December 1st, 2008


I seem to be writing a lot about TV right now. Two reasons. 1. It's winter and a lot of new shows are coming on line. 2. It's winter and I'm not getting out much. Oh look! It's just started to snow.

Last night's new show was Wallender, starring Kenneth Branagh. Wallender is the hero of a series of Swedish detective novels written by Ingmar Bergman's son-in-law. I wasn't disappointed. I've not always been a fan of Branagh's screen acting; he can be too assertive, too stagey, but this performance was pitched just right-  muted, frequently on the brink of tears- with the odd, brief, crinkly smile. He's a damn good actor. The story was generic- involving a serial killer and a paedophile ring- and I spotted the killer a little before I would have done if this had been Agatha Christie, but no matter; it was as much about wayward fathers as crime. Wallender's own father- a stuckist painter in the first stages of Altzheimers- was played by David Warner- once the greatest Hamlet of his generation, now enjoying an Indian summer after a blighted  mid-career. I love David Warner. The landscapes were bathed in lovely, low-wattage, Swedish light and there was a stunning pre-credits sequence in which a girl set herself on fire in a field of yellow rape. After that you really had no choice but to go on watching.

Writing Prompts

I had a friend who used to send me writing-prompts. They took me out of my comfort zone- and I was usually pleased with the result. One time she suggested Shostakovitch. What do I know about Shostakovitch? I don't even like his work. But I mustered what little I did I know and the result is this- something I'd never have written off my own bat. 


Things you cannot say or write

You can ask a string quartet to play,

Or, if the theme is catchy enough,

Get even government spies to hum

Unwittingly. There isn’t a face

In the gallery of the great composers

More like a stone. I think of him

Walking the shingle beach at Snape,

As the cagey guest of Ben and Peter,

Looking east, and I sense his enemy

Staring back- as though they were heads

In roundels of laurel, facing each other

Across the folds of one of those street-wide

Banners the People march beneath.

Another prompt brought this. We were both cat lovers, but I'd never have written about cats if she hadn't challenged me to.




The cat stretches out on the wall in the sunshine,

Taking this lifetime easy.

He says to the butterflies, “Listen  my pretties

I’ll tear you apart- but later.


My last three lives were pretty exhausting;

I’ve earned this bit of a rest now.

I left piles of skulls on the plains of Ukraine,

I massacred peasants in Jerez


And drove in a Panzer through Alsace Lorraine

Till someone I wasn’t aware of

Dropped a lit bottle of flammable stuff

Through the hatch, What a bummer, but next time,


I’m gonna make sure I’ve got stars on my collar

And weapons-grade uranium.

I’ll sit in a bunker and feel the world tremble,

But just for this lifetime I’m resting.”