Sunday, 31 August 2014

Weekly Rundown: A Walk By the Sea

Last Monday was in fact a Bank Holiday for me. Despite living in Scotland I get the pleasure of enjoying the English Bank Holidays, which is especially nice for some quiet shopping trips when almost everyone else in the country is at work or school. Last week, however, we decided against a shopping trip in favour of giving our Tara-Tup a little treat.

You see the week before she turned three, so we felt that we should spoil her a little. This took the form of a trip to the very northern tip of the island, a little place called Rhubodoch. It’s actually been over three years since we last went for a walk there so it was Tara’s first time. And she loved it.

Me and Tara, taken by Mr Click.
And so did we.

They’ve opened up a walk route that wasn’t there before so we decided to try part of it (the complete route is three hours long so when we’ve had some dry weather for a few days we’re going to pack a picnic and try it all). The ground got pretty boggy partway up and as it was steep with a slope off to one side we decided to turn back. Tara decided she’d had entirely enough and collapsed into the muddiest bit of the track she could find.

This resulted in me dunking the dirty labrador in a stream at the bottom of the walk. In fact, I nearly got dunked myself while my husband helpfully stood on the bank, laughing at the (admittedly comical) sight of me being dragged into the water by our dog.

The main thing was that Tara enjoyed herself (she slept until 4pm when we got home which is usually a sign of a good walk). And I took a whole bunch of lovely photos with my new camera. Definitely a good day.

Other than exhausting myself with long walks (I was recovering from my weekend migraine which maybe wasn’t the best time to go for a slightly challenging walk) I’ve also been reading quite a bit and doing more work on my Keri Smith books.

Reading material of choice this week has been She Who Remembers by Linda Lay Shuler, which I inherited from my Grampy and had been told that it was like Clan of the Cave Bear (a book he recommended to me and I enjoyed). She Who Remembers was one of those books that I just wanted to keep reading and reading. Normally after breakfast I’ll switch off the light and have a little snooze for half an hour but twice this week I kept it on and kept reading right up until the alarm went off!

Physical copies of the other two books in the trilogy seem easy enough to come by but they’re available more cheaply in Kindle format so I’m thinking that when I get close to that bookshelf again I’ll pick up those as a little treat. (For those not in the know about my incredible anal reading routine, I have different series or sorts of books on each shelf of my bookcases and I work though each one in turn. I’ll read approximately six books before I return to that shelf again).

Next up I’ve moved onto a book of Robert Frost’s poetry. He’s my absolute favourite poet, who I discovered at school but had actually first become acquainted with in a poetry book for children which included ‘Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening’.

We’re still watching The Persuaders and Criminal Minds (what a combination!), the latter one we’re almost at the end of the episodes that we’ve got on DVD so we’ll be moving onto The Mentalist soon (to give the series we don’t have more time to come down in price). I’m not sure what we’ll be watching after The Persuaders yet. It reminds me of the cartoons I used to watch on a Saturday morning so I think we’ll need to find something suitably similar; personally I’m pushing for The Dukes of Hazzard.

I’ve not done much more work on my sock recently; as I said above, I’m more focused on my Keri Smith books. But I’m planning on working really hard to get it all done this week so I can move onto the second of the pair and then something else. I have no idea what yet, but something will come to me, I’m sure.

And you may have noticed that this blog post is a little bit late this week. That's because I've been ordering my gown and photo session for my graduation ceremony. I've also just been informed that my lovely blue dress isn't really suitable and what I need is a plain white blouse and black skirt. Looks like we'll be having another shopping trip soon!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Part 5

Here’s the very last bit of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, there’s not a huge amount of actual film left but I love the end credits so much that I thought they deserved a mention as well.

In this bit Harry and Hermione successfully rescue Sirius, Lupin lets Harry have the Marauders Map back and Harry gets a brand new super fast broom. Oh and the end credits go on for practically forever but they’re so brilliant that it’s worth sitting through them.

101. The way that Dumbledore distracts everyone from where Buckbeak is being rescued makes me think he must have known what was going to happen. It makes me wonder if he’d planned to recruit Hermione to rescue Buckbeak all along, and learning the truth about Sirius and having the opportunity to save him too was just a convenient accident. Or Dumbledore’s a really powerful wizard and perhaps he’s just that good and he knows what’s going on before it’s technically happened.

102. Harry and Hermione just have to sit it out and wait for everyone to come back out of the Whomping Willow. Harry is convinced that the Patronus which saved him and Sirius was conjured by his father. Harry’s also being all optimistic about going to live with Sirius, he doesn’t seem to realise that helping him to escape is kind of going to prevent that from actually happening because his godfather is still going to be an escaped convict.

103. While the bit about Hermione’s hair doesn’t bother me, the bit with her pretending to be a werewolf does. Because they’re only supposed to answer to their own calls, or something along that wording. And Hermione is clearly not a werewolf. Then again, perhaps she’s really good at impressions but we’ve not had an opportunity to find out before now.

104. Once they escape from werewolf!Lupin (again) Harry and Hermione find themselves basically watching Harry and Sirius die. Until realisation dawns and Harry rushes forward to make a perfect Patronus. I remember the white light of this bit in the cinema being almost blinding after all the dark scenes leading up to it. I know the book takes place at night and the Patronus is white, but I suspect that this whole thing is kind of deliberate on the part of the filmmakers to make it all really magical and mystical.

105. With Sirius and Harry saved, they’re able to rescue Sirius from the tower and go for a short flight on Buckbeak (which Hermione does not enjoy and I’m not sure I blame her).

106. Before Sirius says goodbye, Harry is reminded, yet again, that he has Lily’s eyes. Sirius gets all Dumbledore-ish and says ‘the ones who love us never truly leave us’ and then tells Harry they live on in his heart. Aww. He also gives Hermione a compliment before riding off into the full moon.

107. They meet Dumbledore on the way back to the hospital wing, reappearing just as they disappear which freaks Ron out totally.

108. There’s another transitional scene with the Whomping Willow, now full of green leaves. Yet another blue bird lands on it and disappears in an explosion of feathers.

109. Now Lupin is off as well. Clearly being a werewolf is not a good trait for a teacher, even in a school like Hogwarts. He’s awfully resigned to the fact that he’s not wanted in the school by many, many parents. I really feel for him, especially as it’s all because of something completely out of his control. But by the same token, he is potentially dangerous and there could have been a very nasty accident while he was out roaming the grounds. So much to consider.

110. Anyway, as he’s no longer a teacher at the school, he’s perfectly willing to let Harry have the Marauder’s Map back.

111. And down in the Great Hall, Harry’s received a new toy, a shiny new broomstick which is, uh, pretty fast. And the film ends with a brief shot of Harry’s face, complete with motion blur as he speeds away on his new broom.

112. But the awesomeness of this film doesn’t end there. The previous films had boring, regular end credits but the ones for this film a truly magical and I almost always end up watching them all the way through just to try and spot all the little bits. First we hear Harry’s voice lighting up the map and then saying the magic words to get it going. And then it takes shape, unfolding.

113. Next to the names are the footprints, strolling around at various speeds.
  • John Williams’s footprints appear to be stepping back and forth as though he is conducting.
  • Emma Watson’s are pacing.
  • Robbie Coltrane’s are giant Hagrid sized footprints.
114. After the big names we start to get a sort of tour of the castle and some of my favourites to spot are:
  • As the ‘Baby in Portrait’ goes by (who was played by the director’s daughter) we see some teeny tiny baby-sized feet toddling around.
  • The footprints sort of interact with the names, jumping over them or walking one foot in front of the other to squeeze between lines.
  • At one point you see ‘Stink Bomb Store’ and a pair of feet walk in, then three pairs run out.
  • When it gets to ‘Animals by’ you see a bunch of dog footprints stroll by as well as some bird footprints which head into ‘The Owlery’.
  • Just after the bit with tutors and chaperones you see a pair of feet go into a little alcovey bit and sort of turn around in there.
  • At the information about the piece of music ‘La Cumparsita’ there’s a pair of feet just standing there tapping.
  • At the special effects bit a pair of feet, wearing shoes like all the others so far, suddenly turns into barefoot footprints and from there into dog footprints. I’m guessing that’s Sirius.
  • In between ‘Rigging’ and ‘Lighting Supervisors’ a pair of feet run through, closely followed by another pair chasing them.
  • A few seconds later two pairs of feet come from different directions and meet just above ‘Compositors’ before walking off together.
  • A pair of feet walk into ‘The Grindylow Lagoon’, they just stop and then disappear without walking out. Presumably they sank or the Grindylows got them!
  • In the very bottom of the left hand corner of the screen, as we pass ‘Motion Control Cameras By’ there’s a little alcove where you can see two pairs of feet not only facing each other but one pair on the outside and another pair inside. Apparently this a couple making out in a private little corner.
  • At the point where ‘The Producers wish to thank’ appears there are a pair of small feet again which run into ‘The Book of Monsters Repair Shop’ and then kind of walk heel-to-toe out the other side (not wanting to step on the books I guess).
  • At the bit with the Dolby Digital logos there are two pairs of feet facing each other which I think might be dancing.

115. And then it ends with Harry saying ‘Mischief managed’ to clear the map, and ‘Nox’ to turn out the light. Easily the best end credits ever!

Next week we’ll kick off with the first part of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I’ve not decided how many parts that’ll be in yet, but I’m trying to keep it to around three or four.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 10

And so we’ve come to the last chapter for the week. This time next week we’ll be all done with The Miserable Mill and will be moving on to The Austere Academy the fifth book in the series. But we’re not there yet, so, moving swiftly on.

What Happens?

Violet decides to visit Sir to ask him for help. She and Sunny leave Klaus in the dormitory to sleep in his hypnotised state and head for Sir’s office. Sir is not at all helpful and warns the children that if they continue to cause trouble (and accidents) then he will pass them onto a local woman who wishes to adopt them. Of course that local woman is none other than Shirley, better known to the children as Count Olaf! Charles on the other hand offers a helping hand, though it’s just a token gesture and Violet soon realises that they will be on their own in this situation.

Thoughts as I read:

In this chapter we’re obviously going to be making a return visit back to Sir’s office because the chapter image is one of Sir sitting behind his desk, face wreathed in smoke. There’s a lot of paper stacked on his desk and he has a nameplate on it which says ‘The Boss’ so no further clue as to what his name is.

There are mixed reactions to the memo in the Baudelaire camp. Sunny bites her lip so hard that she draws blood, ouch. Meanwhile Klaus doesn’t really seem to hear it at all and instead just sits there looking vacant. Phil tries to get them to stay positive, this time by pointing out that it might be ‘a blessing in disguise’. Except it obviously isn’t because if the choice is between living in a lumbermill, doing a hard dangerous job, or living with Count Olaf, where you might be murdered or have your fortune stolen, then there’s not really any good in either option!

Finally Violet decides that she has to see Sir but she is concerned about what instructions Klaus might have been given when he was hypnotised. Considering what has happened to every other guardian placed in charge of them, and what happened to Phil the previous day, she decides that she can’t risk it. “Dinel” says Sunny and Violet responds that Klaus will have to stay with Phil.

Violet instructs Klaus to get some sleep and tells him that she hopes he’ll feel better the next day. Sunny’s “Wub” means “I hope so, too.” Klaus says goodbye to them and although he gets Violet’s name right, he calls Sunny Susan. Poor kids.

They leave Klaus to sleep and head off to see Sir who is found sitting at his desk. And that nameplate from earlier, also made of chewed up bits of gum just like the big sign outside. Lovely. Sir is not exactly pleased to see them as they do not have an appointment. The Baudelaires are also his least favourite people since as far as he’s concerned they caused the accident (I won’t repeat the whole issue of slave labour and asking children to do an adults job).

When Violet explains about what has really been going on Charles immediately grasps the seriousness of the situation, but Sir tells Violet that the solution is for them not to cause any more accidents or they’ll be thrown out of the mill to be taken in by Shirley. Sunny responds to this with “Palsh!” and Violet has to explain that Shirley and Count Olaf are one and the same. Sir does not believe this and failed to examine Shirley’s legs for an eye tattoo as this would be bad manners.

Besides, Shirley has a nameplate that says “Shirley” on it. Sunny once again repeats “Fiti!” meaning “That nameplate doesn’t prove anything, of course!” Yay, I like it when we get a Sunny word that has been used before.

Sir wants the girls out of his office because he’s obviously a bad guy, though a bad guy in the same sort of vein as Mr Poe, who doesn’t do anything to help or listen, rather than an Olafian bad guy who actually does bad things. But Violet thinks of something quickly and asks permission to call Mr Poe.

It’s a good idea but Sir says no. Charles does point out that he should be treating the children like family but Sir points out that he is treating them like family, after all, many of his own cousins are employed in the mill. Geez, would not want to be a member of that family!

So the children give up and leave the office, but outside Charles offers to help them. Violet asks how and suggests he calls Mr Poe or hide them from Shirley. Sunny asks “Ulo?” meaning “Will you have Dr. Orwell arrested?” and “Henipul?” meaning “Will you undo Klaus’s hypnotism?” But no, Charles cannot do any of those things. Instead he can bring them raisins for lunch. Which will be a great help!

And so it is left to Violet to try to figure out a way to get them out of this situation, all by herself, well, with Sunny’s help of course.

We’ll give her the weekend to think things over.

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 9

Check back later today for the second chapter of the day of The Miserable Mill. For now, here’s the review of Chapter 9.

What Happens?

Count Olaf has adopted the identity of a receptionist to Dr Orwell, named Shirley. Shirley reveals that she is working alongside Dr Orwell, that Klaus is being hypnotised and that she intends to get hold of the children to raise them herself. Orwell and Shirley then let the children return to the lumbermill where they are given a memorandum containing some very bad news.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter opens with a lovely image of what we can assume are Shirley’s legs. There’s the smart skirt, the sensible shoes (though they look more black than beige) and a stylishly patterned pair of tights. The tights are in fact patterned with the classic eye motif and are not quite enough to contain Olaf’s hairy legs, though he really does have the legs to pull off that kind of an outfit; it’d maybe look a little bit better if he shaved so there weren’t all the stray hairs poking through.

The actual text of the chapter starts off by talking about how children who are in trouble may be said to have low self-esteem and how this is often not the case, rather that the low self-esteem is caused by something which is causing the trouble (example are given such as a monster, a bus driver, a banana peel, killer bees, the school principal). And so the Baudelaires know that they are in trouble and they know that this has nothing to do with their levels of self-esteem.

Violet and Sunny’s self-esteem levels are just fine as the former can invent things and the latter knows her siblings are interested in her. They knew that they were attractive but none of this changes the fact that they are in trouble.

Olaf continues pretending to be Shirley, even though he obviously isn’t, by asking their names. When the girls call him out, he merely points to the nameplate as evidence that his is in fact Shirley. Sunny sensibly replies “Fiti!” meaning “That nameplate doesn’t prove anything, of course!” Olaf explains that he has decided that he would now like to be Shirley and therefore that is what they should call him, er, her.

Now I could start a discussion here about perhaps Olaf is actually a transgender person, but we all know that it’s far more likely that he’s really just trying to catch the children using any old disguise that will work for him. The guise of Shirley is just the latest in a long line of disguises.

Then again, he’s done a very good job with his disguise. He’s grown his nails long and painted them. That’s not even something that I do very often. I painted my nails for the first time in years at the beginning of the month purely for my cousin’s wedding. As that’s likely to be the last family wedding for a while I probably won’t need to do it again for ages!

It is quite interesting here that the text refers to Count Olaf exclusively as Count Olaf until he says he wishes to be called Shirley, at which point the text switches to using Shirley and the pronoun ‘her’. Just an observation. Oh, and Shirley has a monobrow.

Shirley seems more than willing to tell the Baudelaire girls what she’s up to and how she’s working with Dr Orwell to get the Baudelaires. Sunny responds with “Popinsh!” which Violet defines as “Dr Orwell hypnotised Klaus and caused that terrible accident, didn’t she?”

Violet is expecting them to be abducted and carted off somewhere so that Olaf can do terrible things to them and steal all their money. But that is not what happens. Instead Shirley offers them a cookie and states that her wish in life is to raise three children. Violet tries to point out how ridiculous this is as Sir is raising them but it doesn’t take a genius to realise that Sir’s not exactly the most devoted of guardians. After all, he’s putting three children to work in a dangerous lumbermill where he pays his employees with coupons and doesn’t even feed them proper meals. How much of a fight is he really likely to put up if Count Olaf asks him to hand over the children?

At that moment however Dr Orwell returns with Klaus who is looking all dazed. He’s been hypnotised again. They’ve obviously got some sinister plan up their collective sleeves because Dr Orwell just hands Klaus over to his sisters and tells them to let him rest. She also says that she expects she’ll see them soon, after all, Klaus is always causing accidents.

Sunny’s reply is practically English “Roopish!” meaning “They’re not accidents! They’re the results of hypnotism!” But no one responds to her and so they girls are forced to take Klaus out of the building as he muses about how he feels like he knows Shirley from somewhere else. “Ballywot!” says Sunny, meaning “She’s Count Olaf in disguise!”

At least this time around Violet and Sunny know that Klaus has been hypnotised, so although this is all very frightening, at least they have slightly more understanding about what is going on here. Violet pushes Klaus to remember what has happened but all he knows is that he broke his glasses, then he calls Violet ‘Veronica’.

On the facing page while all this is going on, is a full page picture, as we have come to expect in the centre of these books. It shows the building looking differently to the way I imagine it. In this image the eye is standing up on it’s side, whereas I picture it as actually looking like an eye without needing to tilt your head. The spikes along the roof don’t make as much sense with it the way it’s pictured, but if it was my way then they would be eyelashes.

Violet decides that the best course of action is to put Klaus in the dormitory and then see Sir to see if he can help them. Sunny agrees with a glum little “Guree” and so they set off. Their fellow lumbermill employees are less than enthused at their return, though Phil, ever the optimist, tells his colleagues that it was an accident. Phil’s leg is in a cast and he’s not too bothered about it. I bet he doesn’t get any time off work though.

There’s a memorandum for the children about the accident though and it contains some very, very bad news. The children are being blamed for the accident as this is a sign that they are ‘bad workers’ and these are not tolerated at the lumbermill. The children are threatened with being sent away to be adopted by a receptionist in town. A receptionist named Shirley.

Shirley not!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 8

This is a pretty short chapter today so we should get through it quite quickly. Tomorrow we’ve got a double-helping so don’t forget to check back for that as well.

What Happens?

Violet suggests that they run away but Klaus points out that they would be unable to protect themselves against Count Olaf as he needs new glasses and Sunny is just a baby. Klaus figures out that the reason he was acting so strangely was because he was hypnotised. They have no choice but to head to Dr. Orwell’s office but once inside she doesn’t seem too scary. She takes Klaus away to make his glasses and directs the girls to the waiting room, where they quickly realise that all is not as it seems with the receptionist, Shirley.

Thoughts as I read:

The image for this chapter is a closer look at something we saw at the end of the last book. It’s a sign, shaped like a pair of glasses complete with eyes. The name on the sign reads ‘Dr. Georgina Orwell’ which gives us another little literary name play. I’m sure I remembered there being a lot more literary references on my last reread so I’m wondering if I’ve either overlooked some of the ones that have cropped up so far, or if they are more tightly condensed into the later books than I recall.

The one good thing about the recent events is that it has allowed all three Baudelaires to escape, momentarily, from Lucky Smells Lumbermill. Violet’s thinking much the same way as I am right now. She suggests that they could run away, especially given their newfound knowledge of the lumbermill industry, though I hate to say it, I doubt that any other lumbermill would operate in quite the way the Lucky Smells does!

Klaus questions how they would protect themselves against Count Olaf. Violet points at that they’ve done just fine so far, though Klaus again shoots her down by pointing out that one of them is a baby and the other one can’t see very well at the moment. He does have a valid point. It would all end up resting on Violet’s shoulders, as she already seems to think it does. Klaus thinks things will be best if they get him some new glasses and then see what happens.

Violet tries to get Klaus to remember what happened when he went to Dr Orwell’s but all he remembers is telling Charles he didn’t want to go. Sunny says “Ha!” to this, which means “Ha!” Is this a sign that Sunny is starting to speak the same sort of language as everyone else? We’ll have to wait to find out because Violet pushes Klaus to remember.

All Klaus knows is that he was unaware of anything until he came to at the lumbermill after injuring Phil. Then he says the magic words “It’s as if I were hypnotized”. Violet is a little bit sceptical but Klaus insists that it explains everything and details what he read in Encyclopedia Hypnotica the previous year. There’s a story about an Egyptian king who did chicken impressions when someone said “Ramses!” and a Chinese merchant who played the violin when someone said “Mao!” and:

“A man who lived in England in the nineteen twenties was hypnotized. All the hypnotist had to do was shout ‘Bloomsbury!’ and he suddenly became a brilliant writer, even though he couldn’t read.”

Sunny responds to this heartwarming tale with “Mazée!” which means “We don’t have time to hear all these stories, Klaus!” Out of curiosity I googled ‘Mazée’ to see what it means. It’s a place in Belgium, just in case you were wondering.

Unfortunately he doesn’t remember anything about how to avoid being hypnotised, he was more interesting in the funny stories so apparently skipped over the less interesting bits. And that’s why I don’t count a book as being read until I’ve actually read it all!

The Baudelaires turn their attention back to the big eye-shaped building. I love this line: To Klaus, of course, Dr. Orwell’s office just looked like a big blur, but to his sisters it looked like trouble. Klaus then vows never to skip the boring parts of a book again. I used to have a two chapter rule where if something was boring then if I wasn’t enjoying it by the second chapter I would just give up with it. Now I have a rule that if I’ve started it then I must finish it. Quite often I do change my mind about otherwise boring books, though I’ve still never actually gone back to try rereading The Great Gatsby.

Lemony Snicket interrupts the story here for a moment, as Klaus is walking towards the building, to ask Where is Count Olaf? He then goes on to answer the question as well, Very nearby. Considering the fact that Snicket has waited until now to raise this question and bring up the answer we can only assume that Olaf is inside the very building the children are headed towards.

Inside the eye-shaped office is a tall woman wearing a badge that says Dr. Orwell. She’s got blonde hair which is pulled back into a bun, wears big black boots and carries a cane with a red jewel on top. She does not appear to the Count Olaf in disguise. She is also surprised that Klaus has broken his glasses again already. Violet and Sunny are also surprised as they were expecting her to be Olaf in disguise. Not only that, she invites them all in, promises it won’t take too long to make up Klaus’s glasses and tells them they can eat the cookies made by her receptionist, Shirley.

Violet gets straight to the point and asks if her brother is going to get hypnotised but Dr Orwell reassures her that sort of thing only happens in scary films. So the children head into the building.

She does say something slightly strange as they walk down a corridor covered in medical certificates. After asking the girls if they read a lot she asks if they know the meaning of the phrase ‘You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’. Sunny responds with “Tuzmo” meaning “I don’t believe so”. Violet’s none the wiser so Orwell explains that it means that if you behave nicely you’re more likely to get what you want than acting badly. She then tells them all will become clear soon and sends the girls into the waiting room.

The waiting room looks like just about any other waiting room in any other place. There’s seating, a table, a selection of old magazines, and a receptionist. But the receptionist is not like any other receptionist in any other place. Despite the nameplate which reads ‘Shirley’ the receptionist is definitely not a Shirley. They are wearing a receptionisty sort of outfit in brown and beige, pale lipstick and a blonde wig. But they also have a pair of shiny eyes which are more well known as belonging to a certain Count Olaf.

And now the children are in trouble.

Wreck This Journal: Place Sticky Things Here

So many of these pages in this journal are ongoing. I suppose you could probably do something to the page and call it complete but I like to see the pages growing and changing. It might look one way for a little while but then the fancy will take me and I'll add to it so that it takes on a different style.

The Place Sticky Things Here page is one of those. Now the instructions suggest that you might like to put things like honey, gum, syrup, glue, sucker, marshmallow onto this page, which would definitely make it sticky. As I started work on this page fairly soon after acquiring the journal I decided to go a slightly different route with this page. I wasn't ready to get too messy too soon.

See if you can spot the Yoda-nose in this picture.
As you can see in the picture above, I decided to stick stickers onto my sticky page. This enabled me not to get gooey honey all over the book just days after I'd received it. A colleague at work was having a clear out so gave me a sheet of stickers which I went wild with all over the book.

Obviously they are Christmas stickers so there's a decided Christmas slant to this page at the moment. Even though I've added a couple more stickers since then, namely stickers that came on some socks that Mr Click got me.

This is a page that I can see myself adding to for a long time yet. I'm keeping my eye out for cheap stickers in stationery shops so I can go totally wild adding to the ones already on this page. I'm still reserving judgement on the really sticky stuff. I'm getting braver now, perhaps I'll leave a lollipop that I'm eating on the page at some point, or using this page to lean on while I'm applying glue to the backs of things I've cut out of magazines to stick in here.

I'm slowly getting braver about wrecking my journal.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 7

This is another fairly short chapter, though admittedly, slightly longer than the last one. We'll be over halfway through this book by the end of this chapter and will be looking it wrap it up completely by this time next week!

What Happens?

The next morning is no better for the Baudelaires as Klaus has no memory of what happened to him the previous day. He also jumps to attention when he is given any kind of command, something which really alarms his sisters. On the factory floor Klaus is given the responsibility for running the stamping machine which ends badly when it stamps Phil's leg instead of the boards. Flacutono then breaks Klaus's glasses again leading to all three Baudelaires needing to go visit Dr. Orwell.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter picture is a lovely detailed picture of some boots and socks. I love the cross-hatching on those shoes because it reminds me of my art classes when I was fourteen. We did cross-hatch shading and I did a brilliant picture of my school shoe (I used to sit in each art class with one shoe on and the other on the table to sketch), it was so good that they displayed it at a school art shoe. I was so proud of it. The socks also look knitted to me, they've either got a sort of chevron pattern or they're knitted. I'm going to go with knitted because I'm still working on my knitted socks at the moment.

If you have ever had a miserable experience, then you have probably had it said to you that you would feel better in the morning. This, of course, is utter nonsense, because a miserable experience remains a miserable experience even on the loveliest of mornings.

So, so true. Snicket goes on to list ways that the morning might be just as bad as the day before, like just getting wart cream for your birthday or being surrounded by man-eating crocodiles. And so it is for the Baudelaires. Worse in fact for them because not only are they woken by Flacutono banging his pots and pans, but Klaus is still really not himself.

Klaus can't really remember what happened to him the previous day and he seems compelled to do whatever he is told. When the foreman orders him to get out of bed and start working he does just that. Hmm... maybe something happened to him while he was at the eye doctor, y'think? Whatever it is, he's not really in control anymore, he didn't even stop to put on his shoes!

The Baudelaire girls call after Klaus, or in Sunny's case she says "Grummle?" Phil is, as usual, not much help, when they raise their concerns with him. He's more focused on the fact that they're going to move on to 'stamping' the lumber today. Before they can do that however, they have to finish 'tying' which doesn't leave them any time to actually talk to Klaus, not that they're likely to get much sense out of him at the moment.

Violet and Sunny beg (or say "Eshan!") Klaus to speak. He's totally out of it by now, he doesn't eat his lunchtime piece of gum, instead he just sits there in silence. When lunch is over Flacutono orders Klaus to work the stamping machine, which you really have to question the logic of. For one, he's a child; two he's never used the stamping machine before and you'd expect him to have to go through some sort of training before he could be trusted with a complicated piece of heavy machinery; three he's blatantly out of it. You have to question Flacutono's thinking here.

Remember how I mentioned in some of the previous books that Violet has developed a bit of a guilt complex about her ability (or lack thereof) to protect her siblings. This all seems to stem from her parents' telling her that as the eldest Baudelaire she's responsible for looking after her brother and sister. This was probably quite a light-hearted and well-intentioned sort of message at the time, intended to make sure she didn't let her brother stick his fingers in an electric socket, or her sister eat rat poison. Now she's the eldest Baudelaire orphan she's taken it to heart and blames herself anytime something goes wrong, like Count Olaf trying to hurt them and steal their money.

What this boils down to is that Violet feels like Klaus's strange behaviour is somehow her fault and therefore she's got to figure it out and make everything better. Good luck with that Violet.

Flacutono doesn't actually tell the children what stamping actually involves. Again, this shows us what a bad foreman he is. On a dangerous factory floor surely you need to make sure that everyone knows what they're doing. I imagine Lucky Smells Lumbermill has one of those signs up that says "XX Days Since Our Last Accident" and I bet it never gets into double figures!

For those who are curious, the stamping is basically stamping a bit notice down onto the boards which says "Lucky Smells Lumbermill". The children are responsible for blowing on the ink to dry it, which really doesn't sound very practical. I get a bit light-headed from blowing up more than about three balloons in a row so I'd probably pass out if I had to do that!

Meanwhile Phil continues trying to reassure the girls that Klaus is okay and that stamping is the best part of the lumbermill process. Sunny replies with "Wiro" which means "That's true, but I'm still worried about Klaus." Phil obviously doesn't understand Sunny but before they have time to discuss this further there's a loud crash and Phil collapses to the floor having had his leg stamped instead of the boards.

Phil, ever the optimist, is relieved that it's not is right leg and asks everything to help him up onto his unbroken leg so he can continue his work. Violet points out that perhaps a better thing to do would be to go to hospital, a few of his colleagues agree and offer him their coupons for 50% off a cast at the Ahab Memorial Hospital. Meanwhile Flacutono is freaking out. Is he squeamish? No. Is he concerned about the mill's accident records? No. Is he annoyed about the cost of the damaged machinery? Oh yes!

When someone asks what 'inordinate' means Klaus snaps out of his funk and suddenly starts defining it. Despite the serious situation, this brings Violet and Sunny and inordinate amount of joy as it shows that they've got their brother back. Klaus is looking around as though he's not been aware of what's been going on. He has no idea what's just happened to Phil and he doesn't know why he's not got any shoes on.

Flacutono is more than willing to fill Klaus in, however, telling him that the damaged machine is all his fault. Violet tries to point out why this is unfair, citing Klaus's lack of knowledge of the workings of the machine as evidence. Flacutono decides to pull the same trick as the previous day, tripping Klaus and causing his brand new glasses to break.

Despite Violet's request for supplies to fix them herself, Flacutono tells them that no, Klaus is going to have to go to see Dr Orwell again. Violet obviously feels a bit uncomfortable with this suggestion, though I get the impression that she can't really put her finger on why exactly she doesn't want Klaus to go back there. Desperately looking for a way to prevent them all from being separated again, she suggests that all three of them go together. Sunny cries "Derix!" meaning "If we can't prevent him from going to Dr. Orwell, at least we can go with him!" so I guess she's feeling the same way about things as Violet.

Strangely enough, Flacutono doesn't object to this at all. In fact he positively welcomes the idea and agrees to let them all go together. This is clearly not a good thing!

Book 12 of 2014: The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo

Way back in March the end of my course was slowly swimming into view as I tackled the final four books of the course. The Other Side of Truth was the next to arrive after Mortal Engines so I stuck it on my bedside table and moved straight onto it when I was finished with the Philip Reeve book.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo is a story of Sade, a young Nigerian girl, who is forced to flee the country with her brother when her mother is killed due to the articles written by Sade's father. Abandoned in Britain Sade and Femi find themselves in foster care and not knowing what they should say or do as they are often treated with suspicion due to their status as refugees.

I really loved this book. I read it in about two days and putting it down to go to sleep or to work was a real wrench. I so easily could've just read it all in one sitting.

There were a few places where I so easily could've cried. Naidoo did a fantastic job of writing the characters so that you just couldn't help but sympathise with them. I think everyone's probably been in that situation as a young teenager where you didn't quite feel like you fitted in for some reason, so you can easily relate to Sade on one level, but then Sade is in a position which I suspect (and hope) many readers will never be in so it makes you look at the subject of illegal immigrants/refugees totally differently. And it's a book written for children which means it's all dealt with in a way which younger readers can understand.

The course materials mention a sequel which deals with Sade's younger brother, Femi. I would really like to read that as in this book he's really shaken up by events and basically closes himself off. You get the sense that he's got all this anger and hurt bottled up within himself and sooner or later it's going to have to come out. I can't help but think of all the disastrous ways that this could happen and so I'm also kind of hesitant to read the sequel because Sade and Femi have already been through so much that I don't want any more bad things to happen to them.

I found this book really interesting to study. There were so many things that I was able to say about this book that I decided to use it as one of the books I wrote about in my essay. Normally when I really enjoy a book I don't like to write about it in case it changes my enjoyment level, but there was so much that I took away from it that I didn't worry about it this time.

I have to admit that I was surprised to learn that Beverley Naidoo is a white South African. The book felt really personal so I was expecting her to be Nigerian herself, perhaps having experienced some of the things that Sade went through. In the course of my study I read an essay written by Naidoo where she explained where the story came from, how she went about writing it as well as all the research that she did. The effects of the research can be felt all the way through the story because she really is telling the story of so many of those people that she interviewed.

I'd definitely recommend picking up a copy of this, even if you're not needing to study it. It's a really quick read and it'll open your eyes to just one of the reasons why people are forced to seek asylum; a perspective that we don't often see, particularly in children's literature.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 6

Please excuse any errors in today's post. I'm writing this as I battle a two day headache. I suspect that my body is gearing up for a full-blown migraine (because it's a Bank Holiday therefore I can't really be out enjoying myself). I feel like I've got an angry tomcat taken up residence in my skull at the moment. Thankfully Chapter 6 of The Miserable Mill is relatively short.

What Happens?

By dinnertime Klaus is still not back at the mill, a development which worries his sisters. They are not reassured come bedtime when Klaus still has not returned. Sunny and Violet decide to sneak out of bed to try to find Klaus just as he reenters the grounds of the mill. He seems a bit out of it, not really remembering what has happened or where he is, which leaves his sisters wondering just what has happened to him.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter picture looks like a bowl of worms. There's steam so whatever the actual food is, even at the Miserable Mill I doubt whether they would feed them worms, appears to be hot. There's also a massive stack of plates beside the steaming bowl, so regardless of what it is, everyone is getting some!

Ah, the food is probably casserole, the traditional evening meal at the mill. The Baudelaire girls are worried as it's teatime and their brother still has not been returned to them. Violet tries to explain how they feel to Phil with Sunny agreeing ('Becer!') that they do feel that this is cause for concern.

Phil does his best to point out that 'doctors are your friends' which Snicket points out is not entirely true as doctors often do things that hurt you, like giving you injections. On the one hand, I'd usually say that an eye doctor is only going to be trying to help you, as it's the Baudelaires, who seem to attract all sorts of problems, I'm inclined to go along with Violet and Sunny here. Klaus should've been back ages ago and they have every reason to be worried. Especially when bedtime comes and he's still not back.

Phil says that the doctor must be running late which Sunny responds to with "Suski" meaning "I hope so, Phil." and soon the Baudelaire girls are lying in a dark dormitory trying to reassure each other. Eventually Sunny says "Stintamcunu" which I feel like should be almost a whole sentence, though it's not defined and I can't figure out what it might actually be intended to say.

There's a lovely little paragraph here where Snicket debates why the saying is "quiet as mice" and not "quiet as mimes" which are supposed to be entirely silent, rather than just quiet. As someone who has owned mice (in a cage with a squeaky wheel) they are not a particularly quiet pet! It is for this reason that the children are "quiet as mimes" as they sneak out of the dormitory.

Conveniently it is at this moment that Klaus returns to them, walking through the gate and towards the dormitory. He's got shiny new glasses and has no idea why he's back so late; he can't remember at all. That's not a big red flag there at all, is it?

What's worse is that he doesn't really remember where he is at the moment and Violet has to remind him that they're in the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, I'm sure it's a fairly memorable sort of place so this is even more worrying. Regardless of this Klaus is kind of out of it, he doesn't respond to them and Violet decides that he must be very tired. Sunny's not too sure and replies to this with "Libu."

As if to demonstrate Sunny's point Klaus calls Violet 'Sir' and back in the dormitory he has to be told to lie down, still calling his sister 'sir' which just gives them something else to worry about. Even though he's back in body, Klaus definitely isn't back in spirit. There's no knowing what the eye doctor has done to him... well, not in this chapter anyway.

The Real Value of Knitting

The other week I happened to mention to an acquaintance that I was knitting a sock. This sock, in fact:

Excuse the poor quality phone picture. I took a quick snap last week to share on Facebook and I've not really made much more progress since then.

Anyway, said acquaintance told me I should consider knitting socks for the Highland Dancers. A quick Google search tells me they would be something like this. She proceeded to tell me that I could make a bit of money doing this, ooh, a whole £30 even!

I laughed. I didn't have the heart to tell her that the current pair of socks I'm working on, not even factoring in the amount I've spent on the yarn for them, would probably end up running in somewhere around £200 for my time alone (that's assuming I'm paid per hour for the time spent knitting them).

I'm a bit of a selfish knitter, in that I like to knit whatever makes me happy to knit. I quite often start (and eventually finish) projects with no set recipient in mind, just because something about the pattern or prospective FO (that's Finished Object for the non-knitters) has caught my eye. Just last week I finally found a home for my chicken family (who have brought me so much blog traffic since I completed them), until recently they've just been hanging out in my living room waiting for someone to adopt them.

Gladys, Gertrude and family have gone to a lovely new home where I know they're appreciated. And they live with a fellow crafter which is just an added bonus. ;-)

I think that a lot of non-knitters don't really appreciate the amount of time and effort that it takes to turn a pair of sticks and a ball of wool into a cute toy or fashion accessory, which is why I don't often knit things for other people. The number one way to guarantee that I never knit anything for you is to say those magic words "you have to make me..." I'll get stubborn and dig in my heels.

Knitting doesn't really look like an expensive hobby. But there are so many things to factor in. You've got your needles (and you want to have whatever sort of your own personal preference), then there's the yarn (which can start anywhere from pence for a cheap ball right the way up to silly money for something made from unicorn hair or whatever), plus there's the patterns (sure you can get free ones but sooner or later there'll be a book with something you just have to knit...).

And then there's the most important part of all. Your time! When I was making moustaches for my team I found that some knitted up quicker than others. The little classic moustaches, well they were twenty minutes per half; forty minutes for a finished 'tasche. The big Sven 'tasches, those things were fifty minutes per half, almost two hours for a completed one and that's not counting the time spent sewing them up and attaching elastic. If I'd sat down and knit continuously those babies would've eaten up over two full days without doing anything else!

But I don't mind 'wasting' my time on my stitches. It's an hour of watching TV, half an hour reading before bed, twenty minutes waiting for everyone else to get up, an hour while you're waiting for lunch, ten minutes in your break, an hour on the train. It all adds up.

And that's what I like about knitting.

My needles for my socks might have cost £10, the yarn £5, the book the pattern is in £8; I might be spending fifteen hours working on each sock, which if I was being paid £6.50 per hour for would work out at £97.50 per sock!

But when you slip your foot into that toasty warm finished sock, custom-fit to your own foot, and admire your handiwork.

That's priceless.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Weekly Rundown: The Back To School Edition

Considering this was supposed to be a fairly quiet and relaxing sort of a week, it's been a very busy week after all. Now that the summer holidays have ended we're back to our regular routine, which meant back to dog training with Tara on Wednesday.

Now I was dreading the dog training class this week. I could just imagine what was going to happen. Tara's not seen most of these dogs for almost two months. We will walk into the class and she's going to go all hyper and crazy like the lunatic labrador that she is. Well, she didn't. She was incredibly well behaved and aside from a bit of creepy-crawlying when she was supposed to be lying down and staying, she did exactly what I wanted her to.

I was a little bit shocked.

She's just turned three this week so maybe we're beginning to see the start of the latest chapter of Tara. Perhaps she's mellowing out into a lovely mature labrador. I'd like to believe it. Right now she's lying on the sofa beside me, tail resting on my lap beside my computer, snoring her little head off. On the other hand, perhaps she's just lulling me into a false sense of security and will be a complete horror next week...

Tara being mellow, courtesy of Mr Click
This week has also seen us continue our ongoing battle with Vodafone. Part of me thinks that this saga deserves a post all of its own. It certainly is a saga. Suffice to say on Thursday afternoon the mobile phone signal disappeared. Again. Anyone following this blog over the last few months will know that we've had some kind of service disruptions each month for the last three months, it wouldn't be such an issue if it was a little disruption but it's never for just a day or so, it's always for several days and they don't seem inclined to do much about it unless you pester them.

We spent most of the afternoon and evening waiting for a manager to call us back before deciding to go on chat to be told that there was no problem in our area (when we'd already been told there was, and the ten or so people on Facebook with the same problem seemed to confirm this) and that to speak to a manager we'd have to wait 24 to 48 hours. Considering this was the exact opposite of what we'd been told before, we were a wee bit peeved. We said as much to Nora, the oh-so-helpful chat agent we were speaking to, before suggesting that if they couldn't help us we would switch our contract to someone who could.

After learning a cancellation would cost over £600 we kicked up a bit of a stink before being transferred through to Ross, the most helpful guy in the whole of Vodafone. For the first time he actually looked back at our notes and went out of his way to help us out. The result, we are getting compensation for all the disrupted service. Of course, we still have no phone signal in town like everyone else on the island with Vodafone and everyone who speaks to them gets a different message about when it'll be fixed.

I'm reserving judgement on the whole shebang until it's all working again but any more hiccups like this and I'll definitely be looking to switch. Though apparently this downtime is because they're going to make things better. We live in hope!

Aside from returning to dog training and verbal sparring with Vodafone I've been doing more of the same. I've jumped on the loom band bandwagon and have been making attempts at making bracelets (badly). I've not really touched my poor sock this week but I have been working on my Finish This Book.

I've also finally finished reading The Plague Dogs and moved on to a much quicker read; the first in the Hamish Macbeth series Death of a Gossip. Mr Click really enjoyed it and I can see why, it's a nice easy read where the story is gradually unfolding. As of yesterday I was over halfway through it so I'm aiming to finish it tonight before seeing what else I have on the bookcase.

This week coming? Well I'm starting to get my Christmas shopping in order. I have lists and lists of things I want to buy, so I'm going to sit down, work out my budget and get that all organised. We've also got to book more stuff for graduation this week, not to mention more dog training. At least we've got tomorrow off so I can relax a little bit before diving back into work again.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Part 4

We’re almost at the end of the film now, everything’s getting very dramatic and exciting.

In this part Hermione thumps Malfoy, the trio discover the truth about Sirius Black and who Scabbers really is, things go wrong and then get very timey-wimey.

82. Malfoy, Crabbe and Nott (no sign of Goyle again) have picked out a prime position for viewing the execution but Hermione rushes down and gives Malfoy a really good right hook. Then they head down to see Hagrid and Buckbeak before the inevitable happens.

83. Hagrid produces Scabbers and Ron and Hermione have yet another little tiff, but are distracted by a random stone shattering a pot. Of course the trio need to get out of there because Dumbledore, Fudge and the executioner have shown up. None of them seem particularly concerned about where the random flying stones have been coming from. Hermione does have one weird little moment when she hears a noise behind them, but then they run back up to school without bothering to investigate it.

84. There’s a handy tree obscuring the view of what’s happening down at Hagrid’s hut but the fact there’s the sound of an axe and all the birds fly away is kind of the universal sign for someone being beheaded. Hermione has a little cuddle with Ron, and Harry cuddles Hermione’s back but the cuddlefest is interrupted by Scabbers biting Ron.

85. The action moves to the Whomping Willow where a massive big black dog, aka the Grim, abducts Ron before leaving Harry and Hermione to be beaten up by the tree. It’s at this point that I realised that Whomping Willow seems to have moved since last year. The ground surrounding it is a lot less flat than when the car drove away from the abandoned Ron and Harry last year, and they were a lot closer to the school then as well.

86. I have plenty of time to ponder this while Harry and Hermione get flung around all over the place, eventually and conveniently landing in the hole leading down beneath the tree where the dog dragged Ron.

87. And look, it leads to the Shrieking Shack.

88. It’s really effective the way that the dust has dog footprints which lead up to Sirius’s feet. It makes it immediately obvious that Sirius was the dog, for those people who haven’t read the book anyway.

89. The fact that Sirius is fully clothed here suggests that when they transform their clothes transform with them. It’s one of those things I always wonder about when you see people transforming into other people and things.

90. There’s more cuddling as Lupin arrives on the scene and has a little huggle with Sirius. Something seems to make sense to Lupin but the rest of the people present need a little bit of help to get caught up. Unfortunately before we can get that, Snape shows up and jumps to all the wrong conclusions.

91. Once Snape has been eliminated by Harry, knocking him out to give Remus and Sirius a chance to explain what the hell is going on. The gist of this is that Pettigrew isn’t dead, he’s been masquerading as a rat for the last twelve years, having chopped off his own finger in order to fake his own death. He makes a bid for escape, but is transformed into a human just as he heads for a rat hole. This successfully stops him.

92. There are some really creepy implications from this. Not least the fact that Ron has been sleeping with this fake-rat in his bed for the last few years. He’s probably been privy to all sorts of things that teenage boys would rather not have an adult listening in to.

93. Out of the reach of the Whomping Willow Hermione comforts Ron who’s leg is in a bit of a state thanks to Sirius’s dog teeth while Sirius invites Harry to move in with him, once he’s been exonerated. This little scene would all end perfectly if it wasn’t for the big full moon which as been hiding behind a cloud.

94. All at once Lupin turns into a werewolf, Pettigrew returns to his Scabbers shape and escapes and the trio are left alone with a wild werewolf. And then Snape shows up. He does rather valiantly protect the children, while Sirius, in dog form, tackles Lupin, eventually drawing him away from everyone but taking quite the beating himself in the process.

95. Harry, never one to stand by and watch others have to tackle dark forces alone, rushes after Sirius, finding him just as the Dementors swoop in and prepare to do their thing. I like how as they get closer everything gets cold and icy again. Just as Harry is about to completely give up and a little bubble of light which is clearly Sirius’s soul comes out of his mouth, a beautiful white stag appears across the water. And then Harry passes out for what, the third time in the film.

96. And for the second time he wakes up in the hospital wing. And while Dumbledore believes the trio (and pats Ron’s sore leg, hehe) there’s nothing he can do to help them. He’s very cryptic, speaking to Hermione suggesting that there is something she can do.

97. Again it’s fun to watch the background in this scene, particularly the bit where someone gets all wrapped/unwrapped like a mummy. They’ve travelled back in time and if you listen to the music here there’s something very clock-ish about it here.

98. I love these bits where you can see Harry and Hermione on the screen twice. I like contemplating the trickery that they use for those bits, mostly I think it’s doubles but occasionally I’m sure they had to use digital tricks.

99. Hermione has to give Harry a little lesson about bad things that happen when people meddle with time. Ironic considering that that’s basically what they’re about to do. The mystery of the flying stones is solved as Hermione starts lobbing stones into Hagrid’s hut to get the trio to leave.

100. Lots of people complained about Hermione’s comment about ‘that’s what my hair really looks like from the back’ because they didn’t think it was the sort of thing she would say. But I like it. I was a really bookish teenager but I still thought about those things occasionally. I was usually happy with my appearance because I didn’t care what other people thought as long as I was comfy, but then I’d see a photo or I’d hear someone saying something and it would open my eyes, even if it was just for a brief moment. It kind of follows on nicely when Hermione makes a real effort for the Ball during the Triwizard Tournament in the next film.

Next week is the very last bit of the film in which Sirius Black gets away, Harry gets a new broom and the film’s end credits are awesome!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 5

As usual, this is the last Chapter-by-Chapter review for the week. It's a pretty long one (at least compared to some of the others this week) so stick with me here.

What Happens?

Time passes and the children still suspect that Olaf will pounce on them at some opportunity. They consider all the people that could potentially be Olaf in disguise but on the whole try to stay optimistic about the whole scenario and plan what they would like to do with with the Baudelaire fortune.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter opens up with one of those pictures that Helquist is so good at; random things that you might just need a bit of help to imagine. This one is all the equipment in the lumbermill so we've got big piles of logs stacked up on one side of the page, a crane thing which is holding a big bit of tree, a ball of twine in a cage and a big circular saw in the middle of a conveyor belt. None of it looks like the sort of thing children should be allowed anywhere near!

We jump ahead a few days in the opening of this chapter, learning that nothing much has improved for the children. They're fairly certain that it's only a matter of time before they encounter Count Olaf again and they're basically living as indentured slaves at a lumbermill.

Despite my suspicions that Foreman Flacutono may actually be Count Olaf, Snicket tells us that he actually looks quite different. Flacutono has dark, beady eyes instead of shiny ones and his voice is different. I can't remember what happens in this book so it's killing me trying to remember who Count Olaf turns out to be. Nor is he any of the other employees in the mill, they're all too miserable to look evil.

The work is still just as hard as the first day as they move through the different tasks expected of them at the mill, each one less suitable for children than the last. Meanwhile the children seem to be focusing much of their energy on working out where Olaf will spring from, considering all the signs pointing to the fact that he's likely to be in the area (namely, they're in it and they've seen two things with his eye on them). Sunny sums up their feeling about this quite well when she says "Elund!" meaning "It is certainly perplexing."

Violet suggests that maybe Sir is Olaf, though Klaus shoots this down by pointing out that Sir is a lot shorter than their former guardian and Sunny agrees with "Chorn!" meaning "And his voice sounds nothing like Count Olaf's."

Now I could suggest that the children are being a little bit paranoid here, as they're just waiting for something bad to happen and Olaf to appear as if from nowhere to try and hurt them, but given previous events I really can't blame them. Plus it's almost inevitable that Olaf and his cronies will catch up with them, so they might as well make sure that they're prepared for it.

Klaus does try a little bit of optimism on for size here though, perhaps Phil has been getting to him. He suggests that maybe they are in fact safe from Olaf in Paltryville. Sunny responds to this with "Pelli!" meaning "But that doesn't explain the eye-shaped building, or the cover of the book!" leading to a brief debate on whether this was in fact a coincidence. Phil shows up at one point and they compliment him on his optimism (or in Sunny's case she says "Tenpa").

They really do try to be optimistic as Violet realises that they'll only have to work there for a short time because once she comes of age they'll get the money. This leads them on to making all kinds of plans for what they would like to spend some of the fortune on; Violet wants to build an inventing studio at Lake Lachrymose, Klaus wants to build a library and buy back Monty's collection of reptiles, and Sunny says "Dolc!" meaning "And I could be a dentist!"

Charles does show up to give the children some beef jerky, he's not really that bad a guy, just utterly powerless against Sir who is a bit of a tyrannical business owner. Sir's not the only tyrant in the mill, Flacutono won't let the Baudelaires talk to Charles when there's work to be done.

Flacutono proves once again that even if he isn't Olaf, he is just as bad as the count. He sticks his foot out so that Klaus trips over it. As Klaus is the only one of the Baudelaire trio who wears glasses you can imagine what happens at this moment. Obviously Flacutono denies that this is what has happened but it doesn't change the fact that the consequence of his actions is pretty damn serious for Klaus. Sunny points out "Rotup!" which isn't defined but basically means that Klaus's glasses are kind of buggered up.

Charles is still on the scene and even though he's totally unable to stand up to Sir, he doesn't have too much difficulty standing up to Flacutono. And so Klaus is led away to go and see Dr Orwell the eye doctor in town. Guess what building the good doctor's premises is designed to look like?

Violet is suitably horrified by the prospect of her brother being taken away to a building shaped like Olaf's ankle tattoo, but work is beginning in the mill again and Charles is unable to hear what the eldest Baudelaire is saying. Even Sunny tries with "Yoryar!" but the Baudelaires are separated which almost never goes well for them.

I'll be back on Monday with Chapter 6 so we'll see what happens then. Have a good weekend!

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 4

Don’t forget that as it’s Friday it’s a double posting of the Chapter-by-Chapter review today. Chapter five’s review will be posted this afternoon.

What Happens?

Outside their new guardians office the Baudelaires see themselves in a mirror and are dismayed by their appearance, they also are reminded of the day that they learned of their parents’ deaths. They meet Charles who is surprised to learn that they’ve been put to work and promises to rectify this at once, but their new guardian shows up. His head is wreathed in cigar smoke so that they can’t really see him properly. He refuses to let the children out of working in the lumbermill as the deal is they work for him and he protects them from Olaf. Charles does show them to the lumbermill library which is not as is to be expected.

Thoughts as I read:

The chapter image on this page is easily one of the most depressing. It shows row after row of bookshelves with absolutely nothing on them bar about three books on one shelf. There’s a nice comfy looking sofa and a good reading lamp too. I could quite easily fill up all those bookshelves; I’d love to have a library like Belle’s in Beauty and the Beast!

As they wait to go into their guardian’s office the Baudelaires can’t help but look at themselves in a mirror outside it. They don’t look good. We get a bit of repetition here as we examine each child in turn; Violet’s got bark in her hair, Klaus’s glasses are not on straight, and Sunny has bark in her teeth. As if seeing their appearance was not bad enough there is also a painting of a seaside which reminds them of the day they found out about their parents’ death.

They take a moment to reminisce about how crazy their life has become since that day. Violet says she wouldn’t have believed they’d end up living here; Klaus wouldn’t have believed Count Olaf would be after them; while Sunny says “Wora” meaning “If someone had told me, that day at the beach, that before long I’d find myself using my four teeth to scrape the bark off trees, I would have said they were psychoneurotically disturbed.”

A man wearing a bright blue vest and carrying a peach comes to see them and is surprised to learn that they have been working in the mill, as per the instructions they were given. Sunny finds herself craving the peach in the man’s hand and says “Molub!” meaning “We’re talking about the typed note that told us to go to work at the lumbermill!”

Things do start to look up for the children slightly here as the man is suitably shocked by this news and tells them that they should be treated as members of the family. He then drops the bombshell that he is not in fact their new guardian, he’s just Charles, some guy who works at Lucky Smells.

Charles offers them a peach but almost immediately a man wearing a dark green suit appears telling Charles they’ve already had their lunch. The man’s head is enveloped in the smoke from a cigar so that no one can actually see his face. He does not seem very pleasant as he snaps at Charles and denies that there has been a mistake in the children being put to work. He says that it is time they ‘laid eyes one another’ though as Sunny points out “Batex!” meaning “But we’re not laying eyes on one another”.

Charles is old Smokey’s partner and Smokey has come to an agreement with Mr Poe that he’ll keep the kids in the lumbermill because Olaf and his cronies won’t come near them until they come of age if they’re there. He calls this a fair deal which it blatantly is not. Charles once again tries to point out that the children shouldn’t really be working in a lumbermill but Smokey won’t hear of it:

“It will teach them responsibility. It will teach them the value of work. And it will teach them how to make flat wooden boards out of trees.”

Klaus tries to point out that they could learn these things by reading about them, and therefore avoiding all the debarking and heavy machinery. Charles concurs as he has put together a library for the employees at the mill. Smokey won’t even listen to Violet’s pleading to let Sunny stay in the dormitory as the factory floor isn’t really the right sort of a place for a baby. Smokey’s easily as bad as Count Olaf, I think it’s safe to say that Mr Poe has really excelled himself at finding a totally useless guardian!

Before he leaves he tells the children that no one can pronounce his name so they’ll just call him Sir as everyone else does. Charles is obviously afraid of Sir, or at least just totally submissive to him, but when he’s out of the way he does sneak the children his peach, so at least they’ve have a little bit of food. Sir might protect them from Count Olaf but they’ll be completely malnourished by the time they get their money.

Charles also excuses Sir’s behaviour because Sir had a very bad childhood. Violet can relate to this. Instead of getting them out of the horrible situation they’ve found themselves in, Charles shows the children the library and tells them they can visit it whenever they like. It’s not really much of a consolation really, is it? However the children think it might be, at first, until they see the room and discover that there hasn’t been any money to actually buy any books. The library consists of a grand total of three books The History of Lucky Smells Lumbermill, The Paltryville Constitution and Advanced Ocular Science.

It’s the cover of the last book that worries the children. It’s got that oh so familiar eye on the front cover.

Dun dun duuuun!

Check back later for the next chapter.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 3

While flicking through the pages of this book to see how long this chapter would be (they’re on average about five pages longer than the early chapters in the last few books) I found a ticket from a play I was in while I was at university. It’s been sat there for nearly ten years I’m just not sure how I missed it when I was reading this book three years ago!

What Happens?

The children are woken by the mean foreman banging pots to wake everyone up. Foreman Flacutono looks slovenly and is horrible to the Baudelaires. They’re set to work in the mill where they are given the task of debarking the trees, a job which is hard and boring, until lunch, which is just a piece of gum. Luckily they are saved from the drudgery of the afternoon’s work as they are summoned to see the boss.

Thoughts as I read:

Remember the image on the front of the book, with the man with the pans. Well looks like we’re going to meet him in this chapter. The picture shows some really quite hairy hands and arms holding a pair of pans. I’m guessing they’re banging them together rather than preparing to make pasta puttanesca.

Once again, Snicket starts a chapter by saying something that is relatively true (though in a relatively funny way), this time it’s about the way that the sort of morning you have can tell you what sort of day you’re going to have. Basically he’s saying that a bad way to wake up is to find a mean foreman banging pots as a sort of alarm clock as this is unlikely to bode well for the rest of the day.

Phil, who clearly is trying to see the best in Foreman Flacutono, tries to introduce the children to the foreman. Remember our suspicions about Flacutono? Well he refers to the children as midgets. Who have we met before who called the children midgets? Hmm.

I’m sure you have heard it said that appearance does not matter so much, and that it is what’s on the inside that counts. This is, of course, utter nonsense, because if it were true then people who were good on the inside would never have to comb their hair or take a bath, and the whole world would smell even worse than it already does.

Basically Snicket is saying that Flacutono’s appearance just serves to highlight what an awful person he is. His clothes are stained, his shoes held together with tape, he is totally bald but wears an awful white wig, he has dark and beady eyes, and covers the rest of his face with a sort of surgical mask. Just to further highlight how horrible he is, as if the banging pots and midget comment wasn’t enough, he called the children ‘Baudeliars’. Sunny corrects him with “Bram!” meaning “and our last name is Baudelaire.”

It’s also revealed that for lunch they will be getting chewing gum, which unless it’s of the Willy Wonka variety (in which case I’d spit it out before the third course) is not going to be a very nutritious meal.

The Baudelaires are more than a little bit worried about the coming day, with good reason, but especially because they have never really had jobs before so this is all a bit of a steep learning curve for them. The lumbermill is all full of dangerous looking machinery, suggesting a place that is most definitely not the sort of place for three children to be hanging out in.

The children are assigned the task of stripping the bark from the trees with these things called ‘debarkers’ which are so heavy that Sunny gives up using hers and just uses her teeth instead. Not only is it hard work, it’s really boring and they’ve not had any lunch so all in all, it’s not a particularly pleasant experience. Lunch break is not much of an improvement either; they’re each given a square of gum. All three Baudelaires protest, with Sunny’s contribution of “Tanco!” which sounds like ‘thank you’ actually meaning “And babies shouldn’t even have gum because they could choke on it!”

Despite being pretty pessimistic, though more from experience rather than actually being pessimistic people, Violet and Klaus try to come up with a solution to this problem. Making sandwiches is out because they have no sandwich making supplies, they can’t buy ingredients because they have no money, and they have no money because they’re only paid in coupons. The coupons are doubly useless because they are for things like banjos and a shampoo at a salon, and also because they have no money to pay for the things on the coupons. In response to this Sunny says “Nelnu!” but we don’t get to find out what this means.

With lunch over everyone else has to get on with their work in the lumbermill, except the Baudelaires who have been summoned to the boss’s office. As can be imagined, they feel a certain sense of apprehension about meeting the man who treats his employees, and children, in this way. Things are unlikely to get better any time soon!

Finish This Book: Start Here

I’ve not really posted much about my Finish This Book mainly because my Wreck This Journal is a lot more fluid and constantly changing, so I feel more inclined to document it because it’s interesting to see all the different changes that it is going through. Wreck This Journal is quite a quick little project as well, I can sit down for an hour or so on an evening and stick Ws onto a page and make it look entirely different to the day before, Finish This Book takes rather more time.

Virtually every page in Finish This Book has some sort of task that you must to in order to help complete the book. Some are relatively simple, whereas others take a little bit of time, thought and even research. Unlike my Wreck This Journal, you’re supposed to start at the beginning and work your way through it in the regular fashion. The first activity is on the page headed ‘Start Here’ so obviously, that’s where I began. I actually remembered that page from when I picked up this book and looked at it in Oban; it’s got a map of the world on it so you can mark where you found the book. I drew a little arrow pointing to roughly where my little island is.

There’s then a page for you to fill in personal information; name, address, contact details. You can give yourself an alias, I went with ‘Click’ and include a note of likes, dislikes and dreams.

At the bottom of this page is: PLACE YOUR FINGERPRINTS HERE (USE DIRT IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANY INK). Well, I didn’t have any dirt to hand and my fingertips were relatively clean so I dug out a pencil, scribbled on some scrap paper and then rubbed my finger on it. Made virtually no mark at all.

So I got some jumbo marker pens. I’ve had them for years and I wasn’t sure they would still work. They did, so I drew in black ink on each fingertip in turn, making a fantastic mess all over my fingers in the process, then pressed them down on each section on the page. I added a label above each one, just so I know which is which.

They came out quite well, though my left hand prints came out a little bit more wrinkly and faint than the right hand ones. My right ring finger has pretty much no definition in the centre at all but others, like my left thumb print, came out really clear.

Of course it was a bit of a mess to clean up. I couldn’t get out of my chair to wash my hands even because I had ink all over my fingers. And despite being washable markers, they were most definitely not! I went to work the next day with ink stains all over my fingertips.

It was a good start to the book because there was the potential for making a real mess here, which I did manage to avoid. Considering the fact that later in the book I’ll be chopping chunks out of it and things I think I needed to do this to ease myself into it gently!