Wednesday, 18 February 2015


In the Radio Times of 31 January, in an article previewing his Inside The Commons documentary series, Michael Cockerell says of David Cameron at PMQs, 'Sometimes the roars are so loud that he can't even hear the question, and has to answer based on what he knows about the MP who's standing up.'

Monday, 16 February 2015

avengers assemble; quartet

On Friday 2 January, the younger generation and I finished watching Avengers Assemble during the day, being off, which we rather enjoyed (it was well-written, good dialogue, and not overdoing the action sequences), and then all of us watched Quartet, set in a home for retired musicians, which was okay.

A line which stuck with me from Avengers Assemble was from Bruce Banner, the mild-mannered scientist who morphs into The Hulk when he's angry, and people strenuously avoid making him angry. But it's clear that he's remaining calm and softly-spoken by force of will. Eventually they are in urgent need of The Hulk, and Captain America says, 'Now might be a good time to get angry'. He says, 'That's my secret, Captain: I'm always angry.' - and immediately turns into The Hulk.

I identified with that.

Friday, 30 January 2015

london christmas

In bed before midnight on Christmas Eve, and heard Big Ben strike midnight. Then on Christmas Day we walked to St Paul's Cathedral for the 11am service. None more London. (The Christmas Eve service at St Paul's is very busy, and they put screens up outside for those who can't get in, but no trouble getting in on the Day, primarily because of no public transport I guess, as well as people having other plans.)

sherlock holmes exhibition

On Saturday 27 December we all went to the Museum of London's Sherlock Holmes exhibition. We enjoyed it, at different speeds, though a lot of it was simply period photos or paintings of locations.

One of the things it reminded me was that although we think of him as 19th century and Victorian, more of the stories are Edwardian/'Georgian' and written in the twentieth century.

even in the best families

On Tuesday 23 December I finished another Nero Wolfe novel by Rex Stout, Even In The Best Families. It was a good one, though I always enjoy them. I think I'll have to make more positive efforts to find them, not just picking them up by chance. I like the wit, period, character, plots and writing.


On Boxing Day we all went to see Paddington at Cineworld West India Quay, and all enjoyed it a lot - I despite the fact that I always find characters like Paddington very annoying, characters who cause mayhem, however accidental or well-meaning. I'm always thinking of the consequences, and my sympathies are always with those made cross by it. Still, a good film, if you didn't think about it too closely.

little women

On Christmas Eve we all watched, and enjoyed, the Sarandon/Ryder version of Little Women - I had certainly seen it before, I'm pretty sure actually in the cinema on release.

it's a wonderful life

We watched It's A Wonderful Life in a couple of sittings before Christmas. The first viewing in many years for me, though I've seen it a few times, and I was pleased to see it was still as great as I remembered it; the younger generation wasn't that impressed, however.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

the treasure of the sierra madre

On Friday 19 December I finished The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B Traven, in an old paperback edition which I'd picked up secondhand. The film is a classic - I saw it years ago and remember being really impressed with it - and, I have discovered, much better than the book, which was not a lost classic. Only in the final third did it really hold my attention; the first half in particular was very slow and unengaging, and with a lot of material that I don't remember from the film and suspect wasn't in there. My main memory of the film is the paranoid interplay of the three prospectors, but it takes the book a long time to get there.

(A look at the Wikipedia entries for the book and the film suggest that in fact the film was quite faithful to the book. The film must tell it better.)

Monday, 26 January 2015

berkhamsted castle

On Saturday 13 December we had a train day trip to Berkhamsted and I finally visited the castle I'd seen from the train for two years while commuting from Euston to Bletchley - the substantial remains of a big old early Norman motte and bailey, now in the care of English Heritage (it also has a surprisingly detailed entry on Wikipedia). It was nice to visit it eventually, and possibly the highlight of my day in Berkhamsted. There was a Christmas tree festival in a local church which we also went to, but that wasn't much cop. The chips from the chip shop near the station were good, though.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

war horse

We finished watching War Horse, recorded on our Freeview box, on Saturday 22nd November. I don't know what the lauded stage version is like (still on here), but the film was pretty unremarkable I thought.

transforming grace; the case for christ

On Wednesday 19 November I finished Transforming Grace, by Jerry Bridges. Other people have appreciated it a great deal, including the person who gave it to me, but I just thought it was okay. I think, as they say, it didn't scratch where I itch.

Conversely, very much scratching where I was itching was The Case For Christ, by Lee Strobel, which I finished on Saturday 6 December. A former crime journalist interviewing different theological academics in their area of speciality in relation to proofs, evidence, reliability etc of the gospels and the story of Christ. I found the style a little annoying, with the author narrating the ongoing thoughts and actions within the interview to give it some 'colour', but the content was solid.

a murder is announced

On Sunday 16th November I finished Agatha Christie's A Murder Is Announced. It was okay, but one of those with rather ridiculous plot and character contrivances.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

bloomsbury's hundred must-read sf novels

On Saturday 15th November I finished reading the Bloomsbury Hundred Must-Read SF novels. It's a good series of little books - I've also read the crime and the fantasy ones - which have given some good pointers for possible reading.

catching fire; mockingjay part 1

On Thursday 6 November we - not Bethan, not interested - finished watching Catching Fire on DVD. We'd seen the first one (The Hunger Games) before, on a video from the library I think, and I'd read the first book in advance of it for vetting purposes, and had also read this one. They were both okay, but nothing special. The Catching Fire poster had been up in the bedroom for some time already, though. Well, when I was a teenager I had a t-shirt of The Wall before I'd seen the film or even heard the album.

Then we - not Bethan, not interested - saw Mockingjay Part 1 in the cinema when it was newly out, on Saturday 22nd November. I think that was part of the motivation of watching Catching Fire on DVD (we bought it in Cex, with part of the proceeds of selling the old DS and most of the games for it), to be ready for this. It was, again, okay, but nothing special, although quite interesting about propaganda and how good and bad authoritarian systems might not be so different.

the adjustment bureau

On Saturday 1 November we watched The Adjustment Bureau, which we'd recorded on the freeview box. I was in the mood for a thoughtful science fiction film; it was okay, but less substantial than it might have been.

morris folk club - march to november

On Tuesday 25 March  we had Morris Folk Club (last Tuesday of the month, at the Hysteria bar). I took my guitar, and used it for one song. I had heard Tim's song Making Time on one of the Dark Lanterns' music pages and really liked it. It was billed as a demo, and Tim said he didn't think it was finished, as he wasn't content with the words. I boldly had a stab at working on the words myself, and then sang a version accompanying myself on rudimentary guitar and sent it to him, which he didn't object to, so I did it at folk club. People liked it; it's a good song. I'd like to sing it one day with Tim playing the guitar, because it was a lovely arrangement. I also sang Can't Stand Losing You, which of course is a Police song, but sings well as a folk song.

On Tuesday 29 April I sang Lightning Express (which I hadn't planned to, but a train theme had emerged in the open rehearsal, and I knew the song well enough) and The Parting Glass.

(I covered the January and February clubs in an earlier post.)

I wasn't around for the May folk club.

On Tuesday 24 June I sang When The Tigers Broke Free and Wave Or Particle.

There was no club in July, and I wasn't around for August.

On Tuesday 30 September. I sang The Brown And The Yellow Ale by myself, and I Am Stretched On Your Grave, planned with Ginny but Mandy also joined us. Unusually for the folk club (so far), we had a guest artists, Brendan Collins, an old friend of the choir, who did a set of his own material.

Ginny and I had practiced with a mixture of hi tech and lo fi - emailing each other recordings of us singing it and then the other singing along with it. We had a practice after the choir practice the week before in the cupboard, which seemed to go quite well; the people still in the hall outside seemed to think so. I sang the tune, Ginny did the harmony which she had done with the choir when they'd sung it, which was before I joined, which I think was more or less the harmony on the Ken Hall and Peta Webb version. Michelle has been encouraging people to try singing together at folk club, and I suggested this one to Ginny because I knew we both liked it but it didn't seem to be very likely that the choir would do it again because not a lot of people did. Either at the first or second choir rehearsal I was at, as an introduction thing, people went round the circle introducing themselves and saying which their favourite song they'd sung with Morris was; I was at the end and Ginny was just before me (in fact I think Ginny was the first person I sang with at Morris, in that same circle, as Michelle got us to go round the circle singing a line at a time in pairs of Shallow Brown), and she said it was I Am Stretched On Your Grave; and I said of those that had been mentioned, that was my favourite. When we sang it at folk club it turned out that more people did like it - including Mandy, which is why she came up to sing it with us, which we certainly didn't begrudge.

On Tuesday 28 October, which had a Halloweeny theme, I sang Twa Corbies and Thriller. I pitched Thriller just on the verge of being too high, so I had to sing it ridiculously loudly, but it came off okay. I do like to dig out songs from various places and sing them as folk songs, and at the Morris weekend away Rachel and Jen had wondered if it was possible to do a Michael Jackson song... Of course, as I pointed out on the night, Thriller is actually a song from Lincolnshire, having been written by Rod Temperton from Cleethorpes. It was semi-plausible as a folk song (I did the Vincent Price bit by singing it to a variation of the music playing underneath it).

On Tuesday 25 November I sang Poor Little Jesus (from the Maddy Prior / Carnival Band version) by myself (as it was our last folk club before Christmas, and I thought it would be good to sing something Christmas-related), and then Death of Queen Jane (based on Karine Polwart's version) with Ginny. Again we'd done hi tech / lo fi practicing: having gone back and forth for quite a bit with possible songs, we decided to go for Queen Jane, though there's no harmony on the Karine Polwart version, though there is a drone, which Ginny thought she might do on her recently-acquired melodeon. I emailed a possible harmony, very simple and not going much away from the drone; Ginny emailed back herself improvising harmonies; I improvised harmonies and recorded snippets I liked, then tried to construct a cohesive harmony out of bits of mine and Ginny's. We did some practice recordings with and without the melodeon (Ginny doing the tune, I doing the harmony), and then a pre-rehearsal cupboard practice with and without, when we concluded it would work better without; another cupboard practice the next week, then the folk club itself. While the emailing process was very helpful, you really needed to sing it together to feel how it worked, and it did work. It went pretty well at folk club, and was extra satisfying to think that we'd come up with the harmony ourselves.

I'm very hopeful that it's the start of various people from the choir having a go at singing together at folk club. Fiona has suggested a song the three of us could do, so we may give that a go.


On the train back from Aviemore on Tuesday 21 October I read - in a vetting way - Divergent, by Veronica Roth. Another dystopian teen scifi. It was okay, but preposterous.

Monday, 8 December 2014


We watched the tv movie Marvellous, about Neil Baldwin, starring Toby Jones; finished watching it on Friday 17 October. It was very well done. I was in particular impressed with Lou Macari's real life action, which seems to be true, that he gave Neil a job at Stoke City out of the goodness of his heart.

the maze runner

On Saturday 11 October two of us went to the West India Quay cinema to see The Maze Runner, which was quite good (although no proper ending, just the starting point for the next in the series) - another film based on a dystopian scifi book series aimed at teenagers; as I think Mark Kermode pointed out, teenage fiction seems to be the core area for dystopian sci-fi, which fits quite well with teenage angst.

(We went to the the Museum of London Docklands afterwards, first time for a while.)