“I really felt very responsible about taking care of Drew on the set and going, ‘Ok Drew, now you know this is a scary scene but we’re just acting.’
“I really felt very responsible about taking care of Drew on the set and going, ‘Ok Drew, now you know this is a scary scene but we’re just acting.’
“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing when you look at the sky at night.”
The Little Prince by pilot and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (June 29, 1900 – July 31, 1944)
HE took a giant leap for mankind and proved that anything is possible – even those fantastical things that are out of this world.
The first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, has passed away at the age of 82.
The American astronaut was 38 on July 20, 1969 when as commander of the Apollo 11 mission he touched down on the Sea of Tranquility.
He then stepped out onto the surface of the moon and declared: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”
His footprints are still there today, a reminder of the steps and leaps humanity has made in making sense of the universe we inhabit.
The pilot’s adventure to the moon, and that of his cohort Buzz Aldrin, is perhaps the most amazing achievement known to man.
But Neil was a modest man who was uncomfortable with public acclaim. He felt his pioneering trip was one that had symbolically been made by the whole of mankind.
He said: “Looking back, we were really very privileged to live in that thin slice of history where we changed how man looks at himself and what he might become and where he might go.”
Not even the sky’s the limit!
When asked what it was like being on the moon for some two-and-a-half hours, Neil said: “It’s an interesting place to be. I recommend it.”
Neil’s family said: “For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple request.
“Honour his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”
How lucky we are to have such a magnificent viewpoint from our little rock that floats through space.
And what a joy it is to look skyward and consider the wonder and magic of it all.
Adventures are always into the unknown and are made of the stuff of dreams.
But Neil and Buzz, and all the other explorers throughout history from Sir Walter Raleigh to Amelia Earhart to Sir Ranulph Fiennes, have demonstrated that there are no boundaries when the human spirit is in full force.
Neil’s family also said: “While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.”
As NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity sends back images from the red planet, perhaps the next landmark will be a human leaving footprints there.
It’s something experts believe will happen in due time, maybe before the end of the century.
But that is only possible thanks to the small steps and giant leaps that have paved the way.
“By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show.”
Samuel Johnson – author (September 18, 1709 – December 13, 1784)
LONDON is electric at the moment.
Maybe it was the brief few days of a heatwave – and by heatwave I mean sunny and over 20 degrees for a couple of days – that has charged the atmosphere with palpable energy but Britain seems Great again.
It appears David Cameron has fixed the country! Nice one Dave. Cheers mate.
There is a definite celebratory air but then we do have a few big things to get our knickers in a twist over this summer such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and best of all the fact that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is being shown on an outdoor screen at Somerset House. Pimms o’clock or what?
This weekend the bunting is adorning the country’s buildings and will no doubt also become attached to several drunk chaps who find themselves wrapped around lampposts with small triangles of the Union Jack.
As the Queen marks 60 years of her reign and listens to the likes of all her knights and dames – Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Shirley Bassey and erm, JLS – in a concert outside Buckingham Palace, scores of Brits will be partying like it’s 1999.
There will be picnics in parks, trestle tables piled sky-high with dry potted meat and cucumber sarnies and pubs filled to bursting with folks making the most of a four-day bank holiday weekend. God bless the Queen.
Not that Brits need an excuse to go down the boozer. If things are good – sink a pint, if things are bad – sink a pint. You can, of course, substitute a pint for a good old cuppa – ideally accompanied by a chocolate Hobnob.
One nibble and a few seconds later the whole packet’s gone.
Most folks I know are staying well away from London during the Olympics. A mass exodus is going on to anywhere but the Big Smoke from July 27 to August 12.
London’s Mayor Boris will love it because he’ll be able to get around on his bike without being harangued or harassed.
My only worry is that visitors will think they’ve spotted one of the Fraggles pedalling around like a lunatic.
The only people who’ll be in London during the Olympics, besides Boris, are the athletes – who’ll be nowhere near the centre – and Americans, as far as I can discern, who love Britain.
We have great music, great comedy, great literature, great history, great architecture, great Press, great greenery, great nights out, great breakfasts, great biscuits, great tea, terrible weather, poor transport services, and constant moaning but, deep down, there is that indomitable spirit.
I’ll hammer home my point by adding hot buttery crumpets, bangers and mash, Marmite, Twirls, and words and phrases like ‘luv’, ‘alright treacle’, ‘me old china’ and ‘flower’ – especially when men use them between themselves as terms of endearment.
Then there’s Bonfire Night, Sunday lunch and James Bond movies on a Sunday afternoon.
And though we’re a small island that is almost three times smaller than the state of Texas, we are home to the oldest football club in the world, we discovered the Periodic Table and the first Briton in space was a woman. We invented the telephone, television and even the World Wide Web.
Apologies, I’m sorry, but Britain really is Great.
And here, in a snapshot of a couple of days in London, are yet more reasons why…
BRITAIN’S brightest comics are gathered in an underground bunker near Old Street Tube.
It sounds very Keep Calm and Carry On but the only danger afoot here is not getting your pizza delivered at half time.
Not that we’ve ordered pizza – me and my pal will geekily share an egg mayo sarnie during the interval.
Our other two friends though have ordered the pizza from the restaurant upstairs. Oh the joys of living in the 21st century.
This is the City Arts and Music Project and we’re here for the Laughing Boy Comedy Club where comedians from Channel 4’s Stand Up For The Week are trying out their latest material.
The sarnies we’re eating are a remnant from earlier in the day when I met up with a colleague for a cuppa at a nearby Pret A Manger.
As we were leaving, we were delighted when the manageress asked us if we wanted to take any of the sandwiches “because the charity can’t come today and they’ll all go to waste otherwise”.
In that truly British way we spent about five minutes saying, “Really? Are you sure?” before going for the least extravagant thing on offer. Not for us a hoisin duck wrap or a wild crayfish and rocket bloomer.
There is that apologetic demeanour at work in full glory.
I apologise yet again to the doorman at the comedy club for having to ascend the Bond-like evil subterranean lair to use my phone.
I’m very polite so I don’t rudely use my phone when I’m in the company of friends.
Anyway, I was using my phone to text my friend where we were because the place – being about 100 foot below the streets of London – was somewhat tricky to locate.
Luckily I am naturally good with directions so can impart our whereabouts with ease.
It’s always the folks who have an iPhone who ask you where the train station is.
You’re the one with the piece of satellite communication! Use it!
It seems technology is shrinking intellect. How can you not just know north, south, east and west?
I retreat into Blofeld’s den and settle myself for the show.
The compere Suzi Ruffell is brilliant.
But then, for me, she didn’t have to be.
I don’t know what it is but there’s something about seeing live stand-up comedy with your friends that is hilarious. Even if the comics aren’t funny.
Perhaps they pump laughing gas into these places or maybe it’s just the fact you can always share a giggle with your pals.
If the comedian is funny you laugh together at his or her observations. If they’re not, you guffaw in embarrassment for them or chuckle because you’re reminded of something else.
The comedians on the bill tonight are particular favourites anyway. Then again, I am a big fan of British comedy full stop.
It’s just so… good. And so… funny.
As part of my job I’m lucky to have interviewed and spent time with the likes of David Mitchell, Kayvan Novak, Johnny Vegas, Nicholas Parsons, Kevin Bishop and Robert Powell (think The Detectives not Jesus or Holby City) at various events like the TV BAFTAs, the British Comedy Awards, and the Loaded Laftas.
It’s like being in your very own sitcom, hanging out with these guys.
Like how David Mitchell became Mark Corrigan when accosted by a beautiful blonde lady at the bar.
Despite her advances, he told her: “It just wouldn’t work because, well, you’re you, and I’m… well I’m me.”
Mitchell and Robert Webb’s BAFTA-winning comedy Peep Show is a personal favourite of mine.
It’s sometimes nice to have Mark and Jez on in the background when I’m tidying up or washing the pots. It’s like I’m their third housemate.
One of the most memorable scenes for me is when they go on a double date to the theatre to see a rubbish play.
Mark: “If this was on television, no one would be watching.”
Jez: “Oh God, why aren’t we watching television?”
Mark: “I can’t believe coming here cost more than a film.”
Jez: “I’ve got Heat on DVD at home. We’re watching this, when for less money we could be watching Robert De Niro AND Al Pacino.”
Mark: “I’m going to pretend I am watching Heat.”
Jez: “Ok. Let’s pretend we’re just watching Heat.”
This is a sentiment I’ve had at various events from time to time and Mark and Jez’s Heat tactic is one I use.
I used the Heat tactic when I went to see Jay-Z – or Jay-Zed as I prefer to call him, in a similar way I call Will.I.Am William – and Kanye West at London’s O2.
Obviously these two fellas are very good at what they do and sell millions of records but they’re not exactly my cup of tea. I quite like some of the melodies – mainly because they’ve been nicked from songs I like such as Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger – but I’m not such a big fan of the words or the way in which the words are shouted rather than sung.
You may be wondering why I went to see these blokes if they’re not music to my ears.
I went as a guest of my friend along with a load of journalists and PRs and watched from a box right at the back of the arena which had big comfy sofas.
Perfect. I could sit on one of the settees and pretend I was watching De Niro and Pacino at work.
I did wander onto the balcony area though to see the show. And luckily, because of the giant images of the likes of sharks and leopards, I could also pretend I was watching Planet Earth with the true legend that is Sir David Attenborough.
My mind wandered to the privilege I had of meeting this great man and him assuring me that he wouldn’t retire.
It lasted a while but then the noise was too much. Attenborough whispers for goodness sake. He doesn’t, as far as I know, rap.
So then, thanks to the neon light projections and the smattering of electronic samples I pretended I was watching French synthesiser supremo Jean Michel Jarre.
Oxygene Part IV anyone?
The encore went on and on and on. It was the same song done about six times. I’m not just saying that because I’m not an aficionado of the music, it genuinely was just one song on repeat.
Clearly it’s a crowd fave because they went crazy for it.
Mr Zed and Mr West acknowledge this because they shouted out for about 15 minutes, “That s*** cray.”
And just to reiterate the fact, the words kept popping up on the screens.
I was in no doubt they were saying, “That s*** cray.”
Hang on a minute though. How lazy has the world become that we have to shorten a two-syllable word?
I’m later informed by someone more knowledgeable than me that ‘cray’ is not short for crazy but instead refers to the 60s London crime lords the Kray twins.
I don’t know if that’s true but if it is in a way that’s worse because they spelled it with a ‘C’ instead of a ‘K’.
I’m sure Monsieur Jarre wouldn’t have made such a schoolboy error.
Maybe though there’s another explanation.
Perhaps Jay and K had a similar experience to the one I had at Pret and had been offered free sarnies when they nipped in for a brew before one of their gigs.
“Take any of the sandwiches,” the manageress told them.
“Any? Any at all?” Kanye asked.
“Yes, otherwise they’ll just go to waste.”
“Ok, I’ll take the wild crayfish and rocket bloomer. That s*** cray,” said Jay-Z enthusiastically.
“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
From Macbeth by William Shakespeare (written around 1605)
The moon and sun will engage in a spectacular display which perhaps exquisitely illustrates the idea of the “cosmic dance” in Fritjof Capra’s book The Tao of Physics.
In North America today, at the Grand Canyon, is an eclipse which hasn’t been seen in America for 18 years.
As the moon moves across the face of the sun much of it will be obscured, leaving a ring of fire.
I was lucky to get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to stand in the midst of beautiful countryside in England back on August 11, 1999 and experience a total eclipse of the sun.
This is where, because of the moon’s position in relation to the Earth, all of the sun appears covered and a halo of light is seen.
The last one in the UK before that had been in 1927 and the next one will be in 2090.
I remember standing in a remote area surrounded by rainbow-coloured flowers and comforting trees with someone special as everything suddenly became quite eerie.
The scales tipped to the extreme as the moon began shielding us from the sun.
You don’t notice what’s there until it’s gone and up until the eclipse began the chirping of dozens of birds was a pleasant but unnoticeable part of the white noise all around.
Not only was it the bird song that stopped but it was as if traffic stopped and the breeze stilled too.
All was quiet.
Even brazen squirrels had vanished.
Shadows were dark cartoon versions of themselves.
A silent cold descended turning the pleasant summer’s day into a grey autumnal morning.
The chill that fell was perceived even by the person I was with.
It was in that void that you realised what is.
It was as if time stopped, and as a result of the emptiness you felt bereft in every cell of your body.
It was like a loneliness and sadness of Wuthering Heights proportions encircling every nerve.
I still to this day can feel it when I draw upon the memory. It was other-worldly but very much of this earth.
When time began again it was as if the clocks had been reset.
As everything else had gone during the eclipse, so too it seems had the breath from my body. My autonomic nervous system had switched off and forgotten to breathe.
As the sun’s rays drove the shadows away, I took what seemed like my first inhale.
Everything is in a constant state of flux – even during an eclipse where everything seems like it’s on pause.
But the quiet, still, wistful moments of the eclipse – when things aren’t as clear as usual – are perhaps when we can pause to rethink, recharge and reset.
Everything matters and nothing matters.
After all, life is but a walking shadow, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
* Please take a look at the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research. It promotes and funds alternatives to animal testing in biomedical research and testing.
“There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson – transcendentalist (25 May, 1803 – 27 April, 1882)
THERE is a perception that the British are obsessed with tea. It’s true.
Once one cup of strong English Breakfast tea (bag still in, a dash of milk and absolutely no sugar) is done, it’s time to think about the next.
The kettle’s forever on. Its whistle is music to my ears for it means I’ll soon be sitting with a cup of delight. It has to be hotter than the sun with the steam rising up from it like solar flares.
Whatever way you take tea, it’s a mainstay of British culture.
There is nothing that can’t be solved with a good old brew.
It’s part of the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ mentality.
The mantra Keep Calm and Carry On was emblazoned on one of three posters created by the British government’s Ministry of Information as war broke out in 1939.
The others read, ‘Freedom Is In Peril, Defend It With All Your Might,’ and ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory.’
It’s the stiff upper lip demeanour Brits are famed for.
Whenever I fell over as a child and grazed my knees, I would get hugs, kisses and a nice hot cup of tea.
Somehow everything would be right with the world again and I would soon head back out to play, my wounds forgotten.
Tea, along with laughter, is the best medicine.
In Britain, whenever you return home from a hard day’s work, an afternoon stroll or from a night out on the tiles, from anywhere or anything, you put the kettle on.
It’s the first thing a Brit does once they go through their front door.
When a friend comes to visit often they will call you when they’re about five minutes away asking you to, “Stick the kettle on will you?”
It’s part of the culture; it’s a way of life.
Tea was introduced to the British Isles via the coffee houses of the 17th century.
It was 355 years ago that Thomas Garway, who owned two London coffee houses popular with writers, journalists, doctors and scientists, offered tea to his punters.
He sold both cups of tea and leaves so they could make their own brews at home.
A few years later he took out a broadsheet advert extolling the virtues of tea at “making the body active and lusty” and “preserving perfect health until extreme old age.”
By 1700 hundreds of coffee houses were selling tea.
Pub landlords were annoyed because people were favouring tea over ale and liquor and the government were miffed because they depended on revenue from taxes on alcohol.
But by 1750 it was established as the nation’s favourite drink.
One of our greatest authors and journalists, George Orwell, even wrote an essay in 1946 giving step by step instructions on how to make that perfect cuppa.
Entitled A Nice Cup of Tea and appearing in the Evening Standard, Orwell lists eleven “golden rules” on how to make “the perfect cup of tea”.
Here is how Orwell liked his tea, and I can’t help but agree with him:
“First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.
“Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britannia-ware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.
“Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.
“Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realised on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea-lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.
“Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.
“Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.
“Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.
“Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold — before one has well started on it.
“Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.
“Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.
“Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt.
“Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.
“Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.”
Many of my friends are obsessed with coffee, and although I partake in a cup very occasionally I find it diametrically different to tea.
For me, coffee is like a storm in a teacup. It gees you up, gets you going, sets you off like a spinning top.
Tea represents meditation in a mug. It’s soothing, relaxing and touches the soul. It’s liquid sunshine.
It’s a real treat for me to hold a huge molten-hot mug of tea in both hands as the steam floats up in front of my face. Often I am inspired and this is what transpired when I was last enjoying a cup of bliss…
BEING: Journeying rivers flow quickly to eternal infinity, etching kaleidoscopic ground through the landscape of destiny, north to east from morn to night, but I look at the stars and realise they’re you and me.
“An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses… whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea…”
Marcel Proust – novelist (10 July, 1871 – 18 November, 1922)
* If these words have struck a chord with you and you would like to make a donation, please go to cerebra.org.uk. Cerebra is a UK charity which improves the lives of children with brain-related neurological conditions. It uses (non-animal) research and unique treatments and helps children and their carers.
“The name’s Bond, James Bond.” (007, born November 16)
AROUND this time of year 60 years ago former journalist Ian Fleming was writing up to 2000 words each day which would, just a few weeks later, come together to bring to the world Bond, James Bond.
And a decade later, on January 16, 1962, filming started on the first James Bond movie Dr. No.
“The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning,” is the opening line to Casino Royale – the first in Fleming’s series of adventures featuring 007.
The tome was published in 1953 and within a month nearly 5000 copies were sold in the midst of rave reviews.
Live and Let Die came out a year later, followed by Moonraker in 1955.
Fleming, who worked for Reuters and the Sunday Times, subsequently published a book a year until his death at the age of 56 in 1964.
Dr. No, which transferred Bond’s escapades from the page to the screen, was written in 1958.
And it was in part down to US President John F. Kennedy – a huge 007 fan – who helped get Bond onto film.
JFK loved Fleming’s books and he promoted the character to his friends in Hollywood, including Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman who bought the rights.
Originally Cary Grant was wanted but it was Sean Connery (now Sir) who eventually slipped on the tuxedo.
In Dr. No, Connery walked onto the screen as the dashing secret agent with a penchant for vodka martinis shaken not stirred and intoxicated fans with his charisma.
The film saw Bond investigating a colleague’s disappearance in Jamaica.
He happens upon Bond girl Honey Ryder, played by Ursula Andress, who emerges from the ocean wearing a racy white bikini in what would become one of cinema’s most iconic scenes.
The duo are capture by shady SPECTRE organisation scientist Dr. No who is sabotaging the US space programme.
Bond of course makes a daring escape and ends up sailing away with Honey as the villain’s lair explodes.
French actresses Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve were both in the running to play Bond’s ill-fated wife Tracy in that film but it ultimately went to Diana Rigg.
What else makes a quintessential Bond movie?
Baddies, of course, who are usually the owner of a fluffy white cat (Blofeld), a set of metal gnashers (Jaws) or rather lethal footwear (Rosa Klebb).
And it could have been a very different story if David Bowie had accepted the role of Max Zorin in A View To A Kill rather than Christopher Walken.
Then there’s the gadgets, a selection of which Q gives to Bond who miraculously uses them all in the course of his mission.
How about the Bell Textron jet pack from Thunderball? According to Bond, “No well-dressed man should be without one.”
The crocodile submarine from Octopussy? Brilliant.
And some gizmos have multiple uses – like the magnetic Rolex that can deflect bullets and unzip a lady’s dress. Genius.
And what about the cool motors like the white Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me? Or the cars in The Man With The Golden Gun. Not only is the AMC Matador one of the coolest things on four wheels, it also transforms into a plane. And the AMC Hornet performs one of the most stunning stunts in movie history – a corkscrew twist over a river during a high-octane getaway.
There’s also the peerless Aston Martin DB5 which comes with an array of modifications across several Bond movies including revolving number plates, tyre shredders, rocket boosters and a glove box that keeps the Bolly on ice. Of course.
It’s Bond’s jet-set lifestyle that keeps fans hooked too.
If he’s not wooing a beauty inside an iceberg submarine in Siberia (which was actually Iceland), he’s in the French Quarter in New Orleans trying to outwit Kananga. If he’s not in the Monsoon Palace in Udaipur in India surrounded by a bevy of babes, he’s in Thailand playing a lethal game of hide and seek with Scaramanga.
Another key element to a Bond movie is the theme tune.
Many artists wrote and recorded songs for Bond bosses to consider as theme tunes – if only Saint Etienne’s version of Tomorrow Never Dies had been used…
Paul McCartney & Wings’ Live and Let Die was the first Bond theme to be nominated for an Academy Award and should have won.
Vocal vamp Shirley Bassey was so good she did it three times – Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker.
And Carly Simon summed Bond up when she crooned, “Nobody Does It Better.”
Why does nobody do it better than Bond?
It’s been said time and time again that men want to be him and women want to be with him. If you’re a fan it’s more like a mixture of the two, whether you’re male or female.
He’s exciting, adventurous, intelligent, quick-witted, dapper, charming and very old-school British.
It’s why Miss Moneypenny can’t resist telling him in You Only Live Twice: “Bond, the password chosen for this mission is ‘I love you.’ Say it back to me so I can be sure you’ve got it.”
He’s certainly got it. He’s a human Swiss Army knife – he has something for everyone in every situation.
In From Russia With Love, Fleming wrote: “Name: Bond, James. Height: 183 cm, weight: 76kg; slim build; eyes: blue; hair: black; scar down right cheek & on left shoulder; all-round athlete; expert pistol shot, boxer, knife-thrower; does not use disguises. Languages: French and German. Smokes heavily (NB: special cigarettes with three gold bands); vices: drink, but not to excess, and women.”
This year, the 50th anniversary of the release of the first Bond movie, is set to be something special.
Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said last week: “We have a whole programme of exciting activities planned for our 50th anniversary year.”
According to reports, all six Bonds will come face to face for the first time after the autumn premiere of the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall.
MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment are launching BOND 50, featuring all 22 Bond movies on Blu-ray for the first time.
Even the Royal Mail are marking the occasion with a set of commemorative movie poster stamps.
Craig recently told how he’s lining up a treat for Bond fans in Skyfall.
He said he and director Sam Mendes were planning something of an homage to the hit movie franchise.
He said: “He’s a huge Bond fan like me. We’ve been working on it quietly for two years.
“We’ve been taking all the favourite bits of our favourite Bond movies and putting them together so we can reintroduce them in this movie.”
Sounds like a licence to thrill!
“We have all the time in the world.” (James Bond to wife Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
* Sir Roger Moore is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. If you were shaken and stirred by this prose, please visit unicef.org
“All you had hoped for, all you had, you gave…”
Sir John Stanhope Arkwright’s (10 July, 1872 – 19 September, 1954) lyrics to O Valiant Hearts
11/11/11. Remembrance Day. When we honour those who bravely gave so much.
A day to take time out and ponder and be grateful. A day to meditate on freedom. Freedom to be, freedom to live your life, freedom to follow your dreams.
Some years ago I was introduced to some words of wisdom by the late Nadine Stair of Louisville, Kentucky. She was asked, at the age of 85, what she would do if she could live her life over again.
“I’d make more mistakes next time,” she said. “I’d relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been on this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.
“You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
“I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, and a raincoat. If I had to do it over again, I would travel lighter than I have.
“If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds and I would pick more daisies.”
I have Nadine’s words pinned up at home and since I first set eyes upon them I have tried to live by them. And as a result I have had some amazing moments.
The gist of what Nadine relayed is to live life to the full, embrace all experiences and say yes to opportunities; to give your all.
On a day where I’ll be wearing my remembrance poppy, I vow I’ll pick more and more daisies.
* If you have become inspired to pick more daisies after reading this then please make a donation to the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal which supports those who have served or are serving in the British Armed Forces and their families. To quote the British Prime Minister David Cameron: “We all wear the poppy with pride, even if we don’t approve of the wars people were fighting in, to honour the fact these people sacrificed their lives for us.”
“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”
Mark Twain – author (30 November, 1835 – 21 April, 1910)
IT was the 100th birthday of ‘The First Lady of Television’ Lucille Ball recently (August 6).
This beautiful and engaging woman brought laughter and joy to countless people across the globe.
Her 1950s TV show, I Love Lucy, in which she starred with real-life husband Desi Arnaz, is still shown in disparate countries around the world.
The black and white comedy, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in October, is timeless in its appeal.
The continued popularity of the show is largely down to its star Ms Ball, whose carefree and childlike demeanour towards seemingly perplexing situations left viewers in stitches.
Had she been alive today, she surely would still be making us laugh.
They say laughter is the best medicine. It actually really is.
There is a wealth of scientific evidence that engaging your funny bone keeps your body and mind in tip top shape.
Laughter releases endorphins which have pain-relieving effects on the body.
Studies have proved laughter is a great boost to the immune system – increasing cells which attack viruses and fight diseases.
Stress hormones are killed by laughter and it also reduces blood-sugar levels.
Evidence from a American College of Cardiology meeting several years ago found that laughter is good for your heart and brain because it helps blood vessels carrying vital oxygen to these organs to function better. It also helps speed up wounds and infections.
The University of Maryland’s Michael Miller, M.D. said that his study showed laughter was as good for people’s arteries as aerobic exercise.
He told Psychology Today: “Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is probably good for the vascular system.”
A report in ScienceDaily.com last year found that having a good laugh keeps you healthy from now and into your later years.
In the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) study which comprised of health records and blood samples over seven years of 53,500 people, project leader Professor Sven Svebak found that: “There is reason to believe that sense of humor continues to have a positive effect on mental health and social life, even after people have become retirees, although the positive effect on life expectancy could not be shown after the age of 75. At that point, genetics and biological aging are of greater importance.”
He continued: “But it is not enough to be full of laughter. Humour is all about ways of thinking and often occurs in a process or in dialogue with others. It does not need to be externalized.
“Commonly, people with the same sense of humour tend to enjoy themselves together and can communicate humour without huge gestures. A twinkle in the eye can be more than enough.”
Lucille Ball was an extraordinary woman who was stunning behind her goofy physicality and witty within her outwardly youthful and dizzy humour. She certainly had a twinkle in her eye.
“I’m happy that I have brought laughter because I have been shown by many the value of it in so many lives, in so many ways.”
Lucille Ball – comedienne, actress, model (6 August, 1911 – 26 April, 1989)
“All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”
Leonardo da Vinci – true Renaissance man (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519)
IT’S a momentous time for the exploration of our universe.
This week it’s half a century since a human was launched into the final frontier. On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the Earth. Tuesday is also the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle’s first mission. The Space Shuttle retires soon.
Next month it’s the 50th anniversary of the first American in space – Alan Shepard – and 20 years since the first Briton, Helen Sharman, went into the great beyond.
Last week Virgin Galactic used the beautiful backdrop of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to showcase SpaceShipTwo – the craft that will take space tourists about 60 miles up and allow them to experience weightlessness next year.
Buzz Aldrin told me space exploration was how we as humans understand ourselves.
Speaking about NASA’s planned mission to colonise Mars, he said: “It’s a way off yet – about 20 or 30 years.
“It will go down in history. It’s too expensive to bring people back so they will have to commit themselves to going there for good. Eventually humans will be born on Mars.”
He added: “We’ve always looked beyond the next mountain as the human race. It’s how we learn about ourselves.”
But while we’ve made many great leaps and bounds for mankind over the past 50-odd years, let us be clear that there is still much about our world and the universe that we don’t know.
There is about 95% of the stuff in the universe we have no idea what it is; so-called dark energy and dark matter. This ‘fifth element’ has been dubbed ‘quintessence’ – a term first coined by Aristotle to describe this pure and pervasive force.
Thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope – which the Space Shuttle launched – we discovered that over time, the expansion of the universe has quickened. This is a huge anomaly because the effect of gravity should mean that either the expansion slows or it would stop and then start imploding resulting in the ‘big crunch’. Why isn’t gravity stopping the universe from flying apart?
Could this quintessence be consciousness? And is this why our universe is inexplicably expanding when, according to traditional physics laws it really shouldn’t? Is our increasing collective consciousness driving it?
In the quantum world, the observer is the key component.
The famous double-split experiment, to try and find out whether light travels as waves or particles, found that the same process produces different results depending on whether it’s being watched or not.
In very simplistic terms, when a photon of light is shot through a vertical slit, the pattern that emerges the other side is of a vertical line. If there are two parallel slits, a wave pattern with interference between the photons emerges. That in itself is bizarre. However what’s even “spookier”, to paraphrase Albert Einstein, is that if detectors are placed at the point of exit on each slit, two vertical lines are the result. Thus the act of observation changes the results – it’s as if the photon realises it’s being observed and produces the expected effect.
The Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment also shows how two very different states can exist at once.
A cat is locked in a steel box along with a radioactive atom. If the atom decays a hammer is released, smashing a tube of hydrocyanic acid and killing the cat. What happens to the cat is bound up with the wave function of the atom. While the box is closed we have no way of knowing whether the cat is alive or not; it exists in both states at once. As this is theoretical, thankfully no real cats were harmed!
In essence, everything is in a state where infinite possibilities all exist at once and it’s only with the act of observation (which perhaps carries with it expectation) that the wave becomes a particle. It suggests that we create our world, our universe, our reality, by our observation, our awareness of it.
In new movie Source Code Jake Gyllenhaal plays a kind of human Schrödinger’s cat. The movie deals with the notion of a computer-generated reality as well as parallel universes and parallel realities; the branching off of a new reality depending on the choices you make.
The many-worlds theory views reality as continually branching off, like endless firework waterfalls, each subsequent spark branching off into new universes that correspond to each of the possible outcomes.
Could the mysterious 95% of our universe be forces from a parallel universe, or indeed a number of others, exerting a pull on our own?
In string theorist Brian Greene’s recent release The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos he posits a number of theories including the idea that there are an infinite number of universes, or multiverses.
He told Bloomberg.com: “The math we’re studying today, which emerges from Einstein’s work, suggests our universe may not be the only universe.
“Assuming that space goes on infinitely far, in any finite chunk matter can only arrange itself in a finite number of ways, like cards in a deck.
“You and I are just a configuration of particles, so sooner or later we’re going to repeat. Matter can almost repeat its configuration but not repeat it identically.
“Your physical body may repeat, but your mental configuration can be a little bit different, so there might be an evil version of you, and a version that loves skydiving.”
And in an interview with New York Times Magazine he said: “Some [parallel universes] might have museums and restaurants. Some might have copies of you and me having a conversation similar to this one. Yet other universes would be vastly different. They could involve a gigantic expansive space that might be filled with other forms of matter governed by other kinds of physical laws. In one such universe, when the apple is released by a tree, it might go up instead of down.”
In a parallel universe is the you there still as conscious as the you in this universe and is the you in another parallel universe wondering about the you in this world? Or are they all just simulacra? A copy of a copy? A shadow on the cave wall? Which version is the real one? Are you a simulacrum many times removed from the original? Is there an ‘original’?
Does our energy disseminate to parallel worlds as we take a particular turn in the road? If we take a quantum perspective our energy isn’t weakened or diluted by the branch off because of the way an atom can exist in two places, two states, at the same time. So are there an infinite number of us and does each choice we make in parallel worlds result in a new parallel world ad infinitum? Are we linked to each parallel universe via our energy and thus can we transverse into another universe or is each parallel world completely shut off from each other?
The book also looks at theories that we could just be part of some advanced Matrix-like computer simulation or even be holograms in a holographic universe.
Nearly 20 years ago at the University of Paris physicist Alain Aspect and his team discovered that under certain conditions two subatomic particles separated by any amount of distance could ‘communicate’ with each other; one did the same thing the other did. They are ‘entangled’; they behave holographically, in that all the information that makes up a hologram is wholly contained in its smallest parts. At the quantum level, particles can exhibit this tendency which, along with other anomalies, has scientists wondering if this illustrates that this is a holographic universe.
Einstein said: “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
We could be in a similar state to Rachael the replicant in Blade Runner who doesn’t even realise she’s anything but human.
To the father of modern philosophy René Descartes, to be human is to have consciousness: “I think, therefore I am.”
According to the Oxford English dictionary, consciousness is: 1 – the state of being aware of and responsive to one’s surroundings; 2 – a person’s awareness or perception of something.
It seems that whatever the reality is of our world and our universe, quantum physics indicates our awareness is a fundamental part of it.
If our awareness is what makes us human does it matter what matter really is made of? Is it not the meaning we take from our world that is what makes it so for us? Is it not the choices we make, the experiences we have and how we navigate within this world that makes us who we are?
We are still exploring our own universe – from deepest space to the quantum level to our own individual consciousness. Our universe is the only one that exists for us. And the beautiful notion that quantum physics gives rise to – that everything is a bundle of endless potential – is truly out of this world.
“The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”
Eden Phillpotts – English writer (November 4, 1862 – December 29, 1960)
“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”
Rabindranath Tagore – Nobel Prize-winning Indian poet (1861 – 1941).
THE day just got a bit shorter.
The earthquake that hit Japan on Friday March 11 accelerated the Earth’s rotation and knocked time off our day.
NASA geophysicist Richard Gross found that the fault that sparked the quake slipped, redistributing the planet’s mass.
He told SPACE.com: “By changing the distribution of the Earth’s mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused the Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds.”
We may find that the aftershocks of Japan’s quake could contribute additional microseconds lost.
“In theory, anything that redistributes the Earth’s mass will change the Earth’s rotation,” Gross said.
Two other earthquakes of a similar magnitude to the 9.0 have also speeded up the Earth’s rotation and shortened the day. Last year’s Chilean quake? We lost 1.26 microseconds. The 2004 Sumatra quake? A massive 6.8 microseconds.
I should point out that a microsecond is a millionth of a second. So not that much then, huh?
But every second (or microsecond) counts and we should make the most of the grains of sand we have before they slip away forever.
It certainly seems as if we don’t have as many hours in the day and that time is speeding up. And it has seemed that way for several years now.
Some friends explain it by saying time does seem to go faster as you get older. One friend suggested that the reason why the school holidays seem to stretch before you for infinity is because when you’re 10 (or 120 months), a few months is quite a huge chunk of your life. When you’re 20 or 30 or 60 or 70 that same measurement of time is but a small fraction of it.
A child’s mind is full of wonder. You’re learning constantly and every experience is new. Your mind is engaged. Everything is full of delight because everything is so new. So time seems to move slower.
Before the days of the Internet, and in its early years, time still seemed to be running at the same rate as it always had. It felt like there were more than enough hours in the day to do everything you needed or wanted to do.
Maybe this is because we were still extremely inquisitive and in order to find out about a particular subject we would have to delve into huge and heavy musty-smelling books or experience and work things out for ourselves.
Now many technologies have removed the need to work the logic and reason muscle in our brains. With GPS (which when I have been a passenger with friends have found to be extremely illogical and frustrating) the responsibility is removed from the human and puts it squarely with the machine. Therefore the knowledge is there, externally, outside ourselves. It’s instant. We don’t have to spend time figuring it out. The time we would have spent working a route out for ourselves on a map is gone, lost forever. It’s not about the journey any more, just about the destination.
With the increased permeation of the Internet and being constantly plugged in – via your phone, on Twitter, Facebook and all the other sites and applications that imperceptibly drain your time – it feels like there isn’t enough time to do anything. That’s because many of these distractions are time vampires. You can spend hours online and are at a loss at the end to know what you’ve actually done. You’ve merely had time sucked away.
It seems as if when we’re connected, it’s as if our true selves aren’t really there. It feels as if when we give ourselves over to certain activities like spending hours uploading photos of a night out we’re merely functioning on a kind of zombie level – we’re not living in the moment.
And when you’re not living in the moment then of course time seems to fly by, because it is. This moment – the now – is all that tangibly exists. And if we aren’t living the moment, then it’s speeding past us. But at the same time, you can be so lost in something amazing, so lost in the moment that time does moves faster.
Time is linked to perception. It can be argued very strongly that time doesn’t really exist. It was Albert Einstein and his theories of special and general relativity that showed time is an ‘illusion’. What appears to be a certain unit of time for one, is completely different for another.
Einstein, who met with Tagore (the writer I quoted at the beginning of this piece) and engaged in discussions into the nature of reality with him, said: “People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Which, many scientists assert, is all the dimension of time is. They say time isn’t a concrete thing but is an abstraction solely dependent on an observer’s perspective and motion.
Go back to even Aristotle and he believed time wasn’t something that existed in of itself. He defined time as “a number of change in respect of the before and after.” To take his argument to the logical conclusion, he postulated that in order for there for to be ‘time’ there must be some being to count it. Therefore time is dependent on the observer and observers have their own vantage point.
As a result of the symbiotic relationship between time and change, Aristotle also said that anything that lasts forever doesn’t exist in time; it’s timeless.
When we think we are watching the sun set over the horizon, it has in fact already set eight or so minutes ago. The sun is 93 million miles away from Earth and light travels at a speed of 186, 282 miles per second, so it takes just over eight minutes for the light of the sun to reach us. When you think you’re watching the sun set, it’s a mirage that we take to be reality. The sun is already not there. But our experience of it in the now, not in time, is timeless.
The Japan quake has knocked ‘time’ off the day. But we lose a lot of time ourselves by not living in the moment.
The key to having enough time and making every second count is to fully appreciate the now.
When you are engaged in meaningful (by which I mean whatever is meaningful to your individual soul) activity, time is well spent. When you are fulfilling your purpose, your calling, whatever it is that feeling inside urges you to do, then you are living in the infinite moment.
When you are truly living in the now, your actions, your intentions, your energy are living in eternity. It’s all about quality not quantity.
The disaster in Japan surely makes one realise how important every moment of being is.
“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”
* IF you are inspired by these thoughts, please donate what you can to UNICEF, who are working to help children affected by the Japan earthquake.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a press statement: “As in all emergencies of such devastating magnitude, children are the most vulnerable.
“Working in close cooperation with the Japan Committee for UNICEF, we have offered our support to protect the children affected by this catastrophe and to provide critical services in the days ahead.”