The Upward Inflection.

Back in 2001 Stephen Fry appeared on the BBC tv panel show Room 101 and talked about his dislike of AQI or Australian Question Intonation.

This trait is when someone raises the pitch of their voice at the end of sentences as if they were questions, but in fact they are not. “Uptalk” is common amongst Australian and American accents and seems to prevail amongst younger people.

I understand that languages evolve, but listening to someone constantly use an upward inflection to finish every sentence makes the speaker appear whiny and insecure.

It is annoying, but what can you do?

Dave Prowse. A Bristol legend

Dave Prowse sadly passed away today. A true giant at 6 foot 6 inches tall, the man who famously played Darth Vader in the Star Wars Films.

As a young kid I remember him as the Green Cross Code Man. He taught us how to cross the road at a safe spot, and to stop, look and listen before we stepped off the kerb.

Another claim to fame was recorded at The Fleece and Firkin brew-pub in Bristol in the mid 1980’s.

The brew-pub concept was a novelty in those days. Real ale was a niche product and the majority of drinkers chose lager over anything else. However The Firkin chain had a unique selling point and that was the head splitting brew called “Dog Bolter”.

The Fleece was always a lively place, it had a big open bar and was part of the circuit of boozers you would stop in on a night out with the lads.

Today the pub has evolved into an excellent music venue and the walls are decorated with tour posters of the bands that have played there.

Back in the day the walls were hung with honours boards displaying names of those people who had drunk a gallon of Dog Bolter. It seems crazy now drinking 8 pints of high strength ale in a session,  just to get your name written up on a wooden board.

There were not many names up there. A list of people where one name stood out, as it was the only one with the successful completion time written next to it.

I cannot remember the time written up there, but it must have been a record breaker. The person who drank the quickest gallon of Dog Bolter was, you guessed it, Dave Prowse.

Films of 2019

The Sisters Brothers

Joaquin Phoenix is favourite to win an Oscar for Joker at the minute.

This time last year he was in this dark and gritty Western playing another gun for hire with a troubled past – (You Were Never Really Here).

John C Reilly stood out as well in a more serious role than his usual comedy parts. Lots of little details in the film that made it all the more real. Those flies!!

Booksmart

A heart warming coming of age movie. Some clever jokes and great characters. Passed the Mark Kermode 6 laugh test with ease.

The director, Olivia Wilde, found out her work had been censored by the airlines when she tried to watch the film on a Delta Airlines flight. Understandably she was not a happy bunny.

Woman at War

An Icelandic eco-warrior fights the good fight. Quirky humour and a feel good message made this film one of the standouts of the year. Great musical interludes from this random backing band and Ukrainian folk choir worked well, along with some stunning scenery.

It all sounds a bit weird, but it worked and I liked it a lot.

Official Secrets

Another thumbs up for Kiera Knightley in a lead role that she carries off well. She was excellent in Collette earlier in the year, but here you get to see how versatile she has become as an actor.

You also get a good reminder of what a slippery so and so Tony Blair was.

For Sama

One of the few 18 certificate films I have ever seen at the cinema. You do not get many these days.

Graphic footage of children caught up in the violence of Syria was not any easy watch at times, but well worth seeking out. With the award season starting up this film will hopefully get the recognition and rewards it deserves.

Climate Conferences and Contrails

Another Climate Conference in Madrid made think today:

Recycle/use less plastic

Eat less meat

Avoid air travel

Try to live car free

These are some of the things one could do to help save the Planet for future generations.

According to Greenpeace one of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions and hence climate change is to “skip the airport” as air travel is so energy-intensive.

The UK is one of the biggest nations when it comes to consumption of aircraft flights. Admittedly we do live on an island, but Britons took 126.2 million flights in 2018. This figure is set to rise even further according to most forecasters.

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Rachel Kennerley admits: “Some trips can only realistically be made by plane, but aviation plays a big part in contributing to climate change. So it is worrying if a significant proportion of the British public think that people should be able to travel by plane as much as they like.”

The Science is now out there. Check out for yourself and see what each flight produces using a Carbon Footprint calculator and remember it is not just carbon dioxide, but there are other pollutants produced by aircraft that contribute to the greenhouse effect.

Having flown a lot in the past, in ignorance of the eco-mess I was creating, I cannot really sit in judgement and start flight-shaming those that choose to fly in the future. But in 2020 I am not going to fly anywhere and make things worse. #flightfree2020

A train trip and then some.


It seems not that long ago, but in the Summer of 1989 and I was living in West Berlin. Spending a “year out” working in Germany as part of my degree course had been a fantastic experience, but now it was time to return to the UK.

It was a time of flux. People were leaving the Eastern Bloc in droves through the newly opened border between Hungary and Austria. Rumours were flying around about the political future, yet the Berlin Wall was still up and I needed to get back home.

The easiest way to get to and from the West was via Tegel Airport. That way you could avoid the hassle of travelling along the transit stretches of motorway or taking the trains through East Germany.

Nevertheless I decided to go by train, as I had to lug a fair bit of stuff back after clearing out of my flat.

At that time there was the only station that you could get a train out of West Berlin. It was called “Bahnhof Zoo” by the locals, it only had a couple of platforms, that were raised above the street level and it was a dark and depressing place.

The train I was due to catch ran overnight to Brussels. As soon as it arrived I jumped on and quickly sat down, dumping all my stuff in the first compartment that I came to. There was no point in getting settled, as the East German border control would be coming up soon.

The only other person already in the compartment was a young bloke, who was decked out in a classic “Chairman Mao” suit. He also wore a matching hat with the red star above its peak. The hat was as far better fit than his trousers, which were about 4 inches too short for him.

Like me he also had a fair amount of luggage. Most of his gear was stuffed into two huge laundry bags. The ones made of woven nylon that are virtually indestructible, but once the zip goes you have had it and they are rendered useless.

The East German border guards came on the train and checked our passports and visas without a hitch and then we were on our way. It turned out that “Chairman Mao” was in fact a Scouser called Gavin. He was on his way home to England as well.

The train we were on was from Moscow and Gavin had been on it from the start. I had a made up some food and brought some beer for the journey which we shared and we got chatting.

Gavin had been working as a nurse out in Australia on a short term contract and when it ended he just decided to come back surface rather than fly home. He travelled through Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand mainly by train. One thing he noticed along the route was wherever he stopped, no matter how remote it was, you could just as easily find someone selling cans of Coke, as you could get your hands on a bowl of rice.

He avoided travelling through Vietnam and Cambodia, but had to endure a bumpy bus ride through Laos in order to reach the Chinese border.

“What was China like?” I asked. “Totally alien. Like being on a different planet” replied Gavin.

Wherever he went he was just gawped at. China was only opening up after being a closed country for so long. Not many people would approach him, which made sense as most had probably not seen a Westerner before. They just stood and stared.

He was out there for almost a month, but knew it was time to leave when he realised he was talking to himself on the street one day. “It just got a bit overwhelming, and I also got tired of everybody spitting everywhere.”

So he bought a train ticket from Beijing back to the UK, which must have cost him buttons compared to today’s prices.

“Avoid the Mongolian dining car,” was his advice about The Trans-Siberian railway which in itself sounded an amazing experience. Gavin described one “Genghis Kahn” look a like who raced the train for a while on horseback just for a bit of fun, before wheeling back to his camp.

A mis-calculation of the journey time meant he ran out of clean clothes. Hence the Chairman Mao suit, bought as a gift for his Dad, was pressed into service.

The next morning we were able to catch the Jetfoil from Ostend to Dover. In the days before the Eurostar it was the quickest way to get over the Channel.

The train station at Dover Docks was dank, and depressing and a bit of a let down after the speedy boat crossing. The slam door train to London Victoria was old and grubby. Welcome back to Blighty!

To cap it all Gavin failed to impress the British Rail guard with his Beijing to Birkenhead rail ticket. Folded and creased, it had certainly seen better days. It was made from the waxy carbon paper that you used to see on the old style airline tickets. It had a few holes punched in it by previous ticket inspectors.

The guard stood there giving a clearly tired “Chairman Mao” a knowing look.

“No need to start on one mate” said Gavin in his broad Scouse accent, “Think about it. If that ticket has got me this far already, it will do you!”

Gentrification – The Sourdough Index

I went to buy some bread from a baker’s shop in a smart part of town the other day.

When I asked for a small “Wholemeal”, I was told that there were none there. In fact it was a not a case of running out, but they did not sell wholemeal loaves at all. The nearest they had to that was a “mixed grain sourdough loaf”.  One of three types of sourdough bread they stocked in the shop. It looked lovely stuff in there too.

Nevertheless I was a bit taken aback. Is this the price of gentrification?

Added to this if I know the looks I would get if I asked for sourdough bread in my local bakers.

 

World Refugee Day

Today I read that it was World Refugee Day. Thanks to The Guardian newspaper for printing a hard copy of the List. This is a list of 34,361 people who have died trying to reach Europe since 1993.

This List is cold, harsh and to the point.

A hard copy was given away as part of a supplement with today’s (20 June 2018) print edition of the Guardian. I only came across it as a scrabbled around for the sport section of the newspaper.

It makes sobering reading.

You can download a pdf copy of the list here.