Tag Archives: europe

The EU and the Big Hate

Yeah, the EU and Britain. This small island, which thinks it is off the coast of North America is vehemently anti-European, and will do almost everything in its power to leave the grand idea of Europe. The Conservatives, two thirds of the current ruling coalition love to fight themselves into a tizzy about the EU idea. While the other political parties are smart enough to keep shtum about their differences over Europe (and other bits of infighting), the Conservatives have not learned from the 1990’s that while the EU is unpopular in the UK, it really does not matter with regards to my daily life.

So this week, Cameron, yet again, went to an EU summit looking like a spoilt child swinging his mummy’s handbag all over the shop. Embarrassing, even though I really agree with what the PM actually had to say. But he does come across really badly whenever it comes to the EU. And the French, who are really just snivelling self serving imbeciles always come across as slick. Damn those cunning French!

Believe it or not, after all that, I am fairly Pro-European. ‘Fairly’ is the good term to use. To be honest, it does not makes a difference to me whether Brussels, London or Washington is making laws, my taxes are not dropping anytime soon. As a floating voter (and we are dangerous bastards) it is the money in my pocket, not the hue of a flag that swings my vote, if I bother to vote at all. And while I have an opinion on Europe, it will not make my mind up when I go to the polls in 2015. In 2010, I am glad we got a coalition, and despite the cock and bull in the press, I think most of the people who voted then believe it was the right choice for that election. Going into a recession meant that no political party came out with any good ideas to get the UK moving. And it is still the case two years later…

Back to the EU. So, I like it? Yes, but…that is it, the ‘but’ bit. I do appreciate and take advantage of the free trade, travel and movement of people part of the EU. In fact, it is one of the best ideals implemented in modern politics over the past two generations. A lot of Brits (except retirees to Spain) really have not taken advantage of this. Lazy language skills can be blamed for this. But I have. In terms of my personal life, cultural activities and business projects, I take advantage of the EU’s free movement of goods, services and people like crazy. You may have noticed all those visits to Poland over the past couple of years, tak?

That part of me would not have been possible if the EU did not exist. It opened my life in so many ways, probably not envisioned by the grandees who thought up the project in the first place. For that, I am eternally grateful, and if Britain was to withdraw from Europe, it would peeve me off. While my personal life would remain intact (although become more tricky), my working side would become an absolute nightmare, well, I will be blunt, impossible.

And I love my films, get it! (Don’t ask about the rewrite…)

But yes, there are things I do not like about the EU. It is undemocratic, there are a lot of institutions and conventions that the UK never voted to join but were shoehorned into and the corruption levels make duck houses seem like…well, mere duck houses…

The EU will probably never face a proper reformation of its financial order as long as the nations resort to petty squabbling. It is sad, because the big EU contributors are probably more aligned then it seems when it comes to reigning in corruption and budgets. But David Cameron’s wibbly wobbly attitude does not help . The last shameful embarrassment in the EU last year looked like a small man playing to some Middle Englanders rather than a Prime Minister actually leading.

From my own opinion I think it is good for Britain to be a net contributor to the EU. The fact that we have peaceful borders and benign neighbours who are unlikely to attack Britain in the near future is something that cannot be measured by the financial contribution we make (in addition to the extremely successful NATO). So, I would rather see a stable Greece sorting out its tax collection system rather than see a Greece mired in strikes and uncertainty.

In the end, Britain is not going to leave the EU anytime soon. And good. But I do worry about the long term political relationship that the UK is building for itself. I do not want to leave the EU, I want to see a strong, democratic institution that does allow for good business and trade and that keeps the peace on the continent. Both from a personal and professional point of view, I have taken advantage of Europe, and it is something that personally benefits me. I believe if more people in the UK had the attachment via people to the continent that I have, the tide of euroscepticism would be a lot less.


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Lubiąż Abbey – a little walk round

On my last trip to Poland, I happened to visit Lubiąż Abbey, one of the largest Christian Complexes in the world and while today its Holy functions no longer exist, it is still a significant tourist draw in this part of Silesia. Of course, the day I went Siberia had decided to camp out in Poland (although it was still October) meaning that it was…well…cold when I visited the former monastery on the banks of the Odra.

A little history (my usual Wiki-Quote). The first Christian functions on this site were established around 1150. Like many parts of Silesia, its history is intertwined with the political wrangling that this part of Europe has found itself in. Lubiaz Abbey has come under the control of the Prussian States, the Polish, the Bohemians and even the Habsburgs of Austria-Hungary.

But it is during WWII that Lubiaz’s history come closer to the history in the UK. While occupied by Nazi Germany, Lubiaz’s vast underground complex was home to the engine factories for the V1 and V2 rocket bombs. This vast slave labour camp existed until the Red Army invaded. The Abbey itself fell into decay until 1989 and the fall of Communism. Restoration started and it is a process that continues today.

One little titbit about the Abbey was that in 1997 Michael Jackson visited Lubiaz. Rumour has it that his helicopter tour and stop-off was to see if he could buy the Abbey. Well, his offer was rejected. However, according to the guide who took us round, the visit was meant to be kept a secret, but the whole village (and most of the surrounding area) turned out to greet the King of Pop! Given the traditional Polish welcome of bread and salt, Michale Jackson was in Lubiaz Monastery for only 20 minutes. It is reported that he was astounded by the lavish interiors. Yes, I did go inside, but we were not allowed to take photos inside of the Abbey 😦

Yeah, I think you noticed it was snowing like crazy that day. Of all the days to see a top tourist attraction, I had to pick the one day in October where Siberia decided to decamp. Snow was everywhere, but luckily, having been bitten by the famed Polish cold earlier this year, I came fully wrapped up.

One little extra you will see at the abbey is an exhibition on old German trains. I do not exactly understand the reasoning behind it (other than the fact that Lubiaz was a hot tourist spot when it was called ‘Lubies’ and a part of Germany). Although I could not get exactly what everything was about, it was fascinating to see the old cultural links that used to exist between Silesia and its big neighbour to the west (something that is more evident in Wroclaw).

Getting there and away:

One word – car. It maybe only 40 miles or so from Wroclaw, but Lubiaz is a small village and it is difficult to get to. There are local (and infrequent) buses from the two nearest railheads in Glogow and Wroclaw throughout the day, but really, unless you have your own transport (or speak brilliant Polish), it is a pain to get here.

Accommodation here is non existent too, and the restaurant in the Abbey keeps limited opening hours, so plan your trip accordingly…

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Filed under europe, places, poland, travel

Quest Europe 2012 – A Jury Member’s view back

Well, I have just arrived back from the Quest Europe Film Festival, where I was invited to be a jury member for a second year. It was a lot of fun, and a lot harder than last year. There was no clear winner, and I was split. Charles, the jury member thought one thing. But Charlie, the guy sitting in the audience thought another thing. And so here were my three favourite films (in no particular order) from Quest Europe 2012. And, yes, my favourite films were a little bit different from what I thought as a jury member…

Strona A – Brilliant. I really enjoyed watching this film and I wanted to learn more of what happened after the credits began to roll.

Ditto for Ingenuity (which you can view fully online), I just wanted to know more.

But my favourite, the laugh out loud film, that tickled me silly had to be The Man with a Plastic Bag. Documentary my ass, but who cares, it was fantastic, and had me in creases the whole way through!

So there you have it, my three favourite films from this year’s Quest Europe. Special kudos has to go to Green Olives. A hard film to watch, but brilliantly done. Also, another film that made me laugh was Night Visitor. The two main actors were one hell of a comedy pair – more of them please!

An absolutely wonderful festival, it always astounds me how a small town in Western Poland manages to pull off such a spectacle. Quest Europe has many more editions ahead of it, long may it reign, in its quest to bring quality films to the masses!

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Little Teaser for Great Brytania

The last few months have, to be polite, busy. Busy for every other reason apart from filming, although I have done a lot of filming myself recently, and film related activities. However, enough doom and gloom. And enough of the shocking (really, it has been a dearth) lack of blog posts. Inertia, and the fact that I have got quite comfortable with not blogging recently has seen my writing output dramatically fall. From almost daily a year ago to once a week, if I am lucky.

Life, has been busy.

Anyway, take a look at the video. This is a ‘little teaser’ for want of a better title. Next month I will complete the first (of what will be many) teasers for Great Brytania. I have to re-record a voice over, to actually make it sound, well, good. When I shot the first footage in May, the voice overs were done quickly.

Wow, May. That was a long time ago, and a lot of things have happened since then.

Sometimes, when I write this blog, I have to balance my innate need to scream from the roftops with my (essential need) to be quiet and evasive about many, personal things.

So, onto the film world. That I will shout about 😉

In addition to the ‘Little Teaser’, I have finally done a little update to the babarouge website which was a long time coming. Another thing on my great list of things to do, but it was time to add a little bit of the work done on Great Brytania to the ‘official/corporate’ part of my world.

It has been a tough, past three months. Filming wise, it has been great. I have done an incredible amount of research, and I am so much better prepared then I was at the start of this project. While I still have a long way to go, I believe that eventually I will get there. But what has been happening around me has been nothing short of a sewer storm.

Enough mystery, here is some concrete. I am off to the wonderful Quest Europe Film Festival this weekend, and I am honoured to have been asked to be a jury member for a second year in a row. I cannot think why, but maybe I am doing something right? There are a lot of great films on show, and I have been told to look out for one film in particular. For some reason, it is meant to remind me of the Croydon Tramlink, even though it is set in France. Bizarre, how could any sane person make that connection? Oh well, I will find out in a few days…

Bags packed? Hell no! Money in wallet, just about, but at the expense of running my motorbike on a near empty fuel tank. Research done? Erm…doing it now. Filming all set – never prepared, but like a swan, that calm exterior masks a furiosou amount of paddling under the water.

Enjoy your bank holiday weekend too, whatever you are doing. See after the break!

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Film News 19th June and Quest Europe 2012

Wow, last week was so epic, that there was just no time to blog (or look at any other blog post) whatsoever – very disappointing for me. Nonetheless, it has been a busy week, but not in the way I have thought it would or should be. Let me get down to business to describe what I have been up to. First of all, I have been re-reading the script again. Along with some editing of the Polish scenes, this is what the last week has been spent on.

But also, quite importantly, I have been invited to be a jury member (for a second year in a row) at the 2012 Quest Europe film festival! I am very excited, and honoured by this. And to be honest, it is a great job. Turn up and watch movies Easiest job – ever!

There is a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes, so good luck to all those involved. Yep, this year, in August, I will be in Zielona Gora again for the 2012 Quest Europe film festival. Join me then. And ~I hope to have the teaser ready to be screened for the festival…I better get editing 🙂

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Film Poster

Just to get me started, I have a new poster for the film. Well, actually, this poster has been in circulation amongst the production team for a while, but I think it is time to release it generally.

This will not be the final design for the poster. Hell, it is not even the final name – South of the River is very much a working title. Actually, at the production level, we are calling it Ritchie Fernando, after one of the characters, just because it is less of a mouthful. For applications to grants, permission letters to organisations and to the performers, we are calling it South of The River, because it sounds more artistic. And for the general public? Well, that is something we still have not finalised.

But one thing that is very much a part of this film, is the bilingual nature of it. South of The River is partly set in Poland and partly set in London, and also has two languages for the dialogue in the film, English and Polish. It is just the way the story rumbles, the way my imagination held itself in a thrall while writing the script, and the despair the production team has as we translate the script into two languages. Already, the Polish dialogues have been translated, but now it is to translate everything into Polish, so both sides of the linguistic divide can get an idea of what the hell is going on.

Unfortunately, I am not the translator. I have someone working very hard on this – and I feel the pain. Just inserting the translated bits into the script numbs my mind, but to translate, check, re-check fr mistakes takes precision and skill. I have no attention to detail, when it comes to the written word, so all my mistakes are there to air in public. A quick trawl through this blog reveals my awful spelling and grammar, so in a script, this is unforgiveable. For me, writing the script is quick, but proof reading and correcting the script takes ages.

But there is something exciting about making a film in two countries. Sure, the logistics are an absolute nightmare. And as a result, my brain really hurts with what to do and how to do it. But in the end, I have wanted to do this story for a very long time. A burning desire has been inside of me, and it is this desire that has led me to this bi-lingual production.

And yes, it is terrifying. Making a film is always scary, but to use two different languages, to shoot in two different countries and to shoot across two different cultures. This is going to be a huge challenge for me to accomplish.

So you can see why the blogging has been very patchy since the start of the year. It is why I have had to reduce my presence online. It is a simple reaction to actually getting things done. Sure, I still procrastinate, and forget things. But life, already busy, is about to get a whole lot busier. THose 10,000 hours are going to get achieved soon…


Filed under art, britain, film, poland

The New Wroclaw Airport – Opened!

Yesterday I got on a flight from Wroclaw back to London. There is nothing impressive in the flight itself. The usual, bog standard budget airline, two hour hop. Except for one thing.

Oh yes, it was opening day at the Wroclaw’s new terminal. The airport is in the same place, but the new terminal is about a mile further down the road. So on Thursday, I shuffled through the cold and draughty old terminal building, while on Sunday I (still) shuffled through a warm and brand new glass and steel building. Hey, it has been a long time coming. Since Wroclaw was chosen as the host of Euro 2012, renovation and renewal has been the key. Along with being the European Capital of Culture in 2016, Wroclaw aims to put itself on the map as much as possible. And there is cash in the city, enough to build this new terminal at the airport. So while the train station in the centre of town is no more than a pre-fab shed, at least the airport will be swimmingly big enough to allow people to enter and exit the city to watch lots of football.

And opening day, the airport was busy! No, not because there was suddenly thousands more people travelling to far flung destinations. But simply as there were a ton of people gawping at the new airport.

Similar to Porto airport, the terminal is light and breezy. Steel and glass supported by large columns. It feels like Stansted airport all over again! However, unlike Porto airport, this is firmly stuck in the 1980’s with regards to transport. Yep, that means it is still the same, lousy and slow (but at least cheap) airport bus that trundles every twenty minutes to and from the city centre. And it is so behind on transport that cars take centre stage at the airport, while anyone on public transport has to lug their luggage from the periphery of the concourse to the bus stop at the edge, located as if it was an embarrassment to the airport authorities.

Yeah, as someone that has almost always used public transport to get to and from this airport, the lack of any real rail or tram link to the city centre is a pain. Wroclaw is not a big city, yet 40 minutes is a long time. Mostly as the bus stops and serves every other place on the way to the city centre. Plus, there are some awkward traffic moments towards the city. There is no motorway linking the airport to the centre of Wroclaw, so we all know that in a few years time, transport to and from the airport is going to become a real pain. The lack of foresight with regards to the surrounding infrastructure is shocking…

Still, once inside, the airport is shockingly well polished. The opening ceremony went smoothly and there were no major muck ups on opening day when I went through. A little understaffed, but even the security was surprisingly friendly. I think everyone was on their best behaviour as management was sculling around the terminal like a bundle of rotting fish. Some of the shops were still yet to open. For some bizarre reason there was a Virgin Record store there – I have not seen one of those in ages! The next time I pass through here (and that could be a long time in the future) everything would have settled down. The hustle and bustle would have replaced the prstine sheen. But you know what, if felt kind of nice to pass through Wroclaw’s new terminal on opening day…


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