My Christmas holidays are lasting longer than expected. I was supposed to head back into work on Wednesday and here I am, on Friday, still to return. Britain is freezing and ice and snow dominate the section of Regency Longlevens that I call home – and beyond. The Cole females and I met for lunch at Gloucester’s splendid Guildhall earlier (a warming spicy lentil broth, since you were curious) and the walk home from the bus proved utterly chilling. I sense the temperature may drop further. It is unsettling and awkward but there are worse off than me.
May I recommend a sports book? Duncan Hamilton’s biography of Harold Larwood is a superb read. It’s a tale of class and politics and ruthlessness and, ultimately, forgiveness. The world of Gentlemen and Players is ever fascinating to glimpse and the loyalty ex-miner Larwood, ‘the world’s fastest bowler’, shows to his patrician skipper Douglas Jardine is remarkable. The whole Bodyline episode is examined in minute detail but the chapters that deal with Larwood’s life after cricket are equally captivating. The humble and vaguely anonymous former hero’s emigration to Australia is dealt with tenderly while the recurring motif of Larwood’s rivalry with Donald Bradman (which continued until both cricketers were well into their nineties) is captured skilfully. This is a marvellous story.
May I recommend a feature film? A rare trip to the city’s large and imposing Cineworld complex proved worthwhile. My two eldest children and I attended a screening of the sequence of moving images known worldwide as Avatar. This is a spectacular piece of work, shimmeringly beautiful and captivatingly imaginative. I won’t give away the plot although the basic premise (‘Hey, we don’t care enough about the, y’know, environment, man’) is relatively simplistic. It’s the setting that really impresses. A lot of the reviews compare the planet known as Pandora to a series of sumptuous Roger Dean album covers and I can appreciate the comparison. The imagined flora and fauna of Pandora are tremendously unusual and splendid to gaze ‘pon and the scenery is stunning and breathtaking. It looks great. The bonny backdrops sit there, all lovely, while a fierce man-vs.-alien dispute rages and rather clumsy good guy/bad guy caricatures battle it out cartoonishly. Refreshingly the aliens, thin, tall, blue, cat-faced athletic types are cast as symbols of beauty, integrity and ecological hope while us humans, it pains me, are gun-toting, greedy, insensitive ne’er-do-wells. I suppose Avatar is a feature film to make one think although similar environmental messages are to be discovered within any daily newspaper and any news bulletin. Conversely, it’s a film where, if you desire, it’s possible not to think too much and just let splendour and magnificence wash over you. It’s a win-win. We caught the 2D version, by the way. 3D is yet to lure this punter.