Oliver * has a huge, bellowing, hearty laugh. His pink face lights up behind his glasses as he responds to a joke told by his friend. He is a larger than life character…
I worked with Oliver from when he was 18 years old to 21 years. If you did not know him, you might think he was just one of those loud, occasionally foul-mouthed teenagers you see around the UK. He would speak too loudly in class, he laughed too loud, he laughed at inopportune moments, he swore regularly and brushed it off, when staff commented, with a wave of his hand and a ‘whatever’ sound.
Whoever said people with Asperger Syndrome do not smile, were so wrong…
If you’ve ever wondered what a ‘diabolic shrimp’ is, you’ve come to the right place! Imagine a James Bondy villain type living in his underwater lair, directing sea creatures with his super-duper-gonna-take-over-the-world-tech; Joshua Grant is the self-proclaimed leader of shrimp – I’m kidding, really (or am I?)
Seriously though, American author Josh has created his website under the name Diabolic Shrimp and with pretty altruistic reasons. He not only wanted to create a platform for writers to support one another, but he is giving 10% of his takings from his latest book to charity; one of which is oceanic research. Not such a diabolic chap at all. I invited Josh to share something of his life and his website with you.
Josh’s iconic shrimp brigade
1. Tell us something about yourself Josh.
I am a caring, compassionate guy with a moderate imagination and a mild case of misadventure. I have a huge passion for science (particularly space exploration) and for making a difference in the lives of kids.My favorite color [sic] is blue, I absolutely hate peanut butter (not allergic, just hate it), and I hope I live to see the day we colonize Mars.
2. Do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?
My walk through life has been a pretty turbulent one (hence the ‘mild case of misadventure’). I’ve suffered some major traumas in life, truly the worst things that anyone should have to go through, but God brought me through it and has allowed me to land on my feet a wiser and better person.I’ve also experienced some crazy things in life like surviving a major flash flood, encountering several bears, facing off with a mountain lion while ghost hunting, and weathering a vicious storm while sailing the ocean.So…maybe flailing?
3. What is Diabolic Shrimp and what are its origins?
Diabolic Shrimp is my author website that’s also designed to support other authors. I personally buy a book each week from the list of authors signed on to Shrimp.I then go on to review that book.I also buy a book each month to give away to readers for free.
I didn’t originally intend Shrimp to be an author support site. Shortly after I published, I realized how difficult it could be for authors to connect with readers, and just how many sites and venues out there took advantage of authors without providing much benefit.It was here that I saw a chance to make a difference for a group of people that needed it.I decided to step forward and create a free space that authors could come to for concrete support.It wasn’t very successful at first (I had 6 members for about half a year) but a belief in helping others and a bit of persistence has allowed us to grow to nearly a thousand members in the past four months.It has honestly been a wonderful experience that has allowed me to meet tons of interesting people and create a truly caring community.
4. Shrimp – why shrimp?!
Haha! It’s kind of an awkward story actually.My site wasn’t originally called Diabolic Shrimp.It had another name for about six hours.I chose that other zany name on a whim.It was only later when I was out with my friends that they told me it sounded kind of dirty.I was moderately mortified, ‘cause I could totally see what they were talking about!I then quickly changed it to Diabolic Shrimp.
It’s actually my little joke. The Diabolic stands for my diabolic plan to eventually get every single author on there and take over the world.The Shrimp is because individually we authors are the little guys, but when we band together we make a pretty impressive swarm.That, and shrimp are fun little creatures.
5. Would you describe yourself as an environmentalist? And do you believe that people like yourself can make a change for the positive in the world?
I’d say I’m an environmentalist to a degree. I believe all people have a responsibility to leave the world better than when they came into it.That applies to everything, environmentally, relationally, or otherwise.I know for certain I can make a positive difference in the world and will continually encourage others to do so.
6. Your latest publication, Pandora, is about a space leisure cruise ship that picks up the apparent survivor of an accident. Would it be right to describe it as sci-fi horror?
I sort of had a hard time classifying Pandora. I wanted to have a new take on the classic ‘ghost ship’ trope, but also capture all the actiony thrill of the 90s horror films I used to watch as a kid, and thencouple all that with a deep moral heart.So it’s really more of a Sci-Fi Thriller packed with strange creatures similar to films like Aliens or The Thing, with an emotional twist.
7. Are there any authors that influence your writing, who are they and why?
Several authors have made a big impact on me over the years. I always have to give a shout out to JRR Tolkien.The Fellowship of the Ring film came out when I was a freshman in high school and I became a huge Lord of the Rings fan.I read all the books (yes, even some of the Middle Earth histories), and that’s what really sparked my writing career.Then Lois Lowry’s works like The Giver and Number the Stars really taught me the power that books have to inspire emotions.
I came upon the Horror genre only a few years ago. S.D. Perry really blew me away with her fast paced, heart pounding novels.I then got onto the Dean Koontz train.Ultimately, I strive to make my writing a blend of these two masters.
8. What genre do you enjoy reading? And do you have a favourite book?
Oddly enough, Young Adult Fantasy is pretty much my favorite thing in the world to read. Basically anything Rick Riordan writes works for me (shout out to The Lightning Thief).
9. You’re a teacher I believe, what subject do you teach and do you ever bring your experience into the classroom or vice-versa?
I used to be an elementary teacher, so I taught all subjects. These days I just guest teach in both elementary and middle school.I also work with middle and high schoolers at church (more on the emotional side of things).I truly love getting to share my experience with the kiddos.It was always a goal of mine to use my writing to inspire the younger generation.I actually struggled with writing growing up so it’s empowering to show kids who also struggle that they can make it.The only downfall is that parents keep showing up and saying ‘hey, I bought your book for my kid!’I’m always a little mortified when I have to explain that it’s more for adults and watch them give me weird looks!I guess it’s more motivation to finish Silly Tales from Albanon! (AP: You have said it, and now it is public Josh, it’s got to be done!)
10. When working on a book, do you have a special place you like to write, i:e: a garden shed, a room with a view, an underwater lair?!!
Ooo, an underwater lair would be awesome! Oddly enough, my brain only likes to write at the kitchen table.I can’t seem to write anywhere else.Maybe I’m just hungry for more stories?(I know, cringe) (AP: well there goes my image of a watery lair with the high-tech-gadgety-thing going on!!)
11. Who or what has been your biggest influence to date?
I’ve had a few major influences in my life. My parents are the hardest working, kindest people I know.I dedicated my book to them for their endless care and selflessness.The kids I work with always inspire me to be a better, more creative person.God is a huge influence in making me the functional, altruistic person I am today.And on the business front, Elon Musk is a major role model.He likes to help others and is constantly pushing the envelope.
12. If you could tell your 11 year old self anything, what would you say?
I would probably tell myself some lottery numbers. JBut aside from that, I’d tell my 11 year old self that he’s a worthwhile, good person with a heart that has more love and endurance in it than even he knows.
13. And finally – if you could be any sea creature, what would you be and why?!
I would be a…drumroll…actually, not a shrimp. They get eaten by literally everything!I’d either be an otter or a squid.Otters are super cute and squid are some of the coolest animals ever.Hmmm, maybe I should have called it Diabolic Otter…
Thanks for the interview Josh, and good luck with your secret-domination-world-takeover, ahem, with your writers site.
Good morning readers! On this mild Friday morning, I am offering a short story.
I began writing in the genre commonly called Steampunk, some 4 years ago. Steampunk is one of those awkward to describe genres, occasionally referred to as, Speculative Fiction. The ‘founders’ of this style; Tim Powers, K.W. Jeter and James Blaylock write dissimilar stories, but the commonality in this kind of literature is the cross-over of timelines, that technology is often; but not strictly, driven by steam and a fantastical/fantasy/punk quality.
I wrote this piece for my daughter; and read it later at Wirral Writers group. She was studying for A Levels at the time and the pressure of handing in assignments on time was the prime influence. It is a light-hearted take on the theme of time travel;
The Milford Papers
The thing rose almost silently from the dark water. Tiny, oily bubbles accompanying the rising pale dome of a head streaked with filth. With what might be called a sense of intelligence, the thing headed for the steps built into the stone-faced quay, and began to climb.
“The Monster!” Came the shout from a steamship passenger; a pointed finger directing the gaze of the dark men along the ropey quay.
A cry of alarm from the dockside drew further spectators.
The dark men; burly men, sinewy men, hard labourers with grease and coal etched into their faces, advance upon the hapless thing. And with raised fists, bale hooks, picaroons and wood off-cuts, beat the now landed creature. It staggered and flailed, urged back under a flurry of blows and snarled curses, these men who were broad backed, with strong muscles, and of sharp eye, paid no heed to the bizarre waving of limbs and strange snaps of light the thing gave off. Its alien wings twitched spasmodically. It was quickly and efficiently sent back to where it came from; tumbling backwards into the dark water, fizzing and sparking all the while, enveloped in the darkness the thing was presumed dead, or as good as. The docker’s returned to their duties.
And below the surface of the river, the thing thrashed, its legs pumped frantically as its hands scrabbled about its own being. And then. It simply vanished.
“Calm down Milford.”
“Calm down?! Calm down?” The young Milford screeched. “I almost got killed this time. I’m not bloody doing it again. Nothing is worth that kind of hammering. Have you seen me?!” He pointed at newly ripening marks on his upper body.
“Hm?” The older man was inspecting the limp skin of ‘The Monster’.
“Professor. I said have you seen these bruises? I’m black and blue thanks to those thugs.”
“Who was it this time? Hm? What did they look like? Is the phonology like ours? Yes? What about syntax? Do they –“
“Professor!” Milford yelled over the gush of questions. “I couldn’t hear them. I had my helmet on. My bloody head.” He rubbed the back of his neck and skull that had been rattled under the reign of blows.
“Well, the suit seems to have taken a fair old pounding.” The Professor said. Milford’s mouth dropped open. “But nothing we cannot repair, hm?” He fondled the slippery fabric, pale as the underbelly of a sea bass, now detached from its complicated helmet. “I think a few simple repairs and adjustments will have it working good as new, better even.” He studied the multi-beam antenna on the helmet and the hinged time-space array panels, drooping from the shoulders of the suit.
“Professor. I don’t know if you’re aware, but we, sorry, I, keep missing the place. Or the time. I don’t know which, I’ve never got beyond five steps before some hooligan attacks me! Oh, and thanks for asking how I am.”
Professor Arbutus waggled his finger. “No, no, no, hm, no my boy. Not the wrong time.” He gently laid the suit next to the weed and mud smeared helmet. “I am absolutely, one hundred percent certain that the time is correct. Just a matter of co-ordinates. All we need to do – “
“I’m not doing it.”
“I said. I. Am. Not. Doing. It.” Milford said, then added civilly, “Sir.”
“Well now. Hm, yes, no. I see. Well in that case.”
Milford squinted at his professor, lips tight, don’t you dare old man, he thought.
“I cannot pass your coursework.” Damn!
Milford worked closely with his tutor for the next few days. The Finals were looming and he still hadn’t completed his paper. He had made adjustments to the multi-beam antenna, adding Albertian Relativity Sensors, whilst the professor fashioned his personally designed Continuum Lures for the time-space array panels.
“Should work a treat, hm?” The Professor smiled his apparently vacant smile.
Milford scowled at his tutor. “I bloody hope so. It’s me who has to wear it.”
“Language Milford.” The kindly voice warned.
“Sorry sir, but, well you know it hasn’t been as successful as we hoped before.”
“Don’t you understand the enormity of what we’re attempting Milford? My word. You young people today take everything for granted- “
“No sir. We don’t. Look, I’m sorry but Tasker has already completed her dissertation, handed it in to the Board this morning. And Barnes’ thesis is practically complete.”
The professor patted his students shoulder awkwardly. “It’ll be fine boy. Trust me. One more time.”
The figure that came to stand before the lectern was greeted with a wild burst of applause that threatened to deafen Milford. He was astounded. People stamped their feet upon the marble floor, the applause and cheers rose to the ceiling and seemed to curl around the tunnel vault and wrap itself around the audience. Milford’s hand trembled as he jotted in the small, leather bound notebook. He had expected him to be shorter. And then he spoke.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Here we are…” The speaker paused, his eyes twinkled. “…again, in the most perfect room in the world, in this most rich and beautiful port.”
The audience erupted into laughter and cheers, causing Milford to furtively press a finger into one ear. And so the evening continued, the speaker read extracts from his past works, enacting the parts and portraying the voices of his characters so flawlessly, Milford imagined there were hidden players lending their voices. The man combined whimsy and pathos, joy and exuberance, the audience was spellbound. Great oratory and acting combined; Milford squirmed with delight thinking of the examiners reading his thesis. His professor would have loved to visit this evening. Milford had been studying Literature for a mere seven years, his tutor had devoted almost seventy of his years to it, Milford felt he owed it to the old man as much as himself. And so, Milford scribbled like he’d never done before. He enjoyed the evening immensely.
When the crowds eventually dispersed beyond St. George’s Hall, Milford made up his mind to speak to the great man. He found him in a rear room, glass of some deep, syrupy liquid in one hand, bottle at his elbow. He looked Milford up and down with his acute eye, shook his hand firmly, laughed bawdily at his own jokes, and Milford was twisted with anxiety inside – should he tell the great man he would die the following year? Complete that novel sir.
The writers hand came down companionably upon Milford’s shoulder. He proffered the other to shake. Time to go realised Milford.
“Sir?” He managed to mumble. “I…” His voice trailed away, flaccid, impotent, suddenly afraid.
“Son.” The writer smiled. “If I may be allowed to misquote myself, ‘It has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times, an age of wisdom, an age of foolishness, everything is before you.”
He took a brown, felt hat from a stand. Buttoned his heavy overcoat and turning at the doorway, smiled at Milford, winked and, swaying slightly, left the building.
The lights fizzed and hummed. Professor Arbutus looked up from his current project.
“Milford my boy!”.
He tottered forwards to release Milford from the Deep Time Suit. Removing the helmet, he was halted in his waffling by the glistening on his student’s cheeks. Milford sagged onto the nearest seat.
“He’s going to die Professor.”
The professor sat down opposite Milford. He noticed the suit was comparatively pristine this time. Milford yanked a small, leather bound notebook from inside the outfit. The professor took it gently, almost reverently. He thumbed through his student’s notes making exclamations of delight.
“Did you get the dialogue?” He pressed.
Milford began laboriously unfastening his one-piece, revealing the historical costume beneath. He unknotted the tie and from within its lining, pulled out the tiny recording device. Arbutus grabbed it and thrust it into the Vox Processor.
As the rich, deep voice filled the room, the Professor clenched his fists and almost jigged on the spot.
“He’s going to die Professor.” Repeated Milford morosely.
“Milford my boy.” Lectured the aged man before him. “Mr. Charles Dickens has been dead for five hundred years. Now pull yourself together, you have a thesis to write!”
*Dedicated to Erin
* In 1869 Charles Dickens gave his last speech at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. He died in 1870.
It’s an exciting day for some people! Others are less so, and then there are the ‘meh’ crowd. All of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun.
I can’t get too excited as this eclipse will not be visible from the UK; many things are not visible from the UK, clouds and rain have a lot to answer for (as well as too much street lighting). I believe in London they might see a slight, partial eclipse – but I don’t live in London either! Besides, weather is dull, drizzly; British! Not conducive to astronomical activities.
When we have had eclipses that can be seen in Britain, we mostly all see it at around a similar time. But as America is so huge in comparison, there is a kind of timeline of viewing which will peak at 2:44:59 pm EDT, when the moon obscures 71.6% of the sun; beginning at around 13:20 and ending around 16:00.
In the past, civilizations held differing views of the reason for an eclipse: dragons (China) or demons (India) eating the sun, dogs stealing it (Korea), a bear taking a bite out of it (Pomo; Native Americans), the sun was angry (Ancient Greece), the sun and moon quarreled (Inuit), a vampire tried to swallow it (Tatars, Siberia). There are those who still hold that it is a magical moment and traditions are carried out around the world to ‘reclaim’ the sun.
My husband is interested in astronomy. He also makes sundials; small pieces for the windowsill (hence name of his business Windowsill Art). He was contacted by a gentleman in America who is the head/secretary/leader (I don’t know what you call the person who runs an astronomy enthusiast society!) who asked for 38 sundials in time for the eclipse. He got to work. The number was increased to, I think 42 eventually. It took around 5 months to complete them. They were carefully packed off on their journey last month and arrived safely (no thanks to USA Customs!!!!)
I like the idea of the members of the society all turning up and this chap handing them a sundial each as they take their places; like children on a picnic getting a lunchbox!
I am looking forward to seeing the videos/photos/news reports later showing hundreds of ‘those weird Americans’, waving their arms while painting their chests like something out of ‘The Wicker Man’ and wailing for the return of the sun. It so could happen!
Whatever you are doing today, have fun, protect your eyes, don’t whoop into your neighbours ear, and pick up your litter before you leave!
Today saw the posting of my first piece for the School For Autism Blog.
We can see the growing numbers of people diagnosed Autistic/Asperger’s across the world, not as an increase in this ‘condition’, but as the ability of specialists to recognise it due to increasing their understanding and knowledge through constant research.
India is one continent that is noticing an ‘increase’ in Autism, and some are dealing with it beautifully; with understanding, kindness and positivity.
I first heard about The School for Autismvia Linked In and a woman who was advertising for writers. The piece I wrote, entitled ‘Working with Benedict’ retitled ‘Benedict* – A Special Child With Regular Needs’, can be read here:
We have all felt pain at some point in our lives, whether it be physical or emotional or psychological.
Last night, we had to go to A & E with a family member as she had such bad pains in her chest, she thought it was how a heart attack felt (she is 19 years old) – she is fine by the way; nothing found, heart is healthy; unexplained.
She was asked by various medical practitioners throughout the evening, “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most painful, where would you say your pain is?” She said 7 – which surprised me.
Why did it surprise me?
It got me thinking about how we measure pain, who is to say my pain is worse than yours? On a scale of 1 to 10, to me 7 is really high.
The word pain, comes from 11th century French peine “difficulty, woe, suffering, punishment, which in turn came from Latin poena “punishment, penalty, retribution. The earliest sense in English survives in phrase on pain of death.
We can also be a pain to another person by being annoying and/or irritating. Take pains to do something means taking great care. Plato and Aristotle, considered pain to not be a sensory experience, but an emotional one. So if the heart experienced pain, it was from an external source – anyone who has had their heart ‘broken’ in love might relate with this idea.
I have never broken a bone (touch wood -we’ll do superstitions another time!), but I have dislocated a toe – kicking someone – no, I am not a hooligan, I was training in Tae Kwon Do and didn’t pull my toes back! I have cut myself on numerous occasions, I have stubbed my toe many times, I have stabbed myself with a chisel – I studied sculpture at Art college – I have torn ligaments, damaged both Achilles tendons, twisted a joint, fallen down stairs,suffer from migraines, have osteoarthritis and have given birth -once – once is enough!!
So, you see I am no stranger to pain – physical pain. I have been dumped by a boyfriend and had depression in late teen to early twenties, but what’s the worst pain I have ever felt? Besides giving birth, (definitely a 10!) it was a pain that Aristotle would say came from outside my body:
On a family and friends holiday in Cornwall 15 years ago, on a beach. Me and my friend ‘K’ and our girls; one each, were building a sandcastle. K’s daughter was 5 years old, mine 3. In the blink of an eye, my daughter was suddenly not there. We called and searched the immediate vicinity – a crowded beach filled with bathers, children, pod-tents, beach toys, surfers, rock-pools, caves, you get the picture. My husband and male friend ‘P’ had gone for a walk along the beach to investigate caves. K’s daughter stayed at ‘base camp’, keeping a lookout, I ran along the shoreline, K searched the rock-pools! The ensuing panic was horrendous, my chest was tight, I was crying in gulps and almost choking – I understood the phrase ‘heart in her mouth’ and grasped my chest in pain, it felt like my heart was literally in my throat and I was going to die from emotional pain. I ran along the beach yelling at the top of my lungs for my husband and P; they joined the hunt. This went on for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably closer to twenty minutes.
Eventually we found her, less than fifteen feet from the sandcastle, crouched behind someone’s pod-tent digging away, oblivious to the activity and the search and our calls. You can imagine the relief; my body shook with it.
So on a scale of 1 to 10, how much pain was I in? Well, it cannot really be compared to the pain I experienced giving birth to same child, but I would still say a 10 – maybe 11 – because I’m dramatic. I cry when I see starving, dying or abused children on TV, I actually feel a pain in my chest – btw, it gets worse when you become a mother!!
People feel pains at different levels, we have thresholds, and some have a higher threshold than others – it does not mean that their pain is not real, or painful. Your pain is yours, and no-one can tell how much it hurts. Is a broken leg more or less painful than a broken heart? Who knows, but one things certain, you know you’re alive when you feel it!
Desert Island Discs is a British radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It was first broadcast in 1942. The concept is, that each week a guest; someone famous or is a person of note, called a ‘castaway’ during the programme, is asked to choose eight recordings (usually, but not always, music), a book and a luxury item that they would take if they were to be cast away on a desert island, whilst discussing their lives and the reasons for their choices.
I decided to run my own ‘Desert Island’, but with movies.
As an avid film viewer, I have found this quite a challenge. I have seen plenty of movies that I really liked, but would I want to be stranded on a Desert Island to watch them over and over again? Which films bear repeated viewing? Which films have enough content, appeal or personal resonance that one could stand to watch over and over again?
I am sure that should I return to this in, say a year, I would alter my selection somewhat, but for today, these are my eight ‘recordings’:-
The Good The Bad and The Ugly
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.
Director: Sergio Leone.
Genre: Spaghetti Western (so called because this genre of Westerns was produced by Italians).
Why watch it: Fantastic film shots of landscapes and close ups; especially in the final showdown. Terrific action and storyline – 3 gunslingers are after buried gold. Fortune swings back and forth between the characters, when one has the upper hand, he makes sure he gets the most out of the other one. The soundtrack is brilliant too, I always ‘sing’ along!!
Favourite line: “Who the hell is that? One bastard goes in, and another comes out.”
Amelie (aka; The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain)
Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz,
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Why watch it: Romance without the ‘yuck!’ factor. Whimsical, delightful, extremely touching in parts. The way Amelie takes ‘revenge’ on unpleasant people. And the music; it still stirs my emotions. Keep an eye on the garden gnome!
Favourite line: “Narrator: Amélie still seeks solitude. She amuses herself with silly questions about the world below, such as “How many people are having an orgasm right now?”[scenes of various orgasms taking place] Amélie: Fifteen.”
The Fearless Vampire Killers (Dance of The Vampires)
Stars: Roman Polanski, Jack MacGowran, Alfie Bass,
Director: Roman Polanski
Genre: Comedy Horror
Why watch it: Definitely not your usual vampire film. A truly successful blend of horror and comedy, with beautifully shot scenes. Professor Abronsius and his young assistant, Alfred, are on the hunt for vampires, across snowy landscapes ‘deep in the heart of Transylvania’ to a remote castle. The physical moments with no dialogue are beautifully choreographed.
Favourite line: “…like a little birdy alighting on a branch…then, let an angel pass. Shall we allow an angel to pass?”
Why watch it: Jewish screen family life at its best; a view of the world through a young boys eyes and the medium of radio; stories within stories and the effects on the listeners. The scene with the two burglars is brilliant.
Favourite line: “No. Have it your way. The Pacific is greater.”
Stars: Walter Matthau, Cris Campion
Director: Roman Polanski
Genre: Adventure Comedy
Why watch it: Polanski actually had the ship built for the movie! Matthau, I think, is at his very best in this little known/shown film. Captain Reds lust for gold knows no bounds, and the whole film is a series of ploys to get particular pieces of gold – in particular, a Spanish throne. All the characters are wonderfully portrayed, pirates, naval officers, priests – the game of ‘Dead Man’s Nag’ is both hilarious and brutal.
Favourite line: “Well Padre. I once had a mind to eat the Frog.”
Wild at Heart
Stars: Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe
Director: David Lynch
Why watch it: For its bizarre mixture of raging violence, dream scenes, illusions to Elvis Presley and The Wizard of Oz – true Lynchian oddness wrapped in what initially appears a ‘regular’ thriller. There are some truly disturbing characters in this film – be warned!
Favourite line: “This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top.”
Why watch it: For one of the most beautiful relationships shown on screen. The 12 year old Mathilda finds herself in the ‘care’ of Leon, a hitman; but who is the child? This is at times, an extremely touching film, how does a man who kills for a living take care of a child? Scenes with his little potted plant reveal that Leon is not heartless, or a cold-blooded killer, there is something else in this taciturn man. Portman is absolutely excellent as Mathilda, the orphaned girl who grows up fast.
Favourite line: “The rifle is the first weapon you learn how to use, because it lets you keep your distance from the client. The closer you get to being a pro, the closer you can get to the client. The knife, for example, is the last thing you learn.”
Stars: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Anime fantasy
Why watch it: Miyazakis’s first anime is arguably his finest. A feast for the eyes, with a beautiful plot reminiscent of a good old style fairy tale. Follow Chihiro into the magical town where spirits take baths and give gold to the greedy.
Favourite line: “There must be some mistake! None of these pigs are my parents!”
These are all films I own on DVD, I have watched many times and will watch again. I could have chosen pretty much any Allen or Polanski film; I have been a huge fan since early teens. Same with David Lynch although I don’t fancy being stuck for too long on a desert island with some of his characters or scenes in my head!
What would you take if you could only choose 8 movies? Have you seen any of the one’s on my list?
I’m in London, staying in the home of my sister-in-law; so free accommodation. Like many people from ‘up North’, ‘His Nibs’ and I have less money than the average Londoner; or tourist even, and so it can get rather expensive. We have done well this time, apart from one ‘extravagance’ (see #7) we have only spent money on transport and food! (Oh, and alcohol!!)
So, how can you see stuff for little or no cost? Take a look at the list of 8 attractions I recommend:
Located in what was once Bankside Power Station on the south bank of the Thames, the Tate Modern is one of the city’s most loved attractions. You can enjoy the permanent collection for free – it includes works by Pollock, Warhol and Matisse.
Housing masterpieces by painters including van Gogh, Renoir, da Vinci and Michelangelo, the National Gallery holds one of the world’s most important art collections. Miss the hordes by visiting on weekday mornings or Friday evenings. The permanent collections are always free.
The delightful Gardens are home to a trove of treasures, including the Albert Memorial, the Peter Pan Statue, the Serpentine Gallery, the Round Pond and the Diana Memorial Playground. All are free to admire or visit, and when you’re done with the sights, you can wander along the tree-lined paths which crisscross the whole park.
4.Portobello Road Market
Located in the heart of charming Notting Hill, this atmospheric market sells everything from vintage clothes and sumptuous street food to antiques. It’s busiest on Saturdays, but there’s always something going on, whatever day you visit. It costs nothing to look and experience, but you might want to take some spends in case you see something interesting!
Surrounded by trees in over 1.5 hectares of tranquil Wimbledon land, this delightful Thai Buddhist temple actively welcomes everyone. The wat (temple) boasts a bot (consecrated chapel) decorated with traditional scenes by two leading Thai artists (take your shoes off before entering). Take bus 93 from Wimbledon tube, train or tram station. Free.
6.Sir Richard Francis Burton Tomb
The most interesting tomb in St. Mary Magdalen’s churchyard is the mausoleum in the shape of an Arab tent where the coffins of Sir Richard Burton and his wife Isabel Arundell can be seen through a window at the back. It is to be found in the unassuming churchyard in Mortlake, South West London. Free.
Dennis Severs’ House
More than a museum, an art work, an experience, it is an intimate portrait of the lives of a family of Huguenot silk-weavers from 1724 to the dawn of the 20th Century. As you follow their fortunes through the generations, the sights, smells and sounds of the house take you into their lives. This does cost £15 pp, but is well worth it.18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields is more than just a time capsule.
Every Sunday since 1866 a range of different speakers gather at Speaker’s Corner to air their views and the tradition continues today. Speaker’s Corner is situated in the top right hand corner of Hyde Park opposite Marble Arch. Many famous figures have spoken at Speaker’s Corner including Karl Marx, Lenin, William Morris, George Orwell and Lord Soper. Free.
So I am writing as I go, on my phone, as I have had to read the road atlas for a bit as we took a ‘detour’; I was desperate for the loo, and then we took a wrong turn, so what should have taken an hour to get to the position we are currently at, has taken almost 4 hours. Sometimes we have reached London from Wirral in the same time!
I should have written my post this morning, but due to circumstances – travelling in car, using phone (which incidentally is rubbish , Windows, don’t buy one), I have resorted to making a word doc en route.
The occupants of the field I used were extremely curious.
Hey! we’re moving at 40 mph! Woo!
Why oh why do ‘they’ do roadwork’s when people are trying to enjoy the summer? Not only the motorway; M6, but the surrounding A roads, so can’t win either way.
Getting peckish now, its 13:50. Both of us fed up. Oh, another queue.
More delays, now junctions 15 and 16. Aarrgghh!!
I do not think I have seen so many traffic cones in all my life. That regular rolling thrumming you get in a car, a combination of engine, air blowing through the vents and tires on tarmac, becomes like an itch you can’t scratch, my ears are feeling ‘bunged up’ from air pressure and the temperature in the car is way too warm for me, but if I open the window too wide there’s lorries and wheels and noise…
To misquote Apocalypse Now, “ Stoke, shit, we’re still in Stoke.”
After 3 hours we are nowhere near London, in fact we are further away!!
Why are there so many effing lorries on the road?! Why can’t they do deliveries at night, to releave congestion?
Where are all the service stations?! 14:05, really hungry now.
Typing on the phone is like making a humongous text, and the worst thing is, I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to post it when I arrive – internet connection and all that.
I’m reminded of when I was a little kid, my mum used to dread the holiday drive. I think I was about 3 or 4 years old and when we had been driving for what seemed like forever, I asked that question parents hate, “Are we there yet?” My mum tells me in recollections, she could have cried, we had a days drive ahead and we were at the bottom of our road!
How most of the English countryside looked today…
Welcome Break, it is indeed. I have taken the wheel for the past 2 hours and my clunky hips and knees are burning and screaming for relief. Ahhh…
Quite a pretty spot, with a water feature, bull-rushes and a lily pond.
Most of these service places look alike, don’t know where I am.
Im riding shotgun again; His Nibs has offered to do the last leg. Hence the writing again. Don’t get me wrong, I love driving, I especially enjoy motorways; I get to pretend I’m a racing driver.
OMG! The rain! Visibility reduced on M40; on the bright side, the temperature is cooler. At this rate, we are going to hit the London rush hour, oh joy.
The road only looks empty at this point because we were all travelling way away from each other…
Wow, it just went dark, as if someone turned the lights off, dark; quite weird. So it seems like the only way to get a clear run on the motorway, is for it to lash down, but then speed is reduced for obvious reasons.
You know when you are writing, you often have a ‘soundtrack’, or when you drive you put on some tunes? We’ll what has been todays accompaniment? Test Match Special; yes, a full day of cricket. It’s been the fourth day and England have just beaten South Africa; I also know the names if some cricketers now! Cook, Broad, Anderson, Ali, Root are who I remember off the top of my head, as we crawl along the end of the M25; yes we are back to that…ho hum.
A question: What the f*** is a ‘Smart Motorway’? That apparently is what is being constructed, hence the hold ups and queues and irate drivers and sore knees and backsides. I keep seeing notifications that they are building a ‘Smart Motorway’! (Sorry I didn’t get any pictures of the signs, but they were really boring, not very smart at all)
Will this Smart Motorway be able to take us painlessly and quickly to our destination with ease? Will it be able to recognise when a driver is tired and usher him/her to a quiet lay-by and provide a soothing cool flannel for the forehead? Will it even remove Incident signals when the aforesaid incident is long gone?! Will it do your kids homework? Or write my blog for me?!
Until the Smart Motorway can do any of this, the journey from North to South will remain a pain in the proverbial.
So….how did this get posted?
I am in London, I made a successful connection to the internet and had to e-mail everything from my phone to my laptop.
It is now 20:40.
We arrived in London at 19:00 – that is an 8 hour journey, twice as long as it should have taken.
Thanks Road Maintenance of England (or whoever you are; I DON’T CARE! JUST BUCK YOUR IDEAS UP!)
Thanks for reading guys. I’m off for a couple of glasses of red wine, Shiraz if you must know.
NASA is hiring a Planetary Protection Officer to protect Earth from alien harm!!
Apparently, NASA is currently looking for a Planetary Protection Officer to defend planet Earth from the threat of invading alien life!! True.
This is actually real government job! But before you get all excited, here’s what it’s really about – NASA needs a scientist to help fight alien life —but it is microscopic! The Planetary Protection Officer will be in charge of keeping our space exploration equipment free of contamination; from earth microbes and also microscopic organisms from outer space that may be attached to returning equipment.
Oh, so a ‘cleaner’ then?
It got me thinking about what use I would be in a world that REALLY needed a Planetary Protection Officer. I have been a fan of science fiction stories for as long as I can remember.
I had comics and annuals of The Fantastic Four when I was a little kid. I grew up on a diet of Star Trek and Doctor Who. I love films like Contact (Jodie Foster) and Netflix series like The Expanse. And I suppose like many of us do, I place myself in the role of one of the characters; not always the MC, main character, when watching – it’s what makes us root for them.
I never wanted to be Captain Kirk, or Lieutenant Spock, strangely, I most aligned myself with Khan Noonien Singh. Khan was a genetically engineered human from the late 20th century. He only wanted a place of his own – he was a major player in the Eugenics Wars, tried to take over The Enterprise – but was left, stranded on a planet that was toxic, his true love died and Khan blamed Kirk for the rest of his life. I know, I know, not entirely a nice chap, but I couldn’t help feel sorry for him.
“Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served cold? Well…it is very cold in space!”
~ Khan to Captain Kirk
Later we had the redoubtable Captain Jean-Luc Picard and then Captain Kathryn Janeway. It took me a while to like Janeway, but when I did, I committed fully – but I never wanted to be her. I don’t think I am Captain material; even in my wildest fantasies. But was he, Khan, born bad or made that way?!
I think most of us fantasise the ‘if I could be…’ scenario when we watch films or read books. Super hero films being the most obvious. How many times have you had or overheard the ‘nerd’ conversation – “So, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?”
I haven’t got a clue – or didn’t have until I watched Heroes. Remember that one?
It was about ordinary people around the world discovering that they have super powers. Their lives intertwine as they work together to prevent a catastrophic future; who can forget ‘Save the Cheerleader, Save the World’? All the characters had a single superpower – except the evil guy whose ability was stealing everyone else’s – Sylar, played by Zachary Quinto, who late went on to be Spock! There was another character, Peter Petrelli who was a Paramedic, he was able to absorb other people’s abilities after touching them, albeit for a short while. So my chosen power is the ability to absorb powers from others (by Peter or Sylar’s methods! See! It’s Khan all over again!)
Among the Superhero canon, my all-time favourite was Batman. Who actually has no super powers, but was a billionaire highly trained physically and with ‘all the best toys’. Recently, my decades old devotion to the batty one has shifted – I still love him, still want to be him, but there’s a ‘new kid’ on the block for me – Deadpool. He is witty, tough, unpredictable, indestructible! Who wouldn’t want this? Oh, his face is a mess, like scary Halloween night in an abattoir mess, so he has to wear the mask. Would he ever work for NASA? I don’t think so. Would he ever fight to save the world from aliens, sure, if there was something in it for him I suppose. That something is his girlfriend, Deadpool after all, is a romantic; a scary, loopy, kick-ass romantic, but a romantic none the less. I think that’s what would drive him to save mankind.
But what about the ordinary folk, I hear you say, what about those who have no ‘special abilities’ and want to help save planet Earth from those pesky space invaders? I.E: YOU and ME? What sort of people will we need? Thinkers? Muscle? Builders? Carers? I know we need them all, but for the sake of my stupid argument, and in keeping with stories; there is only ever 1 hero, who will it be?
Some ideas for ‘ordinary’ people – (other defenders of Earth are available)
Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games
Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock
Lyra Belacqua – His Dark Materials
Lara Croft – Tomb Raider
James Bond – James Bond
Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Rupert Giles – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Frodo Baggins – The Lord of the Rings
Peter Quill – Guardians of the Galaxy
Rincewind the Wizaard [sic] – Terry Pratchett’s Discworld
Evelyn ‘Evie’ Carnahan – The Mummy
I am surprised to see not one but 2 librarians in there, plus a librarians assistant (Rincewind, he never mastered wizardry and so helps out The Librarian – an orangutan)
‘I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell, but I am proud of what I am… I am a librarian.’
~Evie Carnahan, The Mummy
Forget the words of Bonnie Tyler – “I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night” or Tina Turner – “We don’t need another hero,”
Let the ‘little people’ be the hero’s (Good grief, I sound like something from Team America!)
Ever fancied yourself as a bit of a hero? How about the protector of mankind? If you had to choose a non superhero to be our Planetary Protection Officer who or what would you be?! And why?