Sunday, November 29, 2009

Making Christmas British

If you are an Anglophile, like me, and your dream is to spend a Christmas in London, but you are not quite there yet, why not recreate one or two special things that make you feel like you are there. You are probably doing many things already. You can visit this site for more ideas and information about Christmas traditions in the UK.

Nothing screams England like Charles Dickens at Christmas, and almost no one escapes "A Christmas Carol" in December, whether it's seeing a movie version, (like the one out now), or just reading the book. The new version of "Christmas Carol" isn't my cup of tea, however, I love many of the older versions and will watch at least one.

Send Victorian Christmas cards this year. The Victorian Trading Company has some beautiful cards to buy, or create your own using Victorian papers from the craft store.

Have a Harry & David fruit basket on hand during the holidays. They are expensive, but worth it.

Lights. Go see them in the biggest city near you. Get out of the car and walk, just walk, in the cold air and pretend it's London!

Recipes. Make a plum pudding or trifle, and explore other British recipes at this site. Who doesn't like trifle? Try a mulled wine or mince pie.

Go Christmas caroling with friends and family.

Make Christmas crackers.
Learn how to here.

Visit an old Church of England type-church for Christmas service. (This is one of my English dreams that has not come true yet). Or just listen to the King's College Choir online...pure heaven and very British! You can learn more about the choir from an earlier post here.

Visit a local or relatively close English style pub, if you can find one, nearby. The atmosphere there at Christmas must be extra special.

Stock up on English foods
at your local British goods shoppe. I have to travel 45 minutes to get to mine, but it is worth it to have something special during the holidays.

Take high tea with some friends or host your own.
It doesn't have to be expensive, just have teas available, buy, (or make), scones at your grocery store, and biscuits from the British goods shoppe.

See a "West End" ish ballet or play. If you can find an English-style pantomime, even better!

Listen to the Queen's Christmas Day Speech. (from wikipedia: "The Queen's Christmas Message is a broadcast by Queen Elizabeth II to the Commonwealth at Christmas. The tradition began in 1932 with a radio broadcast by King George V on the BBC Empire Service. Today the broadcast is made on television and radio via various providers." Here is the one from last year.

Celebrate "Boxing Day," (also called St Stephen's Day or Feast of Stephen), on December 26th.
"In England, Boxing Day, celebrated on December 26th, is traditionally a time to give gifts to tradesmen, servants, and friends. It originated in medieval times, when every priest was supposed to empty the alms box of his church and distribute gifts to the poor. Wealthy people indulged in huge Christmas feasts, and when they were finished, packed up the remains of feasts in boxes and gave them out to their servants. It didn't become widely celebrated though until Victorian England." (from For more ways to celebrate Boxing day, go here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gift Ideas For Book Lovers

This is a list of really random items you might consider for the book lover on your Christmas list, compiled from my own list of items I love, have come across, or plan on buying for myself this year. I have also linked each one for shopping online. Convenient and easy!

1. Lark Rise To Candleford - season 1

2. Utopia by Thomas More

3. O Come All ye Faithful CD

4. Famous Authors: The Brontes

5. Austenland book

6. The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd

7. Inspector Lewis - season 1

8. Bright Star Soundtrack

9. Bright Star book

10. Handmade bookmarkers on Etsy (the one shown here is on page 3)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Documentaries Not To Miss

This list of documentaries are my favorites. This list is not complete and is constantly changing as I discover new ones, so please check back for updates:

An in depth look at history, real life, real people, and real places, ...these documentaries will take you on a journey.

In Search of the Brontes

Keys To The Castle
Victorian Farm
Tales From The Green Valley
The Tower
History of Britain
Crown and Country
Windsor Castle: A Royal Year
The Farmer's Wife
Country Boys

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Justine Waddell

Whatever happened to Justine Waddell? She shined as Molly Gibson in "Wives and Daughters," appeared in countless other period films before that, such as, "The Woman In White," "Anna Karenina," "Tess of the D'Urbervilles," "Great Expectations," and "Mansfield Park." Then after "Wives and Daughters," she fell off the period film map. I want her back. She has been in a few films since then, but nothing nearly big enough to match her talent.

This list shows her film work, which seems rather short. Guess she chose her projects well since many are some of the most-loved period films.

Mishen (2009)
Thr3e (2006)
The Fall (2006)
Chaos (2005)
The Mystery of Natalie Wood (2004)
The One and Only (2002)
Dracula (2000)
Wives and Daughters (1999)
Mansfield Park (1999)
Great Expectations (1999)
The Misadventures of Margaret (1998)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1998)
Anna Karenina (1997)
The Moth (1997)
The Woman in White (1997)

There is a blog which keeps updates on her. I hope one day soon she'll take on another literary role. In the meantime, here are a few of her film roles presented as music videos, from youtube:

Wives and Daughters

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

The Moth

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Songs Based On Literature

Someone went to some trouble to compile this list of songs that are based on books or a specific character from a book. I love that so many books have inspired other forms of art, including these songs, musicals like Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera, fine art, etc.

Here is a taste:

The Police - Don't Stand So Close To Me (Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov)

Loreena McKennitt - Lady of Shalott (Lady of Shalott by Alfred Tennyson)

Robert Marlow - Face of Dorian Gray (The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Merchant Ivory Films

Merchant-Ivory Films have been around for awhile and made some beloved period films over the years. My favorites are "The Remains of the Day," "A Room With A View," "The Europeans," and "The Bostonians."
The thing I love about Merchant-Ivory is that they were ahead of their time. They used literature as the basis of many films, casting the best talent, (Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Reeve, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham-Carter, etc), and their body of work stands on it's own, having become some of the best classic films we all know and love. And they are not finished yet.
Here is the writeup from their official site that tells a little about Merchant-Ivory:

"From Shakespeare Wallah, the bittersweet tale of a wandering theatrical company in India, which established the company's reputation in 1965, to the richly detailed comic masterpiece A Room with a View in 1986, and the poignant Oscar-winning film Howards End in 1992, Merchant Ivory has provided audiences around the world with thoughtful and beautifully crafted features, documentaries, and shorts.

Merchant Ivory's films have been praised for their visual beauty, their mature and intelligent themes, and the shrewd casting and fine acting from which they derive their unique power.

Merchant Ivory is actually a collaboration of three remarkable people from three vastly different cultures: Ismail Merchant, the producer, born in India; Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the screenwriter, born in Germany and educated in England; and James Ivory, the director, born in the United States.

The diversity of Merchant Ivory's cultural roots is evident in the range of locations in which their movies have been shot: Delhi, Bombay, and Benares; London, Paris, and Florence; New York, New England, and Texas. They capture a vital sense of place and often lyrical feeling for widely varying periods and landscapes, from Paris in the 1920s and Edwardian England, to nineteenth-century America and British India."

Complete filmography: (could keep you busy for awhile!)

The City of Your Final Destination (2009)

The White Countess (2006)
Heights (2004)
Le Divorce (2003)
The Mystic Masseur (2002)
The Golden Bowl (2001)

Cotton Mary (2000)
A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (1998)
Surviving Picasso (1996)
The Proprietor (1996)
Jefferson in Paris (1995)
Feast of July (1995)

The Remains of the Day (1993)

Howards End (1992)

Street Musicians of Bombay (1991)
The Perfect Murder (1990)
Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990)
The Ballad of the Sad Café (1990)
Slaves of New York (1989)
The Deceivers (1988)
Maurice (1987)
A Room With a View (1985)

The Bostonians (1984)

Heat and Dust (1983)
The Courtesans of Bombay (1983)
Quartet (1981)
Jane Austen in Manhattan (1980)
The Europeans (1979)

The Five Forty-Eight (1979)
Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures (1976)
Roseland (1977)
Sweet Sounds (1976)
The Wild Party (1975)
Autobiography of a Princess (1975)
Mahatma and the Mad Boy (1974)
Helen: Queen of the Nautch Girls (1973)
Savages (1973)
Adventures of a Brown Man in Search of Civilization (1972)
Bombay Talkie (1970)
The Guru (1969)
Shakespeare Wallah (1965)

The Delhi Way (1964)
The Householder (1963)
The Creation of Woman (1960)
The Sword and the Flute (1959)
Venice: Theme and Variations (1957)

(oh yeah, the bold means I have seen that movie)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Secret Life of the Novel

The Secret Life Of The Novel (from BBC 2) To air Spring 2010

Celebrating the brilliance of the British novel, BBC Two presents a major four-part documentary series for spring 2010 presented by Sebastian Faulks, best-selling author of The Girl At The Lion d'Or, Birdsong, Charlotte Gray and Engleby.

The Secret Life Of The Novel explores the history of the form through its characters. In each programme, Sebastian focuses on a different archetype and looks at the development over the centuries of The Hero, The Lover, The Snob and The Villain.

Journeying around the country, with the occasional foray abroad, Sebastian uses his unique personal understanding of characterisation to get under the skin of some familiar and not so familiar creations of British literature.

From Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe to Martin Amis's John Self (see the Drama section for details of a new adaptation of Martin Amis's Money), from Jane Austen's Emma to Monica Ali's Chanu, Sebastian puts them all on the psychiatrist's couch.

Paperback Swap

"We help avid readers Swap, Trade & Exchange Books for Free.

* It's easy: List books you'd like to get rid of.
* Once a book is requested, mail it to the club member.
* In return, you may choose from 4,132,815 available books!

- Books you request are mailed to you for free.
- No late fees. No hidden charges.
We're NOT just Paperback Books! Enjoy trading Hardbacks, Audio Books, Textbooks and more."

Behind The Scenes

More behind the scenes here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bright Star Soundtrack

I adore "Bright Star," starring Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish. There should be lines a mile long to see it, and the soundtrack should be in everyone's player.


1 Negative Capability
- Mark Bradshaw
2 La Belle Dame Sans Merci
- Ben Whishaw
3 Return
- Mark Bradshaw
4 Human Orchestra
- Mark Bradshaw, Ben Whishaw, Samuel Barnett, Cameron Woodhouse, Daniell Johnston
5 Convulsion
- Mark Bradshaw
6 Bright Star
- Mark Bradshaw
7 Letters
- Mark Bradshaw
8 Yearning
- Mark Bradshaw
9 Ode to a Nightingale
- Mark Bradshaw

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lady of Shalott Film

Not sure how I went a half year without hearing about this one! Thanks to the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood site, I found their page about The Lady of Shalott film. It is available on DVD. The pictures are stunning and very similar to many of the paintings that portray the poem.

John William Waterhouse painting

The film closely follows her look from Waterhouse's painting

The Lady of Shalott - article
"To celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), Lincoln based WAG Screen has made a film based on Tennyson's poem, The Lady of Shalott.
The Lady of Shalott

Victoria Rigby is The Lady of Shalott
The film has been made to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Tennyson's birth and stars Victoria Rigby from Grantham as the Lady of Shalott. The Lady of Shalott film premiered at the Odeon Cinema, Lincoln.

The part of Lord Tennyson is played by Ben Poole. Ben was born in Lincoln and is a local businessman who runs a tea shop on Lincoln's Steep Hill, at 45 he is just the right age to play Tennyson in the late 1850s.

The majority of the filming was done in and around Lincoln. The filming of Ben giving Tennyson's reading of The Lady of Shalott to an after dinner audience was filmed in an oak panel room at Ashby Hall.

The lady at her loom as portrayed by John William Waterhouse on canvas, and in the short film..."there she weaves by night and day"

The Lady of Shalot Film opens at The Collection, Lincoln's museum, on May 30th 2009 and can be seen there until the end of August.
Lady of Shalott

A verse from The Lady of Shalott

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro' the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

The great Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson was born on the 5th August, 1809 in Somersby near Horncastle. He came from a large family and had eight brothers and four sisters. His father, George Clayton Tennyson was the Rector of Somersby and Bag Enderby.

Appointed as Poet Laureate to Queen Victoria in 1850, Tennyson had a long and fruitful career. Even during his own lifetime he was considered a national institution.

Alfred began writing poetry at eight-years-old, and by the age of twelve was in the midst of a 6,000 line epic. His work was first published in a book entitled Poems by Two Brothers which, despite its name, contained work by three of the Tennyson brothers."

Buy the DVD

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Wonderful essay on the subject here.
The paintings that obsessed the Victorians here.
Wikipedia article here.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing thro'
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by

John William Waterhouse's "Windflowers"

London...City That I Love

“You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
--Samuel Johnson

by Jan Weiss

Cafe Diana -(photo from London Toolkit)

Buckingham Palace

Changing of the Guard

Red Phone Booth

Hop on Hop off double-decker bus

Big Ben, Houses of Parliament

Tower Bridge

London Eye

Westminster Abbey

The Tower of London