Ice Cold in Alex

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Something else that I picked up from the Warewhare bargain bin, the 60th Anniversary issue…it’s been sitting in the wait list for weeks, til I was in the mood for something like this…

Ice Cold is one of the real British classics, understated and effective with elements of edge of the chair suspense and quiet humour against the backdrop of one of the less known theatres of World War 2. Although all the major Allied nations campaigned in North Africa, few know the details of the battles that raged up and down and back again along the North African coast from 1940 until 1943.

We may know some of the placenames…Tobruk, El Alamein…some of the personalities…Montgomery, Freyberg, Upham…but little of the detail…I’m likely that, as part of my guinea pig role at Waikato, I was able to study the New Zealand Division in WW2 under Laurie Barber and credit that one paper with opening my eyes to the ebbs and flows of this campaign.

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Ice Cold is the story of an Austin K.2 ambulance named Katie – the style brought to life for many in Airfix’s classic Emergency Set – retreating from Tobruk to Alexandria with a very small but very effective cast, only four key characters including Harry “You Can’t Kill a Squadron” Andrews, with a dozen or so minor supporting roles…through minefields, avoiding German land and air patrols, and negotiating steel sand drifts, hard rocky ground, and soft treacherous desert sands…

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The driving motivation through Katie’s odyssey is the vision of an ice cold beer in Alex(andria) and the end of the journey…

There’s plenty of opportunity for spoilers so I won’t go any further other than to say that this is a must-see classic…and the sort that I can watch time and again, each time picking up subtleties that I have missed before…

…possibly quite a timely one as I’m researching potential ‘ice colds’ for this summer…

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…seeking a vision that will motivate Tongariro Alpine Crossing hikers throughout this summer…

…possibly with onion rings…

 

Six Days

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The SAS assault on the Iranian Embassy in April 1980 is still one of the seminal moments in special operations and counter-terrorism. Although the obvious inspiration for Lewis Collins’ 1982 Who Dares Wins, this action has been largely ignored by the entertainment community. Until the Bin laden raid in 2011, this lack of attention has probably not seen as a bad thing by the special operations community.

We had Ultimate Force with the bloke from EastEnders, and then The Unit led by the melting moments Terminator but it wasn’t until Six that we started to see some credible small screen special operations. On the large screen, Blackhawk Down was really an anyman story of soldiers at war, The Great Raid was pretty tame and also the tale of a large scale operation. The Odd Angry Shot is an Aussie classic but more COIN than SO. For the most part, the most significant of special operations have been largely ignored by credible story tellers…Even the first that I remember, Entebbe, has only been told  well once and that is the Israeli Operation Thunderbolt (still worth a watch if you can find it on Youtube)…

I read Bill McRaven’s (the ‘make your bed’ guy)  Spec Ops when it was first published – passing the time during a week in Waiouru Hospital in 1996 – and it must have been a tough decision to note include it as one of the case studies. It contains all the elements of McRaven’s theory of relative superiority and would certainly have survived scrutiny against his principles of special operations: simplicity, security, repetition, surprise, speed and purpose.

I was discouraged from buying Six Days for a long time because of its 90 minute run time: 90 minutes or less always suggests to me ‘made for TV’, never a good sign; and I was wary of whether it would be worth watching or just be loosely based on reality.

I need not have worried. It is very good and gets all the key elements of the story into 90 minutes without feeling crammed or forced. Watching the credits (as I may do if the remote is beyond my reach), I could see why as I recognised, with surprise, some of the consultants’ names. More so when further credits revealed that this is very much a Kiwi movie production-wise as well: another result of Helen Clark’s decision to invest in and support our fledgling movie industry in the early days of the Lord of the Rings saga.

Six Days is a great account of a small team that pulled off a nigh impossible task under the most challenging conditions, not just those of a task never attempted before but one conducted under live TV cameras and global scrutiny. All part of Margaret Thatcher’s hard line of terrorism, and a harbinger of that same hard line two years later when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands.

Searching for it just now, I was pleased to still be able to find Spec Ops on a shelf. When we Bookabached the Lodge while living in Waiouru, we pitched the library as one of its features. That was a little naive as library holdings diminished over that winter – a good reason to inventory everything so you actually know what might be missing and not just tearing the place apart looking for something that’s no longer there.

Nana doing Nana stuff 010.jpgMoving here was the first time  that I was able to have all my books unboxed and shelved since leaving home. Having to rebox it all up again for an indefinite period will be like losing a bunch of old friends:  Kindle just isn’t the same has holding old paper in your hands or glancing around for a reading target of opportunity…

Bill McRaven did much more than just write a book but it may be most remembered popularly for his ‘make your bed’ speech – better than ‘Wear Sunscreen’…

Part of the reason behind this big writing jag at the moment is that I was disappointed to see that my blogging efforts for 2018 fit onto a single WordPress preview page. The rescue helicopter campaign was unexpected – a reminder that stupidity can break out anywhere at anytime – and consumed way more time and effort than expected. I was writing so much in support of our helicopter bases, that it was a challenge to take up the keyboard for anything else…making up for that now…getting back into the swing of a post a day if I can…setting challenges to get me out of bed and keep me of the couch…

Star Trek – Discovery

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In addition to Tight-As Ribs night, Tuesday night at Schnapps Bar in National Park Village, it is also Quiz night – so long as the crowd looks ‘quizzable’…it’s a challenging combination as patrons smear rib sauce over their answer sheets and struggle for a decent grip on their pens…

I wasn’t quizzing last night – in fact, the questions looked way too hard for this former member of the triumphant 2003 Trentham Tote Quiz War team – as I was a bit pushed for time…busy busy busy…an intended quick shop after my ambulance shift turned into a very productive chat with a local Council member…and had plans for the evening at home…

I was probably 6 for 1 in the Name this Event round as I mowed into my caramel sundae (watch this space for a future item on the perfect commercial sundae) and Round Two started up. I think the theme was Who Am I? and the clue started off “I am a TV series that premiered in 1967 and only screened for three seasons but spawned three TV movies” + some other stuff that I can’t remember. I think the actual answer was Gunsmoke but my first thought was – naturally – Star Trek

That random question reminded me that the latest in the long line of Star Trek spin-offs of TV series (6), fan series (2), and movies (13) had been hyped on Netflix for the previous month or so….so much for plans for Tuesday night…

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So, three episodes in [NO SPOILERS}, what does Discovery look like..?

Very flash graphics. Possibly a little too over the top and for their own sake; a distraction from the story.

Alien subtitles. Suck. Total distraction from the very flash graphics and vice versa: the viewer must choose between following alien conversations OR watching what’s happening on the screen, Very annoying. The subtitles add no value. Whatsoever.

Pretentious and bloated. The pilot (episodes 1 and 2) is not much more than the worst angsty bits of the Abramoverse all mixed in together. You could skip the first episodes and dive straight in at Episode 3 without missing too much. Everything prior is covered by statement or implication in Episode 3.

In the ‘verse. Discovery seems to be set around the same time as the Abramoverse Star Trek, or maybe between this and Enterprise (there are some unsubtle references to Spock). The ships seems more angular that those of Kirk’s era and the alien ship designers seem to follow the spiky bumpy school of alien spacecraft design.

Peacenik philosophy. Federation thinking seems to be of the same ‘we come in peace’ as the Abramoverse or the early period of The New Generation. None of Kirk the Original’s “we come in peace – shoot to kill” philosophy here.

In fairness, Star Trek series, on large and small screens, traditionally start from a  weak position. The pilot for The Original Series had to be reworked; the first series of The Next Generation were quite boring and uninspired; Enterprise, well, I only last about two episodes on my first go-round; Voyager picked up with Seven of Nine (there is much to be said for lycra uniforms in certain circumstances) and the stronger Borg story arc; and, despite my best efforts, Deep Space Nine remains on the whatever list…

Apparently, 15 episodes of Discovery have been filmed to date and will be weekly drip feed on Netflix. It has potential but we will have to wait to if this is realised or not. Binning the subtitles will be a tremendous step forward but it remains to be seen if the story will mature or remain a trite collection of what has gone before…

In meantime it can’t hurt to remember the spirit of Star Trek as it was…

Bosch – Season 2

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After being impressed by Season 1, I was looking forward to Season 2 of Bosch when Mighty Ape hammered $30 off the shelf price…I was underwhelmed…

A dead body found in the trunk of a car on Mulholland Drive appears to have mob connections and leads LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch down a dangerous trail of corruption and collusion that stretches to Las Vegas and back. As the case becomes more complex and personal, and Bosch’s search for the truth more relentless, the dark side of the police department is brought to light.

That is a description of Michael Connelly’s Bosch novel Trunk Music. I’ve read Truck Music a number of times: it is a fast-paced story with plenty of plot twists and turns and the novel in which Eleanor Wish re-enters Bosch’s life. It doesn’t need any additional sub-plots to beef up the story and it certainly doesn’t need to marginalise The Last Coyote by adding that plot line to the last few episodes of the Season 2 story. Coyote is one of the best Bosch novels and deserving of its own season – it resolves a number of Bosch issues and sets the scene for the next few novels.

I really like the idea of adapting a  novel to a ten (or so) episode TV series and appreciate that there will always be some literary license applied. I don’t mind that the Bosch-verse has been updated to the current day or that he’s no longer a Vietnam veteran. I do mind when a great story is marginalised for no apparent reason; it’s certainly no improvement on Michael Connelly’s original (although I noted that he is listed on the series production team).

Recommend Bosch Season 1? Absolutely!

Season 2? Meh…maybe if you haven’t read the books or once it turns up on Netflix…

Six

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As the heat – such as it was – slowly increased last summer, my satellite dish became less and less interested in capturing and processing satellite TV signals, and, around Christmas, it finally decided that it wasn’t interested in doing that anymore and took up knitting…so I have no idea if Six made it to ‘normal’ TV screens in New Zealand. Replacement parts for the dish aren’t that much and I suppose I’ll get to doing something eventually but I just don’t miss normal TV that much…

Anyways, as part of transfer my ISP and phone allegiance back to Spark, I wound up with Spotify and Lightbox accounts. These came into their own with the new unlimited broadband account. Lightbox didn’t really float my boat too much: I found the selection rather limited and also that I no longer have a lot of time for binge watching TV. I manged to squeeze in Defiance, Lucky Man and the UK Ashes to Ashes (listed in ascending order of enjoyment) but kinda got over it…

Six was a refreshing new addition to the Lightbox line-up. Unhyped and unheralded, one evening, there it was on the menu – I may have ignored it for a while, mistaking it for The Real SEAL Team Six, a made for TV take on the 2011 bin Laden raid. I was cautious at first as most of the contemporary special operations genre seems to be Desperate Housewives with guns, even The Unit and the unlamented Ultimate Force: way too much domestic angst and not enough boots on the ground.

Six didn’t disappoint on the domestic angst front but its focus remained firmly on the ‘rescue one of our own’ plotline. The ‘one’ was played by Walter Goggins and, do admit that I have watched the full Justified enough times that I was expecting Raylan Givens to amble onscreen and laconically resolve the bad guys.

I like the current trend of episodic story-telling across a season: one story, one season. I’m not sure if that makes it a mini-series or not but it certainly resonates with me: beginning, middle and end. It worked with Bosch; it worked with the TV version of Shooter; and it works with Six. Each episode isn’t a standalone but roll into the next: there are only eight episodes and I was disappointed to get to the end – but only in that the next series was not ready to go (hasn’t been filmed yet ).

The story rolls smoothly and offers some insights into contemporary international security challenges . The equipment looks OK but the US DOD probably didn’t offer a lot of support to the production: too many C-130s, not enough C-17s, too many vanilla Blackhawks, no special ops birds…in this case, I don’t think that makes a big difference to the story or my enjoyment of it – and I tend to be picky on such things…I think that if you liked Band of Brothers and Blackhawk Down, Six is probably for you…

Bosch

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I was an early subscriber to Audible when it first set up in the early 2000s…I was doing a lot of rowing in the gym and needed something to keep my mind alive while going back and forward, back and forward, etc, etc, etc; and I was also driving Wellington-Auckland on a  regular basis for work (yes, I could have flown but it was nice to have the flexibility to stop along the way and visit places and friends)…

Back then, Audible had an introductory offer where they would gift you a Rio MP3 player with a whole 64Mb of memory on-board if you subscribed for a year or more -the subscription entitling me to two books each month from the library – even for USD14.95 when the Kiwi dollar was pretty depressed, with each Audible book around 8-16 hours, it was a good deal.

I would often forget about the subscription until just before the drop dead time – the subscriptions didn’t roll over so it was use them or lose them – and have to select the first two books that seemed even remotely interesting. Thus my Audible library was always a tad eclectic and my rule was that any book I started to listen, I would see through to the end, on some occasions the bitter bitter end..

So, that’s how I stumbled onto Michael Connolly, first through his standalone Chasing the Dime, and from there into my first Bosch novel, which I think was Lost Light…Over the next decade plus, I slowly acquired more Connolly novels, in digital and hard copy formats…Bosch was the man though, I could never get into the Lincoln Lawyer series but did enjoy Blood Work (the book is better than the movie). Blood Work (not one of Clint’s better efforts) and The Lincoln Lawyer movie put me off seeking any further screen adaptions and the little I had seen online about the Bosch series did nothing to change that.

Last week, I needed to put new tyres on the truck – winter roads need robust tread – and took the opportunity to have a wander around Taumarunui while I waited for the job to be done. There is an interesting little second-hand shop just off the Main Street down near the supermarket and I can easily kill half an hour exploring its nooks and crannies. I saw Bosch Season One sitting there and walked past it a couple of times but for $5 it was hard to pass up even if I expected it to be quite average.

I had thought that the developers of this series had attempted to squeeze each novel loosely into a single episode but exactly the opposite is the case. For Season One anyway, the ten episodes cover a single novel, in this case City of Bones. The story flows well and the character development is good, It has been a while since I read the book but the series rings true to my memories of it. This first season is based on the eighth novel in the series but then, I never read them in sequence so having a bit of a preview often adds some flavour to later exploring the pre-story. It is a little annoying that the first episodes contain a lot of, too many really, references to other Bosch novel titles in a rather heavy-handed way – not clever or subtle, just annoying but that novelty seems to have worn off by the third episode…

I thought that this was good enough to binge watch the ten episodes over two nights and am keen enough to watch it again to see what subtleties I may have missed on the first time through. It looks like three season have been made so far and I am keeping an eye out for the next two – hopefully Mighty Ape might take the hint from Season Two’s presence on my wishlist to dump it into the Daily Deals for me…

So, yes, Bosch on TV, Season One looks good, recommended, waiting for Season Two…

Cowspiracy

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My green journey started when Bubble asked me if I had seen Cowspiracy…seen it? I had only vaguely heard of it…but in the spirit of learning and breaking down preconceptions (of which, I may or may not have a few), I tracked down a copy, put my feet up one night with a cold root beer and watched…

…and watched…

…and watched…

…but this guy really just didn’t do it for me…nor did his story…

Cowspiracy presents like a ‘real crime’ expose…but the producer is so sure that everything is part of some great but unstated conspiracy but all his smoking guns are wet bus tickets. I think the point is is trying to make – bit never does – is that any sort of dairy farming is unsustainable.

That may or may not be true but his logic never gets to the point and the narrative wonders from one conspiratorial form of commercial agriculture to the next. He accuses Greenpeace and other organisations of being complicit in the conspiracy and then wonders why they don’t want to speak to him – which he then presents as further evidence of the conspiracy.

From my own research I get that feeding cattle wheat-based products has an effect on the environment. I get that this may lead to a profit-motivated clearing of forest for cropland. I get that extensive marketing drives over-consumption of meat products. But Cowspiracy didn’t tell me that. The only things I got from Cowspiracy was the clever title and an unpleasant sensation that ‘antis‘ like the producer of Cowspiracy do more harm than good to their cause and that crossing the road to avoid them is probably a good idea…

But I’m glad that Bubble recommended that I watch it. It made me think and so my own research and develop my own opinion. I love a good steak, dripping with garlic; I love my homemade burgers and nothing beats a good roast on a winter weekend. But, like most things, in moderation. the thing that really discouraged me from commercial meat products was the Hot Doc’s comments about the amount of hormones and other additives in the commercial food chain. So now, I aim for free range or organic chicken and when I do buy meat, it is an unprocessed as possible, no marinades, crumbing, etc…

So good things come from pseudo X-Files exposes like Cowspiracy…and from Cowspiracy, Bubble led me on to That Sugar Movie which is well-produced, logical and inspired me to think about me and sugar…

 

Top Gun Day

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May 13 was, apparently, Top Gun day…

Anyone who is anyone knows that Top Gun is Tom Cruise’s principal contribution to Western culture and that TOPGUN is the place where real aviators do way cooler stuff than was ever in the movie…

Everyone also knows that movies like Top Gun are all about the toys and not about the boys…

topgun256Top Gun was released in 1986 and screened in New Zealand later that same year. I’m pretty sure it was 1986 because it was my first year in the Army and I used to crash on many weekend at my mate’s flat in Picton Ave…handily the corner with Riccarton Road on which the KFC sat…

The good thing about going to the movies in the 80s was that we were spared the torrent of media releases, spoilers, making-of, etc, etc, etc and going to the movie was actually the first part of the experience not the last…

At that time in NZ, Ready to Roll was the weekly TV Top 40 show and that was where we might get an inkling of what a movie was like from the music video. But in 1986, TVNZ had a falling out with the music producers who demanded a royalty for the screening of said music videos. TVNZ’s position was that it was providing free advertising for their product so no way…as a result, we missed some of the better music videos from the mid-80s, of which Top Gun‘s Danger Zone was one…

That Saturday night Top Gun was our movie night pick – we didn’t have great expectations, modern aviation based movies to that point topping out with Blue Thunder and hitting rock bottom with Iron Eagle.  My mate Paul had other plans for the evening so I went with a chap named Dom Kelasih.

Now at the that time, our chose mode of transport around Christchurch was motorbike. When I had come up from Invercargill in January for my infantry training, my first act, like very first, as soon as I rode into town, on arriving was to trade this…

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…in on this…

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I usually rode it with the side covers off as they were only thin ABS and used to keep cracking…this is it all packed for Christmas ’86…from memory, I was house-sitting for a friend in Christchurch and working over the holidays…this is porobably just after the Top Gun incident…

Anyways…so Dom and I sent out in plenty of time from Picton Ave into the movies in the centre of town – from memory, it may have been the Embassy Theatre. The most direct route was through Hagley Park, and a road with some lovely gentle curves. Dom’s chariot of choice at the time was a 50cc ning-ning machine but he rode it like a maniac…right up to the point when the cop parked by the hospital waved him over – and then me,because we were obviously riding together…

We had been travelling a little over the 50kmh urban speed limit and this could have been expensive. I played the soldier card, good old country boy from the wilds for Burnham Military Camp just having a quiet weekend in the city but worried about getting lost and so my only concern was getting lost and keeping up with my guide. Many of these cops were ex-Army and/or Territorials and this was often a successful approach…as it was this time…for me…

Poor old Dom was not quite so lucky being somewhat deficit in some of the his critical documentation, like a license and maybe a warrant of fitness, and rode away a lot poorer…

As a result, we got to the theatre late, although this was the good old days of trailers and shorts so we still got to be seated before the main feature kicked off…seated right at the very front, in the veriest front row…so close to the screen that the action flew (literally for this movie!) beyond the extent of our vision…getting all that glorious ACM from  neck-crickin’ proximity…

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Top Gun is probably the only movie that I have seen that was a pain in the neck in a positive sense – have seen many others that have been pains in the neck – and elsewhere – in more negative contexts…

Of course, we had to revisit it the following night…at a more sedate pace…and from seats more in the viewing sweet spot…

Top Gun…probably one of the best recruiting movies ever made…one of the first blockbusters that introduced an element – in a  very Hollywood manner but who really wants to pay to see a military training movies..? – of what the military really does…

At the time it was also quite topical: earlier in 1986, there had been another misunderstanding between Libya and the US Navy over access to the Gulf of Sidra, one that had been resolved by naval aviation and ELDORADO CANYON was the follow on act to this later that year…As young soldiers, brought up in a Cold War environment  (as close to it as you got down under), we wondered what these events might lead to, especially before the Challenger disaster was found to be the result of a cheap washer and not some Middle Eastern nutjob…

While I’m not convinced that it deserves its own day, Top Gun (two words, only first letters capped!), the movie, the soundtrack, and the ripper quotes, did shape and define our 80s…

 

Stupid?

Should I be concerned when WordPress tells me that people are using the search term ‘stupid‘ to find this blog? It is often quite interesting to see what terms that people are using that bring them here…

There is a steady trickle of searches for Interbella which is good as it shows that a few people out there are starting to get the message that we need a new way of thinking to truly grasp complexity and uncertainty.

There is a lot of interest in the UK’s training simulation JCOVE that I mentioned in Microcosms – I never did get around to reviewing this, or even playing it that much – I simply don’t have time at the moment between job-hunting, blogging and doing the work I do have. I am hard-pressed to consider spending too much recreational time in front of the PC. Hopefully I will get over this, possibly when the weather packs up for winter, and I do enjoy sims and have done since my first Sega system in 1988. Sims and training still have a long road to ride together.

At least one person has been feverishly beavering away looking for a paper model of the mighty TSR.2. I can help there as there are four that I know of: the first three are fairly simplistic and should be easy enough to find online. The fourth is a magnificent creation in 1/33 by Waltair at Kartonbau.de – unfortunately there seem to have been some issues with the design and he has put it back on to the back burner til maybe this year…

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Note: Waltair’s TSR.2 released a year or so later…it’s a beauty!!!

Papermodeling.com is still down. It’s been four days now and I think that this is the longest that I have ever known a website to be down for technical reasons. Apparently the problem is that the back-up is very large (very graphics-heavy at a guess) and won’t upload properly. Best laid plans of mouse and men etc but I wonder what liability forum and blog hosts actually have when something like this happens. If this site can not be recovered, an incredible amount of knowledge (on a narrow topic) will be lost. We used to laugh when the Army went to an online personal records system in the early 90s and all the clerks had to maintain paper records of all transactions: there was actually more paper produced and stored than under the old paper-based system! Looking back, maybe they weren’t so dumb after all…?

I have done something to my back that kicks in whenever I sit at my desk in the study, especially in the evenings – any more than an hour or so at the keyboard and it becomes quite uncomfortable. The upside is that it goes away if I keep moving about so in the day I guess it is a good motivator to do some work outside…so today’s rehab has seen part of the vege garden dug up and replanted with beans, the goats and sheep set to work cleaning up the edge of the front lawns, and a start made on a Colditz fence so they can level all the crap that has grown at the top of the back garden without breaking out and obliterating the garden.

I have a few less options after dark but stretching out on a couch seems to help so I’m off to finish watching The Wild Geese, a favourite from wayback – should I feel old when I remember seeing this when it was first released in 1978…?

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Return of the King

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No…not some soppy sagawith hobbits, dwarves and elves…the king of the cutting comment, wielder of the blunt blade of too-honest comment, hero of 70s counter-culture, Reggie Perrin is back on TV One. When first screened in about 1976, it was just after my bedtime so I was never quite current on it and had to experience it vicariously through those of my friends with more enlightened parents…

reggie perrin oldWhat a pleasant surprise to find it screening tonight immediately after Doc Martin – well worthy of some really good laughs although you really can help feeling sorry for – and perhaps identifying a bit with – poor old Reggie. A word of warning though, it doesn’t appear that a second season has been picked up yet so a whole new generation may miss out on Grot!