What I’ve Done This Week #21…

Well, as predicted (albeit a little later than I had anticipated), my eighth and latest Jack and Patrick tale is done. A Rabbit, a Fairy, and a Fat Man in a Red Suit is 2,100 words and is about a few of those childhood tent poles that are so familiar in the western world.

It’s another fun conversation between those kids, and there’s still a lot of life left in their relationship. I have some other ideas for them, but I’ll put their next adventure on hold for a while.

I want to take a couple of days to get a few submissions out there. And when I say ‘a few’ I really mean ‘a shitload’, because editors are not going to publish my work if they don’t see it in their inbox.

And after that… Lord knows, I have a load of other stories to be getting on with.


Potted Retro Film Review: The Equalizer (2014)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz

What’s it all about?
Robert (Washington) is a former special agent who – upon the death of his wife – has given up those violent ways for a more peaceful life. He is a loner who spends his evenings quietly reading in his local coffee house, until lady of the night Alina (Moretz) finds herself in trouble with her pimp.

She is not really on screen for long, but Moretz does well here, and her character is the entire reason for the movement of the plot. Her black eye piques Robert’s curiosity, and before he knows it he is back doing what he does best.

The Equalizer is a cross between a vigilante superhero movie and an action thriller, not too far removed from the Bourne franchise. The fight scenes are creative, kinetic, and well-choreographed, and Washington plays the quiet bad-ass better than most, so it’s a lot of fun watching him take out the bad guys one by one.

Watching it with the kids…
The Equalizer is a very violent movie, prompting The Girlfriend© to shield her eyes at several moments. There’s a lot of blood coming out of lots of body parts, but it’s nothing that movies of this kind have not been doing for years. Language is strong yet appropriate for the type of movie being delivered here; and despite the thrust of the plot being about prostitution, there is no sex and no nudity.

The Equalizer is based on a fairly successful eighties cop show starring stiff-upper-lip English actor, Edward Woodward, so on first blush this seemed like an odd fit for Denzel, but he’s one of my favourite actors so I’m always willing to give him a shot. He does not disappoint here.

This almost entirely divorces itself from the source material, to the point where I have to wonder why it wasn’t just floated as an original vehicle for Washington in the first place, but nevertheless, this is a fine action movie in a well-mined genre. Plot-wise, it doesn’t offer anything new or surprising, but it does it all with confidence and imagination.

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An Unexpected Laugh…

Last night The Girlfriend© and I went to see English comedian, Bill Bailey. Full disclosure, we didn’t pay for the tickets – I have friends in high places – so it was not a show I had been looking forward to for any length of time. In fact, I only found out I was going a few days ago.

Bill Bailey has never been on my comedy radar. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy his performance when I was there, because as it turned out he was a lot funnier than I had previously thought. He’s a very clever man who utilises his wealth of historical knowledge to crack jokes and educate at the same time. He’s also a talented multi-instrumentalist, and there were moments when I thought he could just as easily rock out for a while, if he ever got tired of being funny.

He was on stage for ages too. Without a warm-up or support act, he introduced himself at 8pm and didn’t finish cracking jokes until very close to three hours later. There are a lot of comedians who would have been out of the arena and on the way back to their hotel when Bailey was just breaking for his intermission, so credit to him there.

So, Bill Bailey has a new fan, and the next time he makes his way up here… there’s a fair chance I’ll pay face value to go and see him.

Sleeping Like a Forest Full of Logs…

Altskeith Country House…

I don’t usually call out a hotel for excellence or quality of service – at least not publically – but I think in this case it is totally justified.

Altskeith Country House is a very small hotel sitting watch over Loch Ard, about 130 miles south of home. It’s not a cheap hotel by any means, but it is also not overly expensive either. The Girlfriend© and I stayed there on Sunday night, as we made our way back home after the Back to the Future excursion, and it was well worth the minor diversion required to get us there.

The greatest bed of all time…

I have travelled quite extensively, and as a result I have slept in a lot of different beds, in many hotels and guest house all across the world. Some of them have been fairly sub-standard; a few have been very good; but most of them are just average. You go to bed, fall asleep, and wake up a handful of hours later feeling moderately refreshed.

Not so at Altskeith.

The bed we had was so fantastically comfortable, that folding myself up under the quilt at the end of the day was far and away one of the highlights of the weekend. It was like slipping into a cloud… that was covered in marshmallows. In fact, the quilt was so cosy that The Girlfriend© went out of her way to find out what it was and how much it cost.

After her research, she came back to me with ‘goose down’, ‘eight hundred thread count’, and ‘a regular retail price of over £1,000’. A grand. For a quilt! That’s a little too rich for my blood, but I can certainly appreciate the owners going to those financial lengths to ensure that sleeping at Altskeith is not just something you do to recharge your batteries, but an experience you can hold up and point to as really rather special.

Am I overselling it? Not really. You go there (Room 4, if you’re interested, although I’m sure all the rooms have been afforded the same attention). I dare you to come back and tell me different.

But as great as it was, I just couldn’t have that at home… I’d never be able to get up for work in the morning.

The view – pity about the weather…

What I’ve Done This Week #20…

I didn’t squeeze a great deal of words into my week, primarily because about half of it was taken up with a long weekend away, travelling around Scotland. But I’m certainly not complaining about that – it was a fantastic and much-needed break.

That said, I did manage to add enough to A Rabbit, A Fairy, and a Fat Man in a Red Suit, to put me in the home stretch, and I fully expect to have this one done and dusted within the week.

Not much else to say really.

Onwards, upwards. Climb the mountain.

Seeing Some Serious Shit, at 88 Miles Per Hour…

The screen and orchestra, from my seat…

On Saturday night I went with The Girlfriend© to see Back to the Future in Concert at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. She purchased the tickets as a birthday present for me because she knows that (spoiler alert) Back to the Future is one of my favourite movies.

To see it for the first time on the big screen along with a couple of thousand other fans was certainly a great moment for me, and one I won’t forget. I was a little disappointed that nobody was dressed up as Doc Brown, or sporting a red life preserver like Marty McFly, but I wasn’t about to waste the opportunity, so I sat down with my nerdy movie-specific tee shirt.

Having said that I was initially apprehensive about how it was going to work – about how the orchestral score was going to be integrated into what was happening on screen – but The Royal Scottish National Orchestra performed the music with gusto and did not let me or the legacy of the movie down. They were absolutely flawless. For a lot of the running time I actually forgot those few dozen people with the instruments were even there, and it was only when they began playing again that I remembered. The orchestra just became a part of the whole experience… and I guess that’s the point.

As a new twist on an old experience, this is hard to beat, and one that I heartily recommend to new and old fans. I don’t think anyone should see Back to the Future for the first time in this manner though, just because it is something a little different. It’s like watching the bonus features on a DVD, or seeing the movie from another angle.

But then again, if you haven’t seen Back to the Future yet, what the hell are you waiting for?

What I’ve Done This Week #19…

I’m halfway home with Jack and Patrick’s latest adventure – A Rabbit, A Fairy, and a Fat Man in a Red Suit – and it’s looking good so far. It may be the best one yet. Give me a few more days and I’ll have the framework of a first draft.

I’ve been thinking some more about the possibility of, one day, connecting all these Jack and Patrick stories with some kind of through-line – thereby making each short story a chapter in a longer work.

I know it will be difficult because each piece stands alone; a vaccuum within the larger world of the friendship of those two young boys. Although all of their stories share the same two protagonists, there is very little in the way of character development or plot movement between beginning and end.

That’s fine for what these pieces are at the moment, but it may feel like it lacks depth if I ever wave my magic wand and turn them into a novella.