The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

As a self confessed uber geek, you cannot imagine my excitement when I finally saw this film advertised whilst watching Skyfall a month or so ago. I am a massive fan of the fantasy genre, in fact until fairly recently it was all I would read. I’ve grown up this way, my dad has read everything of Tolkein’s and knows pretty much all there is to know, simply off the top of his head. As well as reading all sorts of other sci-fi/fantasy novels, he has also written his own novel, and is working in the sequel – I wonder where I get all this sci-fi loving writing enthusiasm from?

The Hobbit was actually the first grown-up book I ever read – I say that but it is of course actually a children’s book – I see it more as a transitional piece to be honest. At any rate, it was certainly the first fantasy book I ever read, and I’ve been hooked since. I was a bit too young (and a wimp) to see the Lord of the Rings trilogy at the cinema, but when I did see them at home they very quickly became my favourite films. I even got the extended edition box set on blu-ray for Christmas! Anyway, suffice it to say I was insanely excited to see the prequel at the cinema.

We’re a bit of a sci-fi family, fortunately Dave, my hubby, loves them too, so in the end five of us went – me, Dave, his best friend James, my dad and my sister. We all had high hopes, but were absolutely blown away by what we saw. Me and my dad had been a bit sceptical as to why Peter Jackson had to split a small children’s book into three films. We had heard that the main story of the book was to be split into two, but they were also making a film of the connection between the two trilogies; basically were Sauron comes from and regains his power. In the book, this is only briefly mentioned as a matter of fact, so it was going to be interesting to see how much they expanded on this.

And that is definitely what the film is – an expansion of the book. Fortunately, you never ever feel as though the film is being untrue to the book, and it even makes mention of some of the more trivial comments in the book, which for most people makes it so special. The characters are all really well done, and Martin Freeman plays a younger Bilbo excellently. Jackson makes a very good introduction to the story, keeping in theme with the LotR films, and making the connection nice and easy, without being too obvious, for those who might not have read the books.

Being a pretty long film at 2 and a half hours long, you honestly don’t feel a bit of that. It’s so well paced, between the action sequences and the story telling, the whole thing flows really well together, especially considering how much expansion and extra detail there is. Ironic, as it’s normally the other way round! The most important scene however, is completely perfect. The riddles in the dark, with Andy Serkis playing a once again amazing Gollum, is exactly as you imagine it when reading the book. The facial expressions of Gollum are absolutely heartbreaking, and you see a bit more of the one-time-hobbit instead of the consumed creature you see in the LotR trilogy.

There are far too many wonderful aspects of this film for me to go on about here – in fact I could wax lyrical about Tolkein almost as much as my dad, and to be honest probably bore most of you rigid. But, even if you haven’t read the books, or aren’t a fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I would thoroughly recommend going to see this film. As the book was more for children, the film is more lighthearted, with heartwarming characters as well as comedy, its much less serious than the more grown-up trilogy, but with the astonishing scenery and incredible special effects that go along with it, creating a true Middle Earth that any fan would delight to see.

Yours,

The Vintage Housewife x

The Many Rules of Christmas

Yes, I woke up this morning feeling decidedly Christmassy! I’m always very excited about Christmas, but it’s always so nice when you wake up, and for no real reason whatsoever, it feels like Christmas. It just does. For some people there are certain signs to look out for each year to tell you its officially Christmas, others have a date in mind, but whatever your final sign that the time of year is finally upon us, it breeds excitement and happiness that really doesn’t rival anything else.

Obviously a key part of Christmas is the advertising and commercial aspects – whether we like it or not. There are millions of people who believe that Christmas has been over commercialised in the past few years, but to be honest, what isn’t? It’s just the world we live in right now, and I think it’s up to us on how commercial we make Christmas. We buy/make the presents, we buy/make the food, at the end of the day, our Christmas is up to us. I have to say though, I do think the adverts are spot on this year. So many of them are about the feeling of Christmas; having the family all together, and making the most of everything being a little bit stressful, but the most important time of the year for so many families out there. I love the Boots adverts right now, all about making the presents you give last the year – and the Sainsburys adverts about Christmas days is brilliant. Everything is more homely, more traditional, and getting to be the right way to think about Christmas.

Certain ads are also intrinsic to the very being of Christmas. Yes, we all know what I’m talking about – they cleverly put it on during the X Factor so as many people as possible get to see it, but otherwise the Coke advert seems to be getting rarer and rarer on tv, making it even more exciting to see when Christmas finally arrives with the lit up lorries. For others the feeling of Christmas is about the decorations – when do you put them up? Is November too early? Is it the first frost? First weekend in December? But what if that’s the 1st and 2nd, is that too early? Whatever your rules, there is nothing quite like turning up the Christmas No.1 album, dancing around the front room shaking glitter everywhere as you wrestle to get the decorations out from the box. Yes, they came out, so they will go back in! My mum’s rule is the best though – she can smell Christmas. It’s not even like she means the cooking, or the smell of pine needles as we’ve always had a fake tree; it’s an outdoors smell, she can’t describe it to us, but it smells like Christmas. That’s good enough for me.

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One of my favourite traditions for Christmas are the Christmas Eve presents. I’m honestly not sure how many people do this, I certainly had to explain it to hubby for our first Christmas together this year, but anyone who has seen Bill Murray’s Scrooged will know what I mean. It’s just a small present, not necessarily a novelty or joke present, but a little present on Christmas Eve. We used to have dinner, bundle up to drive around looking at Christmas lights on people’s houses in the area, then come home to unwrap our Christmas Eve presents and start our pile each in the front room. It’s just wonderful, because that’s what we do. Traditions need absolutely no other explanation than that I think, and there is always room and time to make new ones. That’s what Christmas is.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Yours,

The Vintage Housewife x

Motorcycle Live 2012

Last month saw the annual Motorcycle Live Show at the NEC in Birmingham. My hubby has been to this every year for longer than I care to remember, and whilst I do love biking and travelling pillion on his BMW 650gs (or Tigs for those that know her well) I have only recently become more interested in the bikes themselves, as I am looking to start my CBT training in the near future. Whilst it is always handy for a rider to sit on a bike with pillion to check the comfort for both riders, I was always a bit worried that it would be too bikey for me, and I wouldn’t enjoy it. As it turned out, I generally couldn’t make it anyway for work. But this year, especially as Dave was working the show and I wouldn’t see him for 9 days otherwise, I made sure I had the day off, to go up with some friends.

 

I’ve been looking at various bikes for a while now, sitting on them when and where I can, but it does make a huge difference having the bikes at a distance from all the others, avoiding the dreaded domino effect moment, as well as sitting upright so you can actually assume the riding position without someone hanging on to the back of the bike to stop you from falling over. I’ve been working my way up from smaller bikes – being petite at 5ft nothing with tiny legs, it’s a bit trickier for me than most choosing a bike, but I can see it is all about confidence. I went from sitting on a Kawasaki Ninja 250 very comfortably (it was the forerunner for a while!) to Triumph Bonnevilles, and I even managed to sit on a BMW without too much grief. But I was really looking forward to seeing so many more bikes, all shiny and new, without the worry of causing a minor catastrophe in some rammed showroom.

 

We had a good run up there, getting up at 5.30am to leave at 6am, going through the discussion that the hour should only exist if you’re doing something exciting. Fortunately, we were. Stopping off at Warwick services, we had a well needed fry up to keep us going for the rest of the morning. I’ll skip the part where we arrived at the NEC and I nearly burst with excitement at seeing Dave, but hey, it was a big part of my day! We wandered over to the stand he was working, to drop off jackets etc whilst we had a look round the show. He was on the Traveldri stand, a company selling bike-friendly camping gear including a pretty indestructible thermos flask that’s been across the country with us, and still kept Dave’s 8am tea piping hot until well past lunchtime. Also on the Traveldri stand was the lovely Sam Manicom, one of those fantastic ‘get-up-and-go’ travellers who toured the world for 8 years, starting not very long at all after even passing his bike test! He really is an inspiration, and after not very long speaking to him at all, a lovely, lovely guy. Sam has written one of Dave’s favourite series of adventure books, following his adventure across the world, showing how it really is possible to make that decision and just go for it.

 

Dave was there with Metal Mule, a company selling premium adventure panniers with top quality build. I may be biased because Dave works for them, but being a woman travelling on the bike for holidays across the UK, these have been a life saver. The size of them is fantastic, even for my rubbish packing skills (I’m not joking, I’ll pack my pannier so its full to bursting, and Dave will neatly rearrange so its only half full. Its not fair -.-) and the lock is easy enough for me to open without being overly complicated, with a very clever system locking it all together and to the bike. And whilst all this does come at a bit of a premium, the Motorcycle Live Show actually saw the premier of the new Ute system, panniers including frames for £650. The quality is there, as it will always be, but at a more affordable price. Whether you are planning an expedition to deepest darkest Peru to visit Paddington, or popping down to the West country for a cheeky weekend away, these panniers are ideal. And as my hubby keeps telling me, they definitely look the part!

 

After that, we made our way around the rest of the show. The first stop was Kawasaki, so I could say hello to my beloved Ninja. They’ve recently bought out a 300cc version, over the old 250 which is what I’ve previously sat on and fallen in love with. I’m not actually that good at recognizing one version of something over another, so I just assumed I was sitting on the same bike I’d sat on at our local Kwak dealer, but obviously it was the updated version. As such, it didn’t feel right! I was really confused, until later I realized it was because I was sitting on a different bike. I had similar issues with the Triumph Street Triple, which is a firm favourite at the moment, only I was pointed towards the Street Triple R instead of the standard, and again was met with confusion and disappointment as it wasn’t working for me again! Fortunately, just before we left at the end of the day, we came back to the Triumph stand and I found the standard, in love again! I need to get better at this -.-

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Throughout the day I sat on various bikes, from the classic Triumph Bonneville to AJP’s little dirt bike, something which surprised me how much I liked it. I’ve never really thought that even a little bit of off-roading or rough roading would be something I’d consider, but me and Dave are looking to go all sorts of places, and it’s good to know that AJP do an Abbie-sized dirt bike, suitable to handle the kind of thing we’d be doing by touring various places across the globe, even if I don’t plan to do the Dakar Rally anytime soon (ever). Salesmen on every stand were so helpful, treating me for me as an interested customer, not just the pretty face on the back of the bike. Harley Davidson are rolling out a great offer at the moment, of letting you put on finance not just a great beginners bike, but also the cost of everything to start you up – from gear, to test, and everything in between! Whilst a Harley isn’t quite my thing, I think it’s a fantastic idea and I really hope other manufacturers cotton on to an amazing idea.

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I even sat on the dreaded Honda – for those of you who don’t know, I have this weird, irrational hatred of all Honda’s. Literally, Dave can show me a bike, I won’t like it, and lo and behold it’s a Honda. Its not that I don’t like it because I recognise it; I just don’t like it and it turns out to be a Honda. Anyway, for the sake of fairness I sat on the Honda cbr250R, and it wasn’t too bad! I think the problem I have is Hondas are a bit too angular and sporty for my liking, but the riding position was pretty good. I’m also excited about the 500cc bikes unveiled at the show – you weren’t allowed to sit on them, but it’s interesting that these size bikes are coming around just as the new changes on the bike test, giving a nicer bridge between a small 125cc and the larger 600cc bikes for the Direct Access course for example. A lot of bikes seem to be staying at the higher 800cc level so I’m told, and I know that would be a bit daunting for me, particularly as the bigger the cc, the bike itself tends to be bigger as well. It will be interesting to see if other manufacturers pick up where Honda started!

 

Whilst I was getting very excited seeing all these options open up for me, as I sat on bigger bikes and felt my confidence growing, it was also a bit disheartening, as all the bigger bikes in the world isn’t going to do me much good between passing my CBT and the bike test. I’ve sat on a few 125s, from Yamaha’s YBR to the Suzuki VanVan, also looking at Dave’s first bike, the Marauder. But try as I might, none of them were doing anything for me. Some people, namely non-bikers, may wonder what’s so important about getting a bike that ‘feels’ right, but one that is right for what you need. But biking is such a personal thing, it’s why Dave has named his bike, and why I’m not getting excited about the 125s I’ve been sitting on. But, upon seeing the Vespa stand, I came up with a plan. Everyone loves a Vespa; the vintage retro look, the bright colours, and ease of use with the funky little scooters. I had always thought it wasn’t a good idea to learn on a bike with gears, to go to an automatic, to go back to gears, but Ged, who I went up with, couldn’t say enough amazing things about a little 125cc to get you started, or even later on in life as an amazingly fun little get around. I was also concerned about how much poke it might have, but again, Ged reassured me he was always able to get to the good bike haunts in the area, with no problems. So, the plan is in action. Vespa, Ninja, Street Triple. Sorted.

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The Motorcycle Live Show was a fantastic experience for me. It was a shame we didn’t get around to the smaller accessories stands, but being able to look at all the bikes, all separate from each other, with no worrying about the weight of it or other bikes close together, was a brilliant way to increase confidence and find a broader range of bikes that I might be able to consider. There weren’t many women at the show, but I found all the salesmen were really helpful, none too pushy, so helpful and friendly and enjoying the atmosphere just as much as we were. At the end of the day, the bike of the show for me was a toss-up between the Triumph Street Triple, just because of how gorgeous and perfect the bike felt, and the little blue Vespa I sat on, for finally opening up the excitement of learning to ride a bike, instead of dreaming of when I was already skilled and well underway. I would thoroughly recommend this show, it was a really great day out, the atmosphere was fantastic and everyone was just really friendly and having a great time. But hey, that’s bikers for you. 😉

 

Yours,

The Vintage Housewife x