Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm Back!

Hello my lovelies, and thank you for sticking around while my blog became completely boring and useless. :) As my most recent post on going to visit the site where The Prisoner was filmed seems to have degenerated into various awful puns left in the comments section, I can see my loyal readers are getting bored and itchy, so I thought I'd give you a new post. A pun-free one.

I returned before the weekend from the UK after 10 fun-filled days there... well, 5 fun-filled days, and then I had to work for 3, and then 2 days were taken up with travel. But oh well. And now, I pull out my pictures (oh NO, she's getting out the slide projector! I TOLD you we shouldn't have accepted her dinner invitation!) Sit down, sit down. I promise not to bore you for long.

As one of my readers posted as a recommended destination spot, I went to see Tintern Abbey (I think it was Scott, and I read the comment the night before going to see it and thought it was hilarious that he'd somehow read my itinerary and knew where I was going. Wait, is that hilarious? Or scary? Erm...) This place is extraordinary. I went to see Fountains Abbey when I was last there in 2003 and thought I'd never find a place that paralleled it. There's still something quite magical about Fountains: you pay at one place and then trek through a meadow and down a hill and as you emerge from the woods you see this amazing place hidden in a valley, whereas with Tintern it's right off the road. But still, I imagined what it must have looked like long ago before there was a tourist office planted outside it, selling stuffed dragons and mood rings. (Yes, I bought the stuffed dragon for my son, and the "magic ring" for my daughter, who proclaimed, "I've ALWAYS WANTED a magic ring!" She lost it about 5 minutes later.) I loved this place. They're currently doing restoration work on part of it, but I just can't get enough of the history of places like this. Good ol' Henry VIII. You deny him a divorce, he tears down the abbeys. The current monarch ain't that ballsy. Hm. It's places like this where I wonder when The Tudors will start showing Henry VIII for what he really was: a fat, bloated, awful, pig-headed, despicable man. But I guess Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is way cuter.

Next we went to White Castle, where you have to drive up this teeny-tiny road with hedges that are 6 feet high on either side of it and it winds and turns and at every corner you're waiting for someone to come flying around the corner and slam into you. Luckily we had another car in front of us, and while we crawled like a snail behind them we would watch as they'd turn a corner tentatively and then pull their car suddenly into a ditch while another car was bombing straight at them with no chance of stopping. Scary. Got to the castle, and it was nice (not as spectacular as the one we'd see later) but I saw this, and thought it looked like the hatch from season 2 or the well that John lowered himself into earlier this season. And then realized I need help.

The castle I DID fall in love with was Conwy, in the very north of Wales. This one was built in a mere 4 years by Edward I, who then only stayed there for 2 months once when he got stuck during Christmas. Nice. He was embroiled in a campaign against two brothers, one that died in battle and the other who was captured by Edward, who then ordered him hanged, drawn and quartered, disembowelled, and beheaded, with the head on a spike in the Tower of London next to his bro's. To all of my British readers: grade-school history must have been WAY cooler for you than it was for us. :)

Off to Shakespeare's birthplace. I made much fun of this in emails to friends, but the town has decided to milk everything for what it's worth in Stratford, with cafes and restaurants and bookstores and theatres all named after lines or titles of Shakespeare plays. This was one of my favourites (for its groan factor). Look closely: they make William's Shakes. UGH. Seeing his home was interesting, even if half of it had been renovated and they made you walk through this multi-million dollar complex where they said stuff like, "This reader you are looking at might very well have quite possibly belonged to Shakespeare. Maybe. Probably not." (I'm paraphrasing.) Someone found a ring in a farmer's field that had WS inscribed on it, so as you enter the animatronic area where you hear Patrick Stewart reading lines and watch Judi Dench do the "Out damned spot" speech, they zoom in on a mannequin hand wearing The Ring (which probably belonged to Winnifred Smith). Inside there's a school reader where someone has written "William Shakespeare" on one of the pages. If THAT's all it takes for people to go nuts, I'm going to take all those school readers I inherited from my Grandpa and scrawl Pierre Berton's name on them and put them up on eBay. Sheesh.

And then it was off to Blenheim Palace. I'm the English major, my husband is the history major, and has a particular interest in Churchill. Again, much is made of a small event: it touts itself as "CHURCHILL'S BIRTHPLACE" and you get there and find out his pregnant mother fell off a horse (or tripped over a rock while walking along on a hunting expedition, depending on the guide you talk to), immediately went into labour, and was rushed into the place to give birth to Winston in a room just off the foyer. He only came back a handful of times afterwards, but they had a big display of Churchill memorabilia that was pretty amazing. The palace itself is the current home of the Duke of Marlborough, and there was much history of the previous dukes (the first one was pretty awesome). I really enjoyed this one, until we got to the exhibit upstairs, where they had these animatronic people acting out major moments of the castle's life. It was quite amazing, the show, but the storyline was RIDICULOUS. Seriously, this is in ENGLAND, land of some of the world's greatest writers. You couldn't come up with a better storyline?! You go into the first room and they're talking about the first Duke, and his very outspoken wife, and it's a combination of moving dolls and film projected off one wall of actors playing the roles, and our narrator is Sally or Susan or something, who was the maid (or, in today's society, executive assistant) to the duchess, who was very headstrong and oversaw the construction of the castle. She gives us all the juicy bits as we walk through this room and the second room, where we find out about the duke's bed-hopping. Good stuff... until we move to another room where we see a later duke... and Sally pops up as the "ghost" of the original maid. Seriously? She visits the 4th duke, I think, and then the 7th, who was actually a pretty fascinating fellow who had dealings with Thomas Edison and installed the first phone lines in the area, etc. BUT, because we're dealing with Ghost Sally, at every turn she's like, 'Oh good gracious, what is THAT?" "Why THAT, my dear, is e-lec-tric-i-ty!" And we spent the first 3 minutes watching the duke bring her up to date on the world.

Hi, it's Nikki? From Canada? Um... could you just give me a more basic narrative where the actual dukes tell us something about their lives and we get rid of this ridiculous maid subplot? UGH.

But otherwise, I really enjoyed Blenheim.

And then it was to London where I had to work for the next 3 days. We stayed in this wicked hotel in Sloane Square (and then I had Morrissey's "Hairdresser on Fire" stuck in my head for 3 days... taking turns with Elvis Costello's "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea"). I was working at the London Book Fair, trying to sell rights to our books and looking at new books that were upcoming. There was some good stuff, but then I saw this. So... after you shell out money on my Lost book this fall, make this your second TV companion. :) Wait, no. Your fourth, after the Gossip Girl and Mad Men companion guides I'm currently editing...

And then it was back home. By the way, I meant to post on this earlier and then, well, the trip got in the way, but while I was away the second season of In Treatment started on HBO in the US and HBO Canada here, and it's as brilliant as season 1 so far. I watched a lot of it on my trip and loved it. An entirely new cast of characters, a new doctor's office, same problems, guilt, anger, frustration, and outbursts. John Mahoney is one of the patients, and if you think of him as just the lovable but gruff dad on Frasier, think again. He's amazing in this. I hope you're watching!

Tomorrow: Back to Lost, with a real post on it, on time. Did anyone watch the clip show? I have it on my PVR but I'm sort of allergic to clip shows. Did we learn anything that we hadn't already known or figured out?


LotteryTicket said...

Morning Nik, Hope you will post more photos. Looks like a great trip. Yes, I did watch the clip show, with half an eye open. Right out of the box the voice over declares Widmore to be the person responsible for the fake wreckage of Flight 815. Whichever camp you fall into on this subject (Widmore, Ben, third party), can we accept ABCs voice over commentary as canon? I tried not to listen but just look from that point forwards.

Also, you will have to take a look at the videos being posted to YouTube regarding the Jules Verne Awards that were held in Paris over the weekend. I hope that ABC will release these clips in HD for us. Being in the theatre that night must have been very exciting for LOST fans. D & C answered questions and maybe a bit spoilerish, so be careful. But they are always fun to watch. Ms. Lilly and Mr. Emerson also took the stage.

Look forward to seeing your comments on what looks to be a great episode tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

welcome back Nik! Sounds like you had a great trip!

Bad news arrived today, in the form of a sexual harassment suit against Henry Ian Cusick... :( sorry to be the bearer of bad news:


Nikki Stafford said...

Thanks for the welcomes back!

Yeah, I saw that story on Saturday on TMZ and have been pretending it's not happening. It's sad either way. If it really happened, it's sad to think he would do what she said, and the show would dismiss her to get rid of the problem. If it didn't happen, it's sad to think she would make this up to get her name in the paper. No one wins in a situation like this, and all names will be dragged through the mud. I wondered if this would affect the show (clearly Desmond is important to the end of the series because of Dan's proclamation that he is special) but I'm thinking this will drag on for a few years and the show will be long over before there's any resolution.

I tend not to dwell on things like this, because I don't personally know any of the parties involved and couldn't say "Oh, she's lying" or "Ack, he's a scumbag" or anything like that. So I will continue talking about Desmond as the character, and not talk about the person who plays him, just like I do with everyone else on the show. :) I just don't think, as fans or media, we can pass any judgment on anyone in these situations. I've met a couple of celebrities who were warm and generous with fans when they were in the large fan groups and to this day fans go on about what amazing people they are, but I know that behind closed doors when it was one on one time, they turned into horrid, insufferable assholes (and no, I won't name names). So I've given up thinking I can know anyone just because they're on TV. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Nikki,

I didn't know if you realized this or not but AMC is remaking The Prisoner into a mini series. they haven't set a date but it does say 2009. I think Ian Mckellen is playing number 2.

joshua said...

Welcome home! I'm glad you had a safe return trip and can now get back down to the business of tending to your needy readers.:)

The clip show was only really worthwhile in that it gave us hollow-eyed junkies a bit of a Wednesday fix where otherwise we had none, and I suppose it was interesting to see all the pieces of the Oceanic 6 narrative play in chronological order (but certainly not necessary to anyone half as studious as you). Excepting the line about Widmore's responsibility for the staged wreckage that LotteryTicket already mentioned, I didn't catch any other information that was new or as-yet-unspecified. And I'm guessing that isn't canon, but who knows? They've made similar slips before...

A.G.Wooding said...

The 06 clip was was okay for a clip show, it was good to see some of the scenes in order rather than over a space of four of five episodes, even if it didn't really tell us anything new.
Glad you enjoyed holidaying across the pond.

redeem147 said...

Glad you're home safe and sound after a wonderful trip. No, I didn't watch the clip show. I'm hoping Obama's press conference tomorrow night doesn't creep into our Lost time.

Jazzygirl said...

Welcome back! I concur with the others. The biggest thing I got was that Widmore was the one who faked the plane crash. This raises new questions in my mind about Ilana and Naomi now. Hmmm.
It was nice to see the scenes in order too.
Looking forward to this week!

Blam said...

Welcome back, Nikki... And my apologies for turning your Comments section into a pun factory! I veritably cry at the thought. Or dew eye?

Nikki Stafford said...

Don't worry, I don't blam ewe.

SonshineMusic said...

Welcome back, Nikki! We definitely missed you (but managed to eke out some fun without you ;)

I love your pictures. Makes me want to go traveling.

I agree about the clip show. After the first segment I kept it on in the background, but didn't really watch it. For me it was the announcer that completely killed it. So devoid of any humor. Ah well.

Yeah for a new Lost right now!