Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Tell-Tale Heart - How Scary Is It Really?

Last week in my Short Form Fiction class, my lecturer, the amazing Ania Walwicz, brought us copies of The Telltale Heart, a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1843.
When I saw it, my own heart did a little flip as I remembered being scared out of my wits by this tale when I was very young. How young, I now wonder? I said in class that my mother read this tale to me when I was about ten and it frightened the daylights out of me. Now, after having read it and discussed it with others, I can't believe this to be right. I know that there was at least one well-thumbed copy of Edgar Allan Poe stories in the house, but surely no-one would read such a horrible story to a ten-year old? Yet the written tale itself is not really all that frightening.
To summarise, a young man becomes obsessed with the pale, dead eye of the old man he lives with, to such an extent that he finally kills him, chops him up and hides him under the floorboards. (See? Not scary at all.) He denies his own patently obvious madness and when two policemen arrive, summoned by the old man's screams, the young man's own guilt leads him, quite quickly, to confess.

The impetus for his confession, and what scared me witless as a ten year old, is the sound of the old man's heartbeat, pounding away, unstoppable, even after his death.
Many films have been made of this short story - predictably all short, as there's not much of a plot. One, made by Brian Desmond Hurst in 1934, was quickly withdrawn from the cinema and written up in newspapers at the time as the film that was 'too horrible to show'.

My family were all avid movie-goers so I suspect it was one of these short films I got to see so young. And ever since, the sound of a pounding heart, in any movie, has had the capacity to scare me quite terribly. Now that I've re-read The Telltale Heart, combed YouTube for a dozen versions of the short film and watched them all, I think the scare factor has dissipated.

Pity, really. I think I'll kind of miss it....


Sunday, 6 March 2016

Dogs on Twitter?

Here’s something you may not know. Thousands of dogs all over the world have their own Twitter accounts. Can you believe that?
Okay, let me go back. I was one of those people a bit dismissive of Twitter. I chortled disdainfully along with Jon Faine when he relayed the news to radio world that there were rumours of YouTube merging with Twitter and Facebook to form a conglomerate known as YouTwitFace. I applauded the divine Miss Kitty Flanagan when she did an hilarious skit shouting Twitter-type information loudly, from a park bench. 
Who cares, I thought, who in the Twittersphere let another cup of tea get cold, bemoaned their dimpled thighs or caught the cat chewing their toothbrush? (Actually, a good warning in that last one maybe...).
So when a particular course I’m doing decreed that we all must have a ‘presence on the ‘Net’—including on Twitter—I hit upon the amazingly unique idea of hiding behind one of my dogs (thanks Archie) and setting up the account in his name.
And oh, how very unoriginal that turned out to be. A zillion dog owners throughout the world thought of this years ago. Many of them have four and five thousand followers!

And how entertaining it is to join the ranks. (Don't mention the time-wasting...)
There’s the gorgeous golden retriever, Tennyson Tails, who tweeted “Human has left vacuum cleaner in the doorway of lounge (turned off). How can I possibly get round it, I will have to sit in the hallway forever.”
Digger (left) with his exploding bed - honestly!
Or the beautiful Cockerpoo (I think we call them Spoodles), Royston Bradley, with a photo of all his toys pegged on the washing line '........ an old photo, Marvin has no ears now'.
There’s the irresistible West Highland Terrier, Busby Watson, with his message “Me moustache is covered in gravy. Look like Poirot.” 
And countless trails of destruction—dog beds, shoes, videos, tv remotes, fruit from backyard trees—with cute photos offering funny justifications from the doggy perpetrators.
I realise this is a bit like people trying to relate their dreams, isn’t it. Chances are you’re not falling around in helpless laughter as I often am when I waste time in the doggy Twittersphere. You have to be there. And thousands of dog-lovers the world over obviously are. Archie has clocked up 335 followers in his first few months. True! Most are from the UK, some from Canada and the US and a few from Australia and Europe. One devoted Follower is a German Neurophysicist now living in Ohio. Go figure.
So look, I know it’s a time waster. There’s climate change, Donald Trump, Syria, Africa, refugees, shameful governments all over the world, broken promises and self-serving policies that will affect the state of humankind for centuries to come. How calming then, it is, to view a Tweet with accompanying photo of a brown cocker spaniel staring fixedly at a sunny window and the caption – “Looking for a fly.”  It’s a great antidote, I can tell you. Check it out.