Not the 365 ~ movies,cats,Spring etc

Thought I’d do a little catch up as I’ve been busy with the 365 over on the Universe Blog and I just know y’all are missing my Movie Monday reviews. We are still watching movies, so I’m going to do quick dash through what I thought about them.

Dead Presidents 1995 and Phil’s choice as he had it on DVD and I hadn’t seen it. Starring Larenz Tate, Keith David, Chris Tucker, Freddy Rodrigues, N’Bushe Wright and Bokeem Woodbine. It’s based partly on the real-life experiences of Haywood T. Kirkland (aka Ari S. Merretazon), whose true story was detailed in the book  Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans by Wallace Terry, it chronicles the life of Anthony Curtis (Tate) and covers him from high school to the vietnam war and then home again to where he and his pals rob a bank. A well made film focussing on the experences of black veterans, well acted and paced, co-written, produced, and directed by Allan and Albert Hughes with skill and obvious passion. I imagine Spike Lee watched this and made notes for his Da 5 Bloods movie. I enjoyed this one much more. Fraggle Rating: underated and well worth seeing.

The Mule 2018. Clint Eastwood produces and directs from a script by Nick Schenk. Also based on the true story of a New York times article by Sam Dolnick “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule” about a WW2 veteran called Leo Sharp who became a drug courier for the cartel in his 80’s. Well this was fun, Clint has still got it and commands the screen even though he’s in his dotage now. Not sure how but he looks good even with that many wrinkles. Anyway it’s his movie though he’s ably assisted by Bradly Cooper on his tail as Colin Bates a D.E.A agent, Michael Pêna as Bates sidekick Trevino, Dianne Wiest as Clint’s estranged wife and a fairly small part for Lawrence Fishburn as Bates’s supervisor. Fraggle rating: Top Notch, especially for Eastwood fans.

The Alamo 2004. I’m sure someone out there will say this isn’t as good as the original Alamo movie made in 1960 starring John Wayne as Davy Crockett (perleeze 🙄🥴 blerk, I do NOT like John Wayne one bit) but Phil wanted the 2004 version as he really liked it so that’s what we did. No need to explain the plot I think, but just in case. In the 1830’s Texas had a revolution, small groups of Texians (that’s what they were called back then) gathered at a little town on the Mexican border called San Antonio where the Alamo compound is, and the Mexican army under the President Santa Anna came and killed them all. Dennis Quade plays Sam Houston, Billy Bob Thornton ~ Davy Crockett, Jason Patrick ~Jim Bowie and Patrick Wilson as William B Travis. I enjoyed this, the characters are well drawn and acted, and John Lee Hancock directs with a steady hand, giving the main characters room to breath. It’s a good history lesson too as we are ‘doing’ American History documentaries at the minute and it all ties in. Fraggle Rating: Good +++

Aquaman 2018. A D.C superhero movie that I hadn’t got round to. Well I have now and it wasn’t totally great, however it does have good points. Firstly it is stunningly beautiful to look at. The CGI under sea world building is easily as good as Avatar which sprang to mind straight away. Jason Momoa who plays him is well, how to put it, built like a brick s**t house as my Mum used to say, has a twinkle in his eye and gave a committed performance, as did Amber Heard as Princess Mera of Atlantis who wants to stop her brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson again) from going to war with humans and needs Aquaman (named Arthur Curry of all things) to step up, return to Atlantis and save the world. William Dafoe is phoning in a performance as the Vizier of Atlantis, and Nicole Kidman looks entirely out of place as a renegade queen who escapes atlantis, washes up at a lighthouse where the keeper Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) rescues her, falls in love with her, impregnates her and then shortly after has to be a single parent after Atlantian soldiers come to take her back to marry whoever she ran away from. Also Dolph Lundgren is in the mix as an ally King to King Orm. There’s plot holes, a daft script and some dodgy dialogue, BUT this is one of D.C’s more light hearted movies after the darkness of Batman et al, and it was a blast from start to brilliant finish. Fraggle Rating: A mixed bag but well worth seeing.

That’s it for movies!

As most of you who follow this blog also follow the Universe blog, you already know I’m doing a 365 weekly post over there, but other life still goes on of course, and I take photo’s of that along the way. Last Sunday was Mother’s Day here, and Phil’s lovely daughter popped over with an afternoon tea for Phil and I to enjoy for the day. So nice of her to do this.

Afternoon tea. And dinner. And sandwiches for work the next day!

We still have Sophie’s cats! It’s been over 3 months now and Sophie isn’t back until at least the end of May/beginning of June so we have a ways to go yet. They are a pain in the arse and a total joy depending on what mood they are in, and I can’t resist taking pictures of them.

Sofa Day
Vinnie in default position
For two of these shots I had to get the stepladder out to retrieve her 🙄
looking for mischief.
ready for action

I’ve been enjoying having a few non rainy days and getting out to take photo’s for the 365, and also found other things along the way.

Swans on the muddy day!
Target Rocks, South Shields
Badass Crow

I found these fragments on the coast. I think it’s a letter of heartbreak, or castigation, I can’t make it all out, but it’s on a broken plate or something. Strange.


The hedgehogs have woken up and are visiting every night now, but we’ve also had a little one that visits during the day, so managed to get a couple of shots.


Hedgehogs are not usually out during the day, and this one is quite small, but she appears to be well, eating, drinking and running about well, so we are not too worried.

And finally, Spring is happening, at last, and soon the Happy Eater tree will do it’s glorious display, I can’t wait for warmer times!


Jan 25th ~ Tales from Fraggle Towers

Today was the beginning of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) garden watch, where anyone and his dog is invited to sit in their garden, a park or outside space, and spend an hour exactly counting and registering the birds they see. You can join in or read about it HERE. Herds of people take part every year and it helps the RSPB monitor bird populations across the country. I of course sit and take part, camera to hand. I was a little excited as for the past three days a Greater Spotted Woodpecker has been visiting the Happy Eater tree, which was such a surprise as we’re quite suburban here, and I hoped he’d turn up again today.

I saw sparrows, blue tits, great tits, long tailed tits, blackbirds, collared doves, a woodpigeon, a robin and the beautiful woodpecker. Unfortunately the woodpecker has made a quick getaway everytime I lift the camera, but I did manage one shot of the back of him.

Bird watch day
Greater Spotted Woodpecker

Did anyone else get given a mountain of chocolates for Christmas? We were given loads from family (they know Phil is a chocoholic) a huge box of Lindts, and a tub of Hero’s, a client gave us all a little box of posh chocs each (still in the fridge) also my boss at work gets migraines if she eats chocolates so she gives all that she gets to Phil. This year his favourites were given to my boss by a hearing aid company, and they are still undergoing consumption.

The Wreath Box
more yummy’s

This winter has been quite mild so far, though the nights are cold we are not dropping much below 6 °C (42.8°F) but even so I think the Happy Eater tree is a bit keen, or is confused.

Too soon little flower.

Film Friday will resume soon, I’ve sent rolls off to be developed. I gave up on the instants as I’m also doing the 1 second a day video thingy again this year and it’s too much overlap to do both.

I’ve started another mosaic project, this time a jewelry or nik-nak box, which went quite well, until the grouting when it all went pear shaped. That does seem to be a thing with me, but it’s sortable, fingers crossed.


It’ll look nice in the next picture! 😀

Day 325~ it’s the big things…

It’s been a while since I focused my big lens on the Happy Eater tree, but now all the leaves are gone it’s easier to get some clearer shots of my little visitors. The branches still get in the way a bit, but I’m loathe to chop any off, can’t hurt a tree FFS, not even for photography 🙂

SO I spent an hour this morning watching the comings and goings of the usual suspects, blue tits, great tits and sparrows, hoping something different might turn up. There was a fleeting visit from a coal tit, but I didn’t get a decent shot of him sadly. So this was going to be my shot of the day

Great Tit

but just as I was about to get up and make a cuppa a big splodge landed in the tree, I wasn’t sure what it was at first as I was looking through the viewfinder when it landed, but I shot off a few rounds and then stopped and had a look. I couldn’t believe it as I am pretty sure this is the local sparrow hawk. You might remember (probably not 🤣) I got this shot of it back on day 218

day 218

so I am cockahoopy about it landing so close in my tree and getting a few shots of it. It didn’t catch any of my little birds, they skedadled toot sweet, but it didn’t look bothered, sitting there being all magnificent. Wish it had been facing me instead of the other way, but you can’t have it all I guess!

Day 325 ~ Killer on the loose

Day 295

As I arrived at work this morning and parked the car, I saw a herd of wild geese flying from the north. I grabbed my camera from my bag and all but fell out of the car in a rush to try and get them as they were going at a fair lick. I flung the camera to my eye, pressed the shutter and hoped for the best with not having time to check my settings or any of the normal niceties when contemplating a photograph. A moment later they were out of sight.

Day 295

Click on it to see the bigger version, they are amazing to see in such a big group. I’m not sure where they were going, but they were heading south, and I couldn’t tell what kind of geese they were as they were too high up. Apparently we get geese coming over here to winter and some bred here go to North Africa, so they could be coming or going. Either way it was a spectacle I’m glad I didn’t miss.

Interesting Factoid

Birds flying in a V formation are taking advantage of aerodynamics. The lead bird works the hardest by breaking into undisturbed air. The next two birds fly into the “sweet spot” where wingtip vortices form, reducing drag and producing uplift. The birds use the uplift and expend about 20–30% less energy flying. The advantage of flying in this spot results in the bird’s heartbeat being reduced and it doesn’t have to flap its wings as much. As the lead bird tires, it drops back in the formation and the next bird takes its place. Drafting off one another requires close formation, about 3 feet apart.

Days 278 & 9 & Tales from Fraggle Towers

It’s been a busy weekend at Fraggle Towers. Yesterday I went out with Sophie to photogrgaph the North East Land Sea & Air Museum, followed by lunch at the Washington Wetlands Tryst and a walk around there which ended up quite exciting for us as we saw and photographed a Kingfisher, which neither of us had ever seen before. Of course we don’t have proper wildlife lenses, but we did OK with what we have. Apart from all the exotic and colourful ducks and swans and flamingo’s, I spotted a tree full of your bog standard boring pigeons, but I thought they were just right for B&W.

Day 278~ Pie Tree.

Today we’ve had the Sunday Family afternoon, and Shelley and the kids came over, always a shoe-in for a photograph!

Day 279 ~ Liddy and Grandaw.

What we’ve been watching of late on the tellybox is a series called World On Fire on the Beeb, from BT’s site –“the emotionally gripping, landmark TV series from Peter Bowker (The A Word) tells the story of ordinary people caught up in the Second World War. Helen Hunt, Lesley Manville and Sean Bean lead the stellar, international cast, which also includes Blake Harrison, Jonah Hauer-King, Julia Brown and Yrsa Daley-Ward.”

I’ve watched the first episode and it’s done well. The acting is passable, the attention to detail astounding and the cinematography fabulous. It reminds me a bit of that old American series Winds of War with Robert Mitchum et al, which I ejoyed a lot so I think I’ll be happy enough with a British take on it.

I’m recording Catherine The Great from Sky and will do that soon, can’t beat Helen Mirren for being a Queen and historical fun and games so am looking forward to that.

We’ve binge watched, i.e 1 or 2 episodes an evening, Game of Thrones 1- 7 and it’s just as amzing the 2nd time around. I’m also reading the books again and being double whammied. They are so well written.

I have to say, having watched so many battle scenes over the years with Phil’s war movies I’d be hard pressed to find a favourite. I’m not sure the beginning of Private Ryan is classed as one, but it’s up there. Also Zulu the final battle, just amazing. But I’ve not really seen any convincing ones on TV. I was blown away re-watching G.O.T’s Battle of the Bastards, better than a lot of movies, you felt you were amongst it. There’s no magic here, no dragons, very little CGI, just a visceral, heart pounding do or die piece of action with ordinary soldiers. I’m posting the youtube clip to it if battle scenes are your thing. Even if you don’t do Thrones, it’s still worth a watch. You can tell me a TV programme that’s done it better after 🙂 . Also don’t watch it if you’re a bit wussy about blood and gore 😀

Back to work tomorrow, ear wax be afraid!!

Day 249

I’m just about packed and ready to go at 5.30 tomorrow morning 🥴 flight times are so awful sometimes! I’m leaving you with an update on Garden Watch. This morning, as in most mornings, the Band of Spuggies had a bath in the hedgehogs drinking water,

Day 249 ~ Spuggy splash

I’m still setting up the trail camera every. night and so far we’ve identified 3 different hedgehogs,

This is Stripey, not sure yet off it’s a boy or a girl
Harriet, definitely a girl
Rodger the reprobate (he pillaged Harriet at the beginning of the week)

finally a very short video of Stripey and Harriet sharing dinner 🙂

Harriet & Stripey

Day 218 Birdy Central

Regular readers will know about the Happy Eater tree in my front garden, from where I photograph birds that visit the feeders I have there. This year I’ve also hung some feeders around the Shed. Not much happened though, the odd sparrow and bluetit now and then. However in the last month it seems to have turned into Birdy Central, with lots of sparrows, bluetits and a few blackbirds visiting frequently and en masse. I’ve run out of bird food til I go shopping tomorrow, but the Shed feeders are still half full, so this morning the whole lot descended on them. As well as the sparrows and blackbirds, we now have 3 thrushes that turned up at the front this week, and out of no-where 2 greenfinches came to visit while I was having my breakfast. Not seen them before so very exciting! Shot upstairs to get my camera and managed a couple of shots. Yay!

Spuggy and Greenfinch sharing the feeder.
Greenfinch in the bushes.

More exciting even than that, this evening I spotted a bird on one of the houses opposite, at first I thought it was a pigeon, but then it swooped down to my garden for an instant and it was obviously a hawk of some description, probably a sparrow hawk. Phil spotted it had then landed a few houses along and sat on the rooftop there. My poor old telephoto lens was at full extension trying to get a shot as this was quite a way away, and of course the dark rooftop against the bright(ish) sky made it into a half silhouette as well as being a small bird on the photo. All the fannying on in the world couldn’t get a decent result of the birds feathers, so I cropped the image and went full sihouette.

Day 218 ~ Sentinel

I wonder if he’s keeping an eye on Birdy Central 😳

Day 163

The atrocious weather here continues, I had plans for another Land of Giants shot, but that went all to ratshit as I had to take Phil to pick up his car from repair. Not a great journey, 9 miles of rush hour traffic there, and 9 miles back, so by the time we did that and then made dinner and munched it, I truly could not be arsed with anything clever. Luckily I had spotted Baby Woody hunkering down on our fence, he looked as miserable about the rain as we did.

Day 163 ~ Baby Woody

In other news poor Phil hasn’t been well since Sunday, with an unidentified lurgy, until today when the sneezing began, adding to his already settled in cough and general feeling of malaise. A bad cold we think. I am determined not to succumb to his evil bugs, but my nose is runny, my eyes are a bit stingy, I feel worn out and my legs are achy so I think I may have fallen foul of them already. Keeping quiet though, one dying swan in the household at a time is best! 🙂

Day 156

Of late, my Happy Eater tree has been taken over by a herd of starlings. They are voracious and the bird food disappeared rapidly each day. After a week they then brought their (huge!) chicks and any food I put out was gone by mid-morning! I know they are apparently declining in numbers, so I kept it up for about a week, but then could no longer stand their discordant squawking, their massive shits everywhere, and their bullying of the rest of my visitors. So I stopped the food and just left a few fat balls out in the hopes the little ones would get some. After a few days, no more starlings appeared, so I risked refilling the feeders this evening and so far no starlings. The robin is back, the blue & great tits are back, a thrush, a couple of blackbirds and the spuggies and their babies. Happy days again on the Happy Eater tree!

Day 156 ~ where’s me grub Mum?

He looked so cute sitting in the feeder cap!

Dinner is served!