Port De Soller Mallorca

Port De Soller Mallorca

Sunday 31 July 2011

The continuing saga of Lee Child character 'Jack Reacher' and Mr Tom Cruise

There is a massive debate still going on at http://www.murderati.com/blog/ on a comments board in reply to a blog /rant written by Best selling author Alexandra Sokoloff.  It really is quite unbelievably sad that people who purport to love an authors output are threatening to stop buying his books because of the possibility that Tom Cruise MAY or MAY not play the lead character in a film adaptation of one of his novels.  As I said in my previous blog on this subject, Mr Cruise would not be my first choice to portray this character, but at the end of the day IT IS NOT MY CHOICE THAT COUNTS.  

I, like the other readers I suspect, of books by any author,  choose to read them because they have been personally recommended to us, or as is the case with my most recent favourite author  Michael R Hicks where I have stumbled across them and then I buy every book he has written, and read them in the space of a week.  That was 6 books by the way and to tell the truth I am alternating between No 6 and a another couple of books I have on the go at the moment.  But my point is I love the books and the characters IN THE BOOKS.  I do not think there is any book that I have read, where I have seen a movie representation of it first and then decided to read the book afterwards.  The books are always, always a much more fuller and descriptive laden piece of literary work than any movie can ever hope to be.  

So all of this talk about boycotting the author really is leaving me rather perplexed especially when you consider, and I can't state this for fact as I am not an author, but I would think that someone who sits down and produces a book for people like us, do it for a couple of reasons, not least of all by the fact that they all seem to have such amazing abilities to put together and relate a well written story that devlops in their mind and is just begging their inner self to be placed onto paper, or kindle or e reader, choose your own format here.  And I'll bet while they are sitting there in the middle of the night hammering away at their keyboard the last thing they are thinking about is a) am I going to have a best seller on my hands and b) I wonder who is going to play the lead in the movie of this book.  Well maybe one or two of them do, but I suspect not a lot of them do.

So, when they are fortunate enough to actually then get published and people like you and I pick them up and and we are then joined by hundreds of thousands of others around the world, good luck to them I say, I wish it was me (and envy of your favourite authors is not a bad thing either).  Is it any wonder then when a movie deal does come along that that same author is going to grab it with both hands, of course it is not, so stop being so naive  in all of this and give the guy a break.

I will say it again about Mr Cruise, he is not my first choice, and I don't care that he leaps over sofas and jumps around like a loon proclaiming his love for a woman, I suspect most women would also love their man to do something just as daft from time to time, wouldn't yours?  There is also mention of his attachment to Scientology, who cares, I can't recall him ever trying to convert me to it, so what has that got to do with it.

And this is what I said on the Murderati site earlier this evening about his height [although I still think he is wrong for the part, but I don't really care enough to be bothered by it]

"Me again. I really am quite dumbfounded by all of this. Reminds me a little bit of the furore that surrounded Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code except in that storm it was the church and other organisations vilifying the author.

Now as I said earlier, as a reader of all the Jack Reacher Novels I am not too impressed with the idea of TC playing the part, but as a reader of a book I will not be offended by him if he does. I will wait and see. But it will not make me stop seeing MY Jack Reacher.

Now, everyone is on about TC's size and by the fact that he will not be menacing enough. 

I do not know what age most of you are but I am 55. So when I was growing up in the 60's and all the old black and white movies were on the telly here in the UK I can recall feeling menaced and intimidated every time Edward G Robinson at 5 feet, or James Cagney at 5 feet 5 or Humphrey Bogart at 5 feet 8 popped up on screen and so did the characters in the scene with them. I think they call it acting, but I'm not sure!

And if I watch any of those old movies today at 55, those characters are still just as intimidating and seem to fill the screen."

Best Wishes 

Thursday 28 July 2011

Author Lee Child sells out, or does he?

I have to say until the link popped up on tweetdeck to Lee Child's Facebook page I wasn't aware of the storm that had been created by him selling the rights to one of his books to one Mr Tom Cruise.  When I popped over there for a look I could not believe what I was reading.

Mr Child's character, Jack Reacher is one of my favourite fiction hero's along with Reza Gard from Michael R Hicks, Thomas Kydd from Julian Stockwin, Scarecrow and others from Matthew Reilly, and I could go on and on, I really do like a good all action novel. But I am a big fan of all types of books and at the moment I am just dipping back in to Seamus Heaney's 'District and Circle a short collection of his poems, so here is what I said to the other fans of Mr Child who were clamouring for people to now stop buying his books, I really do wonder about people sometimes....

For what it is worth, here is my tuppence on the Tom Cruise - Jack Reacher saga.  I have just gone through the comments, and like most of you I also believe TC as Jack Reacher is an appalling choice, but this was a business decision, pure and simple.  Now here is what I wrote on a blog recently about authors and the written word "A book is a means by which an author presents to you the reader, his or her words in a way that allows you to visualise in your minds eye every detail of every character of every scene presented in full mind blowing technicolour imagery that only the imagination can present....always much more satisfying than on screen, to my mind at least." Now say what you want about Mr Cruise, personally I am not a big fan, but he has bought the rights and you never know, he may surprise you all and choose one of the many fine actors that you all are putting forward.  But really, many of you are saying 'don't buy' what appears to have been one of your favourite authors books because of this decision, really!  Read the books, don't watch the movie and continue to get the same enjoyment out of each novel as it appears as you did before this brouhaha developed.  Best Wishes to all and here is to many more Jack Reacher novels that I will certainly continue to enjoy.

Best Wishes 

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Sunday trading laws to be relaxed, can't we have just one day without shops? - Walletpop UK

Well there it is, the Government are seriously thinking about relaxing the Sunday trading laws as a means to help retailers in these times of economic austerity!

There are a couple of issues I have with this and indeed with the report by Damian Wilson the author of this horrendous piece of news, although he does finish his article by saying that he does not think it will happen, I do hope that he is correct.

Before I get into my stride about why shops should not be allowed to open for any longer than they currently do, can I ask Damian where he lives?  The reason for asking is not to become a stalker, but rather one of curiosity as he tells us in his piece that the supermarkets only open 24 hours at Christmas, Where is this mythical town of tranquillity and peacefulness resting from the pressures of 24 hour shopping? Is it in the UK or is it somewhere discovered and then lost again by Gulliver on his travels, but, that I missed recently when I re-read that marvellous tome?

Give him his due Damian does tell us that the relaxation of the current laws is based on a study that only had 2696 responses, but that is also somewhat disquieting to read as well.  Why is that? I hear you ask.  Well for one thing if the government of the day is seriously considering relaxing Sunday trading laws based on under 3000 responses to a study, why did the government of the day not consider, for example only you understand, pulling our troops out of (or not sending them in the first place) Iraq when there were hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets concerned about our involvement in this war.   Conversely I also note that E Milliband was equally as horrified at the 'publics' outrage over the damning revelations of Milly Dowler's phone vowing on the tens of thousands of people who were outraged by this, that it should never happen again. Although not an MP at the time Iraq kicked of he was 'special' in terms of endorsements and involvement with the Labour party and I suppose we can infer that with his support for involvement in Libya, that he was/ is supportive of the Iraq war in the face of  public resentment!  Mind you he also did manage, I understand, to radically change the UK energy policy after being threatened by Pete Postlethwaite, so minority and not majority opinion does sometimes count!

Look, you have me going off again, please stop doing that, now where were we, Oh yes I remember, Sunday Trading extensions.  

I don't like Sunday trading. But, I do confess to have gone to the shops on a Sunday, but, normally under duress.  I don't want all shops to close on a Sunday, and my objections are not based on religious beliefs. My objections are a bit more fundamental than that and they are really in the main two fold.

The first reason and it is purely based partly based on what is contained within Damian Wilson's article and what has been said by many people, usually traders and those who stand to gain from the shops being opened for all this extra time, is the contention that it will aid and assist, mainly the smaller retailer, in their endeavours to survive, by increasing their turnover and therefore their profit margins.  Well please do excuse my crassness and reverting to type here, but what a piece of unadulterated bollocks that is, well isn't it?  Smaller retailers are never going to compete on the industrial scale of the large supermarkets,  they have never been able to and never will.  If they could we would not see the empty high streets that have become derelict ghost towns in every town and city the length and breadth of the country.  Oh, sure there are exceptions to the rule, but that is what they are, exceptions, nothing more nothing less.  And unless you are located where one of these exceptions exist there is absolutely no financial reason for you to even attempt to open your doors in competition to the  wagon train of supermarkets that surround you.  It is nonsense to suggest anything else to the contrary.

Also, how can it it aid retailers to open longer on a Sunday, even the larger ones, as a means of increasing their profitability by bringing in more shoppers to spend even more money than they already are or can.  Lets face it there is a financial wilderness upon us.  We open up our browsers each day and read the news [don't do print newspapers unless I am on the train and there is a freebie there] or hear another report telling us that we have even less in our pockets to spend, because the price of fuel, gas , electric, food, has gone up yet again.  And then of course there is the impact of economic loss to industry in the service sector particularly and in local authorities where people who have not been given a pay rise for a number of years, are now being told, ' you can keep your job but we cannot afford your current salary, so what is it to be,? your job on a reduced salary or redundancy? What would you do, what can you do?

And, if you are lucky enough [or some might say, unlucky enough] to keep your job and on a reduced salary, you are still seeing the swingeing tax rises that we still have to pay through PAYE, VAT, etc. etc.

So just where do these people who want to see a total relaxation of the trading laws for Sunday, think that Mr and Mrs Average are going to find the money to spend during these extra opening hours.  I know it isn't always as simple as I make out and that there are some people out there who either are still getting good wages, or there are those who have diligently saved and have money in the bank to allow them to continue to maintain their lifestyle, but surely these are in the minority and can not in themselves justify the sweeping away of the remaining Sunday trading  laws, can they?

The AA website reports that fuel sales have dropped by 1 BILLION litres [how many zero's is that] in the first 3 months of this year. Fuel Sales Fall First quarter petrol and diesel sales drop by one billion litres .  If people cannot afford to put fuel in their vehicles, how can they get to the retail malls to spend the money to justify extending their opening hours, it is nonsense.  And what does the government do, they increase the duty we pay on it!  Crazy, crazy crazy.  It's a bit like me working for a commercial garage in the 80's and a pay rise was announced, as it turned out it worked out to be one shiny penny, no point really.  Now I wasn't, although I could have been but never did on principle,  claim any state benefits, but others I worked with, were and did.  The additional one pence on their wages just tipped them over the limit for benefits and ended up costing them their rent rebates and other allowances, and that is another story......

So, finally, for this part at least, is there a beneficial and economic reason for shops to be allowed to open for longer on a Sunday, I say NO, but what do you say?

My other reason, and for me personally, this is the crux of the argument.  I do know that other people will have similar arguments and jump on MY bandwagon, but this is my own personal reason for not wanting large shops and shopping malls to open for longer and as far as I am concerned I would be quite happy and content if they were closed down on Sunday's all together.

 I have three grown up children and have been married for 35 and a bit years.  My two eldest, daughter  Marie and son Brian work in the Restaurant and Pub industry. They choose to work long unsociable hours for the benefit of their employers and customers.  [Brian is actually the leaseholder of his own little pub and his hours of work is reaping benefits and he is bucking the trend in that area by ever  increasing sales figures]  The Sun Bethnal Green But long and unsocial hours was and is the case in pubs and restaurants long before shops were allowed to open past tea time and at weekends and is steeped, whether rightly or wrongly, in tradition.  In an effort to increase turnover and maximise profits, Marie is now having to get up at 5 AM to get to her restaurant, a Harvester, as that company have now also started for the first time doing breakfasts, so the hours are even more unsocial and long.  All of this while raising  five year old twins.  My third child, Jennifer a mother to three girls eight, five and 4 months, is a part time class assistant at the local school.

Marie's hubby Peter is the manager of the restaurant and I am told that last week for instance, they managed to spend an hour of quality time with each other during the course of the week.  Brian's partner Nick runs the pub with him  Jennifer's partner Steve is an Heavy Goods Vehicle mechanic who has to do night shifts.  Operators of HGV's cannot afford to take them off the road during the day so they have to be serviced at night, makes sense but a complete pain in the ass.

Ishbel, my better half, works in a department store, part time but feels like full time and has to work every Sunday.  Me, well I have always managed, apart from my ten years in the Army to avoid working at weekends except when absolutely unavoidable, so I guess I have been the lucky one in the family in that respect.  But this is where my whole point is made.  Look at the hours and times these guys are working, and I can tell you the wages do not engender a feeling of well being from those employed and in Ishbel's case the weekend working , where she has to go to work when the kids come over and bring the grand kids.  So the scenario at our home on the weekend is that, if Jennifer and Steve are coming over they can't come to early on a Saturday because Steve has been out to work on the night shift on Friday, so they do not arrive until the afternoon, giving grandma a shorter visit than she would like.  Before you know it it is time for the children's bed time and off they go.  Sunday morning, up we get and have breakfast and then grandma has to get herself ready for work and off she goes and the kids are again missing time with grandma and instead have to put up with 'grumps' on his own.  Grandma finishes work at 4 pm, comes home and we all sit down to dinner.  But because the kids are going to school on Monday they can't stay to late, as they have to drive back down to Surrey and get the kids to bed again. It is the same with Marie and the twins.  Because they are so busy through the week they have to set aside time on Saturday for the kids, and this currently involves swimming lessons and so by the time they arrive on Saturday and it has already been a long day they have had to eat before they get here,  we then miss having dinner with them and again at five years of age they can't be kept up to late as they get like me, grumpy, so off they trot to bed and grandma has only seem them for a couple of hours and then the Sunday process starts all over again, with breakfast and grandma rushing off to work.

This is repeated in households all over the country and not just with grandmas and their grand kids, but with mothers and fathers who have to work in the retail industry.  It is all very well saying well, if they work at the weekend, they get a day off during the week, yes but husbands and partners are probably working on those days off or have other days off and children are at school, so the the family unit is not benefiting from that working arrangement, it can't.  There is a fragmentation of family life that continues to be eroded and while I cannot blame these conditions entirely for the breakdown of a social normalcy that we would all love to live, it does play a major role in it's continued slide into oblivion.

So, that is my gripe about Sunday trading, it breaks down what is left of the family unit and does not allow for the quality of time that that unit requires and needs to be self sustaining and self fulfilling.  Sunday trading is like a grenade that has exploded into society's across the word and fragmented the closeness of families every where.  I know that some will say that not all families are like that and want to spend time together and looking back at my days in the 60's as a kid when there was no Sunday trading other than the family run corner shops.  It wasn't even as rosy as the picture I am trying to depict, but, the point is, it has got worse and will continue to get worse and the only thing I can suggest to those of you who find yourself in the situation where you have not the financial means to say, 'stick your job', is to make sure that the time you do spend together are good times, do not fight and squabble over little things, enjoy each others company, talk together, read together, go for walk together even watch a bit of telly or a movie together and above all else enjoy each others company, you never know, you might just get to like your family and want to spend time with them.

PS: Wikipedia's article on Sunday Shopping around the globe makes for interesting reading:



Well it has arrived, albeit, one hopes, as a temporary measure, for shops with a floor space of more than 280 sq mtrs being allowed to open for additional hours on a Sunday for the Olympics! But, according to the union, Usdaw:
The government failed to make a coherent business case for the suspension and there is no evidence that it will boost the economy or tourism.
And, it started yesterday, 6 days ahead of the Olympics with Lakeside in Thurrock opening until 7 PM.  Now you have read my piece above, so you know exactly where I stand on this and my mind still hasn't been changed by this latest erosion to our lives.

It's not as if those people working in these shops are going to get any material benefit from this change. All the shops are doing is re-arranging the rota's and shift patterns so that the staff are working the same hours as last week but are just being inconvenienced to start later and finish later destroying what little quality time that families were already hard pressed to have together.

Let's not also forget that this is happening on a Sunday when public transport is already running a reduced service, hourly instead of the usual 20 or 30 minutes between services and look at my better half as an example of this.  She normally starts work on a Sunday at 11 AM and if she were to get the bus to work she would have to get the bus just after 10 AM. The journey takes between 15 and twenty minutes so she is there, at the work place a good thirty to 40 minutes before she has to be.  With the changes she starts work at 1 PM and again this means she would need to get a bus at noon.

Same on the reverse journey; she finishes at 5 pm normally but has to wait around if getting the bus for 25 minutes and the same at 7 PM.  The shopping centres change their times but the bus operating companies don't!

Lakeside has been chosen as one of the 'park and ride' centres for the Olympics but really, if you have driven for a couple of hours to get there and then you have to get on a bus to get you to an Olympic venue and then you have spent a day watching the sporting event of your choice and been forced to gorge on hamburgers, then to queue for a bus and get back to your car; are you really going to be in the mood or even want to spend another couple of hours in a shopping mall, just how nuts would someone be to want to do that.......

And as for the rest of us we are going to get snarled up in the surrounding environs on the roads with all the additional traffic jams and pollution giving us the benefit of all those wonderful negatives, with absolutely no positives.  It's not as if the local community is going to reap any benefits from this, or is my view already to coloured to see it?

And as for the first 'late opening' well, Ishbel arrived home at 7.30 PM and announced that for the whole day her department, men's suits took the grand total of £300 and that from 5PM (usual closing time) she had a total of two customers - browsing.

So thanks, coalition government, and Lakeside for ruining another day  

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Mr Fat and the Exerciser

I can and do recommend the use of equipment to help with exercise and as an aid to lose weight and keep fit, but if like me, you are so unfit and so fat that you have actually lost the ability to run, yes I said it, I lost the ability to run! You saw in another of my blogs where I mentioned that I was a good runner, I was and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  When in the Army [well in my day at least] they used to do an annual BFT, Battle Fitness Test, where you had to run with back pack rifle and ammo for 10 miles, do a 100 yards fireman's lift dash, six or so obstacles on the obstacle course and finish with a 100 yard sprint to the firing line and then 10 rounds into the target.  Now even if you managed the run, fireman's lift, obstacle course, but then missed the target, you failed and had to do it all again, I never missed, and I loved all of that kind of training, but I was young and handsome, or so I told myself, and I even used to do my own running out with normal training as well because I loved it that much.

But, since becoming Mr Fat, trying to run is probably the most ludicrous looking thing that anyone watching has had the misfortune to witness.  I mean, wads of fat rippling under my clothing like a water bed being used by kids as a trampoline, and that was only after two paces.  Then realising, after two paces that the actions required by the body to actually run, and that are inbuilt in most of the human species,  have somehow and mysteriously been removed from your genetic make up you grind to a quivering stop, not a full stop you understand because even although you only managed about two or three paces before coming to the conclusion, well that's not true actually, YOU don't come to a conclusion or even a realisation, no it's not quite as simple as that.  What actually happens is that you, as a fat person begin to lose a little bit of weight and in the course of doing this you even begin to not wheeze as much as you did last month.  Your joints are only slightly less painful than they were a month ago at every movement and so you begin to think, 'Hey, were there, we're fit again, I could even pull a bird, if I weren't married of course, (you know that's me just day dreaming Ish, don't you?) and you go on to think there's no way I can run a marathon, but I could probably manage a jog round the long pond http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=51.514062,0.267756&ll=51.514805,0.268135&spn=0.014822,0.035191&sll=51.514209,0.268146&sspn=0.013889,0.032015&num=1&z=15&iwloc=near 

Well, having the thought and carrying through are two completely different things altogether.  So there I was, having outgrown all of my shorts I was dressed in a pair of casual slacks, polo neck T shirt and trainers.  As an aside here I thought I needed new footwear because my feet were growing, but as I have lost weight my footwear has become comfortable again, so, another plus there as well.

Anyway dressed and ready to run, I think that's where we were.  So a slow walk along Hamble Lane and into the woods at the top  and I am ready to try, for the first time in oh, probably 15 years a short run.  Don't get me wrong here I knew that there was no way I as going to manage a run around the pond, but I did seriously think at least a couple if not at least a hundred yards and then maybe a walk for 5 minutes to recover and then maybe another short burst.  Well burst my bubble as well as my gut was more the picture that was painted.  There I was, I even remembered to do a couple of stretches , although for me that doesn't amount to much, and I do need to be careful when bending over in case I rip the bum out of another pair of slacks, has happened but that's what being fat brings you, anyway stretches, did a couple and thought, here we go, and off I went.

Well, as I say two or three paces and that was it gut bouncing up and chest hitting my chin, I'm sure that's why I had to get a new crown recently, and then rolling back down all the way to my ankles and you come to a shuddering stop, but it is a stop that is not a full stop but more of a fool stop, if you know what I mean.  I was standing there hands on hips, with elbows out , and I think that was my sub concious brain saying, 'hands on hips, elbows out and we might get a bit of balance here stop this fool from toppling over', some forest creatures might have been underneath me and in imminent danger of being crushed, and while he wheezes himself back to normality, well fatty normality at any rate, lets at least try and keep him in the upright position.  With hindsight you know, about two hundred yard into that walk there is a bench, and what I should have done was not started my attempt until I was in close proximity to that, but in the word of our beloved Prime Minister earlier today, 'We don't make decisions in hindsight, we make them in the now'. Yes, well I bet like me he wishes that hindsight was not as mythical as it is, but there you go.

I do have to confess that was a couple of months ago, and apart from about a 10 yard run in the park with the grand kids, which I also have to report did not leave me winded, I have not tried to repeat that little episode and I think I am going to wait until I am down to about 18 stone, 252 lbs American, before having another attempt, so a while to go yet.....

 Anyway  Mr Fat and the Exerciser, I was having a conversation with a colleague this morning just talking about my ongoing weight loss and exercise regime.  Now this colleague who shall remain nameless is of similar height and [my current] weight to myself and is generally in good health other than a sinus problem he has been suffering on and off for a few years. Oh, and he brought a bacon roll to the office for me, but I don't mind, cos it's a treat and it was mid morning, so I just cut out lunch instead, but he's a little devil isn't he....

It would seem that on reading my blogs and on conversations we have had, that he too has decided to also try and get a little bit fitter, but, like me, wants to do it without going on a faddy diet.  I again explained to him that that I continue to lose the odd ounce here , put it back on and then lose it again, but overall I am still on a downward curve, and this is all due to the fact that instead of sitting in front of the telly, after having my evening meal, I am getting out and going for my constitutional, every day.  I am also back in a car, but I am still doing the walks.  I continue to walk to the shops for the odd thing that we may need, rather than driving, even when raining.  I work on the third floor of an office, fourth from the ground, and would normally use the lift [elevator] to go up and then walk down the stairs,  since I got back in the car, I only use the stairs, and all of this allows me to keep getting fitter, while still eating normally.

Breakfast, All grilled, apart from the eggs done in
the tiniest bit of Olive oil  and as a treat!
My diet consists of the usual, lots of meat and veg, fruits and salads.  It is varied and I believe healthy and I do indulge in the odd choccy bar and biscuit, well I can't be anti social while Ishbel Hoovers  up hers, now can I?

Anyway, Mr Fat and the Exerciser, what's that all about. Well in having our chat my colleague informed me they have an exercise bike and that they were thinking of getting it out, dusting it down and giving it a go.  This got me to thinking about our 'exerciser'.  It is called a lateral thigh trainer we purchased it about six or seven years ago from the telly, as both of us wanted to try and get a little fitter.  Let's be clear about this my weight problems, as they are for many people, are and were completely self inflicted, and I do mean self inflicted, like a self inflicted wound or injury where what you have done or are doing is absolutely doing you no good and is damaging to your overall well being.  Well, sitting in an office all day and then going home, having your supper and sitting staring at the telly all night until you go to bed, and then repeating that every day, is going to have serious consequences on your health.  We have seen that with the content of my two previous blogs, and it was no good.

So, picture it, you get home you have supper and you stare at the telly, boring and unhealthy, yes it is take my word for it.  So, you buy the 'exerciser' set it up and start using it in the sitting room in front of the telly, but do you know what, you soon get bored with it, yes I know difficult to believe, but you do become bored with it, so what do you do, you stick it under the stairs where it gathers dust and you have just wasted £90.00 and go back to sitting, bored in front of the telly.

Crazy, I know but no crazier than sinking deeper and deeper into the sofa while sinking deeper and deeper into your own fat and the furniture.

Discarded Exerciser in
 someone's front yard
But I know better now, it wasn't the fact that I was bored, well I was, but the real reason was of course motivation.  The 'exerciser' is back in use and there is absolutely no doubt that it does work.  How do I know this? Well, there are two reasons why I know it works. 1. Is that it bloody hurts if you actually spend any amount of time on it, and if it hurts, it must be working, right? And 2. when I do use it over a couple of consecutive days, I actually do notice that I do lose a couple of pounds much quicker than I do if just walking.  And during my walk tonight I saw this discarded exercise bike in someone's front yard.  I seriously thought of going and knocking on the door, and asking if they have lost their motivation, |just as I am seriously considering talking to my GP [doctor] about maybe setting up a walking group for her patients in the village we live in, where we can meet up at the surgery and then head off each night for a serious hours walking.  Mind you I don't know if I will, I am becoming addicted to this losing weight/ getting fitter lark, but I don' want to be a slave to it.  I really am quite content mullering along  each day/night with my headphones in listening to the radio or to music I have downloaded, whether it is pop or classical, or blues or country, or Jazz or dance, it gets me going and if I am in a group I might not be able to do that, so for now I think I will continue to be selfish and keep doing my own thing!

Roasted chicken herb parcels with
roasted veggies
So the moral of this tale is if you want to lose weight and get fit you really need to be motivated to do it.  Buying fancy equipment, whether it is an exercise bike or as in our case a lateral trainer, is all well and good, but, as happened with us and clearly with my colleague, there was no motivation as they both ended up just gathering dust and the only thing we lost was the money we spent on purchasing them in the first place.

So, motivation is the answer, YOU REALLY DO NEED TO BE MOTIVATED to get fit and lose weight and I would suggest that you find that motivation before you even think about wasting money, time or energy on any equipment.  Get out there and walk before you can run. Join a group,do it on your own or even with your partner, Ishbel comes walking with me and although I am taller she has longer legs, and while it is nice to have her there with me she does tend to forget, half way through the walk, and I end up like a kid, you know you've all seen it before with the parent walking along and the kid trotting /walking / trotting , a few paces behind trying to keep up, but at least it does also give me a good cardio vascular workout when she does come but I am a little bit glad it is not every time xxxx

Best Wishes 

Saturday 16 July 2011

Love and Friendship at 8 and 12

Mollie, our oldest grand daughter came over today and is staying over night with dad, Steve, mum, Jennifer [my wee baby) and her sisters Shannon who is 5 and Lacey Mae who is 3 months.

We were over at theirs on Thursday last, you might recall it , it was Mollie and Shannon's school sports day.  Well, after the sports day was over Mollie had been pestering me to cook her something over the last couple of times she had visited here, and I hadn't gotten round to it, so, as a special treat I decided to cook her favourite: Seafood containing prawns, squid, mussels, and scallops, cooked in fresh garlic, fresh ginger, lemon, butter and lots of parsley, served with pasta.  This was followed with fresh fruit  of strawberries, raspberries, peach, and grapes  served on broken meringue with a dollop of extra thick double cream.

While I was preparing the meal one of Mollies Bestest friends came into the kitchen with her, usually Mollie would help in preparing and cooking the food, but on this occasion as her friends were around she just popped in to see what was happening.  As I said, she had her friend with her and before Mollie could introduce her I asked her what her name was and she replied, Livi.  They both had a look at the seafood resting in a bowl and then Mollie suggested that Livi smell what was on the plate, the plate contained the chopped and grated garlic, parsley, Ginger and lemon, and both gave their seal of approval by stating it smelt wonderful. Ah, it's always nice when the chefly doings are appreciated.  Mind you even if they don't like what has been served up, the rules is: Grand dad cooked it, so we have to eat it! works a treat, nothing gets thrown out.....

Anyway leaving me to get on with the prep, Jennifer then came into the kitchen and asked what the girls were eating, always give a little sample to whet their appetites, piece of fruit, says I, why? Well I asked Livi what she was eating and she said she didn't know, but that she had got it off granddad, so it seems I now have an unoficial granddaughter to go with the four I already have, no probs, the more the merrier...

Long story short, it seems that after we had the meal and after Ishbel and I had left to return home, Mollie and Livi had had a little disagreement, a misunderstanding, whatever it was we don't really know what it was about and we haven't pried to deeply into it, but these things happen at that age, well at any age really, we have all probably been there at least once, haven't you? And do you know, sometimes little disagreements can turn into big disagreements and end up in great  friendships and even loves being lost, because neither side wants to say they are sorry, age old tale, isn't it?

But once again maybe some parents out there are doing things right and instilling in their children, that there is a right way to do things in life, especially where your friends are concerned.  And if they are doesn't it just make you feel better, that life isn't all bad, that with all the bad news that we are drip fed every day, some days it is a deluge, but some days a little ray of sunshine appears in the form of a nice story that you have heard or has been related to you, and you just want to smile?  Well, I think this may be one of them.

At 7 AM on Friday morning, Jennifer heard the letterbox, now if you live in the UK that is far to early for the post man, and they do not take a daily paper, so wondering what it was she went to investigate and found this handwritten note, as seen below had been put through the door.

I f you haven't been able to read it let me do it for you:

To Mollie Ing

The very special thing! To me your amazing, I would laugh for you.
Smile for you. Play with you, and Love you and this is our story read and listen carefully!

Mollie: Am I pretty
Livi; No
Mollie: Do you like me
Livi: No
Mollie: Would you cry if I walked away and never talked to you again
Livi: No

You may have heard enough, but there is more.

Livi: Yor not pretty, your beautiful! And I dont like you; I Love you! And if you walked away & never talked to me again I wouldn't cry, I would die.
I love you Mollie till the end of time!

This picture is a smile for you [to] keep.
It ....... & the smile will last forever & I will always be there to love you !

From       Livi

Friday 15 July 2011

Mr Fat has Got the Hump, Again

The other day I wrote that I had gotten the hump over a 22 stone (308 lbs] chap who wanted British tax payers to pay for his medical costs to have a gastric band fitted to enable him to lose weight.

Today I am writing because I have the hump over the story of a 44 year old American woman who currently weighs in at 50 stone (700 lbs) but is charging idiots, yes idiots there can be no other explanation for it, who pay her $20 for a 30 day subscription to her internet channel to watch her eating as she attempts to claw her way to an incredible 72 stone ( 1008 lbs)!!!!!!

See http://uk.health.lifestyle.yahoo.net/mother-risks-health-to-become-worlds-fattest-woman.htm


Donna Simpson wants people to watch her in her bid to become the worlds heaviest woman and so therefore presumably be able to claim her second mention in the Guinness book of records.  Oh, by the ways, she is also allegedly a mother to two, with one child only 3 years of age.  Apparently that is why she has already been mentioned in the GBR, as the heaviest woman ever to give birth.

Why have you got the HUMP, I hear you ask?  Well for a couple of reasons and let me give them here, but first can I say that I do believe in the individuals right to do what they want, if it is within the law, and if it is within reason...

Now clearly Ms Simpson is meeting the first criteria in that she is not breaking the law, but one has to ask is she.  On the face of it she can eat what she wants, even if that means she kills herself in the process, but she is a mother.  Again, like the article that caused my earlier rant, the paucity of information in this article is just as bad, is that down to bad or lazy reporting, I don't know?

It does not tell us whether she still has these children living at home with her or not, or what the age of the other child is.  Now if she has the children living with her, is she committing an offence by disregarding the welfare of her children.  Now it may well be that she is still capable of looking after them, to a degree but I would posit that she is not entirely capable and I say this from my own lightweight experiences at a mere 23 and a half stone.  I was a physical wreck.  I could hardly move without discomfort and pain and was wheezing like a set of bellows in front of a blacksmiths fire in full burn.  If I got down an my knees I had to make sure I was close to something solid to enable me to claw my way back to an upright position and then wait until I had recovered before being able to move, so how can she be any 'better than me when she is already twice the weight I was at my heaviest?

So, is she breaking the law, by being in charge but not capable [if they live with her] of fully looking after her children?

the second reason I have the HUMP is that she is clearly doing this for attention and is being aided and abetted in this by the GBR.  Now I accept that they would not have commissioned Ms Simpson in this endeavour, but they publish these records with great pomp and ceremony in their books, so they really do have to look at their own set up and what they should or should not be putting into these books, as they are, in my eyes at least  nothing short of being labelled 'hack journalists' with the same morals as those so called 'journalists' who have hacked into peoples phones, etc. Strong stuff I hear you say, but think about it. Here we have a woman who already is a minor cause célèbre.  I say minor as I have never heard of this woman until I read the article earlier today and I do have to also confess that I have not picked up a GBR since I was a kid.   But, are they aiding and abetting this woman in her bid and thereby aiding and abetting her in her eventual child abandonment through her eventual death, as that surely is the only outcome for this sad pathetic story.  If and when she achieves her stated weight, if she has not already died by then, she surely would not last too long afterwards, then mention of her weight  should be as cause of death on her death certificate, not a book that glorify's these type of absurd things, don't you think?

What about welfare services in America, can they not step in to prevent this, section her under some form of mental health law as there has to be some mental aberration taking place here.

And what of the moronic actions of those people spending $20 to watch this woman stuff her face for thirty days.  As I said, I am all for allowing people do do pretty much what they want, but surely spending $20 on this has to be one of the most wasteful things money has ever been spent on.  I can understand why you would pay to watch TV, such as Virgin or Sky and why you would pay to watch a sporting event through one of these operators, well cancel that no I can't.  You are already paying them a premium so why do you have to pay again to watch a football..... sorry that's another rant for later, but what earthly enjoyment could anyone get from watching this?

Apparently since she started this she has earned in excess of $90,000.00, this going to pay for her food bills.  Absolutely ridiculous.    

The final reason I have the HUMP again, is the sheer absurdity of the story and in today's climate of press knocking when printing stories that have absolutely no actual worthiness for their inclusion as a newsworthy item.  This particular story has been brought to us on-line by BT Yahoo News, but other than to get other fat people like me who are trying to lose weight. worked up about it, what made this organisation actually devote space to it.  Surely this is just satisfying another of this woman's greedy needs, namely publicity!  If Yahoo news and local news in her home state in America ignored her, or just informed the local social services that they thought their was a case for possible intervention, that should have been the end of it.  But no, they have to give her global attention, thereby probably justifying for her that what she is doing is acceptable. Well, I don't find it acceptable and I don't find it acceptable that news organisations are still devoting space to this type of stupid story.

What do you think?

Best Wishes 

School Sports Day - Our Future Today Learning for Tomorrow

Primary School Sports Day.  All to often we read today that here in the UK another school has sold of its sports field to a developer, and the government/local authorities actually condoned this madness.  So, the era of the school sports day did and does seem in jeopardy in some areas.

One of the reasons of course was the mistaken  belief by the airy fairy brigade that it is not good for children to be competitive.  Everything must be inclusive but, it can't be embracing or inclusive if you are pitting children of varying abilities against each other.  The bigger, the more active, the better aptitude a child has in participating in these days will always see the smaller, less adept child lose out and this engenders a life time of misery for the child/ children, who are always the losers, so they tell us.

You sometimes do wonder if these people actually live in the real world or what kind of sad unfulfilled lives that they had as children that made them to go on to become so introspective in their view of the world at large.  Let's face it, if you are of a certain age you had PE or PT when at school, both primary and secondary here in the UK, and if like me , you were pretty pathetic, you did what everyone else did, good or bad, you got on with it.  Yes, I do recall feeling pretty miserable at times, when I overheard remarks while out on the school playing fields such as, 'Hey, Jim /Bobby, (older brothers) what about the runt, are we playing him today.' And the stock reply would be, 'Are you kidding, you do want to win, don't you?'

I didn't take these jibes to heart because I knew I was pretty useless at certain sports, but it didn't stop me trying.  I was no good at football, just did not have the coordination or speed, although I was a pretty tolerable runner, but over distances.  I joined the local harriers for a while and was not bad at the distances.  I enjoyed the 1500 meters and I enjoyed cross country.  In fact I have a tiny little bronze medal, that sits next to my GS medal in the cabinet, the former I was awarded for coming third in the annual battalion cross country run, and I do mean the battalion, whether you were able or not, everyone had to take part in this little soiree, so third out of about 600, not bad!

As a kid in primary school, the emphasis all those years ago, seems not to have changed, from what Ishbel and I witnessed yesterday at the http://www.beaufort.surrey.sch.uk/ School in Woking where Mollie and Shannon attend.  Every single child was included in the day, or those that were able to,  Keiran (see), http://tomstronach.blogspot.com/2011/07/moral-dilema-at-8-years-of-age.html , one of Mollies boy FRIENDS, did not participate due to the fact that he had a broken collar bone, boys what do you do with them, but he was there giving support.

The day started with the children being divided into small groups and each group had different sizes and ages, and when the very smallest, of 4 years old, I guess, were doing something, one of the older children would be there guiding and helping.  There were screams of encouragement and support in all activities, but no one activity was ended until all of the children in a group had had a chance to participate.  And no one got fed up waiting for the slowest group to finish what they had started, (although my head did end up looking like a boiled lobster by the end of the day - ex Health and Safety Consultant with no hat - says it all really!)

So, what's the point of this then, well the point is that it doesn't matter how small you are, or how skilful (even at primary school age) you are at these activities, look at our Mollie, bigger milk bottles around than her and if you look at her next to her class mates she is a tiny Tim compared to them and indeed to her 5 year old sister. But, as we looked at her yesterday and the rest of the young ones, they were being included and encouraged at every stage.  They were enjoying it and getting involved and they were learning that it doesn't matter how insignificant you appear to be, as long as you try and put the effort in you will get a reward at the end of it.

That reward varies significantly of course, as it does in adulthood,  and in yesterdays sports day it was as varied as getting a sticker at the end of a race, and every one got a sticker, Shannon our 5 year old got a sticker for being first in the three legged race, with the two Granny's standing at the finish shouting her on with home made banner by Granny Susan Aunty Kelly, to cheers and applause from their friends and other parents and visitors.

They learned that taking part in an event, no matter what the outcome was, is just as satisfying and rewarding as it would have been had they actually won the particular event and while we get more cynical as we get older with people saying in a blaise way 'that it is not the winning that is important, but the taking part', with the contempt that normally can be heard by the speaker uttering that tired old phrase, it is a lesson well learned.  if we can instil in our children today, the values needed to be a better citizen, whether in their local community or for their country or for the planet, by being part of that small or large community, then I say lets see more days like these up and down the length and breadth of the country.  Lets get out there and show our support for the Hadmasters and Headmistresses, for the teachers and assistants, who give so much in teaching the values of inclusiveness to our children and our grandchildren.

PS. If you are going to attend one of these days do remember to take your bunnet [see] http://www.firstfoot.com/dictionary/b.html and some sun cream, be warned

Best Wishes

Mollie in the long jump

Mum Jennifer in the Mums Race [and she was not last]

Shannon on the balance beam

Shannon and Mollie in the obstacle course

Granny's Susan and Ishbel encourage Shannon in 3 legged race 

Shannon with sticker 

Mollie in the relay - go girl

Monday 11 July 2011

Mr Fat has got the hump.....

I wrote a blog in June telling you that Mr Fat is not so fat any more and how quite proud I felt of myself in achieving, albeit ever so slowly, to lose 31/2 stone in two years.  That's 49 lbs in two years.  Slow, I know but apparently they do say the slower you lose it the longer it is to put it back on, here's hoping.

Now if you look at my twitter feed at @tomstronach and then into my twitpic links in particular you will see that while I am losing weight I am managing to do this without going on any mad dieting regime.  I still enjoy my food and the odd bar of chocolate, unlike my skinny other half whose gorgeous nose is always buried in a trough of food or 'another' bar of large dark chocolate, and whose weight never seems to vary, b***h, only kidding my lurv.....

Anyway, what Has Mr Fat got the hump about I here you ask, well I'll tell you. Other Fatties who are clearly to lazy to do what needs to be done for themselves and then after gorging themselves for whatever reason, expect the rest of us to pay for them to have an operation on the national health to make them skinny again.

I picked up on an article tweeted today from the The Guardian about a 62 year old ex policeman who weighed in at 22 stone, that's a stone and a half lighter than I was.  Now I may be wrong here, won't be the first time, but the article does not point out how the chap managed to get so heavy in the first place, was it because he was a lazy sod, stuffing his face and then sitting on his bum in front of the telly and stuffing his face while he did so.  Was the local shop a five minute walk away, and like me did he sweatily manouvre himself into the driving seat before wheezing the final few yards to the shop door and back into the car for the long five minute drive home......  I don't know, or was it because he had a medical condition that prevented him from DOING ABSOLUTELY NO EXERCISE  AT ANY TIME WHILE HE CLIMBED TO THAT WEIGHT? I just don't know, so, this blog is not a comment on him per say, except for the fact that he is demanding that me and others who pay taxes, pay for his remedy to try and fix the problem.

What is his remedy, well it's to try and force his local Primary Health Care Trust, who have already turned him down, into giving him a Laparoscopic gastric bypass.  As they, the health trust, have previously turned him down, his lawyers are now launching a challenge in the Court of Appeal, claiming that the original decision has breached their clients human rights.  Now, as I say, I do not know this particular chaps circumstances, but we all know that there are plenty of obese, and like me, morbidly obese people out there who got into the situation that we find ourselves in through no one else's fault, but our own.  And we also know that plenty of them then expect their local heath trust to sort the problem out by giving them surgery.  Now if the health trust refuses is that a breach of the patients human rights?

What about the Human rights of the people who live with us Fat Git's, what about their human rights being abused by us as we sink deeper and deeper into the furniture as it fights to cope with the ever increasing weight. What about lying next to Mr or Mrs Fat as we  snore grunt and sweat in the night, disrupting their sleep and making their lives miserable, is that not a breach of their human rights. Who is going to take up the cudgels on their behalf , and is it for the courts to determine that your partner, under these circumstances, is affecting the human rights of the partner and then to go on and make a ruling consigning all us fatties to 'fat prisons' of course it isn't.

When you got married or started living with Mr or Mrs Slim did you think you were signing on, regardless of, 'for in sickness and in health' I don't think self inflicted obesity is or should be covered by that statement, do you?

As I said in my previous blog, well not exactly these words but the sentiment was there, I had a bit of an epiphany. I suddenly realised after gradually getting bigger and bigger, sweatier and sweatier and being unable to sleep properly and being a right miserable bastard, that I had to do something.  Ishbel would keep saying your fine, but I wasn't fine.  I enjoyed seeing my grandchildren but resented it at the same time because I was expected to do things with them and the slightest exertion was making me sweat buckets and wheeze uncontrollably, so something had to be done.

The car was given up, and slow gentle walk were the order of the day. It meant getting up earlier in the day, to be able manage the walk to the rail station.  It meant walking to the shops.  And gradually over the next two years the weight began to come down slowly and the fitness level started to increase.

I now can walk comfortable for a couple of hours and I am not wheezing or sweating like a river in tidal flow.  I am even back to driving as I can bend the body into it, BUT I still walk to the shops, rain or shine and I have a small step exerciser that I use as well as going for at least an hour  or hour and a half walk each day, whether I feel like it or not.

I don't car how long it takes me, but I am going to keep it up, why because it is good for me and for my wife, my kids and my grand kids.  It is also better for those I work with as I not as miserable as I was now that I am obese and not morbidly obese, although probably I still am the latter, but like every thing else it is the mindset and getting into that is the first step to helping yourself rather than crying foul and expecting others to do it for you.

Best Wishes 

Sunday 10 July 2011

Is an immoral press our fault?

This was the question posed by the BBC's Sunday Morning Live programme on Sunday 10th July.  A programme hosted by Susanna Reid with guests Paul McMullan ex NOTW features and investigative reporter, Peter Hitchins Mail on Sunday Derek Hatton failed militant.

Now this is a BIG question and of course with what is happening with all the accusations and counter accusations that are on the go in the UK it is surely a question that is going to go on being debated for a long time after the presses have run dry with News of The World ink.

But here is my take on it, for what it is worth.

The answer to this question is not just a straight yes or no. First I suppose I have to tell you my newspapers, well to be honest I don't buy papers anymore.  When I was a kid growing up in Scotland until I left at 15 in 1971 it was the Sunday Mail and Sunday Post and I did read them, but the Post in particular was a great buy if for nothing else, the comic section, The Broons and Oor Wullie in particular.  But it wasn't just for them that I read them, and anyway it wasn't me buying them.  I was aware that there was other papers available, but I suppose like every other working class family in Britain you rarely picked up what is termed a broadsheet or 'quality' paper but stuck to what you knew.

When I left home in Coatbridge, located between Glasgow and Edinburgh, closer to the former than the latter, to join the Army, this was the first time I was away from home and you couldn't get much further, or so I thought at the time, arriving in Shornecliffe on the Kent Coast.  Anyway I was suddenly in a dormitory with about 20 other guys and while there was still no sign of the broadsheets  The Mirror and The Sun were my early staple diet as a young boy moving into manhood.

As my personal development grew this had to be matched by my interest in what was going on in not just the tabloids of the day but in a broader spectrum of newspapers if I wanted to know what was really going on in the world other than the staple diet of dross that was being fed to me by the 'red tops'.  So I moved on but to no particular paper but rather would visit the WRVS lounge in barracks where they had all the daily papers, The Guardian, The Times, The Express, The Mail,The Observer, The Sunday Times, and much later on The European.

I like to think that this broader spectrum of reading has helped to shape me into a much more rounded and knowledgeable person on world events and occurrence, than I would be if I had stuck to 'Red Tops and Tits'.  Surely you can not just live on another blaise headline proclaiming Brits drink another Spanish beach town dry or endless pages of naked women, and men, spread across what is essentially a terrible use of resources required to print these 'papers'.  I wont call them 'newspapers' as the paucity and quality of news contained in them is of such a dubious nature and much less informative to the sum of knowledge found in a kids comic of today.

I have to confess that I stopped buying papers years ago, once the internet and broadband came along and I found I could get all I wanted from that. Ishbel on the other hand continued to read the Daily Mirror, and while it did not have a page 3 it is just as bad as the Sun for the diet of gossip and innuendo that it throws at you.  I recall one day I picked it up to have a read and within a few moments I had put it down again.  Ishbel said, 'That was quick, you can't possibly have read the paper that quickly...' Well, what can I say.  I mean I can't remember what was in it as there was no news of note but I do recall replying that I had absolutely no interest in the fact the So and So was Seen snogging So and So or whether an 18 year woman had set up home with a 55 year old man.  I was even less interested to know what was happening in the daily drudge of soapland or that an actor from one of these had been found in another compromising position, or that So and So was again signing in to the Priory.

Of what social importance do these items have to the nation or it's citizens, absolutely none. One of the most recent intrusions was that of Max Mosely outed for his sexual proclivities by the NOTW.  I did not read the story in  a newspaper and I did not read it on-line at the NOTW site but one could not fail to know about it because of the storm it created. And do you know what, I was still less than interested in it.  I had heard of Mosley through my passing interest, not a complete died in the wool fan, but I am interested and occasionally follow motor sport and F1, so I knew who he was.

Was I interested in what he got up to in his or anyone else's bedroom, not in the least.  Was I interested in the fact that he was a married man and getting up to these shenaigans, well about as interested then as I am now. In other words not one bit.  If he had been in 'public office' and by that I mean local or national government I may well have been interested if evidence had been produced that he was giving away state secrets during his escapades, BUT he was a private fellow, working in a company with a public image, but that company or his running of it had nothing happening  in it that would have impacted on the lives of the readers of the paper that exposed him, or anyone else for that matter.  Apart from the damage to his personal relationships and family what purpose did it serve to run such a story other than to publicly damage and try to humiliate someone who was rich and successful? And who is to say that the guy had these urges and was in a relationship that did not return that interest but allowed him to wander.... who cares.

To then justify this and other stories of that ilk by saying that is what our readers want is  a totally and completely disingenuous response.  'You' print it.  'You' publish it and I am not just referring to the defunct NOTW, I am referring to every newspaper and gloss magazine that exists in print with one aim and one aim only. And that is to make the vast sums of money from sales and advertising that YOU do make.  It has nothing to do with the fact that your readers want it it has to do with the fact that that is what you want to print.  The Sun was of course the leader in this daily offering of sleaze and they have been literally force feeding it down the public's throat now since November 1969 when it changed from, believe it or not, a 'broadsheet' to a tabloid and then a year later in November 1970 when it published its first topless photo!

The relentless march down the road of sleaze over news has been constant since then and the public read it because that is what is presented to them.  Of courses 'editors' and owners will tell you if they did stop producing this tat and filled their columns with actual news, then their readers would stop buying, and of course the economics of that, not just to the paper alone but all of the associated jobs linked to the production of it, would be in jeopardy.  Maybe so, but at least in the current economic situation they would be joining the rest of us on the breadline. Anyway it didn't seem to be a major concern for Mr Murdoch when pulling the plug on the NOTW earlier!

So the question was, Is an immoral press our fault?  In a way then, it is.  The public continue to purchase and devour it and while there is an unappealing appetite for this kind of dross I am sure that they will, regretfully continue to do so, BUT don't ever forget it was THE IMMORAL PUBLISHERS AND OWNERS of these rags that took the decision to produce them in the first place and to turn round and try and now justify that first decision is just as IMMORAL now as it was back then.

Best Wishes 

Saturday 9 July 2011

"Conquest" A Kydd Novel by Julian Stockwin

 Mr Stockwin has done it again.  I was a soldier so did not get to spend much time at sea.  Once, while waiting to join my Regiment in Berlin, and at which time I ended up getting there 24 hours after my suitcase and kitbag (and that was me joining Man's service from Boy's service so my first time at the Regiment.... but that's another story) I had a trip on a destroyer from Edinburgh to Portsmouth.  The ship had an association with my Regiment, as inter service organisations seem to have, a bit like towns in different countries twinning is about the nearest simile I can draw for you.  I have also been on lots of ferries from Dover to Calais and from Portsmouth/Plymouth to Bilbao. And, finally a little bit of tacking about in small sailing dinghy's.  

So, what has Mr Stockwin done again, I hear you ask?  Well, even if you have never been near the sea  reading a Kydd novel by him has a uniqueness about it that is so descriptive, that you can almost taste the salt in your mouth and the spray on your face as you plunge through the waves aboard the L'Aurore captained and crewed by the utterly convincing characters at the helm and in the rigging of this ship.  Whether it be in the English Channel or rounding the Cape into the Indian Ocean you can feel the surge of the vessel as she is in full sail into the next adventure or chapter, it really is that good, and that is what you want from a book.  A book is something more than a collection of the words contained within the covers, a book is a device unlike any other whether it be TV or Movie or Video or Comic.

A book is a means by which an author presents to you the reader, his or her words in a way that allows you to visualise in your minds eye every detail of every character of every scene presented in full mind blowing technicolour imagery that only the imagination can present....always much more satisfying than on screen, to my mind at least.

Julian Stockwin does this so skilfully in the Kydd series and this is clearly down to the research he puts into each book in developing these quasi historical dramas.  Fiction is cleverly interwoven with past reality and we find that Kydd and the crew of L'Aurore, still recovering from their own trials at the Battle of Trafalgar are tasked with the honour of  bearing the body of Admiral Lord Nelson back to London for his state funeral,  Having been involved in the greatest naval battle of  all time you would think that Stockwin would cut them a break with some shore leave, but no, he is a hard taskmaster and no sooner is the body delivered to Greenwich and they are back on the outgoing tide back down the Thames and into the open sea, as fast as they can be re-supplied.

The Action moves onto Maderia where Kydd is attached a a squadron bound for Africa with Army units with orders to relieve the Dutch of their possession of the Cape and surrounding environs and bring it into the Empire.  Kydd is attached to Commanding General's staff on land for the first battles and is horrified by the carnage that he sees and that we feel as we also read the description of what takes place, and we like him are praying for relief by being allowed back to OUR ship.

Having won a decisive but unexpected victory, while the main opposing forces carry out a tactical withdrawal , well that's what British Army commanders call them, but if you were a grunt like me the shorter version was usually just a retreat, in land, the commander left in charge of the Cape capitulates and hands the town and fort over to the British.  Kydd is reunited with his ship but arranges for dear Renzi to then become attached to the Commanding General who has become the 'New' Governor and in need of a 'Colonial Secretary'.  If you haven't read any of the Kydd novels (why not?) you will understand the sublime happiness that this unexpected turn of events gives to the reader to see poor Nicholas so elevated, but you will need to read the previous books to get that feeling you get where Nicholas Renzi is concerned (sometimes you just want to give him a kick in the pants to get him motivated, but you do feel for him).

So, the race is on by the British to secure their new holdings and once again Kydd is in the mix, fighting the sea and the French to preserve this new part of Empire and all I can say is if you haven't read any of Julian Stockwin's novels you really are missing out.  They are both entertaining and educating.  Did you know that Royal Navy ships of old, for example, required both a Captain and a Sailing Master.  The ship could not sail without the latter who was responsible for navigation, not a function that the Captain was expected to carry out, well, neither did I until I started reading Mr Stockwin, so there you go, have a thoroughly enjoyable read and education for the price of one, what more can be had from a good historical drama............

Mr Stockwin can be found at;      http://www.julianstockwin.com/

Best Wishes 

The Kydd Series 


Friday 8 July 2011

Larry Crowne a Tom Hanks Film

Went to See Larry Crowne today, if being honest I did fancy it, who wouldn't.  A Tom Hanks film starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, it has to be great, hasn't it?

Well, no. It was o.k. and a good diversion for 90 plus minutes, but I did find myself looking at my trusty Timex with light up screen on more than one occassion, which is always a sign that I am on the verge of wandering to the loo or even out for a fag, but I stuck with it.

Going to the cinema was a spur of the moment thing.  I had a long lie in today, I am on hols and have been pottering about doing bits and bobs over the last few days and was still in my dressing gown at noon.  I know, lazy bugger, I can hear the mutterings from here, but it's my holidays so if I want to laze about ....  Anyway, I made the mistake of opening up a work email and responding to it both by email and phone call and then writing a wee blog about my 8 year old grand daughters love life I suddenly had an urge to get out and so invited Ishbel to my office, kitchen table, to look at the cinema listings.  We had a choice, Transformers 3 fancy it but can wait, and probably glad that we did as there was lots of spotty kids who I am sure should have been in a classroom somewhere in the borough.  Bad Teacher, with Cameron Diaz, The Bridemaids, The Hangover Part 3 and The Green Lantern (Big fan of the comics when I was a kid)

Anyway, I knew what Ishbel wouldn't want to see, so we had a look at the trailers for Bad Teacher and Larry Crowne.  The trailers were fabulous for both movies but, it seems that all the best bits (but of course they were you numpty that's how they hook you, I know) where there and it looked as if it was a winner, although so did Bad Teacher, and as I say with Hanks and Roberts you couldn't go wrong.

Well Ishbel loved every single minute of it and I loved bits of it, mostly the bits that I had already seen in the trailer!   A romcom with pauses would be how I would describe it.  The dictionary on my Kindle describes pause as, '[to] interrupt action or speech briefly: she paused, at a loss for words', or; 'temporary stop in action or speech.' So,. a brief interruption is what it should have felt like however these pauses seemed to go on endlessly and it was for me at least something that a pause should never be and is not intended to be, a distraction, hence the glances at my watch I mentioned earlier.

The premise to the movie is that Hanks, playing the lead, Larry Crowne is laid off from his job as his employers decide that as he has never been to college and therefore will not be offered any advancement within the company, he can no longer be  employed regardless of the fact that he has won 9 awards for employee of the month, year, decade.  This took up the opening 10 or 12 minutes of the film and was the first glance at my watch, it really was one of the most boring opening sequences to a movie that I have had the misfortune to sit through.  If I had been in the house and switched this on on the TV I would have already jumped ship.

We then discover that Larry is living alone in a large suburban house on his own having apparently had a divorce and taking out a large re-mortgage to buy out his wife's share of the family home.  His neighbour Lamar, played by Cedric The Entertainer, having won $500,000.00 on the Wheel of Fortune now spends his time holding yard sales out of his garage and in the front garden and I could see the funny side of that, knowing someone who tells me that if he won the lottery he would buy a field and run his own boot fayre extravaganza.  Roberts character played a semi drunk teacher in a loveless marriage and Hanks ends up in her classes at the local college in an attempt to improve his education.  They had one encounter outside the classroom and we are expected to believe that this one brief encounter led to Roberts throwing her porn loving stay at home husband writer of two published books out on the street in favour of Hanks but they do not actually go out or get together until the closing credits.

I was taken by the young actress, Gugu Mbatha-Raw who played a scooter riding student Talia, who takes Hanks under her wing, but I think this was more to do with her engaging smile and prettiness and of course being the aficionado  of Ishbels' clothing that I am I did turn to her on a couple of occasions and say that I loved her, Talias', outfits, it's my feminine side you know!

George Takei, Star Treks original Mr Sulu was also in the movie and I love this guy on Twitter.  He also played a teacher, Professor, but I have to say it was quite painful to watch.  While I do love this guy I think he is past his best in terms of acting and needs to stick now to championing those issues close to his heart, such as gay rights, and leave the acting to others, absolutely no disrespect intended.

All said and done, it was  O.K. but would have been better as a TV movie over an hour with advert breaks, which could have been recorded, then deleted without watching or saved until SKY TV collapses and then watched as there is nothing else on to watch, not that I watch SKY at the moment, but there you go.....

My Rating out of 5 - 2 stars
Ishbels' Rating out of 5 - 4 stars

Last word to Ishbel, " I loved it"

Best Wishes