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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

England 1 New Zealand 0

The last two days I have been glued to the television watching the England v New Zealand Cricket Test Match. After almost five days of play with only nine overs left to bowl, England took the last wicket and won the match.

After a very lacklustre 18 months and a very poor winter which saw England crash out of the ICC World Cup and only draw their tour in the Caribbean, this win will give a great boost to the England Cricket Team and its fans, this fan included. Many commentators are saying the test match was one of the best they'd seen in years with both teams putting in great performances with bat and ball.

A big well done and slap on the back for England's Ben Stokes, the man of the match, he scored the fastest century ever at Lord's which really took the match away from NZ, then took two crucial wickets with consecutive balls in NZ's second innings.

So, on to Leeds, where the second test starts on Friday at Headingly. We have tickets for Saturday, I am really excited already.

England celebrate their win (picture pinched from the Guardian online)

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Happy Birthday Raymond

Raymond Adolphe Séré de Rivieres, born 20th May 1815, died 16th February 1895.

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Séré de Rivieres. After attending the École Polytechnique, the extremely prestigious school of engineering in Paris, he studied at the School of Artillery and Engineering in Metz. He was in the campaign in Italy in 1859. He worked on the defence of Lyon in 1870 during the Franco - Prussian War.

In 1873, he was appointed to lead the planning and building of a new strategy of defence and attack along the borders of France, particularly the new border in the North-East.

He devised a strategy of fortified towns and belts of forts, such as Verdun to Toul or Epinal to Belfort. Between these there were narrow gaps trouées, such as the Trouée de Charmes, through which the enemy would be tempted to advance and be met (and smashed) by the French Army.

The new forts were to a new polygonal design, to respond to the developments in artillery.

Séré de Rivieres retired in 1880. In total, 196 forts, 58 smaller works and 278 batteries were built by 1885.

Fort Douaumont, in the Verdun sector

Fort Douaumont at the end of the Battle of Verdun

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

"The Homesman"

I would like to recommend this film to you. It is not about white hat v black hat or cowboys v indians, it is a continuation of the evolution of a branch of the western that started in the late 50's. These are films about individuals and their struggle to survive against adversity and nature in the mid-western states. In The Homesman, Hilary Swank's character undertakes to take three women back across the River as they have suffered mental breakdowns. She saves Tommy Lee Jones from a hanging and enlists him onto her mission. The journey takes several weeks and they face a variety of obstacles, including Swank's bossiness and Jones' vagabond nature. The film has some funny moments, it has some dire moments. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

"Mad Max Fury Road"

For most of this week I have the house to myself, B has gone to the Royal Windsor Horse Show. Before leaving, she made it clear that she did not want to see this film so I thought I would go to the cinema whilst she wasn't here. I am really glad I did, I loved this film. It is fantastic. It is big, noisy, bizarre, loud, edge of the seat thrilling. As I said, I loved it. The audience at Cityscreen is usually couples, for this film it was 95% male, suggesting this is very much a male film. Lots of action and explosions and catapulting bodies and crashes....fantastic.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Remembering B B King

Sad news, BBC Radio have announced that B B King has passed away. He was a blues singer and guitarist of great talent and humour. I have loved his music for decades, I saw him on stage only once, when I was living in London in the late 1980's a terrific concert. The album he made with Eric Clapton "Riding with the King" is one of my favourites. His death is a sad loss.

"The thrill has gone..."

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Napoleon Solo

I was reading The Miniatures Page and saw as a topic "Morale Napoleon Solo AAR". This is what sprang to my mind

It took me a few seconds to realise the topic was on a Napoleonic solo wargame, not Robert Vaughan. (Nice suit, nice Luger)

Monday, 11 May 2015

"Far From The Madding Crowd"

Trip to Ciyscreen yesterday with my partner B, to see this film. We both enjoyed it very much. Neither of us has read the book so I cannot comment on the storyline but the acting and direction were good. The look of the film, the mise en scene, was fantastic, the costumes, the locations and the filming, the colour, the light, are marvellous.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Fairport Convention

Fairport Convention still enjoying their music

August 2014. We moved home from the City of York to one of the surrounding villages, Nether Poppleton. The village together with its neighbour of Upper Poppleton, has an annual Poppleton Music Festival.

Last night, after dinner with some friends, we all trudged through the rain to the packed Village Community Centre to see Fairport Convention, around 250 tickets had been sold. The band has a new album out and is doing a nationwide tour.

I remember them from my mid-teens in the early 70's when there was something of a folk revival in England. I was a fan until I became an acolyte of Eric Clapton - (incidentally much more acceptable in my Northern working class upbringing). Whilst I write this I have one of their albums ("Leige and Leif") playing on Youtube.

The band was very good, very polished a lot of jokes and laughs, a really good concert and all round a very good night. Then to cap it off when the lights went up, a Rock Deity was spotted in the crowd - Robert Plant. I kid you not.

Robert Plant - we're not worthy

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Plymouth Forts Trip, Day 1, Knowle Battery

Map from

Knowle Battery, plan from

This is our second location. It is in the grounds of a Primary School so we could not gain access, understandably so.

This was an interval battery of 13 guns, between two forts. Most of the gun positions have been removed.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Plymouth Forts Trip, Day 1, Agaton Fort

Map from

This is a map of Plymouth showing all of the forts built in the 1860 - 1880 period. The defences are primarily to protect the Royal Navy docks areas. There are some earlier forts close to and in the city but with the developments in artillery during the 19th century, as cannon got better and striking ranges lengthened, the UK Government decided to build another line of forts and batteries further away from the city.

At the time of building, these forts were in rural, agricultural land but during the 20th century, Plymouth's suburbs have expanded and now surround the works. Our plan was to visit the North Eastern Defences, or at least as many as we could. Some of the forts have been sold and they are in private hands. A military road was built to connect the woks, this is now a major ring road.

Day one was to start at Agaton Fort then go on to Knowles, Woodland and Bowden forts.


First, a couple of images from the Internet.

An aerial shot of the fort

Victorian map

Some of my photos.

Agaton Fort is now a Heavy Goods Vehicle Testing Centre

Gun emplacements around the hard standing

Interval ammo store

The site is very well maintained

Soldiers' Quarters

Gun emplacement

Soldiers' quarters

Officers' Quarters

Detail of Officers' windows

Roof of Quarters, with musket ports at rear of the fort

Musket ports, towards the next work

 Finally, another photo pinched from the Internet, this time of the dry moat, escarp on the right, counterscarp on the left.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Monsieur Hulot

Look at the kid on the back, look at that grin. This photo made me grin like that.

This is one of my favourite film characters - Monsieur Hulot, played by Jacques Tati. This still is from the film "Mon Oncle" - Tati is the uncle of the title. Very funny, Tati had a great eye, seeing and using wonderful social observation as the base of his humour.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

"Avengers Age of Ultron"

We had a trip to Cityscreen cinema in York yesterday, to see the latest Marvel Comics Superhero film "Avengers Age of Ultron".

Very loud, much use of CGI, very implausible. We thoroughly enjoyed it, as did lots of 12 year olds in the cinema, much whooping and gasps from them at the plot twists. I don't know if their parents enjoyed it so much.

The baddies in the film used this place, Fort Bard in the Aosta Valley, Italy, as their base. Lovely shots of the fort, a bonus for me.