The Brexit Blues

Brexit BluesI suppose I must be a little bit naïve regarding politics because I thought the referendum about the EU had been and gone, was done and dusted and that was that. Before the results appeared, I thought the whole thing was pretty simple: either we would leave the EU or stay in it. Oh well, how wrong I was!

The referendum result has triggered all sorts of things. Firstly the Prime Minister has decided he will stand down and rightly so I suppose. He campaigned hard to stay in the EU so how can he be expected to manage our exit from the EU?

Secondly, and rather strangely, the referendum has also triggered a Labour party leadership election. Not sure why that is but it seems to be a case of Labour somehow ‘lost’ the referendum so now we need a new leader. This is the 21st Century version of political hari-kari. No longer do politicians live to fight another day, now they must fall on their sword, drop by the wayside and give way to a newer leader. Jeremy Corbyn did win a leadership vote by a whopping 60% in 2015 but of course in modern fast moving politics, that no longer matters!

Here are the latest developments- as they happened!

Tuesday.
Jeremy Corbyn has lost a vote of no confidence, Nigel Farage has been booed in the European Parliament (he did tell the European Parliament that basically they are a waste of time and are in denial) and Nicola Sturgeon is already planning to force a new referendum about the Scots leaving the UK. No wonder somebody once said a week is a long time in politics. If you look at the Scottish results as a purely first past the post result, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU. Looking at the actual returns, over a million Scots voted to leave and a million and half wanted to stay, hardly overwhelming was it? Certainly not a mandate for leaving the UK in my book but then Nicola Sturgeon is clearly reading a different book.

Wednesday.
Nicola Sturgeon flies to Brussels for meetings with EU leaders. Although the Scottish MEP Alyn Smith got quite an ovation in the European parliament when he announced that ‘Scotland hasn’t let you down’, Miss or Mrs Sturgeon didn’t quite get the welcome she anticipated. Various individuals urged Jeremy Corbyn to stand down, including former leader Ed Milliband. Corbyn steadfastly refused to bow to the attempted leadership ‘coup’. Good on him I say.

Thursday.
Boris Johnson decides not to try for the Conservative leadership and guaranteed Prime Ministership. (Bit of a surprise, that one.) Michael Gove throws his hat into the ring as did pro leave Home Secretary Theresa May. Interesting: Surely the next PM must be pro Brexit? Jeremy Corbyn is looking more secure as Angela Eagle (any relation to Eddie I wonder) decided to postpone her challenge for the Labour leadership.

Friday.
Angela Eagle is still considering a leadership challenge as is ex-shadow minister Owen Smith but they are still waiting for Jeremy Corbyn to ‘do the right thing!’ Jeremy Corbyn says he does not want to betray the labour members who elected him last year by resigning.
The Daily Mail described Thursday’s events – during which Michael Gove surprisingly announced he was standing for the Tory leadership, rather than supporting Boris Johnson’s campaign – as the party’s “most savage blood-letting since the fall of Thatcher. On a day of extraordinary bitterness, Michael Gove knifed Boris Johnson in the back – ending the former London mayor’s dream of becoming prime minister.”
Some conservatives are now suggesting that Michael Gove should stand down and let Theresa May run unopposed into the leadership of both the country and the Conservative Party. (That’s the same Theresa May that was part of the remain group, like the soon to resign David Cameron, isn’t it? ) Dear me, what has the referendum done to democracy?

One thing that has really surprised me in this referendum is the emergence of two distinctive campaigns, the Remain camp and the Brexit camp. I had thought that politicians would come forward and declare themselves for or against EU membership but I would never have guessed that fully fledged campaigns would emerge, each with their own publicity, leaflets, PR events and even their own ‘battlebuses’. Who paid for these campaigns I wonder?

Acklams Coaches, Beverley E14 ACK Boris Johnson’s Brexit Battle Bus on the sea front in Weston Super Mare. | by Gobbiner

Boris Johnson’s Brexit Battle Bus on the sea front in Weston Super Mare. | by Gobbiner @ Flickr.com

The strange thing is that even in the media there have been calls for the Brexit campaign to come forward with plans for a post EU exit UK. Do people not realise Brexit is not actually a political party? They haven’t won an election, they will not be running the country, in fact nothing has really changed because the same people who ran the country prior to the referendum are still running it!

The other thing that’s interesting is the talk of another referendum, as if we didn’t get the first one right so now we have to have another one! Don’t people understand that there is always a loser in a democracy?

The vote was pretty close, 15 million want to leave and 14 million want to stay, that’s 51.9% against 48.1% but even if it was 70/30 that would still mean 30% of people would be disappointed. Either way, we’ve had the referendum and we voted out, just like the one in Scotland where they voted to stay in the UK.

The previous election didn’t quite go the way I wanted it to but that’s the way of elections. There will always be winners and always be losers. Only a dictator gets all the votes, all the time. After all, everyone voted for Stalin.


Floating In Space a novel by Steve Higgins, available now from Amazon. Click the links at the top of the page to find out more!

Making the VLOG (or I’m Ready for my Close-up Mr De Mille!)

2016-01-28 (2)edOne of my very favourite movies is ‘Sunset Boulevard’, the Billy Wilder classic about an ageing former silent movie star who gets involved with a struggling writer. Gloria Swanson played the silent movie star Norma Desmond, William Holden the struggling writer and in an inspired piece of casting, Erich Von Stroheim played Norma Desmond’s butler and former silent film director. Inspired, because of course in real life, Von Stroheim actually was one of Swanson’s directors in her silent movie days and clips from some of their films are used during the movie.

It’s an outstanding film and due credit must go to the great Billy Wilder who not only directed but also wrote the screenplay, and he even got famous director Cecil B De Mille to play himself in the movie. Even if you’re not a classic movie buff like me, you’ve probably guessed that the quote in the title ‘I’m ready for my close up Mr De Mille’ comes from the movie. There are some even better lines from earlier in the picture when William Holden recognises Norma; ‘You’re Norma Desmond, you used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big’, to which Desmond replies, ‘I am big. It’s the pictures that got small!‘ They just don’t write dialogue like that any more. Anyway, over to the other part of this post, the bit about the vlog.

I follow a number of you tube channels and one of them is ‘I’m Emily’. Emily makes a Vlog, a video blog, every single day! That’s pretty impressive, I mean, I only produce a blog once a week and sometimes I’m pushed to make that target but a video blog, that includes not only recording the content but editing and uploading and so on, all on top of her full time job. I take my hat off to you, Emily.

On my you tube channel, my videos are mostly about my book, Floating in Space. They are all mini adverts I suppose, usually with me talking to the camera explaining why you should buy my book and sometimes why you should try my web page and point your browser at posts just like this one.

Anyway, while on holiday in Lanzarote I wrote once again about my holiday book bag so I thought, hey, I bet I could make that into a vlog too. Should be easy enough. The blog is about my five holiday books, so I imagined myself talking to the camera with the five books all handy in front of me. Sounds easy enough. The aforementioned Emily shoots her vlog on an iPhone which of course has a self facing camera, so if you are filming yourself you can see exactly what is being recorded. Now my video camera is pretty good, it’s a Panasonic HD camera but the screen naturally is at the back and you can’t see the video image as you film. However, whilst out at the market in Marina Rubicon here in Lanzarote I came a cross a sort of selfie gadget: A clamp that clips onto a table or some other support, grips your camera or camcorder at the other end and has a sort of bendy bit in the middle so you can position everything and then record or photograph yourself. So, one sunny day after breakfast I got set up. Table, chair, books and camera all positioned nicely with the swimming pool in the background. I soon found it was not that easy to frame your shot as the clamp on the selfie gadget masks the camera screen so after a few ‘testing 123’ shots to find the best camera position I was ready for take 1.

Take 1. OK, went pretty well, I blathered on a bit and forgot the author of one book so time for take 2.

Take 2. OK but I’m holding the books slightly out of camera shot.

Take 3. I lift the books higher but gradually as the take goes on the books are getting lower and dropping out of shot. Cut, I shout, getting my director hat on.

Take 4. I’ve reframed and lowered the camera a little. I’ve actually cropped off the top of my head but the books are centre stage. I fluffed one of my lines calling Noel Coward an historical figure instead of a theatrical one but recovered that one OK with a little laugh at myself. I also say the Germans were ‘disappointed’ with Hitler at the end of World War Two when discussing a book about Albert Speer, one of Hitler’s ministers. Bit of a understatement there, I meant to say shocked or devastated, anyway, time for take 5.

Take 5. Start to stumble a little here, perhaps I need cue cards. Dorothy Parker wrote what for New York Magazines? Check the blurb on the back of her book again and time for take 6.

Take 6. Looked pretty good. Wait a minute, did I really say ‘my holiday book blag‘? Time for take 7.

Take 7. Radical re think needed here I think so I’ve smarted up a little, put on my favourite holiday shirt and re positioned the camera and my clamp gadget. Wish I’d brought my tripod along! Anyway here we go. Action: ‘Hi I’m Steve Higgins and I’m here in . . er . . ‘ CUT! It’s Lanzarote!

Take 8. Slight camera adjustment as take 7 wasn’t particularly well framed. Forgot to mention who Albert Speer actually was. Will people know who he was? Well, if they are interested in history and World War two yes, otherwise no . .

Take 9. ‘Bleak House by David Copperfield’? What is this guy talking about? Cut!

Take 10. Not too bad, faltered a few times over some words, mumbled  a little perhaps but generally not bad. Sure I can do better though; still a little slow. Needs more pace.

Take 11: Whoa, slow down boy! I said pace not rabbit on and on without taking a breath!

Take 12: Not happening! Time for a swim!

Well, not quite as easy as I had thought it was going to be. I eventually settled for take 4. Better hold off with my application to the BBC just now, still, bit of practice, a few more videos and – ‘I’m ready for my close up Mr De Mille!’

Here’s the completed video blog:


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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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5 Incredible Trigger Points to my Personal Timeline!

quotescover-JPG-44Time moves on as we go about our daily lives but there are always connections back to the past. The things we see, the things we hear, in fact anything we come across, even something as vague as a scent can be a trigger point that takes us back to a time and place we loved, or sadly, perhaps even hated. Memories are intrinsic to our personal selves, they are what makes us who we are.

I don’t know if you remember that TV series from a long time back with James Burke. It was called Connections and it showed how unrelated events from the past were connected to things in the present. Anyway, here’s my take on some personal connections to the past.

1.
Some time ago, and I’m going back a few years because this incident took place in Woolworths in St Annes and Woolworths, that shop that was always there in my youth went bankrupt and disappeared a few years ago. Anyway, I have always been one for skimming through records and CDs, especially when the word ‘sale’ can be seen. In Woolworths I picked up a compilation CD. It had some really nice tracks and a few I’d never heard of but I chose it particularly because of one track, ‘Horse with no name’ by America. I’ve always loved that song and I don’t have a copy of it so I bought the CD. Later when I had got home and played the album I was surprised to find another track that I hadn’t spotted earlier, it was Desiderata, a poem by Max Ehrman made into a pop song, of sorts, by an American guy called Les Crane.
Now not only is that poem one of my favourites but so is the musical version. It was played a lot at school by our headmaster in the morning services and as soon as I heard it again it brought memories of those long ago schooldays flooding back to me: The registrations, the morning assembly, the prayers. Back in the late sixties a lot of those morning assemblies were about Vietnam and how our headmaster, Mr Trickett wove his morning address from Vietnam to the Desiderata, I do not know but that musical version was something I loved and finding it again on a CD was like getting part of my youth back.

2.
I’ve related this story in another blog but this is a great connection so I’ll tell it quickly again. In 1992 I decided to have a last stab at my ambition to break into the TV and film world. I enrolled on a video production course in Manchester. It was only a short course and it was aimed at unemployed people which at the time, I was. Anyway, I had to make a presentation about TV and film and why I wanted to work in video and happily I was accepted. On the course we were split into small groups of three and were tasked to make a short film. After some discussion with my new colleagues we chose as our subject taxi drivers in Manchester. We made a quick outline of what to do, what to film and so on and after familiarisation with our fairly bulky camera and various training modules we went off to make our film. It’s not easy to make a film with two other people: All three of us all had our own ideas about the direction of the film, how to edit it together and so on but we discussed everything, tried to work each other’s viewpoints into the video and eventually came up with a pretty good rough cut. At this point we had to present the cut to the assembled video school and take questions and comments from the audience which was something of an ordeal but we survived and went on to fine tune our cut.
When the video was finished I tried to get TV companies interested in making a full length version for TV but without success, in fact you can read how I fared with Channel 4 here but I still have the video and what is so wonderful about the digital world is that now I’ve uploaded it to youtube, everyone can take a look at our film about taxi drivers in Manchester in the early nineties. In the time before the internet, my tape would be languishing in a cupboard with only ever having been seen by a few friends. Now the video is on the internet it’s my very own connection back to the nineties!

3.
While we were on holiday last week in the Cher region of France we came across a marker by the road. There are many such markers by French villages telling us about battles and incidents of the first and second world wars. We had actually stopped to consult our map as we wandered down a quiet country lane when we saw the plaque. It was showing us that the dividing line between occupied and unoccupied France in the Second World War was here. Sadly, I didn’t have my camera on hand to snap a picture and I can’t even really tell you where we were, except we were close to the village of Germigny L’Exempt. Marshall Petain was the leader of unoccupied France during World War 2 and General de Gaulle the leader of the free French forces. When Nazi Germany was defeated France was reunited under the provisional government of De Gaulle. Petain was tried as a traitor and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in 1951 and is buried at the Cimetière communal de Port-Joinville on the Île d’Yeu, a small island off the French Atlantic coast where he served his sentence. I wonder what Petain himself thought of the situation, did he think of himself as a traitor or was he doing what he thought was right under the circumstances? Anyway, there it was, a quick stop on a country lane to check the map and a small connection with the 1940’s.
4.
Visiting historic places and sites is a great way of connecting to the past. As I have said, there are many sites in France relating to the two world wars. One that we visited in northern France some years ago was a great concrete structure where the invading Nazis were planning to fire V1 and V2 rockets at the UK. Happily, daring raids by the RAF made this impossible but the structure is still there today. As you stand and stare as a tourist today, you can only imagine the heroism of all those who fought for a free world in the past.

Eperleques, France

Eperleque, France

5.
To finish with, another more personal connection. When I lived in Didsbury, back in the mid-eighties, I had a much shorter commute to work than I do now. I worked in Stockport and it took me about fifteen minutes or less to get to work, unlike the forty five minutes of motorway driving it takes me now. Back then I was still a great record collector spending a lot of my free time flipping through vinyl singles in record shops and making up my own cassette tapes to play in my car. I had a favourite tape back then and it was a compilation of TV themes, dialogue from movies, and bits and bobs I had recorded from the radio world. Not so long ago I bought myself some software that lets you record analogue sound from records and tapes and convert them to a digital format and one of the first things I converted was that favourite tape from the eighties. I burned the compilation to a CD and now, here in 2015, I’m travelling into work listening to the same favourites I used to play in my car all those years ago!


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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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My Love Affair With Back To The Future

The world of the cinema is filled with great movies; Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, John Ford’s The Searchers and Michael Curtiz’ Casablanca, to name but a few.
One movie, that I saw described on one web page as a ‘phenomenon of popular culture’ is a movie as good, certainly as entertaining and probably more accessible than any in the list above. Yes, I’m talking about Back To The Future.
The movie was directed by Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis and Bob Gale wrote the screenplay and Steven Speilberg produced and the stars of the picture were Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd.

5274270428_c4dff8b634_bIt was released in 1985 and was the biggest grossing movie of that year. It was also in the headlines again this year because 2015 was featured in Back To The Future 2 and the reality in 2015 was a little different to what the producers imagined! No hover boards, no self tying shoelaces!
Even so, Back To The Future is one of those movies that I loved straight from the opening titles and one that gets a regular airing on my DVD player.

Just in case you didn’t know, the movie is about a scientist called Doctor Emmet Brown who invents a time machine and installs it in his DeLorean. Michael J Fox plays Marty McFly who is helping him in his experiments but things go awry and it’s Marty who ends up in 1955 and he turns to the Doc’s younger self for help. The younger Doc Brown agrees to assist but warns Marty not to interact with anyone from 1955 in case the future is affected. Too late because Marty’s Mum – the 1955 version that is – already has a crush on him and Marty needs to get her focussed on his future Dad George, otherwise he’ll cease to exist!

Now what I really love about the movie is that all the little things that you see come together to make the plot work. The lady in the town square who is collecting for the clock tower restoration fund and the flyer she gives away that proves to be the key to getting 20,000 gigawatts of power into the time machine. (That’s the time machine that’s built in the Docs car, a DeLorean DNC-12.) The guy who works in the coffee shop who we know will become Mayor in 1985. The ‘enchantment under the sea’ ball where we know Marty’s Mum and Dad will fall for each other. I could go on, so there’s so much I love in this movie!

Huey Lewis and the News play the wonderful title track ‘The Power of Love’ and Huey himself makes an appearance in the movie as a judge at a talent competition who rejects Marty and his band for being too loud.

To finish here’s a couple of things you didn’t know about Back To The Future:

Michael J Fox was the first choice to play Marty McFly but the producers of his TV show Family Ties refused to release him from the show. The producers then engaged Eric Stoltz to play the role, however during filming, Zemeckis felt that Stoltz’ portrayal was a little dramatic. They were after someone more like, well more like Michael J Fox, so they went back to the TV show producers, came to an agreement and Michael was given the OK to star in the movie, but only after his day’s shooting was finished on the TV show. That meant a full day on the TV set for Michael, and then he started shooting on Back To The Future in the afternoons and evenings. Most of the daytime shots were done on the weekends as of course on a weekday he was still doing the TV show. Must have been one heck of a work schedule for Michael!

Ever wonder why Marty’s Dad doesn’t appear much in the sequels? Crispin Glover played the part of George McFly, Marty’s dad and both he and Lea Thompson who played Marty’s mum had to age from teenagers to middle age in the movie. Glover fell into a dispute with the producers because he asked for too much money to appear in part 2, so they dropped him. That’s the reason!

US President Ronald Reagan quoted the film in his 1986 State of the Union Address. Apparently when he first saw the joke about him being President, he asked the projectionist to stop the film, rewind and play the sequence again.

This year, 2015, the thirtieth anniversary of the film’s original release should see the first performance of a Back To the Future musical based on the original movie.

 

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How Cars Have Changed Life as we know it!

quotescover-JPG-14It always used to be that the top prize on a TV gameshow, especially in the heyday of the game show in the 80s, was a car: A brand new top of the range family car. The motor car is probably one of the great status symbols of our time and also one of those things that give us unprecedented freedom, certainly compared to our ancestors. Turn the clock back to the 1950s: If people wanted to get out and about and enjoy the great outdoors on a bank holiday the only way to travel was by bus or train. Yes, public transport was crammed with people in those days, all on their way to enjoy the great British seaside destinations.

Today, we are free of all those past restrictions, no waiting for trains or buses. It’s just a simple matter to pop outside, start up the motor and you’re off. The only restriction is probably traffic congestion. How many of us spend our bank holidays stuck in some traffic jam that clogs up the roads to the holiday hotspots?

Traffic is just a nightmare in the UK but then when you consider the densely populated nature of the UK it’s hardly surprising. That’s why I just love driving on the roads of France. OK, Paris may be just like driving in the UK, if not worse but out in the country in departments like the Loire, Brittany and Burgundy the auto route and the A roads are just a joy to drive on. Forget also the drab overpriced service areas in the UK. In France it’s so nice to drive into an ‘aire’ as they call them, a lovely picnic area with toilets and picnic tables. How often have Liz and I stopped at one of these delightful places and opened our sandwiches and bottles of water to find a French couple stop at the next table and open a hamper the size of a house complete with wine, salad, cold meats and God only knows what else.

It’s relatively easy in the UK to drive over to France on the ‘shuttle’. A quick trip to Folkestone, drive onto the train, handbrake on and off we chug down and under the channel.  Thirty minutes later and we are driving off in Calais. Sometimes I think about my very first car and wonder if I could have made that journey in that car. Possibly not as my very first car was a Bond Bug. A what?  Do I hear you might ask?

9o698i3bgeI’m probably pushed to tell you the registration number of my current car but the registration of my Bond Bug, PDB 71M, is still firmly anchored in my old memory bank.  A Bond Bug, for those of you who don’t know was a sporty little three wheeler car and I bought one because I failed my driving test twice and I could drive the Bug on my motorbike licence.

It was actually a pretty eye catching car for a three wheeler. No doors but the roof lifted up to gain access and the side windows were plastic held on by Velcro. I always remember bringing it home and showing it off to my family with a certain amount of pride and my Dad looking at it and saying “How are we all going to get into that?” Perhaps he thought I was going to take us all away for a holiday! It certainly wasn’t a car for travelling over to France in!

Still, we had some nice times, me and the Bond Bug but then one cold and snowy Christmas I decided to chance going out to a Christmas party in the car even though it was losing coolant. I topped it up with water and went off for a night of Christmas cheer. I walked home sensibly, I might add, but when I returned the next day I found that the car had frozen overnight and it ended up having to have an engine rebuild. That was a pretty expensive night out! Later when I passed my driving test I got myself a proper car.

The author and his, well ok not his actually, just some random Ferrari!

The author and his, well ok not his actually, just some random Ferrari!

I’m pretty happy with my current car generally, it’s a Renault Megane convertible and I kind of like being just a bit of a poser, driving round when it’s sunny with the roof down and looking generally pretty cool what with my leather seats and my shades but you do get those days when things go wrong.

I spent a lot of time the other day burning a few new cds to play in my car and just as I joined the motorway on the way to work I pressed the eject button on my CD player but the old cd wouldn’t eject. I could hardly pull over on the motorway so already my journey had not started well.

The other thing is that one of my electric windows, the rear off side one to be exact, has jammed. OK, at least it jammed in the up position but the car automatically drops the windows when raising or lowering the roof, so that means I can’t open my roof.  Add to that the prospect of spring and hopefully some lovely weather – perfect for open top driving – and as you can imagine, I’m not happy!

Anyway, I have to look on the bright side. When I pulled up at work and switched off the radio, my CD ejected! At least I was OK for music on the return journey and now I’ve had the window fixed expect to see me cruising around Lytham with my roof down, posing!

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Job Seekers and Naming That Hurricane!

The job search is a completely different thing today in the 21st century. I remember once back in the 90s when I was unemployed for a short while I was sent to join the ‘job club’. There was one compelling reason to go, attend or we’ll stop your unemployment benefit! OK, fair enough I said, I’m on my way. The very first day at the job club in Levenshulme, Manchester, the club was that packed we couldn’t all get in. It was just give your name, register and get off! The next week there were slightly fewer people and by week four our numbers had reduced to just a small group. We checked the job cards in the unemployment office, checked the newspaper job advertisements and worked on our CV’s. The staff gave advice on interviews, letter writing and so on, and in between we supped plenty of tea, ate a considerable amount of  biscuits and generally had quite a friendly, sociable morning. Why people didn’t want to attend I really didn’t know. I kind of liked it. When I actually got a job I used to find myself thinking, ‘wonder what the guys are doing down at the job club?’

Hurricane_AnitaJob hunting nowadays is pretty much internet browsing. OK, you’ll still see jobs advertised in newspapers but the internet is where the job action is. I’ve even had a video interview with the BBC. I’m glad to say I passed the interview but as so many people applied there wasn’t a job available for me. Pity as I really did fancy working for the BBC!

There are plenty of dream jobs that I fancy doing, professional writer or blogger, or film director but there is one I job I have never seen advertised, and let’s face it, someone has to do it. Yes, I’m talking about that fabled job as a Hurricane Namer! One day I’ll search just that little bit further, go that extra mile and maybe, just maybe I’ll land that job.

It’s one of those home working jobs I imagine, perhaps one where you have to be on call, after all a hurricane could erupt out of the weather front at any time, night or day. Maybe there’s a control room or central office where you are based but I’d guess that every few weeks or so you’d have to work from home and perhaps be on call at the weekend.

I can just imagine the scene, it’s the middle of the night, I’m tucked up in bed at home and my work’s ‘Hurricane Naming’ mobile rings . .

STEVE: Hello, Hurricane Naming Officer.

CALLER: (AMERICAN ACCENT.)Hey, this is the pacific weather station and we’ve spotted a new hurricane forming over the south west. We need a name straight away.

STEVE: OK, give me a minute here, bear with me.

CALLER: OK but look, we need that name.

STEVE: OK I’m on it. (If my work’s ‘hurricane’ laptop is anything like my own laptop it does take a heck of a long time to boot up!) Let me see, which letter are we up to? Oh yes, J. So it’s going to be . . Joan. Yes, Hurricane Joan.

CALLER: Joan? Hurricane Joan? Look, this hurricane looks like be a real ‘kick ass’ hurricane and I’m not sure Joan is up to it as regards a name.

STEVE: Well sorry you don’t care for it but as of 02:35 hours I’m officially naming this hurricane; Hurricane Joan.

CALLER. Holy smoke. Joan? You gotta be kidding?

STEVE: No. Joan it is.

CALLER: The thing is, my Old Mom was kinda looking forward to having a hurricane named after her. She’s 86 this year and not in the best of health. In fact, (fights back the tears) I wonder if she’s going to make 87.

STEVE. Well, what’s her name?

CALLER: Betsy. Hurricane Betsy would be just great, a real gutsy hurricane name!

STEVE. Yes but we’re up to the J’s. We did the B’s a while back, last year actually.

CALLER. Well what about Juliet, my wife’s name is Juliet.

STEVE: Juliet? But what about your old Mum?

CALLER Well, this way we kind of keep it in the family and well, when it comes down to it, that’s my frikkin’ hurricane. I found it and I can’t believe some God damn limey is going to choose a name like Joan!

STEVE: Well what sort of a name is Juliet? Joan has got an old world feeling about it and here in Hurricane Naming we like to keep old traditions going.

CALLER: Juliet is the name of the woman married to the guy who found the hurricane!

STEVE: Well it just so happens that I am the duty Hurricane Namer and as I said earlier, I’m naming that hurricane Joan!

CALLER: You Limey b-

LINE GOES DEAD. STEVE SIGHS, IT IS ALL IN A DAYS WORK FOR A HURRICANE NAMER!

 

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Be nice to people on your way up, because you’ll meet them on your way down!

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I’m not totally sure of the origin of that quote. I personally remember it from one of David Niven’s classic books about the golden age of Hollywood but when I looked it up it is attributed to quite a few people, Walter Winchell, Jimmy Durante or even George Raft for instance so who really said it first I can’t say.

Many years ago I used to be a bus driver. In fact I started work on the buses at the very tail end of the driver and conductor years and one of my colleagues was a guy called Neil. Now Neil was a nice fella but he was also a very rum turkey indeed. Way back then there were conductors like me who were honest, well reasonably honest. There was always the passenger who paid right at the last minute as he was getting off the bus and there wouldn’t be time to snap off a ticket. Those few pence went into the drivers’ and conductors’ brew fund and when we stopped at the next canteen (back in the late seventies and early eighties there was always another canteen on the horizon) I’d get the brews in with those few pence. Of course there were conductors who made a habit of approaching customers who were just getting off the bus and they made a regular brew fund out of those last minute bus fares. Others, those more dishonest ones, and I am sad to say Neil fell into that category, went out of their way not to give out tickets or even issued blank tickets. 

One day Neil got his hands burned. He’d issued a blank ticket to a customer and who should board the bus but the fraud squad. They checked the tickets and pulled Neil up regarding the blank ticket. Neil went to a tribunal where he was accused and faced the sack but an incredible stroke of luck came his way. The fraud squad lost the evidence. They’d misplaced the offending blank ticket and Neil managed to hang onto his job with a stern warning. The fraud squad Inspector, a not very pleasant chap nicknamed Himmler, came up to Neil and told him in no uncertain terms, he had him in his sights and one day he’d get him.

Well, Neil went on to become a driver and then a one man driver and by then, as far as I know, he had left his nefarious past behind him. Still, you never could tell. Some busmen took fare fiddling to a fine art form and it wasn’t always the ones like Neil who were the perpetrators. One guy, I’ll call him Arthur, spent a pretty uneventful life working for the bus company. He never upset anyone, was always on time and was rarely off sick. He was very good with money, and apparently invested his bus driving pay packet well. Of course he was one of the first one man drivers and on a good wage. Anyway, he did really well for himself and owned a nice holiday home in Prestatyn. Good on him you might think. Then he dropped dead one day of a heart attack and a few weeks later his widow came into the depot with Arthur’s spare ticket machine. Spare ticket machine? What spare ticket machine? Nobody had a spare ticket machine! Has the penny has dropped yet? Arthur was issuing tickets and taking fares for himself! Somewhere along the way Arthur had ‘acquired’ another ticket machine. Nice scam. No wonder he had a holiday home in Prestatyn! At least the Depot Inspectors didn’t tell the wife.

Anyway, back to Neil although before going completely to Neil I have to tell you this, At Lloyd road in Levenshulme, we had a small busmen’s canteen. The thing about this canteen was that if you were on the Manchester to Hazel Grove or Stockport route you usually stopped here for your breakfast or lunch. Now if you were going towards Stockport the canteen was actually just by two double yellow lines. Just past the canteen was a turn in to the bus parking bays but if you were due for a meal break and your bus was carrying on to Stockport you had to go through the traffic lights and stop in the lay by, leave your bus and then walk back to the canteen. Now, what most people did was stop on the double yellows then shout into the canteen for the new crew. It was wrong but that’s what we did and no one made a fuss. Anyway, one day an Inspector’s job came available. Various people applied but the guy who got the job was Neil and he decided that his first order of business as an Inspector was to stop buses parking on those double yellow lines! He did so and made himself a very unpopular fellow indeed. He’d wait by the canteen door and ‘book’ any driver stopping on the yellow lines and plenty of times myself and other crews would be coming along, ready to stop and we’d see Neil waving us on so we’d carry on, through the lights and on to the layby.

Now here’s where Neil’s past caught up with him. In those days a new appointment was probationary for six months and Neil went along to an Inspectors’ meeting chaired by one of the senior Inspectors who just happened to be, yes you’ve guessed it, it was Himmler. Now Himmler took Neil to one side. Asked what he was doing in Inspector’s uniform and by the end of the week Neil was back driving his bus and someone else was in charge at Lloyd road.

Neil of course, had upset many people in his short term as an Inspector and he had forgotten the golden rule: Be nice to people on the way up because, well, you know the rest. No one ever spoke to Neil again and he cut a sad figure, shunned by his workmates and always sitting alone in the canteen. Shortly after he packed the job in.


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