Confessions of an Armchair Formula One Fan

F1 fanI’m not a great sports fan but I do like my motor sport. I first started following Formula One back in 1970 when I was a school boy.

1970 was a pretty exciting year for formula one racing. Colin Chapman and his Lotus team had unveiled their new Lotus 72, a revolutionary ground-breaking car that set the standard for formula one cars for years to come. Jochen Rindt won the World Championship but sadly he was killed in practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. His points score was never overtaken and so he took the crown posthumously. In fact three F1 drivers were killed that year, Rindt, Bruce Mclaren, the founder of the Mclaren F1 team, and Piers Courage who drove for Frank Williams, a black year indeed for motorsport.

Jack_BrabhamBack in the early 70s there wasn’t great TV coverage but I do remember watching the Monaco Grand Prix live on the BBC and I will always remember that moment when the potential winner, old hand Jack Brabham, slipped into the barrier on one of the last corners letting Jochen Rindt through to win.

A few years later the BBC was not happy about the explosion of advertising on Grand Prix cars and the crunch came when the cars of John Surtees displayed advertising for Durex. The BBC pulled the plug and F1 effectively vanished from British TV screens for a long while. Towards the end of the seventies the BBC began to broadcast the odd race now and again and then their show ‘Grand Prix’ with long time commentator Murray Walker began in 1978 although I don’t think they broadcast the entire season until 1979.

For most of the seventies I had to depend on BBC radio to find out what had happened at the Grand Prix. In 1978 I listened to a report from the Italian Grand Prix about a crash just after the start in which Ronnie Peterson was injured. Ronnie had broken both legs and been taken to hospital. I was glad to hear he was OK. Ronnie was one of those drivers who appeared to me to be destined for a world championship. If someone had told me in the early seventies that Niki Lauda would be a three times champion I would have laughed out loud. He didn’t look or sound like a champion, unlike Ronnie, his team mate at the STP March team in 1972. The next day I picked up a newspaper and was shocked to find Peterson had died during the night from a fat embolism resulting from his broken bones.

Senna, Mansell, and Prost were the great drivers of the eighties and Gerhard Berger sometimes looked like a future champion although he never made the cut. He survived a terrible crash at Imola in 1989 when he hit the wall at Tamburello and his Ferrari burst into flames. I was watching the race live and thinking how could anyone survive that but moments later a marshal’s van drove up and quickly put the fire out. Berger survived with only 1st degree burns to his hands.

Mansell won a great race at Silverstone in 1987, probably one of my favourite races. It was a gamble on Mansell’s part, turning up the boost on his Honda turbo engine to catch Piquet and on the last lap he should have ran out of fuel. According to his dashboard he had, but his Williams somehow kept running to the end finally grinding to a halt on the slowing down lap.

Alain Prost Mclaren 1988 German Grand Prix

Alain Prost Mclaren 1988 German Grand Prix

Alain Prost retired after a comeback season with Williams when he walked to his final world championship in 1993. In 1994 the Grand Prix circus came to Imola for the San Marino Grand Prix and I remember well watching the race live on TV when Senna crashed, again at Tamburello. Someone said to me ‘he’s dead’ but I disagreed, Berger’s crash was worse and he survived. Sadly, Senna did not.

Television has had a great influence on formula one racing. In the nineties Bernie Ecclestone seemed to be trying a lot of tweeks to get more viewers, especially after one rainy Saturday qualifying round when hardly any drivers went out on track. Naturally really because they could not hope to improve on the previous day’s dry running. That spelled the end of Friday qualifying and from then on, only times set on a Saturday counted towards the grid. That tweeking resulted in an interesting knockout qualifying format which is enjoyable and good for the sport but it hasn’t stopped the rulers of F1 trying to fiddle with it even more and that interference has cast a cloud over the first part of the 2016 season.

Bernie Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Formula One team bosses are currently in something of a panic. Investors have poured millions of pounds into F1, not because they like the sport but because they find their investment can pay off big style in these days of multi million pound global TV and advertising deals. Reports of failing interest in the sport however has rung alarm bells and throughout the motorsporting media there have been calls to make F1 more interesting. Why are the cars not louder? Why are Mercedes winning all the time? Should we bring back refuelling? Is the high tech aspect ruining the driver input? There are even calls for Bernie Ecclestone, the aging F1 emperor to hand over to someone else. Only time will tell what will happen.

It sometimes makes me smile when I compare Formula 1 to other sports like cricket. Can you just imagine if Ecclestone and his investors had a stake in cricket and the TV viewing figures were down? What would happen then? Increase the number of overs? Maybe have an extra ball in each over, seven instead of six? Change the wooden ball to a rubber one? Add an extra stump?

Maybe they will resolve the issues, maybe not. F1 racing goes from terrestrial channels to Sky pay per view in 2019. Will I be subscribing? I’m not so sure . . .


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The Secrets of a Schoolboy Correspondent to the Stars!

A schoolboy correspondentNeil Armstrong, the commander of Apollo 11 stepped out onto the moon in July 1969. He and his crew, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins, came home to incredible global adulation and spent a lot of time touring the world and cementing global understanding that the USA had well and truly won the space race. I can’t imagine what it was like to receive that sort of world-wide adulation but for Armstrong his work with NASA was over. He resigned and became a university professor. People at the university of Cincinnati looked at him with wonder. He signed autograph after autograph then realised that many people were using these as a source of income. For every schoolboy who took his signature, venerated it and saved it in some secret safe place, there were others making a buck from every photo or scrap of paper he signed. So, one day, he stopped doing it.

That’s the thing about the famous; people want to connect with them. Today many people see their hero or heroine and they want to take a ‘selfie’ with them on their smart phone. Facebook and other social media are littered with these sorts of pictures, but in earlier times fans wanted autographs. In fact, they still do. Take a look at ebay and you’ll find many hits for the autographs of movie, TV and sports stars. Rare ones cost many thousands of pounds and if you are lucky enough to have an autograph signed by Neil Armstrong, well it’s worth about £8, 500. Autographs by Neil Armstrong are pretty rare and very collectable, partly because he stopped signing autographs!

You might be wondering where I got that figure from, well it’s from the PFC40 autograph index, a listing of autograph values to help collectors. Top of the list is James Dean’s autograph. Dean was famous for only a short while before his death in a car crash at the age of 24 and it’s the rarity of his signature that gives it such a strong price, showing in the index at £18,500! I wish I had the autograph of James Dean or Neil Armstrong in my collection but here are a few of the ones I do have.

Graham HillGraham Hill can’t really lay claim to being the greatest driver ever, but without a doubt he is one of the greatest motor sporting personalities to ever grace the racetrack. I wrote to him in the seventies and he responded with a card and his signature and it’s one of the prize autographs in my collection. Jackie Stewart, my favourite ever F1 driver and quite frankly, in my opinion, the greatest ever driver, sent me a card with only a machine printed signature. (Little bit disappointed there Jackie!) I have a number of signatures of F1 drivers in the seventies, Bruce McLaren, (founder of the McLaren F1 team) Denny Hulme (world champion 1967) Jack Brabham (world champion 1959, 1960 and 1966) Jackie Oliver, (he drove for BRM in 1970) and John Surtees (world champion 1964.)

Jack_Brabham

Three time world champion Jack Brabham

One of my colleagues who has a daughter who lives in Australia showed me something a while ago. A programme from the 2013 Australian GP signed by all the drivers. Knowing I’m a big Formula One fan my friend thought he had a sure fire sale but sadly, the programme looks a little as if a schoolboy has scribbled all over the pages and the autographs are just undecipherable swirls of a felt tipped pen. It was hugely disappointing and a ‘no sale’ for my friend. Perhaps in the age of the computer, people, well at least Formula One drivers, have forgotten how to write and how much more satisfying are the signatures in my collection than the ones on that programme.

william_shatner

Captain Kirk from Star Trek

As a school kid I spent a lot of time writing to my schoolboy TV heroes and I have signed pictures from Patrick Macnee who played the debonair John Steed in the Avengers, and Linda Thorson who played Steed’s sidekick Tara King. I wrote to the producers of Star Trek in the USA and they sent me colour pictures of William Shatner who played Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy, who was Mr Spock.

Tara King

Linda Thorson as Tara King

My very favourite autograph of all though is another one from the seventies. I wrote a fan letter to Andy Williams who had a hugely popular TV show which aired on the BBC. My favourite part of the show was a comedy sketch with Andy and a bear (OK, a guy dressed in a bear outfit) who always asked Andy for some cookies and then they went into a different comedy routine every week. I loved the bear sketches so much that I wrote to Andy Williams care of Desilu productions, who were mentioned on the credits of his show, in Hollywood California. Months later, a large envelope arrived and inside was a picture of Andy and the bear. ‘To Stephen from Andy and friend’ was the inscription.

I think it says a lot about Andy Williams, that he should make such a gesture for a far away English schoolboy. Thanks Andy, I loved that picture so much!
Andy_Williams

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A visit to Hollywood -with Google Maps!

There are plenty of places I’d like to visit in the world but there are always problems of time and money. I sometimes think that maybe one day when I retire I’ll jump on a plane and visit all those places I’d like to see but the crazy thing is -with the Internet and Google maps- I can do it now! Here are a few of the places I’d head for in Hollywood!

1.The Charlie Chaplin Studios on La Brea and Sunset.

Charlie Chaplin studios

Charlie Chaplin built his studio just south of the corner of La Brea and Sunset Boulevarde in 1917. At the time it was a residential area and Chaplin built a facade of cottages in the manner of an English street so the studios would blend into the neighbourhood more effectively. Chaplin sold the studios when he left America in 1953 and although the property was earmarked for redevelopment, that never happened. The 1950’s TV version of Superman was shot there and later the Red Skelton TV series. In 2000 the Jim Henson company bought the studios and later installed a twelve foot statue of the Muppets Kermit the frog by the gates. In homage to Chaplin, Kermit was dressed as the little tramp.

2. The Old RKO Studios

RKO studios

Between 1921 and 1927 the Robertson Cole Company, later known as FBO, Film Booking Office (once partly owned by Joe Kennedy, father of President John Kennedy) established their basic studio on Gower St. It was later taken over by RKO and expanded. The main entrance was at 780 North Gower St and many classic movies were made in the RKO days such as King Kong and Citizen Kane. In later years the studios were owned by Howard Hughes who in turn sold the studios to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez and it became the home of their company, Desilu Productions. Later still the studios were acquired by Paramount for their television operations and Paramount own the studio today.

3. The Samuel Goldwyn Studios AKA ‘The Lot.’

Samuel Goldwyn Studios
The studio site was bought by Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in 1919 and was known as the United Artists Studio from 1928. It was used by many producers involved with United Artists but Sam Goldwyn won sole control in 1955 and the facilities became the Samuel Goldwyn Studios until Warner Brothers purchased the site in 1980. Today the facilities are known as ‘The Lot’ and the owners lease offices and soundstages to various production companies.

4. 7000 Romaine Street.

Romaine st Hollywood
Even though Howard Hughes owned RKO he never had an office there. Instead for a long time he had his headquarters at 7000 Romaine Street in Hollywood. He set up a central switchboard here and the place was at the hub of his vast empire for many years.

5.Lana Turner’s Hollywood home.

Lana Turner Hollywood Home

Lana Turner rented the house above in the spring of 1958 and lived here with her daughter, Cheryl. On the night of April 4th, 1958, Lana was involved in yet another argument with her boyfriend, gangster Johnny Stompanato. He was threatening Lana with violence and fourteen year old Cheryl, fearing for her mother, armed herself with a knife and listened outside her mother’s room. The door burst open, Lana ran out, Stompanato ran out after her with his arm raised as if to strike Lana and ran into the knife held by Cheryl. The inquest ruled that the murder was justifiable homicide and Cheryl was acquitted.

6.Paramount Studios

paramount studios
Paramount Studios are still going strong today. There’s even a Paramount Studio tour which looks pretty interesting for a film buff like me!

7.James Dean and Blackwells Corner
James Dean
If you’ve read my blog posts before you must have read this post about James Dean. He was killed in a car crash in 1955 while on his way to a race meeting in Salinas. He was driving his new car, a Porsche nicknamed ‘little bastard.’ Blackwell’s corner was where Dean and his friends made a last refreshment stop before the fatal crash.

8.Highway 66, the site of James Dean’s Fatal Crash.

highway 66
James Dean had already been stopped for speeding earlier and now at about 5.45 pm on September 30th, 1955, he was still driving fast. Up ahead of him a 24 year old college student named Donald Turnupseed turned left onto highway 41. He cut across Dean, apparently not seeing the low profile Porsche until the last moment. Dean tried to turn the wheel but the cars collided and Dean was killed. A memorial stands by the scene erected by Seita Ohnishi, a Japanese fan.

(All pictures courtesy google maps. )

So, where would you visit in Hollywood?


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A Brief History of TV Spies

quotescover-JPG-40Now that the X Files has returned to our TV screens I thought I might just take a quick look at TV spies and secret agents. I’ve always been interested in espionage, and the earliest TV spy show I can remember was the Man from Uncle. In case you don’t remember, the show starred David McCallum as Ilya Kuryakin and Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo. It was one of those slick and smooth TV shows from the USA and I even read somewhere that Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, had a hand in producing the series format.

Solo and Kuryakin were agents of UNCLE (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) and used a various array of gadgets in their persecution of criminal organisation THRUSH (Can’t remember what THRUSH stood for!) They had pens that were communicators; ‘open channel D please‘ was something we used to hear our heroes say frequently, explosive devices hidden in the heels of their shoes and I loved every moment of it. The Head of UNCLE, Mr Waverly was played by film actor Leo G Carroll and he worked in a secret headquarters in New York accessed via a dry cleaning store. There was even a spin off series called the Girl from Uncle which starred Stephanie Powers.

1000501009DVDFLT_33df324They recently remade the Man from Uncle into a big screen movie but looking at the trailer, a lot of the best elements were not there; the music, the suave Robert Vaughn, the boyish David McCallum. To be fair I should save my judgement until I’ve seen the film but can you really recreate  something like the Man from Uncle on the screen, years later? I’m not so sure.

In the sixties and seventies there were plenty of crime and espionage series, things like The Avengers with Patrick MacNee as John Steed and his lovely sidekicks Cathy Gale, (Honor Blackman) Emma Peel, (Diana Rigg) and Tara King (Linda Thorson.) The Avengers was a thoroughly British tongue in cheek espionage show which was revived in the eighties as ‘the New Avengers‘ with Joanna Lumley as Steed’s new assistant, Purdey. Back in the sixties though there were other shows like Danger Man with Patrick McGoohan and the Prisoner, which was a sort of secret agent show with a twist. It starred McGoohan as a former agent trapped in a mysterious village. Perhaps he was the character from Danger Man, perhaps not, but those who ran the village wanted information and Patrick McGoohan’s character, number 6, wasn’t ready to give it!

In the 1970’s there was the Six Million Dollar Man starring Lee Majors as astronaut Steve Austin. Austin is injured in a testing accident but as they said in the opening titles, ‘gentlemen, we can rebuild him, we have the technology to make the world’s first bionic man!’ Steve Austin with his bionic legs could run faster than before, see better and hear better because of ‘bionic’ technology and he became a super agent for his boss Oscar Goldman.

In 1979 the BBC produced a TV version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the novel by John Le Carre. A little slow and at times even tedious, it was a view of the other side of the spy world: Shabby men in overcoats and rain macs. The thankless tasks of checking files and sifting information to find a ‘mole’, an agent in the UK working for Moscow centre. The series was remade into a feature film in 2011 which I found rather dull although plenty of great reviews of the film can be found on the internet.

In the 90’s US TV brought us the X Files, a mix of spies, espionage, crime and sci-fi. Personally I rather liked the series but I always had the feeling that the writers had written themselves into a sort of hole and didn’t know the way out. What was the big alien secret? Who was the cigarette smoking man? Yes, I don’t think the writers ever knew. My all time favourite episode of the X-Files was a two parter where agent Mulder is somehow morphed into the body of a CIA man and the CIA man morphs into Mulder’s body.

In 2001, a new fast moving spy drama hit the TV screens; 24. I loved 24 with its  high tech control rooms and the ease at which staff members sent maps, CCTV images, Satellite pictures, and all sorts to Jack Bauer’s gadgets. The idea of 24 was that a complete story covering a full twenty four hours was told in real time, each episode being an hour of the day. Funny though, no one ever had a sleep in those twenty four hours!

Homeland

Homeland

Recently I picked up a DVD of the US series Homeland. It was season 1 when UK TV is just showing season 4 and the series was fantastic. Great acting, some tight direction. Excellent camera work and some really taut and intelligent writing. It’s more of a psychological drama than an action series and I love it. The only problem is I’m three series behind. Do I wait for re-runs or do I get series 2 on DVD?

Anyway, getting back to the X-Files, what do you think of new 2016 series? All the original stars are present, it was made by the original production team and even used the same opening titles so you’d think the result would be pretty good. Actually Mulder looks a little tired. Scully isn’t quite so alluring as she used to be and the first episode seemed to play up all the aspects I didn’t like about the original, especially the ‘conspiracy’ and ‘alternate government’ paranoia stuff. I wasn’t hooked enough to watch episode 2 but wonder of it’s worth doing a quick ebay search for the Man from Uncle on DVD. 1960’s version, of course!


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MASH and the Emotional Leap Indicator

mash-title-960x590MASH has always been one of my very favourite TV comedy programmes. You may have read in another post about how I used to record the programme back in the early seventies with my cassette tape recorder. Later when video tape recorders appeared I used to tape many episodes of the show and now, here in the DVD age I have a number of box sets of the series. One of the things I have always loved about the show was how they could take zany and surreal humour, not unlike that of the Monty Python guys, and set it down in a real place; Korea in the 1950s. Some of the lines that came from the mouths of the characters were not only zany and funny but also very witty and clever. Apart from that, the characters themselves, Hawkeye, Trapper John, Frank Burns, Hotlips, Colonel Blake and Radar were interesting and likeable and I, like most viewers, began a strong emotional attachment with the cast.
graph4Now, you might be wondering about that other part of this post’s title, the bit about the emotional indicator. Yes, I thought you might. It’s not so easy to explain but here goes. Most TV shows and movies have a sort of standard emotional indicator that stays pretty constant throughout the show. Take a look at the graph over to the left and let’s put some numbers up. Say a baseline of zero for a standard, calm emotional level. Now, when the show gets funny that level goes up to something like 15 for instance and I’d even say that in a movie like Police Academy that 15 or higher would be a constant throughout the film, well for me certainly. The original Police Academy movie is one of my favourites and I tend to start laughing round about the start of the film with the scene in the parking lot where Steve Guttenberg says the parking lot is full and then the guy comes in and says ‘park the car dirt bag!’ I usually stop laughing round about the end credits but on a normal film there’s a constant up and down: up when the film gets funny and down to nil when we get back to normal.

Now in MASH, where surreal humour is combined with drama, it’s a different ball game. Many times not only does the viewer hit a 20 or higher and then drop down to zero,  he also drops down further, perhaps down to a -10 or lower in the really sad moments. In the graph you can see a really funny moment that comes before a really sad moment. Here’s a prime example from my favourite ever MASH episode, it was called ‘Sometimes you Hear the Bullet.’

Hawkeye’s friend Tommy comes to visit the 4077th MASH. He’s a journalist who wants to write the story of the Korean War from the point of view of the soldier, not the journalist. So he’s not a correspondent, he’s a fully signed up member of a platoon. He stops in and visits with Hawkeye for a while and the usual zany humour ensues. Tommy then has to return to the war. A side story is one where a wounded young lad (played by future film director Ron Howard) admits he is under age but joined up to prove to his girl that he was a man. In one scene he tells Hawkeye that he is out to get him some ‘gooks’ and Hawkeye replies calmly that another word for gooks is people.

Hawkeye and Trapper plan to steal Major Frank Burns’ Purple Heart- he had an accident and because it happened in a war zone he is eligible for the award -and pass it on to the young lad so he can impress his girl back home. Anyway, later in the episode, Tommy the journalist returns to the MASH, only this time he is seriously wounded. He was planning on writing a book called ‘They Never Hear the Bullet’ but this time he heard the bullet. ‘Never mind’ says Hawkeye, ‘just change the name. Sometimes you hear the bullet, it’s a better title anyway.’ Tommy is anaesthetised and Hawkeye gets to work. Sadly, Tommy dies on the operating table. Colonel Blake has to remind Hawkeye about the queue of wounded and Hawkeye, tragedy etched on his face (an outstanding performance by Alan Alda) has to carry on with his next patient. Every time I watch that episode I sob my heart out, just as I did years ago when I first saw that episode on my Mum and Dad’s old black and white TV. Now I know why; because it wasn’t a case of just dropping down from 0 to minus 36 on the emotional scale, I was already up there on +45 so I had to drop way, way down. That’s why I love MASH: Humour, drama, and tragedy, all mixed into one.

MASH_TV_cast_1974Mash ran for 11 seasons and an incredible 256 episodes. Trapper, played by Wayne Rogers, was my favourite character after Hawkeye and he left the series after season three to be replaced by Mike Farrell playing new doctor B J Hunnicut. Colonel Blake (McLean Stevenson) also left at the end of season three. His character was discharged but right at the very end of the episode news came through to the MASH that the Colonel’s aircraft had crashed with no survivors. This episode prompted an outpouring of grief and resentment from fans at the death of the character. I could understand perhaps Colonel Blake dying part way through the episode and the second part showing the sadness and grief of the rest of the characters but it seemed to me that Colonel Blake’s death was almost an afterthought, just tagged on to the end of the episode. As time went on many of the other series regulars left including Gary Burghof (Radar) and Larry Linville (Frank Burns) and for me personally, the series was never the same.
The last ever episode was aired in 1983 and became the most watched TV episode ever in the USA at the time.

Keep an eye out for Sometimes You Hear The Bullet. It’s well worth watching!


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The Blogger Recognition Award

blogger-recognition-awardFriends and Bloggers. I have recently been made the recipient of a Blogger Recognition Award. I feel very humble in accepting this and I have to thank my fellow blogger Dave Kingsbury for his nomination. Thanks Dave, much appreciated. If can you let me know when the silver cup and cash bonus will be coming my way I would really appreciate it!

The rules for this award are very specific:

1. Select 15 other blogs you want to give the award to.

2. You cannot nominate yourself or the person who has nominated you.

3. Write a post to show your award.

4. Give a brief story of how your blog started.

5. Give a piece of advice or two to new bloggers.

6. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

7. Attach the award badge to the post (right click and save, then upload.)

8. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them.

9. Provide a link  to the original post on Edge of Night 

Well, first of all, here are 15 other blogs I’d like to give the award to. I love them all but the fact of the matter is this, 15 blogs, that’s a bit of a handfull; 5 would have been easier. Anyway, I’ve got stuff to do, places to go so I picked 15 sites very quickly from sites I happen to follow and they must be good otherwise I wouldn’t follow them! (Unless I only followed them because they said they’d follow me if I followed them. That’s the blogging world for you – fickle.)

https://larryhancock.wordpress.com/ Thanks for keeping me up to date with the JFK assassination news Larry.

The B Movie Blog

I Started Late and forgot the Dog

http://journeysinclassicfilm.com/

http://abbyhasissues.com/

https://kaitkingthewriter.wordpress.com/

https://manchesterarchiveplus.wordpress.com/ (Hey, as a pround Mancunian I always check the archives blog!)

https://iheartingrid.wordpress.com/

http://catherineryanhoward.com/

http://mostlyblogging.com/

https://unsolicitedtidbits.wordpress.com/

http://filmdoctor.co.uk/

http://aopinionatedman.com/

https://alicerene.wordpress.com/

https://pleasureforpleasure.wordpress.com/

https://wayneej.wordpress.com/

OK, what’s the next thing? How did I start my blog?
Blogging for me is primarily to promote my work but I do love writing and I do love writing my blog. One good thing about blogging is that it gets the creative juices flowing. It gets you thinking, what can I write about? What can I write about next time? So far the ideas have kept on coming and I’ve got six or seven draft blogs in the pipeline although I do worry about the day the ideas will dry up. When that day comes I’ll probably pack the whole thing in. Many people ask me how do I do it, how do I come up with a new post every week? Well it’s a good job I don’t have to write a daily blog; I’d be pretty pushed to do that I can tell you! Anyway what I do is this: I keep an eye and an ear out for a blog idea all the time. I read a lot and one of my great loves is trolling round for second hand books so if I’m stuck I’ll write about books or writers. I’ve already done posts about James Hilton and Dylan Thomas, two of my favourite writers, and I recently wrote a second post about my finds in second hand bookshops. If ever I see something on TV that might inspire a blog post, I jot it down in my notebook or even sometimes on my mobile. In my car, which believe it or not, is a prime creative space for me, I have a small hand held tape recorder and I can be seen frequently jabbering into it as I drive to and from work.

Recently I switched on the television and an old James Bond movie was showing. Now, I’ve read all of Ian Fleming’s Bond books and seen all the films so that looked to me to be a prime target for a blog. A little research on the internet will tell you that a lot of popular posts will have a number in the title, things like ’10 different ways to promote your blog’ or ’20 ways to get more blog traffic.’ OK I thought, how about ‘8 Things you didn’t know about James Bond!

Advice for Bloggers: Read other blogs. See how they are put together. Use good graphics and pictures as they pull the readers in, I create mine on sites like picmonkey and quotescover. Write about things you like and things you are interested in. If you’re not interested in something, how can you expect to interest others?

If you like humour, books and classic films, check out the blog list above. If you would like to read more of my work, why not try my book, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more info!

 

TV Movies and a Serious Case of Deja Vu!

children-403582_1920I don’t know about you but there are certain things I hang on to in life. One of those things are my diaries. The other day, looking through my schoolboy diary from 1973 I noticed that one entry mentions that I watched a film called the Inspector with Stephen Boyd. It was a movie made in 1962 and it’s about a jewish girl trying to get into Palestine. It’s not a classic movie but I’ve always liked Stephen Boyd and he was rather good in movies like Fantastic Voyage where a mini submarine and her crew were shrunk to minute size and then injected into a man’s body. Have you ever seen The Inspector? I doubt very much if you have, in fact I can’t remember ever seeing that movie again on TV. There are plenty of movies I have seen, some of them over and over though, here are a few of them;

The Great Escape. Ok I love it, I really do but I know the script off by heart I’ve seen it that many times!

Great Expectations. David Lean’s cinematic version of Dicken’s novel. Great movie but I’m fed up of seeing it on Film 4!

The Man In The Iron Mask! Seen this so many times with Richard Chamberlain and Patrick McGoohan and of course it was re made in 1998 with Leonardo Di Caprio but what about showing the 1952 version with Louis Hayward? Now that is a movie I’d love to see again.

Goldfinger, or any of the Bond films. As much as I love James Bond 007, most of the films, especially the older ones, I have seen again and again so I need a break from them. Strangely, I have a few of my favourite Bonds on DVD. I don’t think I ever watch them but I’m so familiar with the Bonds that if I come home from work and one is on TV and I’ve missed the first thirty minutes – well, it doesn’t matter!

So who is it at the BBC or Channel 4 or Sky who decides what films we can see and why is it that some are shown over and over and some only get aired rarely? What happens in the world of the TV scheduler? I really hope those guys are reading this blog because there are movies out there I want to see and a whole bunch of ones, like those above that I am fed up of seeing! Anway, here are a few recommendations for any TV schedulers reading!

CBubblesCharlie Bubbles. This is a great film penned by northern writer Shelagh Delaney and it’s about a (surprise) northern writer played by Albert Finney who journeys back up north from London to see his son. It’s a well observed and fascinating film and for a northerner like me it’s great to see the Manchester of the 1960’s up there on the movie screen. Writer Shelagh Delaney shot to fame in the sixties when she wrote her play ‘A Taste Of Honey’ and had it accepted and performed by Joan Littlewood’s theatre workshop. There’s a rather telling line in the movie when a waiter played by Joe Gladwin, (an actor familiar to UK TV audiences of the 70’s), asks Charlie, played by Finney, “are you still working or do you just do the writing?” Somehow I can imagine that line came from Delaney’s personal experience! Interestingly, this movie marked Albert Finney’s debut as a director. Have you seen the movie? I don’t think you have unless maybe you’ve sourced the DVD version.

In my large but slightly redundant VHS video box I’ve a copy of a wonderful film starring Alec Guinness called ‘Last Holiday’. Guinness plays a pleasant mild mannered salesman called George Bird who has no friends or family and finds out he only has a few weeks to live. He decides to spend the time he has left by going to a rather posh residential hotel where the residents find him a sort of enigma. His star rises here as he becomes involved with the residents and staff and people start to wonder about him. Who is he? Is he rich? Lucrative job offers come his way as well as love but only one person knows his secret, a member of staff that he confides in. In the end Mr Bird finds out he was wrongly diagnosed but the film ends on a sad note when he is killed in a car crash. Penned by author J.B.Priestley, it’s another wonderful British picture full of excellent performances with a whiff of sadness and poignancy about it. Have you seen it on TV? Well, not recently because the last time I have noticed it broadcast was in the 1980’s when I taped it with my trusty VHS video recorder. What happens to classic movies like this and why are they rarely seen on British TV? I wish I knew but I’d love to see this movie again.

Pygmalion Movie Poster

Pygmalion. You’ve probably seen the movie ‘My Fair Lady’ with Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins and Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle but I’d be surprised if you’ve seen this, the original, non-musical version, on TV. Leslie Howard plays Higgins and Wendy Hiller plays Eliza. Hiller is much more believable as Eliza, no disrespect to Audrey Hepburn and Howard is a bright, eccentric Higgins. I’ve never seen this version on TV at all, in fact I picked up the movie on one those free newspaper DVDs. What is interesting from researching the film on the internet is that a controversial (at the time) line was included in the film: Eliza saying ‘Not Bloody Likely!’ This made Wendy Hiller the first person ever to swear in a British film. Dear me, how times change!

Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Sounds a bit mad doesn’t it, a sort of 1950’s B picture. In fact this was shot in colour in 1964 and starred an actor called Paul Mantee who appears in many US TV series of the 1970’s and 1980’s. It pretty much follows the original story of Robinson Crusoe only it’s about an astronaut who crash lands on Mars. He thinks he’s had it but finds that certain rocks contain oxygen which is released when they are heated so he is able to replenish his oxygen supplies. He even finds an alien ‘Friday’ on Mars who has escaped from an alien slave camp. Sounds a little far-fetched I know but it was actually a pretty good movie. I remember watching it on TV on a cold weekday afternoon in the early eighties and it certainly warmed me up. Since then I have never seen it on British TV but it’s well worth a search on e-bay for the DVD version. The day they show it again on TV I’ll be parked up on my favourite armchair ready to enjoy! Come on TV schedulers, get your act together!

Which movies would you like to see on the small screen?


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100 Great Movies you Must See!

I really do love movies. Well, my movies, my own personal favourite movies and I don’t always care for other people’s movies. I tend to like classic movies rather than modern ones, not that I’m denigrating modern film. Anyway, I started off trying to work out my top 10 and ended up with, well, a hundred!

Yes, I can also tell you that because of the list maniac that I am, I decided to make the list into a spreadsheet which is great because I can sort the data and throw certain things back at myself, or in this case, at you, the reader. Here are a few examples; A Number of directors had multiple entries, people like Oliver Stone, Michael Curtiz, Martin Scorcese, John Ford, and David Lean (all with three entries.) My top two directors came out as Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick each with five entries. Woody Allen, Robert Redford and Humphrey Bogart were my favourite leading men and Liz Taylor and Mia Farrow my favourite leading ladies. My favourite years for movies appears to be 1946 with four favourite films and 1956 with five. Anyway, the complete list is below, in no particular order:

A Kind of Loving
A Taste of Honey
Alfie
Blithe Spirit
Broadway Danny Rose
Casablanca
Charlie Bubbles
Dead of Night
It’s a Wonderful Life
Lost Horizon
On the Waterfront
Radio days
Rebecca
Saturday night and Sunday Morning
Serpico
Seven days in May
Spartacus
Sunset Boulevarde
Sweet Smell of Success
The Bad and the Beautiful
The French Connection
The Last Picture Show
The Long Arm
The Maltese falcon
The Man in the White Suit
The Quiet man
The Searchers
The spy who came in from the cold
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The VIP’s
2001 A Space Odyessy
A Hard Days Night
A Man for all Seasons
A Matter of Life and Death
Alien
All the President’s men
Angels One Five
Angels with dirty faces
Annie Hall
Around the world in eighty days
Awakenings
Back to the Future
Billy Liar
Bullitt
Citizen Kane
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Dances with Wolves
Desperately Seeking Susan
Dog Day Afternoon
Fail Safe
Fatal Attraction
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Get Carter
Get Shorty
Giant
Gladiator
Goodfellas
Great Expectations
Green for Danger
Gregorys Girl
Hannah and Her Sisters
JFK
Kes
Lawrence of Arabia
Little Man Tate
Lost in Translation
night Of The Demon
North by Northwest
On Her Majestys Secret Service
One Flew over the Cuckoos nest
Paths Of Glory
Platoon
Pulp Fiction
Rocky
Shane
Smokey and the Bandit
Snow White and the Seven dwarfs
Some Like it Hot
Taxi Driver
The Adventures of Robin Hood
The Big Sleep
The Candidate
The Cincinatti Kid
The Cruel Sea
The Dambusters
The day the Earth stood still
The Godfather
The Graduate
The Great gatsby
The Ipcress File
The King of Comedy
The man who shot Liberty Valance
The Misfits
The Shining
The Silence of the Lambs
The Thief of Bagdad
The Third Man
The Wizard of Oz
Three days of the Condor
To Catch a Thief
Viva Zapata
Wall Street
Whats new Pussycat?
Whats up Doc?
When Harry met sally

Hope you enjoyed the list. What are your personal favourites?

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The British Grand Prix

This is the premier weekend of British motorsport, yes, the British Grand Prix. Time once again for Hamilton and Rosberg to do battle, along with the Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkanon and the Williams cars of Bottas and Massa, and all the lesser teams who gather at Silverstone to fight it out on the tarmac for the spoils of victory.

Years ago, when I was a schoolboy and followed Formula One with a religious fervour, the British Grand Prix alternated between Silverstone, the flat former airfield circuit in Northamptonshire and Brands Hatch, the picturesque track in Kent full of twists, turns and dips.

Today, it seems to me as though Silverstone is trying to turn itself into Brands Hatch because in the past decade they have added various twisty sections and an entire new pit and garage complex. Many other traditions have vanished too in F1 such as the annual post British Grand Prix cricket match; not possible today unfortunately as the latest drivers are prone to dash off home at the end of the race at the earliest possible opportunity. Even a DNF (did not finish) is not all bad if it fits in with an earlier flight.

Now that the F1 teams are flying off to ever more distant lands for their racing; places like Singapore, Soshi in Russia and Bahrain to name but three, it’s good to see the drivers return to a track where the greats of the past also raced. Fangio and Moss competed at Silverstone, as did Stewart and Clark, and Prost and Senna. What they think of the current Silverstone is anybody’s guess but perhaps I’m being mean, looking back when I should be looking forward. Silverstone today is the UK’s premier track and to a great extent, the UK is the centre of the Formula One world. Most of the current F1 teams are based within a stone’s throw of Silverstone and even Mercedes, the current number one team are based in the UK despite their German background. Within 80 minutes of Silverstone is an area nicknamed motorsports alley and the teams that are based here include Mercedes, McLaren, Lotus, Red Bull, Force India, Williams, and F1 minnows Manor Marussia. In many ways, the British Grand Prix is the home race, even for the Mercedes!

I’ve not visited Silverstone since 1992 when it was £60 just to walk in through the gates. What it costs nowadays to gain entrance I shudder to think. Even so, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg should hopefully deliver a performance that will make the entrance fee well worth paying.

My favourite Grand Prix was the 1987 event. I visited Silverstone that year to watch the qualifying and then returned home to watch the race on Sunday on television. Nigel Mansell won a terrific race after changing tyres and then chasing and finally overhauling team mate and race leader Nelson Piquet for a memorable victory.

Nigel Mansell German GP 1988 photo by author

Nigel Mansell German GP 1988 photo by author

Formula One team bosses are currently in something of a panic. Investors have poured millions of pounds into F1, not because they like the sport but because they find their investment can pay off big style in these days of multi million pound global TV and advertising deals. Reports of failing interest in the sport however has rung alarm bells and throughout the motorsporting media there have been calls to make F1 more interesting. Why are the cars not louder? Why are Mercedes winning all the time? Should we bring back refuelling? Is the high tech aspect ruining the driver input? There are even calls for Bernie Ecclestone, the aging F1 emperor to hand over to someone else. Only time will tell what will happen. It sometimes makes me smile when I compare Formula 1 to other sports like cricket. Can you if imagine if Ecclestone and his investors had a stake in cricket and the TV viewing figures were down? What would happen then? Increase the number of overs? Maybe have an extra ball in each over,  seven instead of six?  Change the wooden ball to a rubber one? Add an extra stump? Or even helmet cams on the batsman! Now there’s an idea!

Enjoy the British Grand Prix on Sunday and if you liked this blog, why not buy my book? Click the icon below!

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Why I wrote a Novel and 10 Reasons Why You Should Buy It!

Why write a book? Why indeed. Why would anyone want to spend months, or in my case years, writing a book? There is so much to it, and so much involved. It’s so difficult and once done writers are instantly faced with another question; why would anyone want to spend a lot of their hard earned money buying it?

Screenshot 2015-02-08 15.55blog title ed2Well, to start with the writing part first. Why write? The answer is easy for me because I’ve always wanted to be a writer, I write for me, for my own personal pleasure and enjoyment and if anyone reads my work, well that’s just a bonus!

I love reading and I love movies and TV, and remember; before a word can be filmed on a movie, we need a script, and scripts need writers! As long as I can remember I’ve always had ideas forming in my head: Scenarios and stories, and I’ve always written them down. My home is full of old notebooks and computer files littered with half started stories and story ideas. When I was a school boy I used to write scripts and always noted down who would play the character on screen but looking back at one of them in particular, I think my producers would have been hard pushed to attract Steve McQueen to play a secret agent based in Manchester!

So there it is; I write because I want to, and because my imagination is at work churning out ideas randomly. Some time ago though, I looked at the things I was writing and felt that in order to be saying something worthwhile I had to turn away from sci fi and espionage and write about the life that was right in front of me, working class life in Manchester and the North West of England. I’ve spun a story in my book ‘Floating In Space’ that was more observation than anything; a northern world from the late seventies recreated not necessarily with accuracy but pretty much how I remember it. Buses with bus conductors, pubs and barmaids, music and beer, and men and women and their attraction to each other. I suppose it’s a bit of a flashback to fiction from an earlier generation. Remember those working class ‘kitchen sink dramas’ from the late fifties and early sixties, things like ‘A Kind Of loving’ and ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’? Floating In Space is similar to those works but set in the late seventies and I’ve tried to recreate the atmosphere of the pubs and bars of those times, especially the busman’s working men’s club, as well as I can.

The answer then is that I like to write, in fact I love writing and as I have said so often before, my blog gives me a taste, be it ever so small, of being a real writer and putting something together every week for my deadline, my one weekly deadline of Saturday morning.
Next question: So why should you buy it? Why should you shell out your hard earned cash to read my book when you can go out and buy the two classics mentioned above straight away for a guaranteed wonderful read?
Well, here are a few reasons:

1. Support new writers! If we don’t support new and up and coming writers then the publishing industry will die on its feet and what are we hungry readers going to read then?
2. The Kindle version is just over a pound so surely it’s worth taking a chance for a measly one pound ten pence!
3. You might just enjoy it!
4. Think about me up there in the rainy north of England! Who is going to support me if you don’t buy my book?
5. Still unsure? Why not go to the Floating In Space page here and check out some more information?
6. Even better, check out this video of me talking about my book!
7. For two unbiased, impartial reviews go to my amazon page here! (No they absolutely were not written by two of my mates who had been plied with alcohol!)
8. For a little taster have a look at this excerpt when two of the characters visit an Oxford Road pub!
9. I’ll be upset if you don’t buy it!
10. After all the months and years of writing, editing and re-editing, would you really deny a new writer the chance to be heard?

Anyway, that’s your ten reasons, so why not buy the book: Click the links at the top of the page for more information!