Sometimes you’re reading a book for purely aimless diversion and it strikes you that someone — some book-burrowing Arne Saknussemm — was there before you. I can’t really claim that C.S. Lewis ever read Donald S.Johnson’s Phantom Islands of the Atlantic: the Legends of Seven Lands that Never Were (since he died some three decades before its 1994 publication), but I am morally certain he had visited some of Johnson’s sources, long before Johnson.
Well, friends – here we are at the end of the series. Most of the loose ends have been tied up, and I take back last week’s grumble regarding frustrating cliff-hangers. For the most part, I’ve been vastly impressed by the showrunners’ interpretation of A Song Of Ice And Fire, particularly their ability to condense hundreds of pages, axe dozens of characters, change fairly significant details and still remain totally loyal to the best parts of the plot. I still find this show highly problematic and wish some things had been done differently, but I don’t think it’s necessary or wise to flog a dead Dothraki horse. The Children provided resolution to the major story arcs, sent nearly everyone across their own personal Rubicons, and looked frigging impressive while doing so.
Bonjour mes amis! With all the thrill of the Pop World Cup you may have missed that there’s actually another kind of World Cup happening at the moment, related to a sport called football! And whether like me you’re in Paris for work, or just fancy a holiday so you can yell at the screen Abroad rather than At Your Local, here is a non-French-speaking guide to watching the World Cup in Paris.
Whom to root for
(In descending order. For matches between teams on the list, go with the higher-ranked of the two.)
- France: Obviously.
- Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire: Or as they’re known here, “basically France from before”. (Is this true? Not in the slightest! Does this matter? Also not in the slightest!)
- Belgium, Switzerland: Automatic approval of anywhere else where French is an official language.
- The Netherlands: The French electorate may disapprove of Hollande but Parisians apparently love Holland (I have no idea why, possibly just Van Persie’s glorious header winning all our hearts).
- Whoever happens to be playing Germany at the time: You’re not the boss of Europe, Angela!!!
Where to watch
As the weather is nice and literally everywhere is showing la Coupe de Monde, every twenty feet or so you’ll find a tabac with a terrasse and wine for less than €3 a glass. Sit in a corner table with a good view of the screen and click your teeth when tall thin disaffected men with scarves and cigarettes stand in front of you to chat about, who knows, Sartre or Proust or something.
During halftime some locals may attempt to engage you in conversation. Look apologetic and struggle through a short conversation about what you think is team affiliation: “Oh, oui, Uruguay, oui!”. Later discover you have inadvertently claimed to be from Montevideo.
After the second half the locals may invite you to come along to their friend’s bar for the 12am England match, as the tabac is closing. Agree enthusiastically with a pleased air of international friendship and solidarity. Everyone will head outside and immediately all pile into a car, leaving you slightly nervous but unable to politely refuse due to previous enthusiasm. Wonder what the Parisian equivalent of Zone 5 is and whether you will soon find out. Feel relieved but extremely bemused when the driver goes 100 yards in a straight line and everyone hops out again.
At the second location there may be the opportunity to bet on the game behind the bar. Place €2 on England with the expectation of losing but the faint vague hope of making back enough for une verre du vin (€3.19). When you return from the bar, a bottle of rough house red will have appeared on the table, as well as birthday cake for one of the locals. Text a friend to ask if they want to come along: “at a bar somewhere in the 11th or poss 20th, on big road, blue door, looks closed but we’re in here!!” Friend somehow figures out which bar you mean and makes it inside; assume this is universal Parisian superpower.
Accidentally lock yourself in the toilets and emerge ten minutes later to the entire bar smirking at you. Mumble something stroppy about Lafayette and Washington and sit down.
At the end of the match, dramatically tear up your reçu de €2 and say: “Ugh, Rooney.” Everyone will nod in agreement and sympathy.
Try to think of any French players’ names to discuss and fail.
Say feelingly, “Poor Casillas.”
Everyone will nod.
Key vocabulary words and phrases
La balle: Ball
Un but/le gardien: Goal/goalkeeper
Le arbitre: Who is this idiot?
Le, uh, de Angleterre, you know, Monsieur Rooney: The England team
Larmes de Ronaldo: One of the most glorious sights of the tournament
Le prolongation: Overtime (or indeed regular time depending on how poorly your team is playing)
Ce un coup!: Holy shit, that was a beautiful shot!
Vraiment? (delivered witheringly): Stop rolling around like a prat, he barely touched you.
Xaviiiiiiii: Wail of dismay from Spain supporters (obsolete)
It’s wall-to-wall Wall action this week, with Jon Snow ‘n’ Pals finally facing Mance Rayder’s United Army of Free Folk. There’s not actually a lot of story to tell (or recap) to be honest. It is, however, visually a stunning episode, reminiscent of S02E09’s “Blackwater”. On the plus side, it’s fast-paced and packed with fierce battling and derring-do, but on the bigger minus side, the cliff-hanger ending was beyond vexing in a way I can’t elaborate on without massive spoilers for possibly the last episode or maybe even next year. This is the crux of my beef: the Wall’s storyline has been moving glacially all season and even with an entire show dedicated to this story arc, where things happen loudly and bloodily, the end is unsatisfyingly vague and it’s just not good enough, dammit!
“No Matter What” has an elevated position in Boyzone’s catalogue. It’s their big crossover hit, the one by songwriters of real mass-appeal pedigree – Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman – and the only one to have done well in the USA. You might see it as Boyzone asking to be taken seriously, except it fits so well with the stately, windy ballads they were already making: this isn’t a stylistic change so much as a levelling up in songwriting competence. There’s an efficiency to the hook and a solidity to the structure here which you’d expect from two men made swinishly wealthy by their ability to pull out a show-stopping ballad.
Aw jeeze, Lester! A beloved character dying is all part and parcel of GoT, and dying REALLY horribly is the doom cherry on the grimcake, I know this. I also know there’s only more awfulness to come, but this week’s show made even the most hardened fan flee to the internet for support groups. Whether you read the books or not, and even putting the Red Wedding aside – this episode smarted. It also felt frustratingly perfunctory at times.
Ooh, it’s all going to kick off spectacularly and soon! This week is all about the build-up and the antici….pation. If only previous table-setting episodes had been like this – and I’m not just saying that because it was a Tyrion-heavy show, thought that certainly helped matters. The last three seasons have given us Big Moments for episode 9 but knowing what I know and based on Mockingbird, I think the last three might be packed with shriek-worthy, help-it’s-killing-me moments.
We’re on the home stretch now with only a handful of episodes left. This week was another hour of rapid-fire scenes catching and setting up, with the last thirty minutes focussed on the Story A proper. I thought it worked better than “The Lion and the Rose”; this was almost entirely down to the acting chops of one Mr Peter Dinklage.
very quickly (since i am DEFINITELY meant to be doing something else: writing a project proposal on quite a fierce deadline), i just wanted to scribble this about HINTERLAND/Y GWYLL. Much anticipated since it first ran last year on SC4 — round the time I was re-visiting that very part of wales with friends — I have been combination drawn to and disappointed by it so far (3 of 4 eps).
(image = beermat snapped in aber pub frequented by student piratemoggy)
1: i love the sheer slowness and sense of the mundane crappiness of much of actual rural life in a superpassingly beautiful landscape
2: i love love love hearing welsh spoken on TV (i grew up close to the welsh border and we visited often: i don’t speak it sadly except for a few words — araf! — but the sound of it, esp.mid-wales welsh, is very familiar and comforting to me)
3: the “cabinet of curiosities”/svankmajer/owl service-style weirdness — of abandoned houses, decaying tools, toys etc — is a bit over-amped and mannerist
[3a: total side-issue, the "cabinet of curiosities" has become such a cliche in present-day exhibition-curating circles that at work -- where we have to field info about and review many such exhibitions -- we have taken to calling it the "cupboard of rubbish"]
4: the lead is over-angsting by factors of ten, but i am enjoying his utterly matter-of-fact crew and their muted exasperation at his unprofessional emo-gothy shenanigans
5: his boss — who does nothing but gaze on everything via TV screens, looking as if he’s about to explode over who-knows-what but never doing so — is great
6: the stories have all been a bit “magical land of childhood terrors” so far, though i think many of the minor characters peopling them have been pretty good
7: so it’s getting some things right and some things wrong
This week kind of felt like a slog, to be honest, despite zipping back and forth between locations and characters at a rapid pace. I almost felt like nothing happened by the end of the episode, even though clearly many things transpired. I suspect this is because I have impossibly high standards, and because this week was a Tyrion-free show.