Sunday, 25 November 2007

A Plea...

OK - the nights are closing in around us rapidly; it is now dark when I walk out of the office at 5.30. It is also not particularly bright first thing in the morning, and is going to carry on getting darker. So, I have a plea towards all users of the roads...
*DISCLAIMER* I am a pedestrian and a motorist, but not a cyclist...

Yes, your long black coat looks really rather nifty. Very gothic / Blade, and I'm sure that it also keeps you very dry. However, when you have the hood up, and you are wearing black, you become a little shadow moving through the night. Not very visisble. Please do not step out into the road without looking, even if it is raining, and you don't want to get your face wet. Especially if it is raining! And, to be perfectly honest, with the orange city lights, pretty much *any* colour either gets washed out into the surrounding light colour, or darkened to black. Scarily, it is actually quite difficult to see you if you are wearing white! In order to ensure that you are visible, it would be nice if you could wear something reflective; arm bands or high vis vests, (and yes, I practice what I preach - I wear both...), or a light attached to an arm. Use designated crossings if they are available (zebra / traffic lights etc) - even if it means walking an extra twenty paces. It might help stop a driver having a heart attack as they test their brakes to destruction!

A lot of what I've said for pedestrians also applies to you. If you have a black bike, you are dressed all in black, and you don't have lights on your bike (as the cyclist we saw on the way back from the cinema last week), then you are asking to have an accident! *PLEASE* put lights on your bike (it is the law (number 60)), and please also be aware that flashing lights actually make it harder for someone who is coming towards you to judge your speed, and therefore how far away you are. Steady lights in addition to flashing ones are so much better.
At this point, I would also normally put in a rant about how it is also against the law to cycle on the pavement unless it is a marked cycle lane (number 64), however, I do also know that Bristol is not a safe place for cyclists - the cycle lanes are small, and often disappear! But, if you are going to use the pavement, all of the above rules apply - make sure you are visible, wear lights, and give way to pedestrians - the pavement is for them, not you! Also, if you are old enough to cycle on the road, you are old enough to obey the laws of the road. This includes stopping at red lights and zebra crossings (I am talking to YOU - the lady who thought the red light wasn't for her, and knocked an elderly gentleman in front of me flying) - a little thought is all it takes!

Motorists (Cars, Vans, Lorries, Motorbikes etc).
OK - regardless of what I have put above, there are still idiots out there who are determined to commit suicide, and go out into the black night dressed all in black, they don't look when they cross the road, and they walk on and off the pavements because they don't understand that they can walk one behind each other. So a little bit of care is needed, particularly in urban areas. If the road speed is 30mph, then please stick to the limit. Please don't drive up the tailpipe of the person ahead of you just because *they* are trying to stick to the limit. It isn't going to kill you to take two minutes longer to get to your destination. However, if the person ahead of you stops suddenly, and you go into the back of them, then you are entirely at fault, and it will be you who might get the "Driving without Due Care and Attention" prosecution. If it is raining, your stopping distance is longer - be aware and don't go quite so fast! *You* know where you are going, you might have travelled this journey many times. However, the rest of us don't. Your psychic abilities are not as great as you think they are. So please SIGNAL when you are turning or pulling out. This includes roundabouts and lanes which have a little arrow painted on them to tell you which direction you are going in. A pedestrian waiting to cross the road ahead can't see those arrows, and doesn't know where you are going! It doesn't actually take that much energy to signal, and it will help with the heart attacks because the pedestrian who thinks you are going straight on won't step out in front of you!

I doubt anyone who actually reads this blog is guilty of any of the faults above, but after several near misses, I just had to get it off my chest!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Back again...

Well, I'm back now - three weeks 'off air', and I've been amazed at how many people have looked at my blog even when I've not been writing (between 30 and 40 a week...)! Big hello to everyone :-)

NaNoWriMo didn't go terribly well - with only 10 days to go, I've not yet hit 2,000 words... A bit of a failure all round, really! But, the story, even though not really on it's way, does still have wings (I think), and I'm hoping will get a bit further. It's turned into another teen-sci-fi story though - I seem to be incapable of writing anything that isn't teen...

However, the reasons for failure have been many:
We've suddenly had every single council in the country (or so it feels) go out to tender, needing the documentation to be back before Christmas - most of them before this coming Monday... So the stress levels are running very high, and the overtime has been piling up.
In September, I started a college course (Introductory Certificate in Supervisory Management), which got off to a dodgy start ("We will be covering the same topics as in the full certificate, but instead of doing it in 35 weeks, we will do it in 10. By the way, I've only ever taught the 35 week course..."), got worse, ("Because no-one understood the basic stuff I went through in 3 hours last week, I'll spend 1 1/2 hours going through it again this week, and only do the first page of this week's topic."), hit a major low point ("Your course tutor has gone off sick permanently."), and then picked up again with a nice new tutor ("You will get an extension on your assignment (which would have been due in next week), but I want to go through the first half with you individually *now*"). Which meant that I've had to spend the last couple of weeks writing up the first half of my assignment!
Also - we still don't have a car (until tomorrow - huzzah!), which has meant that I've lost half an hour every evening (small excuse) because I've had to walk home, rather than have John come and pick me up.

But yay - as mentioned above, we are picking up our replacement for the Punto tomorrow. It's an L Reg Toyota Carina - not the swishest car on the market, but certainly a good buy, according to Yahoo. It has been very well loved, and the current owner is going to give us the contact details of the garage owner who has been looking after it for many years (not sure if since new, but definitely since it has been in this chap's family). After a month without wheels, I've not got used to not having a car - I'm sure that this says a lot about us and our modern lifestyle. Whilst everybody we know has been amazing in giving us lifts, often coming miles out of their way (big thanks to Sarah here) to make sure that we don't miss out, and my day-to-day life hasn't been disrupted *too* badly (I walk/train to work and back - John normally picking me up from the station in the evening), the inability to jump into the car to go somewhere, even just round the corner (10 minutes drive, 30-40 minutes walk) to Sainsbury's to go shopping has been frustrating. I will be glad to be in a car again, even if the thought of getting behind the wheel of a strange car is scaring me whitless! (I wasn't too bad when using the company pool car to go home for my mother's birthday weekend, but I had driven it before, and a Ford Focus isn't hugely different from the Punto)

The other thing that I need to catch up on before I sign off for the evening (it's getting late, and I've got a long day tomorrow!) is cinema reviews. We've been to a lot of films recently, and I've not talked about any of them - slap my wrists!

The sequel to NightWatch, this is an adaption of a series of Russian novels. Confusingly, although the film title sequence follows the titles of the novels, DayWatch is really an amalgamation of the second and third thirds of the NightWatch novel. We saw it in Russian with subtitles, and the subs themselves were as much a work of art as the rest of the film (one particular one that sticks with me is where one character yells "Bitch" at another, whilst throwing a lump of bloody meat at her. The meat hits the tiled wall, and the blood, running down the wall, forms the "Bitch" subtitles.) The story itself is very confusing, even for me, and I had read the book recently! There are a lot of interweaving threads, a lot of characters who aren't properly introduced, and who look similar to each other (we had met some of them in the first film, but that was shown a while ago...), and the ending is just HUH? But all of that pales into insignificance when you see the beauty of the film. Whilst Moscow probably isn't the most gorgeous of cities to have as a backdrop, every scene felt like it was crafted with care. My overall impression of the film, even over a month after watching it is still "Wow!" I'm going to be putting the DVD on my wishlist :-)

This is an adaption of Neil Gaiman's graphic novel - and, though it has been a long while (must be three or four years at least) since I read the novel, I felt that it was pretty much faithful to the story. I really enjoyed it - a pop-corn type of film without any really hard thinking needed. It had a star studded cast; Peter O'Toole making a few minute cameo, and Ian McKellan doing a front and end narration! Michelle Pfeiffer played an incredibly convincing witch, Robert De Nero, a fantastically camp pirate, and a slew of British comedians also had roles (David Walliams, Mark Williams (only he could play a goat dressed up as a man...) and even David Brent (though he, as ever, only played David Brent...)). The film hardly had any CGI, which made a nice change, the scenery used was beautiful, and there were some lovely one-liners in it, and one great sword fighting sequence. Definitely worth a look - whilst you might not come away feeling changed or have any philosophical awakenings, you'll have had a great time!

Black Sheep
This was my horror film for the next five years... I don't do gore. I don't do spatter, and I definitely don't do horror. I therefore went to see this New Zealand independant film with a mild feeling of dread and the knowledge that I was going to be hiding behind my fingers for a lot of the time. But, hey, how could I turn down a film about zombie sheep? And when this was the trailer we saw, it had to be worth a look! I was prepared that all of the best bits would have been in the trailer, as is so often the case, but I was so pleasantly suprised! It was a very funny, but definitely *very* gory film. I *did* spent a lot of time hiding behind my fingers (often at points where, I was told, there were cutaways at the final moment), but I spent even more time laughing. Very silly, sick in places, not one for young children, but a brilliant film - I hope that this team do more!

And finally...

This is the much advertised retelling of the Old English tale - man meets beast, man kills beast, beast's mother gets a little upset and comes to complain... I'm not going to give away too much, as this one is still in the cinemas, and I don't want to add any spoilers (particularly where the story has been changed from the original). The technique of the film is interesting - the actors were filmed, and then animated, so the entirety of the film is CGI. Unfortunately, they seem to have been hanging a lot on this technique to sell the film (much is being made of it being seen in 3D, which we weren't able to do), and the technology isn't *quite* there to pull it off (apart from the final action sequence, in which almost all sins are forgiven!) The script was ok (not fantastic, given that Neil Gaiman was writing it), the acting was good (Antony Hopkins played a great King), and there were some lovely bits (the fact that Grendel speaks in Old English - it takes a while to tune the ear to it, and I know that they would have picked the words close enough to English to be understood, but it was still a beautiful touch). However, there just seemed to be something intangible missing. Something that could have turned this from a mediocre film into a brilliant one. I do think that I'll go and revisit the book, though...

And, now that I've written almost as much as I have for the whole of my NaNoWriMo story, I am going to sign off... Hopefully, it won't be another three weeks before I write again!