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“Having a bad day?”

As I wedged myself back into my booth at Pret, the lady next to me gave a sympathetic half-smile.

“Not one of the worst, surprisingly, and up until now it had been going reasonably well…”

The thing is, I have discovered, when you think you’re doing well is often the exact moment everything goes spectacularly to crap. Let me rewind…

This morning, weather being classic English early autumn (cold and damp) I shoved the kids in the car to go to the outlet centre. I do love the outlet; it’s essentially an indoor, pushchair friendly circuit lined with discounted brand-named stores and cafes. There’s a covered playground outside, a food court upstairs and family accessible toilets. Basically, perfect for low effort entertainment when you need to burn energy without actually being outside. Anyway, this morning being what it was and me needing to fill a good 12 hours of parenting time, we headed off.

The signs were all there, if I’m honest. Big wouldn’t stop talking at all the entire 25 minute journey. Little fell asleep, so I was feeling confident. The petrol station had works going on and I very nearly cocked up driving in. Then I lost focus (watching a man on a cherry picker) and the pump sped past the amount I wanted to put in, so I obviously had to get the the next round number. Because hitting exact numbers on the petrol pump is something everyone does, right?

There was a parent & child space available right outside the doors. That should have tipped me off that the universe was coming for me. Lulling me into a false sense of security, if you will. Little woke up. Any parent can tell you that <25 minutes nap is not the right amount of nap for a baby who’s been up for 4 hours already. The low level grumble began. I should have quit, I know this now, but I am stubborn and an idiot.

The first half lap was ok. We got feet measured. We found an apron and mini baking set for Big. She promptly put the apron on and refused to take it off for the rest of the day. We managed a trip to the toilets, no-one opened the door mid-pee. The grumble grew in intensity. Silly me had assumed he’d go to sleep as soon as we got going with the buggy. Silly, silly me.

We made it out of Paperchase with the things we needed and without inadvertently shoplifting anything (and that’s happened before, so it definitely counts as a win). The grumble erupted. Lunch time.

Up to the food court, into Pret (another place I love: they have food that makes me feel healthy, fruit for the fruit bat that is Big and tub chairs I can trap her in at the table). We made our selections, I put back the myriad items Big tried to smuggle in. Life-saving coffee ordered, warm milk for Big and a (free!) gingerbread man to be rationed out over the day. To the table. And relax. Winning.

Except that as soon as Little latches on to eat, Big boots the table and sends coffee and hot milk everywhere. The chap at the next table whispers something to his wife (probably along the lines of ‘Rookie. Never take two out for lunch on your own, you’re outnumbered…’) and then very kindly comes to the rescue with napkins.

Big eats half of half a sandwich (the sandwich she specifically requested, no less) and wants to get started on the fruit pot, which I manage to open, one handed, like a boss. She loudly declares she wants my pasta (note: I highly recommend the ham hock and sprout mac & cheese. Pricey, perhaps, but tasty and filling) and then very dramatically spits it out with an ‘I don’t like it!’ (which is currently interchangeable with ‘I don’t want it right now’). She definitely likes it. Mac & cheese is a top 5 dinner for her in any form.

I refocus my attention on Little, who has cheered up and is giggling at me (and thus spraying milk everywhere like the Trevi fountain). As I do this, the chap at the next table calls ‘watch out!’ just in time for me to look up and see a fruit pot go flying through the air… and scatter fruit across the floor.

Little back in the buggy (cue screaming), me picking up strewn fruit, queue of people looking at me pityingly. Big yelling that she wants fruit. Me, picking up howling baby, explaining she can’t have that fruit, it’s been on a cafe floor and though I’m generally a 5 second rule kinda person I do have my limits. I clamber back round the buggy into the booth and sit down, feeling the zip on my skirt undo itself. Time to make some ‘now we’re out of the first 3 months’ dietary changes, methinks.

I shove some more food into Little. Big consoles herself with her steamed milk and gets chocolate sprinkle foam all over her face. The queue goes down and I go get another fruit pot because I am a Nice Mum (mug). Baby under one arm, because he’s pretty fed up by this point (and apparently me telling him this is his own fault and if he’d just go to sleep he’d feel better isn’t something he’s interested in hearing), wallet under other arm, fruit pot in hand. I am Mumming with great success. We shall save this!

Except that if you’ve been paying attention you’ll remember that my zip has released itself from its sole responsibility.

I reach the counter. Gravity does its job. I somehow manage to save it (well, partly) with a sort of interpretive dance manoeuvre, but you’ve probably worked out I am several hands short by now.

“What can I get you?” asks the barista.

“Just this fruit pot, please, and can someone hold this baby, as my skirt is falling off.”

Just style it out. You are cool and sophisticated.

Fortunately, it turns out I am in line behind everyone’s favourite person when you need a hand with a baby – a Granny. She’s thrilled.

“What an unexpected pleasure!” she beams (Oh, good, glad my dignity could provide that for you), cooing over Little, who incidentally has now moved on his Prince Charming act and is beaming at everyone. Which is a good thing, because it means no-one is really looking at me, as gravity has finally won. Thank the gods for million denier tights. Good job it was only lunchtime in a busy food court or that could have been embarrassing.

Back to the table, baby still feeling good from his surprise Granny cuddle, Big eats her fruit pot. And by ‘eats’, I mean ‘hands over ever other piece of fruit with a loud I don’t like it’. So that was worth it.

I’m pretty sure it was showing on my face at this point, as this is when the lady at the next table asked if I was having a bad day.

We didn’t hang around long after that. Little suddenly realised he was shattered and lost his tiny mind. Big thought she’d join in as he sang me the song of his people, with a rousing (and in a different key) MMMMMMMMMM sound.

I drowned them out with Loud Music. Sometimes a shouty singalong is as good as a rest. Little finally went to sleep, where he remains, pinning me on the sofa as I discover that the mantelpiece – last bastion of Places Big Can’t Reach – has fallen and she can absolutely get the scissors now because she needs a haircut. So that’s something.

If you very closely, you can see the last of my sanity escaping.

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To sleep, perchance to dream

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I have a problem sleeping.  I would guarantee that right about now my friends and family are shaking their heads in disbelief, certain they have evidence to the contrary.  It’s not that I can sleep, I don’t have that insomniac problem of tossing and turning in desperation. It’s not even that I can’t stay asleep.  In fact, I’m very good at staying asleep. This truth of it is I have a problem going to sleep: I don’t want to.  Since I was small I haven’t been very good at going to sleep; fighting it as long as I could so I didn’t miss anything, driving my parents mad with incessant chatter all the way from Germany to England to visit my grandparents only to finally succumb at the end of their street.  I don’t know what I thought I’d miss from a car on the M25 at 9pm, but whatever it was I was certainly going to give myself every chance to see it.

Now, when I should know better, I still have a mental block against allowing myself some shut eye.  I’m definitely a night owl, much more so than an early bird, but at the same time I really need my 8 hours.  Clearly, these facts are not compatible with a productive morning.  I’ve had long conversations with myself about it; a regular feature of these being The Countdown which goes: “It’s midnight.  If I go to sleep now, I’ll get 8 hours before I get up…” “Ok, now it’s 1am.  If I go to sleep now, I’ll get 7 hours sleep…” “Ok, it’s half past 2….” Repeat until brain gives up.

One of the problems is I’ve gotten very good at coming up with excuses.  I’m so good, in fact, that I can not only come up with them but actually convince myself I believe them.  Lets take a look:

The Next Episode (aka We Can’t Leave It There!)

We have a system in our house.  He plays games on his PC, I watch sci-fi shows, he pretends he isn’t interested by asking questions, making comments and recognising people who crop up in other things (even though he isn’t watching either show, honest). Unfortunately, a lot of sci-fi shows use the ‘dun dun DUUUUUUN’ method of show ending – that is, they leave you on a cliff hanger or big reveal to ensure you tune in next week.  Which is all well and good when you have to wait a week, but when you have the whole series on Netflix – just sitting there waiting – it’s almost impossible to turn it off.  This is how we’ve watched the entire back catalogue of 5 different shows in 4 months…  Netflix has now introduced a feature that starts playing the next episode automatically 20 seconds after the previous episode finishes.  Admittedly, it also asks you if you’re still watching after you haven’t touched the remote in a while, but honestly, when you reach this point it’s probably too late.  He tends to lose hours by the bucketload when he’s gaming (who doesn’t?) so he’s no help.  “It’s probably bed time, right?” “Yep, just let me choose my level up attributes…”

Which leads us nicely on to:

Just One More Level

I got an iPad for my birthday.  It’s amazing. I’m not sure how I lived without it. It’s also a fantastic device for playing games on.  My personal favourites include Lego Harry Potter, Where’s My Water?, Words with Friends, Draw Something and Cut the Rope. Words with Friends and Draw Something I’ll let off – the others clearly hate sleep.  Not only are they beautifully made and completely engaging they’ve been designed to be all but impossible to stop playing. Progress mid-level can’t be saved so you have to play to the end and, when you get there, the ‘Next Level’ button just sits there – daring you not to tap it. I’m sure people exist with the willpower to just put the thing down but I am not one of them.  And so it goes, one addictive level after another until exhaustion, completion or somebody takes it away from me.  The phenomenon isn’t restricted to the iPad (although its portability is most certainly a factor); there are several PlayStation games where I’ve found myself saying ‘I’ll just get to the end of this bit’ only to be dropped into a cutscene that changes everything and had to carry on after because, you know, people are shooting at me, I’m saving the world here! I can’t just leave it like that!

I’m Getting To A Good Bit

Getting to a good bit is a great excuse because it’s entirely subjective.  I can justify a ‘good bit’ in a book as anything from well written to explosive action without having to explain anything. “It’s probably time to go to sleep” “In a minute, I’m getting to a good bit”.  The length of ‘good bits’ is also open to interpretation too, along with the distance between good bits and how good they are. “Are you done yet?” “I’m just getting to a good bit!” “You said that 20 minutes ago.” “I know, it’s another good bit!”

I Can’t Stop Until I Win

A variation on ‘Getting to a Good Bit’ and ‘Just One More Level’ is “I Can’t Stop Until I Win’. This ‘winner complex’ means that if I’m playing something that has a defined ‘win’ I have to achieve it before I can stop.  It applies to a certain extent to Where’s My Water and the like, but the real culprit here is Solitaire. I’ve played each of the 16 version of solitaire available on Solitaire City so many times I’ve got the best score on every one – and in most cases on each of the variations within each version.  It can be safely said that I have nothing else to gain from playing this game and yet, night after night, I play game after game of it. My self inflicted rule is that I have to win to be able to stop playing.  I’m not even sure why.  It’s become something of a ritual now.  I go to bed, turn out the light and pick up the iPad.  I’m beginning to get rather concerned that I’m training myself so I can’t sleep without it, so I’m trying to practice putting it down again but my willpower isn’t up to much and I find myself saying “Just three more… just another bonus go… I must be due a good hand next deal…”  This is why I am not allowed to go to Vegas.

I’ve Just Had A Brilliant Idea

My subconscious mind has a knack of springing the world’s best idea on me at 1am.  It generally zips through at lightening speed; just the subtlest hint of a brainwave, demanding to be developed.  Birthdays, dinners, writing, shopping, training. It doesn’t tend to be any specific theme but if I don’t deal with it that instant it’s lost to the world forever.  Which means I wake up in the morning thinking “I had a great idea last night… now, what was it about?” So, obviously, I have to deal with it or I’d spend my whole life wandering around in a daze of uninspired dreariness.  The downside of this comes from the instant availability of all information, ever, in the form of the internet.  Which just so happens to be completely accessible from the iPad. And, as anyone who’s ever looked anything up knows – it never stops there. Before you know it, it’s 3am and you’re so far down a Wikipedia chain you may never see daylight again.  Great for general knowledge and the spewing of random facts, not so good for bags under the eyes.

What Do I Have To Do Tomorrow (aka The List, including the Alphabet Game)

Assuming I’ve turned off the TV, overcome the iPad obsession and put down the book you’d think now would be the time to accept that my body needs sleep.  Perfectly natural, good for you sleep.  But no.  I have ways to entertain my brain even when there are no obvious distractions.  The first tactic I recognised in the film ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ (not great, not terrible, kinda meh) where SJP is laid in bed running through everything she still has to do on her List.  It’s probably familiar to a lot of women – get something out for dinner, fix the husband’s jeans, paint the bedroom, get the dog a new harness, find somewhere to keep the baking things, buy some flowers… it goes on and on.  I generally write it all down, but I’ve found that running through the next day actually helps mellow me out – it’s like giving myself a heads up on what I need to think of excuses to avoid doing.  Once the list is done and I’m still fighting sleep I resort to the Alphabet Game.  It’s a simple concept – pick a topic (dog breeds, cheeses, actresses surnames, trees) and name one for every letter of the alphabet.  It’s an effective way of tricking my brain into going to sleep – it thinks it’s working on a game but it’s actually a lot more like counting sheep and I generally drop off around N.  These two are the only distractions I don’t have sleep guilt over, as they get me organised and finally allow me to relax enough to get some proper rest.  But even these aren’t foolproof.

The Big Question

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a certain part of my brain who’s sole purpose in existing is to mess with me.  It’s the part that calls me fat and makes me say dumb things to smart people.  This part of my brain has been running a 30 year experiment to see if it can keep me from allowing myself go to sleep and it doesn’t play fair.  I know this because, once all of the other distractions are out of the way, it gets right up close to my ear and whispers “You know, you’re going to die one day. Night!”  During the day, I can hold rational discussions about this (admittedly morbid) fact of life. I wouldn’t say I’m OK with it, but it doesn’t freak me out too much.  At night, it’s a different story.  As soon as the thought crosses my mind I need lights and distraction – in the form of anything at all that will stop me hyperventilating myself into the grave my brain has so thoughtfully reminded me of.  So, I pick up the iPad and play solitaire until my eyes don’t work anymore, pick a topic and list myself to sleep.  Which, when I’m there, is a wonderful place of rest and recovery.  I wish I could let myself get there sooner.

If you’re going to San Francisco…

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It’s been a week since we got to San Francisco.  I appreciate that we moved on Monday and it’s now Tuesday, but even though we pretty much got to do last Monday twice I’m not counting it because my brain had practically given up playing the game by the time we got here.

In short – I like it.  It’s a beautiful city.  It’s clean, friendly, sunny and has a gentle buzz about it, as if there’s a whole load going on just beneath the surface.  It’s also a dog city.  Seriously, almost everyone here has a dog.  They’re everywhere – trotting behind their humans in the streets, playing catch in the park, waiting patiently outside cafes and restaurants. Despite this I have yet to see poop on the pavement.  It’s the little things.

Speaking of the little things, these are the things that are taking the most getting used to.  Looking the wrong way before crossing the street.  The light switches and plugs.  The fact they don’t seem to sell squash (juice) and that creme fraiche is $7.  I’ve spent about half an hour staring at the shelves in Safeway and Mollie Stones in baffled silence.  I’m looking forward to the moment I don’t have to translate the dollars into pounds and the pounds into grams to know whether it’s good value.  The same goes for temperature.  And the oven.

So far this week I’ve done a lot of exploring.  San Francisco is a city of neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct flavour and yet clustered together, so they almost run into each other.  And, thanks to the Muni (the bus/tram/underground system) it’s possible to run into each with remarkable ease.  We were told before we arrived that areas can change dramatically with just the cross of the street and it’s certainly true, which makes for interesting bus rides.

So far, I’m in love with Pacific Heights.  It’s a boutiquey neighbourhood – everything from Marc Jacob, Betsy Johnson and Ralph Lauren to independent book shops, interior designers and neon outlined burger bars.  There’s a little cinema that’s currently showing Rocky Horror at midnight, a park that looks down over the Bay and two Starbucks.  The buildings are a mishmash of styles, predominantly reminiscent of the Jazz era, with no two exactly the same.  The colours add a sense of individual style and bring vibrancy and fun, the gold painted details catching the sun with sparkling warmth.

The houses of Pacific Heights proudly show their colours (www.silverlionservice.com)

Noe Valley (pronounced No-ee) is another area I’ve already developed a fondness for.  Even after only one visit,  it’s hard not to be taken in by the small-town feel of the place and quirky little shops.  It’s a haven of the technology set – Google and Facebook have a lot of employees in the area – so it wasn’t surprising (although it was still all I could do not to burst out laughing) when, on entering the small Starbucks we were met with a sea of laptops, all lined up neatly, and the insistent tapping of the keys.  For the downside to Noe, the clue is in the name. It’s set along a valley so it seems like wherever you go, you’re heading uphill.  To be fair, this is the case with most of San Francisco but for some reason in Noe it seems more pronounced.  It makes the bus ride more of an adventure, though, as you roll up and down slopes that at first you think you’ll never make it to the top of and then wish you weren’t facing backwards as the ground disappears beneath you and you desperately hope the breaks are working.

When they say 'Hill', they're not kidding... (www.brokeassstuart.com)

 The ride back from Noe Valley passes through Castro, the rainbow district.  And, man, do they have their rainbow on down there!  By all accounts it’s the party neighbourhood, full of bars and clubs.  So far I’ve only seen it from the bus but I’m going to have to go and explore this vibrant neighbourhood.  It sounds a little hippy, and possibly a bit patronising to say it, but I was genuinely excited and happy to see this place where rainbows were plastered on everything from the lampposts and benches to the banks and restaurants, people were expressing themselves freely with their clothes and and couples could walk down the street hand in hand without fear of abuse.  I was less thrilled to see the naked guy at the bus stop (why is it always the old, slightly overweight guys?) and laughed to see the nail salon called ‘Hand Job’ (until which point I’d been thinking ‘way to keep it classy, Castro’).  It’s certainly somewhere I’m going to have to check out in greater detail.

The bright and vibrant Castro district is somewhere I'm looking forward to exploring. (www.sfcityscape.com)

I think it’s safe to say that San Francisco is gradually increasing her grip on me.  It’s only been a week and I’m feeling like this is somewhere I could really get used to living.  More than ‘used to’ in fact.  I think I could love it.

Schrodinger’s Move

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I’m sitting in a coffee shop-cum-art gallery, contemplating.

Apparently they don’t have bacon. Or chocolate. Well, they do have chocolate but it’s not chocolate. Or the metric system. Even the bits I do understand I don’t get. Their gallons are bigger. And what’s with water boiling at 212 degrees?

It’s going to take more than 12 hours to get home. But then mum says you’re never really that far away wherever you are on the planet – you could be home within 24 hours if you really wanted to be. I guess the bigger problem is that it’ll cost over $500 to get home. Which puts a limit on visits. That said, I don’t see a lot of people more than 3 or 4 times a year anyway, so really it’s no different. Except usually we’re in the same time zone. Still, with social networking, late hours and early starts it’ll probably take care of itself. People stay in touch with people they want to stay in touch with. I can use it as a ‘friendship test’. If you want a cheap holiday you have to post at least one thing a week to my timeline.

I’ve promised myself I’ll write. I have this vision of sitting in a coffee house, not unlike this one (although they don’t have to provide toilets, which could be an issue..) tapping away at the keyboard. This is a good thing. I’ve wanted to get more writing done for a long time. To be honest, I won’t have much else to do. I’m not going to know anyone. In some ways, that’s quite a freeing thought: I won’t know anyone, but they won’t know me. The cool, interesting, awesome person I want to be, with a well developed sense of style and myself – I can be that person. Or whoever else I fancy being. And no one will have seen my wardrobe, so really everything I own is new. Which is good, because I have no idea when, or even if, I’ll get a job to pay for anything else!

The woman behind me in the cafe is talking about seeing Birdsong on the TV. Her voice is shrill and continuous. I’ll have to get used to that in a whole new accent. I should probably practice not correcting the pronunciation of ‘herb’ and ‘aluminium’. A plus here is that I already watch a lot of their TV. I’ll be ahead in some series. I might even get a few more that will probably be very good and never make it over here. A minus would be my uncontrollable mimicking of accents. It generally sounds like I’m taking the piss. Do they say ‘taking the piss’? They don’t say ‘have a go’. Apparently it’s ‘take a shot’. Odds are I’m going to baffle a lot of people. The sort of person introduced with a caveat. “Don’t take her the wrong way, she’s English.”

At least it’ll be sunny. When it’s not foggy.

It’s been a long time coming…

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Just over a month ago, I turned 30. I’d been watching it creep up for a while; looming ever nearer, whispering sneaky little comments about being too old, too late, too lost. The mere mention of it made me hyperventilate. You’d think by now I’d be used to getting a year older every, well, year, but each time I end up feeling like a tally has been rubbed off the chalkboard rather than added on, counting down the useful time I have left. That said, I never really felt different, exactly. Just more of the same.

When I was younger (by which I mean, when I was young enough to not have much occupy m y mind and all the time in the world before me) I had a notion that 30 was a grown up age. By the time you are 30 there are a good deal of things that should have been achieved. According to whom I’m not entirely sure, but I always felt quite convinced that grown ups meet certain criteria and grown up starts at 30. So when I woke up, never to be a twenty-something again, I definitely felt different. There’s nowhere to hide with 30. University is a distant memory (in most cases) and career paths generally well forged. I looked at the ceiling and thought to myself, as I’m sure many have before me and many will in the years to come: what have I done with my life?

At first, the overwhelming answer was: Nothing. Nothing at all. But that can’t be true, can it? Have I really spent 30 years achieving nothing? Surely not. Once I got a grip of myself, I reconsidered. It doesn’t necessarily match up with the checklist of adult musts I, almost instinctively, held on to for so long but I can claim a none-too-shabby list. When I was born, I couldn’t do anything. Now, just 30 short years later, I can walk (and rarely fall over), talk (both coherently and nonsense), read and write, tie my laces and boil an egg. I’m fairly sure that there would have been women my age just 100 years ago who couldn’t have done all that. I successfully navigated 16 years of education, held down jobs I hated without getting fired (or starting fires), moved house 8 times, taught myself guitar, went out with people, broke up with people, made friends and (I’m surprisingly proud to say) enemies. I’ve hurt so deeply I thought I’d never breathe again but I’ve loved and been loved too. I’ve been to three continents. I can programme a VCR (which, come to think of it, is something not a lot of adults can do) and use a mac and a pc. I even got married, although that one only just scrapes in under the wire.

In short, it occurred to me, I’ve been living. For 30 years. It’s quite a feat, whichever way you look at it. A lot of people don’t make it that far. Realising this leaves me with a different, different feeling. If I can manage this much, from scratch, in just 30 years (less time than the gap between man first reaching the north pole and man reaching the moon) what can I manage in another 30? I can’t wait to find out.

Drink and the devil had done for the rest…

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Last night I started to watch the Sky 1 adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’.  I say ‘started’ because I didn’t even make it to the end of the first show before I had to turn it off.  Now, I never turn things off.  I never walk out of the cinema.  I’ve sat through some atrocious movies, but this time it was different.  I turned off ‘Treasure Island’ because it wasn’t ‘Treasure Island’.

It seems fairly obvious that it’s not easy adapting a pre-existing work for the screen.  For a start, the unabridged audiobook of the novel is over 7 hours long.  Something clearly has to go. A lot of the meat of the story is contained within the narration, the descriptive text. When we read, we create the pictures for ourselves, but when we watch the production company has done a lot of the work for us.  So, this should cut down a chunk of the time taken to tell the story.  Sometimes, I imagine, it is necessary to chop the dialogue around in order that it makes sense in its new context, sometimes side stories need to be lost to make room for the main thread.  All of this I understand, accept and would happily watch.

But.

The Sky 1 adaptation of a classic work of children’s literature, a work that frequents best children’s book lists, changed the story. My issue with this is that I don’t understand why.

For a start, the book is aimed at children and anyone who’s read it can tell you that, even though it was published in 1883, it isn’t hard to follow. We follow young Jim Hawkins as he embarks upon the adventure of a lifetime in search of pirate gold and with him we met the morally ambiguous ship’s cook, Long John Silver.  As the tale unfolds we, along with Jim, gradually develop a sense of unease around ol’ Barbecue; we learn together, we are betrayed together and herein lies the mastery of Stevenson as a storyteller as his characters grow and reveal their depths.  As an audience (and remember this novel was aimed squarely at children) we are capable of following the ups and downs, the twists and turns, the deceptions, the motivations and the reveals.  In the end, it’s a simple story about pirates – pirates who want (as we know from all pirates) their treasure.

What I saw in the adaptation was a disregard for the intelligence of the viewer.  One of the best things about the novel is our first meeting with Long John – we don’t know him then; who he is, where he’s come from, what’s he wants and what he’s capable of.  Sky seemed to think that we needed a prologue, which (and I appreciate that 99% of the population are probably aware that Long John’s not a nice guy) ruined the character.  He’s a pirate. A devious, underhanded, cruel and manipulative pirate who wants the treasure Captain Flint owed him.  His plan is carefully laid and brilliantly disguised.  Sky spelled out every motivation and in presenting Silver so quickly lost the essence of the character.  This, of course, is not to take away from Eddie Izzard’s performance – the man was made to play a pirate – but it left me feeling that if this was someone’s first experience of Treasure Island they had been denied the brilliant nuances of the classic.  Silver is not the only character to be tampered with, either.  The brave, forthright, gentleman Doctor Livesey is portrayed as weak and bumbling; the overenthusiastic Squire Trelawney’s role apparently being exchanged with the Doctor.

Here we come to the crux of my disappointment. I don’t understand why these changes needed to be made.  Nothing is gained by reversing the characters of the Doctor and Squire, nothing gained by force-feeding a back story for the pirates down the throats of the viewers, nothing gained by parading Silver in front of us as a caricature of himself and inventing scenes at the Admiral Benbow and with his wife (as if he’s not in it enough!).  The novel is a classic for a reason.  It has remained a classic for over 100 years because it’s well crafted and well told, so why does it need to be over adapted?  Is it because the writers don’t think the audience can work out that pirates are bad guys?  Are the viewers incapable of understanding a (let’s face it, not desperately complex) character?  Do we now find that pure greed is not a powerful enough motivator?  And, even if this is the case, do they not believe the work stands up for itself?  Surely, a novel does not count itself as one of the greatest stories, most recorded and dramatised of all time and the origin of our idea of pirates without doing something right?

Treasure Island is not alone in being a great work, not good enough.  The Lord of the Rings movies managed to throw in an entirely fictionalised sequence with the elven Arwen, for what can only be described as ‘no reason whatsoever’ and it appears an character in The Hobbit has been invented specifically for the movie.  I wish I knew why these ‘adaptations’ have to be crowbarred in when translating beloved classics for the screen.  I wish I knew why they aren’t good enough as they are.  I wish I knew why the writers, directors and producers aren’t able to work with what’s there and why we aren’t doing more to protect our literary heritage.  I wish I knew what is so wrong with staying true to the work of another person.  If it’s not good enough or it doesn’t work for the screen don’t do it.  Write something else.  If it is good enough, let it be good enough.  In a period of our history where creativity seems to be dying (last year, according to the BBC, there were 28 sequels released, not to mention the ever increasing list of remakes, prequels and reboots) If you want to make a show that’s like Treasure Island, but isn’t Treasure Island, write it.  If you want to make Treasure Island, make it.

Perhaps it’s our fault as the audience.  Perhaps we have grown lazy, we don’t want to think about why the character is acting as he is, we want to be told.  More than that, perhaps we want characters we already know, story lines we’re already familiar with.  Perhaps we don’t want to imagine, we want to be shown.  Perhaps we’re so overstimulated that we crave the familiar and the exposition and someone to do the work for us.

Perhaps Treasure Island just wasn’t good enough for the team from Sky.  I wish I knew why.

— “‘Sir,’ said Captain Smollett, ‘with no intention to take offence, I deny your right to put words into my mouth.’” (Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island)

You’ve got to know where you’ve come from…

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It’s been a bit of a mad house ’round here lately.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say ‘mad houses’…

There was a setback a month or so ago with the loss of a beautiful, furry little friend.  She was a very old rat and, after hanging on in there for a good month longer than her sister, she finally let go.  My heart was broken.  For now it’s tacked back together, with tiny paw-prints etched on it forever.

Since then, moving has begun in earnest.  It hasn’t been easy.  Shipping a life in different directions takes a certain amount of attitude adjustment; what do I physically need? what can be easily replaced? what can’t I live without?  Each object is considered in turn – from the pots and pans in the cupboard to Jeremy Bear, who, if he were a person, would be drawing his pension.

Unpacking at the in-laws poses challenges of its own.  It’s not easy to fit a two-bed house into one room and two attics.  Things are going to stay in boxes for a while, which may help when it comes to shipping them to the USA.  Of course, it may not and there could come a time when the contents are strewn across the floor as further decisions are made about their future.

At the same time, wedding preparations have continued at a fair pace.  Checklists are being checked off, purchases are being made, threats are being made and sanity is being questioned.  According to The Boy, ‘it’ll all be fine’.

The dates draw nearer, decision making scenarios are more frequent and conclusions are reached with by bouncing back and forth between brash confidence and resigned uncertainty, with minds being changed at least once a day.

It’s reassuring to know, then, that in all of the madness, one decision has been made and the answer is certain: Jeremy is coming with me.