Saturday, 2 September 2017

Stratton coincidence

Events which appear loosely connected are usually not.

A week ago, my attention was drawn to an appeal by Sussex police for residents in the Eastbourne to Birling Gap area on the coast to keep their windows and doors closed because of the impact of a chemical haze which had come inland from the sea. The BBC also carried a report which said that the number of people affected and requiring attention had risen from 50 to 150. Kent live reported that 200 people had been decontaminated at hospital.

There was a news report in the Telegraph which stated that scientists believed the cloud had been created from shipping and not the continent. The Guardian presented the views of several experts. One suggested it could have been a discharge from a water treatment works but this was immediately dismissed by Southern Water.

One expert pointed to the similarity with chlorine gas and Sky online included a notice to the door of a McDonalds saying the store had closed because of a discharge of chlorine gas. Another reported said this was not chlorine gas.  While police investigations were reported to be continuing there appears to have been no further report explaining what had happened. Fortunately, the cloud had dispersed sufficiently in time not to affect the expected numbers coming to the coast on the Bank holiday and the stay home request was lifted.

My first reaction at the time was that this was a terrorist attack from a craft off the coast.

Yesterday, I went to the new Cineworld  Cinema at the Gate restaurant, and entertainment centre in the heart of the City of Newcastle to see the second performance of the new British film directed by Simon West called Stratton and based on the novel series by former special boat services officer Duncan Falconer who since his service with the British Security Services has become a specialist for a  British based international enterprise  and which includes outsourced work for government intelligence and defence departments. The extraordinary aspect of my attendance at on an evening opening performance at the start of the weekend is that I was the only person in the theatre.

I was not aware from what I had read beforehand that the plot involves a terrorist creating four drones to disperse clouds of a lethal gas in an attack on a major city. I am tempted to explain in more detail but given the negative review by Mark Kermode, in the podcast checked this morning will say no more. In fairness it is an old fashioned British action film divorced from the sophisticated CGI technology we have now come to expect with Derek Jacobi playing an old sea dog anchor  father figure for the hero. The Danish actress Connie Nielson plays the MI6 chief in a stilted and slow English way which I interpreted as the attempt by the director to create the illusion of a real-life documentary but which only added to the lists of negatives which make Kermode’s criticism valid. However, I looked beyond the film as a film or coherent and plausible story into the potential reality that Terrorists would attempt this kind and level of atrocity if they have not already thought of it. It is however the kind of attack which the authorities will have anticipated, monitored and planned to defend against. In the film, it is said that the only way to prevent the airborne generated number of fatalities is to incinerate the device before it can be used but I wonder if this can be so and that while it should eliminate most of the toxicity is not possible to prevent some damage using such a method.

It is noteworthy that coinciding with the Bank holiday weekend the public were reminded to be vigilant and a senior counter terrorism specialist said there appeared to have been  shift to using social media to incite existing UK based fanatics to commit atrocities in part because of the extent  to which  those returning from fighting in Syria and Afghanistan are being monitored The implication is that local fanatics were being shown how to make simple but lethal explosive devices or to use simpler weapons such as knives. I am taking the warning seriously, paying close attention to what is happening around me when I am out and about.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017


I am disappointed that Lion is not one of the best film nominations for a Bafta but has been included in the list for an Oscar. Dev Patel should get the award for best supporting Actor and Nicole Kidman as his adopting mother gives her best screen performance meriting the award for best supporting actress. The film is not about lions, and forget the tile which is explained at the end of the film. The film credit opens with a warning of intense emotional scenes which is an understatement as I have never openly and unashamedly cried more, and was not alone, and in a packed early evening cinema there were audible cries of joy and sadness as the film ended.

Over the past year, I have attend two of the nominated films during performances with a few others but the level of early evening midweek audience at the Cineworld Bolden suggests to me there is word of mouth that this is an impotent film to experience because it is based on a remarkable true story and is retold in such a powerful way. I shall be very angry if La La Land with its evident studio hype gets more awards on either night.

As a child, I was taken on a family trip to Brighton and was left on my own in the railway station while the accompanying female adults went the loo. I had no sense of time, was on my own in a strange place and burst into tears attracting the attention of passers-by who comforted me until a family adult reappeared.  Those who have seen the trailer, read a review, or the book, know the film is about a child in India who became lost at a railway station, is adopted by a family in Tasmania, Australia and as an adult is driven by the need to search for his birth mother, his brother and his sister.

I also remember the terror I felt when being taken to a hospital to have my tonsils and adenoids removed and when aged eleven being taken with a small case to a children’s home, in the first instance persuading an adult to bring be back home before admission, and on the second when she visited the following day or soon after and where I spent several years in later life trying to find the children’s home without success.

There is also one moment from that great film Dr Zhivago when Rita Tushingham, the young adult Tanya Komarova explains to her uncle, Yevgraf Zhivago played by Alec Guiness, how she became lost, “he let go my hand.”

It is said some 80000 children become lost in India at any one time, live on the streets or find themselves in forms of residential care where in both situations they are at risk of exploitation and abuse trafficking. No one has yet estimated the number of children lost and alive, as well as lost at sea who are presently alone, trafficked abused as families attempt to escape the atrocities committed in the battle of powers to profit from the rebuilding and natural assets of Syria, Iraq and Libya.

 What the film, Lion achieves, is to communicate the terror of such situations and the long-term impact, even for those who experience loving and thoughtful childhoods.  There is a level of depth in the emotional and mental experiences portrayed in this film which is equalled in this extraordinary year by the performances such as by Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea, Emily Blunt Girl on a Train, and I am as led to believe but to see, Natalie Portman in Jackie.