I have a sore head. I have damaged my cervical spine (well, did it 18 months ago or maybe even longer ago than that, but it was masked by other things and has chosen now to manifest itself, thanks a bunch, vertebrae) and am beset with headaches and drugs that either don’t work or don’t suit me. Waiting for specialist’s appointment or possibly Dr House. Can’t bend my head. Need something to cheer me up. This got me thinking…
Now, we all have things we love which are either silly, stupid or downright embarrassing and, no, I am not confessing to a deep love of Maggie Thatcher, boy bands or Vesta curry with sultanas in it. But they are also things which comfort us, which make us feel better when we need to snuggle up on the sofa with a blankie and a cup of tea. Things which are, basically, life-enhancing, and boy do I need my life enhancing at the moment. So I’m confessing. It’s good for the soul (allegedly). And a couple of them are even woolly, but there are more than enough for two posts. So here are my first five.
This is my latest addition, and it’s excellent. Yes, there are patterns that I would need a head transplant to contemplate (possibly on the cards at the moment), but there are also some which are yummy and have gone straight on the to-do list. The list which is 85,743,000 miles long, OK? My WIPS (works in progress, for anyone unfamiliar with knitting-addict jargon) are still in single figures, so I may cast something on. When I can bend my head, that is.
2. Comic books.
I love them. This is possibly genetic; they’re an art form in France and there are festivals devoted to bandes dessinées all over the Francophone world. I grew up with Asterix – Breton, freedom fighter, what’s not to like? – but was not allowed Tintin. Dodgy political attitudes, both in the books (Tintin au Congo – eek) and in the author’s past. But who needs boy reporters when you’ve got a whole village-full of stroppy Celts,
some of whom live on your kitchen windowsill?
I have an equal addiction to some of the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ masters and mistresses of the genre too. Comic strips aren’t that far removed, and I love Peanuts. Posy Simmonds’ work is closer to the froggie tradition and her Tamara Drewe, Gemma Bovary and, for kids as well, the wonderful Fred are masterpieces. I used to be into more conventional comic books but they have fallen by the wayside now. Why, I’m not sure, but give me Gemma Bovary and Asterix any day over Watchmen and superheroes, however dark.
Preferably featuring John Mills, possibly in a vest. For anyone who doesn’t know the work of John Mills, this is nothing like Bruce Willis in a vest; apart from the vest, which will be dirty, they could not be further apart. But I am discriminating in this choice; there are a lot of terrible 50s war films which do not bear rewatching, and there are the 1960 and 70s variants which are often in colour (no thank you), are much less nuanced, and make no concessions to the fact that they are supposed to be set in the 1940s. I’m thinking Susanna Yorke in Battle of Britain, for example, or Ian McShane – nooooo – in the same film. Wrong. Just wrong.
No, lips have to be stiff, the acting might be even stiffer, women are largely absent or silent, and Kenneth More is somewhere in there, possibly in naval uniform. If anyone puts their sherry down on a mantelpiece half-drunk you know they’re not coming back. Similarly, show your mate a shot of your sweetheart and you will be the next one to get it. Own a labrador? Give it away before you take off; it will save time and trouble for the people who have to sort out your effects. And never, ever, send your uniform off for cleaning, because that is completely fatal.
4. Sigh. Nail Varnish.
Paradoxically, I don’t often paint my nails – except in summer, that is, when I do my toenails. When we have summer, that is. But I inherited from my mother a deep love of nail varnish. She, however, was satisfied with always wearing almost the same colour, or clear. I am not.
What I do have, irritatingly, is an ability to buy the same shade and not realise I already have it. To which end I did, at one stage, take to carrying around a little card with coloured splodges on it. It didn’t make much difference; I still bought 37 variations on a theme of brown. Brownish. I have now put a ban on all further purchases and, above all, there is to be no revisiting of the almost-black shades of red. Not even if they are by Chanel.
To anyone (female) who has seen this series, this choice will not seem unusual. Guilty, possibly; unusual, noooo. To any woman who has not seen it, get it. To any blokes, just leave the room, OK? Particularly during the extraordinary closing speeches. Amazing.
A male friend of mine just didn’t get it. ‘He’s fat,’ he objected, ‘and he looks sort of seedy…’. Indeed. That’s kind of the point, dur. Seedy, sexy in a bad way (interpret that as you will), brilliant, intellectual, principled, and did I mention sexy? But Boston Legal isn’t just about James Spader. It’s also got William Shatner and Candice Bergen and more great acting than you can shake a stick at, and more wonderful actors too. It plays with the genre; it’s bright, ironic, sharp, funny, moving, sassy… Yes, parts are dated or were all-too obviously separated by ad breaks in the original. But the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Just perfect for a sore neck.
So, before I embarrass myself further in part 2, what are your guilty pleasures?