Follow by Email

Monday, 29 December 2014


We made a trip to Cityscreen in the centre of York yesterday. We had a good lunch - cheeseburgers and wedges - then went up to see "Exodus" - Sir Ridley Scott's latest film - in 3D.

Me - I thought it was great, epic, a big canvas, well paced, not 100% convince by acting, but I enjoyed it, 150 minutes well spent.

B - she thought it was OK.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

December Reading

December has been a good month.

The University of York course on the History of the Crusades has been very well written and delivered by the tutor. Part one is now finished. Part two starts mid-January. I decided to do a little light background reading. It was very interesting, 800 years of history in such a slender volume, it cannot go very deeply into the history but it was well written and the artwork is excellent.

U3A York Military History Group meeting heard a talk on the Battle of Arnhem, Operation Market Garden in September 1944. It was thoroughly researched and delivered with good graphics. During the break, I was chatting to a fellow listener; he said this was very much to his taste, that he much preferred battle reports to talks on strategy and high-level overviews so, probably, he would not have liked my main reading effort for December, "Marshal Joffre, the Triumphs, Failures and Controversies of France's Commander-in-Chief in the Great War". Written by retired French Army General André Bourachot and translated by Andrew Uffindell. I shall quote from the dust jacket.

"André Bourachot, in this lucid and highly readable study of Joffre's career, focuses on his performance during the opening phase of the Great War. He offers a fresh and carefully considered view of the man and the soldier."

I really enjoyed this book and learnt something from it. I was not aware of the bad blood between Joffre and Gallieni or that Joffre would not visit the wounded in hospitals. The author demonstrates that in 1914, neither the Army generals nor the politicians had any ideas or understanding of the totality of warfare in the 20th century. How, in 1914, does a general like Joffre or Moltke control and organise and communicate with a fighting force of over half a million men over a very fluid front of 100 kilometres in the age of horse delivered orders? How does an army break a 500 kilometre stalemate? For me, this is fascinating stuff and these are great questions to ask and ponder now that I have the time to do the pondering.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas viewing has started

We have started our Christmas binge viewing with Episode 1 of Doctor Who, 2005 version, with Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper, for us, the best Doctor ever.

Seasons greetings to all, with plenty of good grub and wine and lots of good films.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Hobbit Mastersingers

Saturday afternoon, B had about 20 friends in the conservatory to celebrate her birthday with tea and homemade cakes. B had made the cakes on Friday and Saturday morning and I pitched in with sandwich making, Of course, we had too much food. We had to get everyone out by 4 o'clock as we had tickets for the opera.

Our local arty cinema, Cityscreen in York, was screening a live broadcast of Wagner's "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg" from The Metropolitan Opera in New York, It was wonderful, six hours of beautiful singing and playing of Wagner's music, James Levine conducting from a wheelchair. I had teary eyes on several occasions.

On Sunday we decided to stay at home. Whilst snacking on leftovers, we watched two films:-

First - "The Hobbit ; An Unexpected Journey", then after a short break:

Second -"The Hobbit ; The Desolation Of Smaug".

We watched the two films because on Monday evening we went back to Cityscreen to see the final film in Peter Jackson's Middle Earth mega-vision, "The Hobbit ; The Battle Of The Five Armies; The Defining Chapter". Marvellous. We loved it. A fitting ending to the six film LOTR and Hobbit series.

Thinking about this marathon series of films, in one way I'm glad it is finished, six middle earth films is enough, in another way I'm sad because this is fantastic story telling. We will be returning to Cityscreen to see the film again, then buying the blu-ray boxed set when it is released.

What next for Peter Jackson? B wants him to tackle Asimov's Foundation series of books. I think he's probably had enough of large scale films with lots of CGI, I think he'll choose a couple of romcoms.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Fortress Visit Report : Fort Thungen, Luxembourg

Walk through Fort Obergrunwald, going along the spur, you will arrive at Fort Thungen, probably the prettiest artillery fort I have ever seen. Built in the 1730's by the Austrian Army.

In 1726, Simon de Beauffe, Generalmajor of the Austrian Army, was instructed to extend the fortifications around Luxembourg.

In 1730 he presented his ideas. He wanted to move away from bastioned works to works in the form of arrows to extend the depth of the existing fortifications. He planned seven or eight works. Fort Thungen was built in 1732 and 1733 and extended by the Prussian Army 100 years later.

Currently, the Fort's redoubt is the home to The Fortress Museum - I was not allowed to photograph inside the Museum, but it contains artifacts and maps about the history of Luxembourg's fortifications. The rest of the Fort has been covered over with the Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art.

Fort Thungen top left, with Vauban's Hornwork top centre

Fort Thungen with the Museum of Modern Art built on the Fort's envelope

The excellent information board

Very helpful Relief Model of the Fort as it was built

The envelope, the observation tower in the middle was built as part of Vauban's works

Left tower

Left wall to the shoulder, museum behind

In the ditch, looking up towards the entrance

Behind, right hand shoulder

The ditch between the envelope on the left and the covered way on the right

The Museum of Modern Art

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Horse bedding

B ordered a pallet load of horse bedding to save about £250. It arrived today. 800 kilos. 2metres tall. That is going to take some shovelling.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

"The Imitation Game" and meeting a hero

Trip to CityScreen cinema in York yesterday. B has been asking to see this film for sometime, so yesterday afternoon we went.

It is a good film, not a great film but a good film, an interesting story of an aspect of World War 2 that was unacknowledged for 50 years, well acted, well written, well directed and produced. I enjoyed it. B's verdict "Mmm. It was OK".

Whilst we were waiting to take our seats, one of our actor heroes turned up and agreed to be photographed with me.

Actually it was a cardboard publicity stand, not really Kermit, but it made us laugh.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Fortress Visit Report : Fort Obergrunewald, Luxembourg

On my return route from Metz, I stayed overnight in Luxembourg City. I had about four hours to explore, not enough time really. Much of the 17th and 18th century fortifications have been demolished but some very nice examples remain.

This guerrite was outside my hotel, the rest of the wall is demolished.

This 18th century map shows the defences as Vauban left them. The two lines on spurs of higher ground, top centre, are the works I was looking for, in particular the right hand spur, with a line of two bastions. I had to walk across the city, with some great views.

Whilst taking this photo, I thought maybe to return in early spring before the leaves grow on the trees

The two-bastion line, the object of my searches, I approached the work from the entrée on the right

Between the trees, top left, the rear face of the work

At the foot of the hill

This looks promising.

The entrée from the city side.

A lovely explanation board, showing the two bastions, a ravelin and two places d'armes

Right hand bastion

Left hand place d'arme

The ravelin, pointing towards Fort Thungen and modern museum.


On a place d'arme, looking back at the ravelin on the right and the right bastion behind

An interesting work that looks like it has been rescued and revived, ready for a royal visit, almost scrubbed clean, which is good to see.

Next, Fort Thungen, one of the most beautiful forts I have ever seen.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Magazine Fort, Dublin

Another Facebook photo, this time from the Irish Air Corps.

I think that's a beauty. Dates from 1735 with Victorian and later modifications. Unfortunately it is now abandoned and derelict, falling into serious decay.