plenty of pics, lots of pax - and the occasional (vox) pox on all our houses

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Christmas Saturday

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Our nearby cinema (and what a sad and degrading experience it's becoming)

Curious how the film industry has got into the healthy habit of providing us with brand new films on DVD at a fiver a throw in our local supermarkets but how - at the same time - it's suddenly both jacking up the price of the big-screen experience and degrading its essence.

My wife, daughter and I went to a nearby cinema last night to watch Disney's "A Christmas Carol" in 3D. The film is brilliant - one of those long-burners which builds tension through a traditional Hollywood wait-and-see approach to screencraft. Definitely not Indiana Jones - and quite the better for it.

The evening was, however, marred by a couple of details which other cinema-goers might not have cared about but did affect my enjoyment. We ended up paying around £27 for the experience, about 50 percent more than I expected to pay - given that at our normal cinema you can get a family ticket for four for around £20. Discounting the premium you might expect for a 3D film, the difference still made my wallet creak. On top of which was the cost of my daughter's M&Ms, which ran to the price of a recently released DVD. Bring your own? This cinema (though not on this occasion) habitually demands that my wife open the contents of her handbag. The last time this happened, we felt assaulted - abused almost. It doesn't, however, encourage you to bring your own. Probably the real reason why they do it - though they will say it's to stop people bringing in cameras and pirating the films.

And this was something else that contrasted sharply with my childhood experiences of cinema-going. There was an innocence about the adventure which no longer exists. Now, CCTV and night vision sensors are trained on the audiences as anti-piracy measures and the organisation FACT reserve the right to treat everyone as a potential criminal.

This is not right.

Some cinemas are worse than others. Our local cinema, CineWorld, is far more respectful of its customers than the subject of this post.

We normally go there. Last night, they weren't doing 3D. Next time, and for the reasons I will now explain, we'll pass.

So, OK. Disney is not responsible for how a cinema conducts itself. But after paying a tenner per person, you would expect a seamless and inclusive experience of cinema. Instead, what we got was a degrading differentiation. Apparently, the latest wizard wheeze to get money out of people in a collapsing market is to have what they call VIP seats: the best seats in the house are now made out of a kind of plastic leather and are reserved for those who care to pay even more for the luxury of sitting through thirty minutes of adverts and trailers. Yes. I timed it. Not only are there now two classes of cinema-goers - standard and VIP - but also both have to put up with half an hour of what at best is barely informative and at worst is downright inappropriate. Considering we were waiting to see Disney's "A Christmas Carol", the trailer for "Avatar" was absolutely disgraceful and totally out of keeping with the target audience.

Conclusion? As I said at the beginning, can't fault Disney's film-making genius. Can, however, fault their ability to forge appropriate partnerships with decent cinema chains. Think again, please. By turning what should be a marvellous night out into just another rip-off Saturday, you're turning us away from the greatest collaborative art form of the 20th century - and ensuring it'll remain just that: of the 20th century ...

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Grey skies

Stuck at home and this is what I can see out of my back window. Grey skies return.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Gorse Stacks at 8.40

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Now it's sunny and blowing a gale!

Wet Sunday morning in Chester

Was woken up by rain this morning ... bad drying day for start of new school term. :-(

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Eastgate Clock at ten past two

Iconic Chester. Timeless, in fact.

Chester deserves this and more

A useful proposal here to bring theatre, conference centre facilities and a much-needed makeover (whatever they say, it's much needed) to our dear city:
A report to members from Chris Cook, head of Culture and Recreation, stresses: "For Chester to stand alongside European destinations like York, Avignon, Bruges and Sienna, there is a need to develop the cultural life of the city alongside its retail, hospitality and tourism offers.
"Chester requires significant and sustained development in its cultural programme and infrastructure top compete alongside the best in Europe. "
If members give the go-ahead for the feasibility study it will examine all aspects of the proposals including a full economic impact assessment, funding and the possibility of financial partnerships.

Cllr Richard Short, executive member, Culture and Recreation, said: "Rightly or wrongly, there is a feeling that Chester has traded on its reputation for some time.
"The new council intends to remedy this situation for the good of present and future generations. The report before us could point the way to making up lost ground in this respect."

Present plans envisage a theatre with a larger auditorium than the Gateway, complemented by highly flexible studio facilities for art, dance, cinema and musical events. If the theatre and performing arts centre were to be joined by a purpose-built convention centre, conference capacity would exceed anything Chester has to offer now.
Funding for such a project could come from the local authority, the Arts Council, North West Development Agency, Chester Renaissance and private sector.
In the meantime, how about rethinking the purpose of the long-lamented Odeon cinema in the context of the above proposals? Widescreen cinema is going to be an ever-tougher business in the future - but grassroots community art, lifelong learning and video technologies could all come together in a local centre of all things related to video creation, for all Cestrians, whatever their political persuasion, whatever their opinions and points of view. Such a facility would not only empower us all but would serve to help generate the content which would allow Chester to acquire a modern interactive online face. Great for tourism, great for Chester's own sense of itself.

It would also serve to celebrate the art of a bygone era by keeping the filmic tradition in a building too iconic to be lost to the business of night clubbing.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


An alcohol-free evening beckons inevitably.

Monkey business/human freedoms

A fascinating report from the Chester Chronicle on the subject of the monkey business at Chester Zoo can be found here. I suppose what's mildly disconcerting is the fact that no one really knows how it happened.

I liked this bit very much indeed:
They said: "Everybody was told to go because chimpanzees had escaped. We didn't really know what was going on but it was quite scary.

"We were just having lunch and we were told to go into the restaurants and shops, where we stayed for about 45 minutes.

"Luckily we were in there for three hours so we had a good day."

Other visitors were locked in the jaguar enclosure while staff ensured there were no chimps in the public area.
So whilst intelligent chimps enjoyed a few human freedoms, a few human beings experienced what it's like to be an intelligent chimp.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Beautiful day ...

'Twas a beautiful day in Chester today. Couldn't go out for a walk at lunchtime because I had to attend a conference call on a book to be published shortly. I wrote one of the stories to be included. We were fine-tuning the texts in question. Amazing how much time a good book needs in order to properly see the light of day.

Love books. Love the history of books. Love history in fact. I remember going to the Grosvenor Museum as a kid. Was it with the school or just parents? I liked one of the upper floors best. Stuffed animals.

Such beady eyes.

A renaissance of sorts

Used to be a baker's. Now it's an empty premises. But not boarded up exactly. Awaiting better times perhaps?

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Blue wheelie bin

Too dark to see properly. But then it's a dark subject, isn't it? Started raining by the way. Get that washing in now!

Saving the planet on an almost Monday

Yes. It is Monday tomorrow. Only just tomorrow though. Maybe I'll send you some photos of Chester as I walk through the city. Maybe you'll then see what I mean, when I moan plaintively about the state of the centre - as I am wont to do; as, indeed, I have already done so here.

And then there's our new wheelie bins. Have to send a photo of a couple of those too. I suppose I could go down into the yard and snap a couple of pictures using the flash. Loathsome items of equipment. Wheelie bins, I mean. Big companies are too powerful for governments to want to properly curb their appetites for generating large quantities of useless plastic society really doesn't know what to do with. Instead, it's the humble end-user who suffers, incapable as he or she is of fighting back. Along with the bins (which one day themselves will need to be recycled - God only knows how), we received a massive pack of explanatory literature. You need a damn degree to know how to save the planet these days.

Photo tonight or not?

Not really sure. I really am rather too sleepy for anything but sleep. But perhaps the technological challenge of sending my first photo in will convince me against my better judgement.

Wonder what happened to those monkeys.

Monkey business

Wish I could've popped over to Chester Zoo today. Could've taken a couple of photos. More on the story here.

Really not sure why the BBC should publish this in their Merseyside section, mind. Got nothing against Merseyside. Just wondering why they can't add a Cheshire section to their website.

Wouldn't cost them anything. Far less than a bottle of champagne, in fact.

A bit about Chester

Chester is a beautiful city. Its past is its future, as more than one citizen has rightly observed on more than one occasion - but saying it is one thing. Getting a posse of disagreeing - not to say on some occasions positively disagreeable - politicians to actually do something about it is quite another.

Currently the recession is leading to the boarding up of commercial premises all over the place. The new unitary authority has quite cleverly started painting up these empty baleful eyes with pretty pictures of flowers. Meanwhile, vacant building sites are encircled with black wooden walls which proclaim the virtues of the Chester Renaissance.

I'm all in favour of renaissance - but let it be real.

Let us hope the authority can be as imaginative in practice as it clearly is in discourse.