Sunday, 25 September 2016

Creeping Bentgrass Harvest Song Fest

Last night David and I played at a Harvest Festival in Darwen, Lancashire. We were in a church hall which filled up nicely quite early on before we started and we played a taster of all the different styles of music we cover as we went through the night.

Two young boys were sitting right at the front and from the word Go they were playing imaginary guitars along to the music and looking as though they were having the most fabulous time. I dug out a couple of plectrums (guitar picks) from my supply and gave them one each and their smiles went skyward! As we took a break whilst food was being served they came over to talk to us - a 6 and an 8-year-old, bursting with things to tell us about all sorts of things, school, how they had a guitar at home. One of their teachers was called Miss Chadwick... They were lovely.

We spoke to their parents who were equally friendly and lovely and it turned out that they were a family of refugees who had been settled locally. They had been brought to the event by one of their local councillors as a way of introducing them into the community and he was almost overcome with the way we welcomed them. We had actually treated them as we would anyone else. That's all you have to do...

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Film Review, December 1978 Issue

Once again we are pushing through the heavy curtains behind the door to the cinema auditorium, late because the lights have already gone down and we try to hurry, heading down past the icky slurping noises coming from the back row to a spot about two thirds way down the rows of seats. Shuffling sideways in the darkness we sit briefly on someone's knee, shooting up in embarrassment at their gasp of outrage and finally sit down in an empty seat, having trodden on four feet, spilled two drinks and a carton of popcorn on our way. We shrink down into our seat and watch the Pearl & Dean adverts...

Once again the Box Office has sold us the latest copy of Film Review magazine which today means it's the December 1978 issue. John Travolta appears on the cover four times so we'll ignore him on the inside for this time. Meanwhile Robert Shaw and Harrison Ford prepare for derring do in a follow up to The Guns of Navarone and Burt Reynolds puts on a cowboy hat only to find that there's already one there - there's always one there...

Inside the front cover a German U-Boat has inconveniently surfaced from the depths of a young lady's swimming pool, just as she was enjoying her Smirnoff...

A couple of pages in we find actress Maia Danziger reading a back issue of this very magazine on the set of The Magician which stars Alan Arkin. She plays the magician's glamorous sidekick, which may go some way to explaining the strange designs drawn on her cheeks!

Here, Robert Shaw socks the lovely Barbara Bach around the chops in Force Ten From Navarone a wartime tale set in Yugoslavia. Made some eighteen years after The Guns of Navarone, producer Oliver A. Unger tells us "Wheras Gun was told in deadly earnest, Force Ten has a sense of humour." I'm not sure Barbara would agree with you there Olli...

Playing her part behind a camera is Faye Dunaway playing the title role in The Eyes of Laura Mars a high-end fashion photographer who starts having disturbing visions of friends being murdered.

Here she is, in the foreground, taking shots of models posing again the backdrop of a car crash. Well, if you insist on driving in your undies, girls...

Joan Collins is interviewed following the success of her film The Stud and announces she is to play the role of Fontaine Khaled again in the follow-up The Bitch, for which they are keeping their eyes open for a few new er... studs...

Following on the heels of Jaws come a rather less believable tale of military gene modification to breed piranha fish that can live in either salt or fresh water. So far so bad. But of course, the little nasties break from from their compound and have a hankering to eat nubile young flesh at a nearby lake holiday resort. Not only that, but one of those nubiles is Heather Menzies - Louisa von Trapp! Now, those fishes are not one of her favourite things!!!

Emma Samms makes her screen debut aged 18 as Princess Zuleira in Arabian Adventure. She is the step-daughter of the evil Caliph (he must be evil - he's played by Christopher Lee) She also falls in love with the handsome Prince Hassan, unaware and far too innocent to know that he is a bit a stud - The Stud in fact - in the form of Oliver Tobias.

Vladivar Vodka makes it's first appearance on this blog. The TV adverts in the 1980s were the brand's most memorable ads. Made at the time in Warrington, the ads ended with a heavy Russian accent announcing "Vladivar Wodka from Varrington".

Meanwhile the smoke from cigarettes is still stampeding the horses...

Coma was a rather strange film, but not without its suspense and nightmare elements. In a private clinic a higher than average number of patients fall into a coma during surgery. It becomes apparent that this is being done deliberately in order to harvest body parts for a lucrative black market.

Genevieve Bujold plays the junior doctor who finds her own life in danger as she tries to bring the issue to light. Michael Douglas plays her love interest, a fellow doctor who initially supports her until he realises his own job may be in jeopardy. Not recommended for people about to undergo an operation...

An excuse for lots of stunts and explosions with the addition of Burt Reynolds' grin and cowboy hat - there's always a cowboy hat...

Candy Clark plays the role of the nympho daughter in the Robert Mitchum version of The Big Sleep. I have to admit I hadn't heard of her, but a quick check on Internet Movie Database reveals she has 68 credits there so far with two films and an appearance in the forthcoming TV series of Twin Peaks all in post-production. A busy girl!

In the last issue I mentioned the start of a new series of articles celebrating 75 Years of Hollywood. The article in this issue covers the years 1928-1953 and includes the musicals of Busby Berkeley with their wonderful geometric if somewhat improbable dance routines. There are now lots of high quality photographs of these routines to be found by searching on the Internet and I still enjoy watching the films which are usually very witty and sometimes surprisingly naughty!

Well that brings 1978 to a close and before we move on I must make another trip up into the attic to do battle with spiders and who knows what else in order to find the next bound folder of Film Review magazine... Stand by your projection booths!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Cruising Into Bodrum, Turkey

Monday 12 September 2016. A new day, a new country! We are in Turkey today at a place called Bodrum. We are docked at the quayside today so can just walk off the ship without need for tender boats.

We had a light breakfast. "I'll have beans on toast, please," I said to the waiter. "One or two, Sir?" "Just one - er... one toast, not one bean..." I mean, you never know... I took this from the ship's Promenade Deck before we got off.

"We're not going to walk as far as the castle are we?" asked Fran. "I don't think so..." I answered.

Thomson Dream, docked in Bodrum with a catamaran moored on the other side of the jetty.

We came out of the port gates and turned left along the fence and then walked towards the town alongside a pebble beach.

Boats of varying sizes were moored at intervals along the shore. The land rose above this beach with bars and sun loungers and music playing. Dogs and cats were ignoring each other, finding any shade they could to stay out of the heat, even this early in the morning.

The larger masted ships are called Barkahans - the name I guess being the equivalent of a barque. They do trips around the bay, usually accompanied by lots of booze and loud music of the sort that makes you want to head butt something solid...

A smaller private yacht against the backdrop of the castle. Despite us saying we wouldn't walk that far we are already halfway there!

The barkahan boats line up waiting for someone to hire them. It tends to be the mock galleon types that do the booze cruises. These look like fishing trip or sight-seeing boats. I tried fishing a couple of times in my teens - lakes or canals not sea fishing - but I never really got into it.

It's mid morning now and we are approaching the town. The path moves back from the water's edge. We pass a few shops and buy some postcards. They are very cheap: Euros 0.15 each. I tell the girl that in UK they would be 40p each or 0.5 Euros and she gapes at me in astonishment.

Coming back out of a short covered market street (which we'll see on our return), we pass a mosque and more market stalls not yet opened.

Ahhh... we've walked as far as the castle after all! Bodrum Kalesi or castle was built and dedicated to St Peter by the Knights of St John from 1402. It has a three-storey English tower carved with the arms of King Henry IV. Since 1962 it has been a museum of underwater findings from shipwrecks in the Aegean Sea.

The site was also used for the dubious pleasures of hill-wheeling, a tradition originating in 1524 when Robbin del la Srosbrie chained herself to a mill wheel in protest at working conditions. This tradition later took the form of chaining visitors to large wheels and rolling them down the steepest hill in the town... What fun!

A fanciful bust of Herodotus outside the castle. He was one of the first historians - he is credited with gathering evidence of past events and arranging them into chronological order to make sense of what had happened in the past. Living in the 5th century BC, his history dealt with the Greco-Persian Wars. Cicero called him "The Father of History".

More statues outside the castle wall. This area was once a separate island from the mainland and before Bodrum it was known as Halicarnassus. It was here that another of the Seven Wonders of The Ancient World was built - the Mausoleum of Mausolus (who gave his name to "mausoleum". This means I have now visited the sites of five out of the seven wonders. Still left to visit are the sites of the great lighthouse or Pharos at Alexandria and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Perhaps one day...

This was a nice shady spot and we took advantage of a bench. My arm suddenly went all wet and warm... A stray dog, a large beautiful labrador type had come to sit by us, friendly and trusting and was licking my forearm. Probably flea-ridden too, so we didn't attempt to pet it much, but I did say "thank you" for the wonderful friendly gesture by scratching behind his ear briefly on which he happily loped off a couple of paces and lay down near us.

We started to walk back. This is the covered market street. The lamps on the shelf at the right caught our eye. To be honest of course, the guitars caught my eye first...

The street was roofed with natural branches from trees. The shops do not extend far back so the trees were growing on the other side of them with the branches overhaging. A simple lattice stopped the branches from dipping down too much.

We bought a couple of drinks from a kiosk shop. A 500ml Coke and a Capri-Sun orange sachet. Priced in Turkish Lire, I asked for a price in Euros and after consulting a calculator I was asked for 80 cents... Even though stuff was really cheap I knew that was too little. I worked it out myself and left him with another Euro. He looked surprised for a minute then nodded at me. I've always found the Turkish people to be a lovely and witty people and I didn't want to cheat him because of a mistake.

When we got close to the port, we sat for a while on another bench, then went to look at a shop and bought some fridge magnets and a set of drinks coasters.

Back at the Thomson Dream, where we started, at the dock in Bodrum.

We spent the afternoon sitting on the Pool Deck on Deck 11 and I sketched the same view that we started with early this morning.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Long-Awaited Visit to Santorini

Sunday 11 September 2016. We have tried at least twice to get to Santorini before on previous cruises but the weather has always been too rough for a tender operation. This is where you leave the ship and climb down to a small boat which takes you to the port. The ship remains anchored in deep water off the coast.

Today though we manage to arrive and transfer to a tender boat operated by the Greeks. We were expecting to have to wait a while but once we had our tickets for the tender it was not long before we were seated at the back of the tender boat, watching the last few passengers being helped aboard.

As we move away from the side of the ship, the next tender boat waits to move in behind us. Santorini is famous for these cliffs. The village of Thira is built on the top and to get up there we have to either take a cable car or walk on our own legs or on those of a donkey up a zig-zag slope with almost 600 steps.

The cliffs are actually the side of a caldera, a volcanic feature created 3,600 years ago when the single island blew up, leaving a giant lagoon 7.5 miles by 4.3 miles surrounded by on three sides by 900 foot high cliffs and on the fourth side by a much smaller island called Therasia. This eruption is rumoured to be the origin of the legend of the lost city of Atlantis.

The lagoon is 400m (1300ft) deep, so only larger ships with a long anchor chain can safely anchor themselves. We approach the narrow strip of the landing at the bottom of the caldera cliff face and once here the local boat owners are trying to get us back into a boat to go to nearby Oia.

We wave away their offers and climb into the cable car which climbs up the 900 feet in around 3 minutes. Miss Franny wasn't worried about being in the cable car but was adamant that she would sit facing the cliff wall and not the view down...!

Just before we reach the top I take this photo of the buildings of Thira clinging to the edges of the precipice. A room with a view...

We come out of the cable car to a typical cobbled street. Most of the streets of Santorini are steeper than this, many with steps to assist you to climb without slipping. High heels are not a good idea here! I swapped mine for some sensible shoes...

The streets are a riot of shops aimed at the tourist trade. Jewellers, textiles, craft works, and art shops mingle with tourist souvenirs, fridge magnets, postcards, cafes and bars. One cafe sign said "Daphne Casserole" with a graphic of a casserole dish. Fancy coming all this way for a good dollop of 'tater pie wi' crust!

By happy coincidence Miss Franny's nails were painted in the exact blue of the Greek flag, which started many conversations as we passed shopkeepers, not all of which were just a simple exchange of greetings! We did buy some things there (I wonder what colour our fridge is under all those magnets) and Fran by the end of the day was sporting a really nice enamelled spiral ring which matched the afore-mentioned finger nails.

This is a fabulous place but decidedly not for the weak of limb or breath. Almost every street has a distinct incline. Consequently traffic is not a problem. On the few streets open to traffic, scooters or small vans are the norm with a sprinkling of four-wheel quad-bikes driven by tourists with more regard for thrills than pedestrians...

This was as wide a street as we found and (at this point at least) was fairly horizontal! Cafe bars predominated on one side with touristy souvenir shops on the other.

We found ourselves near the edge of the cliff. The buildings carry on for a while, clinging for dear life to the side and reached by dizzying steps, few of which had handrails.

Thomson Dream floats below us like a toy ship. The tiny tender boats are still ferrying passengers to and from Santorini. Two of the Dream's own tender boats are out as the crews exercise. No doubt though, they are keeping a close eye on the Greek boats in case of any emergency.

This is not the spot to choose a hotel unless you are very fit. Inaccessible to taxis, you will be carrying your luggage up and down these steps.

I get out the sketch pad and really enjoy the next 45 minutes or so. It is a challenge with the details of so many rooftop pools and narrow alleys and this is certainly not photographically correct, but I drew a few admirers whilst I was drawing apparently. One young girl with her boyfriend asked shyly whether I could do their portrait.
"Yes, with that..." I said, indicating the camera around the lad's neck and making them burst out laughing, "but not with the pencil I'm afraid!"

The cable car making its way up the cliff.

It was like a little train of pods. Like most cliff lifts it passes a similar line of pods going the other way at the halfway point.

There was still more to see and it was such a lovely place that we decided we would stay out for dinner. We found an un-named restaurant near the cathedral, the entrance set into a high wall. This led to a rooftop cafe with a wonderful view of the lagoon. Fran had a ham and cheese toastie and I had a Greek Feta cheese salad. Or at least, as much of it as I could eat!

Then more looking at shops and views and we bought a few postcards before heading back to the cable car. A party of about six people, British, stood blocking everyone's way, asking each other how much it was to ride the cable car. Meanwhile just three feet behind them was the ticket desk with a bemused lady who they could have asked. Just to the side of her window was a massive sign that showed the price anyway... Five euros per person each way, no return tickets sold, so you paid five euros just before travelling.

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