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Sunday, 27 November 2016

Donald Trump is only the start....

If you've read my last post you'll know that I'm trying to acclimatised myself to the sub zero temperatures I and my mate expect to experience when we plunge deep into the Arctic Circle in January. I needn't have bothered. According to the latest meteorological reports,  Svalbard is likely to be as warm as the Persian Gulf this winter.

Strictly speaking that shouldn't be a problem since global warming may do a lot of things but it doesn't change the earth's tilt or its magnetic field. We'll still have an opportunity to see the Northern Lights although the prospect of a Polar Bear joining me in my sauna to cool off is somewhat disturbing.

This week has been full of incident. On Monday I caught a cold. I still have it. I now know what the death rattle sounds like.

On Tuesday I was robbed at a local cash point at 5 pm on a crowded street. Someone manage to whip my cash card from under my nose having previously clocked my pin number. In less than 10 mins I was 440 pounds lighter. I immediately reported the incident to my bank: was it a theft, mugging or what? They cancelled my card and after talking to their fraud people all the money was refunded the same day. I received a replacement cash card 2 days later. Hugely grateful to Halifax Bank for being so effective and efficient. I reported the incident to the Met Police on line and a very nice young PC called round on Friday to take down my details. I haven't been near an outside cash point since. From now on it's an inside job.

Then my iPhone 6 packed up - I can't receive calls. I can make them and send and receive text but  anyone phoning me gets a disengaged tone. Someone unkindly said what's new when I told them. I tried all the tricks Apple's on line help page recommended, including returning the phone to its factory settings. That was weird because having done that I found I gained some new features and lost old ones even though I have the latest iOS. A visit to the Apple shop is on the cards.

Then our electric hob and oven went on Wednesday. Replacing the blown socket fuse with another didn't help as it also blew. Our immediate thought was that there was something shorting in either the hob or oven - could be expensive. The missus bought some new fuses from our local electrical store - so convenient. After replacing the fuse again everything is now hunky - dory.

The week ended well. Ed Balls was eliminated from "Strictly".

Saturday, 19 November 2016

The Blob

My wife's been complaining again. Not that she complains that often - well not about me. She does have a go about the state of the world, the queues in Asda, the lack of choice in M&S and the crowds on the Underground. But normally she's a forbearing sort of person.

Except when it comes to me and the shedding of my outer garments. This evening for example at about 9:30 she restrained me from removing my shirt, I having without restraint removed my jumper at approximately 9 pm. I was under strict orders not to take off my trousers, or there'd be hell to pay.

I am decidedly an homeotherm, whereas the missus is incredibly poikilothermic. For most of the year this extreme in our temperaments isn't a problem, past the autumn equinox, however, thermo- nuclear war breaks out. It's mad, but it can't be helped.

The boiler which has be quiescent from May through to mid October is suddenly fired up. The open fire so decorously filled with flowers and Neal's Yard's "Bergamot and Patchouli" reed diffuser perfume is then stacked high with kindling and coals and set alight. Gaps in the windows, door jams and air bricks, which in warmer climes allowed a cooling breeze to suffuse our cottage are blocked up and the building hermetically sealed.

Each day the open fire, fuelled with the most expensive smokeless fuel, is ignited at around 5:15 pm, just in time for "Pointless". On a weekday by "Eastenders" the heat being blasted out is such we are pressed against the walls of the living room: frozen TV dinners are simply left on the plates on our laps to cook. By 9 pm all movement has ceased. Both the wife and I are sound asleep, heads thrown back as "Lewis" starts its discovery of Oxford's intellectual underbelly, and the cats luxuriate in our contribution to climate warming.

I'm convinced we heat the rest of our terrace, which is why our neighbours can afford large 4X4's and children.

I need to remove my clothes, I need to turn off the central heating, open the sash windows and bathe in unheated tap water. I need to acclimatise my body to the chill of Svalbard.

That's right, in mid January I and my mate will be approximately 74 degrees North, with Polar Bears, Artic Foxes and Vodka drenched Russians. We're there when it's cold and dark: the idea being that we can see the Northern Lights and  lots and lots of snow and stars.

I need to get used to icicles on my extremities and Jack Frost on my glasses. I need to get up close and personal to the Polar North - whilst retreating when necessary to the Radisson Blu Polar in Longyearbyen for a glass of Cab Sav and a deluxe sauna.

Hence the removal of my outer clothing. It makes sense doesn't it? 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Spacecraft now arriving.....


I just had to see it. The reviews have been pretty near unanimously "brilliant", and this Thursday "Arrival" docked at our local Empire.

It's been called an intellectual's "Independence Day", British film critic Robbie Collin gave it five stars out of five, claiming it to be an, "introspective, philosophical and existentially inclined – yet unfolds in an unwavering tenor of chest-tightening excitement. And there is a mid-film revelation – less a sudden twist than sleek unwinding of everything you think you know – that feels, when it hits you, like your seat is tipping back." O.K. Robbie, thanks.

It is good, no doubt about that. The aerial shot as the American investigation team first approach the alien ship is majestic, and we were treated to quite a long shot. The action slipped into gear almost immediately after that and continued to build. There were the good guys, the Colonel, the mathematician and the linguist and there were the baddies, the CIA, everyone else in the world but especially the Chinese and Russians, and some redneck army dorks, who tried to blow up the alien ship with a bomb! - well they voted for Trump didn't they.

The director was quite a tease since we didn't see the opening credits until the film ended.  For at least 30 mins I was expecting the film to "start". The sound track was as expected experimental and sombre.

The space craft was suitably alien. It was oblate in shape, in a  "National Trust" black matt  finish, smooth as a baby's bottom and no obvious means of propulsion. This is de rigour nowadays. Earthling spaceships are all lumpy with massive engines burning at full pelt so that one doesn't get confused. In "Arrival" the alien ship reminded me so much of the one in the opening of "Prometheus" with similarly inspiring aerial shots.

As with "Interstellar", humanity is rescued in the nick of time by the intervention of one person. I think I find both "Arrival"'s and "Interstellar"'s interventions hard to accept, but in the context of the films they both worked.

There's a lot about the non linearity of time - except I really didn't get that until - well - the film's brain boxes spelt it out. Very much like that theme in "Interstellar", but less convincing...

The aliens were a disappointment. They reminded me of creatures in a "Star Trek" episode or two. It's a difficult trick to pull off. How do you represent benign creatures. If they're out to zap humanity no problem: there's billions of images to draw upon, but a benign one, that's a real challenge.  I haven't an answer.

I'm looking forward to it coming out on video or Netflix, so I can see it again and again. I also look forward to more intelligent sci-fi movies, although not at the expense of treats such as "Guardians of the Galaxy".

Finally, I bought a VIP ticket at the cinema. When I presented it to the usher, she escorted me to the lift and to the VIP section. Imagine a gated community in a cinema. There in our separate fortress, 20 or so VIPs sat distanced from the hoi polloi: we even had our own loo!

The masses got their own back by switching on their mobiles and tweeting or messaging all through the film, and munching on gargantuan bars of chocolate, hot dogs, ice cream and pop corn. I counted at least 18 speakers in the cinema. They were needed to drown out the sound of noshing.

A note to Empire cinemas: up grade your VIP class to Trump class with some tasteful gold decoration and gilding and a buxom usherette dispensing cocktails and canapes. Just a thought.