Archive for December, 2009

Happy New Year!

Have a happy, healthy and peaceful one!

2009 was great fun, now get some rest – 2010 will be busy…

And don’t forget – 2010 is the “Collingwood Year”.

More about it – next year!

31 December, 2009 at 8:02 pm Leave a comment

Review: “Cranford”, BBC1 – “…and then arrived the flying monkeys…”

“Napoleon! Come here!”
“How can you expect him [the dog] to behave with such a name?”

Costume drama is as much a traditional part of Christmas as gammon, candles and cats wrecking the tree. Aunt Beep didn’t disappoint and assembled an impressive cast in front of the cameras, plus assorted cows for a bit of country atmosphere. The result was “Cranford”, a bonnet drama based on the works of Mrs. Gaskell, and for the entertaining two-parter goes the same as for the cats wrecking the tree: if there’d been fewer ornaments and stars, there’d been less chaos.

CRANFORD: Synopsis part I

CRANFORD: Synopsis part II

Cast: Miss Matty Jenkyns (Dame Judi Dench), Peter Jenkyns (Nicholas Le Prevost), Mary Smith (Lisa Dillon), Martha (Claudie Blakley), Jem Hearne (Andrew Buchan), Miss Pole (Imelda Staunton) , Mrs Forrester (Julia McKenzie), Mrs Jamieson (Barbara Flynn), Miss Tomkinson (Deborah Findlay), Lady Ludlow (Francesca Annis), Lord Septimus Hanbury (Rory Kinnear), Sir Charles Maulver (Greg Wise), Harry Gregson (Alex Etel), Miss Galindo (Emma Fielding), Rev Hutton (Alex Jennings), Captain Brown (Jim Carter), Mr Johnson (Adrian Scarborough), Mrs Johnson (Debra Gillett), Mr Buxton (Jonathan Pryce), William Buxton (Tom Hiddleston), Erminia (Michelle Dockery), Peggy Bell (Jodie Whittaker), Mrs Bell (Lesley Sharp), Edward Bell (Matthew McNulty), Miss Matty Jenkyns (Dame Judi Dench), Lady Glenmire (Celia Imrie), Signor Brunoni (Tim Curry)

BUY THE DVD (released on 28 December, 2009)

Don’t get me wrong: it was good to return to “Cranford”, and I enjoyed it a lot. I loved seeing the “Amazons” again, and as far as the cast is concerned, you just can’t go wrong with artists like Dame Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Julia McKenzie, Deborah Findlay, Barbara Flynn or Jonathan Pryce. Not to mention Lesley Sharp, a fantastic actress (“Afterlife”), and Andrew Buchan, who many of you will remember from “Garrow’s Law”.

Superb acting in wonderful costumes, but while this Christmas special was entertaining, characters were thrown at you and disappeared again at such speed and in such great numbers that watching the programme once wasn’t enough to keep track of everything and everybody. It would be nice to enjoy a show without having to make notes and keeping a flowchart.

The last 45 minutes of the series ran at 78RPM rather than at 33, and had more of daily soap than costume drama:

Embezzlement! Blackmail! Heartbreak!

Peggy sacrifices her love and happiness to accompany dastardly, money-embezzling brother Edward, who’s fleeing the authorities by train. Young Harry runs away to avoid further bullying at school, stumbles over a rope and incidentally frees Mrs. O’Leary’s Forrester’s cow. Meanwhile William Buxton, Peggy’s knight on a white horse, chases after the train to save her from a life in misery. Harry jumps from a bridge on the train, the cow trots off and comes to stand on the railtracks, and- well, guess where this is going…

Crash! Panic! Drama!

William’s desperately searching Peggy while evil Edward picks her purse and runs off. The train explodes (why? I mean… what did explode there? The fuel tank boiler?) and, in a rare act of divine justice, Edward dies. But before we really get into celebrating his demise, we learn that William is deadly wounded. Oh no! And Harry is dead as well! Or isn’t he…?

All that, plus resolutions for all plotlines and a cameo of Tim Curry as eye-rolling magician crammed into 45 minutes. I guess we have to be grateful the writers didn’t squeeze in flying monkeys and a dinosaur as well.

There were many humorous moments (the “sous-jupe”-turned-parrot-cage, for example), and as a viewer, I shared the ladies’ excitement during their first ride on a train (an amazing thing to do at that time!), but at least to me, the most memorable moments were the silent ones.

There’s Harry (Alex Etel), receiving an embroidered pen wiper from his mother as a parting gift. She can’t write, so his initials are “XX”.

And Miss Matty braiding Martha’s hair after she dies, and kissing the last loaf of bread she baked. Martha’s carpenter husband Jem Hearne (very moving: Andrew Buchan) mourning his wife and deadborn child, and mending his wee daughter Tilly’s shoes.

Martha’s death added the realism to “Cranford” that stopped it from drifting off into the territory of “romantic history”. More than the arrival of the railroad, Harry’s suffering at school, his mother’s poverty or Mr Buxton’s disapproval of his son William’s love for “lowly” (lovely!) Peggy Bell, this death reminded us that “Cranford” is set in the 19th century,which wasn’t as idyllic as it is so often portrayed in costume dramas. (Or as clean…)

Another lovely moment: Miss Matty reads her old dance card and looks in the mirror at the run-down assembly room, remembering the days of her youth and the love she has lost.

Those touching moments make “Cranford”. I’d love to see another special, but hope the writers will realise that there’s no need to rush.

And no need for dogs in clothes, either. Historical correctness be damned, the poor dog looked miserable. And if you want to make me really happy, cast cows with horns next time, thank you.


29 December, 2009 at 12:58 am 7 comments

Age of Sail: Painting of Naval Battle – does anybody know anything about this?

Today I bought this painting at a local thrift store. It’s not a print, and the previous owner went to some lengths having it framed. However, it looks familiar to me, so I think it’s a copy somebody made of some well-known painting. It’s very good work, by the way, and I like it a lot, but there are neither a signature nor a date on it.

So, my dear naval experts and Age of Sailers, can you tell me anything about it? Year? Artist? Anything? I’d be very grateful for hints.

Thanks a lot in advance for your help. If you click on the picture below, you’ll get a huge picture which will show you more details.

17 December, 2009 at 12:49 am 5 comments

And the Winner of Molly Joyful’s Joyful Yuletide Contest is…


Just like most of those who mailed in for the contest, she knew the right answer to the question: “What was the name of Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood’s dog?”


Congratulations! Your Christmas presents – the book “Naval Wives & Mistresses” by Margarette Lincoln, one Nelson Writing Set, a scented candle from L’Occitane and chocolate – are already on the way and will hopefully make it across the big pond in time for Christmas.

Some have inquired what “breed” Bounce was. Answer: nobody knows, but in the 18th century, there weren’t 20398305830 different dog breeds as you know them today. From Collingwood’s letters we can assume that Bounce was a large dog – so there goes the amusing thought of a French poodle aboard HMS Royal Sovereign!

Tsar Peter the Great and his pet dog (rumoured to be called "Fluffy").

Many thanks to everybody who participated in this contest. I promise that we’ll have another one soon!

16 December, 2009 at 10:48 pm 2 comments

Molly Joyful’s Joyful Yuletide Contest!

‘t is the season to be jolly!

And also time for


Gentlefolk with a keen interest in all things naval (as well as all other gentlefolk reading this journal) are cordially invited to participate in our annual contest and hopefully win a Yuletide parcel containing the following:

1 x book “Naval Wives & Mistresses” by Margarette Lincoln
An innovative study of naval women who stayed at home while their men went to sea. Focusing on the second half of the eighteenth century, a period when Britain was almost continuously at war, this book looks at different social groups, from the aristocratic elite to the labouring and criminal poor, prostitutes and petty thieves. Drawing on a range of material from personal letters to trial reports, from popular prints to love tokens, it exposes the personal cost of warfare and imperial ambition. Published by the National Maritime Museum.

1 x “Nelson Writing Set”
A writing set containing 10 sheets of ecru writing paper and 10 envelopes in a presentation wallet. The paper is watermarked with the battle plan of Trafalgar and there is a special feature of Nelson’s hand drawn battle plan on the reverse of the envelope – the original having been recently discovered in the archive of the National Maritime Museum’s archive.

1 x L’Occitane en Provence: Bougie parfumée “Cerise Gourmande”
Sweet cherry scented candle from L’Occitane, Miss Molly Joyful’s preferred suppliers of all things beautifying and lovely scented. L’Occitane is a French company, known for cosmetics of best quality. They support local production and don’t test their products on animals. I joyfully approve!

And because Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without sweets, you’ll also get some chocolate!

And what do you have to do to win such lovely gifts?

Just send an email to

joyful_molly at

and answer the following question:

“What was the name of Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood’s dog?”

A) Snowy
B) Lassie
C) Bounce

Deadline: 15 December, 2009, midnight GMT.

Please read the following rules before you send off your mail.


1. By participating in this contest, you confirm that you have read, understood and accepted the rules.

2. You have to be at least 18 years old to participate.

3. Please be fair: only send in one mail per person.

4. No cash pay-out of your prize.

5. No correspondence will be held over the outcome of the contest.

6. If you are the winner, you’ll have to provide us with your name and address.

7. We’ll send your prize out asap, but have no influence on postal services. We hope your parcel will be with you before Christmas, though.

8. Should, for any reason beyond our control, one of the prizes not be available, we’ll replace it with a different prize of the same value.

7 December, 2009 at 10:22 pm 1 comment


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