Asterix The Legionary

I am in a reviewathon of a book, with Booky, Alex and Sharon, not sure how that came about, it was a while back, probably I volunteered as I have fond memories of discovering the Asterix stories way back when I was a schoolkid in France. They are picture books, comics I suppose, though much nicer and better quality than paper comics I know of.

Written by René Goscinny and wonderfully illustrated by Albert Uderzo, they are about a village of indominatable Gaulish warriors who adventure around the world and fight the Roman Republic, with the aid of a magic potion, during the era of Julius Caesar, in an ahistorical telling of the time after the Gallic Wars. Asterix de Gaul is a little guy and Obelisk is his rather rotund, big good friend and they are the main stars of the show.

Booky asked us to read No.10 in the series ‘Asterix the Legionary’ and this is the synopsis from wiki- (click on little arrow to see it)

Asterix and Obelisk are setting off for a wild boar hunt when they encounter Panacea, former childhood resident of the village who has since moved to Condatum, and Obelix immediately falls in love with her. Some hours later, Panacea receives word that her fiancé Tragicomix has been conscripted into the Roman army and shipped to North Africa and Obelix, although heartbroken, promises to bring him back. Asterix and Obelix travel to Condatum, where they learn that Tragicomix has already left for Massilia, the mediterranean port from which the soldiers depart, and themselves enlist in the army to follow him, alongside Hemispheric the Goth; Selectivemploymentax the Briton; Gastronomix the Belgian; Neveratalos the Greek; and Ptenisnet, an Egyptian tourist who spends the entire book believing himself to be in a holiday camp. After completing basic training (and repeatedly and comically driving their instructors to the verge of tears), the newly formed unit sets off as reinforcements to Caesar against Scipio, Afranius and King Juba 1 of Numidia, Asterix and Obelix soon find out that Tragicomix has gone missing in action after a skirmish, and raid Scipio’s camp to recover him. This results in the Battle of Thapsus, in which the confusion over the Gauls’ unorthodox assault and the similarity of both armies’ uniforms cause a default victory for Caesar after the frustrated Scipio sounds the retreat. The Gauls are cornered by Caesar after the battle is over; but released and sent home for their assistance in his victory. Asterix and Obelix thereafter celebrate at home, while Panacea and Tragicomix return to Condatum to marry.

The Asterix comic books are great fun to read, for me the best bits are the names that the characters are given. Asterix and Obelisk are always getting the better of the Pesky Romans, two of which have my favourite names in this book, the centurions Nefarius Purpus and Dubius Status! These two are the instructors for the new recruits and are completely bamboozled, out-manouvered and worn out by our heroes.

Obviously there have been a few liberties taken with history in Asterix The Legionary, Caesar won the Battle of Thapsus without the aid of cartoon characters just to be clear 🤣.

Uderzo’s artwork is just excellent, lots of little details to find in the frames that make you smile i.e in the final celebration when our heroes return to the village Cacofonix the Bard is bound and gagged up in a lookout post because no-one likes his singing

and the pictures where the little Asterix and big,fat Obelisk are biffing the stuffing out of the Romans are always funny.

Booky had a few questions for us to answer, which he and Alex did a blinder on, I’ll do my best to add my thoughts..

1) Why aren’t Asterix and Obelix married men? They seem old enough.
Don’t hate me, but one is too short, and the other too chunky. Not your average girls dreamboat, unlike Tragicomix.

2) The Romans just can’t catch a break can they? They try to hide from Obelix and end up trampling on the flowers he wants for Panacea.
No, the Romans are always butt of the joke, and deservedly so for trampling on flowers.

3) Bureaucracy portrayed here, is it any different today? And if we could just biff and bam the parasites who give us the runaround now, would it change anything? Hint, yes!
Nope. The Romans were consummate bureauocrats. Without their record-keeping a lot of history would be lost. Long live the quill pushers!

4) What did you think of Asterix’s insistence on going through the Legion training as quickly as possible?
It had to be done fast so they could rescue Tragi-guy and get back home ASAP, no point in hanging about.

5) Is Tragicomix a pansy? Why didn’t he biff and bam his way out of the Legion like a good Gaul?
He’s not a pansy, he’s a lover not a fighter. And he wouldn’t have wanted to have those boyish good looks damaged.

6) Julius Caesar is always doing favors for Asterix and Obelix.  Should they get a loyalty rewards membership? Save Julius 3 times and get a free attack on a Roman Patrol kind of thing?
I don’t think they want to be in hock to Caesar, the lads have their own agenda, plus a magic potion, so have no need of Caesars prezzies.

7) Finally, just where DOES Tragicomic pin that clasp for his cape?
His cape just has a clasp that fastens the two sides together!! I am thinking Booky wasn’t too keen on Tragicomix! 🤣

It was fab to go back in time, and I’ll be sharing this and the other Asterix books I have, with my grandkids.

Booky’s review:~ Click HERE

Alex’s review :~ HERE

Sharon’s review:~ HERE

Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ April/May 2022

I’ve been rubbish at keeping up the monthly Fraggle Towers posts, but hey-ho, life and all that. Anyway here is a potted update on our doings.

April saw Phil and I attend our first gig since the Covid thing began, and we went into Newcastle and met up with Phil’s son Carl and his Missis Karly, to see the band Stone Broken, which I’m sure you’ve all heard of 🤣. Phil and I started out in our regular pub Rafferty’s on Pink Lane, which has cheap alcohol and a floor your feet stick to.

Rafferty’s

The venue was The Riverside, which is beside the river Tyne (not being funny, we have a Lakeside pub that’s nowhere near a lake 🙄) a small venue which gets packed. I must admit to a certain amount of trepidation at being stuck in a room with a few hundred people, none wearing masks. I had one on, but it seemed overwhelmingly pointless as I had to remove it to have a drink so ended up maskless too.

Family outing

Newcastle at night is lush for photos

Tyne at night
The Bridge and the bridge.

The Band were great

Stone Broken

and a good time was had by all, plus we didn’t get Covid and die, so result!

Phil and I went back there in May to see a brilliant American Southern Rock/Soul band, Robert Jon and the Wreck and they were fantastic.

Robert Jon and The Wreck

We’ve been checking out a couple of local restaurants we hadn’t been to before, the first one was pretty poor food-wise, though a nice looking pub, in a lovely setting near our wildlife reserve. It was cheap, which was probably why we got oven chips and frozen veg with our main course, Phil had a microwaved pie (soggy pastry) and I got away with scampi which it’s hard to ruin really. Won’t be going back.

The Cock Crow Inn at Hebburn

The other one is called Le Olive Verdi and is a lovely Italian restaurant on the top floor of The Pelaw Inn, had a fab dinner, steak in 3 peppercorn sauce and it came with fresh veg, not cheap, but worth the money, and we can walk there so it’s all good and we will be returning.

clock at Le Olive Verdi

The cats:- Lord Vincent has been his usual zen self, eating, sleeping, sitting under bushes and plodding about.

Lord Vincent

WInnie has been on a killing spree. I came downstairs one morning to find a dead mouse on our dining room mat, it wasn’t mauled, just looked like it was asleep. A few days later Phil found a dead blackbird in the TV room. Then one day whilst Phil was at work she came running past me with something in her mouth, I chased her upstairs to the bedroom where she had something under the bed which was tweeting. It must have got free from her and hid as she came charging around to the other side of the bed whereby I picked her up and evicted her. I couldn’t see anything under the bed and it’s too heavy for me to move so I shut the door and left as I had to go out for a couple of hours. When I came back I could hear a constant tweeting from behind the bedroom door. I opened it and something ran very quickly under a chest of drawers, so I left it alone again. Still could hear the tweeting. I tried again a couple of hours later and this time it ran into the bathroom.

Tweety Pie

I shut the door and waited for Phil to come home. Phil managed to pick him up and gently carried him into the bushes over the road, where, we hoped forlornly, his mother would hear him and come and fetch him, but Lord Vincent had sneakily followed Phil outside and as soon as Phil’s back was turned, well, need I go on?

Finally I came downstairs one day and saw

😳

which was a bit of a shock. I couldn’t believe Winnie had managed to catch this big magpie and get him through the catflap without a sound or feathers being every where and thought he must have managed to get himself in through it. But then when I checked our hedgehog camera, well… you need to set it to a slow playback speed to see it as she’s fast as fek! Keep your eyes on the top right corner right at the beginning.

So she dropped it through the catflap and it must have got away from her pretty quickly. Her ambition is boundless and I dread the day she decides Woody the wood pigeon is her next victim.

Even though she’s lethal, she’s still cute.

Killer Queen

and also makes us laugh

It’s all gravy.

Work is still full on, and I’m busy as a tree. Little Teddy is worming is way into my affections and I take him out for a walk when ever I have 10 mins spare, which is about twice a day. He mainly sits with Lynn our office manager barricaded in as he’s apt to escape.

Teddy and Lynn

Phil’s Giant Tank is coming along, and this weekend is his clubs model show, so I’ll be attending on Sunday to photograph the competition tables and winners for the club’s Facebook page.

phil’s giant tank.

Entertainment-wise I haven’t seen any movies I’d recommend, maybe The Contractor as it has a good cast- Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Kiefer Doodah. It’s a serviceable action movie, but nothing new. Bird Box with Sandra Bullock started out well, and she was great all the way through but there were too many good coincidences at the end. Phil wanted to re-watch Oblivion with Tom Cruise as he got the blueray but we gave up before the end as we’d had wine/whisky and couldnt get our heads around what the fek was going on. I’ll wiki it one day. 😃

TV has been better, we got through to the end of Ozarks and are currently in the last season of Better Call Saul, both have been outstanding. We are now rewatching the first 2 seasons of Das Boot as the 3rd one is out and we forgot a lot of 1 & 2 as it was a couple of years ago, looking forward to seeing the 3rd, it is excellent.

Reading, well I’ve read all 47 of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series twice, and am starting again at the beginning, I just love these books. I have bought other books in the meantime, but as yet I can’t let go of Wolfe to read them instead. A strange addiction!

That’s all folks. More tales from Fraggle Towers to come, eventually. If/when I remember!

📷 😊

Photography and the RNLI

I follow a couple of great photographers on youtube, and one such person is a guy called Sean Tucker. He recently made this inspiring, and incredibly moving short film about photographer Jack Lowe and his project to photograph every lifeboat station on the British coast, using the wet plate collodion technique. If you have a spare 20 minutes and are into either photography, film making or the RNLI, give it a watch.

Civil Wars by Clare Scott

I don’t do book reviews so have no idea what the format is. Never mind, Here I am just telling y’all about a special book written by my pal Clare Scott, whomst I became friends with here on WordPress gawd knows how long ago. Clare is both artist and authoress and top of her game in both genres.

Back in August 2017 Clare started a blog called From Dublin to Russia and Return Journey, based on an old notebook written by her Grandad, William Gerald Forbes Scott (1899-1977). Every week she would post an excerpt from his diary, and had researched the heck out of the times he went through and the places he visited, with the intention of collating her posts in to book form when she had finished.

I read every chapter along the way, completely enthralled with William, the history, Clare’s interpretations and also her amazingly poignant artwork that accompanied the posts.

When Churchill sent troops to help the Bolsheviks in 1919, William joined the British Army and was sent along with it to Russia, via France, Malta, Greece and Istanbul, crossing the Black Sea and ending up in  Novorossiysk where his unit stayed for many months assisting in evacuations before returning to England via Egypt. On his return William became a member of the Free State Army and later the Garda Siochana, throughout the south-east of Ireland.

I received a copy of the book a couple of weeks ago and it’s been an absolute joy to re-read it, there is so much information made interesting by Clare’s re-telling of her Grandads exciting journey and what it entailed. In the very first introduction on her blog she writes –

Some of the things you can expect to read about will include ships names and histories, the players in the Russian a civil war, a Russian Princess, duck hunting, diving in Malta, Churchill’s motives, whales, rest camps, kit, dervishes, Mount Etna, The Hagia Sophia, the 1916 Rising, The Irish Civil War, plague, quarantine, a funeral and a wedding, sharks and the Bay of Biscay. A little bit of everything.

and she did not disappoint.

I encourage anyone with a love of History and an interest in personal accounts of Civil Wars, to visit that first post by Clare, and read a longer introduction to the book, as she writes better than I can! Also there’s a link to purchase the book.

CLARE’S FIRST POST LINK

NEVER MIND THAT JUST GET ON AND BUY THE BOOK LINK

Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ March 2022

Yep I’m a couple of days late with a ‘tales’ post for March, but c’est la vie. March has been a busy month for us with Phil doing a make-over of our dining room.

stripper
paperer

We had a new floor done too, I can’t remember why but I like it so not to worry.

job done

New music equipment was purchased at the beginning of the month, well not new, Phil rarely buys new as it’s mega bucks for what he wants, he waits until new stuff comes in and then buys stock that’s getting sold at a bargain price in order to make room for the next things. We went off to Stockton on the River Tees for his latest aquisitions, a phono cartridge pre-amp and a regulated power supply. He tries to explain to me what these things do but I just can’t. Anyways we got lost getting there or rather we didn’t but just couldn’t see it, as the building entrance faced the river and the car park didn’t. We spent some time ogling the amazing music systems they had in their upstairrs showroom

ogling
more ogling

and I took a couple of pictures out of the window,

River Tees

The cats have been their usual selves, Lord Vincent has been loving the sunshine we had last week

LV

and Winnie has been bonkers

Boxed Winnie

WInnie has learned how to get up on top of our conservatory roof, and the other morning I woke up at 7.30am to her meowing. Couldn’t see her in the room but when I opened my curtains

let me in!

there she was shouting to come in. Not best pleased as I wasn’t going to work that day so getting up at 7.30 hadn’t been the plan. Sigh.

Talking of sunshine, it’s been a mad month for the weather. Last week was like summer, and then this week we got snow and sleet in between some sunny bits. I’ve been out walking a few times with the Contax Aria, with Sophie away a lot more than she used to be there are now several weeks in between our outings, so walking out into the nature bits around where I live is a substitute. Not a great one, but better than nothing.

Phil’s sister Annette had her 70th Birthday last weekend and 13 of us went out to a local restaurant, The Lakeside (there’s no lake anywhere near it) where she had booked us in for a celebratory meal. When we arrived they had no record of the booking. That was a shock and Annette told them she’d spoken to a chap but didn’t know his name. The place was really busy too. Have to applaud the manager and her staff though, they apologised profusely and went straight into action, managed to find enough tables to cobble together for us to sit at and we were sorted and our orders taken within 15 minutes. Not a bad meal either which Annette’s husband Brian paid for which was lovely of him. Afterwards we went to their house for cups of tea and some birthday cake.

Birthday girl

Annette rang us the next day to tell us that she’s booked another local restaurant, The Green, for Brian’s birthday meal in a couple of weeks time. They asked her why we hadn’t shown up for the booking she made for the day before. 🤣🤣

My Happy Eater tree is in full bloom now, it’s strange to see the bees buzzing about on it in the middle of a snow shower.

The Happy Eater Tree

Unfortunately we seem to have aquired a herd of Magpies who are going through the bird food at a fast pace. I’ve counted 7 of them, ‘seven for a secret never to be told’, which I won’t because I don’t know what it is. Anyway I’m not keen on them but everything needs to eat so I keep topping it up. Sadly the cats are no deterent as Winnie barks at them from the windowsill and Vinnie sits under the tree but they know he’s there and wait until he goes indoors.

I drove over to the coast at South Shields the other day, managed to photograph the sea with a weather front coming in.

Incoming!

My boss was off sick with Covid last week, the guy who works for her the 2 days I don’t had picked it up and then, as he stays over at Brendas when he works for us (he lives in Scotland) she was the next in line. So far I haven’t had it, nor our office manager, we dodged a bullet there as they say.

Well that’s about it for March, I’m glad we’re into April now and looking forward to Spring springing and getting out more.

Monday Movie

There used to be a French school called  L’Institut Jeanne d’Arc in Frederiksburg just west of Copenhagen.

On March 21st 1945 the British carried out a bombing raid on the Gestapo headquarters in the commandeered Shell building in Copenhagen, at the request of the Danish resistance. This in spite of the fact that Danish prisoners were held on the top floor as a human shield. One of the planes in the first wave hit a telegraph pole and two 500lb bombs carried by the aircraft were torn off and exploded, killing twelve civilians. It crashed into a garage near the French catholic school in Frederiksburg. The other airplanes in that wave successfully unloaded six bombs into the Shell building, killing 6 of the prisoners. Unfortunately the second and third waves were confused by the smoke and flames resulting from the crashed Mosquito airplane, and thought that was where their target must be. Apart from 3 aircraft, all the Mosquitos dropped their bombs on the French School.

In the school were 529 people. 482 children, 34 catholic nuns, 8 civil teachers and 5 parents or workers. 86 of the children and 16 adults, mostly nuns, were killed, and 67 children and 35 adults were wounded.

The Danish movie currently showing on Netflix, The Bombardment, is about this event. I’ve seen a lot of movies I’ve really enjoyed since I stopped reviewing, but until now had not been moved to recommend any. This one is absolutely worth your time. It isn’t about the pilots, who get about 10 mins of screen time if that, but about some of the civilians we meet prior to the event, who we see coping during it and the aftermath. And mostly, it’s about the kids. Wonderful acting from all involved. Hard not to fall in love with little Eva played by Ella Josphine Lund Nilsson or laugh with Rigmore played by Ester Birch, and feel compassion for Henry (Bertram Bisgaard Enevoldsen) who becomes mute after seeing a distressing event prior to the bombing. The adults are not too shabby either, with a sterling cast showing us distinctive characters that have an emotional impact as you follow their lives.

Of course it’s impossible to ignore the parallels to what’s happening to Ukraine, nothing really changes in our human endeavours to kill each other and the planet we live on.

If you have a lily on your liver or your heart is inclined to faint this is probably not the movie for you and Netflix still have several cheesy romcoms for your amusement, none of which I’ve seen. But for those of you made of stern stuff this is a must-see. Also FYI the version on Netflix is not dubbed, there are subtitles, but the trailer on Youtube is dubbed.

😉

Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ Feb 22

Most of my photography is being done on film, but I’ve still managed a few iPhone shots, mostly of the cats.

Winnie has a thing for sticks of any description, and apparently spaghetti is in that classification. 🙄

sticks

Winnie and Lord Vincent don’t really get on, Vinnie is quite cool and doesn’t bother with her, but she hisses at him and sometimes jumps on him when she’s going past him, but the conservatory seems to be a no-mans land, or at least there’s a truce for there. Yep I know the windows need cleaning!

Another picture of Teddy from work, he’s ao adorably cute but SO yappy, which I’m not too keen on.

Yappy

He’s a cross between a Pomeranian and a Pappilon, whatever they are, and won’t get much bigger than he is.

I took some time out from work towards the end of the month and travelled south to see Ben, Lewis & Charlotte. It was Lewis’s 12th birthday last week but he was on half term the week before when I visited so I could spend more time with him.

That’s Ben’s ‘not another photo’ face!
Happy day!

They have been adopted by a cat who lives in their neighbourhood, Mrs. Miaow~miaow.

Mrs.Miaow~miaow.

It was nice to spend some time with them, but the driving there and back was a nightmare in the bad storms. I stay in a little annexe to a converted chapel as Ben’s house only has 2 bedrooms and I like my own room and bathroom and managed this time to mix up my leaving day, so I was turfed out on Wednesday afternoon when I thought I was staying until Thursday. 🙄 I ended up just driving home from 9pm and getting in for 1am.

We’ve only done 2 movies this month, Spenser Confidential, Mark Whalberg, which was a good action romp for a Saturday night, and The Counsellor with Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz. Directed by Ridley Scott we were expecting great things, but it was a bit of a damp squib really.

Phil has started on the redecoration of the dining room, and though it isn’t a huge room, it’s where the cabinets with CD’s, model tanks and a few preciouses live, so they have all had to be emptied and packed away. Steaming off the wallpaper starts tomorrow, thankfully I’ll be at work!

The weather has been fairly abominable, Storms Eunice, Franklin were mega~windy and rainy, I did my night drive up the country whilst Franklin was doing it’s thing, and I think we were supposed to have a Gladys too and we might have but if so it got lost in the news about Putin invading Ukraine. It’s been a sunny couple of days this weekend though so there’s that. But yes, Ukraine. Scary times and it seems to be escalating god knows where. Nothing to do but wait and see, but it’s hard to think about anything else. So that’s how February ends.

Lord Vincent

Tales from Fraggle Towers

Now that the abominable 365 has ended over on the Universe blog, it’s time to re~open The Other Place and pop in with some thoughts and pictures.

January has been a fairly busy month, Phil had 2 weeks annual leave and has done house jobs in between playing his bass and starting a new big tank, not sure where he is going to put it when it’s finished.

Big Stug Little Stug

At the beginning of the month we bought a new mattress for our bed, it’s very high-tech compared to ye ol’ spring and bounce jobbies. Memory foam sort of stuff. We paid a bit extra to have our old one taken away when the new one was delivered, but that all went tits up and we ended up clambering over our old mattress for a week, no small feat as it is 6’6″ x 6′. After a couple of back and forths with the delivery company and a reply of not much use from the mattress company, Phil’s final email is a masterclass in getting things sorted out…

Allow me to explain the facts again. The mattress I purchased from you was scheduled by Route 1 to be delivered between 10.00 and 1300 on Saturday 15th of January. I had also paid for the option of having my old mattress collected. The driver turned up at 0900 which we were unprepared for (we were still abed 🙄!)but nevertheless we were able to take receipt of the mattress. However, the driver explained that as the truck was full of deliveries there was no room for the old mattress. It would seem the transport manager at Route 1 was more focused on profit and efficiency than sticking to the pre arranged agreement. Being sympathetic to the driver’s predicament, I agreed to his suggestion that as he would be travelling through my area upon his return from Scotland’ he would call back for the mattress and gave me his word he would return. He didn’t, not even a phone call to explain why. I am now left with a super king size mattress that I have to clamber over to enter the bedroom. Further to your above email that Route1 would come on Thursday, I have since received a generic delivery of goods email from them claiming the next delivery date is Saturday 22nd which I have declined, I have no wish to have another weekend ruined by their incompetence, and in the meantime have received no apology or explanation despite responding to their feedback page. I will attempt to contact them again but would appreciate you explaining my situation to them  directly.Thank you P A Hyslop.

They came on the Thursday 🤣.


Phil also decided it as time for a new kitchen tap (faucet USA folks!) as our old one was looking shoddy, so he purchased a new fangled jobby that has a hose and spray integral to the unit.. Our plumber couldn’t come for a couple of weeks so Phil decided he could save himself a few quid and do it himself. With me as his trusty labourer. Winnie was surprised!

Plumber Phil

So far we’ve had no leaks so a job well done and £60 saved on a proper plumber! Reee~zult!


I’m continuing to de-wax the ears of the nation, and last week our boss has gone and got herself a new puppy. Regular readers will remember her Billy, her lovely deaf spaniel who died a couple of Christmas’s ago. This time she’s gone for something called a Pomegranite or similar crossed with some other breed, I can’t remember which one. His name is Teddy.

Teddy on our office manager Lynn’s desk

He is very cute and funny, but he also chews things a lot and barks at clients, and his toiletting is a bit hit and miss as well. The Boss is going to Grand Canaria on holiday next week so the girl who works in the printers opposite our unit is taking him for the week, but as the printer also brings a dog to work, will leave him with Lynn and I during the day. That’s going to be fun. 😳


We’ve watched some movies and there are a couple I’ll recommend for anyone who likes true story spy movies.

First up is Mr.Jones.

In 1933, Gareth Jones is an ambitious young journalist who has gained some renown for his interview with Hitler. Thanks to his connections to Lloyd George the former British prime minister, he is able to get official permission to travel to the Soviet Union. Jones intends to try to interview Stalin and to find out more about the Soviet Union’s economic expansion and its apparently-successful 5 year development plan. Jones is restricted to Moscow but jumps his train and travels unofficially to Ukraine to discover evidence of the Holodomor (the devastating famine in Ukraine in which millions died) including empty villages, starving people, cannibalism and the enforced collection of grain. On his return to Britain, he struggles to get his story taken seriously.

The director is Agniezka Holland, and it stars James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard who are all top notch, as is the ciematography. Most excellent movie.

Then we did The Courier

Directed by Dominic Cooke and starring the ubiquitous Mr.Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Jessie Buckley and Rachel Brosnahan it recounts the activities of British businessman Greville Wynne in helping MI6 with the penetration of the Soviet nuclear programme during the Cold War. Wynne couriered information from his Soviet source, Oleg Penkovsky (codenamed Ironbark), which provided crucial intelligence about Soviet nuclear capabilities and the cuban missile crises. Again, superb acting and faultless cinematography, another Most Excellent.

Both of these are on Amazon Prime, Mr.Jones is free, you have to rent The Courier but it’s under a fiver and very well worth it.


Last weekend we had our pals Paul and Lorraine over for the first time since lockdown 1. We used to have each other over to dinner quite often before the plague so it was good to get together as if everything was normal. I cooked a chinese feast which went down well and everyone had too much to drink but we had a good time and will look forward to our next happeniing.

Paul and Lorraine

WInnie has been a constant source of amusement. Does anyone remember the Andrex Puppy?

Designed by Winnie.

I’s been quite cold of late and she has found a new way to warm up after she’s been out and prior to having a snooze.

Hot botty.

She hasn’t caught any birds of late (that we know about) however, I heard a cafuffle in the garden one day which sounded like an unhappy animal and when I went out to look, saw Winnie coming back across next doors fence and on our conservatory roof, and this..

She must have chased him but there’s no-way she can climb that high. At least I don’t think she can! He stayed there a good 1/2 hour and I kept her in until he turned round and scarpered.


Finally, we’ve had some cracking sunrises and sunsets this month, so I’ll say ta ta for now, and leave you with some spectaclier skies!

Not the 365 ~ Storm Arwen

Arwen was a beautiful elf lady who was in love with Aragorn in Lord of The Rings by J.R.R.TOLKEIN (for heavens sakes NOT G.R.R.Martin you complete numpty Fraggle!) On 27th November Arwen was a storm, with winds hitting 90-100mph up in Northumberland and not much less than that a bit further down here in Tyneside. Scotland and the North East were hit the worst, but most places had it pretty bad. Lots of homes still without electricity, 8 days later, and you can’t book a roofer for weeks at the minute. We did OK, lost a few branches from the jasmin plant, one of the hedgehog’s water dishes is M.I.A presumed dead, and we gained a grey plastic lid of indeterminate origin. The lady in the corner shop told me it was like the Wizard of Oz movie in her garden as first the roof and then the sides of her garden shed went flying through the air, followed by it’s contents. She did hand movements and everything, and she was laughing as she did so. People are resilient here.

I’ve seen a couple of trees uprooted on my way to work since the storm, one ripped up the pavement (sidewalk) and was leaning against the house it had been in front of, it’s naked branches holding on to the roof, but I couldn’t see any damage to the roof at least, the tree though. So nothing hugely bad, and nothing in the same league as Hurricane This, That or The Other in America.

Today Sophie and I went off to Chillingham Castle, and as it happens it was closed, but on the walk to the car park to the castle we were astonished at the carnage that Arwen has wreaked upon the ancient trees in the grounds. Blocked pathways where bits of woodland walk have collected debris, a tree completely blocking one of the entrances to the grounds. No-one died, the castle is fine, no-one lost their home, but it saddened me so that these trees that have been there for hundreds of years, will no longer reach for the sky.

Not the 365 -Monday Movie Special

Yes I know it’s Tuesday, but a title is a title whatever the day.

This will be the last review for this year, as life has got a bit too busy and the 365 takes priority until the end of this year at least. But we’ll go out with a bang of sorts.

This week on Sunday, sees the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and there have been many, many documentaries about it and a fair few movies as well. This week we have been watching a six part series on National Geographic, entitled 9/11- One Day in America. Directed by Daniel Bogado a British Paraguayan documentary maker in association with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. You would think with all the previous documentaries there would be nothing different to show or say about it all, but you would be quite wrong. Bogado and his team have eschewed using any narration, reconstruction or visualisation, the whole thing is archive footage, more than I’d ever seen before, including building 7, the Marriot hotel, the Pentagon, and new interviews with survivors and relatives or friends of those who died on the day.

Bogado in an interview with Nat.Geo. – ” “I watched as many documentaries as I could to see what was already out there. I didn’t see the point of just doing something that had already been done. But I didn’t see anything that was like what we were doing. What we were doing was a series, which gave it a much wider canvas. What it allowed us to do was to play the archive long. We didn’t want to do illustration – we wanted to do immersive.”

I can’t recommend this highly enough. Yes it’s sometimes harrowing, and brought me nearly to tears, but also it’s uplifting in the stories told by those on the ground, the quiet heroes and the survivors. I also recommend reading the interview with Bogado HERE.

Phil has the DVD of the Oliver Stone Movie World Trade Center, (2006) starring Nicholas Cage and Michael Pena as Sgt John McLoughlin and Officer Will Jimeno respectively. They are both real people, Port Authority Policemen who were trapped under lots of heavy rubble after jumping into an elevator shaft in the concourse between the towers, when the North Tower collapsed. Also  Officer Dominick Pezzulo (Jay Hernandez) is trapped with them and tries to free Jimeno as his legs are being crushed by a concrete block, but when Building 7 collapses is killed by falling debris.

The movie tells the story of their rescue by two marines, David Karnes (Michael Shannon) and Jason Thomas (William Mapother) and a paramedic  Chuck Sereika (Frank Whaley) and NYPD ESU rescueman Scott Strauss (Stephen Dorff). The movie also covers the effect on their families, Maria Bello as Sgt McLoughlin’s wife Donna, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Jimeno’s wife Allison. The actors put their hearts into it and you can’t ask for more than that in a ‘real life’ movie.

Jimeno was rescued first, having been trapped for 13hrs, and McLoughlin who was even more severeley injured after 22 hours, they were the 18th and 19th people to be pulled out alive. They both had many surgeries and McLoughlin in particular was put into a coma for 6 weeks and ended up having 27 operations. They are both retired, and received the Police Medal of Honour. There’s a lovely scene at the end of the movie where they give a Bar-B-Q for all the people who helped them, and the real guys are attendees in the scene.

Of course it’s an Oliver Stone Movie so there’s always controversy, with people accusing him of pursuing a conspiracy theory, but he didn’t, there’s no sign of anything political, it’s a straightforward story of what happened to these guys. The Marines were both played by white actors when in fact Jason Thomas is black, and Stone’s excuse for that was that they hadn’t realised he was black and had already started filming so carried on with Mapother. McLoughlin, Jimeno and their wives were heavily involved in the making of the movie, with Donna saying  “We got involved because we felt it needed to be done accurately. We wanted to do the right thing and I think the filmmakers wanted to do the right thing too.” Officer Pezzulo’s wife Jeanette was not happy about the movie, nor was she happy with McLoughlin and Jimeno, which is a shame, I think they did a great job. The movie does not show that the 2 marines and the paramedic were the only ones trying to rescue the chaps for a full 20 minutes before the ESU men showed up and they were not involved in the making of the movie, so felt a bit shortchanged, but I get why Stone condensed it and I did feel their heroism was catered for.

The documentary has an episode covering the rescue, and Jimeno, Sereika and Thomas all give their accounts, and we were surprised how well Stone did keep to the facts. Also the amazing scenes of the destruction in the movie look just as real as the footage of the time. All in all a Top Notch endeavour by everyone involved.

I would think that most of my regular readers can pinpoint where they were on that morning, I was scrubbed up assisting in a TKR (Total Knee Replacement) operation in Theatre 4 St.Albans City Hospital when someone came in and told us what had happened, we got through the op and then hightailed it to the coffee room to watch events as they unfolded, all of us in shock at the magnitude of it all. And although it was America, and in particular New York which took the hit, the ramifiactions were worldwide, and everything changed that day.

What struck me most watching the documentary and the movie, was the incredible kindness of strangers during those first hours, I don’t know if they were democrats or republicans, but they were black, and white, and asian, mexican, all nationalities young, and old. Helping each other to escape, survive. And the first responders, the firemen, ambulancemen, medics, the police working their butts off to try and help people, save people, dig through dangerous rubble, all the while hugely traumatised by the event, by the loss of their comrades, The amazing heroic actions of those men, told by the people they saved with teary eyes but steady voices and so much gratitude. Bogado has done an exceptional job of showing the humanity that came out of the tragedy.

Nearly 3,000 people died that day, 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks, and more after because of breathing in the toxic powdered concrete, and severe injuries were sustained by many people. The ripples outwards are uncountable.

20 years, and now this is just a history lesson to a generation who were not born when this happened, though it doesn’t feel like that to me. And I wonder if something like this happens now, in this era of hatred for people from other lands, other beliefs, other political ideologies, where it’s every man for himself and ‘sod you Jack, I’m alright’, if the selflessness and sublime humanity that 9/11 engendered, is also consigned to the past.

Monday Movie reports is produced by Fragglerocking Inc, and may or may not be back at some point. Or something else will turn up in it’s place, who knows? Not me at least.

🙂

Not the 365 – Movie round up

We’ve gone a bit retro this week, digging back into our DVD’s and Blurays, so there’s a chance these will be familiar to you dear reader. First up is Phil’s choice….

Robocop 1987

Directed by the much revered Paul Verhoeven, it’s set in a dystopian future Detroit, on the brink of financial and social collapse. Due to these circumstances and the resulting rise in crime, the police force has been handed over to a private mega-corporation, Omni Consumer Products (OCP). The movie starts out in the OCP boardroom, where the vice-president Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) is demonstrating a large robot, the ED-209 a law enforcement droid, which is supposed to replace policemen. It malfunctions and exterminates a board member quite spectacularly. This allows an ambitious junior executive, Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) to push his own idea of Robocop to the Chairman – known as The Old Man (Daniel O’Herlihy), by-passing Dick Jones, who is none too pleased about that. Pretty sure everyone knows the story of how Sgt Murphy (Peter Weller) was horribly killed, converted into a programmed cyborg, and then regained his humanity whilst chasing down the bad guys. Edward Neumeier the writer, wanted to satirise the business culture of the 80’s, noting the aggressive American response to Japanese influences, and that a 17th century Japanese book – The Book of Five Rings- on effective killing was a big hit in Wall Street. The idea of Robocop came to him while he was learning film techniques on the set of Blade Runner, and his inspiration from mature comic books gave the story it’s platform.

The ED-209 made me laugh, especially when it fell over and squealed like a girl. Obviously a stop-motion model when it moved, it was the tech they had back then, and model makers are still making scale models of it in Model shows today, so it’s well loved. Weller got the part over other actors considered (Arnie and Rutger, Tom Berenger) as he was a smaller chap, had martial art skills and actually wanted the part to work with Verhoeven. He was the best choice in the end. The gory violence is so over the top it becomes funny, as it was intended to be by Neumeier and Verhoeven, but we never lose sight of the journey Murphy-Robocop-Murphy is on, and the scene where he visits the home he used to share with his wife and son, who have left, and remembers happy times, is so poignant.

Phil Rating:- a classic movie, an original story, there was nothing like it at the time. Great special effects and an exceptional robot in ED209. Top notch!

Fraggle Rating:- It was nearly as much fun watching Phil watch this than seeing it myself.


Backdraft 1991

Directed by Ron Howard, Backdraft tells the story of a Chicago fire department who are putting out the fires of a serial arsonist and focuses on two brothers, Lieutenant Stephen “Bull” McCaffrey (Kurt Russell) and Probationary Firefighter Brian McCaffrey (William Baldwin) and also Inspector Donald “Shadow” Rimgale, (Robert DeNiro) who is an arson investigator trying to track down the arsonist. The brothers are estranged, and there’s a fair bit of sibling rivallry going on, with both wanting to honour their Dad Captain Dennis McCaffrey (also Kurt, briefly) who died in a fire when they were little boys. Bull is separated from his wife Helen (Rebecca de Mornay) and Brian is picking up again with an ex girlfriend Jennifer Vaitkus, (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who also works for Alderman Marty Swayzak, (J.T.Walsh) who has supported fire department budget cuts for nefarious purposes. Scott Glenn plays the part of Senior Firefighter John “Axe” Adcox, who worked with the brother’s Dad, and is like an uncle to the brothers. Donald Sutherland has a small but effective part as Ronald Bartel, an imprisoned arsonist who set the fire that killed Dad McCaffrey. That’s it for spoilers just in case anyone hasn’t seen it!

Fraggle Rating:- I loved this movie back in the day, I have a thing for fires and explosions and this was full of them. The sound they give to the flames is amazing. The main actors went to Chicago’s fire training school to learn firefighting for real so they did look the part, but fire fighting professionals did note that how the fires depicted in the movie are not true to life as mostly you can’t see for smoke. But that’s fine by me, who wants to sit through 1 & 1/2 hours of watching smoke? The story is just another take on needy social services being cut by government departments resulting in a more dangerous and less effective service which then engenders an over the top revenge response, so nothing new there, but kudos though as they didn’t give it a Hollywood Happy Ending. The fires were brilliantly done, amazing! Did I say that already? 😊


Robocop 2 1990

Pfft. 🥴


The Magnificent Seven. 1960

No need for plot I think, we’ll go straight to the rating!

1960! I saw this as a kid, and remember it so well! Which is bonkers as I have a really bad memory for movies, it’s why I can rewatch them and not realise I’ve already seen them. Regular readers will know I had to see this again after watching the (inferior) Magnificent Seven 2017 I did last time out. (review Here). It was a complete joy to see it again. All my ‘heart-throbs’ from back then in one place, Yul Bryner with that walk he did, Steve McQueen with those eyes, Charles Bronson with those lips, and James Coburn with that cool dude attitude. Sigh. Anyway, it’s held up well considering it’s 60 years old. Of course you couldn’t get away with any of it these days, ‘white saviours’, diminished lady rôles, and diversity issues such as a Mexican – Chico- played by the German Horst Bucholz, and a Mexican old man played by Russian Valadimir Sokoloff (great name) but back then they could and they did. Eli Wallach (another diversity issue) as the baddie bandido ripping off the fruits of the mexican villagers labours with his bunch of swarthy ne’er do wells. The script is hokey, the actors in lesser parts over doing it (as did ol’Horst), but seeing Bryner, McQueen, Coburn and Bronson doing their cool cowboy thing again, well, it was magnificent! 😊

Not the 365 ~ movie round up.

Mission Impossible III(2006) and Mission Impossible Fallout (2018)

We are currently doing (and re-doing some of) the Mission Impossible Movies, somewhat out of order but other than a few follow ons you can guess at, it doesn’t really matter in which order you watch them. I’m not going to do plots as I’m reasonably certain everyone knows from the TV series let alone the movie franchise, that Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, and his bunch of merry men and ladies form the IMF (Impossible Mission Force, and not the International Monetary Fund) are duty bound to save the world by wearing latex masks and doing death defying physical feats. We have only these two on DVD and BluRay, and whilst Fallout is superior in terms of film & sound quality and a more cohesive directing style (Christopher McQuarrie for Fallout and J.J.Abrams for III) the action is terrific in both movies. What is more interesting, at least to me, is that in watching ‘the making of’ special features on both of these, all the CGI we thought had been done, actually wasn’t, and whatever you think of Cruise’s acting abilities, his committment to keeping it real is 100%. There are reoccurring characters throughout the series, Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn starts out in III,as does Michelle Monoghan as Julia Meade-Hunt, Ethan’s wife and ex-wife to be) Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust an ex MI6 operative who started her run in Rogue Nation which we’ve yet to see. Special mention goes to Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell who has been in all the MI movies to date. If you like action movies the MI series should be up there near the top of your list purely for the amount of innovation and skill the crew and cast go through in order to bring the quite gob smacking set pieces to your screens. When Tom Cruise is dangling from a helicopter at a great height, he actually is. These movies are all the better for not using green screens, and nice that people still want to make actual movies and not rely on a computer program for the good bits.

Fraggle Rating : Top Notch action entertainment.


Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (2019)

I’ve seen all of Mr.Tarantino’s movies, with the exception of Django, and for me this is his finest and most nuanced piece of work. Set in Hollywood and L.A in 1969, it concerns a fading character actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double and best pal Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they navigate a changing film industry. At this point in time The Manson Family were living in an old movie lot called Spahn Ranch, and though the murder by them of Sharon Tate et all is not a thing in this movie, the fact that we meet Manson briefly, and his followers, puts that thought in the back of your head. I hadn’t read any reviews or spoilers before seeing this movie (though not sure how that happened!) so I’m not going to do too much of what happens as it was much the better for not knowing. Tarantino has beautifully recreated Hollywood in the late 60’s, the cars, the clothes, the scenery, all lovingly filmed, it is a feast of memorabilia for the eyes. A cornucopia of excellent actors have cameo’s, Michael Madsden, Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell being frequent collaborators on Tarantino movies, and Damien Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino, have small parts which they nail. Tarantino has Rick Dalton living next door to Sharon Tate (a luminous Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) although Polanski is a bit part and her pal Jay Sebring (Emile Hersch) stays with her whilst Polanski is off directing a movie somewhere in Europe. Tarantino takes his time with his main characters, Dalton, Booth and Tate, and the actors give him great performances, with Pitt winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting actor, well deserved it was too. Special mention must go to Brandy the dog and really there shoud be an Academy Award section for mutts in movies, Brandy would be well up in the running! There are a lot of laughs along the way throughout the movie, and yes there is some Tarantinoesque violence but only at the end of the movie, and it’s a cathartic kind of violence that makes the world the movie is set in, a better place than it actually was.

Fraggle Rating: I can’t recommend it highly enough.


The Magnificent Seven (2017)

If you are a film maker or a knowledgeable movie buff, you can call yourself a cineaste apparently, a term I learnt reading proper eminent movie critic’s blogs/reviews. I would imagine most cineastes would tell you the movie Seven Samurai (1954) directed by Akira Kurosawa, is on or near the top of their all time best movie lists, and didn’t or doesn’t need a remake. Luckily I’m not a cineaste just an enthusiastic punter, so I’ve not seen that epic movie, or laud it beyond any other. Also luckily John Sturges decided to take Seven Samurai and turn it into an epic Western, starring Yul Bryner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughan, Charles Bronson et al. Now THAT was a western that didn’t need remaking, and I will be re-watching it shortly, but today we have a remake of the remake directed by Antoin Fuqua, who was inspired by Shinobu Hashimoto’s writing- a frequent collaborator with Kurosawa. Denzil Washington has been in a couple of Fuqua movies, ‘Training Day’ and ‘The Equaliser’ remake, and takes the Yul Bryner type part in this version of the seven. I do like Washington in most things, and he does a steady job here. Chris Pratt was chosen for the Steve McQueen type character when Fuqua offered him the part he sang ‘Oh Shenandoah’ to the director who exclaimed ‘He’s it, he IS Steve McQueen’. Well that’s patently not the case as Mr. McQueen is pushing up daisies. He’s not in Steve McQueen’s league here, or anywhere else I suspect but he does a competant job and is the main ‘light relief’. Ethan Hawke takes a similar part to Robert Vaughan and he’s the standout for me in this movie. Fuqua was very politically correct by hiring a diverse cast, substituting the original Hilario (Jorge Martinez de Hoyos) with a young widow played with gusto by Haley Bennett. James Coburn’s part is taken by Byung-Hu Lee and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo takes over the Brad Dexter part. The only actor I did think a bit strange was Peter Sarsgaard  in the baddie rôle, he looked like he was high on some nefarious substance with rolling eyes all over the shop. The plot is very similar of course, but somehow the warmth and pathos of the original is lacking. The action sequences are well done, and no-one phones it in in the acting department, but there’s nothing new or innovative here and it just seems a bit pointless.

Fraggle Rating : a serviceable western, especially if you haven’t seen the original, but found I was haunted by the ghosts of Bryner, McQueen et al throughout, and that’s the one to go for.


Chernobyl 1986 (2021)

A while back we watched the excellent HBO 5 hour mini-series Chernobyl (2019) starring Jared Harris, covering the nuclear plant disaster and the political idiocy and tragic ramifications that followed. It covered the fallout of the events and the stories of its real heroes and victims in as faithful, informative and confrontational detail as the drama allowed. In answer to that the Russians have made their own movie about it, which has just turned up on Netflix and is a bit of a mixed bag really. The director Danila Kozlovskiy also is the main star, the fictional Alexy, who is a firefighter and has worked at the reactor. The movie starts out with him re uniting with an ex-girlfriend, Olga (Oksana Akinshina) and discovering he has a 10 year old son. Alexy comes across as a bit of a dick in truth, but very quickly we get into the explosion and Alexy becomes a bit of a reluctant hero. Somehow he manages to be at the scene of the reactor burn-out, then at the hospital, then in the evacuation of the nearby towns, then in the strategy meetings, and finally in the dramatic dive into the radioactive waters of the reactor to save the day. A fair amount of dramatic licence is used here, and the scale of the deaths, diseases and ruined towns which are to this day still radioactive to a dangerous degree, is barely touched upon. Surprisingly a few of the characters do blame the bureaucrats for the cutting of corners which compromised safety, but mostly the focus is on the heroics of the firefighters and Alexey himself. The movie does have it’s saving graces though, with Oksana Akinshina acting her socks off, and the scenes taking place in the reactor site are quite amazing, the soundtrack in particular is almost a character itself as you hear the groans and clangs of the collapsing structures and the wierd sounds that a nuclear fire makes.

Fraggle Rating: worth a watch for the Russian take on this and the brilliantly filmed radioactive underwater scenes and firefighting scenes. On Netflix where you can choose a horribly dubbed verson, or have it in Russian with subtitles, which is much better.