Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Movie review & DVD round up

Star Trek Beyond (12A)

Director ~ Justin Lin
Website ~ StarTrekBeyond

Three years into their five year mission, the USS Enterprise arrives at Yorktown space station for some R&R after failing on a diplomatic mission involving a mysterious artifact. When a rescue pod is picked up, the survivor claims her ship and crew are stranded on an unknown planet in a nebula and the Enterprise is dispatched to rescue them. Once there, they encounter a ruthless enemy, Krall, who will stop at nothing to obtain the artifact to create a weapon of ultimate destruction.

A high octane movie, heavy on special effects for its thrills and spills, the cast ably run around ships, planets and space stations as they battle against a hungry foe. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella all star to make this an enjoyable chapter of the Star Trek franchise.

Three out of five stars,

DVD Round-Up

The Dressmaker (12)
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse

Revenge comedy set in a small town in 50's Australia. Dressmaker Myrtle Dunnage (Kate Winslett) returns to her home town to get revenge for a murder she may or may not have been sent away for as a child. Looking after her ailing mother and making outfits for the locals she tries to exact revenge while unravelling the secrets of the past. Hugo Weaving is the cross dressing local policeman, Judy Davis is Myrtle's mad, bad mother and Liam Hemsworth is the local love interest. A chick flic with unusual twists and turns, it keeps the attention and does not end up where you think it will. There are also some gruesome deaths along the way.
Four out of five sequinned spangles.

Bridge of Spies (12)
Director: Steven Spielberg

Superb portrayal of real events during the cold war when Colonel Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is arrested and accused of being a Russian spy. He is defended by lawyer Jim Donovan (Tom Hanks) who defends him successfully enough to avoid the death penalty. Donovan is then recruited by the CIA to organise an exchange of prisoners in East Berlin as the wall is being built and tensions mount on both sides. Brilliant, do not miss it.
Five out of five unofficially sanctioned stars.

The Hateful Eight (18)
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Didn't get past about the first half hour, which was slow, dull and, er slow...
Zero stars out of five.

Also recommend:

The Lady in the Van (12) ***** 
Trouble for Alan Bennett when a homeless woman parks her van outside his house. 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (12) *****
More teen distopian scifi action.

Conviction (15) *****
Solid court drama as sister tries to overturn her brother's murder charge.

Sicario (15) *****
Bleak look at the violent world of the Mexican/USA border through the eyes of a young FBI agent.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Of Norfolk

The whisper of silver leaves under wide skies
In ancient tongues asking me
Where are your dreams now
Wild lass, wild lass
 Only wreathed as silver strands in your hair
The willows are calling me
Back to the water lands
Windmills to the sea
Where river and sand flat and blue martins ply
Under the old cobbles
A shore of brick and stone
In memory of a place once we called home

Where are your dreams now
Wild lass, wild lass
Only wreathed as silver strands in your hair
Lost to the pine wind in the wild sea air

All your dreams travelled
A gathering storm
But your heart is a vaulted cathedral where angels sing
And love, ripe red and burnished
Beats to the steady drum
And here is hope, the living prayer, unfurled to the wind

The whisper of silver leaves under wide skies
In ancient tongues asking me
Where are your dreams now
Wild lass, wild lass
And I shout into the returning tide
Of the mud and salt and iron hard bone
Of barrel wood, frayed rope
And shells turned to stone
Of the stained glass and old songs
And cornfields' ripe gold
Where river and sand flat and blue martins ply
Under the old cobbles
A shore of brick and stone
Now memories of a place once we called home


Monday, 27 June 2016

The Rise of the Moderates

I voted to Remain

I voted to remain in the EU Referendum. I am a firm believer in the idea that together the EU, as a group of countries, has a strong global economic voice and that the union has allowed a shattered post-war continent to rebuild. Like most outside the political system, I was disappointed but not necessarily shocked by the referendum result. It has been impossible to ignore the recent growing disparity of wealth across Europe as a whole. A political system which only favours the elite and turns its back on the people the system was designed to help is bound to be on a collision course with disaster. Thank goodness this was only a bloody vote and not a bloody revolution.
In the UK it has been increasingly clear the huge wealth generated by the capital has not led to the regeneration of the post-industrial north or the rural south and east and frustrating to see a political ideology not addressing this but instead pushing austerity to the limits of social tolerance. In less than a generation we have shifted home ownership and job/pension security beyond the reach of the majority and seem to be in the process of removing state education and access to national healthcare. That this EU referendum became about giving the political system a bloody nose shows the level of disconnect between politics and the people. It is a sentiment Brussels should not ignore.

Partisan European Politics

'Is it time 2 automate global political treaties in order 2 remove partisan human response & compute best rational outcomes 4 next generation'

I was surprised to see the extraordinarily partisan approach of the EU commission in trying to force our government to trigger article 50 as a response to the Brexit vote. We are the fifth largest economy in the world and the second largest in the EU. This is an economic union we have decided, democratically as a country, not to be working in our favour and, as such, our government will be expected to carefully and with the full co-operation of the EU over the next few years, follow the legal frameworks laid out for an exit. It will be a complex set of negotiations to find the best result for all concerned, to limit trade damage and to make sure Europe will still benefit from having the fifth largest economy on its doorstep. It is not a quickie divorce.

New day, new European alliances...

'What new #EuroGlobal forum will the UK build as the EU looks as though it will ignore this referendum warning for reform & who will join us?'

After the PM's resignation and a weekend of political vacuum in which the Chancellor was nowhere to be seen, no clear successor anointed, the opposition staging a slow coup, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London talking of breaking up the UK, we were all left wondering who will step up and say... well anything...

Two trillion and counting...

Interestingly the #Brexit vote has effectively wiped out some of the trillions pumped in by quantitative easing measures across the global stock markets. Will a moderate rise in interest rates and a flattening of excesses between currencies help to curb excessive gambles and start to even out a volatile market ?

The rise of the Moderates

One thing for sure, this vote and the campaigns preceding it, have been divisive, negative and laid bare the political infighting and intrigue of party politics where winning, whatever the cost, is the goal. Yet it seems, if you read the press we are now all going to be losers, with a punitive budget, despite the Bank of England having planned for this event with several billion stashed up its sleeve. What is increasingly clear is the probable need for another election as the face of both the main political parties is moved radically beyond what was voted for only a year ago.

I hope the rise of a more moderate approach within the EU will be the ultimate outcome of Britain's exit. You have only to look at the treatment of Greece and the plight of the refugees to see how very unbalanced and inward-looking the system has become. I hope moderate views prevail in the UK too and the individual nations can see the break up of the UK was not what people were voting for last Thursday. And I hope America takes a good, long hard look at its own Union of States and realises, in the cold light of a Monday morning just what could be at stake with its own, very partisan election. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Analysis on EU referendum debate and why this expert is voting to remain in EU.

Well worth watching this video by Professor Michael Dougan before you vote.

“Dishonesty on an industrial scale” EU law expert analyses referendum debate

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Notes from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, a Plantsman's Year.

Roughly twenty years ago my Mum and I went to the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show and made a promise to one day visit the Chelsea show together. Little did we know then just how long it would take to organise this trip (between us, various work, family and health commitments always cropping up) but this year, finally, we got there. For Mum a first visit and for me, the second. Thank you to all those who helped out to get us there, it was a brilliant 50th treat!

5000 Poppies

Floral tribute for the Queen's 90th Birthday


This year I avoided much of the press and TV coverage of the show as I wanted to react to the gardens without knowing too much about the design processes and philosophy behind them. Hoping instead to simply concentrate on the planting schemes and garden forms and maybe find my way to the right meaning from these. I also found a mission statement I wrote for our own garden when we moved house 17 years ago. It is an encapsulation of all the hopes of a new mum to build a home for a family and maybe a reaction to exterior events: the approach of a new century and the rise of terrorism and war. Perhaps a quiet prayer for a moment of calm before the approaching chaos of family life. Probably pretentious and completely unrealistic but a concept for a garden all the same. Did I even slightly succeed? Who knows or, in new century speak, whevs. Like life, the garden is destined always to be a work in progress, dependent on kids, pets, impulse plant buys, the weather and our free time to shape it. But without the concept is it any less of a garden?

Chelsea Show Gardens are very definitely not a work in progress. They are the definition of the finished article, as shiny as a new minted coin and masterpieces of horticultural perfection to be looked at but definitely not lived in till after the show. But without knowing the rationale and ethos behind them, are they any the less for it?

Notes from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

A Plantsman's Year


Climbing rose
Herb borders
Foxtail lily

Bear's breeches

Plums and purples
Orange or lime green accents

Cerise and white
Pinks and peaches

Copper, bronze, sandstone, wood, topiary.

'The M&G Garden 2016' designed by Cleve West

A controlled sprinkling of citrus, sky blue and frothy pinks and whites amongst the green ferns and downy oaks, echoing a rolling spring sky. The small leaved trees providing the dappled shade while the rust and iron hues of the paving and monolithic stones provide a perfect foil for a meandering path drawing you towards the formal seating element of the garden. The downy oaks, with their smaller, slightly scrubbier appearance lend to an atmosphere of windswept permanence. Vibrant and crisp.

'Support: The Husqvarna Garden' designed by Charlie Albone

Hugged by topiary hornbeam and box this intimate, manicured space is the epitome of the outdoor room. Pretty purples fill the borders, regimented by a copper-coloured rill. Sleek, modern and urban, it recalls traditional internal courtyard gardens and retreats.

'The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden' designed by Nick Bailey

A sinuous explosion of structural plants in a palette of purple, blue, grey, copper, bronzed yellows and greens. Spiky firs stand sentinel over a sea of interlocking leaf and plant spires all sweeping your eye up to a balcony overlooking the garden. The densely planted flowerbeds draw your eye with their fractal patterns repeating throughout a lively, dynamic garden.

'God's Own Country – A Garden for Yorkshire' designed by Matthew Wilson

A cathedral space criss-crossed with a contemporary grid of white paths delineating areas of rich planting with a beautiful stained glass palette of deep, tranquil colours. Shimmering white accents add light and space and the gorgeous backlit stained glass panels will be wonderfully warming on a cold winter's day while the plants slumber in their topiary pews. A medieval window-shaped pavilion provides a meditative space to sit and ponder this wonderful hymn to wide open spaces.

'The Harrods British Eccentrics Garden' designed by Diarmuid Gavin

Red brick Victorian elegance with clipped topiary bay and box and terracotta pots of lavender, neatly punctuating paved town house patios and abundant flowerbeds bursting full of roses, lupins, nepeta, salvia, iris... a sophisticated city take on a cottage garden border. While drinking in the gorgeous blooms the whole garden springs to life, as twirling trees and zooming flowers whizz round in a crazy clockwork waltz. Will it make the pruning easier? Maybe. Will it move plants from shade to full sun? Possibly. Will it bring a huge smile to those watching? Absolutely. Bonkers, beautiful but completely bonkers.

'RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden for Health, Happiness and Horticulture' designed by Anne-Marie Powell

Gorgeous colour combinations and textural planting with depth and height. Jam-packed with garden ideas for small spaces.

'The Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street' designed by Chris Beardshaw

A green oasis of tranquillity, with a subtle palette of greens and soft blue tones. Clipped shapes bring calming order and flashes of colour hover like birds in a forest.

'A Modern Apothecary. The St John's Hospice Garden' designed by Jekka McVicar

This beautiful space has echoes of a traditional knot garden in it's central, circular beds radiating around a water feature with seating. The lovely pear cordons bordering the garden remind me of old walled gardens and country orchards. On closer examination the flowerbeds turn out to be herbal beds. Planted like a fabulous piece of jewellery, the flowering herbs shine like precious stones providing a feast for the eye and a balm for the soul.


A week or so later, having watched the TV shows and reflected on what we saw, I am still buzzing with new ideas for the garden only to be thwarted by deluges of rain and have to sit by and watch as a horde of hungry snails and slugs head straight for the newly planted hostas. With only one BBQ so far is it going to be another washout this year? Amid the deluge the bluetits in the bird box decide to fledge, scattering like feathered puffballs under the table and into the wild edges of the lawn. I wonder, as the pond slowly spills over, if the newts will be OK and, as I watch, the rambling rose takes a nosedive, flattened under the weight of the rain. The newly refurbished garden seat set into the bank remains still unused as the weather refuses to let up.

For me, the best show gardens are the ones you can connect to. Spaces that evoke memories or provide a framework for new memories to be made in. Some of the gardens imparted their rationale effortlessly while others made you think for while before reaching any kind of conclusion.

Gardens create a place we can be free in but still safe from the pressures of the world and that freedom allows us to contemplate some of the more complex issues life throws at us. Perhaps gardening itself provides all the ethos a garden needs or perhaps gardens allow a place for ideals and ideas along with the plants to flourish. On things for sure, what we learn from, what we nurture and grow, what stand we take. These three things define us and shape our world.