Magic Lantern

I used to love going to the cinema. When I was younger and lived in Woolton, I had the fortune to meet and befriend the projectionist at the Picture House, which often meant for the price of an hour’s talk about bicycles, I had free entry to what ever film was being shown. Moreover, Liverpool had a great selection of easily accessible cinemas. The Odeon on London Road, the ABC in Lime Street and the multiplex at Edge Lane all of which I would frequently visit.

Woolton Picture House

In my twenties, when trying to keep warm, I would take the bus into town and catch the afternoon show to take advantage of the empty seats and the warmth. As I got older, weekly visits became monthly visits and fewer. The habit broke on the move to Barnsley as the cinema became more of a luxury due to costs and lack of variety.

Then, of course, the paradigm of media consumption evolved. Films became freely available through nefarious methods and our CRT TVs changed into flatter wide screen affairs. The need to sit in front of a screen lessened and the cost of visits rocketed from £3.30 to upwards of £11. Moreover, the quality of films being shown decreased – gone were the innovative plot lines and artistic cinematography and in came the plot-by-numbers story lines, rehashed reimagining of classic films and over milking of cinematographic cash cows.

Some cash cows

Saturday I took myself to the cinema to see the long awaited next instalment of the James Bond saga. I had already accepted the new style brought about by the success of the Bourne trilogy and had become comfortable with the reboot but found it hard to ignore the join-the-dots “next location” storylines but regardless, I settled in for the show.

Before the lights dimmed the voice in my head was already cynically pointing out the annoyances with the whole cinema experience.

1: the cost. £12 compared to the £4 a shot of less than 20 years ago. Ok, this inflated price has brought about almost comfortable seating but I imagine the refits of cinemas are only a small percentage of the overall profits cinema companies make.

2: the price of treats. £8 for a bag of popcorn. Foolishly I’d forgotten to pop my own in my haste to leave in time for the showing.

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3: the trailers. I have a system for whether I will go and see the film advertised. If I cringe – I don’t watch the film. Of the four films trailed I cringed at everyone. Including the new Ghostbusters, the new Marvel thing, something called Liquorice Pizza and The Matrix. 

Ghostbusters looks like someone saw Stranger Things and thought they had a good idea. Spoiler – they didn’t. Marvel stuff is predictable superheroes face adversity – adversity is defeated bollocks with no depth or plot. Liquorice Pizza seems like a touchy feely anachronism filled coming of age pile of shite and the new Matrix film will do to the Matrix what I believe (rightfully) the recent Star Wars update did to Star Wars. (I have so far successfully avoided the new Star Wars films because I didn’t want my enjoyment of the old series being spoilt like my enjoyment of Star Trek was ruined by the new Star Trek films)

4. Even though I went to the toilet before the film started, I became conscious that I would not be able to go again for another 2 and a half hours. Watching films at home, albeit on a smaller screen, does allow for the film to be paused when you need a wee something you can’t do with a cinema.

5. People getting up in the middle of a film to go to the toilet. – see point 4

6. The lack of mid screening usherette with ice cream refreshments. The Woolton Picture House still had this right up until the early noughties. I doubt they still do but it was always a nice thing to grab an overpriced ice cream and a drink mid way through a movie. 

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7. The inability to nip to the kitchen to grab a snack/drink midway through a film. 

8. The movie plots being almost predictable enough akin to bestowing the powers of Nostradamus on the viewer. Indeed, I saw the end of No Time to Die about a third of the way through. The contrived plot and the “next location – action sequence – next location” sequence was boring to a point that I almost got up and left but being a tight git, I’m loathe to do such a thing. Originally, the plan was to also see the new Dune film but time constraints and not wanting the Lynchian version ruined means I probably won’t bother. 

No doubt in twenty years, I’ll look back at this entry from my high backed old peoples home chair where I am awaiting the surly Zoomer nurse to arrive to force feed me my pureed cabbage dinner. I will then remember the halcyon days of cinema going. Sitting in the dark, watching proper acting with proper story lines and best of all….an usherette with a tray of ice cream…..

My views on cinema in 2005

Picture of the Day: Fairground Organ, Bloxham, UK [2018]

I love these things. Whenever I go to a steam fair or county show, I look out for them so I can film them. There will come a time when these things will fall silent for the last time and I fear generations to come might not care to preserve them as well as people today. 

Picture of the Day: Laburnum Arch, Unknown, UK [2015]

When I was a child in the UK, laburnums seemed to be everywhere. Trees in domestic and ornamental public gardens would bloom a vibrant yellow every year. The annual display looked lovely and would add further enjoyment of the garden to gardeners and visitors. 

Then, sometime in the mid-nineties, around about the same time as the campaign to identify all lone males as potential child sex pests began, a paranoid parent announced to the world that laburnum was poisonous and could kill little children. So began the terrible genocide and eradication of the laburnum in the UK and the lovely trees were cut down to make way for hot tubs, decking and patios – because having weird back garden sex parties in full view of the neighbours, drowning your sacrificial victim and burying them under the patio or decking is a much better alternative than having to tell little Johnny not to put the poisonous seed pods in their gobs. You wouldn’t want to hinder a child’s self expression would you? 

Years passed and with the thinning of the laburnum they became an almost unfamiliar sight in the UK to such an extent that when I saw one on my travels growing over a lovely pergola I forgot to enable my phone’s GPS and the location of the said laburnum has been lost to time and memory. 

They are lovely though.

Perfect Storm

2.jpgIn February, with tensions high in the sales office (heightened by a distinct lack of sales calls, the removal of temps, a visible drop in sales attributed to Brexit, the falling pound and poor high street sales), I was called to a meeting to be told that my and five other employee’s role was at risk of redundancy.
Now, I’ve been made redundant four times previously so, as you get more experienced, you start to notice the signs; Whispered meetings, lack of work, telling glances between senior managers whenever future plans are discussed. So it was no surprise that Az (my manager) laid out the company’s situation and plans in front of me. A month later, after playing all the silly redundancy games where they offer you a role clearly not suitable for you, meetings to discuss what you do and the passing over of duties to others, I was put on garden leave with a fairly nice redundancy package.
This was fine until a few days into my break from work, it became frighteningly clear that globally, something more worrying was brewing. Covid 19.
I’m now on the fourth week of my non-work period. I’m bored, feeling isolated and unwanted while still trying to stay positive, focussed and constructive. Sadly, with the whole virus thing going down, it seems that the jobs market is already starting to show signs of trouble.

woman wearing face mask
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The business man in me says “Why would a company hire an employee now when the likelihood is that that employee could be forced to self-isolate and stay at home?”. Furthermore, why would an employer put themselves and their employees at risk by conducting interviews with complete strangers? (Which, if you think about it, is perfectly reasonable: An office full of people already immune to each other’s coughs and sneezes probably doesn’t want an unknown token carrying untold maladies being added to the mix).

I console myself in the fact that those people I left at my former place of work will no doubt face further challenges themselves: further drops in sales, lack of product being shipped from China, inter-office infections and associated absences and had I not been released when I was, I would be undergoing the same concerns I had then now.
But now the big smelly kipper. As long term readers will know, I have suffered from coronary heart disease for nearly 20 years now. I say suffer, that’s the medical term, I feel fitter than a whole Irish pub of fiddles. But by “suffering”, this allows me the grace of a free NHS provided annual flu jab. This, in turn, means that I fall into the “at risk” category which means that I need to engage with “social distancing” and potentially self-isolation.

pair of white dice on top of mirror
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Practically, I have been in self-isolation for nearly 4 weeks now. Apart from my Monday night Dungeons and Dragons session, the occasional trip to the shops, library and interview, and a trip to Liverpool to see the family, my social contact has been virtually non-existent. Then Mr Johnson says “Don’t go seeing people unnecessarily” which has put the kibosh on Dungeons and Dragons and with fewer interviews coming through I’m already doing a damn fine job of keeping away from the hordes of infected zombies out there. However, next week, it seems Mrs Gnomepants v2.0 is on leave so I will have someone else other than myself to drive up the wall at least.

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