Five years on from my very first post and how time flies. I’m very grateful for my blogging community which has grown my confidence and given me an outlet I desperately needed in my life. As is customary I am doing a quick recap at the end of the year. In 2018 a lot of old posts proved more popular than my new posts. The new posts for the most part act as links to where I am published elsewhere occasionally offering some behind the scenes info in a more informal manner. I will only be listing posts published this year.
America is still No.1 in terms of readership, Australia has retaken No.2 from the UK and Canada remains in fourth place as always. Cracking the Top 5 this year is India with newcomer Hong Kong making a strong showing in the latter half of 2018 and reaching No. 6. Germany which had a grip on N.5 for most of the year slips to No. 7 and Japan, New Zealand and Malaysia leave the Top 10. In No. 8 France returns to the Top 10, the Philippines makes if for the first time in No. 9 and holding on to a Top 10 position is Indonesia as the country with the tenth most views. Overall there were less views from the U.K. and Canada but more views from the rest of the Top 10 countries with all 10 cracking triple digits in number of views. Which I guess makes for a more diverse readership.
Top 10 Most Views by Country
The United States of America 9,519 Views
Australia 1,898 Views
The United Kingdom 1,714 Views
Canada 685 Views
India 361 Views
Hong Kong SAR China 200 Views
Germany 188 Views
France 113 Views
Philippines 108 Views
Indonesia 106 Views
Out of the 108 posts published for the year the following 25 got the most views. In 2015 the blog started to grow with 1,609 views, 333 visitors, 23 Likes and 30 comments. In 2016 the blog received 5,673 views, 3,206 visitors, 546 Likes and 751 comments. In 2017 this grew to 16,767 views (more than a third of which were for The Founder Review), 11,891 visitors, 1,240 Likes and 1,707 comments. In 2018 much to my surprise we stayed steady at 16,706 views and 12,185 visitors with the site receiving 1,091 likes and 1,046 comments. There has been a slight downtick in liking and commenting of posts which makes sense since my focus is less intense on growing my blogging community and some fellow bloggers have given the game away. One thing about the results strongly supports an idea I have of where to put my energies next. Overall I just want to say again how much it means to me to have my core group and how much I appreciate anybody who reads and enjoys the blog.
It has been very nice to see some of the posts that were enjoyed the most were ones that were very personal including about travelling to attend my sister’s wedding overseas and recollections of the Brisbane International Film Festival. I’m also glad that everybody seems to enjoy my list for the best films of the year and look forward to doing another one for 2018 around Oscar time. Also blogging about my first cover story for Scenestr has proven the most popular post on my blog for 2018 which is very gratifying. It was a lot of fun and a real privilege to do the interview with Jascha Boyce.
Well that’s it for another year so thank you so much to everybody who reads my humble blog and I would like to take this moment to thank my fellow bloggers for their continued support Pete, Cindy, GP, Don, Vinnie, Jay, Sean, Paul, Allen, John K, Michael, Jet, Eddie, Alex, Paol, Jordon, John R, SJS, DB, Emma, Jersey Dreaming, Robin, Eric and anybody else who takes the time to read these posts. It would be helluva lot less fun without you all.
Another milestone reached, this time for the popular post Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Lucy From Going In Style. A mostly average film I saw with Karen in early 2017 attracted by the venerable star power of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin and Ann Margaret. A stand out scene for me though involved the actress Annabelle Chow as a young girl named Lucy who won’t snitch out our heroes to the police out of respect for her fellow grand daughters. A classic example of a minor character having a huge effect on the plot and just making an impact in terms of the quality of the performance.
And now some stats for the sake of those who love stats. The post was originally published 30JUN2017 and closed out 2017 as the 3rd most popular post on my blog from 2017 with 187 views. It currently sits at 1,030 views having reached 1,000 views on the 12th of December of this year. The most popular month so far was July 2018 where it accumulated 101 views, the only time thus far it has reached triple digits in a month. That month had a daily average of 3 views. Most days there is at least one view on average. It currently has 11 likes from my fellow bloggers.
I don’t know if these posts appear silly, self-congratulatory or just embarrassing. But I never thought so many people might read any of my post when I started blogging five years ago let alone 1,000 so I celebrate the moments and move on. I hope you enjoy.
I am fortunate to have another review published with Weekend Notes this time for the new Michael Caine movie King of Thieves. The British Film Festival run by Palace Cinemas is currently doing the rounds across Australia, Palace Cinemas either in partnership or by themselves are responsible for several similar film festivals throughout the year. As cinema attendance shrinks, attendance at film festivals increases and as a long time film buff I enjoy attending them. Karen got me in to attend two films at this British Film Festival, My Generation (starring Michael Caine and produced by him) and King of Thieves. Of the two I preferred the documentary My Generation which saw Caine interviewing contemporaries and discussing what it was like to be part of Swinging London. King of Thieves is not without good intentions but I would suggest there have been better capers films such as the original The Italian Job. You can read my thoughts on King of Thieves here https://www.weekendnotes.com/king-of-thieves-film-review-british-film-festival/
Caine has long reached an age where we treasure his continued output and marvel at his work ethic. In My Generation he notes youth is not a time in life but a state of mind and it just seems to hint at his continued relevance. In My Generation there are shots where he driving in busy London in an expensive Ashton Martin and the camera includes wide shots to show he is driving and I like to imagine the producer Caine making a point to have these to show he is driving. I highly doubt it but I like to think it because he remains a man so capable so why not capture it. Lacking structure, the more My Generation goes on the less entertaining it becomes but there is some fascinating recaps of the time and the players involved and Caine remains Caine. A cockney boy who became a movie star, a movie star who remains a legend. God bless Mr Mickelwhite.
Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.
Every year the charity Lifeline has an event where they sell old books at the Brisbane Convention Centre. The Lifeline Bookfest “is the biggest fundraising event that supports the 24 hour Lifeline 13 11 14 Crisis Support Line. This life-saving service offers suicide prevention and bereavement support over the telephone as well as family and crisis support – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” (taken from their website) I went many years ago and snapped up a few bargains and promptly they went in a cupboard and then got tucked even further away. Never read.
I had picked up a Michael Caine autobiography What’s It All About? because I knew he had served in the Korean War and had flicked through the book and noted there was something about this in there. Earlier this year I was in the process of decluttering and I got rid of some books and found the books I had bought at the Lifeline Bookfest and decided to place them in my living room and start reading them. I am touched to find scribbled on the front page a message from a Mum giving the book as a Christmas gift to her daughter in 1992. Somehow this makes me feel more privileged to have come into the possession of it since it was bought with love at some point as a nice gift. I had just gotten back into book reading thanks to my own birthday gifts The War For Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy by Bill Carter and Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman (great books by the way).
I was just about to leave for London and found in the short time I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I took it with me on the flight over even though I only had carry on luggage and as a hardcover it took up some space. I have finished it now a while back not long after my return and thought I would share some thoughts since I believe it is one of the best books I ever read.
It was published in 1992 with Caine well into middle age and at a reflective point in his career and life. His mother had just passed away, his career was slowing down and his youngest daughter was coming of age. From the first page as Caine described his earliest memories I was hooked but I wondered if when we got to Hollywood would the book become boring? Details of a boy growing up during the Blitz or a struggling actor making court appearances would possibly prove more interesting than having lunch with John Wayne. I needn’t have worried because Caine as a veteran raconteur always looks for the human elements in his stories. His stories of Wayne are terribly moving. Hell even Margaret Thatcher just becomes an apron draped busy body hostess, memories of unemployed miners not even mentioned. Except well they are. Because while Caine now entertains royalty and owns Rolls Royces he remains a Cockney kid with a chip on his shoulder and an actor who was on the dole at various times for 10 years. He remembers having nothing to his name and it informs the things he imparts to us. While shooting The Man Who Would Be King in Morocco he had a local driver and at the end of the shoot the locals went to the continuity girl who back then shot with a polaroid. The locals would get pictures of themselves with their employers signed and would use these to get work on the next international production to roll through their town. I don’t think other stars would think to include this in their biography close to 20 years later but Caine does and such stories are part of the reason why this bio remains entrancing. I dare not spoil all the stories here but you really must read it for yourself.
Caine comes off looking pretty good even with his delight in bedding several girls in the 1960s and then hypocritically insisting he does not go for the kind of girls Alfie went for because they had no self-respect. We see a survivor who endured an awful lot before his big break. An ingratiating personality full of jokes and self deprecation. At another point he tells a valuable lesson given to him by a director on a film set that those with egos simply couldn’t admit to. Most of all we see a family man first and foremost who would do anything for a true friend. As he relays his new lifestyle and how much he was being taxed we understand why he left London for L.A. and why he was always destined to return. Good films and bad films are similar in that they often require leaving home for months at a time, hours on set waiting for set-ups and hanging with others at craft services. A great film will get you excited about the role and process but it’s a job like any other. As much as Caine revels in great memories of great films he did like Zulu, Alfie, The Man Who Would Be King, Sleuth, Educating Rita he also relates fond memories from films long forgotten by the public whether it be an illustrious co-star, an interesting role or an exotic locale. He makes you understand why sometimes he took the money. He once said of the truly horrible Jaws: The Revenge “I have never seen the film, but by all accounts it was terrible. However I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.” That makes sense and it makes even more sense when you read the book.
I actually wept a few times during the reading of this book as he relays deaths and close calls with loved ones. Caine effortlessly makes you laugh and makes you cry. You maybe surprised to find that Caine at one point lost his marriage, his child, his job and then his father as he approached 30 which in those days was a terrible old age to be living at home with your parents. He could not sink any lower as he stood in a hospital room watching his father die from cancer. He was handed his father’s personal effects which amounted to a few quid. His father served in the Army in the 1920s making Bombardier and being posted to India. He returned home and got a good job in the fish markets. During the war he served in Dunkirk, North Africa and Italy. He gambled though and so after a lifetime of work he had nothing to show for it. They didn’t even own the house. His son Maurice walked down the corridor out of the ward determined to make something of his life. Not everybody will be afforded his fairytale turn of events but I still think there is a lesson in this for us all and one I certainly find heartening in my current circumstances. When Michael Caine went to be knighted in 2000 he did so with his real name. He said at the time “I was named after my father and I was knighted in his name because I love my father. I always kept my real name – I’m a very private and family orientated person.” Maybe that is what it is all about.
P.S. There is a follow up book from 2010 titled The Elephant to Hollywood, another great read due to his ongoing charm and wit but not nearly as well written as this one. The follow-up feels like a journal with a lot of recaps of events from the first book but this time with more a realistic remembrance rather than the evocative memories of the first book. Maybe literature had suffered in the 18 year period but they’re both good reads and the latter has interesting stories about the making of The Quiet American and Harry Brown. Trips to India and time in Miami. Old friends getting older and his take on Australians. Apparently we have a pretty straight forward way of looking at things, one night while shooting in Australia and enjoying some mud crabs for dinner he asked his Australian waiter why such a delicious meal was given such a basic name. The waiter paused for a second and then surmised “Well I reckon it’s because that is where they’re from and that is what they are.” You can’t argue with that logic.
I awoke rather late in what would be last day in a foreign capital. I should have risen at dawn, I should have carried on throughout the night but I didn’t. My funds were limited and my mind was elsewhere. When I got back to the Premier Inn at Bexleyheath I took a bath and tried to clear my head. I awoke late on Thursday April 5th and walked towards the train station. Originally I had envisioned leaving the wedding to sit at the airport with my brother until our planes took off. But the flights booked included one out of Heathrow at 10:35pm so I was going sightseeing. I got to Bexleyheath station and hopped on a train that had been delayed. In 2002 I caught trains for 3 weeks without incident, now I was finding out why locals mocked the reliability of British rail.
We did eventually move as I studied my old maps from 2002, the line went into London finishing at Charing Cross. I was keen to see Hyde Park, Westminster, Tower Bridge and most importantly St Paul’s. So I figured I would change trains and head for St Paul’s but then I saw Charing Cross was at Trafalgar Square I decided I would just hop off there. Years ago I had gone on a tourist bus there and we had gone into a local pub for lunch surrounded by businessmen doing the same. Romantically I envisioned a similar destination this time with me taking the chance to try a warm beer for the first time. The journey was slow but slowly the houses gave way to apartment buildings and leafy parks to industrial areas. More and more buildings climbed higher into the sky and then started to become of older architecture. I didn’t need a map to tell me I was getting close and then when I hopped off my train I saw clearly the London Eye.
Coming out onto the main street on a sunny afternoon I looked around for a pub but soon decided I didn’t want to spend time or money on food. I saw a shop named Garfunkels that served British breakfast for about 10pound, I suspected it was a franchise and in I went to sit down with a nice window seat looking at Trafalgar. I settled in to do some people watching but instead ended up reading my Michael Caine biography What’s It All About? Reading about someone who came from London while in London also seemed appropriate and fulfilling.
Having chosen a rather boring meal to eat while in a foreign land I noticed with the sauces there was bottle of something I did not recognise – malt vinegar that the bottle said was to be poured over the chips. I could tell from its placement that this was as common in England as the other sauces and while not a huge vinegar fan I decided to have a go and found I quite liked it. Now I was truly cosmopolitan and eating something different.
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Copyright Lloyd Marken
Copyright Lloyd Marken
I paid and walked over to Trafalgar Square. I was thrilled to be in old London town and such a place made the experience all so real and yet I was alone and with vaunted memories of 2002 that today couldn’t possibly measure up to. It was here in 2002 during a particular heat wave that Nadia and I joined others climbing into the world famous fountains to cool our feet. Now there were signs everywhere saying keep out of the water. Lions I had once bravely climbed towered above me out of reach. These were feelings I would often have throughout the day.
So I set off for the one place I wanted to go above all else – St Paul’s Cathedral and headed straight for Paul Mall.
I didn’t get too far before I righted myself and found if I stuck to The Strand it would take me there. Apologies to all Londoners who will be tearing their hair out at my lack of geographical mainstays. So off I went, the amazing thing about London is there is so much to see or do in such a small area. At one point I saw a black gothic building and stopped to take a picture as the battery on my phone gave out. I had a spare charger on me but needed the phone to last a while yet so I stuck to The Strand and headed for my destination. Along the way I saw police and a gentleman outside a Church that looked like some trouble brewing or blowing over.
When I got to St Paul’s there were bag inspections and dozens of people sitting down on the steps. I walked up and was asked to open my bags and I warned the gentlemen that one compartment had dirty clothes in it. Those around me were asked if I was going to the evening service but not me. The Church had closed to the general public in the last half hour or less but there were evening services. I will tell you about my love for St Paul’s another time but it was one of the highlights of my trip to London in 2002. Over the years when I ask people who have gone to London did they go and see it and they always helpfully reply that they’ve been to St Peter’s in Italy or there is really quite a nice cathedral in Kent. Having not gone to those places I will give them the benefit of the doubt but how you can dilly daddle around with Big Ben or Trafalgar Square when St Paul’s Cathedral is right there is really beyond me! Ahem but to each their own.
I walked and sat down on the pews waiting for the evening service and taking in the grand sight above me. There was something comforting in how it was just as beautiful and grand as I remembered her but soon my thoughts turned to how in less than six hours time my flight home was scheduled to take off. Could I afford to spend my time here taking in what I believed would a be a very special experience. Perhaps not. I got up and walked over to those who had welcome me and said “I’m terribly sorry but I’m going to have to leave.” As I stood there with a suitcase wrapped around me she replied “Maybe you can come back tomorrow.” And I smiled and I said “That would be lovely.” And it would be and maybe if not tomorrow then one day soon. On my way out I grabbed my loose change and put it in the donation boxes and hoped this squared me away with God who had been kind enough to get me here to see my favourite place in London and to support the staff who had kindly taken me in for the evening service I was now abandoning.
In 2002 one of the few well known tourist attractions we did not go to was The Monument so off I set to see that. My journey that day became a series of seeing the hint of famous landmarks in obscure and unexpected ways that let me know I was finally nearby. The Monument was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Dr Robert King and erected as a memorial to the Great Fire. Standing at 202 feet or 61 metres if laid down on its foundations the end of it would reach Pudding Lane where the fire was believed to have begun in 1666. I am getting worse with heights and more out of shape every year so I was glad I had been recently going to the gym when I entered the narrow spiral stone staircase of 311 steps leading to a viewing platform. I stopped as other came down past me. One gentleman hopefully said to me “That I would have left the suitcase at home.” Out of breath I fired back “There is no home.” So I told him. Heh. Ahead of me was a father taking his kids up the monument with their grandfather. Dad was struggling but with great pride noted aloud that his father in his 70s was shooting ahead. Age is just a number I guess.
I’ve abseiled off Kangaroo Point at 18 metres and off 20 metre towers. I’ve stood on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but it was just as well I did not know that I was 48.7 metres above the ground right at that moment.
The Copper Urn with flames gives the monument the extra 13 metres. To be truthful though with the wire fencing around to stop jumpers made me feel more safe and I felt pretty comfortable despite the height. As I went to leave I suggested to a couple at the door “You go first, you’ll be faster than me.”
Now I made my way to the Tower of London which was understandably closed and then I walked across the beautiful and unique Tower Bridge. Years ago Nadia and I spent a day in London together where we went to Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, Globe Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, Convent Garden and yes Trafalgar Square.
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Copyright Lloyd Marken
Chockfull of peak hour traffic Tower Bridge was still enchanting but I was now strictly sighting tourist landmarks rather than experiencing them. Instead I experienced the hum of the city as workers left for the day and young people and tourists took to the river for entertainment or a meal. The day’s ending suited my own feelings of wistfulness and farewell but also that a new part of the day was starting.
Copyright Lloyd Marken
Copyright Lloyd Marken
Copyright Lloyd Marken
Copyright Lloyd Marken
Copyright Lloyd Marken
Copyright Lloyd Marken
Copyright Lloyd Marken
I crossed the river 3 or 4 times I think finally crossing the Millennium Bridge which I had not done fifteen years ago. I was on the wrong side of the river when I went past the Globe Theatre which Nadia saw in 2002 while I was on HMS Belfast. Maybe next time.
Some things had changed and looked more touristy, some things remained the same. There were a lot of concrete structures on each bridge that looked like old worn down ticket turn stiles of a bygone era. But I did not remember them from last time.
The sun continued to lower and I looked to see The London Eye off in the distance not thinking it could be much further but it was. Finally I came to an area with a Merry Go Round around Southbank where a busker was playing a beautiful version of Rocket Man. I took note of his name at the time and gave him all my loose change but I cannot remember it for the life of me.
The lights were coming on now and the song moved me as I strolled away. These kinds of moments are what make trips, of what makes life. I was impressed by how many performers were entertaining people along Southbank. There is a whole culture to buskers in London followed by bloggers with their own dedicated youtube sites. Some make a living, not great money but a living doing what they love and my hat off to their achievement of that, their talent and to what they bring to the river Thames every day.
Copyright Lloyd Marken
Copyright Lloyd Marken
Copyright Lloyd Marken
I walked all afternoon covering at least 10 kilometres with 7 kilos are my back. I don’t know if Karen would’ve liked that but not for the first time did I think about her being there.
The London Eye came into view and I knew I was close. Big Ben was surrounded by scaffolding as I crossed Westminster Bridge.
It was where we essentially started our journey as London tourists in 2002, the tourist vendor on the corner I checked out to see if there were suitable gifts. This was where we first came in 2002, this was where that bastard attacked and killed people on 22 March, 2017 injuring 50 and killing five. I had thought about us on that bridge as a family fulfilling a lifelong dream on a weekday morning back in 2002 when that terrorist attack took place. As soon as I saw the concrete structures again on Westminster Bridge I knew what they were for and that they had not been there in 2002.
Less than a year after September 11, 2001 we travelled across the globe with new restrictions and laws and heightened security and at war. Now all these years later there had been even more terrorist attacks and more heightened security. Yet all around me were people out and about having a good time. That made me happy.
I saw up ahead Churchill’s statue and decided I would say hello before leaving. Photos of me with my siblings and Churchill were some of the first taken of as a family in London all those years ago. I was coming full circle almost by design but when I saw the Cenotaph I knew I had one more place to go. My face was red from wind blast, my steps were slow and deliberate due to blisters. In the beautiful blue twilight of a European autumn evening with golden shimmering lights and dropping temperatures I crossed the road and bowed my head in front of the war memorial.
Copyright Lloyd Marken
Copyright Lloyd Marken
When I descended down Westminster station I asked for directions. It was getting late and I had not the time nor energy to waste. A kind staff member sensed this and told me to catch the next train and switch at South Kensington. I swapped and waited anxiously for my train. I’ll admit that I had left in good time but if my train was delayed like earlier that day I was well and truly stranded. As a man who does not think of himself as brave I am it would seem casually reckless none the less. Next I had to swap trains again as I was going to Heathrow Terminal 4 and this train was only going to Heathrow Terminal 1, 2 or 3. One more anxious wait and my train came, soon I limped up to Terminal 4 to get my bag checked. I was asked where my boarding pass was and I helpfully replied “I thought I was getting that from you.” Thankfully again this good staff member showed me where to go where China Southern Airlines and I returned a few minutes later with my boarding pass. I had an hour to spare until take off but he told me with relief that I had just got in. Fair enough.
I now entered a gift shop having gotten things for some family members at The Monument, I now got a tote bag for Karen, a stuffed toy for my older sister, a tea towel for parents and a snow globe for some children. Plus magnets. A long term collector of spoons I didn’t get one. It did not seem long until we had boarded and were taking off from the tarmac. I had made it, I was on my way home. When I first booked the flights my imagination had gone to taking Karen to London in the near future. Now I was not so sure. It had been an eventful trip, it felt like a monkey was off my back in my long term longing for travelling overseas and yet also it seemed more possible now than ever. Seeing London again was wonderful but Karen’s absence also made me realise that there were other things more important. I don’t know what the future will bring, who does? The golden lights of a metropolitan city lay out before us outside the window. I looked desperately for a landmark and seconds passed as I failed to recognise anything. Then I saw what looked unmistakably like Tower Bridge and I smiled. In that moment for whatever reason I was struck by a feeling of farewell like I was seeing London for the last time and so I wished it well and thanked that beautiful grand old city of fond memories and my sister’s home. The wings tilted and the ground went out of view and I began my journey to Brisbane and my home.
We’ll skip ahead now gentle reader to the return commute as it won’t hold much interest in comparison to once you have read about my time in England. I was scheduled to leave Heathrow 22:35 local time CZ 0304 travelling 5911 miles in 11hours 10minutes to Guangzhou. I noticed this was a shorter flight than the one I took over and put it down to the aircraft now being a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The 787 is a newer aircraft but not the true successor to the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. Boeing instead designed this to replace their 767s with technologies that made the plane weight less and travel more efficiently. The Airbus A380 is the biggest passenger jet now as the Boeing 747 starts to be retired out of service and even it is in a battle to draw a profitability for Airbus. That makes me very sad. We used to build grand things, now we just build efficient ones but as a passenger who knows nothing I was happy to catch the 787 to get home faster but probably enjoyed being on the A330s more.
Upon boarding I noticed I was now on the right hand side facing the front and the side rows were 3 abreast and the seats had coverings that were more purplish than blue. Alas no Angry Birds. I was seated between two young men in the centre but they couldn’t have been nicer. We did fine accommodating each other but barely spoke. People don’t get names or make small talk anymore, if they ever did, everybody locks into their screens and politely gestures to each other and that’s about it. I had my meal which was lovely and then tried to sleep but I couldn’t, my legs were stiff and sore and I just couldn’t nod off. So I went to the bathroom and stood outside for half an hour stretching and generally just standing hoping I didn’t look weird. Eventually I returned and did manage some sleep, I think at some point Daddy’s Home 2 (I hadn’t even watched the original) and The Foreigner with Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan were watched and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Or maybe that was the last flight. The windows were tinted out blue rather than needing actual shades to be pulled down, the kind of technological breakthrough that amuses some and befuddles me.
I’m a strong believer routine makes new realities lived in very quickly and I was coming off the end of a long week where a large part of it I had been a passenger with Southern China Airlines and I was getting used to it. The ads you couldn’t skip that ran before each movie for Lexus in Chinese, the safety videos at the beginning of the flights and the terminals at Guangzhou. I was going to miss it you see.
We landed 16:45 local time and I promptly went to the toilet after clearing customs. Changing my socks and undies in a vain attempt to make up for a lack of shower facilities I charged my phone and read my Michael Caine biopic. I returned to the shops to pick gifts for loved ones, my only regret is that I had to limit myself due to carry on weight and money, Chinese pizza will have to wait for another time too. In my earlier trip I had noticed a smartly dressed Panda and fell in love with the idea of getting it for Karen. I have since discovered her name is Pia.
The airport made me think of a real cool idea for purgatory. I don’t mean it was unpleasant to be there, the place was sleek, modern, glass and steel with planes lifting off into the heavens outside. Brightly lit stores and eateries beckoned and small nooks of carpeted corners made me think of cool hiding places for kids. The smog outside and the unfamiliar surroundings were very atmospheric to me along with all the strangers that surrounded me. I was alone but there were clearly families and couples. What if there was a way station like this in heaven? There is a film from the 80s called Heavenly Kid which has a subway station as purgatory, why not an airport? Once again reading Michael Caine made me sleepy so I went for a walk but this time I was only in China for 4hours 45 minutes and they start boarding before then. To be quite honest it struck me that 5 hours was a perfect break for such commutes rather than racing to your next flight to save a couple of hours in transit. Again I recommend China Southern Airlines and the Canton Route although I was grateful I had not been there for a 17 hour stop over.
We were scheduled to fly out of Guangzhou at 21:20 in an Airbus A330 with CZ0381 to cover 4388 miles in 9 hours and 5 minutes. On my fifth and final flight I got the window seat with a young Asian woman sporting heavy make-up next to me. We didn’t talk much either but she didn’t get grumpy when I had to wake her to get past her. Before we left we were told there was a hold up due to some kind of activity around Hong Kong. I started to nod off and continued as we taxied but managed to be wide awake as we flew down the runway and up and away. The meals offered for dinner and breakfast are usually of a Western and Asian bent. I had tried them all and enjoyed them but decided to pick the Asian ones after getting a noodle soup for breakfast on the Dreamliner. I had previously been worried there would be too much liquid and was worried about spilling it but this wasn’t the case at all and it tasted fantastic. When I got the meals this time the flight crew member serving me smiled and said “You always go the Asian one.” approvingly which just tinkled me pink for some reason. Maybe that was unusual.
As the sun rose I took some photos and also as my homeland finally came into view making use of my window seat.
When we reached Australian shores a lot of the flight was still to come which gives you a sense of the distance you have to cover in Australia to get anywhere. In an afternoon I had walked over 10kilometres, last year in a day I had driven over 900 kilometres and in my last plane flight I was covering 7061 kilometres in about the same amount of time as the driving to Newcastle took. The Captain apologised for the delay getting us to Brisbane but these things happen and again I was very happy with their service.
During our descent at 4,000 feet we went past the airport and banked right the 240,000 odd kilogram passenger jet over Moreton Bay with me looking right out the window at a sea of water. I quite enjoyed that and then we came into land.
It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning and I looked out the window to see aircraft personnel loading and emptying cargo in shorts and polos with bronzed arms and legs. How Australian I thought. There was something that felt very Chinese to me in Guangzhou, very Dutch to me in Amsterdam and very English to me in Heathrow too. How to describe it I don’t know but I find something comforting in how all of those airports and all those people were the same and yet through some kind of quirky thing different. It’s something we should celebrate too and one of the joys of travelling far and wide. But I was home now as I got into my car with Karen and drove to our apartment.
Total distance traversed within the week in planes was 20,607 miles or 33,163 kilometres. I had been in London just under 58 hours, my total commute time was easily over 32 hours on the way over and close to 25 hours on the way back or roughly I spent 57 hours travelling to London and 58 in it. I’m actually surprised by that, I was assured my commute would be longer than my hours in country so I’m embarrassed to have come up short. Still my brother in law was right; Nadia was in Australia from Friday morning to Monday morning. 3 days and 3 nights. I had been in London 3 days and 2 nights with a slightly longer commute. If she wants to take back the title for craziest commute she is more than welcome, I’m just glad we got to go to each other’s weddings. I’ll tell you more next time about Bexleyheath, an Australian in London and one of said weddings.
Going in Style is a pretty much average film overall, helped mainly by the charisma of its 3 venerable stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin. The film tells the tale of 3 retired workers who have lost their pensions due to nefarious corporate wheeling and dealing. Eventually they get around to making a decision to rob a bank, the same bank responsible for the deal that took away their pensions. As the heist kicks in the film does get a boost of energy with director Zach Braff capturing the action in some interesting ways but the film never really takes off.
During the heist Freeman’s character Willie becomes distracted by a little Asian girl and speaks to her while suffering an attack due to his ill health. It is the kind of cringe inducing narrative choices that infuriate me. Why would his character do this at that moment? They have got to get in and out of the bank quickly. You know narratively there has to be a payoff but you’re insulted by the lack of character motivation and sheer stupidity by people you’re supposed to be rooting for. Yet there is a payoff and against my better judgement I couldn’t help but approve.
Annabelle Chow plays the little Asian girl named Lucy who is there at the bank during the heist with her mother. The pay off is in a later scene she can identify Morgan Freeman’s character by his watch. Matt Dillion suspects our three heroes and hauls them in front of Lucy to have her identify them from the line-up. During his interactions with Lucy, Willie mentioned he had a granddaughter. Chow comes in as Lucy, stares down all the suspects and then is adamant that nobody present were the bank robbers.
On her way out of the police station she walks past Morgan Freeman’s daughter played by Ashley Aufderheide. The camera goes into slow motion and as the two little girls walk past each other, Annabelle clutching a doll gives the most gangster nod to Ashley. Cheesy as fuck, predictable for a few but in that moment I tipped my hat to young Ms Chow. From the bank heist to her poker face during the line-up and then that simple gesture on her way out she gives a great performance. It’s pretty simple I admit but there’s something touching about the morality of a child. They are known to have sixth sense and something in her during the heist had seen that this man was not a threat and surrounded by adults suspecting she was lying and talking about the importance of the law she had come to a simple choice – this man has a granddaughter like me and I’m not taking her grandfather away from her. With that simple choice by Lucy perfectly conveyed by Ms Chow the sentiment of it all touched me. One of the most annoying things about a film had been redeemed. Sure they could have found another way to set it up better but thanks to Annabelle Chow I was happy enough. As a minor character she seals the fate of the main characters and their families and highlights some of the central values of the film. Not bad for what was a probably a couple of day’s work. Well done Annabelle.