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 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.

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.)

The Road and other things

I don’t really make New Year Resolutions but I did plan of a little more reading time this year and also some family time together. I’ve learned that you really do have to diary it in to make it happen.

This week sons #1 and #2 and I went to see The Road. #1 had just finished the book by Cormac McCarthy and #2 liked the actor playing the lead role. I didn’t expect much except some time together, albeit sitting in a row not speaking to one another but sometimes that’s the best way! It is a bleak film in more ways than one. Post-apocalyptic world where a boy and his father trek across America trying to reach the coast. I’m not exactly sure why but think it was in the hope that there is a better world there with no cannibals and armed rebels roaming around. There’s not a lot of dialogue but there is a lot of dirt and darkness and hunger. I guess the film is really about the father/son relationship and how we can change or learn from the young. #1 and #2 had very different responses to the end which I won’t share just in case you are all going to go and see it on the strength of this review – one said he was glad it had a kind of happy ending, and the other was convinced the boy was going to be eaten. That kind of sums up my boys. One ever the optimist and romantic and the other… well, what can I say about #1 (yes, you guessed correctly)? Perhaps I’ll leave it at that.

I have just finished Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant which had been on my wish list for ages and then I grabbed a copy in Borders sale.  There are nuns galore and visions and anorexia and subterfuge and herbalism galore. I loved it.

Also read Shadowmancer by GP Taylor. For some reason I think this was written by a vicar and is primarily for children but like Harry Potter etc is a good romp for grown-ups too.  This one has pirates and darkness  and folklore and was a quick read. (Not as good as HP though.) Youngish teenagers would like it, I’d think.

I’ve now started The Handmaid’s Tale which just might be our next book group read…


Day off today and some work just has to be done but Son #2 and I did manage a trip to the Omni to see Avatar. Must confess that I was only going to keep him company and see my first 3D film, but was immensely surprised to find that I was hooked from beginning to end.  The special effects were incredible and almost unbelievable for an old duffer like me. Are you sure these weren’t real people?

Loved the fact that men were warriors but women were the spiritual ones.  (Women got to fight too.)  Son #1 said that he’d loved the effects but thought the story was weak. We didn’t find that. In fact I loved the story – saving the planet, a beautiful aboriginal spirituality, anti-war, anti-imperial, and a little bit of loving too. What’s not to like?  And the people were absolutely stunning.

Girls, go and see it. If you thought this was just a movie for the boys, you couldn’t be more wrong.

My only complaint was the flipping cost of the whole exercise! You can tell it has been a while since I have been to the cinema but 2 tickets, some juice and some nachos (which were just vile and inedible) came to £24.  Then parking was £9.80. What if we’d had a meal too? Blimey! That would have taken care of this month’s stipend!!  I wouldn’t mind so much if the cinema had been warm but I had to sit with my hat and gloves on throughout the whole thing. Brr.

Reading, Watching, Listening


Two charity shop finds have entertained me this week. The first was my lover’s lover by Maggie O’Farrell.  We did The Vanishing Act of Esmee Lennox at the book group and enjoyed it so was happy to pick up another of hers. I actually loved the premise of this story – a woman seeing the ghost of her lover’s former lover all over the place. It was a book about emotions and jealousy and insecurity and half-truths with some exceptional writing.  The one thing that spoiled it for me was the ending so am reluctant to recommend it. No, that’s not fair – the rest of it is really good so go for it if you can bear a poor ending. Just make up your own like I did.

The second book was The Miracles of Santo Fico by D L Smith. This is a book about love and miracles and forgiveness set in a forgotten village in Tuscany.  Father Elio is having a spiritual crisis and Leo orchestrates a miracle to set things right. There is humour and a light touch to what would be great holiday reading.


This week I have watched the first series of Black Books, the comedy series with Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig co-written with Graham Linehan (Father Ted). I had forgotten quite how funny this is so there has been much clutching of stitches. (And it was only £9.88 for the boxed set of 3 series so not to be missed.)

My sister loaned me a boxed set of The Lakes which was a series on BBC1 in the late 90s by Jimmy McGovern. I couldn’t understand why I had never even heard of this until I remembered that I didn’t watch TV from 1996-2000 which were my University years. Us oldies needed to study, study, study into the wee small hours. The series was set in the Lake District so beautiful views and back-drops but was very dark.  Murder, mayhem, sex and more sex, rape – it was all there by the bucketload. Good though.

Son #1 persuaded me to get The World’s Fastest Indian and we watched that one night. It stars Anthony Hopkins as a New Zealander (bad accent Anthony) who wants to enter the world speed record on a motorcycle – the Indian of the title. This is such a feel-good movie and really heartwarming. (Film group will see it soon!)

Also have watched the 1st series of Life on Mars which also passed me by. I was more than a little disappointed to find that I now have to watch the second series to find out if he gets back or not.  However, it was mildly amusing and passed an hour or so.


Oh such joy since I discovered Spotify.  I’m sure it was one of the young people in the SEC who mentioned it in a blog or on Facebook and I’m so glad they did. Now I get to listen to all my favourite music on my computer without changing cds etc.  Found lots of my old vinyl on it which is probably unplayable now, having moved house a dozen times and they are still living in the garage. The ads are short and fairly unobtrusive too so bearable. Download it now! You won’t regret it.

And who have I been listening to?  Well since you ask… Bach, Dr Hook, Nick Drake, Faure, Barbra Streisand and Craig Armstrong.