The Beetley Blues

I am taking a short break from this blog. Just a few days, nothing dramatic. Outside of blogging, a lot has been going on in the world of beetleypete, and  I need a little rest.

This is as good a time as any.

I will be back sometime around the weekend, and will still be looking at the posts from those I follow, and emails too.

See you soon. Pete.

Delving into the stats

I generally like to have around 50 views a day. Any less, and I feel a little short-changed. More is good, obviously, and when there are over 100 in 24 hours, I am always very pleased. That’s enough for me. It’s a humble blog after all, so I don’t expect more. Some days, views drop to less than 25, especially if I haven’t published anything for a while. Considering how many supposed ‘followers’ I have, it would appear that only the same thirty-odd people bother to comment, or add a ‘like.’

But we don’t blog for views, comments, or likes, do we?

Unfortunately, the irresistible stats page always draws me in. This is more relevant (to me) when I have published a post that I really enjoyed myself, and believed that it would appeal to many others too. Tonight, I was intrigued by the subject of averages. Some of the blogs I follow have had over 400,000 views in much the same time that I have been blogging. Staggering figures indeed, and well done to them for achieving such results. I felt prompted to look in detail at my figures for this blog.

In 44 months of blogging, I have been happy to have enjoyed 52,000 views. When I started out, I imagined this figure would be in the hundreds. So tens of thousands is something heartwarming to me, and I feel very satisfied. I worked out the figures. (With a calculator) 1338 days, into 52,000 views. Have you got it yet? It is just about 39 per day, less than I had hoped, but a fair average. So it would seem that my target of fifty views a day is not being met. One day might see 120, another 25. I have learned to appreciate the law of averages.

I didn’t do the same thing with comments, as half of them are my replies.

Sometimes, I wish that the stats were not published. But I understand why they are.

World Cinema

I don’t write as much about films these days, as I was recently reminded on another blog. Partly, this is because I watch fewer films than I once did, but it is also because more exposure to blogging has made me realise that many other film-dedicated bloggers do it better. Despite posting occasional reviews in the ‘Just been watching…’ series of posts, I have generally restricted my writing about film and cinema to longer articles, submitted for publication on other sites. As I get older, I also become increasingly intolerant of the countless remakes of films, both good and bad ones, that seems to me to typify the laziness of the mainstream film industry. I also have no time for blockbuster epics, comic-book franchises, and the seemingly endless series of fantasy films that pack the cinemas and rack up new box office records on a monthly basis.

However, that is just me. I am not suggesting that they are bad films, or that those watching and enjoying them are somehow unworthy. It is simply a change of preference, driven by previously unimagined marketing and promotional skills in part admittedly, but it is what it is. Social Media has changed many aspects of modern life, and has also impacted on film and cinema too. Although I may not have welcomed or embraced that change, I completely accept it. And of course, it is nothing new. Over the decades, tastes have changed, and the films I enjoyed in my teens might be regarded as classics now, but were often derided at the time. Compared to the current use of CGI, the special effects used in films of the 1960s and 1970s seem almost quaint now.

My own sanctuary was generally to restrict much of my viewing to foreign films. By foreign, I refer to those films made in a language other than English, and requiring subtitles to understand the plot. I often sat in a cinema in London, able to count the other patrons on the fingers of one hand, as we enjoyed the latest war film from Russia, or revelled in the complexities of a German film from the likes of Fassbinder. My VHS collection once boasted an unusually high percentage of films from countries as obscure as Argentina, and as European mainstream as Spain. I sat through all night showings of films about the Russian Revolution, and made difficult journeys across greater London to catch the latest Chabrol, in some tiny run-down cinema I had never heard of. Membership of the National Film Theatre was a must, for most of my adult life. This introduced me to the work of directors I had never heard of, from countries that I didn’t even know had a film industry.

I was a member of a minority, even then. Subtitles are notoriously unpopular with many film fans, even today. Some people would sooner sit through a scene by scene remake in English, as in ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’, than subject themselves to having to watch the original with subtitles. In some cases, dubbing has been used to replace the original language, in an effort to attract more customers into a cinema to watch a film. A good example of this is the German classic war film ‘Das Boot'(1981).
I went to see this in central London, and was appalled to find it was being shown in a dubbed version. It didn’t sound right, and just didn’t feel right. Fortunately, the BBC picked up the full length version, and showed it in the original language on TV.

Once DVD had replaced VHS as the preferred format, life got a lot easier. Menu options allowed for subtitles to be on or off, and offered different versions of endings, as well as comprehensive extras in many cases. Foreign films started to become more accepted, and even got a new name, World Cinema. TV review shows began talking about films from India, Iran, Chile, Mexico, and China. Suddenly it seemed that everyone realised that talent and innovation existed outside of the English-speaking film industry in America and the UK. Then the ping-pong of remakes began to rear its ugly head. Canny producers took films that had received critical acclaim in Europe or elsewhere, and began to make versions in English, generally with different actors of course. They often took liberties with the scripts and plots, and regularly changed the endings too. ‘Nikita’, and ‘The Vanishing’ are two examples of this, both of which enraged me at the time.

This went both ways, unfortunately. Foreign film-makers found some popular films were making big money in the original English, and decided to have a go at remaking them, or an approximation of them, in their own countries. European directors were lured across the Atlantic to repeat their own success, with a cast speaking English, often in near-identical versions of their own film. Pretty soon, I was finding it increasingly difficult to work out what World Cinema was anymore. Was it a foreign director making a film in English, or an American remake of a European success? Fortunately, it still existed. I just had to look for it. Films from Argentina, Russia, Germany, and many other countries that had been left alone. They were just what they were, never remade, still with subtitles, and as entertaining and unusual as ever.

So here are just a few recommendations. After all, it wouldn’t be a post about films without some, would it? Grit your teeth and bear the subtitles. You will be rewarded with excellence.
A modern thriller from China. Very realistic.

An overwhelming Russian war film. You will never forget it.

A delightful film about a man and his dog. Far better than it sounds.

An Oscar-winning classic from Germany. Film making of the highest order.

A police thriller from Korea. As good as they get.

NEW – Greetings Cards

I have featured the great art of Jane before. Intricate designs and compelling images, all completed with the humble ballpoint pen. She has now produced a set of greetings cards, and they are very good value too, at only £2.50 each, including P&P. Four unusual cards for £10, delivered. Sounds good to me. Details of how to order them can be found on the original post.

Pictures of Lily

P1750105.JPG New greetings card range by Jane Lee McCracken – four designs depicting original Biro drawings.

This spring sees the launch of Jane’s new greetings card range featuring a selection of her most iconic Biro drawings to date.  Printed in the UK, these high quality 15 x 21cm cards capture the intricate detail of each poignant drawing.

Greetings Cards Photos Greetings cards range depicting ‘Russian Doll’, ‘The Sideboards II’, ‘Sweet’ and ‘Our Forefathers’.

In stock at Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s premier design store Whosit & Whatsit, Jane’s cards are now available to purchase from her online shop.

Sets of 4 cards are individually wrapped with envelopes and priced at £10 including postage and packaging per set.

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To purchase cards sets please visit www.janeleemccracken/shop

P1750384 ‘The Sideboard II’ Greetings Card

For further details please contact jane@janeleemccracken.co.uk

Logo Sweet sticker 4 - Version 2

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Tulips for Julia

At the end of our garden there is a flower bed, one of the few we have. It is made from some old railway sleepers that raise it above the lawn. When we moved here, we were unsure about what to use it for. We considered everything from herbs to tomatoes, but despite weeding it, and turning the soil, it remained bare for some time.

Then we thought about Julia.

Julia was a lovely lady, and the mutual friend that introduced me to Julie all those years ago. She worked as a nursing sister and raised her son, never asking for much from life. Happy with the company of her good friends and family, loving her cat, and enjoying sunbathing in her neat and well-kept garden. Despite suffering from a terminal illness, she was able to give Julie away at our wedding, and the next year we enjoyed her company for a few days, at a holiday house in the Cotswolds. On the evening that she passed away, Julie was at her bedside, holding her hand. Her funeral was held on a freezing cold winter’s day, with deep snow carpeting Hertfordshire.

Once we had a garden, we soon discovered that we had little idea about plants and flowers, and hadn’t though too much what to do with our newly-acquired space. But something to remember Julia was high on that list. The bulbs were purchased and planted, and we waited. Sure enough, they came up, and have returned every year since. We always think of her, and could never forget her. But the annual arrival of ‘Julia’s Tuilps’ provides us with a colourful reminder of the friend we lost.

During a sunny period this morning, I took some photos of the flowers. They are large files, and can be clicked on for detail.

I know the bed needs weeding, and the lawn needs cutting too. I just need a few dry days…
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The colours are always just right. Bold from a distance, subtle up close.
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For Julia Ward. Always in our hearts.

A wintry spring

The Beetley weather continues to confuse. After walking for many hours in bright sunny weather on Saturday, Sunday arrived with chilly temperatures, and a light dusting of snow. I had to remind myself that it was the 1st of May soon, and wonder what the hell was going on.

On Sunday afternoon, I was assailed by every season in one day. Leaving the house in rain, with an umbrella, Ollie and I soon experienced hail showers, strong cold winds, and some torrential downpours.
After around half an hour, the sun came out, making me feel uncomfortably hot in my heavy clothes.

I sat in the dell, taking a rest from the heat. But within minutes, the sky had darkened again, and we saw the return of some hail, and more heavy rain. The mud on Hoe Rough was regenerated, and I was secretly pleased to have decided to wear my heavy boots, once again. Ollie’s fur was white with tiny droplets, and I was becoming exceedingly fed up.

Today, we ventured out into brief sunshine. I wasn’t fooled, and was dressed for the worst. Just as well, as the downpours soon started, and my umbrella could hardly cope with the rain and sleet. Ollie was absolutely soaked, after just thirty minutes, but I struggled on, to give him a good walk.

Two hours later, we got back to the house. It was still raining hard, and Ollie was saturated. He appeared unconcerned though, just happy to be out and about, free of the confines of the house. I was left to wonder about the change in the seasons, and how spring could become winter, overnight.

Ollie and his dreams

As any dog owner will tell you, dogs have meany endearing habits. They wag their tails, sit close by your feet, and they are always overjoyed to see you when you return home. They offer devotion and loyalty, and love with no compromises. They will defend you, entertain you, and even share their food and toys with you. Dogs would follow you into a fire, or over a cliff, and endure any hardship alongside their beloved owner.

Ollie has all of these attributes and more, but the thing that I like most about him happens when he is asleep.

Ever since we got him as a tiny pup, he has always been a dog that has dreams. When his world consisted of little more than the interior of our house, and the confines of our garden, his life experience counted in weeks rather than years, he still found things to dream about. He would doze fitfully, looking like a small wrinkled ball, legs and paws moving as if giving chase, and tiny puffs, not yet barks, coming from the side of his jowls. As he got older, his dreams became more entertaining. Whines and yelps could be heard coming from him at all hours, and if you happened to be nearby, you could delight in his horizontal running, as his legs thrashed around.

He is now over four years old, and has more to recall, things to enrich his dreaming state. He has friends to think about, other dogs of his acquaintance, that he sometimes has disagreements with. He has chased cats, pheasants, deer, rabbits, seagulls, and anything else that moved quickly across his path. His canine dreams are now full of possibilities, and accordingly, they have increased in volume, and regularity. He now woofs and barks constantly when dreaming. His jowls wobble, as his paws grab the air. If something wakes him unexpectedly, he will gaze around the room, surprised to find himself back on his favourite rug, or stretched out on his bed in the kitchen.

Sometimes at night, we hear his dreams, as he slumbers in the next room. I have been woken up by his woofs of warning as he dreams of who knows what. But I would never go in and chastise him, or risk spoiling his sleeping antics. I am just delighted that he enjoys his dreams so much.