Tuesday, 23 August 2016


Image result for grouse hunting

We went to Teesdale today, across the wild moors, where we saw something we have never seen before . . . a grouse shoot. Beaters, dogs, people in 4x4’s armed to the teeth all moving in a line across the horizon. We stopped to watch.

The beaters seemed to be young men dressed in jeans and trainers, carrying white pillowcases which they waved in the breeze. There could have been twenty of them. There were a lot of gun people, at least thirty. We didn’t see any shooting or killing; I think it had only just started.

According to The Guardian, it costs £7000 [yes, seven thousand pounds] a day to go grouse shooting so if I am right and there were thirty shooters on the moor today, that’s err . . . a lot of money for whoever owns the grouse moor. It’s still controversial, birds of prey even protected species such as hen harriers and peregrine falcons as well as eagles and kites are trapped by gamekeepers because they prey on young grouse and the estate owners don’t want the numbers of birds reduced. It would affect the value of the moor and the price they can charge per gun.

It is never going to stop however. There is too much money being made.


Image result for time to die

There is a fascinating series running on Radio 4 at the moment on the subject of great cinema speeches. They have a poet who explains the syntax and why the words work so well. So far we have had coulda been a contender; don’t forget . . . we’ll always have Paris and my own all-time favourite, tears in the rain, which ends Blade Runner. I don’t know what’s up next but I would certainly add to that list, ‘. . . in this life or the next’ . . . the pivotal moment of Gladiator and possibly another pivotal moment, ‘I’ll give you my answer now. My answer is no’, from Godfather 2 .I am tempted to mention another crucial cinematic moment, ‘ . . . we need more bullets in the gun . . .’ from Deer Hunter but it’s a line, not a speech and it definitely isn’t poetry.

I’m not big on lists. I know that lists are very often the staples of blogs; is Dylan more important than Miles? Were the Beatles better than the Stones? Is Clint Eastwood a better director than John Ford? I couldn’t care to be honest but the Internet is full of these best speeches lists so there is no shortage of material. For what it’s worth, the American Film Institute [AFI] have a site here listing the Top 100 Movie Quotes of all time so if you are interested, click on the link. These are not speeches, they are quotes, stuff like, ‘You talkin’ to me?’ and ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning’.

So, all caveats taken into consideration, this is my list:

From On the Waterfront: Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger; screenplay credited to Budd Schulberg.

Charley Malloy [Steiger]: ’Look, kid, I - how much you weigh, son? When you weighed one hundred and sixty-eight pounds you were beautiful. You coulda been another Billy Conn, and that skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast’.

Terry Malloy [Brando]: ‘It wasn't him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson." You remember that? "This ain't your night"! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money’.

Charley Malloy: ‘Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money’.

Terry Malloy: ‘You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley’.

If the link works you can view the scene here.  

From Casablanca: Ingrid Bergman and Humphey Bogart; screenplay credited to Casey Robinson.  

Ilsa [Ingrid Bergman]: ’But what about us?’

Rick [Humphrey Bogart]: ‘We'll always have Paris. We didn't have it before...we'd...we'd lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night’.

Ilsa ‘When I said I would never leave you...’

Rick ‘. . . And you never will. But I've got a job to do too. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now, now. Here's looking at you, kid’.

I always thought Casablanca was rather overrated but one can’t deny the power of this scene. Is Rick sincere? All those little smiles.  Is the delivery too quick? There is a sense he just wants to get it over with. It feels rehearsed somehow but of course it would be . . . he was probably up in his room rehashing it all day. Judge for yourself. There is a link here.

From Blade Runner: Harrison Ford  and Rutger Hauer, Harrison Ford silent throughout. Screenplay credited to Ridley Scott and David Peoples but this speech attributed to Rutger Hauer from a draft presented to him on the day of filming.

Roy Batty [Rutger Hauer]: 'I’ve seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears...in...rain.

Time to die’.

You need to see it performed to understand the import of the words. Here is a link. I hadn’t realised until the poet pointed it out, that Tannhäuser Gate is from William Blake.

There is a link to Godfather 2 here but I can’t find a link to Deer Hunter. I may return to this as the series progresses.

Meanwhile, here is the link to Russell Crowe:

‘My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius, father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance -- in this life or the next’.

Friday, 19 August 2016


Image result for iranian taxi

Just thinking last night about scary places I have been after writing about Tijuana. Some places are scary because of a particular incident and are not in themselves inherently scary. I didn’t for example find  Easterhouse particularly frightening when I lived there, although of course there were plenty of stories and you had to keep your guard up. Later, I lived in Tottenham which had a reputation at least as bad as Glasgow’s  Easterhouse Estate but again, as long as you didn’t do anything stupid like not get out of the way of a group of black kids coming toward you, it was perfectly fine. It was while I was living there that PC Blaylock was murdered by the mob just a quarter of a mile away.

I found the Greyhound bus station in Detroit very scary. The only white faces waiting for a bus to Toledo at eleven o’clock at night. Not unlike Tijuana, it is when you arrive at the interface usually black/white, that things go awry. I remember visiting Belfast during the troubles on business; I couldn’t believe people could live normally there. But they did.

But the scariest place I have ever been by a million miles was Lahore. Absolutely terrifying city with a population of around 7 million, nearly all of them wanting to rob me or rape me or just kill me. And I kid you not. We were there for a week in the Monsoon season and it rained constantly and torrentially the whole time. We were attacked by cats, strays presumably and I honestly don’t know what they would have done if they had managed to get in; screeching, howling scratching at the doors and windows all night. Then when the rain eased and we decided to walk into the city late afternoon to see some of the tourist sights, we were pushed and shoved and threatened by a large group [more than twenty]of Pak youths who managed to force us into a water fountain in the park where we were drenched. No adult passer-by helped. Could have got seriously dangerous had not some uniformed police appeared.

I was mugged once in Glasgow and if I had been quicker, sharper I would have seen it coming. They didn’t get much. My cousin thought it was funny. Tokyo at night is the place for muggings but by day, it feels perfectly safe. Miami is another place where you can easily and inadvertently cross the black-white interface.

Other dangerous places I have been:

Kandahar: no problem.

Brixton, South London: no problem-even at night.

Manchester Moss Side: big problem; wild dogs everywhere. Don’t get out of the car under any circumstances in fact the City Council officially advises you not to go at all.

Modesto: we stopped off in Modesto once. Do you know where that is? It’s just south of Stockton CA; it is the gateway to Yosemite. What happened was we had booked a hotel [from England] by phone and by letter . . . this was before you used the Internet for all that . . . but stupidly hadn’t realised it was a national holiday weekend and three guesses . . . we don’t have your reservations sir and we are fully booked. As of course was every other hotel/motel for a hundred miles around. So we were on our own, exhausted, tired and hungry back at the bus station at ten o’clock at night sitting on our suitcases when we were approached by three or four local toughs. We had our daughter with us . . . ten years old . . . but they were intent on robbing us, maybe worse. Really difficult situation there was no way we could have taken them on. But . . . just as things were reaching crisis point a police car drew up. Actually it wasn’t a police car it was a prison guard in a secure car for transporting prisoners; there was a large penitentiary just up the road and he was delivering a skinny black guy who had just been released, to the bus station. The four thugs evaporated and the prison guard got on his intercom thing and found us a room for the night near the jail. Then he gave us a lift there because he was going back to the pen. So we sat in the back in a kind of metal cage and heard about his life as a prison warden.

Very lucky intervention. And so completely unexpected to be attacked in a town like Modesto.

Mashhad, Iran: we made the mistake in Mashhad of getting into a taxi and the driver wouldn’t let us out. Very, very frightening experience. You don’t get exclusive use of a taxi in Iran; the driver will stop and pick up other fares and drop them off as he travels to your destination so gradually the cab filled up with all these bearded men with their groping fingers everywhere. At one point a Mullah got in and far from saving us from our plight, his fingers were out groping everywhere. Biting scratching screaming and shouting worked eventually but the driver left us on the dusty streets of some horrible housing estate that we had to find our way out of.

I may post more on this subject later.

Thursday, 18 August 2016


Image result for billingham festival mexico.

Pretty scary place, Mexico having said which, my colleague Jeff Cook has a brother who lives there in some luxury on the Pacific west coast and doesn’t seem to have any problems whatsoever. There is no Alfredo Garcia looking for his head.

I’ve been I think five times. The first time was when we took the little train down from San Diego for a one-day visit to Tijuana; my daughter was ten then. Jeez it was scary and if you wandered off the main drag you were immediately offered drugs by children even younger than my daughter or sex with children not much older. A few years later we went to El Paso and crossed over to the Mexican side in a taxi, to see what it was like. Wasn’t interesting.

Then a few years after that we were on a cruise that stopped off at Cozumel, an island just off the east coast which is supposed to be where Cortez landed in 1519.

You can’t not read Cormac McCarthy and not find Mexico beguiling.

Yesterday we went to an open-air folk festival where the headliners were a traditional Mexican troupe of young musicians and dancers who played and entertained us for an hour. Music colour and movement, all professionally executed with a live band [two guitars; fiddle, trumpet, a drum machine and two singers], in the afternoon sunshine. Just lovely. Not the real Mexico? Good enough for me. And as authentic as any other version I have encountered.