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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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?


Floating in Space is a novel by Steve Higgins. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information!

 

 

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!

 

Second Hand Books and The World of Movie Making

Million Dollar Movie by Michael Powell.

poweelbookI really do love books, especially second hand books. I think that what is so wonderful about a second hand book is that the book has told its story before to someone else, and now if you have just bought it, its going to tell it’s story to you. I spend a lot of time browsing in book shops, both physically in actual shops or on-line in virtual book stores. The thing about on-line book stores is that you have to have a starting point, it’s  no fun browsing through lists of books so I tend to browse on-line only when there is a particular book I want. In an actual book store I scan through the various sections and although I tend to linger on biographies and books about film, anything can catch my eye. A while ago I was reading a book by movie director Michael Powell called ‘A Life in Movies.’ It was a pretty thick book and took a fair old while to read and when I got the end there didn’t seem to be any indication there was another volume. Of course, Powell was quite old when he wrote his autobiography, perhaps he thought that there wouldn’t be time for another book. Well, I’m happy to say he did write another volume and this is it, Million Dollar Movie. Powell continues the story of his life in his usual random fashion, jumping to things out of context and out of sequence. Just because he happens to visiting Hollywood for instance, he will go on to talk about Hollywood and movie people he knows there and so on. Powell made some great movies alongside collaborator Emeric Pressburger but his career stalled when he made a shocking film called Peeping Tom about a disturbed cameraman who murders his subjects and films them as he does so. Audiences were shocked and Powell’s directing career ended, although in later years fellow directors like Martin Scorcese praised the film as a classic. Liz bought me this book as a gift and the copy she tracked down comes from Austin Public library in Texas in the United States. Provenance is a word they use in the antiques business; It’s to do with the background of an item, and that is what makes this copy so wonderful; How it has come so far, from the USA to England, just so I can sit back and enjoy it.

Bring on the Empty Horses by David Niven.

bringontheYou might be thinking, looking at the picture here: Couldn’t the author have found a better picture? Looking at the picture again I suppose that particular copy is just a little tatty. That’s because it’s my travel copy. I’ve got another copy, a much nicer version that resides in my bookcase that I browse through now and again. The reason I’ve got two versions is because my travel copy goes all over the place with me. If I’m travelling somewhere on the bus or train, that slightly tatty copy goes easily into my pocket or my bag because I can read it time and time again. Not only is it the best ever book written about the golden age of Hollywood, it’s also by far the most accessible and readable book on the subject ever.

Niven’s first book was his autobiography; ‘The Moon’s a Balloon.’ In it Niven told how he came over to Hollywood from the UK and made the incredible leap from movie extra to movie star. The title of this book comes from Hungarian director Michael Curtiz. When filming ‘the Charge of the Light Brigade’ Curtiz wanted a hundred riderless horses to come into shot so he boomed on his megaphone ‘Bring on the Empty Horses!’ Niven and fellow actor Errol Flynn collapsed into laughter and Niven filed away the phrase for later use. The book covers the Hollywood years from 1935 to 1960 and Niven paints vivid portraits of Hollywood itself and long vanished watering holes like the Brown Derby and Romanoffs. He looks at some of the stars he has known like Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Ronald Colman, and Constance Bennett. Other chapters profile producers like Sam Goldwyn and many other famous Hollywood personalities of the time. All his stories are told with great affection and I particularly liked the portrait of Mike Romanoff, the restaurateur who tried to pass himself off, in a slightly tongue in cheek way, as a member of the Russian Romanov family. If ever I’m travelling and need something to read on the journey I’ll always have this copy on hand. It’s like an old wine that improves with age!


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My Holiday book bag

richA long time ago I was reading a biography about Richard Burton, in fact it must have been ‘Rich,’ the biography by Melvyn Bragg. Bragg used Burton’s own diaries in his work and wrote, among other things, about Burton’s love of books and when Burton went on holiday he looked forward with delight to the contents of his ‘book bag.’ I know it’s a pretty tenuous link but one thing I have in common with Richard Burton is a love of books and when I go on holiday, one of the delights of lying under a warm sun on my sun bed is a good undisturbed read. OK, I read a lot at home and on my lunch breaks at work but it’s a few minutes here and a few minutes there and whenever I get interrupted it kind of breaks the flow. Some books, as we all know, are just made for a really long, uninterrupted read.

I’m currently on holiday in France and I thought I might share the contents of my ‘book bag’ with you. I’m a really big second hand book buyer and I buy my books from many sources. Second hand book shops, car boot sales, charity shops and of course, the internet. Even the occasional book comes my way as a gift. Anyway, without further ado, here are my holiday books:

Holiday Books

Holiday Books

Muhammad Ali:  His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser

This is an interesting biography and Muhammad Ali, once known as Cassius Clay has led an eventful life. The text is based on numerous interviews made by the author with Ali, his friends, and others involved in his life. The early part of the book dealing with Ali’s career in boxing is good but the book falters a little with the subject’s later life. In fact, I’m not sure what Ali does in his later life apart from travel and talk about the Koran. The author also tries to put Ali’s sporting achievements in context by comparing him with other greats of American sport but apart from Joe DiMaggio, I’d never heard of them. Perhaps that’s a telling point, indicating that Ali’s fame is not just boxing related. George Foreman and Joe Frazier may not be that famous outside of boxing but Ali certainly is. Having said that I’m not sure I’d be interested in Ali at all if not for my Dad. My Dad was a great boxing fan and I was brought up with tales of all the great boxers like Joe Louis, Sonny Liston and so on. His favourite boxer was Rocky Marciano and he disliked Ali with a passion and always, always referred to him as Cassius Clay. From reading this book, that was a feeling many boxing fans had in common and a lot of that dislike for Ali came from his refusal to join the army and fight in Vietnam which resulted in the loss of his world heavyweight crown and his boxing licence. Years later, when an anti-Vietnam focus had taken precedence in the US, people began to view Ali in a more favourable light and so began his rise to popularity. Ali regained his boxing crown as heavyweight champion of the world and has become the most famous boxer, and perhaps even the most famous sportsman of the 20th century.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T E Laurence.

I read this book many years ago but when I saw it again, lying there all forlorn on the shelf of a charity shop, well, I bought it for a few pennies and here it is in my holiday book bag. If you have ever seen the film ‘Laurence of Arabia’ then you will know what this book is about; the exploits of T E Laurence in Arabia during the First World War. Laurence set out to write a classic of literature and not necessarily a history book and to a great extent he succeeded but not without a lot of controversy along the way. After the war an American journalist called Lowell Thomas created a lecture and slide show featuring the exploits in the desert of Laurence and his irregular Arab army. The public were fascinated and the show made Laurence into a household name. Despite going on to become a Colonel, Laurence later resigned from the army and joined the RAF as an aircraftsman under a pseudonym. He seemed to be a man who wanted to court the spotlight and at the same time avoid it. He was killed in 1935 in a motorcycle accident as he swerved to avoid two boys on bicycles. The movie Laurence of Arabia opens with this same incident.

An Autobiography by M K Ghandi.

I’m looking forward to reading this, the thoughts of Ghandi, a man who changed an entire nation whilst embracing the values of non-violence.

No Bed of Roses by Joan Fontaine.

I bought this book from the internet and probably paid more in postage than the actual price of the book. That can be a problem when buying books over the net, especially heavy hard backed ones but to be fair I only paid three or four pounds in total. This autobiography by Hollywood actress Joan Fontaine was a fairly interesting read which took me through my first week of sunbathing in the Central region of France but I have to say, as much as I like Joan the Hollywood actress, I didn’t much care for her style of writing or for most of the content. In many ways the book reads like a run through of her old itineraries or diaries and despite working on movies like Rebecca and Suspicion, both directed by Hitchcock, we hear little about the making of those movies. Some things were very surprising like her random adoption of a Peruvian girl who she later fell out with and stopped speaking to and of course, her famous ‘feud’ with sister Olivia De Havilland. All in all not a bad read but I was surprised to find a little dig in the text at David Niven’s two books of Hollywood memoires. David’s books ‘The Moon’s a balloon’ and ‘Bring on the Empty Horses’ are two of the best books of movie reminiscences I have ever read!

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster.

I’ve not started this book either but you can click on this link for a review. One thing I’ve always found a little funny about books is that the more you want a book and the more you think about it, that book will eventually come to you! I’d read about Paul Auster’s New York trilogy in an internet list of great books. I’d never heard of the book or the writer before but not long afterwards, I spotted a copy at a car boot sale in St Annes! Looking forward to reading this soon, especially as it’s the only novel I have brought on holiday!

Which books are you taking to read on holiday?


If you enjoyed this post, why not try my book, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

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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What happens when classic TV gets remade?

. . . Or perhaps more importantly, why does classic TV get remade? Why not just let sleeping TV classics lie? What! When there’s more money to be made! The thing about classic TV is that people know what it’s about. When they made Mission Impossible into a movie with Tom Cruise we all knew that somewhere in the movie Cruise would get to listen to a recording giving him some impossible mission with the reminder that ‘if any of your people are caught or killed, the secretary will disavow knowledge of your actions!’ The PR man’s job is half done already, done by the collective TV memory of millions of people who watched the TV series. Recently movie producers did the impossible, re created (re-imagined to use movie-speak) Kirk, Spock, and Scotty from the original Star Trek. The first was a pretty good movie, the second, Into Darkness, I wasn’t so keen on. Someone must have liked it though because director JJ Abrams has now been recruited to inject new life into the Star Wars franchise.

Every day the more visible you are on the internet the more stuff comes into your inbox. Some of it is unwanted, TAG_Teaser_Email_05_asome of it is junk but occasionally you get something pretty interesting. I recently received this picture to the left and a week later the video link below. Looks like there is a new version of Thunderbirds in the offing. As a school kid I was brought up on Gerry Anderson’s TV productions. I vaguely remember Four Feather Falls, a cowboy puppet show, but then came Supercar, Stingray and Thunderbirds, all part of Gerry’s vision of the future. What was great about Gerry’s TV shows was that they were aimed at kids but all had a serious adult perspective. They didn’t look down at kids, they treated children more as future adults. Supercar, Stingray and Fireball XL5 were all thirty minute shows but Thunderbirds was a full hour and many of the episodes were serious and complex. One episode entitled the ‘cham cham’ was about a musical code written into a song and it was up to Lady Penelope, the Thunderbirds London agent, to get to the bottom of things. Another Lady Penelope episode that comes to mind was ‘Vault of Death’ in which an employee is trapped in the vault of the Bank of England and the international rescue guys try to save the man before the oxygen runs out. Of course it is Parker, Penelope’s chauffeur, manservant, and former safe cracker who manages to open the vault with a hairpin!

Scott Tracy Thunderbird 1 pilot

Scott Tracy Thunderbird 1 pilot

Sylvia Anderson, Gerry’s wife, was the voice of Lady Penelope and Sylvia always had a credit on the shows for characterisation. It was always the characters that brought the shows to life, not just the incredible Thunderbirds craft launching from under the swimming pool or other hidden places. Gerry and Sylvia went on to make live action shows like UFO and Space 1999 before they had an acrimonious split. Later Gerry tried for a comeback children’s show with Terrahawks but without Sylvia’s characterisations the show didn’t really hit the mark.

Anyway, I do wonder how the guys from this new series targeted me. I must have left something somewhere, some random cookie in cyberspace that let the marketing people know that I used to watch Thunderbirds years ago. Well, I’m not ashamed to say that I did and I also subscribed to the Gerry Anderson comic TV21 and built a plastic kit version of Thunderbird One. Hope the new series lives up to the old one, although I seriously doubt it. Anyway, if today’s kids don’t enjoy the new Thunderbirds, they can catch the classic original on DVD!

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Tasting the Tapas in Lanzarote

snaplanzaThis is week five for Liz and I staying here near the Marina Rubicon in Lanzarote. We’re here for six weeks in total, a nice break away from the snow and ice of the UK. The temperature here is in the early seventies and this last week it’s been a bit cool and cloudy which, I have to say, has played havoc with my swimming and sunbathing routine.

We’re away  from the centre of Playa Blanca by the Marina which is good because like a lot of Spanish resorts, the centre of Playa Blanca is a full of ‘British’ pubs and bars and restaurants offering British beer and meals like chips, egg and beans and so on as their staple fare. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against chips, egg and beans, as a matter of fact it is one of my favourite meals but I can make it myself back at home or go to any pub or café to get it. When I travel hundreds of miles I want something different, not something I can have any day of the week back home. It’s the same with beer. Why would I want a pint of British beer or lager when I can have something different? Of course, all the major brands of beer can now be found all over the world. My local pub has San Miguel on draft! The fact is that the whole world is getting smaller and more international by the day. Not so long ago my cousin was in New York tweeting he was at a bar drinking a pint of Boddingtons, the definitive Manchester ale!

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Tasty nibbles at Café Berrugo

I do like my food and dining out can be such a wonderful experience. All you need is a great location, great staff and of course, great food. As we’re here in the canary islands it seems fair to step away from UK pub food for a while and experience proper Spanish tapas. Tapas as you may know is Spanish for small plates. Small plates of food that is, so not long after arriving Liz and I went to our ‘local’ café, a place called Café Berrugo. Now at first I wasn’t sure if this place was a real authentic Canarian eating house. Why not? Well, with items like chips, egg and sausage and hot dog and chips on the menu that was something of a giveaway but actually when we come here of an evening, most of the clientele are local Lanzarote people and if you look closely at the menu there is a nice tapas section which a lot of the Brits seem to ignore. Anyway, we knew that tapas is small dishes so we ordered this lot: Garlic mushrooms, Canarian potatoes with mojo sauce, garlic prawns, Canarian boar with peppers and onions and a portion of, well I am a Brit after all, a portion of chips. (That’s fries if you are reading this in the US.)

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Garlic mushrooms and bread.

Now the thing is, at this cheap and cheerful café the portions are pretty big so we ended up fairly stuffed after that veritable feast but we managed to scoff it all and wash it down with a nice bottle of Spanish red and the excellent staff offered us a nice free liquor to finish off.

Another night we decided to go up market to the Blue Note bar and restaurant and once again we went for the tapas. I only ordered five as part of the five for twelve euros deal and decided to have two as starters and three as a main meal. Now the thing was that here at the posh end of the marina, tapas clearly does mean small plates, or perhaps tiny plates would have been a better description. The chorizo sausages were nice but as there were only three small sausages I didn’t quite get to gauge the flavour. Same with the meatballs, there were only three of them. Anyway, it was all very lovely with nice staff and a picturesque setting by the marina with a small jazz trio playing away. I recommend it highly, unless you happen to be really hungry!

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Canarian potatoes with mojo sauce and a plate of serrano ham.

So after that little bit of research it seems that tapas do not come in a standard size. If you ever visit Lanzarote and happen to be staying near the Marina Rubicon at Playa Blanca remember this; if you’re not too hungry then have your tapas in the posh restaurants by the marina but if you are feeling even a little ravenous, go down to Café Berrugo!

 

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Floating In Space: Last day to download free on Kindle!

Yes, you can download ‘Floating In Space’ free for your Kindle until 22nd January.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Floating-space-novel-vanished-Manchester-ebook/dp/B00KCS19LO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1402836758&sr=1-1&keywords=floating+in+space

It’s a novel following the adventures of a young man in Manchester in 1977. No mobile phones, no Internet and a pint of bitter cost only 25p. Here’s me talking about it in Manchester;