The Sad Demise of the Humble Horror Movie…..

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October 31, 2017 at 8:15 am Leave a comment

The real Game of Thrones….

It is the very last series of the great TV Box Set Game of Thrones, but who would have thought that the real-life geo-politics of today would overshadow the mythical drama in terms of intrigue, the struggle for power, unbelievable hairstyles, murder, dynastic inbreeding, and, the threat of war on a global stage?

In the rich, vast lush lands of the West, in the Land of the Bald Eagle, Emperor Trump the Stupid sits upon a great faux gold throne in his mighty self-branded tower, surrounded by his family. As he strokes the thigh of his very, very, very and smart lovely daughter, his hairdresser sobs silently in a dark room, and, the neckerchief industry bemoans his total disregard for the fact that ties should never be worn below the belt buckle, even if intended as a distraction from an inadequate manhood. Wringing small, orange, sweaty hands Trump the Stupid plots global domination while eating apple pie and tweeting – the little bluebirds of Twitter being his own messenger crows through which to inform his acolytes.

In the East, the petulant Kim Jong-Un the Fat, from the Land of the Chollima and n the Shadow of the Dragon, surveys his desolate dominion from his dark tower adorned with the severed heads of family members. Bored, he orders his royal alchemists to conjure Greek fire and build mighty catapults, while his hairdresser sobs silently in a dark room. He is Korean Kim father of Kim, son of Kim the son of Kim, inventor of the hamburger, and he eyes the wealth, golf courses and the daughter of the House of Bald Eagle jealously, ignoring those neighbours in the Land of the Dragon who would wish him to be quiet and unseen and who seek to distract him with videos of somersaulting pandas, shiny things and hamburgers.

And in the hot and distant lands of the Middle East, Africa the bigots and fanatics of a twisted religion rise under a banner of black to fill the power and political voids left from previous wars in this Great Games of Thrones, in which the Empire of the Bald Eagle had swept away despots and dictators who had been cruel to their people, and who sought the Greek fire for themselves, while threatening to withhold access to the black gold which fuelled the factories and war machines of Trump the Stupid and his forefathers. The Sons of Isis seek to define a new Caliphate and to wreak fire and fury upon the non-believers, turning brother against brother, Muslim against Muslim, East against West, beheading Christians and enslaving their women as they drove migrant after migrant before them.

Meanwhile, in the Land of the Great Bear, Vlad the Bare Chested twists a further skewer into a tiny voodoo doll of the Statue of Liberty and chuckles as his cyber-hackers spin their magic to bring down the once great democracies of the West and the NHS while his missiles rid the skies of Malaysian airliners and his iron-clad tanks roll ever westward, unopposed. Vlad chuckles quietly to himself in a vodka induced reverie as his vassal in the West launches fire and fury at his irksome rivals in the East, while at home in the Land of the Bald Eagle towns burn as white is turned against black, women against man, and mighty walls are built to turn back those who would steal their jobs and rape their women

Further to the South, Vlad’s minion, Maduro of the Moustache, spreads his evil ideology under the guise of equality for all in return for burning the houses of the wealth creators, turning citizen against citizen in a bloody civil war.

And in the West, in the Land of the Sleeping Lion, his minion, Corbyn of the Cap, spreads his evil ideology under the guise of equality for all in return for burning the houses of the wealth creators and a guaranteed seat on a train, turning old against young, North against South, the Many against the Few and the Jew, and a once proud nation turns its back on old allies and friends in search of nostalgia and a lost Empire and a land where mighty walls are built to turn back those who would steal their jobs and rape their women.

Someone should make this into a TV series…..

 

August 13, 2017 at 5:45 pm 1 comment

Wine gums, please…..

I admit it. I am becoming a grumpy old (not so) man. Or at least, a grumpy old traveler. A curmudgeon. And, an intolerant one to boot. But it really isn’t my fault….

I started my trip to Eastern Europe (Bulgaria and Turkey) in fine form, irritated only slightly by the taxi driver’s inability to follow basic instructions or the map that I kindly provided, which meant he still ended up parking in a neighbour’s driveway across the road.

But the M25 was kind, and the all day breakfast at Heathrow was welcome – I think of it as my “last supper” on such trips, when the food available onboard planes and at hotels is a lottery which frequently disappoints.

My stress levels increased somewhat when my first flight, from London to Munich, was delayed by 15 minutes. This might not seem like a big deal but I only had 35 minutes – now 20 minutes – in Munich to catch my connecting flight in Sofia. I admit I sought solace in a bag of Maynards Wine Gums. Food of the gods….

Thankfully I made my connection after a brief, hot and sweaty sprint, with sparks flying from the wheels of my trolley bag.

And, with adrenaline finally giving way to a sugar rush, I began to settle in and observe my fellow travelers en route to Bulgaria. All manner of life was represented there….

To my left was a highly groomed Asian-looking man who was playing video games on his iPhone. He was sat next to his rather overweight wife who clutched a very expensive looking handbag from which she would snaffle a seemingly endless supply of sweets of her own, while slurping noisily on a full-fat Coca Cola and casting furtive, jealous glances at my ever depleted bag of wine gums, in between colouring in her colouring-in book.

But, not one of those ornate, intricate mindfulness colouring  jobbies designed at de-stressing adults lacking ready access to a bag of Maynards, but a child’s version with Princesses and unicorns…..

Behind me there was a greasy-haired German geek sporting, I kid you not, a cravat and a t-shirt. He was in his late twenties, maybe early thirties, and was attempting to engage a rather attractive Bulgarian young lady (with legs – I mean LEGS! –  a distracting midriff, and tattoos) in a rather one-sided conversation in which he explained that he was a nuclear physicist (or something similar) involved in attempts at harnessing the same power that an opera singer uses to shatter a glass with at the right pitch and frequency, in order to power batteries and thereby save the planet. Yawn.

Lady midriff did not seem impressed either and crossed her LEGS! and swiped at her iPhone.

Herr geek went on to explain how, having discovered as a student, that the chances of his matter and other geek-like nano particles crashing together and combining to create him as a life form, was a chance of so many billion to something very small, that he had decided he felt obligated to live his life to the full.

At which point lady midriff got distracted by her iPhone again and Dr geek finally got the message that he would not be living her to the full that evening…..

To my right there was a fat German who drank a couple of beers very quickly and then fell asleep, snoring very, very loudly as he exhaled and whistling very shrilly as he inhaled, like a Disney dragon guarding a hoard of gold.

I was beginning to wonder whether wine gums had hallucinogenic properties….

I spent a couple of days in Sofia, where I took in the sights of the Novotel and the local industrial park, before heading back to the airport for a fairly late flight to Istanbul. The joys of business travel….

The salami and cream cheese sandwich on board was frankly inedible And, as I was out of sugary confectionery supplies, I admit to being rather tired, hungry, and yes, grumpy as I arrived at my new Turkish Novotel, in the middle of a building site, in the middle of a new Turkish industrial park.

As a Gold card carrier I am supposed to get a free drink, a free upgrade, priority check in and check out, and to be revered as a godlike entity at any hotel of the Accor chain….

So, my mood was not helped when I was left standing for twenty minutes while the receptionist helped a couple of tourists with their plans for making the very best of their stay in a building site, in an industrial park, overlooking the ring road….

And, all the time that I was waiting they were piping Do They Know Its Christmas? into reception. In July. In Turkey. In 30 degrees.

I was not welcomed as a returning guest (yes, I had put myself through this before a year ago), or, indeed, as a god. I was not given a free upgrade. But I was informed that I qualified for a complimentary soft drink from the mini bar….

My spirits soared.

But not for long, as upon entering my not-upgraded room I found an empty mini bar and no sign of the iron and ironing board that I had expressly requested, and for which I had received email confirmation would be there to greet me upon arrival.

A grumpy call to reception and twenty minutes later, while I struggled in vain to bring life to the air-conditioning unit, I was in receipt of a steam iron and my free bottle of Evian…..

It was now 1.30 in the morning.

I awoke at 06.45, ironed my shirt, and discovered that the shower did not work….

Wine gums. Bring me wine gums now!

 

July 7, 2017 at 9:54 pm 1 comment

Home sweet home….

Well, it is a month now since we moved into our new home.

When I say “moved into” I mean took residence in, because many boxes remain unpacked while many, many others are providing insulation in the car port ahead of being collected by the removal company. It is a move in progress….

Similarly, most rooms remain festooned with pictures and photographs still ensconced in bubble wrap, leaning against walls in positions where, inconveniently, there exists as yet no hook upon which to hang them.

And, C is assembling a healthy car boot cum charity shop cum eBay collection in my man cave (!) as she declutters elements of the previous owner’s collection of mostly butterfly-orientated decorations.

The pictures remain unhung because it is difficult to find/retrieve power tools from the car port, because they are hidden behind a wall of cardboard and packing paper. This is the same reason why we still have no curtains in our bedroom, which makes for early wake ups and the need to be careful not to flash the occasional dog walker, horse rider, or Polish builder that might be passing the end of the garden early in the mornings.

When I say “took residence” I mean that C did. I have had a week (nearly) in Paris and a week in Portugal since “the move” and still feel as if I haven’t fully settled in – and I am back en route to Paris as I write this.

And, in fact, C is not the only one to have taken residence….

There is a heady mix of hairspray and germoline mixed with damp nappy and expensive perfume in the air which is due to the arrival of the mother-in-law, C’s youngest sister, her husband, and their adorable 15 month old daughter, our niece Ella Rose. I will let you work out which of the odours belongs to who. They have all fully settled in. Believe me….

R and J and Ella are staying with us because they like our gin and are having a new kitchen installed at their home. It was supposed to have taken a week and a half but we are on week four and counting….

They seem to have taken to communal living and a tribal/collective approach to childcare (if not all of the advice so freely offered by the mother-in-law….). We are beginning to distrust J’s regular photographic evidence of the lack of progress on their kitchen refurbishment, to the extent that we have now insisted any new photos should include the front page of a newspaper so that we are able to verify the veracity of the date….

The mother-in-law is staying with us because she was supposed to be staying with R and J. Go figure. And, she likes our gin.

eeyoreThankfully, none of them have any pets. Although Ella does come with an impressive array of teddys, mousies, and Eeyore.

As such, our shiny new home has been turned into a shiny up-market B&B with lunch, and dinner, and afternoon teas, and chocolate before bed…. One of our number (I will not embarrass her but she knows who she is) follows the Seven Meals A Day Hobbit Diet. A B&B cum Chinese laundry. And C’s usually immaculate study now looks like the busy end of the Calais Jungle before they burned it to the ground.

And so, our lovely, shiny new home is as chaotic as a scene from the Durrells. A scene in which the locals have all turned up for dinner a week early and the animals are running amok upstairs.

Mornings are necessarily carefully choreographed as R and J take turns in the bathroom and leave for work, while remembering (thankfully) to take Ella to the childminder, while C and I sit staring into mugs of strong coffee in between multiple trips to the bins (our guests show a casual disregard for the rather draconian recycling rules imposed by C), the washing machine, tumble dryer, and the supermarket (supplies are often exhausted faster than they are being replenished as evidenced by the great sugar disaster on Saturday…..), while trying to not notice the pile of washing up, or the occasional waft of perfume, hairspray, germoline and nappy…..

It is somewhat of a relief when I have made my retreat to my man cave or caught the train to London in order to earn a daily crust…. A crust which is being stretched a lot, lot further than we are used to. While C enjoys the company of her mother and entertains her with trips to local attractions that I have yet to see.

And then there is the food. There is the baby’s food, of course. And, then there is the mother-in-law’s gluten-free food, of course. And then there is the help yourself to food. Except it isn’t help yourself (although bananas do seem to disappear faster than a ferret up a drainpipe and there is definitely a sausage roll thief amongst us) as C and I have been doing all of the cooking…..

Thankfully, it has been warm so we have been able to put the barbecue to good use. And, I have benefited greatly from C’s excellent advice, freely given, on how best to cook a sausage, which she has so selfishly denied me these past 25 years…. And a very clear path to the local farm shop has been worn, in the search for sausages (gluten free), lamb steaks (gluten free), pork loins (gluten free), beef and chicken kebabs (both gluten free), and sausage rolls to replenish those that have been stolen. N.B. The sausage rolls are not gluten free as this will be the quickest way to determine whether the mother-in-law is the thief or not…..

And then there has been Ella. Ella is a joy. She is quite simply as cute as a cute thing could be. She is an absolute credit to her mummy and daddy (or daddy and daddy – she calls everyone daddy at the moment, except Eeyore, who she calls Eeyore….) and my credentials as an uncle, obviously.

She is absolutely adorable and has us all wrapped around her chubby little finger and attending to her every need, which seems to consist of food, pebbles, things to splash in, naps, and climbing.

The climbing bit is raising grandma’s stress levels somewhat and sends the mother-in-law into a flurry of failed distraction techniques which mostly consists of her shouting “ball” very loudly and often, and chasing Ella about the garden while walking like a Teletubby (grandma that is…..). Ella likes teasing grandma….

Guys, I’m gonna miss you….

 

June 19, 2017 at 8:12 pm 1 comment

Arise Little England….

Well, as one of my better and wiser friends tweeted (being a cool guy who is down with the kids): “Well. Democracy works. We have a parliament that reflects the country: split and a bit mixed up.”

Except that we are now left with a broken Tory party, with a weak PM who is wondering what the hell this “social media” thing is that everyone was talking about, in an unholy alliance with a quasi terrorist party (oh the hypocrisy of it) with tendencies towards the right of Genghis Khan. Well done us.

But, I am already bored with the smugness of those previously in the closet Corbynistas who are now popping their heads above the parapet, somehow claiming this as a victory for the young; a victory for the many; a victory for the hope.

Twaddle.

It was nothing more than victory in the face of the most inept Tory campaign in history by a Prime Minister with the personality of a Dementor, and Boris….

It was not a victory for the many but an election which has proved divisive for all. And, not just between young and old, between the left and the rest, between the Remainers and the deluded (sorry, but I still think it is going to be a BIG mistake), between the top 5% and the rest….

I recognise the appeal of the Corbyn ideology. But, I also recognise that it was flawed. It was flawed when Marxist wrote it. It was flawed when China implemented it. It was terrible in the 1970s when the unions held sway and the utilities and other nationalised industries did not work. And, it doesn’t work in Venezuela today. It is flawed.

Any ideology that relies upon a compliant top 5% of earners acting like a charity to fund the social and welfare needs of the rest will not work. And, why should it! Why should we punish the successful and the wealth creators? Why should those already bearing the biggest burden (in taxes) be expected to give even more of their own money away and for no reward.

I watch programmes like “Broken” and films like “I, Daniel Blake” and I genuinely feel for the people trapped in a broken system. But, it is not the fault of the wealthy. It is not going to be fixed by chasing the wealthy French who fled from Francois Hollande’s imposition of punitive taxation all the way back to Paris. Or, by chasing the city fat cats to New York or Singapore. It doesn’t raise more funds for the rest of the country. It just chases away those who currently pay for 30% of everything.

I am a Labour voter at heart and left of centre. But, I am not so far left as to have fallen off the same cliff as Corbyn. He is not some caring, wise old grey man. He is not Father Christmas. He is a Marxist ideology intent on driving us all down a route of equality in which wealth is redistributed to the extent that nobody has it.

He maybe anti-war (at least with his ideological Motherland) but he was not so cuddly when he took the decision to throw Diane Abbott under the campaign bus.

So, we have a divided nation. A divided Tory party which is sure to encourage Theresa May to spend more time with her husband. And a still divided opposition with a smug old guy with a Messiah Complex fuelled by a Marxist ideology and the people who vote for the winners of the X-Factor.

And so, prepare for political and economic uncertainty. But, above all, prepare for another imminent election where we are likely to have a choice between Crazy Corbyn and Barmy Boris. Someone please hide the Trident remote control now.

Unless someone has the sense and vision to form a new centrist party around which we can all come together. An En Marche for the UK. Not a party for the few. Not a party for the many. But, a party for us all.

Meanwhile, I will just keep on having my French lessons…..

June 11, 2017 at 4:35 pm 1 comment

We’re in!

Well we are in! We have moved. We are tenants no more. We are landowners again (well, we have a wrap-around garden at least) and, more importantly, we are home owners. Home. A place to put down new roots. A place to grow. A place to share and to entertain.

The removal guys were great – punctual, polite, accommodating, hard-working, considerate, and, above all, patient. There were a couple of heavy items that they lugged all the way from the bottom of the garden, up to the house only to be ushered back by the Director, C, sending said object back to the bottom of the garden and up to the “man cave” above the “car barn” (you don’t have garages in Surrey but open barns with space above where the cars are parked). And, despite the heavy showers they were gone by mid-afternoon, leaving C and I as happy as pigs in sh*t and surrounded by boxes, and boxes, and boxes. And boxes.

But it was knackering. There was a lot of standing around. So, much that my knees are aching today. Just from standing around.

And, it has not been without frustrations. Indeed, my first task upon arrival was to remove the bannister at the bottom of the stairs. Without which neither of the beds nor wardrobes would have gone up the stairs. As I do not possess a hand saw (and even if I did I would not have been able to find it) my task involved befriending Kevin, the foreman at the building site across the lane (they are converting barns). Kevin is a burly but jovial guy who was up to his waist in mud and unmentionables but was gracious enough to provide me with a quick lesson in the use of a circular hand saw and the job was done. It was not the neatest of carpentry but got the job done!

Other than that my major contribution of day one was heading to Cranleigh for fish and chips at about 5pm – the first thing C and I had eaten all day (apart from the bag of Quavers I snaffled after a trip to the petrol station).

The major frustration was, predictably, technological. The TV. I spent hours untangling the various cables and leads left by our sellers and pouring over the manuals for the new BT Smart Hub and BT TV box. I managed to get wifi working (result!) but was unable to get terrestrial TV. It turns out that the vendors had omitted to mention that there was no TV aerial- C is already on the case. They also forgot to mention that the en suite shower cold water tap doesn’t work and that there was no plug in the bath. The latter was particularly annoying as I was looking forward to soaking my aching knees in my first bath for a year (the one in Shere was too small).

But, we will forgive them these slight omissions because they have given us a home. A home of our own.

May 20, 2017 at 7:45 pm Leave a comment

The joy of moving home….

I have read recently that “moving house” no longer makes it into the top list of most stressful life events. I was recently reading about this because we are moving house. Today. For the second time in just twelve months. And, if moving house is not right up there with the death of a spouse or getting divorced, then I do not want to encounter whatever else might be….

But, surely the worst of it must be behind us?! It was very stressful.

The stress of finding an estate agent. You know, the people who charge you a huge percentage of the sale price for the privilege of taking a couple of photos, sticking one of them, briefly, in their shop window, and posting your details on Rightmove.

The people who demonstrate a total lack of social skills and an inability to remember which is your garage and garden, so that you are forced to do the viewings yourselves lest potential buyers leave confused or misinformed.

We changed one incompetent estate agent for one slightly less so mid-process and still begrudge their percentage.

The stress of the viewings. The cleaning. The de-cluttering. The turning on of lights. The filling of the fruit bowl as a feature on the dining room table (which was clearly the clincher!). The lighting of a cosy, welcoming real fire even at the height of summer. The simulation of the smells of roasting coffee beans and fresh-baked bread. Praying that next door’s dog doesn’t bark. The waiting for viewers. The waiting for viewers. Waiting for viewers.

The viewers. Don’t they not read the details or look at the photos before turning up? No it isn’t a detached house. Yes it is very rural. No you cannot build a conservatory on the side of a grade two listed building. Yes, the three bedroom house does seem a bit small for you, your husband, your five teenage kids, three dogs and the donkey. And, worst of all, the divorcee just gong through the motions, horrified at the prospect of downsizing, despite being evicted from the family home by her vindictive ex on Monday…..

The chain. Oh, the chain. I guess we should count ourselves lucky in that we had no onward chain as we were renting. But, our buyers pulled out / fell through twice before we finally got there. Stress. Stress. Stress.

The joy of renting – which will be a tale to follow, once we have (hopefully) secured our security deposit!

The depressing search for a new home which won’t bankrupt us; is within at least twenty minutes of Waitrose; is not going to end up next door to a new estate or a traveller campsite; or, is right next to a busy dual carriageway.

 

But we found one. It is very exciting. It is very exciting in spite of the subsidence. Despite the survey. Despite the flood plain. Despite the lack of mobile phone signal. No. It is really, really exciting.

And at last it is moving day. Well, it is day one of a two day move. We are literally being put into boxes as I write. We have the keys for our new home and our sellers vacated yesterday. Today the removal guys pack everything apart from a bed, the TV (hopefully), the kettle, and a sofa. And, tomorrow they pack those and deliver them to our new home. Where we will unpack.

I sit here now midst a flurry of removal activity and sugary tea (3 sugars!) as two very nice (hopefully) men pack our lives into a thousand cardboard boxes secured by miles and miles of masking tape.

Fortunately we had decluttered ahead of our move down South a year ago, with most of those things of mine deemed to be superfluous ending up on eBay, at the local charity shop, or in the local dump.

C had embraced the opportunity for a clear out. Of my stuff.

The rediscovery of items unseen for years. Discovery of items that you hadn’t realised you had at all. Wondering what mysterious locks might be unlocked by the myriad keys you’ve held on to …. just in case.

The pile of wires and adapters for electrical equipment long ago sold on eBay. For gadgets long unused. Multi-shaped “USBs” for generations of iPhones. It is far too much trouble to decide what might be useful versus that which is superfluous so they all get chucked back into the “useful” draw until the next move, which will, hopefully, be never, ever, never again.

So, there has not been much of an opportunity for C to declutter me further. Indeed, many boxes still remain unpacked from our move to the rented house. Mostly books, and pictures. And, electric cables and adapters. And keys.

C has gone on ahead to do a clean of the new house and open the windows to air it in the hope that the last vestiges of the previous owners’ little dog with be wafted away so as not to trigger allergies.

The essentials have been secured lest they be inadvertently boxed and put on the back of the van. Passports, a change of clothes for the restaurant this evening, toothbrush, laptop, and a bottle of wine have all been hidden in the boot of my car.

So far, so good. There has been a constant stream of packing cases down the path to the van. And, of sugary tea. No breakages yet. I still have a TV, a sofa, a kettle, and hopefully – I haven’t ventured upstairs in case I get in the way – a bed.

Wish us luck!

May 18, 2017 at 12:04 pm Leave a comment

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