Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Seven Links Project

Perpetua over at Perpetually in Transit invited me to join the Seven Links Project in which I have to link to my favourite posts in certain categories. It's quite nice to look back over the drivel I've written before and marvel at the fact that people still read it.  So, here goes.....

My Most Beautiful Post
Hmm, I don't really do beautiful, at least not in the way that some other bloggers do, with lovely photos and gentle writing that makes you feel all calm and chilled out so I'm going to play a bit fast and loose with this category and make it My Post About My Most Beautiful Daughter,  Mother's Pride

My Most Popular Post
I had quite a few which tied around the 21 comments mark, clearly all written on days when very little else was going on in the world, but the one I've chosen is Getting One Over on the Crims. I'm including this one as a tribute to the now defunct Crapmobile. Sadly, the crims finally got one over one me.  A few days after some local members of the travelling fraternity stopped to enquire after a possible purchase of the Crapmobile, only to baulk at the (very low) price we were asking, I came out to find the window broken and the driver's door jemmied (why not just break the window FFS?). An attempt had been made to hotwire the car (failed) and finally they had tried to drill the ignition barrel. All in vain. The Crapmobile may have been, well, crap but it fought to the bitter end.  Sadly, the cost of repairing a car that was worth about 50 quid was too high so we sent the Crapmobile to the Great Scrapyard in the Sky, well, Copheap Lane at least! We received the Certificate of Destruction last week.

My Most Controversial Post
Oh dear, I struggled a bit with this one. Had I been doing this on my old French blog I'd have been spoilt for choice but controversy and me are not exactly regular bedfellows, bit like The Husband really.  Our long distance marriage looks set to last until the end of the year. So the nearest I can offer is Which Five Celebrities Would You Most Like to Slap. Hardly controversial unless you happen to like The Kardashians et al. I should also probably include Oh Crap because it got me into very hot water with The Husband, who didn't see the funny side at all!

My Most Helpful Post
Ha! I'm to instructional posts what Cheryl Cole is to quantum physics. I have, in the past shown you, dear reader, how not to make hand tied bouquets and jewellery and how not to do DIY but it did seem that my recent post on the consequences of video piracy was every so slightly educational so my nomination in this category is Don't be a P(i)RAT(e) but I'm going to do that old fast and loose thing again and also include Brizzle: Iss Gurt Lush, Mind. just because I like it

The Post Who's Success Surprises Me
Well, all of them to be honest! I'm always ridiculously grateful that anybody reads anything I write but I was surprised that one of my shortest posts got one of the highest number of comments. It's Five Things I Hope People Say About Me at my Funeral

The Post that I Feel Didn't get the Attention it Deserved
Well, the question is, do any of them deserve any attention? Probably not. Any attention, however small, is appreciated so I've got nothing to offer for this category.... sorry.

The Post that I'm Most Proud Of
I think it's So Long Fat Albert because I got so many nice comments from people outside the blogosphere who's lives have been affected by this graceless decision by the MoD. It also got me an open invitation for a jaunt in Slimline Susie, a light aircraft belonging to a friend of mine who's husband is an ex-Herc pilot. How cool is that!

So, I've now made the Seven Links Project into the Eight Links Project so it just leaves me to pass this on to some other bloggers. Feel free to take up the invitation or not. We all have busy lives so there's no pressure but if you do have time to do it, I'd love to see your seven links

Macy at The View from Macy

Steve at Bloggertropolis

Aunty Gwen at Aunty Gwen's Diary

Jody at About Last Weekend

and finally everybody's favourite Assassin..... of vegetables that is  The Vegetable Assassin

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I name this child.....

I waited with bated breath (well actually I didn't because, really I'm not that fussed) to see what Bosh and Pecks would call their latest child. As slebrity parents go, the names they chose for their children are only slighty off left field. No Princess Tiiaammii, Dusti Rain, Jermajesty or Sage Moonblood for them. With the others named after a) place of conception - mine would be called London and Not Entirely Sure - b) shakespearean name - though I doubt for a single nanosecond that that is why the name was chosen  - and c) a spanish girl's name... for a boy.

So, based on that I was thinking a) Back Seat of Car/Mattress/Round Tom and Katie's, b) Elbow (from Measure for Measure, keep up now!) or perhaps Goneril, as slebs don't much care if their offspring have the piss taken out of them and c) Jose

But in the end, they eschewed the slebrity penchant for wierd names and just gave their daughter a time. Harper Seven. Say it quickly and it's Half Past Seven. Now for all you people of a North American persuasion, I'm aware that it doesn't work but imagine it said in Pecks flat estuary accent, or Bosh's slightly common Hertfordshire one and it's not a name, it's most definitely a time.

Bosh is said to be delighted with the name chosen by her other slightly oddly named offspring. Apparently it's after a character called 'Harper Finkle' in a Disney show, 'The Wizards of Waverley Place'. Reputedly Pecks has often read these books to himself..... sorry, to his boys, and they've visited to the set.  Bosh is apparently delighted that they've chosen an Old English name - like she knew! Oh well, their favourite show could have been Dumbo.

Seven was Peck's number at Man United and England, where he achieved a modicum of success. Note he didn't call his daughter Harper Twenty Three. Number fixations are apparently very common in people suffering from OCD, as apparently Pecks does.

But you can just imagine the conversations when she's older.  Half Past Seven's first day at school.

Little Boy: Hello, what's your name?

7.30:  Harper Seven

Little Boy: No, what's your name?

30 Minutes Past:  Harper Seven

Little Boy:  I didn't ask you what the time was. I asked you what your name was

Seven Thirty:   It's Harper Seven

Little Boy:  It's not half past seven, it's nine o'clock (obviously these are very bright slebrity  hothoused children). Oh I give up. I'm going to talk to someone else

If it had been another boy would he have called it Joe 90 I wonder? Is their goldfish called Oceans 11? Did they call their dog Kay 9? Does anybody actually care?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Don't be a P(i)RAT(e).....

On the news today it was reported that there has been a rise in video and film piracy thanks to the reduction in household incomes and the increased speed of broadband connections which are making illegal downloading easier.  A 'pirate' was interviewed. When asked if he was concerned that he was having a direct negative impact on film making and putting people out of work he was unapologetic.  'They get paid enough' he said.

Well buddy, let me just help you out a bit on this one.  While it might not affect the producers and directors, further down the production chain it has a dramatic impact. Yes, by and large jobs in film and tv production are well paid... when you're working. When you aren't you don't get anything.   Most people in film and tv are on Schedule D tax. If they are out of work, most can't even claim benefits as they are assessed on their previous years accounts so if the previous year was a good one it's just hard luck. No state help for you. What? You paid 40% tax last year? Tough!

Pay and conditions in the film industry have declined dramatically in the last few years. While my work colleagues are all moaning about losing their over-generous car allowances, The Husband is working for the same company he worked for in 2004 for £250 pounds a WEEK less. Holiday pay is now deducted from your paycheck each week then paid back to you at the end of the shoot so in reality you are paying for it yourself, there is no sick pay, maternity pay, and certainly no time off unless it's as a result of death, plague or pestilence. Pensions? Not a hope. Accomodation allowances are rarely paid now. If you work away from home you have to pay for your own accommodation.  Try finding reasonably priced accommodation for 3 or 4 months. It's hopeless. Letting agencies don't want to know as it's too short for an assured shorthold tenancy, private landlords are equally wary, which leaves hotels or serviced apartments, all of which are hideously expensive. And if you think they'll do you a good deal for a long let, think again. They know they have you over a barrel.  The Husband recently worked on a production where the set designer was living in a caravan in the car park of the TV studios. Oh, yes indeed. It certainly is a glamorous life! 

Further down the production chain, the runners and assistants, who previously could have expected to at least be paid their expenses, now often have to work for nothing.

Negotiating a deal with a production company has become a largely pointless exercise.  If you don't like their terms and conditions then there is probably a long queue of unemployed people lined up behind you who will.  The Husband has been told several times recently 'If you don't like it......' 

When there is work, the hours would make the average person feel faintly queasy.  The Husband's average day will start at 6am to be on set at 7am and then he'll work through until maybe 9 or 10 at night. If he's actually on set he might get a lunch break, if he's not then he won't.  Most filming weeks are now 6 days as the productions need to get the filming done as quickly as possible to keep costs down. The one 'day off' is usually spent dressing sets in preparation for the first day's shooting of the following week. How else can they get it ready?  Overtime is not paid. Family life is non-existent. In the 'old days' we would globetrot with him, going away on location for months on end. The production always provide a nice apartment or hotel suite - though he always had to pay extra when we were with him.  Holidays were spent in Barbados (although usually on cheapie last minute deals because you can never plan ahead).  These days we can't afford to go with him as all accommodation costs  must be covered ourselves. This year's holiday will be spent in France trying to get the rent money out of our non-paying tenants.

When The Husband started out, the industry was a closed shop. No Union Membership. No Job. You had to be proposed and seconded by current members or you couldn't get in.  While I'm not a wholesale fan of unions, in film and tv they did fight for their members and conditions and pay were far better.  Since they have lost their influence, pay has decreased, working days have got longer, deferred payment productions have increased (this is where you work for low/no pay and are paid when the film starts to make money, assuming it ever does).  The Husband's pay has not really increased in the past 10 years and in the last few has dropped dramatically.

With the financial crisis, the heart was cut out of UK film and television production funding. Productions closed overnight and work dried up. The Husband, who was used to working 10 out of 12 months at the very minimum suddenly had no work for nearly two years. Two years during which time he had to cash in his pensions, use up all our savings, even sell personal possessions to pay the gas bill.  We know other people who were far worse off, who lost their homes and everything they owned. We know of some who took their own lives.  I learned to feed my family for a few quid, grew my own vegetables and became fairly proficient at make do and mend.  It's alright if you are Kirstie Allsop, doing it for faintly nostaligic reasons, not because you have to, some may say it's character building. I just think is was shit.  Meanwhile, Mr Video Pirate thinks they're all well paid fat cats. The truth is that every penny that is taken away from UK film and television production is a penny that is not paid to someone who is, in all likelihood, already struggling to make ends meet. Not the producers. They'll be fine.  But the people lower down, the ones just starting out and trying to make a career for themselves. The ones who will have to work well past conventional retirement age just to claw back what they lost in the recession. I've told The Husband that we'll both be working till we are 80 then it's straight off to Dignitas.  He laughed. He thought I was joking.....

Film and TV production is now picking up. The Husband has been working flat out since last September on a number of different projects but all up in Manchester, a long way from home in the South West.  Still, it gave him the chance to share the Granada TV canteen with the 'guests' of The Jeremy Kyle Show recently. I told him to keep his distance otherwise he might find himself in the comfy chair having a paternity test for some slapper from Scunthorpe.  You see what I mean about the glamour!

UK art department crew are the envy of the world. They are, without doubt, the most incredibly talented film and television professionals in the world. They produce top quality films for a fraction of the cost of their US counterparts. We should be celebrating them, not taking their livelihoods away. Times are tough for everyone but please, give them a chance. Don't be a P(i)RAT(e)!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

So long Fat Albert.....

Last week was a historic, and for some an emotional week.  Wiltshire was saying goodbye to the fleet of Hercules C130s (or should that be Herculi?) that have been stationed at RAF Lyneham for over 40 years as part of the RAFs Tactical Air Transport force.There can't be many people in the County who haven't, at some time or other, seen one of the Fat Alberts, as they are affectionately known, lumbering across the sky, surprisingly quiet for such a monstrous aircraft.

For the past decade we've all become accustomed to seeing them on the television, discharging their tragic payload of fallen soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan through the rear door but for the people of Wiltshire they hold a special place in their hearts and their history.

Over the past few years the repatriations to Lyneham, then the sad, slow procession through Wootton Bassett, a town recently and deservedly awarded a Royal Charter for the dignified way in which they have honoured our war dead, have been a disconcerting staple of weekly news bulletins. But not any more.

For reasons that I don't know, the Ministry of Defence has decided to close RAF Lyneham, with the loss of nearly over 2000 service and civilian posts. Those who survive the cuts have been transferred to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.  Alongside all the service personnel who will move across the border are their families. The impact on what is basically a village with an RAF base will be huge. There are question marks over local businesses, over whether the local school will be able to stay open with the loss of so many pupils. The hole in the local economy is estimated at around £90 million pounds.

Times are tough for the MoD, although how much of it is self-inflicted is open to debate, and we all know that savings have to be made but to me, closing a base which has become so much an integral part of our recent military history, just seems a little ungrateful. Repatriations took place to Brize Norton up until 2007 but it was only after the move to Lyneham that the public took it on themselves to turn out to honour the servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the 'spectacle' of the repatriations to Wootton Bassett began. It's not everyone's cup of tea but I always felt that it must have been some comfort to the families to know that there were so many ordinary people who wanted to show their public support for the price their children had paid for this ridiculous war.

So on Friday, camera in hand, I set off to try and capture my own photograph of the Fat Alberts as they did a low level flypast across the county to say goodbye and thank you to the people who have supported them for so many years. I've always been a bit of an anorak about military planes, maybe it was the result of a childhood spent at the Biggin Hill Air Show or planespotting, and then later on digs for downed WWII aircraft.

They set off from Lyneham at 10.30, taking a slight detour up to Tetbury in Gloucestershire where someone with power and influence had asked them to fly over his house, then on to Avebury, Calne, Devizes, Warminster, Melksham, Trowbridge, Colerne, Wootton Bassett and Malmesbury, before heading over Swindon to Brize.  The local radio station had a reporter in the lead Hercules, being flown by the Station Commander, Squadron Leader John Gladstone, who reported minute by minute.  A friend of a friend was the air traffic controller who authorised the final take off. What a sad moment that must have been.

Across the county thousands had turned out to wave goodbye. In Wootton Bassett primary school the children stood out in the playground and formed the word 'BYE' in big letters. The airmen were so touched as they flew directly overhead.  

No-one was entirely sure which route the Hercs would take so I opted for a high spot just outside town. I guessed roughly what time they would reach us.  I was a few moment out as just as I arrived at my vantage point, I spotted them flying low across the town then banking off around Battlesbury Hill. I stopped my car at the side of the road to take a photo but the damned focus on the camera jammed and I missed them.  Every lane and every layby had someone parked up, faces turned skywards, watching the Fat Alberts fly overhead. People waved and shouted.  I was on my way to a meeting so I turned the car round and cursed my camera, which I flung into the back of the car.  I'd hardly gone 200 meters when the Hercs appeared again from the other side of the hill then banked majestically off towards the Somerset Levels.  I nearly ran into a hedge as I scrabbled for my phone to take a photo with that. I missed them again but did have the bejesus scared out of me by a low level helicopter that was following the flight a few minutes behind. It was so low I could practically see the whites of the pilot's eyes.

I carried on listening to the broadcast from the sky. The reporter was really struggling to keep his emotions in check and it was difficult not to get drawn in to the emotion of the moment  as they headed towards the Oxfordshire border.  Rather symbolically, I thought, at the very moment they passed over the border, radio contact was lost and by the time the link was repaired they had already landed at Brize and where preparing for the handover of the standard.

And meanwhile,  back in Lynehan,  1300 acres of prime English land sits empty while the MoD decides what to do with it. So long Fat Albert......

Photo courtesy of

Edit: Just in case you were curious about how they came to be known as 'Fat Alberts', I can now reveal, da NAAAH, thanks to my Rock Choir buddy Liz's husband Jon, an ex Herc pilot, the story behind the name.  Back in the days of flared trousers and Farrah Fawcett, the US airforce had a blue Herc that was used as a support plane, and which they nicknamed 'Fat Albert'. When the RAF heard about it they adopted the name for their fleet of Hercs. So there you have it.  You never know, it might just win you a Pub Quiz.