London, 1914: The Great War Is Looming

In the summer of 1914, life continued as normal in England, with few people aware that the world was about to be plunged into the carnage of WW1 on the 4th of August.

A policeman stands guard outside the National Gallery in London. It had been closed after a suffragette damaged a famous work of art, during the campaign for Votes For Women.

A modern operating theatre at King’s College Hospital, London.

Female Tennis fans at Wimbledon.

A parade by the Holborn Regiment in Red Lion Square, London.

Boys fishing in St James’s Park, Central London.

Men seeking a vantage point to watch the Football Association Cup Final at Crystal Palace.

The morning rush hour outside Liverpool Street Staion in London.

The arrest of a Suffragette who was protesting outside Buckingham Palace.

The opening of a branch of Marks and Spencer in Holloway, North London.

Crowds attend the Henley Regatta, held on the River Thames outside London in Oxfordshire.

A steam-powered wagon has crashed in Chelsea, London.

Not long after these photos were taken, many of the men pictured would die or be terribly injured on battlefields across Europe, and in Turkey.
For everyone in these photographs, life would never be the same again.

Trains And The Cinema

Ever since they started to make films for entertainment, trains have been a popular inclusion. Brief research has shown me that there are 100 or more films with the bulk of the action taking place on a train, and hundreds more where a train features as part of the story. Perhaps the most well-known of these are the various film adaptations of Agatha Christie’s novel, ‘Murder On The Orient Express’, so I will not be mentioning that one here.

But I will be featuring some of the others I have seen, and how having characters trapped in the relative confines of a moving train can add tension and mystery, as well as a list of suspects for anything that happens during the journey.

Not all films featuring trains are mysteries though. Some are comedies, others are set during wars, and more recent ‘train films’ have involved futuristic scenarios, and even zombie invasions.

The Lady Vanishes. (1938)

Set in the pre-war European tensions of 1938, this film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and stars Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave, alongside May Whitty, as ‘the lady who vanishes’. Travelling through a fictional country in Europe on a train, a young woman realises that her elderly travelling companion has vanished. She enlists the help of a young musicologist to search for the old lady, and what follows is a hugely enjoyable ‘whodunnit’ with drama and comedy combined. Despite being filmed at studios in London, causing the film to feel very ‘set-bound’ at times, that in no way spoils the enjoyment of a great film that got Hitchcock noticed by Hollywood.

The Train. (1964)

This is a WW2 French Resistance thriller, concerning Nazi plans to remove precious artworks from France to Germany, set in August 1944, and based on real events. Burt Lancaster stars as railway inspector Labiche, and gives his usual square-jawed and reliable performance. Other cast members include the excellent Paul Scofield as a German Colonel, and Jeanne Moreau as a hotel owner. Determined to sabotage the train to stop the art being stolen, Labiche uses his Resistance contacts and fellow railway workers to divert the train, much to the annoyance of the Germans. When this delaying tactic is discovered, he eventually manages to derail the train, saving the art for France.

This film has authenticity, and a lot of tension throughout. A convincing cast and a real feel of the period sets it apart too.

Von Ryan’s Express. (1965)

This is a POW escape film, set during WW2. British and American prisoners of war are due to be moved from a camp in Italy, following the Italian surrender. But a plan is hatched to take over the train, and divert it to Switzerland, a neutral country. Ryan is played by Frank Sinatra, who to be honest looks more like a singer than an Air Force officer. British interests are played by Trevor Howard, and John Leyton. Managing to overpower the German guards, the POWs wear their uniforms, and as the train travels through Italy, they work out a way to get the track switched for their train. On the way to Switzerland, they realise a second train is following them, and it becomes a race against time. At the border, it is decided that some men will get off the train and attack the German SS troops about to catch them. This sacrifice ensures the remainder will escape.

Like the previous film, this also manages to keep the tension high, and the viewer is never really sure if the POWs will pull off the escape. Although many of the characters are stereotypes, they all take it seriously, and that ensures it remains exciting right until the end.

Siver Streak. (1976)

This comedy thriller was the first pairing of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, along with a great cast including Ned Beatty and Jill Clayburgh. The setting is the train journey from Los Angeles to Chicago on a train named The Silver Streak. This film has a lot going for it. A snappy script, mistaken identity, wrong suspects, and a great finale on board the train that has now become a runaway, with nobody driving it. To say much more would spoil the fun, but if you have never seen this often madcap comedy, you will not be disappointed.

Snowpiercer. (2013)

More up to date, with a post-apocalyptic story based on a graphic novel that has an element of Steampunk added too. The only people left on Earth after a climate change catastrophe all live on a train that never stops, the Snowpiercer of the title. The train is self-powered by an ingenious device, and makes a constant loop in the wintry conditions that now dominate the planet. Societal and class structures are maintained, with working people living in poor conditions at the back, and the wealthy enjoying luxury at the front. Eventually, the low class passengers stage a revolt, working their way through the train and fighting the guards trying to stop them.

The cast list is impressive. John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, and Chris Evans as the leader of the revolutionaries. With some scenes filmed in specially constructed train carriages, location filming in snowy wastes, and elements of CGI that are not really intrusive, this is a good sci-fi action-adventure that doesn’t try to leave us with too many ends untied.

Train To Busan. (2016)

Last but not least, for my money the best zombie-horror film made so far, and set on a train where nobody can escape the zombies! Made in South Korea, the cast list will not mean much to anyone, but this is a first-rate action-horror, with a relentless pace, incredible set-pieces, and breathtaking action from the start. The story is simple enough, concerning travellers taking a train from Seoul to Busan just as a zombie outbreak begins in the capital. One zombie manages to get on board and infect someone else, and so on. Those not affected have to fight to survive, as the train speeds through the countryside. So much better than it souunds, this film really is outstandingly good.

There you have it. Six examples of films where the train is as much the star as any of the actors. There are many more similar films to discover, but I hope you will take my recommendations and watch these when you can.

Ukraine: Something That Affects Us All

Wherever you live, and whatever you think about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there is one fact that we all need to be aware of.

The world has just 10 weeks’ worth of wheat stockpiled after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted supplies from the “breadbasket of Europe”. The UN has been warned that global wheat inventories have fallen to their lowest level since 2008 as food supplies are rocked by a “one-in-a-generation occurrence”.

Subdued Sunday Musings

I still can’t seem to shake my blogging malaise. I may have to resort to reblogging some of my oldest posts, just to keep my interest going.


Yesterday was the warmest day of the year so far. I actually felt uncomfortably warm during the night, finding myself sleeping outside the covers at one stage. That warmth is triggering thundery rain apparently, forecast to arrive in Beetley soon.


One blogger I follow mentioned that 2022 seems to be going by very quickly. I know how she feels. It seems like only yesterday that it was my birthday, not two months ago.


Ollie is happy enough, so that makes me feel calm. Despite his arthritis becoming visibly worse, he is still playing with his toys and enjoying his walks. It feels strange to imagine life without him. So I try not to.


The politics in this country is still disgusting me, and the war continues in Ukraine with Russia appearing to be unable to make further progress in their invasion. Another mass shooting in America, but they will never give up their guns. Israeli Army and police still attacking Palestinians in Israel, and Britain and Ireland and the EU squabbling about Northern Ireland. At times I grow weary of this world.


Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope you have a happy Sunday.


Two Levels Of The Ukraine War

An alternative American view of the war in Ukraine. Always worth reading a different opinion from someone who knows his history.

In Saner Thought

Like all war there is more to them than the one sided manure that the media spreads……Ukraine is no different….there at least two levels to this conflict.

If you get your opinion from the MSM then you know that Russia invaded Ukraine….Ukraine is heroically fighting back….and refugees are fleeing and suffering…..and that is about it.  In other words Ukraine–good….Russia–bad.

Back in 2019 I tried to explain what was happening in Ukraine….

But there is more going on than the small amount of information that corporate news is willing to share…..

It has become increasingly clear to the world that there is not one, but two, actually three, distinct levels of conflict embedded in what the world’s media and political leadership deceptively insist of calling the ‘Ukraine War.’ The first level was clearly initiated on February 24, 2022 when Russia launched an aggressive war against Ukraine imperiling its sovereign rights…

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Sunday Musings For Mother’s Day

Today is Mothering Sunday in the UK, and that was combined with the clocks going forward one hour. As often happens, this made me stay in bed one hour longer than usual, and I will be feeling like I am catching up for the rest of today.


I am sending greetings and best wishes to every mother who reads this blog. We only have to focus on recent awful events in the world to see just how determined mothers are, and that there is nothing they wouldn’t do to protect and nurture their chiildren. Not everyone had/has a good mother, but their bad luck was a rarity.


My own mother died in 2012. She died in pain and distress, in a side room of a hospital ward. I had sat next to her bed for some hours that night, before returning home exhausted. In the early hours, I was telephoned by a nurse to tell me she had died around 1:30 am. I was relieved that her suffering was over, and upset that I hadn’t chosen to stay by her side until her last moments. I can never take that back, and make a different choice.


This photograph of my mum was taken in 1939. She was 15 years old, and already working full-time since she left school at 14. She smiles at the camera, her teenage life spread out before her, the hopes and dreams we all recognise are present in her eyes. Three months later Britain was at war, and my mum’s life changed forever.


She will never be forgotten. When I am gone, my younger family members will remember their aunt, and their children will be told tales of her. One child is even named after her, to continue my mum’s legacy.


As for me, not a day goes by without remembering something good about my wonderful mum. That’s as it should be.


I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday.


The Wider Cost Of A War

Companies supplying fuel are jumping on the news of war in Ukraine and the current oil price increase to justify eye-watering price increases passed on to consumers. Despite BP profits in excess of £80 BILLION pounds last year, petrol at the pumps is forecast to hit £8.50 a gallon soon. ($11.20)

Although British Gas profits and share prices have never been higher, they are imposing increases in excess of 50% immediately, with the prospect of another 20% to follow at the end of April. Electricity companies have followed suit, with some predicting rises of 100% on current monthly payments.

We use heating oil in Beetley to run our central heating and hot water system. In December, 500 litres cost around £310. Today’s quote is £621, rising daily.

Salaries and pensions are not increasing much at all. In most cases, there are no increases whatsoever.

The Futures Market is making people obscenely rich overnight, as they rush to cash in on what everyone accepts is a real crisis in Ukraine. But are we just being bamboozled by the huge corporations and multinationals? I for one think we are. Both Britain and the USA are significant producers of oil. Both countries invested heavily in oil production, and both have claimed in the past to be self-sufficient in oil. Some time ago, Britain claimed to have invested so much in Green alternative energy, that it now supplied 43% of our requirements.

And that figure was published in 2014.

So how is it that the tragic war in Ukraine in 2022 can be used to justify such a hike in costs to ordinary people?

Profit and greed, pure and simple. In parliament today, Boris Johnson was laughing when asked about the increases.

Laughing at ordinary people wondering how they will heat their homes.

(It is still worth remembering that even when we are struggling to pay our bills, stay warm, and put fuel in our cars so we can drive to work or to the supermarket, we are better off than a refugee family from Ukraine living in a UNHCR tent in a foreign country. )

In The Eyes Of A Child

With our grandson staying here overnight, I naturally avoided the news on TV. However, he asked to watch a cartoon this morning, and while scrolling numerous channels to try to find what he wanted, I momentarily clicked on the channel BBC NEWS 24.

Of course, it was about the situation in Ukraine, and a live report from Kiev.

I flicked off more or less immediately, but he had already noticed it.

Turning to me, he said this.

“The world is going to be broken. I don’t want to live here when the world is broken, so I am going to live in Space with mummy and daddy. I like the idea of living in space, as I can float around”.

He is 7 years old.

The Media Beating The Drums Of War

My wife was upset this morning. As we watched the news over breakfast, she turned and asked me, “Does this mean the big bang? A nuclear war? The end of everything?”

I appreciated why she was concerned. For so long now, the BBC News (and every other media that I do not watch or read) has been spouting the doom-laden reports of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine. They get these reports from our govenment in Britain, and the US government spokespeople too.

To my mind, this fear-mongering reporting is irresponsible in the extreme, as they do not present the other side of the issue.

It would be disastrous economically for Russia to start a war with Ukraine. Sanctions would cripple their huge gas and oil industries, as most of their customers are in the EU.
Ukraine has the largest army in Europe, second only to the much larger Russian army. 250,000 regular soldiers, plus militia groups and armed civilians. A war with them would prove costly to Russia. Both in lives, and financially. And it could well drag on for a long time too.

Using nuclear weapons, suggested in one ridiculous report, does not take into account the geographical proximity of The Russian Federation to Ukraine. Using any nuclear option would be disastrous to those Russians living on the borders, as well as the whole country of Belarus, a Russian ally.

This morning, we heard dire warnings that UK and US nationals should leave Ukraine immediately, as there will be no ‘rescue mission’ should Russia invade. Irresponsible politicians, ramping up the rhetoric, tension, and threats. Panicking ordinary people for no good reason. Then irresponsible media, parroting their words with no balanced reporting.

And why do we consider Ukraine to be an ally? Because it wants to join NATO? This is a right-wing government that has ties with neo-nazis and nazi-sympathising militia groups. Should that country even be allowed to join NATO? I think not. Could it have more to do with trade deals, and Joe Biden and his son having close ties to that country?

I think it could.

Meanwhile, I would like to see less warmongering from all sides, and especially from the BBC.

Thermopylae: The True Story Of The 300 Spartans

I have just read a good article about the Greek stand at the pass in Thermopylae, and how they sacrificed many lives to delay the Persian invasion. That happened in 480 BC, over 400 years before anyone had ever heard of The Romans.

Although glamourised in the film ‘300’, the bravery of the real men involved is quite staggering, even now in 2020.