Friday, 22 May 2015

BJ's EWTBCD: Bubble Gum TV, by Time Traveller!

You've read Time Traveller before - she's told you how she finished a novel, and she's discussed some exciting science matters.  This time round, she's here to contribute to the Enough With The Bone Crunching Doom season - with some gentle thoughts on how she and her youngest son love to bed down on the sofa with some TV drama...
On watching Netflix with son

I really enjoy watching Netflix with my son, Teenage Time Traveller (TTT) who, luckily for me, doesn't yet care that teenage boys aren't supposed to hang out with their mothers.  Together, we've watched Grimm, Heroes, Misfits, The Returned, The Tomorrow People, Dead Like Me, Chuck...  Oh, and Daredevil, who has become my very favourite superhero.    I can't believe I had never heard of him before.  All those childhood hours I could have spent reading the comics, if only I had known.

When we watch, it is just two of us - which is just as well, because we like to pause and talk all the way through.  We talk about what has happened, what it means, and what we think is going to happen next.  We do this a lot, and we argue about it a lot.  It used to drive me mad, all this pausing, until I started to notice how often TTT was right about what was about to unfold.  He is keenly observant, and has a good memory for what has already happened and who has said what, when.   

As everyone knows, guessing what is going to happen next is good sport, and not quite as easy as it sounds.  Recently, for example, on Daredevil, it seemed obvious that something very bad was about to happen.  And it did.  The cause of this bad thing had not been shared with the viewer, yet, so we couldn't work out how we knew.  There was no dramatic music, or anything.  In fact, there was no music at all.  Could that be it?  We paused it, rewound, and after watching the scene a few times, we were still none the wiser.  Perhaps it was about camera angles or something.   

He and I paused our way all the way through Grimm.  Sometimes it was to discuss the plot (“Hold on, I think they might be writing that character out,” or, “I think she might be one of them, too.”), or to comment on the actors (“Is he wearing stacked shoes?  He hauls his feet along behind him like he's wading through treacle.”  Rewind, “Hmm, yes.  Or maybe he's just trying to be really manly.”).  TTT thought it would be a good idea to watch the early episodes again, see if we could spot any continuity errors, but I really wouldn't recommend that.

We prefer the very long series - if we could find another as long as Lost, we'd be there, dude.  We're both interested in creative writing, in one way or another.  TTT is learning to write computer games, and wants to do better than the writers of many games, where the players' available options lack any kind of realism.  We both watch for signs of a story picking up, branching out.  We enjoy a good back story (which Lost excelled in, to a ridiculous degree), because it gives added depth to the characters, adding a bit of extra interest.  It also provides the groundwork for character development - if we can see how 'bad' they used to be, we can see how far they have come, as well as how far they have yet to go.  Monroe, perhaps, is an example of that.  He has come from a slightly shady past as a flesh-eating Blutbad, to a vegetarian loner, to a lynchpin in Grimm's fight – a part of the family.   

We have mixed feelings about the introduction of new cast members.  They can take a bit of time to bed in.  Sometimes they provide some much-needed variety, and give the story somewhere else to go, but sometimes they just throw a brick into the action stream. 

When they start to introduce cliff-hangers between episodes early on, where they haven't been before, we know they're getting confident, and there will probably be another series in the offing.  When they introduce them late in the game, we know they're getting desperate, and there might not.

We enjoy spotting the actors who jump between these shows, too:  Haywire becomes Monroe, T-Bag becomes Sullivan, and the man who ran around without any clothes on in Lost turns up in Dead Like Me.  As for Jacob... well, he just keeps on popping up everywhere. 

TTT prefers the baddies, because they tend to be more complex, more interesting.  He was especially impressed by the King Pin in Daredevil, who is a gentle, sensitive guy - just so long as his inner sanctum is not threatened in any way.  Or, as TTT put it, he's really nice... until he isn't.  Characters who keep secrets from us become potential baddies, although that can be a bit hit and miss.  The bad guys also provide the perfect opportunity to explore ethics and lifestyle choices in a way that is easy, comfortable and sometimes funny. 

Our esteemed blog host once mentioned to me that a lot of these shows have a religious message.  I told TTT about that, and now we play 'spot the religiosity.'  Sometimes you can't miss it, like a great hammer spinning over and over in the air towards you - whoomp, whoomp, whoomp - until it finally hits you right between the eyes.  Other times, not so much.  Recently, TTT paused Daredevil to say that he had spotted one coming, but I was sure he was wrong.  We un-paused, and the very next scene started with a long-shot of a confessional box, taken from behind the bloodied hand of a crucifix.  Ah well, you win some, you lose some.  It was the beginning of an internal struggle between doing the wrong thing for the right reason, or doing nothing, and letting wrong prevail.  I should have seen it coming, too - the central character is Roman Catholic, after all. 

Grimm manages to sidestep the issue of religion completely (unless we've missed something?), choosing instead to focus on the mythical and supernatural.  Orphan Black, on the other hand, dives straight in with a truly scary religious sect, but this is balanced out by the equally scary scientists.  The unscrupulous behaviour of the scientists, including murder, surveillance, and manipulation is more than equalled by the truly shocking sight of a young girl having had her lips sewn together by the sect leaders – who are also not above murder and manipulation.  So far, at least (and we haven't finished watching the second series, yet), Orphan Black has these two paths woven through with questions of pure ethics.  Should scientists do something just to see if it's possible?  What would life actually like for a human clone?  Would they, should they, be seen as not quite fully human?  As an aside, an ongoing discussion is whether the clones are a metaphor for a multiple-personality disorder, or an illustration of nature vs nurture in action.

TTT will sometimes consider an element to be indicative of a clumpingly religious theme, when it I might view it as purely incidental.  For example, a family might pray before eating a meal.  We have to pause at that scene to discuss whether that is simply a sketch to illustrate the way of life in that region, or whether it is likely to become the driving force for overcoming evil. 

In The Returned, the very fact that people have come back from the dead (like Lazarus, and they are occasionally referred to as such), makes TTT suspicious of a strong religious underpinning.  We haven't finished watching it, yet, so I don't know if he's right (the  Daredevil example has made me think twice before dismissing his views), or whether it is just a fascinating, eerie ghost story.  We shall see.  

A couple of our favourites are now dished out to us on a weekly basis, putting an end to our binge-viewing (of these, at least).  That's fun, too, in its own way.  It gives us something to look forward to.  It is reminiscent of my childhood viewing, when they would say, “Tune in next week, folks!  Same time, same channel.”  The prospect of those seven days would stretch endlessly ahead of me, and I would have to go upstairs to re-read my superhero comics to help fill the chasm.

Doesn't that make you want to go and dive into a boxset? Till next time...

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

BJ's EWTBCD: The Fall and Rise of the Ferengi, by my friend John!

Armin Shimerman as Quark
Tiny Intro: My friend John is the one who nagged me to watch Deep Space 9 till I got fearfully addicted.  I'm so glad he did.  Its odd, but you'd think there would be prescient political parallels with current UK politics and this post about the Ferengi...but I'm not sure there are, and its a politics free post!  So enjoy this examination of the Ferengi, and Quark and Nog - two of the best sci-fi characters I have ever met.  Over to John...

The Ferengi are perhaps the most simple yet most complex race in Star Trek. The original concept was that they would be the main adversaries for the Next Generation, as the Klingons, now allied, had been in The Original Series. It didn’t work out like that.

The Ferengi were supposed to embody the worst elements of capitalism, they were to be a race that cheated their way across the galaxy. Technologically they were on a level with the Federation, but their only reason for being was profit at all cost.

So what went wrong?

The first mention of the Ferengi was in the TNG pilot ‘Encounter at Farpoint’ where it is hinted that they might eat business partners they fell out with. At this point there had been no formal meeting between the Ferengi and Federation. That was change in ‘The Last Outpost’ the fourth episode of TNG broadcast.

It did not go well.

Actor Armin Shimmerman comments that the director asked him and the other Ferengi actors to “Jump up and down like crazed gerbils.” For most of the episode the Ferengi seem to be doing some sort of bizarre dance. They come over as moronic, comedic and childish. Not a threat to anyone.

However they could have been saved. ‘The Battle’ the eighth episode of the series presents the Ferengi as devious and manipulative. Using cunning to make up for lack of size and strength. Their plot is foiled but only just and the viewer is left with a sense that these Ferengi were a threat. They act more like the Cardassians would later on in the series.
However no one remembers ‘The Battle’ as a good episode. It is a great concept and the Ferengi work as a threat, however it is also the episode where Wesley Crusher crosses over to being a hate figure. The plot against Picard by the Ferengi DaiMon Bok is foiled by Wesley glancing at some scans and solving the mystery and then commenting “Huh Adults”.

After the second season of TNG there was a change in direction on the show. The Romulans returned as the main adversary, while the Ferengi were pushed into more comedic roles. By 1989 with market crashes and recession in the US capitalists were no longer seen as the bad guys they once were. The Tech boom was just starting to take off so the time was right for The Borg.

There are probably a few reasons that the Ferengi were dropped. They had never really caught on with the audience and they were mostly presented as one-dimensional.

Embodying the worst elements of capitalism and holding a mirror up to ourselves, it’s a great idea. However in 1987 greed was good. Plus there was already a character on TV who did just that. J. R. Ewing on Dallas was in his pomp. He was an anti-hero, not an out and out bad guy. 

By the late 80s the greed culture of mid decade was on the way out, after stock market crashes so the win at all cost capitalist was no longer in the real world. Greed was no longer good.

The look of the Ferengi also counted against them. They were short and stocky and had big ears. For most of TNG they walked hunched over. There was always something about them that looked comedic. So they were played for laughs and downgraded.

However in 1993 Deep Space Nine debuted. This was the third Star Trek series and a departure from what had gone before. It was set on a Bajoran space station that Starfleet were to help run. The Bajorans had recently forced the Cardassians to withdraw from their planet after 50 years of brutal rule. This was not the nice Federation; this was the edge of civilisation.

‘DS9’ was populated by civilians and had an area known as The Promenade, basically a shopping mall on which the Ferengi main character Quark ran the bar. To give it is full name ‘Quark's Bar, Grill, Gaming House and Holosuite Arcade’. Quark was played by Armin Shimmerman, the first Ferengi we had seen in ‘The Last Outpost’, who has said he took the role to try and undo the damage of ‘The Last Outpost.’ Well he succeeded.

Through ‘DS9’ the Ferengi become more multidimensional. We learn about ‘The Rules of Acquisition’ these rules govern how any Ferengi business deal is conducted as Quark says “They ensure a fair deal for all parties, well most of them.”

All of the aliens in ‘DS9’ are given more colour than in other series. They are more blurred. The station isn’t going anywhere so there is more time to delve into the background of the people. This is most true of the Ferengi. They are fleshed out as characters and we even learn that they were not always so single minded.  

We also see the journey of Quark’s Nephew Nog. In the pilot he is caught stealing yet during the run of the show he joins Starfleet, graduates from the academy and is promoted to Lieutenant JG at the end of the series. In the episode ‘Treachery, Faith and the Great River’ Nog gets things done the Ferengi way, playing by his rules not Starfleet protocols.

It is through ‘DS9’ that the Ferengi become more than just the comic asides they were in TNG. While they are not a threat to the federation they are not a joke either. They are more complex than that. As with the Bajorans, Cardassians and Klingons ‘DS9’ gives us the most in depth look at aliens and how they are different.

The last canonical appearance of the Ferengi is the ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ episode ‘Inside Man’. These Ferengi are a mix of the Ferengi of ‘The Battle’ and the ‘DS9’ Ferengi. Devious and scheming willing to sacrifice the 150 lives of the Voyager crew to make a profit from the Borg technology the ship contains.

But it is a mark of how far the Ferengi have come, that before they know who is behind the plot Starfleet Command think it could be the Romulans.

‘Enterprise’ did feature the Ferengi in one episode, but as comic bumblers. ‘Enterprise’ couldn’t even manage to treat Vulcans with dignity.

Overall given their starting point it is amazing that the Ferengi were used as much as they were. The cost of the ship designed for ‘TNG’ meant they had to appear three times to at least recoup their original investment. But they managed to become great characters.

Five Ferengi Must See Episodes.
1)   The Battle TNG
2)   Suspicions TNG
3)   Body Parts DS9
4)   Treachery, Faith and the Great River DS9
5)   The Magnificent Ferengi DS9

Special mention to the DS9 episodes ‘The Siege of AR-558’ and ‘It’s only a Paper Moon’ not Ferengi episodes but showing the reality of war through the experience of Nog, a Ferengi character.
                                                                                      Aron Eisenberg as Nog

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Election Results. What I would have said, words of another...

This is a share, an article written by another blogger.  This is what I would have said, were I calm enough to write a measured post about this.  Which I'm not.  Instead, I have taken my fear, sadness, stunnedness (as in, I thought liberalism/ redness/socialism etc would lose, but not this badly - though I am now thinking I should have seen it coming); my disgust and anger, and I've translated them to action.  I've volunteered at three charities that will be seeing an upsurge in demand (one is a food bank), and I actually joined a political party, as I felt like nailing the fact I Sincerely Give A Shit to the mast for myself.  I probably won't be able to volunteer too long, as some financial factors that will appear, now this government is in alone and untrammelled, will mean I have to get a nice minimum wage job soon.  But I'll do what I can for a bit.  Anyway.

I'm sharing this link here, because though its angry, its the clearest thing I've read about why voting blue was a mistake, for the future of ...people. (I miss Aethelread and his eloquence.)



There will be more from the new Guest Season shortly.  Now I've expressed by proxy, my disgust and sadness, off we go with cheering things up a bit, again.  Like Owen Jones is saying: Lets move forward with hope, we have to fight back, create something good.  And like my wise facebook friend Tylluan Penry (see this post she did here, a while back) has said recently - we must not give in to fear and hostility, not attack each other with fear and suspicion.  Stick together in the times to come.  Try to help and aid one another.

Don't fall for thinking the article this post is mainly about is so angry it counts as giving in to fear!  I feel it well expresses how so many people voted Conservative without being fully aware of the implications...many of them were voting against their own interests, fuelled by half understood sound bite arguments.  The blog expresses it perfectly.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Dr Mike on Brill Fun Films for Scientists and Science Buffs! BJ's new season: EWTBCD!!

Remember my good friend Dr Mike Goldsmith and my interview with him about science and science writing (especially for children?)  See here. We decided Enough With The Bone Crunching Doom - and I am starting a new series of my friends, enthusing about films or TV, for whatever reason.  Here he is then, to open the new season (which shall hereafter, in the same vein as my last season, have a stupid shortened name: BJ's EWTBCD Season! - 'enough with the bone crunching doom', in case you got lost there).  Off we go, over to Dr Mike:

Being a bit of a scientist, I like SF films with a bit of science in them. Not too much mind - Destination Moon is soooo scientific and sooooo dull at the same time. WHICH DOES NOT JUST GO TO SHOW THAT SCIENCE IS BORING, before anyone jumps in.

SF films need no science to be excellent, but good science elements can add a special frisson for me. "Good Science" doesn't have to mean "real science" though. One of my favourite SF films is Monolith Monsters, in which the titular monsters are actually minerals, which, on exposure to water, grow, and then collapse. They will absorb water from any nearby humans too, killing them instantly if they are bit-part actors, more slowly if they are guest stars. There really are materials which behave a bit like this, notably plutonium, which absorbs oxygen, grows and splits. But that's not really relevant - the clever thing about the film is that the whole drama is a logical development of a plausible mineral which just has this one key characteristic. It isn't really a monster at all, it doesn't want to take over the Earth, win a space-war, or impregnate anyone. It just does what it normally does, and is highly dangerous as a result. I also quite like Magnetic Monster, which is sort of the same idea but with an ever-growing kind of metal.

A completely different kind of film is Solaris, which I like, not because of the science on display, but because of the scientists. Solaris is a planet with a living ocean which is in some kind of mental contact with the scientists on a space station in orbit around it. They do all their usual scientist things - send probes, take videos, try experiments - but whatever they try, they can make no progress in understanding Solaris (in Stanislaw Lem's book of the same name, on which the film is based, this is even clearer; the ocean can control the orbit of the planet but no-one can work out how). In the end... well, I'd best not say what the scientists do in the end, but it's very human and not very scientific - but very scientist-ific. 

I much prefer that sort of realistic portrayal of scientists to something like The Man in the White Suit (about a scientist who invents a fabric that never gets dirty or wears out. Cue panic amongst clothes manufacturers, soap makers, et al). In that the scientists are just like they are supposed to be : out of touch, emotionally unintelligent, unable to see where there science is taking them. Presumably to add plausibility, Alec Guinness (he of the White Suit), is required to say things like "I think I've succeeded in the copolymerization of amino acid residues and carbohydrate molecules both containing ionic groups; it's really perfectly simple: I believe I've got the right catalysis between the reactive groups at the end of the carbohydrate combination, while the charges of the ionic groups confer valuable elastic properties at high temperature and pressure..." and so on.

 A similar - though much better - film is No Highway in the Sky, based on Nevil Shute's No Highway (why did they feel the need to add in the Sky for the film version?  I mean, when they made a film out of The Third Man, they didn't call it The Third Man Who is a Spy, and they didn't make a film called Doctor Doolittle Who Can Talk to Animals You Know, or Little American Women).  Anyway, it has an incredibly nerdy engineering genius played by James Stewart, who knows all about metal fatigue and hence that a plane is going to crash. The only person who believes him is Marlene Dietrich (who is playing Marlene Dietrich. In the very few films I have seen with her in, she always seems to be playing Marlene Dietrich. And very good at it she is too). It is a good film, I reckon, but James Stewart is just so very emotionally dislocated he's quite painful to watch, especially in the scenes with his daughter, for whom he is incapable of showing his love. (But she knows anyway, luckily). I do like it, and it does have science-as-hero, but honestly, we're not like that.

Yet a third kind of fun-for-me-with-a-scientific-hat-on film is exemplified by Primer. A low-budget cult movie about silicon valley students who inadvertently invent a time machine while trying to make something else, it has attracted a huge following within the Nerdsphere because what happens when the students start meeting other versions of themselves is so mind-boggling complex you need a diagram to understand it (such diagrams can readily be located on t'Internet by Googling). 

But the film kind of haves its cake and eats it because it only shows some of the simpler details of what goes on. Enough to make some sense so it's watchable without a guide/Geekclopedia/aforementioned diagram, but not so much sense as to imply there is no complexity lurking. It's a bit like listening to the EXCELLENT "Bohemian Gravity" - I don't understand the words but I sort of get the gist. (Please stop reading, and go to
right now if you've not heard it.)

But I digress. And so do you ... another one I like is Children of the Damned, sequel to Village of ... well, you know. Everyone has seen the latter (blond kids, scary eyes, mental blocks, scene in a pub, mind-control, clipped accents and/or Received Pronunciation all round), but not so many the former. I actually watched the former having read that, uniquely, it had a pair of gay protagonists in a live-in relationship. Who were SCIENTISTS!!! How cool is that? Impossibly cool, as it turns out : As far as I can tell, there is no evidence whatsoever that they are gay and some evidence that they are not, and their relationship is that of colleagues. They don't seem to live together in any sense either.

(So much for that back-to-the-point-following-digression paragraph, eh?). What I enjoyed about this film in particular (other than waiting for the big reveal of our heroes' true natures and the startling nature of their in-your-face,-1950s-filmgoers relationship of course) was that the kids spend ages building a machine, right under the noses of the humans, that turns out to be an ... ah ... the spoilers issue again. But it's a clever way of underlining just how Neanderthal modern humans would seem to a highly advanced species.

In many films, science is there as window dressing (Blade Runner), or to act as a plot device in just the way a magic spell might (The Time Machine). In both cases, brilliant films can result. But there are also films in which scientific concepts seemingly underpin the narrative but which are in fact fatally compromised. One example is the original version of The Day The Earth Stood Still. Fantastic music, menacing robot, spacecraft interior, cool alien language, I grant you, but the several wonderful concepts on offer are thoroughly shot in the foot by the demands of conventional movie-making. In the story on which the film is based, "Farewell to the Master", by Harry Bates, the robot is in charge and the humanoid alien, Klaatu, is its servant. In the film, roles are reversed. Which is unfortunate since Klaatu makes a complete mess of his mission. Though well aware of humanity's trigger-happy nature (that being the whole basis of his mission), he first gets himself shot, then displays near-miraculous powers of technological control - but claims to be quite unable to communicate his big message to the world's leaders unless they are all gathered in one place. Really? He can identify, locate, isolate, and maintain the power supplies to every hospital and airborne plane in the world, but he can't set up a teleconference? He also dies and brings himself back to life - only to hastily point out that he can't do this for long, because resurrection is God's province. Finally, a big gathering is arranged and he gives his message, which is that we should be less warlike, and then jets off back into space (and presumably dies). He really might as well have just written his message on the Sun and/or Moon and saved everyone a lot of bother.

I have run out of kinds of films with science in now, so I'll stop. If you liked "Bohemian Gravity", check out "Massless" and "Rolling in the Higgs". 
Wait and see what's next!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Some Garden Moments

I just squidged up a small patch of mud with my foot as I sat on the grass, even though I thought the ground was dry and warm.

Immediately two small bugs fill it.  Not ants: too grassy dry brown looking.  Funny things, I wonder what they are??  I wonder when I will feel at peace with ants.  With most bugs.  I don’t want to lie down on the grass because of bugs.  I love the outside and nature.  But I have a definite problem with a lot of bugs.  Is it an order thing?  A marring my idea of perfection thing?  An invasion, they are everywhere thing? I’m not sure.

My friend Good Hatted Poet Man put a snatch of a poem by someone else on his FB page the other day: ‘the bird leaps beyond birdsong’.  That’s how being out here sounds.  Sharp birdsong.  Surround sound, different heights.  So intense and so clear.  Fluting, buzzing, twizzling, streaming.

It’s cold on the ground even through my heavy coat.  Where’s that warmth gone?  The sky is filled now with grey clouds, moving fast. Sun coming and going over my head.  Wind rising and falling.  Swaying the cherry tree which pours petals and flowers.  They roll on the ground.  The birdsong saturates, the wind lifts my hair. So lovely out here feeling wind so sharp in my face.  Not stuck in my head for once: real and alive and out here.

My shadow is cast against the grass, standing out while the sun shines so bright on the back of my head. “The darkest shadows are cast by the brightest lights”, I read this morning.  I liked that.  Without light there could be no dark.  What would it be without light to define itself against??

Children from the school screech in the distance.  When the wind is right you can hear it clearly.  The sounds of the jungle.

Next door’s fountain has been turned on – a sure sign it’s finally spring – and is bubbling peacefully.  I love that sound.  Chickens from the next road over diagonally caw.

A really tall ant scales a long blade of grass in front of me.  Trees wait behind him.  The birdsong almost yells.  

My hands and nose are cold now.  I put my hands in my pockets and watch the sky start to streak over with blue, clouds now frothy and white.  So fast…

Dude.  This is so not a poem or haiku in any way, as it’s scanned and syllabled all wrong.

Slant of sunshine.
Rain of pinked blossoms.
Chill of sudden wind.

I just really did want to say that though, with the spacing.  Not very good, is it?  Tsk.  See, this is why I stick to prose.  Damn its cold out here today, even through that sun.  Ooo, kettles boiled, off I go.

The branches of the cherry blossom tree hang so low this year.  If I walk underneath, the blossoms brush my face with cool or wet, depending on the weather.  (Also, of course, with those tiny bugs that I discovered the day I got all romantic and brought some in to sit with my statue of Herne; and then they all started marching towards me, a little bit like the Tom and Jerry ants, but much more haphazard.  I think it must be an invasion thing, my fear of some bugs.)  

Today there’s a really chill breeze and slanting rain.  The cherry boughs bob and sway like ships on an unsettled sea.  Exactly like that.  I’m getting that watching motion lull I get sitting on the beach at Eastbourne when I’ve gone to see Fry and I’m running early so have gone for a walk.  See, think of Fry and there – seagulls above.  Must be cold down on the coast, I hear my dad say.  And as soon as I hear the gulls, it’s as if the world gets twice as big.  I just feel…spaciousness, in sky, on land.  The gulls cut up space and add to it.  How do they do that to my ears and affect my eyes?  I get lost in the bright white pink of the densely packed blossoms with their triangular pointy leaves, arrowheads.  I imagine my head filling up with blossom and it pouring out the top, down my face and in my hair, bouncing as they fall down my shoulders to the ground.  A smiley thought.

The light today is stunning. It’s a semi grey sky, but so bright through the rain. I soak in the light (and accidentally hear Philip Carr-Gomm’s voice in my head, doing the Light Body Meditation Exercise and telling me I am ‘radiant with light’ on the soles of my feet – I actually glance down to check: the soles of my shoes are pink and brown and blossom massacred).

The wind makes a lowing sound.  The holly tree regards me.  So strong and almost unmoving, even in all this wind.  It’s almost a gale; some rubbish blows through from next door, a barbeque briquette bag.  I catch it before it hits me in the face.  The holly tree seems to find this a bit funny, I can tell.  It’s the shape of the leaves, all shiny and self-contained.  There’s some definite sang froid, some schadenfreude going on there, you know.

The grass is sodden and littered with pink petals. Such colour roars, that pink and the spring green grass.  I think the cherry tree must feel happy to make such beauty.  Behind all, the three sisters fir trees sway together in total silence.  Today they don’t talk to me.

I watch them some more, and a fox pokes his head up from the far end of the garden.  He takes one look at me and sinks back, camouflaged behind the wood pile.  A blackbird holds his ground in the centre of the lawn, king of all with his orange beak.