Cannon to the Left of them (Jokers to the Right)


As a bloke once said to me:

Half a league, half a league,
  Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death,
  Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

01_1936 Charge of the Light Brigade LC

My regular reader, George in Cheltenham, will tell you that I’m no fan of war. Like Woody Allen in the event of war I’d be recruited as a hostage (that’s where the comparison between us ends). The army wouldn’t want me. I’m hopeless. I faint at the sight of blood, mine especially. Khaki is not my colour. I once soiled myself during a game of Paintball.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldiers knew
  Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
  Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
  Rode the six hundred.

So let’s all hope it doesn’t come to this again. You can be sure of a few things: If and when The Crimea War II bursts into action, there will be a few more than 600 involved, and the Russians won’t be just to the right of them and to the left of them and in front of them , they’ll be over the top of them and not just lobbing shells at them. Me?  I’ll be digging a hole in my back garden, wearing my tin hat, inside a Chieftain Tank. I shall be singing selections from Running Songs and Surrendering Ballads by the Queen’s Own Cowards, and crying a lot.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
  All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

1936 : The Chargeof the Light Brigade.  Errol Flynn flashes not only his Sabre but also his avocado collection.

1936 : The Charge of the Light Brigade. Future (alleged) Nazi Spy Errol Flynn flashes not only his ‘sabre bare’ but also other, favoured weapon. Like the murderer, Ruth Ellis, Flynn was famously well hung.

You see, there are a couple of things that worry me. Ok,ok, President Obama has said that there will be ‘Costs’ if Russia invades Ukraine (bit late on that one, methinks, O). But he also warned Syria’s Assad that he risked crossing a “red line” if he engaged in chemical attacks on his own people. That seems to have gone well, doesn’t it ? Shouldn’t someone tell POTUS that when warning someone not to do something, it’s always best to do it BEFORE they’ve done something, or it may come across as a bit of an empty threat.

 Not that I am against empty threats, you understand. Some of my largest threats have been absolutely bereft of any substance whatsoever. Only last week I threatened The Incumbent that if I didn’t start selling enough T-shirts to sustain us soon, then I would go and find some work back in journalism. Absolute bollocks. Never meant a word of it.  And she knew it. It was seventeenth-such threat since 2011.

No, I’m happy with Obama pretending he’s gonna do something about the pesky Russians, when really he knows (and they know. And what’s more they know he knows. And they know he knows that they kno…) that he’s gonna do no such thing. And I’m all in favour of that. We’ve had enough of mad wars for the time being, haven’t we? Yes, yes, I know the Crimea is very strategically important and all that; and “you can’t just let the bullies get away with it” argument; and that Putin is illegally invading a sovereign state (full of Nazi sympathisers, I might point out— if I hadn’t pointed that out before). But do we really want to go back down the David Hemmings’ route again ?

1968. David Hemmings tries to make a better stab of it than Errol Flynn. He failed too.

1968. David Hemmings tries to make a better stab of it than Errol Flynn had back in 1936. He failed miserably too.

If Obama goes to war, Cameron won’t be able to resist sending what’s left of the British Army (if Gideon hasn’t sacked them all by then). There’ll be months of slaughter, then we’ll pull out and let the inevitable civil war kick off. Then we’ll get weeks of graphic photographs in the papers, and footage on the news, up until the editors/public get bored and they concentrate on the new series of  X-Factor or Strictly.

Then Hollywood spots an opportunity for a remake or three. I don’t think the world needs another epic, sprawling, bloody awful movie about the Battle of Balaclava, Sevastopol or Crimean War, do you ? Haven’t we already had enough wars to write and make movies about without starting a new one ? It won’t be David Hemmings this time, it’ll be Brad Pitt. Cate Blanchett will play Florence Nightingale, Oprah Winfrey as Queen Victoria, and Matthew McConaughey in the old Trevor Howard role as Lord Cardigan.

Could McConnaughey possibly drink enough on set to do the role justice ?

Could McConaughey possibly drink enough on set to do the role justice ?

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
  All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
 Noble six hundred!

It’ll just be a matter of time before EA Games gets involved and produces Medal of Hono(u)r CRIMEA edition— when a team of crack Hussars (hussar !!) will slaughter thousands of commies (humour them) to knock out the guns at Sevastopol/Navarone/Moscow (pronounced Moscouw)* (delete where applicable). There will be bigger body count than in an average Hospital in Stafford. Don’t believe me ? There’s already been an attempt at it. Good old Atari back in 1991.

Charge_of_the_Light_Brigade_-_1991_-_Impressions_Games

“From the producers of Rorke’s Drift” ????? Do they mean that other crap Atari game or the actual battle? Perhaps Obama could bill the Presidency as : “POTUS : From The Producers of Operation Iraqi Freedom(ish); The Directors of Shock, Awe & We’ll Leave You to Clear Up all the Mess  After We’ve Left; and the writers of Somalian Disaster.”?

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

1854
.

So please, Mr President, enough with the threats. We don’t want no war, we don’t want no movies about war, we don’t want no games about movies about war. You blokes in charge of things sort it out between you without sending us lot over the top again. Please.

This post was bought to you by the makers of “I Told You So” and “I’ll Sign up for the Military Right After Politicians Send Their Sons to War.” and by the letters F and O.

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This Happy Breed


Happiness. It’s good to be happy, innit? With the country on the Fritz, the economy in freefall, your trusty black dog scratching at your bedroom door to persuade you to get up and face the world, and with no obvious light at the end of the tunnel (apart from the light of that oncoming train) it’s amazing what small Murphys we thank heaven for, what little ray of sunshine peaks through the clouds and lifts our hearts to cheer up our miserable fucking lives.

Take the recent romp and pomp up in Westminster Abbey. Now I like a wedding as much as the next bloke, though I’d much rather be an innocent bystander than active participant, of course. I can’t imagine flying across the world, or even hopping on a train for 40 minutes to go and celebrate the wedding of a couple whom I’d never met, nor ever likely to meet. But that’s what a million or so folk did last Friday. Unbelievable. I haven’t seen that many happy people in London since Robert Maxwell went for a dip off the back of his boat


Oops! Sorry, wrong one.


Tented villages appeared along the pavements in The Mall and Whitehall as people camped out overnight, overnight mark you, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the happy couple. Union flags (or is it Jacks?) were waved by small children and large Americans in front of the mass ranks of cameras as the world’s tv crews went in search of the happiest/daftest/fattest fans of the soon-to-be Duke and Duchess of Neasden South, or wherever it is.

So many smiling faces. So much glee. So much joy. The BBC’s Welsh anchor (subs please check) Huw Ewards (fablaas) led us through the streets of London like a fat Ralph McTell pointing out the who’s who and the where’s where of the unfolding events. He never did quite manage to explain who and why a bunch of guests were crammed into minibuses, or indeed who was in charge of the beer and sandwiches therein. Nor did he quite explain fully what an avenue of trees  was doing inside the Abbey but suggested it was “Catherine’s idea”. It was unclear whether Huw offered this as an explanation or an excuse. No matter, nothing could dim the crowd’s enthusiasm for anything and everything on this, the most British of Days.

Inside the Abbey, the mood was a little more reserved, but none-the-less joyous. Not that you’d know it from the faces of Charlie, Liz and Phil.T.Greek. They don’t do unbridled rapture, that lot, so you had to look for clues elsewhere. The cameras cut and panned from guest to guest, accompanied by Huw’s less-than-Dimbleby-esque commentary. The Incumbent and I settled down agog (or is it twogog) in front of the tv set to see who was wearing what and why. Ah there’s the Queen Mother and at least she looks like she’s enjoying herself.  There’s even a little tear in her eye, though I’m suprised she was allowed to bring a corgi with her….hang on…wait a minute.. that’s not the Queen Mum at all. She’s dead for starters. No, no, no…that’s Elton John. And that corgi’s her husband!

Souvenir Royal plate by Vic Reeves and Alan Parris. http://www.aylesfordpottery.co.uk/

Mrs Cameron looked like she had just popped out for a bottle of milk. The Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice pulled off the coup of out-uglying both the Duchess of Ming (she must never be queen) and Tara Palmer Tompkinson combined (there must surely be a by-law that prevents them being let out in public?).

Outside the hordes of happy little people waved and cheered and waved some more as if it was the happiest day of their lives and they didn’t want it to ever end. My feelings were different in just two ways. For me it was nearly over almost as soon as it begun. No sooner had the welsh commentator introduced the welsh Archbishop of Canterbury, the organist wound up the opening bars of Guide Me Oh thou Great Redeemer and the BBC quickly cut back to an interview with a welsh harpist, I found myself uncontrollably feeling for the off-switch. But I was headed off at the pass by The Incumbent who was finding the whole proceedings hilarious. Apart from wondering why they hadn’t gone the whole hog and held the wedding at Cardiff Arms Park, I had to agree. There was much mirth to be had, if you looked in the right places.

I may not have been smiling for any of the reasons that those bedecked in red white and blue were smiling, but the whole day had for a moment distracted me from unemployment, poverty and my general chien noir malaise. If you can’t titter at a guardsman saluting mid-air as the Queen gets out of the car via the wrong door then you are dead from the neck up.

Talking of which, at time of writing we’re still yet to see the photos of Osama Bin Laden‘s corpse. Many people out there still refuse to believe that the US military finally caught up with the Al Qaeda Laeda and are demanding proof. For others, the news of his death proved too much for them and their happiness was all-too-apparent as they jumped up and down in the streets of Washington and New York, waving the Stars and Stripes (or is it strips?), merrily singing USA! USA! USA! (words & music by George and Ira Gershwin).

Wave after wave of baseball cap-wearing college student chanted and waved for any poor cameraman unlucky enough to have been given the assignment to go film them. The waving of flags (and indeed the burning of them) seems to be a pastime especially made for the cameras. Over the years the amount of US, British, Danish, Israeli, Hamas and Iraqi flags which have been waved and/or burned for the benefit of “news” organisations is really quite staggering. If the camera hadn’t been invented the flag-and-cigarette-lighter industry would be in grave peril of collapsing altogether. As it is, there were no shortage of gleeful Americans who were happy to party like it was 1994 for the benefit of CBS, FOX or the BBC. They’ll be the same ones who will shout insults and hurl abuse at the Muslims doing similar after the inevitable Al Qaeda retaliation. Ho hum. Pass me that tin hat will you, dear?

The CIA and the Whitehouse are discussing whether the pics of Bin Laden’s mashed-up body are too gruesome for public viewing. Having seen the Royal Family in their full glory last week, I doubt if the Americans have anything to frighten us.

Be Happy.

On Manoeuvres


The Israeli military is to investigate the behaviour of its troops in Gaza. Many around the world will wonder if this is just another whitewash, to be seen to be doing the right thing, a sham investigation as so many have been before. But what exactly has caused the uproar this time ? More use white phosphorus against the indigenous population ? The massacre of the innocents ? Contravening international laws on human rights by boarding ships laden with aid for the starving ? No, not this time. This is potentially much worse.

According the the agency AFP “the matter is currently being investigated by the battalion commanders,” a terse statement said, with media reports saying those involved were likely to be punished for “inappropriate conduct during a military operation.”

That doesn’t sound very good does it ? You be the judge:

It’s a difficult one to get your head around, isn’t it ? On the one hand we all have our own opinions on the Israeli state: Either a tyrannical occupying force who slaughter innocents willy-nilly across the disputed territories; or a nation defending itself against Palestinian terrorists, preserving a Jewish state in the Holy Land, while being surrounded by Arabs, Palestinians and other aggressive neighbours, all of whom have claims to the same territory. There’s no point arguing the toss here, you’ll probably guess which side of the fence I’m on.

However, of all the atrocities which have taken place in the Middle East, six conscript squaddies line dancing in a street when they’re supposed to be on patrol seems a little trivial. The world will scream “shame!” and want them disciplined. Doubtless these lads will be up before the beak, an example made of them. But I wonder. I dunno about you, but it’s the politicians who should be strung up, not the poor sods they send into battle. A long succession of Israeli Governments, aided and abetted by the Yanks and the Brits of all political persuasions are those who should be in the dock, not these blokes.

Your Israeli youth has no choice but to join up. Countless conscripts have been killed since 1948 and there seems little end in sight. There’s no doubting that they face an organised and determined foe, and that life on the front line can be no fun. So who can really blame them for letting their hair down, releasing the tension and having a little bit of R&R before the next sniper or bomber targets them ?

Oooh ! that’s a bit serious, MB, lighten up, mate !

Yeah well, sometimes (not often) but sometimes The Sharp Single goes off at odd tangent, and this is one of those times.

I was searching Youtube for the video to see what all the fuss was about, and what really offended me was the lack of preparation these guys had put into their routine. Full-pack or not, there’s no excuse for being out of step or out of time, especially when there’s only six of you. The world is watching, so for god’s sake pull your finger out. That’s what you get from conscripts I suppose.

Now a PROFESSIONAL outfit knows how to choreograph a dance routine. The British Army has, over the years, shown the world a thing or two in the theatre of war, and this is no different. I’m not so sure they really are SAS (it matters not one jot), but as a prime example of off-duty troops, in a hell-hole where they really don’t wanna be, making the most of it and having fun, I’ve seen no better. A tradition which started with synchronised waltzing at Rorke’s Drift, through to mass Lambeth Walking at Ypres, it’s good to see there’s some things our boys still excel at. Do carry on.

The Official Weedkiller of The England Football Team


Am I the only one not to have one ?

Driving around South-East London yesterday I became aware that I was sitting in the only car in a ten-mile radius not to have an English flag sticking out of it. World Cup fever has taken hold of the country, and in my little bit of it, there’s an epidemic of England soccer team-related merchandise threatening to turn every car,pub and terraced-house window into something which resembles BNP Headquarters.

As The Incumbent and I wandered around the supermarket yesterday it became more and more evident that, not only was the World Cup but two weeks away, but that we would be shirking our responsibilities by not purchasing some tacky item adorned with Cross of St George and therefore damaging our team’s chances of winning the whole bang shoot.

England Mars Bars, England CocaCola, England lager, England deckchairs, England flags, England cups, England mugs, England spoons, England dishwasher salt, England loft-lagging. I think it’s getting a little much, don’t you?

I like to think of myself as a patriot (though actually typing that feels strange) and proud of my country. Back in the 80s and early 90s I used to envy the Dutch, Scotch, Irish and the like who felt no embarrassment wearing their colours, donning the badge or flying the flag for their homeland. Us English had a problem with all that (at least us decent English did). Our flag had been stolen by the nazis.

The National Front, a collection of neo nazis, dullards and skinheads, had during the 70s somehow stolen our flag and national emblems. Back then, flying the English flag was tantamount to shouting Seig Heil and goosestepping down the high street. Euro 96 changed all that for good, thank goodness and since then English Football fans, the Barmy Army cricket followers and Shake ‘n’ Vac producers have been able to wear the colours with renewed pride and bandwagonjumpiness.

But why can’t we show a little class or decorum? There’s something rather elegant about the way a lone Stars n Stripes flutters outside American schoolhouses or government buildings. There’s nothing classy about two flags sticking out of your car, one plastered onto the bonnet, and your ugly fat missus having the Cross of St George plastered over her white, flabby back. Very sexy, I’m sure, love.

So we resisted the temptation to buy England flags, England shovels or England house insurance, much to the disappointment of the official check-out girl to the England Football Team. Money’s getting a little tight in Railway Cuttings and if I do have to sell up or rent out the place, I think I might improve my chances of getting a fair price by not putting a flashing “Come on Ingerland” sign in the window.

During the election I didn’t place a VOTE LABOUR poster in my widow either, for similar reasons but I kinda now wish I had. I take no great pleasure in seeing the fledgling QuisCon Coalition beginning to unravel….no, no who am I kidding? Of course I take great pleasure in it. Uncle Vince is looking as guilty as a puppy sitting next to a pile of poo, and he has the face of someone who deep inside is screaming “What have I done? What have I done?”. Suddenly all that Liberal support has disappeared like Saddam’s Republican Guard. Where did they bugger off too? There was Storming Gordon bracing himself for the mother of all fights, and when it came to it, it was all a mirage. Still, scheisters that they are, they ‘shocked’ everyone by getting into bed with the other lot, promising ‘new politics’ and a ‘new style of government’.

Well stone me ! You’ll never guess what ? One of our brave new leaders has been a naughty boy. David Laws has been up to the old tricks of paying loved ones for accommodation, and then claiming for it. No, no, no, Mr laws, that’s not right. That’s the sort of underhand behaviour which you and Nick the Rat (The London Olympic’s 3rd Mascot) were forever accusing the ‘old’ political parties of dealing in.

Take Him Down

What’s that? You were trying to keep your private life private? Oh ok: all in favour of that. I know it must be tough to be an MP and gay, or gay in any profession in this homophobic, bigoted country of ours. But, sorry, what’s that got to do with nicking £40,000 from the British taxpayer: to wit: me. Give me my money back and fuck off out of it. This has nothing to do with your sexual preferences, but everything to do with you being as bent as a nine-bob note, where the word ‘bent’ means crooked. You’ve been caught out having an extra-marital affair, and funding it with my cash. There are MPs on trial at the moment for their part in the expenses scandal (though we can’t read about them until the court orders are lifted) and YOU, Mr Outside-the-Laws can bleeding well line up behind them.

October 14th, mark my words: go down to Mr Coral and get yer money on the date for the next general election. This shower of shite will show themselves up to be what we all knew, as reliable as the England back four, as straight as a welsh put-in to the scrum, as trustworthy as Billy Bowden‘s light meter. Stay tuned for Cameron and Clegg poncing about in England shirts, playing keepy-uppy during PMQ’s. Meanwhile, I’m gonna start producing “BRING BACK GORDON” t-shirts.

Mike vrs the Volcano


“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get it under control. I trust you are not in too much distress.”

These were the words of Captain Eric Moody as his 747 flew into a cloud of of volcanic dust over Indonesia in 1982. Now I’m not sure which carefully chosen phrase I would have blurted out at the top of my voice had I been on that flight, probably something along the lines of “oh bugger”. Still we need not speculate for too long, as I’m booked on a flight on Sunday to Amsterdam. Well, that’s the plan anyway. As the UK is, apparently, under it’s very own cloud of volcanic dust, it’s not clear if any flights will be taking off by then anyway. I keep looking skywards and all I can see is blue sky and sunshine, but the met office says different and the plume of ash spewing out out the Icelandic volcano has closed the whole of Britain’s airspace.

Now as you will have read here previously, I’m no great fan of flying anyway, merely getting on planes as a means to an end, but ever since I decided to show The Incumbent the delights of the home of the clog, coffee bar and tulip, this trip has been jinxed from the beginning. No sooner had the buttons on BA website been clicked to confirm our flight, their cabin crew announced a series of strikes. The first two caused chaos at the airport, and the third promised to do the same. We spent hours trying to work out alternative routes and modes of transport and decided if the threatened third round of industrial action came (due this weekend) then we’d pop onto the car ferry and drive to Amsterdam.

Only yesterday it became pretty clear that no such action was going to take place and ‘safe’ in the knowledge we would indeed be flying, booked our spot in the car park at Heathrow. When I switched on the news this morning the news of the volcanic ash cloud took a a little time to sink in, it didn’t seem real, but 12 hours later it seems that there’s a very good chance that we will, after all, be completely and absolutely buggered, grounded by this ash. They’re telling me that this invisible cloud is sitting there above us at 30,000 ft, which is where aircraft normally do their stuff (I didn’t know that, as when I’m in the air I’ve usually got my eyes closed and my fingers in my ears, having injected the required amount of scotch into my bloodstream).

Sadly, there’s nothing to be done. I’m no scientist (no, honestly, I’m not) but I don’t think you can just sail up to Iceland and turn the volcano off. Nor I suspect could you send a fleet of helicopters up to blow the cloud away. Can you imagine the frustration to someone like me when there’s really no-one to blame ? My hatred of flying is only matched for my contempt for those that run airlines. Willie Walsh seems to have ably filled the the shoes of the crook who used to run BA, Lord King, and who but his own mother would give that shyster Michael O’Leary over at Ryanair anything but a swift kick to the goolies? Then there’s Branson. I’m running out of airlines I actually feel anything but hatred for. First they steal my money in complicated, if not fraudulent online booking forms (oh, you wish to wear underpants while flying? That’s another £17.50. Sick bags are £4.10 and a stale cheese sandwich is a tenner. Have a nice flight, sir) and THEN they scare the life out of me while I’m up there. I’m sure some of their pilots are former employees at EuroDisney.

But no, I can’t blame them. This is totally the fault of that cow Mother Nature. And probably George Osborne (and why not ? I need to vent). Sadly there’s not much I can do about either of them, I will just have to wait until the volcano blows itself out, or the wind changes direction and blows the dust cloud, and Osborn is forced, on his knees, to clean out the ash from still-moving jumbo jet engines, and what’s left of him given a paupers grave in Welling Cemetery (be sure to order the flowers early).

Osborne’s boss, Cameron, due on TV tonight appearing in the first ever live TV debate of the major party leaders. T o prepare for it, I have cleared the house of all heavy, sharp and throwable objects. I have upped my insurance on my tv and The Incumbent has emptied the liquor cabinet (well, the cupboard under the sink where I keep the booze.) I fear for my and her safety and for that of the contents of Railway Cuttings. Watching these three numpties parrot-out prepared answers to prepared and pre-supplied questions may just prompt an eruption of my own.

“Well don’t watch it, then” I hear you say. But I shall watch it because it is, as I say, the first time it’s ever happened on British TV, and also there’s something in me that believes it’s my duty to watch it. It’s clear that the party leaders only agreed to do it as part of their shameless scam to make us believe that politicians, in the wake of the expenses scandal, are now accessible, open and honest. And do you know, they actually think we believe all this cobblers? Well, why wouldn’t they ? We stood for an illegal war, our elected members stealing our money and their mates in the banking industry are still wandering around at liberty, because we’re told that Parliament will crack down on corruption in the city . We’d believe anything, wouldn’t we ? Even those of us who think we’ve rumbled them, will stroll up and put our ‘X’ next to their name come May 6th. We deserve all we get.

Some of us even believe there’s a big, black Icelandic cloud of dust stopping me going on holiday.
As long as I don’t have to get on a plane, I’ll believe anything.

.

And The Winner Isn’t (Original Screenplay)


Scrolling through the list of nominees for this year’s Academy Awards it dawns on me just how few movies I’ve been to see over the past 12 months. I saw Up on a plane and Hurt Locker on DVD. Although a huge movie fan, I’ve always shied away from going to the cinema, preferring to wait til the DVD release. Yes, I’m fully aware that films were made to be watched on the big screen, but a trip to the flicks has always been a less than underwhelming experience for me.

Whatever The Drifters may think, Saturday Night at the Movies was a miserable, wasted night. I could never get comfortable, movie houses having a penchant for packing you in, in rows of seats with airliner leg-room. You couldn’t get a beer (well not in the UK anyway), which means 2 1/2 hours of your weekend wasted, and I always manage to sit in front of someone annoying bastard from one of the following categories:
1. He’s seen the movie before and would give his mates/girlfriend a commentary of the film, using helpful phrases like “oh, this is a good bit” or reciting the upcoming line 2 seconds before it was delivered.
2. He’s bought out the concessions stand in the foyer and would rustle and chomp his way through the whole movie, right in your ear hole.
3. Him and his missus are copulating throughout the film with the accompanying squeaks, giggles and groans being very off-putting. And it’s even worse if the couple happen to be sitting in front of you. A silhouetted head bobbing up and down in the row in front of me once made me miss every third frame of Schindler’s List
4. He laughs heartily at every single gag in the movie, as if he was the scriptwriter.
5. He’s pissed, so all of the above could apply.

And before you tell me that multiplexes now have huge sofas and bars with proper food and drinks served to you, it’s too late. The die has been cast, and anyway it’ll still be full of gits.

Ah! That's more like it

No, even for one with such tolerance for and love of my fellow man, I prefer to watch my films at home from the comfort, peace and quiet of my own sofa, where the only sound is the door of the fridge opening when the Incumbent opens another couple of beers.

It’ll be the first time in ten years that I won’t be participating in TIME magazine‘s Oscar Sweep, where we’d predict/guess who will win which category. But seeing as I’ve watched very few movies this year my chances of winning would be, at best, minimal. Although some of the awards they hand out are so obscure that it’s a complete lottery anyway (who makes notes on their favourite Writing from an Adapted Screenplay ? Certainly not that girl sitting in the row in front of me blowing her boyfriend)

So when the time comes I will be hoping that Hurt Locker romps home with the award for Best (Only)Nominated Picture Seen by Me This Year and UP walks away with Best Animated Feature shown by Oman Air Last November.

Obviously we’ll all be biting our nails, hoping Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen wins in the category of Sound Mixing.

Brothers in Arms


A couple of years ago I spent several great nights in a fantastic bar. And not just any old fantastic bar, but Robert’s Western World in Nashville, Tennessee, probably one of the great bars anywhere. On the face of it, there’s nothing remarkable about it: It’s a small, glass-fronted boozer, with the bar running down the length of one side, shelves full of cowboy boots running down the other and the beers pretty dire (we are in the State’s after all). But there’s enough whisky (sipping or otherwise), stetsons, dancing, good ol’ boys and sensational live bands to keep anyone happy for oh, about 12 hours a night, I reckon.

I’d been recommended this bar by my old mate and former colleague Jim Frederick (that’s him above, left , trying to keep the author upright, in front of the stage in Robert’s). Jim knew that me and my pal Shaun would be in Nashville and arranged to meet us there.

He had left the UK to return home to the States to write a book of the true story of some US soldiers who go into a spot of bother in Iraq. In fact they got into a lot of bother. A lot of his research took Jim to Kentucky and Tennessee and the Army posts and barracks thereabouts.

The three of us settled in for a long night of chat and booze, country music playing and boots stamping all around us. As the three of us drank and jawed our way though the evening, Jim had Shaun and I spellbound by his story, a sad, occasionally horrific, always gripping tale of boys plucked from the suburbs, given a gun, shouted at and sent abroad to fight. What happened to them created headlines all around the world and is an astounding yarn of the effects and the stresses of battle on our fighting forces. I demanded a copy of the book when it came out.

A night or two later (or it may have been that same night, my memory isn’t what it was) into this maelstrom of Johnny Cash tribute bands, blue-grass guitars, hoopings-and-a-hollerings, and yee-haws, walked a young lad and his family. The relatives had come into town for a drink and to toast this young man and wish him good luck. He was off overseas to fight in one of the wars in which America was involved.
He was in his number 1’s, USMC mess uniform, immaculately turned out, tightly cropped blonde hair and looked about 17 years old.

And he looked absolutely terrified.

Then a very strange thing happened to me: I stood up as he walked by and I shook his hand, wishing him good luck. Dunno why I did that. Have never considered myself a war-monger, and am no great patriot (even in my own country, let alone theirs) but yet I felt this was the correct thing to do. I guess it was because I could see the fear in this lads eyes, and got angry at the madness and folly of sending our youth to the slaughter, leaving the politicians thousands of miles behind at home to spin their corrupt webs.

I’ve never been that close to a Marine before or since (during our stay, everywhere was swarming with young soldiers on their way to, or returning from some conflict-or-other). It’s not something you see very often back home, thank god. But without getting too daft about it, I will remember that boy’s face for a very, very long time.

Anyway, the book’s out now, and I’m about to order it. So should you.

And you can buy it on Amazon here