Wednesday, January 17, 2018

three billboards outside ebbing missouri…

Moira+I went to the Watershed this afternoon to see Martin McDonagh’s much-acclaimed film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”.
Essentially, it involves a feud between a grieving mother, Mildred, (brilliantly played by the wonderful Frances McDormand) and the local head of law enforcement (played by the very impressive Woody Harrelson). Mildred is at her wit’s end… seven months after the brutal rape and murder of her daughter and the police are no nearer to solving the crime… everything has gone very quiet and, with no leads, the police seem to have given up on the case. Mildred – who is very much a feisty, no-nonsense character - is FAR from impressed. So, she sets about provoking the local police with a series of messages plastered on three large billboards outside her home town…
It’s probably best that I don’t say much more about how things pan out...
All I will say is that it’s a brilliant, brilliant film.
McDormand is frighteningly convincing (and absolutely superb... both lovable and scary!) in her role and the community police leader Chief Willoughby (Harrelson) is also quite remarkable.
Moira and I were chatting on our way home and she described the film’s plot as “almost Shakespearean” and I think this is pretty much ‘spot on’.
It’s one of those films that almost defies description (ok, I’m not very good at summarising these things!)… it’s tough, brutal, tender, beautiful, compassionate, confrontational, shocking, dark and riotously funny… it deals with social division in modern America and yet old assumptions are amazingly overturned. It’s about changing attitudes and preconceptions. At times, I even found myself mentally imploring the film (is that possible?) not to follow a particular story-line…
The film is full of wonderful cameo performances (frequently harebrained!), laugh-out-moments, dramatic sensitivity… and surprises.
You just NEED to see it… it’s as simple as that.
Oscar to Frances McDormand… no question.

january 2018 books…

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (JK Rowling): My fourth Harry Potter novel(!). Whoever would have thought that young-adult readers (and adult readers for that matter) would be prepared to plough their way through a 636-page book of fiction? Certainly I would never have done so in my youth (actually, my default was to avoid reading books, full stop). But I was wrong… very wrong, obviously. Rowling is a quite remarkable writer – a brilliant story-teller with a remarkable ability of knitting together complex scenarios. I think this was my favourite Potter book to date – albeit that I felt there might have been just a few too many layers of plot and intrigue? Rowling is a very clever author and I now completely appreciate why the Harry Potter books have been so successful.   
Beyond A Boundary (CLR James): First published in 1963. I feel somewhat embarrassed that I’d not previously come across James – born in Trinidad in 1901 (died 1989), a novelist, historian, cultural critic, political activist… and writer on cricket. This is a rather extraordinary book (some critics have apparently described it as the “greatest sports book ever written” – I personally wouldn’t go that far!); it’s part cricket reflections, part autobiography… but with the spotlight on cricket in the West Indies and a penetrating study of pre-Independence West Indian society – how only whites would be considered as potential West Indies cricket captains; how British Empire values(?) dictated so much of political and sporting life at the time; how people with light skins were considered more culturally acceptable to those with dark skins etc etc. Quite shocking – especially as such views still predominated as recently as the 1950s. The book also included, amongst others, some wonderful chapters on Learie Constantine, WG Grace and George Headley. A fascinating book.
Have You Been Good? (Vanessa Nicolson): Another random book picked up in The Last Bookshop. It attracted my interest because Vanessa is the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson… and I’d previously found “The Harold Nicolson Diaries 1907-1963” (edited by Nigel Nicolson), which I’d read in 2011, fascinating reading. Vanessa Nicolson’s book is a memoir about her family and about her – made rather more interesting due to the family habit of “documenting everything” (including diaries and letters). She was born into an illustrious, privileged family. Her parents, Ben and Luisa - both art historians - had an unhappy marriage and appear to have taken very little interest or involvement in her childhood (she was an only child). Vanessa duly ‘took advantage’ of her disjointed childhood and reckless youth… including liberal boarding schools, early sexual experiences, drink, drugs, abortions (as well as the death of one of her own daughters, aged 19 – some of her daughter’s experiences seem to have mirrored her own). In the end, I found it a very annoying book! I only read it because of her family connections and ended up feeling hugely resentful (and perhaps a little guilty that I’d been drawn into her world) that she could end up ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ and make money by writing about her privileged background.
Andy Warhol (Wayne Koestenbaum): Another purchase from The Last Bookshop (£2.50). I thought it was about time I learnt more about Warhol (1928-87) and his work and so this biography seemed like a good idea. Warhol was a successful commercial illustrator, but began to attract recognition from galleries in the late 1950s. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture, and advertising and went on to span a variety of media, including painting, silkscreening, photography, film, and sculpture (some of his best known works include the silkscreen paintings Campbell's Soup Cans and Marilyn Diptych from 1962); he was a leading figure in ‘pop art’. I have to say that the book didn’t altogether impress me. Author Koestenbaum, who never met Warhol (but who somewhat incongruously, for me at least, referred to the artist as ‘Andy’ throughout the book), is a poet, cultural critic and ‘Distinguished Professor of English’ at City University of New York. He had comparatively little to say about Warhol’s paintings and silkscreens, but went into lengthy and elaborate detail in describing his films (which frequently documented gay underground and camp culture) and his New York studio, ‘The Factory’, (which became a well-known gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy patrons). Of the ten photographs included in the book, only two relate to illustrations/silkscreens – the rest are devoted to film. I learnt virtually nothing more about his painting/drawing/silkscreening than I knew already.
The Poetical Works (Rupert Brooke): This is a collection of Brooke’s poems written between 1903 and 1915 (he died of septicaemia in a French hospital ship in the Aegean, April 1915). They include the famous ‘The Soldier’ (“If I should die think only this of me…”) and ‘Grantchester’ (“And is there honey still for tea?”) poems from 1914 and 1912 respectively. It seems that, in recent years, changing fashions in verse writing have meant that his work has been challenged by various critics, but I have to say that I do enjoy his poetry - particularly his later poems (but, hey, what do I know?!). In fact, my one criticism of the book is that Brooke’s poems (apart from unfinished ‘Fragments’ written during the voyage to Gallipoli in April 1915) are printed with the most recent poems at the front of the book and his early works at the back… so, in my view, it rather ‘peaks too soon’ – I would have preferred it the ‘other way round’.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

the environment, waste and us…

So, our Prime Minister has set out her 25 year environmental plan… in which she highlighted waste reduction as one of its cornerstones. All very laudable, but a) it’s all about vague aspirations and voluntary measures (no legislation) and b) won’t we have to act much more quickly in order to prevent environmental catastrophe?
I could comment at length on this but I think it’s far better you read this Editorial in today’s Observer.

Instead, I’ve recently been reflecting on society’s changing attitudes towards waste management, pollution and the environment and here are just three observations:
PERSONAL:
1.    Lots of us feel increasingly strongly about the amount of waste we create in our daily domestic lives and want to reduce this level to a minimum. I’m pretty committed towards this, but realise that I could do much, much more than I currently do (and have several friends who do very much more than me).
2.    Some of us are basically just too lazy to think carefully about what we buy, how it’s packaged and how we dispose of the waste products.
3.    In nutshell, many of us are just plain irresponsible and selfish (let’s leave it to someone else).
4.    On a slightly separate note, what I find utterly shocking is the amount of litter/rubbish that people simply drop as they walk around town or throw out of their car windows. I simply don’t understand the mentality of such people.

DOMESTIC:
1.    Recycling has become second-nature for all of us. That’s clearly a good thing, but many people (and it appears that there are an awful lot of them!) simply couldn’t care and abuse the system and its rules.
2.    I regularly hear about people complaining that their main plastic refuse bins aren’t emptied ever week (ours are emptied fortnightly). I keep seeing large bins filled to overflowing and with extra plastic bags stacked alongside them.
3.    Once again, this is a reflection of people’s lazy and selfish attitudes towards waste. In my view, it’s incredibly easy to reduce waste volumes to a minimum by careful (and simple) recycling (I find it sad that much of the waste in OUR bin comes from unrecyclable plastic wrapping – it might not take up much space, but it’s not good for the environment). 
4.    Clearly, for some properties in our cities (eg. terraced houses with no front gardens), it’s often difficult to accommodate large plastic bins neatly/conveniently on street frontages but, by and large, people DO take care and deal with this in a responsible way.
5.    The main problem, it seems, arises with flats, apartments and bedsits (especially when existing houses have been sub-divided. Usually, there’s insufficient space for the multitude of resulting bins (and all their recycling counterparts). No one seems to care or be prepared to take any responsibility (landlords?) and so, frequently, you’re left with numerous bins being scattered in small front gardens or, all too frequently, on the pavement outside the properties (see photograph!).

BUSINESS:
1.    There used to be a time when all businesses had a responsibility for dealing with their refuse within the confines of their own premises. Not any more it seems.
2.    Walk round any city these days and you’ll find numerous instances of massive bins set out on pavements or at kerbsides… these bins ‘live’ there permanently. The rubbish inside them is duly collected (or not!) by private contractors.
3.    These large collection bins are regularly left full to overflowing and with rubbish left strewn over the pavement. This is particularly the case, it seems, for cafés, bars and restaurants… and frequently (because it would be very bad for their respective businesses for customers to see rubbish outside their own premises!), these bins end up being pushed next to someone else’s premises (see photograph!).
4.    Again on a slightly separate note (but one involving commercial business attitudes towards the environment), I recently caught an extract of Gregg Wallace’s television programme “Inside The Factory” (I think it was called). In the clip, goods were being stacked on to pallets ready for dispatch but, before leaving the factory, they were being wrapped by metres and metres of plastic film (they just kept winding it round and round each pallet) – presumably to avoid the inconvenience of the goods ‘working loose’? It was shameful example of ‘we don’t really care’ business practice. It doesn’t have to be like this, for goodness sake!

No doubt you could come up with loads of other examples from your experiences.
In each of the above instances, it seems to be a case of laziness or lack of responsibility or an utter disregard for common decency and appropriate behaviour or business practice. In days gone by, many of these issues would no doubt have been taken up (and resolved) by an environmental protection officer (or whoever)… but, of course, in these days of austerity – where funds are scarce and jobs have been cut – no one, effectively, is there to enforce things.
A very sad reflection on society - on our priorities, on our lack of pride and on our selfishness... or perhaps it's just me?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

mountain…

I went to the Watershed this afternoon to see Jennifer Peedom’s 74 minute “Mountain” documentary film. I sat next to my lovely friend Sarah (and, if you think I go to the Watershed ‘quite a lot’ then, believe me, I’m just on the nursery slopes compared to Sarah’s attendance record!).
I LOVE mountains…
But mountains SCARE me.
Mountaineering books FASCINATE me…
But I’m PETRIFIED of heights.
The above just about sums up my attitude towards altitudes (anything taller than a double-decker bus is probably too much of a personal challenge).

But, hey, I just knew from the trailer that this film would include stunning photography (combining archive footage with new footage shot in 21 countries by legendary mountaineer/cinematographer Renan Ozturk), wonderful music (including an orchestral score drawing on Chopin, Grieg, Vivaldi and Beethoven) and Robert Macfarlane’s evocative text narrated by Willem Dafoe (Macfarlane is a long-time hero of mine!).
Well, I certainly found the whole experience quite, quite mesmerising.
Breathtaking images. Footage of brave/foolhardy/ridiculous(?) mountaineers and skiers (or ‘ski athletes’ as I think the credits described them)(‘between majesty and madness’) undertaking the most outrageous challenges; stunning, almost ‘abstract art’ distance shots of dozens of skiers threading their way down snow-covered mountains; cyclists on skylines; sky-jumpers (or whatever they’re called) launching themselves into the unknown; the wonders of the natural world – including erupting volcanoes.
Whilst much of the film showed beautiful scenery and fearless climbers/skiers/parachutists/cyclists, it also touched on the dangers and the tragedies… and also the commercialisation that mountaineering has become – with footage showing literally hundreds of tourist mountaineers trudging their way towards the foothills of Everest (“this isn’t climbing, it’s queuing”).
I know that, with Blue Planet television documentaries and the like, we’re all completely used to seeing stunning visual images of the natural world… but I was VERY impressed by Peedom’s film. Definitely worth watching (even if you’re scared of heights!).
PS: I was amused by a couple of handwritten postcards pinned to the Watershed ‘film review noticeboard’… one said “Mountains only get that big because they have no natural predators” and “Not as good as Jurassic Park” (I think the author pins this to the noticeboard for every film)!

Friday, January 05, 2018

walk with me…

Moira and I went to the Watershed this afternoon (note: they’ve increased afternoon ticket prices for us oldies to £5!) to see “Walk With Me”, directed by Marc J Francis and Max Pugh). It’s a contemplative journey into the world of mindfulness and 91 year-old Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh… and an insight into life within the secluded monastic community of Plum Village in south-west France (Hanh’s teachings are credited with the phenomenal success of ‘mindfulness’).
As you might imagine, much of this documentary film is about quietness, stillness and contemplation. Footage of the monastic community in rural France (the monks have taken vows to refrain from worldly pleasures) provides a very real sense of daily life and routine (even when opened up to the visitors there on retreat). What’s not so successful in my view is the community’s trip to America. Whilst this provided some interesting insights and experiences, what I really wanted to discover was more about life in Plum Village, more about some of the individual monks and perhaps more about their beliefs.
A fascinating, gentle and enjoyable film… but one that didn’t quite come up to my expectations.
PS: Benedict Cumberbatch (apparently a long-time admirer – of Hanh, not me!) recites some of Hanh’s writings during the course of the film, but comes across far too plummy and actor-like for my taste.
PPS: I wasn’t too impressed by a somewhat tall young woman who (with her friend) arrived late; climbed over the front row of seats and installed herself directly in front of a small old lady (who ended up having to shuffle sideways in order to be able to see the screen); opened up a loud packet of popcorn and other sweets (look, this is the Watershed, for goodness sake… and hardly in the spirit of ‘mindfulness’!!); and then departed (once again climbing over seats – this time without her friend) just over half way through the film… and never returned. I wasn’t terribly impressed. Yes, I’m a cinema snob. I know!).  

Friday, December 29, 2017

new year reflections: december 2017…

Another year’s reflections (as always - a reminder to ME!):
It’s been a good year, DESPITE the fact that I’m regularly still feeling depressed about the repercussions regarding Trump and Brexit… and the continuing struggles of austerity and the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ of this world.
Anyway, on the more positive things:
WONDERFUL BOOKS:
My top FOURTEEN (yes, I know… sorry!), in some sort of order!! (I’d intended to limit it to just FIVE, but found it impossible): Ink (Alice Broadway)(you bet!); How To Disappear Completely (Si Smith)(brilliant!); Please Mr Postman+The Long and Winding Road (Alan Johnson); The Summer Game (Neville Cardus); Venice (Jan Morris); The Broken Road (Patrick Leigh Fermor); Eating Pomegranates (Sarah Gabriel); Love Nina (Nina Stibbe); Long Live Great Bardfield – Autobiography (Tirzah Garwood); Seven Brief Lessons On Physics (Carlo Rovelli); Signs for Lost Children+Bodies of Light (Sarah Moss); and Honourable Friends? (Caroline Lucas).

GREAT FILMS:
My top eleven in vague order (sorry… I tried to get it down to five, but found it impossible): Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool; My Life As A Courgette; On Body And Soul; Final Portrait; Loving Vincent; The Red Turtle; Manchester By The Sea; The Death Of Stalin; Silence; La La Land; and Dunkirk.

LOVELY LIVE PERFORMANCES (broken down into various categories):
THEATRE:

Peter Pan (National Theatre); Vice Versa (RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon); Up Down Man (Tobacco Factory Theatre); Golem (Bristol Old Vic); Racing Demon (Theatre Royal, Bath); Question Mark (Bristol Cathedral); and Tartuffe (Tobacco Factory Theatre).
CONCERTS:
Ricky Ross; Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla and the CBSO (Beethoven’s Fifth); Graham Gouldman; O’Hooley+Tidow; Phil King (Live); Ligeti Quartet (Remembering The Future); and all the excellent Monday lunchtime concerts at Saint Stephen’s church.

EXHIBITIONS:
Not as many as I’d intended (maybe I’ve missed out one or two?): Modigliani at Tate Modern; Grayson Perry at the Arnolfini; World Turned Upside Down, Leeds; Simon Fujiwara etc at Leeds Art Gallery; the Annual Open Exhibition at the RWA; and Degas at Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

SPORTING MOMENTS:
“Live” sport this year, included: County cricket at Taunton and Bristol (which I really enjoyed – and I’ve resolved to watch more games in the coming season); Bristol Rugby at Ashton Gate (including winning against Bath) and at Exeter (narrowly defeated)… despite subsequent relegation.
 
FRIENDS:
Once again, we’ve been blessed to be able to meet up with many of our lovely “special” friends (they know who they are!) on a pretty frequent basis during the course of the year… always special occasions – there have been a LOT of sixtieth birthday celebrations (always good to have friends that are much younger than you!)… and have also really enjoyed making new friendships.

ART STUFF:
Another really enjoyable, busy year, including:
1. I’ve still very much enjoyed continuing to post a drawing or photograph every day as part of my “One Day Like This” blog (now more than 950 drawings and 950 photographs since I started in September 2012).
2. The brilliant Drawing Group I joined last year – organised by the wonderful, talented artists Charlotte and Alice Pain with the support of the Churches Conservation Trust – continues to bring me great joy. We meet for two hours most Tuesdays (and also occasionally go “on tour” to draw other churches).
The Group also held exhibitions at St John-on-the-Wall and Saint Stephen’s churches, Bristol.

3. We had another successful Arts Trail at number 40 (I think this was our 14th consecutive year)… and attracted some 700 people into our basement over the Arts Trail weekend! At one stage, it looked as if there wouldn’t be a 2018 Arts Trail (due to lack of organisers) but, apparently, volunteers have come forward. Well done them!

4. Iris, Rosa and I combined to produce some large window art as part of another very successful Window Wanderland in February.
5. I provided a ‘Sleeping Rough’ photograph for the wonderful ‘World Turned Upside Down’ exhibition in Leeds.
6. I supplied cards for the HOME shop at The Architecture Centre, Bristol (twelve cards from my ‘Ordinary Lines’ series).

FAMILY AND SIMPLE PLEASURES:
Cafes, reading, drawing, photography, walking, cinema, living near the sea (well, sort of…) and, of course, looking after our Bristol grandchildren remain very important aspects of my life (although, now that they’re all at school, our time with them is sadly a little reduced these days… but school-runs and child-sitting partly make up for it!).
Feel SO lucky to have the family we have… and great that we all “get on” so well and are able to see each other regularly (even if we don’t see the lovely Chorley/Lancashire contingent as often as we’d like).
I continue to spend a fair amount of my café time at the wonderful Mokoko on Gaol Ferry Steps!

SOMETHING YET TO BE CREATED:
Definitely need to give more thought to this… lots of things I’d earmarked last year remain untouched, so maybe I need to re-visit them? There’s part of me that would like to do a couple of large paintings – perhaps based on my ‘ordinary’ coloured drawings? HOLIDAYS/LEISURE: 
We’ve tightened our belts again this year, but have been delighted to enjoy a few odd excursions and stopovers to Oxford (50th anniversary college reunion!); Cambridge; Salisbury; and Leeds (well, for me at least).

Sadly, we were also due to have a few days at Drimnin in the Western Highlands – but had to cancel at the last minute because the builders had failed to complete in time.
Not a single game of golf this year (and only one or two the previous year). I think I’m now officially an ‘ex-golfer’!
SPIRITUAL LIFE:
We continue to be part of the Community of Saint Stephens (St Stephens Street in the heart of the city) and it really does now feel like our ‘spiritual home’. We’ve made some really good friends with the very special people there and, although my own faith-life continues on its rather meandering course, it all feels pretty good, hopeful stuff…

I meet up most Wednesday mornings in Dom’s Cafe at 7.30am with a small group of great mates for “Bloke’s Prayer”… which has proved to be pretty brilliant.
HEALTH:
I had quite a SHOCK just before Easter. After my slight “breathlessness” and atrial fibrillation issues of the previous year, I’d been continuing to attend hospital appointments to monitor things… 6 minute walk tests and lung function tests plus various consultations. I’d previously had a CT scan which had highlighted some shadowing on my lungs. The long and short of it all is that a multi-specialist team had met to discuss my ‘case’ and had concluded that
I had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF)… and, at a subsequent appointment, the consultant went on to explain that this was a “serious” condition and that, historically, life expectancy for someone in my condition would be in the region of 3.5-5 years - which, given the time since my previous CT scan, meant closer to 2.5-4 years (it turns out that Keith Chegwin, who died very recently, aged 60, had IPF). Blimey!! There followed more tests and a further CT scan… and, somewhat miraculously (because it seems such things simply don’t happen), the results now showed only minimal lung shadowing. My test results were similarly very positive and, as a consequence, the multi-specialist team was “no longer convinced” that I had a fibrosis… and I’ve now been given an appointment for next August – merely as a monitoring exercise. So, as you can imagine, HUGE relief all round!!     

In other, minor, health matters(!), my cut/inflamed right shin (I mentioned it last year) has now more or less healed… but, for much of this year, I’d also been struggling with painful plantar fasciitis and Morton’s neuroma in my right foot. Touch wood, these now seem pretty much under control/sorted (well, almost). My teeth continue to fall out… and I’ve now got hearing aids (which, of course, I hardly use!)… but, hey, I actually feel in good health and walk more than 3 miles every day, relatively pain-free (touch wood, as you do!) – which is pretty wonderful.
OTHER STUFF:
1. After four very enjoyable years, I’ve now retired as a Trustee at the wonderful Windmill Hill City Farm – although I continue to be involved in minor ways.

2. I now serve on the PCC of Saint Stephen’s church.
3. We are no longer car owners! Living in the city, and within a 10 minute walk of the harbourside (and with our bus passes for other local journeys), we found that we hardly used the car… so, when our old Citroen finally needed expensive repair (which we couldn’t really afford), we decided to bite the bullet and get rid of it. Instead, we’re car club members (Co-Wheels – with three car options within 0.3 miles of our front door)… or, for longer trips, we hire a car… or travel by rail. We still haven’t fully adapted to the change (we need to get better at planning impromptu trips to NT properties, the coast and the like… we’ll no doubt adapt over time).
For us as a family, it’s been another good year… and we continue to count our blessings. We wish you (and all yours) a very happy, healthy and peaceful 2018!

Photo: Christmas Steps drawing from my 2017 Bristol Calendar.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

december 2017 books…

Modigliani (ed. Simonetta Fraquelli and Nancy Ireson): This is the excellent book that accompanies the Tate exhibition. Like the exhibition itself, the book follows the artist’s journey through his adopted city of Paris in the early years of the 20th century… his influences, his friends, his fellow artists, his patrons, the sense of excitement and creativity, the café culture, the changing attitudes to sex and the way people dressed, the influence of early cinema, the First World War etc. Modigliani died of tubercular meningitis in 1920 at the age of just 36. It’s a very lovely book.
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (JK Rowling): My third Harry Potter book(!)… and my admiration for JK Rowling’s writing continues… intelligent, hugely inventive, dark, excellent characters and a brilliant joined-up plot. I could go on… but you’ve probably already read the book yourself!
Bodies Of Light (Sarah Moss): As I’ve previously blogged, I’d mistakenly read Moss’s “Signs For Lost Children” out of order… so I’m now ‘catching up’ by reading its predecessor (published in 2014)! When I first started reading it, I thought I would find it all pretty frustrating – reading about past events knowing, in many instances, how things would eventually pan out. But, actually, it gave a rather interesting insight to this family saga. It’s an incredibly powerful story (set in the 1860s and 70s) about a family in Manchester. The mother is a zealous social campaigner, who offers no hint of warmth+joy and inflicts domestic cruelty and control on her daughters (particularly eldest daughter Ally). The central character, daughter Ally, breaks free from the family to study in London as a medical student and, in 1880, becomes one of the first women physicians in Britain (the fictional Ally and her small band of peers is apparently loosely based on the ‘Edinburgh Seven’ - the first British women to bear the name of "doctor"). It’s a brilliant book and a constant reminder of the shameful attitude of male-dominated society towards women of that time… and how, indeed, such issues exist even today. I’ve also become aware that there is another, earlier book about this family, featuring Ally’s sister May, entitled “Night Waking” (published in 2011) which I also need to read… obviously!
Women+Power: A Manifesto (Mary Beard): Mary Beard is a bit of a hero (heroine?) of mine… I’ve been incredibly impressed by the way she’s handled the awful social media abuse she’s received over the years (but equally appalled that we, as a society, could act in such disgusting manner). This short book is based on two lectures Beard delivered, courtesy of the London Review of Books, in 2014 and 2017. In it, she traces the roots of misogyny to Athens and Rome (not too surprising, given her classicist background) and draws attention to the deeply embedded mechanisms of Western culture that silence women, that refuse to take them seriously, and that sever them from the centres of power – a very appropriate book to follow Moss’s “Bodies of Light”. What she says is powerful and pragmatic (sometimes depressing, but also frequently funny – she has a gift words) and she speaks not just for women, perhaps, but also for those who feel they have no voice.
Some Small Heaven (Ian Adams): Although this Advent book actually runs until Epiphany, with its daily reflections, I’ve already read the book a number of times (as well as using it for daily reflection) – so it seems reasonable to include it in my 2017 books, rather than over-running into 2018. I always find Ian Adams’s writing thought-provoking and challenging and this book is no different – exactly what I needed for this Advent period (I also used it as a basis for an Advent Walk around Bristol). Excellent.

Well, that’s it for another year… I’ve just added up the number of books I’ve read in 2017 and, somewhat ridiculously, it amounts to 80 in total! Essentially (and, yes, I know it’s not a competition!), that’s more than a book-and-a-half EVERY week… I think it’s called ‘retirement’!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

paddington 2...

Mrs Broadway and I went along to the jolly Watershed this afternoon to see Paul King’s “Paddington 2”. We’d seen the first Paddington film with a couple of grandchildren, but today it was just us (plus a few other parents and grandparents and their children!).
And, I have to say, I really enjoyed it… maybe it was something rather traditional about us going to the cinema on the run-up to Christmas?
I thought it was much better than the first Paddington film… the original characters were all still there (Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as Mr and Mrs Brown, plus Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent and Peter Capaldi… amongst others), but alongside a wonderfully over-the-top Hugh Grant, who plays a villain, ‘showboating actor’.
It’s very good fun, heart-warming… and contains lots of marmalade!
PS: the film also includes a sequence on a steam train from Paddington to Bristol - across stunning countryside, lakes and viaducts. After seeing the film, there are going to be an awful of people booking train tickets for this route... who are going to be very, very disappointed (Didcot and Swindon are just two of the actual highlights!).