The Painted Veil*

China 1925.   Toby Jones, Naomi Watts and Edward Norton are in a remote Chinese mountain town in the midst of a cholera epidemic.  They have opium, bamboo forests and possibly pandas, although haven’t seen one yet.  They are carried everywhere in litters on the shoulders of local people, which seems an excellent way to travel.  There are also punts to cross the river and water buffalo and a paddle steamer.

The English live in darling wooden houses on the side of the mountain – all lit up with fairy lights – and connected by decking. They smoke opium and lounge around in silk dressing-gowns with their cockatiels.

Have run out of any such painkillers here.  Left arm – my dominant one – hurts as does left side of chest.  Keep forgetting that now my sword arm is withered and useless in manner of Richard III, and attempt to open the stuck sliding door using it and suchlike.  Mum has co-codamol but am not allowed any as it contains paracetamol which interacts with my mental drugs and who knows what one dose of it could do to me.  Probably nothing. Life is cruel.

So, Edward Norton is excellent in the film.

“I think Edward Norton is a very good actor,” I tell Seb when he calls at 5.05pm.

“Oh, me too,” Seb says.

“I’m surprised he hasn’t quite become as big a star as he could do – think he’s great looking too,” I say, snuggling into the fluffy monster’s bed.  “He’s that look that I like anyway – blond, good bone structure and so on.”  Like my Seb.

“Well, there was that period around Fight Club when he seemed to have arrived,” Seb says.  “And then he rather dropped off the radar after that and…”

“He’s got a great intensity about him,” I say.  “You’d like the film: adaptation of a Somerset Maugham novel – love that twenties aesthetic – very sad.  Having a bit of a cry and…”

“Because they’ve got opium and you haven’t, my lovely?” Seb says.

“Not just that,” I say, rubbing my bad arm.  “It’s tragic – the plot.  Cholera looks like a nasty death too, so – oh – have you started work yet?”


“Well,” Seb says.  “My aunt was here last night  – she’s a real hellraiser so…”

“So you didn’t get up till after eleven again?” I say.

“Yes,” Seb says, sounding sad.  “We were up well into the middle of the night, chatting and drinking and then we went out to lunch and…”

“What was lunch?” I say, pulling the covers around my ears.  It’s dark outside and soon Mum will return from Bridge and she’ll be cross if I haven’t slept.

“Superior ham, egg and chips at the gastropub,” Seb says.

“You get through a lot of ham, don’t you?” I say, thinking that since his Mum’s favourite animal is the pig, she has a strange way of showing it.

“Yes: us goys eat a lot of ham at Christmas,” Seb says, laughing.

“Goyim,” I say.  “That’s the plural of goy.  It means ‘the nations’ – as in – we, the Jewish people, live amongst the nations – the goyim.”

“I see,” Seb says.

“Anyway,” I say.  “I have to sleep.  It’s not too late to start some work – I want you to have made a start by the time we speak later.”

“OK, speak later my lovely,” Seb says.

Attached photo is a fallen tree in the wood earlier – and a canine chum.

Happy Monday everyone!
*1925.  By W. Somerset Maugham. There are three film adaptations (1934, 1957 The Seventh Sin and the 2006 adaptation which have just watched).  This one directed by John Curran.  For some reason IMDB gives it 7.5 stars but it seems excellent to me.


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