Yesterday I travelled by steam train.

Life Yesterday I travelled by steam train.

The Steam on the Dock event is taking place this weekend at the Albert Dock as a way of celebrating the re-launch of the SS Daniel Adamson, a century old tug boat which has recently been restored.  The busy, complicated life of the boat can he read here.

But sensing that a steam event wouldn't be right without featuring a locomotive, a fully working Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland steam train has been installed on temporary train tracks up the length of the side of the dock where the boat resides, between The Pumphouse and the bridge which you must cross in order to get to Tate Liverpool. The one which turns around on occasion.

Apparently, I travelled on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland railways as a child.  We have photographs.  I don't remember, largely because I don't remember much of anything which happened in the seventies.  I was too young.

Spending a lot of my time missing the news of anything happening in the city unless someone sends me a press release and sometimes even then, passing into the Dock for reasons, I had no idea that there even would be a steam train, let alone one on which it was possible to actually have ride.

On realising this and also noticing that the doors to the carriages were about to be closed, I ran across the cobbles, almost tripping over in the process. True to form, as always happens, even when I reach a non-platform in front of a train which isn't going anywhere in particular, the doors closed.

I leaned against the fence, accepting my fate.

"You'll have to wait for the next one." The volunteer guard said. To be fair, this would be in about four minutes. But I must have looked disappointed because the other guard opened the door for me anyway.

I wedged myself into the empty space on the bench and waited, the smell of the mechanics of the steam train wafting into the carriage.  Century old train travel means tiny space with little foot room and no glass in the windows.  Thanks goodness it wasn't raining.

Seconds later we were off at a pootling speed up the dockside, followed by a range of cameras and smartphones.  If the NSA became bored with the other stuff, they could probably piece together a short film or panoramic image of my journey through all of these different photographs.

The last thing I was expected yesterday afternoon was to be sat in a train carriage going backwards and forwards with the front entrance of the Liverpool Maritime Museum as the view, especially having walked the same journey many times.  There are no new insights to report as to its appearance.

But it was fun and even more fun when after the first trip, we repeated the journey, because the organisers know that adults are just children plus cynicism and what we really need sometimes is to be reminded of what it was like when we had shorter legs and always wanted to have another go of anything.

Then it was over.

On the Vowel.

Grammar Yesterday, The Guardian put out their usual request for subjects for their Review anything column and I offered the following:
They went with vowels:
A – Pronounced “ay”. Though in the word “bath”, if you’re from the north it’s said “ah” and if you’re from the south, inexplicably, it’s “ar”. “A” is the vowel of the north-south divide. It is a vowel of hatred. Though it is also used to denote excellence in examinations and energy efficiency in boilers. Useful. 7/10
I agree with their ratings.

An Earlier Day.

Journalism About the only surprise about The New Day closing is that it's happening this quickly. Newspapers and magazines take time to bed in but as Roy Greenslade explains in his column, its publishers Mirror Group stacked the odds against it by making it incapable of covering breaking news satisfactorily and messing up such things as pricing and pre-publicity.

Plus the launch issue was abysmal with a messy content structure, generic listicle articles which looked like they'd been copy/pasted from a website and a lack of seeming to actually do anything particularly different to The Metro or The i.  You don't get a second change at making a first impression.

All of which reminds me that about ten years ago this week another similar experiment, The North-West Enquirer launched.  The idea was to offer a weekly newspaper covering the whole of the region, for people who were interested in what was happening outside of their city, with a strong business, politics and cultural angle.

I loved it and never missed an issue.  Travelling between Liverpool and Manchester for college during the launch period meant that I was probably the key target audience.  Plus there were some brilliant idiosyncrasies, as my review of the first issue reminds me, like carrying four pages of syndicated material from the International Herald Tribune in the middle.

They included Feeling Listless in the blogroll on their website and even mentioned my work in the related column in the paper.  Here and here (the latter a piece about handing in my dissertation).  The Enquirer was especially good at understanding the online community at a time when blogging still seemed like a weird pursuit.

Sadly, within about five months, news came that it was to close due to not reaching sales targets and they weren't even given the opportunity to publish a final paper, the decision having been taken in the week between issues.  One of the journalists emailed me to communicate their disappointment at the decision and I agree with their comments.  It was a great paper that still leaves a hole in the market.

Thanks to the Internet Archive you can relive the good old days.  Versions of the website are still here.

"There’s a daisy."

Film TIME Magazine is reporting that Lisa Klein’s novelistic adaptation of Hamlet (which I reviewed here) is going into production with Daisy Ridley in the title role and Naomi Watts as Gertrude directed by Claire McCarthy. She says:
"Ophelia is brimming with youth-fueled charisma, exploring the nature of true love and beauty, and I’m so excited to bring this fresh mythic spin to Hamlet from a female perspective,” McCarthy said in a statement. “This retelling will be experienced through the eyes of Ophelia and has the kind of romance, complexity and suspense that makes this beloved story exciting to younger audiences."
It's been a while but that review suggests that I enjoyed the novel and I do remember that it wasn't simply a rote version of the play which just happens to just have the Ophelia scenes. Klein brought real inner life to the character and also the story ranged well before and after the action of the play. If they're brave enough to just have that action in the middle section as per the book and properly background Hamlet then this could be something very good indeed.

[spoiler deleted]

Film The Guardian has an excellent point for point analysis of why Captain America: Civil War is a better film than Bus Dodge. I've deleted the minor spoiler in the middle of this quite:
The Civil War sequence is a hoot, with each character getting their licks in and using their powers in unique and fun ways. True, by this point the scene has 12 characters beating the hell out of one another, offering more room for innovation. [spoiler deleted] But Dawn of Justice’s fight is mainly just the bashing of heads. When Wonder Woman finally appears, we only see her lasso for five seconds, and it’s inconsequential. The celebrated breath of fresh air in that picture isn’t given anything to do other than look gorgeous and smile.
Probably best to ignore the link until you've seen the film. Does anyone know why MARVEL films tend to be released internationally before the US? Buzz? Word of mouth?  You're welcome.

My Favourite Film of 1948.

Film A quick aside. Working through 1001 film list, partly through library dvds, partly through streaming apps, I've been struck by just how awful some of the transfers have been, even major studio releases. For all Scorsese et al's efforts in restoring the likes of The Red Shoes, there are dozens of titles around which exist in barely watchable versions either because the dvd company has simply utilised some old transfer prepared for television or even a VHS release because it's not been thought to be cost effective to produce a better version for something likely only to attract a small audience at a budget price.

But it's also true that blu-ray and boutique releases and indeed the ravishing work done on titles like The Red Shoes, the premium material, has rather spoilt our tastes. For the decade before dvd, most of us were quite comfortable watching films in panned and scanned VHS releases and simply happy to have the miracle of a film in the home which we could watch whenever, no matter that it had been butchered and was very far from what the director originally intended or indeed had their vision compromised because of the needs to shoot the thing in order to ease its transition into the home market by protecting the frame.

Even dvd wasn't initially the panacea. Although some titles were undoubtedly well turned out, the original release of All The President's Men was at such a low bit-rate, the quality was barely better than a VHS recording from the original line of Freeview boxes and The Red Shoes utilised the very yellowed print that you see in the restoration documentary to demonstrate the amount of work which was done in order to make the colours pop. Again, because that was all that was available, we still marvelled. Now, as we can stream these films in HD quality, we shake our heads at that legacy, boggling at how we could possibly accept such poor quality.

But sometimes it's still possible to simply be grateful to see a film, however the quality. A few weeks ago I discovered Peter Hall's filmed version of A Midsummer Night's Dream and found a streamable copy on Amazon Prime. The transfer is awful, the sound pitched far too high and muffled, the dialogue sometimes muffled. The print used is completely unrestored with frame dropouts where it's been repaired, noticeable shudders between reels and dust and hairs and well, you get the idea. It's probably in a worse state than the Blade Runner print I talked about the other months.

Except, I was very pleased to have seen it. The film has been highly out of circulation in the UK - I don't think it's even received a VHS release. There is a region one disc from MGM's archive collection, but that's a bit expensive for me at the moment (apparently that transfer is much better). When a film is this rare, you make do, you enjoy what's been put in front of you.  It was a reminder of those times past but also of how we have to look after and promote this legacy.  How is it that a film starring Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Diana Rigg, in Shakespeare, at the height of their powers could be treated this poorly?