Thursday, 11 June 2015

Odds and ends.

Some years ago I went to A Coruña with a group of students from the college where I worked. Everyone discovered the delights of pimientos de padrón ("Oh, we ate these little green peppers, fried and sprinkled with salt. Have you tried them?" one student asked me on day two.) and pulpo, octopus served very tender on wooden platters. Somehow, offering traditional fish and chips on the return visit by young Spaniards lacks that exotic quality. Among other things we took a trip to Santiago where, as well as admiring the cathedral, we went to an exhibition about the making of The Lord of the Rings films. One of my students, a great fan of both the book and the films waxed indignant about the things that had been omitted from the film. She was obviously a girl of the old school, one who believes that when you make the film of a book you should keep faithfully to the original text. None of that "(loosely) based on such and such a novel by so and so" for her. Mostly I agree with her. That's why some of the old films like Gone with the Wind and Rebecca are so long ... and so good! However, to include every story line from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings they might have needed to make six films instead of three. 

I was reminded about this because yesterday I read a review of series five of Game of Thrones and found myself spluttering in indignation, just as my student had done, about the changes to the storyline. In this case, it's not just a matter of things being missed out, events have been altered, changed utterly to meet the demands of television. And all this with the total cooperation of the writer, George R. R. Martin, who has been so busy adapting his books for the TV series that he has not been getting on with the long promised next book. It's a poor do! 

Now, we got into Game of Thrones when our son bought us the first series as a box set of DVDs one Christmas. On this occasion, breaking my long established habit of reading the book first, I saw series one before I read book one but I rapidly read the books that followed. Setting aside the silliness of the white walkers - zombies, undead creatures, a piece of nonsense I can do without - it's a good romp through medieval power grabbing and intrigue. The characters I met in the first book all have, inevitably, the faces of the actors who played them on the TV series but I have protested at the casting of characters I came across later. Sometimes the casting directors have a different vision from mine! 

I now regard the two things, books and TV series, as completely different entities which just happen to have the same name and began from the same basic idea. I would, however, like Mr Martin to get on with the next (possibly final) book or books as soon as possible. I hear he is not a well man and would not like him to pop his clogs before he finishes the work. I wonder, though, whether the new book will be a continuation of the novel series or the TV series! 

Even though I enjoy films and box sets of TV series, on the whole I still prefer a good read. I love the linguistic curiosities that are thrown up. For example, reading Arnold Bennett's Anna of the Five Towns I came across the term "biscuit", explained in a footnote as referring to pottery which has been fired only once. This is curious as the term "biscuit" from its French origin "bis cuit" really means twice cooked. This is the sort of thing that you get interested in when you study foreign languages. 

Other people must also enjoy reading because I have come across several people recently walking down the street with an open book or kindle in their hands, eyes on the page and in danger of bumping into lampposts, trees and other pedestrians. I am always tempted to ask what they are reading that is so un-put-down-able that they have to read as they walk. Much better, however, than walking along with someone and having a separate conversation on your mobile all the way along the street. 

The debate about use of electronic devices by schoolchildren continues. My daughter recently posted a link to an article about the problems caused by allowing your children to use iPad and laptops before going to bed. There is something in the blue light emitted which prevents sleep. (Maybe that's why I had trouble sleeping last night after spending hours proof reading a translation job on the computer!!) The article even recommends that schools should not set homework which demands Internet research. For the same reason. Schoolchildren will always leave stuff until the last minute! 

Schools also have a lot of problems with mobile phones. There is research that says that results improve if pupils are not constantly using their phones. Many schools, therefore, want to ban them and then find themselves resisted by parents who want their offspring to have mobile for security reasons. (Whatever did we do before mobiles were invented and, in my case, when there wasn't even a phone in the house for me to call my parents?) 

Now a school in Norway has instituted a system where every classroom has a set of cubby holes, little wooden boxes where students put their phones at the start of the day and collect them at the end. Sounds good to me although I don't see in happening in UK schools. Years ago they got rid of the lockers where pupils could leave their coats and bags during the day. They said it was because lockers were regularly vandalised but I always thought it was because they wanted to use the space for some other purpose. Whatever the motivation, British school kids carry their laden bags and their, often wet, coats around all day! 

This is the sort of nonsense that goes on!

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