Murder comes to Darcy’s town

(Disclaimer: I wrote this review earlier in the week, days before the death of P.D. James. R.I.P.)

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P.D JAMES – Death Comes To Pemberley

“If this were fiction, could even the most brilliant novelist contrive to make credible so short a period in which pride had been subdued and prejudice overcome?”

I love this little homage that James makes in reference to the predecessor, and inspiration behind the novel that continues the tale of a little-known couple called Elizabeth and Darcy. Not only did it highlight to me just how little time Darcy and Elizabeth did spend together in Pride and Prejudice before actually making their commitment to one another, but it cemented just how good an author P.D. James is to make a quip such as this one and make it part of her follow-up on the future life of the Darcy’s.

I got a precursor to her clever wit before actually beginning the book though – In the Author’s Note she wrote that she owed Jane Austen an apology for involving her Elizabeth in a murder investigation, with Austen’s views on these matters made clear at the end of her novel Mansfield Park:

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.”

James’ response:

“No doubt she would have replied to my apology by saying that, had she wished to dwell on such odious subjects, she would have written this story herself, and done it better.”

I loved the book already, and I hadn’t even started it.

What also amazed me before actually commencing the book, was reading that James had been born in 1920. What? I did the calculations… she was 91 when this book was published, now even older at 94! I only hoped I could still be writing at that age. What an accomplishment, of both age and career.

In a spoiler-less nutshell, James’ take on the future of the Darcy’s takes place 6 years after the end of their tale in Pride and Prejudice in 1803. It is the eve of an annual ball, and the estate is shook by the sudden and unprepared arrival of Elizabeth’s sister Lydia, screaming that her husband George Wickham has been murdered. What follows in the rest of the 6-part book (not including the prologue) is a discovery, a scandal, an inquest, trial, and of course a resolution.

As I started to read through the book, the amazement with James’ ability to match Austen’s prose, and my old love for these characters grew. It was like meeting up with old friends and seeing where they had been and what they had been doing for the last little while. Although there can be fear of a follow-up tale, especially one that is not written by the original author of the successful bestseller, not being even half-way up to scratch against the predecessor, Death Comes to Pemberley is such an original take on the romantic story dealing with issues of class and convention, that many times I actually forgot that Austen hadn’t written this herself.

You see that James shares Austen’s cheeky wit and sense-of-humour in the following line:

“It is my belief that, for a woman, love more often comes after marriage than before it and, indeed, it seems to me both natural and right that it should.”

I find these lines utterly amusing and fascinating. Perhaps I find them so novel because I’m not living in a time where men’s opinions of women are more of ownership, than equal partnership. And of course the above was quoted by a male. Figures.

There was also this beauty:

“It is never so difficult to congratulate a friend on her good fortune than when that fortune appears undeserved.”

There is also mention of a man named Joseph Joseph, so called because his parents were so enamoured by their surname they gave it to him also in baptism. Surprisingly, the fellow ain’t so bright. I loved being pleasantly surprised in moments here and there, giggling at little things like this that lightened the ‘thriller’ aspect of the book, much like I had smiled too often while reading Pride and Prejudice.

For me, reading books such as this one is not only enjoyable because of the writing and the characters, but because of the different time and place in which it is set. I find it fascinating to read of a time where this stuff was the norm, a time when such innocence was prevalent in almost all dealings, while interestingly and factually a decent amount of indecency was usually present.

I found it almost mind-blowing reading about the ‘help.’ Darcy and Elizabeth’s staff are overly accommodating to them and their guests, constantly on top of everything and helpful to the point of almost being able to forecast what is going to happen and prepare for it beforehand! Or at least that’s how it felt like. It would have been a very lovely and innocent time to be living, more so if you had the resources to be waited on hand and foot. Elizabeth observes:

“She was unlikely to encounter them on this floor, but if she did, they would smile and flatten themselves against the wall as she passed.”

There is also a couple of mentions of letter-writing, and the notion of a relaxed and luxurious time when one had the opportunity to sit and write, or just read for hours on end, just sounds so splendid to me.

Another amusing yet also innocent moment comes when the men get together to talk and get their stories straight regarding the night of the murder at Pemberley. All I could think of is “isn’t this like tampering with evidence, that being your minds and memories?” Isn’t that why members of a jury are forbid from being exposed to outside bias during a trial, so as not to be swayed by opinion, and hearsay? I found this absolutely ridiculous, but I think it was deliberately inserted to show the innocence and naivety of the time, even in an age where the law was taken so seriously, as stated later during the inquest and trial.

I could go on and on about how well James imitated Austen’s world, and how fascinating I find that world. I love how during the night of the murder, Elizabeth finds it appropriate to say this:

“But you could at least stay and have something to eat and drink before you go. It is hours since dinner.”

How one could be concerned with eating in knowledge of a dead body is beyond me.

Like in Pride and Prejudice, there are important and very thought-evoking questions of class, society, and manners. One amusing example of this is in an event where Darcy has to make a trip, and knows that it is preferred he arrive in a coach, though he would prefer to ride in on horse, but compromises by taking a chaise. The reputation and prestige associated with what mode of transport you arrive in is baffling, but then not so when I remember that Hubbie and I too are wanting to update our car. James also imitates the same spell-it-out fashion that makes you want to sometimes yell ‘why do I need to know that the larger of the two keys was used to unlock the door?’ It all adds to the style I guess.

What else frustrated me about this spelling-the-details-out, and also similarly the great lead-ups to events and long drawn-out establishing scenes, was that as a new writer, I’m not allowed to do them! I do do them, however I am told that new writers must stick to the rules (that of getting to the point), while established writers are allowed to break them all. As witnessed in Austen’s books, and to some extent in James’ one, as mentioned above. Sigh.

I was happy with quite a few additions James made. She showed a bit more intimacy between Elizabeth and Darcy, something we didn’t get too much of in the original. Maybe because they got together at the end of the book, but perhaps more so because of the time. Not that we don’t get much more than a hug here and there, but still, the contact is nice.

Most characters from the original are in this follow-up, and even if not so they are mentioned in hearsay or via letters, so that you get to find out how everyone is going. Even if there are only brief mentions made of someone, James captures their personality and demeanour perfectly to match Austen’s. A particularly fantastic example is made of Mrs Bennett. If you can remember, she was rather impossible, though hilarious to us as readers (and probably at least a tad annoying). When Mr. Bennett is visiting the Darcy’s, he receives a letter saying she has been hearing footsteps outside the house and has been suffering from palpitations in his absence.

“Why was he concerning himself with other people’s murders when there was likely to be one at Longbourn if he did not immediately return?”

There is a quite sudden tone change towards the end of the book, one I found striking given the type of world the story takes place in. All the good stuff though… gore, chaos, tension, nastiness. Like a soap opera, as I observed at one point. James ties up all loose ends very nicely, however at one moment I was overwhelmed with information to the point that I couldn’t keep up, but fortunately some of it was repeated and I got with the program.

I did find it interesting that later on in the book James chose to explain Darcy’s deeds from Pride and Prejudice, as even further closure. First I went ‘no! she can’t do that!’ Should it be allowed, since it’s not from Austen? But then I realised, neither is this book! I guess writing a follow-up, in some ways a completely different book on where the characters have ended up, is quite different to referring specifically to events from Pride and Prejudice, and explaining the actions of the characters then as written from another author. Food for thought.

Oh, and not to spoil, but I have to mention… in the last section, Elizabeth says something to Darcy, and says she cannot promise him something. This part, is beautiful. Watch for it. Because you know what? Somewhere, someplace, she can 🙂

This book was an absolute pleasure, a joy to read. If you loved Pride and Prejudice, and love thrillers… well what are you waiting for?

Please let me know your thoughts on Death Comes To Pemberley in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you 🙂

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Seriously, F^#* Me

I’m so stupefied and shocked, I have to say that again:

Seriously, F#&k Me. (Never mind my choice of characters are different every time).

This week I finished writing up two book reviews. I was going to post my first one up, tonight. P.D. James’, Death Comes To Pemberley.

Only 2 nights ago I was proofreading that review. And I was still astounded at James’ age, moreover, that she was still writing at that age. So I looked her up and sure enough, she was 94.

Was 94.

This morning at work I walked past a TV, to see a still image of her.

“P.D. James” it said underneath her photo.

“1920-2014.”

What????

She was alive two nights ago when I wikipedia’d it!

I googled, and the news had broken of her peacefully passing away, only 2 hours earlier.

What the fuck is happening in the world. I’m not looking up people any more.

“With old age, it becomes very difficult. It takes longer for the inspiration to come, but the thing about being a writer is that you need to write.” – P.D. James

What’s Going On?

Some stupid planetary shit is happening up there.

In the last while, there are have been two deaths. Two people I knew who inhabited this world of the breathing (I initially wrote grieving) are now gone. Which means in the following week, I’ll be attending my second funeral of late.

I found out that the Mum of an old friend had a hysterectomy to remove cancer. Today an Australian cricketer died as a result of a freaky, rare accident. I know that around the world, people die, and get sick, every day… but seriously? What is it with all this bad news, all occurring within very close proximity of one another? Is there something out of whack in the solar system, throwing things off centre and creating mayhem and havoc for us mere mortals here on earth? Is Jupiter hanging out too long in Scorpio or something, when it was meant to move out and let Mars retrograde Sagittarius or some shit like that?

(Or is it just life, doing what it does?)

Hubbie said it best this evening. “The one thing no one can buy, is time. Even if you’re a billionaire, and you try to buy back the previous day with all the money you have, you couldn’t do it.”

Time is the most valuable commodity. Let’s not waste it. We’ll never get it back.

I’m looking forward to the most fantastic day that is tomorrow.

It’s Someone’s last day

It’s hard to avoid death. It’s a part of life. It is always present, IN LIFE, no matter how hard we try to look around it.

You can’t arrange it. You can’t say ‘oh hey, hold on there. We have a few festive occasions coming up… you mind holding off for a month or two?’

It comes when it wants to. Unexpectedly. Suddenly. Frighteningly quick, or with a long-drawn out warning. Both methods of delivery are difficult to deal with, with the latter excruciatingly so.

No one talks about it. No one wants to talk about. But it’s gonna happen to all of us, one day or another. We try to ignore it, not focus on the fact, and use denial and procrastination to avoid thinking about it. Even when we’ve dealt with it closely, we still don’t really know how to handle it, when it happens to a friend. There is really nothing, that can be said.

So we say nothing. About the thing that goes hand in hand with life.

Life and Death. Death and Life. One day we’re here, the other….

So enjoy your days. Not just your Fridays. But every day. Because for someone, it is their last.

Blissful bellies in Grey Port Melbourne

Grey & Bliss
193-197 Bay Street Port Melbourne

The sign at the front of this place had me at the word “free.”

‘Mon and Tues Cup special, free champagne with any main meal.’

We quickly located a waitress and once she had confirmed for us they had high chairs, we made ourselves comfortable on an outside table beneath an umbrella.
It was Melbourne Cup day, and we were looking for a nice place to lunch. The main criteria in making our choice was the requirement of ample space (many eateries we’d walked by were packed), the aforementioned high chair, and an interesting looking place.

The addition of bonus booze sealed the lunchtime deal at Grey & Bliss.

It was warm yet windy, but still the lack of sunny stillness didn’t keep the people away from Port Melbourne that Tuesday. Baby girl was given a very cute high chair, and we quickly made our orders (we were hungry).

Now you have to humour me with my description of our meals. I forgot to take a photo of the menu, and I can’t find any recent menu descriptions up on the net, so here goes:

For lunch I had the lobster bisque risotto with tempura prawns

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While Hubbie had the pulled pork with red cabbage on rye bread, with tempura veggies

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Along with a side of chips

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and accompanied by a glass of bubbly of course.

The presentation of the meals was stunning. We were hungry, and seeing such huge, visually-pleasing meals in front of us was very satisfying. My risotto had a decent kick to it, leaving me with a spicyness at the back of my throat, and overall it was creamy and rich, filled with radishes, spinach and cherry tomatoes. I loved the tempura prawns on top.

My confusion came with the term ‘lobster bisque.’ I was expecting some form of lobster, and couldn’t see or taste any in my risotto. I later googled the term ‘lobster bisque’ to properly understand what it was I had been eating, to learn that bisque is a highly seasoned soup strained from crustaceans. I found a few recipes that mention using the broth of the lobster, but the end result always seems to be adding the ‘meat’ of the lobster back into the dish. Unless it totally dissolved into my risotto, I couldn’t find it. Still, my risotto had a different yet great taste which I will attest to the bisque. Would have loved some meat, but we’ll just leave that discussion there.

Hubbie’s meal looked great, and apparently was just as great taste-wise. He left most of the healthy-looking bread behind only because he was struggling to finish his chips and was opting for them rather than the bread. I don’t blame him. The chips were so yummy, and accompanied by tomato sauce and aioli – oh my gosh that aioli was the bomb. I could have eaten it out of a jar. His meal also came with a spicy/herby dip, that was also very good.

All these rich foods left us feeling really, really full for a long time afterwards (maybe the hidden lobster meat filled me up more than I realised 😉 ). The meals were great to eat, and great to look at… and we would definitely go back. But we were soooo full. Maybe not so much creamy food for me next time.

Food: 9/10. What I loved about the simple menu was that it was a little different, offering up interesting menu options while still appealing to the palate that shies away from overly adventurous food. Visually appealing, generous, and very yum.

Coffee: Not this time folks… spewing because I noticed some really rave reviews on Urbanspoon regarding their coffee… but I just couldn’t stomach it after all that food.

Ambience: Relaxed, as we were on Bay Street, and I didn’t get a good look at the interior but from what I could see it looked edgy and cool. I liked how one ‘apparent’ entry/exit point was blocked off by positioning a small table in front of it which a couple were dining on. Imagine people eating in the middle of a narrow doorway. Different.

Staff: Also relaxed, and friendly. At first I wasn’t too sure about one of the guys who came to take our order. But upon returning with our hot jug of water for baby girl’s food (it came ASAP as requested) he struck up a bit of a convo about kids and the dangers of boiling water. Scary thought. We were also served by another waitress who was lovely and accommodating.

People: Bit of a mix – I saw an old man drinking coffee inside by the window, another middle-aged couple, a few younger people stopped by at the end of our meal who sounded like they were on a blind date, and friends meeting up.

Price: $49-ish, which also included Hubbie’s beer. I was happy with that, given the quality and amount of food on offer, as well as the fact we got free champagne for both our meals – WINNING!

Advice: If you love your coffee like me, easy on the rich meals, just so you can actually fit the caffeine into your system.

In a nutshell: A great place that stands up against the other fantastic Bay Street/Port Melbourne eateries. This is a terrific ‘go to’ when you find that other more known places are packed, as there appears to be plenty of room inside. Oh what the hell… go there even if the others are quiet.

Grey & Bliss on Urbanspoon

SmikG’s got her balls back

Because for a while, I seemed to have lost them.

To explain, and make a short story even shorter, I’m in the midst of a HUGE photo inventory where I’m collecting all matter of photos from all matter of devices from the past couple of years, and printing them out to organise into photo albums. Yes, I still DO photo albums.

So I remembered I had a couple of photos on my facebook account that weren’t mine, uploaded by my family and friends, and so I went searching, one night earlier this week, through the years of 2012, 2013, and now, to find them.

What I found was astonishing. My journey had been for one thing, yet in the midst of it all, I had somehow accidentally though very appropriately discovered something completely different. Apt. I found that I once, had gusto. Guts. A loud voice. An opinion.

Balls, as such.

In amongst photos, and check-ins, and posters friends and family were putting up on my wall, I was looking at my past status updates… and wow. I actually had completely forgotten that I used to write like that. That that’s how I put my feelings and my thoughts out. A lot of it was just “BLAH!” An outburst, a sudden feeling that I clearly just hit ‘post’ on and let the world see what I was feeling at the time, with no censorship.

It was almost like reading about another person’s life. Reading these status updates, I was amazed, embarrassed and proud all at different times. Most of all, I was inspired. I was like ‘damn it! I wanna get back to that place.’

Without realising it, all this time I had lost it. I thought back to how, and why, and when it was that things changed. I think it was a combination of things. We’ve had life, we’ve had death, blah, blah – without trivialising any of those important life changes, I think those were some major factors that affected my habits. I got personal, secretive, and not willing to let the world, just ‘anyone’ into our private, intimate world of troubles, fears, hopes and joys. The world and all of its hurts and happiness,’ made me just a little withdrawn, just a little scared, of EVERYTHING. Both fear, and love, made me go into myself. Both of those emotions can make you feel so much.

That, along with the addition of some of my annoying facebook ‘friends’ posting shit like

“my 175 month old is just so cute today, I can just squash him!” (constant annoying posts about child and updates on them every 45 minutes)

“I am just so upset, I wanna die.” (attention seeker alert)

“I just went to the front door, and found a parcel waiting for me!” (grasping at straws, why are you posting vague bullshit?)

“my husband is just the best, I love him soooo much! (hiding the fact of marital woes)

(And then there are those that post 280 photos of their child’s first days in this world, which made me want to quite frankly NEVER upload photos of my baby girl).

All this pretense, and lying, and just whole lotta BS drove me right up the wall, and made me want to never in any way be like THEM.

(Life’s purpose: do not be a sheep).

I’m thinking now though, I can still be myself. I’ll never be like them, because I have more self-awareness. And yes, some may even say that blogging is also a pretense. However I think the blogging world, from what I’ve experienced of it anyway, is a lot more deeper than the superficiality and “look at me relaxing by the pool on the island getaway trip-of-a-lifetime holiday” showing-off that occurs on facebook, the bragging that often covers up things we never learn about.

I think of it in relation to myself. I have put up photos of myself, with Hubbie, with baby girl. And although everything looks great and all ideal in the photos, no one can see, no one knows of the background story: how for example, before we took that photo out during lunch on that gorgeous perfect Sunday, baby girl was cracking it at home because she was tired. I look good in the photos, but no one knows I was in my pyjamas ‘til 11:30am because I was doing dishes, rinsing washing, and kept changing baby girl’s nappy because she kept filling it up. We look refreshed, but that’s because we had coffee, and no one knows how she’s been getting up at night, and how it takes me 5 minutes just to creep out of her room at night and close the door quietly, in fear that any noise will wake her up and I’ll have to do the whole thing all over again – and that’s just the leaving the room part. Don’t ask me how I get her to sleep. We look put-together in that photo, but seriously, you should see our house, when we’re NOT expecting visitors. And I’m smiling, but you don’t want to enter my mind and hear the demons I’ve been struggling with for the past few weeks, the internal to and froes that’s made me seriously consider seeing a psychologist.

All of this, is not often spoken of. On facebook, certainly not. In the blogging world however, refreshingly it is.

I’ve diverged a bit. All in all, I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of being quiet. I’ve had enough of letting other’s crap affect the way I live my life. I’m coming out, in the most fantastic fashion, and I don’t give a flying fuck what anyone says anymore.

If I cause trouble, then so bloody be it. Better out than in.

The balls they are a swaying.

Dear, Darling

Literate for a Day

She’s now at the age where although she’s not so verbal as yet, I think she understands a lot more than what we realise, or what we give her credit for. It makes me think we need to swear less, and teach more.

Nonetheless, if I knew she were to understand my every word, I would write this:

Dear, Darling

You are our sunshine, our only sunshine. But more than that. You are the sun that lights up the world with its beauty, and the stars that sparkle on all those who view them. You are the moon that bathes the darkness with a soft glow, and the clouds that protect against the extreme heat. You have the entire Universe inside of you, my Darling, and know that you can do, you can be, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. If you can dream it, you can do it.

Reach high, my dear. Reach so high that your arms hurt. With a heart full of love and passion, hope and desire, seek out the things that make you happy. Don’t let anything come between you and what sets your soul alight.

Choose love. It is so easy to be angered by all of life’s trivialities. So choose love Darling. Show the world that you are the better person, and that no matter what, you will always gets up, you will always show up.

Keep smiling. It is your best feature, and the world is reminded of its intention when your face lights up. Make the lives of those around you happier, lighter, and kinder with your beautiful presence. But most of all do it for you, for you are the One and Only you must look after most. If you are happy, everyone is happy with you.

And lastly, know that you have the love of your Mummy and Daddy inside you, forever. No matter what happens, and where life leads you, you are a physical manifestation of our love, and you are made OF us. We live through you, forever, and you carry on the tradition and the memories, of those lost long ago. You have so much love inside of you, love that can change the world. Believe in yourself, and know that your wildest dreams can come true.

I love you Darling Girl. You will always be my baby girl.

(and then she would bow her head towards me and we would bump heads).

Sightings of People as Passionate about (Addicted to) Coffee as I am (SOPAPACAIA) #1, 2 and 3

SOPAPACAIA Sighting #1

High Street, Thomastown, Melbourne

A man is seen crossing the road in a hurry, avoiding oncoming traffic, with two coffees in his hand. He comes to a car parked alongside the road: there waiting is his partner. He hands her a coffee, and they both run into their car with the most determined conviction.

There are a couple after my heart. No day or list of jobs is ready to be undertaken without a coffee firmly in hand.

SOPAPACAIA Sighting #2

Lygon Street, Brunswick East, Melbourne

8am, a man is spotted with a pram, waiting at an intersection to cross the road, with a tray of 4 coffees in one hand.

8am. One hand pushing pram, the other holding a tray of coffees. For a sitcom situation to occur, all that baby in the pram has to do is start crying. That is all.

I salute you sir.

SOPAPACAIA Sighting #3

Bay Street, Port Melbourne, Melbourne

A woman crosses Bay street pushing a pram, groceries in the undercarriage compartment, a baby strapped to her chest, with a coffee in one hand.

Multi-tasking at its best. Determination to go home with coffee at its finest.

Sightings of People as Passionate about (Addicted to) Coffee as I am (SOPAPACAIA) Introduction

Appropriate that I should begin this series whilst in a caffeine-induced state.

And so, fortunately for me on this day, after a frustrating night of restless sleep due to:

– Baby girl crying out intermittently in the middle of the night (don’t blame it on the boogie, blame it on the teeth)
– Random idiots yelling outside on the street at 1am in the morning (go home dicks)
– Being too hot under the covers
– And the garbage collection starting early this morning, followed by my equally early work wake-up call

I have a most delightfully prepared cappuccino situated at my left. All is right in the world again.

There is my intro, let us now begin…