Friday 9 November 2012

Rusty old nails

Correction:  The Boy will be carrying the flag at the British Legion's Festival of Remembrance.  He's rehearsing today, so we will know more this evening.  If you haven't seen it, do have a read of Kellogsville's post...immensely moving

The Cat's Mother and I had an odd moment this week.  Worryingly odd.  I said that in the early part of our relationship she had told me something.  Not only does she deny it, but she says she would never had said it.    As I believe we both believe we are telling the truth, it means that one of us has a faulty memory.  We both 'know' that we are right, but one of us must be wrong.  I don't know which of us it is.  It worries me.  Not the thing that we're disagreeing about, which really is neither here nor there, but how dangerous memory can be when it goes awry. Memory is such a precious thing, and when my father was suffering from Parkinsons. it was deeply hurtful to see  how much he lost. Not that I'm suggesting either of us is going down that route, but it has sparked a thought.

I wrote here about all the films that are out that I wanted to see, and I'm pleased to say I'm wading through the list...although I'm afeared I may have missed Beasts of the Southern Wild which seems to have had a very short run.

This week, as The Boy was busy and didn't have time to go to see Skyfall, I went to see Rust & Bone.  The highlights were a couple who walked out after two minutes when they realised it was subtitled...I sometime wonder whether people really think about what they're going to see before they buy their tickets!  A second highlight were a couple of girls sitting some rows in front of me who had absolutely no interest in the film at all, and sat chatting to each other until the guy in front of them gave up telling them to shush and went and got security.  At that point they were quiet for a few minutes until they too left.  The third and final highlight were the special effects...I still haven't worked out how they showed Marion Cotilard naked with her legs amputated so convincingly...the film didn't in any way overtly make use of CGI, but I guess that's what they must have done.  And that was it for highlights.  It was gritty, it was raw, it was unrelenting and grim.  It was pitched as a love story, but the French must have a different view of love to me.  Although well acted by pretty much everyone, there were some bits that were so ridiculous that in such an earthy drama, they just didn't work...and the ending surely must have been sown on by Hollywood when Director Jacques Audiard wasn't looking.  In truth I couldn't recommend you go and see it...but then I doubt you were anyway.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Squirelling it away.

At home, the thuggish squirrels lifted the glass dome off the bird feeder and sent it crashing to the ground.  It's not the first time they've done it, won't be the last, and I remain mystified as to why they do it as they don't even like the dried worms that are our food of choice for the birds.

Meanwhile, whilst walking through the gardens of St Paul's yesterday, this little fellow popped out of the bushes and spent a good while staring at me...not more than a couple of feet was only my slowness that meant he's a little distant in the picture.  If you click on it, you'll see he/she has no tail.  It makes him look odd, and it took me a while to work out that he was really a squirrel.  I wonder what happened to him?  It can't have been too bad, because he was an absolute porker.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Poppy time

So America has taken the right decision...or at least not the wrong one.  Now for the more interesting political event - China and the communist congress, which may ultimately play a much more significant part in our lives.

This weekend the second of our family will be performing in front of The Queen this year.  I did it in the summer at a joyous celebration, and on Saturday, The Boy will be doing it in rather more sombre circumstance this weekend.

Saturday is the Royal British Legion's Festival of Remembrance and The Boy will be representing Cadets across the country at the event.  There's more information here.  It is such an honour for him, and his uniform has been tailor-made for the occasion.  The uniform arrived 'naked' and we've had to use various tailors locally to get all the buttons and decorations sown on correctly.  In the meantime, he has spent hours, possibly days polishing his boots.  He looks splendid and we are immensely proud of him.  The event will be broadcast on BBC One at 21.15, details here, so we will be glued to the box...and no doubt will buy the DVD.  Of course it's important to remember why the event is held, so it's a slightly strange mix of entertainment and solemn thought.

Sunday 4 November 2012


We've been away. A long way away...but before we went away, we were in Brighton for a couple of days and got to see Bond on the opening night.  It's a long time since I've seen such long queues for an film, and I know that around the country it was brilliant to see so many people dress up for it.  We loved the film, and I should get to see it again next week as The Boy was yomping around Snowdonia for his Gold DofE and I am looking forward to taking him on a boys night out.

So against the dire warnings of Grandma in Cyprus, we had headed for the middle east for a week of Indiana Jones style-adventure in Jordan.  Although the political situation across the middle east is poor, Jordan has by and large remained quite peaceful...a few protests, but who knows whether they will grow into any thing else, and we thought that if we didn't go now, things may just get less stable in the future.  At all times we felt perfectly safe, and the people very friendly.  Unlike other countries in the region, hawkers knew when to stop, and were always perfectly polite.  It was with sadness that as I gazed out of the window of our flight I spied Cyprus, and felt a tinge of regret that we weren't dropping in to say hello to Grandma in Cyprus.

For me, the interesting thing about the region is that you can see examples of almost age of human development and civilisation.  The capital of Jordan is Amman and it's a little tricky to say what time we arrived there.  The day before, the Prime Minister decided that Summer Time wouldn't end, so our watches said one time, our mobile phones said another and the guides a different time again.  We suspect we got to bed at 2.00 a.m. which was harsh as we needed to be up early for our first trip.

We noticed that Amman doesn't have the wealth or hustle bustle of Beirut as we travelled north to Jerash, a city that has seen human occupation for 8000 years.  Like many things in Jordan, what we saw was a startling surprise....the Roman ruins go on for miles and miles, and some parts are in incredibly good condition.  It is not hard at all to imagine the splendour of the place at its height...even now everyone is pretty awe-struck.  we then travelled back to Amman to visit the Citadel and our fourth amphitheatre of the day.  There is so much to take in....perhaps we should have had a ride on  the (pretty naff) chariot and pretended to be Ben Hur.

We travelled to Madaba to see the world's oldest map - a mosaic on the church floor, which must have been quite inconvenient to fold up and put in your pocket as a traveller...the creators also had no concept of scale, so it was quite useless...except that at some recent stage it was used to prove that some areas belonged to Egypt rather than Israel.  Mosaics were the theme  of the second day, including a secret one not generally visited by tourists. but shown to us by a Bedouin with whom we shared a drink of tea, as we were told this was the most likely burial site of Moses, rather than the one most widely venerated as such.

We saw Jordan's equivalent of the Grand Canyon...a 'mere' thousand metres deep, but remarkable in its beauty before moving on to Kerak of those crusader castles which fell to Saladin.  If you've seen Kingdom of Heaven, you'll know that most crusaders were bigots, and the Muslims they fought a much more balanced lot.

Everyone knows of the Treasury at Petra, but what few realise (us included) is that there was a city of 50,000 and the ruins are extensive.  It is impossible to explain the scale of the better condition than the Treasury in the Monastery - a further 40 minute climb for The Boy and I whilst the girls rode a donkey home.  We were there for a full day visit...we could easily have spent another three or four and still not seen everything.  No wonder it is counted as a wonder of the world.

We ventured out into the Jordanian desert...and were fortunate to see an eagle, as well as some 4000 year old drawings of camels on the rocks.  Our last couple of days were spent at the Dead Sea.  One shocking thing we learned was that the Israelis have diverted the River Jordan, so the Sea is indeed dying...its' level is dropping by a meter a year, and it will disappear completely within fifty years.  A remarkable fact I learnt was that my Grandmother, who was scared of lifting her feet up in British waters, actually learnt to swim in the Dead Sea!

Apart from the lovely people we met, I can't help but mention the litter.  There was rubbish everywhere...fields and fields of it across the countryside...plastic bags, paper, crushed cans everywhere.  There's a fortune to be made by someone.