Browsing Archives for July 2009

I lead a very exciting life.  Very, very, very exciting.  It is probably too exciting for most people to bear.  If you suffer at all from any sort of nervous disorder, you may want to stop reading this post right now.

Lately, the most exciting thing that has happened to me has been watching the new Agatha Christie mysteries online.  Did you know that you can watch them online?  I told you my life was exciting!  You can watch them at this link here.  It’s free, but the various episodes are only up for a few weeks at a time.  

 

In other very exciting breaking news….

In the new PBS Mystery series, there is a new actress playing Miss Marple!

Are you still with me?  

I hope you didn’t pass out from all the excitement!

Julia McKenzie was chosen to play Miss Marple after Geraldine McEwan announced her retirement.  

 

Over the course of film history, at least seven different English speaking actresses have played the role of Miss Marple.  (There have been a few Miss Marples in other countries as well.)  Gracie Fields, Helen Hayes, and Angela Lansbury were three of them.

 

Margaret Rutherford played a memorable Miss Marple in some comic adaptations of Agatha Christie’s novels.  Agatha herself, hated these goofy versions, but later became a personal friend of Rutherford.

 

 

 

Joan Hickson played the role of Miss Marple for the longest period of time from 1984 to 1992.  All twelve Miss Marple stories were eventually filmed starring Hickson.  Joan’s Marple was penetrating, observant, and almost searing.  Her outfits never varied much from the gray tweed and simple hat.  The interesting part of Hickson’s Marple was the deliberate delivery and the way you could almost hear her brain grinding the characters into pulpy clues as she sat quietly knitting and observing everyone who passed her way.

 

 

 

 

After Hickson, Geraldine McEwan took on the role.  Her take on the character was far more feminine and friendly including more lace, more color, and more curls in her hair.  McEwan’s voice is higher, her gait is more lively, she has a sort of perpetually pleased look about her.  Her vast knowledge of human behavior truly seems to come out of left field as McEwan’s Miss Marple is more reminiscent of Mary Poppins than it is of Sherlock Holmes.  

 

 

 

 


Julia McKenzie is the latest actress to give Marple her own unique spin.  Clad in a sensible grey suit, she definitely reaches back towards Hickson’s Marple in her appearance, but her open demeanor is more like McEwan’s.  I’ve only seen one of the new Agatha Christie’s at this point, and am still smarting from both the exit of Hickson and McEwan.  I suppose after a while I will learn to accept this new Marple, but I do hate to start all over again!  I suppose in my heart, it will always be Joan Hickson who is the ultimate Miss Marple.  She is the one I watched first, and something about her seems just right to me, though I learned to love Geraldine’s Marple too and her outfits are unsurpassed in the world of elderly woman detective fashion.  

Speaking of elderly woman detective fashion…

Who’s up for a Miss Marple fashion show?

 

Here we have Joan Hickson sporting plain brown hat and plain brown jacket…

Only her sparkling blue eyes betray any sort of superior powers underneath that prim and austere exterior.

 

 


Julia McKenzie sports a humble grey jacket, minimal jewelry, and hat with only the most simple of trimmings.  It is a bit more flash than Hickson, but not much…

 

 

 

 


Comparitively, Geraldine is all about the flash.  

 

 

 

 


Extraordinary flash…

 

 

 

 


Shocking flash…

 

 

 

 

 


We better get back to Joan Hickson in plain brown hat and plain brown jacket to calm ourselves back down.

Hey!

I told you that it was exciting around here!

Now off with you!

Go watch the new Agatha Christies for free on PBS.org.  

And just try and get your heart to slow down and beat normally when you are done!

Pumpkins Along the Riviera

July 17th, 2009

I really wanted to plant a pumpkin patch this year.  I have long had a secret fantasy of owning a pumpkin farm, except that in my fantasy, there is no work involved.  In my fantasy, I inherit a pumpkin farm that is planted and ready to harvest.  Someone has already built a very cute farm stand with gingham covered tables and the sweetest wooden bins filled with an abundance of gourds and pumpkins in every shape, color and size.  A friendly neighbor volunteers to operate a horse drawn hay wagon that transports happy families back and forth to the pumpkin fields.  My children work without ceasing and never complaining to make hand pressed cider, pumpkin tarts, and adorable gourd birdhouses.  I myself, operate the cash register with frequent long breaks to sample the fresh baked goodies, wander aimlessly around the corn maze and sit on a sunny hay-bale to read a book.  We make loads of cash and after a few years, we retire in the Italian Riviera where I instantly write a best selling, suspense filled, action packed, heart breaking memoir entitled The Pumpkin Queen.  

Hey!  It’s my fantasy!  I can do whatever I want!

But I did not plant any pumpkins this year.

They planted themselves.

In my compost pile.

I think God is trying to tell me something don’t you?

I think I am supposed to move to the Italian Riviera.


I grew up in a house full of girls.  Neither my sister nor I were athletes. We both preferred dance, drama and music with all the accompanying sequins, to basketball, volleyball and track and the subsequent boxy uniforms with polyester racing stripes.  I did give sports a weak and shaky try in junior high, but I quickly came to  realize that my pathological fear of the ball was forever going to preclude me from success on any athletic court or field.  Call me crazy, but when I see a ball hurtling towards my head at sixty miles an hour, all my instincts tell me to hit the deck!  The idea of smashing the speeding spheriod with some implement or worse… a part of my own body was clearly ludicrous to me. The sidelines, which were populated by girls in cute pleated skirts, saddle shoes and pom poms quickly became my favored position to play on any athletic field.   

 

 

 


The years passed.  I got married and I found myself personally involved in a rapid string of pregnancies that resulted in four bald headed, blue eyed, bouncing, baby boys.  Theses babies grew and at the tender age of two, my husband placed a small plastic bat in their hands and taught them to bat left.  

 

 

 

“Why are you making my baby bat left, when he is clearly right handed?”  I asked my young husband as he pitched the seven hundredth ball of the afternoon towards my infant son.

“It puts him one step closer to first base,” my husband replied as we both watched our two year old connect and send the ball flying into the depths of our tiny living room as if he had been batting left his entire life… which he basically had been.

 

 

 


 


Every Spring as my boys have advanced from t-ball to coach pitch and upwards, I have sat and watched the first baseball practice of the season.  There almost always comes a point when the coach trots out to home plate and attempts to physically switch my various sons from one side of the plate to the other explaining that they need to bat right because they are right handed.  

“This is the way I bat,” my son would try to tell the coach.

“Are you left handed?” the coach asked.

“No,” my son replied.

“Then you bat right” the coach answered trying to swing my boy to the other side of home plate.

“But this is the way I have always batted,” my child pleaded as he attempted to wriggle away from the coach back towards the other side of the plate.

“If you’re right handed, you bat right,” the coach announced decisively. 

Suddenly, I found myself shakily rising from my seat in the bleachers and hesitantly stepping towards the backstop.  ”He bats left,” I hoarsely whispered with all the conviction of a turnip. 

“No ma’am… your son is right handed… he bats right,” the coach answered brusquely as if I were a turnip.

“Uh… well… he has been batting left since he was two,” I nervously replied.

The coach eyeballed me and quickly assessed that I had never held a bat in my hands much less hit a ball.  He reached to pull my son to the ‘right’ side of the plate when suddenly I remembered the words of my young husband in the tiny living room so long ago. 

“He bats left,” I said. “It puts him one step closer to first base.” 

The coach released my boy, looked at me with new respect dawning on his face, and allowed my son to bat the way he has batted since his infancy.  

 

 

And so began the epic journey of Little League baseball for each of my sons.

 

 


Of all the sports that my boys play, baseball is easily my favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like it because every kid gets a chance at bat, and while there may be positions on the field with more built in ‘glamour’ than others, every single fielder has the potential to make a great play.

 

 

 

 

There are still plenty of insane coaches, and parents who have lost their minds, but there is also an innate democracy in baseball that transcends the madness.  Even the weakest player on the team can hit a doinker past the pitcher and get an RBI.  Even the kid who gets tossed carelessly in right field inning after inning after inning can make a fabulous catch and hurl it to second base for a double play.  It is against the rules to sit a kid on the bench the entire game.  Everyone gets to play.

 

 

 
  

 


In football one, two or maybe three boys get to actually touch the ball or score a touchdown.  In basketball, only five kids at a time get to be on the court while everyone else sits and waits.  But in baseball, there are nine kids on the field.  No one except the batter on the opposing team has any control over where that ball is going to go and who might get to make the next great play. There is an air of expectancy as each new batter comes to the plate.  No one knows what is going to happen and everyone on the field has to be ready, watchful and totally in the game.  

 

 


 

Baseball may lack the crisp autumn air and the marching bands of a football game.  It may not have March madness and electrifying slam dunks, but of all the millions of games that I have watched my boys play, it is the only one I have seen with a built-in assurance that everyone has a shot to make something happen during the game.  And if they are willing to work hard to improve, pay attention, step up to the plate and swing for the bleachers they can make something happen on a regular basis. That’s why I love this game… and also… it moves at a slow enough pace for my feeble mind to understand what is going on…

oh and also… they might not have any sequins, but baseball uniforms are pretty darn cute.