Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Was it a Cracker for You?

I hope you have all had a pleasant and relaxing Christmas if you celebrate it and if not - the season's greetings. 

The festivities are all but done here bar the shouting for the New Year and that will come and go without celebration as it has done for many a long year in this household. It's just a date. Christmas has been fine, quiet and familified (is there such a word?) Dinner was good and the cracker jokes perennially poor. The fact that they are so groaningly poor is a laugh in itself. Is that irony? The company was excellent and television switched off while we all played card and board games. 

I don't watch much television, but those who do watch it have said that the season's offerings have been poor. I was very disappointed in David Jason's new offering The Royal Bodyguard on BBC TV. It was very predictable and the simplistic script was not conducive to showing Jason's talent. Ray's of light came in the guise of Morecambe and Wise Christmas show repeats but, why oh why is it that shows that are 40 years old (1971 and 1976) are providing us with entertainment and a genuine laugh?
I've had a sort of lethargy where the Internet is concerned hence why my blog has been sparsely populated - I'm trying to spend less time on-line (and spend less on line too!) With having just the Bank Holidays off work and working the rest of the time, life has been quiet and routine. The weather has been dull and unimaginative for the time of year. A friend, Bryan Moiser once said as a tag line for his blog (and I paraphrase) "If there ain't anything worth saying, don't say it." So rather than fill this blog with fill-in, I haven't said it. Even the camera has been solemnly resting in its black case - no scene to capture.

I suppose that's left more time for reflection. The BBC, in their usual style look back at the people we have lost in 2011 and their excellent slide show is well worth watching. 9 minutes of education on who has passed this year from the world of entertainment and my God, have we lost some talent: 

Singer Amy Winehouse, actor extraordinary Pete Postlethwaite, composer John Barry (007), Sir Jimmy Savile, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, director Ken Russell, writer John Sullivan (Only Fools and Horses), comedy writer David Croft (Hi-de-Hi, Are you Being Served & Dad's Army), Peter Falk (Columbo), forces sweetheart, actress Jane Russell, singer Billie Jo Spears, actress and comedienne Janet Brown, one of my favourite actors Edward Hardwicke (Dr Watson to Jeremy Brett's Sherlock), actress Susannah York and many more.

These people have been, at some stage in our homes through the magic of television or radio and we see or hear them or in some cases see or hear the result of their talents (in the case of the magnificently talented writers). They will be sadly missed not only by their families but by the public. A generation of people slowly disappearing.

I've seen a couple of films lately which were ok too but which I have not felt the energy to review - perhaps I have that SAD (I don't think so) but short days - going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark doesn't help does it? Energy levels are dramatically low.

Sherlock Holmes, A Game of Shadows (12A) was a good piece of escapism and after a slow start, was quite enjoyable. It's difficult not to like Robert Downey Jnr. Antonio Banderas as Puss - in - Boots (put a dramatic pause after 'Puss'), a spin off from Shrek and rated PG, was also fun and undemanding.

Shall I have New Year's resolutions or not? That is the question. Mostly, I've kept to them in the past, most famously for losing weight and for ramping up my spiritual work. Not sure whether or not to go for it this year.

By the way, here's a question for Google. Why doesn't the spell checker for this blog recognise the word 'blog?' More Irony?

Chat soon

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Feeling Christmassy - At Last

What a weekend of joy, frivolity and mayhem (of the best sort). The weather has shown it's true winter colour here of white - frost that is, on our cars and gardens and today, where the sun did not reach, the frost lasted all day.

Saturday saw a 50th birthday party for a good friend Linda which was organised for a local pub and the theme of the party was sixties and seventies dress and music and this worked wonderfully well. It was a great night with a great singer, a solo female and lovely company. There were straight laced professional people dressed as hippies, sixties fashion Mary Quant type dressed (some deliciously short) and one extraordinarily huge Afro wig. There were pinks and flower patterns, ban the bomb emblems, dark round John Lennon glasses, jaunty hats and frankly a fantastic time was had by all. I never drank a drop of alcohol and enjoyed it all the more because I was in control and danced the night away (and didn't suffer physically surprisingly), something I haven't done for many years. A night that will live in the memory for a long time.

Sunday was all the more poignant and somewhat emotional as firstly I went with a friend to support her as she laid wreaths of remembrance on her husband's and father's grave. Then on Sunday evening, I went with the same friend to the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at the Holy Trinity Church in Hull - the main church in the old town of Hull. Not the most senior church, but large, expansive and looking much better for renovations internally.
Holy Trinity after the Candlelit Service 

Some of my ancestors were baptised and married and dispatched in this church, yet, it was only the second time I've ever been in it and this was the first service in it I had ever attended. The service was by candlelight with just the lights of the Christmas Tree to show there was any electricity in the Church at all. The carols were traditional: Once in Royal David's City, It Came upon the Midnight Clear, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a  Manger, Shepherds (wash their socks by night) and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. The nine readings were short but told the Christmas story from the Bible. 

The choir rendered some more traditional winter anthems of celebration such as Psallite Unigenito, I Saw a Fair Maiden, In the Bleak Midwinter, Sir Christemas, and the organist finished with the magnificent In Dulce Jubilo by Bach. Tea and mince pies were to be had in the vestry although in this I did not participate. Instead I went for a walk along the dark and chill river Humber at the Horsewash in the old town for a few minutes contemplation. Looking east, the picture below is the famous (locally anyway) The Deep - a huge aquarium, the building of which is shaped like a huge shark.

The Deep - lit against a dark winter's sky

It's many years since I've been to a midnight service - many of them were stopped because of drunks in the nineteen eighties but that means that the services are now more for families and this is a wonderful thing. It was indeed a wonderful atmosphere and thoroughly enjoyable and gave me a chance to exercise the vocal chords.

So two lots of exercise this weekend, dancing and singing. I am now officially in the Christmas mood. I have already finished the the first two parts of Dicken's Christmas Carol, something that I do traditionally and have done for more years than I can recall now; Marley has shown up, rattled his chains and gone to wander the world in torment and the ghost of Christmas past has taken Ebeneezer on the first part of his journey of redemption.

Chat soon


Saturday, 10 December 2011

Chilly Day Blues

I hope I find everyone well and in the northern hemisphere coping with the colder weather? Hardest frost of the year for us this morning and even now at 12 noon, there is still a lot of frost where the sun hasn't reached. The leaves above are in the road outside the house.

A shopping trip to Sainsburys this morning made me laugh (other supermarkets are available to laugh in). We use Clover 'butter' because it's quite versatile although I prefer real butter. A 1kg tub of Clover (which we normally buy) was marked at £3.70. Buy two 500g tubs for £3.00. I always thought buying bigger saves you money? Now there's no blaming Sainsburys here, it's all clearly marked but it's a good job we check the pricing labels first. 

The Christmas tree goes up this afternoon and I'm going to take a time lapse film of the event to astound and astonish you (gives you something to do - don't complain.)

The berries are in abundance this year. Don't forget this is because of a good spring rather than a bad winter predicted but the birds don't care, the blackbirds are eating them like they are going out of fashion.

How's your preparation for Christmas going? Do you celebrate it at all? I've mostly done now (my wife doesn't celebrate Christmas) I just have a few cards to write. Most of the few prezzies I buy are sourced on-line and delivered to the door. The rest I get from the supermarket when I'm doing some shopping. The tree is the only 'decoration' we put up - the good thing is there's less to take down. My mistake this year was not to do some prepared hyacinths because coming down in the morning to the most delicious smell known to man (well this man anyway) is a lovely experience. 

On Sunday (11th), I'm taking the Angel goods stall to an 'alternative Christmas gift fair' at the Memorial Hall in Beverley in East Yorkshire. We were pre-warned that the hall does get cold even inside so I'll be wrapping up!

Enjoy your weekend.

Chat soon


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Hector Christmas

Meet Hector.

He has pride of place in the centre of my meeting table in my office at work. I think I might leave him there all year round. Although a Christmas feeling has yet to emerge, we aren't far away and for the first time since we've been in this house we have a real Christmas tree this year and apparantly the needles do not drop - allegedly. I bought it last weekend and its been stood in a bucket of water for a week and it will be up and dressed on Saturday. Traditionally, one of the lads will dress it (under supervision).

I hope that the people of Northern Ireland and Scotland and northern England remain safe after a report of a gust of wind up to 130 miles per hour in what has been the stormiest day for a long while. Snow and other wintry weather is forecast for the weekend. We've just had gusty winds and a bit of rain here.

Chat soon


Saturday, 3 December 2011

Packed Away for the Winter

Another busy week this week but less hectic which has been pleasant, a chance to re-charge the batteries. Today has been spent in the garden pruning shrubs, cutting back and giving it a final clean up before the winter finally comes to us. With moving leaves from the borders, I was revealing ground not seen for a few weeks and hiding places for bugs, the wild birds have come flocking back into the garden. Just today sat having a sandwich for lunch, in half an hour I saw: blackbird, thrush, collared dove, blue tit, coal tit, wren (x2), robin, crow, wood pigeon, dunnock and goldfinch.

I have mostly emptied the compost bin and as I was emptying it, I noticed lots of tiny yellow maggots in one place in the compost. I stopped to have the obligatory break and a robin who had been watching me closely, swooped down and helped him/herself to an unexpected but I guess welcome meal. The compost was full of works which are now hopefully working on the borders with the new compost.

The grass has had its winter treatment, the buddleia davidii has been pruned to stop damage from wind rock and the roses have had the same. Leaves have been cleaned from the gutters and ponds and the pond pumps have had their last clean of the year. I keep the water falls running all winter to provide running water, surface movement and oxygen for the fish. It also makes sure there is a hole in any ice that forms. We've just started to have one or two light frosts, enough to ensure I have to clean the car windscreen in the mornings.  

The advent calendars are now being used with 3 choccies eaten. I bought my lads one each as I try to most years and this year a friend bought me one too with a Thomas the Tank Engine theme.  I have to say I was tickled by this choice of calendar theme because once as a parent of young children, we used to watch Thomas and his friends on television and on video every day. I could once name all the engines - not now I don't suppose.

Advent calendars come from the nineteenth century in Germany when Lutherans would count the days down to Christmas Day by chalking off the days on the door beginning on the 1st December. The first printed advent calendar hails from Germany in the first years of the twentieth century.

Whilst the calendars are largely made for children these days (including the odd adult like me), advent events including the lighting of candles can still be found in some churches.

I've already been on one Christmas evening dinner with my lovely psychic/philosophy group at a Chinese restaurant. We had a banquet, something I've never done before and tasted a wide variety of foods and I was quite brave and mostly used chopsticks although in the end, the fork became handy.

I see that the snows have already been causing some problems in Scotland, last year, we had widespread snow which caused us a lot of disruption. We are now, at last beginning to see more traditional cold weather with daytime temperatures tomorrow predicted at 5 degrees Celsius - this follows the second mildest British autumn on record (MET Office: September to November). 

Chat soon


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Chatsworth Weekend

Chatsworth House

It's nine days since my last blog and a good blogging friend even e-mailed me to see if I was okay. That is very kind sir, a considerate thing to do. Life has been hairily busy and every night out doing something or other, my weekends a slave to domesticity and hobby. Well this weekend 26/27th I was away on a coach trip weekend to get away; to declare a break from my world. I went to Derby, stayed overnight between Derby and Nottingham and spent Sunday at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, the ancestral  home of the Earls and Dukes of Devonshire.

I have noticed however, despite the mildest November since records began, it was desperately cold in the chill wind this weekend. 

 River Derwent, Derby

It's one of the few cities I can't recall visiting in my life and although I've been to Derbyshire many times, Derby has eluded me - until now. It was a pleasant place and a straight forward city centre with old and new mixed. The new is an eclectic mix of steel and concrete and some of it jars because as you drive to the city centre, it is rather more modern than old on the outskirts. We passed the twisted spire of Chesterfield during the weekend and frankly I am amazed it still stands. 

Eagle Indoor Market, Derby

Derby has a large and pleasant shopping centre next to the new bus station and a covered indoor market which was less impressive. Lunch was at a national franchise food outlet in the shopping centre which was adequate and afternoon tea was in a lovely cafe on a city centre street. The hotel was perfectly adequate and actually very good value for money - the meals were very good both on Saturday evening and breakfast Sunday morning. The hotel was the Novotel between Nottingham and Derby.

 Newly Christmas Decorated Great Dining Room

Sunday saw us visit Chatsworth House and we got there early after getting up at stupid o'clock because the coach driver said that there was a Christmas Market at Chatsworth and the previous week had seen traffic from hell. There was no market and we were first there having arrived through glorious Peak District countryside bathed in misty morning sunlight. The advantage was we were first through the gate. Disappointingly, some of the house was closed because they were putting Christmas decorations up in the upper floors so we were confined to the ground floor. In addition, because of work to the masonry, half the house was shuttered off on the outside with safety sheeting while the stone work is subject to acid treatment to clean it. We never saw the famous violin.

Great Chamber

What we saw however was magnificent. Exceptional paintings both in frams and on walls and ceilings including a Leonardo Davinci which looked as fresh as if it had just been painted and classical sculptures abounded. The decor was magnificent, opulent and very well cared for.  The house was themed and each room had different and magnificent Christmas decorations and a carol playing. Local schools had provided some of the decorations which was a lovely touch. It provided much atmosphere.

Marble Bust in the Sculpture Gallery with Christmas Decorations

The funny thing was that the grounds were so large and extensive, we would never have had time to walk round them, so we took a buggy tour for three quid (£3.00 or 3.5 Euros or $4.63) for half an hour. We were sat on the back seat looking rearward and therefore everything the guide who was driving said "...and look to your right and you will see..." was actually to our left. How confusing and sadly we missed some of the sights. But it was funny remembering his left was our right.

Part of the intricate garden displays

There is much to see and do at this magnificent house and grounds - there is no other word for it - magnificent and beautiful too. However, if I have just one negative observation, unlike the less famous Sledmere House we visited which I mentioned in the blog a few months ago which was a family home and adored clearly as a home - you could tell, Chatsworth just lacked that personal touch of a 'home' that it clearly still is with the 12th Duke still living there. It is a national treasure and all very professional but not 'lived in.' Does that make sense?

The Cascade

I would heartily recommend a visit. I did this tour by National Express holidays and it was £60 (69.95 Euros or $92.62) for Saturday in Derby and Sunday at Chatsworth. It included bed, breakfast and evening meal and the ticket into Chatsworth. This was good value for money. Other tour operators are available.

Chat soon


Friday, 18 November 2011

To Early for Christmas?

Well, I've gone and done it now. No return from the brink. Precedents set, people surprised and amazed. What on earth am I talking about? My colleague Ellie and I have put our office Christmas decorations up! Here's the proof. We both sit in an alcove at the back of a larger office so we decided just to decorate the alcove where we sit.

I went to see The Adventures of TinTin (The Secret of the Unicorn) the other night and what a thoroughly enjoyable piece of animated nonsense this is. This is Spielberg at his adventurous best with a good story, rollicking adventure - Indiana Jones style and animation to marvel at. This movie is an adaptation of the Belgian comic book series The Adventures of Tintin created by the Belgian artist Georges Rémi, who wrote under the pen name of Hergé. Who remembers the TV series that always started with a man's rather strained, dramatic and excited voice at the beginning announcing: "Hergé's... Adventures... of TinTin?"

The film, quite rightly is rated PG for some violence (nothing graphic), the drunkenness of Captain Haddock and someone lighting a cigarette. This is thoroughly recommended and the whole show was stolen by the wonderful animation and character of Captain Haddock superbly voiced by Andy Serkis. Daniel Craig (007) is excellent and nasty as the villain Ivanovich Sakharine.

My weekend is partly planned because with my 'business' partner Linda, we have our second Angel gift ware stall 'Touched by Angels', this time at the Royal Station Hotel in Hull on Saturday in support of Dove House Hospice, a wonderful organisation.  

Have a great weekend

Chat soon


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Grey Weekend

It's been one of those grey raw days today - sky never clears, no sun but no rain either.

Never-the-less, it's been a busy day considering I was intending to rest and do not a great deal. I did the paper review on BBC Radio Humberside Andy Comfort's Sunday Brunch (this link lasts seven days only) between 10.00 and 12 noon today. This is just relaxed fun and a chat using the papers as a prompt. I got three out of five in the weekly news quiz he gives all his Sunday guests and despite some real technical problems the station was having, the programme went ahead using old fashioned DJ skills rather than the electronic all singing all dancing technical approach to modern broadcasting.

The BBC have an initiative called Britain in a Day. I've submitted a time lapse video to them (above), no doubt one of many thousands using a snapshot of my day. Have a look at the site, the result should be very interesting.

Have a great week ahead.

Chat soon


Saturday, 12 November 2011

It's all Context

It's the 12th November 2011 and it's only my second blog of the month - not good enough. Mind you it has been been busy and I had to take time off in the middle of the week because I wasn't well but all is back on track. So much to tell so I'll try to do it chronological order.

After my arrival back from my Mediumship course on Saturday last week, I went to the pictures on Sunday night to see Paranormal Activity 3, the prequel to the first two films. I'm not going to do a review because unless you've seen the films or are interested in the genre, it would be fairly meaningless, but if you have, it's worth seeing.

I don't like first day back at work on Monday after time off - I never have although rather surprisingly I only had 50 e-mails which is good and no surprises which is also good.  I had a memory flashback on Tuesday at work. Although I was starting to feel the first inklings of unwellness, sore throat, spinning head and can't concentrate on anything, like a martyr, I stayed at work. I made a cup of tea for my colleague Ellie and I and I opened a fresh tinfoil pack of tea bags and the smell that came out of them immediately reminded me of opening quarter pound (100g) packs of loose Brook Bond PG Tips tea at home when I was a kid looking for the collectors cards that sat within them. Great memories.

Wednesday came the crunch do I go to work or not? I guess it was all decided when I couldn't get out of bed because my head was spinning like a top. I took a day off. This was not what I am used to. My sickness record is excellent but when it comes to not being able to physically sit up - there's no choice. Anyway, my sickness record is intact because I took a day's leave instead which is ridiculous, but there you go. I cancelled my dental appointment for Thursday because I couldn't face having my loose crown stuck back, not because it's painful, because there isn't any pain, but the keeping open of the mouth with a rasping sore throat and a cough wasn't something I thought I could cope with.

Finally, my son John and I have a photographic exhibition at the Hull History Centre entitled - Kingston-upon-Hull: History in Context

This exhibition presents a series of photographs which combine original black and white photographs from Hull’s past and modern digital images taken from the same vantage point as the original photographer. This was one of the most challenging and enjoyable aspects to this project in finding the original location upon which the photographers of yesteryear stood in order to make it possible for the photographs to be combined.

The photographs taken in 2011 by me were manipulated by John using Photoshop to show elements of what remains of the old city of Hull and combined them with today’s more familiar images. It looks really good and today there are a couple of examples which, if you click on them, will expand for a better view.

It lasts all of November and if you are around Hull - pop in and have a look.

Chat soon


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Gunpowder Treason and Plot

"Remember, remember, the fifth of November, Gunpowder Treason and Plot." If you've had a bonfire party or been to a display - hope you had a great time.

I'm back home from my Mediumship, Training and Development course at the Arthur Findlay College in Stansted, Essex refreshed and educated having met and enjoyed the company of some wonderful people from around the world.

Just a couple of pictures for you for the time being as I have some catching up to do. The top one is the imposing south facade of the college, Stansted Hall and the one below is just a view of a fraction of the grounds in glorious autumn colour taken this morning before our departure.

I can hear fireworks going off continually outside but our two cats don't seem in the slightest bit bothered. Good to be home.
Chat soon


Friday, 28 October 2011

I May be Some Time...

This will be my last post for a while. I'm going away to the Arthur Findlay College in Stansted in Essex for a week on a Mediumship, Training and Development 2 course and as I haven't mastered the art of blogging from my mobile phone, if that's possible (I've only just learned to Tweet and upload pictures to Facebook for goodness sake) I'm having a break from the Internet for a whole week.

It is amazing how I've become to rely on the Internet for news, catching up with friends catching the occasional programme on the iPlayer on some of the BBC TV's more obscure channels and blogging of course. I now bank on line and order most of non food shopping things on-line too. But there'll be a week without it. I'll listen to the radio, BBC Radio 2 in a morning and on tea time to catch snippets of news and life in general. I'll text family and friends but other than that, I'm on my own with my own thoughts and oodles of reading (including a Tommy Cooper joke book, bought for me by a dear friend which is hilarious) to catch up on.

As always, I'll blog you with the adventures once I surface at home.

Catch you in a week - have a good one.

Chat soon


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Blank Canvas

What a lovely pleasant day today. It's been sunny and, for the time of year, quite warm. I managed to have lunch with an old friend, Ian, at a local Italian restaurant and it's great to catch up. Friends are so important.

Today is the first time I've had a look at the new fence because when it was finished yesterday, I arrived home after dark and couldn't see much. It looks good but there will be a lot of work in the spring to start to build up colour and life to work with the new fence. After a request - here's a pic of just part of the new fence.

The flowers are now in the compost after being bitten by the frost and are now contributing towards making the soil rich for next year's flowers and plants.

Thank you to all those fellow bloggers who made some comments on yesterday's blog on the issue of Gaddafi.

Chat soon


Friday, 21 October 2011

Garden in Need of TLC

I hope you've all had a good week. Work is busy as always   and plenty happening to interest the brain. On a night time my interests have kept me busy with a psychic circle on Tuesday which I ran on behalf of my tutor who was visiting relatives and had a lovely annual dinner on Thursday for the East Riding County FA of which I am one of their directors (of marketing and communication.)

Now my poor garden has been in disarray all week. The longest fence which abuts the road was just about knackered.   It consisted of wooden panelling, most of which has been there at least 20 years and although I've replaced a couple of panels, the wooden posts were becoming rotten and it was only the extensive ivy that was keeping it up. We employed a local man and his two worker to rip the old out and replace the new with concrete posts and tanalised wooden planks. They worked very hard indeed all week in very cold conditions.

The new fence has a ten year guarantee and next spring, I'll be able to paint it with wood preservative before I pick plants to trail along it. Perhaps some roses, clematis and other climbers - any suggestions (no ivy allowed)?

Now this isn't particularly a subject for a light hearted ordinary man's blog but I have been witnessing, along with the rest of the world, an endless showing of the bloody body of Muammar Gaddafi being towed around Libya. Now between you and I, I have had the dubious role of having seen and witnessed some of the most unpleasant things mankind could imagine over the last 36 years in my former life in public service. Most people wouldn't see it once in a lifetime.

However there is need for debate over the graphic and gratuitous showing of these distressing images. For example, my son was at work eating his lunch when the images were broadcast at lunchtime. He found them distressing and highly unpleasant. He's 24. How many children and other sensitive vulnerable people will have witnessed these images which, in truth, could have been shown (if it were necessary) with great discretion and only very late at night to an adult audience. 

The ordinary Joe doesn't need to see graphic photo of a mutilated and bloody body to a) prove Gaddafi is dead - because the Libyan NTC have said so b) to understand the message that dictators will end up summarily executed as he clearly was and c)  to underpin the joy of most (but not all) Libyans at the news.

I'm just pleased they can start to rebuild and hope that tribal differences don't get in the way of what will be a difficult few years for Libya.

Times move on - I know. But we, the public, have always relied on the media to be self censors. In my former life as a press officer, I was never worried about the media taking photographs of bodies being recovered or scenes of carnage or road accidents where there were still people trapped or the like because I had faith that no news editor of any pedigree would ever show them to the public - they never did on my watch. It's insensitive, undignified and unnecessary and the public would rail against it. It satisfies of course morbid curiosity and a minority who revel in seeing such images, but they are the tiny minority in truth.

I had written a little more on the subject but I've deleted it because it is too deep politically and this is not the forum. Suffice to say that the west should now be happy that as Libya produces 2% of all the worlds oil output, the capacity is rising now to a quarter of former production levels and the oil industry infrastructure there is barely damaged by the troubles.

Plenty on this weekend - shopping, lunch with an old friend and garden restoration and winter preparation for the rest of it. Enjoy yours whatever you are doing.

Chat soon


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers, from the book by Alexandre Dumas has a rare pedigree in the world of film. So far there have been 23 film versions (including the latest) and seven animated film versions. This doesn't include TV series and sequels. You don't make that many films if there isn't a good story to back it up.

I went to see the latest offering at Hull Vue cinema on Friday night (14th October.) It had a big act and big actors to follow. It succeeded in some ways and failed miserably in others.How do directors bring something new into the story to keep it fresh? This director brought old fashioned air ships. Air ships!

The design for an airship was stolen by the three musketeers from the Italians.  Lord Buckingham in turn stole it from them. Lord Buckingham comes to France in the airship to negotiate peace. The Musketeers, this time with D'Artagnan on board steal back Queen Ann's jewels from Buckingham and steal his airship to get back to France in time for the ball at which Ann must produce the jewels. I won't spoil the story but this part of the film spoilt it for me. It was made in 3D for 3D rather than the story in places I suspect.

Firstly, the acting was okay. D'Artagnan (with American accent) is credibly played by Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief)  and the lead as Athos was the excellent Matthew Macfadyen. Milla Jovovich was Milady and whilst a beautiful woman - was a little too much Ninja/Bond in some of her dark and mysterious double spying adventures. The surprise was the Planchet character (the Musketeers servant) originally played by the brilliant late Roy Kinnear and this time played well by comedian James Corden and not overplayed either.

The disappointment was Christoph Waltz who I admire tremendously. His Cardinal Richelieu lacked the spark of deceit and power that had been given it in previous versions, most notably by Charlton Heston. His quiet threat was more of a grumble than a poisonous bite. The other actors were credible enough but Orlando Bloom, someone else I admire was out of his depth as Lord Buckingham. He lacked charm and statesmanship and quintessential English upper class presence.

My final disappointment was at the point in the film where Athos realises Milady is a double agent and decides to finish her off.  The scene between the two (former lovers remember) lacked any sort of emotion or depth whatsoever - a huge opportunity missed.

The sets were lavish and the special effects were okay even though I didn't like the airship bits. The fencing was very good in parts and the choreography in the big fight scenes was superb. The director kept the movie moving along nicely and on the whole was faithful(ish) to the plot. At 12A the film was appropriately certificated and the 3D was good on the whole although some scenes lingered just to show 3D effects.

Verdict - wait for the DVD.

Just part of the stall (I couldn't get it all in the picture!)

Another milestone in my life appeared on Saturday (15th) in the form of running a stall with my good friend Linda Lee at the Hessle Town Hall Spirit, Body and Mind Fair. We sold Angel related goods and trinkets and it was a hugely successful day on our first and certainly not last attempt. Thank you Linda and a mention for Helen and Phil who dipped in and helped. This was a nervous time in the run up to this - would it work, would it bomb? The signs were good, the planning careful and it worked. Plenty of interest and plenty sold.

Have a great week ahead of you...

Chat soon


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Law of Attraction

 How's the World Treating You? Not only a polite enquiry but a very funny play by Roger Milner (as well as a song I think.) 

I have a friend who has been in some dark places in life and has pretty much taken a lot of hell from life. At the moment, life is a fairly level playing field with some consistency. However, the friend also has some faith. This faith is held in the care of angels and spirituality, but more in the way of angels. My friend has the odd dip and frankly is entitled to have, and despite not feeling well and going for some tests, my friend is coping well and improving all the time. My friend does not, thankfully, hold back on the detail.

So. Your response to my question might be, "I'm bloody awful thanks." Or it might be (my favourite phrase,) "Absolutely average thanks," or it could be, "Smashing thanks, can't complain." I appreciate honesty and I guess I would rather I know you are not right than go on in ignorance and not being able to offer to help.

It's nigh on impossible for most of us to feel positive in such circumstances. A blogger friend has had an issue which is whistling round the mind and is causing stress for my blogger friend for example. Understandable. Completely. But again, there has been the courage to come out and say so.

That give me the opportunity to support where I can within the limitations of my life, time and knowledge about the human condition. I'll be honest and say I've been there and done that and although I haven't suffered dreadful traumas some have in their lives, I've seen so much and felt the tremors in the aftermath.  Because I haven't felt it and experienced it directly involving me personally, it doesn't stop me from helping. What I can't do is offer any clinical advice or highly technical advice using psychology because I don't know anything about those things. But I can listen and murmur words of encouragement and love for my fellow human being.

I generally use the basic Law of Attraction. That's not about how good your make up is or how good you look to a potential partner, it's about mindset. Like attracts like - what you wish for, you get. 

For example, if you constantly say to yourself and to others, "I really don't want to be ill," then the word that sticks in the mind is "ill." This is what you think about and concentrate on. "I'm fed up with being poor," is another example. "Poor" is the driver to how you are feeling.  "I really want to well again" and "I would love to have a bit of spare cash," might be better ways of thinking and so it goes on.

This is, albeit just a couple of words, much more positive and forward looking - looking to the day when you are "well" or have a "bit of spare cash" and the fact that if that is your mindset, you might think about doing something about it.  You've set yourself a goal without realising it.

Easy to say and difficult to do. I know.

Anyway - I hope you are keeping dry. It's rained very heavily here today - all day. 'Sprinkles' the forecast on the Internet said.  Slightly understated. This is a view probably familiar to you of the Humber Bridge which I use as my banner picture at the top of the blog - today at 3.45 pm, it looked like this:

Enjoy the second half of the week - only two days to the weekend!

Chat soon


Sunday, 9 October 2011

Weekend in Liverpool

Liverpool Pier Head (left) with the Liver Building to the right and a murky River Mersey to the far left. Taken from the 2nd floor Museum of Liverpool.

I hope the weekend has treated you favourably?

I've just come back from Liverpool having visited my son Ben at University in his final year. I was with my parents and my wife and had a pleasant weekend in a lovely city. I've waxed lyrical about Liverpool before, so don't intent to again, but the place is so full of life. It did rain and drizzle a lot which made it not so comfortable walking around which was a shame. 

The rain followed us home along the motorway making for hairy driving.

M62 near Manchester, Sunday afternoon

We had to visit Albert Dock again and we bought a painting for our newly decorated front room called Triptych Wave by L Mace. A black and white painting of a beautiful seascape. We also visited the brand new Museum of Liverpool which was under construction when we last visited and it's just adjacent to Albert Dock next to the Liver Building. Just to emphasise, all the museums in Liverpool are free and they are both modern, expansive and highly informative being visitor-friendly in every way.

The modern (and delightful) Museum of Liverpool building with one of many Super Lambananas that you can find in this city (all decorated differently).

We visited one or two other spots we'd been to before but which mum and dad have never  seen (they've never been to Liverpool in all their years) including the statue of Ken Dodd recently unveiled at Liverpool Lime Street railway station and had a night in playing cards at the very nice hotel which was, in part, a converted water mill.

This morning (Sunday) we went to the Williamson Heritage Centre which is one of the strangest things I think I've ever seen as an attraction and forgive me if I spend a couple of paragraphs explaining. Joseph Williamson Born in 1769 was a self made man in the Liverpool area in the tobacco industry. I think it's fair to say he was a philanthropist but also highly eccentric. In the 1820s and 1830s he had built a series of extensive huge underground tunnels (many hundreds of metres long) underneath the Edge Hill area of Liverpool that exist to this day. Some of the tunnels have been recently reopened and are maintained by a local society. 

 One of the shorter tunnels, with Keith our guide in the forefront showing the selection of crockery discovered in the spoil of rubbish exacvated from the tunnels.

Most of the tunnel system has yet to be rediscovered because after his death, the tunnels were filled in with the area's rubbish. The huge mystery is - why did he have them built. He employed men who were previously unemployed, some recently returned from war, along with their families to excavate the tunnels and make bricks for the vaulted ceilings. We had a guided tour with 'Keith' accompanied with hard hats through the tunnels looking at some of the items that have been discovered from the rubbish they've taken out from their excavations. Well worth a visit to this place maintained by volunteers. However it is neither safe nor accessible to wheelchair users.

Just a picture for fun with some more Super Lambananas

For our last meal of the visit together, we went to the Philharmonic Dining Rooms in Hope Street for lunch. This building is the height of Victorian opulence and extravagance. Built in the style of a gentleman's club with panelling throughout, it was used as a meeting place for and complimentary to the Royal Philharmonic Hall just opposite. 

The main dining room which once held billard tables

I hope my photographs do it justice and the men's toilet is a sight to behold, never seen anything like it!  I don't normally take pictures in men's loos, but this had to be the exception! 

Have a great week ahead!

Chat soon


Thursday, 6 October 2011

Reviewing the Papers

Today I went on one of my quarterly jaunts to the local radio station BBC Radio Humberside to review the papers for the breakfast show hosted by the experienced and long serving senior broadcast journalist Andy Comfort. The atmosphere is relaxed and it ends up a bit of a natter really and very enjoyable. 

I stayed away from the main story of the Conservative party conference - too much rhetoric, not enough substance for me so I reviewed and said a few words about the following stories:

I started at 07.21 with The Sun: The front page had a story about the arrest of a Coronation Street actor for an alleged serious offence. He has not been charged but when he was arrested, the case became 'active' in the eyes of the law and to protect a miscarriage of justice and to prevent him not having a fair trial, the media is very restricted as to what it can say at this stage. This, in my view was the paper committing contempt of court and said so in no uncertain terms. Only a matter of opinion of course, but it was there to be said.

My second story in the second slot after the news at 07.41 from the Independent: TUC urges the Government to be flexible over the pension cuts. Listed was a huge number of public sector professionals who are going to go on strike on 30 November and I made comment about the story and the fact that I could remember the winter of discontent of the early 1970s and how uncomfortable a time was that.

The third story from the Yorkshire Post revolved around the Football League Chairman's view that football was about to go bankrupt if it wasn't careful. I agree and commented that perhaps wages  and the recent court case over satellite fees for football were a serious issue for the game.
The next story was from The Times about the pending announcement about BBC cuts and stated that BBC were planning repeat programmes and cuts including selling off buildings and making staff redundant. How right they were. I discussed, among other things that I wondered (although I don't like it) whether or not the BBC should consider advertising.
The final story is always a light one from me and as reported in the Daily Telegraph, it concerns a group of motorists from Cumbria who were in a car park but because of some unknown electrical interference, could not get into their cars because their car key fobs couldn't transmit the signal to unlock their cars. My point of this story was that when I first got a car in the mid seventies, I serviced it myself, changed the plugs, altered the timings and the distributor cap points and changed the oils etc. Just a key in the lock then, not even central locking! Now of course the ability of the ordinary car owner to service their own car is no longer possible because of the car's complex computer driven systems thereby leaving us at the mercy of garages.

I then travelled to Leeds for a meeting and I am now weary at the end of a long day. Going to see my son in Liverpool this weekend. I'll report on the trip.

Have a great weekend

Chat soon


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Brantingham Village

It looks like today, in East Yorkshire, the last sunny day of this glorious Indian summer draws to a close with increasing cloud and although it's still warm, it is now raining.

However this afternoon, with friends, I managed a last foray into the beautiful gentle green countryside that surrounds  the Humber basin before the autumn proper arrives and walking becomes too difficult in this rural setting of hills and small forests.

The village of Brantingham lies on the north bank of the Humber west of the City of Kingston upon Hull but far enough away to have its own uniqueness. This is almost a picturesque chocolate box village at the foot of the rising Wolds with its own dale and church, its own village hall and pub and a pond.

It's popular with walkers because its surrounded by woods and farmland rising steeply on each side of the dale. There are panoramic views of the Humber basin nearby and today Red Kites were circling in the air, often harried and harassed by smaller Kestrels. Rooks in flocks were flying hither and thither among the abundance of trees.

The Brantingham church, dedicated to All Saints is a delicate Norman and Perpendicular revival church last rebuilt in the late 1870s but there have been vicars and priests recorded in the locale since the thirteenth century. The registers go back to 1690. It is lovingly tended with a neat graveyard just to the north of the village. It was a lovely still place to sit and contemplate for an hour.

You may remember the story of the Sykes family of Sledmere House which I visited a few weeks ago - well the Sykes are here in this village too and have wielded their interests, mainly benevolently. 

The pond sadly is in desperate need of water for the few ducks that reside there permanently.

There are lots of circular walks in the area that dissect the village and there is a nice pub which offers good food and hospitality.

Early this morning, before the majority of the citizenry was awake, I was in the City of Hull taking some photographs of the old town with my son John when I happened to notice a huge line of geese flying by, heading west. They were making a hell of a racket which was a rather rural sound for a city still asleep.

By the way, you remember that bug I spotted yetserday and posted? I looked on the blog Donegal Wildlife suggested by fellow blogger Weaver of Grass - an excellent site, and the bug is called a Hawthorn Shield Bug - Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale.

I hope you have a great week ahead.

Chat soon


Saturday, 1 October 2011

Warm Again!

Welcome to October and welcome to the weekend. In the bulk of the UK (I'm in the north east) it's been an unseasonably hot day and Gravesend in the south hit 29.9 Celsius today, an all time record for October. 

I said 'white rabbit' three time in the early hours of the morning to greet October and give me luck for the month. The picture on the top is the cat fast asleep on his head in the dappled sunshine.

The picture above is an insect we see quite a lot at this time of the year (about half an inch long) and I have no idea what it is. What is remarkable is when you magnify the head end, blimey what a creature! Anyone know what it is please let me know.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Chat soon


Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Ain't nature wonderful. It never ceases to amaze me.

A huge amount of damage was done to shrubs and plants and some trees as a result of  prolonged snow and ice last winter, not only because of the cold but because of the weight of the snow. Indeed I had a lovely shrub broken (recovered after some judicious pruning) by weight of snow.

I also thought I'd lost our Cordyline Australis which is a palm-like tree which we kept in a pot. In the UK it's probably better known as the Torbay Palm because of the profusion of these glorious trees in the Torbay area on the south coast. The vast majority of Cordyline's died this winter in the UK, both mature and smaller varieties. All that is left of mine is the rotting bare trunk.

We've had it years and I couldn't bring myself round to throwing it away - stupid or sentimental or both. It's a dead tree for goodness sake.

Well I was watering my plants about an hour ago and as I passed the dead plant in a pot, I noticed something rather miraculous. From the base of the rotting stump is new growth; a new mini Cordyline. I am absolutely amazed and stunned. I will have to look after it better this winter, perhaps wrap it up with a bit of bubble wrap - not pretty, but effective. A re-birth.

Chat soon


Sunday, 25 September 2011

Second Flowering

The spider above seems content to sit on a web in front of the kitchen window making me ever so slightly nervous and it's not even in the house! Have you noticed what hairy legs it's got?

It's been a funny old year weather wise. Hot spring, wet summer which has proved apparently great for the fruit farmers and for the birds because of the berries on the trees and shrubs. Not sure what this has meant for arable farmers but there is something a bit odd I haven't seen before.

There is a second flowering for some of our trees even though they have fruit on and some of the leaves are starting to take on an autumn hue. This includes my brother/sister-in-law's cherry tree next door - and here's a pic taken today to prove it.

My rose trees have got a fresh set of flowers and the geraniums, normally well past their best are producing lovely flowers too!

Can't complain, they do add to the lovely colours around. I'll be taking the flowers out by mid October and by early November, the garden gets a shave with the trimmers.

I hope the week ahead is a good one for you.

Chat soon


Saturday, 24 September 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

For a change, quite a bit happening in the last couple of days, nothing earth shattering, but it keeps life moving on.

Welcome to new follower John Gray from Wales. He says about himself "Going on 50 and feeling it. A previous career nurse manager who moved to Wales in 2005. My life now is centred around life in a tiny Welsh village, a field full of animals and a pack of dogs" His blog 'Going Gently' is very entertaining, have a look...

I've been to see another phenomenal move Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Anyone who remembers the exceptional BBC series adaptation of John Le Carre's novel will understand that this movie is different and Gary Oldman's portrayal of George Smiley is equally as different as that by originally played by Alec Guinness (below). However, it is also as good and I never thought I'd say that.

A mole is operating in the highest echelon of British Intelligence and information is leaking to the Russians in this time of the Cold War in Europe. George Smiley was forcibly retired from 'the Circus' but is soon brought back unknown to the management to track down the dastardly spy! It's a complex story brilliantly brought to the big screen in a two hour seven minute film (take a cushion!). 1970s London and Budapest is wonderfully captured and the atmosphere and emotion of dark deeds shines through. 

There are no whizz bangs, CGI or anything else in the way of explosive action - this is one you have to listen to and follow meticulously. This will put some people off which is a shame - it is what it is, top quality production. It's rated 15 for a couple of scenes of violence and one sex scene (seen from across the road through a window) but don't be put off by that either, it's not gratuitous.

Some excellent performances from Gary Oldman who had a big act to follow and an unexpected gem from Tom Hardy as Ricky Tar, the man who does the services' dirty deeds. Mark Strong was a very good Jim Prideaux, an agent set up and captured by the Russians and Benedict Cumberbatch  (BBC's Sherlock Holmes) was a very credible and wonderfully portrayed Peter Guillam, Smiley's sidekick. My final word for John Hurt who as the dying 'Control,' head of the service, suspects a mole, but is marginalised and forced out  when his fears are dismissed as nonsense. This was the sort of performance that makes you shiver and makes you realise what a superb actor he really is.

This is highly recommended, especially if you like a good story.

There are dozens of variations of "Tinker, Tailor..."

The modern version is 
Tinker, Tailor,
Soldier, Sailor,
Rich Man, Poor Man,
Beggar Man, Thief
In 1475, William Caxton used a variation of the above using other 'professions,' and AA Milne in 1927 wrote:
Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief,
Or Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.
Or what about a cowboy, policeman, jailer, engine driver, or a pirate chief?
Or what about a ploughman or a keeper at the zoo,
Or what about a circus man who lets the people through?
Or the man who takes the pennies on the roundabouts and swings,
Or the man who plays the organ or the other man who sings?
Or What about the rabbit man with rabbits in his pockets
And what about a rocket man who's always making rockets?
Oh it's such a lot of things there are and such a lot to be
That there's always lots of cherries on my little cherry tree
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Sailor, Rich man Poor man, Ploughman (not Beggar man), Thief also features in a poem by Jan Struther in a book "A Pocketful of Pebbles."

Our new carpet is down and looking good. My other half is just making the curtains which will just about round it all off. We are starting to return to some semblance of normality. 

My eldest has just returned from a weeks holiday with his friends and has come back to a warm balmy day and after watching the BBC weather forecast, it seems we are in for an Indian Summer with warm air coming from the southern European continent for at least most of next week when we all get back to work! Shame we didn't have this during the summer.

Writing this, I am having a rest having spent four lovely hours in the garden tidying, cutting the grass and sweeping up the first of the autumns leaves.

Chat soon

Thanks to Wikipedia for some of the sources.