Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Cribbins Factor

It’s 8:30 in the morning and I’ve just dumped my bag on my desk and before heading to make myself a much-needed cup of coffee I nip to use the facilities.

The “facilities” here are in the shape of separate cubicles inside a small corridor at the back of the building not far from where I sit. As I opened the door to the cleaning lady with the Afro hairstyle greets me with a smile and says “good morning”

I return the smile and ask if she managed to get home on time yesterday: this not being our first meeting. She tells me again about her 2nd job that she has taken on to help pay her daughters way through college, meaning that for the next couple of years she is working 15 hour days.  I commiserate and tell her not to overdo it.

I go back to the coffee making area and the chap with the moustache who somehow knows my name (despite the fact that I have no idea of his) says “good morning Pixie” before I get involved in a conversation with crazy eyelash lady who is under the weather at the moment with a combination of a cold and a pulled back muscle. I recommend Lemon & Ginger tea with honey over Lemsip (full of sugar – yuck)

This, in short, is my life: people seem to see something in me that makes them want to tell me their entire life story at the drop of a hat

People of all shapes and sizes just seem to befriend me: from the chap at the train station, who regularly tells me about the workings of the local railway, to this security guard with a hearty laugh who greets me with a fist bump whenever I’m in the building, to the variety of people around the office that I regularly stop and chat to – some of whom I know who they are and some of whom I have only the vaguest idea.

Perhaps it is because I’m quite quiet and I’m usually happy to listen, perhaps it is because I make no distinctions in life – a cleaner, to me, is just as important and worth my time as a senior manager and I try to treat both the same. Perhaps it is because I take things quite lightly and am usually ready with a silly comment: though personally I attribute it to what you might call The Cribbins Factor

Now I accept that at this point I’m probably going to lose some of my readers – if not all of you: because I don’t know how I can possibly explain Bernard Cribbins to a global audience.

Bernard Cribbins is what you might call a National Treasure: the something that I’ve always wondered about. There are plenty of celebrities who are referred to as national treasures, but I wonder what this really means. For instance: do they have to open themselves up to the public on bank holidays?

Mr Cribbins is an actor, most known for his work in light comedy and children’s entertainment. He has been in such films as The Railway Children, Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., Casino Royale (the 60s spoof, not the Daniel Craig one) and been the voice-over for classic animation series like The Wombles (essentially a bunch of creatures that live on Wimbledon Common and collect rubbish).

He was also a regular presenter on Jackanory – which was a 70s/80s TV show where minor celebrities of the time read children’s stories episodically over a week and for me, as a result of this last programme, he will always also be the quintessential Bilbo Baggins.

More recently he made several appearances in the revamped Doctor Who as Donna Noble’s grandfather and he is also known for a series of comic songs in the 70s including “Right Said Fred”

None of which, I suspect, will make you any the wiser if you live outside of the UK

However: when a friend of mine recently described me as having “the air of affable approach-ability of Bernard Cribbins” I was oddly pleased – as he has always struck me as somebody who would be extremely down-to-earth and, should you ever meet him, would turn out to be extremely pleasant and generous with his time.

Not that I will be having one, because they are so expensive now, but if the best thing they can find to say about me on my tombstone is “he had the affable approachability of Bernard Cribbins” I shall not consider my time to have been wasted – after all what is so wrong with spending a life being nice to people and spreading a little affability around?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Keep Below The Parapet

It can be small wonder that we British never managed to invent Jazz – or much else in the way of music come to that.

We seem to have been hanging on the coattails of other countries musically for several hundred years – all the great composers were German or Swiss apart from Elgar; Blues and Country both came from the colonies and it’s hard to think how something as tropical but relaxed as reggae could ever have originated on a cold November night in West Dulwich.

In fact about the only thing we can claim any sort of heritage with musically is folk music – which is largely people in Arran jumpers wearing ginger beards you could hide a ferret in, sticking one finger in their ear, screwing up their eyes and singing about how much better everything was 500 years ago – but even this largely comes from Scotland, Ireland or in cider growing country or wherever miners chose to frequent.

With our famous Stiff Upper Lip, no-nonsense view of the world and strict adherence to queueing for everything it’s hard to imagine what Brits must have thought when we first heard Jazz: which is largely people plinking around randomly on a piano in search of a tune. (NB I should probably say at this point that my image of Jazz as a child is largely garnered from brief performances by Cleo Laine and John Dankworth as she scat sang her way through hour after interminable hour that made me want to bury my ears in concrete with every shoobie-do-do-do-wah)

About 4 or 5 years ago now I started learning to play the saxophone – in truth it was something I had thought about doing about 10 years previously and then never followed up on. The saxophone, when played correctly, can be a beautiful instrument that produces a lot of emotion despite its connection to cheesy 1980s pop songs and the inevitable image those bring of a man on a beach without a shirt on. However – it does have inevitably strong links to Jazz, having largely been invented the purpose of playing that particular ilk of music.

Which is probably why I still struggle with the blasted thing: particularly when it comes to improvisation.

Douglas Adams once wrote that his character Arthur Dent could contrive to feel self-conscious if left alone with a pot plant for long enough, let alone with other people and I know exactly what he meant: when you improvise you are awfully exposed and bringing attention to yourself, inevitably inviting other people to comment on what you have just done – when, in my case at least, all you have done is to go up and down the scales in a largely formulaic manner.

I should mention at this point that I never dance in public unless there is a large crowd of people in which I can hide – and that when I do, very rarely, dance attempt to do what I call an “embarrassed boxer shuffle” where I sort of jiggle on the spot with my fists clenched looking at the ground for a shorter period of time as I can politely manage before considering it safe to go and sit on the sidelines and watch everybody else move with abandon – or preferably just go home and read a book. This is a similar experience to trying to improvise because it makes you acutely aware of your failings, particularly when you don’t have a great deal of confidence in what you’re doing in the first place.

Since October last year for a number of reasons I haven’t really played my saxophone and when I first picked it up after quite a long break I found that I had forgotten some of the few scales I had previously managed to remember and become rusty on the others. I’ve also stopped going to my lessons partially at frustration that none of it seemed to be sinking in, partially because I simply wasn't able to go and partially as increasingly large parts of the lesson focus around improvisation.

Since this is something I don’t feel comfortable with in the first place I find that I don’t enjoy the process and that this disinclines me from practising improv outside of the lesson, which presumably only adds to the problem. I feel that I somehow lack the imagination and spontaneity required. I just can ‘t seem to get past that sense of being pointed out in the crowd that we Brits fear so much.

Maybe I should just give up, buy a big woolly jumper, dye my beard ginger and go wassailing in the merry month of May…

…but somehow I doubt I’d manage two streets before I died of embarrassment.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

As Close As A Blade

It can be truly said that barely more than a generation ago you could tell a lot about a British family by how many buttons they had on their TV set and what they did with them.

This was, of course, back in the days when in order to watch a TV programme one had to switch on the set approximately 3 days in advance so it could warm up and that in order to do you had to get up from your sofa, walk across the room and press a switch (oh, the humanity!), bang the set a little  and then wait.

By the time you had sat down again there would be the beginnings of sound and then, shortly thereafter, there would be a steady black-and-white picture. 

Of course, in these days, there were only 4 buttons on the telly – the on/off button and 3 channel buttons: none of which were ever touched because, of course, there was only one channel that any right minded British person would watch.

For most people owning those early boxes things started going wrong when those additional buttons started being the home to programmes. Obviously there was the BBC – that bastion of England, where radio presenters wore dinner jackets and everyone spoke in a clipped Etonian accent: unless they were interrupted by Winston Churchill saying something extremely patriotic. Then later there was BBC 2 and already there were mumblings that perhaps this was a channel too many.

When ITV came along with its adverts pumping their way into your home, bringing soap operas and light entertainment in their wake there was a lot of frowning and disapproving puffing on pipes being done across the land. My own father can clearly remember watching ITV with his father’s disapproving glare on his back: the second he glanced anywhere else my grandfather would reach over and switch back to the only proper channel. In these days of course there was no morning telly, broadcasting would stop around bedtime for children and programs would stop entirely at midnight.

When Channel 4 and later Channel 5 came along forcing us to buy sets with extra buttons there was practically a civil war.

It was whilst I was having a shave the other night that I found myself thinking along these lines and remembering the old adverts for Remington that were fronted by entrepreneur Victor Kiam with his 2 famous catchphrases “so good I bought a company” and “shaves as close as a blade or your money back”

Now I have to admit that I am something of an infrequent shaver - whereas growing up I was constantly told stories of ancestors who had survived Ypes and never missed a day’s shave I am often known for going several days without trimming the old face fuzz and generally only shave when it becomes properly itchy. Additionally if I am poorly (i.e. cold) I may leave this longer so as to truly feel well once the symptoms have started to pass.

This is because I truly feel there is something nice about a really good shave that one has waited for – if you shave every day you can begin to take this for granted, whereas if you wait a few days until the stubble is annoying you and then have a really good, close pruning session your face feels much more refreshed for it. Additionally about 12 years or so ago I went over to shaving with a blaze and, aside from the inevitable cuts, I have never looked back.

But even I, on those days when I finally do get round to momentarily not looking like a vagabond or extremely cheap rate Pirates of the Caribbean reject, cannot quite understand what it must have been like for Victor when presented with this amazing piece of technology he didn’t merely think “gosh this is quite good, I must thank my wife for her thoughtful gift” – which most sane people would have done – but instead decided to go out and buy an entire company.

It makes me wonder what kind of life he had lead up until that point that he could be so amazed by a simple razor (always assuming she didn’t buy him the Remington Fuzz Away for nasal hair removal) – and I can’t help but wonder what his wife’s reaction was.

“Honey: I like that so much I’m going to go out and buy the company!”

“Dammit: I knew I should have bought him slippers!”

Maybe we all need to pay more attention when using everyday items, perhaps one of you out there reading this could, upon opening your next tube of toothpaste, realise that this is the minty freshness that everyone needs and become the next Victor Kiam?

Oh and by the way...I still rarely watch ITV...

We still have some standards here you know!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Film Review Time

Hello again and it’s time for my infrequent film review sections. As some of you may already know we have an arthouse cinema about 1 mile away from where we live which shows what I like to think of as Foreign ROad Movies About the Grimness of Existence (FROMAGE) and other such films that you don’t always get at the multiplex.

However increasingly it also now shows some of the mainstream films a few weeks after the other cinemas have shown them in an attempt to cover the losses of the less popular films which get a small but loyal audience: however this time around all of the films I'm going to talk about are mainstream – so there will be no mention of Brechtian overtones today.

First up I should say that during November I had a one-month trial of Netflicks which I subsequently decided to cancel – largely because in that one month I had watched pretty much everything on the lists that I wanted to. However: I did catch up on all the Marvel superhero films I had missed (Iron Man 2 and 3, Thor, Captain America etc) which were of mixed value. I also watched both seasons of Orange Is The New Black (definitely worth a watch) – and then found a new film in my “recommended to you” pile which, during a dull moment, I decided I would give a chance. That film was…

 #1: I Am Number 4

Now I have to admit I had never heard of this, but as I say: I was quite bored and there was nothing else to do – so I decided to watch it. The plot is essentially about a group of 7 children from another planet who are refugees on Earth. Each has a superhero power and a Buffy That Vampire Slayer style Watcher to look after them and keep them safe against the killer from their home planet that has come to wipe them out: a story that can only have been created with the mindset of “how much money can I make from the teen reader market that made the Twilight series so successful”

But this is where the plot gets really stupid – because the killers have to take them out in numerical order. I.e. if they bumped into number 7 now they couldn’t kill them because they haven’t killed number 3 yet. This is never explained to any great satisfaction and is utterly ludicrous.

The film trails along for nearly 2 hours with lots of explosions, some not so impressive fight set pieces and an unrealistic love interest from the previously mentioned number 7 – before I finally realised in the end credits that this was a film produced by Michael Bay – which only goes to show you should read the instructions before attempting anything, because I could have saved myself 2 hours of my life if I’d known that at the start.

My review: give it a miss. There’s nothing much to redeem this story and I can only hope that the sequel book never gets turned into a film. Not as big a waste of time as Iron Man 2 which was essentially 2 very long hours of Robert Downey Jr getting drunk – but close.

#2: Edge Of Tomorrow (or is it seems to have been retitled on DVD – Live, Die, Repeat – Edge of Tomorrow)

Now I have to admit I’m not a big fan of Tom Cruise. In fact I would go so far as to say I find him slightly annoying. Even as far back as Top Gun I thought his character Maverick was a little too full of himself and that Cruise came over as being too aware of his own good looks and overconfident. As such I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch one of his films.

However: it seems that I’m not alone – because in the last couple of films I have seen him in Tom Cruise has pretty much played to this facet of his character. In Jerry Maguire he plays an overconfident, slightly annoying PR expert who learns by the end of the film to be a better person and to accept love into his life, in War Of The Worlds he plays and overconfident, slightly irritating everyman who by the end of the film learns to be a better person and a better father and in this he plays another slightly annoying, self-involved PR expert who, through his own cowardice and self-preservation finds himself on the front line of an unwinnable war against a strange alien species that looks like those rubber spiders you used to throw at the wall as a kid and watch climb down the surface.

The plot of this film is a kind of mix of Groundhog Day and Starship Troopers – because every time the main character dies he pops back to life again at the start of the same day, slowly learning to be a better person and a better fighter until such time as he is capable of surviving further and further into the day.

Edge Of Tomorrow is one of those sci-fi films where plot and the pace carries you along at sufficient speed that you don’t have time to question all the bits that don’t really make much sense and it looks good enough to make you believe in the world you find yourself. There’s not much here are any intellectual level: no attempt to really find out what the aliens want or why they are attacking, or even to show them as anything other than just brutal killing machines – but that’s not really the purpose of the film.

My only real problem with the film was the ending, which without wanting to give anything away I felt was a bit of a copout.

Ultimately I enjoyed this film enough whilst I was watching it – but had no real desire to ever watch it again: so I would recommend that you wait for it to be on telly or to borrow it from a friend (as I did)

#3 Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (DOT-POTA)

I have to admit that I am something of a POTA fan and have now seen all of the films apart from the 1st of the rebooted franchise Rise…

There surely can’t be that many people in the world who aren’t aware of the original Charlton Heston movie where an astronaut arrives on a strange planet to find that the balance between man and ape has been reversed – followed by the inevitable sequels Underneath The…, Escape From…, Conquest Of… And Battle For… All of which was then followed by an ill recieved Tim Burton reboot and a further reboot, which takes us to where we are now.

There have been those who pointed out the really Dawn should’ve come before Rise – because unless they were on a night shift most people, and presumably apes, don’t rise until after the dawn – but this is a niggly point which we will swiftly gloss over (until such time as the 3rd film turns out to be called Weetabix Of The Planet Of The Apes – which is surely the next in the logical sequence of crawling out of bed)

As I said earlier I haven’t seen ROT-POTA, but this film makes enough sense on its own to be viewed alone and actually is extremely relevant to the times we are living in, because if you take away the talking apes what you are left with is a story about racial intolerance and misunderstanding and the consequences of hatred. Both sides have their reasons for disliking and mistrusting the others and ultimately it is a lack of ability to communicate and get past these issues that leads to the problems.

The CGI apes are fantastic, brought to life as usual by Andy Serkis – a man who has so far been foolishly overlooked for a best actor award – who gives Caesar a real sense of personality. It’s a fast-moving film that keep you watching all the way – but it’s only problem is that the ending suffers from this being a middle section of the longer story – i.e. it leave you hanging for the next instalment.

Ultimately I found this an engaging film with enough going on to leave you asking questions and interested enough to want to see the next one.

#4: The Lego Movie

This has been one of the big surprise successes of 2014 – a film about consumerism gone mad, creativity and oddly about individuality in a world demanding uniformity, but with jokes and, of course, Batman.

The story follows an everyday worker who comes to believe that he is the chosen one of a prophecy to save Legoland and his wacky adventures. It’s also a film about how we deal with change: so for a children’s film starring a bunch of CGI animated bricks there’s a lot more going on here than jokes. 

Perhaps it was the fact that I saw it on quite a small TV screen – but although I found this passed the time I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought was going to. I kind of feel that I need to give it another chance on a larger screen and perhaps I might enjoy it more then – but I also saw some episodes of the Lego Yoda Chronicles shortly after and laughed twice as hard at the jokes in that as I did those in the movie.

I’d be interested to know if anyone reading this has seen this film and enjoyed it more than I did as I know a lot of people thought it was amazing – because at the moment I'm a little bit ambivalent.

#5: Paddington

Anyone who has grown up in England, certainly during the 1970s, will be aware of Michael Bond’s stories about a refugee bear who comes to London and moves in with an everyday family – certainly I grew up with the BBC’s animated series voiced by Michael Horden (which had the supporting characters of the Brown family shown as two-dimensional cardboard cutouts and Paddington himself as the only 3-D colour character and was utterly charming as a result)

Paddington is a rare talking bear who wears a duffel coat, red hat and has a fascination with marmalade sandwiches – he is well-meaning but slightly innocent and often gets into trouble by trying to be helpful.

I think there were a lot of people who, when hearing that there was going to be a film, panicked that the charm of the 70s TV series would be lost and it would be ruined forever. Certainly when stories started coming through that the original voice of Paddington (Colin Firth) had been replaced halfway through filming there was a certain trepidation that it was going to be awful.

However – as it turned out we couldn’t have been more wrong. From the opening sequence to the end credits this film doesn’t put a single step wrong and it would take a person much more cynical than myself to watch this film without smiling from start to end and laughing out loud on several occasions. I have never applauded a film as I find it a bit weird to applaud people who aren’t there – but when at the end of the movie the audience began to clap I nearly found myself joining in.

This is a cast that includes Hugh Bonneville as the safety conscious Mr Brown, Julie Walters as the dotty aunt/gran figure, the fabulous Ben Wishaw as the voice of Paddington and Nicole Kidman having a whale of a time as the evil taxidermist. Even the addition of the calypso band D Lime who appear as a small running joke on the streets at various times adds to the charm of this film.

The CGI of Paddington is such that you completely accept him as a real character and you genuinely find yourself on the edge of your seat at times of peril and at 90 minutes the film feels exactly the right length. Although this is essentially a children's film it's intelligent and funny enough to please any adult and to bring out the inner child.

I know this film may be hard to find outside the UK – but if you get the chance to go see this please do, because this is quite simply the best film I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Schrodinger's Socks

It is often said of quantum physics that anyone who says that they understand it needs to go back and have another look, because they clearly don’t.

For instance: there is a wild and wacky world of subatomic particles. If you take two waves in a tank of water and fire them off at the same time when they meet they will interfere with each other, creating further waves. So far so simple.

However if you take a single subatomic particle and fire it at a wall it will, like a 13-year-old boy with a poster of Lady Gaga, interfere with itself (and yes, I’m aware that’s a slightly disturbing analogy). Subatomic particles also react differently depending on whether you observe them or not.

Now there are those that say that quantum physics has no real-life applications: however, they are wrong… especially when it comes to the subject of socks. For instance: take a bunch of washing, including a variety of socks in pairs and put them into your washing machine.

No matter how hard you observe them there will be no correlation between the amount of socks you put into the machine and the amount that you take out.

This is known as Argyle’s Uncertainty Principle, which also goes on to talk about the differentiation between the amount of socks taken out of the machine, hung on the clothes line and eventually paired up into socks.

There is currently no theory as to why this number, expressed mathematically as S = ((WM/CL)x(Px2)), again fails to explain why you can never find a pair of socks in the morning.

It is also a little-known fact that Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment initially had a different subject.

As some of you will be aware Schrödinger postulated that if you were to take a cat and put it in a box with a radioactive isotope then there were 3 possible options: 1) you would open the box to a hissing the ball of fur and claws and win a free trip to hospital, 2) you would open the box to find the cat had asphyxiated or 3) you would open the box to find that the cat had died from radiation poisoning – however until such time as you open the box and observed the contents the cat existed in a state of quantum flux where all 3 possibilities existed at the same time. 

However what is generally less well-known is that after a visit from the Cat Protection League, where Schrödinger spent a very frustrating 12 hours patiently trying to explain that in fact he didn’t even own a cat (something he couldn’t entirely prove because the mere fact that it wasn’t there wasn’t necessarily evidence he didn’t have one), he initially decided to publish his theory as being about being given socks for Christmas: which went likethis...

A present under the Christmas tree that looks like socks, feels like socks and is from a relative world renowned for always providing you with socks does, in fact, only have the potential to be socks until such time as it has opened – until when it could equally be a packet of Jelly Tots, completely empty or something that was actually intended for different relative entirely.

So when your relatives turn up on Christmas day take a moment before you open your presents to hold one up and say: “I don’t know if you realise it, but I am holding in my hand the essence of quantum physics” – they will either be mightily impressed, or they will run for the hills: which depending on how you feel about your relatives can be considered a win-win solution

Merry Christmas and hope to see you in 2015

Monday, 8 September 2014

Little Boxes

It’s late.  The world outside has long since turned to darkness.  The station is empty; only the echo of distant footsteps and the constant blare of the tannoy give it any sense of life.  The doors of the train open and I step inside, making myself comfortable for the two hour journey, turning the space available into my world: enclosing myself away from the rest of the train as I plug in my headphones and listen to the podcast on my phone.

The train is busier than I expected it to be: each person settling in to position in their own way: one is reading the free newspaper from the station, another watches downloaded content on their tablet whilst a third stretches himself over his bag and sinks slowly into sleep.

A few stops down a young couple enter the train and sit opposite me.; their legs intertwining, arms resting on each other’s arms, heads naturally leaning in towards each other.  They talk in low tones as he pulls a receipt from his pocket and draws a grid of dots: ten by ten, resting the paper on her knee. Taking it in turns to pass the pen they draw line after line, trying not to give the other a chance to draw a box.  They are totally lost within their own world now and I try not to watch too intently: choosing instead to pick up a paper or watch their reflection in the darkened window. They could have the whole of the train to themselves but instead they linger in an ever decreasing space, shut off from the rest of the carriage.

The game becomes more serious as she makes a mistake and leaves him open to make a box, putting his initial in the centre and taking an extra turn.  She flirts, perhaps trying to distract him, whispering into his ear: their heads almost touching now.

The train rumbles on through the night: the occasional voice of the tannoy announcer the only reminder that there is a world outside our little enclosure.

Finally my stop arrives and I get up, taking a last look at the scrap of paper before I head towards the door.  He is winning the game: but I wonder who is winning the war.

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Run Up To Christmas List-o-Fives

Well it's nearly that time of year and Santa has come early to our house - or at least to a member of our household.

That is to say that one of our presents this year was a box of goodies that we cleared out to make space on the floor - only for Giles to decide that the box was a fantastic new place to sit.

And so it is that several days later the empty, decorated box is still in the centre of our floor - only now it is slightly more of an obstacle because of the semi-resident cat.

So whilst Giles prepares himself for Christmas how are the rest of the Pixie Clan getting ourselves in the mood for some Chrimbo Cheer whilst working ever-so-hard (honest) in our jobs in the run up to some much needed time off?

Well, as the long suffering readers of this blog will know I am rather fond of creating List-o-Fives (none of which ever add up to only five) and so here's a list of things that we often share to get us in the mood:  

Christmas Televisual Feasts (available on "terrestrial" TV - ie non-subscription channels): 

#1: Doctor Who (Christmas Day)
Back in the 1960s a single episode of Dr Who aired on Christmas Day.  It was, for the officianadoes out there, a middle episode of The Dalek Masterplan (13 episodes long) called "The Feast Of Stephen" - it was the last time the show would air on Christmas Day for 40 years.  However, ever since the re-boot of the show about 7-8 years ago it has been an annual thing.  This year sees the final story of current incumbent in the title role Matt Smith running around yelling a lot and waving a sonic screwdriver at anything and everything - threatening to assemble ad-hoc furniture at every turn (presumably).  The last few have been a bit disappointing so I am hoping for a return to form this year as we see the arrival of Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor...

#2: The Sound Of Music
Some time in the 1980s they passed the Von Trapp Law meaning that it was illegal for The Sound Of Music to be left out of the Christmas schedule from thereon - or so it feels as every yuletide the screens fill with what feels like six hours of tap-dancing nazis.  After all: what could be more festive?  The way that most people watch this film is in bits -the first hour one year, the last hour another year and the twelve hours in between in odd bits whilst avoiding the Queen's Speech.  Very few people watch it in a single sitting unless they are really, really bored.

#3: Cassablanca
Don't ask me why this is part of the festive programming but as with Sound Of Music it is now on every year.  A fascinating fact is that Ronald Regan was, at one point, in line for the role of Rick so we must be eternally greatful that they elected him President instead...err.....

#4: Father Ted Christmas Special
The hapless residents of Craggy Island get lost in Habit-hat (a specialist shop for Priests...) and narrowly avert a scandal thanks to the quick thinking of Ted: who is awarded a Golden Cleric award as a result.  Father Ted was a fantastically daft and funny sit-com, cut short too soon by the death of it's star. 

#5: Blackadder's Christmas Carol
Ebeneezer Blackadder, the white sheep of the dastardly family, is visited by the spirit of Christmas who inadvertently shows him how much better off he'd be if he were evil.  Blackadder is still one of my favourite all time sit-coms and this subversive version of Charles Dickens is amongst the best on offer.

#6: It's A Wonderful Life
So it turns out that my mother has never seen It's A Wonderful Life and, when i described it to her, she said "well that doesn't sound much fun" (or words to that effect).  She is, of course, wrong - the film is rather odd because it's mostly slightly depressing until the uplifting bit where if you don't cry then, quite frankly, you have no soul.  James Stewart is, as always, a joy to watch - but be warned: if I find out that if you watched the colourized version instead of the original black and white i shall be severely disappointed with you to say the least.

#7: The Box Of Delights
A children's TV series that first ran in the early 1980s about a magic box, an incredibly posh young boy and a ripping adventure yarn that could only ever be written in England.  True some of the special effects were naff even then but it still has a certain sense of magic.  The best way to watch this is episodically so that the final episode falls on Christmas Eve (which is when it is based to happen)

Some other films for your consideration:
The Wizard Of Oz (Herself insists its on at Christmas - not aware of it myself but it wouldn't surprise me in the least)
Scrooged/The Muppett Christmas Carol - one or the other of these is always on and both are worth your time

Merry Christmas to all bloggers