Archive for January, 2010

TV/Books: “Empire of the Seas” – brief review and book tip

EMPIRE OF THE SEAS – HIGH TIDE – Part 3/4

Dan Snow continues his Epic journey and he sheds light on the evolution of Nelson’s Navy in the late 18th century. Britain’s Navy was the most powerful in the world, with highly trained crews and ambitious officers. However, by the end of the century they would once again face their rival, France, to fight for Britain’s security, way of life and identity.

Click here for full synopsis. Please also see my previous entry.

In episode three, Snow explains the importance of Britain’s business in the Caribbean, how sugar trade etc. kept the country prospering; he doesn’t skirt around the issue of slavery, and we learn whom we have to thank for the income tax. He also manages to explain the complicated ties between politics, economy and military, and while his enthusiasm for the navy is obvious, he still keeps enough distance to be critical.

Still, I thought this was the weakest episode of the series – it could be summed up with “Dan Snow sails a lot, and Nelson saved the world.” One mention of Rodney, one mention of Jervis and, as usual, none of Collingwood. And how about the casualty numbers? While Snow described rather drastic and colourful “the slaughterhouse” (good on him, war at sea wasn’t romantic), but over 3500 lives were lost on both sides during the Battle of Trafalgar. That’s one of those “details” which shouldn’t have been left out.

You can watch the past three episodes of “Empire of the Seas” on BBC iPlayer.

A tie-in book to the TV series is now available as well, written by Brian Lavery:

EMPIRE OF THE SEAS

I’ve placed my order and will review the book in time. As soon as I know when the DVD becomes available, I’ll keep you posted.

30 January, 2010 at 12:08 pm 2 comments

Garrow’s Law – second season? And contest reminder

“What are you working on at the moment, Mr. Marchant?”

“The next series of ‘Garrow’s Law’…”

Click on the link above to read the complete interview with writer Tony Marchant. Please note that this is not an official confirmation by the BBC that a second season of “Garrow’s Law” has been commissioned, but it sounds very, very promising – is William Garrow back in business? We sure hope so – hide the ladies, lock up the judges and order hair extensions!

Talking about “Garrow’s Law”: there’s still time for you to participate in our contest and win the DVD of the first series. Just send an email to

joyful_molly at yahoo.co.uk

and answer the following question:

“What is the name of Mr. Garrow’s courtroom nemesis?”


A) Tweety
B) Silvester
C) Daffy

Deadline: 4 February, 2010, midnight GMT.

Please read the following rules before you send off your mail.

RULES:

1. By participating in this contest, you confirm that you have read, understood and accepted the rules.

2. You have to be at least 18 years old to participate.

3. Please be fair: only send in one mail per person.

4. No cash pay-out of your prize.

5. No correspondence will be held over the outcome of the contest.

6. If you are the winner, you’ll have to provide us with your name and address.

7. We’ll send your prize out asap, but have no influence on the speed of your local postal services.

8. Should, for any reason beyond our control, one of the prizes not be available, we’ll replace it with a different prize of the same value.

29 January, 2010 at 9:57 am 2 comments

TV Tip: “Empire of the Seas”, BBC2, Fridays 9pm – 10pm

COME  OVER TO THE DARK BLUE SIDE –
WE HAVE COOKIES AND MEN IN UNIFORMS!

“Empire of the Seas” is a four-part series by the BBC about the Age of Sail and the role of the Royal Navy from past to present. Finally a programme suitable for old tars and land lubbers alike; you really don’t need to be an expert to enjoy this fascinating history lesson. Bonus points: there’s a refreshing lack of glorification; while respecting the achievements of the seafarers of past centuries, the dark aspects of “ruling the seas” are pointed out as well.

Last Friday’s episode, “Hearts of Oak”, covered the early days of the navy up to the late 17th century. Tonight and next Friday, focus will be on the 18th and 19th century.

So if you ever wondered what the heck I’m geeking out about here, now’s your chance to see for yourself. Click the links below for the press releases on the individual episodes:

15.01.2010: Heart of Oak
For centuries, the Royal Navy has strived to help make Britain one of the world’s great maritime superpowers. In Empire Of The Seas, historian and avid sailor Dan Snow goes beyond battle tactics to reveal a surprising naval history. The series reveals an indelible bond between seafarers and the people of Britain and charts how the Navy shaped modern Britain.

22.01.2010: The Golden Ocean
Dan Snow continues his epic journey examining how the Navy shaped modern Britain and, in this week’s second episode, reveals how 18th-century Britain and the Navy rose from the depths of military and economic disaster to achieve global supremacy.

29.01.2010: High Tide
Dan Snow continues his Epic journey and he sheds light on the evolution of Nelson’s Navy in the late 18th century. Britain’s Navy was the most powerful in the world, with highly trained crews and ambitious officers. However, by the end of the century they would once again face their rival, France, to fight for Britain’s security, way of life and identity.

05.02.2010: Sea Change
Dan Snow explores the ups and downs of a climactic century in British Naval history in the final episode of the series, from thriving Victorian Britain to the early 1900s and the brink of defeat.

22 January, 2010 at 8:31 pm 4 comments

Resource: Battle of the Nile – The Crocodile Sword

Admiral James Saumarez, 1st Baron de Saumarez (one of Nelson’s “Band of Brothers”), was wounded during the Battle of the Nile while still captain. You’ll be glad to hear that no Saumarezes were harmed during the production of the “Antiques Roadshow” on Guernsey.

The “Antiques Roadshow” is one of my guilty pleasures. Due to lack of attic I’ll never find a treasure in an old shoebox, but it’s fun to see other people’s reactions when that “ugly old vase in the garden shed” turns out to be made in the 15th century and is worth a fortune.

“Congratulations! This vase is worth £ 20’000 at least!”
“Oh. Jolly good.”

But I admit, the best moments are when some pretentious snob learns that the “guaranteed authentic jerry of Henry VIII.” he bought for insane money on ebay turns out to be an Italian flowerpot dating back to the 50ies. One of my favourites was the rather snippy lady, descendant of one of Nelson’s captains, who turned up with a plate supposed to be “part of Nelson’s victory service”. Alas – it was a French piece, produced to celebrate – well. The less we know, the better. Where was I? Ah yes, Captain Saumarez.

Nelson was presented by his captains (the “Crocodile Club”) with a special sword, commemorating the victory of the Battle of the Nile. It was a beautiful piece, with a hilt in the shape of a crocodile. Copies were made  for the various captains, and luckily for us, the current Lord de Saumarez brought the one of his anchestor along when the Antique Roadshow set up its tents in Guernsey, on the family’s former estate, Saumarez Park (which is now owned by the state).

The sword is a masterpiece. The greyish-bits on the blade used to be bright blue. I was glad to hear the family has no intention to sell it, despite an estimated value of £ 150’000 – £ 200’000. Personally, I think that pieces of historical importance like this one should either stay with the family or in a museum, not in the safe of a collector. So two thumbs up for the Saumarez-family, and thanks for sharing it with the public. You can watch the episode of the Antique Roadshow for another 2 days here.

Have you seen our new blog yet?
2010 – Admiral Collingwood’s year

19 January, 2010 at 12:19 am 3 comments

New Blog: 2010 is Admiral Collingwood’s Year.

A tribute to Admiral Lord Collingwood on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his death at sea. Don’t expect scientific essays, though – it’s a “spin-off” of this blog here.

All through 2010, you’ll find updates on events, quotes, historical fact, trivia, book reviews and more.

I hope you’ll find the new blog interesting and entertaining.

Just click the banner!

13 January, 2010 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

Urgent charity-appeal: Earthquake in Haiti

I’d like to ask everybody who can spare a quid to help and support those who try to get some sort of order in the terrible chaos and devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti. People are in desperate need for help.

The following organisations will take your donations:

MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES/DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDER

INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS

Thank you.

13 January, 2010 at 12:53 pm Leave a comment

Garrow’s Law DVD contest: correction of deadline and event date

It’s difficult not to get bonkers with all that snow piling up, means: of course the deadline for the

GARROW’S LAW DVD CONTEST

is 4 February, 2010, not 2009. And the evening with Tony Marchant at Herfordshire University is also scheduled for 2010. I’ve corrected the previous entry, thanks to everybody who pointed out the typo.

And yes, you can participate no matter where you live. The Joyful Molly sails anywhere, even to Mars. Just consider that the DVDs are Region 2 / PAL, so if you don’t have a code free DVD player or computer, you might not be able to watch them.

Ooops... wrong date.

11 January, 2010 at 9:40 pm Leave a comment

Garrow’s Law: read the review, win the DVD!

I’d like to express my great admiration for the wonderful postie who braved snow, storm and freeze to deliver the much-awaited DVD of

GARROW’S LAW

to my mailbox. The current weather conditions are just perfect for curling up on the sofa, so I suggest you’ll do just that – if your postie is as dedicated as mine, that is!

Cast: Andrew Buchan (William Garrow), Alun Armstrong (John Southouse), Lyndsey Marshal  (Lady Sarah Hill), Rupert Graves (Sir Arthur Hill),  Aidan McArdle (John Silvester), Michael Culkin (Judge Buller)

Written by: Tony Marchant (S01E01 + S01E02), Stephen Russell (S01E03), Damian Wayling (S01E04)

Directed by: Peter Lydon

You can find my previous detailed reviews of the individual episodes (with many screencaps) here:

Episode 1 –  Episode 2 –  Episode 3 –  Episode 4


The series is fantastic, and I can only highly recommend this wonderful piece of courtroom period drama. Excellent actors and great stories make “Garrow’s Law” one of the most outstanding productions in 2009. However, as far as the extras on the DVD are concerned, it’s 50p Goodie Bag rather than Horn of Plenty – picture gallery and actors’ filmographies aren’t much to write home about.

“Behind the scenes of Garrow’s Law” is an entertaining 19 minutes  documentation, though. Featuring short interviews with production crew and cast, it gives an interesting insight into the creation of the series. Producer Dominic Barlow introduces the concept of the series while Make-Up and Hair-Designer Irene Napier takes everybody under her wigs. Not Andrew Buchan (William Garrow), though – he got extensions (and yes, now I can see how that must have made for fun nights out at the pub!)

Production Designer Brian Sykes shows the development of the sets from draft to model to finished product, and mentions that he was inspired by Hogarth’s work. By keeping the set and the background muted and dark, the brightly dressed characters were emphasised (personally, I think you can see this effect best when it comes to scenes involving Lady Sarah or the jury). A bit like an old painting coming to life.

This aspect is also discussed by Director of Photography Lukas Strebel (if that man isn’t Swiss, I’ll eat Garrow’s hat. There’s no escape, we’re everywhere!).

Director Peter Lydon praises writers and cast and explains that they aimed for a gritty, modern style (which probably explains the lack of dirt), despite the 18th century setting. I think “Garrow’s Law” absolutely succeeded in keeping past and present in balance.

The short interviews with the cast are neat. Alun Armstrong (John Southouse) talks about his character, the draconian laws and punishments of the 18th century and that the miscarriage of “justice” of that time can still be found today, all over the world. He also finds the time to fanboy Glasgow!

Aidan Mc Ardle, who plays Garrow’s courtroom-nemesis John Silvester, obviously had a lot of fun diving into the world of the 18th century and finding the Georgians not at all prudish and stiff like the Victorians, but people who enjoyed a drink and  a romp. He also touches the class differences between Garrow and Silvester, a man he describes as one who was born with a silverspoon in his mouth.

Lyndsey Marshal (Lady Sarah Hill) is the next up for an interview, and she’s lovely. She manages to sum up the reasons why “Garrow’s Law” is so popular in two sentences: captivating stories and characters the audience can relate to. The series was filmed in summer, and it was hot, so she suffered a lot in her beautiful, but heavy costumes. Obligatory mention of corsets! That’s a point brought up by all actors, actually (the heat, not the corsets), and  I was delighted to hear that Lyndsey Marshal loves the style of the Georgian period and thinks that the men looked gorgeous back then. Go you, girl, you’re one of us!

Which leads us to the costumes and Costume Designer Andrea Galer. Just like many other costume dramas and period pieces, “Garrow’s Law” is not only entertainment, but also a resource for those of us who are interested in the 18th century, be it society, art or fashion. Mrs. Galer explains how she approached the challenge of fitting out so many people; one of the dresses Lady Sarah wears is actually a replica of an orignal dress Mrs. Galer bought at an auction, and she always promised herself that, if she should ever get the chance to work on a show set in the 18th century, she’d make a copy of that dress.

Last but not least comes the interview with Andrew Buchan, “William Garrow” himself. He’s very enthusiastic about his role and liked that Garrow was a “real guy, a real chap” (you could say so, yes), who pioneered in his field and paved the way for law as we know it today. He, too, points out how hard the work was, especially considering the heat, and mentions how incredible the supporting actors were. Rightly so; there were some stellar performances by “minor” characters, which added to the overall quality of “Garrow’s Law”. Andrew Buchan is a really talented actor, he’s young and still has the enthusiasm and excitement for his work that other actors have lost during the years. Also, he really rocks ruffled shirt, waistcoat and pigtail. Consider yourself wolfwhistled, Mr. Garrow.

The documentary ends with Editor Steve Singleton talking about the editing process. While I enjoyed the bonus documentary, I’d have expected something about the real William Garrow; after all the series was based on his life and achievements. Nobody would have complained about a blooper real, either. But as the series itself is fantastic, the lack of bells and whistles in terms of extras doesn’t minimise the entertainment value of the DVD at all. A highly recommended “must-have” for anybody who enjoys good drama.

And now commission season 2 already, BBC!
The peasants are getting restless!

Related event:

On 15 February, 2010, co-creator and writer of “Garrow’s Law” Tony Marchant will answer questions and discuss his work at the University of Herfordshire. Please go here for details.

You made it all through the review? Congratulations! This means that you can

WIN THE “GARROW’S LAW” DVD!

You are cordially invited to participate in this contest and hopefully win the DVD of the BBC’s excellent 18th century courtroom-drama.

What do you have to do?

Just send an email to

joyful_molly at yahoo.co.uk

and answer the following question:

“What is the name of Mr. Garrow’s courtroom nemesis?”


A) Tweety
B) Silvester
C) Daffy

Deadline:  4 February, 2010, midnight GMT.

Please read the following rules before you send off your mail.

RULES:

1. By participating in this contest, you confirm that you have read, understood and accepted the rules.

2. You have to be at least 18 years old to participate.

3. Please be fair: only send in one mail per person.

4. No cash pay-out of your prize.

5. No correspondence will be held over the outcome of the contest.

6. If you are the winner, you’ll have to provide us with your name and address.

7. We’ll send your prize out asap, but have no influence on the speed of your local postal services.

8. Should, for any reason beyond our control, one of the prizes not be available, we’ll replace it with a different prize of the same value.


GALLERY


9 January, 2010 at 1:31 am 1 comment

Cranford: buy the DVD! See the Locomotive!

I hope you all had a good start into the New Year. I was shovelling snow, so at least my New Year’s resolution “more sports!” was up to a good beginning…

What can you expect for 2010 on “Joyful Molly”? Well, for one, it’s the COLLINGWOOD YEAR – though I’m usually more for celebrating people’s birthdays than the dates of their deaths, I’ll make an exception of Old Cuddy.

There will be book reviews, all kind of naval-related information, odd and fun things dating from the 18th century – many interesting tidbits have collected on my desk, so it should be a fun ride for everybody.

Let’s start with the information that the BBC’s bonnet-drama “Cranford” (see my review) is already out on DVD. You can buy it on Amazon, just click the cover below.

“Cranford” takes us back into a time of great change; the railway was both amazing technological achievement and threat, a great adventure to some, incalculable danger to others. There’s something particular fascinating about steam engines, and it’s so good to see the many enthusiasts who keep this important part of our heritage intact and preserve it for future generations.

All technical and historical aspects aside: when it comes to the railway, I’m on the same page with my grandfather: steam engines rock. Move over, ICE, ACV and Shinkansen, we’re talking about  the real thing here!

Locomotive Bellerophon, used in the BBC bonnet drama "Cranford" and luckily still operating! See the Bellerophon in Staffordshire (lads not included).

Regular readers of this blog will very likely think of the Battle of the Nile or Trafalgar upon hearing the name “Bellerophon”, but not only Captain Darby’s li’l bum boat carried that name. The wonderful locomotive you can admire in “Cranford” is also called “Bellerophon”, and you’ll be happy to know the BBC didn’t blow her up for real.

Nigel Brazier, the driver of the “Bellerophon”, left a message on JM:

As an aside you might like to know that the railway scenes were all shot at the Foxfield Railway, Blythe Bridge, Staffordshire. The locomotive used is Bellerophon which was built in 1874 so is 30 years too young in reality, but looks reasonably accurate for all that.

I had a look at his blog and the website to go with it, and I can only recommend that you pay a visit to

FOXFIELD RAILWAY (website)

UNOFFICIAL BLOG

The Foxfield Light Railway is one of the UK’s earliest heritage railways. The line was built in the 1890’s and unlike many lines which follow valleys, the Foxfield Railway maintains a 5 ½ mile round journey which boldly crosses open moorland, hills and woodland. This results in spectacular sounds and sights as the locomotives climb the steepest gradients as trains steam through Scenic North Staffordshire to terminate in the remote woodland halt of Dilhorne Park which offers one of the finest un spoilt views across the open moorlands where very little modern life can be scene…

And what’s the best thing about it?

The railway is staffed by volunteers and trains operate every Sunday and Bank Holidays from Easter until Christmas. We will also be running summer mid week steam train on Wednesdays from 22nd July to 26th August. Special trains for groups can be arranged for other times and the railway is available to hire for corporate events.

So if you’re looking for a great day out, that’s the place to go. You’ll also support a great cause, and slowing down in our hectic times is always a great thing. Two thumbs up to the people who keep the Foxfield Light Railway alive – choo-choo-choo!

6 January, 2010 at 9:52 am Leave a comment


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GARROW'S LAW
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