Brave – The Movie

Day off yesterday and I decided to go and see Brave which has just come out at the cinemas in Scotland. In amongst the many children with huge boxes of popcorn, bigger than them in some cases, and enough fizzy drinks to keep them burping all afternoon, we settled down to be entertained with Pixar’s latest offering.

And it was fabulous! I absolutely loved it. The critics have said the ending wasn’t great but I didn’t agree at all. I thought it had the best ending. It was a story of a girl discovering herself, her strength, and her love for family. It is about the love (and hate) between a mother and daughter. It is about sacrifice and redemption.

The animation is wonderful and I could have watched those red curls for hours. And the music was lovely too although I didn’t find out who was responsible for that. Very celtic and atmospheric.

If you are from Aberdeen and speak the Doric then you will find some lovely little bits to amuse.

5 stars

In which I reveal what I have been reading and watching

My summer holiday has arrived and with it more torrential rain. I have the central heating on and a fleece. 50 shades of grey have been the colour du jour of the sky for many a day now and my holiday alarm has not kicked in yet and I’m still awake at about 7am. But I have been able to make inroads to my whole bookcase of unread books, so that’s a good thing.

I read The Lewis Man, follow up to The Blackhouse which I’ve just read, by Peter May. Set on the isle of Lewis they tell the story of a policeman in Edinburgh sent to his home town in Lewis to solve a crime. Both are excellent books especially if you’re interested in that part of Scotland. The stories are both tied up with the past and the second book reveals more of Fin’s childhood growing up on Lewis. Looking forward to the third one in the Trilogy.

Just finished The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre. Not sure who recommended this one to me or where I read about it, but it is a novel about sexual abuse in Canada in the RC church. It tells the story of Fr Duncan, a priest who works for the bishop flushing out clergy who have misbehaved. Of course Duncan has his own secrets too and they are revealed as the story unfolds. In fact, it seems that everyone in the book has secrets. At times it is not a pleasant book to read, and the Church doesn’t come out of it very well. Nor should it, I guess.

Yesterday I went to see The Angel’s Share at the cinema which was good. Quite harsh in some ways, but that reflects the lives of the young men doing Community Payback, who are the anti-heros of the film. Language is choice but amusing. The film has a bit of  Whisky Galore about it.  There are some very funny bits in it and the ending will warm the cockles of your heart.

In a few days I shall be off to Orkney to explore all sorts of things. My faithful Kindle shall go with me, all bulging with unread material. More later…


At CineWorld last night with Son #2 to see Prometheus. He seemed surprised that I wanted to see this. I think he thinks I only do either religious or romantic these days. When I found out it was 3D I nearly didn’t go because I found the last 3D film so awful, but I’m glad I did.

The cinematography was glorious and the 3D subtle and in fitting with the movie. (Sometimes they seem to use it just to make you duck.) The Director is Ridley Scott, he of Alien fame among others, and indeed this is meant to be a kind of prequel to Alien. Ridley Scott does like his lead female characters so it is always good to have some strong women instead of the usual men in string vests. And I was delighted to see that the lead female actually was not a Size Zero or whatever passes for acceptable in Hollywood these days. Not that’s she’s exactly super-size but she had a good pair of thighs on her.

The story is set around the story of Creation. Is there a God or was the Earth created by someone/thing else? So spaceship lands on distant planet and finds evidence of previous life forms on it. Enter the aliens.  Now I did feel that this bit could have been a bit more scary and filled with suspense. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but just didn’t scare the heebeegeebees out of me, which I was expecting.

Worth a visit though.


Did I mention that I went to see the Avengers last week with Son #2? I think he misled me. There was no sign of Steed or Purdie, no high kicks, no wonderful hairdos. Actually there were a few high kicks from a bunch of super-heros in 3D which involved involuntary ducking from the older members of the audience. I was a bit disappointed with the 3D. It was a bit forced, I felt, and I actually felt that I would have enjoyed it better without it. Son #2 was terribly excited with it all while I thought it was okay. He’s owe me one now. I need to find a real slushy or religious movie to take him to.

What else did I get up to last week? Well there was the visit from the local S1 class for a romp round church looking for Christian symbols. I usually enjoy these sessions muchly but this one was a bit tricky. There was a lot of hostility and the teacher said that many of them hadn’t wanted to come because they were ‘scared’ of churches. Gosh. What’s that all about? One delightful child smashed a priest’s host (unconsecrated) into smithereens for a laugh. I was surprised at how angry I felt at that. I do know that I could never be a teacher, that’s for sure.

I finished the second in the Hunger Games trilogy: Catching Fire. Not quite as exciting as the first one, but good all the same and I just had to download the third to my Kindle straight away. I’m looking forward to discussing it at the book group next week. I’ve also been reading Take This Bread by Sara Miles… finally. This is one of those books which has been lying around for ages and I’d never got around to reading it. But when friends start to rave about her follow up then you just need to get down to it. Of course it is brilliant and is covered in pencil marks and I’ve put quite a few quotes into my Journal. It shall go with me on retreat, along with Jesus Freak.

The rest of the week seems to have been taken up with sickness and grieving – post funeral visits and hospital visits. These are some of the best bits of my job. Listening to stories and just being there.

And now we have arrived at departure day for the Clergy Silent Retreat. *sigh*  I know, I know, why do I do it? Why do I keep going on silent retreats when I know I am going to struggle so much? Well the thing is, that I do need silence from time to time. Even extroverts can cope with some silence. But that’s just it. Some silence. I need a partial silent retreat really so that I can blether too.  I often plan what form that would take but never get around to doing it. So I hover around outside having a fag and trying to catch people’s eyes just to make a connection. It was fine when a certain clergy friend used to go with me and we could scamper off in the afternoons to Melrose or some other such delightful Borders town for a look round the shops and a blether.

I shall be taking my phone and netbook and may blog, tweet or facebook. At least I can talk to someone that way. But I seem to remember that the wi-fi is not very good nor is the phone signal. Pray for me, dear friends. Pray for me and I shall for you.



The Artist

I went to see The Artist on Saturday at the Bo’ness Hippodrome. Well, that’s a bit of a misnomer I reckon, as it is the teeniest little cinema I’ve ever seen. Very cute and 100 years old with a starry ceiling. Some of the seats are original which merely means that even my short legs don’t fit in without poking the person in front’s head.

But you wanted to hear about the film, didn’t you? Well, it was surprisingly good actually, thanks for asking. Surprisingly? After winning all those awards? Well, yes. Because I just didn’t really fancy a silent movie. (You remember what I’m like with silence.) I’ve not seen many, it has to be said, but I am one of those few people who doesn’t care for Charlie Chaplin one little bit. And what’s the point in seeing a silent movie when you can get a talkie for just the same money?

You probably know by now what the film is all about. Silent movie actor (with a look of Clark Gable or Errol Flynn about him) and his dog are hugely successful. Young aspiring actress comes along trying to get into films. He helps her. Talkies come in. Actor says they’ll never make it. Actress gives it a go. Actor puts all his money into big silent movie. Actress stars in talkie film and makes it big. Actor’s wife leaves him and he ends up penniless. Actress helps him. The End. (All accompanied by lovely music and very few subtitles.)

It was a feel-good film and rather sweet. The dog was the star, by far. Worth it for that, if nothing else.


The end of a holiday

So, after the witches, vampires, lust and sex in the church, the second half of my holiday really didn’t quite match up. In fact, one might almost say that it was a bit of an anti-climax.

I went out for dinner with some friends and drank wine which I don’t often do these days because I either have the car or am working the next day. Who’d have thought in my youth that it would come to this? Not many of my friends, that’s for sure.

Struggled a bit with The Book of Human Skin because I think it is trying to be Perfume but not terribly well. I’m told it gets better so will persevere but the different fonts for each character are annoying me too. Then I re-read The Redbird Christmas for our book group today and that took an afternoon as it is deliciously short (and schmaltzy).

On Friday I went to see War Horse at the flicks. Blimey, but it was loud. And long. I’d read the book when I was in my ‘reading children’s books’ phase last year and loved it. And one of these days I’d dearly love to go to the theatre to see it done there. The film was good, but very Disney. To begin with it almost looked like it was set in Brigadoon and by the red sunset at the end I almost expected Derby O’Gill or a leprauchan to pop up too. But it was a beautiful film and great story. Still not exactly sure why it was so long because the book is pretty short, but I suppose it was padded out with dialogue. There was some sniffing and hankies being produced by the end from those next to me but I’m afraid I remained dry-eyed.

On Sunday I awoke early having had a most horrible nightmare. It was all about the pew sheet being wrong for Mother Ann who is covering for me and then having to write it out by hand, and nobody had found the correct page in the Lectionary, and so on. It was in fact all about me not being in control and it all falling to pieces.  Oh dear.  But as I was up so early I went back to my old haunt in Linlithgow for church because their service begins at 9.30am. It was so lovely to be pew fodder and Mother Marian is looking after them in the vacancy so nice to catch up with her too. In fact, as the eccentrics started playing up it was almost as if I’d never been away! (By the way, you may be thinking that it is not good form for a priest to revisit an old charge, but I did ask permission and I am covering for a few of their weekday services. However, it is still a difficult issue.)

So that’s my post-Christmas done and dusted. I do feel rested and refreshed. Only one funeral awaits me and a pile of mail and emails. But it is good to be back. Another week and I’d have gone mad.


Witches, vampires, lust, Church, pilgrims and a donkey

More than half way through my week’s holiday and I’ve only managed to read two books. This was because Son #1 came to stay and needed my assistance in setting up a new business. In return he made copious quantities of coffee and food and occasionally left me alone for 30 minutes to read. I took him back to Edinburgh yesterday and let out a huge sigh of relief. Bless him.

The first book was sent to me by a friend whose taste in books I share. It is A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and a Sunday Times Bestseller, no less. Now, I wasn’t really sure that I was going to enjoy it when I saw it was about witches, vampires and daemons albeit set in the world of academia. But in fact, I really enjoyed it. There was forbidden love (vampires and witches don’t usually get it together), adventures, baddies and goodies, and history too. In fact, it is Twilight for grown-ups or as Entertainment Weekly said ‘for the tweedy set’. Anyway it was great escapism and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My only complaint was that as I neared the end I realised the story was not going to be sewn up neatly but would be continued in the following books of the trilogy, as yet unwritten. I hate that! It’s like when ‘To Be Continued’ appears on the screen and you didn’t expect it. But at the same time the book also journeys into the world of time-travel and I can see that it will be like those old favourites by Diana Gabaldon beginning with Cross Stitch.

The next day, as the interruptions were many, I decided not to read but to watch the whole series of The Borgias. What a treat, that was. Sex, intrigue, politics, incest, murder, more sex, and all set within the confines of the church. Delicious. The vestments were lovely too.  Really one feels that one should never complain about the College of Bishops in our little church ever again.

The next book was Spanish Steps: One Man and his Ass on the Pilgrim Way to Santiago by Tim Moore. This was a Christmas present from the non-church-going husband of the Rector’s Warden who’d seen it and thought of me. Wasn’t that nice? Santiago is, as regular readers will know, on my bucket list but it is the walking that keeps it there. Tim Moore is a very funny writer and almost too funny to write a book. The jokes just came so thick and fast that I had to stop reading for a while every so often because it was just too much. Anyway, the story is as it says on the cover – his pilgrimage to Santiago with a donkey. He’s not religious so is not doing it for that reason, but is intrigued by the epic accounts of a pilgrimage undertaken by one in three medieval Europeans. Realising that walking all that distance with a rucksack ain’t gonna be a lot of fun, he decides to take a donkey along with him to carry the load. Of course, he knows nothing about donkeys. There is a wee bit of The Way in this story – non-religious person finds ‘spirituality’ on the road through the other people he meets. But there is also irreverence, amusing characters, and enough eccentrics to keep you going for a long time. There’s a touch of the Bill Bryson about it too, if that’s what you’re in to. I enjoyed it in doses.

The Way

I first became aware of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella through Cursillo, a Christian renewal programme. Cursillo borrows many of its words from Spanish, including Ultreya – a word of encouragement to fellow pilgrims on the way. It became a place that took hold in my heart and I have always longed to go. Not least to see the botafumeiro – the largest swinging thurible in the world. (Some kind friend brought me back a pair of silver earrings which are the botafumeiro and are much admired in churchy circles.)

But I have never been. There are many reasons for this. One is that I don’t do walking. And really the best way to pilgrimage to Santiago is by foot along the Camino. I have many friends who have done part or all of the way and their stories have inspired me and made me more than a little envious. I also have friends who have visited Santiago without walking – on tours and by bus. For them it has also been an inspirational place. (Cost has been what has prevented me doing it this way.) And I also know some people who are almost addicted to walking the way – friends who do parts of the journey every year, if not more. What is it that makes them want to go back time and time again? Some tell me it is the people you meet on the way, the fellow pilgrims all with a story to tell about why they are making this pilgrimage. Friendships are made and some of those last.

Last year I read about a film called The Way starring Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez. Unfortunately it didn’t come to the metropolis that is Falkirk and I have eagerly awaited its release on DVD. Yesterday afternoon I settled down to watch it and what a delight it was. (Not least for watching the changing shades of colour in Martin Sheen’s hair.) Martin Sheen plays the part of an Opthamologist in California whose only son (Emilio Estevez) has given up his studies to go travelling round the world. His father can’t understand this and is angry that he is throwing away his career.  Then a phone call comes to tell him that his son has died in an accident in the Pyrannees so he cancels all his appointments for 2 weeks to go and bring his body home.

The gendarme tells him that his son had started to walk the Camino, the route to Santiago. He had only just begun when a freak accident took his life. For some reason he decides that he now will stay and walk the way with his son’s ashes, using his son’s equipment and maps to guide him. His reasons for doing this aren’t clear. Is it anger? Is it to try and understand his son and the way of life he chose? Whatever the reason, he sets out with anger in his heart and little time for ‘pilgrimages of  the heart.’  At points along the way he sees his son encouraging him and waving him on, and he stops to leave some of his ashes at different pilgrim places.

Of course, along the way he meets other pilgrims: a jovial Dutchman; an angry Canadian woman; and a crazy Irish writer with writer’s block. He doesn’t want to walk with them. He doesn’t want to share his story or talk about why he is walking the way. He wants to wallow in his own misery. But the Camino has ways of turning things upside down and a transformation takes place.

That’s enough of the story spoiler, but I highly recommend this movie. It would be a good Lent one to do with a group, but suitable for any time really. It is still with me today and has made me all the more desperate to visit Santiago. Another thing for the bucket list.

Tales of a wee week off

I’ve just had a wee week off. A week off is just not enough really for a holiday. It doesn’t feel like a week, it feels like a ‘wee week’. That’s probably because the first few days are spent getting the house in order and dozing at unexpected times. You just have to write them off.  Then you manage to do a spot of reading and watching movies (and nursing of Son #1’s girlfriend who’d come to visit and took ill). A midweek lunch with a friend was lovely and all too short really. Of course, behind it all there is the thought of ‘where will I go to church on Sunday’. As it happened, for reasons which I won’t go into here, it had to be somewhere fairly close so my old haunt at Bathgate was going to be the lucky recipient of my company today. That was until I went out, all dressed and tittivated, to find someone had parked in front of my car and blocked me in – and our service had already started so I could hardly stomp in and demand they move it. I can’t tell you how flipping mad I was. Getting to be pew fodder is just so important to me because it happens so rarely. (Oh Ruth, get over it! And you got to listen to the Archers Omnibus uninterrupted so what’s the complaint?)

Anyway, let me tell you what I read this week.  I’d begun Case Histories a week or so ago and then discovered it was also being serialised on TV. So closely, in fact, that the book was spoiled by knowing exactly what was going to happen. There was more humour in the book, I think, but I preferred it being set in Edinburgh on TV rather than Cambridge. I like Kate Atkinson’s style of writing and am working my way through all of her books in between others.

I also started In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden. The first I ever heard of Rumer Godden was when Bruce Willis, on whom I had a brief crush during his Moonlighting days, named his first child Rumer after said author. I assumed she was American. Then I read about this book on another blog recently and discovered that she had written the book ‘Black Narcissus’ which was made into one of my favourite nun films. (Yes, I have a list of favourite nun films. Doesn’t everyone?) Black Narcissus is the one with the nuns in Tibet or Nepal where Sr Ruth goes mad and swings from a bellrope at the end. You know the one. (And why are mad people always called Ruth? Think ‘Casualty’! And many others…) This blog was extolling In this House of Brede as a book about nuns (more nuns! yay!) which the blogger had read and re-read throughout her life. Off to Amazon I went and it arrived midweek, and what a joy it is. It is quite a tome so it might take me time to get through it but I can recommend it already. But I’m wondering why I’ve never heard of Rumer Godden and her nun books before.

I’ve also started When God was a Rabbit which I am also adoring. I don’t think it is like anything I’ve read before but I love its quirkiness. And it is very funny in bits. More on that later. It may well get to be our next book group book. (We’re doing Cranford during the summer in the first of our Classics.)

Son #1, sick girlfriend and I also watched Tamara Drewe which was in the bargain bucket at Tesco and a British film so had to be bought. It was funny, laugh out loud in places, and sweet. It is a film made from Posy Simmonds’ cartoon strip in the Guardian, which I’d never read btw. Tamsin Greig made the movie for me, as she usually does, playing the cheated-upon wife of a crime novelist who holds writer’s retreats. There is a bit of Hardy in the mix too, and two hilarious teenagers living in a small village where nothing exciting ever happens. It is a good Sunday afternoon film (although we watched it on Wednesday, I think, but it was fun all the same).

So that was my week really. Not terribly exciting. I did plan on getting away for a few days but events conspired against me but I’ve had a rest and that was needed. Now once more unto the breach…

Books and films and tears

One of the books I’ve read recently was The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Sometimes only a wee Alan Bennett will do and I always keep a pile of them in the spare bedroom for guests. I didn’t know this one and it was given to me by one of my little flock. It is about the Queen and her discovery of the library van in Buck Palace and her subsequent discovery of books. As with every Bennett book, there is humour and pathos in the bucketload.

I’ve just finished Kate Mosse’s The Winter Ghosts which is considerably shorter than her Labyrinth and Sepulchre. And it does what it says in the title – tells a ghost story set in snow. The book is written in the first person – Freddie – but for some reason at the beginning I was sure it was a woman speaking. So I’m not totally convinced that the author got the ‘imagining yourself as a man’ thing.  It was a good read and almost un-put-down-able.

Finally, on my day off I watched a new DVD just out while I did the ironing. (I did have to sit down for a sniffle now and again.) The Velveteen Rabbit is one of my favourite children’s classics and oft quoted in sermons on love. I’m not sure that this sticks exactly to the story but there is enough of it to remind you of the highlights. Part animation which would delight young children, it is such a wonderful story. Buy it for your grandchildren now, and have a secret viewing yourself. (Btw, I got it in Tesco very cheap.)