Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Just to let you know that I have migrated over to a new blog at - I look forward to hearing from you there!


Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Last Jedi - The Final(ish) Verdict

Hi folks, 

It seems I have quickly fallen off my 'must post more updates' wagon BUT I am a free bird for the next fortnight and so, between mouthfuls of high-sugar high-butter low-vitamin foods, I hope to get more scribbling done - and start off 2018 the way I mean to continue. 

Now the dust has settled a little on 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' I'd love to hear your thoughts. As you know the films had a very different response from critics and audiences - and so is DEFINITELY either the best or the very worst Star Wars film ever.

For me, it was... okay? Not a vigorous review I'll admit but the Star Wars films beyond the original trilogy aren't something that beats at the centre of my geekery heart. It was exciting in bits but the story structure was a bit wonky. 

Here are my pros and cons - with massive spoilers included. 

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Why 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' and 'Notting Hill' are completely different.

He shot to fame with frothy Richard Curtis comedies but following subsequent turns in 'Love Actually', 'Bridget Jones' Diary' and 'About a Boy', Hugh Grant just about turned up for a series of much lesser rom-coms ('Did you Hear About the Morgans?', 'American Dreamz', 'Music and Lyrics'). 

In the 21st century his most passionate and high-profile role seemed destined to be that of of anti-press-intrusion campaigner - but recently he seems to be enjoying his time on screen again.

Hugh will soon be seen in a dramatic role in 'A Very English Scandal' and turned in what I think is a career best performance in 'Paddington 2' (Check out my review here). 

With that in mind, I thought it timely to revisit the charge most often levelled at 90s hey-day Hugh Grant - that he always played the same part, one that was essentially himself.


Here's why Charles ('Four Weddings') and William ('Notting Hill') are different... 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Night Visitor


It's been some time since I have posted regularly but am determined to pick up the pace once more. In the meantime here's something that happened me last week. I might write up the night's events in full as a short story (there's a lot more material there). 

Rory @theroryjohn

Just had an unexpected night visitor.
I left my bedroom window open to get air but was woken by voices arguing outside. It turned out to be just one voice - or rather one person. A woman arguing loudly with herself as she tried to get her drugs together and smoke something.
She sat on the windowsill. I got out of bed and stood in the shadows scared that she'd look through the window and...scare me.
Over the next two hours she got mad with herself over her fear of insects ('I know they are horrendous! You said so several times now, well it's still true'), the lack of porch light after I turned it off ('who would have the audacity to suggest a little light? Who would DARE DREAM?'), a chattering over mental health problems and how tired she is, all punctuated by an angry insistence that she concentrate and get moving. There was one voice that was hard and strict, the other was scared of it and childlike.
What was unnerving was when I hear another real voice approach, a man. She called out - 'leave me alone you can't touch me, there's someone listening inside that open window and they'll hear you!' The man moved off. Then it happened again a while later. She was staying because of the supposed protection of me listening in the shadows.
Eventually I went out to talk to her. She was meek and apologetic and looked so very...normal. Like a perfectly nice woman, the quiet one in the office who has a favourite pen. She said the drugs were 'just a little treat.. well that's not true'. She was very sorry for any bother. I said I could turn the light on if she wants but that I have to shut the window soon as I have work tomorrow and for her not to take offence. Her name was Mia, I told her mine. She insisted she would be safe and would find somewhere. I went back to the bedroom and shut the window, then a soft voice said 'ok I'm going, good night rory!' I called 'night Mia!' and she shuffled off.
I keep thinking about those dodgy men and how scared that nice Mia was of her own voices.

Monday, August 28, 2017

No Carnival. No Julia.

Having listened to ‘mixed reviews’ on the Notting Hill Carnival since arriving in London (these fluctuate between an aggressively traumatic war zone or the best street party of your life, nothing in between), I felt a tickle of compulsion to see it for myself this year. 

I shoved my proper camera into my bag, always an act of faith that I am about to bear witness to raw brilliance, and set off on the twenty minute walk towards Notting Hill. On the way I passed a few stray souls who were struggling to stay vertical. Usually dodging eye contact with the dangerously pissed might be unnerving but when on the way to a festival it seems to have the opposite effect - a preview of upcoming attractions. My anticipation buzzed for those electric pushy crowds, belly-vibrating music, and sun-sparkling costumes. 

I arrived to find street sweepers, confused tourists, graffitied wooden panels being pulled from shop windows, and nothing else. Kerbside plastic cups and cans marked the empty shell of a party long over. It transpires Carnival is a day event. It was now almost eight in the deep evening. I put my camera back in my bag. 

As I trundled towards home I passed a Mediterranean family who were not sure of where they were going and were very tired of not getting there. The father took charge as he asked me in hard-fought english if there was a ‘typical’ street nearby. ‘Typical’ was a key word he’d learned and so kept repeating it in a variety of tones. ‘Typical? Typical… Typical!… a TYPICAL street?’ 

I directed them to Portobello road and tried to explain it was the one from the film - which I had presumed was what led them to this part of town. But their faces remained clouded. I ploughed on. ’Hugh Grant? Julia Roberts?’ 

‘Ah Julia Roberts!’ the father’s face leap from question mark to exclamation and he checked the directions again - ‘The second road on right? The second!! Ok we go!’ He lead the kids and wife away, now strengthened by his mission. It was only when they disappeared from view that I realised I was not the only one who would be sorely disappointed by Notting Hill that day. All they would find there were street sweepers, weary shopkeepers, and equally confused tourists - perhaps ones who had also been sent on a misguided hunt for toothy Hollywood royalty. 

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Saturday, August 26, 2017

My Secret Passion for Old People on 'First Dates'

Our vexed TV hero, who has likely been ‘taken off the case’ for their maverick ways, slowly draws their hand over their lips, stares into the injustice of systemic corruption/middle distance, and reaches for that bottle of whiskey clanking around in the top drawer. 

I do much the same when office life deals me a deathly blow (eg there's no clean mugs left and all spoons have disappeared yet again) but instead of a opening a bottle of whiskey I open up a new tab and watch clips of old people on ‘First Dates’. Oh the sweet relief of listening to the aged chat about death and disappointment over a prawn starter.

If watching twinkly old people and cute young people (eg 'The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds') is the new opiate of the masses then Channel 4 is the Walter White in the supply chain. They recently combined these powerful strains of the drug in the almighty ‘Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds’ (still on All4).  Such a powerful hit of life-affirming joy that one can easily become completely incapacitated with happy-sad tears (“Are you okay?!”, “No. A grouchy old man is pretending to be a bear… *sniffle*… so he can make a child laugh.”)

But back to ‘First Dates’ and what I believe the older folks can teach those of us who are relatively young about dating and decent conversation. 

First off they don’t immediately discount people if they don’t look like they’d be Insta-compatible.  Instead they just want to share and listen to stories, compare battle-scars, laugh and sigh over this joyful, cruel, daft life. Twice the age of those who might feel jaded by the terror and tedium of ‘making new friends’, they always seem to find something sparkling and fascinating in the other. Perhaps they don’t always end up ripping (or carefully unbuttoning) each other’s clothes off but as they wave goodbye to Fred they seem to be happier and lighter for having made a new connection.

What I most admire is not only their lack of shyness about asking direct questions (usually along the lines of ‘Wife dead?’, ‘Any kids?’, ‘Aren’t you sad?’) but also that they never seem embarrassed or phased by the direct answers. They genuinely want to hear about the other person’s life and want to get to the heart of that story even before Cici is looming for their drinks order. 

They listen intently to each other’s gentle adventures, the oft-rehearsed funny anecdotes, and tales of deep sorrow (always accompanied by a softly faltering piano). When told something starkly sad they don’t nervously nudge things back into the shallows or offer empty platitudes, instead they listen. Really listen. 

It seems to me they to usually come to the unspoken agreement that ‘This life can be shit but it’s also utterly brilliant… despite being mostly shit’ - which is perhaps why the rest of us take such comfort and joy in watching them. 

For example take this couple on First Dates who popped up on my feed today, she doesn’t become shiftily awkward when her date reveals his son died tragically - instead she keeps looking into his eyes and really listening. 

Now if only the staff were replaced hyperactive 4 year olds who want to build forts under the tables we’d be in TV heaven*. 

*Apologies to Fred, Cici, Laura, Merlin and that bloke who fancies Cici, I do love you. 

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

More older folk on 'First Dates' after the jump! 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Twist on Property Prices

As a child I was obsessed with mapping fiction. While others were out enjoying fresh air and mucky-kneed society I toiled away in my attic scrawling my own maps to wrangle some locational sense from the Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Springfield, and the physically impossible Rovers Return (my heart still races with anger thinking about how the back kitchen would actually be half-way across Rosamund Street). 

I still like to know where things should be especially when if book set in a real city. I have retraced Mrs Dalloway's stroll to get flowers and can't read Sherlock Holmes without cross-examining each journey with Google Maps. And so this week I investigated/Googled where exactly the back alleys, dodgy pubs, and posh homes of Oliver Twist were meant to be. Luckily Dickens was equally obsessed with geographic detail. He mentions 93 unique London locations in the book and it all makes sense. That is my kind of writer. 

imagined Oliver Twist followed the expected divide between the slums of the East End and the leafy avenues of the West but actually the contrast is drawn between two areas of London whose fortunes have changed dramatically since 1839. 

Fagin's den is just off Saffron Hill, near Farringdon station (which means that unlike every other costume drama's obsessive need to stick St Paul's into the background, it does make sense here). These days it's a characterless Pret and glass-building commercial hub where businessfolk have a 'cheeky pint' after work, but then... 

“A dirtier of more wretched place he had never seen. The street was very narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated with filthy odours. There were a good many small shops; but the only stock in trade appeared to be heaps of children, who, even at that time of night, were crawling in and out at the doors, or screaming from the inside. The sole places that seemed to prosper amid the general blight of the place, were the public-houses; and in them, the lowest orders of Irish were wrangling with might and main. Covered ways and yards, which here and there diverged from the main street, disclosed little knots of houses, where drunken men and women were positively wallowing in filth; and from several of the door-ways, great ill-looking fellows were cautiously emerging, bound, to all appearance, on no very well-disposed or harmless errands.”

Meanwhile Oliver's posh saviour Mr Brownlow lived "a quiet shady street near Pentonville" which brings us just east of Kings Cross and west of Islington. It was then a mecca for upwardly-mobile living (in fact was the first planned suburb in London) but, while still probably unaffordable for most people, is far from the aspirational hot-spot it once was. There's now large prison stuck on it and a higher crime rate than Fagin's end of town. 

So in conclusion - Fagin solidly beat Brownlow in the property investment stakes. He'd be laughing had he only just held-on to life for 180 years and not been fictional. 

Further info on the location in Oliver Twist HERE

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn