys have learned that Aragog, Hagrid’s pet spider was not responsible for the attacks fifty years ago which means not only was Hagrid wrongly expelled, he’s also been wrongly imprisoned. Aragog has also announced that his family are now going to eat Harry and Ron because a family of gigantic spiders is going to get through a rather large grocery shop each week.

96. Luckily the car shows up and seems to have forgiven Harry and Ron for its getting beaten up by a tree several months before.

97. I’m still writing most of this without actually looking at the screen. Even though it’s dark and I can barely make out what’s on it, the few glances I’ve risked have showed definite scuttling movement and there’s no way I can cope with that right now!

98. Ah, and I can relax. There are no more spiders on the screen! Phew!

And next week will be the final installment before we move on to an equally long review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, sorry about that. I’ve given up trying to be concise, it just doesn’t work for me. Anyway, next week’s review will include: Ginny Weasley being abducted by the memory of the Dark Lord, Lockhart being a complete coward, and Harry doing battle and generally saving the day again.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Wide Window

Here we are, come already to book three of A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Wide Window. So far we've covered The Bad Beginning; in which the Baudelaire parents died in a fire and the custody of the children was handled by the evil Count Olaf, who decided that the best way to get his hands on their fortune was to marry the eldest Baudelaire, Violet; and The Reptile Room, in which the Baudelaires are rehoused with their Uncle Montgomery Montgomery, a famous Herpetologist with a houseful of snakes, who plans to take them exploring in Peru, until Olaf shows up in disguise and murders Monty.

All of my books are the UK edition and they all follow more or less the same design. This one has a purply coloured spine with the strip beside it having a green and blue wave pattern. That coupled with the fact that the note at the end of the last book mentioning Lachrymose Lake and the picture on the cover showing the children on a boat suggests water is going to be involved somewhere.

I love this cover picture. There's so much going on. Violet's clearly got her hair ribbon in so she's obviously inventing at the moment, Klaus is reading and from what I recall of this book, Sunny's the one steering the boat. It all looks very dramatic.

As with the last book, a lot of what I remember is influenced by the part of the film that this book was adapted into. The children go to live with their Aunt Josephine who lives in a rickety house perched on the side of a cliff. I remember that her husband died in the lake below and that it involved Lachrymose Leeches which attack if you go near them after having eaten recently.

Obviously Count Olaf is going to come back. I remember him taking on a new disguise as an old sea captain, with a very apt name. And I remember that in the film Aunt Josephine is played by Meryl Streep.

Further to this, the blurb on the back reminds me of some other things we're going to encounter: a hurricane, a signalling device, hungry leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny...

Ready to join in?

I'll be starting with the first post about the book next Monday afternoon, with posts weekday afternoons (except Wednesdays) and a double helping each Friday (morning and afternoon).

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Reptile Room, Chapter 13

And so we're coming to the end of this book, the second in the Series of Unfortunate Events. I have to admit, we've reached this point a lot quicker than I expected. If I'd stuck to my original plan of just posting once a week we wouldn't even be reaching this point for another month! I definitely think I did the right thing by upping my posts per week. It's a little bit more demanding, but it's keeping me motivated.

What Happens?
Stephano is revealed to be Olaf and comes clean about his plot, including the actual fate of Monty's assistant Gustav. As Dr. Lucafont prepares to take Olaf to the police, Sunny bites one of his 'oddly solid hands' revealing that the doctor is none other than the hook-handed man. The Baudelaires are then forced to watch Olaf and his henchman run away. Later some people from the Herpetological Society come to take away the snakes from the Reptile Room and the children sadly watch them go.

Thoughts as I read:
Ah, last chapter picture of the book. This one is of a box with 'This Side Up' printed on the side (the box is upside down) and a snake's tail sticking out the top, or bottom, depending on how you're looking at things. I love the big bold cross-hatching on the shady side of the box. Ahh, Brett Helquist, I love your illustrations!

We're reminded in the opening of this chapter that the Series of Unfortunate Events books are not quite the same as other books. This book isn't going to have a happy ending so there's no point moping around for pizza and ice cream.

Basically Olaf is back and Mr Poe is going to have to deal with things pretty sharpish. He does so, placing Olaf under arrest, because that worked out so well for him last time. We're also reminded here that Dr Lucafont has 'oddly solid hands', who could he possibly be?

Mr Poe actually apologises to the Baudelaires for not believing them sooner, claiming that the scheme seemed too far-fetched to be real. I'm guessing that's exactly what Olaf and his cronies were counting on.

Klaus wonders what happened to Monty's real assistant. As if we even have to ask. Olaf reveals that Gustav is dead, drowned in the Swarthy Swamp. The places in this area all have such pleasant names. Anyway, Olaf, in true Olaf style, takes his opportunity to monologue for a bit about his scheme and how it all came together. I guess he wants to be recognised for his achievements, even if they're not entirely successful. In true bad guy style he's even promising to come back to get his hands on the fortune in the future.

Mr Poe reacts somewhat badly to Olaf's suggestion that this is all a game for him:

"This is not a game, you horrible man," Mr. Poe said. "Dominos is a game. Water polo is a game. Murder is a crime, and you will go to jail for it..."

But it's not going to be possible to call the police because the telephone line is down and Mr Poe can't drive him to the police because his car has been wrecked. Dr Lucafont makes the suggestion that he should take Stephano in his car, Mr Poe reverts back to the debate about letting the children see the inside of a doctor's car, not realising that this was just a ruse cooked up to avoid them having to travel alone with Olaf.

Olaf criticises the children for telling lies, but it is pointed out by Mr Poe that he isn't 'in a position to give moral lectures to children' hehe. He then hands Olaf over to Dr. Lucafont to take to the police.

The children say their goodbyes, that is, Violet and Klaus say goodbye; Sunny doesn't even say 'Yeet!' or 'Libo!'. She's working something out. Remember how we've been constantly reminded of Dr. Lucafont's weird hands. Well, Sunny's the only one to see him for what he really is. So she bites one of them. And lo and behold, they're not hands, they're models concealing hooks!

But the revelation comes too late for them. Olaf and the hook-handed man have taken off. Despite his haste in making a citizens arrest on Olaf, Mr Poe isn't about to start chasing down the bad guys and he doesn't let Violet or Klaus attempt it either. He justifies this by telling them he is responsible for them and doesn't want them to get hurt, which is all well and good except HAS HE NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION FOR THE LAST TWO BOOKS?!


The telephone is apparently working after all and Mr Poe uses it to phone the police. I'm sure Olaf said it wasn't working so I guess it was just a ruse. Perhaps Violet could've used it to call the police herself while everyone else was distracted in the Reptile Room. Bit late for that now anyway.

The children fall asleep and are woken by some people pillaging the Reptile Room. One of these men, Bruce, is wearing a plaid suit which puzzles Sunny who asks 'Dixnik?' Basically the Herpetological Society are taking away all the snakes. It's a bit of an Unfortunate Event for the inhabitants of the Reptile Room as well because they'll be going to 'other scientists, zoos, and retirement homes' but the ones that they can't find homes for will be put to sleep. Lovely.

At this Sunny shouts 'Viper!' obviously concerned about her best friend. The children then have to explain to yet another person that the name Incredibly Deadly Viper is a misnomer and he's actually just a gentle giant. We've not really had much of the classic repetition in this latter part of the book so getting little bits like this come up again kind of take the place of the descriptions of what each of the three children are up to.

Bruce puts down Monty, first for naming a non-deadly snake a name with 'Deadly' in it, and then for being named Montgomery Montgomery. I kind of thought Bruce would be a nice guy when he appeared on the scene, despite his loud voice and dress sense. Now I've decided he's a bit of a jerk. Surely he's aware of the situation and could be a little bit more sensitive to the children.

The children all assert that Monty was a brilliant man. Even Sunny manages to say 'Brilliant!' which either shows how emphatic this statement is, or that Sunny's vocabulary is expanding.

Mr Poe isn't keen on the children going out to see the snakes, but they go anyway because they represent the last bit of happiness the children experienced before the mad Count Olaf arrived back in their lives. There's a sweet little bit when the children kind of realise that even though their time with Monty was short, they would always remember Uncle Monty and the happiness he gave them. Aww. Actually, this just kind of makes the whole thing more depressing because I just know everything is going to keep on going downhill from here.

So the children wave goodbye to the Incredibly Deadly Viper, which cries right along with them. I don't think snakes actually can cry, can they? Maybe it's a touch of artistic license. Then we get a moment of mutual backpatting as the children tell each other they were brilliant for their help in solving the mystery of what happened to Monty. Even Sunny chimes in with another 'Brilliant!'

And then they watch the van drive away and the chapter ends. This time it's with a full page picture of Bruce, who I've decided is thoroughly unpleasant. He's a very large man with a very loud jacket, looking at a very expensive pocket watch. He reminds me of a used car salesman, you know, the smarmy ones you see in TV programmes.

Behind Bruce the IDV is being loaded, in its cage, into the back of the van. The man carrying the cage is wearing a baseball top with Lachrymose Leeches on the back. Wonder where the Baudelaires will be going next...

And that wraps up this book, apart from the last page where we get Snicket's latest letter to his editor. Apparently he is writing from Lake Lachrymose where the remains of the Baudelaires' Aunt Josephine's house can be found. Clearly the next book is not going to end any more happily than this one.

Check back tomorrow for a brief overview of what I remember about the next book, The Wide Window.

Day Zero Project: Make a list of all the videos, DVDs & blu-rays we own

Like making the list of all the books in the house, this one is yet to come to fruition. Theoretically it shouldn't be that difficult to sit down and make a list of what we've got on the bookcase in the front lobby, the cupboard in the living room and with the Christmas decorations upstairs (we keep our Christmas films with our Christmas decorations and then they only come out at the end of November when we're ready to start watching them all. We've got almost forty so it saves a lot of space on the DVD shelves that way).

In fact, it's a lot easier to do because the videos (yup, we still have a few of those old things), DVDs and blu-rays are a lot more easily accessible than the books in the house. I suspect that I have a lot more books than viewing material, and I certainly don't have any that are only in an electronic form so I don't have to worry about that muddying my OCD organisation.

It's just that to do this would be ridiculously time consuming. I collect the Disney Movie Rewards Points and I still have a whole bunch of films on the shelf that I've not redeemed the points for. It's not like it's so hard to just sit down every once and a while and rattle through three or four codes, I just have a tendency to get distracted by more pressing things. Like knitting bright orange moustaches for my colleagues.

That's not to say that I don't have some lists. I have a lovely list, divided happily in two, called Christmas Films and Not-Quite Christmas Films which I refer to each year (adding new films as we get them). The latter list are the films with a Christmassy feel that you can watch before the start of December (like Love, Actually, Ballet Shoes and Nightmare Before Christmas - my way to kick off the Christmas countdown, at Halloween before watching films like the other two listed).

It would definitely be handy to have a more comprehensive list somewhere though. Preferably shared on Google Docs with Mr Click so when we're in a charity shop independently of each other and we spot a good film we'd like to add to our collection, we can check to see if it's one we already have. I have a freakishly good memory and could quite easily rattle off every Disney film in our collection, but this is only useful if I'm in the shop at the same time as the person debating whether or not to pick up a particular film.

And while I have a freakishly good memory for individual films and TV series, it's a little less specific on the latter. I know that we have some series of Bones, Without a Trace, CSI and House but I always need to double check which series we've got up to. Actually, that's a little bit of a lie. I've checked on Bones and House enough times to know now (for the record it's two series of Bones and three of House).

It's probably something I'll get around to with time. Especially as I'm looking for ways to fill my evenings now I'm not devoting all my time to hitting the books. Is there anything out there like LibraryThing for keeping track of your collections? I need to look into this!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Reptile Room, Chapter 12

Once again, I'm typing this review directly onto the blog so any weird mistakes are completely unintentional. My computer is running kind of slowly at the moment as there are some big updates coming down so hopefully nothing untoward will happen here.

What Happens?
Mr Poe challenges Stephano on his snake knowledge just before Violet arrives with the evidence she found in his suitcase. She lays it out and together she and Klaus explain that Monty's death was murder. Monty was poisoned with venom from the Mamba du Mal and then Olaf was going to assume Monty's identity to transport the children to Peru. Finally Mr Poe consents to rubbing Stephano's ankle to see if the Olaf's eye tattoo has been covered up with make up, allowing the children to reveal Stephano for exactly who he really is.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter opens with a fairly detailed little picture in a box at the bottom of the page. It appears to be in the Reptile Room showing a desk (with lots of books on shelves behind it) with all the things that Violet found in Stephano/Olaf's suitcase. We've got a bottle of poison, a syringe, the ticket for the boat to Peru, a membership card for (I guess) the Herpetological Society), a face powder applicator and a mirror. Anyone care to play Sherlock Holmes and deduce what all of this means?

Once again Snicket makes use of the phrase ' meanwhile, back at the ranch' but draws attention to the fact by promising it won't happen again. Okay, Mr Snicket, but I'll be watching you. We've jumped back in time to the end of Chapter 10 which was evidently occurring alongside the events of the previous chapter. Everything is all caught up now and Klaus is still explaining what Sunny meant by 'Aha'. For those who don't want to click back for a reminder, 'Aha!' basically meant 'Aha!'

I love this description here:

... now everyone in the Reptile Room was staring at Stephano. Sunny looked triumphant. Klaus looked defiant. Mr. Poe looked furious. Dr. Lucafont looked worried. You couldn't tell how the Incredibly Deadly Viper looked, because the facial expressions of snakes are difficult to read.

Mr Poe calls Stephano/Olaf on his sudden knowledge of snakes which Olaf attempts to explain away as his being modest before. Klaus suggests that maybe he was lying at which Olaf mentions Klaus's lack of evidence. Entirely the wrong thing to say as Violet has shown up with exactly that.

It's Violet's turn to look triumphant as she lays out the evidence we saw at the beginning of the chapter on the desk. It's everything that I said was there. I'm impressed at figuring out the powder puff thing was what I thought it was. At first I didn't have a clue, despite the brilliant detail of Brett Helquist's illustrations.

Of course the adults in this book have a bit of a habit of comically missing the point at crucial moments. So the scene briefly descends into a debate about how Violet, a nice girl, was able to pick the lock of Stephano's suitcase. Even Sunny jumps in with a 'Roofik!' to defend her sister. Luckily Mr Poe decides to shelve this conversation for the time being in order to allow Violet to get on with her little explanation.

Violet starts to explain that the Baudelaires were suspicious when Monty died, but Klaus corrects her; they knew Stephano/Olaf had done it. Lucafont tries to explain the cause of death again but Klaus helpfully explains that the books they read on the Mamba du Mal clearly state that they have a different MO when it comes to their victims. Someone clearly didn't do their research properly!

Mr Poe isn't yet sure that this constitutes evidence of a murder though, so it's up to Violet to point out the objects on the table. The vial contains Venom du Mal, the needle was used to make the bite marks. Olaf/Stephano tries to point out he'd have nothing to gain from murdering Monty, but Violet has found her stride and so chooses to ignore him completely, explaining how Stephano was going to take them to Peru where they would be difficult to trace.

But Stephano no longer had a ticket, so how was he to get them there? Why by posing as Dr. Montgomery Montgomery of course. Hence the ticket and the Hepetological Society membership card. Violet's a regular little Sherlock Holmes here, isn't she?

Mr Poe is still being a little bit dense about the whole thing. He still thinks that Stephano and Olaf are too separate people, so Violet has to spell it out for him. Obviously the make up and mirror are part of his disguise, used to cover up the tattoo on his ankle, while he shaved his eyebrow and grew a beard. She points out that there's a simple way to check this, they just need to wipe his ankle to see if the make up comes off.

Luckily Mr Poe seems willing to go along with this. Unfortunately nobody has a cloth, the assembled children chorus 'Not me' (or in Sunny's case 'Guweel!') when asked if they're able to provide one. Dr Lucafont is ready to call the whole thing off at this. I could almost imagine Mr Poe agreeing with him here, but luckily for us, and the Baudelaires, he produces his handkerchief.

Even now Olaf is trying to get out of the situation though. He doesn't want Mr Poe to rub his ankle with the handkerchief because it's the one Poe has been coughing into. He's afraid of the germs. Mr Poe is actually a little bit stern here. I like it, he should have balls a little bit more often.

Of course this was never going to go any other way. The Baudelaires knew Stephano was Olaf, Stephano knew he was Olaf, we knew Stephano was Olaf. There's a bit of suspense as the shape of the tattoo doesn't become visible right away. But then it does:

Violet, Klaus, and Sunny all stared at the eye, and the eye stared back. For the first time in their lives, the Baudelaire orphans were happy to see it.

And so ends the penultimate chapter. We'll wrap this book up on Thursday afternoon and it'll be like I never fell behind in my reading at all!