I’ve had an Agatha Christie weekend!
Alas, I don’t mean I’ve spent the weekend in a stately home watching actors bite the dust or clutching pearls (possibly both at the same time). Nope, I mean I read the Poirot tale After the Funeral on Saturday and the Tommy and Tuppence adventure The Secret Adversary on Sunday, after learning of their existence from Kaggsy. And today my boss (a lady in her 70s once forced to pay more money to a bus conductress, after the Christie novel she was reading on the bus caused her to not just miss her stop, but the whole town) tells me they were even on the telly, but I had no idea.
The plan had been to spend one of the days of weekend hiking, but rather like those tardy people whose names are announced in airports and we know they are still in the bar, the local radio report when the mountain rescue teams have been out, and the weather was so atrocious I feared I might be one of those highly embarrassed people who have to be saved, so I stayed home.
I’ve only really read Miss Marple stories before, and then it was years ago, and so had forgotten how incredible Christie was, and how much she makes me eat. Like Dickens and Blyton, I’m sure the hard times and rationing increase the appreciation of food. After The Funeral takes place after the WWII, is cleverly plotted, and has the most important element in detective fiction, we are kept guessing until the end, and when we do find out, it all makes perfect sense, and earlier throwaway lines suddenly come to mind. Lots of Oooh, of course! And it’s Poirot, and he likes his food. And it’s a big country house, so there’s always a fine meal being served, cakes to be had with tea, etc. I blame that for making me raid the bag hidden at the bottom of the wardrobe, where early Christmas presents are stored, and the damage done to a box of Ferrero Rocher, which I will now have to re-buy. What I liked most about the Abernathie family at the centre of the story is how insufferable most of them are, but how all those annoying characters are held together by a likable sensible lawyer, and Poirot himself. We need those Cadfaels to stop us reaching into the book and throttling the Brother Jeromes.
After the death of the head Abernathie, Poirot poses as a philanthropist looking to buy the house as a charitable concern for elderly refugees, which leads the elderly butler to say –
We’ve always welcomed the unfortunate in this country, sir, it’s been our pride. We shall continue to do so.
Which sadly elicits a snort now, but also then, as not everyone wants to hear about ‘not more’ refugees, and Poirot himself is often on the end of some pretty stiff xenophobia. Sadly, this just highlights how we like to paint ourselves, but how we actually are. And how very little has changed.
The Secret Adversary is an entirely different novel, much lighter, even though they are in far more physical danger. I laughed out loud quite a few times at the post-WWI, good eggs. That’s what they are, thoroughly decent, good eggs. Hilariously quick, occasionally inept, and energetic. I found the first book on the library catalogue and picked it up in my lunch break, and now have to read all of them. Tommy and Tuppence are adventurers with very little money who find themselves employed, in a way which is, especially this day an age, is rather implausible, in a high-level diplomatic international criminal situation. The revolutionary Russians are trying to meddle with the government (again, nothing bloody changes!) and a crucial, potentially war-starting document is missing, and apparently what’s needed are two plucky young people who live by their wits and CONSTANTLY STOP FOR TEA AND CAKES AND CHEESE ON TOAST AND BUNS, ETC. And so, due to gale force winds that we’re unsafe to drive in as branches were coming down all over the shop, I found myself battling to the village in my wellies, to buy crumpets and buns. Dammit. Those jolly, Wodehousian, gad-about-towns made me do it.
My weekend evenings have been spent re-watching the last series of Peaky Blinders on iPlayer ahead of the new series starting this week (if Helen McCroy has even been bad in something, I ‘aint seen it) and alarmingly, this is set at the same time as Tommy and Tuppence. And this time, non-revolutionary Russians are involved. The harshness of Peaky Blinders possibly added to my fear for the often-kidnapped Tommy and Tuppence. I now have a hole in my life where Tommy and Tuppence where. I walked around the house on Sunday evening wishing I had been like the dad in I Capture The Castle and saved the last few chapters of my library book for bed. And .also wishing I had saved some Ferrero Rocher.