Transit is a German language 2018 film from director Christian Petzold.
It's about wartime refugees, principally Georg who is desperate to get out of France while the invaders advance. We see him first in Paris; he's about to head South to Marseilles with a badly injured friend, and then hopefully a boat to freedom, but first he's asked to take a letter to another would-be refugee, a famous writer. When he gets to the man's lodgings, he finds he's too late - the writer has committed suicide. Unsure what to do, he scoops up the scattered papers and heads for the railway tracks where he hops into an empty freight cabin with his ailing companion; who sadly dies as they arrive in Marseilles. He narrowly escapes the guards.

Those two deaths seed the rest of the narrative.

He becomes involved with his departed friend's family, the widow - who's deaf and dumb - and the son. He knocks about a football with the boy, and though it might have been no time at all to ge…

The Midnight Line

by Lee Child
A thriller. Short sentences. A page turner. A quick read - for me, a holiday novel.
This is a Jack Reacher novel, the one before the latest which is I believe the 23rd. He's a modern incarnation of the medieval knight errant; he can never settle but he travels randomly from place to place and rights wrongs. Yes, the series is totally formulaic but it has to be, Reacher's fans depend on getting the same satisfying read each time. I hadn't read one of Lee Child's books before, and only knew Reacher from one of the two Tom Cruise films. It was good enough to nudge me into choosing this book but I'll be honest, the cover's attractively deep shade of blue may have been just as instrumental.

As I approached the plane some doubts flickered across my mind. 450 pages. Two weeks. I'm really not a fast reader. But those doubts washed away during the two hour flight. Even with all the usual distractions of organising my drinks and snack, I got through six…

The Shadow-Line

by Joseph Conrad

This seemed such a slight tale, barely over 100 pages; but it worked its way into my imagination and finally left me with a renewed appreciation of Conrad as a writer.

There's a curious side to my reading this. I read a bunch of Conrad's novels when I was a student; I was especially taken with Victory, and then hugely impressed by Nostromo; and the clincher was the ever so sombre and downbeat The Secret Agent. I ended up electing to do a 'special paper' on Conrad for my literature degree. It won a decent grade, though if I'm honest I didn't have anything new or particular to say about the author. I think I simply wanted to indulge myself, writing about him. The odd thing is that Conrad was always generally known as a writer of tales about the sea, yet none of those books, or the others I read at that time, fell into that category. So, after all this time, I read The Shadow-Line, which most definitely is a story about life at sea.

To sum up, whi…


We've had another less common visitor to the pond up the hill. Three of them. Not that they're rare or anything, but I can't recall seeing them here before. I have to admit I didn't identify them straightaway, to the extent of thinking they were 'light phase' versions of the resident mallards. I really wasn't paying proper attention, because they're goosanders, members of a small family we know as mergansers, which have differences from 'normal' ducks I should have noticed.

Here's the first picture I took, yesterday ie. 13.2.2019, when I went up there with my new smartphone. I haven't had a smartphone before, and this was an exercise in taking a picture and straightaway mailing it to a bird-watching friend, to see if she could confirm they were what I thought they were. Yes, she had the common sense to realise I wasn't referring to the coots in the foreground.

I went into the nearby Starbucks (I know, I know) to have a coffee and att…

The End of the Year Show 2018

Books, films, music; but 2018 for me was mainly about books.
The thing is, I've kept up a record of books I've read since childhood, in a succession of notebooks, and I noticed this year that - since even if I read little or no books, I still move on to a new page - I would run out of pages in a very few years. So, I bought a new fancy notebook and in thoroughly OCD fashion, copied it all out again. I made a few adjustments to correct various mistakes etc., but things are looking good once more.

Especially since it led to a resurrection of my set of Rotring ArtPens, ie. my fountain pens. I ditched my use of disposable cartridges, and fitted them with refillable ones, and then a set of nice inks. Mostly blues and blacks but also red, green and so on. Some have been used to colour code types of book in the notebook - eg. blue for prose, purple for poetry. But more satisfyingly I began to write letters. I knew full well that only one or two friends and acquaintances were likely t…

Lord Hornblower

by C.S. Forester. Who was just about my most read author as a boy. He's famous for his Hornblower books, but wrote much more, with several being made into films. The best known is probably The African Queen, which was the last Forester book I read until now.

Hornblower is a great character, brave, a leader of men, but also cerebral, sensitive, and with a strong moral core. As part of that he has an enormous streak of self doubt and introspection, which causes him difficulties at times, especially romantic ones, and which can also be off putting for the reader in the later books, of which Lord Hornblower is one. But even in these later volumes, Forester's writing strengths are to the fore: his deep knowledge of history and seafaring, and his knack for writing classic adventure yarns. I lapped up Hornblower as a boy, and any of Forester's other books I could lay my hands on. I'm sure Hornblower fed into my spell as a Royal Navy cadet; indeed, as a Midshipman and then '…

Into the Fire

by Elizabeth Moon

As the cover tells you, Into the Fire is the second book in a series titled Vatta's Peace, which follows a five book series, Vatta's War. 'Vatta' is a family and an interplanetary corporation, but it is also the protagonist, Ky Vatta. Its genre is 'military science fiction'.

The author is new to me, which may be a sign that I really have been out of it as far as science fiction is concerned, because she's been successful, with several series of novels published. I haven't read the earlier Vatta books, but I've picked up most of what I needed to know from the many flashbacks and references to past events. I bought this book having enjoyed the previous volume in the Vatta's Peace series, Cold Welcome, and I picked up that book on the spur of the moment wandering around a bookshop, and being intrigued by the premise. Cold Welcome is a story of a desperate struggle to survive in an icy and very hostile environment after a space sh…