A quick ride on the Oscars bandwagon…

‘You must go and see it!’ insisted my neighbour, who as far as I can recall has never mentioned a movie in the 22 years we’ve known each other. ‘It’s amazing. It’s got everything. It’s brilliant.’

‘It’ was of course ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Since last night Husband and I have renewed our efforts to find a free evening to see it – partly because it sounds great and partly so we don’t become social outcasts. I still haven’t seen ‘Trainspotting,’ so am embarrassed enough already.

‘Yes, but this is a writer’s blog,’ I hear you say. ‘What do you know about films, anyway?’

Well clearly, not a lot. But here’s a link to some people who do. Over at The Script Factory website, there’s a fine analysis of how Simon Beaufoy structured the script. Thanks to Fiona for providing the link amongst all her other goodies over at The Crafty Writer. (Oops – as she warns in the comments below, the analysis does give away the ending – something I should have mentioned in case there’s anyone else out there who hasn’t seen it yet.)

OK, that’s me off the bandwagon now. Back to a world without electricity, or even a biro. At last, Ruso 4 is under way.

Do you really look like that?

No. Anyone who’s explored the photos on this blog will know  that I don’t often look like the person on the ‘about the author’ page. Except, of course, when I’ve put on my best jacket and been followed round the Penguin offices by a photographer, a makeup lady and another chap who seems to be there to offer moral support to the photographer and pick up the things he’s left behind.

I’m assuming other writers have similar experiences. Or friends who are pretty handy with a camera. (Incidentally, surely nobody has the right to be as rich as John Grisham AND be that goodlooking as well? Clearly he hasn’t read the fine advice from the Salt Publishing blog on 10 Ways to Take a Bad Author Photo).

Let there be light (but not too much)

At last I’ve found out why the lighting in museums is often dimmer than a normal person would like. I was vaguely aware that it had something to do with preserving the exhibits (rather than the staff’s reluctance to clean in the corners) but now I’ve seen exactly why.

The team from Whitehall Roman Villa recently met some of the people whose job it is to see that all the lovely stuff in the display cases doesn’t fall to bits before our eyes. Just to make the point, one of the conservators lifted up what appeared to be a pile of rags resting on the table in her lab.

Enough of it still hung together to reveal that it had once been an elegant Victorian dress made of purple silk. The rest dangled in ribbons the colour of pale mud. The words ‘bodice-ripper’ came to mind.

In fact, nobody had touched this dress. It had been safely displayed in a glass museum case – by a sunny window.

We saw 20th century toothbrushes containing acids that were now burning their way through plastic storage containers while the conservators figured out what on earth to do with them. (My parents used to clean their teeth with things like that?!) .

We saw ancient iron that had been ‘protected’ – and underneath the coating, had secretly and silently rusted into nothing.

We saw a silk ‘handkerchief’ map issued to service personnel that needed nothing more than gentle ironing… except that the edges were bound with some unidentifiable gunk. The conservators knew, from bitter experience, that they’d better find out exactly what the gunk was before they interfered with it. And I haven’t time to mention moths, woodworm, mould…

I’d always assumed that once something was in its glass case, all the staff had to do was dust it. Silly me. Behind the scenes in the museum, war is being waged.

One last thing, in response to a dreadful rumour that’s come my way. Please, please, if you must metal-detect (and yes, I know there are some wonderful detectorists out there as well as scoundrels) – resist the urge to shine up your finds with Cillit Bang. It really isn’t the thing.

Divided by a common language

I’ve recently posted the copy-edited version of Persona Non Grata/Ruso and the Root of All Evils back across the Atlantic to Bloomsbury. Although the books are the same on both sides of the pond, a kindly American copy-editor revises my spelling and suggests amendments for anything which makes no sense to readers across the water. (‘Flagstones’ had to go from Terra Incognita, as did  a baby’s  ‘grizzling’.)

Evidently our languages are more different than I realised. Thanks to Phil for asking on behalf of American readers what on earth ‘wellies’ are (they appeared in the Snow post below.)

It’s an abbreviation of ‘Wellington Boot’, a term used for reasons I can’t remember (but Mark’s provided a link to a Wikipedia article that includes a delightful section on ‘Wellingtons in sport and song’).  Those below were seen  on a damp day at the Greenbelt festival. Mine, sadly, are just plain and boring.

Wellington boots

Translation, anybody?

‘Snow causes chaos across the UK’

But not for all of us. How chaotic is this?

Snowy churchyard

This morning the local streets, almost empty of cars, were filled instead with families wearing woolly hats and building snowmen. Trudging past in our wellies on the way to clear a path through the churchyard above (funeral due, elderly mourners… you get the picture) we spoke to neighbours we hadn’t spoken to in months.  People we’d never met before mucked in to help with the clearing. And of course, a gaggle of small boys celebrated by putting a snowball through somebody’s window.

It wasn’t much fun if you were supposed to be somewhere else, nor if you had to pay for the window, but for the rest of us – what a treat!

There will be people out there to whom this isn’t Real Snow. Please indulge us. We’ve been waiting eighteen years for some decent sledging around here.