Mival-lous

Reading time: < 1 minute...

A boys’ get-together today! ๐Ÿ‘

I drove over to Stamford to meet up with ex-business colleague and film producer: Eric Mival. We’ve kept in touch ever since Eric shot a corporate video for Sainsbury’s (that I was responsible for) back in the late 80s.

Our venue of choice was, of course, the iconic George Hotel in the town – and more specifically, The York Bar.

The George Hotel from The York Bar

We haven’t seen each other since August, 2017, and it was good to catch-up with each other’s news!

The focus of our conversation was around Eric’s semi-autobiographical book: Cutting Edge: My Life in Film and Television (get it from Amazon HERE). For me, the enjoyable read had ticked a lot of boxes – my love of the process of film-making AND the fact that Eric had worked on a lot of programmes of my youth including Doctor Who, The Strange Report and of course, the iconic, The Prisoner (amongst many more!). I knew we’d have a lot to chat about, but with the food and service its normal high standard, the time just flew by!

A slightly torturous journey home though, where a major accident on the road to Stamford just after Collyweston caused miles (and miles) of traffic congestion. Luckily, I skirted around the back roads and was home just after 2.30pm (just 10 minutes later than my original ETA).

See you next year Eric! ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ‘

Film: 1917

Reading time: < 1 minute...

Rating: 5 out of 5.


We drove over to Cineworld at Rushden Lakes to see the recently released flick ‘1917‘ (after having to cancel last Sunday).

Sam Mendes directs and shares writing duties for this World War 1 adventure. It’s based on stories recounted by Sam Mendes’s grandfather โ€” Alfred Mendes โ€” and stars a host of famous faces โ€” Andrew Scott, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Richard Madden.

The story however, pivots around two not-quite-so-well-known faces from the world of movies โ€” Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay playing the two central characters. I’ve not ever seen them in anything else, and they’re on-screen most of the time, playing their parts very convincingly.

1917 tells the story of two soldiers with an important message to deliver โ€” a message that could save the lives of 1600 British soldiers in Northern France. And that’s all I’m going to say about this just-under-two-hour slice of excellent entertainment!

What makes the film unique is the way it was shot. The term ‘immersive’ is a bit over-used these days, but under the assured direction of Sam Mendes, the camera work and soundscape make you feel like you are there, experiencing every twist and turn (literally!), of our two heroes!

Boy! was it tense in places!!!! ๐Ÿฅด ๐Ÿฅด ๐Ÿฅด ๐Ÿฅด

To keep the audience engaged, the movie looks like it was all shot in one take giving a very ‘here and now’ live feel to it. Quite how they managed to film it at all, given the camera-unfriendly environment, and in some scenes, the sheer number of cast, is beyond me. If they release a ‘making of’, I’ll be first in the queue!

Go see! The best film I’ve seen in ages
(and I’m a Marvel fan!)
๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Film: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Reading time: 2 minutes...


Jo, Janet, Carol, Ann I gave the local Odeon our patronage tonight to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. It was released yesterday in the UK and US to pretty good reviews, having premiered in Los Angeles on December 16.

It promises a movie that wraps things up nicely across the nine-movie arc (see below) BUT crucially, we’re told, it works as a standalone movie for the non Star Wars geeks amongst us! Co-written and directed by J. J. Abrams (who has a great reputation for writing action movies as well as sci-fi), it’s a long affair, at 2 hours, 20 minutes, and there’s a lot riding on this final instalment!

The Skywalker Saga

Episode I โ€“ The Phantom Menace (1999)
Episode II โ€“ Attack of the Clones (2002)
Episode III โ€“ Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Episode IV โ€“ A New Hope (1977)
Episode V โ€“ The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Episode VI โ€“ Return of the Jedi (1983)
Episode VII โ€“ The Force Awakens (2015)
Episode VIII โ€“ The Last Jedi (2017)
Episode IX โ€“ The Rise of Skywalker
(2019)

It’s hard to believe it’s been 42 years since the first movie (Episode IV) โ€” how many have you seen?

So far this year, we had mostly abandoned the local Odeon here in favour of the much plusher and newer Cineworld at Rushden Lakes, so why didn’t we go there???
Simples: the short(ish) car-journey there this time of year was likely to be congested (and that goes for the traffic actually in Rushden Lakes car-park itself adjacent to the cinema) and we just weren’t sure whether we’d make it in time!

It’s been touted as the ‘final movie in the Star Wars saga’, but actually, to be pedantic (moi?!), it’s (just) the final movie in the Skywalker series! I wonder how many went thinking it was the final Star Wars movie ever? ๐Ÿค”I can’t them giving up on a cash-cow like this!!

Janet acted as chauffeur and picked us up at 6.45. We were soon parked, and the fullness of the car-park indicated that it was going to be busy!

We were right! In fact, Screen 4 was the fullest I’ve seen it in a long while! Fortunately, we were spared the presence of any super-fans dressing-up and acting out their chosen character for the occasion (that was probably last night!) ๐Ÿ˜. Jo had booked us our favourite seats (back row) and we were soon into the abundance of adverts (even more than normal!). Thankfully, just 25 minutes later, the main event began…

And what of the movie? Well, it was certainly fast-paced – no time for even a loo break!! ๐Ÿ˜ฌ I think it just about held up as a standalone, but newbies will struggle to work out at times, who’s wearing the black and the white hats! Great music, great acting and some superb CGI (but take the sea-sick pills!).

JJA did a good job of pulling-together the unresolved issues from the previous outings and for super-fans, there’s more than one Star Wars ‘familiar face’ making a welcome return to the screen. This includes possibly the shortest ever cameo by a certain fighter pilot from Episode IV!

I’m dropping it one-star for not knowing how to use an ellipsis, (boo!) but adding back half-a-star for consistency (yay!) as they got it wrong in the previous movie ‘The Last Jedi‘ too! (and probably the other seven!) ๐Ÿค

As I mentioned previously, ‘pedantic, moi?! ๐Ÿ˜

Go see! It’s a roller-coaster of a movie from start to finish!๐Ÿ˜

Bulbs for Banstead

Reading time: 3 minutes...


An early start for us today as we spent Saturday and Sunday with Richard and Nicki at their place in Banstead.

Saturday

We left home just after 7.30 and drove over to Huntingdon station. Why not take the car? Well, it’s not the getting there, it’s the getting home part. Last time we tried it on a Sunday by car, it took twice as long to get back as it did to get there – Ahh! I’d quite forgotten how congested it can get ‘darn sarf‘ – and how busy the M25 was, even on a Sunday! ๐Ÿ˜ซ

As things turned out, it was a text-book journey there with all our connections on-time or slightly early! Rich & Nicky picked us up from Sutton station just after 10.30 and we were soon catching-up over coffee & cake at theirs!

Plenty of bulbs for Banstead!

But apart from the social aspect, we had a cunning plan in mind โ€” and that was to tidy up/prune their garden and plant as many bulbs as the space allowed.

We were reasonably optimistic about the weather having checked it daily for the past three days. Being November, it wasn’t going to be the warmest of days, but at least the forecast promised dry weather. I’m not the world’s most enthusiastic gardener, but with the appropriate clothing, I’d be OK… wouldn’t I? wouldn’t I??

…errr NO! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Soil – pre-turned

Everything started well: It was dry, 8 degrees and whilst Nicki and Ann turned the soil in the back garden, I concentrated on the pruning out the front.

In need of a haircut!

…and it certainly needed a haircut!

Post haircut!

After about an hour, with its new trimmed look, it was ‘job done!

…just as the rain started to come down in buckets (this wasn’t forecast!) together with a drop in temperature as the sun beat its retreat! Any one of those factors would have been enough to ‘down tools’, but not us four! ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ’ช

We soldiered-on, getting progressively wetter (and in my case, progressively grumpier) as the rain became more persistent. We pushed on, and eventually, the final bulbs were in by 3.45 but with no improvement in the weather, we called it a day and cleared-up…

Bulbs in!

…but not before admiring all our work!

With the ‘toiling of the soil’ over, it was time to turn out attention to… the evneing meal! Richard had planned ahead and prepared his signature dish: “Garlic Roast Lamb”, whilst the rest of us got cleaned up!

Cosy!

Whilst the food cooked. all that was then left to do was to chill-out warm-up in front of the log-burner!! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

The meal didn’t disappoint and after us all digging-in for seconds, we all agreed it had been a great reward for all our efforts today!

Next stop was a movie – and after a thorough review of Netflix and Amazon Prime we settled on Daddy’s Home from 2015 courtesy of the latter.

Starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, it was the kind of movie that (for us) was laugh-out-loud funny – we loved it! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Our day ended perfectly and as a bonus we appear to be slightly ahead with our gardening plans. Tomorrow, it’s pruning and numerous visits to the local dump

Sunday

Sunday’s weather promised a dry day and when we peeked through the curtains around 8am, it looked like the promise had been kept (although it was a little foggy!) – but at least it was DRY! In fact, as the morning ticked-away, the temperature eventually ‘soared’ to 10ยฐC by lunchtime! Happy days!!! ๐Ÿ˜

Today was about continuing the mega-prune and generally tidying up the garden as much as we could.

I say ‘mega’ as it required two separate trips to nearby Epson’s Green disposal site (about a 20 minute drive away) to get rid of our enthusiastic clippings! After all our previous visits earlier in the year, I think they’re getting to know us there by sight now – we’re be on first-name terms soon! ๐Ÿ˜‰

After almost three hours, we downed tools around 11.45, satisfied with what we’d achieved. Whilst Richard and I headed back from our last disposal trip (for this visit anyway!), Nicki and Ann prepared a quick lunch that would allow us to get a slightly earlier train home.

It was all delicious, and we reflected on how much progress our hosts have made since they moved in! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Perfect timing! We finished lunch by around 1pm and having said our goodbyes to Richard, Nicki dropped us back to Sutton Station. Next stop Victoria, and then King’s Cross!

The 16.13 was on time (although we had a about a 45 minute wait) and we were soon on our way back to Huntingdon. A trouble-free journey along the A14 meant we were home just before 5pm. OK four hours is a long time on public transport and if the roads had been perfect, we could have driven it in two-and-a-half hours – but when was the last time the road conditions were perfect!

Ahh, that’s nice! โคโค

…and the above made it all worthwhile!

Avengers: Assemble Lasagne!

Reading time: < 1 minute...


Jo and Janet joined us for a night of munchies and a movie… Oh, and some G & Ts! Whilst I prepared the DVD player, the lemons and the limes, Ann got busy in the kitchen.

Our movie of choice tonight – Avengers:Endgame. There isn’t much that hasn’t already been written about the final film (for now) in this franchise – especially on a certain blog – so instead, I’ll concentrate on the food and drink! ๐Ÿ˜

On the menu tonight was homemade Lasagne and that was followed by homemade Fruit Strudel. I think we all enjoyed it so much, none of us took any photos! ๐Ÿ˜Š

The movie turned out to be as excellent as we remember it (and with its fairly complex narrative, probably benefited from a second opportunity to watch it again!) ๐Ÿค”

At just over 3 hours long, the movie was a test of stamina, if nothing else! And as a result, we didn’t say our goodbyes until just after 11pm – very late for us two! ๐Ÿ˜Š

A great night – and good to see Janet and Jo again!

Film: Downton Abbey

Reading time: 2 minutes...


Off to our fave cinema – Cineworld at Rushden Lakes – for the just-released TV-series-turned-movie: Downton Abbey.

If you fancy a ‘bit of posh’ you couldn’t do better than this! ๐Ÿ˜ Most of the recurring characters from the TV series make it to the big-screen outing, with just a few omissions (due to actors’ unavailability).

“Above Stairs”…
Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham
Allen Leech as Tom Branson
Matthew Goode as Henry Talbot
Harry Hadden-Paton as Bertie Pelham
Douglas Reith as Lord Merton
Penelope Wilton as Lady Isobel Merton
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham
Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley (eventually ‘Pelham’)

“Below Stairs”…
Jim Carter as Carson, the butler
Phyllis Logan as Mrs Hughes, the housekeeper
Rob James-Collier, as Mr Barrow, the butler
Brendan Coyle as Mr Bates, the valet to the Earl of Grantham
Joanne Froggatt as Anna, the personal maid to Lady Mary
Kevin Doyle as Mr Molesley, footman
Lesley Nicol as Mrs Patmore, the cook
Sophie McShera as Daisy, the under-cook
Michael Fox as Andy Parker, footman and Daisy’s Fiancรฉ
Rachel Cassidy as Phyllis Baxter, Lady Crawley’s Maid

Expect to see some other well-known TV faces too. In particular, Mark Ady (as an ‘alt-Arkwright’) and David Hague, in a part that was surely written for him as The Kingโ€™s Page of the Back Stairs.

Set in 1920s, it depicts the world of the Crawleys as they prepare for a visit from royalty – King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James).

It’s all class-hokum of course – for a start, the benevolence of ‘upstairs’ with those ‘downstairs’ doesn’t match anything I’d ever read about life in servitude back in the day! ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

Still, it was wonderful hokum! Call me an old romantic, but Julian Fellowes has done a fantastic job in transferring it all from small to the big screen. The TV series was pretty lavish, but this takes it up a notch (or ten). It was superbly filmed, with the actors effortlessly re-creating their roles like they’d never been away. There are are quite a few plot-lines, some big, some small, but it all comes together very nicely by the final act. Maggie Smith did not disappoint, and has now achieved an AS Level (Advanced Sarcasm) in her specialist subject – so many wonderful cutting lines! ๐Ÿ˜‚

So, spend the next 120 minutes immersed in the rosy world of the idle rich (but do take a tissue as there’s a major ‘blub’ moment towards the end). ๐Ÿ˜ฅ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

There’s plenty of chatter online about whether they’ll be a sequel or not – I’d say the chances are very high.

Family Weekend

Reading time: 2 minutes...


Roger, Jane and Oliver joined us for the weekend! ๐Ÿ˜

Saturday

The last signs of Summer 2019?

The main event for today was a picnic at Belton House and then a walk around the historic Mansion and Gardens. I think it’s our most oft-visited stately home having been there recently (ish) with with Dennis and Sandra back in May, 2018 and Chris and Gill in July, 2017.

On arrival, the weather was disappointing to say the least (Summer’s not quite over surely???) Oliver was sporting shorts and I was in a short-sleeved shirt. Consequently, both of us were woefully ill-dressed for the conditions – a plummeting temperature followed by rain! โ˜” โ˜”

1.00pm: However, It didn’t stop us enjoying our picnic though, as we sandwiched ourselves between ‘Robert‘ and the car next door to act as a wind-break! Brrrrr! ๐Ÿ˜

1.55pm: I think the c*** weather made us eat more quickly, and we soon made a significant dent in Ann’s extensive picnic.

As soon as we’d cleared up our bits, we headed straight for the House. Word to the wise: Since our previous visit, there’s been one major change here! ALL VISITS ARE NOW TIMED, so it’s not just a case of turning-up and hoping to get in straight away. But, as it happened, it was perfect timing on our part, as there were five slots on the very next admission – the 2.15!

2.10pm: We’re in! ๐Ÿ˜

Given our previous visits, from a photo point-of-view, I decided to concentrate on the less well-known/seen pieces on show inside, together with less obvious views of the property and surroundings.

3.05pm: Time for a cuppa, especially as the damp weather from earlier had returned, but this time it was torrential!

A quick, but determined sprint to the nearby tea-shop got us more-or-less to the front of the queue (followed by the rest of mankind) and we were soon seated in the Stables enjoying our cuppa and cake!

3.35pm: Next stop was the Gardens where the weather, perfectly on cue turned from rain to warm sunshine! ๐Ÿ˜ At last!

Beautiful!
Ditto!

4.00pm: Our final stop was St Peter & St Paul Church aka Belton Church.

Belton Church

4.20pm: A great visit! (again!) ๐Ÿ˜. Even the weather didn’t really spoil our visit (even though it looked like it would!). We wandered back to the car and headed south.

Ooo, there’s creative! ๐Ÿ˜Š

All of today’s photos at Belton House (with none of my chat) are HERE

6.15pm: It was a good journey home and we were indoors by 5.45. By 6.15, Ann had laid the table for a yummy table-buffet. All that was left to do was to choose a movie for the evening…

Excellent choice!
Bohemian Rhapsody (courtesy of Sky Store): Even better than I remember it the first time around in the cinema ๐Ÿ‘
9.45pm: And what could be better than a good film to finish the evening? The answer? two films! Choice-wise, the consensus was Thor: Ragnarok (in 4k DVD). Although it’s not my favourite from the Marvel stable, it’s still a very good yarn with everyone acting their heart out, helped along by outstanding SFX and a comedic theme (that in spite of all the death and destruction, seemed to work). The day however, eventually got the better of us, and we only got about two-thirds of the way through it – still there was always tomorrow to finish it off!

11.05pm: That’s it! ๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด Nighty-night!

Sunday

A lie-in for me until the unearthly late hour of 7.15 whilst the others slept-on.

9.10am: A little bit of Queen, courtesy of Spotify to get the day started!

9.45am: Breakfast is served – Porridge with Strawberries followed by a Bacon Butty! ๐Ÿ˜

10.30am: Jane, Oliver and I watched the rest of Thor: Raganarok, Roger caught up with the Daily Telegraph, whilst Ann put the finishing touches to lunch – this was a real family-foodie weekend, and just how we like it! ๐Ÿ˜

12.15pm: Pre-lunch drinkies!

1.00pm: Lunch is served. Roast Chicken with all the bits!

2.30pm: Lunch over! A bit of clearing up followed by a long natter.

whilst listening to something a little more relaxing!

3.45pm: Well, where did that weekend go? It passed really quickly – a great sign of a great time! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

Bye all, it’s been great to catch-up!