Saturday 28 May 2005

Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon ManorThe Bell in Chearsley

Took my Aunt and the kids out to visit Waddesdon Manor. It's a stunning Renaissance-style chateau built by Baron Ferndinand de Rothschild in 1874 and still filled with a fabulous collection of furniture, porcelain and other decorative arts. It's a definitive example of opulence. To get in, I went ahead and purchased a family membership to the National Trust so we'll be visiting more of these grand houses.

On the way home, my out-of-date but trusty "Good Pub Guide" recommended "The Bell" in Chearsley so we dropped by and had dinner. The recommendation is well deserved. It's an archetypal country pub that's friendly and serves good homely food. The garden is perfect for young children.

Friday 27 May 2005

Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2000)

The title translates to "Love's A Bitch". Appropriate for a downbeat movie set in Mexico City that loosely links three storylines of love and tragic loss. The opening storyline is particularly violent and immediately gets you involved. All three stories are intense and well paced. The acting and filming is all good. If you like pain, this is a movie for you.

However, I found the movie quite fragmented as it tried to weave between storylines without adequately bringing them together by the end. It's confusing and lacks integration as you shift gears when the story switches. The thesis is that "you are also what you have lost" and all the main characters suffer loss of one kind or another. It's the antithesis of most Hollywood films by leaving you drained and depressed at the end.

Warning: the brutal dog fighting scenes might be upsetting.

Blog Time

This blog has been a bit quiet. I've got a house full of guests and the kids are off on half term. While I've got lots to blog about, I haven't found much time to write it up. Stay tuned.

Thursday 19 May 2005

Kiki's Delivery Service (Hayao Miyazaki, 1989)

A straight-forward charming animation about a young witch growing up. It's one of the earlier films by Hayao Miyazaki. You can see his trademark of truly life-like child animation developing which he later extends in "Princess Monoke" and "Spirited Away". It's a bit odd in that you have completely Japanese characters in a totally European town and culture. Nevertheless, kids will love it and adults can appreciate the artistry.

Wednesday 18 May 2005

Warburg Nature Reserve

BluebellsWarburg Walk

Last Sunday we went for a picnic and walk around the Warburg Nature Reserve just north of Henley-on-Thames. It's run by the Berkshire Buckinghamshire Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. Very nice place and well organised with a visitor's center, well marked paths and bird watching blinds. We got a chance to catch the last of the bluebells that carpet England this time of year.

Wednesday 11 May 2005

Miracle Jesus Face In Cake

Notch up another bizarre item on ebay. Read the questions and answers too. I've now got a great idea for Jenny's future career...

Musical Milestone

The children's music lessons finally seem to be paying off. Yesterday, both kids worked out the notes to play "Once A Man Fell In A Well" and then played the song together as a piano/cornet duet! No prompting; they just did it. Put a big smile on my face.

Meanwhile, R* is learning to play "God Save The Queen". Getting tired of jumping up to attention all the time. :-)

Tuesday 10 May 2005

Carter's Steam Fair

OctopusEvery year a small fair sets up on the local green and stays for a weekend. It's one of the sure signs that summer isn't far away. We took the kids and a new friend of R*. R* is dead keen on going on all the stomach wrenching rides now but at only 1.3m tall, she's doesn't reach most minimum height restrictions. I'd like to take her on the rollercoasters at Thorpe Park. Meanwhile, K* has summoned up the courage to say he wants to go on the rollercoasters at Legoland. I'm going to try him out this Friday.

Brookleas Trout Farm

Trout FishingA couple of weeks ago, I took the kids trout fishing at the Brookleas Trout Farm over near Wantage. You can hire a rod and tackle for £2.50 and then pay for whatever you catch. No casting needed. Only took about forty minutes to catch four good-sized trout. R* caught two and K* caught two. For bait we just used sweet corn - no wriggling worms! R* didn't like watching me kill the fish with three whacks to the head. I honestly felt a bit bad doing it too and was on the verge of saying prayers to the Great Trout Spirit.

Part of the deal was the kids were now obliged to eat what they had caught. Unfortunately, the fish tasted a bit "muddy". I guess that's what happens when they're raised in a muddy pond. "You are what you swim in".

Friday 6 May 2005

MSN Spaces

I've just set up own MSN Spaces blog site. I'm not planning to blog there much but I like the way the pictures get integrated with MSN Messenger. If we're on each others MSN Messenger contact list and you're running version 7 or higher, you can just click on my picture to see them. Nice integration and secure too.

Thursday 5 May 2005

UK Election Day 2005

I've decided to vote for the Liberal Democrats. It's mostly through a process of elimination. Labour - no. Conservatives - no. Greens not an effective option at this point. My constituency is only a race between Lib Dems and Conservatives so I fall on the side of the Lib Dems. Time to go mark my ballot.

I predict that the voter turn out will be quite poor but that Labour will win but with only a small majority. Opposition parties will be much stronger. Contention between Blair and Brown will increase unless Blair goes within a year.

Wednesday 4 May 2005

The Amber Spyglass (Philip Pullman, 2000)

I always find it a bit sad coming to the end of a novel you really enjoyed. If it's good, you don't want it to end. Even more so when the ending is so traumatic.

I've finished The Amber Spyglass which is last of the Philip Pullman "His Dark Materials" trilogy. It's been a long time since I've been so thoroughly engrossed in a novel. If you've ever enjoyed the fantasy genre, then I would highly recommend it. But it's not a hum drum fantasy story; far more imaginative than that! It blends adventure, modern physics, theology and cosmology. Fabulous.

I've read that the trilogy is an interpretation of Paradise Lost (1667) by John Milton. I don't know it but I know it's something I probably should know more about. Pullman sold the movie rights to New Line Cinema so you might get to see it on the big screen if you don't read the book.

Now  if you're a faithful Christian, there's a good chance you'll find this trilogy offensive. Just check out some of the 700+ comments on Amazon. To me, the story is a humanist fable that promotes the idea that you don't need a God to find meaning in life. Celebrate life here and now in our metaphorical Republic of Heaven (interview). A more interesting theological interview can be found here. In his own words:

So what I’m looking for is a way of thinking of heaven that restores these senses of rightness and goodness and connectedness and meaning and gives us a place in it. But because there ain’t no elsewhere, that has got to exist in the only place we know about for sure which is this earth, and we’ve got to make our world as good as we possibly can for one another and for our descendants. That’s what I mean by a republic of heaven.

So you can read this book as an adventure or a story about growing up or construct deeper interpretations.

Now if only I could find my daemon!