Friday, 28 February 2020

Fairy Tale Friday--Cindy (made for TV, 1978)

 Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

This week we look at a 1978 made for television film of Cinderella entitled Cindy that features an entirely African-American cast. It was directed by William A. Graham, and  is an urbanised retelling of Cinderella set in Harlem after World war II.
Image result for cindy 1978
It boasts an exceptional cast with Nell Carter (known for the sitcom Gimme a Break and so much more) and Alaina Reed Hall (who played Gordon’s younger sister Olivia on Sesame Street for many years) as the spoiled stepsisters. The title character of Cindy played by Charlayne Woodard was a marvellous wide-eyed character full of childlike joy and wonder. I kept thinking she looked familiar. She was Tituba in that fairly dreadful adaptation of The Crucible with Daniel Day Lewis and Winona Ryder, but she was terrific in both the film Unbreakable and Glass as the mother of  Elijah.

Interestingly, both Charlayne Woodard and Nell Carter were in the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ on Broadway. Both were nominated for a Tony as Best featured Actress in a musical, but the award went to Nell Carter.

I watched this film today (hence why this post is so late going out) and I really enjoyed it. The musical numbers were good albeit a bit strange. There is this New Orleans style jazz band that just pops up everywhere like through their apartment window or out of a cubicle in the hotel men’s room. But if you suspend your disbelief and just go with it, it is a very enjoyable ride. I also laughed out loud with a snort several times.

There was no handy summary of the film to fall back on so I have taken notes throughout the film.

After the war Cindy has moved from the south to live in Harlem with her newly blended family. Her father has married a woman with two grown daughters and has neglected to tell her that not only was he married before, but he also has a grown daughter whom he would like to live with them. He also makes the mistake of saying, “She makes your two daughters look like dog meat” which clearly doesn’t help his case.

The stepmother is not pleased and says if she’d have known she wouldn’t have married him, and he replies that is precisely why he didn’t tell her.  She says that even though he has a good job as a hotel doorman at the Plaza, it is not enough to feed another mouth. I liked this because often we see a father allowing his daughter to be neglected and abused and you don’t know why. Here you see how henpecked he is with his hat in hand shuffling nervously. There is a very good reason for him to be nervous which we will discuss in a bit.

Cindy is seen jumping rope with some neighbourhood children on the street in a white pinafore dress and shabby worn out white Keds shoes. She has a childlike exuberance that makes her seem like a good person. We see them in various day to day scenes where the stepmother and sisters are abusive, and the father won’t stand up to his domineering wife.

There is a hilarious scene in church. The father warns her they are not in the south anymore. This is no Baptist church but an Episcopal one. He tells her that she can’t look like she enjoys it so much and should only amen if they ask you to. But as the hymn is sung slow and dreary, she gets the Holy Spirit and can’t hold it in any longer. She sings and dances up and down the aisle and gets the church to join in with some soul but it puts her in the doghouse with her stepmother.

There is a dance called the Sugarhill Ball coming up and she really wants to go. She is out on the fire escape singing and cleaning the ironwork when she meets Michael who is sleeping on the fire escape of the next building(it’s wartime and there is a housing shortage). He is a draft dodger who works as a chauffeur to the biggest blackmarketeer in Harlem. He explains that he is happy being a coward because cowards don’t fight or start wars.

The stepmother has made new dresses for her spoiled daughters (who are seen to repeatedly play tricks on the stepfather) but she refuses to make a dress for Cindy. Her father vows to go out and make enough money to buy her a dress for the ball that night. She thinks he can do it as he is the doorman of the Plaza hotel. But in reality, he is the men’s room attendant who dreams of a better career and a fancy red jacket with gold braid on it. He works hard all day with no break trying to get lots of quarter tips to have enough money to buy his daughter a dress.

Back at the house the stepmother and sisters are getting ready for the dance. Cindy wasn’t able to “pad both their brassieres” because they only had one box of Kleenex and she casually remarks she can’t wait to be fat enough to wear a girdle which makes them mad. She asks about what the Sugarhill Ball will be like and they break into song with the jazz band coming in through the window from the fire escape. This is an amazing number full of scat and fast wordplay.

The father returns home dejected because he didn’t earn enough money to buy her a dress. Cindy bears it bravely while her sisters laugh. The father refuses to go to the ball without Cindy and decides to stay home and get drunk.

Michael (acting as magical helper here)shows up in his chauffeur's uniform which looks like a military uniform and invites her to the ball. He presents her with a beautiful dress. She says her mama always told her to never accept expensive gifts from men, but he replies that he stole it. She is outraged shouting, “What’s wrong wichoo?” But he explains it belongs to his boss’s wife and he just borrowed it for a few hours. His boss and his wife will be home at 12:30 so they have to get the dress back by midnight. She changes clothes in the back of his car and he acts like a gentleman by handing his hat on the rear view mirror so he won’t see her undressed.

The party is a hopping one and there are some funny antics with one of the stepsisters Kleenex coming out of her bra and her pretending to dab sweat off her brow to cover up her stuffing coming out.

Decorated war vet marine captain Joe Prince takes the stage as Cindy arrives. We see her lift her dress to climb the stairs and we realise she still has her white bobby socks and raggedy Keds sneakers underneath. Joe Prince makes his way around the room dancing with all the ladies, but really takes a shine to Cindy. He takes his distinguished service cross and tries to give it to her, but she refuses. At midnight she runs away leaving her dirty sneaker behind. Michael is afraid they won’t make it back in time and he will get fired, but they make it back safely.

Joe Prince employs a Private Investigator to find out who the sneaker belongs to. He visits every woman in Harlem to have every woman try it on which leads to a hilarious montage of trying on the sneaker. One of the stepsisters tries to use Vaseline to slide her foot in and the other rolls off the chair trying to jam her foot into it. Outside their house the PI runs into Michael who recognises the sneaker but is reluctant to give away Cindy’s details. The PI says that Joe Price is a fine upstanding soldier that“The Japanese think it is an honour to be killed by him,” but Michael feels he is equally worthy for her despite being poorer and a draft dodger.

We then see the stepmother take a taxi to the Plaza Hotel where she is shocked to find out that her husband has lied about his job. She storms into the men’s room to give him what for and he responds by standing up for himself in a jazzy song about he may only be a men’s room attendant, but he is the best one out there. Then the jazz band saunters out of a bathroom stall while white men pop up and sing over their cubicle doors.

They go home and find out that the rich Joe Prince wants to marry Cindy and then sugar wouldn’t melt in their mouths. Cindy goes out on the fire escape and finds out that Michael was fired for borrowing the dress and he is now enlisting. Joe Prince joins them on the fire escape and remarks “Why what a beautiful view. You can see all the way to the end of the alley.” Then he says something so bizarre—“I don’t really have a way with words as I am just a common leatherneck. But there is no one I would be prouder to have as my widow than you.” She asks to think it over and he says that there is no time for deliberation as he has a photographer waiting. He starts singing at her about how she shouldn’t say no (with the jazz band shown on the fire escape above), but she climbs down the fire escape and tracks down Michael who is at the recruitment office.

She finds him there and professes her love saying, “I’d rather starve with you than live in a palace with that captain.” The military man turns on a portable fan so the flag will wave while the jazz band just casually walks in on the swearing in ceremony and nobody seems to notice. Michael is sworn into the military and they vow to write six letters a day and they leave—him to go to basic training and her skipping away with him to see him off at the train station and then presumably to go home and have to face her family. I worried greatly at this point that her greedy, selfish family (which includes her father) would be horrible to her for turning down a rich offer for a true love match, but a Military Policeman comes out of the building and assures me that everyone (and I mean EVERYONE he barks) lived happily ever after.

It ends with an epilogue where you see what happened to everyone:

Cindy’s father finally gets promoted to doorman and gets to wear a red coat with shiny gold trim.

The stepsisters became famous as tag-team women’s wrestlers.

The detective ended up opening a shoe store and got to put shoes on pretty women’s feet forever.

Joe Prince spent the years after the war posing for recruiting statues.

The stepmother became a happy step-grandmother when Michael and Cindy had a baby girl.

Michael was the happiest of all—he got the girl.

It ends with Cindy singing about how she got everything she wanted—to be loved.

This film is well worth watching. You can watch it here:

Stay tuned for the last two weeks of Fairy Tale Friday Cinderella as we look the Disney versions.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

What We Ate Wednesday--German Chocolate Cake Treats

Hello lovelies! Since last week was the anniversary of our first date where I ate all the German Chocolate Cake (No, really. And he still married me) I thought it would be fun to make some German Chocolate cake flavoured treats.

So what so you need for German Chocolate Cake flavour? Pecans. Toasted coconut. Caramel. Chocolate. Those are the hallmarks of a GCC. 

So I splurged on some pecans (they cost over £3 for 200g) and bought some coconut from our zero waste shop The Green Scoop (no packaging!) and used dates for the caramel and cocoa powder for the chocolate that I already had. I threw in oats for a cake flavour and some vanilla and salt. 

There will not be a picture of these luscious treats as no matter how good they taste (and they taste *really* good) they look like something a dung beetle has just rolled up. So here is a photo of some German Chocolate Cake instead. 
This recipe calls for toasted coconut. Which feels like this when you are toasting it:

Me: (Shakes the pan) Hurry up. It's been ages. (Stirs the coconut) Come on...hurry up and toast. (shakes pan again) OH FOR FRITH'S SAKE WILL YOU....oh wait! Nevermind. it's toasted.

German Chocolate Cake Treats

1 cup of pecans
1 cup of toasted unsweetened desiccated coconut (see instructions below)
1/2 cup (GF) oats
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
pinch salt
1 cup soft sticky dates (soaked in hot water if your dates are dry)
a few TB water if it needs it

1. First toast your coconut. 

Toasted Coconut:

Toast in a dry frying pan over medium heat stirring and shaking the pan frequently until the coconut browns. Incidentally, toasted coconut tastes smashing on top of a vanilla cake. It will seem like ages with nothing happening but do not leave it unattended as it goes from white to brown in a matter of moments once it finally gets hot enough. When brown, set aside. If you are not making this right away, decant into another container to cool as it will continue to brown in your hot pan. 

2. Add all your dry ingredients into your food processor and blend until broken down. You can leave it a bit chunky for texture if you like. 

3. Add the dates and vanilla and blend again. Stop and scrape it down and see if it is sticking together enough to roll into balls. If not, add a TB water and blend again until it sticks together.

4. Roll into balls and store in the fridge. Mine made 16 walnut sized GCC balls. 

This was lovely to get all the flavours of GCC but less faff and sugar and fat. 

Friday, 21 February 2020

Fairy Tale Friday--Cinderfella (Jerry Lewis, 1960)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.
This week we look at a 1960 comedy film starring Jerry Lewis entitled Cinderfella. I will be the first to admit I am not a fan of Jerry Lewis and his gurning schtick, but this had some charming moments. Ed Wynn plays his Fairy Godfather in that daft other-worldly way that only he can. Has anyone ever seen a film where Ed Wynn was anything but weird? 

This is a role reversal story starring Lewis as Fella that features most of the hallmarks of a traditional Cinderella tale.

Wikipedia summarises it like this:

When Fella's  father dies, he continues to live with his wicked stepmother, Emily, and her two sons, Maximilian and Rupert. His stepfamily takes over the family mansion, while Fella is reduced to living in an unfinished room at the end of a long hallway. He has in essence become their butler, catering to their every whim.

Note: This scene shows Fella as a slightly awkward, possibly dyspraxic, earnest fellow who tries but fails to light his stepbrother's cigarette.

Fella dreams nightly that his father is trying to relay a message to him about where he has hidden his fortune, but he always awakens before he learns the hiding place. His stepfamily knows of this secret fortune and some go to great lengths to discover its whereabouts, while others pretend to befriend him in order to wrangle Fella's fortune away once it is found.

Princess Charming of the Grand Duchy of Morovia is in town, so the stepmother decides to throw her a lavish ball in order to get her to marry one of the sons. Fella is not allowed to go to the ball, but his fairy godfather says he will not remain a "people" much longer, but will blossom into a "person." His fairy godfather also says that Fella will bring right to the men and will make wives stop looking for their Prince Charming because there was only one.

Note: Here we have Ed Wynn doing his trademark squeaky voice and quirky personality. it also shows, like in other versions, that our protagonist is humble and kind. 

Before the ball, Fella is turned into a handsome prince. Count Basie's orchestra is playing at the ball when Fella makes his grand entrance. The young man quickly gains the attention of the Princess and they dance.

Note: Here we see a very loose-limbed Jerry Lewis do a floppy sort of dance to Count Basie's Orchestra which attracts the attention of the princess.

 The night is cut short when midnight strikes and Fella flees, losing his shoe along the way.

Note: This energentic dash up the stairs like a rocket actually gave Jerry Lewis a heart attack. 

Wikipedia reports:
The scene was shot with one take of Jerry Lewis going down the stairs and one take going up. He ran up the stairs in less than nine seconds and collapsed at the top. He was taken to the hospital and spent four days in an oxygen tent with his second cardiac event. This delayed filming for two weeks.

Back to the story: 
Back home, one of Fella's stepbrothers realizes that Fella is the supposed "prince." They wind up in a struggle under a tree, in the process discovering that this is where Fella's father's fortune is hidden. Fella gives the money to his stepfamily, saying he never needed money to be happy, he only wanted a family. Shamed, his stepmother orders her sons to return the money to Fella.

The Princess arrives with Fella's lost shoe, but Fella explains that they could never be together because she is a "person" and he is a "people." She tells him that, underneath the fancy clothes, she is a "people" too.

Note: Sadly, I cannot find a separate clip for this, but you can watch the whole film in the link below. The scene in question where they meet and talk about her being people too starts at 1:08. Interestingly, she is dressed in a lavish red dress with long sleeves, fur trim and high heels. As they start to argue where he says he is ordinary and she is special, she rips her clothes--pulling off her sleeves and fur trim, breaking the heels off her shoes to make them flats (it doesn't really work that way, but still) until she is wearing an ordinary red dress. 

I think the one interesting thing to take away from this is that rarely do we see Cinderella have an inferiority complex about the fact that she is not good enough for the prince like we see here. He has real doubts but she makes a speech much like the one at the end of Notting Hill about being a girl standing in front of boy trying to get him to love her and it works. 

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a tale with more colour. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

What We Ate Wednesday--Savoury Cheesy Snackles

Hello lovelies! Regular readers will notice that I skipped last week's post. We had just come back from the epic holiday and we hadn't eaten anything new or worth blogging about so I felt there was nothing to say.

This week I want to share a savoury snack recipe. Whether you call them bliss balls, energy balls or whatever new, hip term there is out there--balls are all the rage. I love me some ball shaped snacks. They are portion sized and travel well. You only need one or two to feel like you have gotten a treat. Plus, I just laugh every time I say the word balls because I am secretly a twelve year old boy inside a fifty year old woman.

Mostly they are sweet because they rely on dates to hold them together. But every now and again I like to try to make a savoury one. This one has sunflower and pumpkin seeds and the glue that holds it together is tahini (sesame seed paste). It also is rolled in a cheesy powder that reminded me of Dorito Dust but without boatloads of salt and MSG.

It makes a nice change from the sweet ones. I crumbled two on a salad and it was delicious.

Savoury Cheesy Snackles
1/2 cup (GF) oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
pinch of salt (optional)
3 TB tahini
2 TB Dorito Dust (see recipe below)
1 TB tamari or soy sauce (optional for an even  more savoury option...or just use water)
1-2 TB water to help it stick together

Dorito Dust
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder 

1. Mix your Dorito Dust in a container.
2. Throw the oats and seeds and salt in a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs. Add the tahini, tamari/soy sauce (or 1 TB water) and the Dorito Dust and blend until it sticks together well enough to roll into balls. If it seems dry add a bit of water 1 TB at a time and reblend until it is compacted. Don't let it get too wet.
3. Roll into balls and roll in leftover Dorito Dust to have a cheesy outer coating.

These were great for lunches and could handle being bashed about in my lunch bag.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Fairy Tale Friday--Poor Cinderella (Betty Boop 1934)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

This week we look at an animated film by Fleischer Studios starring Betty Boop. It was founded in 1921 by brothers Max Fleischer and Dave Fleischer who ran the company until it was bought by Paramount Pictures. Fleischer Studios was the chief competitor of  Walt Disney Productions in the 1930's.

Fleischer Studios characters included Koko the Clown, Betty Boop, Bimbo, Popeye the Sailor, and Superman. While other studios used anthropomorphic animals, the Fleischers used mostly humans as their main characters.
Image result for betty boop cinderella
This animated short film starring Betty Boop was made in 1934 and was the first colour film by the Fleischer Brothers.

It is interesting to note that having only seen Betty Boop in black and white, I was surprised to see that they have made her a redhead.

According to Wikipedia:

Cinderella (portrayed by Betty Boop) is a poor young woman forced to be the virtual slave of her two ugly stepsisters, who demand she prepare them for the prince's ball while she is left at home to lament her spinsterdom, singing that no one loves her and that her only respite is her dreams, but she holds out hope of being a real princess someday. 
NOTE: She has a brief creepy dance with a broom that reminded me of the walking brooms from  The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The stepsisters are made ugly by large flat feet and rubbery arms with wide shoulders and flat chests.  Cinderella may be wearing rags with patches, but she also manages to do all her work in high heels. There is a great visual montage of Cinderella inside a clock with Roman numerals doing all the cleaning to show the passage of time.  
Image result for betty boop cinderella
 Cinderella is visited by her fairy godmother, who grants her wish to attend the prince's ball, giving her beautiful clothes, a carriage, and the traditional glass slippers, with the warning that she must leave by midnight before the spell expires.
Note: Her fairy godmother appears from a sputtering candle flame. She also magics a lace handkerchief so Cinderella can blow her nose. She asks for a pumpkin, six mice and two lizards who then dance around the drawing room singing with creepily human teeth. Even the pumpkin is glad to be part of the transformation to our help our kind protagonist and a jack-o-lantern face appears and sings in a bass voice that he narrowly escaped being pumpkin pie. The fairy godmother waves her wand and Cinderella’s ragged dress gets shorter and shorter until it disappears. She is left in her ruffled pantaloons which also disappear making this rather racy as she stands in tiny cartoon frilly knickers. A garter and corset magically appear as well as a beautiful dress.

During the ball, Prince Charming, provoked by a mallet-wielding Cupid, descends the staircase in royal fashion and is instantly smitten by Cinderella. 
NOTE: After being brained with a mallet, he slides down the stairs to the tune of a swanee whistle. Also, everyone else appears to be cardboard cutouts in the background. I know that this is an animation time saving technique, but it sort of gives the effect that they feel like they are the only two people in the room. Then  a caricature of Rudy Vallee serenades them.

The two have a wonderful time dancing together, but when midnight strikes, she rushes out of the ball, leaving behind her shoe.
NOTE: The ballroom must be on the top floor of the palace as she has to descend several flights of stairs to get out the door. She runs into a mirror she thinks is a hallway then slides down the banister to get out.

The prince proclaims that whoever can fit her foot into the shoe shall be his wife; all the maidens in the land line up to try, with none in the queue able to fit until Cinderella arrives and fits into the shoe easily. 
NOTE: It is interesting to note that everyone else seems like they are in a different historical period than she is. They all have big powered white wigs and she has flapper hair and a shorter dress. 
Also the way they try on the shoe is unusual. Instead of the shoe being put on the stationary foot, the shoe remains on a pillow and an assembly line of women try their foot in the stationary shoe.

The two are married, and the ugly stepsisters are left to argue with each other until the end title's doors smack their heads together. 
NOTE: In the wedding carriage, the prince is *definitely* wearing blue eyeshadow and mascara.

This is an interesting film that is slightly risqué with the near nudity of Betty Boop. Watch it here:

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a comic reversal.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

The Epic Holiday part the last-- home with a slight detour

After the perfect holiday with stunningly bright and beautiful weather we were at last on our way home.

We had really lucked out on the transportation front. The hotel had suggested we contact Paul as he was an independent taxi driver from a local village.  Paul drove us on our fossil and fall as well as albatross days out and we really hit it off. He took a shine to us and asked if we would like a tour of his village before he drove us to the station on Friday,  so of course we said yes.

The next day he picked us up early and drove us to the delightful village of Hinton Saint George.  We got to see his beautiful garden with his 400 year old oak tree and then we got a tour of the village church.  There was a beautiful carved wooden cover to the baptismal font with a Celtic cross.

There was a wonderful stained glass window with St Francis and the animals. This picture doesn't do it justice.

We then drove to his local pub The Lord Poulett Arms which he adored. He told us all about how the village was like a family and the pub had themed food nights and everyone all came out to meet up there. The village sounded like such a warm, close community.

The pub had some interesting iron keys as part of the decor above the bar.

It also had this great metal poster of Lillie Langtry.

And out the back in the garden this green man sculpture.

All too soon it was time to be on our way.  Paul drove us to the station and we boarded the train for home.

It had been a wonderful experience.  We did some bucket list stuff and made a new friend in Paul the Taxi as he was known in his village.  But it was good to be home.

Because as Dorothy says in the Wizard of Oz "There's no place like home!" Speaking of...we also found two more illustrated Oz books for my collection.  Bonus!

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

The Epic Holiday part the fourth-- Albatross!

This is a day I have dreamed of for years. In 2013 our friend Chris was talking to us about his book The Dead Men Stood Together which is a prose retelling of The Rime of  the Ancient Mariner told from the point of view of the cabin boy. It's a great book by the way - you should totally read it.

Anyway, he casually said, "Have you ever been to Watchet? It's where Coleridge wrote the Ancient Mariner.  There is a statue of the Mariner with the albatross around his neck by the harbour. Oh and you can stand in the forest and hear the sea." This offhand comment lodged in my heart and I have thought of it often. Today we got to make that dream come true.

We took a very long taxi ride with our delightful taxi man to the town of Watchet (which is just fun to say as it sounds like "Watch it!" ) and the first thing we saw in the harbour was this beautiful statue:

Here are some close ups of the statue.  Look at the rope around his neck like a noose. Look at how big the albatross is. Much bigger than I always pictured them. Look at his finger on the trigger of the crossbow. I could not decide if it was with revulsion that he held it with merely one finger like he could not bear to touch it or was it his itchy trigger finger? Look at me with the Mariner holding our signed copy of The Dead Men Stood Together.

Here is the sign below the statue. 

We then walked around the harbour and looked out across the rocks at the sea. 

Next we walked walked up the incredibly steep coastal path and Chris was right. You were surrounded by trees and could hear the sea. It was glorious. We got to the top and could see for miles over the sea. We sat down and had a picnic of peanut butter on oat cakes with packets of strawberry jam we snicked from breakfast along with bananas we also liberated from the restaurant.  

We sat on the green  grass in the bright glare of the sunshine and talked about Coleridge.  We go way back, us and Mr C. On the night we first met we talked about the Romantic Poets.  I liked Wordsworth (who will forever be known as Turdsworth to us), he liked Keats and Shelley but we both loved Coleridge.  We spent about an hour discussing The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and quoting our favourite lines to each other. Because we were geeks even then. 

Have you ever looked at Coleridge? Bless his heart, his most famous portrait makes him look a bit toady. 

See what I mean? So Spiderman said "And now The Wind in the Willows starring the Romantic Poets!"which made me laugh so hard I snorted. Then we spent a good half hour deciding who was who. This was the result:

Mr Badger-- Wordsworth
Mole-- Keats
Ratty -- Shelley
Mr Toad--Coleridge
And Byron probably thinks he is Pan but he is more like The Wayfarer the vagabond sea faring rat.

Then we headed back down the steep hill (much easier on the  way down) and had chips in a cute little cafe before our friendly taxi man arrived to drive us home.

Monday, 10 February 2020

The Epic Holiday Part the third--Fossils and the Fall of Louisa Musgrove

This was the first of our grand days out. We made arrangements with a lovely local taxi driver to take us around places as Cricket St Thomas is out in the country and public transport is not great.

Today was all about Science and Literature.  We thought it would be appropriate since our LC/MC exchange experience included both English literature with Dr Connie Douglas and the history of science with Dr Ted Snazelle.

We spent a glorious sunny day in the town of Lyme Regis on the Jurassic Coast.  The first thing we did was go to the local museum to learn about Mary Anning. Who was Mary Anning I hear you cry. Well I will tell you.

Mary Anning was a 19th century English fossil collector and paleontologist. Wikipedia says:

Mary Anning was an English fossil collector, dealer, and palaeontologist who became known around the world for important finds she made in Jurassic marine fossil beds in the cliffs along the English Channel at Lyme Regis in the county of Dorset in Southwest England. Her findings contributed to important changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth.

Her observations played a key role in the discovery that coprolites, known as bezoar stones at the time, were fossilised faeces. She also discovered that belemnite fossils contained fossilised ink sacs like those of modern cephalopods. 

It is said that the rhyme "She sells seashells by the seashore " is about her.

We walked down to St Michael the Archangel Church and saw her gravestone and the stained glass window dedicated to her. Sadly she died from breast cancer at the age of 47 and was never admitted to the Geological Society in London due to being a woman. However in 2010 the Royal Society listed her as one of the ten most influential women to influence the history of science.

We had a fantastic time learning about her and bought a small amonite fossil as a souvenir.

The view of the sea:

Then we walked down the promenade by the sea. Because Lyme Regis is known for its fossils, even the lampposts had a fossil theme.

We walked to The Cobb which features in Jane Austen's  final book Persuasion.  It is here that Louisa Musgrove made her impetuous leap and brained herself.  Jane Austen writes:

Here is me reinacting Louisa Musgrove's jump in the exact spot mentioned in the book. 

Overheard conversation while I was lying there:

Confused man: Why is she lying on the ground?
Exasperated wife: Because it's Jane Austen, dear (heavy sigh)

Then we wandered back to the the high street and found this adorable place to eat called the Aroma Cafe. It was this quirky independent cafe with lots of vegan and gluten free options.  We had savoury waffles and salad . Look how vibrant this was!

Even the toilets were beautiful!

Stay tuned tomorrow for part the fourth where walk in the footsteps of  Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

The Epic Holiday part the second--The Amble Ramble

After a very long and stressful day with lots of travel issues the day before we decided to cut our least important day trip and just rest on day two.

So we didn't go to the town of Ottery St Mary (it has the word Otter in it!!)that was the birthplace of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  But that is no big loss. There is literally nothing to do there but go to the church where Coleridge was baptized and mooch around the garden centre. It just wasn't worth it spending money on a taxi when we were tired.

So instead we wandered around the extensive gardens. There were three nature trails.

There was this cool hollowed out tree that you could stand in. We each had a go. Spiderman leaning like Jordan Catalano and me being silly. No surprise there.

There were interesting statues scattered all over the grounds.  There were several statues of children at play. The pear was made from horseshoes. 

Despite being winter, there were many beautiful green spaces like this rock garden.

There was also this cool Monkey Puzzle Tree   which makes a great tongue twister. Go on. Try it. I double dare you. 

There was this weird sculpture like a giant CD that was called "The Portal" which basically means it was a Star Gate. I attempted to climb inside and go to another dimension but was thwarted by being too short. Story of my life.

Lastly, the obligatory selfie. 

Stay tuned for a grand day out on the Jurrasic Coast tomorrow in part the third. 

Saturday, 8 February 2020

The Epic Holiday part the first -- The Bad Beginning With the Happy Ending

Hello lovelies! We're back! Did you miss us? How could you because I didn't tell you we were going!

We have been planning this epic holiday for some time to celebrate some milestones in our lives. Can you believe this month is 31 years since our first date? It also marks 30 years  since the Amazing Spiderman and I were exchange students with the LC/MC Overseas Programme. We got engaged on that trip and decided not only to get married but to somehow emigrate to the UK. On this trip we decided our future and here we are.

So as our LC/MC experience featured both English lit and science we wanted to take a holiday that covered both of of those subjects.  But more on that later.

First, how did we get there? Well,  this is where the bad beginning happened. Travel can be expensive so we were going to "around the world in 80 days" it and take a variety of  public transportations. We were supposed to catch the Megabus at 2am to take us to Bristol.  Then from Bristol we would catch a train to Salisbury then change trains and go to Crewkerne where we would get a taxi to Cricket St Thomas.  That was the plan.

What actually happened was the Megabus never showed up. That had never happened before. They are supposed to update on Twitter if a coach breaks down or is running late but there was nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Dim. This was Mega Annoying as it was bloody freezing and we waited 3 hours in the middle of the night shivering at a bus stop. So at 5am we ran to the train station and shelled out £70 for emergency train tickets to Bristol. Now we were pissed and broke. So 3 hours to Bristol, 2 hours wait in the train station then and an hour to Salisbury and another hour to Crewkerne.  By this point we (read this as me) were tired, cold, hungry and generally grouchy. I wanted nothing more than to taxi the 6 miles to Cricket St Thomas and have a nap but there were no taxis. None. We called around and all the taxi companies were busy and it was an hour before one could pick us up. So by then I was REALLY tired, cold and hungry and my back was killing me.

But then  we arrived and it was all forgotten.  Like the agony of childbirth once you see your lovely child.

We were staying at the very posh manor house that was used as the location for Grantleigh Manor in the Britcom To the Manor Born.  We were given a complimentary glass of perry cider and shown to our beautiful room in the historic manor house.

Our room was stunning. 

View from our window. 

We ate the complimentary snacks and crawled into the cloud like bed and slept until dinner time then  toddled along to the posh restaurant for our three course meal. My only complaint about the food would be there were vegan options and there were gluten free options but not much overlap. But we still found plenty to eat and the highlight was a v/gf warm brownie with a scoop of coconut based salted caramel ice cream for dessert.

And did I mention it was like Geriatric Junction? We are the youngest people here by far.

Despite a rocky start it ended up  a very happy ending . It also proves I need food and sleep to be a decent human being. Stay tuned for part 2!

Friday, 7 February 2020

Fairy Tale Friday--Laugh-o-Gram Cinderella (1922)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

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This week we look at an early animated film version of Cinderella. It was produced by the Laugh-O-Gram Studio which played an important role in early animation. It was started by none other than Walt Disney himself and many of the early pioneers of animation got there start there. In 1921, Walt Disney contracted Milton Feld to animated twelve cartoons. Of the twelve, seven were retellings of fairy tales. Of the original seven fairy tales only four survive--Little Red Riding Hood (1922), The Four Musicians of Bremen (1922), Puss in Boots (1922) and Cinderella (1922). 

This film bears all the hallmarks of early cartoons—bouncy animation and flickery camera work. It tells an interesting story. It also contains some helpful speech bubbles as well as title cards to help you understand the upcoming scene.

Cinderella has but one friend, her cat, who is seen in the opening shot helping her dry the dishes which in my opinion is unhygienic. She lives with her lazy, homely stepsisters who are seen slobbing about, reading magazines and eating bonbons.

Then we see the prince whom the caption describes as a wonderful fellow. Which he is not because he is seen on horseback with a rifle chasing a bear and shooting it in the butt repeatedly. Then it gets even more bizarre. We happen upon what can only be described as a bear jamboree where bears play jazz and do the Charleston. All the bears are having a whale of a good time until the prince arrives. He chases them into a cave where he massacres every bear at the party which I think is meant to be funny, but just made me angry.  A wonderful fellow, my ass.

Then we see an invitation to the ball bearing the curious date of “Tuesday, Friday the 13th.” The prince has his dog deliver all the invitations on a scooter (seriously, I am not making this up.)  The dog gets into a wreck (dogs should not be allowed to drive a scooter!) and is seen all bandaged up with a crutch. Some well-meaning idiot asks, “Are you hurt?” to which the dog rolls his eyes and smacks the man over the head with the crutch. Now that was funny.

The fairy godmother changes her gown into a typical flapper outfit (it is the 1920’s after all) and gives her a snazzy Model T motor car to go in as a carriage. Her cat is the driver of the car (what is it about this film that lets pets dive vehicles?) They arrive at the ball and it is love at first sight not only for her and the prince but for the cat and the dog. Together each couple cuts a rug until the dreaded midnight curfew. Interestingly, the clock shows you 10:00, 11:00 and midnight which is helpful to see the passage of time. Most stories seem to have her arrive, have one dance to fall in love and then it is time  to high-tail it out of there.

She runs away and loses a shoe and then it gets weird. The next day the prince follows what he thinks are her footprints. He and the dog crawl along the street looking at the shoe prints with a magnifying glass, but alas! It is not her footprints, but rather a surly ducky wearing shoes. I told you it got weird.

We see the two stepsisters and Cinderella sitting outside under a tree when the prince and his dog approach. Her cat immediately pulls the dog behind the tree to make out while the prince tries the shoe on everyone. After the second sister tries it on, he turns around and exclaims, “Ah! You!” and everyone (the cat and the dog, the prince and the Cindergirl) live happily ever after.

You can watch it here:

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a Betty Boop Cinderella.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

What We Ate Wednesday--Kale, Lentil and Lemon Soup

Hello lovelies! I have long been a fan of poverty campaigner and chef Jack Monroe. Her meals prove you don't need expensive ingredients to make a healthy meal. I have recently discovered the fact that you can follow her on Facebook which means recipes pop up on my feed, I get inspired and then we make them.

Or rather we adapt them. Can I ever follow a recipe just like it says, Spiderman wonders to himself.

No. No I  can't. 

I did use fresh lemons where she uses bottled lemons because I had some, but if you don't use 1/4 cup lemon juice. Also I used kale instead of spinach because...kale. 

Find here recipe here: JACK MONROE'S RECIPE

Kale, Lentil and Lemon Soup

1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup  dried red lentils
1 litre vegetable stock
1 tsp turmeric
zest and juice of 2 lemons
a pinch or more of red pepper flakes
100 g kale, de-stemmed and torn into bite sized pieces
Smoked paprika for serving

1. Cook your onion and garlic in a splash of water or oil until softened.
2. Rinse the lentils in a sieve and tip them into the pan, followed by the stock and the turmeric and chilli flakes, then stir gently. Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Grate the zest from the lemons and squeeze out the juice. Stir the lemon zest, juice, and the kale into the soup. Cook for a few minutes until kale softens.
4. Ladle into bowls and top with a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

I might even throw in an extra 1/4 cup lentils the next time just to give it more staying power, but the lemon was lovely and bright and contrasted well with the earthiness of the kale and the smokiness of the paprika.