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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome back reloading!

I’ve not really said anything about this, but the last two years have been particularly trying.

Up until May this year, I had my elderly dad living with me and I have to say it was not easy. Old age brings its own challenges, but there were some complicating factors which made it all especially difficult.

In the end, I got so burned out, I pretty much lost my independence and all my hobbies and interests went on the backburner. That’s an experience I hope never to repeat.

I didn’t completely lose my way as a shooter though. There were one or two guns on the list which I managed to pick up in the meantime, such as this Marlin:

Marlin 1895SBL laminate stock in 45-70.

If you’re a cinema goer, you may recall this as being the same model toted by Chris Pratt in the first Jurassic World film. And what a gun it is!

It was to be a few more months before I got to try it out.

Thankfully, exhausted as I was,  I didn’t lose the ability to have a laugh.  It’s a valuable way of letting off steam.

Definitely too much time (and foil) on his hands.

Eventually, I had to stop being an impromptu carer or I really was destined for a tinfoil hat. So, very reluctantly, I had to broach the tricky subject of Dad going into full-time care. Damn, that was the hardest conversation of my entire life.

My father went into care in May and I was expecting to then launch myself straight back into everything.

Nnneeeegh – wrong! Instead, I sat in a stupor for about two weeks, just slowly recharging my batteries and then, eventually, mulling over what I wanted to do with the business and hobbies.

Small steps first – I spent a few more weeks repairing the house and getting my office and dealership space as I need them.

Shelves yet to be filled, but I dare say that will happen.

The various spaces aren’t fully utilised yet, but that is partly deliberate. You always need room to expand and so I’ve built that in.

So much reloadng; so little time!

I feel particularly lucky to have a really nice reloading area. Handloading was another aspect to the shooting hobby which I always enjoyed, but which just died off while I was otherwise occupied. I’ve now started up again and am enjoying getting back into it.

The place needs tidying. That’s next…

I once asked someone what sort of space was needed for a reloading setup and the droll reply was, “twice as much as you originally planned for!” They were right. Reloading expands to fill the space available and then just overflows everywhere. Space – the final frontier. Have plenty of it, if you can.

If you must think, Jon, at least try and look intelligent while doing it.

45-70 Govt is a new one on me. In the intervening two years, I have acquired two or three guns which I have still yet to fire, one of which is the Marlin 1895SBL shown above. I like straight-walled cartridges; they’re nice and easy to work with.

Trail Boss, one of my all-time favourite powders. Or was, until the EU banned it.

Trail Boss is the powder for now. The Marlin can take some very stiff loads but I’m working with very modest ones here. This is partly because all the bullets I have are plain cast lead (without gas checks – the copper gaskets you need to have on the base of a lead bullet being drive at more than 1,100 fps). I’m also naturally cautious when starting a new calibre. It’s a good idea not to go crazy and start making powerful loads until you’re sure of what you’re doing.

Primed and filled, just waiting for bullets to be seated.

A visual inspection of all cases after adding powder. Making sure they all actually have powder and that none are under or over-filled.

Just look at the size of those buggers!

405gr cast lead bullets; real beasts. The 45-70 can fell a bear so it’s a big old round. The cartridge was originally used in guns like the Springfield trapdoor and other single-shot rifles. It’s a 45-70 because it’s 45 calibre and originally would have had 70 grains of black powder.

405gr round-nose, flat-point cast bullets.

Once the visual inspection is complete, I pop an inverted bullet on top of each case. This means I know they are all ready to go and also prevents powder spillage or other accidents if you accidentally nudge the tray.

One of my favourite bits. A handful of freshly made ammo.

And there they are, a handful of newly-made 45-70 Govt rounds.  Anything going into a tubular magazine needs a nice firm crimp, otherwise the bullets can get forced back into the cases under recoil and then the internal pressure goes up.

I’m looking forward to trying them out. It should be good fun.

Tricky setup on Suffolk coast

So, there we were at Saxmundham, setting up for a wedding display. Superficially a warm, sunny day, but high winds on the beach actually made it feel cold!

There was absolutely no open vehicular access to the beach, so my idea of getting my truck down there and saving everyone the effort of lugging it all down a path and across the flint shingle was for nought.

This show was for a friend, so we really wanted to lay on some spectacle. Hence the predominance of aerial shells, including a 7″ strobe at the end.

I’ve never had the experience of whacking wooden stakes into a stone-laden beach, but it was actually rather easy and they all held well. Somehow, hammering into a large mass of round pebbles has the dual effect of making displacement easy and offering sufficient mass to hold the stake in place.

Pete, the groom, who also owns his own pyrotechnics firm, took time to come down and see us and had his picture taken with the finale shell. The couple also very kindly sent us a crate of Bud for after the display.

Nearing the end of what was a very challenging rig. Foiling over the tubes is a good way to prevent flashover (accidental ignition from one item to another) and keep the weather out. It didn’t rain, but you never know in Britain and especially not by the sea.

Thankfully, the wind had dropped a good bit by this point.

My son said I “looked tired and pissed off” when I sent him this. I was actually tired and in pain, but not at all fed up. Me and my fag are a long, long way from anything flammable in this shot, by the way.

And so, it kicks off. About 10.10 p.m. and after a countdown from the crowd, standing a long way off at the top of the hill/cliff/whatever, but lubricated with enough drink to be heard from where we were, down by the control box.

There were three sites in this display; a common setup in pro displays. This was the centre one. My lens wasn’t wide angle, so I couldn’t capture all three at the same time.

A gorgeous golden mine effect, topped with blue stars and some red ones from another item (possibly from the right-hand site).

Strobe shell finale. One 7″ and two sixes. The photo does not do them justice. They were astonishingly nice.

 

New anti-shooting legislation

The shooting sports in Britain are facing yet another random assault by officialdom. Based on no actual evidence at all, there are moves afoot to ban 50 cal rifles out of “fears for public safety” and MARS/lever-release rifles on the grounds that they are “rapid fire”. Unfortunately, the draft “Offensive Weapons Bill” is sufficiently vague in its wording to make future arbitrary bans quite easy.

If you shoot, be it shotguns, rifles or in any other discipline in the UK, you should write to your MP as soon as possible, before the Bill gets it Second Reading and voice your concerns. Please, I urge you, be polite, rational and succint. Make reference to the NRA’s letter to the Home Office and the government’s own assurances that changes to existing gun laws must be evidence-based. Many MPs are in agreement with us that this law is illiberal and a step backwards. We do have friends in parliament; we just need to remind them we need their help with this Bill.

Incidentally, this is not a uniquely British phenomenon. Other nations who share our outlook on sensibly regulated shooting have adopted this mindset. Canada is currently undergoing similar trials with the passage of Bill C71 through its Parliament. Over there, the Liberal government has rubbished the previous Conservative government’s policy of common-sense firearms regulation and, again on no real grounds at all, decided to introduce a welter of paperwork, making sports shooting much more difficult for the law-abiding.

It’s over to us, the law-abiding shooters. We are the most closely regulated bunch of sportsmen out there and we need to become much more vocal or we will just go on losing more and more shooting disciplines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sky full of magic

I’ve just spent a very interesting few days with a professional fireworks company down in Oxfordshire, Illusion Fireworks.

Some fan slices doing their thing for the crowd.

I’ve been doing fireworks displays with various people on and off for quite a few years but, compared to some of the seasoned pros at Illusion, I’m really just a rookie and there was a massive amount to learn. So, I went down to Wallingford to attend Illusion’s company training day and then help out on the display.

The newer members, learning all about fuse.

It was a boiling hot weekend; almost ideal weather conditions for pyrotechnics. On the Saturday, we split into two groups with the more experienced people learning about the electronic firing system and the newer people like me going through the basics of how to rig and de-rig the Illusion way.

A beer outside, after the training.

We learned all about fusing and tools and equipment we would need. We also got to see what happens when fireworks malfunction and the rigourous measures that are in place to ensure everybody is safe should anything go wrong.

Watching demonstrations of various effects.

In the evening, we had an absolutely fantastic meal at Anokhi Indian Restaurant in Wallingford. It was, quite simply, the best Indian food I’ve ever tasted and the hospitality was superb. I’m hoping we’ll go there many more times in the future as a group.

Hooray for Indian grub! This was the best.

Illusion is a member of BPA, the British Pyrotechnists’ Association and provides displays all over the country. Like I said, I’ve worked with a few in the past but Illusion’s standards are incredibly high and its director, Karl Mitchell-Shead, puts heart and soul into his work designing truly memorable displays.

 

Karl, kneeling before the firing site 😀

It might not seem like it, standing in the audience, but professional fireworks displays take an awful lot of preparation and even for relatively small shows, the crew will normally be on site for most of the afternoon prior.

Looking clapped out after raking up.

In the best of traditions, rookies usually get handed the mundane jobs to do. So, I pre-empted this by volunteering to rake up dry grass on the firing site. This meant we didn’t end up taking bags of grass home with our firework debris.

Dorney Court, one of the oldest houses in the country.

The evening display was at Dorney Court, a popular venue for couples getting married. This particular evening, we were putting on a demo night so that they could see one of our pyromusicals and hopefully book up both at Dorney Court and with Illusion.

And we’re off. The demo night begins.

I was fortunate enough to get pretty much a ringside seat. I and another chap were asked to keep an eye on the dry grass so that the lawn didn’t get singed. Thus, we sat relatively close to the action, at a safe distance but out of sight of the crowd.

Gorgeous red crossettes fill the sky.

One thing I can say after that weekend is that I must have got two years’ worth of exercise in about three days! There is an awful lot of lugging about of equipment, hammering in stakes, fusing, running wires and cleaning up to be done. But it’s all worth it at the end when you hear the “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd.