Film

Talking Movies

This past weekend the latest James Bond movie hit cinemas across the world.

'No Time to Die' is the 25th in the series of films featuring the British secret agent James Bond -  based on the original spy novels by author Ian Fleming 

For actor Daniel Craig it's his fifth outing as '007',  the fictional British MI6 agent, and it's his final Bond film so next time around there will be a new Bond.

After various delays in production, the latest movie in the Bond franchise was due out in 2019 and then 2020 but release was delayed several times because of the global COVID19 pandemic.

The producers and distributors resisted temptation to release the movie early via one of the streaming sites and decided instead to wait to release it in cinemas. And finally, No Time to Die had its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 28 September 2021. An exciting, sparkling event by all accounts packed full of royalty and celebrities!

Loads of my friends have already seen the movie - it was released in cinemas on 30 September 2021 in the United Kingdom and here in Jersey (as well as other countries like India where Bond is huge) . It is set to be released in the United States on Friday this week - October 8th -  and is now being rolled out across the world.

But it's already a massive success - in its first weekend Universal Pictures reckon No Time to Die took $121 million at the international box office! 

In fact, No Time to Die is being credited with 'saving' cinema. Across the world, the coronavirus has closed cinemas  and James Bond is bringing people back to movie houses in their millions!

But I'm not talking about this today just because of the latest 007 phenomenon, but also because October 6th marks another important day in movie history.

It was on this day in 1927 that a film called The Jazz Singer posterThe Jazz Singer was released.

Starring Al Jolson - a big stage and musical star of the day and reckoned to be the most well-known American entertainer of the 1920s - although it wasn't the first film to have pre-recorded sound, it was the first feature-length movie to have pre-recorded dialogue as well as music and song. 

And so it's gone down as the first 'talkie'.

The movie premiered on this day at the Warner Theatre in New York and it was a sensation! Although many people in the industry may have thought 'talking movies' were a 'flash in the pan',  actually The Jazz Singer revolutionised the motion-picture industry and marked the end of the silent-film era. It was a huge investment and gamble for Warner Brothers, who were just a small studio in those days ... but it paid off.

Film dates back to the 19th century and by the early part of the 20th century movies were very popular ... but they were 'silent'.

There were HUGE stars of the Silent Movies (just think people like Charlie Chaplin for starters), but no one heard them speak or talk, or sing. There was no sound at all and when the films were shown in cinemas there was usually organ accompaniment which was a whole genre of entertainment in its own right.

And then came The Jazz Singer!

The film is the fictional story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a young man born into a devout Jewish family who defies tradition - he decides not to follow in his father's footsteps to become a 'cantor' in a New York  synagogue but instead decides to aim high to make it in the world as a jazz singer. It's not just a change of name (he becomes Jack Robin) but also a change of direction which puts him into conflict with his faith, his culture, his home and his heritage.

Although it's gone down in cinema history as the first talking film actually most of The Jazz Singer is still silent with subtitles. There are actually only nine scenes with lip-synchronous singing, two of which also include a few spoken words, lasting less than two minutes.

But it was enough to see off the silent film era. In 1928, the year after its release, The Jazz Singer was given an Honorary Academy Award and by mid-1929, Hollywood would be producing almost exclusively sound film. By the mid-1930's movie makers in Western Europe were doing the same. If you're interested in all this, why not go to  A Brief History of Sound Film (1895-1930) to find out more or click here?

The Jazz Singer has been re-made a couple of times as movies - namely in 1952  starring Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee; and - one of MY favourite movies - the 1980 remake starred Neil DiamondLucie Arnaz, and Laurence Olivier - a classic, in my opinion, with some amazing songs!

Cinema has come a long way since 1927! The majority of those who flock to the 'movies' to feast on No Time to Die may never have watched a black and white film and some might even turn their noses up at the 'old stuff', thinking them to be unsophisticated, 'old fashioned' and a bit 'simple' because they don't have all the bells and whistles, effects, tensions and pounding soundtracks of today's films.

But it's worth remembering that without the trailblazers of movie making, those willing to take a risk, try something completely new, step outside the normal conventions of the day and reach, literally, for the stars ... we wouldn't be where we are today, and not just when it comes to movies!

So to mark this landmark day ... let's enjoy a clip or two from the original 'talkie, learn more about his amazing film that broke the mould, and give thanks for those pioneers of cinema1

Have a great day everyone!

 


A Miracle and Mystery

If I was to list the following books ... could you tell me what the link is? 

Yes, the well read and clever among you will know they were all written by the same man - Herbert George Wells.

Born on this day - September 21st - in 1886, HG Wells was an English writer and novelist. He actually wrote in many 'genres' - short stories, dozens of novels, and even social commentaries, history, satire, biography and autobiography - but is best known for his science fiction novels and works. In fact, I read that he is sometimes called the "father of science fiction", along with another brilliant author, Jules Verne.

Often, especially these days, as a writer one is expected to just write in one genre - crime fiction, 'chick lit' or women's literature, horror, science fiction, children's books, history, biography, academic etc et

But what I love about people like Wells is that he did it all. Like many of the great authors of the later 19th and early 20th century and some of my favourites - JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis - who weren't just writers but also educators, Wells started out as a teacher. And such was his imagination that he didn't stick to one type of writing, but diversified.

In fact, another of his books - The History of Mr Polly - is one of my favourite reads. It's a 'comic novel' about a man who feels very unfulfilled in life. It's also a bit of a social commentary on the times, English society at the turn of the 20th century, and in particular his descriptions of lower-middle-class life really tells us so much about life in those days. 

But of course, it's his science fiction which has grabbed all the attention. Those books listed above have all been made into (several) successful films so lots of us know about the themes. 

'The Time Machine' in particular has grabbed the imagination of readers down the years and it's also been credited with  the popularization of the concept of time travel by using a vehicle or device to travel  forward or backward through time - think 'Back to the Future' - love those films! 

Actually, it was HG Wells who coined the term "time machine"! What a legend!

I'm absolutely intrigued by the idea of travelling in time, although I always say that I wouldn't want to travel to far into the future ... just a few years here and there to see how life might work out for us might be good for starters. In Wells' novels, and other time travelling works, the reality of  life far into the future is not always what's expected, it's not utopian and it's often overwhelmingly so different that the plot or story invariably doesn't work out well.

HGWellsTo celebrate HG Wells, today I am sticking with the idea of time ... which he obviously spent a lot of time not just writing, but also thinking about.

'The Time Machine'', which was published in 1895, is not just about a vision of the future, but also a commentary on the increasing inequality and class divisions of late Victorian England. It's also about dreams and aspirations for the future,  but also human ambition and what people will do to see their visions a reality ... and so much more!

But for those of us who fancy a bit of 'time travel', for those of us who maybe live with the future always just out of reach, it's easy to forget to live in the moment.

As Wells reminds us in this thought, we can get obsessed by time, by always looking ahead and thinking about what might be over the next hill. We might be one of those who always thinks the grass will be greener in the field just down the way. Or one of those people who constantly fixates on what life might be like in the future, when everything is bigger, better and more successful, rather than enjoying THIS day, this moment!

It's a good lesson.

So, to celebrate this day and the life and works of HG Wells, I'm going to try to remember this not just today ... but down the line as well ... (There I go, thinking about the future!)

I love this idea that 'each moment of life is a miracle and mystery'.

May we never take 'today' for granted or risk missing out on the joyful moments of today by always thinking about tomorrow.

 


A Scrumdiddlyumptious Day!

Now here's something you may not know ...

Today is Roald Dahl Day!

Or to give it it's official name ... Roald Dahl Story Day !

It's a global annual celebration of the most brilliant British novelist, short-story writer, poet, screenwriter ... and wartime fighter pilot - Roald Dahl, and today we're encouraged to enjoy and celebrate our favourite Roald Dahl stories, characters, and moments.

We do all this today because it was on this day, September 13, in the year 1916, that the author was born!

Roald Dahl is best known as a children's author, of course ... think The BFG, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory  and Matilda - and that's just for starters, I think you could probably name more.

But Roald Dahl wrote not only for children, but also had a successful parallel career as the writer of macabre adult short stories (I was scared witless back in the 1980s by television dramas based on his spooky and and bizarre Tales of the Unexpected.) Briefly in the 1960s he also wrote screenplays including two adaptations of works by Ian Fleming - the James Bond film ‘You Only Live Twice’ and 'Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang'

Roald Dah quote - change the worldIf you look online you'll see loads of quotes from Roald Dahl - and this one here is one of my favourites I think.

He could be funny and profound at the same time. He could write about cruelty and kindness in equal measure. And, as we've learnt from some of the films which have been created from some of his stories, his words encourage children, and all of us really, to be the people we should be, to dream big and to believe in ourselves.

He was and still is a true superstar!

In fact, as it says writ large on the building which houses a Museum named after the author, he and his creations are 'Truly Swizzfigglingly Flushbunkingly Gloriumptious!'

When I lived in the UK, I actually lived quite near to a leafy village called Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, which is home to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

Dahl - Willy Wonka gatesStep through the doors of the museum and the Willy Wonka Gates and prepare to leave reality behind as you enter the weird and wonderful world of Dahl.

The gang’s all there including the aforementioned Big Friendly Giant, Charlie, James, Matilda ... Danny, the Champion of the WorldThe WitchesEsio Trot, Fantastic Mr Fox and so much more!

If you fancy it, you can dress up as your favourite Roald Dahl character, and get crafty making a mask of, as the museum literature says, ‘a crodswoggling creature’.

Dahl - museum exteriorJust like Roald Dahl, who invented hundreds of new and whacky words and phrases – over 200 just for the BFG ‘gobblefunk’ dictionary apparently – you can even let your imagination run riot and create your own crazy words. It’s fantastagorically hands-on and fabulously intriguing, even if you’re not 6 to 12 years old! 

His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide but his talents actually extended much beyond the written word and the Museum and Story Centre is also a window on that world.

In the ‘Boy’ Gallery we can find the famous ‘mouse in a gobstopper jar’ and learn more about Roald Dahl’s schoolboy days and pranks! There’s loads more about his life as a Welsh-born lad with a Norwegian heritage and as a husband, father and grandfather as you read original letters and delve into the Dahl family photo album.

Step through into the ‘Solo’ Gallery and discover more about Dahl’s life as an RAF (Royal Air Force) fighter pilot in the Second World War and his unique literary archive. You might have to fight a 4-year-old for a place by the touch-screen monitors, but if you are forced to wait your turn, you can always sit back and enjoy extracts from some of the films which have been created from Roald Dahl’s books.

Then, if the kids haven't already beaten you to it, it's into the Story Centre and Crafts Room. There you'll find the aforementioned dressing up box, and that word creation area, tables where you can be all messy and crafty, and there's even a space where you can make your own stop-frame animation film.

Roald Dahl originally wrote his stories for his own 5 children and encouraged creativity in all the kids he met, so it's not surprising that his Museum is a place where the words ‘Don’t Touch’ are banned! Here there are items to play with, spin and manipulate, holes to peer into and wonder what lurks beyond, things to prod and poke. Anything that is not for touching is out of harm’s way or under glass. In fact, touching and feeling and getting into a little bit of mischief is positively encouraged!

However, my favourite spot at the Museum is the replica of Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut - it's in the Story Centre and it's fascidoodly - here I go, making up words already! 

It was in the 1950s that Roald settled down with his family in 'Gipsy House' in the little village of Great Missenden in the county of Buckinghamshire (sort of north east from London). He was then married to his first wife, the American actress Patricia Neal, and it was here in the quiet and idyllic countryside that they raised their family.

At the bottom of the garden at Gipsy House, Roald had a little hut to which he retreated to write most of his unforgettable stories. Research tells us he couldn’t type - he always used a pencil to write for several hours a day locked away in his hut, sitting in a big old shabby chair, leaning on a ‘writing board’ which he fashioned to fit perfectly around his body.

Apparently the hut wasn't warm or particularly clean and tidy, but it was here, in his special writing place, that Roald wrote for two hours each morning and two hours every afternoon, using exactly six freshly sharpened, yellow, Dixon Ticonderoga pencils which he popped into a small Toby jug on the desk next to his chair. He'd worked out that he needed six pencils for a two hour writing session and always started each session sharpening the pencils!

Dahl - The writing hutIt’s just one of the rituals which Roald had when it came to writing and, as you sit in the replica chair in the replica Writing Hut, surrounded by the fascimiles of the author's special objects, you feel something of the man and the genius. Well, at least, I did!

This is me some years ago trying to channel a tiny fraction of Dahl Inspiration in that replica of his very own chair!!

Small Kid or Big Kid - whatever age you might be, there will something for you!

The Museum and Story Centre regularly hosts Revolting Rhymes sessions from roving storytellers in the Courtyard around which the museum nestles. In Miss Honey’s Classroom there are ‘fantabulous’ weekend and holiday workshops with storytellers, authors, crafts experts, scientists and chocolatiers (Roald Dahl ADORED chocolate which makes me admire him even more!)

For an extra special treat for adults and slightly older children you can enjoy a special tour of the Dahl Archive, a behind-the-scenes experience where you get to meet an archivist who will show you some of the locked-away archive material, providing an even deeper insight into the mind, life and work of the author. When I went, we discovered that Miss Honey (the perfectly lovely teacher in Matilda) was originally intended to be an alcoholic and Miss Trunchbull (the hideous headmistress in the same story) started out as a much nicer person!

For those wanting to do more research on Dahl, the Archive and Museum Reading Rooms are also open to researchers by appointment and they also welcome researchers who can't actually get to Great Missenden - via the website.

Dahl - Cafe Twit signFinish the visit with a stroll through the Shop where you can buy everything from books and pictures to Dahl themed games and weird stuff like a ball made entirely of elastic/rubber bands.

Finally, grab a drink and ‘delumptious’ cake in Cafe Twit. 

Dahl - cakesIf it's a fine day sit in the Courtyard and just watch how much fun everyone - young and old - is having.

And forget any diet - because the cakes are perfectly delicious.

In fact, you could say they are ... Scrumdiddlyumptious!

*This blog is based on a article I first wrote for my Hub Pages website pages ... and it's still there if you fancy looking it up ... and also please feel free to check out my other hub stories!

Thanks!

 


Pull the Trigger

Are you ambitious?

Or do you have dreams?

Maybe you want success in life? A fantastic job? Recognition and riches? Fame and fortune? Material possessions?

Or are your aims bigger than that?

Maybe you dream of world peace, a more just world, a cleaner environment? Perhaps you are after courage, strength, peace, security, love ... for yourself as well as others? 

There's a saying ... I think it's a line in a great movie ... 'The Sound of Music' ...

'Where the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window'

When I was a kid my Dad used to say sometimes 'God will open a door but it's up to us to keep it open' ... if a door opens perhaps we need to shove our foot in the gap and ensure it doesn't close on us before we have chance to see what's on the other side of the threshold!

Well I'm thinking along those lines today.

Many of us have things we aspire to be and do,  but the question is, do we think that it's just going to land at our feet?

Do we believe that if we dream or even pray hard enough, then what we want to do or be will just happen? A bit like magic?

There's nothing wrong with dreams but perhaps life is more than that.

As this picture today reminds us, lots of us have 'aims' in life, but some of us will never reach them because we don't do anything about it. We wait for life to happen for us rather than doing what we need to do to get the ball rolling.

Even if doors do open for us unexpectedly, we can't assume that that will lead us to our wishes, dreams and wants. But invariably we may be facing closed doors and it's up to us to get a key and unlock it.

If we want to get a great job, and even obtain that success, we may need to get our head down and study for our careers! We might need to start a bit lower down the ranks  and work our way up. It might be a bit tiresome and not glamourous and we might get impatient, but if we're not in the mix for any promotion, then how can it happen for us? If we want to run our own company then we will have to work hard for that!

Yes I know what some of you are thinking, life DOES land in some people's laps, or appears to do so, but it's very rare. If you look at many of the true stars who were an 'overnight success' you'll usually find years of graft in their past which got them to where they ended up.

If we want to become an author or writer, we have to write!  Unless you're one of those celebrities who populate our media world and are really just famous for being famous, it's unlikely that a publisher will pop up with a book deal. 

If we fancy living in a different place then maybe we need to investigate whether that's possible.

If we wish to see a more just world  then maybe it can start with us being a person who lives justice and fairness in our relationships ... avoiding conflict, treating others with respect no matter their circumstances.

If we dream of a world where the environment - flora and fauna - is not pushed to extinction, or where climate change is no longer an issue for future generations, then perhaps it could begin with our own behaviour. We can all rant on about waste but are we recycling ? We can all get angry about climate change but are we aware of our impact on the world, in our own travel habits, the cars we drive, the food miles attached to the products we buy in the shops?

You know what I'm talking about?

SO today - whether you are aiming for something personal or something more global ... there's no point just sitting around waiting for it to happen.

So if you haven't done it before ... maybe it's time to Pull the Trigger!

 

Target in Life



All we need is Love

Here's another one of my 'favourite films' moments.

Ok, so it's a bit unseasonal ... but today I'm thinking about the 2003 movie Love Actually.

It's associated with Christmas, of course, because it's set in that season. But as the title indicates, it's all really about love.

Love in different forms, unrequited love, love which is not returned, love which is complicated, people showing love and sharing love, love at different stages of life.

I love it!

Why am thinking about this ... in July?

Well it's not to do with the whole 'Christmas in July' thing, I can assure you!

No it's because there's a song in the movie, near the start of the film, which is one of my favourites.

And it was released as a single this day - July 7th - in 1967.

All you need is loveI'm talking, of course, about All you Need is Love, from the 'Fab Four' - the Beatles!

Although it was written by John Lennon, it was credited to the Lennon–McCartney song-writing partnership. Lennon apparently deliberately wrote lyrics that were simple because the song was actually written not just for the British market, but for s specific global event and it needed to have international appeal.

All you Need is Love was Britain's contribution to Our World, the world's first live global TV special. The Beatles were filmed performing the song at EMI Studios in London on 25 June 1967 and the programme was broadcast via satellite, and seen by over 400 million people in 25 countries. 

It's one of those songs that's in our psyche and in our history. It's certainly in mine.

Many of us can just sing along. It's a song which with the constant repetition of the chorus 'All you need is love' .. has a powerful message. And it's not about love we can't attain. It's about doing everything with love.

I mentioned that on Sunday, but it's definitely worth the repetition. 

So - combining one of my favourite songs, with a favoured movie... here it is - as featured in Love Actually.

It's a strong reminder of something that's really important, and which - if we all just tried to love a little bit more -  could change the world.

 

 

 


This is Me!

Are you one of those who perhaps feels you don't fit in?

Maybe you feel like you work so hard and are never recognised for what you do? Or overlooked? Or taken for granted?

And you don't feel you can speak up for fear of rejection?

Are you one of those who feels 'different' to those around you?

Maybe you don't look like other people, or what people think people should look like? Perhaps you, like me and many others, are a little overweight and in a world where 'skinny' or at least 'thin' is considered standard beauty, you feel out of place?

Perhaps you don't dress in all the latest clothes, live in a posh house, go to the parties that apparently all the 'cool' people attend? You don't carry the right handbags, wear the right very high shoes, drive the right car? Or at least what others think are 'right' in this respect?

Do you live in a culture where ageing is just not on? People spend thousands on plastic surgery and making themselves look younger, or more handsome or prettier? 

You know what I mean! There are many many reasons why we might feel we don't fit in with the world. We feel rejected and out of place. 

More importantly we KNOW we have talents, so much to offer, but we're just not given the chance to prove it, because we're 'too old', 'too fat', not the right colour, not the right religion, not someone who looks 'successful', not someone who others think deserve a break? Or maybe you're just someone who people don't look at at all!

In a world where, it appears, 'celebrity' is everything, many of us model ourselves on unrealistic images and we discount so many people who don't fit the model.

But I'm guessing even those so-called 'celebrities' don't look great in the morning. Without that botox or the veneers on their teeth, or spending masses on money on makeup and clothes and cars ... they are just humans. Ok, yes, often rich humans. But why are we comparing ourselves to them? They actually have nothing to do with us. They are they and we are we. I am who I am.

I don't know about you but the older I get, the less I tend to worry about others and what they are up to. That's their life.

Yes, it's true that if we are ambitious, or passionate about what we have to offer to the world, it can be frustrating to be passed over, to stand out, to defy the world. But maybe it's just time to take control, recognise that we are 'different' and we have 'different' talents to the clones.

In 2017 a film came out which captured the imagination of the world. It's called The Greatest Showman a musical movie which told the story of P.T. Barnum, best known as an American showman who created a business by pulling off stunts and profiling 'different' people. Some say he took advantage of individuals who others considered 'freaks' but this movie dug deeper than that and highlighted the strength of those people who were marginalised. He was much more, including a politician, businessman, author and philanthropist, but it's the 'circus' badge that has stuck.

Some so-called movie 'experts' were critical of the film saying it was shallow and didn't expose Barnum for the man he was and glamorized what he did and how he made a living through exploitation. But The Greatest Showman was massively popular. It was beautifully filmed, was packed full of stars and the music and songs were FANTASTIC!

P.T.Barnum was born on this day in 1810, so it's a great opportunity for me to talk about the movie and one song in particular which I have listened to many times. We used to sing it in our Community Choir (when choirs were gathering) and it always lifted my heart and gave me courage.

PT BarnumThere are many quotes attributed to P.T.Barnum ... including this saying

'The Noblest Art is that of making others happy!'

... but he also apparently had lots to say about being 'different'. And I love that!

I may often appear confident but I don't feel like that sometimes, and I've certainly had to learn to live with my own insecurities, and to try to prevent others from 'bringing me down'. I may not feel that 'brave' and I've certainly been 'bruised', but as the years progress I just want to shout to the world....THIS IS ME! Learn to live with it! If you don't like it, then I don't need to be around you.

And so on and so on... 

It makes me feel rather defiant actually. Ok so I may never be a celebrity or even 'acceptable' to many. But I'm not going to let that affect my life! And I won't let it steal my joy! I won't let it stop me trying to share happiness, or be kind, even if others are unkind to me. 

Yes, I am different! I don't particularly want to be like everyone else! Why would I want to try to squeeze my personality into someone else's mould?

SO  ... here it is ... the song ...

Hope it inspires you too!!

This is Me (by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) 

I'm not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
'Cause we don't want your broken parts
I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one will love you as you are

But I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away 'cause today, I won't let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades
And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that's what we've become

Won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
Gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

...This is me

And I know that I deserve your love
There's nothing I'm not worthy of
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is bruised
This is who I'm meant to be, this is me

Look out 'cause here I come (look out 'cause here I come)
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

(Whenever the words wanna cut me down
I'll send the flood to drown them out)
I'm gonna send the flood, gonna drown them out

This is me

 

 


A Walk in Queen's Valley

As part of my 'New Adventure' in life ... I've started trying to perfect the art of making little films.

I've worked in TV for a long time, I know how to point a camera and I can edit a little, but right now I'm testing various editing software and learning a bit more about how to put together a short video. I'm using my I-phone and a small video camera so I have several options.

I will not be making a full length film anytime soon, so all you Hollywood producers can breathe a sigh of relief. No, this is designed really for social media. At some point I'm planning to mix down film to music but right now it's a bit basic but such fun! As in my 'New Adventure' I'm not having to work full time, I am able to spend time filming and editing and trying new things out. What a joy to have that sort of liberty!

Queen's Valley path 2Recently I took a walk around the Queen's Valley reservoir in Jersey and grabbed some video on the camera. Below is a taster of what I captured that day!

As I walk around the stretch of water, I'm reminded of other walks in Queen's Valley. Back in the 1980s when I was a young reporter/journalist working locally, there was a great debate over whether the area - a beautiful natural valley full of trees and wildlife and a few old cottages and homesteads and farm land - should be flooded to create a much needed water resource for the island of Jersey.

There were protests, petitions and protest marches, but today we walk AROUND the reservoir ... so the campaigners didn't win that one.

Queen's Valley lower reservoir 4I remember the passion and controversy surrounding the development and the works and there are still memories of the old Queen's Valley around. If you've ever watched early episodes of the Jersey-based detective drama Bergerac, which was shown on British TV from 1981 to 1991, the main character's cottage was in that valley. And on my door I have a handmade pottery sign ('The Cottage') which was made in a small pottery once based in the valley.  

The reservoir is the newest and largest body of inland water and was completed in 1991. When full it contains enough water to supply our island for just shy of 50 days! The area actually houses two reservoirs, with the lower section being the largest.

Queen's Valley upper reservoirThis little stroll actually takes us up to the 'bridge' which splits the two sections. I'm walking along the upper section of the water up to that 'bridge'. I did carry on walking around the whole reservoir, but my camera ran out of juice at the intersection.

Every time I go up to Queen's Valley reservoir, I think of the valley which is lying beneath the water, and even the buildings down there!

But it's still a beautiful, and tranquil spot ... and a great walk!

SO why not come with me? There are a few little 'hills' (well actually they are just 'inclines') so take a breath now and then. 

And then .... BREATHE!

Have a happy day everyone!

PS - this little film is now on my YouTube Channel. I'm beginning to make a few more films now which I hope you'll enjoy! And please feel free to 'subscribe' if you want!

*images all taken by me on a lovely day


A Little Pixie Dust

"All children, except one, grow up."

A classic and inspired opening line from one of the best loved children's stories of all time.

Yes, today I'm talking about 'Peter Pan'.

Not just the Boy who Wouldn't Grow Up but the book, and the play and the man who created him - J.M.Barrie.

Full disclosure here  ... I am an avid reader of classic children's stories. I have a good collection of them, some of which I read first as a child and some which I re-read over and over, always finding something new in them every time of reading.

Yes I know many of the books I love were written in a different time, and maybe some might say that they are not as 'relevant' to the young generations that have come along since they were written, but what I love about these tales is that they are often beautifully crafted, invariably include fantastical storytelling and they have the ability to transport me into another world.

As a would-be children's author (I'm still working on it by the way) I recognise now that I was probably born in the wrong time, because these days to be a children's writer I guess one needs to be more 'edgy' than people think the writers of yesteryear were.

Except that it's all relevant. In their time, many children's stories DID speak into issues and situations, including social issues,  and sometimes challenged them, albeit subtly. And many of them are just simply about human nature and those values which, I hope, we will all want to treasure regardless of the times.

Peter Pan coverWhich brings me to the story of Peter Pan, which is really partly about 'youthful innocence and escapism'. Peter is a mischievous, free-spirited, rather cocky and careless boy who doesn't want to grow up. He is determined to be independent but it's only when he meets a girl called Wendy and her brothers that he gradually realises that love is also part of the human equation. I don't know about you but that's a lesson lots of us can learn, whatever era we live in!

These days the story of Peter and Wendy and their adventures in Neverland, the fairy Tinkerbell, the Lost Boys, the ghastly Captain Hook, are all well known to us through numerous interpretations, including in various movies and cartoons down the years.

Although J.M. Barrie created Peter early on, he really made his first main public appearance in a play ...  Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up ... which debuted at the Duke of York's Theatre in London on December 27 1904 - interesting because stage productions of Peter Pan are often now associated with the Christmas period and the pantomime season, at least in the UK. Peter Pan first page

In 1911 the story of Peter and Wendy began to reach a wider, worldwide audience when it was reworked as a novel with that classic opening line.

My treasured copy of the story, which I picked up years ago in an old book shop, was first published in 1951 and at the start of the book there is this inscription ...

Do you know that this book is part of the J.M.Barrie "Peter Pan Bequest"? This means that Sir J.M.Barrie's royalty on this book goes to help the doctors and nurses to cure the children who are lying ill in the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London

And this is what I love most about Peter Pan. 

SO much has been written about Peter, Wendy, Neverland, the dog nurse Nana, the whole 'cast' of the play and the subsequent stories, books and movies,  J.M. Barrie himself and the children who so-called 'experts' reckon Peter and his characters were based on.

J.M.Barrie is best known for Peter but he wrote so much more, including many plays and stories which address social concerns. And I love the fact that in 1929, Barrie assigned the copyright of the Peter Pan works to Great Ormond Street Hospital, a leading children's hospital in London.

I understand the copyright status is unclear these days because Peter Pan is now generally in what is called 'the public domain'. Original copyright in the UK ran out on June 19th 1987, the 50th anniversary of Barrie's death but that was later extended to another couple of decades, and there have been some developments since in other parts of the world. But that doesn't take away from the fact that down the years GOSH has benefitted greatly from the 'Peter Pan Bequest'.

I know Great Ormond Street Hospital a little, having visited to report as a journalist and in a personal capacity with loved ones, and they do amazing work. It's a hospital dedicated to the care of children and it IS a very special place where children are at the centre!

So today - as we mark the day in 1937 that J.M. Barrie left this earth - I was trying to think of a way to celebrate him and his most well known characters. And I found this quote and this image ...  which is just inspiring. 

Whatever we 'believe' in, we all need trust and faith, if only in those around us. And a little of 'pixie dust', even if not scattered by Tinkerbell herself, helps us to dream and create a little bit of magic for ourselves and others.

I Love It!

Peter Pan quote


Somewhere Over the Rainbow

It was back in 1939 that the world got to know a certain young actress, singer and dancer who would become one of the most famous women in the world.

Judy Garland was born on this day - June 10 - in 1922 and she had already been on the stage for many years, as a child star on vaudeville, before she starred in The Wizard of Oz,  a musical based on a classic children's book called 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' by the author L. Frank Baum.

Baum actually penned 14 Oz stories plus 41 other novels, 83 short stories, over 200 poems, and at least 42 scripts - a prolific writer. I've read some of the Oz stories and if you've never done so, its worth it. But as I was investigating him, I discovered that actually some of his works were rather 'prophetic'. He apparently wrote about future inventions like television, augmented reality, laptop computers (in his novel entitled The Master Key), wireless telephones (Tik-Tok of Oz), women in high-risk and action-heavy occupations (Mary Louise in the Country), and much more.

The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz_first_edition_cover'The Wizard of Oz' is, of course, a fairy tale about the adventures of a young farm girl named Dorothy Gale, played by Judy Garland in the movie. She and her pet dog Toto venture into the magical Land of Oz after they are blown away from their home in rural Kansas by a cyclone.  It was first published in  January 1901, and the book has become one of the most loved and best-known stories in American literature. The Library of Congress has even declared it "America's greatest and best-loved homegrown fairy tale."  By 1938, when the film was in production, it had already sold a million copies. And it's success has gone from strength to strength, being translated into many different languages.

'The Wizard of Oz' movie - the original - is one of my favourites. As a child I loved it's excitement. Would Dorothy ever 'get home'? And I loved its tension - the Wicked Witch of the East who is killed when Dorothy's house falls on her, and the Wicked Witch of the West who plagues her for much of the story. 

As an adult I watch it and read much more into its narrative twists and turns. Our longing to be safe and 'home' and to appreciate what we have there, without perhaps having to travel far to find happiness and fulfilment and friends. The 'evil' that may be around us and how we need to gain the courage to fight against it.

And, of course, I loved the music in the movie with original score by Herbert Stothart. The film was nominated for  six Academy Awards, including 'Best Picture', but lost out to another brilliant classic 'Gone with the Wind'. But it DID win 'Best Original Score' and 'Best Original Song' for  "Over the Rainbow" - sung at the start of the movie by Judy.

I love the sentiment of this song. We all dream and wish and hope for 'something better' don't we? But as the movie unfolds, we learn that sometimes our dreams and hopes and wishes are all right here, right where we are. We just need to learn to cherish and appreciate what we have.

Today, enjoy this excerpt from the movie and what I think is one of the most perfect songs ever written...sung by one of the most brilliant performers the world has ever seen.

 


It's a Wonderful Life

What's your favourite film?

Maybe your have lots of movies you enjoy but if you were to choose just one... just one... what would it be?

Mine is a brilliant film called 'It's a Wonderful Life' and although it's often associated with Christmastime, and that's when it's usually broadcast on TV, I can enjoy it any time of the year, anytime of the day!

Why am I talking about this today? Well the film is one of the famous movies produced and directed by Frank Capra who was born on this day - May 18th - in 1897. 

Although born in Italy, like so many people who emigrated with their families to the USA when they were children, he lived the 'American Dream'. His was a real rags to riches story

During the 1930's, Frank Capra became one of America's most influential film directors. He won three Academy Awards for Best Director - he was nominated six times. And he won three other Oscars in other categories.  

If you know you're movie history you might recognise some of his iconic films - It Happened One Night (1934), You Can't Take It with You (1938), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). After serving in the Second World War his career went into decline and his later films didn't perform so well.

And that includes It's a Wonderful Life which was released in 1946. However, over the years this film and others made by Frank Capra have come to define not just American movie history but the American dream itself.  And now It's a Wonderful Life is considered one of the greatest films of all time. In 1990, the film was designated as "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" and added to the USA's National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

In fact, Frank Capra himself said it was his favourite movie of all he had directed. James Stewart also claimed it as his favourite! I feel vindicated that I love it so much!

If you've never watched the movie, then you might want to give it a go. But if you don't want to know more, you best stop reading now because there are spoilers ahead!

Its a wonderful life May 18It's a Wonderful Life is a fantasy and it features an angel, so you have to suspend reality, but the moral of the film hits my heart every time.

The film is based on the short story and booklet entitled 'The Greatest Gift' which a chap called Philip Van Doren Stern self-published in 1943. There are also echoes of the 1843 Charles Dickens novella 'A Christmas Carol' which of course is also a bit of a fantasy, featuring as it does ghosts. Spirits who teach Ebenezer Scrooge some important life lessons.

And that's also the central theme of Capra's movie. The star of the film, James Stewart. plays George Bailey, a man who has spent his life in service to his family and his community, giving up his own personal dreams in the process. He reaches a crisis point and on Christmas Eve contemplates taking his own life because he comes to the conclusion that life for everyone around him would be much better if he had never been born.

Step in George's Guardian Angel - a character called Clarence Odbody - who attempts to show him that his life has NOT been worthless, and that he has touched the lives of so many others. He does this by showing George what life for his family and his community of Bedford Falls would have been life IF George had not been born. Clever.

If you fancy it, click on the link below to watch the uplifting end of the movie, when George's vision of life without him comes to an end and he is surrounded by the love he never appreciated or even thought he deserved.

And at the end of it all, he receives a gift from Clarence which is inscribed with this note ...

'Remember ... no man is a failure who has friends!'

It's a great lesson.

Truth be told, there have been times in my life when I've wondered why I'm here and whether my life has had any purpose. There have been moments when I think my life has been pretty worthless and I've questioned whether I've made a difference to the world. There have been episodes when I've queried my life choices and whether I could have done more.

But when I watch It's a Wonderful Life, I'm reminded that every action, every friendship, every episode in my life may have impacted others, and I hope it's for the positive rather than for the negative.

So today, although it's not Christmas ... here's the ending of that movie.

Enjoy! And be inspired not just by the film, but by the knowledge that every life has purpose. We can all make a difference even in small ways. 

And if we have love of family and friends... we are rich!