Oct. 27th, 2016 07:02 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Sorting through some boxes of sheet music today, I came face to face with something that took me instantly back to c. 1977. This was a book called Jibbidy-F and A-C-E, the book that I worked through when I first started piano lessons. Even before I opened it, I could sing the first tune. Granted, the feat of memory required to remember and perform this tune note-perfectly after all these years is not particularly impressive one, since it consists of just one note - your Very First Note. As you play it repeatedly, you sing the immortal lines, "I am C! Middle C! Left hand, right hand, middle C!"

While the proud declamatory cry of Middle C has stayed with me forever, I had forgotten many of the others. Mentally singing the tunes today, I found them instantly familiar, as if part of me has never forgotten them. There's Doggy D, who, although confined to the treble clef, is occasionally allowed to play with Top Line A and Bumble B, his downstairs neighbours, as well as Middle C. However, on the opposite page, we learn that Doggy D thinks Bumble B looks very very fuun-nee, sitting in a bed of flow'rs and turning them to hunn-ee. Funny behaviour indeed. But Doggy D and Bumble B disappear from the scene after this development. Over the page, we learn a new mark. '"A new mark!" says C sharp. "Look at me, I'm very dark." I'm as happy as can be. I have found my first black key.' What is C sharp dark? Is this an evil note? If so, why am I supposed to be happy at finding it?

And why now, 8 hours later, am I unable to get these incredibly uninteresting tunes out of my head. You've never been truly bothered by an earworm until you've been bothered by an earworm with only one note.

And then there's the little tune based on a theme from Haydn's Surprise Symphony which has ensured that for almost 40 years, I have been unable to hear that symphony without singing along. Or, in other words, it has ruined it forever. (NEVER set words to wordless tunes, that's my advice, because once heard, you will never ever forget them, and never ever hear that tune without mentally filling in the words.) Haydn, it tells us, was a happy man, and all the children loved him. "You will learn to love him soon," it finishes, rather threateningly.

70s food

Mar. 18th, 2015 01:03 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
We watched a programme last night in which a family were "sent back in time" to 1950, and made to cook and eat as a British family in 1950 would. Year by year, they moved through the decade, getting newfangled products at the appropriate times. It was a bit gimmicky, but I found it rather interesting. Next week, they're moving into the 60s, and then on to the 70s and 80s (and 90s?)

It prompted us to try to work out what food stuffs and gadgets and food-related lifestyle changes were unique to the 70s and 80s. The trouble is, when you're a child in a decade, you don't know if the food stuff you eat all the time is unique to your generation, or if it has been eagerly enjoyed for years. If you stop eating it in 1980, you don't necessarily know if you've stopped eating it because it's no longer available, or if you've just grown out of it. Certainly, when looking for 1970s party food for Pellinor's 40th, I was amazed at just how many of the products were still available, although I hadn't eaten them for years - and, in many cases, am quite happy never to eat them again, thank you very much.

Food nostalgia )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
From the blurb of a new children's book:

"Until about 30 years ago, there were no mobile phones. How on earth did people manage?"
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
"Not last night but the night before..."

What's the rest of the verse? And, yes, I know there's no single right answer, and it's a rhyme that's been recorded in loads of different versions, but I'm always interested in comparing different childhood versions of playground rhymes and games.

EDIT: Oh well... It seems that hardly anyone else knows this rhyme, after all. Strange. Everybody present during the conversation at work knew a version, but everyone knew a different one. However, they didn't provide a big enough sample for me to find out if the differences were regional or due to date. For the record, the version I knew went "not last night but the night before, 3 little pussycats came knocking at the door, [something something] let them in, [something-thing] with a ROLLing pin!" However, when I was chanting it to try to track down the missing words, I kept getting sidelined by "OUT went the doctor, OUT went the nurse, OUT went the lady with the alligator purse," which comes from a different rhyme, one nobody else had heard before.
ladyofastolat: (Vectis)
Miles away from anywhere, we sit on top of a hill with our backs against an 18th century monument in a vain attempt to get shelter from the howling gale. Thick fog billows in from the sea, hiding any semblance of a view. Hands are freezing. Boots are caked with mud, and mud is thickly splashed all the way up to our knees, and higher. Valiantly we eat ham sandwiches from a plastic bag, and drink tea from a flask. "What a nice walk!" Pellinor says, with no irony whatsover. I agree.

Yes, it has finally happened. We have turned into our parents.


Dec. 12th, 2013 05:17 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Last night I was prompted to muse about a Top Ten list of castles. I then received encouragement. This is the result, but I couldn't limit it to just ten, so here's my Top Twenty of British castles, in alphabetical order. Why am I posting this? Why not? :-D

Castles )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Curse you, internet, for making information so easy to find! It's quite killing conversation! I often find myself wondering about the answer to something, and mentally composing an LJ post about it, thinking that it might prompt a bit of conversation. Then I Google it, and find loads of other conversations about it, and all my questions and debates are answered, and never get around to making the post.

A few minutes ago, I was chasing a childhood memory. "Does anyone else remember...?" I was going to post, before describing the half-remembered item. "Oh! I remember those, too!" people might have said. "Now what were they called...?" And there would have been nostalgia and memories and brain-racking, and then someone would have supplied the name, and there would have been gratitude and praise.

But Google has told me. They were Wade Whimsies. And I never really liked them much, anyway.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I'm reading The Silmarillion at the moment. Tucked inside its pages, I find some sheets of handwritten family trees and character lists, headed "The Silmarillion - because I'm confused!" They're all written on notepaper that proclaims itself "from a member of the Puffin Club."

Ah, I remember the Puffin Club...! I can't remember actually doing anything as a member of the Puffin Club, but I remember enjoying the magazines and the competitions. My dim memory is that it was in a Puffin Club magazine that I first read about Dungeons and Dragons, and desperately wanted to play it, but I can't think why they would have been writing about it. I never did get to play it, though. Nobody at school was remotely interested in things like that.

I know exactly when the notes were written, because I remember reading The Silmarillion during a holiday in Edinburgh in April 1987, when I was also busy revising for O-levels. The Lord of the Rings radio dramatisation was re-airing at that time, too. I remember being really upset that the holiday would lead me to miss an episode, although in the end I managed to catch the last quarter of an hour of it in the car outside some wild coastal castle.

Also tucked inside the book are a couple of pages listing all the characters and place names from The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath, and listing where the names come from in legend and folklore. I only managed to track down half the names, but a wide variety of source material is listed, so it must have necessitated quite a bit of research. Nowadays, of course, you'd just Google it and find out within a minute - or else find a list that somebody else had already compiled. It's easier to find information now, but I can't help but think that in the past it was more fun. Nowadays, I find myself struck with a spirit of mild enquiry, Google it, find out the answer, and forget it within a week.

I waved the notes around at work, while reading over lunch. "Your handwriting hasn't changed a bit!" everyone exclaimed. Looking back at old diaries, I see that my handwriting settled when I was about 15, and hasn't changed since. However, it's certainly more hard work now. My hand aches after barely half a page.

My diaries have surprisingly little to say about my reading. I read right through a period in which I remember myself being utterly obsessed with The Lord of the Rings, and I find little mention of it, barring occasional references to which chapter I was then rereading, and my glee at getting my first ever Tolkien calendar. Instead, the pages are full of schoolgirl angst and drama about who had fallen out with who, and who said what about whom. In many cases, I can't even remember the people involved, but it was clearly all very angsty and important at the time. It's all disappeared to nothing, but many of the books I was reading and the TV series I was watching have stayed with me forever. Not that this would have been any comfort at all, had somebody told me this at the time.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I was talking to a colleague the other day about our childhood memories of fairy tales, legends and history, and how we first became aware of such things. To her, the Andrew Lang collections were the definitive collection - the books she read as a child, and still returns to every few years. For me, it was the various collections by Ruth Manning-Saunders. I remember seeing the Andrew Lang books in the library, but I never read them - a fact that horrifies her, since to her they are so seminal. I also have strong memories of Tales told again by Walter de la Mare. I think this was the book that contained Molly Whuppie, which I particularly liked. I think this might also have contained the story of the hobyahs ("Hobyah! Hobyah! Hobyah!")

Myths and legends I definitely got from Roger Lancelyn Green: Robin Hood, King Arthur (she got her King Arthur from Rosemary Sutcliff), Greek legends, Troy and Norse legends. I don't think I had anything by Hans Christian Andersen, since none of those stories ring any particular childhood bells. I might have had a Grimm collection, but I'm not sure, and I'm fairly sure I had a battered book of well-known fairy tales, told in boring language, with brightly coloured pictures.

I have no memory of having any book of nursery rhymes, and probably learnt them orally, although I do remember a record of nursery songs, which had a big orange teddy on the front.

History I got from Ladybird books, which in those days had bright blue borders, and the Hamlyn Children's History of the World, by Plantaget Somerset Fry.

Hmm... All nostalgic now...
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
In the library on Saturday, a mother was telling her child (aged about 8 or 9) about what computers were like when she was his age. They were big and blocky and grey, she said. Listening, I pictured something like the VIC-20 that my Dad bought when I was 10. And when you wanted to connect to the internet, she said, you used this thing called "dial up," and something called a "modem," which made a strange noise, which she proceeded to imitate. Wow, said the child, amazed at the sheer primitiveness of the ancient internet. Wow, thought I, struck by the fact that something that I still think of as quite recent has already become the thing of parental tales.

I find that popular culture and technology provide the most Wow moments when it comes to being struck by the passage of time. I was a huge fan of the original series of Star Trek in the early 80s. At that time, it was less old than the X-Files (my big obsession of the mid to to late 90s) is now. When Star Wars episode 1 came out, it was 16 years after the last of the original trilogy, which felt like an age away. Episode 1 is now 14 years old. Spice Girls mania is as long ago as Beatles mania was when I was a teenager.



Feb. 8th, 2013 09:39 am
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
A colleague has a multipack of crisps on his desk, which claim to be "classically ready salted." How to you add salt to crisps in a classical manner?

"Ready salted" implies that unready salted crisps exist. Can you still buy those plain crisps with blue salt sachets, I wonder? They were rare and exciting when I was young. The end result was never as nice as "proper" crisps, but adding the little sachet was exciting.

Walkers salt and vinegar crisps are my dieting bete noire, and probably the only thing that I have to avoid almost completely. (I don't believe in banning anything I love.) I'm not sure why I love them so much, given that I prefer chips plain, without salt and vinegar.

At primary school, there were big cardboard boxes of crisps in the playground, from which we could buy packets for... 7p, I believe. I need to do some nostalgic hunting down. I think they were square, and made of that prawn cracker type substance, that melts on the tongue and goes all squishy. I think one of the flavours was tomato.

Anyone remember hedgehog flavoured crisps?

I seem to have had loads of nostalgic conversations over the years about childhood sweets, but very few about childhood crisps - except for some half-hearted muttering about monster munch and frazzles - and none at all about childhood ice lollies. I liked Mini Milk, because they were cheap, but I also remember Mivvis and Fabs.
ladyofastolat: (scribe)
Several recent discussions have touched on the role of the novel Daughter of Time in creating lifelong Richard III enthusiasts. It's set me musing on fiction's ability to spark off enthusiasms that in some cases must surely result in career choices and academic specialisms. I don't think my life has been changed by fiction, although I've definitely chosen holiday destinations and short-term hobbies as a result of fiction enthusiasms. However, I've been indulging in nostalgia about the choices I made when studying history at Oxford, and my often rather shallow reasons for those choices.

Musings about choices made in history study )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
When I was 10 and 11, I was mad keen on the English Civil War, even to the extent of having a Civil War themed birthday party for my 11th birthday ("Pin the ear on the cavalier," "Sleeping Roundheads" etc.) When I was at the height of this obsession, the Sealed Knot spent a few days at our local castle. I had a season ticket for the castle, and went every day to avidly watch them. (I wonder if any visitor attraction nowadays would admit an unaccompanied 11 year old who'd walked there by themselves.) I bought several souvenirs from the Sealed Knot womenfolk (who, it seemed to me, got lumbered with all the boring jobs, not being allowed to fire muskets and wave swords around.)

One of these souvenirs was an English civil war tea towel, which I stuck to my wall with blu-tac and displayed as a picture for a good long while. When Pellinor and I got married in 1994 and moved to the island, it went into service as an actual tea towel, rather than as a wall decoration. It is still doing this job. However, I have to accept that its days have finally come to and end. It is so faded that the cavalier and roundhead upon it look like dim and distant ghosts in a mist, and it is all tattered and holey and torn.

This makes me strangely sad. I am not a hoarder, and I don't have problems throwing things away, but this could well be the oldest possession that I still regularly use. Yes, I have older things that were bought or inherited, but this is something that I chose all by myself and have used continuously for over 30 years. I once wore a very comfortable nightie into rags, refusing to get rid of it, and I had a pair of grey school uniform socks that I still wore well into my thirties, despite them becoming more hole than sock, but both are long gone now, and this tea towel was older still.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
LOADS of bitey things around at the moment! I presume it's because the country has spent the last three months gradually turning itself into a swamp. Bitey things, midge mythology, bad things and naughty books )


Jun. 1st, 2012 07:28 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
What do bunting factories make in between jubilees? I'm imagining factories full of depressed bunting specialists, getting every more droopy and depressed, until a jubilee comes around, and finally their machines burst into life again, and the workers can put into practise all their ancient hard won bunting skills.

(Do bird buntings and wavy buntings have anything in common, I wonder? How does one bunt? Yes, I know I can look it up, and I very likely will, but sometimes it's more fun to speculate in ignorance.)

Are we going to face a sad autumn and winter, contending with a terrible shortage of red, white and blue paint, living in shades of green and grey?

I found the Silver Jubilee very very exciting. I remember collecting Jubilee milk bottle tops. Why don't we have jubilee milk bottle tops nowadays? I won the fancy dress competition in our local street party (no credit due to me, only to my Mum, who made a very fine ladybird costume for me, though I'm not entirely sure what the Jubilee relevance was) and also the painting competition, although my entry then blew away and went wafting away out of my territory, into places where the natives were wild and unfamiliar and strange. I also won my age category in a competition in the local paper, for coming up with a sentence starting with the letters of "silver jubilee." I can still remember my entry, which causes me to conclude that, A, no-one else in my age group had entered, or, B, mine was the only entry bizarre and, well, bad enough to be the obviously unaided work of a 6 year old. I won a model Jubilee bus, and was very unimpressed by it and never took it out of its packet. I wonder if it's still lurking somewhere in my parents' loft.

I also saw the Queen at a distance when she citified Derby. This was exciting, too.

I hope today's 6 year olds find the whole thing as exciting as I did back in 1977.


May. 3rd, 2012 08:45 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I am currently confused by the 1970s. I've been watching the current BBC series about the 1970s, in which the overwhelming message seems to be that was hideously grim in the 1970s. It started doomy, then got doomier and doomier and doomier, and prices went MAD and the lights went out, and the economy collapsed, and outraged women in headscarves wailed about the death of all things decent, and there was not a single shred of light and happiness in all the entire dismal decade.

However, a few weeks ago, I saw some report that concluded that the best ever year to be a child in the UK had been 1976. Something doesn't add up here.

Unless it's just that children carry on blissfully unaware of economic doominess, and find power cuts rather exciting. I was 5 for most of 1976, and although my memories include some Doom, it was only drought-related doom. ("It's NEVER going to rain!" sobbed my Mum, and the wooden railway embankment at the bottom of our garden caught fire, and railway repairy people worked through the night with horrible scary sirens that wailed like banshees and made me cry in terror.) But Bagpuss was on TV, and You and Me ("Hello, Crow! Hello, Alice!") and Blue Peter and Mary, Mungo and Midge (though that was a bit scary when Midge did something silly like get stuck in a letterbox), so all was well with the world, and if the pound was busy collapsing elsewhere, nobody told me.

It's rather an annoying TV programme, though. I feel that the role of a TV historian should be to report upon the tastes and opinions of the past, not to sneer at them, but this chap clearly disagrees.


Apr. 17th, 2012 05:50 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
If one were buying nostalgic children's sweets, what would be the absolute essentials that any vat of nostalgic sweets shouldn't possibly be without? I'm thinking 1970s era sweets principally, but feel free to nostalge away about other vintages.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I'm on the lookout for children's party games played at traditional children's parties. We've got a list already, but would like an even longer list, so they can be whittled down to the best ones. So far we've got:

Musical chairs
Musical bumps (I was unvanquished champion of musical bumps as a child, but the ground was a lot closer then. I suspect that playing it now would result in bruises and broken things.)
Musical statues, ideally in its Musical Monsters form
Pass the parcel
Sleeping/Dead lions (naming dispute ongoing)
Pin the something on the whatever
Grandmother's footsteps
Oranges and Lemons (although even as a child, I never quite worked out what the point of the game was, and it always took so long, and once the chopper who came to chop off my head thumped my nose, and I cried.)
What's the time, Mr Wolf?
Poor Pussy

Quite a few more games come to mind, but I think they're more playground games than party games - e.g. The Farmer's in his Den, Red Letter, I sent a letter to my love, etc. We always clamoured to play Murder in the Dark when I was little, but never knew what we were supposed to do, so just milled around in the dark for a bit until someone screamed, whereupon we all went "er...", dithered a bit on confusion, and moved on to the next game.

By the way, the age of the special little birthday boy is 40, so don't worry about games being too complicated or likely to end in tears. But we don't want any of that teenage hanky-panky stuff, or games that involve singling people out to do embarassing things.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
There's nothing like fiction to make you realise that you're no longer young. Every now and then, when reading a book written and set within my lifetime, I find myself stopping in my tracks, struck by evidence of how much the world has changed. Technological changes don't surprise me as much, since I'm well aware of how much things such as the internet and mobile phones have changed the modus operandi of intrepid child detectives, but attitudes and behaviour can still shock me right out of the story.

I was reading The Ogre Downstairs yesterday, because I felt slightly guilty about forgetting it when doing a Sporcle quiz that asked me to name every Diana Wynne Jones novel. Written in 1974, it includes a short reference to a past incident in which a girl of probably around 8 or 9, travelling alone, got off at the wrong bus stop and got lost. A man - a total stranger - came to her rescue, took her to a cafe for ice cream, then drove her home. Sometimes the plot of a children's book requires a degree of suspension of disbelief, in order to allow the children to be free to pursue the plot without parents getting in the way, but in this case, it was little more than a throwaway reference, written as if it was nothing remarkable.

Because I have to consider safeguarding issues at work, I am particularly prone to shouting, "But that wouldn't happen! at the TV, usually when someone strolls into a school without anyone trying to stop them, in order to have some long and inappropriate conversation with a teacher in front of a class of 5 year olds. Presumably builders/policemen/nurses/lumberjacks/lion tamers are forever shouting at the TV about similar breaches of safety procedure and protocol in their areas of expertise. A certain suspension of disbelief is required in fiction, after all. But I find it inconceivable that in 2011, an author would include an incident like the one described above.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
When you were a child, what was the main method you used to decide who was "it" in a game? Just curious...

(Will add mine when not typing laboriously on a phone.)
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Posting from my phone, so I haven't done much of a Google on this... but LJ knows more than Google, anyway. I have vague memories of watching a cartoon some time between 1978 and c. 1984 that was like Battle of the Planets, but wasn't Battle of the Planets. My memory is that there were two very similar series airing at roughly the same time, both about heroic people (with wings?) fighting evil, but the very cursory search I've been able to do only throws up BotP.


Feb. 21st, 2011 05:44 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I am Confused By Spangles. Pellinor had some beer on Friday night which both of us simultaneously described as "Spangles!" This led to Spangle-related discussion. Wikipedia says they were manufactuered between the 50s and the early 80s. However, I clearly remember them arriving in Mrs Mason's sweetshop (which I frequently only between 1978 and 1982) and my parents both going, "Oh! They've brought back Spangles at last! We remember them from when we were young!" So does anyone else remember Spangles coming back, or does everyone of an appropriate age have a continuous unbroken line of Spangle memories?

I do remember finding the fruit ones nothing special, but really liking the Old English ones. I can't remember much about them, except that there was an opaque butterscotch coloured one, and a clearer very dark one, which I liked a lot. I don't know which particular Old English one is the Platonic form of "Spangle" that both Pellinor and I were thinking of when we labelled this beer as spangle-flavoured.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
There are various things that used to be all over the place when I was little, but which I seldom see nowadays. I'm wondering if this is because:
- I don't spend as much time lurking in grass, and there are more inches between my eyes and the ground than there once were. These things are still plentiful, but I no longer notice them.
- I no longer consider a tiny shard of broken tea pot the most exciting treasure known to man, so I fail to notice them, even as they sparkle enticingly, desperate for my attention.
- These things used to hang out in large quantities only in a small localised area, which I no longer live in. Should I return to my childhood house, I would be wading knee-deep through the things.
- My memory is playing me false, and has taken two glimpses of a rare pink caterpillar and expanded it into an image of a world in which pink caterpillars capered on every stree corner.
- These things are truly not around as much nowadays, and have gone the way of video tapes, chicken in a basket, and mullets.

The things )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I was thinking today about how much I like chicken kiev, and how it seems to have gone completely out of fashion. Back in the early 90s, virtually every pub that served food offered chicken kiev, which suited me perfectly, but I don't think I've seen chicken kiev on any pub menu in years. I wonder why not. I wonder why food has fashions. I suppose it's a reaction to ubiquity. When something is ubiquitous - whether an item of food, a popular book, a pop band, an item of clothing etc. - it encourages others to sneer at it and feel superior by avoiding it. Then it becomes a bit sad or naff or common, and within a few years, people can look at it and sneer, "Oh, that's so three years ago," and move on. But then, of course, thirty years later, it will have retro appeal, and will be brought back again.

Anyone got any favourite foods that were once ubiquitous, but are now impossible to find?

Alternatively, feel free to tell me all your chicken kiev sightings, and show me all my pontifications are based on a false premise.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I've been in a 40s film mood lately, but am finding it hard to find them. When I was a teenager, there would usually be a couple of black and white films on BBC2 during the day, and I watched loads of them during the school holidays. I particularly liked 40s British films, but I also enjoyed American film noir, and of course any swashbuckler. (I had a point system for swashbuckling duels - points for beheaded candles, for chandelier swinging, and for exciting use of shadows etc.) I remember a series of programmes about British films of this era - all of them from one particular studio, I think. It might possibly have been called "Best of British," and it had really stirring title music, which I liked very much, and which sometimes made me cry. (I'm a sucker for a montage of silent clips done to a stirring soundtrack.) I recorded it and rewatched it voraciously, determined to track down as many films as possible, and the majority of them turned up on BBC2 before very long.

Now I've got loads of Sky movie channels as well as the terrestrial channels, but am finding black and white films of any description in short supply, even on the channels devoted to classics. I suppose part of the problem is that there is a far larger back-catalogue of films around now than there was in 1985. A 70s film*, or even an 80s one, can now be shown as a classic, and the 40s ones are pushed out.

One film that really impressed me very much back then was "Odd Man Out," which I see in on TV next week. I'll be interested to see if I like it as much this time round, since it's a very emotional film, and I often find that emotional films don't work anything like as well for me on a second viewing. However, I really want to watch loads more black and white films in which British actors speak in beautifully clipped accents. At least there seem to be more available on DVD than there were last time I looked, some years ago, so maybe I'll just need to start filling my Amazon wishlist.

* I'm not sure why, but I've got a strong bias against films from the 70s, although there are of course exceptions to this. I seem to remember that Empire magazine recently concluded that the 70s was the single greatest decade for films, but if I see a 70s date on a film, I tend to pass on by.

** I've certainly never heard any modern person sound like people sound in recordings from the 30s and 40s. Did anyone really speak like this in real life? If so, why have accents changed so fast? Have accents always changed fast, or is it the influence of TV and the like at work? I also like listening to the accents of American actors in films from the 40s, since they often don't sound at all "American" to me. I am, though, pretty hopeless at accents.
ladyofastolat: (Oops)
I've just started playing the original Thief game, which I first played over ten years ago. Pellinor dug out an old computer for me to play it on, since it won't run on my normal computer. I don't know what the discs have been up to in the last ten years, but they needed two sessions with a scratch-removing machine before they'd install the game properly. Now the game itself runs fine when I'm in-mission, but on all the mission briefings, inventory screens, load screens etc. the display has shifted half way off the screen, so I can only see the right-hand half of what's supposed to be on screen - which usually seems to be the less important part of the information I'm supposed to be reading. There's a lot of guesswork involved in this game.

I've probably played Thief at least three times before. The first time, I remember, the computer wasn't really up to it, and loading a saved game took a good five minutes. This was a huge incentive not to mess things up, so the game became an exercise of suspense and terror. Then I entered the lair of the fire mages, and the fire animation was more than my computer could cope with. I think we ended up getting a new computer just so I could finish the game. Then I played it again with the expert mission objectives, and then I added an even experter objective of my own: to do the whole game without taking any damage. I managed it, too, though my nasty habit of falling of ladders led to many reloads.

Although the graphics look pretty ancient, I still think it's a really good game. The missions are varied, and the plot is actually memorable. (I'm normally hopeless at remembering the plot of games, since I spent most the cut scenes barely listening, as I'm sitting there poised to fight a horrible battle as soon as they end.) The emphasis on sound can be quite chilling, as you hear footsteps nearing you as you're wrestling with your lockpick. It's a slow game of patience and sneaking, not a wild frantic one of running and shooting and fighting, and it can still scare me. I don't think I've ever experienced moments of such fear in a game as I have with this one, especially when haunts came up behind me with rattling chains. Even the zombies I met today made me shudder - and I speak as someone who's spent far too much time over the last year fighting zombie hordes.

I did play Thief 2, but it didn't grab me in the same way; I think I just found the setting and the plot less appealing. I never even finished Thief: Deadly Shadows, mostly because it made me feel ill. Quite a lot of first person games do make me feel ill, but others don't, and I can't work out why this is. Half Life 2 made me horribly ill. Deus Ex made me ill when I tried to replay it many years on, but I was fine with it first time round. I wonder if it's something about monitor size amplifying the jerky movements, since the first time I played these games was on a much smaller monitor. I feared that Thief would make me ill, but since 90% of the game involves standing still or sneakily creeping, the bobbing of the camera isn't much of an issue.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
- On Saturday, I watched as a group of adults completed failed to play Snap. Snap-related discussion revealed that 50% of the people present were brought up with Tom and Jerry Snap. I am now wondering if this was, a, coincidence, b, evidence that people who used to play Tom and Jerry Snap grow up to become roleplayers, or, c, a result of a bid for world domination by the makers of Tom and Jerry Snap. To discover the answer, I am keen to find out if anyone else had Tom and Jerry Snap when they were young.

- While ordering books today, I came across one called Top 10 Worst Killer Animals. I picture this book as being very different from the way the publishers intend me to picture it. I'm trying to work out a top ten of pathetic killers.

- I also found a book about Scary Pinnipeds. I had never heard of pinnipeds before, and concluded that they were scary creatures with feathered feet - mutant hobbits, perhaps? I was wrong, but I now know a new word.

- And then there was King Lear retold for 7 year olds...

Oh. Red Squirrels are rioting. Must go and watch.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I've mentioned several times here how happy it makes me when I'm doing work in a school library, and come across a computer book from the early 80s, or something similar. The best book I ever found was a book written in the 60s about what life would be like in the year 2000. I would dearly have loved to have been able to keep it, but of course it belonged to the school, where the head was as delighted with it as I was. However, here's something similar, thanks to a link from the BBC news magazine. This is a 1972 children's book on what life will be like in 2010.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Many of the books I remember fondly from childhood are books that I still own, or else are books that count as classics, so are often reprinted, or at least retained in library stacks. (Arthur Ransome, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Alan Garner, Cynthia Harnett, Rosemary Sutcliff etc.) Even those harder-to-find ones - e.g. King of the Copper Mountains - have become much easier in these days of the internet. But there's one which I can't track down at all. It wasn't a book that I read myself, but one that the teacher read to us in serialised form at the end of each day, back in the days when most teachers did such a thing, and the National Curriculum hadn't declared its war on reading for pleasure.

I'm almost certain that I heard this book in my first year of junior school, so that would have been late 1978 or early 1979. I remember it as being called Melcha, the High King's Daughter, but since it was only ever read to me, I don't know how Melcha was spelt - and, of course, it could easily have been called something totally different. I don't remember anything about the plot, except that of all the books various teachers read out to me, this is the one that I most remember awaiting with eager anticipation. (Though this might just be because it wasn't stocked in the local library, so I couldn't cheat by reading ahead.) I do remember that when I fell out of a tree and twisted my ankle, I said I was "like Melcha," so I presume she did things like climbing trees. It may well be awful, but I'd like to track it down - if for no other reason than it's frustrating being defeated by the quest.

Another piece of 1970s book-related nostalgia that I can't find any references to: The Bookworm Club. At least, I think it was called The Bookworm Club. I'm fairly sure that a booklist was given to us periodically in school, from which we selected a book we wanted to buy, which would in due course be delivered to us in school. I have a vague amorphous memory of the logo on the magazine, but that's about it. Am I imagining this?
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Much to the disgust of my cats, I was suddenly bitten by the tidying bug as soon as I got up today, and spent half an hour tidying my desk, going through the piles of paper that have accumulated in its nooks and crannies. Most of them were notes for fanfics long-since finished, so could be thrown away, but I found a few things that interested me, at least.

Quirky facts )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Earlier this evening, I watched a programme called Electric Dreams, that I'd recorded on BBC4 last night. It takes a middle class family of avid technology users and dumps them in 1970. Serious overhaul is done to their house to make it more typical of a 1970s house, in layout as well as in interior decor, and the family are only allowed the technology of the time. Each day they progress a year, and receive an appropriate new item of technology. Next week they're moving into the 80s, and in the final episode are doing the 90s. I watched it mostly as a bit of 70s nostalgia. "My parents had one of those!" was a frequent cry, and I suspect the 80s episode will prompt even more nostalgia.

What struck me a lot, though, was how the voice-over man and the family themselves (who seemed like a very likeable bunch) kept saying how there was "nothing to do". The children said that they had "nothing to do" in their now computerless rooms, so the whole family stayed downstairs, playing games or watching TV together. "But what about reading?" I kept on saying. Yes, when I was a child in the 70s, we did play family games together, and we did spend evenings downstairs together, but I also read an enormous number of books when I was young, and I'm sure that a lot of these were read while solitary in my room. I also did a lot of art and craft, a lot of Airfix models (historical personages and Tudor ships, not aeroplanes), a lot of writing. I can't remember where in the house I did these things, but they are essentially solitary pursuits, just as much as anything modern technology can throw at us.

However, it was nicely ironic that my desire to blog about the whole thing was scuppered by the fact that I've had no internet access for the last four hours. "I'm reduced to actually doing useful things," Pellinor grumbled.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I said the other day (in [livejournal.com profile] muuranker's LJ) that I couldn't remember much about what history I studied at junior school. Today, though, I was doing some work in a school library, and came across RJ Unstead's From Cavemen to Vikings, and I remembered it intensely. While I may not be good at remembering faces, I have very strong visual memories of the books I read when I was young, and just a quick glimpse of once-familiar pictures can evoke a whole raft of other memories and impressions from the time.

Most of those memories come from books I read by choice - those blue-spined Ladybird books about famous people, for example, or those chunky purple-spined books on kings and queens that I borrowed from the adult library, and books on the history of costume illustrated by... agh. famous illustrator. can't remember name. aargh. [EDIT: Ah yes. Victor Ambrus. Maybe it wasn't a series, but I clearly remember certain pictures] - but some clearly come from school books. I can remember Singing Together song books - both the visuals and many of the songs - and I have a very vague impressionistic memory of a series of work books that we had to fill in, but can't remember the title. I can clearly remember the visual layout reading test we did every year, with idiosyncrasy as the final word, and I can still picture Peter and Jane and their dog.

Since we had to cover all our textbooks at secondary school, my memories of textbooks from those times are of the various old wallpapers and re-used wrapping papers that I used to do it with. I have no memories therefore of titles or covers, but I suppose I would recognise the inside if I came across it one day.

What I really can't remember at the moment, though, is what books we used at Primary School to learn about countries of the world. This is now annoying me.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I've just been thinking about the power of rhyming text. When reading aloud to groups of young children, I tend to avoid stories in rhyme. This isn't because I think they're bad. Although a depressing number are written in such awful, badly-scanned verse that they're pretty much unreadable, some are excellent. However, I like to depart from the text, whether to add extra lines to clarify what's happening, to draw their attention to things in the pictures, or to invite audience participation, and a rhyming text doesn't lend itself to this approach.

However, when I look back at my own early childhood, it's the verse that sticks; it's the verse that wriggled its way into my memory and provided those enduring quotes and frames of reference. I was brought up with nursery rhymes, and still know them and still quote them. I can still recite bits and pieces from numerous of A.A. Milne's poems, and quotes sneak into my daily conversation. ("It's a beautiful blue, but it hasn't a hood." "One got better and the other got wuss." "Delphiniums blue and geraniums red.") Robert Louis Stevenson's children's verse is similar, though I think I encountered it a year or two later, and the associations aren't quite so strong.

While I'm sure I borrowed numerous books from the library before the age of 5, it's the verse of "My cat likes to hide in boxes" that I can still quote, and which inspires the strongest flash of formless images. Verse is like music and smells in being able to take me instantly back to the feeling of a past time. The rhythms of my childhood were written by A.A. Milne and Rudyard Kipling, who at times in the Just So Stories is pretty much writing in verse. ("Up jumped dingo, yellow dog dingo, always hungry, grinning like a rat-trap." "The great grey-green greasy Limpopo river, all set about with fever trees." "Can't curl and can swim: slow and solid, that's him.")

And they were written just as much by the nameless writers of a series of Ladybird books, that, being illustrated in full colour on every page, probably take me back to my early childhood more than anything else, since the memory is visual and tactile as well as aural. "Summer holidays had started, Pen and Gwen were sleeping late…" Smoke and Fluff. Lost at the Fair. Ah, happy memories.

Note: All quotes from from 30 year-old memory, and deliberately not checked. Quotes have a habit of straying from the original. It always amuses me how many famous quotations don't actually appear in the original exactly in the way that everyone thinks they do.
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It sometimes seems to me that being an adult is one long story of forgetting things. I'm forever finding myself saying, "I used to know that." Do I really know less than I did, I wonder, or am I more aware of forgotten things than of new things I have learnt?

The latest thing to remind me of this is an orchid. A sea of orchids, to be exact. An enormous ocean of literally thousands of common spotted orchids (I had to look that up) which has taken over the cemetery next to where I work. As I wandered through the flower-strewn graves, I thought about how country walks are now more about saying "I used to know what that flower was called" than about knowing them.

Wild flowers and forgotten memories )

Folk tales

Feb. 4th, 2009 01:33 pm
ladyofastolat: (Library lady)
I've got to do a whole morning of storytelling next week in a school, in which all my stories must be folk tales from around the world. Whenever I'm asked to do this, my heart sinks, because it's just so hard to find folk tale retellings that will delight an entire class of over-excited primary school children. I often wonder why this is. Many of these tales were passed on orally, but a lot of the retellings are very wordy and literary and don't lend themselves well to reading aloud. While they might work very well on a one-to-one basis, reading to a mixed ability class is very different, in that you have to aim for the lowest common denominator. The children don't know me, and are less inclined to be thoughtful and reflective than they are with their teacher. They're excited, and they respond best to stories with lots of noise, humour and actions. It is just so hard to find traditional tales that work well.

The search did, though, make me muse nostalgically about my own favourite traditional tales from my childhood. Nostalgia about traditional tales )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Off work sick, and feeling floppy and bleurgh, so I've been pottering around on a bit of old-style Baldur's Gate, and now it's meme time. This one's courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] philmophlegm.

One thing these book memes always reveal to me is just how little I've read over the last ten years or so, ever since the Internet started eating up so much of my time. For the last few years, I've read almost nothing but non-fiction (popular science, mostly) and my fiction needs have come from fanfic. On the original list of 100 books that was doing the rounds a few days ago, I had read about two thirds, but almost all of those were read (by choice) before I was 18, when I devoured classics and historical novels. Since my core reading years were before I was 18, and since historical novels were my genre of choice then, I managed to miss out a lot of the classics of sf and fantasy.

[livejournal.com profile] philmophlegm's rules:

1) Look at the list, copy and paste it into your own journal.
2) Mark those you have read however you want.
3) Feel free to tell your friends what you thought of them.

My addition:
4) Ramble at great length about anything you feel like rambling about.

Genre book meme )
ladyofastolat: (Library lady)
I was quite ridiculously excited and nostalgia-full when I was opening a backlog of uninteresting-looking post, and found that one of them contained the first issue of the relaunched Puffin Post. I don't have many clear memories of that magazine, but I have a lot of vague emotional ones, all of them involving pleasure. (Actually, the clearest memory I have doesn't involve any of the articles, but was a competition to win by Commodore 64 by drawing a picture of a wizard. I entered, but didn't win. The prospect of a Commodore 64 was exciting, since my Dad's VIC-20 didn't have enough memory to run the text-based adventure games that I wanted to play. 64K was unheard-of riches.)

Anyway, I've not actually read the magazine yet, but just wanted to report on the excitement. I literally jumped up and down with glee when I opened the envelope. This surprised me.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I see that Blue Peter is about to celebrate its 50th birthday, and is officially the longest-running children's TV programme in the world. I've just spent a journey across the island trying to remember as much as I can about the children's TV of my youth. I have very deliberately not checked any of this on the Internet - partly because I'm sure that the filter wouldn't like it, and partly because it's fun to see how much I can remember off the top of my head. Actually, it used to be my theory that when two or three are gathered together, all of the same age, they will reminisce about children's television, so I'm proving that it works even when only one is gathered together.

Nostalgic meanderings )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
When I'm 99 years old and living on the moon, I bet I will still feel a little spark of recognition and significance when I notice the clock reading 11.21

*considers adding explanation for those not in the know*

*decides against*

*smiles mischievously*

EDIT: Apparently nowadays a time of 11.21 indicates that you're about to get up, leave the computer... and stand on a dead mouse. :-(


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