Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy Halloween/ Quatermass

It's my favourite holiday, so as usual I've done nothing for it. I am up to my ears in urban fantasy/paranormal romance novels, but that's for work and not really Crinoline Robot territory anyway.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Anno Dracula by Kim Newman [books]

This is one of my three favourite books of all time, and a fitting alternate history to write about in Halloween week. (My other favourite books are Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré and The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald.)

To give you an idea of why I love this book so much, I’ll relate the opening.
Jack the Ripper is recounting, to his phonograph, the killing of his latest victim, a pretty foreign prostitute with her hair in a shiny black bob. Wham! In that one opening scene you have Jack Seward, the doctor from Dracula, as Jack the Ripper, in the final scene from Pandora’s Box starring Louise Brooks. Fictions and fact all colliding in one scene.

The book’s premise is simple: instead of driving Dracula away when they caught him with
Mina Harker, the vampire hunters wavered and Dracula escaped, killing Van Helsing in the process. He seduced, made young and married the grieving old Queen, and as the book opens London is a city where the undead are commonplace. Lord Ruthven is Prime Minister, vampirism is becoming extremely fashionable and in the East End someone is murdering undead prostitutes. The Diogenes Club, under the leadership of Mycroft Holmes, send in their agent Charles Beauregard, who teams up with vampire Genevieve Dieudonne to uncover the murderer (two of the few characters who are completely original to the book).

If you have any affection for Victoriana and vampire stories, even if you hate this novel you will adore going through it and picking out the allusions. I was especially pleased to note Raffles teaming up with Moriarty, and the word ‘Basingstoke’ always makes me smile now, but every page contains something to please and it gives the story an incredible richness. It’s like getting all one’s favourite things in one wonderful package.


The book you see here is my own, bought in 1992 and very battered. It's been signed by Mr Newman - usually I'm not prone to 'fannishness', but in the case I had to get the book signed.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

My style icons: Colleen Moore


“I was the spark that lit up Flaming Youth and Colleen Moore was the torch.”


So said F Scott Fitzgerald. Strange, then, that the girl who helped shape the look of a generation should be forgotten today. This photo is a postcard from my collection; when I bought it the chap who sold it to me told me most people picked it up thinking it was Louise Brooks, then put it down when they realised she wasn’t.


Why is Colleen one of my style icons? Back in the late teens and very early 20s, the flapper as we know her didn’t really exist. The term ‘flapper’ existed, the waistlines of dresses were dropping, and bob haircuts had started creeping in during the late teens, but weren’t especially common, but there wasn’t really a definining image of the flapper.


In 1920, curvy, long-haired Olive Thomas made a film called The Flapper. Sadly, Olive died later that year, probably a suicide. Had she lived, she probably would have been the first choice to play the lead in the 1923 film Flaming Youth. As it was, slender Colleen Moore got the role, chopping her hair off to convince the studio she was right for the part, and that film got girls reaching for the scissors all over the US. She may not have bobbed hers first, and I do think there were other actresses who wore theirs better (no-one will ever approach the perfection of Louise Brooks, in my opinion), but Colleen turned the bob from a curiosity to a craze. For that reason she ought to be better remembered as a style icon.


There is one little thing Colleen did that I won’t thank her for, but should probably be acknowledged: as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, she was the first celebrity to put her name to a perfume. ‘Colleen Moore’ perfume and cosmetics usually came in packaging adorned with shamrocks as she had Irish ancestry. Here’s hoping it smelled better than some of the dubious brews current celebs have a hand in.


Colleen continued to play flapper roles for several years (I would argue vigorously with the Wikipedia entry for Colleen Moore that suggests Moore’s flapper career was over by 1924 - the filmography is incomplete and misses out titles such as Synthetic Sin, Painted People and Why Be Good, plus she was voted the biggest box-office draw in the USA in 1926, above the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, hardly an actress whose career was over. I fear an overzealous fan of another actress had a hand in the entry about her...). Eventually she retired without losing all her money in the Wall Street Crash, and living to a ripe old age. Her story is a happier one than many a star’s, and that’s probably one of the reasons why she’s been forgotten.


Colleen is a style icon for me personally because she may not have been a great beauty, nor was she an outstanding actress, but like Bernice in the F Scott Fitzgerald short story Bernice Bobs Her Hair she showed that all a girl really needs is a nifty hairdo and a bit of spirit… Got scissors?



I had a little site devoted to Colleen back in the early noughties. I’m no longer with Blueyonder but the site remains. It’s a little out of date now, but you can find it here. The best thing is, the lost film list is out of date in a very good way! Her Wild Oat has been shown at film festivals in the US in recent years. The best online collection of photos of Colleen is at SilentLadies.com.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Vintage week, penultimate week in October


The biggest thing for me this week was getting my second batch of vintage knitting and sewing magazines. In the first batch were some damaged Stitchcrafts – the front and back cover had become detached from the main pages, and separated from one another. I've had fun working out which front and back cover goes with which set of pages. This 1947 issue has a pattern for a really pretty lacy bedjacket. I've been considering making one for loafing around in as my Victorian house can get quite cold in winter.

I also discovered that Mrs Stokes, a vintage china retailer, is going to be having an afternoon tea event in my nearest big city, Bath. One of the magazines at work has bought cups from her to use as props. Anyway, my hair has lost what Cheryl Cole would call its mawjaw so I thought going to the tea party would be fun and possibly get me some pointers as to where I can find a salon locally that can do vintage styles. I'm a bit nervous about going as I am not really sure what to wear, and some of my workmates are thinking of going too. This could be the green Mary dress' first outing!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Would anyone like...

The Vogue Knitting Book I bought at Ally Pally (see here)? I've just been given another one in a box of magazines, so the one I bought is now going free to a good home.

It's from 1959 and patterns include:
Jumper in reverse stocking stitch with cables down the sleeves and front and around the polo neck. (34-40in bust)
'Sailor' jumper, shaped like tunic with V-neck and false stripy front inside that (2-in-1 effect, 32-40in bust)
Three-colour ski sweater (32-40in bust).
Fichu-necked lace bedjacket (30-44in bust)
Dolman-sleeved dress (32-40in bust)

Patterns are not what you'd think of as epitomising the 1950s style, rather they're in that 1950s/1960s crossover area when garments stopped being so hourglass in shape but before mod patterns and colours crept in.

First to say they want it can have it - just reply in comments and then email me a postal address (could be your work one if you don't want to email your home one).

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

This week's telly

Enjoyed Gatiss' History of Horror on Monday much more than the previous week, possibly because he sees the value in Hammer films, whereas many people just seem to laugh at them. I think for me the stalk-and-slash of the 1980s films, coupled with the shift towards splatterpunk in 1980s horror fiction, is what turned a lot of people off the genre - it's certainly not my favourite aspect of horror, although the current 'misunderstood monsters only want twoo wuv' style comes extremely close, and if you gave me the choice between watching all the Friday 13th films and all the Twilight ones, I'd be in for the long haul with Mr Vorhees... Anyway, returning to the 1950s-1970s, I really loved the amount of attention Gatiss gave to Peter Cushing, and only wish there had been more time for Christopher Lee and Vincent Price. I hope someone does a documentary on Hammer's sets and costuming one day; Victoriana was out of fashion and so a lot of what you see on screen is authentic.

I had meant to watch The First Men in the Moon last night, and did manage the first half and then fell asleep. Mr Robot reckons I missed the best bits. It's not as bad as the time I went through a phase of falling asleep at the cinema, but annoying nonetheless. (The worst time was dropping off just before the end of Hitchcock's The Lodger, which I'd wanted to see for years and was the third film in a Hitchcock triple bill at the local tiny cinema, although struggling to keep awake during Terry Jones' presentation of Life of Brian was quite embarrassing as we were in the front row and he must've noticed.) Thank goodness for BBC iPlayer!

Monday, 18 October 2010

1930s-inspired design award


Like knitting? Like the 1930s? And are you a fashion student over the age of 18? If so, and you fancy entering the Knitwear Designer of the Year award at Clothes Show Live, the deadline for entries has been extended until this Friday, 22 October 2010. I thought I'd mention it here as the theme is 1930s glamour, and you don't actually have to submit a finished design at this stage, just a sketch and, if you like, swatches, mood boards and so on, so it's manageable within five days. (As a student I know people who cranked out a dissertation in a week...) Click here for full rules and a downloadable entry form.

The Young Knitter of the Year award is open for 13-to- 18-year-olds to enter, and for that they have to design – again, just submitting drawings at this stage – an accessory for their favourite celebrity, so if you have or know a teen who's mad about Marilyn or crazy for Audrey, get them to enter. Same deadline, entry form and full rules here.



Disclaimer: I work full-time for one of the magazines promoting this competition, but am not personally benefitting from this post in any way.

More televisual horror/ SF

A quick reminder for tonight and tomorrow - more History of Horror plus Brides of Dracula tonight, plus Mark Gatiss' adaptation of HG Wells' The First Men in the Moon tomorrow. (Given that I am frequently disappointed by his stuff because it's so close to something I'd love, I shall be prepared to watch it anyway. It beats the mind-numbing awfulness of yet another telly talent show.)

Brides... is a Hammer film. I love Hammer films. A lot of people are unable to see beyond the fact that they're old enough to look dated, not quite old enought to look stylish, but many of the early ones were actually very good. There's no Christopher Lee, but Peter Cushing is there contributing restrained elegance as always.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Scavenger Hunt!

Land Girl 1980 has challenged me to a scavenger hunt. I have to find and post things. Because I'm not very good at using the interweb, and I don't want to find myself stealing anyone's bandwidth or infringing copyrights, I'll mostly be posting links.

Your favourite YouTube video
It's not on YouTube, but this Flickr video of a Pallas kitten and a domestic kitten always makes me smile.

A pic of something that will make people go 'aaaw'
My husband took this picture of a rabbit at Lacock.












A funny T-shirt
What can I say? I don't wear T-shirts (and it's also been nearly 20 years since I stopped wearing jeans) but I do like cricket. If I did wear T-shirts, this is good.

Something geeky
I freelance for these chaps. Professionally geeky!

An image from your favourite film

A picture of something on your wishlist
I don't really have a wishlist. I would like to travel more, though…

(This is part of the Plaza de Espana, built in Seville to promote trade between Spain and America. The Expo was in 1929, the year of the Wall Street Crash. Trade was not stimulated, but the park, and the wonderful buildings in it remain.)

Friday, 15 October 2010

Waltz on the Wye [event]

Waltz on the Wye is a steampunk event being planned for next year in lovely Chepstow. One of my friends is helping to organise it, so I confess to complete and uttery cronyism in mentioning it here, although as steampunk fits in with CR generally it shouldn't matter. (If I start talking about another friend's Tango Tanning Party, feel free to call me out...)

There is chitchat at Brass Goggles.

I mentioned it to Mr Robot, although he's not into this sort of thing generally, and got 'I suppose we'd better find a Victorian camera,' as a response, so we may be going!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The gods of vintage really have smiled on me! [clothing]


My designer friend dropped off the first box of magazines she has for me this morning - mostly 1970s but with some 1950s there. The earlier magazines are in another box that she will drop off next week. She wasn't kidding when she said I'd need a car to get them all home. Enough about magazines, though: she included a

BLACK

VELVET

1930s DRESS

MADE BY ROECLIFF & CHAPMAN.

An act of incredible kindness. It once belonged to a member of her family and I will give it the care and respect it deserves. I love her designs, because they are always classic but with a feminine, graceful touch that makes them special – devoid of any hint of vulgarity. Clearly good taste is in the genes!

Edited to add a photo of the dress: I have tweaked it in Photoshop to try to bring out the lines of the fabric as black velvet is a pig to photograph. This skirt is actually quite full at the bottom, but being bias-cut it falls very straight unless there are hips in the way. The sleeves are around elbow length, perhaps a little longer, with ruching for about 3 or fou
r inches up the outside - looking inside the sleeve there's a strip of firm ribbon (petersham? grosgrain?) about 1/2 inch wide along which the ruching is done. The cowl neckline doesn't go all the way around, it appears to be separate fabric put in at the shoulders, fixed where you see the roughly vertical folds and then dangling free. It has a self-fabric belt with covered buckle, but I undid that for the photos. The front waistline appears to be cut in ever such a slight 'm' shape; the wave is very subtle.

And to counteract all that gorgeousness, because you shouldn't be overloaded, here's a 1970s poncho.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A History of Horror [television]

It's October, and the BBC seem to be bringing out the vintage horror, which suits me, sir. However, watching A History of Horror, I couldn't help wishing that they'd had someone other than Mark Gatiss doing it. Kim Newman, say, or Sir Christopher Frayling, as then it might have lived up to the name.

Gatiss loves horror, and appears to love an awful lot of vintage film and literature, but last night's programme (the first in a series of three) was sketchy at best, and entirely devoted to Hollywood film so it wasn't even a History of Horror. It doesn't even qualify as a History of the Hollywood Horror Film because it was so roughly done. The silents are all but ignored (he only really discusses The Phantom of the Opera, and the great Expressionist German horror films aren't even named.) In the comments on the decline of Bela Lugosi's career his work with Ed Wood and the British film Mother Riley Meets the Vampire aren't mentioned. You simply can't ignore the impact of the Germans on the Hollywood horror film of the 1930s because film crew fleeing repression in their home country brought a lot of Expressionist style to Universal horror films. All those wonky angles in the Frankenstein films, for example.

Not a good beginning to the series, but I will be watching the others nonetheless simply because it's so rare to get much vintage horror on telly.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Smells like teens spirit…

…or, a very rough guide to vintage perfume.

Lady Cherry did a lovely post recently about signature scents, and I was a little surprised to find myself the only person to name vintage scents, so I thought I'd try to do some speedy posts on perfume for people who want to get the scent, as well as the look, of their favourite era. However, first I'd like to get a couple of brief things about perfume out of the way.

Doesn't it go off quickly?
Not as quickly as people in the scent-selling business would have you believe! Over the years the 'top notes' - the freshest bits, such as citrus notes - will go first, but kept COOL and IN THE DARK a scent can stay wearable for quite some time. I put cool and in the dark in capitals because these are the critical things in prolonging a perfume's longevity. If you have a scent you value, keep it in the box, out of the sun and away from the radiator. Perfumistas are swapping scents bottled in the 1960s and earlier as I type this, and I myself own bottles bought in the late 1980s that are still good. Increased regulation of ingredients and reformulation of some classics means that some scents are actively sought-after in older formulations, especially Rochas Femme, Guerlain Mitsouko and classic Chanels.

I don't want to smell like an old lady
Get off my blog!

Seriously, it really gets me down when I see some of the finest perfumes ever made dismissed simply as 'smells like an old lady' by people for whom the height of sophistication is whatever mass-market syntho-scent is being shoved onto high street shelves. Some of the finest contain oakmoss, an ingredient that adds a certain 'dampness', and nowadays it's heavily regulated and so an unfamiliar quality. Some contain tiny quantities of 'dirty' smelling ingredients, completely at odds with the current trend for cleanliness in scent. There's nothing wrong with not liking vintage scents, but at least find the words to describe why you don't like them.

How will I know what I like?
Where possible, sample. You'll be surprised how many classic scents are still around in Boots or your local department store, so it's easy to pop in and try Miss Dior, Chanel no. 5, Lanvin Arpege, the classic Guerlains, Estee Lauder Youth Dew and so on. Because of current ingredient rulings (which are being tightened all the time) some of these are ghosts of their vintage selves, but you should still get an idea of what you might or might not like.

Perfumes are often divided into 'families': for ladies, chypre, floral and oriental are the classic divisions. However, I personally find that just as fashion falls into eras, so too do perfumes, and I'm happiest with fragrances from any family from the teens to the late 1930s, rather than going for a particular family. You may be the same. You may find one 'house' - Guerlain, Caron, Balmain etc. - has a style you particularly appreciate. Sampling will help you work out what you especially like.

Just as you can't usually find good vintage clothing on the high street, perfumes from some houses can be harder to find than others. In that case, try buying samples online. My favourite perfume shop is Les Senteurs in Belgravia; they stock a couple of Molinards, including the ultra-foxy Habanita from 1924 in a Lalique-designed deco bottle (I own a bottle of pure parfum; ay caramba!), the Isabey fragrances recreated from the 1920s, all the current Carons, which I will talk more about in another post, Robert Piguet perfumes, Creed fragrances (not available to purchase as samples, but you can go into the shop and try them on) and, oh the excitement, the Grossmiths, which have been relaunched this year from vintage recipes. For the gents there are the Creeds, Knize and D'Orsay - deco gents, do not miss the opportunity to try D'Orsay Le Dandy from the mid-20s.

A good, although pricy, source of samples and decants (larger-volume samples) is The Perfumed Court. I bought a sample of all the Jean Patou Ma Collection scents from them, and have spent the years following desperately trying to track down bottles of my own! This is definitely a good option if you're keen to try, say, a really broad selection of fragrances by Dior or Chanel, including some of the rarer ones which are still made but might require a trip to a boutique to buy. Be warned, though, if you do choose ones from the Vintage/discontinued list, you may fall in love with something you'll never find again.

Hmm, that wasn't so brief after all. In my next post, I'll try to cover perfumes from the pre-1920s, by decade, to the 1980s, focussing on ones that are still available so you can find them if you want to.

NOTE: I don't get free perfume from anyone. The chance would be a fine thing…

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Crinoline Robot's vintage week


This week the gods of vintage have smiled on me, oh yes!

It started off normally enough, with a book: The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham. It's a crime novel, with Albert Campion looking into why someone might be impersonating his widowed cousin's husband, who was a casualty of war. I really enjoyed it, if only for its non-saccharine portrayal of post-war London, including a ragged gang of beggars left homeless and, in some cases, disabled from the war, and with a heavy fog over the city. The story is fairly predictable, and the villain's name made me laugh because someone with the same name was later a very famous musician so I couldn't help but picture him in the story. However, it's got a cast far from your usual crime novel and was much more enjoyable for that.

That looked like it on the vintage front, but on Friday I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. On the train up I cast on Such Flattering Puffed Sleeves. I dropped by the Arbour House stand hoping to see lots of the goodies from A Stitch In Time 2. There weren't as many of those as I'd hoped for but all the items from the first volume were there, and it was great to feel them 'in the knit'. (I would love to know what moisturiser Susan uses, every time I see her I swear her skin glows! I was horribly sweaty, which is what happens when a lardy lass forgoes the courtesy bus and walks up the hill to AP, and that was quite embarrassing. Oh well. I'm sure I can't have been the only clammy monster after that hike.)

There was a stall there selling vintage knitting and sewing books, which is where I picked up the little 1959 volume pictured at the top of this post. It cost £9, which is rather more than I paid for the other volume of Vogue Knitting Book I own, but as I wasn't buying yarn I thought I'd treat myself. Then I spotted a 1930s embroidery/needlework book. I have one (shown here) and this was another from the same family, but with more homewares. £15. It's a good job I was working a stand, because that meant I had time to sit down and flick through it - and lots of pages had big holes where pictures had been cut out! Had it been one cut-out I'd have lived with it, but there were at least a dozen ruined pages. Back I went and got my money back.

However, one of the knitwear designers I work with dropped by the stand, and saw me gleefully waving my knitting pattern book about. She asked me if I liked old knitting and needlework books. "Oh yes, I've got them on my Christmas list."

And she said…

Wait for it…

I still can't believe it myself…

"I have an enormous pile under my desk at home and I don't use them? Would you like them? I can bring them in but there are rather a lot; you'll need a car to get them home."

I won't quite believe I'm getting them until I've got them, but this makes me so, so happy. I offered to pay but she doesn't want money so she's getting a gigantic box of Lindt chocolates whether she wants one or not! I often give away stuff to people I know will treasure it, I can't be bothered with eBay and would rather see things go to a genuinely loving home, and she must feel the same way about these patterns. Still, the gods of vintage have smiled on me!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril [books]


The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril is one of the books that puts the 'robot' in the 'crinoline'. I love alternate histories, tales of 'might have been' and suchlike. Author Paul Malmont is clearly a massive fan of the 1930s pulps. In it, two pulp authors, Lester Dent (creator of Doc Savage) and Walter Gibson (creator of The Shadow) relate to a young, less successful writer, L Ron Hubbard, the story of Chinatown's Sweet Flower wars. Meanwhile, in Providence the least successful writer of all, Howard Lovecraft, is dying after a trip to a mysterious island… not that a little thing like death can stop HP. (These aren't the only writers who pop up as characters, but I won't spoil things by naming the others. Spot them for yourself!)

The chapters relating the writers' adventures are interspersed with the story of a Chinese warrior, and as Gibson and Hubbard look into Lovecraft's demise and Dent tries to find out the real ending of Sweet Flower's story and the Dragon crosses the ocean, the tales meet in a wonderful climax in New York's Chinatown.

One problem with the pulps for modern readers is their attitude towards people of colour. I'm not Chinese-American, or of any Chinese ancestry, but I do feel that Malmont, while creating a work of pulp with all the exaggeration that requires, has also tried to create rounded Chinese characters. (If you have read this book and feel otherwise, please do say so in the comments because I'm well aware that there are things I might not be spotting.) The one character who is unreservedly 'bad' in the old pulp mould is an American soldier, and he features very rarely.

This is a great book, and if you're looking for a Depression-era adventure with plenty of pulpy action, I recommend it unreservedly. I adore films of pulps - yes, definitely Doc Savage: Man of Bronze and even The Shadow - and really wish this one could make it to the silver screen,

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

My style icons: Morticia Addams

It's Halloween this month, and I love Halloween, so many posts will have a spooky feel. Who better to start off with than the Woman Who Has It All?

The look: Long black hair, flashing eyes, long nails, porcelain skin and a wiggle dress fit for a funeral.

As style icons go, I’m willing to bet that Morticia has had more influence than Lily Munster. She definitely has on me; I first dyed my hair black at 19 and am still trying to break the habit. Although Vampira slinked her way across the screen first, Tish is older. Charles Addams began drawing a slender, black-clad, morbid lady in his New Yorker cartoons in the 1930s. (In fact, Vampira came into being in the 1950s after Maila Nurmi wore a Halloween costume inspired by the elegant Addams ladies to a party.) Whether the ladies were intended to be a 'character' or were all of a type I don't know, but when the television series came into being they were distilled into one brunette beauty, Morticia Addams. Several actresses have played her on stage and screen, but the first screen Morticia was Carolyn Jones

Thinking of words to describe Morticia, ‘slinky’ springs to mind, and part of me wonders if that’s where she scores over Lily M - that and a decidedly more intelligent and appealing husband. After all, Lily wins hands down on the hair front with her dramatic streak of white, and Yvonne de Carlo was a real beauty, but a pink empire line dress is never going to beat a tight black number, so for pure style Morticia wins.

At first glance, Morticia doesn’t seem to be of any era, but that’s the power of a slinky black dress. In the 1930s, she’d probably have worn a bias-cut, and her hair in the drawings does have a hint of a wave, albeit longer than was fashionable. Come the 1950s and she’s in a wiggle dress with hair pre-empting 1960s trends. This lady’s look has staying power!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Crinoline Robot's vintage week

As you've probably worked out by now, I don't live a vintage lifestyle as such, I just like old stuff. Here's what's been grabbing my attention this week.

Books: I'm reading The 12:30 from Croydon by Freeman Wills Crofts, in the form of a rather battered green vintage Penguin picked up at the Oxfam bookshop. I won't précis it here, but I'm always surprised that this writer's books haven't been reprinted more or made into television programmes. I've never even heard of one being broadcast on Radio 7.

Knitting: Have cast on Such Flattering Puff Sleeves from A Stitch in Time Vol 1. I was having trouble deciding between this and another couple of designs, but this one doesn't require anything beneath it and should do for work. I'm using a green with a bit less blue in it than the one in the picture. I have a lot of train travel to do one day next week, and as this is all rib with no shaping to the armholes it should be simple enough to knit on the journey.

I have also been very excited at the future launch of A Stitch in Time 2, and should be seeing some of the garments from it at The Knitting & Stitching Show next week. I'll be sure to tell you all about it either next Friday or next weekend.

Film: A week of bad things. Tony Curtis has died – I adore Some Like it Hot, even if the costumes aren't as 20s as I'd like – and some idiot is making a film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and they're talking about Gary Oldman playing George Smiley. Short, fat, besepectacled yet razor-sharp George Smiley. I still don't believe anyone could better Sir Alec Guinness in the BBC television version from the late 1970s, but they could at least let Anthony Hopkins have a go. George Smiley is one of my literary heroes, along with Miss Marple and Paul Temple and Steve and Nick and Nora.