No Complaints #42: Chess, Cardinals and a Corpse

Surprise! The newsletter is early today, because I’m about to leave to go to the Outer Hebrides for two weeks. Normal service will resume on Friday 13 November. In the meantime, if you want to look at some moody pictures of lochs, I will surely be posting lots of them here.

Things to read

“Prof. Xavier blunders away his queen, swinging the advantage heavily towards Magneto. In the context of this film — chronologically the first film in the series — this totally seems like something Xavier would do. He is young, brash, occasionally nihilistic and still grappling with his new responsibilities. Magneto, on the other hand, is cool and assured, even when his back is against the wall.”

The chess take on famous chess scenes from films. Surprisingly interesting even if, like me, you don’t care very much about chess. Email to Pocket.



“The RT conference is a universe unto itself. Its 3,000 attendees represent a subculture free from the male gaze. Mostly in their 40s and 50s, these women sported naturally coloured hair and comfortable-looking clothes and shoes. It was a place where not only are older women not ‘invisible’, as countless Daily Mail surveys suggest, but they are valued and respected, and a few are even millionaires.”

Romance novels: there’s more to them than you might think. Email to Pocket.



“She heaved herself up with a sigh so huge that, oh, horrors! it blew out all the candles and then, worse and worse! she left me alone with the Spirit! but nothing more transpired because the Spirit seemed to have passed, if not on, then out, flat out in her wheelchair, and the inner light that brought out the shine on her satin dress was extinguished, too. I saw nothing until a set of floods concealed in the pines around us came on and everything was visible as common daylight, the comatose old lady, the drowsing old lion, the depleted drinks trolley, the slices of lemon ground into the terrace by my nervous feet, the little plants pushing up between the cracks in the paving, the black water of the swimming-pool on which my over-excited, light-wounded senses hallucinated a corpse.”

Angela Carter does Hollywood. Email to Pocket.



“Amid the atrocities, despair and degradation, inspirational leadership, inordinate courage and the bonds of loyalty and friendship resulted in 'heroism, superhuman tenacity and exceptional willpower to survive'. Women who had been housewives, doctors, opera singers, academics and petty thieves not only survived, they ensured that what was being done to them was documented and smuggled out to the wider world. Ethnologist Germaine Tillion, formerly an observer of African tribes, kept a daily diary, at huge risk, of 'the most essential facts; the ones that horrified the most, that were too important to commit to memory'. She later gave evidence at war crime trials. When she died, aged 100, in 2008, her best friend, Anise Girard, with whom she had twice managed to escape the Ravensbrück gas chamber, was by her side.”

The story of Ravensbrück, the only Nazi concentration camp built just for women. Email to Pocket.



“I once heard a story from a political spin doctor about returning to the city centre from Áras an Uachtaráin with Charlie Haughey after he handed in the government seal to the president. They travelled in a convoy with motorcycle outriders and sirens blaring, breaking red lights in the rush to be important. But on the return journey, at each corner the guard of honour slipped quietly away, and suddenly the driver of the car realised he couldn’t just take over the road or they would all be killed. They were back in the real world.”

Good writing about the ever-present, sweaty fear involved in getting older. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

The concept of The Six Mothers-In-Law of Henry VIII is so good that it makes me 70 per cent admiring, 30 per cent raging mad that I didn’t think of it first. It’s sort of Horrible Histories for grown ups, or RPF about the Tudors (I know that’s also basically what Hilary Mantel does, but this is shorter and on the radio, OK?) If only there was a version for the Hanoverian monarchs of the 18th century, I could die happy. Sophia of Hanover should get a whole episode, for starters. . .

Things to watch

Those Northern Lights, so showy.

Mr Virginia Woolf.

Starlings were meant to fly.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

"The name’s Cardinal Woof-sey.”

The guest gif


THE END. See you next time*!
*Next time will probably be next Friday. If you want to suggest things I should include in the next one of these, please do reply and send me links.