Saturday, 9 November 2013

Seeing the light(s)

Yesterday evening they switched on the Christmas lights in Manchester city centre and so the countdown to Christmas can begin in earnest. This seems just a little early to me. Now whenever I go to Manchester I will have to go past collections of Christmas Market stalls, all very picturesque and selling Christmas food and drink from a range of countries but otherwise selling what can really only be described as Christmas tat. 

It’s the seasonal version of the lines of tat-stalls you see at all the monuments you might like to visit anywhere in the world. However, many people enjoy it and some have already entered into the spirit of Christmas. As I returned from Manchester on the tram early on Tuesday evening, I saw bonfires in some gardens – it was November 5th, Guy Fawkes night – and more than a few houses bedecked with Christmas lights already. Have these people not heard that energy prices are going up? 

Next week sees the birthday of our crown prince. Charles Windsor will be 65 and will be able to claim his state pension, as well as a Royal Navy pension. I understand that he is donating both these to charities. How public spirited of him! On the other hand, I have read reports about retired King Albert of Belgium. Since abdicating in favour of his son in July the ex-king has had to survive on a pension if something like $1.5. He is finding this difficult and has asked the Belgian government to think about increasing his pension or, at least, taking over the cost of maintaining his main residence. It must be hard for the poor old chap. Presumably he doesn’t have the large personal fortune that allows our Charles to be generous with his pension. 

I’m not donating my pension to anyone but this does not prevent one of the charity organisations to which I make regular payments from phoning me up, ostensibly to thank me for the support I have given them over the years but in reality to ask me to double my monthly payment. Nice! 

Reading the paper today I came across items about various films. Antonio Banderas and Martin Sheen are involved in making a film about the 33 Chilean copper miners who were trapped underground for 33 days in 2010. There is some kind of litigation going on about possible infringement of the rights of the miners concerned. Then there’s a film called “The Face of an Angel” based on a book about Amanda Knox, the American accused of murdering a British student in Italy. Kate Beckinsale, playing the part of a journalist, assures us that the film is not really about this; the Amanda Knox case is “peripheral”. There’s also Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips”, the story of Somali pirates hijacking an American cargo ship. Now, I have been told that this last one is a really good film. I’m sure it is. I’m sure the others are as well. What I’m not so sure about is the need to make so many films about recent news stories. Are there not enough other sources of materials for films? 

 I also read about a certain writer nominated for the Samuel Johnson Prize, a fairly prestigious literary prize for works of non-fiction. The writer was talking about her feelings on being nominated: delighted and flattered, especially as she made it through into smaller and smaller shortlists. Preparing herself for the possibility not winning and having to put a brave face on it at the presentation dinner, she developed a game with her boyfriend: 

“It involved my boyfriend or I uttering the words “Charles Moore” at deliberately unexpected moments – during washing up, say, or tooth-brushing. The other would then have to break immediately into a smile and burst into enthusiastic applause.” 

She didn’t win the prize so I hope her preparation worked well. I haven’t read the book in question. If it was nominated for a prize, it must have some value. However, there is a bit of me that wonders how someone who can write “It involved my boyfriend or I uttering ...” can be nominated for any kind of LITERARY award. Oh, I know it’s picky of me but I do get cross about supposedly well-educated people being unable to get their grammar right. And yes, this “me or I” question can cause problems for some people although it really shouldn’t. All you need to do is ask yourself what you would say if it didn’t involve another person. I’m sure this writer would never say “It involved I uttering ...”. 

And I still keep reminding our oldest granddaughter (who can be something of a grammar fiend herself) that it’s not correct to say “me and my friend do this”. You never hear a Spaniard say “mi y mi amigo hacemos”. At least, I have never heard it. No, it’s always “mi amigo y yo”. I know the French have their “moi” but even they would not say “moi et mon ami faisons”. French politeness puts the friend first: “mon ami et moi ...”. However, I can more easily accept “me” in place of “I” than the other way around. 

And finally, the Infanta Cristina’s problems finally appeared in an English paper today. Maybe they have before but it’s the first time I’ve seen it. It wasn’t any kind of in depth analysis just a short article in the Guardian about the problems the Spanish royal family is having and how King Juan Carlos must be regretting this “annus horribilissimus”. 

Maybe someone should make a film about it.

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