All is not as it seems!!!


Or to put it another way, something stinks!

If you live here in the UK, ask yourself this simple question, Is your local bookshop truly independent? If your answer is yes, or at least you think it is, maybe you should check it out again. It may be one of a growing number of thinly disguised Waterstone’s clones, being inserted into our high streets across this still United Kingdom of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland to dominate the four nation’s terrestrial book sales at the expense of truly independant bookshops, even though Waterstone’s heartless CEO vehemently denied it when the accusation was made by the Mail Online newspaper.

New Zealand is earth’s eighth continent. Just mostly underwater.

New Zealand is earth’s eighth continent. Just mostly underwater.

If you think New Zealand is nothing but a collection of islands – think again. 😉

Matthew Wright

I was all ‘woohoo’ last week when news broke that New Zealand is actually a continent about half the size of Australia, albeit mostly underwater. The discovery was published in the March-April issue of GSA Today in a paper authored by a team of New Zealand and New Caledonian geologists, including Nick Mortimer, Hamish Campbell, Peter R. Tulloch and others.

Zealandia today, as seabed, via Google Earth. Zealandia today, shown as light blue seabed on Google Earth.

They argue that Zealandia classes as Earth’s eighth continent and stretches from the current New Zealand archipelago up to New Caledonia, which is another above-water bit of the whole. All of our offshore islands, right up to the Kermadecs, are encompassed by it. And yes, apart from the annoying problem of sea level, it puts us way ahead of Japan and more in league of Australia when it comes to continental scale stakes.

In a way it isn’t news. Zealandia…

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The Caterhuns

Ever noticed that whenever an archeologist is confronted with an ancient site like a hill fort where people once walked and lived, that the only thing they can think of to describe it is that it must have been constructed for ceremonial or religious purposes. What a total cop-out on their part!! Now watch this brilliant short video about what are, no matter what the archaeologists may say, the remnants of two recognisable, formerly defendable stone age hill forts in Scotland. 😉

Enemy at the Gates


Every now and then a film stands out from the crowd. One in particular is the 2001 production of Enemy at the Gates, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud (Quest for Fire (1981), The name of the Rose (1986), The Lover (1991) and Seven Years in Tibet (1997). It concerns Vasily Grigoryevich Zaitsev the top Russian sniper serving during the bloody battle for Stalingrad, and his protracted duel with the german master sniper Major Erwin König, who was sent by Hitler with express orders to kill him.



Vasily Grigoryevich Zaitsev

Born: 23 March 1915, Yeleninka, Russia
Died: 15 December 1991, Kiev, Ukraine



      Major Erwin König

Born ….

   Died 1942

Since there is no extant record of König it is highly possible that the Wermacht was ordered to destroy all records concerning him after learning of his death at the hands of Zaytsev.

The defeat of the German forces by the Red Army in the Battle of Stalingrad was a major blow to German morale and according to many historians, was the beginning of the end of the Third Reich. This appears to be one possible motive for destroying König’s record, as his death at the hands of what Hitler referred to as a “sub-human” would add to the German defeat at Stalingrad.


The following extract is taken from the Wikipedia article about the film. You will note there is one glaring error which I have corrected.

Nikita Khrushchev (Bob Hoskins) arrives in Stalingrad to coordinate the city’s defences and demands ideas to improve morale. Political officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), now a senior lieutenant in the propoganda section of the Red Army, suggests that the people need figures to idolise and give them hope, and publishes tales of Vasily’s exploits in the army’s newspaper that paint him as a national hero and propaganda icon. Vasily is transferred to the sniper division, and he and Danilov become friends. They also both become romantically interested in Tania Chernova (Rachel Weisz), a citizen of Stalingrad.

(Partially incorrect! In fact Chernova was a Russian-American who went to Belarus to get her grandparents out of Russia. When she reached Belarus, the Germans had already killed them).

Later on she did become a private in the Stalingrad militia. In the film Danilov has her transferred to an intelligence unit away from the battlefield.

With the Soviet snipers taking an increasing toll on the German forces, Major Erwin König (Ed Harris) is deployed to Stalingrad to take out Vasily and thus crush Soviet morale. A renowned marksman and head of the German Army sniper school at Zossen, he lures Vasily into a trap and kills two of his fellow snipers, but Vasily manages to escape. When the Red Army command learns of König’s mission, they dispatch König’s former student Koulikov (Ron Perlman) to help Vasily kill him. König however, outmaneuvers Koulikov and kills him with a very skillful shot, shaking Vasily’s spirits considerably. Khrushchev pressures Danilov to bring the sniper standoff to a conclusion.


If you do not like war films, I urge you to think again. Enemy at the Gates is more than the usual run of the mill (yawn worthy) product designed to glorify war.

Instead it explores the human side of a particularly savage conflict. The fact that it is about a young russian hero is the real reason why this movie was not made by Hollywood. For it to be otherwise would prove that not every American believes that Russia and its citizens are the much maligned enemies that their paranoid politicians would have their allies and the rest of world believe…


Kindred Spirits


The jobbing actor remembered for all time as a British spy chief

As jobbing writers we can never rely on our work to feed us. So we must have an alternative source of income. In other words, a day job. Some like myself are retired from the workforce. Therefore I am able to fully concentrate on my writing, be it another novel, or in this instance writing blog posts. Do I receive large amounts of money for all my hard work? No! Thank goodness for my small state pension…

When it comes to jobbing actors, they are those familiar faces we all recognise, even if we cannot immediately recall their names, that appear in movies, on stage, and in radio or television programs from time to time. Like us they love what they do despite being poorly paid. Like us they must still pay the bills. So like us they also need an alternative income. To keep the wolf from the door, many of them collect unemployment benefit between acting jobs.2c002d5b3d0959c7d1be525b87821f38

The British jobbing actor usually cast as the quintessential villain

Like us they would love to break into the big time. But in their business, unless you are a member of an acting dynasty like the Fox family, or perhaps the Redgraves, because of their looks the jobbing actor will only ever be considered for supporting roles, seldom the lead (see the above examples – Robert Brown and Ray Winstone). In other words once seen by casting directors, they are typecast forevermore, destined to remain a jobbing actor until the day they die with no substantial regular monthly income to rely upon.


Whereas, can you ever imagine the likes of Bill Nighy (pictured above) in a supporting role as a spymaster or a villain? Just look at him! Quite simply his face dictates that he is not suitable for bit parts, thank you very much! He is much more likely to be successfully cast as a cad, bounder, lover or perhaps a dithering academic, whether on stage, screen, radio or television. Unlike the other two, for him the list is seemingly endless.

Why do I say kindred spirits? Think about it for a moment. We’re both dependant on fate. As writers we are responsible for coming up with the right set of words. Once strung together, if they prove acceptable as a new work of fiction worthy of adaptation into a screen, television, radio or stage play, the jobbing actor interprets them for the viewing and listening  audiences. In both cases we work our backsides off for very little gain. In both cases we are what being actors and writers is all about – hard graft!

Whether either discipline realises it or not, we are connected to one another. I would go further – in both camps, the notion that what I say is a fact, simply does not arise in polite conversation! It should…

So the next time you think you must be mad to want to write, know that you aren’t alone in your addiction. There are quite literally millions of jobbing writers like you and I. Equally, there are thousands of jobbing actors like Ray and Robert too, particularly in stage plays and on television and radio. Both of our occupations are addictive and often fraught with disappointments.

Not to worry, even though both disciplines are to say the least, financially precarious – occasionally the sun does actually shine on one or two of us. I’m patiently waiting for when its my turn…