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Sunday, 26 August 2012

Remembering Tony Scott

I would like to take a few minutes to remember the film director Tony Scott. Like most film fans, I first heard his name when the film "Top Gun" burst out of the Hollywood studio system in 1986. Following a few years making commercials, one caught the eyes of the production duo Bruckheimer & Simpson. The ad was for Saab cars with a Saab fighter jet, they offered him Top Gun, a small leap of vision, a giant leap of faith by the producers. Tony Scott did not let them down, he made the archetypal 1980's action movie, flash, brash, good looking stars, loud music, great filming. I loved it. I saw it once, in the cinema, I was thoroughly entertained. This was his style.

With his brother Ridley, they formed a production company Scott Free Productions. I heard a quote on the radio, Tony said Ridley was the arty one, Tony was the rock&roll one.

Tony's films and tv series were entertainment and I was entertained. I don't remember much about his first film The Hunger (who told Mr Bowie he could act?), but many of the others I do, Deja Vu, Crimson Tide, The Taking of Pelham 123, the tv series Numb3rs, I sat back and enjoyed them.  Having said that, Enemy of the State, with Will Smith, made me think. This was the first time I became aware of the potential power of the state to use our dependency on information and communication technology, a message now widely seen.

Thank you Tony.

Monday, 20 August 2012

UNESCO Vauban List : Bazoches and Le Palais

This is my last translation for the UNESCO Vauban list. There are twelve fortresses on the list plus the following two additional  buildings,

  1. Bazoches, Vauban's home in Burgundy;
  2. Le Palais, on Belle Ile, off the Brittany coast, a fortress complex that is now a hotel.

Each listing has a Historical Description in French. These are my translations of those descriptions.


The chateau was acquired by Vauban in 1675 and converted by him to live there with his family and to work there with his engineers. It is the property of his descendants. Vauban built there, notably the West Wing with its grand gallery, and the outbuildings. After 1830, several projects of restoration and transformation work took place, the building of the grand entrance, the bathing facilities, complete new furniture. At the end of the 20th century, the LeNotre inspired gardens were the subject of some conservation projects.


The citadel has known a turbulent history, from the foundation of a priory to the construction of a fort during the Renaissance, to become a strategic position on an island rich in calm water and advantageous for docking. From 1658 to 1661, Superintendent of Finances Nicolas Fouquet built a redoubtable fortress, with casemates and a powder magazine. Vauban visited three times between 1685 and 1689. He put the finishing touches to a complete defence system for the town and the island, although only the works on the citadel were completed, including regularisation of the sea front, the envelope (continuous outer enceinte) and the covered way. The interior buildings were constructed before 1680, the place of arms was built following the destruction of the siege of 1761. From the Vauban era, the remains of the Officers' Quarters built around 1680 and the Grand Quartier barracks, constructed around 1689. A powder magazine  was added in 1856. The tops of the ramparts were modified with important terracing. At the end of the 19th century, the place progressively lost its importance. It was declassified and sold in 1960. The exemplary restoration from 1960 was the work of Mr and Mrs A. Larquetoux. From 31st March 2005 the property is now owned by Les Hotels Particuliers who have maintained the same high standards.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Postman delivers

The postman delivered three publications yesterday.

First up - an EBay purchase of "After The Battle - Issue 60 - The Maginot Line", by Jean Paul Pallud, published in 1988. I want to visit some of the Maginot Line ouvrages in 2013 and 2014, so I thought some research would be good, crib off what others have done before me. J P Pallud seems to have been working for AtB for donkeys years.

Next, from Amazon Marketplace "La 1re DLM Au Combat - Chars et Blindés de Cavalerie, 1939 - 1940", by Erik Barbanson, with the assistance of Francois Vauvillier. Part of Histoire et Collections' Encyclopedie de L'Armee Francaise. I love this series of books. It took me an hour just going through the book and looking at the photographs. M. Vauvillier is another French history publishing stalwart and I am looking forward to this read.

Third and final book received was another Amazon Marketplace purchase, Osprey Campaign series no. 172, "Gibraltar 1779 - 83 The Great Siege" by René Chartrand. I bought this to help me with a little research for this blog.

These three authors, Jean Paul Pallud, Francois Vauvillier and René Chartrand are terrific authors and historians. Their names on a book cover feel me with great confidence, I know I am buying a high quality, well researched book. M. Barbanson is unknown to me, so I will report back on how I find him.

Maria Callas on the MP3 player, singing Andre Chenier - such sublime bliss, such heartache.

Gosh - time flies - time to return to the cricket. Come on England.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

UNESCO Vauban List : Villefranche-de-Conflent

The UNESCO Vauban list has a French language Historical Description for each site. This is my translation of the description for Villefranche


Closing a crossing point, the urban enceinte was profoundly amended by Vauban in 1669. The fort of Villefranche, renamed LIbéria in the 20th century, was constructed after 1679. The three bastions were added in the 19th century. The underground staircase dates to 1850 - 56. The fort is private property, having been sold in 1927, it is open to the public. La Cova Vastera was built in 1707, after the death of Vauban. Sold in 1727, it was converted to a museum of the dinosaurs. At the end of the 1990's, Villefranche was receiving 500,000 visitors annually.

Monday, 13 August 2012

UNESCO Vauban List : Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue

This is the11th of my translation of the UNESCO List Historical Descriptions.


In 1692 the Bay of Saint-Vaast saw the naval battle of La Hougue. At the start of 1694 Vauban built two observation towers in advance of the creation of a new naval port. It was finally the port of Cherbourg that was chosen. To the North of the island, you can see the remains of a bastioned enceinte in earth dating to 1689. The other side of the island was occupied by a lazaretto (1723), used today as the  maritime museum of Tatihou and two gardens. The Fort de l'Islet dates to the 19th century and diverse works modernised the fortress by some additions, a guard house, artillery batteries, powder shelter. During World War Two, an attempt was made to modernise the defences with some bunkers.

UNESCO Vauban List : Saint-Martin-De-Ré

Each Vauban site on the UNESCO list has a French language Historical Description. This is the 10th of my translations of the Descriptions.


Vauban completed this project between 1681 and 1685. Vauban's citadel occupies the emplacement of a previous, short-lived citadel (1626 - 1628); it was built in 40 days. In 1875, the town sea-front was reinforced with traverse-shelters, Excepting this the fortifications were not modernised. The citadel became a State prison in 1873.

UNESCO Vauban List : Neuf - Brisach

The UNESCO Vauban list of 12 fortifications has a Historical Description for each site in French, this is my translation of this site's description.

Following the treaty of Ryswick (1697) and the loss of Beisach-an-Rhein, a new town was created ex-nihilo on the Alsace plain between 1698 and 1703. The lack of funds is the cause of the relative unfinished feel of the place, absent guerites, gate sculptures not realised, inferior quality materials in some external works. The Church, the Governor's Residence and the Town Hall date from the 18th Century, but are built on the sites and to the designs requested by Vauban.In 1870, Neuf - Brisach became a Prussian bridgehead until 1918 (Festung Neubreisach) with numerous modifications and adaptations like the reinforcement of the bastioned towers and the construction of traverse shelters, a hospital barracks and powder workshops. In the interior they adopted the Suzonni barracks and constructed a protestant chapel. The railway line altered the fortification trace in the North East sector. February 1st 1945, the interior of the town was destroyed during the American attack. For 30 years the Belfort Gate has been used as a museum and the old Governor's Residence became the Office of Tourism.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

UNESCO Vauban List : Mont - Louis

This is no. 8 of my French to English translations of the historical descriptions on the UNESCO Vauban list.


The new fortified town was necessary to close a frontier passage with Spain. The building project was begun in 1679 and the fortifications completed in 1681. The planning of the town was completed in 1722. Most of the house building followed. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the fortified place was not updated but maintained, excepting the modifications of the parapets.. In 1887 - 1889, some detached works were completed at a distance, at more than 2000 m altitude. The citadel is still occupied by the Army.

UNESCO Vauban List : Mont Dauphin

No. 7 in my translations of the UNESCO list French language descriptions


A new town, created ex-nihilo by Vauban in 1692, on a spur dominating the confluence of the rivers Durance and Guil. Urbanisation never succeeded, only four plots were allocated (20 houses) in 1700. An arsenal, two powder magazines, barracks and guardhouses were constructed during Vauban's lifetime. The Rochambeau barracks, casemated and a tenailled trace were laid out between 1765 and 1821. At the end of the 18th century, General le Michaud d'Arcon constructed a lunette by reducing the height of a 1728 work. Some advanced works in front of the entrance were built after 1830. After 1870, minor building works took place. The old wing of the arsenal was destroyed during a bombardment in 1940. The property was transferred from the military in 1983.

Friday, 10 August 2012

The Hobbit

I am so excited about this. I loved Peter Jackson "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. He is filming "The Hobbit", again in three parts:

  1. The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey
  2. The Hobbit : There and Back Again
  3. The Hobbit : Part 3, as yet the film with no name.
Part one is scheduled for UK release on 14th December - I can't wait - an early Christmas present.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

June/July Films

I love film. Over the years I have watched thousands, much aided by the introduction of video, then DVD and now Bluray. My film watching is lower in June, July and August because of cricket watching. These are the films I watched and enjoyed in June and July. This is broken into three categories:

  1. Arty films, usually dramas, often foreign language;
  2. Drama/Thriller, English language;
  3. Entertaining films, science fiction and fantasy, rainy Sunday afternoon films, put your brain in a box films.

"Tree of Life". For me, Terence Mallick is one of the greatest film directors of the late 20th/early 21st centuries. I loved this film, I was hooked after ten seconds. The story is of the relationship of a strict, disciplinarian father played by Brad Pitt and his eldest son, Hunter McCracken, growing up in fifties' Texas. Sean Penn plays the son as an adult. A beautiful film, fantastic acting from the two main characters, lovely camerawork. Not a film for everyone, but worth the effort.

"Princess of Montpensier" French with English subtitles. 16th century drama, the kind of costume drama the French do really well. I liked it very much.


"The Guard". A small scale Irish film, very funny, good twists. Brendan Gleason plays a police sergeant on the West coast of Ireland, the kind that outsiders regard as a country numpty, backwards, stuck in the old ways, but you know this is going to backfire on them. Very well supported by Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong as the big city baddies and Don Cheadle is an FBI agent.

"The Help". Racial tension in sixteis' Southern USA. A big surprise. I watched this because my favourite critics said it was great and they were right.


"The Troll Hunter", in Norwegian with English subtitles. A delightful shock, a group of students, 20ft trolls escaping from their reserve, a hunter to track them down. All very silly but very convincing. Well acted.

"Cowboys and Aliens", science fiction/western.

"Horrible Bosses". A brain in the box film, entertaining, funny but predictable plotline, good performances from the bosses, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell.

"Gone Baby Gone", thriller

"Fair Game", thriller.

In preparation for the new Batman film, we watched the two previous performances of Christian Bale.

And finally, a film I recorded from Film4, "Million Dollar Baby", directed by and staring Clint Eastwood as an old boxing coach, with Hilary Swank as the boxer he reluctantly takes under his wing. Another great film from Eastwood, I do not like his politics but I do admire his directorial skills.

UNESCO Vauban List : Longwy

The UNESCO World Heritage List of Vauban's best fortifications has a Historical Description in French for each site. This is my translation of one of those descriptions.


A new town created ex-nihilo by Vauban and the engineer Choisy starting in 1679, facing the town of Luxembourg. The church, the town hall were constructed in the 1730's. The fortress was besieged in 1792, 1815, 1871 and completely destroyed in 1914. Despite this destruction, the town has conserved some elements of its military infrastructure. The lower town developed at the end of the 19th century and in the 20th century, thanks to the  (thermalisme), to the steel industry and to ceramics. The upper town was declassified as military in 1923. Half of the enceinte was destroyed following urban extension.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

UNESCO Vauban List : Camaret - Sur - Mer

This is the fifth of my translations of the French language descriptions on the listing.


The tower forms part of the defences of the Gulf of Brest, which were realised by Vauban from 1683. Designed by Vauban in 1689, it was constructed from 1693 to 1695. In 1795, the second Guardroom was replaced by a cannonball oven. The tower became municipal property in 1904.

UNESCO Vauban List : Briancon

This is the fourth of my translations of the French language descriptions on the listing.


Originally a Roman town, flanked by a castle from the Middle Ages, Briancon was encircled by a new enceinte in 1690, to protect it from attack. After a fire in 1692, it was fortified in accordance with a Vauban design from 1692 to 1700 and, after his death, until 1734. The forts were built between 1709 and 1734. The Asfeld bridge was built in 1729 - 1731. The Y Communication was constructed between 1724 and 1734. Later, Salettes fort received a Haxo casemate in 1847 and in 1892 a cable car linked the Trois Tetes fort to the urban enceinte. To compliment, eight Sere de Rivieres forts were realised between 1876 and 1900 and six Maginot Lines ouvrages added from 1936 to 1939, forming the second and third circles around the town.

UNESCO Vauban List : Blaye / Cussac - Fort - Médoc

The UNESCO World Heritage Site listing of twelve of Vauban's best fortifications has a historical description for each site. These descriptions are written in French. This is my translation of one of those descriptions.


The citadel and the two forts of the neighbouring commune of Cussac - Fort - Médoc constitute a triptych : their cross-fire blocking the passage on the River Gironde. The citadel is a monumental hybrid group, built between 1686 - 1689, that dominates a pre-existing medieval castle encircling the high town. The 19th century adaptations are artillery batteries on a terrace.


Fort Pate dates from 1689 - 1693 and is situated on a sandbank that appeared in 1670. Fort Médoc was built from 1690 - 1700. Apart from a cistern in 1823, there were no notables modifications.

Monday, 6 August 2012

UNESCO Vauban List : Besancon

The UNESCO World Heritage Site listing of twelve of Vauban's best fortifications has a historical description for each site. These description's are written in French. This is my translation of one of those descriptions.


The specific topography of Besancon, situated in the meander of the River Doubs, represented an important challenge for Vauban.The result formed, with the 19th century fortifications, a grouping of the first order. The citadel, planted on the rocky spur that closes the meander of the Doubs, was built between 1668 and 1683. Acquired by the town in 1959, it is the only Vauban citadel open to the public, housing museums, exhibition space and a zoo. Fort Griffon was built by Vauban between 1680 and 1684 on Battant enceinte. The Universitaire de Formation des Maitres institution is installed there. The enceinte of the loop of the Doubs and its bastioned towers were built in 1687. The towers received their current roofs in the 19th century. The group of the urban enceinte was built between 1677 and 1695. The barracks in the town were built between 1680 and 1848. Five advanced lunettes "a la d'Arcon" were built after 1791, although only three remain. In the 19th century, detached forts encircled the fortified town.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

UNESCO Vauban list : Arras

The UNESCO World Heritage Site listing for Vauban has twelve sites. On the website each location has a Historical Description written in French. I will write my translations of those Historical Descriptions. Here is the first.


The Citadel was constructed by Vauban and the engineer d'Aspremont between 1668 and 1672, at the same time as the citadel at Lille. The (Arras) Citadel became part of the second line of the Pré Carré, the network of fortified places along the North East frontier of France. Separated from the town of Arras by an esplanade, the Citadel was contracted with the aim of overlooking the town. The military buildings were constructed between 1673 and 1678, a destroyed barracks building was rebuilt in 1994. The ramparts were repaired in brick in the 19th century and modified (earthen parapet in lieu of brick). The site has seen several transformations since 1850, notably on the South East side.

England v South Africa 2nd test Day 3

The day started at a deli on the other side of York, bacon sarnies and coffee to set us up for the day.

England were batting the whole day. The morning season was South Africa's, then it rained at lunchtime, play started again about an hour late and what play. Kevin Pieterson and the new boy, James Taylor. 2 great sessions followed. Well done boys, a very good day's play, got England back into a very close position.

WE left at around 6 o'clock, before the rush. Fish and chips and sparkling wine for dinner, with an episode of Midsummer Murders. Middle age never felt so good.

Funniest call from the crowd, when KP (6'3'') and Taylor (a slight 5'5'') were walking to the middle some one close by shouted "It's looks like a dad and lad competition".

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Mary Tamm

Wednesday 1st August

This morning whilst having my breakfast of cinnamon and raisin loaf and a coffee, I was catching up with the weekend papers. In the obits I found that Mary Tamm has died.

For 12 months over 1978 and 1979, she was Romana, the most glamorous of and the best of  the assistants to Doctor Who, at this time played by Tom Baker. A great television couple. She were a Bradford lass and trained at RADA. I believe she also worked on a soap or two, but I don't watch those so I missed her. Truly a sad loss, coming so close to the death of Elisabeth Sladen.