On the way up in the car to Otematata we listened to some Agatha Christie short stories (The Listerdale Mystery) read by Edward Petherbridge. None of them were mystery stories in the usual Christie sense; rather it was if she was having time off and was writing for the sheer fun of it. The tone of the stories was much more like P G Wodehouse, in fact, and there was a delight in the use of words, and a wit you don‘t necessarily associate with Christie. Two fo the stories had a hero named George, which seemed a bit odd; in fact initially we thought we’d put the same tape back in. But the two Georges were very different, as it turned out. Petherbridge does the reading very well, with a great ability to delineate the different characters.
In the evening we watched the TV version of a Philip Pullman story, The Ruby in the Smoke, in the evening. I’d gone off Pullman after the bad theology of His Dark Materials series, but in this story he’s pitting good against evil without anything more theological than just plain storytelling. A host of well-played characters appeared within the first five minutes, but they sorted themselves out in due course, and an exciting story with constant twists. Julie Walters had a ball as the villainess, Mrs Holland, whose desire to have the ruby in question left her no room for qualms about killing people off. The highlight of her role was removing her false teeth (they’d belonged to her deceased husband and she wasn’t going to see them wasted going to the grave with him), and washing them off in her cup of tea. She conveyed a great sense of menace even with her death mask of a face, and an inability to see her evil as anything other than necessary. Billie Piper from the Dr Who series played the heroine.
The story was set in late Victorian times (I think), a period in which men were no longer so concerned about no wearing their suitcoats at all times (particularly indoors), and young women had stopped wearing bonnets out in the street, and were free to go unchaperoned.