Monthly Archives: December 2018
“I’m breaking up on Friday. Can you get your stuff to me a little earlier”
Phil: Ahh, the joys of working from home. Constant reminders that your colleagues will be enjoying some enforced lounging around, while you just see those days as an opportunity for plenty of uninterrupted work.
Christmas is a joy. Despite my friend painting me as a bit of a humbug, I really love the present giving part, the decorations and the cheesy festive music. It’s just that I like it to be weeks away and not looming toward me. All I see is deadlines that always seem to be tightened. Suddenly, you find yourself having to take into consideration other people’s holidays. Holidays that don’t apply to you.
Being able to work at a time to suit me is lovely, but I do miss the days when a bank holiday actually meant something and wasn’t just a vague idea relating to a day that was (for me) like any other.
I know I shouldn’t moan about this. Having seen the Nolan schedule, her festivities are planned like a military campaign. You can imagine a map with little models of child and husband being pushed around by people with long sticks – “14:00 hours, child enters stage left. 14:15 child says line in nativity play. We need to rendezvous before then…”
All this Christmas chaos means the writing has taken a back seat. A couple of weeks ago, I congratulated myself on building up a plot strand I’m working on to 7000 words. That’s where it has stayed since then.
But, this doesn’t mean progress has entirely stalled. I might not be typing, but I am acting the scene out in my mind. Once I find a gap in my schedule, I’ll be turning my mental picture into words. Thinking sessions can take place any time and anywhere. While driving or sitting on a bus. At 3am in the morning instead of worrying about how I’ll get everything done is a pretty good idea too.
Anyway, I need to go. Work to do and I haven’t bought a present for the Nolan yet…
Phil: A couple of years ago (doesn’t time fly), Candice reviewed a book I’d passed on to her – The Christmas Train by David Baldacci. It’s a heartwarming tale set on a cross-country train in the USA. We both enjoyed it.
I hadn’t twigged that the book has been turned into a movie. But it has. So I watched it.
The first thing to realise is that the studio responsible for this is Hallmark. The people who make the greetings cards. As such, you won’t be surprised that the result is a gritty expose of life for struggling railroad workers forced to give up the festive season with their families to mend track.
No, of course it isn’t.
This is comfort TV. You don’t watch it, you wallow as though in a nice, warm bath.
The first change is that our journalist hero is taking the train as a promise to his father, and not because he’d been banned from flying for an air rage incident. This isn’t essential to the story, although anyone trying the book, or reading the excerpt on the Hallmark website, might be surprised to find this out.
A few characters have vanished, but more due to the pressure of time than anything else. Max Powers has an assistant in the book, but not the film. I didn’t miss him.
Perhaps the biggest change is the removal of the jeopardy when Tom and Elenor head out into the snow when the train gets stuck. The book really places them in danger and provides a pivot for their love story. In the film, they get a bit lost, then find a remote ranch and return to the train in a horse-drawn sledge. This apparently causes all the snow to melt or at least it’s pretty much gone in the next scene.
The movie doesn’t need to place them in jeopardy to make the characters realise their true feelings because it’s signposted from the start that they will fall in love again. There’s a bit of bickering, but almost every other character says, “Get back together you pair of muppets” (I paraphrase, but you get the gist).
Don’t get me wrong, the book is unlike all other Baldacci output in that’s a heart-warming tale from the off. You know what’s going to happen. No-one dies.
The film takes this and adds shmaltz. At one point the bartender offers a hot chocolate and asks “One candy cane or two?”. I’m thinking “Sugarcanes in hot chocolate? Noooo. You’d be bouncing off the walls!” but it’s a perfect allegory for the work whoever turned the book into screenplay had to do.
Despite this, it’s not a terrible film You need to be in the mood for it in the same way you need to be in the mood to consume endless Christmas food, but then that’s what the festive season is all about, isn’t it? I do wonder what the author made of it though.