First time I ever remember going to the Cinema was to see the film ‘Jaws’ so I must have been about 6 at the time. I dont remember much about the film other than hiding beneath the seat when the guy gets his leg bit off, that and being told off by my primary school teacher the next day when its the only bit of the film I could describe to my class.
Even so I was hooked, if you will pardon the pun. I fell in love with the cinema and movies in general, its probably more to do with my dad and his insistance that you really couldnt have a big enough TV, something which holds true for me today with a TV that has killed all the plants in my living room as theres no longer any light coming in through my front window.
Its also easy to tell I lead the single mans life, walk into the living room and theres a single 3 seat leather sofa with reclining seats directly opposite a 50 inch plasma and just the right place for the 5:1 surround sound system, and yes I do have the speakers on spikes and the rears mounted on the wall near the ceiling. I did draw the line though at not placing concrete blocks on the equipment to make sure the sound is completely dead, unlike some of my friends…
…anyway I’m getting ahead of myself.
My next memory of ‘going to the pictures’ was going on a bus with my cousins across town to a special christmas showing of bedknobs and broomsticks, quite a journey in Belfast at the time and one of the last times I would go to the proper cinema for a while. The next outing wasnt really an outing as we went to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind and were turned away after queuing for over an hour as the cinema was full. Back in the days of huge cinema theatres with only one show on. So it was back down the next night, a lot earlier and we got in this time.
By this stage is was the late 70s and not really the place to be taking kids at night into Belfast City Centre so going out to see a fil-um (how we pronounce film) was limited to going to the local working mens club where they set up the screen and super 8 projector and we all piled in there.
Looking back now it was a complete heath robinson outfit but for films like Earthquake and The Shootist there really was no better place. For Earthquake the place was full but I remember me, my Dad and my sister and maybe one other person turning up to see The Shootist. John Waynes last film and one of the last we saw on Super 8 as Betamax and VHS tapes were just coming onto the scene.
My Dad had been wanting a super 8 camera and projector for years but was another one of those things that came long down the list after food and clothes for the kids.
It was time to trudge back into down every Friday to visit the video hire shop where the tradition that lasted almost 25 years of going into a video shop for an hour and arguing over which film you want to watch, someone sulking then getting a film nobody wanted to watch.
Then of course there were the local video shops which provided tapes which didnt come in fancy boxes and were just black tapes, pirate videos werent in the vocabulary at the time and these seemed legitimate shops on legitimate streets, copyright protection was unheard of. It wasnt just copyright that was ignored, I remember on two occasions sitting down and watching betamax tapes that were 10 minutes shorter than the film itself. You then had the daft spectacle of us all going up to the video shop and the guy in the store telling us all the ending. I cant decide to this day if thats good or bad customer service, it certainly was dedication.
It was my dads decision to buy a Betamax video recorder that has shaped my opinion to not be an early adopter of any technology or if there are two competing technologies, to wait it out until one dies a death. Hence the reason for waiting to get a blu-ray player even though I know it is obsolete already and will probably be superceded by online download or streaming.
When I got my first job out of uni in 1992 they were talking about video on demand and the ability to pick and choose one of hundreds of movies down the telephone line and watch what you want, when you want. Of course almost 20 years later we are just getting to that stage.
Ive only a small selection of blu-rays and I suppose its like the whole CD v MP3 debate – MP3s are ok but if you want to sit down and listen to music properly then you stick on a CD, similar with downloads to watch a movie on a wee screen but blu-ray to make a night of it. At least thats what I keep telling myself. I told myself that too when I bought a high end VHS player just as they were being phased out, the reason? Well my large collection of VHS movies, of which I’ve probably played 3 (the star wars originals) since then. More money well spent.
I hate when you go into the cinema and they put on 10 minutes of anti piracy ads, like Ive paid in already! Leaving the piracy part aside, there really is nothing like seeing a movie on the real big screen, with my home cinema coming a poor second.
Since I’ve been small Ive had it drummed into me to see as much live entertainment as possible, whether it be sport, theatre, music or in the case of movies, on the big screen.
Now Ive a HD video cam, HD on demand movies, large tv, dts surround sound, even a popcorn machine but put star wars on a black and white portable in mono and I’ll still watch it.
Ive just finished watching ‘In Bruges’ again for the nth time (thoroughly recommended if you can take bad language and violence), great film, more like a stage play on film.
So take some time out this weekend, get the family in or sit down yourself, turn down the lights, crank up the sound, get the popcorn on and press play…
…go on you know you want to.
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Well Halloween is over for another year.
So the pumpkin pie, apple pie, monkey nuts, toffee apples and all sorts have been eaten, wee fingers have been burned with that destinctive white burn scar that only dark but still hot sparklers can leave and cows have to avoid eating the remnants of the new chinese lantern phenomenon. Lots of driving round this year and thinking WTF is that!
Its this time of year that we usually get an explosion of autumn colour about the place. Loads of memories of running up and down places like Lady Dixon, Shaws Bridge or the Falls Park kicking our way through the piles of dry dead leaves.
Memories of my dad coming home from work up at Stormont with a bag full of conkers. What we were to do with these we didnt know. Other than trying to make each other eat them or shove them up my sisters nose. Eventually we got a demonstration of the conker game where you thread the conker with string then beat each others conkers until they exploded in a mass of poisonous nut and spread about the place. At school some people would always win and then the secrets came out, put them in vinegar, bake them in the oven, varnish them and all sorts of failed remedies which usually including mixing up the instructions and generally causing some sort of minor fire alert, trip to casualty or waiting until next year to get more conkers.
Of course these days the health and safety killjoys wont let kids put each others eyes out, stuff house insulation down each others backs (we couldnt get itching powder) or throw bangers at each other. For some reason they think that natural selection should no longer be allowed to take its course, of course sparklers are still legal and I remember more burns and problems with them than anything else that has been banned.
Still back to the autumn colours, I was really looking forward to this years autumn colour and the odd chance, autumn might last longer than an afternoon to get out and get some photos. Last year autumn was a washout, rain and high winds put paid to the piles of dry dying leaves. One night, bang, they all came down, got wet and even I wouldnt have the cheek to try and make something out a pile of wet, sodden, mouldy leaves. Although to be fair that would probably be more of an approximation to autumn these days than the photos I do have. As I write there is about 2 inches of rain overnight and up to 30mph winds. That will be autumn gone for another year.
We often say that we get four seasons in one day here but last year autumn was about 4 days.
My one real photographic expedition last year was to whiteboard an attempt to become a nature photographer. Well I have these big long lenses, combat trousers, a copy of the SAS survival guide and a couple of flasks – how hard could it be?
I did my research and my target was the wee red squirrels, a dying breed apparently so I found out that Belvoir Forest Park has a fair size colony (or whatever the collective noun is – my research obviously didnt go that far) and there were a few other places but they were under the protection of the National Trust stasi (photography is verboten) or too far away.
I spoke to a few colleagues from around these islands who actually do know what they were doing and some advised going out and seeding out the area. Throw a few peanuts down in common areas and sit back with a pair of binoculars and watch before ever bringing the cameras.
I think they were taking the piss..
..or maybe they meant the non salted in a packet variety of peanuts…
Either way I just stood around getting cold and saying hello to a lot of old people out walking their dogs.
I refuse to be put off and I decided that it was a matter of timing. From my days on Safari it was obvious dawn and dusk were the best times to view wildlife.
So, next morning at 6am I was in the car and off to the park. By 7am I was sitting on my wee tripod stool, full covered in camouflage gear, poncho covering everything and a flask of coffee. My lens of choice was my 500mm and 1.4 convertor. Now, this is not a lens you want to be seen with wearing camouflage and sitting under the main flight path for Belfast City Airport. But hey..
So the mist cleared and the sun came up and people started to arrive walking their dogs.
It was then I realised that before long any movement I made would scare the living shit out of anyone walking past with their dog. Of course you cant fool dogs so people wondered why they were going over to smell this bush that smelt very much of coffee on a still crisp morning.
What do you do? Do you brave it out until everyone goes home or cough loudly, pack up and head back to the car, trying to avoid eye contact with the civilians and praying you dont actually meet anyone who knows you?
I chose the latter, packed up, tried to make everything as obvious as possible and had 4 squirrels run past me on the path back to the car. Not one of them was carrying any salted peanuts.
Still, I am undeterred and next time we get autumn that lasts more than a week I’ll give it another go. Or maybe I’ll start with something bigger and easier, like cows.
Getting back to this year I decided to go up to stormont to get some conkers for the nephews to give them a go at the conkers game. Didnt find a single one. Searched all day.
I went home and the next day had to return a library book for a friend who was on holiday. 2 horse chestnut trees outside the library. Stopped off for coffee with a friend on the way home. On the road outside her house there was a massive horse chestnut tree. The conkers were just lying there all over the road. I do now of course realise how odd it must have looked for a full grown man to be collecting conkers from the side of a country road as the school run traffic passed. Im sure thats just the type of behaviour parents warn kids about…
Ive been lucky this year, Ive been out and about and seen autumnal colours more than Ive seen here in years, so to finish heres a picture of Fanad Head lighthouse…
…nothing to do with autumn but I was up there last weekend and I’d never been…
…I will be back.
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