Monday, June 25, 2007


That's my word to describe today. I don't know where it went wrong. Probably from the moment I opened my eyes and decided to drag myself out of bed and off to work. I was happy and relaxed after spending an enjoyable weekend at Derek & Carla's - congrats to Carla on obtaining her British citizenship :-)

So I get to work this morning and everything seems to go wrong. I should be used to all the stupid IT problems we have by now but for some reason every little annoyance got magnified in my mind and I was in a foul mood by lunchtime. Not helped by the fact that I was shunted off to another team today on what was my new team's official launch day.

I am so pissed off with work at moment. Its all crap. I nearly got up today and walked out of the office. I wasn't sure what I would do if I did or where I would go, only that I wouldn't ever come back. I have to take a step back and have a reality check whenever I feel like that. I simply couldn't afford to just walk out and part of me doesn't want to give 'them' the satisfaction of doing so.

The agency which has arranged an interview for me on Thursday keep messing me around. Firstly the interview was last Friday, then postponed to this Thursday afternoon and now in the morning. I wish they would make their freaking minds up!

And the same pattern at work. I don't know what I am doing from day to day, where I will be sitting or who I will be working with. All I know is that whatever it is it will be awful, either tediously boring (my new job) or all the crap that no one else will touch (like today). I just know I've got to get out and I've seen a few jobs on that look worth applying for. In fact I spend so much time on that site at the moment I think I should add it to my favourites!

Here's to a better today tomorrow...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Looking ahead

Just over a week ago I had an exam, which concluded the Open University politics course I was studying and I decided some time before, that I would have a break before returning to study. Not that I hadn't enjoyed the course because I had. It was more that as I have found with previous OU courses, trying to combine the studying with work and everything else becomes very difficult and I am not the most disciplined or self-motivated of people. I found parts of it a real struggle, not because it was intellectually above my level but because I needed to find the hook to get me started.

Anyhows, despite saying all that I've already signed myself up for a new course starting next February. At least it offers me something of a break and gives me time to sort out things with work etc. The course I am starting next year is called 'A world of whose making?' and combined with the course Governing Europe I did in 2005, it will complete a Diploma in Government & Politics. The reason I've chosen to combine these courses towards a diploma is because I think that setting myself a medium-term and realistic goal like this provides some impetus to do my best on the course next year and also means that I achieve a qualification before gaining my full degree. The good thing is that I can combine A world of whose making with my other courses taken towards my degree. It leaves my options open as to whether I go for an Open degree i.e. one not in a named subject or a degree in a named subject such as Politics or International Studies or perhaps a broader Social Science degree. It will though be another 3-4 years before I have the full degree although hopefully by the end of next year I will have my diploma.

Other goals I am setting myself are with my weight loss. I need to spend some time writing down what my short, medium and long term goals are and I need to plan in an exercise regime too. I do know the reasons why I want to loose weight and what weight I want to be but I feel unless I write these goals down, they will not seem real and will be easy to avoid. Like with my studies, I am going to set myself short-term goals as well as long-term ones. That way I can see achievements along the way, not just heading towards one ultimate destination, which I am realistic enough to know is going take some time to get too.

I've also set myself the goal of getting a new job before the end of the year. That seems quite a generous deadline but I am determined that I will achieve it before then, hopefully getting myself settled into a new job by early autumn. I did have an interview for tomorrow morning although that has had to be re-arranged due to the interviewer being on holiday although quite why this wasn't apparent when the interview was booked I don't know! I am keeping my options open and will go for any appropriate opportunities that arise.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why don't I have a car?

People often ask me if I can drive and if I have car. When I explain that yes I can drive but don't have a car mostly they appear incredulous or pity me for having to get around by public transport. Some, I am sure secretly wonder if there is a life without a car. I've been accused of being defensive about these sort of questions and probably that is accurate. I do feel defensive and rightly or wrongly I often feel that people perceive me differently because I am not a member of the car driving majority. That I am somehow a 'poorer' person. It is probably me just being paranoid. To set the record straight these are the reasons (some well rehearsed) why I have never owned a car in my life and never intend to.

Like most things in adult life, my attitude towards owning a car were formed as a child. My parents never owned a car and it was a rare treat, normally once or twice a year when my Dad would hire a car for a few days or maybe a week during the summer. The freedom that it afforded, I must admit, was liberating. We could have days out all over, frequently going down to the New Forest or Eartham Woods (one of my favourite destinations) or just to the beach and for long drives. I thought it was a lot of fun and of course because it was a rare thing to have a car outside our house, it was a novelty too. I guess that I've always seen a car as a novelty, as something of a treat; a luxury rather than a necessity. The rest of the year, car-less we would make our way round by bus. Going on the train anywhere was even more a rarity than hiring a car! The train, my parents would frequently bemoan, was far too expensive. So, even a modest distance like going to Brighton for example, would involve a 3-hour bus ride there and back! Oh the joys of being bounced around on the top deck, spending most of the day getting to and coming back from our destination!

Here is perhaps the second point as to why I have never owned a car. Going on the bus was routine. It was the only way to get anywhere without walking. It was a pain at times, buses are sometimes late, don't turn up or don't take you exactly where you want to go. I've always been prepared to forgive all that though. I've accepted it I guess and despite the negativity that people often address towards buses, on the whole they're largely reliable, fairly inexpensive and convenient way to getting where you want. Not to mention you get a better view from the top deck!

Train trips as I mentioned were a novelty as a child but like most boys I had a fascination with the railways although I don't recall ever harbouring any real ambitions to be an engine driver. I was though a member of the Rail Riders club and as part of the club membership I got this giant wall chart, which stretched around two walls of my bedroom. The idea was to collect stickers for various destinations and tourist attractions on the chart. To enable budding Rail Riders like me to do this, as a member I got a book of vouchers saving between £1-£5 off the full priced rail fare. This was my incentive when pleading with my parents to take me somewhere on the train so that I could get a sticker too. My powers of persuasion were no better then they are now. There are only three distinct trips I remember making - one to Eastleigh, another to Winchester and the furthest was down to Poole! Plus a couple of times when my parents must have been feeling particularly adventurous we went to London.

I've always seen train trips in particular as something of an adventure. Now, as an adult and with a passion for railways to match that of me as a wide-eyed boy standing on the platform noting down numbers, I get a lot of interest and enjoyment from the railways. For me a journey on the train isn't just a means of getting from A to B. I feel that driving a car anywhere would be just that; a means to an end. After all what is so interesting about cars and roads and motorways? Not a lot in my view.

I passed my driving test about 10 years ago. I remember that the only reason I started learning to drive was because it was something that I felt I should do. There was perhaps some vague idea of getting a car when I passed but I wasn't serious about the idea. Driving lessons were akin to two hours of slow and terrifying torture. I am not a naturally confident person and behind the wheel any confidence I had was shot to pieces within a few minutes out on the road. I never felt entirely in control and I didn't enjoy any aspect of driving. In fact it is perhaps that I found the experience so traumatic and unpleasant that I've never wanted to drive since, despite passing my test first time. Even when I did pass, I made no real fuss about it. It was just a matter of fact thing. I'd done it, that was it. There was no feeling of elation or excitement, just a dull acceptance that I'd got through it.

Therefore with such a bad experience behind me why would I want a car and drive it every day?Especially when contrasted with such happy and contented memories of those rare trips out by train or the slightly less enjoyable but somehow fun expeditions on the bus? At least on the train or bus all the worry of how you're going to get from A to B is taken away. There is the opportunity to just sit back and relax.

I admit there are times when having a car would be so handy but the thing that dissuades me is the thought that it would be that would have to drive it!

So that in summary is why I don't have a car and never intend to have one. Questions, comments and criticisms welcome!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Still going forward but slowly

I weighed myself again this morning to see if I'd lost anything since last Monday. To my surprise I've lost 1/2lb, which I know is a minuscule amount really. But I've not been trying to loose weight and rather than beat myself up about it, I've taken it as a sign that I need to do better. I can make progress and I need to push myself hard this week to do so.

Last night I did my shopping on-line with Tesco (as I normally do) albeit this time I didn't just add things mindlessly to my virtual shopping trolley. I'd sat down beforehand, pulled the various low fat and healthy cookbooks off my bookshelf, where they've lain undisturbed for a good many months and selected a variety of meals that looked interesting and are fairly quick and easy. I have no skill when it comes to the kitchen so the more simple, the better. So my shopping list was geared around these recipes bulked out with vegetables and other fairly basic essentials like milk and bread. I feel quite pleased with myself as doing the shopping this way saved money and also I am looking forward to some of the fun sounding meals I am going to enjoy over the coming weeks.

Another thing that I've started doing recently is exercising more discipline when it comes to portion sizes and training myself to think that just because its there I don't have to eat it. I think that because as a child I was always told to eat up everything on my plate, it has become exaggerated as an adult and I have a tendency to eat too much.

Perhaps the most important change I've made is one in my attitude. I am trying very hard to not feel negative about food or beat myself up if and when I do over-indulge. I know that I will but I've got to get away from the negative feelings and build on positive thoughts. Instead of thinking that I can't have certain things, I need to think about all the foods that I can have. One thing which I have already given up is crisps. I've done so before but this time I am adamant that it will be a permanent change. Instead I have some nuts, which are both more nutritious and not covered in salt, although do have to watch the fat content! I think its these small and gradual changes, which are important. A lot of it is habit and I am trying to break the cycle of bad habits and create good ones.

Yep, its slow progress so far but this week I intend to push myself that bid harder and reap the benefits. Update to follow next Monday.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The God Delusion

After my comments yesterday about my difficulty in getting to grips with polemical novels, I've started reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion(!). Its a book that has been sitting on the shelf since Christmas so I thought it was time to read it and also I fancied a change from reading novels.

I haven't got far in and I am deliberately trying to appraise this book and Dawkins' arguments with a critical eye. I am not sure I entirely support his general hypothesis suggested by the books title, that a belief in God or religion for that matter, is for delusional people. That I find rather insulting and a little too obvious a statement to make. Apparently the book came about after Dawkins did a Channel 4 series called The Root of All Evil, although he carefully distances himself from the suggestion that religion can be characterised in such terms. The opening passages I read last night seemed to be a staunch defence of atheism as a 'belief' system and I am not entirely carried by that idea. I also wonder how he will deal with what appears to be an obvious paradox that by denying the existence of God (or any God) there is some form of tacit agreement that God (or a God in some form) must exist. Personally, as I've got older my feelings, which were largely atheist have moderated. I am not sure whether I do believe in God or not or if it really matters whether God does exist. Sometimes I feel that the commitment of belief is enough, to know whether what I believe is true or not, is not necessary. And maybe I am also attracted to the idea that there are at least some mysteries left, some truths that are unknowable.

I will see in the coming weeks whether Dawkins manages to convince me otherwise...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Human Stain

Last night I finished reading The Human Stain by Phillip Roth. A curious book and one that I feel, as so often with novels that are either polemical or have some profound point to make, has a meaning that passes me by. The novel is (and this is all in my own words) the story of Coleman Silk, a retired college professor who has lived his whole life with a striking secret. The author Phillip Roth, appears in this book as an author(!) called Nathan Zuckerman who briefly becomes a close friend of Silk and is writing the book, The Human Stain! Essentially I got the impression that the human stain is the infinite secrets that we all have and the corrosive effect that those secrets have on those around us and closest to our hearts. Furthermore, it seemed to be making a strong point about how our prejudices and biases can have serious and sometimes catastrophic consequences for others. It is about the trail that we leave behind, the unavoidable imprint of who and what we are.

I guess we can never escape from the people that we are, although notably that is what the characters in The Human Stain appear to be trying to do. Coleman Silk, the most obvious example, is a Negro who has renounced his roots and lived his whole life as a 'white' man, cutting himself off from his family and keeping his true heritage secret from his wife of fifty years and his four children. It is the unravelling of this secret and Silk's life as a fake, that is the heart of The Human Stain.

This is the second book I have read by Roth, the first, The Plot Against America, was written in a similar style. It is a clever style as it felt to me like I was eavesdropping on these characters lives. It was interesting how Roth himself is both at once part of the story as a passive observer and also the narrator, an interesting storytelling device.

101 and up

Wow, this is my 101st post!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Slow progress

I've been agonising over whether to say this on my blog as I am not sure whether the public shame will motivate me or not! I've been thinking a lot over recent weeks and months about losing weight and not this time just for the short-term. I realise that I need to make long-term and permanent changes to what I eat and my levels of activity as frankly I don't like being fat and part of what is holding me back is my anxiety and unhappiness with my size. I need to regain some self-confidence and self-esteem and I think losing weight will go a long way to achieving both.

So last week I started to think more about what I am eating. In truth its something that I've been doing for a lot longer but I've reached a stage where I just know that if I carry on as I have been, I will make myself ill. As I suffer from high blood pressure losing weight will help bring that down and I am sure provide me with a greater sense of well being generally.

My first week hasn't been very promising. I've been more active but still eating too much of the wrong things. Some of it is laziness, other times its to punish myself or just through boredom and negativity.

Once I get through this week, which is going to be difficult, for all the reasons I've said before, I am going to set myself goals. Realistic, achievable goals of where I want to be, why and how I am going to do it. I think all too often in the past when I've tried to loose weight, I've never asked myself why I want to and therefore never understood what I've wanted at the end of it. And it has been all too easy to set myself targets which are too challenging and unachievable, so that I find it easy to think I've failed and therefore give up. One thing which I have read, which seems to make sense and fit in with where I've gone wrong before is that perfection is impossible, consistency is what is essential.

Even with the rather lacklustre efforts that I've made this part week I lost 3/4lbs. Really not much at all but a step in the right direction. And I know its all going to be little steps, small increments, modest progress but I am determined that I will get there. I am not going to give in or fail myself this time.

Get today over and I can deal with tomorrow

A sentiment that I often feel, that one, just get through today and tomorrow will be better. I can deal with things better tomorrow, when I am fresh and ready, my anxieties behind me. My anxiety today is an exam I am doing this afternoon. This is the culmination of my current Open University course, Power, Dissent, Equality: Understanding Contemporary Politics. Its a three hour exam during which I have to write three essay answers from a range of twelve questions. The questions are in two sections - one on the themes of the course and the other on the different blocks. I've seen the last couple of year's exam papers so know pretty much what to except. I can't help feeling at the moment that I know nothing about any of the course, that it has all somehow slipped me by and I've taken nothing in. Its not true, I do know a lot of the key points and issues but just not sure if I know enough. Can I just wing it in the end and do my best? I'll be glad come 5.30 when the exam is over and I can just come home and put it all behind me.

Then tomorrow there is facing up to being back at work, knowing that a lot of my colleagues are facing redundancy. I am glad in some ways that I am not there today as I imagine the atmosphere will be awful, much as it was come the news on Friday afternoon. As for me, my anger at my fate has abated somewhat, although I am very unhappy that in a weeks time I will be doing a new job, which I can't help but see as a demotion. It is a less demanding job than what I am doing now, less challenging and almost certainly less fulfilling. How do I know this? Because I've done part of the role before and know what is involved. I am upset because I feel like I am being told that I am not good enough for the team I work in now.

My mind is pretty much made up that I need to find a new job and quite honestly I want out of underwriting altogether. I think that whatever similar job I move into, even with another company, will be much the same as it is where I work now. I feel I need a clean break, a fresh challenge and to move onto something completely different. Too long I've been in my comfort zone and I need to push myself to get out of it.

There are many things that I am looking forward too, especially when today and perhaps this week, is out of the way. Saturday I am off on a steam-hauled excursion down to Kent, which I've been looking forward to for months; just waiting for my ticket to come. Tickets that have arrived today are those to the BBC Proms this summer, I am doing seven concerts in all over the season. This will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the summer months for me and I am much looking forward to the experience.

In July I am going to Celebration Europe, an official Star Wars convention, the enthusiasm for which has been somewhat tempered by the lack of detail and non-arrival (so far) of the ticket that I booked several months ago. In a few weeks time it is my friend Tim's 30th Birthday and I am hoping that the weather holds for that; it should be a lovely day. I am also going to see Derek & Carla in Nuneaton the previous weekend, so two breaks in two weekends will be lovely! Carla has gained British citizenship and I am pleased to be going along to her Citizenship Ceremony.

Somewhere in between all that I am planning to visit my parents down in Portsmouth as I haven't been back since March! Its shocking how the weeks and particularly the weekends slip by with so many plans never fulfilled.

As I say if I can just get through today and into tomorrow, there is so much more to look forward too.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Saturday travels

Does anyone else ever have the feeling that some days it would have been better all round if they'd just stayed in bed? Pull up the covers, ignore the sun outside and pretend that the coming twenty-four hours isn't happening? I felt a bit like that yesterday. Day started off okay, the weather was nice, even at 6.30 in the morning and I decided as I mentioned earlier in the week to take myself off on the train. I'd even done some research on the web the night before and a day out to Great Malvern and Hereford looked appealing and do-able in a day. Planned the trains I would need to catch and knew which bus to get from home to get me to the station in time.

I wasn't feeling very cheerful yesterday, not with Friday's news at work - still got a job, just not the one I am doing now and I am not at all happy about that. Probably spoke my mind a little too forcefully as well and feeling a mix of anger, frustration, disappointment and anxiety about the future. My mood didn't really lift during the day and perhaps that along with everything else wasn't conducive to a day of 'getting away from it all.'

Anyhows, got up, dressed, had breakfast. Packed the things I needed the night before, so just needed to grab my bag and wait for the bus...which went sailing by as I left my flat, 5 minutes early! Okay, not to worry, I can walk through to the other main route and there's bound to be another bus. Sure enough, there would be, but for not twenty minutes which would be too late to make my train. So, with just enough time to spare, I decided to walk to Bletchley station, which is the nearer of the two stations I use.

Hot, sweaty but relieved I arrived at Bletchley with about 5 minutes to spare to get my ticket and train. Had ticket in my hand, just about ready to head off to get the train, when the fire alarm went off, station evacuated in a chaotic and hopelessly disorganised way. Turns out it was nothing more than the cappuccino machine in the coffee bar, which had set the alarm off. However, of course in the meantime the train I was meant to catch came into the station, stopped and sailed off again. So there went my plan to get to Hereford. It was still possible but I decided it probably wouldn't have been worthwhile.

Subsequent to missing my planned train, I had long waits for connections at both Milton Keynes Central and Northampton. Plan B came into action whilst I was waiting at Northampton and I had some vague idea of heading out to Crewe or Stafford. The connection would be okay at New Street or at least it was until the train I was on from Northampton was delayed due to signalling problems between Rugby and Coventry so I missed my connection from New Street.

By the time I got to Birmingham New Street it was time for Plan C, although I had no Plan C and was by now thoroughly pissed off. I very nearly just got the next train home but decided that would be an expensive waste of a day. If nothing else I was going to get value out of my West Midlands Day Ranger ticket. So I spent the day listlessly exploring the West Midlands by train, not enjoying any of it, my mind elsewhere and my anger and frustration at work on Friday compounded by the plans that had gone awry earlier in the day.

I suppose if nothing else, I should have a contingency plan in place in the future and at least make a day of it when I am in a better mood.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Thanks for the kind comments about the new look to the blog although I am having second thoughts about listing my favourite films, soundtracks and books on the main page. The problem is, they are lists that are neither complete nor fixed in stone. Only earlier this evening I was cursing the fact that I didn't mention Magnolia amongst my favourite films - it should be on there! I'll need to add it. I've tried though in picking my favourites to choose books, films and soundtracks, which have meant something both at the time I read, saw or heard them and which still make me think back to that first encounter. Maybe they elicited a particular emotion or feeling, connected with me and continue to do so, or in the case of soundtracks generally inspired and continue to inspire or bring pleasure. At the moment I am listening to some tracks from The Mission, which is not only a fabulous film (should be on that list - did I put it on there?) but a beautiful score too. Its the sort of music that I like to listen too when I need to feel uplifted or energised and it does that every time.

I could do with something uplifting at work at the moment. This Friday is when we get told who is, in management speak 'at risk of redundancy' or in plain English, who will no longer have a job. The uncertainty has crippled morale and a lot of people are feeling very uneasy, worried and concerned about their future. It is particularly hard on those with families or those of an age where they are too young to retire but perhaps will find getting another job difficult because of their age. Despite whatever the legislation or the prevailing view is, I think ageism still exists in the workplace.

For me, I am in common with many of my other colleagues, as anxious about the future if I am spared the axe of redundancy as I am of going. And of course there is the knowledge of the difficult days to come. While Friday may end some of the uncertainty in that it will be clear who has a future with the company and who doesn't, it really isn't the end especially as those being made redundant will most likely have to work their notice periods.

If nothing else this has all focused my mind on what I want and I can honestly say that I am getting zero job satisfaction from what I am doing now. The trouble is I am firmly ensconced in my comfort zone at the moment, which may seem at odds with my previous comment, however the point is no matter how demoralising things are now, I am at the place where I've always worked; the culture, the surroundings and the people are familiar. It creates a false sense of well-being and comfort. I need to break away and I know that I must follow it through this time. There can be no half-hearted thoughts of waiting another six months to see if things improve. I've been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

I really have no clue as to what I want to do and perhaps that has always been my problem. I don't harbour ambitions to get anywhere significant and perhaps this lack of drive and motivation to achieve a dream is why I've just muddled along in my career and accepted so much crap over the years. If nothing else I need to get away for my own self-esteem. To prove to myself that I am worthy of something better, a bigger challenge and fresh opportunities. I need to get away from the nagging doubt that I always have that I am just not good enough at anything I do. I know I am capable of more and I need to prove it to myself, if nobody else.

I've decided that this Saturday I am going to have a day out to myself, something that I haven't done for a while. Whatever the news is on Friday I know I am going to be upset. There are no two ways about it. Getting out for the day will take my mind away from all that. I am looking at taking the train to Stratford Upon Avon for Great Malvern/Hereford. I fancy a long journey and going somewhere that I haven't been before. Now all that is needed is to keep that in focus and get through the next few days without too much worrying and stress.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

New look

I've decided to refresh the look of my blog and the result is what you are seeing now. A different template and a good one I think, with not too much clutter and nice delineation between the different parts of the page. I've also added some new lists of some of my favourite things and added a new blog link.

Let me know what you think of the changes.

Recent Films

The last three Saturday evenings have been rare opportunities when I have been at home to catch up on DVD's that I've bought. Hence, I've finished season five of the West Wing, started Firefly and caught three films - Mean Creek, The Remains of the Day and Casino Royale (2006).

Mean Creek
Normally if I see a DVD cover which is emblazoned with praise for a film it will immediately put me off. After all if a film is that good why does it need to sell itself so heavily? Mean Creek though was a bargain at £3 and what I'd remembered from the trailer around the time of its release, it looked as it if might be quite good. I wasn't disappointed.

This is a clever film, with an excellent young cast and a powerful message. Rory Culkin is ostensibly the lead, Sam, who is being bullied by the at first very unlikeable but tragically misunderstood George (Josh Peck). Sam's brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) decides that enough is enough and together with the troubled Marty, a strikingly good Scott Mechlowicz, they decide to teach George a lesson. So, the three boys along with Sam's girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder) and Clyde (Ryan Kelley) convince George to come with them on a boat trip to celebrate Sam's birthday. Once out on the boat they have planned a cruel and humiliating revenge on George however the plans rapidly spin out of control with terrible consequences. The boys then have to deal with the consequences of their actions and this is where the film takes an ugly and tragic turn. Its a downbeat ending, one where there is no easy answers or immediate moral redemption. All these young actors are exceptional and the story is well written and provides much food for thought.

The Remains of the Day
Another film with a downbeat ending and one that left me sobbing into my tissues by the end, the hopeless sentimentalist that I am. Anthony Hopkins plays Stevens, a butler in a gorgeous looking mansion, servant to Lord Darlington (James Fox) who falls inexorably in love with Emma Thompson's housekeeper (Miss Kenton). But this being a very British film with stiff upper lips all round, not least from Hopkins, it is all about repressed and unrequited love. Not a lot happens but it is a sumptuous study of power and the aristocracy with some political intrigue thrown in for good measure. At its heart though is the restrained relationship between Hopkins and Thompson, which is told in flashback and is probably the most tragic love affair since Brief Encounter. The final farewell is heartbreaking and what adds extraordinary potency and pathos to this moment, is the repressed emotions, the throwing away of happiness to maintain a very English commitment to doing what is 'right and proper.'

Casino Royale (2006)
I could not have a chosen a film more opposite in emotional terms to The Remains of the Day. This is a film that left me feeling as emotionally detached as Daniel Craig's Bond, which makes the frankly bizarre after-thought falling in love with Vesper Lynde at the end of the film implausible. But then I thought the whole film was implausible unless considered only as a slice of escapist fantasy. Alternatively, was it just one long commercial? At times I felt so as yet again another close up shot of that Sony Ericsson mobile or Virgin (was that a strange cameo from Richard Branson I saw?), Google, Sony (TV's and DVD's this time), Ford, Airbus etc. It was a like a gorgeously shot advert with bits of excitement and action in between. The dialogue was not as clever as it thought it was and while I smiled a couple of times, more often than not it was at the crassness of it all rather than irony. And what was it all about? The plot was convoluted and didn't seem to join up in the middle and there was some heavy handed exposition from Judi Dench's M along the way, which tried to make sense of it all. Probably I was expecting too much and I guess I should have disengaged brain before watching. One thing I did notice was some of the Italian locations - parts were filmed around Lake Como and looked remarkably similar to the place where Anakin & Padme stumbled into love on Naboo in Attack of the Clones!