Friday, 9 April 2010

Get Carter and Blog

I managed eight good hours of sleeps last night which I attribute to more fresh air and physical activity than usual. I still woke with a Sahara desert mouth which makes me question if the use of Flomax will be a good idea. This ask your pharmacist medicine is being advertised as helping all those, like me, who have a regular need to pee, particularly during the night. Having adjusted to a regime of a kind which gets me from bed to toilet down a couple of steps to landing and back without having to turn on lights I am hesitant about embarking upon change with unknown consequences.

I suspect this universal human inclination to mistrust change will govern the outcome of the General Election more than all the words now pouring at us from politicians.

However there is more unpredictability this time, which whatever the opinion polls are saying could produce surprises on the night. In fact the opinion polls have been too simplistic to provide a meaningful guide to changes in political positions of those contacted even in the marginal constituencies which is the only meaningful indicator. A lot of people will feel free to show their displeasure about some aspect of the government or their local politicians stances and behaviour, knowing their individual action will have no effect on the first past the post result.

Conversely in the Marginals knowing that a protest vote or abstention could lead to a disastrous individual result and an overall national change, the party faithful will work harder for the two major party candidates whether the contest is between the two or with a Liberal Democrat.

The political opinion polls cannot discriminate between those who have made up their mind and have no intention of changing between now and when they vote and those who remain genuinely undecided. There are always those who say one thing and vote differently.
Then there are the regional differences and issues. In Scotland there is likely to be more change in support for Labour rather than Conservatives because a degree of home rule has been established and the Scottish Nationalists have held power, although not overall power. This is a guess prediction on my part. Voters in Wales are likely to listen to politicians who promise greater devolution and in Northern Ireland, it will be domestic issues rather than those facing the UK economy and foreign affairs which will dominate. I hope one day Shinn Feign will take up their seats in Westminster which I believe would enhance their cause, although not immediately as nothing should be done to encourage those with extreme views unwilling to compromise from returning to violence and open defiance of legitimate government

It is on mainland England that that the outcome of the voting is more unpredictable than elsewhere, and I believe there are several factors which are likely to influence the final outcome.

How many of the those eligible to vote will do so, especially among first time votes and those between the ages of 18 and 24 who are yet to marry take on the responsibilities of a home and a family?

How many of the new arrivals to the UK over the past five years or those who have become citizens over the past five years will vote? In particular what will be the Muslim vote, especially in areas where there is a National Front or extreme right wing party standing?

What impact will the expenses scandal have on the decision to vote, especially in seats with the sitting member is standing down? Will this help the minority parties more than the major?

What impact will the ongoing War in Afghanistan have, especially as many who opposed the action of the Government will also remain hostile to a Tory management of Foreign affairs and deployment of the armed services?

What impact will the three televised debates involving the three main parties have on the electorate and will this help the Liberal Democrats more than Labour and Conservatives?

Will the personalities, backgrounds and families of the two leading contenders prove a major influence together with the traditional demarcations about class? Will promises about reforming Parliament, especially the House of Lords have any significant influence?

My belief is that all these issues will affect some people more than others and this is why all the parties will tailor what they stress according to the nation, region and local situation they are canvassing.

However I also believe that the overriding issue will be income and expenditure for individuals, families, and for jobs, with few if any caring about the actual size of the national debt or the level of government expenditure. This is where the Conservatives in my judgement made major mistakes throughout the past two years. They have attacked everything which the government has done regardless if it worked or not. They have acted more in the interests of the political party than the nation. It is evident to anyone who has paid any attention that if the Conservatives gain power they will immediately introduce savage cuts in the public sector freezing pay and the filling of vacancies and cancelling future contracts. There is a great myth about calling a cut an efficiency saving. I know, I watched politicians trying to skin what they have already been forced to strip clean time and time before over the past forty years
The Conservatives will as a direct consequence be forced to put up VAT to 25% during the life of the Parliament if they are serious about eliminating the national debt. This is because income tax has become taboo except for taking more from the very rich. They are committed to doing something about inheritance tax which has to be paid for and they have nailed their flag to the mast of not raising national insurance contributions. What this means is plain as a pikestaff to everyone More on VAT. The fat cat businessmen who are presently campaigning against the National Insurance rise have to pay the amount on they total earnings thus if they earn £2mliion a year they are required to give £1.2 million or so to the Government by way of income tax and NI contribution, leaving them only 800000 to spend.

However the majority of people who traditionally vote for the Conservatives will think this to be a good thing anyway, along with introducing greater immigration controls on anyone who does not provide cheap labour for the capitalist paymasters and unfortunately there are too many of those who do not vote conservative who will be affected by the other issues already mentioned to have the desired counterbalancing effect.

In my judgements the key in the Marginals will be the response of those dependent on state benefits-the young unemployed, the long term unemployed through disability and health, mental and physical, the young single parent, the ex prisoner, and the increasing large number of those who are into retirement without an occupational pension top up.

They should all understand that while Labour will tinker and refine, establish new controls and hurdles for entering and remaining in a state benefit, they know in reality, the application will be fair with some, albeit limited discretion. They also anticipated a Conservation. regime will be more ruthless and unbending. This is not the simple black or white as it appears. There is a puritanical and punitive streak in sections of the working class, reflected in Labour politicians, usually at a local level. Yet I have also encountered more one nation, tolerant and understanding men and women among the Conservative politicians at national and local level than I have among Labour. This has always created a political dilemma for me, siding with the underdog and understanding where are at and have been. Perversely the Conservative Party under Cameron has been driving out these High Tories because of their views on race and sexual politics and in some ways Cameron is finishing the job which Margaret Thatcher started. With any Conservative victory having been exclusively funded by Lord Ashcroft, using money rightly that of the British government, it will depend on his views on such matters as immigration, House of Lords of Reform, on taxation, public services and state benefits which will dictate the government policy. He who pays the piper calls the tune, you know!

Nor it is possible to rely on what past governments have done or not done as a basis for assessing what they will do in the future because of the different personalities and styles of the leaders and because of different circumstances. Given the predominant Presidential style of Prime Ministers over the past thirty years, with Thatcher, Blair and Brown, supported by Cameron’s campaigning style because of the weakness of the rest of his potential Cabinet who are either tarnished by the past or do not have the experience of office to put before the electorate, it does all boils down to who do you want to run the country over the next four to five years? No one should take seriously any promises made at election times.

I would like to see Brown leading a minority Labour Government requiring Liberal Democrat support to get legislation through. This would be the best of worlds and in the national interest. I also want a strong Conservative opposition to counter the swing to extreme right because if Cameron was to have a significant defeat in the polls it would end his courageous and largely successful attempt to shift the Tory from its reactionary heart into the rational middle ground and could quickly see the emergence of a strong extreme right, which is always simmering just below the surface of many voters.

I am tired now although it is early evening on Friday after a successful couple of hours working at the back. I have reorganised the decorative flagstones at the rear after cleaning spilt compost and decayed vegetation. The main work of the afternoon was taking down paintings, photographs and prints from the wood frame I created in the second year of my residence here, and then the decorative plates from the top shelf together with the six wine goblets bought at Valouris during that first summer in the South France some thirty five years ago.

I then made an initial clean although hot water and elbow grease will be necessary before repainting plus a good hour’s work on the areas where water penetration has led to some fungus. I will need to give thought tomorrow to how best to repair and seal. The final act was to sweep the floor and clear one of the two water drains. There are a few daffodils in bloom, a few Iris and large white hyacinth of the three planted, but given that another was done until January, any flowering is a bonus.

Only a few days ago, on my visit to Newcastle via Jarrow and returning via Gateshead I remarked that the infamous Trinity Centre car park in the town centre used for an important the black crime drama set on Tyneside, Get Carter, with Michael Caine, was still to be demolished to make way for a new supermarket shopping precinct. By coincidence Get Carter was being shown last night on TV. There are only under ten films if I see advertised I will abandon whatever was planned to watch, sometimes as background, usually giving undivided attention. Casablanca remains at the top, The African Queen (also Bogart), Dr Zhivago, Nashville, Quo Vadis, the Shoes of the Fisherman, the Wicker Man and Get Carter are the others which come immediately to mind.

Michael Caine again plays Alfie in terms of having sex with anyone at any time who appears available. However this time he is a man on a mission. Professional criminals, especially killers have usually developed their own code of morals which helps justify what they do. Caine plays a character without morals or loyalty. He had sex with his brother’s wife leading to lifelong doubts about who fathered his only child. His return to Tyneside is tribal. He does not believe his brother got drink on whisky and drove his car into the Tyne. He spends the first night at the home of his brother with the coffin ready to be sealed and attends the funeral. His duty completed he tries to locate Albert Swift, his brother’s best friend and a man who knows what is going on the Newcastle underworld. He makes friends with a barman at his former local played by Alun Armstrong. He encounters Ian Henry as Eric Paice a hit man working for Cyril Kinnear the Newcastle crime boss played by John Osborne who has a formal relationship with Carter’s London employer Gerald Fletcher played by Terence Rigby. When Caine ignores orders not to go to Newcastle or to return immediately after the funeral, Fletcher sends George Sewell along with Peter the Dutchman to insist on his return using local fixer Thorpe, played by Bernard Hepton to give the message.

Om his first visit to Kinnear he is befriended by the mans playgirl and is put on the scent of Cliff Brumby slot machine king along the East coast. It is Cliff who is building the restaurant at the top of the car park where he meets Carter to bribe him with money to rid his main competitors who wants to buy him out. Carter says no.
Over the course of the course of film Carter learns the truth. His or his brother’s daughter (Petra Markham) was seduced by Ian Henry with the help of his brother’s once a week partner Margaret and they use the girl in a sex film, playing a school girl seduced by an old man with the help of Kinnear’s playgirl Anna. Kinnear funded and distributed the film. It was the best friend Albert Swift who informed the brother and this led to the brother being silenced after threatening to expose what happened. Kinnear organised the death with Ian Hendry forcing the whisky down the man before pushing the car into the river.

Carter’s revenge is just as viscous. He knife’s Albert Swift to death. He knocks out Brumby, who had asked to meet the daughter after seeing the film, and then throws him over the top of car park onto the windscreen of a passing car. He locks Anna in the boot of his car which gets pushed into the river by Hendry and Sewell after a failed attempt to capture Carter on the cross Tyne Ferry, during which time Cater kills Peter the Dutchman. He then forces Margaret to take off her clothes early one morning in the grounds of Kinnear’s home, and then injects her with a fatal does of heroin. He then tips off the police about a drugs party having gone on at the house as well as posting a copy of film to the vice squad. Kinnear and those present are arrested.

Along the way the landlady he had bedded is beaten up by Fletcher’s men, as is the Alum Armstrong. In the final scene of the film he forces whisky into Ian Hendry before killing him and putting him into a coal waste disposal platform into the north sea. Just for a moment the audience and Carter believe he will get away with it and run off to South America with Glenda the live in partner of Fletcher who he says he loves. However we the audience know that this will not happen, if we have paid attention, because we heard Kinnear arrange for another hit man to deal with Carter. The last shot of the film is that of Carter’s body being washed by waves on seashore.

Britt Eckland plays one of the women, but I cannot remember which. The only person who appears to have survived all this unscathed appears to be his or his brother’s daughter Doreen. The film remain enjoyable because of the scenes from throughout the North East, the engaging music played by a jazz trio led by Roy Budd. The music is dark, stereophonic, unique and memorable. There is also an appearance of the Pelaw Juvenile Jazz band, drums and kazoos and marching. It was time for bed, then as now.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Italian Job, David Jason, Frost, Fanny Kemble

It is time to pay tribute to that excellent British actor, David Jason (White) OBE, and to mark the end of his police detective career as Inspector Jack Frost, with 42 films over 17 years.

Tuesday April 6th became a good but tiring day. I wrote and undertook other artwork activities in the morning and then as the weather improved, managed to begin work again on one of the patio walls, covering liberally with a fungus preventive solution. Mid morning on Wednesday I repaired the damaged areas and late afternoon gave this section its first coat of a light pink designed to enhance the Mediterranean feel of space which I look out on.

The day did not begin well though, and for much of it I was not at my most alert or perceptive. I was not sure, if following the Easter Bank Holiday on Monday, the garbage would be collected in the morning and went, misguidedly, to look for the recently circulated Council leaflet which I could not immediately find, although I did find those for the previous two years. There appeared to be no collection this week and for a few minutes I thought the local council had lost its political marbles, as the General Election was being announced later in the morning and to take place on the same day as those for the Local Authority on May6th. I then woke up to the obvious that the leaflet covers the collection of the environmental and recycled waste such as, newspapers, bottles, cans, and in the future garden waste, cardboard when in June July new special bins are issued with compartments. Silly me.

After completing work on the wall I belatedly set off for Newcastle to buy a replacement Cafetiere. I had not anticipated I would need to do so for several years as the previous unit had a attractive metal cover which I thought would prevent the glass container from breakage. It is still a mystery to me how it broke, but it did and a replacement is required and I knew the previous search, only last year that there was no supplier in South Shields. I therefore returned to T Max or whatever the store is called in the Monument shopping Mall (TK Max after checking) and which can be entered directly from the Monument Metro station. I could not find the item at first, in part because the area for kitchen and household goods had been changed and because the selection was reduced to two types with only a couple on display. I selected one which looked more appropriate for me although the support was in plastic and the better looking one had a metal base, and was chunky and family size. My purchase proved better than I thought because the colour is bright read instead of that shown in the packaging, a dull cream, and has a super top which maintains warmth although I have yet to work out the locking and cleaning system.

My first intention had been to take the car to Hewarth and the Metro from there, returning via a supermarket shop at Azda, but as I set off I decided to go only as far as Jarrow to see if Wilkinson’s had any black work albums in stock. I managed to work out how to get to the nearest car park to the metro station and knew I would find carrying a full back bag onerous on the way back as getting to the station involves a good climb up stairs to cross over the line.

After buying the Cafetiere in Newcastle I could not immediately remember the way to the Wilkinson’s I had discovered just over a week ago before attending the opera relay performance of Hamlet. I decided to try and retrace the route taken on that journey and this was a good decision as on exiting the Granger Market, the three floor store was opposite. Office stationery was at the end of the escalator on the first floor and there were six black albums available and where after collecting I rewarded myself with a cup of hot tea and three fingers of chocolate wafer biscuit for £1.50.

I then made my way back to the Metro station and let the first trains for Pelaw and then for Sunderland pass forgetting I had decided to get off at Gateshead to go to the Wilkinson’s immediately by the station as long as one exists the right stairway. I then went to the wrong end of the platform and was confronted with a steep stairway and a heavy back load and was then faced with a further set of stairs to get the where the store is located after seeking directions from a willing member of staff, I then chose the longer slope in the opposite direction, having to double back rather a third set of stairs which led directly to the entrance of the store, This route took me close to where the famous Get Carter Car Park remains to be demolished although the fencing has been around the area for the new supermarket and shopping development for over a year. The effort was fruitless for although the store had a huge supply of the 20 page albums there were none of the 40 which I use to create three complete sets.

Already weary I made my way to Jarrow and the Morrison’s Toilet before returning to Wilkinson’s which is located close to the car park through the underpass tunnel. There were only two black volumes here but I felt this part of the trip worthwhile. I then went to Azda where I had created a list beforehand. As it was then after 5.30 I thought it was a good time to check if there was any reached sell by date bargains. There were. I bought two packs of smoked Cod fillets which will provide three meals for £5 at a saving of £2. The bargain of the day was two medium size whole chickens, usually £7 for the special price of £4.10. There was also a pack of four Eccles cakes reduced by one third. There were also standards savings with £1 off grapes, another £1 of frozen small meals. Three packs of bacon for £5 and a massive £2 off the vitamins. This resulted in an overall reduction of £13 which was just as well on the monster restocking which included some beef sirloin, pork and lamb chops, Olives, large and olives stuffed, some bacon chops slices, brown sauces, biscuit crackers, mixed bean salad, salami and another Indian and Chinese meal feasts. I enjoyed a few liquorice twists on the way home.

I knew that after unpacking and food I would be sleepy, but there was time for Babylon 5 and a programme celebrating the coming to an end of the series A Touch of Frost before an early for me bedtime.

David Jason is only a year than me and first came to national attention as Del Boy Trotter, the elder brother of Only Fools and Horses which was a noble successor to Steptoe and Son. The series provided the best love moment in all of British TV comedy, has repeatedly voted by viewers in countless polls, when David goes to rest his shoulder on a bar top and finds that someone has opened the to collect glasses and he falls down. Does not sound hilarious but is one of the few times I have roared with laughter given the context in which the incident occurs and the background to the character and the series.

I did not enjoy his role as Grandville, in open all hours, but there was sheer delight in the whole series of the Darling Buds of May, His work both as a comedy actor and in serious drama has bought award after award with four national comedy awards and five national TV award, BAFTA fellowship and a Comedy Lifetime achievement award. To celebrate its 50 years ITV held a poll to find its greatest 50 stars which David topped.

His personal life became the basis for the character of Jack Frost a lonely detective married to his work after nursing his former wife during the period before she died of cancer. This is what happened to David after eighteen years of marriage although he subsequently married again and became a father at the age of 61.

A touch of Frost was produced for the first time by Yorkshire TV for ITV in 1992 and has always concentrated on single story films usually 100 minutes in length spread over 2 hours with the advertisements. There were six short films of 75 mins and the final over two nights episodes. During all the time of series Jack remained his own man, always on the side of the victims of crimes and with a determination to apprehend the villains, but without ever comprising the rights of everyone. His dislike of paperwork of any kind led to a chaotic office, relying in his real life brother ( Arthur White) who acted as head of the records office to remember previous cases which often helped to resolve contemporary mysteries.

Throughout the series, the bane of his series life was Superintendent Mullet, played by Bruce Alexander as a rather stock figure looking after his own back, playing golf with some who were major suspects, a conformist and media conscious. He had support from his colleague Detective Sergeant George Toolan, played by John Lyons who for the past five years had played on stage in the world’s longest running play- The Mousetrap. Married, George had a life outside of the police which Frost had become resigned to not having one again. For one series Frost took under his wing a young police detective and they shared a home together. However in a dramatic end of season moment views were left wondering if Jack, the Young Man or the villain had been killed as of camera two shots were heard in a stand off. The young man did not survive.

Jack came lose to having a serious heterosexual relationship at least once, but the problem was always the nature and hours of work and the need not to disclose information ion current cases which remains a barrier to those not in the police now and forevermore.. He was in this respect like Morse, always coming close to a relationship but something always intervened. In an end of series review Jason explained that everyone knew that if he did marry his main character would change and the programme would also fundamentally change, mentioning Midsummer Murders as the best example of a married lead investigating officer.

Unaware that there was be a final two part programme I watched the first part on the i player and was surprise that the opening focus appeared to be a raid on a dog fight. This did not immediately seem to me to be the stuff of an end of series finale. However it proved to be linchpin pin in more than one way. The raid had come about with the assistance of the local RSPCA team manager who and struck a warm relationship with Jack.

The raid was a failure in that by a stroke of luck the owner was delayed and he and his son and sons friend from next door arrived after the raid has taken place, They suspect the police was tipped off by a former friend from school, Brian, who been taken to a previous fights, had walked out and became a volunteer with RSPCA as a consequence. The father of one of the two boys turns out to be a professional villain whose main income is from illegal drug importation and distribution. He has a smart lawyer and lawyer/barrister girl friend who is also having a relationship with another member of the legal firm.

This father tells the boys to rough up their 6th form former friend and in the melee a knife is pulled and Brian is killed, launching a murder inquiry for which the boys are arrested having been identified by the unit manager. In one of a several twist the young who possessed the knife wants to own up but his father bullies him into pleasing innocence as he also bullies his wife and the parents of the other boy who has gained a place at an Oxford College.

As merits a final story in a series which has aimed at presenting the reality of contemporary policing are number of other story lines. A woman is knocked off a bicycle by an apparent youth and this is followed by threats to Jack with the tyres of his car slashed and a brick thrown through a window. As this coincides with threats to the manager of the animal rescue centre the audience is quick to assume there is a connection. There early indications that this is not so with the mugging have echoes in a case twenty years before and attacks on his home also having chords with what happened previously. Eventually through the collar of a cat found at the scene of another crime the criminal is found to be the daughter of a former colleague and family friend of Jack who he reported for fixing evidence and which had resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of innocent people. Her mother had died broken hearted by what had happened and her father had also recently died after spending years trying to bring down Jack with complaints about his behaviour and attempting to get back his career and reputation. In a roof top scene the girl pulls a gun and it she is who is shot and not Jack in this instance.

A little girl is knocked off the back of a bicycle ridden by her mother early one morning by the apparent stolen car of the solicitor who defends the drug dealer in relation to the operation of the dog fight, and his son and friend in relation to the death of their former school friend. She is in hospital in a coma. There is a small amount of cocaine in the boot of the car and this is traced through CCTV to having been bought from an employee of the drug dealer, which a man at the Met police has a major interest in, and who is identified as being responsible for setting fire to the animal rescue centre from which the manager is rescued as requires brief hospital treatment. In order to receive sympathetic attention from the police the solicitor discloses information about the distribution centre operated by the drug dealer. He also admits that he was alone when he returned home after a mixture of drugs and drink and remembers nothing what happened until the following morning. A post delivery van had passed the car stopped in a lay-by while the driver had been sick and because of this he had been unable to identify the individual except to say that there had been a female passenger in the vehicle. It is established that the female friend and the other legal colleague had called to collect their portion of the cocaine and finding their colleague beyond waking they had borrowed his sports car for a joy ride. The woman admits that she was the driver at the time the accident occurred.

The information supplied to Frost was passed on to the Metropolitan Police, the Drug squad and Interpol and they mount a joint operation on a farm which the drug dealer uses to intercept the arrival of a shipment.

Meanwhile driven by guilt the son of the drug dealer hangs himself and his mother leaves her husband never wanting to see or speak with him again. The friend who caused the manslaughter pushing Brian not knowing that the other had pulled out a knife, tells his parents that he is going to own up his part to the police believing this will end his place at Oxford University (this is not necessarily the position as his parents evidently have the means to pay for his place without state help). His parents should be prosecuted for their participation in the cover up whatever their motivation and the pressure from the drug dealer.

There was one additional story in the final film. This is the relationship between Jack and the manager of the animal rescue centre. She is a divorcee with two teenage children living in a cottage type house is a pleasant rural community. They go out for a meal and it is quickly apparent that they are attracted to each other. Their relationship is severely tested. She is nearly killed in the fire, she is threatened as are her children Jack is also nearly killed and their relationship also comes under scrutiny from the ex husband who has maintained a good relationship with the children and a relaxed one with his former wife since going on the wagon. He also has a penchant for anyone in a skirt. The realization that his former wife has found someone herself and that this will alter the relationship with his children drives him back to drink and he rams the car bringing Frost and Toolan to the Church just as they were getting out to be given buttonholes by Superintendent Mullet. Just as with EastEnders a number of different endings were filmed with only the writer and producer knowing which was to be used on screening day. In the alternatives Frost, Mullet and Toolan are each killed and in the final version shown, it is Toolan who has a heart attack and cannot be revived. Therefore everyone is able to shed a tear at his passing and the series ending. There is a final situation in which he explains to his new wife that Toolan had felt sorry for him because he knew that the reason why Frost put everything into his work is that he had nothing else in his life of value. Frost says that this was true but no longer. His life will now change for the better.

In the post series programme David also revealed that he was not retiring and that a new programme was already being planned, in production or even completed, he did not say which but that a new programme was coming. This is good news

There was opportunity on Thursday to view a film about the life of Fanny Kemble, the 19th century actress who married a Southern US Cotton, Tobacco and rice plantation owner believing he respected her views about independence and personal freedoms. Alas she quickly found out that he was a liar and fully supported the slavery system in operation on his estates, even if the life he provided was less brutal and savage than many others. The film concentrates on her growing awareness of the actual situation, her work for better conditions for the slaves and support for an escape route to the North. The film ends with bringing her double life to an end, separating and divorcing from her husband and returning to stage in the USA to support herself.

In real life she had already written and published a diary about her experiences among Northern US society. Pierce Butler was the grandson of one of the original settlers and the empire he inherited was vast, selling over 400 slaves at one auction after his business failed following the Civil War and the ending of the slavery. Fanny paid a high price for her opposition to her husband’s way of life losing custody of her two daughters until they reached the age of 21. She was 23 when she first travelled to the USA and 25 when she married. Divorcing and returning to the stage when she was 38. She continue to write, diaries and memories including Residence on a Georgian Plantation, and two plays, Her eldest daughter married the writer and author of the Virginian. The youngest daughter tended to support her father’s approach to life and wrote a book about her experience of their way of life. She married clergyman and their daughter was at the bedside of her grandmother when she died at the age of in England at the age of 84 where she had returned for the last years of her life. She became a friend of the then young novelist Henry James who wrote Washington Square based on family story she had disclosed to him.

Earlier in the week I saw the original Michael Caine version of the Italian Job. Although it has become classic with the three Mini car chase through the streets of Turin I found the film outdated that portrayal of criminals and the prison regime embarrassing and misleading. Noel Coward as the toff top criminal Bridger was hilarious although unintended, and Benny Hill played his favourite role as a dirty middle aged man. There are a few magic moments but the film could have been title Alfie goes to Italy.

I also saw my 101 showing of Casablanca one afternoon recently. This demonstrates that some films never date and remain enjoyable no matter how many times they are experienced, even if one becomes word perfect. I enjoyed every second and still get emotional when the Marseillaise is sung or when Bogart explains that in the great scheme of things their relationship is not worth a hill of beans, You must remember this, of all the gin joints in the world you walk into mine.............

The General Election was announced on Tuesday and the last Prime Minister’s Question Time of Parliament took place on Wednesday lunchtime. While the politicians are behaving as they have the past at such a time, refusing to give direct answer to specific question it is evident the media is not going to accept this and we have already seen persistent and insistent questioning which exposed the dishonesty and attempted manipulation of the politicians. This time the public is not going to be fooled and unless there is an immediate change in the approach there are going to be surprises and shocks on election day.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Quantrill Raiders and blog

It is late. I am frustrated by my day and it has become cold, in July. I say this as if it has never happened before and I have to remember that even in the hottest of daytime climates it can become very cold at night as experienced on one later summer stay at a villa at a hill village in the South of France where it was so hot one went into the unheated pool several times around midday to cool off as well as turn on the central heating late into the evening.

There is cause to feel miserable, given events earlier in the week, although the most personally significant was of my own making, and yet I am dissatisfied with myself even more for feeling miserable as I am aware of the condition of millions of human beings compared to my own.

I am also feeling under pressure in terms of competing activity choices and between what needs to be done and what I want to do, and there is also great options between what I want to do as well as what I should.

The house is both clean and in good order because I was planning to be away again on a mini trip and I have this thing that if anything happens while I am away, those coming to the house subsequently should find it is good order. It was therefore this consideration that governed the decision not to go away rather than the fall or the competing new experience activities. I had to attend to the problem of the rain coming in and at the same time attend to other problems which had accumulated over the past couple of years without attention.

My dependence on new experience or reliving past experience in a relaxed and anxiety free state was brought home during those three hours at the General Hospital Accident and Emergency when I had nothing with me, reading material, notebook and pen, phone, phone numbers and addresses and which only compounded the feeling of helplessness and foolishness. It could have all been so much worse if I had been admitted.

All I could do was go over how the fall happened. I had turned around and decided to go out not realising that I was standing at the edge of the step so when I went forward I lost balance and fell forward with some speed and knew I was not going to prevent a fall to the floor, so I put out a hand and prepared for my knees to hit the floor which worked, but the angle and momentum was such that my head went forward over my hand hitting the metal of a display try with force which caused the cut and blood to spurt out. I realised this is what happens in a car if you are not wearing seat belts or in any other moving vehicle which suddenly stops. It was a sobering experience which reminds that one of the test questions which the paramedic asked was had I already been on the alcohol which did not offend me as I am aware of a small fraternity including both sexes who appear to gather at Inns such as Weatherspoons for an alcoholic breakfast when I visited when on my travels for one of their breakfasts with coffee. It brought home the fragility of the human body once again and also that a positive existence depends on self confidence and not dwelling too much on the possibilities of what could happen.

I had listened to a radio programme asking if we were being too anxious about young people, whether from street crime, swimming accidents in the summer or assaults from strangers and same age others. Protection is the first duty of a parent and leave a young person alone in a potentially dangerous situation, or allow them to engage in a potentially dangerous activity and you are open to prosecution either as a parent or as a organiser or minder of young persons. The law is clear and has been clear for close on half a century and this has been right. Young people should appropriate protection for their circumstances. But here is the conundrum. We need these very young people a few year's later to go out and fight and kill for our protection and to provide emergency and other services which require considerable personal risk taking, Failure service, sea and mountain rescue are services which come to mind as well as the police but there are those that require a mental risk, such as taking out a loan or moving to a new job which could risk the welfare of family. How do we jump from being a protection child to being a risk taking adult?

So I decided to aside the answer to such a question and concentrate on practical matters with the priority for the day I was to arrange for someone to come and look at the roof to the bay window. At first I tried a mobile number of a firm used by a neighbour but there was just an answer machine reference, What if they were on holiday so I decided to try the main number and it sounded disconnected. I had had better not wait and went for the directory selecting the first local buildings who had a small add. The firm was out working but would contact on return and did so at lunch arranging to come round in the morning. I also mentioned the old wiring light point where I wanted to fit a florescent fixture and what I hoped was a replacement washer rather than something more substantial. I forgot to mention that the guttering needing clearing of debris. I moved the patio plants to where my car usually stood and this meant parking the car outside managing a space in front of the house during the course of the day. In doing this I noted that the garage door was playing up. It worked but it could be that rain has got into the motor rather than the remote control unit playing up. Can you hear the groan at the prospect of more expense.

I have watched one film over the past few days not previously mentioned, Robert Ryan in the best of the bad men with Robert Ryan the 1951 original. Robert Ryan is an Army major, commanding a post near a town run by a rogue leading citizen with ambitions of taking over the state through the provision of a glorified protection security service in which he controls the judicial system and local government. The Major persuades the infamous Quantrill Raiders made up of the Jessie James gang and the Youngers, on the basis that he could use his authority to pardon them, technically doing so when unknowingly his request for Army discharge has been agreed. The gang leaves town but Ryan is arrested for the killing of henchman who tried to shoot some of the former outlaws before they left town because was technically a civilian. He only escapes the gallows with the help of the "wife" of the mobster and is then rescued by the Quantril Raiders who have found their pardon was not honoured. They then set on robbing as many of the main baddie "protected "businesses as they can but slowly it dawns on Robert Ryan that his obsession has led him to join robbers and killers interested in their own situations and that in reality they are all as bad as each other and therefore a plague on all their houses.

Having met up again with the wife of the main villain, they are forced to flee when they are thought by the majority of the outlaws to be responsible for the gang falling into a trap set in fact by one of their number who had a falling out. The film ends with the hated man killed and Ryan deciding to get the truth recognised and live happily ever after with his female friend. The film was released as a DVD in 1990 and the written notes read so far appear to be about a different film from the one I experienced. It was enjoyable while doing other things.

Having discovered that there is an inexpensive to watch traditional and swing band jazz festival across the river Tyne I kick myself for not having realised this before. However with three one and half hour free concerts on two days over the same weekend. The future approach is to go to the opening event at the Sage on the Thursday night, attend the first day of the actual festival with a day ticket and then take the ferry for the two days of free concert in the open air. Listening to jazz is a very different between a small cellar and or pub or club room, a concert hall or in the open air.

I decide to abandon a mini trip to Oxford with overnight stays booked to break the journey. The loss is £45. However I feel this is a good decision. I have started to have sniffles and the makings of a sore throat so I drink a large Scotch Whisky with ice before bedtime.

I also abandon the internet connections problems I am encountering. I will leave the cricket developments for another day

Charlotte Rampling Heading South, Cricket

Last night the DVD film choice was between the Labyrinth, which I have seen in theatre and a film about which I knew nothing except that it starred Charlotte Rampling, an intelligent actress who has selected challenging and controversial parts in the past. The film Heading South is no exception in that it deals with the female sex tourist. I had heard that in addition to cricket tourist to the Caribbean, the general tourist and the rich and famous such as the late Princess Margaret and Ian Fleming, there were ladies of a certain age who visited the islands for the company of local young men and this may all still be more fiction than fact. The interesting aspect of this film is that the setting is Haiti in the 1970's when the country was run by a clique of murdering rapists and financial exploiters of the their own people. The film shows the provision of an hotel in idyllic surroundings where the visiting ladies have their own bungalow type ensuite accommodation with central restaurant and bar and also facilities for the provision of food and drinks on the beach. The hotel and the local community are all too well aware of the open relationships between the ladies and the local young men as they spend time together during the day, swimming, visits to the local market, horse riding, eating and drinking as the more intimate aspects of the relationships.

The films looks at the lives of two women and one young man in particular. The forty five year old character played by Charlotte Rampling leads a successful but empty life which she fills in a prolonged summer break in Haiti with a special friend who she had known for a number of years since he was still of school age here in the UK. She is oblivious to his life outside her contact with him, rarely visiting the local town as its reality spoils the heaven she has created fro herself.

The second female character also knew he young man several years before when she visited with her husband and they befriended the young man on a visit at the end of the summer after Charlotte had returned to her rest of the year life. As consequence the second would has an emotional sexual experience with the young man which effective changes her life and she returns to island without a home or a husband in search of the young man to try and recapture the experience, only to find that he has become the "property" of Charlotte Rampling and who immediately sees the arrival of the new woman as a threat, even though the woman finds herself another young man while she waits for Charlotte to depart.

The new arrival comes into contact with the reality of Haiti and that the he young man in question has become a problem to a member of the ruling clique. Charlotte attempts to persuade the young man to leave the country with her, and she blames the new arrival when shortly after they have had a row about their respective interests in the young man he and another is found dead on the beach. The death has a different impact on the future lives of both women. For Charlotte Rampling, the dream is over and she makes an immediate return to her normal life and we are left with the view that she is unlikely to return again, at least to Haiti and possibly to live out the rest of her life alone, clinging to her memories. For the second woman, this new life has just begun, and presumably with the financial means which means she can stay indefinitely and she lists the countries and the islands of the region which she could visit in the search for new experiences and new companions.

The film is therefore about a world in the early 1970's which was alien to the majority of British people, especially working families. It would therefore be easy to moralise and express dissatisfaction at the behaviour of the two women and others portrayed in the film the film, although it can also be argued that they provided employment and helped raise the standard of living of those with whom they associated, and in some instances the benefit would have been spread to the family of the young men. The film also painted a darker picture of the position of the local young women who it appeared were at the mercy of the ruling clique and their henchmen, and who were without mercy.

It has to be pointed out that subsequently the special tourist became a widespread phenomenon as anyone who has visited a package hotel on any of the Costa's will verify with one memorable experience in a self catering hotel apartment it was evident that the party of three or four young men next door had a collection of girls of all nationalities which they brought back in the early hours with much banging of doors and where the different languages would waft across veranda's if one was late leaving for a day out and about. For the more "mature" there was Paris where vats fortune were made on the with club with champagne nude and semi nude revues at the Follies, the Lido, the Crazy Horse and the Moulin Rouge as well as various other establishments where the entertainment was less defined, although the highlight for me was visiting the graves of Victor Hugo and Edit Piaf and the like, as well as watching Reds on a hot afternoon after going to the top of Eifel tower, and rushing through the Louvre.

I had a surprisingly good night after yesterday’s fall and I do look a sight when I saw my face in a mirror and the incident brought home the inevitabilities of old age and becoming disabled and dependent and where in truth the inspirational attitude of my mother simply underlines what a bad patient I am. As I said to the taxi driver who brought me home it is stretching cause and effect to put the blame on the Yorkshire and Durham Football Clubs and the English cricket Boards, although the incident has not helped to make me look more kindly on what happened and I was pleased to read the editorial in the Newcastle based Chronicle. "Howzat for a farce." " And when money comes to the table so does greed and, it seems disregard for the spectators. Last night more than 6000 fans had battled through the traffic and rain to take their seats at the Riverside for Durham's quarter final with Yorkshire. As the start approached the sun came out and there was real prospect of play, so we thought. The fact is that when the gates opened the authorities knew Yorkshire had fielded a player who did not have the necessary paperwork in a previous game and Nottinghamshire had objected. So why did it take so long to inform the fans? And why with the sun out was the game not played and any sanctions imposed on Yorkshire afterwards." Well said the evening Chronicle.

It was also announced that a disciplinary committee to deal with the complaint about fielding an ineligible player will be heard before a judge on Thursday morning. There was no statement on the ECB which is actually the English and Wales Cricket Board but under the 20 20 competition site which confirmed that Yorkshire could be asked to replay their match with Nottingham in which instances the winners would then meet Durham, or Yorkshire be eliminated and presumable the quarter final tie be played between Durham and Nottingham. The statement mentions that there could be some other penalty but does not indicate what this could be. The Nottinghamshire Cricket Club has published a statement saying that they away with interest the outcome of the hearing and have included a copy of the ECB original statement in which they sate that they made it clear to both Yorkshire and Durham that that the panel could order a replay of any match or matches which could affect any quarterfinal. The emphasis is on could which is very different from say would or saying that the game could not have taken place. Moreover it does not say when it advised both clubs which only add to the belief that it was originally intended to play the match and then for some reason one or both clubs decided not to proceed and which if so confirms the need for a separate investigation into the conduct of one of both clubs.

Fallout and Blog

It has been a glorious warm and sunny day. Pity about the cricket. On Friday night as yet again relatives and friends of a murdered teenager took to the streets of London there was an excellent feature film called Fallout, not the fall out from atomic and nuclear weapons, the falling out between black friends attending a school in a deprived part of London. The plot was a brilliant examination of what happens when young people are overwhelmed by their undeveloped emotions in an uneducated straight jacket of a culture, and where parents are ill equipped to respond when their children commence to go off the rail, often because they were never on the rails themselves.

The victim of the film had created problems for himself when he refused to participate with the rest of the class in ignoring a newly appointed teacher. I am not for a moment suggesting he contributed in anyway to his own murder, but it is the way it is if you stand out from the norm whatever that norm is.
In my first year of school, because I had been held back at my previous school, and then failed the eleven plus examination I was placed in first year at the John Fisher school in the lowest stream of my chronological year which was full of aggressive misfits and bullies and where if you a became a witness to any misbehaviour in class you would speak out at your peril. I was fortunate in that I was able to move into a higher stream early on in the term and then into the A stream when C was amalgamated with B and by the time I was back in B I had physically developed through cycling and was part of a small group at school which meant I was not picked on. This contrasts with the situation where the school environment reflects that of the home and there is little opportunity, if any, to come under the influence of anyone who can tune in and offer you not just different experiences but the opportunity to make use of that that experience.

In the film this victim appears to have been asked to sit next to the girl friend of the most volatile member of the gang and when she makes a pass at him when doing evening work at the local café and he rejects her advances she alleges to her boyfriend that the victim has made a pass at her. She therefore provokes a situation out of revenge for being rejected and is as culpable of the murder as the young man who did the stabbing. She represented many a young woman in today's society who believe that all they have to offer is their bodies and their behaviour towards everyone is governed by this presumption which in many instances becomes the reality. They have had no responsible training for parenthood, being a partner in a long term relationship, or making any contribution to their wider society. The murderer has the emotions of a baby who is given a real knife to play with. The victim is not only stabbed but left to die by another gang member who wishes she looked and was desired in the same way as the girl friend of the murderer. She will do anything for her friend including stealing clothes for her and towards the end of the film expresses a willingness to tell the police what she has seen, not out of any sudden remorse and desire to bring justice to the family of the victim but because a substantial reward has been offered and this is the immediate way out of the situation enabling them to go on an extended holiday acting out the lives as footballer's wives. The It girls and there are countless magazines and TV programmes promoting the concept that young girls should want to be It girls. The girls who fall for this dangerous nonsense are not the scum of society, nor indeed those who work on the programmes and magazines just as those who work in the cigarette factories or make armaments, (someone has to make all those cluster bombs) are not social scum. The scum are those who know the harm their products do but continue with the production because of the profit. However we are all culpable when we know the connections and do nothing. Some are more culpable that others. Politicians, religious leaders, and media controllers being the leading ones.

The twist in the film is that a black detective, poster boy, is attached to the investigation team because in theory he should be more able to connect with the community, a community which he hates because it was where he originated. The film does not turn him into the hero, who in fact is the white sceptical partner who resents the tokenism and promotion irrespective of ability and then intervenes when poster boy starts to go off the rails in the way he behaves towards suspects. OK he has the talk jive and knows all the moves but he fails to unravel what actually happened, and why, because is over emotionally involved. We learn the truth, only because the girl works out she will remain imprisoned until she can exorcise the demon of what happened, and she does this by calling on the mother of the murdered victim and through this act both she and the parent achieve a resolution they can live with. The film is brilliant because it shows that the whole process of the justice system, the police, the prosecution process, the courts and custodial and punishments systems while essential to society are superfluous in terms of prevention and treatment and, in some aspects are counter productive. Those who draw the conclusion that this means there should be wholesale dismantling or changing of the justice system are as mistaken as those who went ahead in the seventies and created a revolution in the education, health and social services system. The systems needed to change but the idea that you improve quality by changing systems remains as ludicrous as the idea that handing out large dollops of cash produces desired change without identifying the effective change makers and giving them the authority and the power as well as ensuring they are controllable.

Admittedly I did not think about any of this as I sat in the sun at the Riverside for the greater part of yesterday. I and not expected the extent of the sunshine as the clouds were rain bearing when I set off around 10, deciding to do some major shopping, two chickens, two joints of pork and two packs of peppered steak along with some more bread, tins of tomato soup and baked beans, a large jar of large unstoned olives, a cucumber and some tomatoes and patched red pears together wither some frozen rugged roast potatoes and frozen vegetables.I forgot the onions and the decaffeinated coffee. Originally I was only going for weekend essentials but decided to do the shop and return home to place in fridge and freezer. This led to setting off for the ground with some dark rain looking clouds overhead until just before reaching the ground around 11am and parking close to the river wear.

The red sports umbrella looked as if it would necessary as I made my way to on an aisle seat by the bowler's arm, but at the wrong end of the ground to view the sky super screen scoreboard. It has been the situation than whenever Sky appeared as a North East sports events the regional team lost or played badly or both. The kiss of death this morning was to listen to early Sky commentary which drew attention that Durham had not lost a one day game at home for more than a year.

However the loss was mostly of our own making although not to take away from a magnificent performance by Kent who have made great strides wining the 20 20 last year and now look unstoppable. It also has to be said that some Durham bowlers performed exceptionally well especially my hero Liam Plunkett whose ten over cost less than forty runs as Kent smashed their way to over 300 for the loss of four wickets and with a partnership which led to two centuries and a score of 190 for one wicket at one point. The Durham failure mainly rests with rested with Mr Morkel who is a flash in the pan hitter who can turn matches but in this instance did so with a 7 over for 75 runs closing performance and then striking out for only nine runs. Durham had a horrendous start losing two wickets for two runs but then Captain Beckenstein and Will Smith commenced to score at he required rate with both reaching their 50's. What turned the game was a very tight spin bowler and a controlled medium paced bowler at the other end who quickly established a line and a length which made scoring strokes difficult without taking risks. Yesterday the risk had to be taken but did not come off.

However this match may have turned on one bad decision by the umpire who gave Di Venuto out LBW when the replays showed that the ball had got from bat to pad. It was not to be Durham's day. Pity because having missed going to Lord's last year to celebrate the Durham win, it began to look as a visit this year was likely. It still could be if Yorkshire win away into day's match as along with Surrey, they are teams with past associations which I can support. We shall see later to day and again on Monday when Durham face their next test.

Zenotropa and Raising Helen

Changeability can be an indication of emotional and mental instability just as sticking to routines and conventional thinking can reflect a control rigidity and a lack of imagination and, creativity. It is also true that they just be an indication of adapting and to changing circumstances and to the wisdom of experience.

This thought occurred last night while watching an unexpected delight called Raising Helen and then this morning as the two computers and the TV all demonstrated their individuality and determination to resist my attempts to master and control them I rapidly changed from attending a lunchtime piano concert to going to the Tyneside Cinema to staying home and scrubbing the kitchen and day rooms floors among a host of jobs needing to be done. There is something satisfying about getting on all paws and giving the floor a close dust pan brushing and then an inch by inch scrub. It quickly dried with the kitchen door open. With cricket matches on Friday and Monday and Lulu in concert on Sunday I need to give the house a good dust vacuum and tidy by Wednesday.

I usually agree with everything written by James Berardinelli of the on line film critics society but the way he savaged Raising Helen surprised me. Apparently Raising Helen is a near reprise of Jersey Girl which I have not seen. There are four stories in this film. The first is the relationship between three sisters of which Helen is the youngest and lives as a single woman in the fast lane of New York Life as an executive assistant to the head of a modelling agency led by Helen Mirren, (a far cry from Her Majesty). Both her sisters have families and one is a model mom and who raised Helen when their own mother died when she was small. When the older sister and her husband die in a car crash the surprise is that she Wills' Helen to be the guardian of her three children rather than the mom of moms. I appreciate Hollywood plays fast and loose which legal niceties but I am amazed that such a wish is regarded as having the force of law given that the matter was not previously discussed with the surviving two sisters and that the children one of whom is an adolescent is not consulted by the law about their future. The next admittedly dubious aspect film is that such thoughtful parents did not have appropriate life insurance, mortgage insurance or the insurance against the driver of the vehicle responsible for the accident and that these did not combine to ensure that the children were able to remain in their existing home and continue at their existing school and provide for appropriate help in the home. However this is a fairy tale and such realities would only spoil the second story which is that Helen is forced to give up the family home because the sisters cannot pay the mortgage and to give up her Manhattan apartment and move to somewhere in Queens where she can afford to rent a suitable apartment in one off those cheek by jowl block upon blocks which appears to be the feature of some American cities and the police are much in evidence at the local public school. They all have lots of adjusting to do especially after getting the push by Helen Mirren and having to take a job a second hand car lot. The fourth story is the relationship between Helen and the Pastor of the Lutheran Church School which she chooses for the children. The big event of the film is when the eldest acquires a fake age identity, steals the aunt's credit card and goes off to a motel with the wildest lad at the school. Such an event is unlikely to happen in the UK as there are comparatively few independently owned motels with the majority run by public companies with high standards. However in the UK it is not unknown for runaway teenagers with older boys or men friends to use caravan sites. Such are the different standards and approaches to life!

This is a cheesy cliché film and I loved it. It has the desired ending for everyone. It is good to know that there are families of Great moms somewhere other than in the UK!

In complete contrast, this morning I caught up the third in the Tribal Wives series on BBCi as an air hostess and former drunk, double whisky in coffee first thing and one wine box every evening and everything else in between, was made welcome by an Ethiopian tribe who recently became members of a curious Muslims group whose men regarded them as possessions and able to beat them at will ,e specially if they talk back, in addition to insisting on a circumcision which prevents sexual pleasure for the woman and a death rate in child birth of one in twelve. The subject finds her true self, although she would in any environment which accepted her as she is now rather than as she has been. While this was good for her because there was no evidence presented that there was no harm to anyone other than herself and to her immediate family, kind of putting the past to rest enables the worst kind of killers especially those who organise atrocities or turn their eyes away from them as most politicians are able to do, to sleep easy at night. I firmly believe that what we do and who we do it with as well as what we say, think and feel lives with us and with others for eternity and the punishment of others is unnecessary, except as a means of social regulation and providing a sense of social justice. One cannot purge sin by simple acts of contrition, it has to be genuine and life long. Maturity is understanding this and living with it. It is one of the ironies of life that had Nelson Mandella not been imprisoned for close on three decades he would have remained just another ruthless terrorist no different from his oppressors and South Africa had a much better kick start into becoming a democratic nation as a consequence, although this is not to say it would have been better for all those who suffered greatly as a consequence of the continuation of the Apartheid system if regime change had not occurred earlier but one wonders if the transition would have been as quick and as effective had Mandella not prepared himself and was recognised by British and other world interests to have the capacity to adjust and move forward. The trouble is that is mortal and you can doom a country if you rely on one individual rather than the development of an effective system covering education and further education, civil administration at national and local levels and a controllable and responsible army.
In the evening I punished my self by watching an odd and pointless film called Zentropa of the kind that some film buffs rave about when viewed at art house cinemas such as the Newcastle film theatre I was due to visit earlier in the day. The film is also known as Europa, but not to be confused with Europa Europa which is a truish story about a young Jew who hid himself within the German army and survived to tell the tale, and which I thought was a good film as well as good story.

Zentropa is designed to transport the viewer back to Germany immediately after the war has ended in the role of a pacifist American from the USA who is fixed a job on the railway as a first class sleeping car conductor by his uncle and is seduced by the daughter of the railway company owner on his first night who is in fact a Nazi sympathiser terrorist out to disrupt the occupation much like the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The director wanting to impress uses a range of film making techniques to try and recreate the atmosphere of that time super black and white with occasional inserts of colour which have no function other that to kid the gullible that this was contemporary art in 1991. There was a memorable line which I shall improve by translating as you Germans amaze me, we have bombed you to blitz but you still behave as if you rule the world. The film also make one good point in taking a healthy swipe as all those individuals who insist on following rules and regulations without deviation regardless of the consequences. There is much to be praised about the management of the economy by the Labour administration during the past twelve years but not the obsession of government by rule and regulation, the extent of which is not at the heart of its downfall, as is always with those who fail to understand that government is about leadership and good management.

The handset on the TV has crashed but I worked out how to operate regardless so can take time to sort out given a host of priorities over the coming month. The scanning and sorting of photograph has continued with 78 more completed thus creating about 200 computerised copies with enlargements. However the priority over the weekend is cricket, Lulu and giving the house a good once over.

Dylan and Caitlin Thomas The Edge fo Love and Glastonbury 2008

For the second time since writing on MySpace my attention turned to Dylan Thomas, In 34 15th March 2007, I wrote of my experience attending a one man show presentation of his work at the Northern Playhouse and the opportunity was taken to remember my visit to Laugharne, seeing and listening to Performances of Under Milk Wood on the radio, on stage and on video. It was only yesterday that I discovered that the first of two films about some of the women in his life had been released. When the weather forecast indicated that play in the final 20.20 of the first part of the competition was unlikely I decided to experience the film, The Edge of Love in the afternoon, making an early lunch and taking cool bags for shopping beforehand. The sun was shining so there was also a little hope for some cricket.

The queue of cars at Asda, South Shields was such that I abandoned the stop to visit to the station greengrocers for fruit and went on to Lidl were I stocked up on salmon steaks in various dressings, some salami and some cheese. The only fruit which appealed was plums. There was a good size wholemeal loaf for 87pence and some milk. One upon a time a Councillor ran a greengrocers in Fredericke Street, and while he is still on the Council thirty five years later and the greengrocers continues but is under different ownership. There I filled a bag with what I thought would cost £3 or £4 of fantastic large and sweet cherries which came to only £1.87 pence. Strawberries 95p carton and 4 bananas for 50p. It was only later that I learnt that the supermarkets had placed large adverts in the morning papers announcing they had commenced a programme of major reductions in order to help with rising costs, but no doubt also to do something about the sudden drop in sales as consumers decided to cut down on non essentials and therefore tipping the country further into recession, rising prices and wage pressure, an escalating situation which spells disaster.

I then went to Boldon Cineworld for the film listening to Mark Kermode's film reviews at Wimbledon where play was held up because of rain. I then immediately knew there would be a problem when two teenage girls passed me going out and on the back row there were half a dozen others. They looked school age but were not in school uniform. Perhaps they were doing Dylan as part of the English curriculum. There were two couples, one elderly one middle aged sitting in front of me and two young women arrived and sat behind. The girls talked incessantly throughout the adverts and trailers and debated the upset of telling them off or having the film experience ruined. The female of the couple immediately in front shouted that she hoped they would be quite when the film started. They were not, so I stood up and said they had been asked once, now I was telling them to shut up or I would ask for them to be ejected, Shortly afterwards a staff member cam in and took a look at the back of the theatre suggesting my intervention had been picked up. It was necessary to turn round and give a long warning look which had good effect later and if it had not I would have requested assistance.

Now to the film. This centres on the alleged relationship between neighbours of Dylan and Caitlin at New Quay Ceredigion in 1944 Vera Killick nee Phillips which led to her husband William shooting up the outside of their adjacent home and being charged with attempted murder but was found not guilty at his trial. As the film is produced by the grand daughter of William one hopes this ensures some truth to the story. I have tried hard to find independent evidence to substantiate the details without success so far. Dylan remains one of the best loved and known British poets whose work I read again or listen to his tapes or watch video from time to time. However I do not overlook that he was as a drunk which led to his early death, that he went with any woman who responded to his advances and he lived of the generosity of others. The film suggests that he was also a coward and committed perjury at the trial. If true then he is damaged further and therefore I attempted to established the accuracy of the story in this film.

The core of the story is that Dylan and Vera were childhood friends who made loved once when Vera was 15 years of age. According to an interesting article in the Daily Mirror of May 2007 when filming in Wales was about to commence Dylan and Vera did attend the same school and their parents were also friends

Between May 1940 when Dylan failed his conscription medical and the incident in 1944. Dylan was dependent on well wishers to support his wife and child and their life style, and this included frequent moves between London and Wales and at various houses of patrons. The couple also lived separate lives even when together and this included affairs. According to the film Dylan remeets Vera in wartime London who is then a singer and actress and pursued by William Killick, a fan and serving officer in the British army. Surprisingly although Dylan has become well known, involved with making propaganda films and working for BBC radio the film suggests that Vera did not known Dylan was married until his wife arrives seeking his attention and fed up with being left to care for their son on her own or with relatives who she does not get on with. The film suggests that Vera who had continued to carry a torch for Dylan, first love, what we do and who we do it with lives with us and them for ever, but struggled against her inclinations which became impossible when Dylan and Caitlin resorted to living with Vera in her small accommodation after they had fallen out with relatives, and that it was this situation which led her to accepting the advances of William Killick, although the decision to give herself to him and to agree to marriage arose after the couple were nearly killed in a bombing raid which decimated those who had been around them in a basement nightclub. Dylan and Caitlin were the witnesses at the wedding something which can be verified by obtaining a copy of the marriage certificate.

The film for shortens the period between 1940 and 1944 when it is known that Dylan and Caitlin first rent the modest single storey home on the Welsh coast at New Quay and the Daily Mirror confirmed that they were neighbours of the Killicks, and that for a time William was away on an expedition to Greece, returning home on his own something of a hero and suffering from what is generically now known as shell shock but which throughout both World Wars was dismissed by the services and the officialdom, especially the courts as bunkum.

What has not been established and again this is something the family of William might have access to relevant records is the extent to which Vera used her own money and that of her husband through their joint bank account to fund the lives of Dylan and Caitlin and their son, their drinking and their hospitality to their intellectual and fashionable friends, or the abortion which Caitlin was said to want after one of her affairs. I did not gain the impression from the film that Caitlin and Vera became lovers rather than for a time they developed an intimate friendship led by Caitlin, not just because of the money but because she saw Vera as the one threat to her marriage, bearing in mind that she had only met Dylan before the war, and that she was quickly aware of his life style, although the film suggests that Dylan' behaviour was a reaction to that of Caitlin who he says cannot help herself.

This all makes one hope that the film on the life of Caitlin with Miranda Richardson will be completed. In an Observer article of November 2006 it was revealed that the producers were racing to complete and release their films in he light of what happened to the two films about the life of Truman Capote, one of which although released in the USA and achieved some box office success had not been released in the UK. It will be interesting to see how the second film present Caitlin and if attempts to balance the rather one sided view of her presented in the Edge of Love, a script written by Keira Knightley's mother and where the original actress to play Caitlin is reported to have dropped out over the interpretation of the character in this film.

Most people will accept to a degree the financial dependency and chaotic lifestyle of the exceptional artist and his partner and parent, including the infidelities and the abortion, together with the self injury from being drunk in charge of a bicycle, but Caitlin and Dylan and shown to push everything beyond the limits, There is a hint of what it is to come when Vera asks Caitlin if she is threatening her about the relationship with Dylan and admits towards the end of the film that is the fact that Vera had not disclosed the relationship which developed with Dylan during their stay in Wales which led to her turning her back on the couple at the time of the shooting incident and trial. I could not help thinking of the relationship between George Melly and his wife, Diana and Molly Parkin. Diana and Molly were close friends for many years but it was when George commenced a relationship with Molly that the relationship between the two women broke down and where according to the recent documentary there was some reconciliations during his last year and with his death.

In fairness to Caitlin she also warns Vera about not disclosing her previous relationship with Dylan although the way the couple behave would have been difficult for anyone not to realise that they were more than conventional childhood friends with a common language and heritage. It could be argued with hindsight that that shooting incident became inevitable when battle scarred William returns to his wife clutching a Sten gun and finds her with a son, living closely with Dylan and then finds that all their and primarily his money has gone when advised of the situation by the bank. The film suggests that it is the loss of the money and the extent of village gossip plus the visit of some of the Bloomsbury set which triggered the shooting incident.

The film also suggests that the reason for Dylan's evidence at the trial against William arose because Vera had pleaded with him to help because she loved her husband and could not bear it if he was sent to prison fro attempted murder. When he does the opposite and says what he can to get a conviction Vera accuses him of wanting her to be the young girl he seduced when she was 15 and that if she asked him to leave Caitlin and live with her he would not do so.

So much for the story line. I liked the style of the film which captured the nature of wartime London and being active soldier without unbalancing the film yet giving it serious framework. The four principal characters were convincing and the interaction between Keira Knightly as Vera and Sienna Miller as Caitlin is remarkable and despite the problem with the children, (I wonder what they made of it). I was able to give myself to the film. I also liked the way the film included clips of Dylan reciting his work to remind that this was a great artist and the clips did appear to fit in with the timeline of his work. However I am not sure if this film will have any appeal to those unfamiliar with his work and life although it could lead some to enquire further. I also thought that the intensity of the lifestyle could have a corrupting influence on the young minds behind although I hoped they took in that Caitlin as well as Vera had sexual experiences before they were emotionally mature enough to cope with its lifetime impact. Caitlin was seduced by Augustus John when she was also 15.

As forecast as I left the film theatre the sky had dampened and there had already been a shower. I debated returning home but given the situation earlier in the week decided to go to the ground as I was already part way there. The omens were not good as the blanket of rain cloud covered the ground as I approached. There was a great crowd in the ground as I had to park my park several rows in the overflow park in the adjacent Riverside parkland. Although I have a large black gentlemen's umbrella I rarely use preferring the smaller telescopic variety and my Durham one felt apart year's ago. Lidl were selling brightly coloured ones for £4 and I bought an attractive single colour maroon one which had to be used on the walk from the car to the ground, although rain stopped and play continued, having started before my arrival but was cut short for bad light as the rain clouds closed in. As anticipated there were no free seats on the Members Veranda and although I could have obtained a seat inside it was too warm for comfort and I cannot enjoying viewing through glass. I therefore made my way to the allocated seat and soon the umbrella proved a great buy as it poured down but I remained protected enjoying sandwiches prepared before departure. However a look around suggested the rain was set for the evening and there were counter attractions on the television. I returned home after drinking some coffee in the car and but left the soup for the morrow

I knew that between 9 and 11pm ITV were showing highlights of the Hyde Park concert celebrating the 90th birthday of Nelson Mandela who has become increasingly physically frail. The concert was designed to promote the causes which he has promoted since retiring as the South African President and this governed the ITC production which spent a such time interviewing celebrities for their reactions to the great man and his causes as they did showing the music and where there were also frequent breaks for advertisements. I thought the presentation was sycophantic and banal and counter productive on a night when I also discovered it was the Friday of Glastonbury, Nelson Mandela has rapidly become a Godlike figure exploited my heads of state and musicians or looking for worthwhile causes. I cannot ever forgot that he was a terrorist whose organisation used violence mercilessly as did the state. He was no Ghandi although in fairness it does appear he ahs become converted to the search for conciliation and peace, although over the recent decade he has been singularly quiet about events in Zimbabwe and it appears that it had only been international pressure before his trip to London which persuaded him to say the world wide quoted words which can be interpreted as a condemnation. In fairness the point was made during the programme that if the world is now dependent on one man for its future survival or in fact on the actions future generations are doomed and there will be no progress until we all understand and accept our individual responsibility and no rely just on politicians, religious leaders and the media to be our conscience and do what is right.

And so anther year has passed and it is Glastonbury (see 112 Glastonbury from last June). Given that the weekend is always a sell out the BBC has great responsibility to present a compressive representation of the artists performing on the sixteen stages. This year it appears the BBC have settled on those artists they are showing despite having three channels showing programmes BBC 2, BBBC 3 and 4. The problem appears to be the creation of BBC I with the same films whichever channel you press the red button I am being unfair because in fact there was a fair coverage during the over session with occasional short films which convey something of the experience.

From what is regarded as the main stage, the Pyramid stage it was possible to see the sets of The Kings of Leon and the Fratellis where I am not fans but I am of The Feeling and KC Tunstall who were great. I missed out on The editors and only saw part of the Gossip set. Gossip had a giant an oversize girl single who last year wore skimpy clothing and threw herself with great abandon into the crowd. This year for the main stage she was more suitably attired and although was throwing herself over around the stage with just as much abandonment one felt the barrier between herself and the crowd destroyed something of the impact of her performance. I did not watch Panic at the Disco headliner of the other stage or the Hoosiers, but front the third headlining stage, the Jazz World Stage I did enjoy Candi Staton especially her In the Ghetto, and I did catch part of Jimmy Cliff and Estelle. From the John Peel Stage, I looked in vain for the set of Reverend and the Makers whose set last year was one of my highlights, Hopefully they will progress to the other stages and get a second showing. The new band so far which caught my attention is the residue of The Ting Tings where I unintentionally watched the hit record three times but also enjoyed the full set of the singer guitarist with drummer, having split front the rest of the band. Nothing was shown from the BBC introducing stage nor Franz Ferdinand appearing on The Park or Sinead O'Connor on the Acoustic Stage although there was mention that Phil Jupitus had appeared with the Blockheads and it may be that I went to bed for the clip was shown.

There was also nothing from the Left Field although mention that there are Three Dance Stages this year East and West and the Dance Lounge with Fatboy Slim headlining East. It was at this point that I remembered my exchange with the Berlin based group Team Plastic (335) and looked in vain for their listing on the comprehensive BBC list of bands in alphabetical order then on the new list of performers on the individual stages stage.

Tomorrow I hope there will be a showing of Amy Winehouse. Already confirmed is the set of Joan Armatrading and James Blunt and Crowded House. I hope on Sunday they will show the full sets of Leonard Cohen and Neil Diamond together with Katie Melua down the list on Avalon.

Travelling Light and Big River

I can understand the characters who go on the road on their own and I have also taken my car to lands where I did not speak the language and into wild areas where it could have been a problem had the vehicle broken. There are wild places where traffic is intermittent even in England and at times of the day can be non existent. I once went hitchhiking on Boxing Day and there was little difficulty in getting a lift out of London and then a second lift where the driver said he was going only as far as a Midland town. My companion lived his life according to the strictest of beliefs and could not resist in explaining his Vegan principles which annoyed the driver greatly and we were asked to leave the vehicle in the middle of nowhere. My companion explained the cause of what had happened in that one entering the car he had sat on sporting gun.

We had then walk into the nearest town somewhere in the peak district of Derbyshire and although it was early evening around five there was little on the road, and local traffic ignored us. Eventually we arrived at the town late evening which was also deserted with no traffic and no one on the streets. It was 1960. We slept the night in our sleeping bags on the pavement of a bus shelter finding sleep difficult. At point we both heard what appeared to be a large vehicle getting underway so we rushed to where the sound was coming from and had we not both heard the vehicle we would have separately concluded it had been a wishful dream. Cold, still tired and hungry we set off with the dawn and we passed by a milk delivery vehicle. One of the small kind which we ignored but where the driver stopped and asked if we would like a lift, explaining that he would end up at a main road but had to make calls on the way which taking a couple of hours. He offered us some milk which my companion drank but which I had never liked and did not drink the third of pint issued at school. We then had a grand tour of isolated homes in attractive countryside and engaged in a great chat about everything. It was one of the great unplanned experiences of my life to that date and confirmed what I have always believed that the majority of people are remarkable individuals who do hard work, get on with the lives but strongly care about life and other human beings and will stretch out a hand if given the opportunity. When a few months later I had a the choice of going to prison for six months to make a point or accepting a good behaviour undertaking to stop further non violent protests it was people like the driver of the milk round that I was protesting for.

I thought of this last night when watching a road movie called Big River which the is name of a town in the USA although the action takes place in the desert with vivid images of isolation and desolation which governs the lives of the three characters who meet by chance. The first is a resident of Pakistan who not short of a bob or two who has married an American girl, possibly an arranged marriage, taken her back to Pakistan where she was expected to fit into his rigid way of life and where there had been no communication. Eventually he had driven her away back to America leaving her children. He is now travelling across the desert to find her and bring her home and his car breaks down. In the distance, he spots someone hiking across the same desert and attracts his attention, a young Japanese man wanting to explore the country on his way to New York. Fortunately the young man knows sufficient about cars to get it on its way and claims a lift and they continue until the petrol runs out. He sets off with five dollars to find a garage for petrol and on the long journey he sees a car off the road, radio on with keys in the ignition and apparently abandoned. He sits as the female owner returns after taking a nature break and after both recovering from the shock of the situation she agrees to take him to the nearest garage and then back to car, which does not start and requires attention so she gives both men a lift.

She likes to travel. All three find it difficult to communicate their true feelings thoughts and will be regarded as dysfunctional beings preoccupied with their own interests and priorities and making no contribution to society. However they also appear to be doing no harm, They share rented accommodation in a trailer park while the Pakistani man goes off to take his wife back home, but she has made a new life and has no intention of returning to her old one which he finds it difficult to accept. The Japanese young man and the American girl spend a night together and although there is a gulf in communication and cultural experiences she expresses the hope that they will do America together before making it to New York.
I knew someone briefly who shared a similar story where I had no reason to doubt its authenticity. She had travelled alone and not had a conversation with anyone for several days and had encountered a man of her own age also hitching across wild desert land in Europe. They had made love without verbal communication and gone on their way. This story was more likely to have been true than what happened in the film. The main point if this film is that the encounter of three such different characters with such different backgrounds are held together momentarily with the consequence that they are able to take decisions which fundamentally affect the rest of their lives. The man from Pakistan returns home appearing to accept responsibility for what happened in his marriage and we are left with the impression he will become a better parent and human being as a consequence. The young man from Japan is seen continuing on his exploration on foot as the young American woman takes off in her car, but he then throws of the backpack and runs after her, although we are left uncertain that she will look in her rear mirror or decided to stop as some point and turn round and go in search of him as she has done at one point, but are left with the view that he also has come to understand the importance of working at relationships if one wishes to fill part of the void which is within us all.

This was the second of two films watched last night after discovering new film channel on Sky which has appeared since my mini trip. It is called World Movies and is an Australian subscription channel. It is grouped with a couple of African subscription channels which also commenced with free view for a month and then converted so I assume this will become the situation with World Movies, so I intend to make the most of the of opportunity while I can, subject to other existing interests and commitments. Before Big River I watched Travelling Light an Australian movie set in Adelaide in the early sixties when Jack Kerouac was King, I have his novel On the Road and Lonesome Traveller as well as the Subterraneans and Maggie Cassidy, as well as his contributions to Protest, The Beat Generation from which I used to be able recite Howl by Allen Ginsberg. I also have the Beat Scene.

Travelling Light is an odd film as there does not appear to be a big message. It could be argued that this is a film about a dysfunctional family in terms of what was then considered a functional family, or it could be considered a film about caring people wanting to make something of their lives in a dysfunctional society. The family comprises a hard work dad with a wife who suffers from the inability to leave her home although she constantly makes serious and brave efforts to do so. Her father committed suicide something which conceals from her daughters until it is revealed by the grand daughter. One daughter suffers from irrational beliefs and understanding such as refrigerators are damaging to the health as well as too food, and is carted off for electric shock therapy at one point by a husband who appears to care but is unable to tune into the needs and fears of his partner, especially her fear of having children. The central character of the film is a younger daughter who is at teacher training college undertaking practical work placements but is only on the course because it brought parental approval when in fact she is a creative preferring to see life through a camera and yearning to go off to London and become an actress. She is impressed by the visiting American beat poet, who we discover was brought up in the same town and uses the material of others. Her friend works for an Australian commercial TV station and one feature of the film is the extent of control by commercial interests, and the fixing of competition, now weren't they corrupt in times past! The friend accepts an invitation from a gay co worker and then pulls out of the situation. The Beat poet is invited to perform in the live pre Christmas show but is removed when attempts to read a mild ant capitalist corporation diatribe which the young daughter seizes the opportunity to finish reading as a result of the ensuing chaos much to the amazement of her family. This acts frees her from the teaching training bond which appears to have tied her indefinitely to the something she does not want to do. The course did not want to sack her because this meant she would not have to repay the bond so she is made to retake the first year although the school practical work placement head and her course supervisor know she will never fit into the current system and approach to teaching. The act of reading the poem on live TV is the final straw and is sacked and freed from her bond so she is free to follow her dreams. This follows the advice of the beat poet who has explained how Kerouac or someone similar got himself of national service by being mad. I came across an advert for a another film or perhaps it was a TV drama where the argument was that in order to gain release from an Psychiatric institution you had first to admit and be considered to have accepted that you were psychiatrically ill, similar to gain parole from prison you have to admit you were guilty even if you were not. Last night on Any Questions a cross dressing contemporary artist expressed amazement on learning than some 800 bodies including some 400 local authorities have used powers originally established to tackle terrorism and crime syndicate to mount surveillance including internet and telephone surveillance on local people who have fallen foul of the local system and the local political leadership. What amazed me is that someone who describes themselves as a contemporary creative did not know this beforehand.