Time And The Swede

A while ago, on Facebook, I stumbled across this photograph of my old Swedish friend Agnetha Fältskog, taken from the first Abba Greatest Hits album of 1975. If you look closely, you will see that inserted into her hand is a copy of her last solo album, A, released in 2013. Both albums, both images, separated by thirty-eight years, stand, in a way, like chronological bookends of a linear journey. Of her linear journey, along that particular period of her life. In between, of course, much has changed. For better, or for worse. Such is life.


I like to think that the photoshopping artist, whoever he or she may be, has, like I, a penchant for both history and continuity, similarly casting an appreciative eye over the progressive journey, yet, also, being cut to the quick by the unstoppable, winnowing effect of time itself.

There is a song on Agnetha’s last album called I Was A Flower. I think some of the lines could also be addressed to Time itself:

I was a flower

Now look what you have done

You’ve made my colours fade

Too close to the sun

Once I was innocent

Beautiful, life had just begun

I was a flower

Now look what you have done

There are some other lines of this song that my daughter sings over and over, like kids do:

But now you walk right through me

Like I’m an empty ghost

Now, when I need you the most

My daughter: a young girl, blossoming and full of life, whiling away her time singing of empty ghosts.

Two chronological bookends of a linear journey, being winnowed along the way.

Damn you, Time. Damn you.

Manchester Meander

I nipped into town yesterday, to find that the normally naked, winter trees had these things blooming upon them.


And what a difference they made, too, on an otherwise drab, grey afternoon. They were hanging on trees  all over the city as part of the forthcoming Chinese New Year celebrations.


Over in Piccadilly Gardens I stumbled across this sleepy hound, made on the spot with sand by some budding entrepreneurial artist, collecting coppers in an upturned cap. There was a comical moment when a passing dog was straining at the leash to get near. I guess it passed the test. I can’t even get a sandcastle to stand up.


Amidst the throng of different people going about their business, it was good to see this guy among us, keeping us all safe.


I’m not sure if he was an avenger, or some kind of transformer, but I wanted also to capture the star shield thing on his elbow, and the  distinctive helmet before him, but as I was taking the shot he began to turn.

I was off! You don’t mess with either avengers or transformers.

Especially Mancunian ones.

Hammer Chooseday #4:Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb

Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb (1971) 4/5

Enjoyable Egyptology hokum, based on a book by Bram Stoker, and made watchable by the beautiful Valerie Leon in a rare lead role. In fact, she plays a double role: that of Margaret, the daughter of Professor Fuchs (Andrew Keir), and also that of the ancient Egyptian Queen Tera. She waits all her career for a lead role, then two come along at once.

One way to stop biting your nails.

We discover that Margaret’s mother died giving birth to her at exactly the same moment that Fuchs makes the discovery of the inexplicably still-bleeding body of the Queen. Now what a coincidence you may say. Or perhaps there’s something going on here. Maybe even just get on with it.

I bet my wife is giving birth at home right now. It's all about bleeding mummies today.

I bet my wife is giving birth at home right now. It’s all about bleeding mummies today.

Twenty years later, Margaret, plagued by nightmares, is given a ring by her father on the day before her birthday. And guess who the ring used to belong to?

As modelled by Thing. Father, really, you shouldn't have.

As modelled by Thing. You shouldn’t have, Father, really, you shouldn’t have.

What ensues is the discovery that, among many deaths, Margaret is the vessel through which Tera still wields her magic, ahead of her planned resurrection. Along the way we are treated to such creepy images as the shadow of a jackal, and a crawling, severed hand.

I hear Strepsils are good for sore throats.

I hear Strepsils are good for sore throats.

In the end, both of Leon’s characters are buried in rubble as a battle between them occurs. Only one woman survives-but which one? Lay in a hospital bed, wrapped ridiculously in a swathe of bandages covering everything but the eyes, and looking just like, well, a mummy, a clue is that the patient is missing a hand. Hmm. Thank God for the NHS. Sleep well.

Why Grandmother, what nice eyes you have.

Why Grandmother, what nice eyes you have.

I enjoyed this film, but it could have been so much more for the presence of the great Peter Cushing, who had to leave the production after just one day to nurse his wife who had fallen ill (and eventually died). Although Keir does a satisfactory job as a last minute stand in.

Leon and Cushing together on the first day of filming, before his unfortunate withdrawal.

Leon and Cushing together on the first day of filming, before his unfortunate withdrawal.

Also, five weeks into filming, director Seth Holt suffered a fatal heart attack, encouraging rumours of a mummy’s curse, and another director had to fill in to film the remaining sequences.

Given Leon’s presence, it is curious why Hammer never gave her another lead role. Someone suggested to me that it could be because she was quite tall, and leading actors of the time did not want to be set against taller leading ladies. And they couldn’t run around graveyards wearing heels. Or maybe it could be down to something much more credible like a mummy’s curse. Either way, Leon can lay claim to be the only Bond girl who worked with two different Bonds-both Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Whenever put on the spot to name her favourite she played it safe, saying that she thought both were good.

See-savvy too.

Now where did that hand come from?

Now where did that hand come from?

Please Don’t Kill My Mockingbird

I’ve just been blown away by the news that I’ve just heard, and I am usually the most calmest of Jackdaws.

To Kill A Mockingbird is my favourite book of all time, and I have long since reconciled myself to the fact that Harper Lee was not going to have any more books published. The frustration of this is up there with the split up of The Beatles, the deaths of John Lennon and Jeff Buckley, and the abandonment of poetry by Arthur Rimbaud at the age of twenty one. Oh, and also my inability to master the guitar.

The young Rimbaud.

The young Rimbaud.

But now I have heard that there is a new Harper Lee book to be published, the book that she originally wrote in the 1950’s and put aside on the recommendation of her publisher. It seems that this book is set twenty years after Mockingbird, and deals with the adult Scout grappling with personal and political issues on returning to Maycomb after visiting her father, Atticus, (that long-held ideal of fatherhood) in New York.

My #1, discerning reader that I am.

My #1, discerning reader that I am.

Apparently this book, entitled Go Set A Watchman, was written first, but when the publisher was taken with Scout’s childhood flashbacks, he or she persuaded Lee to tell that story instead, and so To Kill A Mockingbird was born. But now, sixty years later, that original manuscript has been discovered, and is being released on July 14th. A sequel to Mockingbird, but written first.

I really don’t know how to feel about this. I have never been so excited about the release of a book in my life, but that excitement is also laced with fear. Fear that, after all this time, that first book will not measure up. That, unexpected though this new book is, it will somehow fall short of a book that has to many, I included, set an impossible standard to follow.

I’m going to read it, of course I am. How could I not? But as that publication date nears, I fear that it is going to scare the hell out of me. I can already hear my wife:

“Get a grip for God’s sake! Get a grip!”

But I have waited for this since I was an awkward sixteen year old in my English Literature class.

Now:Amazon pre-order here I come.

Our marriage is going to be sorely tested.

Hammer Chooseday #3:Straight On Till Morning

Straight On Till Morning (1972) 1/5

Rita Tushingham plays a rather pathetic and timid Brenda, who moves to London in a desperate move to find someone who will give her a baby. Like you do. Of course, this was before the days when you could advertise on Facebook, get someone to come around and get you pregnant, delete and block them, then meet up with them again some years in the future on Jeremy Kyle.


Unfortunately for her, the first man who shows any interest, after she makes the initial pursuit, is psychotic Peter, played by Hammer regular Shane Briant, who has the unfortunate compulsion to destroy anything of beauty, be it women or, erm, dogs.

Peter's own dog is safe from harm, flea bitten old scamp that she is. But then Brenda comes along, armed with a bottle of shampoo and a lovely pink ribbon.....

Peter’s own dog is safe from harm, flea bitten old scamp that she is. But then Brenda comes along, armed with a bottle of shampoo and a lovely pink ribbon…..

We soon learn that Peter is behind the disappearance of several girls in the Earl’s Court area of London. Rest assured, Plain Jane Brenda is perfectly safe among the capital’s bright young things. That is, until she decides to help herself to some of Peter’s money and goes out to have a make over. Purely to please him, you understand. She has a habit of these faux pax, doesn’t she?

"Mirror mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" For God's sake name Snow White.

“Mirror mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” For God’s sake name Snow White.

In the beginning the film jumps around a little, drags in the middle, and has an ambiguous ending: Brenda learns the truth of Peter’s true nature when he plays her a horrific audio recording of him killing his dog, and also of the murder of Brenda’s friend, and she tries in vain to flee from his home while he assures her he would never harm her. The last thing we see is him sitting alone, with no sign of her. Is she in the bedroom? Did he kill her? Do we care?

The film does have its moments, as well as its fans, but I hated it. It was too slow, and the character of Brenda was too pitiful for me to care about. This is one of the few Hammer films that I wouldn’t sit through again. I’m not really selling it to you, am I?

"We are watching it again? Noooooo!!!!!!!!! "

“We are watching it again? Noooooo!!!!!!!!! “

Released as a double feature with Fear In The Night (last week’s Hammer post), Fear is far superior to this one.

Hammer doesn't do love stories, but if they did.......

Hammer don’t do love stories, but if they did…….

Who am I?

This is a relative of mine who is living at the very top of Scotland with his wife in a house they have built, looking to live self-sufficiently. He is new to WordPress and still finding his feet, so will you fine people give him a nice welcome. And maybe throw him a follow 🙂


Sounds like a game. Maybe I’ve got a post-it note stuck to my head. 

It’s an excercise set by “blogging 101”, the WordPress course I’ve signed up for to help me get some blogging skills.

Most of the excercise has already been addressed on my “About” page. I’m a bloke in his late fifties who, for about the last ten years, has been building a house in the Far North of Scotland. With Hazel, long suffering wife of this parish, I’ve been experimenting with a more self- sufficient, greener lifestyle. Ten years into the project, we’re a lot closer to having a house, not much closer to self sufficiency.

Along the way, I’ve made many mistakes. The blog is going to be an attempt to share some of those mistakes so that other greenies can avoid them. I’m also going to try to share some of the successes, tips for…

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