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 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.

<img src="https://stegzy.files.wordpress.com/2021/10/pexels-photo-4134527.jpeg&quot; alt="" class="wp-image-8423" title="Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@pylzworks?utm_source=livejournal_app&utm_medium=referral&quot; target="_blank">pylzworks</a> from <a href="https://unsplash.com?utm_source=livejournal_app&utm_medium=referral&quot; target="_blank">Unsplash
Photo by Patru00edcia Paixao on Pexels.com

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. 

<img src="https://stegzy.files.wordpress.com/2021/10/summer-dessert-sweet-ice-cream.jpg&quot; alt="" class="wp-image-8425" title="Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@kurbanova?utm_source=livejournal_app&utm_medium=referral&quot; target="_blank">kurbanova</a> from <a href="https://unsplash.com?utm_source=livejournal_app&utm_medium=referral&quot; target="_blank">Unsplash
Photo by Ju00c9SHOOTS on Pexels.com

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: Mary Janes, Cromer [2017]

A sacred place

Imagine the best fish and chips you’ve ever had. If it wasn’t from Mary Janes in Cromer, you’re wrong.

I believe that there is an ancient gnostic scripture held in the cathedral in St Davids that says eating fish and chips from Mary Janes in Cromer is akin to 400 pilgrimages to Rome. I was here in on this day in 2017. By all reckoning I’ve made something like 2000 trips to Rome now.

I am blessed and have the belly to prove it.

Behold its saintly visage.

Picture of the Day: Funicular, Lamport [2015]

Judging by the quantity of photos and films on the topic it seems that May is the traditional start of the Steam Rally season. I love going round steam rallys and looking at the old workhorses many fully restored and condemned to a life of display. 

Most of the time the motors are doing nothing but running but occasionally they power things. Like this funicular which I have seen in many steam rallys over the years, each one it looks a little more dog eared.

I guess allowing shot intruding crotch goblins too close doesn’t help.

Picture of the Day: Party Shed – Leamington Spa [2013]

Just add disco ball

Mrs Gnomepants likes her fairy lights and no garden is complete without a set. Today’s picture is of our shed in Leamington Spa festooned with fairy lights. Some items of note — 1. The plant pot stand with pie crust terracotta pots 2. The top of Keith’s caravan 3. The curtains in the shed window 4. The bunting.

Picture of the Day: Up Above The Streets and Houses, Liverpool, 2006

Everyone can see you smiling – on CCTV

One of the last days of ordinary life for me in Liverpool had me taking random photos of things around me. I’d also discovered after nearly five years of working there, that parking at the back of Syndey Jones Library worked out better than walking back across campus to my car behind Computing Services and struggling with traffic up Brownlow Hill. 

On this day in 2006 as I was getting into my car, I noticed a beautiful rainbow, a sign perhaps, that a new stage of life was about to begin or maybe just how sun light refracts off raindrops as it does regularly. 

Picture of the Day: Brave Girl, Arundel Castle [2008]

Balls of steel

There are many things I won’t do like stick my fingers in the electric socket, swim with radioactive sharks, walk down Granby Street naked or jump off a bridge with nothing but knicker elastic around my ankle. Indeed, there are many foolish things I have done that I won’t ever do again like fall off a waterfall in Wales , ignore a chest pain or abseil down a concrete wall in Port Erin at the age of 10.

Of course, I will look on with admiration as other braver folks than I do things that I wouldn’t. And this is what I did on this day in 2008 when Mrs Gnomepants V2.0 abseiled down Arundel Castle for shits and giggles.

If you get a magnifying glass you can probably make her out on the tower there. 

Picture of the Day: Seaward, Aberdaron [2004]

If I’d stood on something to make myself taller I could have made a penis joke

For some reason the auto post for this entry didn’t trigger. Usually I’ll write entries days ahead during busy times and the WordPress scheduled post thing isn’t always reliable. Anyway, I’ll back date these next two posts….

Aberdaron, on the western coast of North Wales, is, as many long term readers will know, my favourite place in the world. In fact, you can probably take it as read that I’d like to be part cremated and part buried. That way I can have my ashes scattered in Aberdaron and the rest can be buried there too with a commemorative bench and a statue and a fountain and a big old banner saying “Stegzy Gnomepants Loved This Place”. Perhaps with a commemorative bandstand too. And a band.

Anyway, you’ll be surprised to learn there aren’t that many pictures of me in my collection, but unsurprised that there are loads of pictures of Aberdaron. With your minds eye seeing some weird mental Venn diagram you will no doubt assume that there are fewer pictures of Aberdaron with me in them. And this is the case. At least in my collection. 

So here I am. Looking out to sea in 2004 when Mrs Gnomepants V1.0 and I took the crumblies for a weekend in Aberdaron at the Ship Inn or Gwesty Ship back when it was a quiet, cheap and cheerful place and still to appear in the Guardian and every middle class affirming Sunday suppliment since. 

Picture of the Day: Sheffield’s Wheelie Good [2010]

Instead of tripods it was big wheels that the Martians used to invade

Evidently in 2010 I was in Sheffield. Can’t think for the life of me why although I was living in nearby Barnsley so it is possible I was there for commuting purposes or for meeting friends. 

I’ve been to Sheffield many times in the past. I lived there in 1992, visited again in 1997. It a damn good place to get the train from if you’re visiting the south coast. The people are ace and there was so much to do of an evening, at least when I was young there. 

One place I used to visit regularly was the world famous Frog and Parrot which was a legend in its own right. Beers as strong as Buster Crabbe and an atmosphere so dense with cigarette smoke they’re probably still scraping it off the paint work.

 When I visited again in 1997 the city had changed so much since my student days. A great deal of the buildings I was familiar with had been bulldozed and even the Frog and Parrot had begun to drop in popularity. I guess it was around this time that I began to realise, time does not stand still when you leave a place and cities and towns evolve. Indeed, Liverpool, my home town, is a shade of the place I remember leaving nearly 15 years ago — new shopping centre, new hotels, old pubs closed and new places opened.

Picture of the Day: Benchmark, Northampton Guildhall, Northampton [2017]

Benchmark – the latest ARG.

Many years ago, perhaps even around the 1980s, I noticed a curious little symbol on a gatepost near my school. As the internet hadn’t been invented, I had no option but to draw it and ask older people what it might be.

Of course old people are not Google and the various responses I had included — Aliens, graffiti, markings showing where World War 2 bombs fell, natural formations and markings to show were treasure/secret passageways/underground bases (complete with monorails) are located. Which, I suspect, is as about accurate to Google results these days anyway.

Much poking around, the passing of time and asking actually qualified people who work at universities later revealed that the symbol is what is know as a benchmark. Then came Wikipedia and that cemented it for me — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benchmark_(surveying) Another childhood thought bubble popped.

Sometimes, when I see them, I will go “Oooh! Look a benchmark” and people around me look at me as if I had just escaped from the loonie bin (or psychiatric rehabilitation centre in the modern parlance). This usually then results in the conversation continuing without me, patronising “listening” as I explain or me having to put that nice jacket with the buckles on.

In 2017, while exploring the local-to-me administrative county town of Northampton I saw a benchmark on the Guildhall and took a photo, with the intent on starting an internet based map showing where all the benchmarks are in the UK. Of course, I don’t have the wherewithal, patience or technological knowhow to even set up such an endevour, instead I present it to you here — to gawp at and tell people, with confidence, when you see one yourself in the wild, that the weird symbol shows that nearby there is a secret underground base run by Bill Gates nanobots is and protected by Jewish space lasers…..

Picture of the Day: Budget Kiss — Stilton, UK [2014]

Ace Frehley was unavailable for comment

May is that time of year in the UK when villages start to become alive. Hipsters gather their trailers and converted caravans to vend organic vegan fat-hen flavour ice cream shampoo and barbecue slow cooked artisian oven baked allergen free squid rings to shuffling Guardian reading zombies. While village community association members bicker about who is in charge of procuring the orange squash and tombola this year.

May is also the time of year when bearded Arran sweater wearing ukelele and folk instrument players gather to play arcane tunes and songs devoted to John Barleycorn, the Green Man and other ancient deities of agriculture and fertility. They then sometimes dance around a pole waving their hankies or bopping sticks together or maybe they will cart a village teenager around in a wagon before sticking her on a pile of faggots and setting her alight.

Ah traditions. Long may they continue.

Sadly this year and last year most of these celebrations have failed to be performed causing the ancient gods of fertility and abundance to rouse and show their displeasance by causing Brexit, disease and embarrasment to the Prime Minister.

Although, as the plague is now on the wain, it is possible that such village celebrations will reemerge in 2022 and once again, people can wave hankies at each other while dancing around a pole. Lech Wałęsa need not apply.

I can’t remember why we went. It was possibly to see the Bell inn, a haunted inn mentioned in Marc Alexander’s Haunted Inns but it turned out that it was the annual Cheese Rolling day in Stilton. Cheese rolling is where, for some forgotten tradition, people gather to chase a “cheese” down Stilton high street.

Of course this highly dangerous practice is an affront to the gods of Health, Safety and of course, fashion and it seems the last one was held in 2018 — https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-42788965

Still, I have a couple of photos from the event, mostly of the crap Kiss tribute band and Mrs Gnomepants has a few too. Historians and archivists can fill their boots.

Happy day. Ringstone round.

Peter Kriss there on the left.