Undressed: a brief history of underwear

Boobs up, hips out, bottom in! Wait, boobs up, yes, but hips in, bottom out…Actually, boobs flat, waist tiny, hips and bottom streamlined. Hold on, I’ll have bigger chest area, round waist and big thighs. Nah, stick it, I’ll go with boobs up, good cleavage, tiny waist and… concealed everything else.

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Denial Pits the Rigors of Fact Against the Excitement of Conspiracy Theory

Denial is based on the book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier by Deborah E. Lipstadt. The cast of main characters is all British, with the exception of one South African, Caren Pistorius, who plays a junior paralegal. Even the one American character in the story, Lipstadt, is played by a Briton, Rachel Weisz.

The story revolves around exactly what the title of the book proclaims: a

Image source: Pretty Famous

Image source: Pretty Famous

day in court. Historian, Lipstadt, is accused by holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall) of defaming him in one of her publications. Passionate about her subject, and Jewish herself, Lipstadt decides to go to court, rather than settle out of it. She is appointed a British legal team who takes on the case pro bono (although funding needs to be raised to pay costs). Despite its brilliance the team’s seemingly objective, very methodical approach to the case conflicts with Lipstadt’s strongly held – and voiced – values on her subject. Much of the story actually revolves around Lipstadt’s own coming to terms with their methods, one of which involves her not even taking the stand and thus remaining silent throughout the trial. This goes against her grain and is an exercise in “self-denial”, a line which appears in a conversation in the film.

A major aspect of the story is the depiction (and explanation) of the British legal system which is different to the American one. Whilst solicitors do the behind-the-scenes work, explains solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) in one scene, barristers are the ones who argue the case in court. In Denial Tom Wilkinson plays Richard Rampton, the barrister. Viewers are privy to the team’s decision to argue the case by proving Irving to be a racist, anti-Semite and a wilful liar. This tack requires a great deal of discipline, a huge amount of research (performed by an enormous team of historians, professors and students), and a firm decision not to defend the holocaust by putting survivors on the stand.

Tom Wilkinson performs his role as barrister Richard Rampton with delicacy and balance. Rampton approaches his job with scientific precision, but also manages to connect with his emotional and upset client, Lipstadt. He consciously avoids eye contact with David Irving in court, a tactic designed to unsettle the opposition. But when the court case is over, Rampton continues to ignore Irving thus revealing his true feelings. This subtle display of emotion made me weep.

Irving is well-portrayed as an ill-informed radical with his own agenda. He reminded me of purveyors of other conspiracy theories, proponents of which unfortunately get lots of attention in the media while the plodding, scientific, historical facts get overlooked. This may in fact be what happens to this film. Denial is not an action film. It tells a relatively small story despite its weighty subject, and may therefore not attract large audiences. I, however, was completely absorbed from beginning to end and highly recommend this tightly acted, carefully portrayed film.

Denial opens at cinemas in South Africa on 10 February 2017.

View the trailer of Denial here: http://bit.ly/2js5G4u

Angst and Entertainment with Audio Books

One of the members in the book club I recently joined regularly listens to audio books. I had never tried audio versions before but was keen for a number of reasons. I could give my eyes a rest. I could listen while doing other things like cooking, travelling and housework. All of this would mean getting through books quicker. I decided to give it a go with the next book on the club’s list: The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson. I signed up with Audible through Amazon. This service costs around $15 a month. I’m not sure at this stage how many books I can get for that price but will keep a close eye on it. Kindle versions of books, for instance, are always cheaper than the paper version, even when converted to South African rands. So I’ll compare the books on Audible (which I can cancel at any stage) with Kindle as I go along.

the-kind-worth-killingThe Kind Worth Killing, it turns out, is full of sex and murder. The main character, Lilly, a calm and collected psychopath was fairly well drawn as a woman by a male author. At first I didn’t like the story, feeling like I’d entered a Gone Girl type tale narrated in American accents. But then the murder aspect became more intriguing and outdid the sex bits. Things were looking up and I found myself listening at every spare moment. The narration switches between two main characters, a writing technique I have come to enjoy as it adds to the tension. The conclusion to the book is quite satisfying if somewhat of a surprise. Appraisal: good for a first audible book experience.

What was a bit disconcerting about the experience, however, was how much I thought other people could hear of my book. I listened to it while travelling to East London by aeroplane and, despite using earphones, found myself self-consciously turning down the volume when the sex and murder heated up. At home I felt much freer. I removed the earphones, turned up the volume and carried my device from room to room. Even there though I wasn’t spared anxiety. We live in a townhouse just about two metres away from the next-door neighbours. “And then we had sex…” blared out from my bathroom too late for me to quieten the offensive words; goodness, I wonder what they thought of me?

Not to be dissuaded, I am pressing on with the audible experience. I look forward to the next one in my library: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.

An explosive evening in London…nearly

by Roxanne Daniels

I had been working in London for three weeks and was finally able to pay my gracious hosts back and keep a bit of pocket money. After a failed and cancelled Berlin trip (which caused me to nearly implode, but let’s move swiftly on from that) I decided to go into the city and buy a last-minute ticket at a reputable ticket office in Leicester Square. As I joined the queue at 4pm, I hurriedly chose Half a Sixpence. The process was a breeze and I had a decently priced seat at the Noel Coward Theatre for the musical. I had three and a half hours to kill, so I wandered around and stumbled into the shop of my dreams – Stanfords. I was absorbed by stories of adventures and world maps in so many different forms that this took nearly an hour of my time.

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Add to Your Book List All the Light We Cannot See

In just the first few weeks of January I’ve come across several 2017 “reading challenges”. They’re lists that go from “light” (13 books per year) to “obsessed” (one per week). Some of these lists suggest that the reader try a variety of types, e.g. a book about a hobby, a book about science, Christian living reader, one written in the twentieth century, one about writing, and so on.

I stay away from lists like these as I consider myself definitely on the “light” side of the spectrum. But that’s partly because I have generally discounted in the count anything I don’t read slowly for leisure. By leisure I mean book club reads, favourite genres, the ones you spend hours with at night time, while in bed eating chocolate. But when I counted up everything I’d read (or at least was part-way through) in the first three weeks of this new year, to my surprise, my tally was seven.

all-the-light-we-cannot-seeOne of those was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This was a book-club-leisure-in-bed-with-chocolate read. And I loved it. It’ll be a book I remember, not one I simply needed to tick off on an “obsessed” reader list. It was published a couple of years ago and won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The story is set during WWII and revolves around two young people from enemy sides linked through war and the radio. The radio, of course, was an important medium of both propaganda and rebellion at that time. Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, falls on the side of “rebellion”, while Werner, a German orphan, falls on the side of “propaganda”. Thrown into the mix is a valuable diamond that is secreted out of the Paris museum at which Marie-Laure’s father works. The stone brings into the story themes of desire, and blessing or curse, depending on how the diamond is treasured or viewed. The characters are well-drawn and complex and I came to care deeply about them.

The chapters are very short and alternate between Marie-Laure’s story and Werner’s, until right near the end when the two merge. This makes for easy reading, adds to the building tension and draws the reader in with a growing sense of foreboding. The sentences, too, are short and the vocabulary economical (I disagree with one reviewer’s viewpoint that the book was verbose and too full of adjectives). I’ve made a mental note to emulate this writer if I get the chance to write fiction.

So, if you’re a book list person, or want a meaningful story to immerse yourself in, I highly recommend All the Light We Cannot See.

Experience Theatre in London’s West End

On 22 December 2016 I went with family to see the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. What I would describe as “3D” extras made the play interesting to watch. These included lighting that danced across the walls, audiovisuals that reflected the main character’s state of mind, a moving model train to simulate a journey and (spoiler alert) a real live puppy that elicited uninhibited “aahs” from the audience. A lovely experience.

But the actual act of going to London’s West End at that unimaginably

The wonders of underground station advertising. Photo: Brenda Daniels

The wonders of underground station advertising. Photo: Brenda Daniels

busy time of year was also part of our atmospheric evening out. The theatre at which the play is being staged (until June 2017) is the Gielgud in Shaftesbury avenue. To get there from home we took a tube (or three) and stepped up onto the heaving pavement of Charing Cross Road. Being London’s bookshop street Charing Cross’s first offering for us was Foyles bookshop. We squeezed into the store and wormed up and down six storeys, just managing to get a coffee before staggering out again. I can’t understand why some writers support the notion that writing in coffee shops is romantic and inspirational. I found it completely distracting.

A gingerbread city we stopped to look at in Knightsbridge. Photo: Brenda Daniels

A gingerbread city we stopped to look at in Knightsbridge. Photo: Brenda Daniels

Next up on our journey was dinner – McDonald’s (limited budget you see) which is apparently on the site of the original bookstore of 84 Charing Cross Road. After our feast we crossed the road and passed the Palace Theatre at which Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is being performed. Theatregoers enjoying a feast of their own had come out onto into the open for a breather; the play is in two parts and, together with two intermissions, runs for a whopping five hours and 55 minutes. I read in The Telegraph that marathon theatre sessions like these might catch on as a new trend. Phew.

We turned off Charing Cross Road and jostled our way to the Gielgud

Christmas lights at Knightsbridge in London, December 2016. Photo: Brenda Daniels

Christmas lights at Knightsbridge in London, December 2016. Photo: Brenda Daniels

passing Christmas lights and “Mulled Wine” signs. Our booking was for the cheapest seats in the house (budget, remember) which had warnings like “obstructed” view and on the computer seating plan looked like we would need opera glasses just to see the stage. No fear of that. The Gielgud is quite small and spacious and the “obstruction” was merely a roof overhang which really didn’t spoil our view at all.

Back out into the cold air after the show we fought our way back to the tube station, past runners in Father Christmas gear, buskers in the underground and pedestrians everywhere sporting Christmas jumpers. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was for us an entertaining theatre event indeed.

Plane, Train and Automobile to Scotland

Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to Scotland we go, with our online check-in and hand luggage only, heigh ho, heigh ho, heigh ho, heigh ho”. This was the bravado and happiness my group of five felt as we exited our London accommodation at 6.15am on 27 December 2016. We were off to Edinburgh! Once up north we would pick up a pre-booked hire car and travel to countryside Comrie where we planned to spend a few days before returning to London. We would get to the airport with about 50 minutes to spare.


The letters of Edinburgh airport. Photos: Brenda Daniels

The letters of Edinburgh airport. Photos: Brenda Daniels

The smiles we exchanged on the train to the airport turned quickly to nervous lip biting when we saw the security queue. The one we had to join was packed with shuffling customers while the “fast track security” avenue was invitingly empty. Cheerful airport attendants issued instructions to: put liquids in minute plastic bags; close those tiny bulging bags; donate items that didn’t fit in those tiny bulging bags to the bins provided; remove jackets, coats, hats, scarves, boots, belts, keys, laptops, mobile phones (basically unpack and undress) and lay these items next to each other in the too-small plastic trays for checking. I was the first of our group to make it through to the other side so snatched up my belongings and galloped through the terminal in search of boarding gate information. This was difficult. I hadn’t repacked and redressed properly so my trousers were falling down and my boots were tripping me up. Also, there was no boarding gate information. Mainly because the gate had already closed.

It was also a mistake to leave the rest of my party. We all became separated into three groups. While charging through the airport each group thought the others had made it to the aeroplane and that they were the only ones left behind. Gnashing of teeth at the thought of being the only ones to miss out. Eventually, security personnel shepherded us all through the “return-to-the-other-side-because-you-missed-your-flight-and-start-all-over-again” channel. (You won’t miss it; it’s the one teeming with slumped-shouldered, dragging-feet people.)

Well, we did make it to Scotland. Eventually. (We drove). Needless to say we had learnt our lesson. For our return flight from Edinburgh airport we smugly arrived over two hours ahead of time. Naturally, the first thing we saw on the boarding gate info board was “flight delayed indefinitely”. Apparently there was freezing fog in Munich. More gnashing of teeth. The airline did ease our discomfort, though. By giving us each a refreshment voucher to purchase something yummy. The vouchers were worth GBP 3 each. Because of all the extra time on our hands we read up on passenger rules and rights. We discovered that you can claim from the airline if your flight is delayed by over three hours. We counted down the minutes once we were on the plane and were gleeful when we landed back in London three hours and ten minutes late. We are currently awaiting millions in compensation. (Once we figure out where on the website to claim.)

Comrie was lovely by the way.

Happy times at Crieff, near Comrie in Scotland. Photo: Roxanne Daniels

Happy times at Crieff, near Comrie in Scotland. Photo: Roxanne Daniels