Kona Galaxy Garden

Like loads of people I’m interested in astronomy, not in any technical sort of a way mind you just the usual sort of looking for meteor showers and solar eclipses and the like. Of course we all get excited about these things and then as we’re in Britain it turns out to be too cloudy to see much. I’ve seen a few eclipses and Halley’s Comet when it last visited us. Granny saw it the time before that too and she said it was much brighter in 1911.

Anyway, my husband is of the scientific type and The Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive is one of his favourite websites. Take a look if you’re interested in seeing fabulous photographs of the cosmos.

This photo from the site incorporates two interests of mine – gardening and astronomy – it’s a representation of the galaxy as a garden. It’s in Hawaii so I’m never going to visit it, it’s too hot and sunny for me but this photo is next best thing, I can imagine I’m there.

My husband was given a DVD of From the Earth to the Moon as a Christmas present so we spent part of the holidays watching it all and it took me right back to that exciting time when men were walking on the moon. I think I was 11 at the time of the first moon landing. Nowadays there are a lot of children who think that you are pulling their leg about it all. They just don’t realise that men have already been on the moon.

It’s quite sad really. Anyway if you like lovely astronomical photos take a look at the site, there are hundreds of them.

BBC’s The Forsyte Saga

My husband bought me The Forsyte Saga boxed set on 7 DVDs for Mother’s Day. Well, he’s not a bad lad and of course it was really cheap from The Guardian. (£19.99)

I’m really shocked that this was first screened in 1967, so I was only 8 years old. I remember that I loved it and certain parts of it have always stuck in my memory. I think it was actually on quite late at night, I’m sure that it wasn’t meant to be viewed by 8 year olds but as I was the youngest in my family by quite a long way, my bed time tended to be forgotten about. Lucky me.

It was a BAFTA and Emmy award winning series but of course it is in black and white which doesn’t really bother me, I love watching vintage films which are often in black and white too.

So I’ve been having a great time watching it again whilst my husband was out at a football match, and I’m already on episode 5. As you would expect after all this time it is a bit dated but that hasn’t spoiled my enjoyment. Some of the acting is really good but some is quite bad. The love scenes are terrible, really hammy so they are an absolute SCREAM. I think it was all a bit too much for the BBC to cope with in 1967. I certainly remember that it was talked of in the newspapers and thought to be not quite ‘nice’ and a bit risque.

I think that the cast was well chosen, apart from John Bennet who plays the part of Philip Bosinney. His acting is fine – apart from the hilarious love scenes – but he is just too old for the part, he looks older than Soames a lot of the time.

For some reason I have never liked the actor Kenneth More who plays the part of young Jolyon, but again he doesn’t spoil it for me.

As an 8 year old, I remember being a fan of Soames and I still think that he was very badly treated by Irene. Eric Porter was perfect as Soames.

So my Mother’s Day present has been a great success and I can’t wait to watch the rest of it.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

I first came across Elizabeth von Arnim when I was rooting around in a second-hand bookshop years ago. I saw a beautiful, small, slim volume bound in calf skin with lovely gold edges. I had to buy it whatever the contents were.

However I had struck gold as the book was called Elizabeth and Her German Garden and it turned out to be a book based on the author’s life as a wife, mother and gardener. As a keen gardener the whole thing appealed to me and I really loved it.

The book was first published in 1898 but my edition was printed in 1914, that fateful year. I was intrigued as there was no clue as to who the author was and as I bought the book before the existence of the internet I had to do a bit of detective work and I eventually discovered that it was written by Elizabeth von Arnim.

I managed to track down her other books and a few years after that (the BBC) made an adaptation of her most famous book, The Enchanted April.

It’s a story about four very different women who are unhappy with the lives which they are leading and are desperate for a change of scene. After seeing an advert in The Times for a medieval castle in Italy, available to rent for the month of April, they end up sharing it to make it more affordable.

San Salvatore turns out to be a magical place for them.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and went on to read everything else which von Arnim had written which I could find.

I later discovered that Elizabeth was the cousin of Katherine Mansfield, who was quite a famous short story writer. Katherine’s other claim to fame was that she ‘bolted’ from her husband after only one week of marriage. I’d love to know why she gave up so quickly. Must have been quite a scandal at the time.

The Forsyte Saga

I’ve been watching the re-runs of The Forsyte Saga recently and I can’t help thinking that nobody involved in the making of it seems to have thought of actually reading the book. I can’t see how they could have chosen Gina McKee to play the part of Irene otherwise.

I have really enjoyed the adaptation although for me it has been marred by the choice of an actress who is the complete opposite of the descriptions of Irene. As the whole book (trilogy) rests on Irene having a wonderful figure, a swaying walk (bum waggling in todayspeak) and yellow golden hair, it seems very strange to me that we are expected to believe that any woman with such an emaciated figure as McKee has could possibly be desired by every man that she came into contact with, which is just about what happens in the book. Irene’s figure was described as being ‘well covered’. They would suspect her of having T.B. Come to think of it, she would be perfect as a tragic heroine dying of consumption, or in something about the Irish potato famine.

I think it is really lazy casting and I feel sorry for any young unknown actresses who are overlooked in favour of well known people, even when they are completely unsuitable for the part. How is anyone supposed to get on in the profession when the same people pop up all the time just because they are a known face.

Soames was supposed to have dark hair, so Damien Lewis seems to be an odd choice for that part, given that he is a redhead but in every other aspect he is perfect as Soames, who I always had a bit of a soft spot for.
I hope he wasn’t chosen because he has red hair. Victorian novelists always gave their bad guys red hair so that people knew where they were with them straightaway. As I have red hair, I can’t help noticing things like that.

Anyway, I am just old enough to remember the original BBC version of The Forsyte Saga. I think I was about 10 years old when it was shown, and I recall the lovely Nyree Dawn Porter being very good as Irene. Although sadly I think it did her career no good as she was forever tainted by the character. The whole thing caused quite a scandal in the late 1960s, I’m quite amazed that I was allowed up to watch it.

Gina McKee would have made a better Fleur, as she has the perfect figure for a flapper.

Well, it encouraged me to re-read the books, which I hadn’t done for about 20 years and as I enjoyed that so much I’ve dug out some more Galsworthy books which I have never got around to reading. So tonight I’m starting Fraternity which I have just noticed was dedicated to J.M. Barrie – someone else that I have a soft spot for, so I’m taking that as a good omen.