Five Romantic Films to Watch on Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day so having finally cleared the hallway of a mountain of cards (Poor postman, or woman… having to deliver on a Sunday too!), I’ve appropriately compiled a list of five romantic films worth watching. For the record, I’ve avoided any films that have featured in my previous posts.

Delicacy (2011)

Audrey Tautou is beautiful. Her co-worker (Played by Francois Damiens) is not… but they get together in a ‘love is on the inside’ kind of film.

Samba (2014)

Another French film, this time starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Omar Sy.

Sy plays a Senegalase migrant who ends up in detention and Gainsbourg is his caseworker. Cue … a blossoming romance!

Untamed Heart (1993)

Christian Slater and Marisa Tomei star in this Minneapolis based film. Slater’s character has a baboon’s heart… or at least he thinks that he does!

Slater saves Tomei’s character from a late night attack, cue a, well… love story, obviously!

Bed of Roses (1998)

Another Christian Slater film. It’s my blog, I can do what I want!

Slater runs a flower shop and secretly provides an upset woman (Played by Mary Stuart Masterson) with some flowers. Cue a, well… romance, obviously!

The Science of Sleep (2006)

Okay, by this point I was struggling so it’s back to Charlotte Gainsbourg. This Michel Gondry directorial effort stars Gael Garcia Bernal as well as Alain Chabat. Its surreal and arguably not first and foremost a romance but still, it’s a fine film!

Disclaimer: Don’t worry. My wife doesn’t get jealous about the mountain of cards every year… she’s long over it!

Beard Oil

A few years ago, post thirty years of age, I grew a beard. My previous best was a two-week effort when aged about eighteen.

My wife wasn’t keen but has since changed her tune. By the way, I’m one of those guys who needs facial hair to compensate for the lack of on top!

When first growing a beard, weeks three and four were horrible. I’ve never had any serious itching issues, it’s just the texture and look during the initial first time growth period wasn’t pretty. Anyway, it’s very much part of me now. It’s nothing particularly extreme but I did let it get a bit scruffy initially. Occasionally I strip it right back but generally it’s around the number three setting on my beard trimmer. For the record, my beard is brown complimented by a variety of white strands amongst a prominent ginger tinge!

Upon growing a beard, I researched caring for it. I really didn’t take to beard wax but a little oil from time to time does seem beneficial otherwise my beard can become extremely dry. I soon realised that most beard oils are full of all kinds of rubbish… so set about making my own.

The combination that I came up with is nothing original. Its stars Argan oil, cedarwood and lime. Now Argan oil is a base oil so makes up the bulk of the combo. A few drops of the essential oils then help provide a pleasant scent. Remember to keep oils in tinted bottles and away from sunlight. I don’t overdo it on the application front so can’t claim to have a history of various oil combinations but may experiment with some other essential oils in the future. It’s just that it’ll take me a long time to use up the ones that I have because like I say, I don’t overuse it.

Anyway, I thought that I’d share this information. Maybe you’ll be inspired to create your own beard oil or tell me how better to do mine!

The Amazing Spider-Man

Continuing my rich vein of form having returned to film watching, I finally got around to viewing The Amazing Spider-Man.

Before the Sam Raimi films, I was a big Tobey Maguire fan. I enjoyed those spidey films… even the third one! Having recently rewatched the trailer for the Marc Webb directed reboot starring Andrew Garfield, I wasn’t overly enthused… but I enjoyed it!

I found some of the teen romance a little cringe but enjoyed the film more and more as it went on. There are obviously many parallels with the previous Spider-Man films but also subtle differences. One of the things that’s different is Spider-Man love interest is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) who, staying true to the comics, leapfrogs Mary-Jane unlike in the Sam Raimi trilogy. She also learns that Peter Parker is Spider-Man early on in proceedings. I slightly missed how this was confirmed whilst focusing on keeping the volume down so as not to wake the kids… then he rocked up at her window fully suited!

We’re also greeted with Doctor Curt Connors as a lizard type villain and the whole character/scenario is done well. Rhys Ifans portrays Connors. As well as Ifans, Sally Field is extremely effective as Aunt May but Martin Sheen’s act as Uncle Ben isn’t an easy one to put a new spin on. Dennis Leary is Dennis Leary… not a bad thing, while Stan Lee makes his usual appearance.

I thought that some of the footage was really good, like when Spider-Man is balancing on web in the sewer (Though I’m not sure how he didn’t drown. He’s a spider not a fish!) and also the umbrellas scene late in the film.

I look forward to watching the sequel and will let you know my thoughts in due course.

Mark McGuinn

I was recently introduced to the music of Mark McGuinn, courtesy of this excellent YouTube channel…

Beyond the popesque hit song Mrs Rudy…

The album contains some excellent ballads such as She Doesn’t Dance and If the World was Mine…

When hearing an album as good as this (It was released in 2001 by the way) it’s hard to fathom how some of the pitiful excuses of music acts that regularly churn out records and appear on TV thrive, whilst McGuinn’s work barely saw/sees the light of day.

McGuinn has written songs for other artists too, such as Lonestar…

I was fortunate to get my hands on McGuinn’s debut album and have been listening to it over and over. I may have only just discovered the North Carolina native’s music but am sure that the tracks I’ve linked to above are timeless classics!

Coffee, Tea and Sugar Storage

I bought this stackable coffee, tea and sugar storage not long ago. It’s a really efficient space saving facility that also looks good.

The light blue isn’t my preferred colour (White would be a nice contrast) but the brown/greyish tones look good against the wooden lids. The ceramic containers aren’t massive in terms of volume but allow you to have some coffee etc to hand on the worktop. At the same time, they prevent cluttering your work surface whilst jars etc remain in cupboards.

Of course you don’t strictly have to use them for coffee, tea and sugar but that seems like the obvious purpose.

The set cost around £20-£25 and I think that they’re a practical and good looking addition to the kitchen.


In the introduction to my new and more diverse blog, I mentioned that hiking would be one of the subjects that would feature.

Now hiking’s not so easily done at the moment but I thought that I’d recall my experiences ahead of posting some write-ups in the future.

I wasn’t interested in hiking as a kid but my friend took over (Pretty much started) a group and we got hiking a lot. This is from the age of eighteenish (So about half my lifetime ago) and generally in Yorkshire, though I’ve also enjoyed some great hikes in the Lake District.

Eventually the group got a bit too sizeable and I went overseas anyway but upon returning to Yorkshire, I took my foreign wife on many hikes to show her the lovely local landscape. We’ve since had two kids however (For whom one walking isn’t easy) so hiking as a couple or family will have to wait a little longer. That said, we did go to one or two bird reserves or for a walk by a canal last summer and they were extremely enjoyable. I might provide repeat outings to those locations with write-ups later this year.

My friend and I got hiking again a few years ago and I really do love being out and about. The rivers, mountains, snow, deer, owls, whatever we see, it’s great! I enjoy getting away from society even if there’s a quiet road only around the corner or a town not actually that far away! The beauty of where I live is that there’s a lot of good hiking country within an hour’s drive. Even the Lake District isn’t actually that far away. Fairfield Horseshoe is a hike I’ve done in both directions… which I realised after setting off the second time! They don’t need to be massive hikes, seven to ten miles is the norm though we do intend to do some longer ones this year (If poss?!) including redoing the Three Peaks. The Three Peaks being Pennyghent, Ingleborough and Whernside, not the National Three Peaks. That’s ridiculous! I have hiked Ben Nevis when just a child and Scafell Pike, once straight up and once part of a snow filled epic. I’ve never actually walked up Snowdon. As for the Yorkshire Three Peaks, it took nine hours fifty five minutes (Or was it 45?). There was no target but it was nice to sneak in sub ten hours. If it takes twelve next time then so be it, there’s no rush. I like to enjoy my snack, usually a sandwich, possibly homemade flapjack, fruit and coffee.

Well, anyway, hopefully I’ll post some hike write-ups this year covering areas such as Grassington, Settle, Pateley Bridge, Burnsall, Malham and the like. Beautiful hiking country. I do need to challenge myself a little more on the map reading front rather than just following directions but I’m not a complete map moron!

If you’re managing to do any hikes then enjoy and take care!

Image locations: Near Malham Tarn, Pateley Bridge and Grimwith

Song of the Week #004

Following in the footsteps of Ben Lee, Sara Bareilles and MS MR, our latest Song of the Week selection comes from Rhye…

Rhye frontman Mike Milosh started the project as a duo but following the departure of Robert Hannibal, various musicians have joined the silk voiced Canadian. Milosh’s earlier work is also worth a listen.

You can find last week’s selection by clicking below…

Have a great week!

Jack Wolfskin Hat

I’ve had this hat for a few years now and it’s still going strong!

The 100% polyester product keeps my head extremely warm. I think that I’d misplaced mine once and borrowed somebody’s Thinsulate hat. Thinsulate is obviously a top selling brand and I don’t know what fabric the hat in question was made of but… I may as well have had nothing on my head!

Once you’ve enjoyed the warmth and comfort of a hat like the Jack Wolfskin one pictured above then you’re unlikely to ever consider changing to another.

However, my brief research leads me to believe that polyester isn’t the most environmentally friendly product but like I say, I’ve had this product for years and still anticipate getting a lot more use out of it.

If like me, you walk to work and/or also enjoy hiking in the colder months then I’d thoroughly recommend this hat!

Five More Films Not in the English Language to Watch During Lockdown

Not content with creating ridiculously long blog post titles, here are five more films not in the English language to watch during Lockdown (Or not Lockdown if you have an important job!)…

Lovers of the Arctic Circle (1998)

A romantic drama that’s like nothing before it, is 1998 Spanish offering Lovers of the Arctic Circle.

Otto and Ana met many years ago… and now they meet again. It’s also been many years since I watched this film but I remember it being good, very good!

He Loves Me He Loves Me Not (2002)

To most casual film followers, Audrey Tautou is Amelie and that’s it… but she’s so much more than that. She’s delivered a number of excellent performances, often in at least slightly comedic roles but this one’s serious!

The premise of He Loves Me He Loves Me Not and how the film is presented is original and eye-opening. Alongside Tautou, Samuel Le Bihan provides a career best performance in this twisted romance.

Cinema Paradiso (1998)

Italian Oscar winner Cinema Paradiso stars Phillipe Noiret and Marco Leonardi in the leading roles. It’s safe to say that this was the peak of Leonardi’s acting career.

The 1988 film details the relationship between a cinema projectionist and a young boy… who becomes the cinema projectionist. So good is this film that it’s often credited with saving Italian cinema as a whole.

Ring (1998)

No not the Hollywood version! Japan’s original Ring (Not The!), based on Koji Suzoki’s novel, is no shock horror nonsense. It’s a film that builds tension better than any other that I’ve seen and it contains one absolutely terrifying scene (Though the trailer does appear to give a little too much away!).

I watched this amongst a blur of Japanese/Korean films half a lifetime ago. This one grossed just shy of $20 million at the box office.

The Bicycle Thieves (1948)

1948, black and white, set in Rome, possibly sometimes named in the singular, The Bicycle Thieves follows a man, accompanied by his son, pursuing his stolen bicycle. Not to build this one up but it’s been referred to by some as “The greatest film of all time!”.

To see my original suggestion of five films not in the English language then please click on the link below…

A Corner of Every Foreign Field

This isn’t the first and won’t be the last book that I read about cricket failing to become a truly global sport. In fact, it’s not even the first Tim Brooks book that I’ve read in that rather niche genre!

I love cricket but my word it’s a shame that only upto around twelve countries, the same countries, have been playing it at the highest level for so long. To call a cricket World Cup by such a name is to commit fraud!

Many nations longed to take up cricket but those in charge made sure that the ship departed the dock without them. The T20 (Or even T10) format might yet make cricket a truly global game and as Brooks points out, Olympic inclusion wouldn’t do that ambition any harm.

His latest book presents things in logical and good old chronological order, highlighting the many missed opportunities that cricket had to really take over the world. Sometimes circumstance (ie: war etc) didn’t help but cricket didn’t always help itself… or the self designated people in charge didn’t! When the sport’s governing body were giving with one hand they were taking with another whilst also having their own members tie their hands behind its back, so, errr… four hands then!

Brooks covers the right (Or wrong!) moments in history with sufficient detail whilst avoiding going absurdly in depth and making this a chunky book. For those who possess a passion for cricket to genuinely be a sport played on a global scale then it shouldn’t disappoint.

As a result of reading this and not for the first time in my life, it’s put my mind in overdrive with thoughts of how to restructure international cricket. Don’t worry, there’ll be a post about that in due course!