beetleypete’s A-Z Film Challenge … The List: A-L

Susan Toy has compiled a list of all my recommendations from the recent A-Z Film Challenge. She has also added every film choice from all those who commented, and made a complete list, in two parts. Here’s part one, with my sincere thanks to Susan for her real labour of love.

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

During the Merrie Month of May, I discovered (through friend Felicity Harley’s reblogging of it) a series of posts by a new-to-me UK blogger, beetleypete, titled A-Z Film Challenge. I was late coming into the challenge with my own suggestions (I didn’t begin commenting until around the “L” post, I think), but I was pleased to see that Pete’s series had already attracted a great deal of attention and further recommendations from his blog’s readers that it seemed as though a real online “party” was going on! I also discovered in short time that Pete has an extensive knowledge of World Cinema (which I particularly enjoy) and had many of the same experiences of seeing films for the first time when he was growing up in England as I had growing up in Canada. Turns out we’re just about the same age. While Pete and I mainly agreed on…

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The steps to the bridge

Bridge steps

This is a work of fiction, a short story of 1670 words.

Steve liked to sit in the gap at the side of the steps. The spot gave him some protection from the wind, and the slight overhang above kept off the worst of the rain too. People hurried back and forth to and from this access to the bridge, and paid him no heed. The police rarely appeared, and it seemed that there was nobody to complain about him sleeping there. A small opening under the old stone steps provided the perfect place for him to store his sheets of cardboard, and the rolled-up sleeping bag. For almost a year now, this had been his small oasis, in a city full of rough sleepers. The sound of the traffic on the bridge above lulled him to sleep, and the subdued lighting along the riverside path was not too intrusive.

Steve noticed her red shoes first. Bright, poppy-red, against the dark grey worn stonework. His back against the wall, he watched as the colourful flowery dress appeared, a bright contrast against the dull evening gloom. Her hair was jet black, and shining in the reflections from the lamps by the river. The shoulder bag matched her shoes, swinging gently as she walked off along the path. The scent of her perfume came to him on the stiff breeze, as her heels clicked on the cobbles, like the sound of a horse trotting in the distance. A woman dressed for summer, in late November. Steve retrieved his bedding from the opening, and prepared to settle down for the night.

It must have been two nights later, perhaps three, when Steve heard that distinctive sound again. Muffled by the fog lingering over the Thames, it was hard to make out where it was coming from. He leaned forward, turning his head to look up the steps. But she appeared from the mist right in front of him, facing him this time; heading for the steps, not away from them. He was startled, and felt silly at his alarm. The same colourful dress, shoulder bag, and shoes. The perfume now overwhelming, close up. Steve smiled as she came closer, chancing a friendly nod too. But she carried on as if she couldn’t see him, and headed up the steps without hesitating.

Rolling a cigarette, Steve stretched his legs out inside the tattered sleeping bag. Thinking of the woman, he suddenly realised that he hadn’t been able to make out her face. Was she young, or old? Pretty or plain? Pale skinned, or swarthy? Perhaps it was the fog, or the unexpected speed of her approach, but he had no memory of a single feature. One thing was certain. She must have been cold, wearing that summer dress.

As the winter arrived in earnest, Steve dreaded the coming Christmas season. Revellers walking along the embankment, other people heading to the train stations in the capital, off to spend time with family and friends. He had manged to get hold of two extra heavy coats, and would wear them both at night. At least he would be warm enough, as long as the rain held off.

The familiar sound woke him from a troubled sleep. The click-clack of heels, coming down the steps this time. Sure enough, he could make out the red shoes in the gloom, and soon got a whiff of that heavy perfume. As the familiar dress appeared, he did something out of character. Quickly struggling with the zip of the sleeping bag, he freed himself from the bedding, and stood up. He felt an overwhelming need to follow her, although he didn’t know why. By the time he started walking, he could no longer see her in the distance. But he could make out the sound of the heels on the cobbled surface. He quickened his pace, and finally caught sight of her up ahead, walking purposefully next to the riverside wall. He got close enough to see her hair, wavy and deliberately styled, still shining as before. He walked faster, wondering what to say to her, watching his arm extend to touch her shoulder, as if doing so of its own accord.

Then she was gone. As his arm reached out, she just vanished into the gloom, the sound of the heels stopping, the smell of the perfume not lingering in the air. Steve looked around. There was no other path, nowhere to turn off to, no seat to sit on, or steps leading up to the street above. He grinned, feeling silly again. It must have been his imagination, that was the only explanation.

Over the next few days, leading up to the dismal prospect of the 25th, he found himself waiting for her. Arriving early at his spot, he listened for every sound of clicking heels, his neck craning up the steps, hoping to see those red shoes, and colourful dress. But there were no red shoes, no strong perfume, and no shining black wavy hair. Steve knew a place where he could get a nice dinner on the day. The same charity provided a seasonal meal for people like him every year. They would sing carols, give out paper hats, and even small gifts of warm socks and hats. Like last year, he would go there again. A few hours in society would be just enough, and the hot food would be welcome.

Back under the steps, he felt full for the first time in ages. He had a new hat, and they had filled his flask with tea before he left. A kindly old lady had told him he could stay if he wished, they had mattresses on the floor. Steve had thanked her, telling her he had somewhere he had to be. Christmas night by the river, the area deserted and peaceful, cold and clear.

For some reason, he decided not to get into the sleeping bag. He had a strange feeling that he couldn’t put his finger on, and he was soon proved right. She was walking straight at him this time, and he was sure she would notice him. He would say something. ‘Merry Christmas’ would be acceptable, given the time of year. Her lipstick was as bright as her shoes, her face pale, from what looked like an application of heavy powder. The wavy hair obscured one eye, but above the other one, the eyebrow was thin, and darkly outlined. The bright dress was longer than he remembered, and as she mounted the first step, he could see that she was wearing old-style stockings, the kind with a seam up the back. Steve stood up.
“Merry Christmas”.

She carried on walking up the steps without replying. She hadn’t even looked in his direction, or acknowledged his presence. For a moment, he was crestfallen. But what had he expected? Why would this woman have bothered to enter into conversation with a shabby homeless man anyway? The perfume pricked his nostrils, and he started off up the steps after her, still unsure what to say when he caught up.

At the top of the steps, the bridge seemed unusually busy. He twisted and turned to avoid the people walking along in both directions, and noticed the cars and buses in the long line of static traffic. There were lots of old cars, and the buses looked different too. Perhaps they were filming something? Steve got over against the balustrade of the bridge away from the bustle on the pavement. Looking right and left, he spotted the woman standing at the far end. She was lighting a cigarette, and casting around as if expecting someone. Could she be waiting for me? Steve thought that was unlikely. It was unusually warm on the bridge, and he unzipped the heavy top coat, before pulling off the woolen hat. A man walked past in a short-sleeved shirt, holding the hand of a small boy, who was wearing shorts.

Taking off the second coat, he walked in the direction of the woman. His shoes felt suddenly tight, and looking down, he didn’t recognise the smart black lace-ups on his feet. He felt very hot, and ran a finger around his neck, amazed to discover that he was wearing a collar and tie. That stopped him in his tracks. Where had his clothes gone? The track suit trousers he had been wearing were now smartly pressed khaki, and the matching jacket tightly buttoned, with a leather belt around the waist. On the left hand side of his jacket, a medal glinted in the light from the lamps on the bridge. Steve found it hard to breathe. He ran a hand through his hair, dislodging a smart cap, with a shiny black peak. His hair was no longer long and unkempt, but neatly trimmed, with something oily in it. He stood still, transfixed on the moment.

Her voice was louder than he had expected it to be, and her smile wider than he could have imagined. Her accent was harsh, local, very London. “Where you been? I’ve been waiting for you I have. I don’t know, keeping a girl waiting. I thought you was a gentleman”. She leaned forward and kissed him, smelling of that same perfume, and tasting of tobacco. It was a perfect kiss.

The two men in yellow jackets were wandering along the embankment. One of them was pushing a large open cart, and the other was throwing things into it. Discarded water bottles, sheets of cardboard, empty cider and wine bottles. Every now and again, the council cleaned up the area, especially when the Christmas holidays gave them the chance to work unhindered by pedestrians. The man pushing the cart pointed at a small opening by the gap under the stairs to the bridge. His overweight and tired-looking colleague reached in, removing a tattered sleeping bag, a shiny chrome flask, and three large sheets of cardboard. He threw the rubbish into the cart, and they carried on walking.

My thanks to Sarah Vernon for the prompt, and the photo.


Be careful what you wish for…

It seems as if the weather gods have been reading my blog, and have decided to listen to my complaints, after all this time.

After what seemed like years of daily rain, followed by cold winds and miserable, grey days, we suddenly got a summer. And we got it with a vengeance. The last week has seen temperatures steadily climbing here, with a peak yesterday of 33 degrees C. (91.4 F) It was still hot when I woke up this morning, and the heat is building once more.

This was dry heat, unusual in this country, with high levels of U/V light, and the sun literally beating down on the ground. I could only walk with Ollie for just over an hour, before it became too much for both of us. Even with two large fans operating inside the house, there was no escaping the stifling conditions. Little point sitting outside in the garden either, as once the sun had gone in, clouds of biting insects arrived to enjoy the evening air.

But I am being positive, in 2017. It wasn’t raining, and anything is better than that.

I did have time to think though. Unable to relax after dinner in the uncomfortable heat, and sleep hard to come by, with overnight temperatures in excess of 21 C (70 F). In this country, we are geared up for bad weather. Our houses have deep insulation, to retain the heat, and smallish windows, for the same reason. Our own house has wool carpeting in most rooms, and extra loft insulation to get us through the colder months.

If we are going to get summers like this again, (we had one once, in 1976) then we are going to have to re-think the design of our housing, and look to warmer countries in other parts of the world for inspiration. Shutters, thicker walls, cool stone flooring, even air conditioning in some rooms. Whatever you think of the Climate Change debate, we have seen evidence of extremes lately, and as far as these temperatures go, it is at least four years since we have had anything close to this heat.

At my age, it is something I am unlikely to see developed. But if future generations are going to be able to enjoy ever-hotter summers, then they need to sort out how we actually live, and the conditions we live in.
Let me know what you think.

Staying positive, in the hot summer of 2017. (Can’t last, of course…)

Jamiroquai: Back with a bang!

At the start of last month, I wrote about how my most-read post, ‘Whatever happened to?: Jamiroquai’ was no longer getting any views. After all that time of being my top post, it seemed to have dropped off the blogging radar, and had received zero views for a while.

Well, no longer. I am happy to report that the post is back in favour, and already getting into the weekly ‘top three’, with regular views once again.

I know that this is very boring, when it’s not your blog.
But after all, so many of you love to know what’s happening, as far as Jamiroquai is concerned. 🙂

And here is their latest record, to celebrate their reappearance. It’s not a patch on the old stuff, but Jay Kay has a funky new hat!

A Musical A-Z: C

Continuing this series, don’t forget that you can play along by choosing your favourite artists, albums, or songs. As long as they begin with ‘C’.

Every letter throws up far too many choices, but having to whittle them down is half the fun.

I am not a fan of country and western music as a rule, but this classic song gets me right in the heart every time. And I get a double ‘C’ for the song, and her name.

There have been many versions of this next song, but for me, none have got close to the smoky-voiced original from the divine Julie London.
Cry Me A river

Phil Spector and his ‘wall of sound’ was also one of the sounds of my youth. He produced many girl groups, including The Crystals. No matter how old you are, I am willing to bet you know this song.
Then He Kissed Me

The summer of love and the days of ‘flower power’ gave us many enduring songs. One of the groups that personified that era for me was the Mamas and Papas, with their version of a song written by two members of that group.
California Dreamin’

One of my all-time top ‘C’ songs, from the grumpy but nonetheless wonderful, Van Morrison. Also mentioned many times on this blog, here it is again.

Almost a top pick, with a very personal reason why I love this song so much. I played Rickie Lee Jones’ album so often at the time, I almost wore it out. I really, really love her voice on this happy song.
Chuck E’s in Love

My top pick today is from someone I feature a lot on this blog. Elvis Costello may not be his real name, but as it’s the one he is known by, I am using it for ‘C’. As I have previously used many of his bigger hits, I will choose this one, another personal favourite.

Have you seen this girl?

This is a work of fiction, a short story of 1100 words.

Sandy was dreaming again.

As usual, the people were nice. The man had a thick jumper on, and it felt good to snuggle under his arm. The lady stroked her hair, and kissed her head. She smelled good, a mixture of perfume and soap. The lady was wiping her lips with a tissue, something like ice cream or frosting on them, Sandy thought. They were happy, heading home after being out somewhere, wrapped up against the cold air of the early evening.
That was the good dream.

The bad dream was more like a memory than a dream, because she sometimes got that one when she was awake.

She was sleeping, cuddling Mildred tight to her chest. The elephant toy was made of corduroy, and had huge ears, with tiny soft tusks, and a trunk that was sewn onto its face. Sandy called her Mildred, and she felt just right. Then there was the cold. It was suddenly cold, and the light wasn’t on in her bedroom. Something over her face, held tight, no time to cry out. Lifted from the bed by someone strong, as if she weighed nothing at all, wrapped in something that smelled like it had been outside, cold and damp. There must have been two of them, because one held her close in the back of the van, and the other one drove.

But this was the good dream, and she didn’t want to wake from it. She didn’t want to leave those nice kind people, the ones she was sure must have been her Mom and Dad. But wake she did.

Sandy climbed off of the mattress, and squatted over the large bucket in the corner of her room. When she had finished, she walked across to the mattress again, and picked Mildred up from the floor, placing her carefully back onto the pillows. If the light came on, she knew he would be coming soon. He always put the light on just before he opened the door. She crossed to the small sink, and turned on the tap. She didn’t need any extra light, as she had become used to the darkness, over time. She felt for the washcloth and ran the water over it. When she had washed, she pumped some toothpaste from the dispenser onto the brush, and cleaned her teeth.

She had to always be clean when he came, he insisted on that. If she wasn’t clean, he would leave. He would turn the light out, and just leave. No food, no magazine to look at, and no time with the light on. That was the punishment for not being clean. Sandy had learned to be clean.

She had no real idea how long it had been. She thought she might have been five or six when they took her, but couldn’t be sure. There was no calendar, no TV, no radio, and no windows. She had never learned to read other than some easy books, and didn’t know how to tell the time before it happened. Her only sense of time was when the light came on, and then went off again. Her life was ruled by a naked bulb, in a light fixture on the ceiling. When her hair got long, he would cut it. Not neatly of course, but Sandy never knew what it looked like anyway, as there were no mirrors. He did the same with her fingernails and toenails too. Sat her down, and told her to sit still as he worked quickly.

Her body was changing, she could sense that. Her chest was developing, and her feet getting bigger. She sensed getting taller by her legs moving further down the bed, and having to bend at the sink. When her clothes didn’t fit, he brought different ones. They were not new ones, she could tell that, just different ones. They were crumpled, and smelled of the ground. The magazines were mostly just for the photos. Sometimes, they were animals, and strange people. She could make out some of the words, but not enough to read the captions. Other times, they were picture stories, young girls in nice dresses, riding ponies, or shopping with friends. She so loved those magazines, and looked at them over and over.

At first, she had cried. Then she screamed for as long as she could. An old woman came, and slapped her until she stopped. Then she hugged her, and told her to be a good girl. She let Sandy keep Mildred, as long as she behaved. When she had problems with her teeth, she gave her tablets to make her sleep, and when she woke, up her tongue would feel the gaps where the teeth had been. Once, she had a fever, and the old woman gave her some syrup, and slept with her on the mattress, holding her until she felt better. The food came twice a day, and the old woman emptied her bucket as she ate, bringing it back washed and clean, leaving it in the corner, with the plastic lid on top. Back then, there were picture books; Fairies, Princesses, animals that could talk. The magazines came later.

Sandy didn’t like the man. He came for the first time when she was a little older, bringing her first magazine. He didn’t smell good, and spoke very loudly. When he took his clothes off, Sandy looked away, but he turned her head with his hands, and made her look. He told her to undress too, and when she didn’t, he slapped her until she did. Then he made her get under the covers, and when she screamed, he slapped her until she stopped screaming. After that, he was always the one who came. He brought the food and the magazines, turned the light on, and emptied her bucket. They never spoke now, as Sandy had learned fast what she had to do. And the quicker she did it, the sooner he would leave. If she was lucky, she had time to look at her magazine, before the light went out.

Just twenty-three miles away, a tired-looking housewife drove her car along a street in the direction of her house. On the lamp posts, old paper leaflets fluttered, each bearing a photo of a pretty young child. If you looked carefully at the faded print, you could just make out the header, “Have you seen this girl?” The woman pulled up on her driveway, dreading walking through her door to face the routine of the evening.

She smelled good, a mixture of perfume and soap.

A Musical A-Z: B

This seems to be a popular idea, so on to ‘B’. Don’t forget, you can use the ‘B’ for the name of the artist, album title, or song title, so it is very easy to play along.

As I had a pick from David Bowie under ‘A’, I shouldn’t really choose another based on the ‘B’ of his surname. But he is so good, I’m going to. His back catalogue is so huge, it’s hard to choose, so I will go with one of the less obvious examples, from the album ‘Pin Ups’. This is a cover of an original from the Easybeats. I loved both versions.
Friday On My Mind

I always loved Kate Bush in her early years. She is still around of course, but for me she never bettered her first three albums. Here she is with my choice for this letter, as well as her surname of course.

Steely Dan are going to feature a lot here, so you might as well get used to them. My favourite American band of that time, and still played regularly, chez beetelypete. This is one for today’s letter. There may be many more.
Babylon Sisters

Robert Palmer died young. This stylish British rocker managed to cross lots of musical genres in his career, and embraced the new idea of the pop video at the time, with some great results. This is one of his toe-tappers from 1979, at the height of his success.
Bad Case Of Loving you

Today’s top pick was cast in stone. it has been featured on my blog at least twice before, but I don’t care, as I love this short song so much. I was introduced to this band by a recently departed and much-loved friend. It was one of the songs played at his funeral. The short-lived career of the British group Be Bop Deluxe left us with some classic songs to remember them by. The wonderful guitar of Bill Nelson is as fresh today as it ever was, and this song just makes me want to jump up and bounce around the room. Yes, even at the age of 65! Turn up the volume. Please.
Maid In Heaven