“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible." T.E. Lawrence; Seven Pillars of Wisdom 

Wagons Ho!

Crumble Towers

Crumble Towers

And sadly the Crumble Crew have, with heavy hearts, bid a fond farewell to Crumble Towers and moved the family lock, stock and barrel + 3 Labradors down to Compton, about 15 miles south of Haslemere. This of course will provide a new and rich seam of blog material but my, the South Downs; who would have thought one could enjoy a Big Sky so close to Haslemere - I feel like its Montana. Truth be told, it's 15 miles and about fifty years; what is there not to like about a pub with dog biscuits on the bar or another that does take away fish & chips of a Friday.

Big Sky

Big Sky

Mrs Flashbang and I were, for once, in agreement that change was required after nearly twenty years in the Haslemere area and are enjoying the move despite some emotional resistance from the Crumble Kids; which is rich given they've all but permanently left home less the youngest who anyway is off to the Arctic tomorrow for a month. The dogs meanwhile put up sterner resistance. Well, Gunner at least did. In fact he was the only one to mount a display of defiance, lying down on the path resolutely defending his home as the removers wisely stepped around him. Gurkha meanwhile treated them with bored indifference while Diesel thought a bunch of new playmates had come to play.

The movers by the way, were a local firm called Colwin Removals and a better bunch of lads you won't find. They worked like Chinese Coolies, were very considerate of home and goods, were good humoured and importantly, priced themselves very competitively. I couldn't recommend them enough and incidentally, ours was a pretty big move out of a quirky ancient listed house into........ well another quirky remote house!

Wednesday thunder storm......angry sky

Wednesday thunder storm......angry sky

and my, we do get some interesting weather!

This is Jim Rockford

Jim Rockford: This is Jim Rockford. At the tone leave your name and message, I'll get back to you. Sales Rep.: [Beeep] This is Globe Publications. Our records show you have not returned your free volume of the Encyclopaedia of Weather, so we'll be sending you the remaining 29 volumes - you'll be billed accordingly.

Jim Rockford: This is Jim Rockford. At the tone leave your name and message, I'll get back to you.
Sales Rep.: [Beeep] This is Globe Publications. Our records show you have not returned your free volume of the Encyclopaedia of Weather, so we'll be sending you the remaining 29 volumes - you'll be billed accordingly.

The Rockford Files, (I remember thinking how cool it would be to have a telephone answering machine when first I watched it), all 124 wonderful episodes, 1974-1983,  and how good was Stewart Margolin as Angel and Joe Santos as Sgt Dennis Becker. All the greats are checking out……………..

…. Jim Rockford; “You know what's wrong with karate Jerry? It's based on the ridiculous assumption that the other guy will fight fair.”

Flight MH 17 row continues to escalate

The Defence Ministers of Norway, Sweden, Netherlands and Germany and their Russian opposite number, Sergei Shoigu

The Defence Ministers of Norway, Sweden, Netherlands and Germany and their Russian opposite number, Sergei Shoigu

The Flight MH 17 row continues to escalate; why is it so difficult for someone to get on a plane and go and talk to Putin? The traditional mediator at such times, Germany, has excused and absented themselves from the process. Mrs Merkel must swing into gear, far from protecting Germany's interests she will achieve the opposite in sacrificing the long term good for short term industrial interests.

My view from the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis is that I wouldn’t trust either side as far as I could throw them and propaganda and misinformation continues to stream from both sides. The EU are absolutely culpable in precipitating the crisis in making impossible demands while making unfulfillable promises. Like it or not, EU meddling resulted in the overthrow of an elected government and having lit the fuse the EU stood back, turned and ran away. Now we have nigh on 300 innocents dead, and many thousands more in Ukraine itself and the European economy under threat of being destabilised.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world has accepted at face value the assertion that rebels downed the civilian aircraft. That may transpire to be fact but should be left to clinical investigation. Russia’s Defence Ministry is challenging the allegations and has produced evidence suggesting a Ukrainian fighter jet had tracked the airline despite early assertions from the Ukrainians that no fast jets were in the air. The Russians have also challenged the Americans to produce the satellite imagery they say they have showing that the missile was launched by the rebels. There are many more conflicting assertions and pieces of supposed evidence out there, such as the report of a Spanish air traffic controller working in Ukraine who said the Boeing was under escort by two Ukrainian fighters, and I know not which may or may not be accurate. I would simply encourage a healthy scepticism of the output of both sides. We’ll get the truth, eventually.

As an aside, I'm no fan of John Pilger and am diametrically opposed to just about everything he stands and has stood for but its a funny old world. So warped and pliable have political principals become in our modern world and so diluted has the integrity of journalism become that I find myself in almost absolute agreement with his thoughts on the Ukraine in this pretty searching and articulate piece from his blog. Worth a read.

One further point. Much has been made of lack of respect for the dead. If looting has taken place its unforgiveable but amongst the swaggering gangsters it is also clear that many local volunteers, firemen, miners and the like, have collected bodies and body parts. That is a traumatic experience. My old company was at Lockerbie, (after I had left them), and did just that job. The legacy of social problems and PTSD among those men lingers on and in fact I attended a funeral just two weeks ago, the cause of which may well stretch back down the years to Lockerbie. People who haven’t been handed a plastic bag and been asked or told to “go and collect” shouldn’t be so quick off the mark to criticise. It’s not a nice thing to have to do.

Scotsie 100

The Scottish independence debate has so far been characterised by a poverty of original clear thinking.  The paper below by Paul Marsh, Emeritus Professor of Finance at the London Business School and Scott Evans of Walbrook Economics, about the merits of Scottish independence from a stock market perspective, changes the tone somewhat. In it, they soberly de-construct how Scotland would have fared since 1955 with its own stock exchange and how it would fare as an independent country.

With the clock running down we urgently need more input of similar calibre. One could be forgiven for thinking that the actuality of the situation is that Salmond & Co are dreading the "Oh bugger, that wasn't supposed to happen, what now?" moment if they actually do win while one might be left to think that Cameron & his playmates, latterly supplemented with a squadron of clickty-clack heeled media friendly thirty-something women junior ministers, won't shed a tear because the embedded Labour majority at Westminster will be gone forever.


Hull City Council; Thinking & Doing

Not sure about the graphic though.....

Hull City Council have announced a scheme to create their own crypto currency with which citizens may be paid for doing jobs that benefit the community and which may then be used to pay for local services such as public transport, food banks or even council tax. At last, a council that is thinking and doing.

Notwithstanding it may be an April Foll story, (although the story was circulating yesterday), this is a great piece of mutually supporting creative planning. Designed to tackle local poverty, without knowing it they've just drawn the blueprint for what a Big Society really is. They probably also don't realise that I proposed a similar Community Credit scheme three years ago in a piece called, oddly enough, "Creating the Big Society," But hey, this isn't about trying to catch some airtime for a good idea that someone's else has also come up with! The important thing is that they're doing something about it.

The elegant enhancement in my scheme though is that citizens could also be fined credits / Hull Coins / widgets for minor offences and be forced to earn them through community work, or use those already earned, to pay the fines off. 

Anyway, I take my hat off to Hull, salute their innovation and applaud the can-do and will-do attitude. As an aside, what a great thing to do to bring a community together some 100 years after the same community stepped forward to help their countrymen and raised four Pals Battalions, the 10th Easy Yorks (Hull Commercials), 11th East Yorks (Hull Tradesmen), the 12th East Yorks (the Hull Sportsmen) and the 13th East Yorks, (T'Others) .......... only in Yorkshire.

Hull Volunteers

Train Goes Walkabout

Class 170/3 set of the type used by South West Trains on the Salisbury to Waterloo line

In a worrying incident this morning, several hundred passengers on the 06:45 commuter train from Salisbury to London have become stranded in Matlock, Derbyshire; some 150 miles from their intended destination. In what Network Rail managers called, a rail traffic control nightmare,€ the South West Trains service was redirected several times following an electrical fault which delayed the train at Basingstoke.

Mr Roy Parrish, Director of Services for Network Rail said,  "The train experienced electrical issues at Basingstoke and was moved temporarily onto another line to keep the main line clear. When the fault was cleared it was unfortunately not possible to move the service back because of other services using the main London line."€ He went on to explain that once on the Reading line it was easier to divert ahead via Reading but due to confusion there, the service was misdirected to Oxford by which time it had been inadvertently labelled in the Network Control Centre as a train destined for Birmingham New Street. Mr Parrish continued, "immediately the error was spotted, a decision was taken to bypass Birmingham and route the service up the Sheffield line from where is would continue to Doncaster and join the high speed East Coast line back south to London. The train though, broke down en route to Sheffield several miles outside Matlock."

€Although it sounds like a comedy of errors,€ a harassed Mr Parrish explained, "€œit really is just an unfortunate sequence of events. I want to emphasise that passenger safety has not been compromised and everything that can be done is being done to get these people to their destination."€

Matlock Station

Passengers on the train however, vented their anger and irritation to news desks by mobile telephone. Mrs Margaret Evans-Pritchard (67), a retired teacher from Shipton Bellinger was an exception and said in a telephone interview, "it's all been rather fun really, a sort of mystery tour and the Peak District is so pretty at this time of year." However, a Mr Francis Dart, (45), an insurance broker from Salisbury, summed up the prevailing dark mood on the train when he said, "it's utterly absurd. What should be a one and a half hour journey has taken all day going in the opposite direction and now we'€™re stuck in the middle of nowhere with only one loo between us. Just sums this country up."

Investigators from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch are said to be not involved given no incident€ has actually taken place but, they €œmay take an interest to see if lessons can be learned, an unnamed spokesman said. 

South West Trains said they were confident of getting all the passengers to their ultimate destinations in time for work tomorrow.

Wolverhampton or Bust

This is not Wolverhampton

Good morning and the schools and universities are starting to break up for Easter from this weekend and families will begin to drift off on holidays after the quarter end. Many will be drawn to the slopes to enjoy a last blast down the piste while others will seek more tranquil and warmer climes. Not me. I’m off to Wolverhampton, the Cote d’Azur of the West Midlands where I shall be at my post with water, hot sweet tea and jelly babies to hand supporting one of the Crumble barking mad loons in his attempt to complete the Tough Guy marathon.

Much maligned Wolverhampton is apparently the 9th unhappiest place to live in the UK and was disappointed in 2009 to be beaten by Detroit, Accra in Ghana, Los Angeles, San Salvador and four others for the Lonely Planet title of the worst place to live in the world. It was only included in the list, (the Lonely Planet hadn't actually been that deep into the Midlands), because of a reader anecdote that quoted a Wolverhampton man at Ground Zero just after 9/11 when George Bush visited. 'Bush comes up to shake his hand asks him where he's from. The man replies 'Wolverhampton'. 'I don't know that place,' says Bush. 'What state is it in?' 'The man from Wolverhampton looks around him and replies, 'It's pretty much like this really.'

Well I’m not having any of that nonsense and you can look forward to my Monday reportage on the trip as much as I’m looking forward to going.

Much Missed

Much missed

Attempting to figure out the short term ebb and flow of stock markets is, at the moment, every bit as challenging as trying to figure out what my tormentors at South West Trains are going to spring on me next. Arriving at Waterloo last night somewhat later than usual I was taken aback to discover that my journey home was to terminate at Guildford, some 22 miles short of my destination but the offer of rolling through the Surrey countryside at midnight in a double decker bus was obviously an experience I just couldn’t live without. Just to pile pain on misery I arrived at the station at ten to six this morning to find that the little station paper seller on the platform, which has been there as long as the station has, has abruptly had its lease terminated by South West Trains at a few days notice in favour of “redevelopment,” and that’s permanently buggered up my morning routine on a go forward basis. They are an absolute shower the lot of them and I look forward with unrestrained enthusiasm to the day that I can terminate them. 

Pains on Trains

I've traveled up and down the Portsmouth line to Haslemere for years. I've done it in first, in second, I've done it standing and I've done it staggering. I've traveled with loud drunks, happy drunks, noisy drunks, and punchy drunks. I've sat with the interesting, the dull, the entertaining and the downright miserable. I've listened to jokes, to tales of woe and of wonderment, sports reports and holidays from all over the world from companion travelers, some of whom I've known, many I haven’t. I prefer to sit in silence, happy in my own bubble for the 58 minutes in the day each way that is mine. In the old days it was 5 hours in Club to New York or Tokyo or even shorter on Concorde but we are where we are. Like many others, I've occasionally tolerated loud music from other peoples headphones. Although with whatever suppressing technology they now use it’s not the plague it used to be, most passengers ignore the hip-hap-housy-rag-rip-roll junk that some of these idiots play with equanimity.

Crumble's carriage on the 18:15pm shortly after switching his one-pod on

Crumble's carriage on the 18:15pm shortly after switching his one-pod on

That is, until one very particular piece of music is played. I've never seen such shuffling, nodding and shaking accompanied by those Death Ray Eyes as I do when I happen to play some pipe music on my one-pod. Indeed, the alacrity displayed to any other social nuisances is replaced with heightened tension, bulging eyes and elevated blood pressure. Poor souls, it’s not my fault if modern headphone sound suppression technology can’t cope with the massed bands of the Gordon Highlanders.

I simply like to think I’m there to enlighten and educate; I’ll bring them round......... eventually.

She's Gone..

This is girlspeak for "I've found someone else, you're history."

This is girlspeak for "I've found someone else, you're history."

So, Valentine’s Day didn’t go to plan; in fact it was disaster. She stomped off in a huff / let you down gently / spontaneously combusted in a super nova rage / didn’t turn up. Now you’re alone, dumped, cast adrift, let go, tinned. What next? Well, you could shrug your shoulders and look forward to the green grass on the hillside, move on and be happy but that is the least likely immediate outcome. First you probably need to go through the wallowing in misery phase and that, while not good, is an almost guaranteed prerequisite for letting go.

An essential first move is to phone a friend. This won’t end well but you’ll do it anyway, (it’s all part of the cathartic cleansing process). Your chum will turn up somewhat mystified as to why you’ve chosen him and while his thoughts are full of the forthcoming Six Nations round, six pints at the Nags Head and a greasy kebab on the way home you just want him to say the words, “she’ll be back.” He’ll say a lot more of course and may inadvertently say the SBB sentence but actually, that’s all you’ll be listening for and the rest will go over your head. Big mistake; in amongst the rest of his verbiage there will probably be some well intentioned and well thought out phrases that go something along the lines of, “she never seemed wholly committed,” “she always seemed to be busy when you needed her,” “she liked mirrors,” “and James,” “she never did quite understand the importance of the pack and the beauty of the driving maul,” “she always got a lot of texts,” “that Diana flicking hair thing never worked for me.”

What you should mostly be doing of course is staying off the booze, going on a fitness kick, eating healthily, throw yourself into work and book yourself on an Amazonian expedition to give yourself something to aim for. Work for a charity and take up a new hobby. In short, be interesting and interested. You won’t though; all that comes later.

Here you are then, the sob-story-loves-lost-track list. Interestingly, when I dipped into my imusic cloudy thing I notice that generally, they do seem to make an awful lot more sad songs than happy ones. Here are some of the best................ (and just to counterbalance it I’m going to post some upbeat tracks later this week). Anyway, as you’re staring into the bottom of your whisky glass here’s some music to make you feel even more maudlin, (the really heartbroken will just play the same track on loop):

It Keeps Raining                                Fats Domino (need just one track? This is the one).

A World Without Love.                      Peter & Gordon

Without You.                                      Nilsson (makes most lists)

You Were On My Mind.                     Crispin St Peters

Song To The Moon.                          Lesley Garret

Lara's Theme.                                     Dr Zhivago (Mrs Flashbang cries like a waterfall whenever                                                                                     she hears this.. don't ask)

Rose Marie.                                         Slim Whitman (everyone needs some Country in their lives)

You Don't Know What You've Got      Ral Donner

Only the Lonely.                                    Roy Orbison

Take These Chains From My Heart.     Dean Martin

Take That Look Off Your Face              Marti Webb

Different Drum.                                       Linda Ronstadt, (Stone Poneys)

Lovers Cross.                                         Jim Croce

Stand by Me.                                          Annalaise Emerick

Ashokan Farewell.                                  The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall.       The Inkspots

She's Not You.                                        Elvis Presley

I Was The One.                                        Elvis Presley

Are You Lonesome Tonight                    Elvis Presley (my.... this guy did sad)

Elusive Butterfly.                                       Bob Lind

Mandy.                                                     Barry Manilow

Out of Time.                                              Chris Farlowe

Harry's Game.                                           Clannad

Unchained Melody.                                   Elvis Presley (best version)

Long Gone Lonesome Blues.                    Leon Redbone

I Fall To Pieces.                                          Patsy Cline

Where Do You Go To (my lovely)              Peter Sarstedt

The Dark Island                                          Various, (you'll be able to catch me at my funeral                                                                                                            leaving the church to this one).

I've Had An Absolute **** Of A Day             Kevin "Bloody" Wilson (18+ X rude, do not ever listen                                                                                           in front of your mother, (he's Australian)).

That's enough to get you through the first bottle of Aberlour, (do not compromise on quality of whisky at this point in your life; you've been through enough and deserve a decent dram). Then it's time to suck it up, man up and move on. We'll deal with recovery in a later post!



Swiss Air Force Put Their Feet Up

'Jetman' Yves Rossy flies over Lake Lucerne, Switzerland-939499.jpg

I look on with bemused bafflement that Swiss Air Force F-18's and F-5 Tigers weren't scrambled during yesterday's Ethiopian Airlines hijack because "the Swiss Air Force is only available during office hours," reported to be between 8am till noon and then 1:30 to 5pm. Oh and they're closed at the weekend. Apparently the Italian and French Air Forces filled the gap.

Oh George; What Have You Done?

Unglued........................ should, oh really should and could have been so much better.

Unglued........................ should, oh really should and could have been so much better.

As an inveterate film goer, (when I have the opportunity), I’ll mostly go and see an average movie rather than none at all. I’ll read reviews but mostly prefer to make my own mind up. To this end I legged it with one of the Crumble Kids on Saturday and went to see George Clooney’s “Monuments Men.” After ten minutes, I began to wish I’d listened to the reviews but dug in nonetheless with the view that it had to pick up. It didn’t. There aren’t many movies I watch where I suffer from the magnetic pull of the foyer and fresh air but this one tested me to the limit of forbearance. Frankly, the movie’s only redemption was in the concept especially as it should have been so, so much better given the provenance of the cast. 

The cinema was quite full with an obvious demographic range tilted to the older which is unsurprising given there remains a ready and receptive audience in Britain for any Second World War cinema. When we eventually trudged to the film’s end though, there was just silence; no chatter, no emotion, no..... well nothing actually. I wasn’t alone in my disappointment. 

The disjointed timelines, and "Janet & John," explanations of the historical backdrop, did nothing to bring the viewer into the story. It felt actually as if the director and editors had a blazing row in the cutting room; inadvertently destroyed about 2000ft of reel and then had to glue together what was left as best they could and hope no one noticed. Oh and please, Hugh Bonneville as the least convincing Army officer ever regardless of what he's acting in? He gives cardboard a bad name and peaked in Notting Hill as the clueless stockbroker, (more accurate than anyone could ever believe). I thought he'd bottomed out in Downton Abbey but no, that was very much catching a falling knife.

How odd that the last movie I watched, Gravity, was a film that lifted, tested and enriched on every single cinematic level and was indeed, all the better for Mr Clooney’s on-screen presence.

Perhaps George, you should spend a bit of time doing your apprenticeship behind the camera and spend a year or two working with cinematographers, editors and the like before going straight to the first division. Some actors transition to being unbelievably good directors, Clint Eastwood being the obvious but this movie, well...... it’s a bit like an embarrassing episode in the family, “let’s just move on and say no more about it.”

The Great Beauty; raises the bar in a Citizen Kane order of magnitude. Oscar winner for sure and for certain.

On the way home then I felt I needed something to lift the spirit and soul so popped into the supermarket and bought a DVD of “The Great Beauty,” for £8. No one else in the family was in the least interested so I watched it alone. I was entranced. Every shot was a photograph and every one, every single one was good enough to cover the Sunday Times Supplement or be viewed in a gallery. They came thick and fast; the lighting, the contrasts, the framing; beauty and elegance indeed. I won’t bore you with the plot; in fact, the plot such as it is was pretty superfluous. The joy is in simply watching, feeding the eyes and looking on in wonderment that so much magic can be captured in such a short time. This film will live forever and sets a pretty high bar for those who aspire to purveying grace and beauty on the screen.

All of which sounds somewhat pretentious coming from an average film goes like me; I am after all, the least arty metrosexual person I know. If though, a three pints of Guinness and a hotdog in the West Stand at Twickenham individual like me feels like that then perhaps there might be something in it.

Where does that leave us? Well, anyone who loves art, photography and the art of films must see “The Great Beauty,” and if you don’t like art, photography and the art of films you should definitely see “The Great Beauty,” and do so with open eyes; it might just open your mind. Oh and George, in the words of Robert Capa, "if your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough." Try it and then try again.