Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Back to Redhill

After doing the first stage basics done prior to sellin' Andromeda, we got up early this morning and toddled through the locks and back up the Trent to Redhill.

We've outstanding issues, most notably a corroded bulkhead that didn't show on the initial exterior survey. We'll be at Mills again at the end of February for more light engineering. Joy.

We've found some interesting history on Andromeda of late, 36 year old photos and every damn thing, and I'll post it here when we get round to putting it all in one doc.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

DVD Review - Land of the Dead

The king of the shambling dead finally returns to the genre he invented.

As with his other undead movies, Land of the Dead works on another level. This is almost a social political study of man and humanity, which happens to have some serious zombie action. The social commentary isn't subtle, some may say almost dated, but
Romero delivers his iconic African American hero and a lesson in consumerism with such aplomb that most viewers simply won't notice.

Taking a step back, and hiding the cultural commentary under a blanket of prosthesis and gore, this is a film of classic FX and the product of a master craftsman. Zombies, a million of them, sliced, crushed, diced, kebabed, detonated, fried, quartered, chopped, squashed, flambéed, disembowelled, fricasseed and chowing down on an unwilling banquet of human body parts. Do look out for some prime cameos from the genre,
Tom Savini, Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, and the stunning and underrated Asia Argento co-stars.

The movie has slight air of 70’s about it. Perhaps it’s the genre, or perhaps it’s because the story picks up some 2 decades after the mysterious supernatural apocalypse that spawned this series. Now the living dead have taken over the world, and the last humans live in the self imprisonment of a walled city, partying against the darkness, as they deal with the new world around them. But all's not well. Outside the electric fences and beyond the no-mans land, the zombies are steadily evolving. Inside, a revolution plans to overthrow the cities corrupt ruling forces (the excellent Dennis Hopper in a subtle Bush parody), and the walking dead are walking into town with ideas of their own. It’s time the corpses got even.

Okay, the dialogue isn’t brilliant, but this movie can do things and get away with stuff that no other movie ever could. Embrace the cheese while its there, there’s not a lot of it. It made this old sceptic jump and made me gasp at the wonder of real stunt performers, make-up artists and FX people showing us the pinnacle of their craft.

This is a George A Romero film, simple as that. It’s ‘Mad Max’ meets ‘Evil Dead’ meets ‘Escape from New York’ meets ‘Day of the Dead’. This is the master at work. This is proper film making. Hail to the King.

Movie: 4.5 out of 5
Extras: 3.5 out of 5

Sunday, December 11, 2005

High and Dry

Yesterday, we trundled up the Erewash to Mills Dockyard and sat Andromeda in dry dock.

It’s that time again. It’s time for the ultra-sound part of her boat safety, and to black the hull once more. Pig and I spent most of the day wire brushing rust off her and wallowing in bitumen.

She needs a few bits doing according to the man. A bit of welding that we were pretty much expecting and Steve at Mills can sort for us. A bow plate port and starboard were it's pitted into the 6mm (Andromeda being mainly, and surprisingly, a hardcore working boat standard 8mm). Nothing drastic.

There’s a couple of things were going to get done that don’t really need doing immediately, gas locker seals etc., but if we’re sellin’ her to buy this house then I don’t want to be floggin’ 25 tonnes of Bernard Matthews finest.

She’s a hell of a slab of steel when she’s out of the water. Plenty to do. It’s funny watching the other guys in dock pussy-footing around with there fibreglass cruisers while we grind and weld.

We’ll be in dock about a week.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

DVD Review - Quincy, M.E.: Seasons 1 & 2 (1976-1977)

Way back when all I cared about was Star Wars figures and what was for tea, before CSI Miami (or wherever), there was Quincy M.E.

Quincy was the first show using medical know-how, with crazy ‘futuristic’ notions like DNA testing, to solve the crime. This was a show with episodes well ahead of their time. A show that paved the way for many a contemporary series, with their staggering budgets, that use far more advanced forensic methods to catch their criminal.

Jack Klugman (remember him from The Odd Couple?) plays the thoroughly 3 dimensional Quincy. A crusading busy-body Los Angeles Medical Examiner, he’s an expert in his field who always finds something that everyone else has missed. There’s always some tiny clue that goes against all the other evidence and leads him, like some unstoppable terrier, to run foul of his world-weary boss Astin and blustering police LT Monahan. Quincy must have been a nightmare to work with. I pity poor Sam (the excellent Robert Ito), his assistant. But he’s got a truth to find, a crime to solve, and a narrow-minded system to fight.

Awash with 70’s nostalgia, this once primetime American import has dated gracefully. Still steeped in the same values, Quincy was just a straightforward crime series with a difference; here was a pathologist doing the legwork, and not some police officer or private eye. The world is very 70’s and lacking grey areas. Here were well-written and well-balanced crime stories from that classic 70’s mould.

This new DVD set could have been made just to fill in those gaps on Sunday afternoons where TV gets a bit pants and there’s not enough time for a movie before Eastenders. So grab a mug of tea, light a decent fire, curl up on the sofa away from the winter chills, and revel in how it used to be done.

I wonder what’s for tea?

Movie: 3.5 out of 5
Extras: 1.5 of 5

Friday, November 25, 2005

DVD Review - Hamlet ('90)

Franco Zeffirelli is a director who has already given the world a pair of excellent Shakespearean dramas, in the form of "Romeo and Juliet" and "The Taming of the Shrew," back in the late '60s.

Mel Gibson (yes, Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, Mel ‘William Wallace’ Gibson) takes the lead as The Dane himself and he is good, surprisingly excellent in fact. A fine supporting cast ably backs him in the form of Glenn Close as Gertrude, Alan Bates on fine form as the usurper Claudius, Paul Scofield as the revenge hungry ghost of Hamlet's father, Ian Holm ably rounding out the meddling advisor Polonius and even Helena Bonham-Carter waddles, somewhat underused, through the piece as the ill-fated Ophelia.

This 1990 version strives for a sense
of realism, with both its stunning and remarkably accurate medieval sets and with its thoughtful and truthful costumes. Hamlet intentionally supports itself with very little in the way of a musical score, and this adds to the atmosphere and to the loneliness of the young Prince behind his cloak of self enforced madness.

On it’s release, hackneyed purists quibbled with some of the liberties Zeffirelli had taken. The 80-year-old Italian director had swapped some scenes and lost others, and they objected still loader to the ‘less brooding’ tone of the overall production and to the 'flipancy' of the lead character. But then, if memory serves, there were complaints about his "Romeo and Juliet" and his "Taming of the Shrew", though these are now generally regarded as two of the finest translations to celluloid.

Hamlet deserves a place by their side.

Movie: 4 out of 5
Extras: Alas none available on my VHS review version...

Monday, November 14, 2005


We’ve put an offer in on a house and had it accepted.

It’s a 250 year old grade 2 listed two/three bedroom end terraced cottage in Makeney, near Milford, in the Amber Valley.

5 years on
Andromeda has taught us a lot about condensation, weather patterns, mould, 12v electrical systems and how to light a coal fire without wood or firelighters. It’s also taught us when it’s time to move on. We love her, but we’ve outgrown her. We’ll miss her, but a house’ll be a different kind of challenge (especially one that needs as much work as this one) and a challenge is good.

All hands on deck now to get into dry dock before winter for an ultra-sound hull survey on
Andromeda before we sell her.

Crazy. I never thought I’d see the day.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bill Gates v's Steve Jobs: PowerPoint 101.

I loathe, with a passion, really bad PowerPoint.

It's right up there with bad clip-art and motivational posters.

I'm either patronised by some speaker who insists on proudly 'reading the slides out load’ to me (often in full sentences instead of bullet points) or dazzled by graphical incompetence when the text is so damn small you have to squint to read the damn thing and through ruinous colour choice (dark blue and fuchsia, I was there, honestly).

Johova spare us from tasteless flying text and moving graphics (this is not soddin’ Quantel and we are not in 1982). Deliver us from bobbo sounds and mingin’ music. Protect us from overly complex diagrams or poorly conceived pie-charts. The list goes on…

I had to do a presentation to our sales and marketing team last week, on SEO and how we go about doing a "Seraphim Proudleduck" on our Northcliffe and commercial sites, and I played and fine tuned my PowerPoint (over a period of days) to make sure I was going to get message across clearly and with the minimum of crud.

On the whole, everyone else presenting had done this too…

Either way, Gates, Jobs, & the Zen Aesthetic (Bill Gates v's Steve Jobs: a lessons in contrasts), on the Presentation Zen blog takes this a step further.

I'd say it offers a vital and essential warning sign to anyone who has ever considered standing up in front of their colleagues and justifying their existence.

Continuing the moan, companies should take measures to train their managers and staff in the use of PowerPoint to present information in meetings. PowerPoint is a valuable tool, it's the use of that tool that's the problem. Too many folk use PowerPoint as a 'substitute for themselves' and seem to think that the slides are the presentation instead of the slides supporting the presentation that they should be delivering.

Audiences should be issued with automatic weapons.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

PSP Review - The Day After Tomorrow

"Irwin Allen, on the little screen"

The Day After Tomorrow sees our unworthy little species pitted against the scariest woman since Baroness Thatcher: Mother Nature.

Producer Roland Emmerich has always fancied himself as the new (70s disaster king) Irwin Allen, and he went all out to bring us an apocalyptic cinema blockbuster that is visually stunning, somewhat hammy, and horrifying in equal measures.

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, huge, city-engulfing tidal waves and the onset of the new ice age, all with a human (if a tad shallow and American-centric) story, and all in
124 minutes.

It’s a disaster movie, and disaster movies always work best on the big screen. This film has a level of effects enduced visuals that I was in doubt would translate to the small screen of the PSP. Strangely they do. With the level and quality of the digital effects it appears almost seamless on the LCD screen and, holding it by hand as close as one does, it must have touched some personal chord when I found myself saying “Ohhh”, “Ahhh” and “Unlucky!” out load, to the amusement of my fellow commuters. It is what it is, and it works just great on the PSP.

The plot is simple, as truly this film is about the effects. Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), scientist and environmental naysayer, finds the world falling apart around him. Hail stones the size of house bricks smash Japan, typhoons obliterate Los Angeles and a new Ice Age crosses the northern hemisphere. Jack must improbably yomp from Washington to New York, to be with his son and a small group of survivors who desperately try to fend off the cold as our planet flexes its climatic muscles.

In light of the American attitude to the Kyoto Accord and Global Warming, one can’t help but notice the irony, and gaze out of the window where tornados, these days, are even seen in Birmingham.

Is it getting cold? Or is it just me?

Movie: 3.5 out of 5

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Durham Treasure Trap Reunion Banquet

Another well received weekend for our catering shenanigans, this time for the Durham Treasure Trap Reunion Banquet.

The usual A-Team: Ellen (the boss, plus organizational and all-round catering genius), Pig (breakfast eggmeister and ‘the griddle’), me (breads, gen prep, and veggie guff), Adam (general and pot boy) and Catt (fancy girlie desert stuff and t-towel goddess). This is our 5th or 6th banquet now, not allowing for hog roasts and stuff, and we've got it truly sussed.

Golden Apple played (spot on lads, cheers for the kitchen serenade) and everyone had a fab time. Muchos cleaning. Muchos alcohol. Nada sleep (despite the clocks going back). Righteous graft.

Best dishes of the weekend? It’s hard to pick out of the 30 or so, but a fella has to have his favourites: the Pigeon Breast En Croute, the Chestnut Carbonarde and (predictably) the Tansy Cakes with Peppermint Cream (also Chaucer’s favourite, which makes them officially ' the daddy').

There were some priceless costumes, with people digging out kit they hadn't worn in a decade. Special mention to Phil 'Prog Rock' Todd.

For more info on other stuff Ellen is doin', keep an eye on the best in banqueting and catering services, The Banqueting Club.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

DVD Review - Star Woids

“A long time ago, in queue far, far away…”

Remember when we were all looking forward to Phantom Menace? Back in the days before Jar Jar and before George Lucas made the longest toy advert in history? The buzz? The hype? No? Well, some of us do.

My name is Lactose, and I like Star Wars. I like Star Wars a lot. Back in ’77 Mr. Lucas put stars in the eyes of us generation x’ers and changed my movie going world forever. I was looking forward to Phantom Menace, but not looking forward to it enough to queue outside a cinema for 42 days with a sleeping bag to satisfy my curiosity. That would be madness.

This documentary is about a queue. An epic queue like no other...

We are taken through the experience of the obsessives fans who are wrapped in this staggering cultural phenomenon. We meet the likes of Daniel Alter, the schoolboy zealot holding the prestigious number one in the line, and the chaps from Star Wars: The Musical (I jest you not) and the girl who drives round town in an x-wing. This is a window into the lives of hundreds of people, from all walks of life, all of them waiting to see the most eagerly anticipated motion picture in cinema history.

Documentary filmmaker Dennis Przywara joins these intrepid young fans, and the result is funny, somewhat sobering, coherent, oddly sympathetic and sometimes a bit darn sad and cringe-worthy.

There is heart-warming sacrifice. There is fellowship. There is charity. There is a lot of doughnuts and pizza.

The end result is a warm and compelling documentary that probably deservers wider support than the niche audience it will get.

Regarding the subject matter; I agree with Kevin Smith (see the extras) and
I am happy to note that while these people were queuing, they weren’t breeding.

Movie: 3.5 out of 5
Extras: 3 out of 5

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Aurora Over Redhill

Took this photo last night from the side hatch.

As you probably know, we live on a narrow boat in the sticks, and there’s very little light interference down here on the marina. This is looking over the opposite bank at around 22:45.

I’ve never seen a proper aurora this far south (we live in The Midlands now, on the junction of the Soar and Trent, which is the Nottingham/Leicester/Derbyshire kinda area).

Back in the days when I lived up north, it was pretty standard this time of year, but you had to get out of the city and sit on a hill somewhere to see it.

Makes it feel like Winter’s coming. Time to sweep the chimney, put on extra ropes, and batten down some hatches.

NB: You can get info on daily northern hemisphere auroral activity from the Space Environment Centre in Boulder, Colorado.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

DVD Review - Journey to the Centre of the Earth 1976

“Get it before the flies do!”

When this film arrived on the desk I begged our editor, hoping I could do the review. I presumed that this was the 1959 movie with the same title, starring James Mason. I should have looked at that cover closer.

So, on Sunday afternoon, I sat down hoping for nostalgia born of that Doug McClure era. I was geared up for my own private matinee of tat fantasy and cheesy dinosaurs, comparable with ‘The Land That Time Forgot’ and ‘At the Earth's Core’. But no, this was the 1976 version. I must have been blind and as mad as bag of cats. This film was probably the worst adaptation of a Jules Verne novel that I’ve ever seen (and that’s saying something). I was sadly disappointed.

The casting is abysmal and the performances weak. Poor Kenneth Moore (as Prof. Otto Lindenbrock) has to drag the others along, feeding them dialogue like some brood of screen hungry cuckoos. How on gods green earth did Pep Munné (playing Axel, the military love interest) ever work again?

Not that this version of ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ is particularly untrue to the story, well, not until the time travelling bearded clones turn up (I jest you not). Basically, one Professor Lindenbrock and his niece Glauben (Ivonne Sentis) discover a map in the back of an old geological journal, and set off with her fiancé to Iceland. Picking up an ovine obsessed muscle-man along the way (Frank Braña, used here in his usual role as a caricature) they discover an entrance into the earth in an inactive polystyrene volcano. Following the old journal, inevitably, they find themselves trapped under the earth with prehistoric gribblies, forests of giant mushrooms, and a vast underground sea (of which we never see the ceiling). For me, the highlight of suspense was surely the moment when they were chased by recently woken tortoises…

While many films of this era can look somewhat worn nowadays, this looks threadbare. Overall, the movie was a poor substitute for genuine nostalgia. Even if I’d been expecting what it was offering it has aged so poorly it has begun to turn up at the edges.

Movie: 2 out of 5
Extras: 1.5 out of 5

Monday, October 10, 2005

DVD Review - Alone in the Dark

“Things mortal man was not meant to watch”

The only positive thing I can find to say is that it's a marginal improvement on the directors debut flick, the truly abysmally cringe-worthy and flop-tastic "House of the Dead".

In 'Alone in the Dark', the director (Uwe Boll, and how the name should instil terror in the hearts of film lovers everywhere) has adapted yet another video game (you’d have thought he’d have learnt the first time) in another impressively botched attempt to produce a workable movie. The end result is no more than an ultra-low budget, wooden and rather amateurish, low brow, somewhat sad, clone of the 1997's (far, far, far superior) museum gribblie thriller "The Relic". Add to this the occasional “Starship Troopers” action sequence, presumably thrown in to distract from the distinct lack of any meat upon this movies somewhat cadaverous bones. Lovecraft must be, somewhat appropriately, spinning in his grave.

There are no characters, just a few tired role-play stereotypes wandering around getting themselves eviscerated or narrating exposition. Character development is achieved by giving people a name and an occupation, that's about it. Even the overtly long opening text crawl was added after test audiences reported that the plot confused the b’jesus out of them. Er, what plot?

The action scenes, occasionally passable as they were, begin randomly on their own, coming from nowhere with a pounding track of hardcore Amsterdam techno. I found that I was asking myself questions such as "Where is this happening? What's going on? How did they know about that? If I commit ritual seppuku will it be worth it so that I don’t have to sit here for another 95 minutes of this unspeakable tosh?"

Even the synopsis is excrement beyond belief, and I quote: ”Edward Carnby (Christian Slater, of all the people who should be wise to toilet paper in script form), detective of the paranormal, unexplained and supernatural, investigates a mystery (the recent death of a friend) comes face to face with bizarre horrors that prove both psychologically disturbing and lethal, as he discovers that evil demons worshiped by an ancient culture called the Abskani are planning on coming back to life in the 21st century to once again take over the world... "

For heavens sake. If you are offered the chance to view this movie, I humbly suggest that you gouge out your own eyes with a pencil.
It’s rubbish without kitsch value. This is so poor that it’ll never even be hip for being bad. It saddens me that the medium of DVD has given such films a refuge instead of going 'straight-to-video'.

Movie: 0.5 of 5
Extras: 2 of 5

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

DVD Review - Escape From New York (Special Ed)

”… the definitive version of a classic.”

In the twenty-four years since it was released, John Carpenter’s ‘Escape From New York’ has grown a well-deserved following. Back in 1981, it was a ambitious action story, brought to the big screen with a gob-smacking level of ingenuity, a seriously solid cast (including the likes of Harry Dean Stanton, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef and Adrienne Barbeau), and all on a shirt-button budget. It’s dark, dirty, and pulls few punches, earning it weapons-grade cult status.

Manhattan Island has been converted into a self-contained maximum-security prison. Cut off from the mainland US by water, land mined bridges, 30’ walls and shoot-to-kill police patrols. New York City has become a dangerous and lawless hell-hole filled with scavenging murder gangs and misfits where precious petroleum and the lives of the inmates are controlled by ‘The Duke’ (Isaac Hayes, “he’s A number 1”).

Recently convicted former Special Forces operative Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell, in this career-changing and iconically cool role) is about to be locked away for the rest of his life, but he’s offered a pardon if he can rescue the stranded President (Donald Pleasence), from Manhattan Island, in less than twenty-four hours.

As a sizable John Carpenter fan, I’ve always liked ‘Escape From New York’ and this Special Ed version is the icing on the cake. Considering when the movie was made (look out for Snake landing his glider on the top of the Twin Towers), the DVD extras and the revamped audio and video are nothing short of excellent.

The DVD is chock-full of extras, including some good informative and personal directors/actors/producers commentaries, documentaries and a whole Missing Reel, which is the film’s original opening sequence that was cut prior to release, comic books, Snake Plissken montage videos, galleries of production photos and lobby cards, interviews and plenty to keep fans and newcomers glued to their remote control.

This is the definitive version of a classic.

Movie: 4.5 out of 5
Extras: 4 out of 5

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Legal, DECENT, honest and truthful!

I've had to change my 'comments' stuff on my blog as I am miffed off with them being used to advertise someone else’s crud.

I work in Search Engine Optimisation, and it's narrow minded, weak of vision, pathetic, semi-automated, link hungry, flat headed, illiterate, juvenile, flatulent, spam-mongers like this that gives the work of
serious online marketeers the worst of names.

Why should I have to suffer their thinly veiled, generically bland commentary and platitudes that has obviously only been created with the soul purpose to cow-bar in some trawlable link to the webcam charms of a 19 year old. Trust me, if I find I need the services of a Viagra vendor I am perfectly capable of finding my own.

I apologise to my friends and to the genuine well wishes, you will now have to authenticate postings via a short security system to prevent automated posting. Unfortunatly, these people have made it neigh-on impossible for genuinely interested visitors to share opinion or to throw their own musings into a (all be it superficial and badly spelt) debate. If I were less a creature I would mail-bomb every last man Jack of you back to the Stone Age and multiply submit your pages so that no search engine would ever register your like again. I just glad Blogger has come up with a midterm solution.

Legal, DECENT, honest and truthful. Have you forgotten, or did this new brand of advertiser never learn?

If you would like to discover how to conduct yourselves properly and effectively within an advertising environment, may I recommend the personal blog of Seth Godin and his highly amusing All Marketeers are Liars. We do not have to let our standards and ethics slip just because the internet provides us with a degree of
anonymity. We are not immune. There are better ways of gaining a few trawlable links and click-throughs.

Apologies for the rant, but these people are pond scum, filth-wizards and swine’s to a man.

If you've no clue what I'm whitterin' on about, check
this classic article on The Reg.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

DVD Review - Hustle, Series 2

"The Con is On, again..."

Just as slick, just as cool, just as smooth and just as glossy. We're back again with that lovable bunch of hard working crooks as they rob from the rich of our capital and give to, well, they keep it actually, but that doesn't stop them being jolly nice people...

Surfing on charm and wits, and covering all the angles, comes the regular tight-knit players. The talented long con artist Mickey Stone,
the young fiesty wannabe Danny Blue, the world-weary fixer Ash Morgan, the clever (and drasticly foxy) Stacie Monroe and the old hand (the one and only) Albert Stroller.

Some characters, notably Stacie, are a bit under-used. Extras are a bit thin, but there is a nice and fairly comprehensive BBC style 2-part documentary, 'The Big Finish' - The Making Of Episode Six.

All in all, not much to grumble about, and if you saw or bought the first series don't miss this. Yet another twisty-turny, beautifully scripted, 2 disks of BBC quality drama. Television like it 'orta be.

Please take my licence fee and make another series.

Movie: 4.5 out of 5
Extras: 2.5 out of 5

Saturday, September 10, 2005

What I'm doing...

Sometimes, usually at parties or when I get to hang around on shoots, people sort of shuffle their feet, look into their coffee or their JD and Coke, and say the inevitable "So man, er, what is it you do for a living now". Great. In that 'Didn't you have a career once' kinda way...

Many moons ago and back-in-the-day, I did a shed load of SEO (for Mannie and the guys at PNL as well as for my own Internet Marketing co-op venture) when nowbody else knew Jack about the likes of Google, Auntie Yahoo and Uncle Inktomi. Suddenly it's the thing to know and it's deja vu on our classified site and I'm designin' the likes of Houses for Sale in Derbyshire (incorporating Cars for Sale in Derbyshire and Jobs in Derbyshire through an open portal of For Sale in Derbyshire) and the same for Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Hull and East Riding and rolling out all over the country in the coming year to supliment our AdWords campaign for our This Is Derbyshire, This is Leicestershire, This is Nottinghamshire (etc.) sites.

While not movie orientated, this is actually surprisingly cool because I'm also hip deep in Accessability and W3C stuff, Info Architecture, Design Elements and the whole User Experience thang, plus I'm on constant stand-by for any multi-media projects (now being the official Multi-Media Producer for, I guess, the whole Northcliffe Group) and ready to leap into a shoot like a gazell when the oppertunity arrises.

Plus I still go work with good-old Shafts McGuire and Howard 'H' Smith with the inevitable steadicam rigs and the new MK-V Alien Revolution stuff.

As most will know, there was a big flap last year cos the loverly folks I work with at Northcliffe Electronic Publishing and I got ourselves a 'Childrens Learning' category BAFTA for the key stage 2 history interactive education site, Headline History.

Please go and check it out. It's massive and it was a 2 year labour of love (I doff my cap to Duncan, Andy, The Snellmeister, Julie B, Elaine, Genevera, Jon 'Milkeybar' W, Julian, Ben, JAP and the crew, plus my A-Team of performers from Burton Theatre). I don't think I've ever worked as hard on anything, ever. I was co. designer, technical coordinator, director, sound and video editor, a plethora of assorted hats. We also won a load of other shiny desk fodder as well, too numerous to go into.

So now you know what's occurin'. I can say 'oh, it's on my blog' and you can follow some links and witness the pitness and it'll stop me having to justify my existance at parties untill the wife chirps up with the thoroughly scripted 'He got a BAFTA you know' (actually, she loves that line, almost as mush as my mum does).

Back to movies soon, uber streamin' stuff again. We have plans here and I'll post any news when I'm allowed. Things are afoot at NEP, this is a very exciting time but Duncan and Julie B would butcher me if I said too much ;-)


Friday, August 26, 2005

DVD Review - Sahara

A catchey title, and another free DVD to add to the folders of tosh even if they did cut it to pices on This Is Wherever DVD Reviews cos I can't write to even the most basic word count...

"Potentially hot stuff..."

'Sahara' is the first of what Paramount is hoping will be their new action adventure franchise, a modern day 'Indiana Jones' or a much better 'Tomb Raider' (but with more Johnson's than 'National Treasure') with that healthy early Bond feel that (sensibly) takes itself less than seriously. Fingers crossed for them.

Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) is obsessed by a big boat. This master explorer, ex-navy seal, and improbably named 'Clive Cussler' character (I've just read the first book and enjoyed it, with a pinch of salt) has been looking for a lost ironclad that disappeared at the end of the American Civil war, chock-full to the plimsoll line with Confederate bullion, and he thinks he might just have a lead. The trail leads to Mali; a country in the middle of a civil war and governed by a particularly nasty warlord by the name of General Kazim (Lennie James). Pitt and his world-weary and long suffering navy buddy Al Giordino (Steve Zahn) have only seventy-two hours to sneak into the country, but this'll to be no holiday-in-the-sun...

McConaughey leaps salamon-like to the challenge in a charismatic and physical role that could well shove him back into the big leagues. Steve Zahn plays, well, Steve Zahn really, no change there, but I suppose he's a natural at it. His character Al provides some outstanding and supportive comic relief, andding a crin and smoothing the cheese. The "Madonna of Madrid", Penélope Cruz [oh yes, ya would], plays Eva Rojas, a World Health Organisation doctor investigating a new plague that is spreading out of Mali, and it's a strong role for a gifted actress who brings a dash of class to the movie. In general the performances are good and the film has a real sense of fun as well as adventure, making the escapades of Dirk Pitt a welcome addition to the action adventure genre. This film isn't just about blindly hunting for treasure; there are interwoven threads of African Civil War and man-made plague, which oddly make the story more plausible and watchable than the usual mainstream Hollywood flick. Look out for William H. Macy as 'The Admiral' and Lambert Wilson playing another sleazy 'slightly-foreign-businessman' with effortless ease.

On the negative side, however, if Paramount want something to be 'the latest new action franchise' they should pull out a few more stops with the DVD extras. Alas we get just the basics a weak arsed docco. A lack of additional content isn't worthy of boycot, but in this day and age we expect 'better from the medium', and it's a good job the overall quality of the film makes up for the deficit.

Movie: 4 out of 5
Extras: 2 out of 5

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

DVD Review - Bewitched: The complete 1st season...

Okay, the unedited version of the review they asked me to write for the This is network. Brace for lame tag line and self opinionated waffle...

"You’d be mad to turn your nose up…"

On August 1st 2005, courtesy of Sony Entertainment, this Emmy Award-winning series' comes to DVD. It’s about time. Pity it’s taken the marketing for the up-coming movie (starring the perfectly cast Nicole Kidman) to shake Sony into action and this hasn’t happened before.

If you don't know ‘Bewitched’ yet, you should. Elizabeth Montgomery stars as the enchanting Samantha Stephens, a pretty, typical 60’s American housewife who just happens to be a witch (the theme being hijacked from the 1942 movie classic ‘I Married a Witch’, with Fredric March and Veronica Lake). Basically, our Samantha falls in love with a mortal, a young advertising agency copywriter Darren. She reveals all on their wedding-night, and Darren (understandably having kittens and no doubt resisting the temptation to duck her in a mill pond and crisp his new spouse at the stake) makes it pretty clear this is going to be a hokus-pokus-free marriage.

Because she's head over heels for hubby (love concurs all in this kitsch and twee half Wiccan suburbia) Samantha is willing to forsake her ancient craft. But can she? Will her wicked mother or fearsome father let her? And what will happen if she just happens, almost by accident, to twitch that delightful nose? Will hubby actually notice if his dinner appears on the table via magical means or if his wife does the full ‘Sorcerers Apprentice’ with the dishes afterwards? And trendy ex-girlfriends of Darrins look a lot less smug what green and covered in warts...

This show was magic, spellbinding, and a hundred other positive witchey puns that leaves you wrapped in the warm blanket of nostalgia and safe that “all will be back to normal at the end of the show”. Although there is a lot here to place it firmly in the 1960s (atrocious antwacky decor, mild political incorrectness, lots of smoking and drinking and inviting the boss over for dinner unannounced), it was actually revolutionary in its time and there are still plenty of reasons to catch up with the world's most enduring prime-time witch. This is an American TV classic, proving that (before the days of ‘Worlds Greatest Police Trousers’) they could sure make TV across the pond.

In the first season there are a respectable 36 episodes that introduce one of the funniest ensemble casts in American TV history. The rubber faced and rubber kneed (you’ll see what I mean) Dick York as Samantha's mortal husband Darrin, the irrepressible Agnes Moorehead as his witch of a mother-in-law Endora, Alice Pearce as nosey neighbour Gladys Kravitz, George Tobias as her oblivious husband Abner and Marion Lorne as dotty Aunt Clara. Oh, and look out for some of the great 60’s supporting actors, ranging from Raquel Welch as an airline hostess to the unmistakable Adam Ward (holy character called Kermit, Batman).

The DVD’s are packed with extra content including featurettes (The Magic Unveiled), a full length theatrical trailer, the usual subtitles, languages, and full screen presentation, plus a bloopers reel (Magic and Mishaps).

Movie: 4 out of 5
Extras: 3.5 out of 5

Sunday, May 01, 2005

DVD Review - Billy Elliot

Kinda like Kes with tutus…’

If you haven’t heard the name Billy Elliot then you’ve been living under some kind of a cinematic stone since mid 2000. You know, plucky young Billy Elliot, the lad from a broken home, who, under the shadow of the ’84 coal miners strike, chose ballet over boxing. You must know it; it’s kinda like Kes with tutus.

Billy Elliot is as British a film as can be and it's probably, much as it pains me to say, well deserving of the truck-loads of awards that have been ladled on it and it's cast and crew. Okay, so ‘classic’ is probably too strong a word for it, but it’s a big favourite amongst fans and critics, encouraging swathes of spotty young boys to apply to the Royal Ballet School and to do whatever it is that blokes do at places like that (somehow I can't imagine them nickin' traffic cones, suppin' too many happy-hour Stella Snakebites in the Uni bar and painting green stocking and sussies on a statue of Lord Palmerston).

The background of the strike is handled pretty damn sympathetically (though larger-than-life) and holds together as beautifully as the cinematography, often appearing understatedly in the background with a nod of comedy, in delicate and purposeful shots alike.

Performances are complex but believable, from the likes of Julie Walters (in her Oscar nominated role as Billy’s dance teacher) and Gary Lewis as Billy’s father, struggling to keep his family together as an impoverished and single-minded striking miner, ‘mad-as-a-bag-of-cats' Grandma (the excellent Jean Heywood) and Jamie Draven (Billy’s bullying brother) will leave you in no doubt that the critical praise that's been lavished on Billy and his family is well and truely deserved.

To be honest, all the young performers are exemplarity. Young Jamie Bell (Billy) was a total unknown at the time of casting; but it was a brave choice that stood Stephen Daldry (Dir.) in good stead. The talented, young newcomer adds a level of hutspar to Billy that you can’t help admire. Real anguish, determination, some excellent dancing and spot on comic timing. One talented young man, who's very much deserving of his heaving sideboard of related awards.

There are some quality extras on this edition, all on the second disk. There is the ‘Real Billy Elliot Diaries’ and ‘From Screen to Stage’ featurette plus the fan pleasing (though not to my taste, I found it vomitous) ‘music’ section allows you to play each song from the film individually or all together (with or without a director’s commentary) and the ‘making of’ documentary (that’s really more ‘a story of the film’) with loads of interviews with the major cast and crew for those who like that kinda thing. I don't..

The film is still outstanding, even if the DVD could be pigeon holed as nowt more than a whopping great advert for the new stage production of the same name. For fans of the movie there is more to see with the new extras queing for review on the second disc. New buyers will no doubt be happy. As for upgrading (and I guess the true fans will do anyway) I'd say don't unless your sniffing after info on the new show. The casual viewer, with little interest in the stage production or deleted scenes, may well do better to stick with their old copy.

Either way, this is what low budget British cinema should be doing. Giving us quality talent in well penned and inspiring stories.

Movie: 4.5 out of 5
Extras: 3.5 out of 5

Saturday, April 09, 2005

DVD Review - Carnages.

“Meaty drama may be an acquired taste”

After a Spanish matador (Julien Lescarret) is shish-kebabed by a gigantic majestic hunk of steak, the unfortunate bovine is taken to the abattoir where he's cut up into more manageable pieces and posted around Europe.

The ears are placed under the corner of the bullfighters bed, as an honour. An Italian actress sells one the animals bones (as part of a supermarket promotion) to a couple for oversized Great Dane of their epileptic little girl (an excellent performance from Raphaelle Molinier). The animals doleful brown eyes find their way to an unfaithful scientist (Jacques Gamblin), who is indulging in an affair behind the back of his pregnant wife (the Portuguese singer Lio). A sweet natured French amateur taxidermist (Bernard Sens) receives the beast’s horns from his proud and doubting mother, as a birthday present. Some of the meat finds it’s way to the plate of a woman (Angela Molina) in a Spanish restaurant.

Yes, I know it sounds like a load of grim expressionist counter cinema bull, fit only for film students and latte swilling foreign film groupies. General consensus in the office said, that by the back of the box, I drew the short straw here when it came to reviewing this one. So, taking the beast by the horns, I sat down last night to “get it over with”.

We were wrong. There's a lot to like about 'Carnages' that raises it above the common herd. French writer-director Delphine Gleize is obviously a woman with shed loads of creative flair, plus an almost intuitive eye for texture, composition and colour. She effortlessly links these scenarios with visually cunning and respect to a beautifully crafted narrative. Admittedly, 'Carnages' isn’t the most accessible of films, but some brief snatches of humanising comic relief work nicely against the open harshness and docu-drama of the film in general.

'Carnages' uses striking visuals and some strong, under-stated acting to link the lives of this eclectic group of continentals and this keeps your attention for the first ¾ of the movie. While far from being just Euro-bull, it starts to ware a little thin after that and it seems to be trying a wee bit too-hard to convince us of their innate euro-artiness, and may be guilty of buying into their own hype and taking itself a bit too seriously for the English palate.

Bullfighting is undoubtedly one of the best known, although at the same time most polemical Spanish popular customs and, possibly, ‘Carnages' isn’t likely to gain the credit in this country that it just may deserve on the strength of our love of all things four legged and cultural differences alone. This is a red rag to many. Ignore that, it's a nicely shot and challenging movie that’s worth taking a butchers. This film wasn’t the bull I was warned it was going to be, nor the miserabalist butchery foretold by the back of the box. It’s left me curious as to where Gleize's career will lead her next.

On the DVD, you can further dissect Gleize's previously directed short films, a few standard Tartan trailers, a director interview, and a few out-takes.

3 of 5

Sunday, March 27, 2005

DVD Review - Hustle, Series 1

I'm trying to be good now, I keep gettin' bollocked for making sarcastic comments and writing over 200 words. All nice and smiley then, lets give it a crack, even the unedited version...

"The Con is On”…

From the makers of Spooks comes Hustle, the BBC drama series about a group of four con artists; Mickey Stone, Ash Morgan (a world weary Robert Glenister), Stacie Monroe (the totally gorgeous Jaime Murray) and Albert Stroller (the incredible, one and only, Robert Vaughn) who get back together after Mickey's spell in the klink. Mickey (Adrian Lester) has a plan for one last score before his retirement and wants the best team he can lay his hands on. The over-eager, full-of-himself Danny Blue (Marc Warren), a “short-con artist”, also wants in on the action and invites himself along for the ride.

Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen, features on the disc include an Assembling the team featurette, a Marc Warren Card Trick Easter Egg and interviews with the writer Tony Jordan, the producers and cast.

Hustle is fairly lightweight, but good and glossy fun. The honour among thieves thing never wears thin as they prove, from episode to episode, that “you can’t con an honest man” and that they are the are probably the only honest folk in a dishonest world. Friendship and teamwork, plus slick and stylish and (on occasion) inspired direction, make this a light but quality bit of entertainment that’s harmless to all but “the mark”. Broaden your vocabulary and polish off your spats. The inter character on-screen chemistry is over-flowing.

Okay, so it gets a bit far fetched at times, but it never takes itself too seriously and it has that BBC stamp of production value that offers some truly inspired and well written and skilfully crafted episodes that will keep you guessing right up to the punch line.

All in all, if you don’t mind me saying, an excellent investment opportunity for 2005. Trust me, one thing you wont be is "conned" if you treat yourself to this DVD. Just have a feel of the quality of that, that's not some cheap VHS you know. Don’t let this one pass you buy. Six (yes, count them, six) instalments later and I've studied hard. Now please sent me all your money.

Oh, and don’t forget to look out for the new series, now showing on BBC1 at 9.00 on Tuesday evenings...

Movie: 4 out of 5

Saturday, March 19, 2005

DVD Review - Apollo 13: Anniversary Edition

"Houston, we have an extended special edition..."

Basically, stranded 205,000 miles from Earth in a shattered spacecraft, astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert wage a desperate battle to survive. A mysterious explosion scrapped plans to land on the moon and turned the operation into a desperate battle to get the three astronauts home. Meanwhile, at Mission Control, astronaut Ken Mattingly, flight director Gene Kranz and a heroic ground crew race against time-and the odds to bring them home while their families show a courage of their own despite an almost certain outcome.

This film is a totally breathtaking adventure that tells a story of courage, faith, audacity and ingenuity that’s all the more remarkable, as it is true! Stunningly shot, this vividly rendered dramatization of Apollo 13's true-life brush with disaster is a mesmerizing motion picture that seamlessly combines computer graphics, archive footage and epic special effects to recreate the amazing story of men who battled astronomical odds to make it back to terra firma.

Based loosely on the book Lost Moon, written by Jim Lovell & Jeffrey Kluger, Apollo 13 is an extraordinarily gripping and accurate depiction of this doomed mission. It takes its time, both in setting up the situation, and in playing it out. We understand the events from the standpoint of the astronauts, their families, and the space program itself, which, after the dramatic first moon landing the year before, was beginning to seem routine to the public and to Congress.

Although the movie's pace is deliberate, it never seems slow. Part of that success is due to the excellent performances, part due to flawless byplay between the astronaut, family, and Mission Control locations, and part to the entertainment value of a perfectly-realized era.

This is a can-do, feel-good DVD of the first order. In fact, this whole DVD is packed with the sheer audacity of mans spirit and the endeavour of human kind

Tom Hanks (as Lovell) gives a poignant and perfectly understated performance, as the veteran astronaut on his last and greatest mission. Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise and Kathleen Quinlan all give some of the best performances of their careers and this film took 9 Academy Award Nominations: including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (for Ed Harris), and Best Supporting Actress (the excellent Kathleen Quinlan) and won 2 Academy Awards including Best Film Editing.

Apollo 13 runs 140 minutes, and uses 57 chapters. The new edition contains some worthy “space fan” extras, including "Lost Moon: The Triumph of Apollo 13", "Feature Commentary with Director Ron Howard", "Feature Commentary with Jim and Marilyn Lovell", "Production Notes", "Cast and Filmmakers" and a "Theatrical Trailer”, which is the same extras as on the old Collector's Edition. A second DVD in the set, however, contains the full iMax (70mm) version of the film, a first on DVD, and it’s worth going out an upgrading for this alone. Also included is “Conquering Space: The Moon And Beyond” and the featurette “Lucky 13: The Astronaut's Story”, both of which leave one heady with the tenacity and vision that has driven the human race beyond our planet and into the unknown.

Excellent picture and sound quality, and outstanding extras. A great DVD. Beautiful.

I had 'a moment' (TM) recently. I was at Houston and I was looking at the capsule above when I glanced at the name plaque and realised it WAS Apollo 13. I felt small in the universe and blown away by the audacity of us as a species and the coolness of film...

Movie: 5 out of 5

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

DVD Review - Alien v's Predator

The uncensored review of AvP as opposed to the sanitised THIS IS one. I'm no MJ, but I get the films for free and I'll give owt a go when I'm bored...

“…putting the franchise to bed.”

Arguably science fiction’s most eagerly anticipated battle is hitting shelves across the UK this month with the release of AVP: Alien vs. Predator. A movie, which takes the two most iconic extra-terrestrial bad-asses ever created, and hurls them against each other in a fight to the death. Bad news for mankind. We’re trapped in the middle so, “whoever wins...we lose”. It's been 8 years since the Aliens last bothered poor Ripley, and 15 since the Predator tried to gut Danny Glover like a fish.

The meat and 2 veg: A sudden rise in heat alerts people monitoring Antarctica that something is buried deep within the ice. The Weyland Corporation, run by CEO Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen), get together a crack international team to investigate what appears to be a giant pyramid structure deep under the surface. This team of explorers, led by hardy outdoors type Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), set out in the hopes of making history. Instead they find themselves in the middle of a war between these two sci-fi legends. Ooops. Turns out that the pyramid is home to the right-of-passage ritual in which teenage Predators are sent to prove their manhood. The enemy is (naturally) the Aliens, primed, psyched up, and ready to slaughter having been recently laid by a captured Queen and gestated in a nice warm Weyland Corporation employee.

Newcastle born writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson is a massive fan of both franchises, so perhaps he overworks them rather than ignores them. Unfortunately the end result shows, what appears to be, a lack of acknowledgement for the films that came before. A Predator in the snow? I thought they only appeared in hot climates. “But we gave them more armour to keep them warm” cries Mr. Anderson. Yes, and changed the Predator costume in the process, alienating the fan-base further. The list of these “errors” is legion and, as the film is made for the fans, should have been better considered and not shelved within the blanket remit of trying to improve on what wasn’t broken. Oh, and where’s the gore? This wasn’t the director's fault, we’re lacking this essential Alien/Predator trademark because of the studios. Aiming for the PG-13 was a mistake for the fans and the rumoured directors cut has yet to surface.

The film has a really nice use of CGI, using guys in suits (in the majority) instead of computerised effects gives it a certain “je ne sais qui”. Mixing this with the obsidian black temple, hiding the classic black Aliens of the first James Cameron film, and some impressive and beautiful Czechoslovakian set building (inspired by Mr. Anderson, who has always been a visual director). To be honest, this movie’s worth the price of admission for the art direction alone, massive caverns and labyrinths woven with a nice of Von Daniken mythos and buckets of cross cultural symbology are pretty damn pleasing on the eye.

There are some nice, if a little condescending, “making of’s” and commentaries on the DVD. The “extended edition” (as it’s called) defiantly ads to the movie, I’d now not consider watching it otherwise, giving us extra opening scenes and scattered goodies throughout.

Basically, AVP is probably a good sci-fi film, but not a good sequel. I liked the extended edit more than I though I was going to and I feel somehow that this has rounded off my sci-fi DVD shelf by finally putting the franchise to bed. Anyway, it was free. I didn’t want to like it as much as I did. Aliens and Predator come with a lot of baggage. Would any film have been truly worthy of the name and the history such a brand affords? In all honesty, perhaps not, but AVP does step up as being brave enough to give it a try and for avoiding being the computer graphics toy advert and “no brainier” that it could have been. In short, buy it if you know nothing about either franchise and need a good sci-fi/adventure romp to fill a miserable rainy evening. Buy it if you’re a completist or a fan (but hide it at the back and don’t admit it to your friends).

Movie: 2.4 out of 5

Extras: 4 ot of 5

Friday, February 11, 2005

DVD Review - Skycaptain and the World of Tomorrow

I got asked, at work, to write a review on a freebee DVD. It's incredibly biased, obviously. Why they give a shite what I think I've no idea but, sod it, it's a potential source of free DVD's so here goes -

If you love the spectacle of cinema, you’ll love Skycaptain and the World of Tomorrow”. For 106 minutes I was 7 again; fifth row centre of the ABC cinema and it was Saturday morning. I was a kid again with my nose in cheap Asimov and radio sci-fi, watching Boy’s Own cinema re-runs of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, overexcited by the world of Fritz Lang and Max Fleischer's Superman cartoons.

This is classic pre-war pulp adventure. The film oozes style, as pulses of radio waves emanate from the RKO transmitter to call Sky Captain into the fray and angular cities bristle with searchlights and German expressionist airships. Stunningly colourised Himalayan ice caves and Lost World jungles brush shoulders with cold ocean-bed seascapes. An unpretentious visual treat and yet surprisingly still glorious even on the small screen (all be it essential wide screen fodder).

Okay, so the plot is so shallow you couldn’t exactly drown in it. After New York City falls prey to a barrage of attacks by (wait for it) giant flying robots, ace reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) teams up with two-fisted pilot Captain Joe Sullivan (Jude Law, in his best role of ‘04) to fight the stylishly robotic forces of the ever-mysterious Dr. Totenkopf (Laurence “entirely made of computer graphics and stock footage” Olivier) and they bicker their way across the globe to the Mysterious Island (style) secret base and rocket ship finale. Iconography a go-go. We even get an appearance by an underused Angelina Jolie (as Captain Francesca "Franky" Cook) complete with accent crisper still than her Lara Croft and a character so cool that she gets better toys than Sky Captain himself. All the performers do a cracking job of holding character, an accomplishment itself as the entire film was unashamedly made in front of a blue screen with no physical sets and never denies it.

Surprisingly, Skycaptain also ends strongly. Action and adventure films are so common of structure nowadays that I find I can usually guess the last line and final shot. I just don’t expect directors to break formula any more, and while Skycaptain don’t exactly snap the mould it does offer up a solid ending that gives everyone a good chuckle before brushing the popcorn from our laps. Yes there is cheese, but don’t fear the cheese, embrace the cheese. In the world of ten storey robots and Wizard of Oz villains, the cheese is your friend.

All in all, good family entertainment. Even for the younger kids, who may not get the style and genre cross-references, will love the unashamed seat-of-the-rocket-pants action. Don’t forget to check out the deleted scenes and the gag reel, plus a couple of obligatory audio commentaries and a 2 part making-of featurette.

Skycaptain was a ten-year project by writer and first time director Kerry Conran, now rumoured to be in pre-production on “John Carter of Mars” and appropriately bringing his style to this Edgar Rice Burroughs classic. His original six-minute short, which he used as a promo (to convince Hollywood he could do it) for Skycaptain, is included with the DVD extras.

Movie: 5 out of 5
Extras: 4 out of 5

Monday, January 31, 2005

Life in Andromeda

“Wow, you live on a boat”?

Yes, we live on a boat. It’s not impressive; it’s a trailer that floats. It’s not romantic, or nostalgic, or quaint, nor even warm.

We had a financial choice before we got married. Buy a pants house in a decent area, buy a decent house in a pants area, or buy a really nice narrow boat and moor it somewhere beautiful.

Andromeda is made of steel and is 70’ long, around 7’ 4" beam, about 25 tonnes (with all our stuff in her) and has all the mod cons (“Wow, you’ve got a DVD player, and a washing machine!” - well duh!). She'll do a neck wrenching 6.4 mph (flat out with the wind behind her). We’ve been living on her nearly 5 years and I write my blog from the cabin at the stern.

Sure there’s stuff you miss (a bath, bookshelves, space to stretch, warmth, a flushing toilet, a stable electricity supply, a dining table to role-play around) but it was a great choice for us. Any hardships (and winter can be nasty if you’re not ready for it) are far outweighed by the wildlife and the all-round tranquillity of the river. When you look out of the window in the morning and there are two foxes playing in the mist in the field opposite it kinda puts it all in context.

It was a good choice for us as both our families are ‘boaty’. Jema’s dad (Mike, nice bloke) runs
River Side Studios (illustrated river maps and angling maps, nature maps etc.) and we go sailing as a family. There are Olympic yachtsmen scattered throughout Jemas blood line. I was brought up around canals and boats. My dad (Rob) builds, designs and rebuilds all kinds stuff (from a 1899 Baltic Trader which had been sitting at the bottom of the River Mersey for donkeys years, to his much acclaimed and custom designed 15' 9" beam Dory Skiffs etc.) and owns UK Epoxy Resins. For us, living on a boat was an obvious choice.

As I say, winter can be tough. We’re well prepared these days and know what’s coming, but having to run a DVD though the DVD player to get it to operating temperature so it’ll work, or dealing with frost on the bedroom floor, makes you wonder sometimes.
Then there’s the flooding. Where we moor (on the junction between the Soar and the Trent at Red Hill Lock), in 2000, the river was a staggering 4 miles wide and 11’+ over the bank. Spring and summer are glorious though, and the roof of Andromeda becomes a second living room. You’re really aware of the change of season and you find you keep a constant eye on the weather, but that kinda keeps you awake and is all just part of the process.

We've done a fair bit of work to her over the years. Adding home comforts like a nice oak panneled office for me, a full paint-job in rich blue and cream, engine servicing, full rewiring and all that malarky. There's a lot of ongoing maintenance and rules and regs that have to be adheared to get licences and stuff.

A lot of people ask about the latin on the side, "In Ultisima Olim Ultisima Galactica", it means "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" and that took some translating I can tell ya. Hidden geekiness.

Ahhh, the stories we could tell of the
chemical toilet. The time we nearly sank her and she was flooded bow to stern. The time the engine burst into flames and we drifted into the fishing competition. That surreal evening when we met the German oompah band. The bizarre stuff that floats past (let us know if you know anyone in Leicestershire who's missing a greenhouse) when the Soar is in flood. Tales of insane killer swans, of 'the lurker' and of dumb ass nesting ducks. The crackin' locals (hi Jody, Mary, Fiona, Don and Dorothy and all at Soar Bottom Lady Boat Tours and Portable Floormakers etc). The list is endless…

We love her. We don’t intend to live on her forever (the space factor and all) so we’re making the most of her while we’ve got her.

We’re lucky. To share a space this small you have to have a damn good relationship with the person you’re living with.

It’s a good life, and I’d recommend it to anyone.