Hay Day – Hay Festival

Dear Reader

It has been a while since I last wrote a blog, a review of Captain America. I do intend to review X-Men:Days of future Past very soon. This blog is or will try to be, different. Why? This past weekend I had the good fortune to visit the Hay-on-Wye book festival. It was very much a spur of the moment thing really. I have always wanted to visit this famous event and without knowing it I managed to plan a weeks leave at the right time.

Why was it so important to go? Because of my love of books and writing really. I have been to Hay a number of times and managed to find a book I long thought would never be found. In today’s world, I suspect I would have used the internet more and located a copy. As it was the fun of searching through second-hand bookshops made it more of a discovery to me.

The actual festival takes place just outside Hay, in a tented village very much like a few other places that appear these days. The festival has grown somewhat and given the attention recently from BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans, it is in my view trying to fire the imagination of all writers and readers.

There is something to be said for acting on impulse. Sometimes it can bring surprising rewards and this weekend I had three. The setup of the festival was very straight forward, no need to pay to get in just wander round and enjoy the atmosphere. You could however pick one of a number of talks that were taking place throughout the day. Having looked at the various talks there were two that caught my eye both it seemed were fully booked.

Well, time to wander again. This is when good fortune smiled. I talked to one of the many volunteers who suggested we check the returns. A quick return back to the ticket sales and guess what, yes they had two tickets for a talk by Tom Hollander the star of BBC TVs show Rev.

I did mention impulse before. Well, it also pays to ask a second time. Good fortune smiled again and I got two tickets to listen to Benedict Cumberbatch and friends reading from a collection of letters.

To listen to any actor live is for me a joy. You can hear the true reflection of the character they are portraying in their voice. The letters were from a new book each one read by a variety of well known people. Every single person who came on stage delivered their letter with passion and energy, to the degree that you did feel the real emotions behind the words. There were so many people who appeared each one standing out. However two letters and their readers stood out; John Lloyd and Rob Brydon. John Lloyd delivered a memo which was both risky and so humorous, whereas Rob Brydon gave us Richard Burton in all his wonderful tones. If he had said, ‘Broadsword calling Danny Boy’ that would have been it.

The exchange of letters between two World War Two sweethearts as read by Benedict Cumberbatch and Louise Brealey (Molly from Sherlock) was almost as if they had written them themselves. Again the passion, tender care, the off-hand comments all shone through these two people. It was brilliant and I would recommend buying the books;

The second talk had an equally wonderful set up. Tom Hollander who starts as the central character from Rev, along with James Wood and Jon Canter have written the Rev Diaries. They talked about the creation of the book, why it happened and how it enabled the author to expand that world beyond the small screen. It was a very interesting insight into the whole process and once again showed the passion behind these characters. Tom Hollander read two parts from the dairy, which if you think about it, you could see the character thinking about but in a television show can’t always articulate. There was also the change to get the book signed which I did. However, I did not just wish to have my book signed without making at least one comment. That was to Tom himself on his wonderful portrayal of Dylan Thomas. I also shook his hand, to which I think he was a little surprised. That to me added to the signing and the day.

What did I take away from my first trip to this festival of literature arts? Firstly that books are alive and still doing well. Secondly, that the festival is also very much alive considering the number of people who attended. Thirdly, that impulse really does pay, as does asking just one more time.

Tagline: ‘Broadsword calling Danny Boy’.


Captain America – The Winter Soldier Review

Hello dear reader

For the past few years, Marvel has been producing a number of very high quality comic book films. Wheather it started with the first X-Men or Iron Man movie is subject to a small debate. For me, I believe they had a plan from both. In fact, I believe they have at least three strands going very much like the comics themselves.

This year, Marvel is hitting the big screen with four strands, each one pushing the universe just that touch further. The first of these is Captain America  : The Winter Soldier, the second in this series. This movie picks up a short time after the first Avengers with Captain America working for Shield and learning of the new World he has been thrust into. The opening scene shows our hero ‘jogging’ around a Washington land mark, passing others at ease. It is of course all part of the set up to the movie as well we know.

The movie quickly moves apace, yet it does not appear to miss anything in the telling of it’s story. The balance is possibly the best of all the recent Marvel movies. You have a number of well known characters, a few new ones and a really well designed plot. That is due in large parts to the huge story lines available from the comic books. Yet Marvel, for the most part, seems to be able to transfer those comic stories into first class film scripts. Given some of these stories span maybe 10 to 20 comics, it shows the great care and planning that is going into each one. With only one minor issue recently, IronMan 3 and the treatment of a certain villain, Marvel is showing how comic movies can be made.

The 2-diamentional paper characters have come to life in a very substantial way, so much so that a whole new audience may never have seen the Marvel comic universe before these movies started. It broke box office records, hit the number one spot with ease and will ensure at least one more Captain America movie.

As for the movie itself, spoiler alerts for anyone who has not seen the adverts or watched the films, yet.

Captain America, it is wonderfully crafted. The action is well designed, the script has just the right amount of twists and the supporting cast does do just that, support the movie. I did have a good idea of what this movie was about given that I have read the comics but seeing it is different to reading it. The plot unfolds and Steve Rogers (Captain America himself) feels even more out of time, even more betrayed than before. He has to take sides again and has no idea who he can turn to. He finds one man who has no special powers, just an ordinary man who he has to bring into this now complex plot.

There is an unexpected death but in comic books does that really ever happen? Well you would have to watch the movie to see. There are villains and this time they are well written and given proper time. You do have to watch until the very end of this film and I mean the very end. Marvel now has the habit of putting two extras in. Nick Fury makes another appearance, along with a couple of other recurring characters giving both scope and a feel of continuation to these films. They are linked just like the comics and again can be seen without really watching all the rest. Their appeal is certainly not slowing down, neither is the speed at which the films are being released.

I will happily watch this film again and add it to my growing list of Marvel movies. They are beating DC hands down and so far DC don’t seem to know what to do next. Apart from the Batman movies, the rest of DC’s attempts have been missing something each time. With another Spiderman, the movie of the year for me X-Men Days of Future Past and the new Guardians movie, Marvel is just capturing more and more of this market.

It looks like for me, I have a few nights planned at the cinema.

Tagline: ‘Winter it might have been but the plot was hot.’

A challenge – 140 character poem

Dear Readers and maybe poets,

This morning I managed to write a short poem in 140 characters (actually less). Now I know that many haiku’s can be written in 140 characters but this was a quick 4 line poem. So I decided to post it here as a challenge. It’s just a bit of fun to try. Why did I write this? Well the washing machine we have makes a darn tune when it finishes and it does remind me of what the late great Douglas Adams might be thinking. Remember Marvin? This washing machine is just to cheerful to make sure you know it’s done. Hence the poem. So here it is enjoy and see;


Is this the shape of things to come

A washing machine that sings and hums

Douglas would be laughing now

As we are tortured by this row

Here is an old blog for a new forum

Dear Readers

Sometimes the old ones are the best ones and so I have re-worked an old blog. Sometimes a new audience is just waiting around the internet corner and it’s always good to go back.

This one is from a trip to Canada many years ago, however I find it interesting to say the least. If I go back, they might not let me in but what the heck.

Anyway here it is, Good Cop, Bad Cop on a boarder crossing.


Good Cop, Bad Cop on a boarder crossing


Mark O’Donnell

Thursday 14th June 2007

I hate flying. Not a correct statement, but a statement all the less. What I hate is the trapped boredom. Fixed in place, stuck, no computer, no remote, and no freedom.
Ok so it gets you there quickly, fine. Then you land, then you grab your bags, then you stand in queue. Then you meet customs.
8 hours of flying followed by 10 minutes of grilling if your lucky. Only if.

The green card, your one and only chance to impress that customs officer. And of course you always find the good cop, bad cop next to each other.
First time, forgot to sign the back of the card. Well very sorry says I. The blank reply. ‘You wont give an apology. You will correct it. Go back over there.” He pointed back to beyond the line.

The thought crossed my mind we would have to go back to Manchester. A quick fix, signed and dated, then look for the good cop.
Thank whatever god of travel you like, but good cop was right next to bad. A smile, at last, “Welcome to the USA.” Or welcome back for some. Finally allowed to step past that line, only to meet the next pair.

Customs round two. Bags down, coats off, jumper off, shoes off and still I ended up bleeping. It’s the belt. Back you go belt off try again. Almost stripped but finally allowed to step past that line. But no, this time the good cop pulls us over. From my bag they produce two water bottles.
What deadly danger did this Manchester airport water pose this great country? Cute they maybe, but travel any further. No chance.

So finally, well for this airport any ways, we stepped past that line, that magical myth and onwards into well just onwards really.

Good cop, bad cop on a boarder crossing. You truly can’t beat them.


Changing Places

Hello Dear Reader

It has been some time since I last wrote a blog, the reason being? Moving house. I have, in the past, moved many times. Like many others, I have moved desk or office and on the odd occasion moved building. I have moved house four times before this last one. Each time before it was a mixed set of feelings. Mostly excited when moving to University, to sad when leaving again. To Oh My God does it cost this much to run a house!

To me, there is a great analogy here when undertaking this last move. The old house appeared bigger on the inside given the amount of ‘stuff’ to move. Now continuing that theme, at one point the Doctor dumped a third of the Tardis for whatever reason. It was still big. So, as part of this last move, I had to part with a few unwanted items.

That took some work I have to say.You build up possessions over years and sometimes it is very difficult to let go. It is like acleansing of the soul to some, to others a clearing the rubbish. To me it was a few hard choices. However, I made a few.

They say that moving house is one of the most stressful events in life and yes I can believe that. Given that one company made such a mess of what was a simple instruction some 6 months prior, I did have reservations in telling them what was happening. It was with good reason as well, it seemed that simple maths was beyond their grasp.

There is a thought that when you move to a new house, it feels like your on hoilday for a time. It is an odd set of feeling indeed. If you rent a property, you know to a degree what you change and yes you are almost in that holiday feeling. However, why should you feel like that after you have purchased someone elses home? That’s the clue. You are changing someone elses life basically. You need to make your own mark to feel that this property is yours.

So begins the many rounds of wallpapering; changing the garden; moving things and like the bridge which is always (or was) being painted, you start again.

Already there are several marks made on the new property, odd as its older than I am, and many more to come. I look forward to finishing these little projects, just in time for my next move.

Tagline: The times they are a changing – with apologies to the song and singer(s).