The Summer We Watched “Poldark” Again

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Last year, we watched the 1975 BBC series “Poldark” (let’s call it “#1), which spurred me to read the 12 Winston Graham novels back to back (read my blog post here).

This summer, I checked out the new version of “Poldark” – #2 in short – from our library to compare the two interpretations. Here is my review:

The Good: Overall, casting was excellent. Our absolute favorite was Aunt Agatha, followed by George Warleggan (a more sinister portrayal than #1).

The Not-Quite-Great: Demelza did not have the spunky and joyful personality I so adored in #1.  Ross, on the other hand, had mostly one facial expression: brooding. He seldom smiled and I sorely missed the chemistry of Ross #1 and Demelza #1.

The Great: Just like in the books the landscape of Cornwall was the true star of the show. The cinematography was superb and made the locations very real.

Overall it was a delightful experience and I am looking forward to the fifth and final season.

 

Image: Herbythyme (https://commons.wikimedia.org)

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Der Sommer 1976

Die gegenwärtige Hitzewelle in Europa erweckt in mir Erinnerungen an die erste extreme Hitzewelle meines Lebens – der Sommer 1976. Damals war ich Schülerin an einem Wirtschaftsgymnasium im Kreissitz. Nach kurzer Busfahrt zum Bahnhof und einer etwa halbstündigen Zugfahrt mussten meine Freundinnen und ich noch fast eine halbe Stunde zu Fuß zum Schulzentrum laufen, und das ohne jeglichen Schatten unterwegs. Es war selbst bei gutem Wetter eine anständige Strecke. Und dann begannen die Temperaturen anzusteigen…

Leider begannen die Schulferien in Rheinland-Pfalz in jenem Jahr spät. In meiner Schule bekamen wir Hitzefrei, wenn das Thermometer um 11 Uhr morgens 27° C anzeigte. Das bedeutete, dass wir wochenlang jeden Tag Hitzefrei hatten! Die Heimfahrt im überhitzten Zug war kein Zuckerschlecken, aber die Belohnung wartete daheim auf mich: das neue Waldschwimmbad meiner Gemeinde. Hier lernte ich nicht nur schwimmen, sondern traf mich auch mit meinen Freundinnen.

Meine Noten litten nicht unter dem wochenlangen Hitzefrei. Als dann die Ferien endlich begannen, war die Hitze vorbei und ich war froh, dass ich während einer der schlimmsten Hitzewellen des vorigen Jahrhunderts mein heißes Klassenzimmer gegen das kühle Naß unseres Schwimmbades eintauschen konnte.

 

The Summer of 1976

The current heat wave in Europe brings back memories of the first extreme heat wave I experienced in my lifetime – the summer of 1976. I was attending a high school at the county seat, which required a bus ride to the train station, a train ride of about 30 minutes and a half hour walk to the school with no shade along the way. It was an ordeal in good weather. And then temperatures climbed up and up.

 

School vacations in Germany are staggered by states and my state of Rheinland-Pfalz began vacations very late that year. Our school’s rule required early dismissal of students if the temperature reached 27° Celsius at 11 o’clock. For weeks on end, that’s when school ended. Traveling home by train was an ordeal in such hot weather, but a refreshing reward awaited me at home: the swimming pool my township had opened just a few years before the record heat wave. Not only did I learn to swim there, the pool was the center of my social life as a teenager.

 

My grades did not suffer from early dismissals. Temperatures finally dropped when school vacation began, making me even more grateful that I could trade a hot classroom for dips into a pool during one of the worst heat waves of the last century.

A Look Back at 2018

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The most exciting event of the past year was the release of my new book “Common Backyard Birds.” Thanks to the advance copies I sent to reviewers the book is now available in public libraries from coast to coast. As a public speaker I shared my images and experiences with audiences at libraries, book stores, garden clubs, Rotary clubs and even a high school ecology club.

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The weather has been exceptionally bad for this outdoor photographer. Just when we thought winter was over we experienced snow in April. Spring was short and the summer long, hot and extremely wet. If we did not smash the local record for most rainfall in a year we came in at a very close second. The frogs in our pond seemed to enjoy the weather more than we did.

Let’s hope that the new year will bring more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, good health and new experiences!

Our German Christmas Cookie Traditions

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A German Christmas without cookies is unthinkable. That was particularly true during my childhood when you could not buy them at bakeries. Most of them were work-intensive and help was much appreciated, especially when I was old enough to hold a mixer. Cutting the dough with cookie cutters or shaping the Spritzgebäck (spritz cookies) were my favorite activities. Other staples were Anisplätzchen (aniseed biscuits) and Löwenzahn (lion’s teeth). Space was at a premium in our tiny kitchen where the only table served as work space, ironing board and homework desk. I don’t know how we managed.

The finished products were stored in tin containers on top of my parents’ wardrobe. It was an open secret that my dad loved to “steal” cookies every day from the large supply. I firmly believe that the stolen cookies tasted much better in his opinion than any that were freely offered to him! We kids also dipped into the containers, with the aid of a chair, of course.

Despite all “thievery” there were still enough cookies left by Christmas Eve. Over the holidays we visited our aunts, uncles and a great-aunt to pick up our gift and a bag of cookies. That was our opportunity to sample other varieties because every housewife had her specialties.

The cookies have long been eaten and the women who baked them have passed away but the memories of those magical times linger on and surface every December.

 

Image: Kereul (commons.wikimedia.org)

The Year I Read the Poldark Novels

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Last winter, we watched the 1975 BBC Series “Poldark” on our streaming service. We were soon hooked on the story and I was thrilled to learn that the author, Winston Graham, had  actually written a series of 12 novels. While I knew the basic story lines of the first four books from the show, there were many more descriptions and plot lines to keep my interest. I just finished the last book, “Bella,” and would like to share my thoughts.

 

The Good: The relationship between Ross and Demelza. I could never figure out what he saw in Elizabeth, his first love, but was quite surprised when he suddenly married his kitchen maid. Watching them love, grow, struggle, and grieve together was the strongest plot line in the books. The second book, “Demelza,” was probably my favorite of the series. Even secondary and minor characters were well developed. I particularly liked the empathy that Ross showed toward the lower classes. This often put him at odds with his own class but that did not deter him. After all, he married a miner’s daughter.

Marrying a partner outside their own social class became a recurring theme in the series. I doubt that these plot lines occurred frequently in real life but they made for great stories. Dr. Enys and Caroline were one of my favorite couples.

 

The Not So Good: Why, oh why, did so many names of families and estates begin with the letter T? I should have taken notes in book 1 to record who was who.

Some plot lines were overly long and I often wondered why they were included at all, other than adding local color. The books would have been long enough without them.

The ending of “Bella,” the last book in the series, left me wanting. I expected a conclusion and wished that the author had finished the series with “The Twisted Sword.”

 

The Great: The real star of the novels was Cornwall itself. I loved Winston Graham’s descriptions of nature. I could practically smell the salt of the sea in the air and hear the wind rattling at the shutters of Nampara.

The Poldark novels also provided a history lesson for me. I had not realized that England was at war for most of the period when the novels took place (and that was after the French and Indian War and the American Revolution). By putting his major characters right into the conflicts history became very real for me, especially in “The Twisted Sword.”

 

Image: Herbythyme (https://commons.wikimedia.org)