Sunday, December 28, 2008

The X Files : I Want To Believe

there was a good deal going against the idea of a new X Files movie, if the truth be told. it hasn't been all that long since the TV series finished up, which means there isn't all that much of a nostalgia market at the moment, no matter how disposable we've become. there's also the case that the TV series finished it all up reasonably well, as in the story of Mulder and Scully was pretty much done and dusted.

it was also widely reported that the budget was going to be on the low side; the project certainly wasn't going to have the funding of the first film, Fight The Future and the poster released gave a sense of a cheaply, quickly knocked together project.

in favour of the film was the fact that it was made by Chris Carter, the creator of the whole thing, meaning that it wouldn't be a "homage" or "parody" made by a fan, it would be the real deal. i suppose that's also a good reason to make it now instead of wait for someone to make a horrid and ghastly tribute to The X Files in a few years time, like the awful versions of Miami Vice and Starsky & Hutch.

right, the rest of this could contain rather large *** SPOILERS *** for those of you who haven't seen the film or, more importantly, haven't seen the TV series, in particular how it ended. you have been warned, as it were!

the plot picks up Mulder & Scully five years after they fled the FBI, Mulder being a not really sought after fugitive but a fugitive all the same; Scully returning to her initial calling of medicine. the FBI seeks out Scully to find Fox Mulder, who they wish to turn to as a sort of "last resort" in the case of a missing FBI agent and a curious, dodgy disgraced Priest who keeps having visions of the missing agent.

now, if that sounds like a plot for an episode of the TV show, that's because it probably is that limiting in its scope. there's no grand, sweeping global concern as was at the heart of Fight The Future, what we have here is basically a "special edition" of the TV show, given a cinematic run. and this is no bad thing.

there's probably no potential to make a new TV series of The X Files in the sense of either funding or substantial plots, so the idea of making "special edition episodes", keeping the costs down and the quality up, is i dare say the right way to go. the only bewildering notion is that this was made for and released in the cinemas; a direct-to-disc approach as was the case with the recent Lost Boys sequel might have been more expected. that said, i have no idea how X Files : I Want To Believe did in the cinema, so i am not going to be too critical of the decision. we wanted to see it at the movies, but with a run of not much more than a week we just didn't get the chance.

there's enough in the film with regards of flaws to tear it apart if you so wished - the dialogue often goes wrong ("OK everybody, just stop" politely asks Mulder in a room full of crazed genetic doctors, for instance) and the idea of Mulder hiding in a cupboard at Scully's house for five years, busy growing a beard and cutting newspaper articles out, is perhaps not exactly what audiences assumed or expected him to be doing whilst on the quasi-run.

the plot, however, is indeed classic, above average X Files. it's a storyline that would fit into any season of the TV series, and has enough curiosity, twists and red herrings to keep the most avid Xphile entertained.

where your more obsessed Xphile is going to get upset, however, is with the full on, no more hinting at relationship between Mulder and Scully. they are clearly an item (and then some, although i don't want to give too much away), with as much love and argument as that would be expected to contain. i don't have an issue with this particular development, but somehow you just know that the "purists" will.

it's hardly worth mentioning the "newcomers" to the X Files cast; as good as they are in this the point of interest are Mulder & Scully. that said, Billy Connolly was great in his part as Father Joe, although one or two scenes of him carried the sense that he just wanted to ditch it all and crack some jokes.

the claim that you could enjoy and indeed understand this film "even if you didn't watch the show, or were not a fan of it" is of course as nonsensical as you suspected when you first heard it. the film is very much in the territory of being for avid fans only. this, for a fan like me, is no bad thing at all. i certainly, for all the flaws, enjoyed this one, and would hope for more of the same in the future - if only the end bit at the credits didn't suggest that this was well and truly the end of it.

X Files : I Want To Believe is then a film for fans only, and one that all fans should pick up. it might not quite be a return to the former glories of the show or concept, but it is at least heading with intention to that direction more often than not!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

there's no going back

so, going on this article, video tape, in particular VHS, seems to have finally died. all that's left is the boxes of them you have stored somewhere, as well as the one or two kicking around on store shelves.

this is no bad thing at all, really. long overdue, in fact. whereas the audio CD was unable to capture the quality and beauty of a vinyl record, DVD smacked tape into the middle of nowhere with superior quality on every level.

it's hard to imagine that there will ever be a nostalgia market for video tape. who on earth would want to go back to dirty heads causing snowing pictures, wonky sound after the tape had been played a dozen or so times, rewinding the things or having the things either get chewed up in the machine or just snap?

of course, DVD isn't perfect in that regard - surface scratches, fingerprints and the like can soon cause a disc not to work. but it's a piece of cake to clean a disc and try again; not something you could ever do with tape.

many people, myself included, keep a VHS machine around. this is mostly for the sake of it. sure, i mean, i have about 20 - 30 tape titles that i haven't found on DVD yet, but then again i've not played them for years, and i've not been inclined to convert the tapes myself!

there's a lot of talk about DVD being obsolete in a few years, with this blu ray business taking over. i somehow doubt that this will be the case - blu ray remains incredibly expensive compared to the ever decreasing cost of DVD, and there's no immediate vast improvement in the quality either to the average viewer - certainly not enough to go out and spend a fortune on upgrading an entire collection again straight away.

goodbye, then, VHS. thanks for years of fun, and being the first thing to bring movies into our homes and bedrooms. you served us all rather well!!!!!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Zealand - a picture festival for the festive season

hey everyone

many thanks to Gillian, Grant, Katie and Daniel for overloading my poor email box with some amazing pictures from their Christmas time! they were obviously impressed with the pictures too, for they sent a number of the mails twice!!

anyway, let's have a look at how Christmas all goes over there!

first up, some pictures from a place called Mount Maunganui. it looks like a rather impressive place, and i assume that this first one is of Mount Maunganui itself!

i am not certain, but i think that this Maunganui place is the one they used as a replacement for Japan in the rather fine Tom Cruise film The Last Samurai. i have no doubt that someone will correct me if i am mistaken. i would imagine, however, that if i am right, they would probably have waited for visitors like the one below to have moved on before filming!

if anyone was wondering why Gillian would have wheeled off the whole family to Mount Maunganui for a holiday, well, this picture gives some answers. it looks like she was trying to kill two birds with the one stone, for as well as a nice holiday she would have been able to pick Grant up a rather fine Christmas present......

speaking of which, here's 50% of the family asleep, presumably in the rather smart looking apartment they had for their holiday! just think, whilst Katie had probably counted the sheep, Grant had most likely been [TEXT OBSCURED ON LEGAL ADVICE] with some of the sheep in the above, and was probably rather tired out as a consequence.

well, the Christmas celebrations all seem to have gone on rather well down in New Zealand too - good to see that Father Christmas found the land of New Zealand, and left some fine presents for Daniel and Katie. he also seems to have left one of his hats for Daniel too!

the determination to be at the beach seems to be a prevailing concern in New Zealand. a bit of cold weather was not going to stop Katie getting down to the sand; the big jacket she has on reminds me of the Billy Connolly routine about holidays on the Scottish beaches!

oh dear, young Daniel was taken a little bit ill whilst on holiday. he's all fine and well now, and it sounds like he got a good deal of sleep in whilst away. that's sometimes the best holiday! anyway, at least he was able to make some considerable leaps forward in his Bono impression routine!

here you go with two of the finest ladies, if not the finest ladies currently out and about in New Zealand. it looks like they are at Mount Maunganui
in this picture. perhaps the ladies are off to go and pick Grants' birthday present out, although one would hope that Katie is unaware that Grant will be [TEXT OBSCURED ON LEGAL ADVICE] it, just as soon as everyone else has gone to bed and there's no one around.

and, for the ladies, here you go with the two beefcakes, or whatever the trendy term for handsome gentlemen is, of New Zealand!!

i see Grant has decided to dispense with his beard, perhaps he's grown tired of the George Michael look? or it just could be that the sheep [TEXT OBSCURED ON LEGAL ADVICE], but i doubt that they could really tell the difference.

and finally, a self-taken family portrait

my applause to Gillian or Grant for this picture, i can never ever get those timer pictures right. then again probably neither of those could, i dare say my congratulations should go to Daniel and/or Katie for showing Mummy and Daddy how the camera works!!

well, there you go, Christmas time as seen and celebrated in the fine looking land of New Zealand! let's hope that they don't wait for the next major holiday season to send more pictures!!!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008


hey everyone

well, if i had any sense i would be in bed right now, as we have all had a long, fun and busy day! as i seem to have a second (or perhaps) third wind of energy right now, i figured that i might as well upload some of the many pictures taken from today!

James was well and truly excited about Christmas this year. he's not quite ready for the true meaning and spirit of Christmas as such, but he did quite like the idea of this Father Christmas bloke. he's spent the whole month being a very good boy in the hope that Father Christmas will deliver presents, and opening up his advent calendar every day.

as James had been (by his standards) a very good boy, Father Christmas did indeed visit us last night, drank the strawberry milkshake and ate the cookies which James left for him and then left some presents under the tree. odd that Father Christmas was left strawberry milkshake - Gillian & Richard, didn't Dad encourage us to leave a rather large whisky out for him????

anyway, James seemed to be thrilled with all the presents left for him under the tree. as James has a keen interest in music and singing, he was delighted with the "jumbo jet" shaped music player, as well as the Winne The Pooh and Nursery Rhyme CDs to play on it. it wasn't long, however, before he grabbed the mic and gave his version of We Will Rock You a go!

all i can give you for this next pic is a quote from a band of note (who?); did you ever see the faces of the children they get so excited, waking up on Christmas morning hours before the winters' sun's ignited?

how true, except we have a summer sun, and James slept to around 8am, which was a very nice and very unexpected Christmas present!!

anyway, later on in the morning Grandma and Grandad came to visit. Father Christmas had accidentally left a present for James at their house, and so they brought it over for him! it's a wonderful playhouse for the garden, and James was (by his standards) patient whilst Grandad and Mummy built it. hardly any bits got hidden, broken or thrown around!

Daddy and Grandma were, of course, far too busy taking pictures to help with the house building, and they probably would have made a mess of it anyway!!

Father Christmas also somehow managed to accidentally leave Christmas presents for Grandma and Grandad at James' house. it's entirely possible that James is contemplating what exactly is going on with regards to that in this picture, as Father Christmas seems much better organized than that in the Winnie The Pooh film!

oh well, never mind that Father Christmas got some houses mixed up, Grandad and Mummy got the house built, and it is just fine for James and Grandma to play in!!

well, there are many more pics from today, but now any blasts of energy that i had have gone back to wherever they came from! i will try and upload some more in the near future, especially as i have finally gotten around to taking some 3 or 4 GB-worth of pictures of Grandad's laptop!

i truly hope that you all had a wonderful day today!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

the films of 2008 (that i saw, at least)

hi everyone

well, we didn't see all that many films this year, so this is neither a "best" or "worst" list!

i managed to see a good many 2007 films in 2008, like Zodiac and 3:10 To Yuma. i can't include them here, which is a shame as they would be in the top 3 or 4 films of the year!

here, then, are the ones that i saw (or at least the ones i remembered seeing!) with a 2008 release date. you are advise that there might be one, two or even three *** SPOILERS *** ahead!!

The Transporter 3 was rather good fun, all things considered. it does not pretend to be much other than a (ahem) "homage" to other action films, this chapter in particular being seemingly inspired by Speed and Under Seige 2. plot? Jason Statham driving around rather fast with the odd detour to administer a jolly and sound beating to someone or, as is more often the case, several people at once.

easily one of the most violent films i have ever watched is Rambo. after a sterling job with Rocky Balboa it was great to see Stallone return to his other famous character and, well, give the fans what they want. never mind the Burma plot, the real magic was the ending to this film. i think somewhere on my site i commented that it would have made a very smart, symbolic ending to not only the film but the character, but the tales of Rambo V being made suggests that it is in fact going to be a literally interpreted ending. ho hum.

it seems to get slated by critics, but who didn't love Madagascar? everyone i know of was well into it, and as happy as i was to see Madagascar 2 arrive on the cinema screens. whereas the main characters are entertaining (some sort of plot about family, i think) the magic here is in the secondary characters, in particular the ever lovable penguins and the constantly curious King Julian. i wouldn't want to give too much of the film away for those of you who have yet to see it, but the "trade union" scene with the penguins and the monkeys has to be one of the funniest ever!

now, if i had to pick a "best film of the year", it would be tough, but i suspect the magnificent Wall-E would take the title. the character of Wall-E is an inspirational, loveable one; very much an E.T. for this generation. his dogged determination, dedication and desire to make the world a better place, not to mention his devotion to Eva, was a joy to watch. a number of people seemed to get a bit "lost" with the human element / presence, but i suspect they just weren't watching it properly. if you saw the film but not the magic within it, i urge you to give it another try.

despite the many flaws listed in my review, Quantum Of Solace was at the least a step in the right direction with regards to rehabilitating and restoring the James Bond films to their former glories after the disastrous Pierce Brosnan era. Daniel Craig is doing a fine job, and i suspect by his next one they will at last feel confident that they have enough of a "Bond reloaded" platform in place to just get on with making a film about Bond being Bond. and let's not forget the excellent theme tune the film has!

My Name Is Bruce was all that i expected it to be, and then some. a film strictly meant for admirers and lovers of Bruce Campbell it may well be, but for those of us who are proudly part of that legion, a great treat. many of us hold out hope for Evil Dead 4 one day, but in the mean time this will do rather nicely indeed, thanks.

Iron Man had the misfortune of being released in the same year as a certain other "comic book" adaptation (see below), so it is easy to forget just how mindblowingly good this film seemed on release. it still is a damn good film, by the way. Robert Downey jnr was excellent (when isn't he, exactly?), and me not having read a single Iron Man comic didn't stop me from following what was going on. the only downside of this film was the surprisingly bad job done by Jeff Bridges. it seems that he wasn't interested in the film, going on the dull, colour-by-numbers performance he turns in. a shame he didn't quit and let someone else have a go, then!

if we are in the business of honesty here, Jumper was little more than a "pilot" for a possible TV series, or perhaps even a sequence of direct-to-disc, ever diminishing budget films. i'm not sure if that was the intention with the decent director and cast attached, but at little more than 80 minutes in length it doesn't seem to have had much in the way of ambition. all the same, the 80 minutes we had of it was pretty decent fun. worth watching if it turns up on late night TV wherever you are.

the biggest disappointment of the year was, sadly, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. apparently somewhere out there is a version of the script for this which drops the tedious father-son storyline, instead including some classic Indy action and better plot. for some bizarre reason, George Lucas, Steven Speilberg and Harrison Ford turned their much loved creation into something of a bumbling idiot for this film. there are one or two moments that bring the magic and sense of wonder back, but for the most part the audience for the film is pretty much lost by the point at which Indiana survives - without a scratch - a nuclear blast by simply hiding in a fridge.

and here's a second appearance for Jason Statham in this list for the fine film The Bank Job. based on true events that had somehow been more or less concealed and out of public knowledge, this fascinating tale of power, corruption and theft is a brilliant slice of British film-making at its best. i say more or less concealed as, if you have ever seen the 1981 gem of a film, Loophole, you realise that someone somewhere knew how and why they did the job shown in The Bank Job and managed to get away with a fictional take on it. i think the poster for the film more or less tells you all you need to know of the plot and what not; if you haven't seen it then i would suggest that you go and find a copy and treat yourself!

there's not a lot more i could say about In Bruges that's not in my review two or three posts before this one, really. oh, OK then, for those of you who have seen it, yes i deliberatley left out any reference to the, well, shortest member of the cast so that people could discover him for themselves. In Bruges has a number of flaws, but also many wonderful moments, the latter being enough to say go and watch it.

and finally, but not deliberately left to last (happy accident), there's The Dark Knight. is there anything else left to say about this film? it has the right balance to appease the "comic book junkies" that dominate the interwebnet and please everyday film lovers who just want to see a great movie without being to distressed in regards of loyalty to the origins of the character. there's not a bad performance or a wasted moment in this astonishing film, with director Christopher Nolan somehow just getting better and better with every film he makes. i think everyone on earth has seen The Dark Knight by now, so let the DVD release of it give you the chance to watch it again!

well, there you go. there are a number of films that i wished to see this year but didn't get around to. oddly, two of them, Tropic Thunder and Be Kind Rewind, feature Jack Black, who i normally cannot stand. on well, i shall try and watch them in the new year!!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ian Brown to release new album in August

Ian Brown has said he will release a new album in August 2009.

In a Christmas message posted on his website, Brown called his new songs the "best on all levels" he's been involved with.

The full message is as follows:

"I wish you all a happy Christmas and a happy 2009, because it's all about the happiness.

"I'm happy to let you know I'm working up a set of songs that are the
best on all levels I've been involved with - ooh baby the music gets
better with you! I'm looking to release these songs as an album in August. More news soon.

"Thanks for your support this year, it means a lot. I love you back."

bonkers music

hey everyone

apologies, if required, for the lack of updates of late. we've been busy with one thing and another, the least of these of course being far from James' birthday and getting ready for the arrival of Father Christmas!

in between all of that, i have taken the time to listen to two infamous and odd records. they have always taken my fancy, and with it being the season to be jolly, i took the decision to pick them up and give them a whirl. this despite the first one on the list being the only thing my dear wife has urged me never, ever to buy or bring into our home.

but who could resist the chance to own The Transformed Man by William Shatner? over the years i have heard one or two rough bootlegs of it, so when the chance came to have the pristine, shiny cd in my hands, i took some liberties with the comments that Michele made about it being in the house!

this was a wise decision, for the album is a majestic odyssey. it's not everyone who would think to mix up recitals (if by recitial you mean to understand some shouting) of Shakespeare with rather odd interpretations (if by interpretation you understand some shouting) of the works of Dylan and The Beatles.

the masterpiece of the album is easily Theme From Cyrano/Mr Tambourine Man . once finished with his recital, Shatner if anything seems surprised by the arrival of the mellow, melodic sounds of the song Mr Tambourine Man, and thus gives a somewhat startled singing performance of the tune. when he isn't just shouting "Mr Tambourine Man" over and over again.

there has always been an "is it or isn't it about...." question in regards of the exact subject of The Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. the odd, free-flowing, ranting workout Shatner gives it on this album makes it pretty clear that he feels he knows exactly what it's all about. brave are they few who have taken on Lennon and McCartney classics; Shatner's attempt simply must be heard to be believed.

if you have heard of the legend of The Transformed Man and have been curious, well, my advice would be to seek out a copy and enjoy! that said, though, there is one actor-recorded album that surpasses the brilliance of Shatner, even if the actor isn't quite as well known or (sadly) celebrated to the degree Shatner is.

Peter Wyngarde's masterpiece, originally self-titled but renamed as When Sex Leers Its Inquisitve Head for its reappearance on CD. after being released and quickly withdrawn back in 1970 (or thereabouts), there has always been a mythical status attached to this one. it's often spoken of as a "lost masterpiece". i am delighted to say that, as bonkers as the record is, this is indeed the case, and what a delight that it has been recovered and made available!

the album was, it seems, withdrawn from release for two reasons. firstly, it was intended by the label that the album would be a flop and something of a tax write-off. it wasn't, it sold in large volumes and thus increased the tax bill instead. secondly, it features what we will call that track, or if you will track three. the more attention the album got, the more likely damage to the name and reputation of the label was and it would court publicity that neither they nor any sort of business would wish. as for what that track is, well, google away if you don't know!

it's a great shame that the lyrics of that track pretty much prevent you playing it too loud anywhere, as it is a great, funky little number. if only there were an instrumental of it somewhere! not that this is the best on the album - the production values and instrumentation on Neville Thumbcatch are well ahead of their time and this is really a standout track. another gem hidden away on the album is Hippie And The Skinhead, which starts with Wyngarde reading out a letter from the Sunday Times newspaper, this giving way to a bizarre, improvised rap. a rap with a country and western backing track, no less. it's fair to say that the album is quite some distance from the collection of Sintatra songs that the studio expected.

Wyngarde's lyrics, in particular on that track, would offend or at least not be too comfortable to the ears of most listeners. that said, it's well worthwhile checking out what happens when you allow an idiosyncratic and gifted actor a free hand in a recording studio - far more interesting than the drivel today's "actors" produce when their muse on a whim inspires them to make music. away from the lyrics, the production values and instrumentation on this lp are lavish and light years ahead of what was doing the rounds at the time. it's a must-listen for all musos and normal music fans alike.

if you are not quite as excited about Take That's concept album or the other drivel which takes up the charts at the moment, by all means check out either of these albums and remember a time when music was creative and, most important of all, fun!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

In Bruges (it's an odd film)

hey everyone

well, as regular readers are aware, it's increasingly rare that we get to sit down and watch a film these days. unless it has Shrek or some sort of talking, singing and dancing animal in it, of course. with all the ranting, raving and generally positive reviews of In Bruges doing the rounds, however, we thought we had better sit down and have a look at it. was it wise to find the time to do this? i think so......

plot? plot. two Irish hitmen, Colin Farrell (a hit and miss actor, still not forgiven for the Miami Vice debacle - Crockett with a ponytail??) and Brendan Gleeson (a "character actor" that you have seen in a dozen or so large-ish movies), are sent to lie low in Bruges, Belgium after doing a "job" in London, England. their orders are to wait there for a call from the boss, the excellent Ralph Fiennes, in regards of their next job, task or whatever one would call it.

the better read of you will have guessed this, but a *** SPOILER WARNING *** anyway. for the better read as said, the plot is effectively Harold Pinters' The Dumb Waiter moved to a more scenic locale, an extra twenty minutes or so shoved on the end and a new, yet equally ambiguous, ending tacked on.

*** SPOILERS FINISHED (I THINK) *** now, this was more or less "sold" to us on the basis that it is a comedy. in truth the film is a comedy at heart, but one of a dark, macabre nature. it's very dark indeed in places, and the more sensitive film watchers would probably be better served watching something else entirely.

there's much to like about In Bruges. the clever, crafty plot elements knit together rather well, with a style and flair that we have not seen since the likes of Reservoir Dogs and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. those two films in particular seem to have given writer & director Martin McDonagh much of his motivation; at least the bits that are not taken from Pinter as mentioned in the spoiler section.

when this film is funny, it is really funny. there are a number of key, outrageous moments and sequences that one can't but help laugh out loud at. i cannot really repeat any here, for reasons both plot and language related, although applause has to be given to the scene with the American tourists, and the message left by the "boss" when he first tries to call them.

on the note of the "boss" character, can there not be some law put in place that Ralph Fiennes has to be in "x" amount of films every year? he is brilliant, but so rarely used.

likewise, there's a fair bit to dislike about the film. whatever gifts McDonagh has in regards of a clever plot and telling a good story they do not, sadly, extend to characterization. like Tarantino, he seems unable to create a character beyond a shallow sketch of cliche-riddled stereotypes. do we really need yet more stereotyped Irish idealism in cinema? does every Irish character need to be the epitome of all guilt, be the only source of the power of redemption and be passed off as dispensing wisdom mostly due to a frilly accent?

Colin Farrell's character is so badly constructed and presented that, and this is a big one for me, you have to acknowledge that Mr Farrell is a rather good actor to have pulled this off. i really don't want to go into any plot details, but there's such a wide, schizophrenic range of emotions and characteristics that his character is supposed to have in the 48 - 72 hour time scenario of the film that don't get realised it's as if he is an entirely different character from scene to scene. he pulls this off somehow, yes, but when you sit back after the film and think about it, you kind of wonder just who or what he was supposed to be. maybe the trick is to just not think about it, then.

overall, the witty moments, Ralph Fiennes and the curiously woven plot elements make this film well worth your time seeing. those harping on about this being the "best film of the year" and demanding it be showered with love and awards are, however, sadly mistaken. that feels like something of a sitting on the fence approach to reviewing it, but as the director spent so much time on the fence with the characters, you might as well join them.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

surprise! birthday party!

hi everyone

well, with this weekend being the nearest to James' birthday, we decided to have his birthday party now instead of the actual day. this makes is somewhat easier for everyone, and as we are headlong into holiday season, allows people to get going on their travels!

James of course did not know that we were having a birthday party for him, or obviously where we would be having it. if he knew that not only were we having a party but also that it was at his beloved Lory Park zoo, right in between his favourites the lions and the tigers, we would not have gotten any sleep or rest until the event!

James wasn't the only one to get a surprise - the whole place has been revamped and, where once there were two lions, now they have three!

i must confess, though - although we were up at Lory Park for much longer than usual, we managed to see less of the animals that we normally would! well, it was a birthday party, and so they were all running around and playing!

James was delighted to have so many friends there, but i think the best for him was his beloved, dear cousin Lyla. the two of them tend to be on the inseparable side when together, with James always being careful to go steady and look after Lyla. or drag her a little bit if he is in a rush to see the play park and baby tigers!

the two of them do get on rather well, in particular when there's no specific toys lying around to claim ownership of!

Lyla wasn't the only lovely cousin visiting for the birthday party - Jade and Skyla came along too, and nearly all the ladies and James looked the right way for a picture!

oh dear, James really doesn't like the idea of posing for pictures from time to time. we tried our best to get one of some of us all together, but James' eyes followed in the direction of where his mind wandered......

anyway, as well as playing, birthday parties are also all about getting all sorts of sweets and treats and nice things to eat! Michele really, really excelled herself with this one - well done on the excellent party packs and the nice lunch for everyone!

and, of course, the centrepiece of any birthday party - the birthday cake! with the many, many favourite things James has in his world, getting the perfect design for him was always going to be tricky. Mummy, however, opted for a smart looking Toy Story one, which James and everyone else was rather impressed with!

well, everyone else was impressed with it, but for some reason James got it into his head that the best part of the cake to eat would be Woody and Buzz's heads, and was rather determined to persuade Mummy to cut those bits for him!

she didn't, but that didn't stop him getting his fingers into the icing later in the day and having that which he wanted!

and finally, if you are a good boy, which James on occasions is, you get some wonderful presents for your birthday! here's James busy opening an ace looking Spider-Man race track, a very kind and wonderful gift from our friends Elaine, Vince, Candice and Rowan!

right, the whole lot of us are falling asleep! well, Mummy and Daddy are, James is tired, but he's rather insistent on trying to stay awake and play with some of his toys! i think i shall be picking him up and taking him up for a bath and bed rather soon!!

thanks to all who came along, thank you very much to Lory Park for such a wonderful venue, and thanks very much to Mummy for organizing such a great event!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

fun with ice cream

hi everyone

well, before i get on to doing a "proper" post about our rather busy day today, i suppose i had best get these pictures out of the way and out of my system. for the sake of your own sanity and general health you are advised not to look at these pictures; if you remain curious, well you have been warned.

first off, whenever there is a social event with cameras present (or just a camera handy), my brother Richard has a special trick which he likes to perform. i would like, for the sake of her defence, to make it clear that Erika did try and stop Richard from doing his special trick, but he was having none of it......

now then, i was lucky enough to catch up with my dear friend Spiros today, too. as it was a rather hot day, we decided that an ice cream, or ice lolly thingie, would be a jolly good idea.

before you all start making snide and uncalled for comments in regards of the above picture, bear in mind that if we didn't share a lolly, well, that would have been one less for a child to have on such a warm day. and anyway, at least we had not had anything to drink - the last time we did something like this, it wasn't a lolly on a stick, believe me.

now, there has been a great deal of excitement about a rather unfortunate court case that Boy George, the be all and end all of music and lifestyle for Spiros, recently lost with a great deal of ease.

Spiros was rather distressed that the newspaper reports on the court case did not include any pictures, and thus he felt it was his public duty to re-enact some of the scenes from the case. i was only too happy to oblige, and whereas i took on the role of Boy George for the pictures, Spiros was very excited indeed to take on the part of the rather unfortunate and somewhat clueless young gentleman whom Mr Karma Chameleon had hired on an hourly basis....

Sprios, quite frankly, pines for the day that he is employed in some sort of manner by Boy George. actually, George Michael is his first option, but George tends not to pay for that sort of thing. anyway, Mr Boy George, if you are reading this, Spiros would like you to know that he is available and considers himself "Mr Accommodating" when it comes to most requests, as long as the money matches the wish.

proper pictures to follow rather soon, i promise!!!!!!!!!!!!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!