Thursday, 2 April 2009

Passport to Pimlico, Hotel Reserve, Archangel

This has been a dodgy weekend, not to be repeated. The personal highlight was to drink a bottle of champagne on my own, which is not as sad an event as it sounds the light of a drab Monday morning. On this occasion I did so not in celebration, as I had done on the last occasion, nine months before to mark the 100th birthday of my mother, but because I wanted to and could, spreading the enjoyment over lunch to the evening meal, knowing that I did not have to drive, walk outside my home, present a view of myself to someone, concentrate on writing anything, or watching or reading anything critically, working out how it was constructed, speculating about motives and intentions, and examining the outcome. Of course that did not stop me observing the process and now mentioning aspects of the experience to anyone who cares to pass by and share aspects of my experience. Oh and for a couple of days I did not check the Myspace inbox, although I did my emails in the slight hope of a notification from the national lottery with some exciting news as over spring and summer I had won as much as I had invested, whereas usually I only win back about two thirds of the entry money. All the wins except one were of the smallest amount, and the exception the next one up, although the notice is always the same, so I long for the day when I discover that one also gets the same preliminary notice but the alert notice says x nought's amount has been added to an account. I do not expect this ever to happen, or spend time thinking about what I will do, or how it will change my life.

You can change your life without waiting for some event or sign to do so but it is never easy. There was a reason for the private drink binge. I was getting myself ready to systematically clear my in tray and then bring my 101 work up to-date, before completing the portraits in words and pics of my walkings between the rivers Tyne and Wear, from St Paul's to St Peter's, from Jarrow to Sunderland and back, and once this was done to begin Fragments of time and place, the story of my mother and me. I have not commenced a major work since completing the last version of a portrait of the life of my mother in words and photographs to mark her 100th birthday he systematic clearing of the in tray is not just a question of bills, requests for help from charities and filling in Christmas raffle tickets, but what to do if as I expect another month goes by without learning the outcome of my appeal against the reports which the Health Ombudsman submitted to the Health Secretary on the premature and preventable death of my aunt and why community and hospital medical and nursing officers have provide contradicting and changing explanations of what happened and why, or on what precisely was the role of a local authority social service department in the situation, to address the casual relationship between what happened in the community and in hospital. I hope the length of time which my appeal has taken means that I can bring this matter to an end but all my instincts are that the outcome will be inconclusive, so what should I decided to do then?

I did not put all work activity into abeyance and give way to meaningless self indulgence such as getting up, staying up, eating and drinking as and when I liked and watching TV even if I knew it was going to be rubbish. The sun continued to shine ion Saturday, warmer that for some of the days during the week. Once before I remember a time, in late September, before the university new year commences when I participated in a two week senior management course at a Cambridge college when there were similar continuous days of uninterrupted sunshine and every opportunity was taken to walk by a riverside, when was it 1972 or 73, at least thirty years ago. This time there were at least seven mornings of cloudless blue sky awakening which continued until dusk although there were puffs of white appearing and a chill, sometimes sharp and crisp.

On Saturday morning I went out with a picnic lunch to the river Wear and sat in St Peter's admiring the restoration since the 1984 arson attack which destroyed the roof and much else and thought more on the nature of worship of Gods in Temples and Churches, of ancient beliefs in sacrifice, actual and symbolic, of how long 100 years is and how short time appears when it you that is old and preparing for the end of individual self awareness. I would have looked inside the restored Fullwell Mill but it is only open between 12 and 4 on Sundays and I had different plans for the day, and anyway it became cloudy with rain and the mood changed. I had got up after going to bed on Friday night. I had started to write the two rivers walk and chosen some twenty of the two three thousand or so photos available, two thousand of them new, for the introductory chapter. I had then realised that I used the wrong word processor, Microsoft Works Word instead of freestanding Word, so it was necessary to re write the words which of course I then changed significantly as I can never reread anything I have written without wanting to rewrite, sometimes changing it beyond recognition, and his also applied to photographs in which half a dozen were left until the main text and replaced by others which were considered more appropriate. I wanted to go on with the work until it finished, knowing this will take a month and possibly more, but then knew I had to deal with the in tray and decided to put off doing this with my weekend of self indulgence, some of which would already be a haze had it not been for beginning the rolling diary, a brief notebook which when I start to write a major work will be the memory worksheet for each day as they blur into each other, broken only by the experience of the creative work of others.

I returned home after my picnic lunch of two salami rolls with strips of a red pepper and a banana and a pear and some still iced cold water to watch what I expected was to be England's quarter final game against Australia in the Rugby World Cup who Johnny Wilkinson and co beat in that amazing final last gasp dropped goal of all time. No one gave us a shout this time and most expected a clobbering and what happened well it was unbelievable, especially to the Australian's and their supporters. It looked as if it was going to be a great sporting weekend as Lewis Hamilton would be at the front of the grid for the Chinese Grand Prix and all he had to do was finish to become world champion Formula One driver in his first year.

Later in the evening I enjoyed the highly structured X factor in which 24 hopefuls went to the homes of the four judges in Ireland, Ibiza, Hollywood and I can't remember to be pared down to 12 and reach the finals stage, structured because the decisions would not be officially revealed until Sunday evening although they had been.

Leaked in the national media bit I had resisted. I also watched a film which I had seen before in recent memory, Archangel the 2005 film, not the earlier 1990 Canadian offering, in which Daniel Craig fluent in all things Russian, especially the reality of the rule of Stalin returns to the city where he studied by invitation to a conference and is led to believe that there are secret diaries in existence. What happens next with the help of a reckless and ambitious journalist (which reminds of Network, have I done a piece on that, I cannot remember), and the tart of a daughter of a former and continuing communist hardliner, is the discovering that Stalin had an illegitimate son who has been kept secret but is now to brought to the public as the natural successor and saviour to the rapidly degenerating Westernising. The flaw in the film is that knowing Stalin as we do he would have hedged his bets and produced as many offspring with the right genealogical background whom would then compete with innate ruthlessness and ambition until one was suitably drenched in the blood of his countrymen, or her countrymen to establish the dynasty.

Earlier, I think, I watched for the umpteenth time Passport to Pimlico the highly enjoyable but preposterous 1949 film which I first saw as a 10 year old in theatre with my mother and aunts. This Michael Balcon film can be now regarded as attempt to bolster the flagging wartime spirit of Joe public in the face of the continuing austerity of rationing and large chunks of remaining blitzed London, although it was based on a true I incident when during World War 2 the child of Princess Juliana of the Netherlands would not have been able to claim the throne if born outside her home land so that the Canadian Government passed a special law making her room in the maternity hospital part of the Netherlands. The film starred Stanley Holloway and Margaret Rutherford and the young Barbara Murray. But also a young Charles Haughtry of subsequent Carry on fame, Raymond Huntley as the creative Bank Manager and that fine actor John Slater. It was also good to see Naughton Wayne and Basil Radford continuing their double act as traditional rule Britannia Englishmen, this time as the government officials responsible for achieving a solution to a situation similar to Margaret Thatcher and the Poll tax and Tony Blair and the Iraq War. It was only a few days since seeing the two in the follow up to their role in the original The Lady Vanishes, in Night Train to Munich. This melodrama concerned the escape to the UK and recapture of an Czech inventor of a new form of armour platting by the Nazi's in which Paul Henried, the hero of Casablanca, as the Nazi spy who is outwitted by young Rex Harrison, who gets him back together with his daughter Margaret Lockwood who has been tricked into escaping from the camp where she had interned and giving away the whereabouts of her father who has been working for the allies in England. As in the Lady Vanishes Naughton and Rathbone play stiff upper lip Englishmen, this time golfers, previously cricket watchers who intervene on behalf of their country because of the unsporting behaviour of foreigners. This is the film where Ian Fleming the author of James Bond books plays an MI5 official at the Home Office, although I only out this out from an internet site on Margaret Lockwood films.

Sunday did not begin well because McLaren's and Hamilton were so intent on winning with a bang that they delayed changing tyres in atrocious weather conditions and came to a stop in a gravel trap, thus making him the least likely of the three drivers who now have a chance of taking the title in Brazil, because the other two have the experience behind them.

I then watched Sunderland put up an amazing fight back at Arsenal, especially after giving away two goals in the first fifteen minutes, but I did not expect them two hold on to their magnificent 2.2 draw, and I was not wrong but it should give the team confidence that they can compete with the best. They lost 3.2. Arsenal has an amazing tam which Manchester United were also to demonstrate later as their shooting stars came to the fore in a 4.0 win.

The third of five one day matches in Sri Lanka was interrupted by rain which stretched the game throughout the day and with England just about winning in a close difficult to get runs game. The Newcastle 3.2 scoreline did not convey what a good win this was, after listening and then watching the match later on Sky. Michael Owen came off the bench to score the third and it was a lucky fluke in the last seconds which made the Everton position appear more respectable. How far Newcastle go this season will depend on how often Owen and Viduka get to play together. Owen appears to be protected for the England must win games, I know I am being unfair and Viduka is Viduka who hates our cold weather. Don't we all. But the rest of us get on with and are not paid ten of thousands a week for the privilege so Mark lets home you spend more time on the pitch than the treatment table this Winter.

I also watched two films during my tipsy stupor. The first was an hilarious studio shot nonsense called Hotel Reserve in which a very young almost a teenager James Mason is on holiday in Southern France while waiting to become a naturalized Frenchman who because of a mix up of camera is used by the authorities to help capture a Nazi spy ring, led by Herbert Lom. My problem is that I cannot take any role in which Lom stars seriously after his comic performances as the Police Chief in the Pink Panther films. This film was also of interest because it has Valentine Dyall miscast in a make up the numbers hotel guest. Into the early hours I then watched again, The Business with Danny Dyer as Frankie the young lad who escapes to Marbella after battering to death his mother bartering father and joins a gang of hard men living the good life beating up and killing their enemies, making lots of dosh from drugs until they upset the local Mayor and he closes down the operations. I have watched this glorification of violence and immorality this before and did so again because of glimpses of Gibraltar from La Linea de la Conception in a street which I am sure I was taken on a visit earlier this century. The film was a good antidote to any pangs about staying in the North east and not attempting to end my days propping up bars in the Mediterranean sunshine telling tales of what I could have been had I stuck at it better. The sound track on the Business official Internet site is just what I need to get me going again this Monday morning which is clearing up with some indications of sunshine.

Of course for everyone else the main event this weekend was the decision by Prime Minister Gordon Brown not to call a snap Autumn General Election and will now have to live with being called chicken by the opposition and significantly damaged his credibility for not knowing his own mind. You should have listened to me Gordon or your own instincts. You had got the power you wanted. You were doing very well so what was the point of all this nonsense of listening to those without understanding the nature of government and who resent leadership?

I enjoyed the results of the X Factor and fortunately Luis was not tempted to go along with a talentless joke of an entrant which Sharon in particular was inclined to go along with because of the success of one her previous selection Chico-Time. This time he selected a primary school teacher who has been in care, a young girl who survived a resuscitation and a single parent dad who has also lost both parents.. Simon also has to look to Louis for having the good idea of bringing some rejected contestants together to form a group. At least that was the way the situation has been projected. I fancy the boys who have got their act together more than the girls. There is also a brother and sister act who should follow the same path as Journey South and the McDonald Brothers. I do not expect the barmaid to go far because she lacks the looks and it will be interesting to see how far a 15 year old with a big voice can go , further I think than a likeable 23 year old who knows she has reached the last chance saloon. All the young boys were rejected because they cried more than I do. Like Sharon I took and instant dislike to the self confident 24 year old who has undoubtedly the best male voice and stage presence, but my money in on the 18 year old who lives with his single parent mum and who only discovered he could sing after getting an I pod, recording his voice and persuaded by friends to Karaoke. However the first round proper is delayed for two weeks because England is in the Rugby World Cup semi final and the final stages of the European Championship qualifiers.

Still in a champagne haze while watching the Business discovered the computer chess game on the desktop and was able to win against it on average two out of three times at levels one and two. Now this will be challenge only use when the work has been done, Talking of which I have used a good morning writing this when I should have been tackling the in tray. Oh well it is lunch time, I will then feel sleeping watch and old film on TV want to write about it , play some chess and oh dear put off again for another day.

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