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The remains of Fountains Abbey and its surrounding land and property have been combined with the Studley Royal Estate to make a wonderful property just west of Ripon in North Yorkshire. Now owned by the National Trust, this 822 acre site attracts over a quarter of a million visitors each year. However, because of the huge size of the site it never seems crowded and the tranquil setting makes it a great place to relax and unwind. The abbey was founded in 1132, following a dispute between the monks at St Mary’s Abbey in York, after which 13 monks were exiled and given the land on the banks of the River Skell. As you now walk around the magnificent ruins you can appreciate how the order grew and the wealth generated by the monks was put back into the wonderful buildings. There are free guided tours around the abbey and I would really recommend that you try to join one of these tours as the graphic descriptions of life for the monks by the tour guides make you appreciate the ruins so much more. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539 the buildings very quickly fell into disrepair as the lead and glass were stolen from the roof and windows for other local buildings. (Henry VIII encouraged the removal of lead from the roofs of monasteries.) After leaving the ruins of the abbey there is still so much more to see on the estate. There are some very impressive water gardens that were built in the 18th century by the Aislabie family, including the moon pond with its flanking crescent basins. The walk from the abbey ruins to these ponds follow a picturesque canal with small cascades along its route. On a clear bright morning this is a lovely walk and a few slices of bread for the ducks and swans makes you very popular. All around the water gardens are small buildings and follies that have been built over the past 800 years of the estates history and every building has its own characteristics, from t he Splendid Temple of Piety to the hidden Serpentine Tunnel. Beyond the water gardens is the massive expanse of the deer park. So much of this is often not seen by visitors as the area is so big. Over 500 deer graze in this area, made up of Red, Sika and Fallow deer. Some of the huge deer with massive antlers are a very impressive sight. The deer do not run and hide and it is possible to wander quite close to the animals, although you must remember that these are wild animals and should not be approached too closely. Away from all this fresh air there is a visitor centre, two shops, two restaurants, and refreshment kiosks, so there is no need to go hungry or thirsty. There is also plenty of car parking space and excellent facilities for any disabled visitors. Throughout the year the estate also runs a full programme of events and activities aimed at all age groups, with many different interests. Entrance to the abbey and deer park is £4.50 (children £2.30) with free parking, or you can visit just the deer park where there is just a £2 car parking charge. I can highly recommend a visit to Fountains Abbey and it is certainly worth putting aside a full day for your day out. My own preference would be to take a picnic and enjoy the open space of the deer park for lunch.
This film is set during 1916 (First World War), in the Somme Valley, Northern France. The story of the film follows the two days prior to the Battle of the Somme, which was the most severe defeat that the British Army has ever had. The film is well made, although it is not an action, war film. The film depicts how the mood of the men in the British Army, stationed in the trenches, changes between boredom, fear, anticipation and anger as they wait day after day for the battle to commence. There is a lot of swearing in the film, and some gory shots, so this is not a film for younger or delicate viewers. The main characters of the film are Billy McFarlane (played by Paul Nicholls), his brother Eddie McFarlane (played by Tam Williams), Sergeant Telford Winter (played by Daniel Craig) and Lieutenant Ellis Harrte (played by Julian Rhind-Tutt). The interaction between these characters is well depicted and the acting is excellent. Where I feel that the film fails a bit is in the actual environment of the trenches. Everything is very clean and dry, the men are all clean shaven, they all seem well fed and overall living conditions do not seem bad at all. However, I do not believe that was at all how conditions were. Ever other account of life in the trenches seems to tell of filth, illness and hunger. I suppose by ignoring these conditions it does allow the film to concentrate on the thoughts of the men and the relationships between them, which it does really well. To fully appreciate the film it is best if you know a little about the battle, as at times it is assumed that you realise the implications of an event. I found that I was often having to explain to our youngest son why something had happened, or what this would mean later. Don’t wait for a great big battle scene, because the start of the battle is the end of the film. Although this is an interesting and well made film, it is not one that I would rush to see again.
Working in a college computer centre all day, every day, is not the most healthy of environments, with the constant hum of cooling fans and the heat from the monitors. So I decided that I needed to do something contrasting as a means of relaxation and enjoyment, preferably with some fresh air. Last year I built a patio in our back garden, which took a few months to complete, but this year I thought I would try something more organised. During a visit to a National Trust country park (Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire) I saw a leaflet giving details of working holidays on National Trust properties. These holidays sounded quite interesting so I logged onto their web site to get some more details. (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/volunteers) There is a whole collection of different holidays all around the country (not Scotland) to suit people of different abilities and with different interests. The activities vary from maintaining coastal paths in Devon, dry stone walling in North Wales, clearing scrub land in the Midlands, taking part in an archaeological dig in the Lake District and many more conservation and construction projects all around the country. There are working holidays at 140 National Trust locations throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The holidays are either for a week or a weekend. Each of the full week holidays is coded to give an indication of the type of work undertaken on the holiday (i.e. Conservation, Archaeological, Construction etc.), and also for the age group that the holiday would be most suitable for. The weekend holidays are a mixture of activities and generally suit all adult age groups. All this information can be read on the web site, or you can send for a free glossy brochure from the National Trust, giving all of the details. For each of the holidays there is then a more detailed description of the work to be undertaken during your stay, and the dates of each holiday. There is also a descript ion of the accommodation that you will be staying in. Most of the accommodation is farmhouse type buildings that have been converted specifically for these type holidays and have single sex bedrooms. For each holiday they attempt to get a good mix of people from different backgrounds and experience. Normally about a dozen people on each holiday. You are not allowed to book more than two places, so that it will be a mixture of individuals and couples, not groups. My wife decided that this was not really for her, but encouraged me to go on one if I wanted to. Perhaps she just wanted a break from hearing the tap, tap, tap of a computer keyboard. After a long study of the available holidays I decided to try a weekend first, just in case I didn’t like it and so I made a note of a few that appealed to me. I then telephoned the National Trust booking service where a very polite gentleman dealt with my enquiry. After checking that a place was available I was booked onto my first choice holiday. The procedure was very easy and the staff were very efficient. I paid by credit card and the cost of the weekend (Friday to Sunday) was £27, which includes all of the food and accommodation. (The cost for a full week is usually about £54). My choice of weekend was at the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Estate, near Ripon in Yorkshire. I was given a booking reference number and told that a confirmation pack would be sent to me within 7 - 10 days, containing all of the details of the holiday including arrival times, travel instructions and an essential kit list. After two weeks I telephoned the National Trust and was told that there had been a general problem with sending out confirmation letters and that they were now clearing the backlog and I should receive mine within the next 3 – 4 days. The next day I did receive a letter confirming my booking, which stated that the joining instructions etc. would be sent to me shortly. Whether th is was as a result of my telephone call, or just a coincidence I am not sure. A couple of weeks later my information pack arrived which gave a lot more details of the weekend, a glossy booklet (Essential Information) and a safety leaflet. The booklet gives all the information you require for the holiday including a kit list. Amongst the other information is a request form if you require picking up from the nearest train station. There is also a contact name, phone number and address if you require any further information. In all, this pack contained everything I needed to know for the weekend. Two weeks before the working weekend a lady called Karen telephoned me to make sure I had received all the information and if I had any questions. This lady was to be the team leader for the weekend. The team leaders are also volunteers, but have the additional role of looking after the welfare of the other volunteers. A full time member of staff from The National Trust would look after the work task for the weekend. This personal approach was appreciated and after a chat about the weekend I told her that I had all the information I needed and looked forward to meeting her and the others for the weekend. On the Friday of my chosen weekend I was wondering what I had let myself in for. The wind was a howling gale and snow was forecast for Yorkshire. However, I set off up the A1 towards Ripon. After a stop at the town of Ripon I went on to Fountains Abbey to find the cottage where we would be staying. The directions I had been sent were very accurate and took me through the dear park of the estate to the cottage. It seemed strange driving around the estate going along roads marked strictly for “Estate Vehicles Only” and passing the herds of dear only a few yards from the road side. I was one of the first volunteers to arrive and I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cottage. It was a large two store y stone cottage, which was very spacious and spotlessly clean. Karen, the group leader introduced herself and showed me to the men’s dormitory to choose my bunk. The beds were bunk beds, but full adult size, with plenty of storage space and central heating. A number of the volunteers were late arriving due to the atrocious weather conditions and a lot of problems for those travelling by train. However, when everybody was together there was a terrific atmosphere and it was obvious that everybody was going to get on. During the weekend everybody joined in with the cooking, washing up etc. and because everybody was keen to help with all of these jobs they were quickly undertaken, with the work being spread between the whole group. John was the organiser from the National Trust who was in charge of our work for the weekend. Our main tasks all weekend were related to Woodland Management. We were clearing fallen trees, thinning undergrowth and building huge bonfires to get rid of the unwanted wood and foliage. There was a fantastic atmosphere all weekend and the whole group got on really well. The work was fairly hard, but we had regular breaks and if anybody wanted a rest, there was no pressure on them to work on. The banter and laughter within the group made it so enjoyable. It did seem strange how we all became such great friends in such a short space of time, but the common goals we had and the type of work very quickly produced some very good bonding. Most of the group members had full time jobs that were totally different from anything we did during the weekend and this obviously was one of the great attractions for everybody. It certainly was for me and was a very refreshing change. The ages of the group varied from 21 to 64 (six men and six ladies) and most of the group had not been on one of these holidays before. The weather on the Saturday was very cold and it did snow, but none of th is seemed to matter. Everybody had waterproofs (either their own or provided by the National Trust) and the physical work ensured that nobody felt the cold. At the end of the day the return to our homely cottage and hot showers began an evening of laughter and frivolity that carried on to the early hours of the morning. At the end of our work on the Sunday, John was kind enough to give a full guided tour of Fountains Abbey and his extensive knowledge and the Abbey and the Estate rounded off a very enjoyable weekend. I am sure that I will be going on another one of these weekends and choosing another one of the National Trust properties, probably in a different part of the country. I suppose that the weekend does very much depend on the make-up of the group and the leaders, but in our case it was a fantastic group and two very good leaders (Karen and John). I can highly recommend these weekends to anyone who enjoys getting out in the fresh air and doesn’t mind a bit of physical work. It is a totally stress-free refreshing break.
I was surfing around the BBC web site when I came across their audience ticket section. I had never been to see a television programme being recorded and I thought this would be a very interesting experience for us as a family to go and see. There was a choice of about half a dozen different shows that tickets were available for and these could be ordered on-line or by post. (All of the tickets are free). Web site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/whatson/tickets/index.shtml The web page showed details of the dates, times and locations that the programmes were being recorded, plus any limitations, such as minimum age etc. There is also a comprehensive description of what the programme is all about. After a family discussion we decided to apply for a programme called “Best Inventions”. This is a show where three inventors compete against each other for a prize, which will help them to get their invention into the shops. At the end of the show the audience vote for a winner. This show is broadcast on BBC 1 on Wednesday evenings at 7.30pm. It is presented by Katy Hill (my children tell me she used to present Blue Peter) and Trevor Baylis (the inventor of the clockwork radio.) The web page also stated that for this show the audience stand throughout the recording of the programme and that this would be on metal mesh floors, so warm clothing and low-heeled rubber soled shoes had to be worn. The recordings are on Saturday and Sunday evenings, with two shows being recorded on each date. We applied for four tickets for a 4.00pm recording on a Saturday evening. We then waited in anticipation to see if our application would be successful. The show is recorded at a restored Edwardian water pumping station in Twickenham, Middlesex. This is called the Triple Expansion Engine House and it has been painstakingly restored by a group of volunteers over a four year period. The trust that runs it, rents it out to television and film companies and the plan is that the working Engine House will eventually be opened to the public on selected weekends of the year. Three days after ordering our tickets they arrived, with a few more details about the recording of the programme along with very detailed directions of how to get to the pumping station and where to park our car. We were also given a telephone number to ring before setting out on our journey to confirm that filming was actually going to take place at the time on the tickets. On the tickets it stated that the doors would open 45 minutes before the filming started, but also stated that admission was on a first-come, first-served basis. It was explained that not everybody who receives the tickets uses them. So to achieve a full house they have to distribute more tickets than there are places for. This did concern us a little bit, but also made us determined to arrive in plenty of time. On the day of the recording we rang the telephone message service, where a recorded message told us that the programme was going to be recorded on time. We then set off on our journey down the M1 motorway to Twickenham. The directions were excellent and after a three hour journey we found the pumping station easily. On our arrival the first impression we got was just how big the organisation for this programme really was. There were BBC lorries all over the place and so many people around. A member of the crew directed us to a marquee (The Green Room) where there were free soft drinks for anyone who wanted them. There were plenty of chairs to sit down, plus there were a number of monitors playing recordings about the three inventions that we were going to see in the show. These pieces obviously had been recorded previously and edited into extracts that were going to be used during the show. Members of the production crew were talking to members of the audience and we soon realised that they were priming these people to ask questions as part of the show. As we did not want to do this, we quietly sat and waited, but it was obvious that they had a set list of the correct “mix” of people for these questions and we did not fit the criteria. In fairness, we were later told that anybody could ask a question, but they did need to make the production team aware of this beforehand. After a while the family and friends of the inventors were ushered away to the pumping station and soon after the people who had been chosen to ask questions were also led off for a briefing, and to be positioned in the right place. The Producer of the show then came to talk to us about the show and our role in the recording. We were made to feel very welcome and I was very pleasantly surprised at how much effort was made to explain everything to us and how we ended up feeling very much a part of the whole process and not just a decoration in the background. We were then taken to the pumping station, which is a very impressive building with most of the huge pumping equipment still in place, which obviously makes an excellent back drop for the recording of the show. Our earlier fears of maybe not getting into the show were unfounded as everybody got in to see the recording. The audience are all around the building and everybody has a good view of what is going on. We stood on the upper balcony where there was an excellent view of everything. On entering the building we had each been given a handset which looked like a television remote control unit. This was going to be used when it came to the time to vote at the end of the show. Some of the later people to come in did not get a voting unit, and the family and friends of the inventors were not allowed to vote. We were introduced to the Floor Manager who explained everything that was going to happen, and again made us feel very much an important part of the whole show. There was then about ten minutes when a “ warm-up” man entertained us and we practised applauding etc. Before going to the show I had not been very keen on the idea of being told when to applaud, but very quickly it seemed the right thing to do, and during the show it always came when you wanted to applaud anyway. We had some practice voting sessions with the remote units so that they could test that everything was working properly. During all of this warm-up session we were told that the cameras would be recording so that they had some general shots of the audience. The warm-up guy was very good and entertaining and soon we were ready for the recording. When you watch a television programme you can never be sure what the presenters are really like in “real” life, so were intrigued to see what Katy Hill and Trevor Baylis were like. Katy Hill was absolutely brilliant. She is obviously a natural presenter and seemed genuinely very enthusiastic about the inventors and their inventions. She was quite happy to talk to the audience and was just as pleasant and funny when not recording as when the cameras were on her. She was also a perfectionist and was quite happy to re-record anything to make sure it was right. I am sure that Trevor Baylis is a very good inventor, but I am afraid that he did not impress us as a television presenter. We did not see him talk to anyone “off camera” and his enthusiasm for the inventions did not seem very genuine at all. However, we had thought this when we had previously watched the programmes and being at the recording reinforced this for us. The three inventions that we saw were: 1) A rotary washing line that was attached to a motor so that the washing would dry even when there was no wind. 2) A toaster that had a built in sensor to detect when the toast was ready, to ensure that never again would anybody get burnt toast. 3) A camera system that fits into the rear view mirror of a car to record events in the cas e of an accident. Each inventor was introduced to us and then a pre-recorded was film was shown with all the details and history of the invention. At this point you realise that an awful lot of work has already been done on the production of this show, probably over quite a long time period of time prior to the recording of the programme. After the film the audience then ask questions to the inventors and these are introduced by Katy Hill. During the show there is also a film shown about a famous inventor and for us it was about the inventor of Meccano, Horny trains and Dinky toys, Frank Hornby. This was shown on a couple of large screens for everybody to see. After seeing all three inventions we were asked to vote on our choice for a winner. My wife and I voted for the toaster, but both of our sons voted for the in-car camera. I shall not tell you which one was the winner, that is for you to find out if you watch the programme. Unfortunately they did not tell us when the programme will be broadcast, so we shall have to make sure we watch every programme (and record them, of course!) If you happen to see the programme I described, then do look out for me (you may have seen my photo on my profile). We are standing on the upper level, in the middle above the large screen. The whole event was very interesting and entertaining. We have been “bitten by the bug” now and already we are talking about which programme we are going to apply to watch next. I don’t know if our experience is typical of television show recordings, but certainly for us we had a great time and are very pleased we went. Although this is only a small show we were amazed by the shear volume of equipment involved and the huge number of people that it takes to put together one 30 minute television programme. This is an experience we shall remember for quite some time.
I normally enjoy thriller films but I am afraid that I found this movie very disappointing. As with most aircraft type disaster films the first ten minutes of the film were spent introducing us to the passengers as they made their way to the airport for flight 285 from Phoenix to JFK airport. It was the usual mix of an old couple, a man in a wheelchair, an arguing couple and of course a small child. But unknown to the passengers as they boarded the aircraft, was that at the back of the plane two FBI agents were guarding a convicted murderer as he was being transferred between prisons. The murderer, Peter Cronin, is played by Anthony Michael Hall, but even his great acting is not enough to bring alive this film. The plot is very laboured and moves along at a very slow pace. Two armed friends of his release Cronin from the FBI agents and together the three of them hijack the plane and demand to be taken to Dallas. His fellow hijackers are Andrew Leary (played by James Lancaster) and Shayna Loring (played by Hudson Leick). Hudson Leick is very attractive and she is really the only highlight of the film. Peter Cronin uses the aircraft’s telephone to call his old FBI adversary Frank Layton (played by Perry King) and demands that Layton is joined by FBI negotiator Deni Patton (played by Ally Sheedy) and they should both be at Dallas Airport when the plane lands. The plot then follows the battle of power between the hijackers and these two FBI agents and very little else happens in the film. After a very slow pace throughout the whole film the ending seems to suddenly come along and the film finishes. You just feel cheated and find yourself saying “Is that it”? I kept watching this film hoping that it would get better, but I now know that it doesn’t and so it is a film that I will not bother to watch again. The acting is not too bad, it is just a shame that the actors did not h ave better material to work with. I would recommend you give this film a miss.
This is an excellent film that I am sure we will watch over and over again. The basic story line is that a meteor has crashed onto Earth and ended up in a cave complex. On the meteor were some single cell creatures that very quickly start to evolve and adapt to the Earth’s atmosphere and climate. Soon the creatures will develop so much that within two months they will over run the whole of the United States of America and probably mark the end of mankind. Two lecturers from the local community college (Glencanyon) investigate the meteor landing, as Harry Bloc (played by Orlando Jones) is the local representative of the United States Geological Survey. (He signed up on the Internet!) His partner is Dr Ira Crane (played by David Duchovny), who has a hidden past, when he worked for a government scientific investigation department. The film is very funny and the chemistry between Orlando Jones and David Duchovny is excellent. There are a whole series of one-line, throw-away jokes, many of which I am sure I missed on this first viewing. The creatures in the film are superb. Obviously as the plants and animals are evolving on a planet that is alien to them, they will develop to a whole new collection of species that we have not seen before. This allowed the special effects people to use their full imagination in creating some wonderful creatures, with some very strange eating habits. The plot is entwined with an attraction between Dr Crane and Allison Reed (played by Julianne Moore), who is an attractive government science advisor. There is also Wayne Green (played by Seann William Scott) a trainee fireman who witnessed the meteor landing and General Russell Woodman (played by Ted Levine) who just wants to burn the whole area with Napalm. There is some really good, funky music in the film and the ending of the film is as bizarre as it is funny. A synopsis of the film (aliens taking over the world) does not sound very inviting, but this really is a film worth watching for a good laugh and some very clever special effects. The acting in the film is very good and the star for me is definitely Orlando Jones. Playing the part of the bored college tutor, who suddenly has the opportunity of fame and fortune, his portray is excellent. I can highly recommend this light hearted, very entertaining comedy film.
The beginning and ending of this film are set in the year 2029, although the story relates to a fictitious event in the year 1993. Ten years before this time a physicist, Dr Peter Crawford, (played by Dennis Hopper) had discovered part of a comet that was heading towards Earth. This asteroid was so large that it would be drawn into the moon and the impact would send thousands of fragments to Earth where human life would be destroyed. He named this asteroid Tycus and published his findings in a number of scientific journals. He was not believed by the scientific community, so he turned his attention elsewhere. Crawford went to a number of millionaires around the world and showed his work to them. His plan was to build a large underground complex that could survive the impact of the asteroid and for the donation of large sums of money he promised the millionaires a place in this complex where they could survive and emerge later to re-establish life on Earth. For ten years he worked on this project and managed to keep the whole affair a secret. However, he had employed a journalist, Stan Alton (played by Chick Vennera) to record the whole project. As part of the deal Alton had agreed to disappear without trace, but as the doomsday approached he contacted his best friend Jake Lowe (played by Peter Onorati) and told him to come to the complex. Lowe worked for a newspaper that specialised in Sci-Fi stories and he could not resist the draw of this big story. The film follows the events of the last few days before the asteroid is due to hit and how the people in the underground complex are preparing themselves for years of solitude existence, knowing that all of their friends and relatives would have been killed during the impact or in the devastation that followed. There are some good effects in the film and these are mixed well with real footage of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Each person in the complex has been allowed to bring two people with them, so there are a lot of personal stories of people left behind. The character of Jake Lowe is the main part in this film but this character is very mixed, as a cross between an ex military man and a photojournalist. This means that often he is fighting rather than asking questions and this does not add to the credibility of the film. The film does also lack credibility for a number of other reasons, in particular with the family of Dr Crawford that are not aware of what he has been doing for the past ten years and ask no questions at all when he takes them to the complex. Also after ten years nobody else in the world has seen this asteroid approaching except for this one guy! Although this film is OK you do get the feeling that the writers were much better at the scientific side of the story, rather than the human interest. Perhaps a good dose of reality would have helped the story along. Also as you have seen the survivors in the first shot of the film, there is no tension as to whether the plan will succeed or not. For real sci-fi fans I am sure they would enjoy this film. It was OK, but I wouldn’t bother to watch it a second time.
When I saw that Mel Gibson was in this film I thought it would be a good one to watch. But, unfortunately I was wrong. This is a very early Mel Gibson film and at the time that it was made he was not even listed as a leading actor, but the film makers have taken advantage of his later fame by now ‘upgrading’ his position in the advertising credits. The film is set in 1945 during the Second World War in the islands of the South Pacific. An aircraft has crashed on one of the islands and an elite fighting force of the Australian Army has been sent in to rescue any survivors. Captain Paul Kelly (played by Mel Gibson) leads the group of five men from Attack Force Z. Only Kelly knows the identity of the important person on the aircraft that they either have to rescue or kill. I could tell you who it is, but then I would just have to kill you! There is a lot of killing in the film, but it is not a ‘blood and guts’ film and most of the killing is ‘clean’. There is also no bad language at all. The island is occupied by the Japanese army and inhabited by the Chinese. During the film there are a lot of Japanese and Chinese conversations, but none of these are sub-titled. I know it is normally obvious what the conversation is probably about, but I do think it would have been better with a translation, as some of these conversations were quite lengthy. The acting in the film is pretty good and the story line plays on the intrigue of the orient and the indecision of the Chinese as to whether they should support the Australians or the Japanese. Apart from this interest the rest of the story is fairly bland and mostly predictable. The soundtrack of the film is awful. Rather than scene-setting or background music, it is very distracting and at times very silly. The choice of music was not at all well made. Although I did manage to watch to the end of the film I was glad that it was no longer th an 84 minutes. I shall not watch this film again and I am afraid I cannot recommend it to anybody else, not even for the most ardent of Mel Gibson fans.
Hidden away amongst the many attractions of Cheddar Gorge in Somerset is the Toy and Model Museum. This museum is set back from the road behind a model shop, in a quaint cottage built in 1667. This very small museum only consists of two rooms of the cottage, although you do get the impression from the outside that it is much larger. Admission is £1.50 for adults and 75p for children. I know this is not a lot of money to pay, but it did seem a little bit dear for the size of the museum, I think £1 and 50p would have been more realistic. The museum has a collection of model cars, trains, dolls houses and old metal toys, mostly dating from around 1950 – 1980. When I was young, my brothers and I bought and played with a large number of matchbox and similar model cars. As we looked around this museum all I seemed to keep saying was ‘I had that one’. Of course the cars in the museum are in very good condition, many with their original boxes, compared to the ones that we had that became very battered and scratched. The cars are well displayed in glass cabinets, but what we did find disappointing was that there was no information given about any of the cars. I would have liked to have seen such information as the year of production, the original price, where it was made and details of any limited editions. Maybe this information was not available for all of the toys, but I am sure they could have found out some of the information. By using the name ‘museum’ it does imply that it will be a source of information, not just a collection. There are model trains set up on two track layouts, with the trains running continuously and these layouts have been very well made with many accessories added to make them look realistic. There are also additional models (of different scales and gauge) displayed on the shelves around the layouts. In the display of old metal toys there are model metal soldiers, Meccano sets, a tin typewriter (I had one of those!) and a number of other intriguing toys from about 30 – 40 years ago. It only took us about 20 minutes to see everything in the museum and although it brought back a lot of childhood memories for me, overall it was a little disappointing. There did seem to be plenty of models and toys in the collection and I feel these would have been better displayed in a larger environment. I would like to think that in time the museum would grow and more information would be added, but I got the feeling on our visit that this was not going to be the case. If you played with model cars when you were young, or if you now collect cars, then I think you will find this museum interesting. Just don’t expect to stay for too long.
This film is set in March 1991in Iraq, at the end of the Gulf War. Whilst most of the American soldiers are preparing for their return home to the United States, a few are more interested in looking for a stash of stolen gold bullion to steal in order to change their lives for ever. An Iraqi prisoner is found to be hiding a map which seems to show where the gold bullion is hidden and so a motley group of American soldiers go in search of the gold. The group is led by Major Archie Gates, a Special Forces officer (played by George Clooney). The other members of the group are Sergeant Troy Barlow (played by Mark Wahlberg), Conrad Vig (played by Spike Jonze) and Chief Elgin (played by Ice Cube). Without George Clooney I think this film would have been a lot poorer. He plays the role of the rebel officer really well and is very convincing as the all-conquering force when the team enter the Iraqi village that is hiding the secret bunker where the gold bullion is stored. The film shows how becoming a soldier and fighting in a war can change men, but how they still have deep humanitarian feelings when it counts. The story shows the interaction between the American soldiers, the Iraqi Republican Guard, the local civilians and the freedom fighters. What started as a very obvious task of stealing the gold soon becomes complicated as the men are caught up in the freedom fight and the brutality of the Iraqi soldiers. The film does include brutal killings and torture and I would not recommend it for anybody a bit sensitive and definitely not for young children. There is also a lot of swearing in the film. (The film is rated 15). There are some excellent special effects and stunts in the film that add a good dose of realism. However, there are one of two strange camera effects that I really couldn’t make my mind up if I liked them or not. At times some of the killings are shown in slow motion, which is very effective, but does rem ind you that this is just a film and takes away the reality of the moment. Perhaps that is deliberate and what the director intended, but I don’t think so. The other effect that was used a few times was to change the colours of everything in a short sequence. There is a warning at the beginning of the video that this is going to happen, so I assume a number of people probably returned their videos thinking there was a fault in the recording. I really did not understand why this effect was used, perhaps I missed the point somewhere. The film is certainly action packed and very good to watch. The acting is very good and the whole thing is put together very well. There is a bit of a sub plot involving two female war correspondents which adds an extra dimension to the story which does work quite well. As a lot of the action of the film takes place in and around caves and bunkers, it is quite topical considering the events going on in Afghanistan. I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys good action movies. As we have bought this video I know that we will definitely be watching it again and I am sure we will enjoy just as much on future viewings.
I should have stopped watching this film after about five minutes, but it was after a long day at work and the children had chosen this from our pile of unwatched movies. So lazing in an armchair I settled down to watch this film. It started with a group of astronauts and their families having a barbecue, the night before the first manned flight to the planet Mars. Haven’t we seen these barbecues enough, in almost every other astronaut film? The characters were introduced in about 30 seconds each - the commander, the brainy one, the coloured guy and the woman. When the next shot was 13 months later after they had landed on Mars I realised that the budget for this film had not even been high enough to film a space launch. What did Mars look like? Well, it looked like a scene from an American western film (lots of desert and large rock formations), except filmed with a red colour filter over the lens. Soon we realised why these characters had hardly been introduced to us, because they were destined to die. (All except one.) The film then follows the rescue mission and the events that follow their arrival. The rescue team consists of a husband and wife, a brainy one, and a guy who was rejected as an astronaut, but suddenly is fit and ready for a six month flight to Mars. The story is absurd and the large leaps in time just make it farcical. The characters are just not believable as astronauts, but more like a group of friends going camping in Devon. The film is supposed to be set in the year 2020, but by today’s standards some of the technology is more like the 19th century. I assumed that the poor technical details were due to the age of the film, but I was dismayed when I found out that it had been made as recent as 2000. The story line of the film is centred on the American belief that “we will always bring our boys home”. But, when this is supposed to be in the form of a 6 month trip either way, c osting billions of dollars, it is not very believable. Is one man worth that much? The whole film yells “budget” at you, as almost every shot seems to have been compromised in order to save cash. I know in my movie reviews I normally list the actors and their characters names, but there is little point for this film as they are so forgettable that it is not worth the effort. This tape has been recorded over already (I think we found something on Challenge TV that was much more interesting) and I certainly will not be watching it again. Although this film may seem very appealing to sci-fi fans I really would suggest that you give this film a miss. It is very disappointing and not worth the time to watch it.
The Crystal Peaks shopping centre is a few miles outside of the Sheffield city centre and makes a very pleasant shopping experience. There are about 70 shops in the centre including a large number of national shops, such as Boots, Wilkinsons, Superdrug, Iceland, Sainsburys, Dorothy Perkins, Burtons and many more. There is a good mix of shops in the centre, with the majority all being on one level. There is also a mixed indoor market, selling food, clothes and other non-food products. On a lower level is a food court, which includes a pizza outlet, an Indian restaurant and a McDonalds restaurant. Also on the lower level is the entrance to a ten screen UCI cinema. Access to the centre is easy with a 2000 space free car park, a bus station, and a Supertram stop. (The tram trip is about 30 minutes to the centre of Sheffield.) By car it is very easy to reach, being just a five minute drive from Junction 31 on the M1 motorway. The whole place has a very bright, spacious feel to it, with a large glass covered roof above the central atrium of the centre. There are all the usual features that you would expect at a shopping mall including cash points, toilets, a children’s play area, a petrol station and information points. There is also a very pleasant pub just outside of the centre. The only fact that I did find a bit disappointing is the lack of seating near the shops. When my wife was looking around the ladies clothes shops I would have liked to have rested my old legs whilst waiting outside for her, but there were very few places to sit and rest. The centre is open seven days a week, with late night shopping on Thursdays and Fridays (to 8.00pm). The centre will never compete against the Meadow Hall shopping centre, which is also at Sheffield, for the number and variety of shops, but it does have a very pleasant atmosphere and a good mix of shops. For more information about the centre and a full list of all the s hops there, you can look at their web site at: http://www.crystal-peaks.co.uk/ I would not travel a great distance to visit this centre, but we have visited it a couple of times and enjoyed our visits. I am sure that when we are next in the area we will visit it again.
The similarities between this film and ‘Apollo 13’ are uncanny, except that Apollo 13 was based on fact and this film is fictitious. The film follows the story of a space shuttle launch that should be just another routine mission, to position a new communications satellite in space. The mission is jointly funded between NASA and KAYSAT, the company who are the owners of the satellite. The satellite does not deploy correctly and in trying to rectify the problem the space shuttle becomes damaged. The crew then have to try to repair the spaceship before they are all burnt up as the craft drifts back into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour are: The commander – Clay Jarvis (played by Bill Campbell). The pilot – Scott Hines (played by Ned Vaughn). The expert – Karen Daniels (played by Tasha Smith). The journalist – Jonah Randall (played by Geoffrey Blake). From the start this film is struggling, as the cast in Apollo 13 were so good (lead by Tom Hanks), that in order for these actors to compete they really had to be something special and unfortunately they were not. The acting isn’t too bad and the story line is OK, but nothing very exciting seems to happen in the film. Any drama that is created tends to be very false. During a space walk, a space suit gets damaged and they only have three minutes of air, or die. Well, there would have been plenty of time to get back into the space ship and get another space suit, but no, there has to be a few moments of false tension. On the ground ‘every technician within a hundred miles’ was called in to work on the problem, but one lady on her own knows how to save the ship. Paget Brewster who plays Rena Bartlett is very over dramatic and certainly pulls some very strange facial expressions as the ‘tension’ gets to her. Also on the ground the anxious f amilies were gathered together, but their characters were very shallow and no real dialog had been written for them. The repeated shots of families staring at each other with blank expressions did not enhance the film. The title of the film – Max Q, apparently is the name given to a sequence during the launch of a space shuttle. Also it was the name of a bar where a lot of ‘has-beens’ from the space programme seemed to hang out. Although this kept being shown in the film it really did not add anything to the story and just seemed a bit strange. The space shots are good and the space shuttle does look very realistic. I assume some ‘real’ shots from space have been mixed into the film and overall it was OK to watch once, but I do think I would bother to watch it again. It just needed something extra to give it a bit more appeal.
The Floralands Garden Centre is a very large, comprehensive gardening centre that appeals to everyone who has any interest in their garden. The centre is set in the countryside on the northern side of Nottingham, close to the village of Lambley, and has a large free car park at the front of it. The entrance is through a large shop that has a good collection of garden accessories, houseplants and antique garden ornaments. Also in this shop they have a large seasonal section that is always interesting and varied, including a very large Christmas display. At the far end of the shop is a tea room, where there is seating for about 20 people where drinks and snacks are served. The prices in the tea room are very reasonable and there is a great choice of cakes (all very fattening!) From the tea room you can go out into the main area of the garden centre where there is a large selection of plants and trees for sale. Also outside there are large garden statues, plant pots, fencing, compost and other large materials for the garden. There are a number of other buildings and shops at the garden centre and these include: * Camping and Leisure Centre. Here they sell tents and everything else you may need for a camping expedition or caravaning holiday. * Pond Centre. There are pond liners, pumps, cleaners, filters and pond plants. * Tropical Fish Centre. A great variety of fish are for sale here, plus some fish that are just on display including a very impressive shark (about 15 inches long). * Conservatories. You can decide on a new conservatory for your house by looking at the examples on display here, and of course order one if you wish. * Garden Furniture. There are tables and chairs across a whole price range from thousands of pounds to less than a hundred pounds. There is also conservatory furniture for sale in here. In all, there is almost everything you could want for your garden. The staff of the centre are all very helpful and friendly, but not at all ‘pushy’. You are made to feel very welcome to just wander around and there is no pressure to buy anything. The prices of everything are competitive and the whole centre is very neatly laid out and well organised. It is a great place to visit on a Sunday afternoon, when you can wander around for a couple of hours and then have a drink and something to eat. We certainly enjoy our visits here and rarely leave without buying a few bits for the garden.
The US Navy has a number of nuclear powered submarines that permanently have atomic missiles on board, ready to retaliate in the event of war. This film is about one of these submarines, the USS Lancing, and its newly appointed Captain, Commander Sheffield (played by Casper Van Dien). The North Korean army is flexing it’s muscles and during a missile test flight from North Korea, something goes wrong and the missile explodes, causing an atomic explosion just a short distance above the ground. The USS Lancing is just off the coast of North Korea and is caught in the shock wave and loses all its means of communication to the rest of the world. When the submarine surfaces close to South Korean coast the whole area is covered in a thick black radioactive cloud and it looks as if Armageddon has started and the submarine is caught in the middle of it. The crew of the submarine have no idea of what has happened in the world and the plot of the film is how two sets of officers on the submarine interpret the situation differently. Commander Sheffield does not believe that a war has started and believes their priority is to repair the ship and establish communications with the submarine command base at Pearl Harbour. A number of the other officers believe that war has started and that they should fire their atomic weapons at predetermined targets as soon as possible, as determined by the ship’s standing orders. The film follows the events that ensue and how the men’s loyalties are tested under the stress of this situation. The story is OK and there is quite a bit of tension in the film, but unfortunately the acting is not all that great. A lot of the confrontations between the officers seem very staged and not at all genuine. The shots within the submarine are well filmed and you do get a feeling for the claustrophobic environment of a submarine. I might watch this film again, but there are quite a few better submarine dra ma films around that I would prefer. (such as Crimson Tide or Hunt for Red October). Although there is a decent story line, that is well filmed, the movie is let down a bit by the acting.