Friday, 29 May 2009

Boots, Boots, Boots

I've tested out my new boots and done a few miles of easy walking, and now they are not as prisine as this any more. Having had a good experience with Brasher's cross trainers thought I would try their boots. I'm heading for the Welsh hills, and perhaps some Welsh beer. I may be out in the wilds so no posts for a week.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

ABC Wednesday - S

S is for Seat

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. Sometimes when walking through forests, you come across quirky little carvings done by the foresters. The forestier who did this near Geishouse was obviously of a more practical nature. But only room for one, whereas these two trees near the old Hincaster canal can accommodate four, and are very comfortable.

Purpose built with artistic flair, an unusual wooden seat near Wye.
Sometimes seats provide both rest and shelter as this one does on top of Pendle Hill
Certainly well built to withstand any storm, although the day this picture was taken was warm and sunny.
A bit of Scottish stone nicely placed so Ron can gaze at
Sueno's Stone. A 9th Century Pictish sculpture stone which has its own little (21 ft) glass case.
When you are waiting for a train at the Station a seat is always nice. These are the old Furness railway (1846-1923) seats, refurbished and still in use on Ulverston station.
I will be having ABC withdrawal next week as I am away, but wish you all you ABCers a terrific T day.

To see more SSSSSs go to Mrs Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday

Friday, 22 May 2009

Star Trek - 2009

Heard the hype, read the good reviews so off we went to the new Star Trek movie with high hopes.

The story is a prequel on how the crew of the first Enterprise get together, with the twist that a Romulan wants revenge, and has travelled back through time to destroy Spock, his planet, and the Earth.

The special effects CGI are excellent, planets, interiors and exteriors of spaceships its all there in spades. The plot sort of holds together but has gaping holes in it of the "and with one bound they were free" type. The monster/reptiles scene where they chase after James T Kirk seems tacked on for no reason, only to irritate. How would a reptile exist on an ice planet? OK might have adapted in some alien way. Both seemed to travel at speed, and a human being is notoriously slow, even hens can outrace us.

The cast was good. I wondered if Zachary Quinto's previous role as Sylar in Heroes would overshadow his performance, but he was excellent as Spock, coming to terms with is half human/half Vulcan nature. Chris Pine as James T Kirk was a whole lot less irritating than Shatner in the original, but that may be because of some of the moralising in the original series scrips. He played the part in a different way but then threw in some of Shatners mannerisms and speech patterns at certain times which added to the enjoyment. The stand out performance was Simon Pegg as Scotty who brought some energy to the film.

Nerd alert. The Romulan space mining ship was a puzzle. I am sure the idea was lifted from a similar ship I've seen somewhere like Babylon 5.

Overall the verdict would be, good as an action SF film, and if they follow it up with another film the cast should develop well. The downside was it was rather a Spielbergian type schmaltzy version of Star Trek so I hope they choose another director next time rather than JJ Abrams. Abrams also seemed to accentuate the military nature of the Federation rather than the Roddenberry version of the future. I suppose that just reflects the times we live in.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

ABC Wednesday - R

R is for Rain and Rivers

We British like rain, it gives us something to moan about. I once went on a cycle-camping trip to France, freewheeling off the ferry into warm sunshine. By the afternoon it was raining and it continued to rain off and on for the fortnight. Some days it was showery, for two days it was a deluge. Wet tent packed, wet tent pitched. Two days before we were due to return the sun came out and we dried out. It was one of the most enjoyable holidays I have had. Though that may be the wine talking.

The rain falls and trickles into Rivers. Early on in the year this river is quite full and the stepping stones on the River Esk are under water. Traps for the unwary, nice and slippy. This is cool clear running water.

But here at the estuary, Kirkby Pool river is making a sluggish journey to the sea.
Living on a small island we do not have the vast rivers such as the Amazon, or rivers that travel great distances, but here is the river that travels through London, The Thames. This is taken from the North Kent Marshes where Charles Dickens set his book 'Great Expectations', The oil terminal is across on the other side but the marshes are just the same as he describes them.
All rivers start in a small way, usually unnoticed, but this little dribble is the start of the Thur in Alsace, which gets a notice attached, and there is a rather nice seat by the side where you can gaze at the dribble, and the view down the valley.
When it reaches the town of Thann it has become rather more noticeable
In the summer when the water is low, a paddle is nice and refreshing, although I think the objective of these paddlers was another type of refreshment, at a riverside pub (The Aspinall Arms on the River Ribble).
Walking by river is always relaxing especially if you have brought a picnic, or you can use them as a guide to travel through valleys. At the end of a walk it is always nice to sit on a river bank. Here I am watching a Heron looking for tea. On my pocket camera you would just get an indistinct grey shape, so no picture of that bird, you get my feet instead. As usual I have got a little bit muddy.
Go to ABC Wednesday for lots more interpretations of the letter R

Monday, 18 May 2009

Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand by Fred Vargas

Murders from 1943 to 2003 that all have murder wounds in common, three punctures like a trident. Commissair Jean Baptiste Adamsberg thinks it is the same killer, Judge Fulgence, but he has been dead for over 15 years. Whoever he tries to convince tells him to stop wasting their time. Each murder has been solved and someone has been convicted, despite the accused not remembering anything. Commissaire Adamsberg has a personal interest - his brother's girlfriend was killed, and his brother would have been convicted, if Adamsberg had not got rid of some of the evidence.

The first few chapters are rather contrived, as Vargas sets up the characters and a fresh murder, but once we fly from Paris and arrive in Canada the plot and prose start to flow. Before long Adamsburg is on the run, accused of a murder with three puncture wounds! He cannot bear to think he has committed this crime, but there are hours he cannot remember after a drinking binge, and he found blood on his hands. The key is to return to France and solve the murder of The Trident.

Commissair Adamsberg is a detective who relies on intuition and imagination whereas his subordinate, and friend, Captaine Danglard is intellectual and logical. A nice yin/yang balance in a detective novel. As a man on the run he is help in his quest by a handful of people and a different type of computer hacker.

Vargas's characterisation of the main and secondary characters is deft and she can capture the essence of a place in a few sentences. An enjoyable, lyrical and page turning read, admirably translated by Sian Reynolds. I look forward to reading more Vargas. Apparently this is number five in the Adamsberg series but the first I have read.

Additional Info

The book won the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger Award.

The French title is 'Sous Les Vents De Neptune' (Under Neptune's Winds) and the origin of the English title is from Macbeth "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood from my hands". Love whoever came up with that.

The book has recently been made into a film "Sous Les Vents De Neptune" which I think is a made for TV movie. It has an interesting cast...


Friday, 15 May 2009

My Brother Is An Only Child

The film clubs Thursday film 'Mio fratello e figlio unico' (2007) directed by Daniele Luchetti
"Luchettis sweeping saga, divisions within working class family encompasses 15 years of political turmoil in a nation's history"

Set in the 60s and 70s this film is based on the novel by Antionio Pennacchi called 'Il Fasciocomunista'. The story follows the lives of two working class brothers living in Latina, a small model town built by Mussolini near Rome in the Pauline Marshes.

The film opens with a young 13 year old Antonio Benassi, whose nickname is Accio (bully) due to his belligerence, training in a seminary to be a priest. He questions the institution and leaves suddenly to return to his family. They don't exactly welcome him with open arms as the apartment is overcrowded and rundown. His sister has taken his bed so he has to sleep in the corridor.

Accio wants to continue his studies in Latin but his father thinks this is pointless and sends him to the technical college so he can get a trade. Disaffected, he forms a friendship with a father figure, Nastri, who is a fascist and influences Accio with his ideas. Accio joins the movement.

In contrast Accio's older brother Manrico (Riccardo Scamerico) is a handsome, charming leftist. He meets Francesco (Diane Fleri), a student with similar ideas and they become lovers, when Accio meets her he too falls in love.

Manrico starts to work at the factory where his father is employed and begins to organise the workers. The fascists plot to burn his car and Accio tries to stop them, to no avail. Now disillusioned with the violence of his fellow fascists he breaks with them but Nastri's wife Bella's (Bonaiuto) interest in him is beyond politics. They go to bed together under the Mussolini bed sheets. She is besotted and buys him that quintessential Italian small car of the 60s the Fiat 600 (Love those doors that open backwards).

The brothers are now both on the communist side as the sit ins spread across the Europe of 1968.

Francesca has moved to Turin and Manrico visits at weekends and if he doesn't then Accio does. The brothers are growing closer but Manrico is becoming more extreme whereas Accio just wants to see things change. The need for change is symbolised by the Bonassi's house where cracks appear, walls crumble and they are promised new housing. The keys to the houses are available but corruption prevents them occupying them. The posturing of the right and left give no practical help.

This is an engaging film with its squabbling but loving family, a coming of age of a boy, a love story and a country and people desperate for change. The term bittersweet would encapsulate the feeling of this film and Luchetti has a light touch while dealing with some dark times but not without humour.

The soundtrack is superb taking you, with music, to that period and the end tune 'Amore Disperato' by Nada sends you humming out of the cinema although not all has gone well. The handheld camera in one of the fight scenes put you right in the way of harm! The acting is first-rate of all the participants. Vittorio Emanuele Propizio who plays the young Accio is suitably belligerent and I believe that Elio Germano who takes the role of the older Accio won a best actor award.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

ABC Wednesday - Q

Q is for Quicksand

This is the Leven Estuary where the River Crake feeds into Morecambe Bay, a 120 square mile intertidal area. Five rivers in total run into the bay creating shifting channels and water logged sand. It is also rich in wading birds who also use it as a wintering and passage area.
The point which is on the far side near hear was one of the places we used to go to the beach. It was reached via a railway viaduct. One of my vivid memories is of the heat of the wooden planks on our feet as we walked by the railway line which we took us over the channel and from where we would walk on the sea turf and round to the point. Each summer the area would be different, sometimes flat, sometimes with channels but quite magical. The viaduct has long gone now, no more trains, and has been replaced by a footbridge.

But back to the quicksand
One of the things to do as a child was to stamp up and down on the spot to make the sand go all wobbly, great fun. Some of the areas further out in the bay are far more dangerous.
In past times the stage coaches would come across the sands because this saved miles and miles of travel going round the bay, however, not all made it some sinking or being overtaken by tides when stuck. Legend has it that part of the Roman Army crossed the sands, never to be seen again. My grandmother told the story, to all her grandchildren, of standing as a young girl on Arnside Knot and seeing a horse and cart coming back from gathering cockles and then the man, horse and cart disappear within minutes.
There was such loss of life in earlier times that a guide was employed by the Duchy of Lancaster in 1536 to take people across the bay and the latest in this long line is Cedric Robinson who still guides groups of people across, but just for fun nowadays. The times of the crossing depend on the tide because as it says on the above notice they are fast rising and come in, as the local expression goes, "faster than a horse can run".

For lots more Qs go to Mrs Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday

Monday, 11 May 2009

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

Downtrodden and penniless Miss Pettigrew has reached middle age and thinks her next governess job will be her last chance. She is sent by her employment agency, in mistake, to the household of Miss LaFosse, a nightclub singer.

Thrown into an exotic world she has never experienced before, treated with kindness and as an equal. Looked to for help Miss Pettigrew draws on resources she never knew processed. As Miss LaFosse's complicated life and loves spin out of control Miss Pettigrew's common sense and experience of past employees and film plots (she is an avid movie goer) guides them through the day.

This is a delightful novel first published in 1938 and set in that period , a modern Cinderella story written in a lively and humorous style not dissimilar to Noel Coward. It is also one of the "1001 Books to Read Before You Die" so this would be a nice quick read to tick off if you are a list addict.

Persephone Books have published it with the original charming drawings and a rather attractive flapped cover. I love a pretty book.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Oak Flowers

A young oak tree, low enough to photograph the male flowers clusters hanging down while the fewer female flowers are upright above the catkins. They depend on the wind for pollination so this week must have been excellent for them as it has been blowing heartily. We will expect lots of little acorns in the autumn.

And maybe we will anticipate a good summer because
If the oak's before the ash
You will only get a splash,
If the ash before the oak
You are sure to get a soak.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

ABC Wednesday - P


P is for Path

They can show you a way down a ridge or take you to a view. Give you a choice of straight up a hill or winding round. You can see that numerous footsteps in the following photo have probably preferred the straight up option as that is the wider path on Ben Rinnes, maybe it keeps the gasping for breath to a minimum.

They can take you through fields of summer grain

or past May blossom
Or take you to visit curious stones

Lead you down wide hills to forests

and into dappled shade
Of course paths in woods are mysterious things who may have a mind of their own. Sometimes they are wide and sure, sometimes they appear and disappear and sometimes there are too many; which one to choose?

Perhaps follow a path by a stream, I seem to remember that is a survival tip if you get lost.

Now we come to the end of my paths for today and what is nicer than walking on a warm sunny day with the miles behind you as you come down to the end
and knowing there is a cold drink waiting for you in the Pub
For more Ps pop over to Mrs Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday

Monday, 4 May 2009


Here are a couple of lambs we saw yesterday which had just been born, barley able to stand, the mother is licking one of them clean. Another mother's lamb looks on with interest. These are very late and must be one of last ones this year.

Set off from Birker Fell yesterday on a sunny, but windy day, with the skylarks singing their hearts out and a couple of swifts swooping, the first of our summer visitors we would see this day. Walked through the fields of sheep and lambs and onto the fell side. The views of the hills were very clear as we headed for Stanley Gill which had plenty of water rushing down after a week of rain. Here was our second summer visitor from Africa a male Yellow Wagtail flying along the water and perching on rocks.
A pleasant walk down by the side of the Force and down to the River Esk. The stepping stones by the church were underwater so nobody was attempting to cross them.
Strolled along by the river bank and over the bridge to head for the Woolpack Inn where it was warm enough, just, to sit outside and have drink.
Suitably refreshed we headed back past Doctors Bridge
and back past bluebells, primroses and blossom, strolled by the river bank and retraced our steps up Stanley Gill as the afternoon clouds cleared and the day got warmer.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

In the middle of a boisterous extended family Rebecca, in her 50s, wonders how she got to this part of her life and wonders who she really is and is this really the life she expected. Anne Tyler opens the novel with the sentence "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person"

Growing up as an only child in a small town it was assumed that Rebecca would marry her childhood sweetheart but she meets and marries, in a heartbeat, Joe Davitch, a divorcee with three children. A few years later she is widowed when he dies in a car accident and now with four young children she takes charge of the family business. The years roll by and now a grandmother she is still at the centre of the family and its party function business. She wonders what happened to Will, her old college boyfriend and how her life might have been had she made different choices so she decides to contact him. While this inner turmoil is going on the house is in need of continual repair, her stepdaughter's third child to her third husband is due and Uncle Poppy's hundredth birthday party has to be arranged.

This is an effortless Anne Tyler page turner she does so well. Nothing much appears to happen and yet lives, emotions and the nature of identity are examined.

Verdict: Good Read