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Sunday, 16 December 2018

Syria and George III

On Thursday I gave a talk to the Military History Group of York U3A. The subject was the invasion of Syria in 1941 by British, Commonwealth and Free French Forces. Syria and Lebanon were held by Vichy France and the fighting lasted about six weeks.

The talk went reasonably well but I had to skip about 20 minutes as the Group was going to a local restaurant for Christmas lunch so we had to finish early. We had a nice lunch, much better than the last time I went to this particular restaurant, and good conversations but I feel a bit cheated in losing the 20 minutes. Still....I have to put this behind me and look forward to my next talk; in May 2019 I am delivering a talk to the MHG in Pocklington. I have been asked to give my talk on the Fall of the Belgian fort at Eben Emael in 1940.

Something else to look forward to, I have signed up for a course titled "The Dreyfus Affair" at the University of York's Centre for Lifelong Learning. Eight two hour sessions on Thursday afternoon, starting in late January. Also, the Centre has posted a flyer for a course shared with Cityscreen Cinema, "A Brief Introduction to Japanese Cinema"

Tuesday afternoon, B and I went to Cityscreen Cinema for a repeated showing of the National Theatre's production of "The Madness of George III" by Alan Bennett, with Mark Gatiss in the lead role. Wonderful, just wonderful.

Finally I want to share this painting by Victor Poirson of a French Zouave., dated 1888, simply because I think it is a very good portrait.
About ten years I got into a little dispute in the shop Tradition of London about the racial mix of the Zouaves, he insisted they were local Algerians, I thought they were local Europeans and christians. A no-score draw.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Tate Britain

On Sunday, we had tickets to the Edward Burne-Jones  exhibition at Tate Britain.

Burne-Jones was a painter and designer working during the second half of the 19th century and he is linked to the Pre-Raphaelite group of artists.

When we got to the gallery we had quite a shock. The gallery had put out its winter decorations on the front of the building. Here are my photos.

Contemporary art can be challenging but two giant slugs as art is not to my taste. Give me Burne-Jones any day.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Pheasants, shoplifting and fanatics

Finished yesterday, Ottoman Fanatics, Dixons at the front, Hinchliffe with the sword & shield.

"Come and get some if you think you're hard enough"

Phil the pheasant has returned after his summer away.

Most of the day he just sits in the middle of the border, as though hiding, an activity for which he is very well camouflaged. He makes the occasional foray to the feeders but otherwise remains very quiet and still. One morning I went out to collect the feeders and he rather awkwardly limped away, not very far. He has an injured right leg, so maybe the injury and the quiet sitting in the border are linked. Out in the fields he got an injury and he has come back to recover.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Cityscreen Cinema in York to see this Japanese film. I knew it had some wonderful, glowing reviews and that it was a Cannes Film Festival winner. I was not disappointed. It is a delightful, small film based around a family that is on the edge of society and the economy and they are struggling to survive. That survival includes day labouring jobs, precarious cleaning jobs, the sex industry and shoplifting. There's no CGI, no car chases or gratuitous sex and violence, just a massive secret at the heart of the family that slowly unfolds. I am agreeing with those wonderful, glowing reviews.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Alan Bennett and Mike Leigh

"When sorrows come they come not single spies but in battalions"

This week has been a good week for going out.

First, on Tuesday, B and I had an evening out at the Theatre Royal in York to see Alan Bennett's double bill of spies. This was preceded by a very good dinner at a new North African Kitchen (whose name escapes me). Very good nosh, the merguez sausages and butter beans dish was particularly good.

The double bill of spies is called "Single Spies". It is two short plays, "An Englishman Abroad" about Guy Burgess living in Moscow, and "A Question of Attribution" about the naming of (Sir?) Anthony Blunt as a Russian spy. Great performances, entertaining and real, given by Theatre by the Lake company.

Tuesday was a very satisfying night out.

Later in the week I went to Cityscreen Cinema for an afternoon showing of Mike Leigh's new film "Peterloo". The news media has been carrying stories that not many people know of the events at St. Peter's Field that became known as The Peterloo Massacre. I was born and went to school in a cotton town and St. Peter's Field is on the other side of Manchester from us, so we were told about the Peterloo Massacre at school. Estimates are that around 100,000 people gathered on the field to demand voting rights and representation. These days the meeting would be described as a pro-democracy event, similar to the Arab Spring. The meeting was charged by the local Yeomanry and other troops, 18 people were killed, hundreds wounded. Mike Leigh takes his time in getting to the event, using the film to tell several different strands of stories of how people got there, the orators, the families, the authorities, the journalists. For me, this is first class history telling, real people, real events.

And it were grand to hear folk talking proper.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

BBC TV - Assad documentary

This morning we had a free morning, no visits, no horse duties. After breakfast we decided to watch a programme on television. Looking through our list of recorded programmes, we chose the first episode of a BBC tv documentary, "A Dangerous Dynasty : House of Assad". This was so good we watched episode two. Then, after showers and dressing, we watched the third and final episode.

This was one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. The current president of Syria, Bashir Assad is the second son of the dictator Assad and was not expecting to take up a political role, he was an eye surgeon working in a London hospital. When the first son was killed in a car crash, Bashir was ordered home. The documentary shows how a doctor becomes a butcher and mass murderer of his own people  and why he has taken the decisions that have ruined Syria.

We strongly recommend this three part series to anyone interested in history or politics.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

"Meet on the Ledge"

Monday night, a school night, we were out on the town to see a rock legend, Richard Thompson.

It was a great concert, the Grand Opera House in York was packed and it looked sold-out, with a sea of grey and balding heads. Richard has a new album out that he is pushing but he also sang plenty of his older songs and played some of his acoustic work. The band is the Richard Thompson Trio, even though there were four of them on set, but they were very accomplished. A great concert, very enjoyable.

I bought a souvenir 

Sunday, 21 October 2018

They Shall Not Grow Old

Saturday afternoon - we took a trip to the cinema to see Peter Jackson's latest work. We wholeheartedly recommend this film to you - B thought it was remarkable, I think it is a very clever and moving way to tell and show Tommies' stories and memories.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Officially, I am now an OAP

Yes, Sunday was my 65th birthday and I am now an Old Age Pensioner. Hurrah.

A part of the Civil Service, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has mailed to me details of the pension, both how much and when I will receive it (on the 24th of each month). I think I am one of the last people that can claim their pension at 65, my partner is 2.5 years younger than me but she has to wait until her 67th birthday to receive the pension. DWP was also the last Civil Service Department of both my partner and me.

65 also means I can claim a number of other benefits. I am waiting for my bus pass that will allow me to travel on scheduled bus services free of charge after the morning commute; very handy as I don't own a car, I own a bicycle but I am too lazy to ride the 15 miles into York. I qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment, or technically, the household qualifies as someone aged 65 or over lives here. This is a 200 UK pounds annual payment, not a huge amount but I will take it and I am grateful. There may be more so I have some investigating and probably some form filling to do.

Under the clock tower in front of the green door - the bus stop for services to and from York

The grassed area in the foreground now has mature trees, otherwise not much has changed
Another advantage of being an OAP, I can bore for England. "You kids don't know you're born", one of my grandmother's favourites, or start a sentence with "When I were a lad". I'm confident there are plenty more so I need to practise.

This old photo I found on Google Images. This is of Easingwold Station with the Station Hotel at the left rear. This was the end of the smallest branch line in England, about 2.5 miles from the main East Coast line. Somehow it escaped being nationalised after WW2, but went bust and was closed in 1956.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

St Mawes Castle (3) Internals

These photos were taken in the Gun Tower.

St Mawes Castle (2) Externals

St Mawes Castle is a lot smaller than Pendennis across the river

The main entrance, originally there was a drawbridge

Through the Gatehouse and going into the main Gun Tower

One of the bastions from the Gun Tower

East Side bastion

Front bastion with the Coat of Arms and West side bastion

Grand Sea Battery, these four gun positions were remodelled during the 1870's for 64 pdr cannons

This is a 24 pdr from 1815, mounted on the 1870's racer

The Main Magazine, built in 1854

The Magazine's protecting wall

The Saluting Battery (start the kids off young)

These are some extra photos I got from Google Images. Many thanks to those posted these.

The Main Magazine