Movie Review – Mortal Engines

Late to the party as usual, finally caught Mortal Engines yesterday. I was not disappointed. Well, I was, but more on that later.

Be warned, there be spoilers ahead.

Peter Jackson has a track record of making the same visual constructions I have. That is to say, the look of something as brought to the big screen by him is just how I imagined it should look. I remember clearly the first time I saw the Ents in the trailer for The Two Towers. “Oh yeah,” thought I as the trailer started. “All very well and good but no-one has done an Ent properly yet.” And then there they were. Large as life and just as I had imagined they would be. Perfect. Jaw -> floor.

And that’s just how it was with London in the trailer for Mortal Engines. And it’s repeated time and again throughout the movie – Airhaven? Spot on. The Wall? Wow. Medusa? Oh, yeah! The cities, villages, the guilds of London, the policemen! The Lord Mayor! All just as if they’d stepped out of the book via my imagination.

But – and this is something I’d not fully appreciated from reading the book – a lot of it is just there to be a backdrop for destruction. In a way, Mortal Engines follows a very similar pattern to The Force Awakens – our heroes arrive at a location, shortly followed by the villains of the piece, and it gets destroyed. Sometimes the villains arrive at a location all by themselves and proceed to destroy it. And it all happens so quickly! Okay so it’s been a while since I read the books, but I’m sure it didn’t clip along at such a fast pace! And I’m sure London wasn’t finished off with such an assault-on-the-Death-Star attack.

The biggest problem for me, though, was Hugo Weaving. Our Mr Valentine, saviour of London and all round good guy. Ish. And Shrike, but I can understand why they did Shrike the way they did. Made him a very grey character, not black/white bad/good. Valentine, though, was more of a pantomime villain than King Phillip of Spain (of Spain) in Bill. Mr Weaving seems to be going through the motions, putting as little effort as possible in to the part. Not sure why, maybe his paycheck from DisMarvelney is grand enough he doesn’t have to bother. To my mind, he displayed a greater depth of emotion and acting calibre as Agent Smith in the first Matrix movie.

I’d give this a solid 7/10, could do better. My eldest son hated the design of the Jenny Hanniver airship but we all want the next book to be filmed. And the next… And the next… Oh, to see Anchorage! Brighton! Stalker Fang…

Warwick Folk Festival 2018

Okay.  First time at Warwick Folk Festival.  Can’t remember what made us pick this one to do earlier in the year, but back in January it seemed like a good idea.  We’d booked Broadstairs and were looking for something different.

And it’s a very different festival to Broadstairs.  For those of you who don’t know, the Broadstairs Folk Week is a big festival at the seaside in the middle of August.  Camping is all at the big senior school about a mile from the sea front, and the venues are scattered around the town.  It’s like Edinburgh as a University – accommodation here, lectures here, here, and here.  Warwick, on the other hand, is all on one site.  It’s a campus university, everything’s within walking distance.  And that includes the beer festival!

Some of the acts at Warwick we’d seen before.  Okay, one of the acts we’d seen before – Granny’s Attic.  But their ABBA tribute act was new to us!  That might need a bit of explaining.  One of Warwick’s “One Unique Things” (quick 13th Age reference there) is their non-folk session.  Each year it’s themed, last year was The Beatles, apparently, and this year a dozen or more acts covered ABBA songs.  This session was supposed to last for an hour.  I think it was nearly 2 by the time it finished!  It was compered by one of my favourite acts of the weekend – Keith Donnelly.

Wherever you turned at the festival, Keith was there.  He finished the Friday night concert on the open-air stage.  He performed several shows for kids.  He hosted the ABBA gig!  He performed at and compered the final concert of the festival itself.  The man’s a genius.

Les Barker, performance poet, introduced us to a number of ridiculous little poems, including one most of the audience knew about the iceberg that sank the Titanic.

A common theme running through Keith Donnelly’s work was poking fun at “Show of Hands”.  We’d never heard of them, but when they were headlining the Saturday night concert, we figured we’d check them out.  Wow! Just incredible.  And they had to come on after Korontzi had rocked the hall with some incredible accordion and tambourine playing from the Basque country.  You had to be there.

And my award for the “band to watch” goes to Man the Lifeboats.  Superb folk/rock from London.

The Good…

Everything’s on one site.  You can stroll from your tent to the food, the stalls, the concerts, everything.  Plus we were in the neighbourhood for my brother-in-law and some friends from Uni so got to do some wild swimming in the Avon, had a cracking lunch at the Cottage of Content, and a picnic in the park.

The food was incredibly good – so easy for festivals to be lazy and get some so-so trucks in but the Old Granary Pierogi set the bar damn high and everyone else upped their game to meet.  Leon’s vegan food was amazing.  And the beer…  the cider…  Over a dozen ciders, 30+ real ales!  Fantastic.

The acts were great – a huge range of styles and genres.  A whole host of stuff new to us.  Brilliant.

The Bad…

There’s a lot of clashes in the programme – 2PM every day there’s 3 different concerts in 3 different venues, and a ceilidh in the hall.  Likewise at 8PM.  You’ve really got to prioritise who and what you want to see/do.  Broadstairs seem to have it covered where the ceilidh finishes then, giving you just enough time to amble up to the marquee for the afternoon concert…  Just haven’t noticed the clashes in the schedule.

The Morris…

Massively underrated, your Morris dancing.  Massively.  I leave you with the Black Swan Rapper.

Are we going back to Warwick?

I reckon so, yes.

End of Year 1

Come be a pack leader, they said. It’s only a couple of hours a week, they said. You’ll enjoy it, they said.

And you know what, they’re mostly right!

Warning. Make yourself comfortable, get a drink, this may be a long message…

This Friday just gone marks the end of my first year in Scouting. I was invested at the AGM in 2017, was assistant leader for what seems like about a minute and a half before moving up to pack leader and I’ve loved every bit of it. It made me question the job I was doing and now I’m starting teacher training in September. I’ve got my Cubs to thank for that.

It has been a busy year. I could not have done any of it without the help of my assistant leaders, young leaders, and the leaders of the other sections who have helped keep me straight in matters of scouting about which I still know little! But it’s a bad day if you don’t learn something new.

I am extremely proud of each and every one of my Cubs. Sometimes it does feel like I’m trying to herd cats, but they’re the best cats I could ever want to try and herd.

Each of the Cubs brings something different to the group, something uniquely theirs. And that’s what makes every session special.

Now for the homework…

It’s a long time until September, and the worst thing anyone looking after kids can hear is “I’m bored!” So here are a few activities that I want you all to do between now and September:

Read books. You’re never bored if you’ve got a good book on the go. I’ve got a few racked up for my summer reading – “Horror in Honduras”, “Rotherweird”, and Jasper Fforde’s complete “Thursday Next” series. Your local library will be doing a summer reading challenge and those 6 books count for your Book Reader badge.

Take pictures. The Photographer badge project would make a great way to remember a day out you take over the summer – we could have a night when we get back where everyone brings in their pictures and we can all have a look at where you’ve been! Try to take an amazing photograph in your back garden!

Enjoy nature! Right now, everything’s coming into fruit. Raspberries, strawberries, backcurrants, redcurrants… The gardens are heaving with delicious things! If you pick some of these – with the aid of an adult who can tell you what you can and can’t eat – and then use them in a recipe that counts towards both your Naturalist badge and your Chef badge. I used to pick blueberries up on the moors at Brimham Rocks with my mum and brothers – never got a chance to cook with them, though, we picked and ate!

Relax, have fun, and enjoy your break. I remember when I was this age, growing up in Yorkshire, the summer holidays felt endless and yet over in the blink of an eye both at the same time. September and our new year will be with us all too soon.

Do and see something completely different. There may well be a special badge (completely unofficial and one for your camp blankets) if you say hello to me at the Lincoln Steampunk Festival, August bank holiday weekend…

Cubs, thank you. You’ve made this year very special for me. Leaders, thank you. Couldn’t have done this without you. Young Leaders? Thank you, you make the start of every session a gamble. Departing ex-Young Leader? Best of luck gallivanting around the globe. Do write that blog!

See you all in September.