Twenty-five years on. Our silver wedding anniversary

With apologies to followers of my “Eighty years on” blog posts.

Twenty-five years ago we got married on the cheap. Our honeymoon was a single night in the Castle Inn in what hd been voted “Britain’s Prettiest Village”: Castle Combe in Wiltshire. It was only about 50 miles from home, but was enough.

When we reached the prettiest village we opened the doors of the (borrowed from a colleague) Mercedes and proceeded to chase up and down the street, in and out of gardens, the escaped balloons with which our so-called “friends” had filled the car.

Arriving at our room we found that not only was a (pre-ordered) bottle of champagne waiting in the ice bucket, but the luxurious bathroom was well supplied with rubber ducks in addition to the normal expectations.

Next morning we got up early and were first to arrive for breakfast. It proved to be somewhat of a challenge after the previous day’s celebrations and the evening champagne:

We chose the “full English” breakfast (i.e. fried food). Question 1. “How would you like your eggs; fried, poached or scrambled?” Question 2. “Sausages: pork or beef?” Question 3: “Bacon: smoked or unsmoked, back or streaky?” Question 4: “mushrooms, tomato, beans, black pudding?” Question 4: “Toast? 4a: “Brown or white?” 4b: “Wholemeal, granary or plain?” Question 5. “Butter or spread with the toast?” Question 6: “Marmalade or jam?” I avoided the expected 6a “What flavour jam?” by selecting marmalade.

Then we got into stage two. “Tea or coffee?” I foolishly chose tea. You can guess where we went from there…

I may have temporarily confused our waiter by asking for un-grilled tomato, which was not on the (unwritten) selection list, but in the end he won the eight o’clock guest challenge. But I have played adventure games with fewer choices at each node.

After breakfast we drove back home, where we had left about a dozen people occupying what was now “our” home. Arriving home we realised that I had forgotten to tell anyone that my old pop-up toaster no longer popped, and thus we found the lawn covered in burnt bread “for the birds”. And nobody had bought us the almost obligatory toaster as a wedding gift.

As an aside to the wedding story, I was privileged to announce that my bride’s supporter for the day had discovered that she was expecting a baby, and we later found that another baby had been conceived in the house while we were away. Someone clearly had more energy that night than we had ourselves!

Fast forward 25 years. I booked a couple of nights at the same hotel that we had stayed in back in 1994. Once again we arrived in the dark. We unloaded the bags and I set off for the car park in the now partnership hotel a few hundred yards away. Returning to the hotel Chrissy and the bags had vanished. A helpful young man guided me to our room. I began to wish that I had brought a bag of breadcrumbs for a trail to find my way back! And here is the route from the bar/reception area to our room…

We were back to the adventure game mode!

I had booked the room with the “romantic” four-poster bed, but Chrissy told me that we had been given a complimentary upgrade. This room had a bed nine feet wide! I quickly browsed Google Earth to find the best route to my wife’s side of the bed. We later found that the disadvantage was that the duvet was only eight feet wide, so we could spend a couple of nights (as usual) in silent argument about territorial boundaries.

Anyway, despite the restaurant being fully booked, they had found us a table, a mere 30 minutes before the kitchen closed. We obliged and had a single-course meal, which was excellent, if mine was somewhat less filling than the menu suggested.

Next morning we went for breakfast. No longer the multiple choice examination, but a simple choice of egg preparation. The peripheral breakfast items were well presented, but we think our fried breakfast may have spent too much time under a heat lamp.

With a day to spend and no plan we investigated the local church. Surprisingly interesting, as we discovered the mechanism of the 600-year old clock (still working) and, in one of the stained-glass windows, the arms of the local family Poulet (3 swords, joined at the points, on a black background- and yes, I do know the correct heraldic description), which we recognise as the flag of the Marquess of Winchester’s Regiment of the English Civil War Society. the Marquess of Winchester was named Paulet and owned Basing House in the Englisg Civil War.

Later we set of on a random tour of the area, looking for interesting places. We came close to a monument (too long a story…) in an ancient hill fort with a carved white horse in the hillside. Many years ago we had ridden on horseback around this hill fort and considered, briefly, walking up to it. Then we reconsidered and set off for Avebury.

Avebury is an ancient monument, comprising stone circles. The village of Avebury is largely within the ancient circle. We walked the ring, declined to pay the fee for visiting the manor, museum, etc. during the school holiday/Halloween special attraction period, and bought some Christmas paraphernalia in the National Trust shop.

Moving on we discovered the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Regiment) museum at MOD Lyneham. Surprisingly Chrissy said it might be interesting. For me it was. I have some new ideas for converted 6mm models for WW2. She beat me on most of the children’s interactive games, including a complex modern vehicle recovery situation involving, a surround video, two joysticks and a soundtrack of shouty oeople.

Returning to the hotel we found that Moonpig had delivered the flowers and the hotel staff had placed them in our room as requested, but also taken the initiative of placing them in a kilner jar. I was amazed to find that the “multi-coloured roses” included some roses with multicolours on a single stem.

Apparently the process to produce these flowers is secret.

We went to the restaurant for dinner and were greeted with two glasses of complimentary champagne. The waiter appeared a little nonplussed as I had previously advised that I avoid alcohol. I was granted a dispensation for one glass. The hotel staff had taken the trouble to acquire my non-alcoholic alternative for the rest of the meal.

Dinner was far more tasty and exquisitely presented than the menu suggested. Although expensive I think it represented value for money. Our second morning’s breakfast proved to be equal to the previous night’s dinner. The muffin, smoked salmon and poached egg with hollandaise sauce was to die for!

After breakfast we checked out and took another walking tour of the village. This is a favourite “English village” for film directors, having been used for, amongst others: “Dr. Doolitle” the “Poirot” TV Series and Spielberg’s “War Horse”. Local regulations prohibit street lighting and visible TV aerials and satellite dishes.

Castle Combe. England as she used to was.

And so that was our mini-break. Sorry to be a bore, but some folks may glean something useful for their own holiday from my ramblings.

Plus ça change…

Today, while doing the ironing, I watched two railway/railroad based films/movies.

The first is typical of its time, featuring a multi-racial cast, and depicts an initial corporate failure leading to a disaster with actual massive loss of life, but in our story, after several personal triumphs by our hero the final result is a happy ending for most of the group we are following.   There are some humorous moments and many of high tension.

The  second is typical of its time, featuring a multi-racial cast, and depicts initial failures by two individuals leading to a potential disaster with massive loss of life, but in our story, after several corporate failures the final result is a happy ending for most of the group we have been following.  There are some humorous moments  and many of high tension.

The films?

Dunkirk – two short film reviews

Whilst doing my ironing today I started to watch the 1958 film of “Dunkirk” with John Mills, Richard Attenborough, Robert Urquhart et al.

I know that this was a post-war semi-propaganda version, but it is far more believable, despite the clipped language, than the absolute rubbish perpetrated by Christopher Nolan in 2017,

It appears that the major claim to fame of the latest version appeared to be: “We did not use CG”. Nor did the earlier version (simply because they could not), and in their day they did not need to show huge cardboard cut-outs of queueing soldiers or very obvious buildings from the 1970s or later.  But the 1958 producers could get a large quantity of extras who had actually been under fire in WW2.

It appears to me that the producers of the 2017 version were too carried away with  filming at the location to notice that it has been rebuilt since 1940.

The earlier producers/directors also seemed to have researched the number of bombs that a JU88 “Stuka” could actually carry, unlike their later “let’s aim for maximum effect” counterparts.

My vote?:  1958 version: 4/5, 2017 version: 1/5.

“Denial”: A film review

I started to play this DVD in the background while painting model soldiers, but very soon had to sit and watch it.

I don’t know if this story was ever presented on the stage, but it would make an excellent stage presentation. Based on a true story, most of the story is centred around how lawyers handle a significant case in the British High Court, almost to the exclusion of the client.

The case is a complex libel accusation about holocaust denial. The central characters, played with great skill by Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Tim Spall, who interact – or do not – brilliantly. The supporting cast add to the film with great performances.

The title “Denial” becomes more relevant as the story progresses. It becomes clear that it can mean many things.

I know nothing of the actual court case, but it all looks very believable.
And the visit to Auschwitz depicted in winter made it more poignant.

An excellent film.  One that I will watch again and again, even if I now know the outcome.

A film for Christmas

.Yesterday I watched one of “must view at Christmas” films: “Joyeux Noël”.  More about this film here, but beware spoilers in the synopsis.ël

I find this movie interesting from a historical viewpoint, schmalzy in places and unbelievable in a couple of plot concepts, but I will watch it, and be reduced to tears, every Christmas.  Each time I watch I see a little more into the main characters and gain a little more understanding of the (French) director’s idea.

The story is excellently portrayed by the director and all the actors.  It is in English, German and French (normally subtitled).  Naturally when the main protagonists interact the language switches to the one who understands least of the other two, so there is a lot of English with a strong clipped Scottish accent!  Daniel Brühl, as the German officer, acts a lot of his rôle in French or English.

What I take from this film is that if it were left to the front line troops the Great War would have been over by the first Christmas – or New Year at the latest, but those in command had no idea how to end it once it had been put in motion by those above them.

It is a film with realism, pathos, romance, occasional comedy, social criticism and above all humanity.  And recommended for Christmas viewing, expecially this year as we remember the end of the Great War.


A poor documentary

If anyone wants to watch a highly oversimplified Germano-centric and, from my other reading, somewhat inaccurate documentary of the first part of the Second World War, I can grudgingly recommend the Lamancha Productions “Visions of War” series, Galaxy Film 1983 presentation of “Blitzkrieg” by Karl Ullman, directed by Wolfgang Richter.

On the other hand if you want to view some excellent archive footage of the same period I can heartily recommend the same film without the soundtrack.

In its defence I would say that it is good to see anything from the other side of the hill.