Tuesday, 14 April 2009

John Denver Story the film, Cranford and more

This has been a rambling day. I did not go to bed very late last night but when I awoke after the dawn, I did not feel ready to leave bed after going to the toilet and now only remember a series of getting's up, returning to bed and what seemed a long continuous dream so what when I did finally leave the bed it was 11.30 am and I cannot remember when last this happened as on previous occasions when I have got up during the night to work and retuned to sleep around 5 am was 9 or 10 the latest when I begin the new day. This morning for example it was 9 am after retiring at 2.30 am and I felt immediately ready for work although first the rubbish bin was put out, a cup of tea followed by toast and two games of level three chess, making twelve all have been won. 502 games have been played so far level 2 with 31 drawn and four losses and still the highest winning streak under sixty, but I have coming to know the opening variations so well that I rush and then mess up the end game despite being in strong impossible to lose and should not drawn positions. Given that about 150 other game, not recorded have been completed at this level I decided to postpone continuation for a few days and test out level three where the computer has not learnt by play.

A part reason for staying in bed yesterday morning was recovering from the cold of Saturday afternoon. I was half hearted about going with mind on something else and leaving it late I had not thought about the conditions after clearing up the mess in the patio from planting the spring bulbs on Friday when it had been mild, although freezing on Thursday, such rapid swings in temperature are unusual. I hope I have not left the bulb planting too late to get a early display although one solution would be to invest in a different set of containers one for bulbs and one for flowers. I had delayed because flowering plants bought April May were still in bloom at the end of November and some still are although the foliage withers.

Feeling the cold I had put going out trousers over tracksuit bottoms and worn a warm inner jacket under the outer coat. However the wind had a nasty cutting edge which everyone around me commented on despite being tucked under the roof of the stand. The majority of them had wisely brought hats which I must remember on the next occasion. It felt appropriate to suffer a little given mixed emotions about attending the event, and in general I believe in doing appropriate penance for my accumulated sins. At I was prepared not to enjoy the game, and it was so and I became so cold that I longed for the game to be over.

I had been cheered up by getting an email from U2UK after sending them my notes on encountering their vehicle and going to the gig at the refurbished Customs House and the email asked if the notes could be put on their web site. I had also invested £4.50 in the Eurodraw and both star numbers and come up, 7 and 9 with one other, so the win was £9.50, and then on Saturday night I won £10 which means that for this year I am still losing less than 50% of the money played and twice I hoped, how I hoped this time that the email's "we have some exciting news check you account" meant something better that yet another minor win. In respect of major prize I conclude it is not written, but taking the position of Omar Sharif than Peter O'Toole.

Although Sunderland started brightly you could (me and the rest of the 42000 home crowd) immediately felt the lack of confidence among the players after losing 7.1 with the manager admitting he had not left the house for two days such was the pain he had experienced. Twice before the team had made the Premier League in recent times and twice before they had been relegated in a humiliating way. It was vital for the club and for the town that this did not happen again. Saturday was to be the test day as the visiting team Derby, the Brian Clough brought to international fame is in the same position that Sunderland were in two seasons ago, bottom and with only six points against the leader's thirty six. They came for an honourable draw but when a short hit the post, you saw their confidence soar as ours departed further and the realised the game was for their winning, and in fairness the likely nil nil outcome would have a fair result.

At least the foul mouth racists, there had been at least two sitting in the seats behind at the game with Newcastle, perhaps two or three rows back, were not there and as there were several empty seats despite a good crowd, I hoped theirs was a one off visit in my location. I would not be faced with the dilemma of accepting the situation or initiating action which was my inclination but not my mood.

Both last season and in several matches this, an important goal was scored in final minutes. The stand on this side of the ground has been designed with only one level of exits where most others have two, and which leads to severe congestion at the end when all those at the lover levels take precedence, so I and those behind are usually stuck for five to seven minutes before being able to leave and which in turn means being in slow moving traffic all the way home, again not a problem if the team has played well and won. So having once before left early to visit my mother in hospital and had to watch the goal on the TV replay within the stadium I decided to leave more in hope than expectation that this would do the trick. It did and we scored a winning goal in extra time as I was half way down the stairs.

On the way back I called in at Asda to get a couple more Christmas Poinsettias, the last two they had in store such has been their popularity, so that I five from this season. The two from last year are twice as tall and although the flowers get smaller with each flowering and one has ceased to flower after nurturing for the year The first task on arrival home was to have a double whisky to remove the cold and kill any prospect of a chill. After an evening meal of fish cakes and chips, well at least it was better than the deep fat fried chips from the local take away chippy that I fancied, I settled down to an evening of work checking the writing and transferring the photos from four of the original five Rivera volumes into the what will be the first of a two set edition each of 80 pages, in matching albums bought in Newcastle the previous morning. I am using a monster 100 pocket, 200 sheet volume for the master edition. The work was not completed until this evening because I needed to make a few corrections and a couple of rewrites. I tell a lie as I need to print the last five pages of photograph views of the open spaces, which I have put off until tomorrow as there needs to be a cartridge change as the colouring is not right. I had difficulty in doing this once before the ink out sign comes up, but found the manual which for once contained the information which worked.

So getting up so late today meant no breakfast and time for Sunday Roast, a chicken breast in a tin foil container ready to go in the oven mark 5 for 45-50 mins and with small sausages and balls of stuffing, for £3 part of a 2 for £6 offer. Although the frozen roast potatoes required less time at a high setting, they were just right at the longer lower and it was an enjoyable meal accompanied by half a glass or port without ice and then some green grapes. The half breast, put to one side to cool, was then diced I will get some pasta or sweet and sour sauce tomorrow with boiled rice to make an evening meal. This evening I had two of the cheese baked topped rolls with some lettuce, tomato and slices olives after deciding the tomatoes needed to be eaten before a new bag of red, yellow, orange and green salad peppers. I finished the evening meal with two puff pastry mince pies and custard which was a little too sweet on reflection. Tuesday I will have a prawn omelette, possibly the other way round if the prawns have to be eaten by tomorrow and Wednesday a bass. Tomorrow finish the albums, and then commence Christmas cards and present wrapping, the latter I still have to obtain.

All this is no more than preamble for tonight's TV film experience and viewing, the John Denver story, and which commenced with the Antiques Road show, where I marvel at the treasures handed down within families, although the best treasure of what parents and grand parents can pass down is of themselves, but a few trinkets would have been nice. I was moved when a recent widow brought one of the gifts given by her husband and she was moved when told something of its history and value. She was someone who had known she had been loved. But not perhaps how much in terms of the value of the gift and you could see the wish on her face that she was no longer able to demonstrate her appreciation, a subject which I will return when I talk of the film. I also enjoyed the evident thrill of a military man when he was able to be told about the lady in a portrait, but which also confirmed the portraits were not of family members

Then the first of what proved to be three successive features which resulted in leaving album completion until the morrow. This episode of Cranford superseded the previous two with its three interwoven stories. The first centred on the bereaved Judy Dench whose dominating sister died suddenly last week. It emerged that wealthy farmer (Michael Gabon) had courted her thirty years before but she had been forced to decline his attentions because of parental opposition and family circumstances, including the running off of a younger brother to India from whom they had heard no more since learning that he had settled and was doing well. Last week the daughter of a neighbour had also said no to an army man off to India because of the feeling of duty to care for her father, who then announced he would be away a lot and during this week Judy Dench, the bereaved sister, made a point of letting the father know something of his daughter's situation, and I have a feeling that the two will be connected, the missing brother and the distant suitor. Encountering Judy last week Michael made obvious his continuous interest and she in him despite an absence of thirty years and appropriately chaperoned for the era she accepted an invitation and subsequently he comes calling and indicates the intention to propose after a brief trip to Paris. Alas he takes a chill and pneumonia on his way back and she is left once more with what might have been. Her sister had insisted that their live in help had no "followers" and is rebuked by Judy when she receives a valentine card the sending of which has come into fashion. After the death of Michael, Judy frees the girl to have a caller come once a week if he is approved of, such was the lot of household servants

The second story was more of a social commentary as the squatter, shack living, poacher, father of the boy who has been taken under the wing of the lady of the manor's estate manager is arrested on suspicion of stealing and assault, and faced a trial and banishment for life to labour in the colonies. The son wants his father to reveal that they were both poaching where the offence would be a fine of £5 or three months in jail, but this would also mean a similar sentence for the ten year old boy so father insists his son should remain silent. The son nevertheless reveals the truth to the estate manager who pleads the cause of the family with her ladyship who is persuaded to see the family conditions for herself, and who in turn ion Christmas eve summons the magistrate Member of Parliament, who pays the fine and enables the father to be freed for Christmas Day together with provision of work and no doubt an estate dwelling. A feel good story to balance the sadness of what might have been and the realities of mid Victorian life.

The good new young doctor has set his heart on the eldest daughter of the local Vicar and is persuaded by a visit college friend and fellow doctor to send her snow drops on Valentine's day after which her father suggested he be invited to call. However the visiting friend not only sends Valentines to the younger daughters of vicarage in fun, but to another spinster of the town who assume it is from the local young doctor who she has set her heart on. One feels there will be pain and disaster before some happy ending, if there is to be one. A Dickensian run in to Christmas with a new version of Oliver Twist announced at the time.

The second feature was the final episode of the three part programme on the Premiership of Tony Blair which as with the other was exceptionally honest about several matters, although alas I went to sleep as the after meal siesta arrived late, given the overall late start to the day.

Tony was convincing that he had been spontaneous in the words chosen to mark the death of Princess Diana but noteworthy was the failure to make any reference to the ongoing controversy about her death. He was honest about his dislike of a Cabinet government in which he was expected to listen to the debate of others and reflect heir majority viewpoint. Of course this is a civil servant's dream as it means they can lobby individual Ministers some of whom they will control and then play them off against each other and thus spoke anything too radical or which does not fit in with the consensus mood of the day among their numbers. One can imagine their horror when Tony pointed out he had an elected mandate and they were required to do his bidding and how they hated when he directed them through his inner circle, Tony wants this, or you to do that. Of course the style also affects the Cabinet who have a straight forward choice, accept the approach or be replaced. It also reduces the opportunity of back benchers to join in. Tony was also wise to follow the wisdom of keep your enemies close to you for that way you are more likely to learn of their intentions and machinations.

I increasingly am of the opinion that Gordon's mistake was to try and move from his natural Stalinists approach more Blair than Blair a position stringer with the Chancellor because of his control of all home affairs, hence Blair's concentration on Foreign affairs and Gordon's decision to give the Foreign Affairs job to David Miliband, thus leaving him to continue to control the homeland an area which the opposition was bound to make the strongest attack. I would to know the true story of the present furore over secret cash donations to the party. The opposition leader has clearly learnt from Tony's song book when both in opposition and in their first term they continued to produce catchy policy changes to interest the media over weekends and take attention away from troublesome problems and the opposition, forgetting they were in government and would be judged as the government. The problem was Iraq which quickly unravelled the personal power Blair had with the people, reflecting their mood, and which in turn unravelled his power within the Government and party thus freeing opponents to come out of their respective closets. Unfortunately I missed what he had to say about Iraq but I was awake for the praise from all sides about his handling of the situation in Ireland where friends and foe had warned him that the situation was beyond resolution with both sides hating each other as they had done for decade upon decade. That it took years to implement the Good Friday agreement on weapons abolition and then on power sharing in government takes nothing away from the importance of the achievement which was down to Blair with help from the USA.. Just think what would have happened if the Muslim fundamentalists had been able to fuel the extremists within the IRA and UDF?

It had been a good evening till then and awake once more I was tempted to go to bed or stay and work, but something made me give full attention to the John Denver story which could be said to follow many a traditional storyline for the lives of the famous. John came from a very well off middle class American home with his father being a great pilot and instructor who wanted his son to follow him in some manly occupation while John had the overwhelming created force for song writing and had acquired the ability to play the guitar with a pleasant but not outstanding voice. As with all driven creatives he wanted and could not other and success in terms of public recognition and the wealth which accompanied was secondary, although brought the usual challenges of what you do away from the adoration, the highs of live performance, of trophy seeking females, enough money for toys of any kind. There was also the not uncommon theme of finding someone to love and who loved back when he was poor and struggling and where there was no advance understanding of what they both wanted in later life or how they would each react to fame and success. The girl was and remained beautiful and desirable and wanted a not just a home and babies but a husband who played he normal roles as part of such a family and did as is normal react to the time he was away, the attention of others and time he of himself he gave to his work even when he was at home. She also had given up her own development for him and friction was inevitable when she turned to the study of psychology psychiatry and clinical work becoming a Doctor. Not helped was his lack of fertility although the solution of adoption appears to have helped his wife more than him and he was unable to relate to them any more than his father had to him.

John was four years young me and retained his youthful looks until his death at he age of 54. His zenith was in the 1970's and although he remained a successful recording and touring artist releasing 300 records half of which he composed himself. In the early 1980's his marriage ended and the film suggests that there was a combination of causes, an act of casual infidelity on his part, the never being there, especially when needed, aggravated by becoming involved with a host of political an environmental causes and his wife's decision to continue with what I presume had been her original career intentions as the children matured into adulthood. Then three events appeared to precipitate the break. Just when he commenced to establish the kind of relationship with his father that he had wanted, his father has a heart attack and dies. He is also dropped by his record company and only smaller companies are interested with the changes in pubic interest. Finally in a moment of anger at him she agrees to the cutting down of trees immediately around their home because of some water/drainage problem and John retaliates by taking a chain saw to the marital bed bought without consulting him. This act finishes the marriage although over time they are able to meet through their grown up children. Six years after the divorce John married an Australian actress and singer but this lasted only five years during which time after receiving medical treatment he was able to father a daughter. There was the suggestion of a reconciliation before his death when flying an experimental new plane.

The records. Leaving on a Jet Plane the hit for Peter Paul and Mary, Take me Home Country Roads, Rocky Mountain High, Sunshine on my Shoulders, Like a Sad Song. Baby you look good to me tonight, What's on your mind, and the best known of all Annie's song.

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