Saturday, 20 July 2013

FELIXSTOWE: A Sign Of The Times

It has to be said that anyone who visits Felixstowe does so because they want to. It is where the A14 ends - there isn't anything else. Here the roads lead to either the port, Landguard Fort, Old Felixstowe or back the way the visitor came in.
It could be said that Felixstowe is an island that faces the North Sea and situated between the Rivers Orwell, Stour and Deben.

Now, the visitor is faced with this new sign. Really, most of the stuff is common sense. No climbing on the groynes; beware of currents and the like while on the reverse it tells people to keep their dogs on a lead; keep the dogs off the beach; clean up after the dog; take nothing from the beach (pocket a sea shell and what....? A fine). No bike riding. No launching boats.
Today the beach is....empty.
Actually, the sign is a waste of money - and it is quick to point out that there are no lifeguards on the beach. What it doesn't say is that for all the rules there is no one to back them up either.

Though this is just a minor irritant there are those who are a tad upset that Felixstowe has been named in a list of the 100 crappiest towns for 2013.
The spokesman has come out with a hopeful expression and fingers crossed behind his back with a list of things that may happen in the future. A new Pier, three new supermarkets....sorry. that is where I am going to stop.
Supermarkets - petitions flying around because no one wants them. Experience tells me that the protesters will be the first through the doors when they open.
Even the Pier has opposition and that from the people who look over the existing pier.

The funny thing is that Felixstowe has outlived the Romans, the Dutch, the Italians and the Germans.

Henry the 8th built a fort where Landguard Fort stands today guarding the estuary of the River Orwell and the North Sea. Just as well, because in 1667, the Dutch invaded England when they landed on the beach. 1,500 Dutch marines attacked the small force of The Duke Of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot under the command of Captain Nathaniel Darrell. Despite the odds Darrell's artillery fired into the pebbled beach creating instant shrapnel. Eventually, the Dutch called it quits and went home.
The fort remained in occupation through the Napoleonic wars; under the walls and guns 'The Mayflower' began the famous voyage to the New World; in 1913 it saw the port become the home of seaplanes. During the First World War Felixstowe was bombed by German Zeppelins and, in the second world war, by Italian aircrews.
Between the wars as before it was a holiday destination. In 1933 Billy Butlin opened up one of his fairground attractions on the sea front.
1953 saw Felixstowe hit by one of the most devastating floods.

Felixstowe has been home to the likes of John Mills; T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) was stationed at R.A.F. Languard under the name of John Ross; and Wallis Simpson stayed here while she waited for Edward the 8ths abdication to be completed.

On film the movie 'The Sea Shall Not Have Them' not only uses the port and seaplane hangers as a location - but the German battery that fires on the Air Sea Rescue boats are in fact the guns of Languard Fort.
The River Orwell doubled as the Yangtse River in the Richard Todd movie 'Yangtse Incident' the story of the escape of H.M.S. Amethyst.

This is a resort that, in it's time, has attracted the likes of Status Quo, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Slade. Yet those days are gone and with it the Spa Pavilion Theatre.

So, Felixstowe has a lot of history - centuries where the town has been shaped by the events that have gone on in and around it.

In modern times shops have closed - big names have gone. It is a sign of the times and I don't see that three new supermarkets will change that. Felixstowe needs - and this is just my opinion - to re-focus and re-brand itself.
Opening supermarkets will not bring in visitors. Nor will opening up new restaurants and coffee shops (cafes even). Not without a sea front to attract visitors. More is needed.
OK, so the gardens by Town Hall are being re-designed but then that wasn't an area in need of a fix.
South of the Pier needs to be re-vamped to be in keeping with the rest of the sea front. Put the term pleasure with the word beach.

In 1997 a town up in Scotland - Wigtown - re-invented itself. It had a couple of second-hand bookshops but it re-branded as a Book Town. Something like Hay-on - Wye. With many Book Festivals it has thrived and, still does, despite the coming of the e-readers. Adaptability is the key to survival.
Felixstowe did put on a book festival but there were mixed feelings.
At least each year Felixstowe can boast a Vintage Car show and Hot Rods on the Prom and a decent Motorcycle Show. Also, there is the Art On The Prom Festival that draws a crowd. This year there will be an air display (weather permitting) to celebrate 100 years of the seaplanes and RAF Landguard.

As for stores and shops. Why not something like Ikea instead of a supermarket? And one of my own bugs is where in Felixstowe can I buy the latest CDs without having to go to Ipswich? And a bigger bookshop.

Isn't it a shame when you hear about Detroit - Motorcity - home of Motown and Packard going to the wall. Some of those still living there say the signs were there for all to see - they did too little too late. Money wasted on the wrong projects.

Don't get me wrong I like Felixstowe - I am happy where I live - but it needs to change to survive.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

RED DAWN (2012)

This 2012 movie is directed by Don Bradley based on a screenplay by Jeremy Passmore and Carl Ellesworth (which is based on the original Kevin Reynolds and John Milius script).

Red Dawn is a re-make of the original Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen movie.

Chris Hemsworth (Thor) plays a US Marine, Jed Eckert, who is home on leave while Josh Peck plays his brother, Matt. The relationship between the brothers is strained as Matt believes that Jed abandoned the family after their mother's death.
The movie starts with Matt failing to score the winning points that would see the college football team, Wolverines, with the football match. The after match party is brought to an abrupt end as a power failure shuts everything down.
Come the dawn, the sky over Spokane, Washington is full with parachutes as North Korean forces invade the American Pacific states.
The premise is that one day the North Koreans will do exactly what they threaten - the rest of the world might just dismiss it all as another show of sabre-rattling. They attack while the rest of the world are dealing with their own problems. A recession that leaves the US vulnerable with forces engaged in other theatres over seas. The EU in disarray over financial problems.
America is ripe for invasion - the Koreans to the west and the Russians to the East Coast.
The Eckert boys and a bunch of college kids manage to escape but are unable to rescue Matt's girlfriend, Erica. They are joined by a couple from San Diego who were on their way home and Toni, an old friend of Jed's.
Under Jed's leadership the Wolverines become the by-word for resistance. Matt, doesn't take to Jed being the leader and puts everyone in danger when he ignores orders to do his own thing by rescuing Erica during a daring raid - actions that causes the deaths of others.
This is a movie that has a logical script, good if clich├ęd characters and well directed action scenes that drive this movie on.
Critics may have hacked it to death but this is a movie that grossed close to $49 million.

Now for the stuff that the critics and reviewers didn't mention - because, I don't think that this is just a remake.
The moment that the montage began at the beginning of the movie I smiled. I had seen it before. With a couple of tweaks the montage was almost the same as that which begins the video game 'Homefront'.
'Homefront' is scripted by John Milius who directed the original 'Red Dawn'.
'Homefront:The Voice Of Freeeom' was the companion novel written by Raymond Benson and John Milius.
In the 'Red Dawn' re-make there is a clear reference to another video game 'Call Of Duty' which showed a small town in America being invaded by Russian paratroopers.
As in 'Call Of Duty' so the Russians have invaded the Eastern seaboard as per 'Red Dawn' re-make.
To my mind 'Red Dawn' is not just a remake but a reworking to make a movie that should have been called 'Homefront: Red Dawn' or the other way round. Whatever it fits into the mould as it were.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

KILL ZONE by Gunnery Sgt Jack Coughlin

Although this first novel from a retired US Marine, Gunnery Sgt Jack Coughlin with Donald A. Davidson as co-author, was published in 2007 I have only just come across it.

The story follows the hero, also a Gunnery Sgt, Kyle Swanson a marine sniper.
Swanson is on holiday in the Mediterranean aboard the luxury yacht owned by Sir Geoffrey Cornwall, a former SAS officer turned designer, producer and seller of high-tech weaponry. Cornwall needs Swanson aboard to help sell a new type of sniper rifle known as 'Excalibur'.

In the US of A National Security Advisor Gerald Buchanan is quietly disposing of all who would oppose him as he plots a new order that would see certain aspects of the military made redundant while multi-millionaire Gordon Gates' private security corps (highly paid mercenaries) took on the 'black ops' roles.

In the Middle East, General Bradley Middleton is kidnapped and held hostage in Syria under the threat of being beheaded.

A rescue squad, that includes Swanson, is sent out on a clandestine mission to rescue the General - but it all goes wrong as the team are wiped out. It is the survival of Swanson that throws a spanner in the works for without his body it cannot be shown that it was the sniper who killer Middleton in a botched rescue attempt.

Questions arise like the fact that the operation was only known to a few so informed the captors? For General Middleton, a man confused, when he overheard his captors speaking in American English.

It is up to Swanson to find and arrest a General for whom he has no respect.

This novel rattles on at a fast and furious pace. Great characters that hold the attention.

I was impressed enough to track down the rest of the Kyle Swanson books.

For purists 'Excalibur' might be a problem - but it is a sniper rifle and that is all it needs to be. Just read and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

WITHOUT WARNING by John Birmingham

Without Warning is an alternative history style story that opens on 14th March 2003 where the US Army is grouped in Kuwait poised to invade Iraq.
Then, without warning, the USA, parts of Canada, Mexico and Cuba just cease to exist as a wave of energy settles over the continent wiping out all forms of life.
In Seattle, city engineer James Kipper and his family struggle with what has happened; questioning why this small section of America still survives.
In Paris, covert agent Caitlin Monroe, is close to cracking a terrorist cell.
In the Middle East correspondent Bret Melton is preparing to cover the invasion.
Admiral James Ritchie based in Honolulu and General Tusk Musso stationed at Guantanamo Bay try to hash out what has happened. With the Cubans taking the vanguard an attempt is made to discover what the anomaly is - but the researchers are swallowed up and disappear.
Out at sea is the gunner/drug runner Pete Holder and his female crew of Lady Julianne Balwyn and the vivacious Fifi.
 While the emphasis lies with the threads of these characters they are seen against a backdrop of world changing events. While some countries take stock and re-evaluate their politics and their borders others go on the rampage.
Without a central command the Americans continue with the invasion of Iraq. At the same time Syria and Iran join forces with the Iraqis. Israel, no longer under any restraints unleashes Armageddon on all it's enemies - completely forgetting about simple things like wind direction and radiation clouds.
It is the individual storylines that drives this novel along - it is 560 pages long - but there is a lot of action sequences from shoot outs, car chases, and a boat chase.

The book has received mixed reviews with most sticking to something like middle ground.
One reviewer was disappointed that there was no scientific investigation into the energy wave. Probably, skipped the bit where it was discovered that that the edges 'billowed like the wind in the sails' that made it a bit impossible to get near. But, then again, maybe he just hadn't read John Wyndham's 'The Midwich Cuckoos' - there was no scientific investigation into the cloud.
What I got from that was that something unexplainable had happened - a statement of fact - and the result was chaos.

Still, this is the first book in a trilogy written by Australian author John Birmingham. It is, also, a scene setter for the next two books in the series, 'After America' and 'Angels Of Vengeance'.
My own first impression was a good one and I'm looking forward to the next instalment.

Monday, 8 July 2013

FINALLY A BRITISH TENNIS CHAMPION - Andy Murray

Seventy seven years ago Wimbledon saw Fred Perry become a British Tennis Champion.

It has been a long wait but, at long last, Andy Murray lifted the Cup after a straight sets victory over Novak Djokavic. Not an easy task - this was nail biting stuff right down to the wire as they fought it out on Wimbledon's Centre Court.
Everyone was on their feet both inside and outside, on Henman Hill, cheering - and a little stunned. I know I was. I hoped but I wasn't a true believer - not until the last point was made.

Way to go, Andy, and congratulations.

But amidst all the cheering did anyone notice the date?

Guess we have a different reason to remember 7/7.

And tragedy marked the young Andy Murray's life. If circumstances had been different that day on the 13th March 1996 when William Hamilton walked into Dunblane Primary School and killed 16 children and their teacher; then today may have never have happened. Andy Murray was eight years old and on his way to the gym when the massacre began.

From a traumatic past to a triumphant present Andy Murray is a worthy British Tennis Champion.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

LION COMICS - 1952 to 1976

The Lion comic was published by Fleetway Publications on the 23rd February 1952 and aimed at boys. Also, there to compete with the Eagle comic. On the front cover at that time was another pilot of the future - Captain Condor.  Though in the above 1960 comic Condor looks to have become a double for his rival Dan Dare.
As an aside there is an advert inside the issue for 22nd October 1960 for Rowntree's Liquorice Gums - 16 gums for 3d. So a trip to the newsagents would cost 3d plus two comics (Lion and Eagle) costing a total of 9d. All that for a shilling out of my pocket money of half a crown (2s 6d old money).
Over the years many memorable characters have emerged from these pages. Along with Captain Condor there has been Zip Nolan, Robot Archie and The Spider.
Of them all Paddy Payne - Warrior of the Skies held centre stage from the moment that he took over the front page from 1959 until 9th February 1964 issue. After that the front cover was devoted to 'Badges Of The Brave' depicting various regiments that had distinguished themselves through history.
The Paddy Payne strips were created by Joe Colquhoun (of 'Charley's War' fame) but I have never been able to track down the writers. Though Steve Holland (Bear Alley blog) discovered that some of the stories from 1963/64 were penned by Frederick E. Smith (633 Squadron author). Possibly could have been the author of the story that began in the pictured cover above. Secret squadron formed with pilots close to cracking up; Payne's job is to motivate them into flying a decoy mission on a Rhine dam - the aircraft used are Mosquitos.
Paddy Payne was the universal warrior of the skies though. Not just the usual fighter pilot tales but Paddy could work just as well behind enemy lines as he did from the front. He took on the Germans, Italians and the Japanese. In the latter he was taken prisoner and escaped.
In 1969 the two rivals Lion and Eagle merged but the age of the comic was taking a downward spiral.
Mergers with Valiant and the later rebranding of titles as Battle Picture Weekly in the mid-70s were just a part of that demise.
On a personal note - while nostalgia may be a word to describe it - I still love those old comics. The stories were of every genre (male orientated genre admittedly) and it was that sort of mix that influenced what I read. It influenced play and stimulated the imagination.
Now where can I find some Liquorish Gums.

The cover reproduced above is from my own collection.