The Day the Music Died….


At a time when the West is holding its breath, while rattling its nuclear sabres, as Brussels is in lockdown and Paris and Beirut are in mourning following horrendous terrorist attacks, it was a relief to find a gentile tranquility in the exquisite little cinema of Curzon Knutsford.

As part of C’s birthday celebration, we went to see The Lady in the Van.

Spectre it wasn’t. Star Wars it isn’t. And it lacks the political intrigue and tension of Bridge of Spies. OK, I have only seen one of those movies but I think that the ground I am on is safe.

The Lady in the Van is a period piece based on a true story and set in Camden, London in the 1970s and 80s.

It begins with a murder (not) and is a tale of Communists exploiting the literary gay scene of the capital; of police corruption; of nuns cast aside to live homeless on the streets of London. And, as Don McLean foretold, of a dystopian future/past in which the music died.

Starring James Corden and a Robin Reliant, this film is better than both cinematic heavyweights, Noah and Mad Max.

C and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The experience was made even more special as we were surrounded by Cheshire’s blue rinse brigade.

We were the youngest there by a good twenty years.

The atmosphere was a heady mix of germaline and, aptly, talcum powder. Our viewing interrupted only by the occasional rustle of a colostomy bag and a Werther’s Original being gummed during a particularly tense or moving scene.

Loved it. Go and see it!

November 22, 2015 at 8:54 pm 1 comment

Lest We Forget……

Originally posted on Middle Man:

In no particular order……

Joseph Hoolahan (1877-1915), Private, 2nd battalion Cheshire Regiment, killed in action in Flanders after just four weeks action – C’s Great Grandfather.

Albert William Jones (1893 – 1960), Sapper Royal Engineers, served in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in North Africa alongside Lawrence of Arabia’s force, mentioned in despatches for gallantry in 1918 – my grandfather.

John Humphries (1912 – 1991), Lance Corporal Royal Artillery, served in Dover Naval Defence in World War Two – my grandfather.

William Henry Woods (1921 – 1943), Able Seaman HMS Quail, killed in action in the Adriatic when struck by a mine laid by U-413 – my great-uncle.

Les Wynne (1934 – 2011), Royal Marine Commando, 42nd Commando, served in Korea, Malaya and the Canal Zone – my uncle.

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November 8, 2015 at 10:32 am Leave a comment

The Sad Demise of the Humble Horror Movie…..

Middle Man:

Because it’s Halloween…..again

Originally posted on Middle Man:

1999. Perhaps it was because of the inverted “Number of the Beast” but 1999 was the last time that I enjoyed a genuinely scary horror movie – Blair Witch.

Cover of "The Blair Witch Project" Cover of The Blair Witch Project

Why have we lost the power to write or produce decent horror movies? What has happened to our ability to convey the presence of evil, the fear of monsters, the terror of being alone and isolated with a slasher on the loose? Where are the current crop of films turning childhood anxieties and mythologies into nightmares?

Now, off the top of my head I can only think of a small number of movies that have actually scared me:

  • The Exorcist – the theme of Tubular Bells can still cause the hairs on the back of my neck to bristle
  • Psycho – to this day I will not stay in an American Motel, and, I always…

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October 31, 2015 at 9:38 pm Leave a comment

Do You Believe In Ghosts?

Middle Man:

Well…it is Halloween!

Originally posted on Middle Man:

Do You Believe In Ghosts?


Do you believe in ghosts? I do. I believe I have seen one, and been in the presence of at least two others.

Once was when I was quite young and at home in Erdington. Dad was not home from work yet and mom and my sister, J, were upstairs doing something girlie. I was watching a report on the local Midlands news programme, which was investigating hauntings in local factories. The interviewer was talking to two “witnesses”. As I watched a shadowy figure of a woman appeared behind the “witnesses”. I thought it was a joke. A special effect. I called upstairs to my mom and sister, but, the article had finished by the time they got downstairs.

My story was, however, corroborated the following day on the same news programme. They had received a number of complaints by other viewers who had…

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October 31, 2015 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

The Soundtrack To My Life – so far…..

Middle Man:

Bohemian Rhapsody is forty years old!?!

Originally posted on Middle Man:


Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the release of Bohemian Rhapsody. I just listened to it on the radio and my life just flashed before my eyes. This prompted me to update and earlier post – the Soundtrack to My Life (so far….)

I recently created a Playlist on my iPod of some of the songs that mean most to me. While the list is far from comprehensive, it was, nonetheless, an interesting and cathartic process. I have tried to select songs that reminded me of certain periods in my life. They are songs that, when heard, conjure up memories of people, places and feelings. They are not always good memories, but, memories that have helped to shape me into the man that I am today. The Playlist is as follows:

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)

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Fleetwood Mac – Oh Well! (1969)

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October 30, 2015 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment

Poppy Appeal

Middle Man:

It is that time of year again. Yesterday, the Royal British Legion launched the 2015 Poppy Appeal in support of the fallen and their families. Wear your poppy with pride!

Originally posted on Middle Man:

Today the Royal British Legion launch this year’s annual Poppy Appeal. The RBL is a charity which provides support to men and women who are serving or have served in the Armed Forces, and their dependents. Selling poppies is one way in which they generate funds.

While I believe that the Poppy Appeal, and wearing of poppies, are common in North America (in Canada they are known as “Clowns Shoes”) and the Commonwealth, I know that their symbolism is not well understood in many parts of Europe. When I have worn my poppy on business trips in the past it has been the cause of some bemusement and discussion. So, I hope that this will be illuminating for some of my Continental visitors.

Wearing a poppy is also an important part of the annual Remembrance Day which is held on the Sunday closest to the 11th November and the Two…

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October 30, 2015 at 10:01 am Leave a comment



Imagine the scene….

One hundred and eighty five tired and weary souls stranded without power. Unsure of where they are. And, uncertain when it will be safe to move again.

It is dark.

Too dark to move safely from their present location. LED light sticks are issued and haggard, uncertain faces are illuminated by their weak green glow. Shadows are cast by the short but bright white light of mobile phone torches. Batteries are beginning to fade now. But, as long as they last, macabre shadows will continue to be cast upon these stranded waifs.

It is cold.

So cold that emergency hand-warmers and foil blankets have been issued to those who had not dressed for these circumstances. Circumstances unforeseen. The shimmer and rustle of the blankets add further to the strangeness of the atmosphere.

The air is dank. The air is fast turning rancid.

The few toilets that had been available to this ragged band of travellers have long since been filled. And, now they overflow. Piss and ordure and other filth spills from their bowls and stomachs are turned, and retching can be heard. Emergency personal toilets – bags – have been issued to those who are desperate enough and can find a private corner away from the already averted eyes of those who are trying not to think of their own bodily functions. They do not want to have to take their own walk of shame to the darkest corners.


The hot food and drink has long since been consumed. Some in the group had unfortunately refused it when it had been available, believing they would be in a different, more comfortable place, enjoying more homely refreshments by now. It was this group that was suffering the most right now.

I was a member of that group. I was hungry.

The group is desperate for news. Brief conversations, some hushed and others loud – people trying to hide their anxiety through bravado or anger – could be overheard as people who still had charge on their phones tried to connect to the outside world or to loved ones. Snippets and fragments of news snatched from social media were passed down the line. But, the picture remained vague – someone had been hurt, and the police were chasing down a group that were still at large…..

This could have been a scene from a Halloween movie. But it was not. Even though the night for remembering the dead lurks ominously close and is just three nights hence.

This could have been a group of Syrian or Iraqi migrants fleeing war and terror, lost in the dark in a strange and unwelcoming corner of Europe. But it was not.

This was the 17.07 Virgin Train from London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street on Wednesday night. Stranded for over three hours just one frustrating mile outside of Crewe Station.

There had been reports of an attempted suicide and someone hit by a train, which had diverted Manchester bound trains through Crewe. And, then trespassers on the line in the vicinity of Crewe had resulted in the emergency services taking down the overhead power lines and stopping all trains while they dealt with the incident. All trains were stopped. All but emergency power was shut down. Until even the emergency batteries were drained….


The power was off for over three hours and the national rail network was in gridlock. Trains from all destinations passing through Crewe or Manchester were cancelled or delayed significantly. Connections and flights were missed. Meals were missed. Bedtime stories and bath times were missed. Dates and interviews were missed. A rare goal and victory at Anfield, a romp at the Etihad, and humiliation at Old Trafford all missed.

But, the Virgin staff were excellent. They took care of those that needed care. They kept the mood and humour as light as it could be in the circumstances. And much banter was shared.

While there was much sympathy towards the suicide and more towards the poor driver of that train, there was little for the trespassers who had reaped such chaos.

I for one was tired and hungry and missing all-too rare time at home sharing a meal and a glass of wine and the Apprentice with C. But I got home eventually, having stopped for a Big Mac and fries on the way…..

October 29, 2015 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

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