The Durrells: Much less fun that I told everyone it would be

So here’s the thing. It’s 60 years since Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’ was first published. If you’ve ever read Durrell, you’ll know he is proper LOL funny. So when I heard that it was being made into a TV series, I had high hopes.

This is actually the third time that this family story has been captured on camera. It was first unleashed on the public in 1987, when Spiro was played by Brian Blessed.


More recently it was shown by the BBC in 2005 as a TV movie, where Spiro was played by Omid DJalili.c1f32dacbbf0a0c681b744430e4b9e92f6689e4a

Now it’s being made again, by ITV, and this time I’ve never heard of the guy playing Spiro.


Is it any good? You might have to wait for a verdict there. But it certainly isn’t as fun as the original book. This is a story that has been told so any times in recent memory that without a fresh angle, there would be no need.

So the fresh angle ITV hit on was to take the viewpoint away from playful young Gerry, and transfer it largely to his worry-struck mother. Suddenly what had seemed charmingly chaotic turned sadistic and terrifying. This might have been over-egging the drama; ratcheting up the tension in order to improve the payoff. But the problem there is that, when this is a TV series about a family’s everyday lives, constant tension is just too much.

The books I read were funny. And even some incidents which could be played for laughs (one brother locks another in a bat-infested toilet) are just dark here. Parallels could be drawn to Batman V Superman. Both just miss the intended audience by removing all the fun.

Copyright takes the Cake

Cooking for Copyright? Sounds awesome!

Historians are Past Caring

Copyright is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma to me – and yet I know I should try to understand it, because for any historian, access to sources – documents, pictures, other media generally – forms the basis of what we do.

I struggle constantly with the issue of copyright in my blog, since there is a question over any picture I pull from the web to put in a post. My personal compromise is to link the picture back to its original source on the web. That means – where I can – finding the library or art gallery it comes from, rather than just somebody else’s blog post. I’m not sure if this is an adequate safeguard, but since my blog only reaches a few hundred people, and makes no money, there’s probably no harm done. In a book, though, it’s not possible to salve…

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Night at the (British) Museum: fact and fantasy

British Museum blog

Sian Toogood, Broadcast Manager, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, British Museum

In the century or so since the birth of film, the British Museum has had many cameras within its galleries, labs and libraries. For the most part they have been filming documentaries, unravelling mysteries of the Museum’s collection, but every once in a while the Museum gets to participate in the organised chaos that is feature film production. In the past we have had Hitchcock in the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery, Merchant Ivory in the Assyrian Galleries and Phaedra in the Parthenon Galleries; we can now add Fox to this pantheon, with their third installment of the hugely popular Night at the Museum series: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.


I was extremely pleased when I was approached by Fox, not because it was a fantastic opportunity to get more people interested in…

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Male Fantasies, Historical Fiction, and Game of Thrones Geekery

A really interesting blog, and as a student of ancient history, it is interesting to see how many of these concepts can be pushed even further back.

Jeanne de Montbaston

This is how I imagine John Snow would die. You know nothing, John Snow.  The Hague, KB, KA 20, f. 34r. From This is how I imagine Jon Snow would die. You know nothing, John Snow.
The Hague, KB, KA 20, f. 34r. From this site.

This is an unashamedly geeky post, which I writing because it’s hot, and I’ve been doing a lot of proofreading, and because I enjoyed writing about Game of Thrones, misogyny and medieval romance last time. I’ve had a question from Rachel Moss (tweeting over on @WetheHumanities today) going round and round in my head today. She was talking about the popularity of the medieval era for fiction writers, and asked ‘What is it about the Middle Ages than encourages people to use it for fantasy?’

As I was thinking about this question, I came across this piece, titled ‘Why “Game of Thrones” Isn’t Medieval, and Why That Matters’. Now, normally, that title would make my heart sing, because I am fed up with the…

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Guest Blog: The League of Extraordinary Treasure Hunters

Something I wrote for The Archaeology of Tomb Raider. An awesome blog that’s well worth checking out.

Tomb Raider Horizons

Guest Blogger: Ross Wittenham.

How awesome would it be if Lara Croft found herself in an adventure with The Da Vinci Code’s Robert Langdon and National Treasure’s Ben Gates? It’d be like the Avengers of the treasure-hunting scene. Think about it; they have complimentary skill sets. Robert Langdon is all over the symbology business, while Gates is good at bluffing his way into top security events. Lara, of course, has all the cross-country and combat experience.

The League of Extraordinary Treasure Hunters as envisioned by Ross Wittenham The League of Extraordinary Treasure Hunters as envisioned by Ross Wittenham

Don’t forget their supporting characters either! There are two pet geeks in National Treasure’s Riley Poole and Tomb Raider’s Bryce. Imagine the bromance we could brew up there! Then you’ve got Lara’s butler Hillary and Gates’ wife Abigail, who both rock as disapproving third parties. Langdon doesn’t really have any long-term companions, but he seems to pick up English-speaking buddies in major…

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