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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Displacement activity - "Pompei" and "Two Days, One Night"

I watched this film yesterday. I loved it - total tosh and full of clichés - Romans slaughter child's tribe, child grows up to be famous gladiator, new master's daughter falls for gladiator - but it was great. Never once thought of Lurcio - titter ye not.

On Thursday I watched this Belgian film, a family/work based drama, I thoroughly enjoyed this film as well.

This film-watching leads me to an interesting question - is this displacement activity? By which I mean, I know I have to sit down and write my presentation for U3A, am I avoiding it by finding other things to do? Of course not I reassure myself, but still there is a little nagging doubt. I'll start writing tomorrow, but wait, tomorrow is the Fiasco fair in Leeds, so I'll start on Monday.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

"The Franco - Prussian War" by Geoffrey Wawro

I have started the work for my U3A talk - by finishing this book that I began in July. Now I have a reasonable idea of the historical sequence of events and I am looking for suitable maps and pictures.

Geoffrey Wawro raised an interesting question - who won the Franco - Prussian War? This is not a question I have considered before as it seemed obvious, the Prussians. They won on the fields of battle and then took advantage of this to force through German Unification. The French lost. Now, having read a few books I am thinking the answer is not so straight forward. Yes, France lost but that was Imperial France and Bonapartism. French Republicans won, in the chaos they established the Republic which has survived two World Wars and a number of recessions and French Monarchists are a small group on the fringes of French politics. Similarly, not all Germans think they won,  South German Catholic states had more in common with Austria and France than Protestant Prussia, during the 17th and 18th century, Bavaria's natural ally was France.

There is much to ponder in the writing.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

New Academic Year

During my last year of work, I spent a few weeks with a chap who was terrified of retirement, he just did not know what he was going to do with all that time. For myself, I've never had so much fun and attended interesting events.

On Wednesday evening I attended the first session of the Lifelong Learning course - "God Wills It, a History of the Crusades" at the University of York. This term is part one - part two next term. Our tutor is a self-confessed medieval warfare junkie, very keen on the Osprey green top series of books and a huge fan of Sir Ridley Scott's Crusader epic film "Kingdom of Heaven". This first meeting was a talk on the role of violence in European societies of the 11th century.  So for the next nine weeks, every Wednesday between 19:00 and 21:00 hrs, I shall be listening to and discussing this little known (to me) topic. The tutor has even given us some reading homework.

On Thursday morning I attended U3A Military History Group in York. A very interesting talk, a first hand account from an ex-RAF pilot who took part in the Falkland's/Malvinas campaign, flying Victor airborne refuelling tankers from RAF Marham. However, this does mean that I have a month to write my 90 minute piece on the Franco-Prussian War as I am November's speaker so I'd better get on with it (tomorrow maybe).

RAF Marham - when I was at Grammar School I joined the cadet force - the Air Training Corps - for young men. Girls were not allowed in the sixties. I was in it for 12 months and we had our summer camp at RAF Marham with its Victor bombers.

One bit of good news. The second U3A group I applied to, "Europe - in or out?", is back on for Friday, 17th October. Three others have expressed an interest, so with the leader and myself, this makes five, enough to form a lively discussion group. The plan is for each to do a little research on a topic for discussion at the next meeting. Presumably the topics will include the constitution of the EU, the Common Agricultural Policy, the free movement of labour and immigration, the financing of the EU and what are the alternatives should we leave the EU. This group could be very good - or very dull.

Victor tanker

I think the Victor had very Eagle comic/50's sci-fi looks
A Victor refuelling two Lightning fighters

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Gone Girl

For those of you that like Hitchcock style thrillers and who-done-its, I really recommend this film.

Following a very good lunch at Mannions in York, we went to Cityscreen Cinema in the city centre to see this film and both of us enjoyed the film very much. Film director David Fincher and the book author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn have crafted a good film. I think it is Hitchcockian as you know the basic plot, you know who the baddies are, you know the central character is going to get into trouble with local law enforcement, the thrill is seeing the central character get himself further and further into trouble and then seeing the breaks and how he gets out of trouble. "Gone Girl" follows that format, but it does it extremely well.

Among the actors, all of whom put in great performances, Rosamund Pike is outstanding and scary, I was always thinking "what is she going to do now?".  Brilliant.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Charge of the Light Brigade

What a fantastic start to the weekend. 07:25 this morning on BBC2.

Historically - complete tosh - but this is Hollywood at its finest. Most of the film action takes place in India to establish the story, a local Prince massacres a British and Sepoy garrison, including the women and children. So they have to be avenged, when there he is with the Russians at Balaclava.

The film has a great final 15 minutes with the charge down the Valley of Death, just a shame the Union Flag was flying upside down.

As I said, a terrific start to the weekend.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Friday Film Thoughts

On Fridays, "The Guardian" newspaper has a separate film and music review section. It is my habit, every Friday for breakfast, I walk into town, buy a copy of "The Guardian", go to a coffee shop (the Costa on Lendal in York is my current favourite, the head barista always asks "do you want your usual?") buy coffee and danish pastry and scour the review.

(A small digression - did you know that in France a danish pastry is known as a viennese pastry.)

I may have mentioned this before - at University I studied politics and I still love that academic side of politics. I was at Uni in the early eighties - the early years of that woman Thatcher (pantomime boo), the Falklands/Malvinas war, the Belgrano, Michael Foot's donkey jacket, Greenham Common, the miners' strike, it was a great time to be studying politics.

In today's film section, the recommended film for our proposed trip for lunch and then to the cinema, "Gone Girl", directed by David Fincher and starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.

Turn the page and I see, joy o joy, reviews of two political films.

First; "Tony Benn : Will and Testament". For those outside the UK - Tony Benn was a left wing politician, a member of the Labour Party, a Member of Parliament for Bristol and then Chesterfield. He was a member of Harold Wilson's Government in the sixties but he went his own way from 1970 onwards - Harold Wilson said Benn "immatured with age".  The film reviewer says "Only a curmudgeon would deny the charm of this eulogy to Tony Benn". I think I will be going to see this film, but by myself, B will not want to see this.

Second; "Still the Enemy Within" - a documentary abut the Miners' Strike of 1984 and 85 - this sounds good but I think I will wait for the dvd.

Turn the page again - the 1939 French film "Le Jour se Leve" is on rerelease. This stars two of my film heroes, Jean Gabin and Arletty. I would love to see this film on a big screen, when we go to Picturehouse York this weekend I may have to beg them to list it.