Saturday, 18 February 2012

#Sherlock - a few thoughts

As something of a Sherlock Holmes aficionado, I am often wary of new television or film adaptations.  As such, I am only just getting around to watching the BBC television series Sherlock (created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) which has received so much attention in the media.

Having only seen the first two episodes of the first series, I don't feel I'm really qualified to write a review.  I am, however, going to write a few thoughts on the subject - which explains the title of this Blog post.

I will start with some positives…  The acting is superb.  I think Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Holmes, in particular, is spot on; eccentric, arrogant, detached, and alternating between frenzied activity and all-consuming lethargy - just as Conan Doyle wrote the character.  Martin Freeman also makes an excellent Dr Watson, and works very well playing the part opposite Cumberbatch's Holmes.

In general, I feel the production works well (although I am yet to make up my mind quite how I feel about the letters-on-the-screen effects, where Holmes' thoughts appear as graphics, seemingly floating in mid-air) and the "modernisation" of the stories isn't grating on me anywhere near as much as I thought it would.  The action is fast-paced and intense, keeping the viewer interested, but without distracting him from the cleverness of the plot lines.

Overall, I have so far found them enjoyable to watch, interesting and exciting.

However, there are also some negatives…  It has been difficult to get used to the use of first names in dialogue between Holmes and Watson.  This may seem like a small point, but being so used to the more formal style of address, in the books, it is proving something of a sticking point, for me.  I hope I will be able to get used to it as the series go on, but for the time being it is still a surprise for me to hear these characters address each other in this fashion.

My main gripe with this adaptation, though, is the increased involvement of certain minor characters.  I didn't like the introduction of Holmes' brother Mycroft so early on in the series, for example, nor the way he was portrayed.  Conan Doyle's Mycroft is a recluse - a founding member of the eccentric Diogenes Club, with even greater powers of observation and deduction than his brother, but with none of the passion or energy for turning those talents to the purpose of solving crime.  He is first introduced in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, and he appears again in The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans and The Adventure of the Empty House, as well as playing a minor role driving a cab in The Adventure of the Final Problem.  His increased involvement in this adaptation seems wrong, to me, and I didn't agree with the way he was played.

The worst example of this, however, is in the case of Moriarty.  I suppose it is an easy mistake to make, but Moriarty is not a major character in the Conan Doyle stories.  Criminal mastermind and Holmes' arch-enemy he may be, but he is only ever involved in a few of the many cases tacked by Sherlock Holmes, and chronicled by Dr Watson.  To try and link him in with every case and every crime, as the writers of Sherlock are trying to do, seems irrelevant and facile - the links are tenuous, and it feels as though he is just being shoehorned into an already perfectly good storyline, just for the sake of it.

As I said, I have enjoyed watching the first couple of episodes, and I am looking forward to seeing the rest.  I find them exciting and engaging adaptations, and much of the spirit of the original stories has been captured by the makers.  I hope that I can get used to the minor issue of the use of first names, and cease to be irked by them - however, I cannot foresee that I will be able to stop being infuriated by the unnecessary inclusion of Moriarty, and I can only hope that, as the series goes on, this flaw doesn't ruin the otherwise pleasurable viewing experience for me.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's Day menu, 2012

Pan-fried ribeye steak with coarsely chopped red onions, with a blue cheese and brandy pouring sauce.

Served with homemade potato and sweet potato chips and a large flat mushroom, topped with Colston Bassett Stilton and toasted breadcrumbs.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Meals on wheels

A little while ago, I posted this picture on Facebook, showing how a Sainsbury's "Taste The Difference" BLT sandwich fits perfectly in the CD holder of my Mondeo.

As this image included all of the manliest things in the world in one place (cars, bacon, and DIY) it garnered quite a lot of interest, and ended up with quite a few comments and "likes".  One of those comments asked me for advice on eating sandwiches in the car, and I am planning to give a few tips on this topic, based on my experiences of eating in the car, now.

Tip one.  Choose carefully:

Choose a filling which is conducive to being consumed in the car.  Remember that you will only be able to hold this sandwich with one hand, so it is important that your filling isn't just going to fall out as soon as you take it out of the packet.  Mayonnaise, or some similar condiment typical in sandwiches, is good, as it acts as an adhesive, to keep your filling where it ought to be.  (But too much will drip, and cause a terrible mess - so be careful when making your selection!)

Despite featuring in the picture that triggered this whole thing, tomatoes are not always a good choice, because the centres are wont to go everywhere, unless you catch the whole thing at once.

Any filling that comes in lots of little bits is not usually a good idea.  So, choose cheese slices over grated cheese, as it will be much easier to control with just one hand.

Tip two.  Eat inwards:

Most shop-bought (or petrol station-bought) sandwiches come in the form of large triangles.  Like this -

If you're holding the sandwich at the base (in this diagram, the top point) it's the corners where you're most vulnerable to losing filling.  So, you should get rid of them first, thus -

With the corners gone, eat from the top of the sandwich in towards the point at the base, where you are holding it.

Tip three.  Eat quickly:

Dawdling over your sandwich will not help.  Take large bites, and get rid of it quickly.  Don't fret too much about table manners - you're in the car.

I hope that has helped all you car-eaters out there!  If not, fire me your questions in the comments, and I'll see if I can help.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Pimp my pizza

So, this evening, I cooked a pizza. A standard, ready-made pizza from Sainsbury's - you stick it in the oven for twelve minutes, then consume with ravenous abandon - you know the type.

Ten minutes after eating the pizza, I realised I was still hungry. (If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know this isn't as uncommon as it probably ought to be.) Remembering there was another, identical pizza in the fridge, I decided to cook that one as well.

The prospect of another eight slices of margarita, however, seemed somewhat dull, so I decided to "pimp out" the Sainsbury's pizza with a few additions of my own.

I sliced some mushrooms and onions that I found in the fridge, and added those to basis Sainsbury's had provided, along with some chunks of Stilton cheese.

After another twelve minutes, my creation was ready to eat.

Apart from using the phrase "pimped out" (eugh!) I was actually rather proud of myself!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

#Snow again

There is the finest layer of snow on the ground - more confectionery than weather, in appearance.  Not enough snow to have any significance, really.

These days, I am less enamoured of snow than I used to be.  I think it's a natural process, that we stop being amazed by the things around us, as we get older.  Things which used to be wondrous and exciting now seem mundane, or even irksome.

Snow seems to underline this, in a particular way, though.

I am comfortable with the idea that snow doesn't seem as exciting a prospect for me now as it did, say, six years ago.  What worries me is the idea that I might have reached that stage prematurely.

To think that I wake up to snowfall in the morning, and all I feel is worried - about traffic disruption, or about losing work opportunities as a result of the weather - is not, in itself, an alarming thing.  But when I realise that there are people five or six years older than I am who wake up to snow still feeling the excitement I remember from childhood I fear that I have aged too quickly.