Friday, March 31, 2006

Dock of the Bay

Friday evening is a good time to take a drive down the sea road to Victorian Simon's Town, its whitewashed walls gleaming in the late sun, and buy the best fish and chips in Cape Town at The Salty Seadog on the Waterfront. Then take a stroll out to the end of the jetty and watch the dusk gather.  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Remaindered species

White, middleaged male poet? No thanks, we're trying to give them up. About five months ago, I propositioned several publishers with my new collection of poems, thinking my brilliant originality, previous publishing record and good rep might just get someone interested. I'm still waiting. Some have pleaded a logjam of manuscripts, others say they aren't that into poetry any more. But one put it to me rather more bluntly in a reply e-mail: I have the wrong profile. I am not female, black, or beautiful, and certainly not young, and simply wouldn't work as a marketing tool. Thus the new South Africa.

Of course, many would say we've had our whack, the white male patriarchy, and should fold up our manuscripts and slink away. But any publishing sector that silences cogent voices for such reasons deserves its looming fate: good poetry is withering away here, with a few notable exceptions, mostly long-established writers that stuck around during the dark years instead of going into self-exile as I did. One thing has always been true of our poetry scene: leave the country and you might as well be dead.

So when the last publisher has sent polite regrets -- and there aren't that many who do poetry
-- I shall be faced with the option a few others have chosen, self-publishing. It isn't something I am inclined to do, for reasons of credibility, cash and a lack of spare time to become a book salesman doing the rounds of the dwindling number of outlets for verse. All that remains is magazine publishing, very unsatisfactory since they have tiny or non-existent readerships and besides, I want my body of work to have its full effect. And then of course, there is my modest blog. But even here I have a dilemma: I feel reluctant to thrust my work on my visitors in this manner, having essayed it a few times and felt uncomfortable; it feels like boasting or showing off.

I am in a very bad mood about all this. I must ponder my next move deeply. Guerrilla warfare may be inevitable. Ambushing strangers in shopping malls, targeting intense-looking girls with long hair and ankle-length dresses in the street to let them have it. Or join the buskers in the pedestrian mall where I work; God knows anything I do can't be worse than some of the crap they inflict on innocent denizens of the pavement cafe culture. All I need is a cowhide drum and I'm away.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Your captain, speaking

With a bit of a start, I realised tonight that I haven't posted since Thursday. My mind has been elsewhere, on the second draft of my screenplay. This has ground to a halt as I ponder character development. Do I really want my characters to have goals of their own, as my script adviser suggests? Or do I want them thrust hither and thither at the whim of my supervillain, as at present? Think The Tempest. Except with Prospero as a right evil bastard. I'm tending to the latter course at present. It is an SF action adventure after all. The Tempest was, of course, the template for the very fine Fifties SF movie Forbidden Planet, with Walter Pidgeon as the brooding Dr Morbius (great name) and Anne Francis as his Miranda. Robbie the Robot, with his slot machine lighting effects (later nicked by S Spielberg) , whirring clanking and sonorously declaiming, does double duty as Caliban/Ariel. Leslie Nielsen, oddly in the light of his later career, plays the captain of the spaceship sent to find out what happened to the colony of the planet. If ever there was an actor born to play an airline captain it was our Les. As far as I can recall, he doesn't mug to camera once, although I can't swear to it ... anyway, where was I?

Nothing special about using The Tempest as the matrix, as many films have done. But I can't have my characters darting off to satisfy their own no doubt mundane whims and wants. So I'm pressing on with plain revision later on tonight. It's called Hurricane in Eternity, in case anyone wants to know.

All this ties in rather with Wyndham's recent posting about British SF in which he introduced his fans to the wonderful Archeology of the Future site. Which in turn reminded me of Forbidden Planet. I'm not providing the A of the F link, you'll have to go and have a look at Wyndham's place, if only because he is whingeing about his "stats". I should be so lucky as to have such a thing.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Motionless pictures

At this year's Academy Awards ceremony, actors and others used the television medium to tell us to er, not watch so much television and go to the movies. Various panoramic blockbusters were cited in support of this appeal, meant to show us you can't get the full experience sitting on the couch before the little picture box. In point of fact, the studios are making their big bucks these days on DVD sales, while cinema audiences continue to decline.

I certainly agree there are films you simply have to see on the big screen -- my viewing of The Matrix was mindblowing; I doubt it would have had that kind of impact if I'd waited for the DVD. The night I went to see it with an SF addict nephew the crowds at the multiplex were heaving in the foyer and the buzz was palpable. By the time we found our seats, the adrenalin was surging. And then we all went on an amazing ride. This is the experience of film that cannot be duplicated in your home cinema, however stupendous. The director John Boorman once said it was like a communal dream, and I like that description.

The dream is fitful now, shot through with the crackle of parody-sized popcorn containers and the slurping of Coke straws, an effect rather like a few mopeds being started with some difficulty. And the constant chatter of those who have simply transplanted the TV experience into moviegoing. Not forgetting the cellphones, of course.

I was wittering on to a friend about needing to live near enough to the city to engage the culture
when she challenged me: "OK, when did you last go to the cinema?" After a bit of thought I realised it was a month or more ago. And I love the movies. The magic hasn't gone out of the films (the few good ones); it's gone out of the audience. We're media-knackered. The most enjoyable way to watch is with a cinema full of kids. My grandkids and I were totally engrossed in Pirates of the Caribbean; if I had seen it with adults in a cinema full of grown-ups, I am certain it wouldn't have been a tenth as gripping ... magical, even. Kids still have it. If Hollywood wants to get bums back on seats, that's the quality it has to rediscover. Marketing is part of the problem, not the solution.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mi casa, su casa

What's not to like?

So, not only am I not sexy and alluring, nor is my beautiful mountain home overlooking a seaside village in the stupendous Cape. An aeon or so ago I embarked on what seemed to be a brilliant idea to swap my house for a London pad when I descend on Britain in April. But several dozen queries, a raft of sultry pictures and reams of eloquent travel writing later, no such luck. Home exchangers are as numerous as wife swappers on the Internet, I discovered. But as with my sallies on Guardian Soulmates, they turn out to be a fickle bunch. Initial enthusiasm seems to fade swiftly into complete indifference. I had high hopes of a ritzy flat near the Portobello Road after an eager reply to my offer -- from a freelance shoe designer (I had no idea such exotics existed). Alas, the other shoe never dropped. An obdurate silence greeted my increasingly desperate attempts to press my suit. I was going to post a picture to show what they're missing but Blogger will no longer upload pics to my posts. So take my word for it, OK?

So now I am forced to contemplate a rented studio in leafy Willesden Green with – oh, the parsimony! The humiliation! – a coin-operated washer/dryer, among other spartan features of London fringe living.

Note: Thanks for the concern, Pash and Patro, the personal matters were urgent but not shattering. Now I have no excuse.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bunking off

Posting will be light to non-existent for a while due to unexpected personal matters to attend to.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Fifth Season

Down on the catwalk at dusk the wind brings
the first skin-tint of ice from the far south
and gulls swoop motionless in its mouth. The tide
snorts over the restaurant steps at the beach,
the rolling swells swing great clouts of spray
high against the rocks. For this small cove
in the flung arms of mountains and for you and I
my dear, a season is about to begin.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

My secret history

For the first time, I failed to post yesterday, for a variety of reasons of which the chief one was that I was fresh out of inspiration. Surely, I thought, my life isn't so pathetic that I can't manage one blogworthy event a day? But that, dear reader, is seemingly what it has become. I blame the social climate. Problems have become issues. Anger must be managed. "Characters" we used to love are become Prozac pussycats. Even criminals are a community. And angry characters with problems are surrounded by an impenetrable ring of shrinks, mediators and caring employers waving codes of conduct written by people who have never had an inappropriate moment in their lives.

"Inappropriate". Even uttering the word purses the prissy lips. I love being inappropriate. To appropriate currently approved formulations, I celebrate being inappropriate, I am EMPOWERED by it, for fuck's sake.

I entered journalism for entirely inappropriate reasons: the drink, the random working hours, the irreverent cameraderie, the drink, the rush of deadline mania, the bylines, the drink, the carousing, and most important, I was otherwise in every respect unemployable. After dropping out of my law studies to be a writer, my first proper job was as an insurance clerk. I wanted to pursue something that would not tax my creative resources. Imagine my annoyance when they demanded dedication to the job. Hah! Sacked once for lateness (chronic), a second time for piling all the claims in a big cupboard while the boss was on holiday (he opened the cupboard, his troubles fell on him).

So it was that I entered provincial newspapering. My introduction to it was by a group of fellow hacks who welcomed me aboard with an all-day drinking session that I have no memory of. This was the job for me. A rampaging, cynical, panic-driven milieu where every reporter worth his salt had a bottle of Scotch on the desk and wrote better pissed than sober. A job whose perks pulled birds and guaranteed free passage though the fleshpots, ushered hungry-eyed by an even lower form of life, PR flacks.

Now all that is gone. Bean-counters shuffle human resources across productivity charts. Shouting at the hired help over cretinous copy is likely to land you in a mediation session, or an anger management course. Which guarantees a future suppurating with cretinous copy. As for the drink, well, I had to pack it in or find a stool in the great pub in the sky.

And all that is my excuse for having no life to speak of. Still, the characters live on in memory, and of that, dear reader, I shall certainly speak, another time.

Monday, March 13, 2006

In Michaela's footsteps

Thanks to The Beep, I have now become acquainted with the delightful and clearly sensible Michaela Strachan's doings in this her "new home town". It seems Michaela has been with us a while and one of her jobs is the Wildlife Film Academy in Cape Town, launched in January, where Michaela is a tutor, perhaps explaining to students how to crack it as a presenter of The Really Wild Show or Elephant Diaries, of which I wot not. A host of other TV or film microcelebs with a connection to the wildlife thingy are also on board. So the wildlife are about to be overrun with students from the academy, waving DV cameras and sound booms. They'll probably all emigrate to Mozambique.

But Michaela is all right in my book. She says: "Table Mountain is a special place, full of raw energy, and a walk up the mountain at full moon is a magical experience. We normally start at Kirstenbosch Gardens and walk up Skeleton Gorge. It’s not for the unfit – the first half hour is a bit of a killer. You can take a bottle of wine and watch the sunset on one side of the mountain and the moonrise on the other. The trick is not to miss the last cable car back down."

Yes, we love that walk too, Michaela. And I'm sure you have a killer walk of your own. All those sexy pictures I found on Google! Now that is really wild.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A hit! A palpable hit!

It's been one of those days with four seasons the Cape is famous for: humid and wet early on, then a brisk wintry breeze bringing out the pullovers, then a leisurely clearing of the skies and finally a sizzling afternoon. And meanwhile a thousand miles away, the Aussies and South Africans batted, and batted, and batted and ... ended up rewriting Wisden in providing the greatest game of one-day cricket ever seen anywhere, an epic of Homeric glory.

Surely the Australians must have thought a world record score of 434 would result in their grinding us into the dust. But seemingly captain "Biff" Smith ( a team nickname inspired by his infeasibly large jaw) had other ideas. SA had been widely tipped by the Aussies to "choke", or lose their bottle. But it was the visitors who ended up with the big swallow. They lost to a new world record score of 437 reached with the second last ball of the final over. If you wrote it as fiction it would be scoffed at.

It is occasions like this that turn cricket into great theatre. Or perhaps a movie. Mark Boucher struck the winning runs and was asked how he felt: "I want to get the DVD," he replied. Of course. Cricketers' favourite movies tend to be either Rocky in Sly's various periods, or Braveheart -- which was, oddly, directed and starred in by an Aussie. Mission Impossible would be the appropriate choice here.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

My blog, she is dead

Well, with the best of intentions, bent on an improved product, I have been running around Cape Town today taking photographs of archaic features and details that link the city with its past, so as to feed my new hobby, Flickr. It's been instructive. Up to now I have mostly photographed landscapes and candid portraits using available light. This exercise with my little Pentax Optio forced me to act as a recorder and not a creator, eliminating my main talent, composition, and demanding the kind of painstaking discipline you see CSI photographers using to snap corpses. Very appropriate. Still, it reconnected me with the city in a way I haven't experienced it since I first moved here. Everything had to be looked at afresh.

So anyway ... I rush home, download my wad of pix into Picasa, edit everything, eliminate all but the best, upload to Flickr, I'm cooking, really getting on top of this blogging thing ... only I'm not. Having added Flickr badge code to my template, I find my blog lifeless, unresponsive. The preview with the pulsing picture frame was fiction. There is no pulse ... after republishing about a hundred times, I go back to posting, in the hope that at least that bit of my blog's corpus is still clinging to life. And here goes ...

Update Saturday: "My baby -- it's a miracle!" (Faints).

Thursday, March 09, 2006


1. Fish Hoek catwalk: 'In Memory of Bill S'

I've been parked by your plaque, Bill, looking out to sea
where once you must have looked as rollers snaked white tresses
up Muizenberg beach, and the southeaster boiled up
the bay. Today a northwester is peeling wavelets back
off white cheek; nimbus curdles the berg top. I wouldn't mind
going here, sailing over the peak as a cloud shadow
while my body sat still on your bench, notebook at the ready,
my passport to posterity. Then, perhaps, I'd see
as you must have seen, where I was going at last.

2. By Dollis Brook: 'In Fond Memory Paddy M'

In midwinter by dark shallows in the park
where I take my new arteries for a Sunday walk
his salute is carved in the seatback. Round here the buggers
prise off plaques, and only aerosols leave testaments
on river wall and derelict wendyhouse. Round here
the wind is hard against the face; you sit with your back
to a Tesco-trolley weir in the muddy stream.
Not a place I'd like to leave my mark; yesterday,
a bit farther on, where the brook slips into the wood
I walked into the past: among lit trees, silent windows
blind with sun, dark roofs cut into infinite blue; a child
descending from mother's call deep into birdsong.
There my memory writes itself, in lattices of
light swaying on water; on whispers in the greenwood.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Completely Lost

Just when you think Lost couldn't possibly get more mysterious ... it does. I cannot reveal any more except that the latest twist is fascinating, although given the track record of the series, it's probably a red herring or some other odd fish. I suspect writers are drafted in just to write bits without knowing the whole picture (if there is one). Motivation seems to shift in a mercurial fashion. Tonight's ep was somewhat marred by the station losing sound for about five minutes, but since the dialogue doesn't aid understanding, not serious. I'm hooked all over again. Clever bastards.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The well of souls

I'm not really up to blogging this evening because I am pissed off. I have so had enough of Guardian Soulmates. What fiend invented this ultimate aid to pitiless self-assessment? The details are too boring to relate and I know certain parties round here have been there too. The fact is, I am not a profile, I am a complex ever-evolving being, an imago in metamorphosis. Quick, nurse, the blue pills, hurry for god's sake! I'm so evanescent I can see my hiatus hernia pulsing anxiously away.

Update: perhaps I should explain this is nothing dramatic or tragic, such as love spurned. It's the whole process that gets me down. Profiles tell you pretty well zilch about anyone, like CVs. Even assuming the profilee isn't actually lying or glossing, as many do, the contactee usually turns out uncannily different from your idea of them, because you haven't learnt the important stuff: "Divorced", OK but when and why and how do you feel about that? "Education" is totally meaningless. I've had terrific letters from people with little further education and misspelt, incoherent ones from Ph Ds. Allegedly. And so on. Second beef, extreme unreliablity of many allegedly looking for mates (perhaps one of the reasons they currently find themselves on the shelf). I reckon 90% of the correspondences I've initiated amount to two-and-a-half transactions, with the second shoe never dropping. What's up with that? Some giveaway between the lines? I write pretty good letters. So, unreliable types and possible timewasters abound. Thirdly, the person in the flesh hardly ever lives up to the billing. "Attractive" (until I gave up bothering 20 years ago); "gym junkie" (I just use the jacuzzi and the pool). A big giveaway. And blah blah blah.

The one thing that keeps me from packing it in is that I have made one or two wonderful friends (they know who they are), and that makes up for everything, most of the time ...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscar update

OK, I watched as much of the show as I could stand as a blog duty. I would have had more fun with that second draft. Only a few observations worth making:

Who knew Dolly Parton was animatronic? It's really obvious now, because they've overdone the skinny part which renders the superstructure completely infeasible, and airbrushed her head.

Jon Stewart's schtick was dry as I like it, not bad given the material he had to work with. The "gay cowboy moments" montage was very cute. It kind of suggested the academy had a frivolous reaction to the boys from Brokeback. Which might explain its inexplicable failure to sweep the statuettes.

The choreography for the Crash song was very creepy. How can you do a dance depicting racially charged encounters amid the flames from a burning car and actually play it straight? There was also a reported sighting of two dancers simulating a rape at the edge of the stage, but either this was cut or I missed it. I wouldn't have thought you could top this even in Hollywood, but the "song" It's Hard to Make it Out Here as a Pimp proved that you can get an Oscar for celebrating the sexual exploitation of women as long as you do it in a life-affirming way. I guess it's not that surprising Brokeback Mountain got the consolation prizes.

The clips of PS Hoffman "doing" Truman Capote were as bad as I feared; right up there with Russell Crowe's wibbly-wobbly nutty professor in A Beautiful Mind. So of course he won. Wyndham, your instincts were right on the money.

Culture clash of the night: Isaac Mizrahi interviewing Ang Li on the RC. I bet not even his wife calls him "doll", although he does look a bit ... no, unkind thought, I like his films.

Fashion note: I am probably not the first to observe it, but it seems black really is the new black
-- and what was that Charlize Theron had on her shoulder, a Gucci rocket launcher?

Viva Tsotsi!

It's been an Oscar night to remember for South Africans, and by and large one to forget for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Tsotsi's victory in the foreign language film category is of far greater significance to our film industry than Charlize Theron's golden guy for Monster. Tsotsi's accolade flags attention to the fact that our talent, production facilities and film infrastructure are world class. The film biz is a key contributor of foreign exchange to the Cape economy, and our skilled crews, production houses and astonishingly varied locations draw big-budget feature shoots and dozens of commercials. This can only boost the attraction.

A studio with enormous soundstages is being built near Cape Town. The idea is to attract not only location shooting but entire international productions. It is supposed to have state-of-the-art post-production and special effects facilities. This is the route Australia went, although I understand their studios aren't getting enough work now that Keanu has left town.

The local industry must be praying the power cuts can be eliminated ... and that our production houses don't get even greedier ...

I'm feeling so good about it I'm going to get cracking on the second draft of my blockbuster. Tonight. Oh, wait a minute -- we're running the Oscar show tonight. Well, I hear it isn't much cop this year, no big winner, no mouthing off, feeble host, etc.

What's the bloody point of giving the big Oscars to little flicks? Surely Hollywood should be hailing the movies that keep it in business, and not the ones that live off its fat? Wonderful as they may be, their audiences are limited. Film is, or should be, mass entertainment. I might like art films, in the same way as I like poetry, but these movies, like poems, rarely enter the mainstream. And I think it's a bad sign that just making yourself fat or ugly or doing a great impersonation should sway the academy voters. It's become scarily predictable.

The Oscars should be a spectacle like the movies that made Hollywood great: Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia ... and Crash? It took a princely $53 mil at the box office, the lowest-grossing winner since Bertolucci's The Last Emperor in 1987. Gloria Swanson must be spinning in her box: "When I said it was the pictures that got small, I didn't mean that small."

And let's face it, the famous red carpet has become a supercharged catwalk for the fashion designers, who simply employ the stars as clothes horses. Which is why they have to be scary skeletal. Except J Lo, the Ass that Ate Hollywood. And Salma, the Babe Who's Bustin' Out All Over.

In view of tonight's delayed proceedings I shall defer further commentary until the last contestant -- I mean recipient – has been hurried off the stage, hopefully for summary execution round the back.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Next stop Satori

For some years now I have commuted in to Cape Town by car, after enduring experiences on the train, despite its picturesque route along the coast, that made the Northern Line seem a model of comfort and efficiency. I leave for work around 6am, and was among the first passengers every morning, two stops down from the terminus and rail yards in Simon's Town. I would often be faced with wet seats and floor in winter, on account of the cleaners had left the windows open overnight. Nor, on rainy and chilly mornings, was any heat available. As for efficiency, Mussolini would have had his work cut out here. A problem not usually encountered on British Rail is cable theft, occasioning an unscheduled stop. And then there was "steaming" -- well known to Londoners -- as gangs roamed through trains relieving the passengers of their valuables and occasionally chucking a recaltricant victim off. On one line, drivers found it was more of a trip than a journey, complaining they were getting stoned witless by the clouds of dope fumes from the smoking carriage in front.

But in the end it was missed deadlines on the paper that drove me off. I still see a lot of diehards -- and people with no choice - streaming off the station in the evening. And the rail operator is being sued by passengers (or their relatives) who have fallen from trains with open doors or been assisted to do so. There are signs it is trying to reform the system, with spanking new coaches. This, inevitably, has been met by a fusillade of graffiti. And its deployment of security guards hasn't worked out because they tend to sit together, chatting over a smoke - plain old cancer sticks, we must hope.

Wise commuters who can afford the time wait for the trains that have the privately run dining (boozing) saloon car, which rejoices in the name Biggsy's Restaurant. "I'm sorry sir, you have to check your gun at the door."

My car journey, about 30 miles, is a pleasure: too early for serious traffic, winding over a mountain pass among scenes of breathtaking natural beauty; then on to a freeway that runs straight as an arrow through winefarms, forested land and fields, the central reservation an island of flowering bushes and trees. I'm soon going to have to pay for this motoring idyll: lone drivers are going to be caught on camera and charged a fee for entering the city, like the London one. Given the choices available, this will be money for old rope.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Today's poem

A five-hour power cut has eaten all my blogging time. So I'm offering this as today's post.


White wind smokes the beach a long way down and off
the dizzy upthrust of bare rock reared over the firewatch hut.
Yet not bare. Life clings even to the perpendicular:
showers of flowers, founts of grass decline to gravity
yet persist, last-ditch stands bought on invisible niches.
Hunched in my niche under the wind, I drink the force
that split the mountain. I am nourished in its deep silence,
a moment of shock that shudders all the way back to creation.
In this great gasp of time plant, flesh and stone occupy
a brief note drawn by a bellows filling
with voluptuous

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mouth wide shut

"Hmm," says Howard the orthodontist, looking at my ghostly gnashers on his laptop. "You've got abscesses on both of those, but the number 4 we can do a root canal, cost you a few thousand, if you think it's worth it. But the No 5, that bad boy has got to come out."

I'm back in his chair and on the clock after a night of torture in the upper jaw following oral surgery and a load of stitches in the lower earlier this week.

"Right," says Howard, whipping out his cellphone. "I'll buzz Annabel [my dentist} and tell her she needs to squeeze you in. We can't have another night of pain." No, indeed we can't. Especially me. Anyway, it turns out Annabel has scarpered for the day but one of the partners -- "Those boys are great," declares Howard -- will fit my mouth into his schedule.

Off I drive, jaw throbbing harder than the engine. This is how I meet the Russian dentist the "partners" keep off the letterhead and stashed away in the only room without a panoramic city view.

"OK David, listen to me, I give you my opinion," says Dr V Avdeev (BDS, Voronezh; Dip Odont., Pretoria). "Number 5, definitely he has to be removed. I don't like it. But number 4, this is my opinion: we extract number 5, we relieve the pain. Number 4, I think now the problem goes away. I don't do root canal yet. Wait two days, if there is pain you call me immediately. Im-mediately! OK?"

Good god, I think, I've found a dentist who isn't on a mission to relieve me of as much cash as possible. I like it. I give him a thumbs up, absurdly, as if he can't understand English.

"Take a deep breath ..." says V. Avdeev, plunging a needle into my palate. "Sorry David, is finished, OK?"

I will draw a veil over what follows out of concern for the sensitivities of my readers. But it is painless. "I don't like it," says V Avdeev. He shows me the offending tooth. "See, infection, very bad. But is unusual. You have double root, not one. Most dentists they have a problem with this, but my post-grad is orthodontist. Not one person in 10,000 has this double root. You are strong, David!"

He writes out a scrip for painkillers. "Now I tell you very cheap pharmacy," he says and gives me directions. I decide V Avdeev in his room without a view is my dentist hero.

I'll be back. Unfortunately.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Pride and Prozac

I've finally been induced to see this new movie version of Pride and Prejudice, despite my conviction that the BBC one with Colin Firth will never be improved upon. And it was as I feared, chocolate box romance and jigsaw puzzle prettiness. The Janeites I went with adored it nevertheless, but I have a hard centre. Keira Knightley, as beautiful and witty as she is, was entirely wrong for the part. And I wish someone would tell her that crinkling her nose by raising her upper lip in a rictus is not cute in an adult. Still, I could have put up with her if it had not been for the leaden presence of Mr Darcy, played by Matthew MacFadyen, whose emotions run the gamut from clinical depression to glum. This guy would be hard put to find a girlfriend on Guardian Soulmates, never mind the vivacious Elizabeth Bennet.

Every scene is lit, framed and posed in a manner that reminds you of some kitsch painting or other. Even the "earthier" sequences involving pigs, etc, look as if they could have been inspired by a placemat. Rather wasted in this setting is an exquisitely cringe-making performance by Tom Hollander as a very creepy Mr Collins.

Tonight's ominous and creepy episode 2 of Lost 2 was a perfect antidote. Shan't reveal a single thing, except to say, forget getting any closer to fathoming it all. I don't think JJ Abrams remembers what it was supposed to be about any more. This feeling of clinging on to a runaway series is at the heart of its appeal.