Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thoughts on the trip back to SA in May later this year.

I was feeling somewhat stoic about the upcoming tour our family is going to be doing in May to South Africa.   Recently I've been having a lot of 'emigre blues' because I've been sorting through tons of photos that I previously saved to disks before I left Joburg in 2012.     But when I actually stop and think about it, I'm only getting a hunkering for the 'holiday' destinations in SA, not for the life style or constant day-to-day existence type stress we were under.

And so does that mean that we don't have stress here?
Of course not.  The main difference is they are 'manageable' stresses that we are encountering in the UK at the moment.   So much of South African life was spent chasing the buck and watching your back, making sure you were safe (priority number one most of the time), constantly aware that you could be the 'next statistic'.  Vigilance in the face of continuous opportunistic crime does a lot to a person - it makes you very suspicious of any type of social freedom.
It's taken me a very long time (well we're into our fourth year in Blightey) to appreciate the freedom of movement people have in the UK.  Yes, there is crime here, I'm not daft, but it's not 'in your face' - at least not in rural South Norfolk.  I suppose I'm somewhat used to being able to drive to the local shops at any time of the day or night and not worry too much if I forgot to lock my car, or even that I'm driving down a deserted country lane all by myself.   We have taken to walking around our neighbourhood for exercise late at night, just two women, or two women and a child, never giving a thought to our safety because you don't have to.  That was never the case in SA.

I guess what I'm trying to work out here is that I might be feeling a bit apprehensive about going back to that getto mentality prevalent in South Africa almost everywhere.  I've started to relax here in the UK and not be on constant alert, I like it!  I like not having to always be locking the doors, closing windows, listening for the dog, making sure the car's locked in the driveway.   So I'm a bit worried that I might be a sitting duck target when I go back to SA.  Or will that sense of being always en garde return as soon as I step off the plane at OR Tambo?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

This and that

So yes I watched the first episode of The Night Manager last night ... I've never been impressed with Hugh Laurie before but he's rather fine as the 'bad guy' - just enough menacing looks going on to make your skin crawl.     Looking forward to the rest of it - of course our Tom shines, although I'm not getting that he was an ex-serviceman having done 'two tours in Iraq' - that's not coming through ... yet.

Even though it's still cold (the air temp at any rate), spring seems to be coming early.  There are loads of buds on trees, some even in flower in and around central Norwich.  These birdies seem to like the tree outside my bedroom window and have started coming to it each morning to forage about for things to eat or nesting material.

Monday, February 22, 2016

On't telly ...

A few things are interesting on the TV at the moment.     The Night Manager has started (I'm only watching the first episode tonight) ... with the illustrious Tom Hiddleston:

Ey Hugh - Get yer greasy paws of my Tom!
Gawd, what a feast.  I can't wax lyrical enough about the Hiddleston. He's not traditionally a hunky kinda guy, he's not classically handsome but he's got 'it'.  His voice could melt steel, for starters. Then there are those eyes and just his grace and elegance ... can't wait to see how he tackles this role. 

Best female actor ever. 
Then there's the insanely intense  Happy Valley.  This is the second series and just as compelling and fraught with the same angst, edge of the seat manic nervy stuff and dark black humour as the first outing.  The writing is extraordinary.
Sarah Lancashire plays the take-no-prisoners copper, Catherine Cawood.  Catherine is a strong amazon of a woman, battling the odds in her professional and personal life and coming to terms with her own demons and vulnerabilities.   The domestic struggles she has to cope with are real things that many people deal with.  She was the victim and the victor in the last series and has had to deal with all kinds of brutality in the line of duty and over and above the cause.   Her spirit is magnificent.   I absolutely adore this character and Sarah's acting is completely pitch perfect, gutsy and honest.     
The lady should get a fucking Oscar.

Mess with this chick at your peril.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Some more art

“Abstracted Pebbles”
Acrylics, inks, gels on 140lb A3 size acid free Acrylic paper
Actual size of painting:  14½” x 9¾”

Close ups:

 This painting started out like this:
I got a bit lost - didn't really know what I was going for, originally had an idea to make it into a tree, foliage and rocks but it just didn't want to play ball.  I think I managed to turn it into a bette thing though in the end.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Idiots Guide To The Martian ...

White Rocks on Mars - courtesty of APOD

I'm a geek when it comes to space movies, I just can't get enough of them.  I was salivating for months before the release of Interstellar and whilst I wasn't disappointed, it did go on too long and lost me in many parts, which I found a bit frustrating. It kinda made me feel like I was missing something, like there was some fundamental truth that they were telling me that I couldn't grasp. 

Then along comes Matt Damon and the little Red planet movie.

I was very nervous about this one - considering it's made by Ridley Scott, who we all know can get a bit carried away with aliens (my in-joke).   I'd read basically nothing about it, other than it was filmed in parts of Jordan and Hungary (interior shots) and it starred Mat Damon and was based on the book by Andy Weir.   I really didn't  want to know anything about it pre-production or whilst it was being promoted, in case I got my hopes up and was horrifyingly disappointed - like I was with the boring yawn of Solaris and the irritating Gravity.  
I have a tiny bit  ... well let's say that again, I have a nano-smidgeon of knowledge about things that can be classified as astronomical.   I had high hopes that this film could perhaps contain more space FACT than space FICTION.     I wasn't let down on that. 

The premise for Weir's book (for anyone who hasn't seen the movie or read the book, don't scroll down any further) is that the astronaut (played by Damon) gets stranded on Mars after a violent dust storm separates him from the rest of his crew.   So apart from the obvious - i.e. people on Mars, the space ship, the gear - could  a dust storm of that force create the havoc that's depicted in the book and the film?
According to the scientists, no.  Simply put, the atmospheric pressure on the surface of Mars is too low and would not support violent dust storms - although there are loads of dust devils, you only have to look at the Spirit rover footage to know that first hand.

So from the outset, the credibilty is stacked somewhat in favour of the director/writer but that's where suspension of belief makes for a really meaty and interesting movie - let's face it, it doesn't start off all bollox.

The spacecraft, Hermes, is so gorgeous I had to keep pinching myself.  The crew are all fairly intelligent looking types, things are all looking pretty nice, tension mounts, our Matt is lying face down in the Martian dust. Alone and abandoned, everyone in the Universe thinks he's dead.   That sense of total aloneness is brought home a few times in the movie. There's one scene later on, where Damon is sitting on a pile of rocks looking out across the Martian vista, what a fantastic image that was!  Oh here it is:

Damon goes all Irish on us and starts growing his own potatoes, using Martian (sterile) soil and his own (and the crews') vacuum-packed poop.  Yes folks, this is entirely plausible. It's really interesting how he gets all that done, how hard he works and what not.  Then there's that Mars Rover - which has an individual atmosphere complete with CO2 filters and airlock. The vehicle has a 9,000 Wh battery, reaches a top speed of 25kph and can withstand even the strongest Martian storms ...

Oh please can I have one, dad?

 Stuff that's as near as dammit right:
  • Growing potatoes
  • Orbital space time travel between Earth and Mars
  • Mars Habitat
  • Them sexy space suits
  • The gear
  • That lovely Rover
Oh and the Hermes spacecraft is fiction but the science behind it isn't.
The only part of the movie where I kinda raised my eyebrows and started sighing a lot was when the good old US of A space agencies had to ask China for some help with the rescue mission. It didn't ring true and more like Biggles than anything rooted in reality. It was the only blot on an otherwise excellent space exploration movie.  

Matt Damon was very good in the role (he's in danger of becoming type-cast) - it was a neat bit of dialogue him turning himself into a Martian pirate.  I loved the movie, I loved the feel of it, the rich texture of the scientific stuff, the panorama, the sense of impending radiation sickness and the feeling of intense isolation and wonderment that this kind of mission would bring to a person.  Thumbs up. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Being a bag lady ...

I am finding that my painting work is taking up more of my time than it ever did.  I can't really figure it out, maybe it's because I have now 'switched' (temporarily) to painting on paper and ergo it's not as difficult getting set up and starting a new piece.   I am, though, lugging everything around in strong plastic bags - 'bags for life' (whatever the fuck that stupid term means).

I've got a nice green rather large John Lewis bag and a few assorted Co-op and Tesco bags.  Some have tubes of paint in; some contain glues, gels, gesso, expensive acrylic pastes and binders. I've a clutch of inks in an old Floro margarine tub and my brushes are standing up straight and tall in a washed out Nescafe glass jar.  Oh and I've got assorted old plastic drinking cups that I use to put my water in, glues, solvents and other thingies.   I should get me a supermarket steel trolley, then I'd really fit the profile.

Speaking of profiling ... er, cough, I've been watching "Criminal Minds" lately, mostly because of this ridiculously beautiful creature:

 Aaahh ....