Every once in a blue moon, a reader stumbles upon my blog. I was reminded of that fact yesterday, which in turn reminded me how neglected Writer’s Log has been lately. What can I say? I’ve been too busy reading, writing and playing games (I’m so close to finishing Thief, Wolfenstein: The New Order and Mass Effect 3 [Marie, stop narrowing your eyes at me], and Sleeping Dogs and Life Is Strange are not going to play themselves, are they?). The other thing that has me occupied these days is TV serials. Funny, because I don’t have a TV; I do have a projector and an empty wall, though.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere earlier, I’ve been on the lookout for series with (good) stories about women. Turns out, this is exactly the right time to be searching for those. Though I can’t take full credit for the collection listed below, I can certainly share:
This is an ITV series based on Ann Cleeves’ mystery novel series. Vera is all about DCI Vera Stanhope of Northumberland and City Police leading various murder investigations. Played to perfection by Brenda Blethyn, Vera is a straight-talking, no-nonsense police detective. You can count on her to spot things that no one else does and you won’t find anyone who works harder than her. Chances are, her sharp tongue will lash out at you, but you’re equally likely to be taken aback by glimpses of a kind heart. Vera is a maverick and incredibly sharp. She’s arguably one of the best older female characters on TV at the moment. Each episode is 1.5 hours long, so late-night writing on Mondays is a goner these days.
In the quest to devour everything with Nicola Walker in it, I stumbled upon Collateral. This is a four-part BBC drama, a police procedural investigating the killing of a London pizza delivery man. It also has Billie Piper and John Simm (of Doctor Who fame), an added bonus. Just watched the one episode (and loving Nicola Walker [of course]), so let’s see where this one goes.
Wednesdays: Holby City
Another BBC drama, a hospital story based in the fictional city of…you guessed it, Holby. The astounding thing about Holby City is that it’s in its 20th year; not just that, each episode is usually an hour long, and they manage to put out 52 episodes a year!!! So basically, it hasn’t been off air for 20 years. Imagine that. Anyhow, we started watching Holby City for the Serena Campbell and Bernie Wolfe story line — more on that here — but are now fully invested in the non-#Berena characters too. Yes, it helps that Serena is back in the story and Bernie is in the background, but there are plenty of other interesting characters (good, bad and downright ugly). Must say, though Holby City has a host of interesting women: Jac Naylor, Roxanna Macmillan and Frieda Petrenko, off the top of my head. I’m not ashamed to admit that I started watching Holby from series 18, episode 17, when Jemma Redgrave made her first appearance on the show.
Thursdays: Call the Midwife
Another one from the BBC stable (Are you seeing a pattern here? No? Oh well.), based on Jennifer Worth’s memoirs, also titled Call the Midwife. The series, I daresay, is somewhat more interesting and well-rounded than the book itself, expanding from Worth’s recorded experiences, and branching out from her somewhat judgemental (in places) observations coming from her middle-class upbringing. It tells the story of a team of nurses and midwives, some of whom are nuns, based in the poor London neighbourhood of Poplar in the 1950s and 1960s. Rather than just a collection of stories about children being born (and yes, there are a lot of gory birthing scenes with plenty of screaming [makes me wonder what the neighbours think we’re watching]), it depicts a rich tapestry of lives in an impoverished setting in difficult times. CTM touches upon events that are etched in stone in history, such as the thalidomide disaster, the introduction of oral contraceptive pills, immigration after WW II, incest, faith, sexuality, dementia and plenty more. Particularly fascinating is the choice of these women to take up nursing and/or midwifery as careers, and even to become nuns, as a means of gaining independence and living their lives on their own terms. All of this at a time when women were not expected to have careers, and expected to be wives and mothers to the exclusion of all else.
Fridays: Grey’s Anatomy
Since The Fosters finished, Grey’s Anatomy has been the only American series on the agenda for the moment. I’ve been a devotee of Grey’s since it first started 14 years ago, though my faith was shaken after Sandra Oh left the show, and then Sara Ramirez. I even stopped for a season (season 13). However, I was enticed to return to it in season 14, which has shown a remarkable improvement. This is a medical drama about a group of doctors in Seattle’s Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. I suppose I continue to watch to know what’s going to happen to a number of beloved characters, including Meredith Grey, Alex Karev, Miranda Bailey and Richard Webber. I haven’t found myself particularly invested in most of the more recent characters, though there are some interesting story arcs.
Saturdays: Weekly off
If you’re still reading, then, wow. I won’t keep you much longer. Casualty is what gave birth to Holby City, and is currently airing its 32nd series (each Casualty series has 40 to 45 episodes from what I gather, each episode an hour long). It is based in the Accidents and Emergency Department of the ficitonal Holby City Hospital. I’ve only watched one episode so far (series 32, episode 24, where the irascible Jac Naylor, cardiothoracic consultant from Holby City crosses over to Casualty, but I am absolutely sure I will continue to watch.
And that rounds up my weekly television schedule. This list is always chopping and changing, of course. Sometimes I mix it up a little with a bit of sitcom. The ones that don’t make me want to throw things at my screen are Mom and One Day at a Time.
It’s stock-taking-of-the-year time and the only thing I can think of is, 2017 was the year I discovered Berena!
Well, in the larger scheme of things, the year that just went by was a horrible one. Right-wing bigots continued to be in power, the digital enslavement of Indian citizens went on, the economy remained effed, human beings found new ways to hurt, kill and maim each other…if I go on in this vein, I’m going to have to crawl back into bed and cry myself to sleep. Thus, I’m choosing selfishness, and will look inwards into the tiny confines of my own life for the moment.
From a personal perspective, fortunately, the past year has been pretty decent. There was reading and writing, travel to old and new destinations, the discovery of new TV content, and there was chocolate. Of course, there were troubled times, but one lived to tell the tale, so let’s chalk all that down to life experience.
How did I do on my to-do list from last year? Let’s see:
- Writing: Though I didn’t exactly stick to my resolution of finishing a fantasy novel, this was a good year for writing. Also, Hit for a Six came out almost on the dot of the year end, while the US edition of Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean was published in March. A short story of mine was also accepted in Harper’s Flipped anthology. Finally, I submitted two other shorties for anthologies—one a spec fic collection on India in another 70 years, the other a volume on the theme of exams—both of which have been accepted.
- Fitness: Late in 2016, I discovered FitnessBlender.com, and rebuilding my fitness regime ensued with great success.
- Gaming: Could have gone better, but it wasn’t too bad. A brand new game, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition is lying in wait for me to inaugurate (early birthday present from Marie). Oh also, a couple of weeks ago, after almost two decades of gaming, I finally managed multiplayer. The grand plans didn’t quite go as anticipated, but still, I’m not hard to please. Sometimes.
- Travel: In June 2017, we were invited to the wedding of some friends in Germany. With them, we visited Rathendorf, a village in Saxony; Leipzig; and Mecklenberg, the German “lake district”. On the way back to India, we popped into Prague too.
- Website redesign: Oh, shut up. x-(
- Blogging: Well begun but not even half done. Sigh.
- Self-publishing: To be fair, this was a good year on the writing front and not the right time for self-publishing.
So now on to the list of things I intend to tick off before I turn 43:
- Write aforementioned fantasy novel: I wrote a short story in late 2017 that I’m keen to flesh out into a novel. Since the story is already there, I’m hoping this will actually work out pretty quickly. Just the little matter of a publisher saying yes…
- Keep up with the fitness regime: Not expecting a problem on that front.
- Take up drawing again: Well, yes.
- Redo the website: Don’t laugh. I’m really sick of the design.
Check back here in 365 days to see how I did.
(Criminally late update? Let’s brush that under the carpet, shall we?)
Back in 2010, the Guardian suggested the page-99 test to find out if you want to read a book. In short, you read page 99 of the book in question to decide if it’s worth your time.
Since my new book, Hit for a Six, is a slim 148 pages long, I fear a page-99 test might be too much of a spoiler. Thus, here’s a middle-of-the-book test:
“I’m not very interesting, I don’t know why you want do a biography of me,” said Laila.
“We are supposed to pick someone ordinary,” replied Samir. His eyes widened in shock immediately as he realized what he’d said. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that you were boring or anything!”
“It’s fine.” But she was slightly stung anyway.
She had agreed to meet him in Chandnisarai’s new coffee shop called Conversations. It was not a very apt name because the music was so loud, you could barely hear yourself think. Also, everything was very expensive. Laila had ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, which turned out to be black coffee and was revolting, even after emptying four sachets of sugar in it.