A writers tale

They say that everyone has a story to tell. Many may not know what story they have inside them or in fact they recognise it if they were faced with a pen and paper.

I decided, along with millions of others, to start this blog. It is a mixture of blogs, random writings, the odd story from time to time and my own reviews. We are all capable of being a critic, sometimes people make a living from it and others just do it for fun. Me, I do it for fun.

I did have an old blog site which ended up going, many links were lost. I may rebuild those in time or just let them fade away in the corners of the interweb.

Enjoy.

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Top Ten Films

Dear Reader

Top Ten Films

I was nominated to post what I considered was my 10 favourite films of all time over 10 days. To someone who enjoys films, this was quite challenging. My first thought was what constituted a favourite film? Unlike the top ten grossing or top ten watched, for me my favourites were those I could just sit and watch.

Ok, so that started me down the next tangled web. Did I pick top ten sci-fi or comedy or action? I decided to pick ten favoured films from across the range but I have since thought that I might consider picking ten from a few chosen fields.

The Favoured 10

So the favoured 10 again were hard to pick and at times I did keep swapping my mind. Here are my 10, not a review mind you, just thoughts;

1 Young Frankenstein. 

Mel Brooks is pure genius. A comic version of a classic horror movie, filmed in black and white, with Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman added into the mix. It is brilliant, straight forward, a little naughty in places but dam funny. Yes, I know some of the lines which is annoying to many. An all round comedy film with a sparkling support cast Peter Boyle as the monster, Teri Garr Madeline Kahn as the ‘love’ interests and Cloris Leachman as Frau Blücher (did I hear horses?)

 

2. The Italian Job.

The real proper version not the remake mind you. This film contains many icon moments and a line which so many people both recognise and know off by heart. Take three British Minis, a gold heist and traffic jam, thrilling car chase and you have a great movie. For me one of Michael Caine finest roles. What is remarkable about this film is the huge British cast, including the great Noël Coward Benny Hill and a young Robert Powell. Plus that song.

 

3. Rear Window.

Alfred Hitchcock is the master of suspense there is no doubt about that and it was shown many times before this movie. I had a real difficult time picking just one of his movies. Rear Window has that odd message held within. Should we peak through the rear window? James Stewart, certainly a favourite of Hitchcock started along side another of his chosen actresses in Grace Kelly. Their chalk and cheese mix blended well. Add Thelma Ritter Raymond Burr and Wendell Corey you have you main cast. You know who has done it all just will they get caught.

4. Star Wars.

What can you say about this movie. It is old fashioned, good against evil, young man finding his way or starting. The music just gets you from the start, it is big and loud and wakes you up. It’s not a brilliant script but that does not matter. It takes the likes of Flash Gordon, Severn Samurai and more to head into space. It made household names of Mark Hamill Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. What made it have that edge of class was adding Alec Guinness.

 

5. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

I was brought up on classic films. Sci-fi is my favourite and this one is just iconic. There was certainly a way in the 50’s to build well scripted films. This one stands out for me as one I can watch time and time again. Another film with a message which is true today even more so. Michael Rennie is just so smooth as an actor and is slightly scary at the end. Patricia Neal has, like in many films, that memorable line which many Sci-fi fans can quote.

6. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

This movie basically recreated the brand at a time when many others were cashing in, aka Star Wars. Take a fan base that was crying out for something like the old television series, so play on a forgotten character and an Admiral out of sorts (again) and a tight script. Hit. William Shatner Leonard Nimoy DeForest Kelley along with James Doohan Walter Koenig  George Takei and Nichelle Nichols of course recreated (for a second time in movies) their television roles. Ricardo Montalban was such a perfect villain again recreating his role of Khan from the tv series. It just had everything needed, to build the tension to a classic end of film battle.

7. Ice Station Zebra.

I still, to this day doubt who is the bad guy is at the end of this film, which is how Alistair MacLean likes you to be. Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan head the cast of a film that almost sank at the box office. Yet is is based of real events which makes this Cold War thriller, for me, even more interesting. It has twists, subtext and good old action sequences. One I can pick up at any point and enjoy.

 

8. Forbidden Planet

This film deals with a classic Shakespeare work, The Tempest in pure sci-fi. Another film which stands the test of time, simple in its message yet never fails to impress. The main cast Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen and Robbie the Robot give powerful performances reworking the story. You don’t have to understand or know The Tempest, to enjoy this film. The villain is the message here, always inside us so often controlled yet one wrong move and its free.

 

9. Some Like It Hot.

Another one of those simple classic movies with added twists. The cast had three principal actors Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon the later two went to star in a number of other movies together. What makes this so enjoyable is the way the three of them clearly worked with each other. Add in jazz music, mobsters and serious identity crises and you have a Billy Wilder hit. Good fun and you do have to watch that platform walk it is amazing.

 

10. The Princess Bride.

This is possibly one of my real all time favourite films. So much so I wrote a blog just on about the film. It has action, romance, danger, pirates (of sorts), sword fights, giants and comedy. It is just pure entertainment. My original blog is here The Princess Bride and says all about why I love this film.

 

So that completed my 10 films. However, 10 lacked me the chance to explore so many more good films. I have decided that I might pick 10 from the following four categories; Sci-fi, Comedy, Action/Suspense and Musicals.

They say the next favourite film is the one you have yet to see and that’s true to a degree. You should never stop enjoying movies while you can, I certainly won’t.

Tagline: “As you wish Klaatu,  now stick a torpedo in the tube and blow the bloody doors off, Khan!!!”

 

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Passion for Cruising

Passion for Cruising 

Over the past couple of months I have had the pleasure of cruising on board Marella’s ship Discovery 1, twice. Why cruise? The first time there was a need for a different type of holiday, the past 18 months had been trying to say the least. A cruise appeared to be that one type of holiday not yet ventured upon.

A little research on where to go, what company to choose and port to sail from had us pick the Discovery. We had cruised once before many years ago as a ‘taster’. It was fun but did not grab us at the time. We decided on Tui and the cruise to Norway, a place we had wanted to visit given it would all be new to us. Pre-cruise excursions email support made a few problems communicating which made us think about what we were getting into. 

That part of the holiday was the only major problem first time around, nothing to do with the ship and crew itself, just the lack of help from Tui really. You always learn lessons, and second time around we did things differently on that part.

Sailing from Newcastle was easy, a bit of a wait to get on board but then again we have waited hours for planes. Once on board its different. The crew are well drilled, bags were at the cabin both times, no hassle looking for them. Cabins are functional for a 20 year old ship. It depends on what you pay for and which you pick. A balcony cabin is fine but we did not tend to spend a lot of time there the first trip so an inside cabin was picked for the second. In hindsight, on the second trip should have picked a cabin with a window but thats us. After all what is a cabin really for? Change clothes, sleep, wash and be ready for the next day.

The Discovery is an ex-Royal Caribbean ship 20 years old and has been refitted very well. There was a video we found of the work done so we knew what to expect. It was for us the right size not over powering and not too small. Easy to find my way around which meant a bit more exercise. Each location on the ship was ok, if I am picky here, the one thing needed would be extra seats in the Atrium and Live lounge. We did make suggestions about having Passion for Dance in the main venue maybe mid-week.

So why the passion? Well, that for me comes from the top down. The captain, Chris Dodds, had his first week as we took our first cruise and we saw him again 6 weeks later. (Yes, it was that good.) He set the tone, very approachable, genuine person who stopped and talked, appeared around the ship and encouraged his staff to make the ship feel enjoyable.

As I have said before, the entertainment, under Gavin’s direction, was brilliant. The shows had quality, the teams giving their all each time. It was not just the one performance, it was each and every one. After each show, be it from the Broadway lounge to venue or live lounge, the company would say hello to people and interact. Not easy to do but they wanted to share our enjoyment. We enjoyed many a good dance with Amy and Roland, listened to B12 and relaxed to the pure saxophone played by Vernal.

The quality could also be found in every element of the cruise. The dinning services were different, varied and excellent quality. You could just move around the ship, eating and drinking all day just about. The waiter service in each location was first class it did not matter where you were. There were times when drinks in the bars were a bit slow, not a fault of the staff just many people all wanting a drink. I have seen the same in the so called best hotels, did it take away from the fun? Not for me I was on holiday.

We did eat a number of times in restaurant 47. It was very good service indeed. Food was excellent, never a bad meal, the waiters and waitresses very pleasant. On the second trip we were remembered by the Head Waiter Samuele who looked after us very well. On the second cruise, we were lucky to be on a hosted table with the First Officer Martin and Welfare Officer Karen. That was great fun indeed. But they did not just host the meal, we ended up chatting after in the atrium. That one step further. Thanks go to Social Hostess Fiona for that who remembered us from the bridge tour on our first cruise.  We also had the pleasure of chatting to the General Manger Liz and Guest Relations Manager Lynne at another event. 

We also found a nice little spot late at night in the Glass House. Midnight snacks galore if not full meals. Often ended up chatting to members of the show teams or crew. Again, that made it different a little more relaxing and special. 

Even our cabin staff had smiles each day and always said hello. We did get the odd towel animal which was fun. The cabin was always clean, everything sorted when we returned each time. We got used to turn down when the bed was made and the nexts days cruise news was there. When on the first trip we had a problem with the air conditioning it was fixed within an hour just as they said it would. 

I can see why people have a passion for cruising now. I have to say I am hooked. When you planning what might be your only ‘big’ holiday of the year, you want to enjoy it. Life is stressful and you do need that break, in my view. The whole ships company went along way to creating the right atmosphere to both enjoy and relax in. The attention to detail was for me the key. The small things added up. There is always things to improve, to refresh and tweak, but thats the same of anything. 

Would I recommend the Discovery? Yes, I would, given after my first cruise we booked the second the day after we got home. For this ship and company they created the passion for cruising in me. It is a very good way to visit parts of a country in comfort, while being looked after. Overall 10/10 excellent ship, company, entertainment, food, service and all. Well, done all.

Tagline: “Bon Voyage” 

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Passion for Entertainment 

Passion for Entertainment 

To stand on a stage, facing an unknown audience waiting for that first note must be both thrilling and slightly nerve-racking. At least I would feel that. The entertainment on board Discovery was nothing short of brilliant, breathtaking, wonderful and just dam good. 

I have had the pleasure to be entertained by the company on board Marella’s Discovery two times now and both have been superb. It has to be a difficult task to try and keep 1800 passengers happy over 7 days, given the vast differences. Yet the dancers, singers, bands and hosts do a remarkable job.

Each of the shows put on in the evening had such energy and enjoyment it was hard not feel uplifted. I must admit, some shows I had to watch twice on both cruises they were that good for me. Each of the shows in the main theatre, in my view, were West End productions.  Hard to do in such a small space and on a moving ship.

Musicals are great fun to watch. The show team put together a number of productions over the week. One show was called Best of Broadway ranging from Chicago to All that Jazz and Half a Sixpence ending with the Lion King. Really not easy to do but the changes not only in the songs but the costumes and pace was just right. Welcome to Cabaret was certainly right.

“Putting on the Glitz” combined the best of ballroom, latin dancing along with numerous well known songs. Hosted by a virtual Anton de Beck, the cast went through some outstanding routines. There was a buzz from the start, the cast basically beamed on stage and sang their hearts out. Even a wonderful Carman Miranda shook her banana’s. It is my favourite by a very small margin. 

Radio Ga Ga took yet another direction covering the 80’s and included one very special song ‘Whats Love Got to Do With It’ which includes Amy and Roland dancing, Bethany singing and the saxophonist Vernal. There is also humour in the performances as with Radio Ga Ga and wonderful take on Boy George. Additional there was Steel City with maybe the cheekiest performance of the Full Monty by the men.

The show team put everything into each performance, heart and soul reaching out to entertain everyone. But its not just the staged shows in the Broadway Show Lounge, they also sang classical works and host the farewell on the last night. Another element that showed just how talented each of the show team were. After each show, the team interacted with the passengers again adding to the feel of the ship.

But that was not all the entertainment. There were also a number of solo and band performances which meant you cold walk through the ship watching and listening to musical changes. B12 was often in the Live lounge again creating such a dynamic atmosphere allowing passengers to dance. Yes, I did attempt to dance but my hips often forgot to join in. You could see the sweat as the bands played their hearts out time and time again. They also interacted with the passengers not just in song and dance but in just the pleasure of meeting new people.

The hosts also added to the entertainment running quizzes, game shows and more. We had fun watching a four-handed play called ‘Cooking with Gus’ a straight forward comedy with some interesting twists. Spies like Us was one that involved the passengers trying to find out who might be a spy of course. And yes, it was very humorous with wonderfully silly jokes. Neverland, for the children, engaged everyone and once again made passengers smile. Especially when they were part of the play.  Even after doing all their work, when walking around the ship there was interaction with the passengers again keeping that uplifting spirit. It was a family feeling. 

All of this was under the watchful eye of the cruise director Gavin Carroll, himself full of energy and a duo with the Captain. There was so much entertainment at times you did not know what was best to see. In itself, that was good because they really tried to cater for everyone which has to be hugely difficult. Between all of the entertainers you could not help but be entertained, smile and enjoy yourself. The amount of times places were packed clearly showed how the balance was working. All of the teams in my view were talented, passionate to make the cruise memorable and fun. They did that in buckets time and time again, making it feel special. 

A credit to the Captain, Gavin, the ship and themselves.

Tagline: ‘One more time!’

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Passion for Dance

Passion for Dance

At the tender age of 14 or 15, my parents ‘encouraged’ me to attend ballroom dance classes. At the time, they had reached their gold medals in ballroom and wanted to show myself and my sister what we could do. My initial reaction to say the least, was not favourable. In fact, I could not see any good logical reason to join in.

How wrong I was, given I was one of only a few ‘men’ there I had to dance with other girls and ladies. I managed to get to bronze standard which I was rather proud of myself. Sadly, I went of to university and my dancing became very different.

Years later, in fact only recently, we decided on a cruise, something which I had wanted to do for sometime. On board the Marella Discovery the first evening, I watched the dance duo Amy and Roland engage with passengers to come up and dance. The couple were rather amazing to watch and it made me think of what I had missed.

We managed to say hello to Roland complimenting his dancing and how they both made people feel good about trying to waltz or foxtrot. I thought that would be it and we could watch them as we had a drink before one of the shows. Again I was mistaken in such a wonderful way. 

The following evening while waiting I had the pleasure and surprise to find Amy wanting to dance with myself, whilst Roland danced with my wife. It sounds corny maybe but, I throughly enjoyed that one simple waltz. Both Amy and Roland were patient, kind and explained everything needed. I was privileged and secretly pleased to have the chance to dance a few more times, even pushed a little which added to the fun.

There was much more to their performances, as they are part of the entertainment team. In a couple of the shows they allow us to see even more of their passion. In ‘Putting on the Glitz,’ they have a few numbers accompanied by one of the very talented singers and Vernal with his saxophone. All three created a vision. It was perfect, harmonious and just wonderful.

Amy and Roland certainly have a passion for dancing and that was shown in the number of people taking part. It was noted by a few the ballroom dancing I did, not however my dancing to the bands. That still needs work. A lot of work.

The whole cruise was so engaging that we booked another with the same ship and crew. We took a few dance classes to help make us feel a bit better and to prepare. 

The second cruise was even more fun, more dancing and attending the classes when possible along with up to 30 other couples. Each class hosted by Amy and Roland was fun  and really well organised, starting with the basic steps then adding music and finally dancing with your partner. Later in the evening we would get a chance to do that days dance and in the main I remembered it. Nearly. But that was all part of the fun and enjoyment. Because of that enjoyment, I wanted to learn more and I will continue to go to dance classes.

On the last night we danced quite a bit and I was honoured to dance with Amy a couple of times. Now when I listen to ‘The Bare Necessities of Life,’ it has such a different joyous feeling. Flying around the dance floor, (slow, slow, quick, quick, slow), I could see and fully understand why people still have such a passion.

To be able to do something you love, to have that passion and to create such dynamics between the passengers was wonderful to see and be part of. Dancing is enjoyable thats a fact pure and simple. The final memory to take was of course the Captain and some of staff on the dance floor on the last evening. Again, what fun and pleasure was had by all and the credit went to Amy and Roland.

Tagline: ‘Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow’ 

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Passion for Music

Passion for Music

Music. Sometimes you hear a song which just manages to reach inside you and hit that perfect spot. It just does not appear to need anything else. Many others will try and cover the same song putting their twist which leaves you returning the original. However, sometimes a group twists the song to created something amazing. 

In this instance, the song was the Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. The music and lyrics are amazing. Yet, to take that into a new realm is both difficult and challenging. This particular cover managed to recapture it for me.

You don’t often think that the cover itself can be bettered, that was about to be blown away.

There is nothing more uplifting, in my view, to hearing live music. It carries an element which has that something extra. During the past few days, whilst on our second cruise with the Discovery and her crew, we were privileged to listen to a duo known as Braxi Music. Max and Brandi, are an amazing vocal couple, able to cross many boundaries, creating their own sounds.

We had seen them as the Discovery sailed away from one of the ports through the Norwegian fiords. It was magical, their sound surrounding the splendour of Norway. Their voices echoed around the fiord as they treated us to an amazing range of classical and rock. The ship, passengers and crew were moved, I have no doubt. 

There was another chance to enjoy the duo. This time we were treated to their pure sound inside the Discovery. The main atrium, vibrated with their take on further rock classics again drawing us to them. There came a point when, without knowing, their version of the Sound of Silence began. Many have sung this song, yet as I mentioned only one other seemed to recreate it. Max and Brandi not only recreated but took it a different place. 

To hear live music, not a recording mind you which is amazing, but really hear it for me has that extra feeling. As they sang, I felt it engaged me. The music had feeling, power and a presence. The duo pushed the boundaries of the song, their essence took it just went another step higher. There was a silence as they sang, everyone watching had to listen it was that engaging. 

Knowing the song I was amazed as they carried us through the lyrics, making it their own. Their unique style was loud and clear, as barriers were broken and for me ripped to bits. The notes were so pure, the words given such emotion just on the edge. It was breathtaking.

There is a line within the song which has meant something to us this past year. I have to say for me, they brought a tear to the eye and to many others around me, not just with that one line but the whole performance. Their voices blended, separated and built as they complimented each other and the song itself. As the song finished you could feel the emotions from all around. It was amazing.

I had the pleasure of being able to talk to the duo and express my appreciation of the joy they created. Max and Brandi entertained the ship and like their music, went one step further. They interacted with everyone who spoke to them. Very warm couple who enjoyed the feedback from all. It was a joy to listen, watch and feel their musical performance. If you ever get the chance find their music, listen to them, enjoy. Thank you.

Tagline: ‘Passion for music’

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