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Sunday, 20 December 2015

"The Price of Glory - Verdun 1916" by Alistair Horne

I have restarted my research for my next U3A talk, the subject being "The Battle of Verdun 1916". The talk is scheduled for February, so I have less than eight weeks to prepare what I want to say.

The book in the title was one of the first books on French history that I read. It is the middle book of a magnificent trilogy by Alistair Horne covering the Franco-Prussian War, Verdun 1916 and the Fall of France May/June 1940. "The Price of Glory" is very important to me. The first time I read it was in the mid-1970s when I was about twenty years old. I was brought up to believe that after Napoleon Bonaparte (who was defeated by the British  Army at Waterloo with a little help late in the day from the Prussians) the French Army was hopeless, useless on the field of battle and could not do anything without British help to bail them out. When I watched the film "All Quiet on the Western Front" I was curious as to why the action in the film is the German Army against the French Army and not against the British. This is when I heard about the Battle of Verdun for the first time. Shortly after, I came across "The Price of Glory" in a bookshop in Manchester and I bought it and read it. This set me to thinking that, perhaps, my peers and my parents/extended family were a little biased in their understanding of the two World Wars and that I needed to do some research for myself.  About the same time I also purchased "Fortress" by Ian Hogg which showed me the beautiful work of Vauban. These were the sparks for my interest in French military history.

My second copy - I'm not sure what happened to the copy I bought in Manchester

"Bonjour you cheese eating surrender monkeys" - French history according to Willie in "The Simpsons"

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Star Wars - The Force Awakens

An afternoon trip with B to Cityscreen in York to see this week's blockbuster.

The hype is true - this is a great film that follows in the footsteps of the first three films (no more Jaja). The audience had some families in it but it was mainly middle aged, plenty of old Star Wars t-shirts and, as one film critic said, when the Millennium Falcon lifts off, many a middle-aged tear fell. It was fantastic, some surprise cameo appearances, really good sets and locations. I loved it.

Monday, 7 December 2015

"Bridge of Spies"

Another trip to Cityscreen in York to see Steven Spielberg's latest film.

On the spectrum of spy films, "Bridge of Spies" is on the John Le Carré end rather than James Bond. No one was killed, no fight sequences, no buildings destroyed. Lots of talking, lots of great acting, particularly from Mark Rylance as the Soviet spy. From me, 5 stars.

The cinema visit was preceded by lunch at Mannion's in York, their hot dogs with fried onions and mustard mayonnaise. They use very high quality merguez sausages and it was very tasty.

Saturday, 5 December 2015


We were watching a programme on Sky TV last night. They previewed some of their Christmas shows. We saw they have televised one of the greatest pieces of 20th century English Literature.

Yes, Raymond Briggs' "Fungus the Bogeyman" has been turned into a four part series, with Timothy Spall (last seen as JMW Turner) in the lead role. Definite post-turkey viewing.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

"Nice out and about"

One storm passed yesterday, another is expected tomorrow, so today with the sun shining here in North Yorkshire, I thought I should get out for a walk.These are the views from Mallison Hill towards Crayke. It is lovely around here, the trees have lost most of their leaves, the winter wheat has just started to carpet the fields, the air is crisp and dry, buzzards circling overhead, winter is just around the corner.