The Magnificent Seven


There’s a Hollywood habit of rebooting classic movies, and The Magnificent Seven is no different (twice if you count Seven Samauri). I’ve wanted to watch this for a while and had a chance yesterday.

It’s not a bad remake. It pays sufficient homage to the original film and it’s three sequels in the storyline and is sufficiently different to stand in its own right. The characters are different to the original, although having those characteristics that make them all misfits and gunslingers without a gun fight.

I think it brings the film up to date and is a good watch. I think I still prefer the original though.

Some Movies I’d Like To See

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the car this past week. I’ve had the radio on during my travels and have caught a couple of interviews about a couple of different films. They’ve also been playing a lot of music from one of those films. Although I’ll probably wait for DVD release I might go and see on or both, if I have the time.

Rogue One


I wrote last month about wanting to go and see the new Star Wars film, Rogue One. Yesterday afternoon, I walked up to my local cinema and watched it.

I don’t want to say anything about the plot, in case you haven’t seen it yourself yet, although as it’s common knowledge the film is set right before the original 1977 film. It has a strong cast, and Felicity Jones as the lead character does an amazing job. If you liked the original three films you’ll enjoy this film and I’d recommend going to see it.

New Years Eve Traditions

Each year we celebrate New Years Eve by watching the same two films. We keep the dogs company, so that the fireworks don’t freak them out too much, this year was no exception.

Interestingly they are both films of Alistair MacLean books.

The first, Where Eagles Dare.

The second, The Guns of Navarone.

They’re two of my favourite films and they have both aged very well in my opinion.

If you’ve not watched them or read the books, I’d recommend doing both. The films are fairly good adaptations of the books, but the books are even better. 

Both stories of war time heroism, long odds of survival and plots with plenty of twists.

Watching Richard Burton call Clint Eastwood “A second-rate punk.” always brings a smile to my face, and both films are chock full of action.

Do you have any films that you enjoy watching time and again?

Fourth Quarter Review 2016

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; books I’ve read, films/tv programmes I’ve watched and other things related to work and the allotment. You can read the end of 2015 here, if you’re interested.

This year I’m trying something a little different, and am splitting my year into quarters and trying to do a review at the end of the quarter. It helps me remember stuff more easily, and is more up to the minute than waiting to until December and trying to do the whole year in one go, or at least that’s the theory. The first quarter review is here, the second quarter review here, and the third quarter review is here.


Work

This quarter has been very quiet, mostly due to things going on in my life outside of work (see below), I have however been thinking a lot about expanding my business and will be exploring this in the New Year. I’ll be talking about this more (I hope) in the coming months, but a couple of things need to happen first. I’m quite excited about this, and hope it will see things grow.


Allotment

This time of year is when things start to quieten down a bit on the plot. I still have quite a few things growing: parsnips, chard, leeks, Brussels sprouts – all of which I am harvesting still – and purple sprouting broccoli, regular broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, garlic and broad beans – all of which are crops for the early spring.

I’m going to try and keep track of things from a financial perspective a little more next year, I want to understand just how much money we’re saving by growing our own, compared to buying things in the supermarket. It feels like the difference is quite small, and being honest I’m doing this for more reasons than just saving money, but I’ve never really tried to quantify the benefits.


Books

My reading has slowed down a bit this quarter, but there are two books that I particularly enjoyed:

Dogging Steinbeck by Bill Steigerwald [GoodReads] this is the author’s account of his retracing the steps of John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley”, and uncovering that the original may have been more of a work of fiction than non-fiction. It was an enjoyable read, and the author also kept a detailed blog, of this journey, including photos and videos. Around the same time that I was reading this I was also listening to the audiobook of “Travels with Charley” [GoodReads] in the car, so I was  able to track where Steigerwald had gotten to, compared to Steinbeck. It was a good way to “read” both books alongside one another. As things at the time weren’t going well with my Dad (see below) it was a welcome distraction to have Steinbeck and Charley with me in my car, and Steigerwald at home each evening.

Nigel: My Family and Other Dogs by Monty Don [GoodReads]The title of this book might not mean much to people outside of the UK or who don’t watch Gardeners’ World on TV, but Nigel – a Labrador retriever – belongs to Monty Don who is the presenter of the programme. The dog has become a little bit of a personality in his own right, and this book is about him, plus some of the other dogs that the author has owned over his lifetime. It’s a good read whether you get the references or not, and particularly if, like me, you are a dog person.


Films & TV

I don’t really recall anything much that stands out this quarter, probably because we haven’t actually been watching much. We have been watching (or rather recording and watching later) a few daytime series on BBC; The Coroner, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, and The Father Brown Mysteries. All very good.


Life In General

Not a great quarter. As you may already know my Dad passed away in November, and we have had to put my maternal Grandma into a nursing home. Many people have said how bad 2016 has been, and frankly I couldn’t agree more. For me though it will always have more personal bad memories than perhaps other years have had.


Finally

If you’ve read all four quarterly posts, what do you think? Does it work better than one end of year round up? Let me know in the comments.

I wish all my readers a very Happy New Year.

Star Wars

There’s a new Star Wars film out today.

The original films were a staple of my childhood, before video and DVD the only way to see them was in the cinema. My Dad took me to see all of them when they first came out. When the three prequel films came out, I took him to see them. When The Force Awakens came out he was too ill to make a trip to the cinema, so I bought him a copy on DVD. I don’t think he ever got a chance to watched it before he passed away though.
I’ve heard great things about the new film Rogue One, from people who’s opinion I trust, so I think I’m going to go catch this one in the cinema in honour of my Dad. Probably some time in the New Year, after the kids are back in school and I can go to a hopefully quieter day time showing.

Third Quarter Review 2016

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; books I’ve read, films/tv programmes I’ve watched and other things related to work and the allotment. You can read the end of 2015 here, if you’re interested.

This year I’m trying something a little different, and am splitting my year into quarters and trying to do a review at the end of the quarter. It helps me remember stuff more easily, and is more up to the minute than waiting to until December and trying to do the whole year in one go, or at least that’s the theory. The first quarter review is here, and the second quarter review here.


Work

This quarter marks the anniversary in my change of employment, going from being and employee to self-employed. Looking across those 12 months I’d say it’s been pretty productive, although things have slowed down a bit over the summer. There are a couple of things on the horizon, but as ever they rely on things outside my control, so it’s a little difficult to say at this stage how things might pan out. Having said that I currently have a close family member in hospital, so having the time to be able to visit has been a bonus, and something I can’t ever see that I would have been allowed to do (quite rightly) when I was an employee, so things seem to work out.

I am hoping that things will pick up, as I do like being my own boss, but if they don’t I will have to look for alternatives.


Allotment

It’s been a very good year on the allotment so far, we’ve spent most of this quarter not having to buy any fresh produce from the supermarket, as we’ve been able to provide our own from the plot. This has started to ease off a little now, and I am having to buy odd things – either as crops have started to slow down their production with the shortening days or because things aren’t quite ready yet. In some areas though e.g. potatoes, onions, garlic, we have lots stored that will see us forward for many weeks yet.

I’ve also been trying to do regular update videos on my YouTube channel, and often embedding them here too.


Books

I’ve been reading pretty consistently and have gotten through a number of books this quarter including a couple of “biggies”. I’ve started adding a “currently reading” item to my Quick Links entry each week (when I remember too!).

There are a few that I’d like to mention specifically, and in no particular order they are:

“Normal” by Warren Ellis – This was actually a novella released in 4-parts, one a week over a month. What I liked about it the most was how it told the story in that weekly pattern and how well this worked. Whether or not that was intentional I don’t know, but I don’t think it would have worked as well as just a single book. It reminded me a lot of one of those weekly black and white serials that used to be shown in cinemas e.g. King of the Rocket Men, when I get time, I’m going to sit and reread all four – hopefully in a single sitting.

“Joyland” by Stephen King – I’ve had a copy of this for quite some time, but had never gotten around to reading it until recently. What I liked about it the most, was that it reminded me of some of the early Stephen King books, which I enjoyed far more than some of from the late ’90s / early 2000s. I’d stopped reading his books not long after Geralds Game and The Tommyknockers, so can’t speak for other ones he may have written more recently, but I did think that Joyland was more of the old King.

“Seveneves” – Neal Stephenson – This was one of the biggies and took me a while to get through, but it was worth it. Although it is a work of science fiction, it has a very believable story and characters and despite it’s size held my interest throughout.

“The Book of Yaak” – Rick Bass – Rick Bass has had a mention in both of the previous quarter reviews, and I still have a number of his books that I haven’t read yet, so may well feature again. I really enjoy his writing, both fiction and non-fiction. This is a work of non-fiction and brings to the fore another area of this writers passions. As an environmental activist this book highlights the issues in the Yaak Valley in Montana and the tensions between preserving the old growth forest, the nature and wildlife that it supports and other areas that are important for their nature conservation and the pressures of development and modern intensive forestry. It’s a treatise to the area and the issues, and a fascinating read. It stirred the passion in me for some of the environmental issues that I feel are important.


Films & TV

It’s been a bit of a summer of sport with Euro football and the Olympics and Paralympics. I don’t generally watch much sport, so we’ve been watching a lot of reruns or turning it off. Outside of that there isn’t much to report. We’ve watched a few DVDs but nothing that really inspired me enough that I want to mention it here.


Life In General

Pretty good. As always there are areas I’d like to work on. I’d like to be writing more, and I’d like my business to grow a little, but for the reasons mentioned above I’ve been occupied in other areas and am grateful to have had the time to be able to do those things.


First Quarter Review 2016

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; books I’ve read, films/tv programmes I’ve watched and other things related to work and the allotment. You can read the end of 2015 here, if you’re interested.

The problem I have is trying to remember stuff (that might be an age thing). I guess that the things that were really good, tend to stick in my mind, as they should, but some of the things that were okay but not outstanding, tend to get forgotten.

So I thought I’d try doing a quick review of each quarter of the year, during 2016; rather than trying to remember everything in December. We’ll see how it goes, and hopefully I’ll remember to do ones at the end of June and September!

Work

Last year I went from being an employee to being self-employed. It was a significant moment for me, and started out well. Although the first three months of this year have been quieter than the tail end of last year, there’s still be a steady flow of work and this has also allowed me to think about goal setting for the year, and also work on some other projects. I don’t want to talk about those other projects at the moment, except to say that they focus more on the allotment / growing / fork-to-fork side of things, and although they are unlikely to make me rich (not that I ever particularly want to be rich), I hope that they might eventually generate some income, and perhaps give me a better quality more sustainable lifestyle. We’ll see.

I’ve also started much more consciously sharing my work side, posts on this blog like the Quick Links that are appearing on Tuesdays, and some new pages are a step in that direction. If anyone has any feedback on those things or any questions, then do please leave a comment below.

Allotment

As you might expect the tale end of winter is a quiet time on the allotment, and although we’ve been continuing to harvest brassicas, leeks and a few other small things, not much has really been happening, apart from the bits that link to work (see above), and I hope I’ll be able to share more on that in due course.

Things are starting to pick up now though, as the weather gets warmer and heats up the soil, the risk of frost decreases and the days get longer. Soon things will be in full swing. I’m looking forward to what I hope will be a good, productive year.

Books

So far I seem to have managed to read 14 books in the past three months, which I am quite surprised about. You can see what I’ve been reading here. Of them, there are a couple that stand out for me. Colter by Rick Bass is one and The Road To Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson is the other. The latter speaks to me because it touches on some of the things that I feel are going wrong with this country, and without wishing to get too political here and now, it was refreshing to read that I am not alone with my thoughts and perceptions. The former of the two was by a new author to me, and I’ll say now if you have a problem with hunting for food, you might want to give this one a miss, as Colter is a German Short-haired Pointer that is the author’s hunting dog, and a lot of the book is devoted to hunts. With that caveat I’d recommend both.

Films & TV

A few things here. Firstly the second season of Bosch, has just aired on Amazon Prime. I mentioned the first season in my review of 2015, and I’m pleased it was commissioned for a second season, and hopefully there will be a third. Although it was only released at the beginning of the month, I have already managed to watch all ten episodes and loved it! I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone who likes crime drama

I’ve also watched the most recent Bond film – Spectre when it went to DVD, although I enjoyed it, I don’t really want to rave about it as it was okay, but not that outstanding. If I was writing this in December I probably wouldn’t even mention it.

A final mention though for A Walk in the Woods, adapted from Bill Bryson’s novel of the same name. Again another DVD watch, but one that I really enjoyed. My only criticism is that it came to a somewhat abrupt end, and was over before I felt it really got going. Robert Redford and Nick Nolte were excellent.

Life In General

Is pretty good I think; we managed to have our first holiday in about three years in March, another benefit of being my own boss now and not having to worry about the threat of being made redundant. I’m enjoying working from home, and setting my own goals and timetables. I have lots planned for this year, and things I want to get achieved. So far so good though, looks like I’m on course.

My Review of 2015

As 2015 winds its way into 2016, I thought I would sit and review a few bits of my year.

Work

On the work front it’s been a significant year for me. About 12 months ago, I was working out numbers and calculating where I might end up if I accepted a voluntary redundancy offer. By the end of July I had gone from being an employee to being self-employed and my own boss. I wasn’t quite planning things that way, but so far my new business has been going well enough to keep me working and provide an income, as well as allow me to do some other development work, but there is still much more for me to do, and whilst I need to sit and do some planning for 2016 and how this is going to work for me, I don’t really know what next year will bring on the work front.

This change in my work, although probably one of the biggest steps I’ve taken in my life, and potentially very stressful, has given me a much better work / life balance than I had before and maybe have ever had. I don’t know how it’s going to work out in the longer term, but I feel like I’m generally moving in the right direction.

Allotment

This year has been one of my best years on the allotment. We’ve pretty much been self-sufficient for vegetables from late spring, all through the summer and into autumn, only have to buy things like mushrooms and peppers, which I didn’t grow. Next year, I’m planning on growing peppers, so that should change as well. I’ve also enjoyed my plot more than I ever have. I know that sounds a little odd, but I’ve really gotten engaged in what I’ve been doing and been keeping much better records than ever before in a pocket notebook, so that I can look back and see how things have been. As the winter has approached I’ve kept a few things going and we’ve had a supply of winter vegetables as well. I’m now looking forward to next year, with even bigger plans.

Books

Last year was a poor year for me, finding time to read, and at the start of this year, I set my sights relatively low, not anticipating reading many books. In the end I’ve ended up reading nearly 50 books (I might actually achieve 50 before the year is out), which has quite surprised me. You can see what I’ve been reading on GoodReads, here.

My book of the year has to be Common Ground by Rob Cowen it’s an incredible book, which I’ve now read twice, and still dip into again and again. It’s made me reconnect much more with urban wildlife, as Rob tells the story of his “edgelands” and the wildlife near Bilton in Harrogate. It’s full of vivid descriptions, and stories putting the reader in the place of the wildlife as well as being a really personal account. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

My other highlights are also all natural history books, including H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, The Peregrine by J A Baker, Claxton by Mark Cocker,  and Notes From Walnut Tree Farm & Wildwood by the late Roger Deakin. I could name more, and probably I’ve enjoyed nearly everything I’ve read this year. I just hope that 2016 brings more of the same. We’ll see.

Films & TV

I can’t say that I there was anything really memorable to write about here. I enjoyed the final Hobbit movie, but otherwise I don’t really remember what else I’ve watched this year. On the TV side there have been a few things, but the one that I really want to mention is Bosch which has been available on Amazon Video. This has bought Michael Connelly’s character from over 20 books to the small screen – Harry Bosch. It’s been a great series and I’m pleased that there is going to be a second season, probably early next year.

2016?

As for next year, I don’t know what I want from the year yet. I need to sit and do some planning, both professionally and personally. Set myself some targets and goals. I might come back and share this in due course.