Peterloo (2018)

When talking about films, I tend to like talking about ones that I’ve enjoyed or which have made a lasting impression.

This film made a lasting impression, but for all the wrong reasons.

“Oh hell! Where’s reverse?”

Peterloo tells the story of a raging injustice visited on the poor and downtrodden of Machester in 1819.

Director Mike Leigh is well-known for his social dramas and, although I don’t necessarily share his worldview, I had hoped this film would shed some light on something only vaguely alluded to in history books when I was at school.

It had Amazon’s money behind it, so what could go wrong?

Almost everything.

“Grim it were, but ah still found time ter scrub me face wi’ carbolic”.

It all starts promisingly enough with scenes of a traumatised young bugler, fresh from the battlefields of the Napoleonic War, staggering home to Manchester. There, he collapses in his mother’s arms as the family gathers around to welcome him back.

And from there on, it’s downhill. Distressed at the state of their returning son/brother, members of the family start reciting swathes of historical exposition.

Here’s an extract and, no, I didn’t make this up:

Besides, most of t’government are landowners themselves! Getting fat on land that they stole from us in t’first place.

Oh, aye.

What’s that to do with t’price of bread?


They have a bad harvest, there’s a shortage of corn. They won’t let them import any from France or America or anywhere, so they force prices up and us poor souls end up paying five times more for a loaf of bread.


Is that t’Corn Laws?


It is.


They were meant to help us but it just made things worse.

Real actors got up on a real soundstage in front of real cameras and recited page after page of this contrived drivel. How much were they paying them?!

Fifteen minutes in, I found myself wondering if we’d crossed over into the world of Monty Python. Come to that, Mike Leigh himself might as well have shuffled into the scene to explain the plot.

Well, bugger me! There he is!

Right, so: bread costs too much, the rich are getting richer while the poor starve.

OK… to spare you from wasting two-and-a-half hours of your life, here’s the rest:

The government is unhappy with the growing dissent in the North and appoints someone to go up there and bring the people to heel. Reformist ringleaders then organise a peaceful protest in St. Peter’s Field in Manchester. The local magistrates/gentry get wind of it, show up to watch the protest from a window and then overreact by sending the militia in, sabres drawn.

Many protesters are wounded and eighteen die.

St. Peter’s Field, or Uncanny Valley, as I like to think of it in this film.
Something decidedly off about the CGI in this film.

I mentioned the run time. Expecting a 90-minute show, I was horrified when, 45 minutes in, I paused to get a cup of tea and realised I was still barely 1/3 of the way through. But by now, I was locked in. I had to see it through to the end, if nothing else just to see if the massacre was worth the turgid preamble.

This is where I betray my age. I still haven’t quite got the hang of fast-forwarding to the end when I’m bored-but-reluctant-to-completely-give-up-on a film.

Thus, an evening’s viewing turned into an endurance test. Peterloo might be horseshit, but I was damned if I was going to let it crap on me.

Fool.

“Shall we stay to the end?”
“Hmm, nah, it looks like horseshit. Let’s go to the pub.”

Then it got worse. Cue a trio of unintentionally funny performances which undermine the already creaking “story” yet further.

With his silly hat, even sillier wig and a faux West Country accent, put your hands together for… Rory Kinnear as Henry Hunt!

Rory Kinnear’s OK as Tanner in the recent James Bond films, but for some reason whenever he’s dropped into a period piece he just sticks out like an over-earnest sore thumb.

Kinnear’s character, Henry Hunt, is drawn a bit like a Nineteenth-Century social media influencer; very aware of his own standing and reluctant to be drawn into anything that might undermine his fanbase.

None of this is helped by Kinnear’s cod-West Country accent. As his Mancunian host shows him to his room, he burrs from off-camera “Mrs Johnson, if you could bring me a light repast”. I nearly spat my tea out.

Told you the wig was silly.

Hunt is what would nowadays be called a “keynote speaker” at the protest.

More of that in a moment.

OK, distracting character no. 2. The Prince Regent, played by Captain Darling himself, Tim McInnerny.

I just sat agog murmuring, “what the hell were they thinking?” as poor Tim struggled his way through his script, his mouth stuffed with cotton wool.
The makeup bod should have been fired on the spot.

As if prosthetic jowls weren’t enough we have an actor, whose very name yells Blackadder, trying to pass himself off as the Prince Regent (ermm… Blackadder again).

“Pfff mfff thfff mmfff plllughh pfff”

So what have we got so far?

Well, there’s 30-40 minutes of meetings in taverns, lots of eloquent exposition by downtrodden millworkers and whisker-twirling skullduggery by rich men in top hats. Our poor war veteran/bugler who opened the film has vanished (spoiler: he turns up at the end, just in time to get shot and killed. Ohhh, the irony!)
We’ve had the Prince Regent, chewing the scenery and showing us Just How Out Of Touch He Really Is. And we’ve had Mr Kinnear-Hunt, frock-coating his way from scene to scene, reluctantly agreeing to address the crowd and demanding light repasts.

But there’s another bombshell. A bad one.

Ian Mercer

Ian bloody Mercer. WHY?

There didn’t seem to be a photo of Mercer “in character” as Dr Healey, but nobody in the cast better illustrates Peterloo’s total lack of directorial control.

Mercer should have stayed in Coronation Street, because his acting is dire. Healey’s character spends all his time calling out supportive words at meetings, each line bookended by Mercer lolling his tongue around, this-side-to-that. The damned thing appears to have a life of its own.

No scene featuring Mercer escapes The Tongue. During yet another Important Meeting, everyone laughs at something and Mercer actually cranks his head around to leer knowingly RIGHT AT THE CAMERA!

“And I tossed draft seven right into the bin and started again”.
Wish he’d not bothered with draft eight 🙁

The end result is a bloated, self-important film, full of lumpen exposition, unintentionally funny acting, one-dimensional characters, a preachy tone, teeth-grindingly awful dialogue, poor CGI (the gathering scene before the massacre) and… the cherry on top… Ian Mercer.

I give up. I just give up.

I’m sorry, but Peterloo was just so bad and so disappointing, I had to say something.

Avoid at all costs.

A timeless location

West Raynham Business Park is located on the site of a former RAF base. Sorties were flown from here until 1974. The facility then went on another 20 years before its closure in 1994. After that, the place lay empty for some years, until it was eventually bought and turned into an industrial park.

The “backlot”. A large selection of old MoD buildings and lush greenery.

The Park’s list of occupants includes a busy film production company. Not suprising really, as this old base has bags of character. All sorts of movies could be set here, from an Enigma-type story to a full-blown zombie apocalypse.

Huge fir trees are dotted about but don’t dominate, as their setting is big and roomy.

Perhaps due to its tranquil aspect, the Business Park is also home to a variety of artists and craftsmen. My neighbour across the hallway, for instance, makes the most beautiful custom guitars and wood sculptures inspired by waveforms.

With nothing to suggest modernity, you could be right back in the 1940s.

For me and my little venture, the past few months have seen a gradual transformation of what was a large, echoey void into dedicated workshop and retail spaces.

One end of the retail area, now dressed and ready for fitting out with shelving and displays.

I’ve said this before, I know, but I still can’t believe that all this equipment was once packed into an 11′ x 18′ room.

Still a bit chaotic backstage, but we’ll soon get there.

The joy of working on this project has been in realising ideas which, only a few months ago, existed solely in my head. I’ve always worked best when there was a creative problem to be solved, so doing this has been a challenge and a pleasure.

At last, the mighty Bench B is fully decked out with shelves. Just got to decide what goes where.

There are a couple more mountains to climb before the premises is ready to resume being an RFD (registered firearms dealer). One consolation though, is that the eye-wateringly expensive joinery stage is now complete, so we can now move onto the fabrication and so forth.

As I write this, the electricians are in, adding power for the various benches, including the reloading area. Juice, at last, for the lamps, case-prep machinery and Dillon press.

It will be a few more months before we’re back doing what we always did, but we are open, for non-licensable goods and to welcome potential customers

If you’re considering getting into shooting but don’t know where to start, please contact me and I’ll be happy to give you some pointers.
Tel: 01328 838142 or email: jon@jdrguns.com

Early summer progress update

Things have moved ahead. It’s now three months since I came to this unit and this is how it’s gone…

The first task was getting the desk and all the benches up and running.

By far the most time-consuming aspect was unpacking the 150 or so cardboard boxes. How I crammed much of the above into an 11′ x 18′ garage beats me.

I’m OK at “improvisational carpentry”, but for this kind of job I needed to hire someone.

These images convey the emerging premises, but not the hundreds of hours of unpacking, moving, sawing, drilling and hammering and swearing involved.

I like to use angles, so decided to start by placing the counter in the same plane as the entrance.

The joiner had to contend with a few issues in this former MoD building, not least of all a floor that isn’t perfectly flat.

One of my pet hates is having everything flat against four walls, so Bench B (left) picks up the same angle.

It was important to get the scaling right, even if that meant using nearly half the available space in creating a light and attractive retail space.

Right-hand display partition completed and front of counter decorated to complement the top.

It’s interesting how ideas form when you’re planning. The colour scheme takes its cues from one of my favourite rifles, the Marlin 1895SBL in 45-70.

Marlin 1895SBL in 45-70.

“What’s your favourite firearm” is a question I can never answer, but this would probably be in the top five.

A very attractive blend of feral grey and beige on that gun.

Not having the space too enclosed has also allowed us to make more of the existing lighting. When you walk in, you don’t feel like you’ve entered a broom cupboard.

Left-hand and rear partitions now up.

There’s a lot more work to be done, decorating and dressing the retail area but the joinery work is almost complete.

Next, the metal fabrication work.

Hello sir!

It’s been a while (again) since I posted, but the last few weeks have been something of a blur. Like most people, I’ve done a few house moves, but never a double move wherein home goes to one place and business another.

I’ve worked for myself for about 25 years and always based from my home. However, as last year drew to a close I had to finally concede that I was tired of having everything under one roof. I was finally ready to make home the place I go to relax.

OK, where are we up to? Well, to begin with, we needed to sort out the floor in the new unit. It had suffered a bit over the years and some parts needed repairing and the whole thing needed a coat of paint. My friend Mike, bless him, came all the way over from Oxford to help me for a weekend and made light work of dealing with the floor issues.

The paint we used was excellent but REALLY whiffy. Mike coped OK but I ended up high as a kit and looking like a mad thing.

The next time I went back (on my own the following week) to paint the rest of the floor, I kitted myself out with a proper fume mask.

Once done, I could start ferrying stuff across to the unit and preempt some of the hassle of the impending move. Some. When that day finally came, for the first time ever I copped out and hired a professional removals firm.

Then came the blurry bit as I sorted out both home and unit. Let’s just say it went OK, but I wouldn’t want to repeat the experience anytime soon.

As well as being a firearms dealer, I also translate and edit text for people. Throughout the entire move period, I had several deadlines to take care of, plus a gazillion micro-decisions to take about how the new RFD (registered firearms dealership) will work.

First things first, I needed to get my office desk all put back together quickly so I could continue working on my edits and administer anything else that needed doing, without the hassle of relying on just a laptop on my knee.

Then the unit needed some work doing on all its doors to make them more secure, make them work properly and give the place the beginnings of a facelift.

Next, up went Bench B, the largest of the three I currently have. You may recall if you follow us on Facebook, that Bench B was a pig to disassemble and not that much fun to put back together. When you’ve just inserted your hundred-and-fiftieth screw lying on your back under the thing, you start to seriously contemplate using it for firewood.

Bench B then needed refinishing as the varnish I’d used before wasn’t suitable. Three coats later, we are now ready to actually start UNPACKING BOXES!

Next it will be Bench A (the reloading bench), at which point I can start thinking about resuming life as a target shooter.

JDR GUNS relocating

Three months since my last post on here – yikes! Mind you, there’s been more than enough going on.

It’s finally become obvious that the RFD can’t continue in its present cramped space. The addition of a third bench made it clear that there just isn’t enough room any more.

The case prep bench; the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Farewell, JDR Mk IV

I’ve been very happy to run JDR GUNS from my home, but the time has finally come to give it some real elbow room.

Cozy, yes, but sooo cramped.

Every inch was packed with gun-related stuff. There was still theoretically room for another couple of safes, but you know when you can’t adequately photograph a space that it’s overstuffed.

The loading bench. Rammed with stuff.

Welcome, JDR MK V!

I’ve worked from home in one capacity or another for the past 25 years, eight of them with this firm. The temptation to always be on duty is just too great, so the time has come to separate work from home and have clear demarcation lines for each.

New digs!

There it is, all 900 square feet of it. I don’t mind admitting, that is shockingly large by my standards. But, let’s be realistic, I already had about 25% of an industrial unit packed into an 11′ x 18′ garage.

Welcome, JDR Mk V.

A work in progress

We take possession in the next week or so and work will then commence to bring the space up to the required standard for police approval and licensing as new premises for JDR GUNS.

It’s likely to take a few months to complete, so I hope you’ll enjoy following our progress as we work towards the goal of reopening in these new premises. More details about the location and so forth nearer the time.

As 2018 draws to a close…

Well if you can’t be an English eccentric at Christmastime, when can you?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing his blog so far, so thanks to my good friends David & Christel at Shooting Shed for suggesting I start one. I don’t churn posts out at the rate some sites do, but hopefully what does appear is entertaining and interesting.

2018 is one year I will wave off with very mixed feelings. So much water under the bridge and a major loss for the family. I said in an earlier post that my father went into care back in May. Things trundled along more or less OK through the summer but, as time progressed, it became obvious Dad’s health was faltering.

Dad died in hospital at the end of October, so the intervening time has been rather a blur of arrangements and back-and-forth, culminating in a windswept and rainy funeral down in Cornwall. 

Taken in 2011. 80 years of age and he was on the bloody roof  with a wash-leather before I could stop him.

My father is a hard person to sum up in a few lines, because he was such a mixture. Despite having a fearsome temper, he seemed to be one of those people everybody turned to in a crisis. He could be volatile and grouchy, but also blessed with a terrific sense of humour.  When we all met up for a meal the night before Dad’s funeral, we spent much of the time laughing about some of his most unintentionally comical outbursts when my brother and I were kids.

We’ll all miss him badly, but the boys are coming over this year and we’ll remember with fondness the end of 2015 when, appalled by the cost of Christmas trees, the four of us got rather merry, sawed a dead branch off one of the trees in the garden, decorated it with baubles and then sat down to watch Die Hard. Yipee ki-yay, that was a good Christmas!

Dad and Scott proudly display the Christmas Twig of 2015.
Ermm… I think we were all still “merry” when we took this one.

This year’s tree is more traditional, but with a hobby-based spin. We have 30-40 Krag, 44 Magnum and a handful of 308 Win (all inert of course) gracing the tree’s branches. I am seriously wondering about selling Christmas tree ammunition next year, for people who shoot, or perhaps just fancy something a little out of the ordinary. 

Go ooooon. ‘Ave some ammo on yer tree. Ya know ya wanna!

Once again, son no. 2 – Ben – will be our chef and I guess I will probably be the chief washer-upper. There’ll be a litany of movies to watch (most likely including Die Hard again) and I think we might have a game or two of Exploding Kittens or Cards Against Humanity.

Christmas is a time for sharing.

Have a good Christmas break  and I hope 2019 brings the very best for you.

Bafflement

This weekend was a little different to normal. A local gun club I’ve joined was upgrading its range and needed a few spare bodies to help out. I don’t have any particular skills in fabrication or carpentry (just basic bodging) so didn’t really know what to expect.

The business end of an indoor range. Oddly like a theatre, but no velvet curtains.

As it turned out, I had one of the most enjoyable and rewarding days for some while. I’m still sore and stiff from lugging stuff about, but there’s nothing like a work day to get to know some of the other guys a bit better.

No matter how hard I try, I always want to look at the arc.

Judging from the comprehensive drawings that had been produced, a great deal of preparation and planning had gone into this work. Today’s task was to ensure the safest possible conditions for the club’s pistol shooters by installing a new set of baffles.

“Warning: emits stars and bangs.” What did he have for breakfast?

Even so, there were a few IKEA moments – ones when the blood drains from everyone’s faces because they think they’ve assembled everything back to front. Thankfully, we hadn’t. This structure probably tops half a ton, so not exactly Meccano.

Adjusting the angle on the big steel baffle before fixing it in place.

The really nice thing was that, if things did go slightly awry, nobody got rattled or lost their cool. It was all puzzled out by discussion, suggestion, trial and error and (much as I loath buzzwords) teamwork. There was also that kind of blokish banter (sadly not much of it printable) which made the time pass easily.

The other end of the steel sheet. It took at least seven of us to position it.

Firing ranges, by their very nature, need a fair bit of maintenance. Frames get shot to bits, debris needs regular clearing out and equipment has to be checked and periodically replaced. This project is part of an ongoing makeover to enhance safety and security at the range.

And in it goes. Palpable relief all round.

After a few hours’ work, the steelwork was safely in place. Supported at each end, bolted in multiple locations and then welded just to be absolutely sure. Now it’s in, it’s not going anywhere.

Job done! So much so that it looks like it’s always been there.

Members like me with muzzle-loading revolvers and long-barrel pistols and revolvers can now resume their sport. It’s a great little 25-yard indoor range and ideal for gallery load development.

More of that as it unfolds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 July

I recently watched 22 July, a Netflix original directed by Paul Greengrass and now on Netflix in the UK. It recounts the events of summer 2011 when right-wing extremist, Anders Behring Breivik detonated a bomb outside the Norwegian government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people. He then made his way to Utøya island, where a youth camp was under way. There, he massacred a further 69 people, mostly teenagers.

Viljar and his brother Torje flee the attack.

The film doesn’t shrink from the unpleasant details of what happened but, even having seen the trailer, it’s still shocking to witness. Due to problems getting emergency response teams out to Utøya quickly, Breivik got a full 90 minutes to roam about, shouting at “the Marxist elite” and picking off whomever he encountered.

Actual damage caused by the Oslo bombing.

In addition to those killed, Breivik also injured over 200 people in Oslo and another 110 on Utøya. It was the deadliest act of aggression on Norwegian soil since World War II.

When interrogated, Breivik claimed to be a member of the Knights Templar and that his “operation” was the first stage in a military coup d’état, intended to rid Norway and Europe of Islam and multiculturalism. The morning of his attacks, he had published a rambling 1500-page manifesto online, detailing his vision for transforming Europe, presumably in his own image.

The real Breivik (left) and Anders Danielsen Lie (right) who plays him in the movie.

When he was eventually confronted by police, Breivik calmly laid down his weapons and surrendered. Anders Danielsen Lie plays Breivik. Although Lie may not physically resemble the real-life murderer, he does infuse his depiction with a chilling air of narcissism and quiet superiority. In preparing for the role, Lie said he listened to quite a large volume of the interrogation tapes with Breivik. “Alarmingly normal” was how Lie described him.

Utøya island, in the middle of a lake =in Buskerud county, Norway.

Once the emergency services arrive and begin sorting through the carnage, the film picks up the simultaneous threads of Breivik, as he is detained, questioned and indicted and Viljar Hanssen, a 17-year-old high school student who survived multiple gunshot wounds on the island that day.

Viljar contemplates his future.

Viljar’s long road to physical and mental recovery forms a core part of the story. Narrowly surviving five bullets, he eventually appears in court to testify against Breivik. The role of Viljar gets a convincing and intense performance by actor Jonas Strand Gravli; when Viljar does eventually face Breivik in court, you’re almost living it with him.

Face to face with a monster. Vilja testifies against Breivik.

Another plot thread examines the role of Breivik’s lawyer in the whole affair. Bound by the principle that even the vilest of offenders deserves a proper defence, advocate Geir Lippestad (Jon Øigarden) decides that he will represent Breivik. It’s a costly move, affecting him and his family very deeply. We’re party to the soul-searching behind Lippestad’s decision, but also his tacit disgust at his client.

Lippestad serves as defence for Breivik.

Paul Greengrass shot his film in English but wisely chose an almost entirely Norwegian cast and authentic locations. The movie thus gets its mainstream audience but retains a feel of stark reality. Just a few minor changes were made to the facts to keep the narrative flowing smoothly. The principal cast is excellent, but there really isn’t a wrong note from any of the supporting actors either. 22 July is extremely well put-together. It’s not light entertainment but tells a harrowing story in immersive fashion.

Hard to watch, but this is what happened.

Greengrass is no stranger to this kind of filmmaking. His filmography includes The Bourne Ultimatum and United 93 (the story of the one aircraft on 9/11 that didn’t hit its intended target because the passengers assaulted the terrorists). Peril and how people react to it is clearly a subject Greengrass handles exceedingly well.

Paul Greengrass, directing two of the young cast.

I was particularly interested to see this film because I’ve a strong personal connection with Norway. I worked over there briefly and then went back again later as a student of Scandinavian languages. During that time, I lived in Telemark, coincidentally the same county in which Anders Behring Breivik is now incarcerated. It’s been some years since I last visited Norway, but I was pleased to find I could still understand some of the background Norwegian chatter in 22 July.

Just kids on a summer camp.

22 July shows us plenty of Norway, but without calling attention to the fact. Perhaps the most striking vista of all is on Svalbard where Viljar contemplates the future opening up before him, even as his assailant gets banged up in a prison cell. It’s a most effective piece of symbolism for what happened to Norway. A beautiful country that suffered something awful and yet managed to work through it, move on and look to the future without knee-jerking, blamestorming or politicising.

Norwegian PM, Jens Stoltenberg (in real life) comforting one of the survivors of Utøya.

I sincerely hope nothing like the events of 22nd July 2011 ever visits Norway again, but I admire the way the country dealt with it. They didn’t over-regulate law-abiding citizens to try and make people feel safer. They took what practical steps they could but recognised that you can’t legislate for the kind of lunatic who stole 77 lives for his warped notion of freedom.

Svalbard, home to Viljar Hanssen and his family.

Personally, I’d have seen Breivik strung up, but that’s just me. The Norwegians are much more measured. They took the long view and were determined to learn from their tragedy and get past it. What’s more, this way, Breivik gets to preach his rubbish to the same four walls for the rest of his days, secure in the knowledge that nobody’s listening.

 

 

 

 

Pimp your revolver

The makeover I gave my own Taurus has stirred some interest amongst  our customers and we are starting to get requests to sort out and smarten up people’s revolvers.


Taurus has been the default long-barrel revolver (LBR) on the UK market for many years; nearly every LBR you’ll see at a range will be one.

Unfortunately, although resembling Smith & Wesson in their aesthetic, the Tauruses don’t have the same fit and finish as a Smith.  I’ve come across quite a few that needed attention from brand new; even some that have been laid to one side because they just don’t work properly.

True, these guns have their idiosyncrasies. That horrible cylinder detent and spring that loves to work its way into the mechanism. Rough finishing inside the cylinder axis leading to ejection issues. Overly tight-fitting side-plates. Coarsely finished forcing cones. A closure mechanism that clogs after a couple of dozen rounds. And the nasty rubber grips that sting the web of your hand when firing.

But even at their current prices, the Tauruses are still a fraction of the cost of an actual converted Smith & Wesson, if you can find one at all. Made to work properly and given the love and attention they need, these revolvers can be great shooters.

That’s why I’m rolling out a service aimed specifically at these guns; to make them look and shoot better than when they left the factory.

All sorts of options are available to bring your gun the look and feel that you want. Matching rear extensions and ejector rods, a selection of hardwood or laminated grips, recrowning the muzzle and polishing the forcing cone. And not forgetting, polishing of the whole gun to a mirror shine.

Why not give your Taurus the makeover it deserves?

For more info email me on: jon@jdrguns.com