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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.

Thursday, 27 November 2014


Some say the English and the Germans have a lot in common, through their common North German heritage and love of beer and sausages. Who would have thought of caravaning?

(Photo from Facebook page "I Love WWII Vehicles")

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Jean Gabin, Mark Wahlberg and a new cap

A few weeks ago, I wrote that the 1939 film "Le Jour Se Leve" (Daybreak) had been rereleased. This is one of my favourite films; it starred one of my film heroes, Jean Gabin. On Sunday afternoon, to my delight and gratitude Cityscreen in York screened the film, bravo. This is one of the posters for the film.

Jean Gabin wearing a very fine cap, with Arletty
 At the start of the film, Jean Gabin's character lives in a room at the top of the tall building. Here he shoots Jules Berry's character, a touring cabaret performer, in an arguement over a young woman (Jaqueline Laurent). The film then tells how all the characters met and are intertwined.

Shortly after the film was completed, WW2 was declared. Jean Gabin joined the French Navy, he escaped to the USA in 1940, from there he joined the Free French Forces of de Gaulle and fought in North Africa and France, winning the Medal Militaire and the Croix de Guerre.

Coincidentally, I have recently purchased a tweed melton cap very similar in style to Gabin's.

 Yesterday I watched a film of a very different calibre, "Lone Survivor", starring Mark Wahlberg. Based on a true story of a US Navy Seals Team that is tasked with eliminating a Taliban leader in the hills of Afghanistan.

They are discovered and hunted by the Taliban with Mark Wahlberg's character being the lone survivor of the title. This is a very good action film, lots of shooting and explosions, lots of blood, lots of swearing, very much young men at war, not a film for the faint-hearted.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Our Neighbourhood Sparrowhawk

Yesterday, mid-morning, I planned to refill the bird feeders in our garden. This is a daily task as around our garden we have a thick hedge which is home to a flock of around twenty house sparrows (the little chaps wont stand still long enough for me to count them), plus dunnocks, a robin, a cock blackbird and a wood pigeon. All take feed.

Yesterday, it went very quiet. "Empty feeders" I thought. When I looked out of the window, this is what I saw.

A young sparrowhawk (Accipter nisus) looking for some breakfast. As the name suggests, this is a small hawk that predates on small birds such as sparrows and dunnocks, particularly those that hang around bird tables. A sparrowhawk will swoop in whilst the smaller bird is preoccupied and not paying attention.

For me, as a birdwatcher, this is a very nice addition to our local population, although I suppose the sparrows may disagree.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

BBC TV "Secrets of the Castle" and Napoleon's hat.

Well, those of us with an interest in fortifications are doing rather well at the moment. This is the second television programme this week that I am recommending.

Last night, BBC2 showed a programme "Secrets of the Castle with Ruth, Peter and Tom". This is programme 1 of a five programme series.

At Guédelon in Burgundy, France, a group is building a medieval castle using medieval tools and skills. This is a living archaeology project of 25 years, they are in year 15. The BBC had these three historians, Ruth, Peter and Tom and a film crew on the project for several months. The historians will participate in all of the duties on the site. In this first programme the men were working in the quarry, mixing mortar, building walls and lifting stones using the treadmill. The woman was home-making in their single room living accommodation, then working with the on-site potter to make the cooking pot for her to make dinner of a potage of ground barley, leeks, nettles and parsley. All very interesting.

Napoleon's hat sold at auction yesterday. It was expected to go for 500,000 euros. A Korean chap bought it for 1.88 million euros. Wow. My gran used to say - obviously more money than sense.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


A wet Monday afternoon at the cinema.

Yesterday afternoon, B dragged herself away from the stables and we went to the cinema to see "Interstellar", Christopher Nolan's epic film about the future of mankind (I'm trying not to give away the end of the film).

169 minutes, that is 2 hours 49 minutes, of high quality photography, acting, music. This is film making on a grand scale. No CGI, no green screen, just lots of location and studio work. A big wall of sound with chunks of silence, at times the dialogue was difficult to hear. If you are thinking of seeing this film, I recommend you go to a good cinema, do not wait for the DVD or television, see it on that big screen. Nolan's vision is on an  epic scale, I loved it, but it is long.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

"Walking Through History"

To readers here in the UK, I would like to recommend that you catch last night's programme "Walking Through History" on Channel 4.

A few years ago when we were discussing holiday destinations, B mentioned that she would like to go to Jersey, I was not so sure but last night's programme has tweaked my interest.

Sir Tony Robinson (of Baldric fame) has for many years fronted an archaeology programme. Now he makes these programmes of walks in the UK countryside. Last night's programme was in the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey. They have a range of fortifications, medieval castles, Elizabethan period, 18th and 19th century defences and German built WWII defences, part of the Atlantic Wall. The programme has moved Jersey to the top of our list of Spring Trip Destinations.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Old Bone's bicorne hat for sale

One of Napoleon Bonaparte's hats is up for auction, estimated value 500,000 euros.

Currently part of the collection of the royal house of Monaco.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

FPW talk to U3A York group

I gave the talk this morning - 100 minutes on the Franco - Prussian War - it seemed to go well, I didn't hear anybody snoring, lots of questions, so I am feeling a bit pleased with that.

For now - normal service just been resumed - back to the films and the winter cricket and maybe a little painting.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

"Mr Turner" and the Second Crusade

We had a nice lunch yesterday, at "Cote" in York then we went to Cityscreen to see the latest hot hot ticket film in town, Mike Leigh's "Mr. Turner". This was Wednesday afternoon, 2:45 showing, the cinema screen was packed and they had turned people away at the 12:00 showing. Now having seen the film I understand why. It is a magnificent film, wonderful. Terrific acting, beautiful mise-en-scene, a real delight to look at, great direction that keeps the story moving along.

From there, B drove me to the University for the Crusaders course, lesson 4 on the Second Crusade. What an almighty shambles that turned out to be. Almost all of the forces were killed in Turkey and Syria, more than 40,000 Christian Knights and soldiers and camp followers. The Christian city of Edessa had fallen to the Saracens, the Crusade was called to take it back but they did not get within 200 miles of the city. The only highlight - the contingent of Crusaders that left by ship from Dartmouth, English, Scottish, Flemish, Frisians and Normans, were forced into Oporto, Portugal, by bad weather. There they met King Alfonso 1 of Portugal and they were persuaded to join in the siege of the city of Lisbon, held by the Moors. The combined Portuguese and Crusader force succeeded after four months of siege, the Crusaders thought its too late in the year to travel now, they had done their bit for the Crusade in defeating the Moors, so most of them stayed in the nice weather and surroundings of Lisbon. In the circumstances, that turned out to be a very wise choice.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

FPW talk to U3A

I have been working hard on my U3A talk on the Franco-Prussian War. Finally I have a good idea of what I want to say and found some good pictures and maps, so I have a week (tomorrow) to get the balance right and to trim it to 90 minutes , then write some PowerPoint slides.

I came across this wonderful image of how the French saw the war's end (must find the artist's name)

 And then a second image, a photo from Prussia of surrendered French equipment at Sedan.

We are having the afternoon off - so now its lunch in York then  cinema. Life's good.