I must admit to overdosing on Cardinal recently and watching a whole series into the early hours. The premise of this Spanish drama is pretty simple but very complicated, because it involves memory and not remembering. Juan Elias Castro (Francis Garrido) may or may not have killed his niece, the beautiful Ana Saura (Susana Abaitua). Ana sent a phone message to her brother/mum/dad. You know the kind, plenty of screaming, car tyre and please, please help me and whimpering noise. The Saura family are powerless to do anything, but they demand justice and want Juan locked up immediately. The evidence is overwhelming, Juan’s car has been found, his niece’s blood in the backseat and he admits she was with him. The police are looking for a body. We’re up to day 2, no body as yet, and Juan still in the dock. But his wife, Alicia Castro (Blanca Portillo) is a high-flying judge with plenty of powerful connections in the judiciary and Juan is also a lawyer with his own firm, rich and powerful in his own right and he claims he had amnesia and can’t remember what happened. One of the few things he can remember, is he had an affair eight years previously with one of his law students, the gamine Eva Duran (Aida Folch) and even with memory loss she is pretty and pretty hard to forget. But there’s a bit of power play going on between the victim’s family and possible perpetrator. Alicia’s sister is married to Ramon Saura (Nancho Novo) who is a professor at the university and he knows what his brother-in-law says doesn’t add up. And Eva Duran, who happens to be working as prosecutor, but she’s part of a low-grade firm that doesn’t get much prestigious work and this job could make or break their firm. That’s leverage and Ramon is using it to hire her indirectly by hiring her boss David Vila (Carles Francino) to work on the case and make sure Juan gets his just deserts, which doesn’t include to her chagrin Eva Duran, but every other striking looking female in sight, including the prosecutor, but hey, a bit of love lost and found does no harm for drama. David Vila is the brain-dead totty, which is the opposite, but the same as dizzy blonde.
Who are you? Interesting question. Umbero Eco tackles it in The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loma. It starts with Eliot’s The Cruellest Month and a polymath bookseller, very much like echoing the Eco, and narrator of the novel trying to piece together his life broken up into silos by a stroke. He pieces together his life by the books he read as a youngster and the girls he loved and the music he didn’t dance to. Memory is a trick.
Christina Ricci, who also happens to be very pretty turned up in some small English village onscreen last night too in a film called The Gathering. This was classified as a horror. I’ve been more scared by a golf trolley I’ve bumped into in the dark. But Cristina’s character is hit by a car and although the driver thinks she’s killed her, the girl is fine and, of course, you never leave anything you hit lying on the road for foxes, so she takes Christina home to babysit and act as nanny to her two children. There a number of different kinds of memory and Christina probably wanted to forget the one where she has lived for 2000 years with the memory of gawping at the crucifixion of Christ and didn’t do anything, not even throw her five-foot, five stone body at the might of the Roman empire and cause them severe brain damage. The bastards that crucified Christ. So God decides to punish all the drive-by gawpers by making them live through all the low points in history. The Gathering is like the worst top ten hits played over and over in your ear. Not be missed. Worse even then, fill in your own memory here…
‘And what’s your name?’
‘Wait, it’s on the tip of my tongue.’
That’s how Eco’s book begins. Remembering is something we do. Reaching for something we’ve placed on a shelf. Sometimes it’s out of reach. There are different kinds of memory and if I’m repeating myself there’s a very good reason for that, which I can’t remember. Memory doesn’t work in conventional ways. Short-term or working memory is the one you use when you’re making coffee and tea and put coffee and tea into one cup and nothing in the other. Or one of my favourites putting the softner in the washing machine but putting it in your tea instead. That tea does taste funny. Dementia. That’s the worry. But you might disguise it by reaching for stuff from the top shelf. When I write about Clydebank in the early nineteen-seventies it is all top shelf stuff. Dinners were basic. Anything without a potato wasn’t dinner and everything else was foreign muck. But we’ve got time machines. They can’t take us back to the death of Christ, but you can see the Osmond brothers on Top of the Pops in blue spangly suits and a group called The Jackson Five in checked shirts and flares and big enough afros to disguise wee Michael’s disbelief that he’s black. That’s not really what interests me. Those pretty girls in shot, who dance on the sidelines as if they’re trying to put a bicycle in the centre, but grab its handlebars and wheel it left and then change their mind and wheel it right. They’re doing their seventies thing.
The zeitgeist book of the seventies was, of course, Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. A classic book not about bikes but about the narrator trying to discover who he is and what Quality means. It doesn’t help that the narrator’s brain has been zapped by a few thousand volts to cure him of his sickness of thinking too much. (Don’t plug in at home). Quality does that to you. An ill-defined notion that is neither object nor subject, but is somehow out there, but in there too, kinda of like sex without the sex, or Pirsig’s analogy the Hindi notion of zero and nothing to do with sex. Phaderus the ancient Greek philosopher who stalks the narrator’s journey and might even by the narrator himself that claims the idea of zero was familiar to Hindi thought but not Roman or Greek. They stumbled along bumping into increasingly large numbers and so no need for zero tolerance, because they didn’t know what it was. I can’t imagine that, but I can imagine somebody handing my mum a bottle and saying you can’t fill this with tap water, because it’s not good for you, buy this stuff in a plastic bottle and it’s really good for you and costs only a few quid. An oxymoron. She hadn’t heard of lol either. In the digital age 1 and 0 rock our worlds. Little rockslides of self falling away every day into the abyss and you know what I Know Who You Are. I’m glad at least one person does.