Friday, November 28, 2008

Bye Bye To Woolies

Woolworth's PLCSo Woolworth’s has finally gone into administration. Another Great British High Street institution bites the dust.

It’s been written about (far more expertly and feelingly) by other bloggers but I feel the need to add my twopenneth-worth to the debate (as opposed to adding it to the purchase fund).

I shall miss Woolies greatly even though I hardly ever shopped there (yes, blame me, Mr Woolworth, for your lack of sales). The Woolworth shop sign has been a pillar of the Leamington town centre for generations (Leamington is full of dodgy architecture) and was my gran’s favourite shop.

I shall miss its deep red Ariel-like typeface. It’s creaky hand-winched escalator (Leamington store only). The gaudy aisles. The Pick ‘n’ Mix. The unhelpfully spotty sales assistants. Especially the one with spiky hair (like Rod Stewart) who would effetely stand to one side and chew his fingernails rather than risk breaking them by ringing up a single sale on the antiquated cash register (blame him, Mr Woolworth, for your lack of sales).

I loved Woolworth’s far more as a kid. And it was never “Woolworth” – singular (as is correct) but always “Woolworth’s” which for some reason now strikes me a strange. The school holidays were always made complete by a trip to Woolworth – we’d inevitably have Christmas money or Easter money to spend and after Toytown, Woolworth was the store to spend it in. For me this usually entailed purchasing an A4 writing pad (narrow, ruled feint, margin) and some Woolworth felt tip pens with which I would construct bizarre stories inspired by my fevered pre-adolescent brain.

As I got older I fell out of love with Woolworth. I became a store snob and, may the gods of the High Street forgive me, Woolworth just seemed a little down-at-heel. A glorified pound shop almost. A white elephant store. It lost its identity. You were never quite sure what exactly Woolworth was trying to be. A little bit of everything it seemed but never anything definite.

In later years I merely used Woolworth as a short cut to get from the main shopping road (The Parade) to the road behind it that runs parallel. This seems an awful thing to admit to... like going into a pub merely to use the toilet without buying a single drink. But about 12 months ago they reorganized the store and sealed off the back exits (except for cases of fire) thus condemning this glorious cut-through to the stuff of myth and legend. Now I use the local branch of the HSBC instead but it’s not quite the same.

My most recent visit to Woolworth – a couple of weeks ago – was motivated by mercenary tendencies. On its last legs, blood oozing from its severed jugular, Woolworth were offering a 3 for 2 deal on all their toys. Christmas was (and is) getting nearer. They have a fine selection of Lego which I love. It seemed too good an offer to miss. So I made sure I didn’t. I pounced like a screaming hyena and got myself some bargains. I blew a lot of money that day – possibly gave Woolworth a temporary stay of execution (thank me later, Mr Woolworth, when I toss you my loose change) – but ultimately I came away in the knowledge that my selective purchases had saved me a good £60 and therefore cost Woolworth the same.

I did, I admit, feel a little cruel. Like I’d just snuck round the back and looted a burning building while the fire brigade were busy at the front. But hey, they invited me in. They were ripped and torn and desperate. They were selling the shirt off their back and throwing in the underpants for free.

It was sad to see.

*Sigh*

Sometimes a bullet through the crust is the kindest thing.

Ka-blam!

At ease, soldier. At ease.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One Day All This Will Be Yours

Last SurvivorKaren and I greatly enjoyed the first part of “Survivors” broadcast here in the UK on Sunday night. The premise is an old one – most of the population wiped out by disease / catastrophe; only a handful of people come through the initial disaster; we vicariously follow their struggle to survive in a world that has regressed without technology to something akin to the Dark Ages.

It’s a school boy “what if” adventure yarn – and I don’t categorize it thus to denigrate it. I love stories like this. Being a child of the cold war I seem to recall reading loads of post apocalyptic stories like this as a teen – there was a real trend for them at one time. My favourite was always “Empty World” by John Christopher, the basic premise of which is identical to “Survivors”: a deadly virus wipes out nearly all of the population in a matter of weeks. Buildings, green spaces, wildlife are all left unharmed and untouched.

It’s just the people that are gone.

The stuff of nightmares really and yet even as a teen I found myself indulging in what can only be described as dark fantasies that revolved around this single premise with a discomforting sense of glee. What if it really happened? What would I do? How would I cope?

Watching “Survivors” on Sunday has regurgitated all these boyhood what-ifs and I’ve been musing over them for the last few days. What if? What if?

If I was a survivor what would I do?

So far I have come up with this 12 point plan to ensure my continued survival:

1) Acquire muscular transport. Something that can hold loads of supplies and is strong enough to plough through the barricades of any rogue survivors I may encounter who have turned feral. A juggernaut should do it. There’s going to be no traffic on the roads so no one is going to complain about my appalling driving.

2) Loot the supermarkets. Tinned food, bottled water, toilet paper, manual household appliances – tin openers, knives, etc. Will need as much of this kind of stuff as possible until I can learn how to milk a cow / hunt for fresh meat.

3) Loot the chemist. Basic pain killers, bandages, antiseptic creams, needles, scalpels – whatever might be useful in times of dire emergency. You don’t want to be on your own with a man-cold.

4) Loot the mountaineering / extreme sports shops. Lots of goodies to be got here. Outdoor clothing, shoes, camping equipment, compasses, maps, gas cylinders, candles, torches, batteries. Survivalist heaven. Some of these new water purifying gizmos would be damned useful too for when the bottled water runs out.

5) Loot the Library. A much underestimated resource. The internet is down and dead due to power failures – it’s back to the printed page. DIY books – electrics, plumbing, woodworking, metal working, anything by
Ray Mears and the Penguin Guide to Basic Farming will all be going into the back of my juggernaut. I’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of me.

6) Fuel. Need to stockpile as much of this as I can while the remaining stocks last. There’s going to be no fresh deliveries at the petrol stations for a while remember!

7) Animals. This might sound crazy but I’d round up a few stray dogs and keep them with me. Useful hunting companions and excellent guard dogs / early warning systems. In a few year's time all the strays will have reverted to wild – choose your pooches now while they are still house trained and retain a memory of man as the master. A man’s best friend and a friend for life – not just for a post-disaster Christmas.

8) Weaponry. Ostensibly for hunting but you just never know... again specialist shops should furnish you with a decent arsenal but I’d also be going to the local archery club and lifting a good bow or two. To hunt without announcing your presence is useful and may also guarantee your continued survival. Rogue gangs will be after your water and cigarette lighters remember!

9) Head for the hills. Once the juggernaut is loaded I’d be heading as far from the towns and cities as I could before the dead and the rotting engender an epidemic of typhoid and dysentery. Time to head for cleaner air and fertile farm land. Wales I reckon. Somewhere high up, defensible and remote enough to not be bothered by rabid hoodies who, as we all know, have an aversion to hill walking.

10) Make my new dwelling a home. Fortify the place. Barricade the doors and windows. Tinsel it about with weapons of minor destruction. No hoodie is going to tag his artless graffiti on my gaffe. Bury stockpiles of food and equipment just in case you run into trouble / thieves – always good to have a back-up supply hidden close by. Reconnoitre your immediate environment. Know what’s out there. Know the lie of the land. I’d gather some livestock too if possible – a few sheep and a few cows. The odd pig and chicken. Cool. That’s breakfast sorted out.

11) Acquire suitable company. Naturally my most dearest wish is that my wife and children survive with me but I’d also be on the look out for fellow survivors who are (a) not hoodies, (b) not escaped mental patients with a history of violence and (c) not Russell Brand. I would gather like minded individuals to my flag and steer my new commune onto even greater success and self sufficiency.

12) Set myself up as King and father a new dynasty for the new age. Hey, this survivalist malarkey ain’t half bad!

There. Simple. I don’t think I’ve missed anything out. Or have I?

What would you do if you were the lone survivor of a global disaster or plague?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mer Maid

The gorgeous Katie McGrathI’m not quite sure why I like the BBC’s “Merlin”.

It’s just as anachronistic as the Beeb’s “Robin Hood” ever was but somehow it has managed to annoy me far less. It just doesn’t jar or set my teeth on edge the way that RH did. Admittedly the “Merlin” costume dept. hasn’t seen fit to deck the Knights of Camelot out in Clint Eastwood style duster coats (as worn by the Merry Men in one famous RH episode) or dragged the invention of gunpowder across a few continents and up a few centuries.

I also suspect that there is something “looser” about the King Arthur legend. It’s not as tightly pinned down historically as Robin Hood. It is rife with magic and magic gives a writer carte blanche to take a few liberties and bend the facts a little… It’s to be expected and acceptable. And at the end of the day the “facts” around King Arthur have all been bent out of true anyway. Our present day take on the legend is a hundred miles away from that of the original (?) Welsh legend. Sir Thomas Mallory, lawd bless ‘im, was the Barbara Cartland of his day.

“Merlin” is also perfect Saturday night teatime family viewing. It knows its place and is happy to settle in there like a Phoenix plumping its nest. It’s got legs aplenty and I’m sure it will run and run whereas I feel that the “Robin Hood” production team rather shot their bolt prematurely with the last series of RH and have left themselves nowhere worthwhile to go.

The effects in “Merlin” are a little on the dodgy / cheap side but acceptable – i.e. they’re good BBC standard but would be laughed off the big screen. The castle is suitably grand and whimsical – far too European to be British, of course – and occasionally borders on the Walt Disney but I can overlook that. I’m also prepared to overlook the chain-mail armour which I’m sure wasn’t around for a hundred years or so after Arthur’s existence and the fact that even the poorest of peasants seem to live in substantial stone walled dwellings that would fetch a fair price on the modern day property market.

This largesse from one so normally picky and pedantic is due in some small part to the actors. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no performance here that is going to win someone a Bafta or an OBE – the script just doesn’t have that kind of range – but it’s all very well done and the actors are obviously committed. The tongue-in-cheek-ness that so ruined RH and made it a virtual pantomime is gratifyingly absent and instead we have full-on “BBC costume drama earnestness”.

And that is not a complaint.

I suspect “Merlin” is going to be a jumping board for a new batch of British TV stars who will go on to bigger and better things. Colin Morgan and Bradley James give good value as Merlin and Arthur respectively – they’re kind of an Arthurian version of Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte only without the man hugs and Aloysius the teddy bear. Anthony Head is pretty good as Uther though I can’t take his moments of gravitas seriously at all. I don’t know what it is – God knows I was never a Buffy fan – but whenever Mr Head talks I just feel like I’m listening to him present a voice-over to Heroes Unmasked or a Channel 5 documentary about the pervy religious rites of the Mayans.

And then there’s Richard Wilson as Gaius. What can I say? He’s so damned good I’d actually stopped making “I don’t believe it” jokes by the end of the second episode. Nuff said.

For me though the biggest pull (as if you haven’t guessed) is Katie McGrath as the poised and lofty Morgana. Hey, she’s a brunette, OK? And she steps neatly into the Saturday night TV totty void created when Lucy Griffiths’ Marion was insanely killed off in the last series of RH. Karen gave me a raised eyebrow when I purred my approval of Morgana and suggested that Gwen (Guinevere), played by Angel Coulby, seemed a far more fiery and passionate a prospect for a young man’s desire than Morgana who was plainly much too much of a “lady”. “Lady” said with a haughty, hoity-toity down-the-nose sneer.

And I have to agree. Gwen is far more of a wench than a lady and, yes, she’s comely enough (sire) but, in my (sadly) limited experience, wenches tend to be mere ladies in bed while ladies are definitely, most definitely wenches…

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh-Oh

Tom is positively skipping along the road of self determined communication at the moment.

Our days are fragranced by that special toddler music that everybody – from the hard hearted swine to the soft hearted sap – would consider “cute”.

Karen and I have been elevated in Tom’s eyes to food bringing servants who answer to the names of “Mamamamama” and “Dadadadada” respectively (I’m wondering if it’s too late to change Tom’s name to Pavlov). Ben has been christened “Bububububu” which I guess could be a baby-talk version of “Ben” or “brother”.

Obviously, being his dad and having a gushingly sentimental bias I find Tom’s every utterance an absolute delight. Though of course that sense of delight is mediated somewhat when his vocal acrobatics perforate the airways before 6.0am in the morning,

However, there is as yet only one word which I can say, hand on heart, Tom has been actively taught to say...

Tom is a fine mimic. A little story to prove this: we’ve all be coughing so much of late that Tom has taken to producing little pretend coughs at various points in our interactions obviously thinking they are some kind of normal conversational device. Anyway, whilst playing with the fridge magnets the other day (a very serious occupation) one happened to drop out of his hand onto the floor with quite a loud thud. He gave me a look of shock and surprise. Without thinking I responded with a comedic “Oh-oh”.

Tom’s eyes met mine and I swear I could see a look of recognition or cognizance sweep across his little face as his brain interpreted this response and related it to the world around him.

The word “oh-oh” came right back out at me followed by a very large giggle.

Now I’d like to think this was a reference to the dropped magnet and not as I secretly fear a reaction to the bespectacled gentleman that Tom now easily recognizes as his dadadadada...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bleurgh

Apologies for the lack of posting this week – though I’m sure you didn’t miss me – but me and the brood were all struck down by the lurgy.

Not a “cold” lurgy. That’s simple enough and to be expected at this time of year (or indeed any time of the year in the UK). I could have coped with that. No problemo.

Instead our immune systems were introduced to an unwelcome guest in the shape of a disease who I’m sure was the bizarre offspring of an unholy marriage between typhoid and dysentery.

He was a thorough little soul. I imagine him as a rather pale, round faced fellow, with metal-rimmed glasses perched daintily on the end of his nose and a penchant for wearing rubber gloves. Akin to an auditor of bodily functions, he got his feet under the table distressingly quickly and made it his business to go through every little process that related to the ingestion and the expulsion of food. His computations were constant, his calculator buttons hot and we’ve all been heavily taxed as a consequence.

To put it simply: we’ve had both ends on the go at once. We had a run on the family bank, so to speak, and the vaults are now empty.

I’m sure you get my meaning.

This is the first day I’ve felt human again.

This is the first day I’ve not been perched above the toilet or propped, face down, gazing despondently into its Loch Ness depths.

This is the first day I’ve felt in control of my body again.

The auditor has finally left the building.

But be warned, however, folks: he’s looking for lodgings elsewhere. I’m sure of it. I’d keep your account books clean if I were you…

Double entry book keeping isn’t for everyone.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Costumes

Because it’s Children In Need day today we’ve had to send our two boys off into the world dressed for the stage.

The youngest, Tom, has had to go to nursery dressed as a pirate. This has meant attiring him in a stripy top, a sword belt, a little waistcoat and some trousers that have been theatrically shredded at the bottom to give him that “Mutiny On The Bounty” look.

He looks frighteningly like Mr Smee from Walt Disney’s Peter Pan.

The costume has been finished off with a little foam hook that he can wave around. It’s very blunt and soft and I suspect the only danger to life and limb will be a transference of snot from Tom’s extremely runny nose to the face of whoever gets too close to him.

I wish I was clever enough to make a joke about Mutiny On The Bogey but I’m not so I won’t.

Our eldest, Ben, has in his own opinion been rather short changed in the dressing up stakes. His school, for some possibly pacific reason, has demanded that the children attend today dressed as “dancers”.

Hmm. It’s not an idea to inspire a rough-and-tumble 7 year old.

Ben spent the entire journey to school this morning eyeing up Tom’s hook with unmasked envy and I must admit I feel a little sympathy towards him (although I expressed this by making sundry jokes about ballet tutus and suggesting that he tell his mates that he’s come to school today dressed as Wayne Sleep). While it’s laudable that the school are promoting the idea of non aggressive interaction and trans-gender activities I can’t help feeling that most of the kids – boy and girl – would have been far happier with a “Kings and Queens” theme, say, or a monsters theme or, yes, even pirates. And if some of the girls wanted to dress as a King rather than a Queen and some of the boys wanted to be a princess for the day I’m sure it would have been fine.

But at the end of the day you can’t stop boys being boys and girls being girls.

Ben owns a fine collection of toy swords but even if Karen and I hadn’t tooled him up with the best that Toys R Us had to offer I guarantee he would have gone out on a walk and found himself a stick or a branch and fashioned his own. My motto is: better a cheaply manufactured foam sword than a piece of lead pipe lifted off a building site. Especially when you’re on the receiving end.

But back to the “dancers” theme. I can only assume that someone at Ben’s school is a fan of Strictly Come Dancing and I now feel that we’ve regrettably missed a great trick:

With the addition of a grey wig, some wobbly jowls and a paunch made of several sofa cushions Ben could have gone dressed as John Sergeant.

I’m sure that would have made him feel a lot better.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

There Are Bigger Fish To Fry

Delivering a worthwhile complaint in an effective manner is an art and one we should all learn.

Because no matter who you are, having to listen and act upon complaints that are not worthwhile is a right royal pain in the arse.

I know, because my job seems to entail me being the all-welcoming receptacle of such complaints for about 90% of my working day. Now, most of the time, the complaints are what I’d call “fairly” valid – malfunctioning doors, broken urinals, electronic glitches, etc. Not world disasters by any stretch of the imagination but they need to be dealt with and all I have to do is receive them with a beatific smile and a Buddhist Monk’s composure and see that they are forwarded to the right people...

Simple.

Unfortunately, despite my very best efforts, the odds of me achieving Nirvana under the officious auspices of my benevolent employer are becoming longer and longer. My smile is beginning to slip so far off my face my toes are starting to poke through it.

I am becoming sick of complaints.

Ill. Diseased.

And not just complaints directed at me but those that are directed at other people too.

Now I’m not talking about the big complaints – world poverty, fuel prices, the frightening number of children who are being abused and killed despite social services being “aware” of them, etc. No. No. These are big worthwhile complaints which deserve to be heard and should be amplified by as many people as possible so that they can be used as iron rods to give those in a position to do something about them a hard time.

But little inconsequential complaints are beginning to irritate me greatly. Possibly because they divert people away from the biggies.

Take the Russell Brand and Jonathon Ross debacle a couple of weeks ago. It was daft. It was silly. They were punished. Did it really warrant the sheer number of complaints that hit the BBC like a tidal wave? Didn’t these people who complained have other, far more weightier grievances that they could have spent their time and money complaining about?

The war in Iraq? The crumbling NHS service? No?

And now Jeremy Clarkson is facing a barrage of media boosted complaints for his gag about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes and for apparently giving an American cop the finger in last week’s episode of Top Gear.

Oh calamity! Let’s forget about the appalling number of youngsters who are dying in our towns and cities – victims of domestic physical abuse – and complain about Jeremy Clarkson for being good humouredly provocative instead. Far more worthwhile. Far more worthy of media coverage. Hold the front page! Call an emergency session of Parliament!

Don’t get me wrong. On the whole, complaints are good things. Having the confidence and the voice to complain is a valuable asset in the modern world. We need to teach our kids to complain about injustice and wrong doing in an attempt to stamp out such things in the future.

But let’s not squander this asset on trivia. Life is just too short. And for some poor souls – like 17 month old “Baby P”, horrifically beaten to death despite 60 separate visits from UK Social Services – it’s never going to be long enough.

Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a complaint.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Fawke Off List

No.1) Dizzy whatever his name is talking to Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight yesterday evening attributing Obama’s recent Presidential success solely to the far reaching, world harmonizing effects of “hip-hop music”.

Yeah right, cos like it was his fly rappin’ what won the election for ‘im, innit?

Now, I don’t doubt that having a young, black role model has encouraged young Americans (black and white) to get off their backsides and vote – contributing to one of the best voting turn outs America has seen for a long time – but I don’t recall hip-hop having much of a role in this.

Personally I put it down to worthy policies, intelligent strategies, uplifting rhetoric and the promise of much needed change from the top down after the long stagnation of the Bush (mis)administration. Not a predilection for a lickle bit of drum and bass.

Besides which Obama looks more like a Nat King Cole man than Dr. Dre.

Paxman just looked bemused by Dizzy’s stuttering schoolyard outpourings and I couldn’t help thinking that the show’s producers had merely asked Dizzy to take part simply because he was black and had street cred and not because he had anything intelligent to say.

Sorry to dis you, old chap, but that’s just how it is.

No.2) Fireworks. I hate them.

Call me a killjoy. Accuse me of not being down with the kids (what’s wrong with a lickle bit of Nat King Cole, eh bruv?) but if ever I got into a position of power I would ensure the nationwide ban of all firework sales to individuals.

Now I’m not saying they should be banned altogether. Properly organized displays are fine. They’re safer. Less damaging to the environment. And less damaging to the social well-being of local citizens.

But in the hands of individuals they are lethal.

I’m sick to death of being woken by idiots detonating atomic explosions at 1, 2 and 3 in the morning. I’m sick to death of seeing teen Neanderthals launching fireworks down roads towards occupied vehicles coming the other way.

Most of all I’m sick to death of hearing every year of some poor kid or animal that has been badly burnt by (a) rogue fireworks that have detonated by mistake (b) mindless individuals who use fireworks as novelty weapons or (c) hospitalized by makeshift bonfires that haven’t been properly tended or constructed or have been tampered with by local yobs.

One injury is one injury too many. End of.

Selling fireworks is selling gunpowder without a license to people who, with the best will in the world, don’t always have a brain.

OK. The soapbox is now put away.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Most Embarrassing Record

Cliff Richard
In a move that will probably prove to be as unwise as John McCain choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate and simultaneously start the blog world’s most shortest lived meme I hereby pose the challenge:

Name your most embarrassing record / CD ever!

You know the kind of thing.

You were young / old. You were feeling impetuous / temporarily insane. You had the money spare and you just thought, “What the hell, Shakin’ Stevens has never looked so good...” and before you knew what you were doing you’d done the deed; you’d bought IT – the single or album that for a short while was a guilty pleasure and then with the passing of time just became a source of unpleasurable guilt. The record that you store secretly in a separate place from the rest of your collection just in case visiting hands chance upon it in the midst of your other far cooler musical acquisitions.

The record that will lose you friends, family, hairdressers and influence people in a bad way.

Ahem. OK. Deep breath.

Mine is “Wired For Sound” by Cliff Richard.

I know. I know. I feel like upping the challenge a bit more and yelling, “Yeah! Beat that!”

Let’s get one thing straight. I hate Cliff Richard. I loathe the man. And I am at pains to point this out to absolutely everyone that I meet. Every time I see his sanctimonious, tea-stained leather face staring up at me from a magazine or newspaper I just want to vomit. And as for his singing voice... that “Oh I’m so sincere” warble makes me want to gouge a hole in space and time and chuck him into it.

But “Wired For Sound” in my opinion is a great record. What can I say? It’s a really catchy melody. It’s got great hooks littered all over the place. It wasn’t written by Cliff. Maybe this explains it?

And can I just add that liking the record does not mean I enjoy watching the video. The video – Cliff gliding around on sparkly roller-skates like a terrified geriatric tied to a conveyor belt of death is not the stuff that great music videos are made of. I hoot with vicious laughter every time I see it.

But I do have the song on my MP3 player. And I have been known to listen to it whilst pootling my way around town.

OK. It’s done. Hate me if you must. Revile me if you can but the gauntlet is thrown down.

I now challenge Inchy, Rol, Tris, Reluctant Blogger, Brother Tobias and The Sagitarian to name their most embarrassing record of all time. Usual meme rules apply: pass it on, let other victims know they’ve been tagged and then wash your dirty musical laundry in public.

Go on. You know you want to.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Quantum Physics

Craig Daniels as James BondKaren and I reintroduced ourselves to cinema life last night by calling in our trusty babysitter, T, and heading off to see the new Bond movie "Quantum Of Solace".

"Casino Royale" had impressed us hugely – Craig’s taciturn but intelligent thug at last restoring the Bond franchise to something approximating its glory years when Connery was at the helm / trigger. Craig didn’t so much as hold the screen as pin it down in a head-lock, bloody its nose and then pour an expensive but rejuventating cocktail down its throat.

Viewers choked in ecstacy. Had Bond ever been this good?

But that was then. This is now. The question last night was: could Craig do it again?

Cut to the nodding dog from the Churchill adverts. Oh yes.

Craig has brought a good old fashioned physicality to the role that Bond had been missing for years. Since Connery in fact. Timothy Dalton did his best to give Bond a raw edge but he was too stiff, too stilted – the scripts didn’t allow for any depth or humanity in Bond’s psychological make-up. Dalton’s bond buckled under the pressure.

Not so with Craig. There’s a living, breathing human being behind the suit, behind the gun sights. One that is damaged, finding it difficult to process his emotions. His taciturnity is due to emotional trauma rather than robotic detachment. It speaks volumes as opposed to obscuring any sense of the man.

But it’s not overdone. Bond isn’t a soap and never should be. Bond’s inner feeling are very deftly, very lightly touched upon but never exploited for a quick bit of meaningless shmaltz. We see a flash of emotion but then it is masked – an action that in itself hints at a profound inner vulnerability – and then Bond (over) compensates with some breath-taking, "horribly efficient" violence. Bond hides behind his suit, behind his job. Behind his duty. His depths have complicated shadows and I’d much rather see those as Bond’s 'schtick' than Moore’s wetly debonair tailor’s dummy quips and eyebrow jerks.

I like the fact that there are fewer gadgets in this incarnation of Bond. The opening car chase is a case in point. No bullet proof glass. No missile launchers hidden behind the headlights. No oil jet hidden beneath the exhaust.

Just hard-crunching steering wheel action, lethal slivers of glass peppering the lens and a quick grab for the machine gun lying on the passenger seat. Bang bang. You’re dead. Eff you.

There’s a continuity to the plot that works too. It has the effect of widening the scope of the Bond world, fleshing it out. Gives it a much needed integrity. Nothing is happening in isolation. Some of the characters – both heroes and villains – reprise their roles from "Casino Royale". This both hints at and creates a sense of history, a sense of place. There’s a bigger story unfolding in the Bond world that isn’t going to be snappily concluded in the destruction of the bad guy’s base.

Because behind this bad guy is a bigger bad guy. Or in this case a whole group of them and there isn’t a white pussy cat to be stroked between them. Bond’s new arena of espionage and spy chasing owes much to the Bourne films, I feel. This world is muddy grey not black and white. There’s a tacit acknowledgment of double dealings by the UK government, paying off bad guys where necessary, funding coups, allies screwing each other over out of self interest that would have been unthinkable in early Bond movies. But these murky waters allow Bond to embody an amoral purity. He doesn’t do deals. He doesn’t care about the money. He hasn’t got a retirement plan. His methods are direct, irreverible and (cinematically) just.

He’s a rogue agent. But he’s our rogue agent and that makes everything alright. He’s both the underdog and the superior overlord.

Nobody can touch him.

But the impact can be felt from miles away.

Welcome back Mr Bond.