Paddington 2 is a Delightful, Exciting Adventure

As many filmgoers know sequels can sometimes be disappointing. Others, however, are superb – as Finding Dory, the prequel/sequel to Finding Nemo – was. See A Feast of Tales’ review of that film here https://wp.me/p4c1s1-dF.

An upcoming sequel which opens at cinemas in South Africa on 1 December is Paddington 2. This sequel, likewise, is excellent. Perhaps even better than the first film Paddington. The action opens showing Paddington (the voice of Ben Whishaw) as a happy and accepted part of the Brown family. Still faithful to his ‘bear’ family, however, Paddington longs to honour his Great Aunt’s upcoming birthday by sending her a special gift from London. He finds an unusual pop-up book depicting famous London landmarks in Mr Gruber’s antique shop and settles on that. But the book is expensive and Paddington has to save up enough money by working. He sets about it with his usual penchant for creating unintended disasters and is finally close enough to buying the book. But someone else who wants the book – for obviously shadowy reasons – is the pompous, fake showman Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant). Before Paddington can buy the book it is stolen from Mr Gruber’s shop, Paddington is framed for the theft and he is sent to prison. Horrors!

No worries there. While the cooky Brown family embark on the difficult task of finding the real thief and proving Paddington’s innocence, Paddington, with his usual unfailing good manners, makes friends in prison. He even wins over the fearful chef Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), teaches him to make marmalade and makes prison a jolly charming place to be. A series of adventures involving escape, capture, fearful train journeys and determination lead to a happy conclusion.

Paddington 2 is charming, lovely family entertainment. Paddington’s politeness and honesty, and his commitment to family, highlight values worth exposing young children to. It opens at Ster Kinekor on 1 December just in time for the long school holidays. Don’t miss it.

My London Marathon Journey

Supporter sunglasses

My London Marathon journey began, of course, some time prior to 23 April 2017, the date of the event. Preparations included plotting the route, packing supplies, wearing the right gear, and liaising with supporters. My outfit was a bright orange T-shirt sporting the word Sense on it. Sense is a UK-based charity that cares for deafblind children. I was very happy to wear the colours of such an organisation. I also wore giant sunglasses to attract attention. These red plastic toys were nothing compared to what other runners wore: Darth Vader outfits, giant beer bottles and, yes, a 25kg tumble dryer. The kitchen appliance man (Ben Blowes) set a world record. Despite such competition I was very proud of my four-and-a-half-hour finish time.

It was a challenge to make my way through the thousands of people (there were 40 000 runners and I don’t know how many supporters). But the impressive work of road marshals and police men and women was a big help. They shepherded runners and supporters across roads, and channelled patient crowds into public transport stations. I maintained a good time, slowing towards the end, but was definitely hampered by a race-day toilet that held the promise of space-age efficiency but didn’t deliver. It gurgled through its automatic self-cleaning phase so slowly that I hopped about while waiting, anxious to return to the race.

The pace leading up to the 14-mile mark was the most stressful. I wasn’t sure I would be seen by those who knew me and I took so long to decide where the best vantage point would be that it took a hard sprint to get me there at the projected time. I must say that the timing chips given to runners and the mobile phone app they connected to were excellent when it came to tracking progress and therefore heightening excitement.

Spotting my loved ones through the crowds was hardest at the 19-mile mark and by then my calves were shaking with the effort of keeping me on my toes. But it was all worth it when we were reunited post-finish at our chosen meeting point.

Pre- and post-marathon

My London Marathon journey was a tiring (and expensive) one but lots of fun. I barely needed the energy bars we’d packed, so thrilling was the travel by train and by foot to the four spectator points our family had decided upon. I saw my dedicated, disciplined daughter at three of the four stops, and simply yelled her name as loudly as possible at the first as she ran past. She heard me, us, and saw us in our bright orange T-shirts, and said it really helped her to keep going for the 26 miles.

At last count Robyn had raised GBP1480.00 for her chosen charity Sense. I’m so proud of you Robyn Turton, thank you for letting me be your supporter (and for getting me a free supporter’s T-shirt)!

Robyn (front, centre) flanked by her supporters at the finish

Money, Monkeys and Serendipity

Serendipity is “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”.

This is something I experienced on a recent trip to the UK. And then again when I returned to my home. Both after some, shall we say, trying circumstances.

In a wintry December London, my daughter and I set off from our residence to visit two museums in the centre of the city. After walking 15 minutes to the underground train station daughter realised she didn’t have her travel card with her. While she was contemplating spending her last pounds on an expensive day ticket I popped into the WH Smith to buy a magazine and realised I didn’t have my wallet with me. Now we were in a quandary. Putting our loosely screwed heads together we debated what to do, when – serendipitously – my son-in-law arrived at the station on his way to work. After hearing our pathetic story he opened his very thin wallet, preparing to give us his meagre spare change, when – serendipitously – I happened to glance over at an ATM machine just two metres away from us. There, lying on the ledge of the machine was a ten pound note. Honestly. The previous customer must have accidentally dropped it after drawing money. And there it was. In our moment of need. But we hesitated. Well, daughter and I did. If we took it wouldn’t that be – er – stealing? Son-in-law had no such qualms. He gave us his change, picked up the ten pound note and went on his way. And we, happily, resumed our journey to the museums.

Fast forward a month or so and I was back in South Africa enjoying my mum’s matchless Christmas cake. This cake is made and given to me every year after many weeks of hard work and bottles of brandy. I love it. Unfortunately, so does my husband. I have begged and pleaded with mum to make us our own cake each but she refuses. And so, after 25 years of marriage I have devised a way of dealing fairly with this issue. I cut the cake exactly in half and each half goes into a separate tin, one half for each of us. Neither of us is allowed to touch the other’s cake after that. One afternoon I was working away in my home office when I heard a commotion. I ran through to the kitchen and there was a large monkey helping himself to (my husband’s) Christmas cake. Honestly. It opened the tin and then – when it saw me bearing down on it yelling and waving my arms – it took off with the cake and vanished through the back door. I couldn’t believe it. The precious Christmas cake was gone. I couldn’t possibly tell mum about it. Two minutes later husband arrives home and I start telling him how a monkey just stole his cake when I realise that – after our tense history – he must think I was lying. That I must have scoffed his cake and then pretended that a monkey stole it.

Obviously playing on my mind, a couple of hours later, eager to venerate myself, I went out the back door to check if, by any chance, the cake was anywhere. And there – serendipitously – lying on the roof was husband’s Christmas cake. The monkey was gone. I was so excited I leapt up on a plastic bin nearby, promptly putting my foot straight through the lid. Limping off with the lid stuck around my limb I found a ladder, climbed up sensibly and retrieved the – largely unharmed – cake. I gave it a quick dash under the tap and trimmed off all the sides and put it back in the tin. All was happily restored.

I’m not sure why the monkey dropped the cake. Perhaps it was too heavy to carry far. Or maybe the Vervet didn’t like brandy. Whatever, I know that with only teetotalling, lightweight monkeys around the only competition I have for the cake is inside the house.

Undressed: a brief history of underwear

Boobs up, hips out, bottom in! Wait, boobs up, yes, but hips in, bottom out…Actually, boobs flat, waist tiny, hips and bottom streamlined. Hold on, I’ll have bigger chest area, round waist and big thighs. Nah, stick it, I’ll go with boobs up, good cleavage, tiny waist and… concealed everything else.

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Experience Theatre in London’s West End

On 22 December 2016 I went with family to see the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. What I would describe as “3D” extras made the play interesting to watch. These included lighting that danced across the walls, audiovisuals that reflected the main character’s state of mind, a moving model train to simulate a journey and (spoiler alert) a real live puppy that elicited uninhibited “aahs” from the audience. A lovely experience.

But the actual act of going to London’s West End at that unimaginably

The wonders of underground station advertising. Photo: Brenda Daniels

The wonders of underground station advertising. Photo: Brenda Daniels

busy time of year was also part of our atmospheric evening out. The theatre at which the play is being staged (until June 2017) is the Gielgud in Shaftesbury avenue. To get there from home we took a tube (or three) and stepped up onto the heaving pavement of Charing Cross Road. Being London’s bookshop street Charing Cross’s first offering for us was Foyles bookshop. We squeezed into the store and wormed up and down six storeys, just managing to get a coffee before staggering out again. I can’t understand why some writers support the notion that writing in coffee shops is romantic and inspirational. I found it completely distracting.

A gingerbread city we stopped to look at in Knightsbridge. Photo: Brenda Daniels

A gingerbread city we stopped to look at in Knightsbridge. Photo: Brenda Daniels

Next up on our journey was dinner – McDonald’s (limited budget you see) which is apparently on the site of the original bookstore of 84 Charing Cross Road. After our feast we crossed the road and passed the Palace Theatre at which Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is being performed. Theatregoers enjoying a feast of their own had come out onto into the open for a breather; the play is in two parts and, together with two intermissions, runs for a whopping five hours and 55 minutes. I read in The Telegraph that marathon theatre sessions like these might catch on as a new trend. Phew.

We turned off Charing Cross Road and jostled our way to the Gielgud

Christmas lights at Knightsbridge in London, December 2016. Photo: Brenda Daniels

Christmas lights at Knightsbridge in London, December 2016. Photo: Brenda Daniels

passing Christmas lights and “Mulled Wine” signs. Our booking was for the cheapest seats in the house (budget, remember) which had warnings like “obstructed” view and on the computer seating plan looked like we would need opera glasses just to see the stage. No fear of that. The Gielgud is quite small and spacious and the “obstruction” was merely a roof overhang which really didn’t spoil our view at all.

Back out into the cold air after the show we fought our way back to the tube station, past runners in Father Christmas gear, buskers in the underground and pedestrians everywhere sporting Christmas jumpers. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was for us an entertaining theatre event indeed.

Plane, Train and Automobile to Scotland

Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to Scotland we go, with our online check-in and hand luggage only, heigh ho, heigh ho, heigh ho, heigh ho”. This was the bravado and happiness my group of five felt as we exited our London accommodation at 6.15am on 27 December 2016. We were off to Edinburgh! Once up north we would pick up a pre-booked hire car and travel to countryside Comrie where we planned to spend a few days before returning to London. We would get to the airport with about 50 minutes to spare.

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The letters of Edinburgh airport. Photos: Brenda Daniels

The letters of Edinburgh airport. Photos: Brenda Daniels

The smiles we exchanged on the train to the airport turned quickly to nervous lip biting when we saw the security queue. The one we had to join was packed with shuffling customers while the “fast track security” avenue was invitingly empty. Cheerful airport attendants issued instructions to: put liquids in minute plastic bags; close those tiny bulging bags; donate items that didn’t fit in those tiny bulging bags to the bins provided; remove jackets, coats, hats, scarves, boots, belts, keys, laptops, mobile phones (basically unpack and undress) and lay these items next to each other in the too-small plastic trays for checking. I was the first of our group to make it through to the other side so snatched up my belongings and galloped through the terminal in search of boarding gate information. This was difficult. I hadn’t repacked and redressed properly so my trousers were falling down and my boots were tripping me up. Also, there was no boarding gate information. Mainly because the gate had already closed.

It was also a mistake to leave the rest of my party. We all became separated into three groups. While charging through the airport each group thought the others had made it to the aeroplane and that they were the only ones left behind. Gnashing of teeth at the thought of being the only ones to miss out. Eventually, security personnel shepherded us all through the “return-to-the-other-side-because-you-missed-your-flight-and-start-all-over-again” channel. (You won’t miss it; it’s the one teeming with slumped-shouldered, dragging-feet people.)

Well, we did make it to Scotland. Eventually. (We drove). Needless to say we had learnt our lesson. For our return flight from Edinburgh airport we smugly arrived over two hours ahead of time. Naturally, the first thing we saw on the boarding gate info board was “flight delayed indefinitely”. Apparently there was freezing fog in Munich. More gnashing of teeth. The airline did ease our discomfort, though. By giving us each a refreshment voucher to purchase something yummy. The vouchers were worth GBP 3 each. Because of all the extra time on our hands we read up on passenger rules and rights. We discovered that you can claim from the airline if your flight is delayed by over three hours. We counted down the minutes once we were on the plane and were gleeful when we landed back in London three hours and ten minutes late. We are currently awaiting millions in compensation. (Once we figure out where on the website to claim.)

Comrie was lovely by the way.

Happy times at Crieff, near Comrie in Scotland. Photo: Roxanne Daniels

Happy times at Crieff, near Comrie in Scotland. Photo: Roxanne Daniels

 

Mince pie journeys

 In the first week of my Christmas UK holiday I have had seven mince pies. That’s one per day. Five of those have been in different locations. My first munch was at a Carol service at St Helen’s Bishopsgate in central London. This centuries-old church has excellent acoustics and the small choir and soloist needed no amplification for their voices to ring out above the hundreds of singing congregants. After singers concluded the evening with “O come, all ye faithful” servers brought round spicy mulled wine and mince pies. Yum.

img_0073My next mince pie venue was in the little village of Biggleswade. Where? Yes, that’s what several long-time London residents asked me too. Biggleswade is in Bedfordshire at the end of a countryside one-hour train journey from King’s Cross Station. It’s quiet, but growing, assured my cousin, who has lived there for 30 or so years. And in fact a long time ago there was “The Great Fire of Biggleswade”. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “The Great Fire of London”. Never mind that. My cousin’s home-made mince pies in her bright home filled with Christmas decor and family memories were so yummy I had two of them.

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Amy: my opinion about her has changed

Amy is the opening feature of the European Film Festival which will be screened at Cinema Nouveau in South Africa from 6 to 15 May. The first screening is tonight at 08.30pm.

2007 MTV Movie Awards - Show

Amy Winehouse performs “Rehab” during 2007 MTV Movie Awards – Show at Gibson Amphitheater in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

The documentary uses what looks like amateur footage painstakingly put together to present a sympathetic portrait of the singer. Scenes shown stretch from that of a little dark-haired girl, to a happy, chubby-cheeked teenager, through to the final sad image of a small, lifeless body being stretchered into an ambulance.

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A Tale of Two Churches (centuries apart)

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St Helen’s Bishopsgate in London, just in front of the modern building, the Gherkin. Photo: Brenda Daniels

On two recent trips to two vastly different continents I had the pleasure of visiting two very old churches: St Helen’s Bishopsgate in central London, UK, and Grahamstown Baptist in the Eastern Cape of my home country South Africa. “Old” in the UK does not mean the same as it does in South Africa. While strolling around St Helen’s trying to establish what century it dated back to, a helpful gentleman manning the book table inside told me it was built in the 1100s. Grahamstown Baptist, conversely, was commissioned a trifling 192 years ago. But an-almost two-centuries-old edifice in SA is nonetheless impressive.

During those intervening centuries, the city has grown up alongside those older sanctuaries. I was particularly struck by the contrast of the old stone Anglican building with the shiny glass structure of the “gherkin” directly behind St Helen’s. St Helen’s would probably have been fairly grand in 1100 but is now dwarfed by the towering marvel alongside it. And yet both old and new are appealing in their own way, especially when viewed together. Set side by side like that gives an impression of the vibrancy of life – past and present – and therefore future.

 

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Grahmstown Baptist Church, started in 1824 under William Miller. It was called The First Baptist Chapel. Photo: Brenda Daniels.

Grahamstown doesn’t boast the same level of architectural progress (would a Mugg & Bean jostling for space next to a big KFC count?) and in fact seems a somewhat neglected hamlet structurally speaking. See Roxanne Daniels’s amusing post on the area’s enormous potholes. But students from Rhodes University do cross the church’s threshold. Students who cogitate upon the latest scientific and social ideas. So there is evidence of life here too – past, present – and therefore future.

There are words printed across the archway inside the Grahamstown Baptist sanctuary. They read: Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever. How meaningful I thought as I viewed these words. Meaningful because, as with St Helen’s, here I was attending a service in a sanctuary in company with the ghosts of people past, the warmth of people present, and the promise of people future. And Jesus, the very reason for these two churches, had been there all along, and promised to continue.

 

Spectre: the 24th James Bond film, coming to a cinema near you!

Whilst the world premiere of Spectre, starring Daniel Craig, took place on 26 October in London, lil old South Africa will see the film a full month later on 27 November. That’s only seven more sleeps!

To whet your movie-fan appetite visit this link for some Spectre info www.007.com.

Lea Seydoux;Daniel Craig

Lea Seydoux and Daniel Craig in Spectre. (Photo supplied by Alerting the Media).