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Seven Days A Week

Christopher Fowler
In Waitrose at the weekend I bumped into Max Schindler, the awesome artist who creates the Bryant & May covers, like the one on the left. I had always pictured him as young, small, rather shy. He was around 6'6", clad in black, a bit scary-looking, middle-aged, wild eyed and twinkly. We held a mutual admiration society meeting over the courgettes. --- My neighbour queued twelve hours to see the Queen. She was a senior military official, though, and had come fully prepared for her long wait. I admire people like that. I thought this applied to The Husband until he came out of an airport inside the arctic circle wearing a shirt, jacket and his office shoes. A passing husky-driver suggested he might want to try some warmer clothing before he died. --- Death's been all around this week; the news has featured nothing but The Funeral and the radio is playing dirge-like music of a minor classical nature. Suddenly it feels like 1970. Waitrose has replaced its usual advertising with huge pictures of HRH. I half expect to hear the Light Programme back. I kept thinking, 'If only the economy could be as organised with as much intelligent thought as royal funerals.' --- My nurse starts sentences with, 'Well, as you're dying...'. I mentioned this to The Husband, who looked at me blankly and said, 'Well you are, aren't you?' My business partner's accountant attempted to avoid the subject while discussing his will and ended up with a string of euphemisms like, 'When you drop off your twig, and at one point, 'when you're pushing up daisies.' Which was way worse. --- I'm reading far too many books now, usually four at once. No modern crime I note, mainly because most of it is so incredibly badly written. Hurrah then for Ann Cleeves, whose honest, clear prose cuts through the nonsense. She takes her readers on trust and expects the same from them. You know where you stand, and it's not in some Golden Age pastiche but with real people. There are many others I like (nearly all women), but I've also developed the old-man habit of reading about battles. Not the usual ones, though. The last was 'Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922' by Giles Milton. It's a book that will make you give up on humanity, although I'm not sure that's a selling point. --- I thought TV would be an easy option for a tired and heartsick mind, but too many shows are in the middle of insanely complex story arcs. My thousands of rare DVDs go unviewed because The Husband can't handle fractional variations in picture quality. (Not judging, just leaving that there.) So he missed out on 'Silentium' and 'The Bone Man', which both feature Brenner, a Viennese detective who looks like a tramp and can never get his lighter to work. They're fast, dryly amusing and terrific fun - I think there's a new one out but I can't be sure. --- So maybe I should watch some of the old light-hearted Hollywood movies in my collection. But only the well-written ones. I recently did all the screwball comedies. All of them. Preston Sturges, Howard Hawks, names which mean nothing to the young because these films are almost impossible to see now. I've chosen five later comedies this weekend that always make me smile. 'Arthur', 'Sister Act', 'Hudson Hawk', 'What's Up, Doc?' and 'Some Like It Hot'. Spot the odd one out, then give it another view.      


Granny (not verified) Tue, 20/09/2022 - 16:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Schindler sounds like he has echoes with Bryant! How come you never met him before? No detective get-togethers like comic con or sci com?

Paradise Lost has to go on my bucket list. Rummaging around for more information it reminded me of the PSTD the soldiers suffered from after being in Serbia/Bosnia war where they were told to be peacekeepers and not interfere with what was happening ... They could only listen.
Our aversion to refugees leads to appalling behaviour. Another issue was the justification in USA for limiting immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe by the introduction of a ludicrous IQ test, "proving" that it was only the "dregs" of Europe who were immigrating. Used in government for limiting numbers and contributing to the turning away of refugees prior to Hitler's programmes

Relatives shudder when I say death, but I feel like I have lived, does "passing on" make it easier for them?

Joel (not verified) Tue, 20/09/2022 - 18:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@granny i think the new ken burns documentary about the US and the holocaust also deals with immigration into the country at that time, and how miserably the US handled the whole thing. in the US at least, most people can't and won't discuss death. it seems very unhealthy. i would rather sit and listen to what someone has to say, than run shrieking from the room. i initially thought the picture with bruce willis was from "death becomes her" which is a favorite comedy

Andrea Yang (not verified) Tue, 20/09/2022 - 19:15

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If you want to laugh out loud watch Derry Girls -- probably not your usual cup of tea but i found it delightful!

Granny (not verified) Tue, 20/09/2022 - 19:56

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@ Joel, yes that film is on the same track and, I think, will be well worth seeing. Too easy for people to ignore though

We had a TV set when I was young (the one that needed a magnifier was replaced with a slightly bigger box one) and there always seemed to be programmes about the holocaust on, so it is very strong in my memory and has been in the background all my life. I was very pleased to see Stephen Jay Gould on the A' level syllabus I taught as it encouraged a background awareness in history as well as an understanding of some nastier aspects of "science"

I suspect that talking about dying and death varies according to culture and class here in England. I am determined NOT to die in a home and will sit in the garden with my Twiddle Muff and gently freeze toi death, possibly with the help of some narcotics.

"easy option for a tired and heartsick mind" I like reading that puts me out of myself, but reinforces my sense of being connected. For some reason Vimes of Pratchett books does that, working class roots. And Sufi poems. Thinking how fungi communicate with each other in forests, and trees talk to each other (both on TED talks) How amazing it is that the placebo effect is stronger than just mathematical chance, how there is more to life than meets the eye because I can only think in one language and we are short of words in English (one word for Love, millions for work, other cultures have many difference words to show the type of love that is referred to). Listening to books I have read over and over.

My mum died suddenly (I was away at school and denial was easy at 13) but my Grandad died slowly, We used to drive around and talk about the past and dying and what we could see from the car; a better death for me to cope with and I think it was a little better for him as well.

snowy (not verified) Tue, 20/09/2022 - 20:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

IMDb amateur suggests there are 4 Brenner films in total:

Komm, süsser Tod aka Come Sweet Death [2000]
Silentium aka Silentium! [2004]
Der Knochenmann aka The Bone Man [2009]
Das ewige Leben aka Life Eternal [2015]

Roger (not verified) Tue, 20/09/2022 - 20:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If you'd never met Max Schindler, admin, and didn't know what he looked like, how did you recognise him among the courgettes (in an Alan Bennett play a pair of lovers' eyes might meet across the courgettes in Waitrose) - or did he recognise you?

Granny: After the US fixed IQ tests to justify not letting in the wrong kind of Europeans they had to restrict the number of jews applying for top universities - especially on scholarships - otherwise rich men's sons wouldn't get in. They never noticed the contradiction.

Smyrna has a connexion with classic crime, of course. Eric Ambler's Dimitrios began his career there.

Brooke (not verified) Tue, 20/09/2022 - 23:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sweetie, remind your nurse that, while you may be dying, you don't plan to do so today and would he/she get on with it as your dissolute companions/readers are waiting for you.

Are you able to get outside your flat? With friends who are dying, we wheel chair them to a park for rest and conversation. .Some good days and some bad days. But I'm glad we are able to talk about what they feel and think.

I can't think of anything comparable to Some Like It Hot, with its hilarious last scene.

Christopher Fowler Wed, 21/09/2022 - 09:11

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

1. Maybe I met Max Schindler before. I don't quite have agnosia but I'm rubbish at connecting names and faces at parties.
2. Max and I would have recognised each other from our social media profiles.
3.Thanks for naming all four of the films, Snowy. I'm tracking the other two down...
4.I'm attempting to go for a walk this morning, Brooke. I'll let you know.

Paul C (not verified) Wed, 21/09/2022 - 11:37

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I like all of Giles Milton's history books esp Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare which is a wonderful read.

Sadly you're right about the fading of Preston Sturges - his screwball comedies are magnificent. Sullivan's Travels is my favourite. As good as the Howard Hawks classic His Girl Friday. Perfection. .

My go-to cheer up film is Wonder Boys which is now on BBC i-Player - literate, aimed at adults, sophisticated and intelligent - no wonder if flopped at the box office. Excellent novel by Michael Chabon too.

Currently reading All the Knowledge in the World - a history of encyclopedias by the always enjoyable Simon Garfield. Full of quirky facts and oddball characters. His history of maps (On the Map) is superb too.

Ann Cleeves is a diamond in real life too - she gives a lot of support to a struggling tiny bookshop near her home in Whitley Bay called Bound. She even persuaded Ian Rankin to attend an event there to boost sales. She's a star.

Best wishes to you.

John Griffin (not verified) Wed, 21/09/2022 - 12:34

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I used to belong to one CaniCross site on FaceBook, alongside my club one.
(CaniCross involves running on forest trail usually about 2 feet wide attached by a bungee line to a large dog, itself running like hell. I am 71.)
For some reason, all the contributors referred to dogs 'going over the Rainbow Bridge'. I pointed out that the euphemism was a get out for saying they'd had the dog euthanised, or even killed.
The pile-on was so unpleasant, so massive, and so sustained, I quit that site.
Personally I much prefer the late John Le Mesurier's "conked out" from his self-written posthumous notice. I have asked my wife to put that on my grave. She replied she was having me cremated. We didn't speak for a while.

snowy (not verified) Wed, 21/09/2022 - 13:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

a) Finding them looks non trivial.

b) MUBI* has had 3 of them.

[Bored of bullet points now...]

If collecting obscure Josef Hader films is now a thing, try:

Wild Mouse Original title: Wilde Maus 2017

"Kings should be treated courteously. At least, that's what famous music critic Georg thinks. But he finds himself counting pennies when his chief editor suddenly fires him from the Viennese newspaper for which he has been writing for decades. While keeping his dismissal a secret from his psychotherapist wife Johanna, whose mind is occupied solely by getting pregnant, Georg begins to plot his revenge. He is aided by old school friend Erich, and in return the newly liberated Georg helps him repair a rundown rollercoaster in Vienna's Prater Park. Georg's nightly campaigns against his former boss start with small acts of vandalism. They soon escalate to extremes, and Georg's tame, bourgeois life gets completely out of hand. "


* [MUBI has a very strange business model, a horrible user interface, carries a decent collection of foreign films, but only for limited periods].

Christopher Fowler Wed, 21/09/2022 - 16:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I so often nearly sign up to MUBI, but while I dither their films change. I thought about the BFI but they're obsessed with Tarantino, Godard and ghastly Joanna Hogg navel-gazers.

Philip Hazell (not verified) Wed, 21/09/2022 - 21:30

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I don't always agree with Admin's book and film choices. I found Gormenghast impenetrable! But it cheered me no end when you stated that Joanna Hogg's stuff was not to your liking. I am constantly amazed at all the five star reviews she gets! I've found that paint drying on a wall is more entertaining!

SteveB (not verified) Wed, 21/09/2022 - 21:50

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I don’t know what The Husband would make of my old videos then if he can’t even handle a dvd!!

SteveB (not verified) Wed, 21/09/2022 - 21:51

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ghastly Joanna Hogg
Seconded or thirded or something!!!

SteveB (not verified) Wed, 21/09/2022 - 22:05

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Hey Admin if you’re up for recs almost anything by Ben Hecht gets my vote, from Nothing Sacred to Spellbound. And The Front Page of course, there’s a nice restored Bluray of that to keep The Husband happy.
Another classic comedy which I love - Trouble in Paradise. No blu of that though.

snowy (not verified) Wed, 21/09/2022 - 23:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Almost on topic, [must be ill/drunk/possessed!]

Anybody paid money to see, 'See How They Run"?

[The 'Mouse House' seem to have released it, without much of a fanfare - [little if any advertising/promotion] - Production Design looks decent, Casting choices bit odd, Reviews mixed but generally more +ve than -ve].

Paul C (not verified) Thu, 22/09/2022 - 09:51

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

SteveB - agree with you : Ben Hecht's screenplays are works of genius. Curiously, his novels and short stories are completely unreadable now. Strange.....

Nothing Sacred benefits from a fabulous performance by Carole Lombard who is also sensational in Twentieth Century, To Be or Not To Be and My Man Godfrey. I think she's the greatest comic actress ever.

Sadly she pompously insisted on getting on an army plane after a war bonds event (some soldiers had to make way for her party) and was killed when the plane crashed. If only she had behaved and took the train as the army had planned for her. A terrible twist of fate.

Jan (not verified) Thu, 22/09/2022 - 11:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snows is "See How they run" not the "Mousetrap" on film? Or have I got my Agatha stories and plays all mixed up?

snowy (not verified) Thu, 22/09/2022 - 13:14

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It's in the film, but isn't the film, rather than suffer one of my bad explanations - have a look at the trailer it will make more sense.

Joan (not verified) Thu, 22/09/2022 - 15:21

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Howard Hawkes, Bringing Up Baby gets my vote. Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, terrific combination!

Wayne Mook (not verified) Thu, 22/09/2022 - 17:53

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Admin – why don’t you get one of those collapsible mobility scooters, they are fun but just make sure you slow at corner or you will turn it over, or so I’m told. Or you can rent them and try it.

Jan - See How They Run is an original film, someone is murdered backstage when a play is due to be made into a Hollywood film, The Play is the Mousetrap, so it features but the film is not The Mousetrap. Not seen it but a couple of friends who have enjoyed it.

Granny - cheer up a little, cherish is a word for love, friendship is a form of love (even if some won't admit it.) think of the comradeship it brings and what you would do for a good friend. Charity also means love, not just giving (It's one of the seven morals, being the love of your fellow humans.), lust is physical/mental love as opposed to emotional/spiritual love, usually seen as negative as it's seen as transitory, superficial and/or obsessive but is it really that negative? I guess the British stereotype of not being amorous is an ardent folly that hides the romance that these isles instil in us.

Hudson Hawk I bagsy as the odd one out, not a smash (but it did turn a small profit overseas even if it didn’t do well in the states, the others did good box office) and with low scores on most sites. Personally, I think it’s a fun film, and it does have a couple of musical numbers.

Smyrna, one of the seven Asian churches which maybe possibly represented in The Book of Revelation the splendidly surreal prophetic dream. The fire is part of a genocide and a sad stain on Ataturk’s reputation, he previously had condemned what happened to the Armenians (unlike Turkey today) he gave some excuse before it happened but it’s a strong case against the Turkish army. I know not helping refugees is a terrible thing but we should lay the blame for the actual act as well especially since such things are still denied. Erdogan is a poor shadow of Ataturk who tried to modernise and bring unity, although some of his policies do give fuel for the current state.

Joanna Hogg I was hoping she would carry on the autobiographical work om how she shot London’s Burning. The hose is not a phallic symbol but shows the inner turmoil, the knotted intestine that extinguishes light and warmth, I wonder how she would tackle getting a kitten out of a tree? Her latest is a ghost story so expect dead people to do sod all.


Rob C (not verified) Thu, 22/09/2022 - 20:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snowy, it’s worth seeing, but the screenplay/script is, whilst striving to be clever, a bit too formulaic. I felt that the inclusion of two elderly detectives from the PCU would have improved the storyline significantly :-)

Jo (not verified) Thu, 22/09/2022 - 21:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Now that’s interesting. I remember laughing out loud in the cinema at What’s Up Doc which was hilarious, but I have been fearful of ever seeing it again in case it disappoints. Like so many old things revisiting them can be such a let down. Be it a film, a book or even a car it’s often better to cherish the memory than try to reignite it. I listen to Desert Island Discs and wonder what book I would take to the island.

snowy (not verified) Thu, 22/09/2022 - 23:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ta, Rob!

In sort of related-ish news.

While roaming about, I stumbled across 'The Menu', starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Janet McTeer . [Release date 18 Nov 2022]

A young couple travels to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.

[Link to the trailer secreted in the usual place]

Granny (not verified) Fri, 23/09/2022 - 10:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@ Wayne,thank you
I am more aware of the lack of words to describe love of friends, family, knitting, gardening, nature, various foods, etc. We have evolved a language to describe our experience which places no importance on this love thing.
There is something wrong with a culture where connectedness, a sense of continuity, has no importance.
We do better on alternatives for hate, loathe, despise, abhor, etc

J (not verified) Fri, 23/09/2022 - 18:27

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Speaking of connectedness, I just noticed the absence of comments from Stu-I-Am since early September. Curious to know his thoughts on some of the books and movies mentioned.

Jo W (not verified) Sat, 24/09/2022 - 06:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi Chris, did you manage that walk?

Scott Nickels (not verified) Sat, 24/09/2022 - 22:26

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I am certain that Sherlock Holmes is alive and beekeeping while retired, so too I absolutely know that Arthur Bryant and John May are real people, very much alive and well, and ready to keep solving crime in London. Curiously, I have never seen them on the same stage. Chris, perhaps you could explain?

(Stu-I-Am, Stu-I-Am, where, oh where, are you? Just check in so we know all is well with you.)

Helen+Martin (not verified) Sun, 25/09/2022 - 23:42

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I hope you did make the walk, Chris.
Thank you to everyone for the recommendations for books, films, etc. (I'm eating a handful of "Maple ehs" - made with Canadian maple syrup) that have filled these columns for the last week or so. I have just returned from a week of railway history and demonstrations and could hardly wait to get at the mail. Snowy - it's "bored with" and "tired of", sorry, but a miscombination sets my teeth on edge.

Joan (not verified) Mon, 26/09/2022 - 01:07

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Just saw See How They Run. It lives up to the expectations Snowy, clever and very enjoyable!

Christopher Fowler Mon, 26/09/2022 - 09:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

While I'm sure he was a perfectly nice old chap just looking for a friendly chat, Mr Stu-I-Am became a rare recipient of the BOFAW* card after breaching the complaints limit from you, the readers. Among the moans were mansplaining, being a know-all, over-posting and misinformation. A few of you threatened to stop visiting the site altogether.

I wrote to him explaining that he needed to take a break, but he was not able to do so. I do not need a sidekick adding Googled information to every article, but he continued to write to me personally in pained bafflement at the ban.

When I decided to start curating the site a bit better I'm afraid Mr Stu-I-Am became a casualty.

*Bugger Off For A While

Ed DesCamp (not verified) Mon, 26/09/2022 - 22:42

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@ Helen - what’s a “maple eh”?

Helen+Martin (not verified) Tue, 27/09/2022 - 17:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ed, your question sounds very Canadian. They're cookies made by Western Family; maple leaf shaped and made with "genuine Canadian maple syrup". The name is just a reference to our supposed inability to say anything without adding "eh" to it. Really ordinary, eh?

snowy (not verified) Tue, 27/09/2022 - 20:40

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks! Joan, still find it very strange that is has had so little PR. [Does this mark the point at which studios give up on cinemas and switch to a streaming priority model?]

[Will have to keep an eye on what they do with 'Glass Onion'.]

snowy (not verified) Tue, 27/09/2022 - 22:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Helen, 'The Hungry Empire' book seems to have many alternative names.

In your region try searching for 'The Taste of Empire: How Britain's Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World' instead.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Wed, 28/09/2022 - 17:06

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thank you so much, Snowy. A hold has been placed. I hadn't got to the deep research stage but I am always startled by the change of title from one area to another.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Wed, 28/09/2022 - 20:19

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Granny - You're welcome. I think we get faced with the worst of human actions in the media and especially news, so we hear the negative more, sad really. Still, we do have more positives in life but I guess familiarity builds contempt, and worse we take it for granted. I have little room to talk as I have a passion for horror films, old and new.

Had a quick look at the book, The Hungry Caterpillar, sorry, Empire, it reminds me of those Rdaio 4 series a history of X in so many objects, I think not starting with salt and the Romans was a missed opportunity, in many ways the Romans in Britain make a mockery of what we know of the ancient world and the UK and the legacy they left can’t be underplayed. It looks a good book, looks worriedly at the to read mountai, especially after I've added some Mantel.


snowy (not verified) Wed, 28/09/2022 - 21:38

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Wayne, the book was adapted for t' wireless shortly after it came out, [if you examine this comment closely you will find a hidden link to a copy of the BBC podcast].

But if you find it a little 'unseasoned' there is ' Salt: A World History' by Mark Kurlansky, a book I've not read and has reviews that either love it to bits or find it a bit dry.

Many books written by historians would greatly benefit from the intervention of a capable editor to 'prune' out some of the really less interesting bits of text and give it more of a 'shape'. A case in point was 'Peterloo: The English Uprising' by Robert Poole. It starts with a very detailed account of the staggering scale of corruption in Manchester, which sets up the scene nicely for the struggle to come.

But it never lets up, it recounts every single cough, sneeze and fart of anybody that happens to pass through the historical record, for page upon page, it's so dense you'd swear it had its own 'Event Horizon', [I had to give up, sadly defeated.]

Ed DesCamp (not verified) Thu, 29/09/2022 - 05:10

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@ Helen: we get the Virginia Dare version down here, hey.

Ed DesCamp (not verified) Thu, 29/09/2022 - 05:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@ Snowy and Wayne: I found Salt to be interesting, but my tastes in nonfiction are extremely unfocused and quite weird at times. Let me know what your reaction is.

Paul C (not verified) Thu, 29/09/2022 - 11:09

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I prefer odd and quirky history books like Salt to the usual kings and queens histories.

A really good one is 'The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine' by Tom Standage about a life-size automaton which toured Europe and the USA between 1770 and 1854. It beat Napoleon, Benjamin Franklin and many celebrated chessmasters. Edgar Allan Poe (my hero) encountered the automaton in the 1830s and correctly deducted how it operated. Fascinating book.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Fri, 30/09/2022 - 18:42

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Paul C, I agree. I found the book on feuding in Anglo Saxon England and am fascinated to find names I knew in quite different contexts although 1066 and All That keeps creeping in - Halfacanute and Hardlicanute to say nothing of the egg kings and the egg deaths they suffered. Why do these things bury themselves in the back of our minds, but not deeply enough?

chazza (not verified) Sat, 01/10/2022 - 09:42

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Stu-I-Am: And there was I thinking I was being unreasonable in my attitude towards him and his over-abundant use "of course" and the droaning dirigible of his pompous missives. I'm so glad other readers felt the same; I was too polite to comment but I always felt sorry for his wife (if appropriate).

Button (not verified) Tue, 04/10/2022 - 03:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Have you seen "The Eyes of Laura Mars?" It's a bit campy but very entertaining.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Tue, 04/10/2022 - 09:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'm sure I reply to this but it seems to have been lost in the interweb.

Cheers Snowy, I thought it rang a bell. I read a book about the navies pre-WWi and that defeated me, too many small details. I may go back to it but I can't remember the title.

In other news there has been a recent find reported from this period in Isreal, a coin find, as the fall of the Byzantine empire to islam in the later 600s.

Paul C the chess player is fascinating, I have a book on old meda which includes things like this, from the use of balloons tp early computer systems. to prove how sad I am I've been reading about text based computer games, takes me back to playing Zork and The Hobbit (sold with the book) and level 9 games reply to rubbish, arfle barfle gloop, which i still use.

Button - if memory serves that was written by John Carpenter, it makes a good piece with that Michael Cain film Dressed to Kill.