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Skyward Sword/Mixed Biscuits

Monday 3rd September, another lightless grey and humid morning. Two well-grown young blackbirds picking about on Val and Nick's lawn. I saw my last swift last week, strangely enough, from the scaffolding that decorated the front of the house (it's gone now), hawking alone in the grey skies, long after its time. Hungry Ghosts moon last Friday, & that's another summer over.

I bought Skyward Sword for Gabriel for Christmas, and at first we were all thrilled. A new Zelda! So long in preparation it must be good! A whole sky to explore, and all the usual suspects down below. Such fantastically reponsive swordplay! Stunning dungeons, absolutely lovely Shadow Realms, perfect Christmas entertainment for player and spectators alike... But it needed to be played straight through. Dipping in and out, the game palled. There was (I know, I know, but still) no narrative drive, barring that rather lame attempt at an "American High School Rivalry" riff; for which, admittedly, we were the wrong audience. Link's guide was not only annoying (which is traditional) but also prissy and dull; the item collections went nowhere and worst of all, the music element was a disgrace. And what was good got milked to death. The Imprisoned eg was a fantastic, beautiful monster the first time you met it, but by about the fifth battle with the same great lump and his toes, it was ho-hum. Same thing went for Ghiraim: his "evil" camp banter was cool first time round, but didn't he keep coming back! And not forgetting the wimpiest Zelda ever: a Zelda whose important contribution was to whimper and moan when being tortured off scene... In the end, this brilliant reinvention seemed more like a bag of Mixed Biscuits, every variety of Zelda experience; custard cream, bourbon, pinky wafer, jammy dodger, ginger nut, fruit shortcake, but all of them a bit dusty, a little soggy, a little knocked about at the corners. It didn't help that I was playing Ocarina of Time myself, reaching the last battle with Ganon for the 2nd time on 24th of June, with such exhileration, triumph and sadness. There was no comparison.

But why open this lightless, ominous New Year with an item on Zelda, of all things? Because in a low mood at the beginning of August, I suddenly decided to read George MacDonald's Phantastes & Lilith again, which I own in the Gollancz 1971 reissue, with the C. S. Lewis introduction. The first time I read Phantastes I was eleven. I'd just had my four back teeth out, to make room for the advent of Wisdom Teeth in my crowded mouth. My mother put me to bed to nurse my bleeding, wadded jaws, and brought me mashed banana and this wonderful book. I can't say I "crossed a great frontier", since I'd already read and reread C.S.Lewis's own Narnia books, full of MacDonald's inspiration. But I definitely met something I was well up for by nature; only lacking the technology... That part where Anodos casts himself into the cold and stormy subterranean ocean, in despair at escaping his fate by any means but Death...

"I breathed again, but did not unclose my eyes. I would not look on the wintry sea and the pitiless grey sky. Thus I floated until something gently touched me. It was a little boat floating beside me. How it came there I could not tell; but it rose and sank on the waters and kept touching me in its fall, as if with a human will to let me know that help was by me. It was a little gay-coloured boat, seemingly covered with glistering scales like those of a fish, all of brilliant rainbow hues. I scrambled into it and lay down in the bottom with a sense of exquisite repose. Then I drew over me a rich, heavy purple cloth that was beside me... I awoke and found that my boat was floating motionless by the shore of a grassy island. The water was deep to the very edge, and I sprang from the little boat onto a soft, grassy turf"

Right. That's me sorted for the next while. Wind Waker will carry me away.

Holiday Reading: Villette, of which more later; which I found excellent and fascinating, as if Charlotte Bronte had said to herself, so long Mr Rochester, enough of this sneakly sugared w**k-aid, I shall write the true story of Jane Eyre now. And The Corner That Held Them, Sylvia Townsend Warner; brilliant. Life during the endless wartime of the Fourteenth Century, from the Black Death to the Peasants' Revolt, as it was for a small community of nuns in the Fenlands. Unsparing, engrossing, and probably no coincidence that the author wrote it, in a corner of England where women had become the main constituent of society, during the wartime of 1941-47.

Holiday activities: (besides crawling around on scaffolding). If you plan to visit North Norfolk any time, may I recommend Hidden Norfolk, and a trip on the Auntie Pam, to see the seals, masses of therm turning up their tails like frying sausages on the Point; and troll for mackerel, and watch the sunset. Not cheap, but a whole lot of fun.

I can't tell you much about the fantastical keynote tree. I don't know if this fine Plane tree is actually an exotic species, or if the extraordinary barrel body and tentacly groping branches are symptons of old age and misadventure; or even some strange kind of topiary. It's in Canterbury Cathedral close, anyway.

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