A Question of Integrity

A Question of Integrity by Susan Howatch tells the story of Alice, a young woman who has experienced only disappointment and reached a very low point, who finds kindness and then hope in a Christian community centred on a London church and healing centre. It's led by a charismatic preacher with some special gifts; Alice fixates on him and develops an unhealthy obsession which she finds it hard to come to terms with, until the end of the novel. Nicholas the preacher is a problematic character, both as a type, and as the crux of the story. His gifts, which are described variously in terms of magnetism, healing and hypnosis, have a dark side, and it is his use of those gifts which raise the question of integrity in the book's title.

A Question of Integrity is very different indeed from the genres I usually read. It was a personal gift, and that entered into my attitude to the book. Perhaps I'm implying that I might otherwise have left it alone, or given it up. I don't know…

Some Trivial 2017 Stats

Let's start with cards. Christmas cards.
For information, I make a list each year, and end up giving or sending around 70 cards, to family and various groups of friends from past and present. I keep up with who I'm not hearing from, who I'm still in touch with, that sort of thing. But the stat I want to mention here is one which gives me weird amusement; weird, because it doesn't mean anything.
It's to do with the subjects featured on the Christmas cards, and the apparent trends each year.
As far as figures go, it's almost always Santa that wins, or else it's the Holy Family. In the objects or symbols category, I noticed quite a few wreaths this year. But the big perennial fascination is animals. I have no idea how fashions or trends would work on this one, all I can say is that it doesn't seem to be utterly random. Some years there really is a predominance of eg. reindeers, others, of robins. As a footnote, when I was checking out the Christmas postcar…

Blade Runner 2049 - The Finnish

No, that isn't a spelling mistake. This really is about the Finnish in Blade Runner 2049. There are a few spoilers in this, nothing big, but you may want to check out now.

I went to see the film a second time, primarily to immerse myself again in that world. Despite the intensely pessimistic vision it offers, its design and cinematography are wondrous and absorbing and I wanted it all again, while I could still get it on the big screen. And it was a big screen, a bigger and better one in Manchester. I went with a friend, which enabled some lively discussion afterwards. I'm glad to say she liked it too, and made several good points. The main one was about the 'glaring plot hole' towards the end (ie. how does so-and-so know how to find *cough* in order to effect a rescue): something's been cut out there, maybe only a bit of script, but something which might have explained it. There were other reasons to see it again. Many were to do with particular scenes and conver…

Blade Runner 2049

I decided to hurry up and see Blade Runner 2049, once I saw how many pieces are appearing explaining more and more of the plot. Not that anyone's forcing me to read or view those reviews or videos, but just by existing they somehow mess up my anticipation. Am I hypocritically doing the same thing? Well, I'm going to try not to spoil the story. But perhaps what I write here is one of the most redundant offerings to the websphere imaginable; the internet does seem to be flooded with opinions about the film. Which at the very least underlines the place this story has in the culture. Never mind, very few will read this, possibly only the person who prompted me to get my skates on and see it.

Just so you know, I saw the original Blade Runner in the cinema at the time of its release. Along with anyone else I knew, I immediately regarded it as the serious science fiction film I'd always wanted; and irrespective of genre, a monumental piece of cinema. I have the five-version tin …

Hordes of the Things

Just as the penultimate series of Game of Thrones ends, I want to give a shout out to another, vaguely similar but very different fantasy series from long ago, Hordes of the Things. GoT wasn't a gleam in anyone's eye when this was created, in 1980, but The Lord of the Rings definitely was. Hordes of the Things was a direct parody, in four half hour episodes. It never made much of an impact, partly because a few months later BBC Radio embarked on an ambitious and very successful straight adaptation of Tolkien's saga.

As you can see, because here is its cover design, the BBC did release the series on cd, but this had to wait until 2009. Hypocritically, I'm going to recommend it. If you like parodies, humour which is sort of in the same ball park as Hitch-hiker, and scenery chewing of a high order, then this will entertain you.

My hypocrisy relates to the fact that I've just recorded it on cd myself. I'm in the middle of another bout of throwing things out, and o…


This is a very physical film. Yes, I saw it in IMAX, as recommended by reviewers, hence why I used this poster image rather than the host of others you'll find on Google. It's been a while since I've had the IMAX experience, and it is special; and I'm glad that there seems to be a trend for 2D films to get the IMAX treatment, and not just 3D films. But extraordinary though the cinematography of Dunkirk is, that isn't what makes the biggest impact.

It's the sound. The score, I should say. Hans Zimmer is hugely instrumental in making this film what it is. It's odd to talk about the score, because there's very little music on it, but there it is, pinning you down and pummeling you. I actually began to feel a little sick; I could partly put that down to the early morning rise, hasty porridge, and walk down to the station to get to this showing; but there's no doubt that the physical power of the soundtrack was producing this state. And it never let up.…


That's Finnish for the great crested grebe. I've hardly ever seen these birds, in my whole lifetime, but a few days ago I saw this pair only a short distance from my house. You see, I've taken to doing a short daily walk, just for a breath of fresh air really, because I realised I was spending too many days hardly going outside at all. Until I get back into a proper cycling habit, this is unhealthy. This walk couldn't be more local. Just a few metres outside my house, there's a route going up through my nearest new housing estate (a lot of these in my area), which used to be fairly wild but also scraggy and not very attractive to be honest, so I don't really mind these new houses. Especially when a few metres further on, they've preserved another shady and quite pretty path up through the trees next to a stream. The only downside of that is that it's muddy after rain. At the top of the hill, next to a few new industrial buildings and a service area whic…