The Thrifty Fictionista Takes to Her Bed…

TF Adventure

I would MUCH rather be on an adventure than have the flu.

So, it finally happened.  I thought, when I got laryngitis a couple of weeks ago (much to the eternal — or perhaps infernal — amusement of my children), that I had done my time with lurgies great and small this Winter.  Or Spring.  Or whatever the damn season is, given that the temperature rocketed up to 34°C two days ago before plunging back to a wild and windswept 12°C.

Unfortunately, my own temperature has been vacillating just as unpredictably: influenza has me in its evil grip, and the Thrifty Fictionista has taken to her bed.  Still, rather than railing against the indignity of barely having the energy to get out of said bed, or boring you with my symptoms, I have managed to haul myself upright for a minute or two so I can tell you what has been keeping me sane for the past three days.

Books.

Books, books and more books.  And even though recently I have been reading things like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (which I freely admit I could not read in bed as I found that a bit too disturbing), and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (which I highly recommend — both as a read and a concept), and Jane Harper’s The Dry (which is as fine a debut novel as you’ll ever read as well as providing an unflinchingly accurate depiction of life in small outback Australian towns), I have — as usual — a confession.

TF Kell

I do wish I had a coat like Kell’s…

The Thrifty Fictionista can’t read such things when she is sick.

No, when I am sick, I need magic.

And so, the past few days have I reached for my Kindle (which, with its amazing capacity to deliver whole books into my waiting hands without leaving my bed, seems like magic itself) and buried myself in V E Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy.

On Wednesday, I re-read A Darker Shade of Magic, because it had been quite some time since I had dipped into the world of Red London.  Or Grey London or White London, for that matter.  And given the flu made me feel like I was already well on my way to Black London, I found myself wishing for a coat like Kell’s — you know, the one that you can turn inside out and every time it’s a different coat — and for the ability to wield Antari blood magic.

As Hasari…I wanted to whisper.

Heal…

TF Spells

Oh, for a working spell, not days stuck malingering in bed.

But the flu had other ideas, so I kept on reading and followed the thief, Lila Bard (you just have to love a girl who would like to be a pirate, don’t you?), and the magician Kell on their adventures through the various Londons, saving cities and rescuing (or was it resurrecting?) princes.

On Thursday, I started reading A Gathering of Shadows, and was gratified to discover that it was considerably longer than the first book, as the damn flu showed no signs of abating even when hit with hard core antibiotics and a decent-sized helping of The Bloke’s best Spaghetti Bolognese. I love that Lila did wind up becoming a pirate — ahem, I mean a Privateer — and thoroughly enjoyed meeting her Captain, Alucard Emery, and I relished the magic and mayhem of the Essen Tasch tournament.

And now it is Friday, and I have just downloaded the third book, A Conjuring of Light, hoping that it will bring me just that: light relief from being stuck in this bed.  Still.

So, without further ado, I am going to get on with it, not least because I need to lie down again…but also because I am grateful for the escape.  For the distraction.  For the adventure.

And — mostly definitely — for the magic.

 

 

 

Swashbuckling Swag

Athos & Aramis

Tom Burke & Santiago Cabrera as Athos and Aramis in The Muskeeters.

For some peculiar reason, I had a recollection this morning of the day, some years ago now, when Marvel Girl (repeatedly) singing a Wiggles song about Captain Feathersword prompted Miss Malaprop to stomp into the kitchen and announce: “Pirates aren’t human — that’s why they can’t swim.”

I remember suggesting at the time that this proclamation was, perhaps, not entirely accurate, only to be fixed with a mutinous greeny-blue eyed gaze and told even more emphatically, “Well, pirates do swashbuckle, you know — that means they don’t wash.”*

That was the point, I suspect, when I changed the topic of conversation, swiftly applying Blue Jai’s First Rule of Parenting (Distraction), and no doubt reminding myself of the corollary to said Rule (which is, of course, Pick Your Battles).

But the memory of that encounter made me realise that my girls, like many other children the world over, have always been fascinated by that wonderful figure of daring and romance: The Swashbuckler.  And — let’s face it — there are plenty of adults out there who still enjoy a tale or two of heroic derring do too.

Athos & Honour

No glory, no money, no love, none of the things that make life bearable — except honour.

What’s not to like about a hero who has plenty of good, old-fashioned adventures, tackling all manner of dangers with bravado and — more often than not — with a sword? And I’m not just referring to The Princess Bride here folks, or Johnny Depp’s hilarious take on Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Seriously — does anyone really think that Game of Thrones would be half as successful as it is were it not for its dashing ensemble cast of heroes and idealists, all brandishing weapons of warfare from centuries past?

Nothing beats the flamboyance of a decent sword fight, full of flashing steel and sophisticated steps, not to mention swirling capes (and don’t think for a minute that the capes are not important: every proper superhero has one). And, in this day and age, I suspect our fascination with the Swashbuckler isn’t simply an escape or a diversion, it’s something more important.

Take the recent BBC production of The Musketeers, for example. Admittedly, the Musketeers are by definition the original Swashbucklers, and have been ever since Alexandre Dumas brought Athos, Porthos, Aramis, D’Artagnan and Captain Treville to life on the pages of his novels in the 1840s. But I don’t think it is any accident that The Musketeers has proved to be so popular, or that the show’s loyal fans around the globe are eagerly awaiting the premiere of Season Three.

Athos & D'Artagnan

Taking the easy way out? Or taking responsibility…

My suspicion is that in this self-obsessed day and age of the quick fix we want to remember the ideals of a bygone era, and not necessarily for rose-coloured or romantic reasons. We want to be reminded of the concepts of chivalry, of honour, of duty. We want to believe that the famous rallying cry of “All for one!” can drown out the far more commonly heard call of “every man for himself”.

And the Musketeers — consistently — deliver. In every episode, we see them strive to set aside their own aspirations and take responsibility for doing things because they right and just — not because they will bring them personal gain. Time and again they are required to rise above their individual flaws, their respective personal circumstances, and the ever-present temptation to take the easy way out against a parade of brilliantly cast villains — not least of whom is Milady de Winter (Maimie McCoy), Athos’ evil estranged wife.

To date, the Musketeers have confronted the scheming Cardinal Richlieu in Season One (played with class and sass and a whole lot of cape swirling by the inimitable Peter Capaldi), followed by the increasingly unhinged Spanish agent Rochefort (Marc Warren) in Season Two, and are set to tackle King Louis XIII’s illegitimate half-brother (Rupert Everett) in Season Three.

It doesn’t hurt — obviously — that the Musketeers are a bunch of good-looking leather-clad blokes who ride around on horseback saving the day in brilliantly choreographed fight scenes, and that the women they love are often as as brave as they are beautiful. But the Musketeers do help to remind us that chivalry does not have to be a forgotten ideal of days gone by, and that doing what is honourable or dutiful can be something worth aspiring to.

So let’s celebrate the Swashbucklers and their stories, too.  Let’s live like daring adventurers, and revisit the romance of a bygone age. And if, along the way, we are reminded of the (somehow higher?) standard of those times — of the ideals of chivalry, honour, duty, loyalty and sacrifice — is that such a bad thing?

My thought is that the Musketeers generally, and Aramis especially, would suggest that applying yourself to such ideals tends to produce positive results — particularly if you do so with a robust sense of humour and a serious amount of swag.

Musketeers

Celebrate the Swashbucklers! Aramis, Porthos, Captain Treville, Athos and D’Artagnan…the Musketeers.

* For the record, I should probably acknowledge that Miss Malaprop’s assertion that “swashbuckling” means “not bathing” is probably historically accurate, even if it is, as a definition, far from complete.