Sunday 1 November 2020

Sean Connery | August 25th 1930 - October 31st 2020 | The First OO7 Hangs Up His Walther PPK

It was inevitable. As I read of Sir Sean Connery's ailing health in recent years, I would check for news of his passing. But then, I would also think that he'd last another five, maybe even ten years. 

I was in bed reading. It was just past midnight, Sunday November 1st when my wife and I heard two rapid knocks on our bedroom door before my daughter burst in and said; "I just read on social media that Sean Connery died! I didn't want to tell you, but I didn't want you to read it tomorrow and be upset."

Slightly stunned by the news, I sat there thinking about it, letting it sink in. I looked up Nothing yet. I checked Instagram. News was already coming through, with links to comments by Connery's son, Jason.

Sean Connery passed away in his sleep, aged 90, at his house in the Bahamas. Many of his family members were there. It's what I call a million-dollar ending. We should all be so lucky to check out that way. 

While Roger Moore was the Bond that I grew up with, and the one who made me sit up and take notice of this Bond fellow, it was Connery's earlier portrayal of OO7 that turned me into a life-long Bond fan. Reading the Fleming books a few years later, in the early '80s, Connery was the Bond that I pictured coming off the page. The dark hair, cruel good looks, and cold manner when on the job were embodied by Connery in his first Bond flick Dr No (Dir: Terence Young, United Artists, 1962). This was honed a great deal by Terence Young, who taught Connery about fine tailoring, fine dining, and other attributes that made up the literary character of James Bond. 

Certainly, Sean Connery had his Scots accent rather than a British one, but it was a deep voice which gave him a commanding and confident presence on-screen. He moved like a panther, as has often been said, and he had a certain magnetism about him, all of which helped give this first Bond film a promising start to what the Producers hoped would be a franchise. 

I was at the Designing OO7 - Fifty Years of Bond Style exhibition seven years ago and, after seeing various exhibits of props from the Bond movies, I continued on to a room to my right. I parted a beaded curtain which led into a large room that had been done up to look like a casino. As I stepped inside, I saw a roulette table and up above, there were a few large-screen monitors showing scenes from various Bond films and I happened to walk in just as Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson, the FIRST Bond Girl) asks her opponent his name while playing against him in a high-stakes game of chemin de fer

Connery's introduction in this scene is the stuff of movie legend and his almost world-weary delivery of his name has been much used by other Bond actors, but never bettered. 

Ian Fleming was less than impressed with the casting of Connery. He wanted somebody like David Niven or Rex Harrison for the part. Cary Grant was offered the role and he said he'd do one picture, but would not commit to a series. Much as I love Cary Grant, he was too old for the part, as were Niven and Harrison. Sure, they were terribly English and all that, but literary Bond was a hard man, and the role required a certain level of physicality. And Bond had to look like he could kill a man with his bare hands. Niven couldn't have done it. Casting a younger and virtually unknown actor like Connery was the right move, in my view. 
Fleming had said; I wanted Commander Bond, not some sort of overgrown stuntman.

In the end, Fleming was happy with the choice of Connery in the role. There are photos which show him conversing with Connery on-set and, as the film was shot partly in Jamaica, there are pics of the cast having lunch with Fleming (presumably at his house Goldeneye in Oracabessa). Fleming published his next Bond book, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, in 1963 and in it, he gave readers a little more of Bond's backstory. Bond's father Andrew was a Scot. This was a nod to Connery as, by the time filming of Dr No was half completed, he had grown to be happy with the film-maker's choice of Connery for the role. As the film had a total budget of $1,000,000, the producers had to make the money go as far as it could. 
The film grossed 6.9 million dollars. 

Part of Connery's appeal in the role of Bond was his smart-assery, something which has been sadly lacking in the Daniel Craig Bonds. Connery could deliver a line with just a slight arching of an eyebrow and a purr in his voice. In You Only Live Twice (Dir: Lewis Gilbert, 1967), we find Bond tied to a chair while Helga Brandt (Karin Dor) stands over him holding a scalpel.
"I've got you right where I want you", she says.
"Well enjoy yourself", he replies. 
I recall seeing this film on DVD one night and my wife remarked with a smile; "He's so arrogant."  

In the unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again (Dir: Irwin Kershner, 1983), there's a stupid scene when Bond goes up against Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) by playing against him in a video game. A video game!
To make it all seem more adult, they play for money and the game's joysticks give off an electric shock every time a player loses. As the monetary stakes get higher, so do the electric shocks. 
Anyway, Bond wins the game and donates his tens of thousands of winnings to some charity. Largo says to him; "Tell me, Mr Bond, are you as gracious a loser as you are a winner?" 
Connery-Bond replies; "I wouldn't know know, I've never lost." 
It's lines like these that are missing from the current Bond films and, even the quips from the Pierce Brosnan-era films seem dated or poorly written. The humour in the Roger Moore Bonds was a product of its time, in the era of bawdy British comedy such as The Benny Hill Show and the Carry-On films, which is a shame because given some smart, witty lines, Moore could have done a lot with them.

Connery did five Bond films in the Sixties before growing tired of the role and fearing that he'd be typecast. He announced his resignation from the role half-way through filming of You Only Live Twice. The Japanese press, whose photographers followed him into a men's room, probably help him make up his mind. He was lured back to the role for 1971's Diamonds Are Forever and donated his 1.2 million dollar salary to set up the Scottish International Education Trust, which was designed to bestow grants to artists in Scotland. Connery's contract also stipulated that United Artists would fund two films of his choice. 
He went on to make The Offence, directed by Sidney Lumet. It was a police procedural about a detective who questions a paedophile about his recent crimes and over the course of the film, Connery's detective begins to lose his grip. Working again for Lumet, Connery went on to make The Anderson Tapes, a caper film where a thief's entire plan for a large-scale robbery has been recorded through wire taps and surveillance cameras. 
A few duds followed in the 1970s, but he did a great film in 1975 called The Man Who Would Be King, co-starring Michael Caine, and directed by John Huston. Based on a Rudyard Kipling short story, it concerns two British ex-soldiers in the 1880s who wind up in Afghanistan and one of them is mistaken for a god. It was one of Connery's better films from that era. Along with Robin And Marian (Dir: Richard Lester, 1976), in which he played an ageing Robin Hood, returned from the Crusades to find the Sheriff of Nottingham (Robert Shaw, cool!) still running the town and Maid Marian (Audrey Hepburn) is now a nun. 
He also did some ensemble parts in films such as Murder On The Orient Express (1974) and A Bridge Too Far (1977).

Aside from being lured back to the role of Bond for Never Say Never Again, the early '80s was a lack-lustre time for Connery until 1986, when he starred as 12th century Franciscan monk William of Baskerville who ventures to an abbey in Northern Italy for a meeting with papal representatives, but is soon lured into investigating a series of odd deaths among the clergy at the abbey. Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, this French-Italian co-production didn't do so well in the US, but garnered much of its box office receipts in Europe. Connery delivers a great performance in this film. Another notable standout is Ron Perlman, who would later find success in Sons of Anarchy on the FX network. 

Personally, I think Connery should have gotten an Oscar for this film, but this was not to be. For another year. It was his role as 1930s Chicago beat cop Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables (Brian De Palma, 1987) that Connery would score a Best Supporting Actor statuette. Granted, his short "You wanna get Capone?" monologue is nicely written and beautifully delivered. You get the sense that Malone knows how his town operates and is fully aware of why he's still a uniform cop pounding the streets at his age. Other roles soon followed and while some weren't Oscar-worthy material (The Presidio), they ensured that newer audiences got a glimpse of the persona that made up the first James Bond of the silver screen. Luckily, we got him as Indiana Jones' dad in Spielberg's Indian Jones and The Last Crusade in 1989. And we also had The Hunt For Red October and The Russia House, both in 1990.
He later appeared opposite Nicholas Cage in Michael Bay's The Rock (1996), a wasted effort in my book. Here we have the guy who played Bond, and it wasn't utilised to its fullest extent. Mind you, this was probably to be expected in a Michael Bay movie. 
Connery's last film was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Dir: Stephen Norrington, 2003). By all accounts it wasn't a great film. I can vouch for that. The CGI in some later scenes was awful. This film was a gruelling exercise for Connery and it was enough to convince him to retire from acting. Spielberg tried to lure him out of retirement five years later for Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull. No luck. Peter Jackson wanted him to play Gandalf, but Connery wasn't interested in staying in New Zealand for a few years of filming. 
Sean Connery came out of retirement (sort of) to provide the voice of James Bond in EA Games' rendition of From Russia With Love in 2005 for the Playstation 2, Game Cube and X Box consoles. It was great to see his younger likeness on screen, albeit in a video game, and while it was his voice that we heard in the game, it was older Connery's voice. Still, it had some bite left in it. He also gave the makers of the game some insight into how Bond should fire a gun in the game, based on the weapons training that he received way back in the early 1960s. 
His last job was another voice-over gig for an animated film called Sir Billi (Dir: Sacha Hartmann, 2012). It wasn't well received. 
Still, I choose to remember Sean Connery firstly as the original James Bond on the big screen, and then as an actor in some great films of the Sixties (Marnie, A Fine Madness, The Hill), Seventies and Eighties. He grew up poor, and had his share of stresses - he joined the navy at 16 and was discharged at 19 due to duodenal ulcers. I know what that's like. I had a duodenal ulcer from the age of twenty-three to the age of thirty-six. I think he got to an age where he had made a success of his life and chose to do whatever he wanted. That's one sure-fire way to avoid any stress. 
It was Connery's Bond that made me a Bond fan. In no small way did his portrayal of OO7 ensure the success and longevity of the series. Here we are, 58 years later, and they're still making Bond movies (that we're still waiting to see, thank-you Covid-19). 
So, I'm grateful that Sean Connery existed. I'm saddened to hear of his passing, but I'm heartened by the peaceful way he went out. 
I hope he knew of the legacy that he leaves behind. Sure, Bond became a millstone around his neck at times, but whenever the cameras would catch him in the crowd at a Wimbledon Tournament, the crowd would clap and cheer. 
And the smile on his face always seemed genuine. 

Thanks for everything, Mr Connery. Your work has brought me much pleasure. 

RIP, and condolences to those close to you. 
                                         Fantastic artwork by Dave Seguin

Thanks for reading!

Monday 28 September 2020

Monday, September 28th, 2020 - Goodbye Mrs Bond, Oh My Dear Dussy, DVD Culling, Happy Birthday Princess! + Recent Wristwatches

This month saw the passing of Dame Diana Rigg, at the age of 82. She starred in the 1960s British TV series The Avengers and in the later seasons of Game of Thrones in the past decade, as well as appearing on stage and screen throughout her career. 

picture taken from Wow, I've never seen this photo before. Cool!

But any Bond fan worth his PPK will know that she played the one woman that Bond has ever married (so far) and therefore she occupies a rare spot in OO7 lore. Rigg starred as Contessa Teresa 'Tracy' Di Vicenzo, the troublesome and wayward daughter of Corsican crime boss Marc-Ange Draco and she delivered a performance that was equal parts strong and brittle.

In their attempts to lure Sean Connery back after he quit the role following the release of 1967's You Only Live Twice, EON Productions offered to cast Brigitte Bardot as Tracy which, in my view, would have been sensational. I mean, sure, Bond would quit the Secret Service to marry somebody who looked like Bardot, but I think Rigg's acting chops were definitely sharper and while Bardot would have been cool - assuming she said 'yes' to the role - I think the part required somebody that we the audience could fall in love with too. You had to believe that Bond would drop everything to marry a girl like her. And Diana Rigg made you believe it.

I'm 54 years old and am now at the age where all the formative characters from the early films that helped make me a James Bond fan are getting older and leaving this life. Roger Moore died in 2017 and some of the major Bond Girls also left us in the past couple of years, most notably Honor Blackman and Tania Mallet, who both appeared in the classic Goldfinger, and Claudine Auger, who starred in Thunderball, as well as Nadja Regin (From Russia With Love and Goldfinger) and Molly Peters (Thunderball). 

Speaking of Bond,  the new trailer for No Time To Die was released in the first week of September.

As you may know, this is Daniel Craig's swansong in the role. No news on who'll be the next OO7, but that hasn't stopped the river of speculation. 

Henry Cavill has once again been mentioned, as has Tom Hardy, fuelling further speculation that Batman/Inception/Tenet director Christopher Nolan could be attached to helm the next movie. Watch the first ten minutes of The Dark Knight Rises or the last 20 minutes of Inception to get an idea of how Nolan would handle a Bond movie. Let him write the screenplay too, I'm begging you. 

I think Henry Cavill would be good, but Tom Hardy just strikes me as too close to Daniel Craig in terms of build and screen presence. I would love to see Sam Claflin (below) as Bond, as he has a look that would be closer to Ian Fleming's original template in the novels. 

In Fleming's book's, Bond is fit, but he's not got the kind of build that Daniel Craig has. He has a leaner physique, more like a swimmer than a body-builder. Claflin has a nice look about him and at age 34, he could probably handle three or four Bond movies over a 12 or fifteen year period.

Anyway, casting for the next Bond is so far away at the moment that it's not really worth considering. As is sometimes the case, some new actor may appear on the horizon in 2022, an actor who hasn't yet made a name for himself. I'm sure there's a youngish English actor out there who's just completed a tv series that's yet to air. Let's say this tv series then becomes big, like a Downton Abbey or Sherlock Holmes. Next thing you know, this actor is the talk of the town. He appears in a film or two and he's soon being touted as a potential Bond. It's happened often enough. 

Anyway, Bond fan must wear Bond watch, so I had the Rolex Submariner 5513 on my wrist in recent weeks;

I was standing outside a shopping centre, wearing a mask on a sunny Spring day, when I glanced down at my watch and thought it might make for a decent photo. While I waited for my wife to finish some grocery shopping, I took a few snaps. As an aside, I have to say that we've been doing more incidental trips to the supermarket to stock up on supplies during this Covid-19 lock-down. Certainly spent more on groceries than usual. The upside is that I filled my car's fuel tank on August 5th (approx.) and it's still only half-empty as of today, September 21st.                                                                 Swings and roundabouts, I suppose. 
At the time of writing (Sept 20th), Covid-19 cases here in Victoria have shown significant decreases.
Sept 1st - 73
Sept 5th - 71
Sept 10th - 48
Sept 15th - 46
Sept 20th - 13
It has varied a little up and down throughout this month, but the signs are there that numbers are falling, hopefully to the extent that the current lock-down, due to be softened on September 28th, may be lifted further, to allow more people to return to work. 
Anyway, wait and see.

We took the cats to the vet for their routine shots. I mentioned that Dussy, our older cat, was drinking a little more water than normal in recent months. They told me they'd take a blood and urine sample to check for renal dysfunction and diabetes, since this cat of ours is now around thirteen years old (we think?) and they can be susceptible to these types of issues at that age. 

We got a call from the vet a couple of days later. Our feline has the early stages of renal failure. Her kidneys aren't operating as smoothly as they should in removing waste and purifying the blood. Her condition will deteriorate over time, but we can change her diet in the meantime and this should give her anywhere between six to twelve months or as long as two to three years. 

My wife had her mobile phone on speaker as the vet was explaining all of this. I sat there in stunned silence and then I turned around and saw Madame sitting at my feet, looking up at me and my eyes welled up. I had some questions that I wanted to ask the vet, but I knew my voice would break if I spoke.

I spent a few mopey days dealing with other stuff, such as work emails, chores around the house and such, and then wrote down a few questions for the vet. I called her later in the week and had a brief discussion about where to go from here. She stated that Dussy (also known as 'Wispy'...and a thousand other names that she doesn't answer to) would require a prescription diet consisting of protein-rich canned food which would slow down the degeneration of her kidneys thereby extending her life-span. I still felt bad after hanging up the phone. 

Later in the day, I went to a nearby pet store to buy some of this prescribed food. They had a vet there and she ran me through the feeding portions for this new diet. She also told me not to worry so much about this. A change in diet can add more years to the cat's life than my current vet had stated. Madame may last another five years or more. One fellow over on a wristwatch forum that I visit told me that his cat lived another ten years after a diagnosis of renal failure.  He said his cat outlived the vet! 

My family also reassured me that Madam Dussy is still as spry as she ever was. She's definitely more active than our other cat, Bowie. So, we've been introducing this new food to her over the past few days and she's having no problems with it. She currently weighs 3.15 kilos, which is a slight drop since her last visit to the vet. The idea is to get her up to 4kg and then maintain it. 

We'll see how she goes over the next few months. 

I think she suspects something. They're trying to fatten me up! Trying to ruin my svelte, youthful figure.

I wore the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean at some point;

The Olympia SF was sold (see previous post). I like the look of it, and the fact that Fleming used one at his house in Jamaica, but I've always found Olympia super-slim typewriters a little loud and rough to type on. My Tower Chieftain III (a Smith-Corona Skyriter by any other name) is a smoother machine, and I still have my Olivetti Lettera 32 - my high school weapon of choice, that I bought brand new in 1981 - and the circa 1958 Groma Kolibri. 

Then, I looked at some other typewriters that I thought of moving along. I laid out the circa 1952 Olivetti Studio;

I really like the design of this typewriter. It's screams 'wartime Italy' , since its design stems back to the Studio 42 model from, yep, 1942. I bet Vittorio De Sica hammered out a few screenplays on one of these throughout this career. The ribbon cover lifts up like the bonnet (hood) of a 1960 Alfa Romeo Sprint (hinged at the front of the lid, rather than the back). This is a solidly-built typewriter and, despite the racket, I love how the keys feel when I type on it. But, man, is this typewriter loud! I could get the platen re-covered by J.J. Short in the US, but I have other priorities. And I suspect that if I ever send a platen to get re-rubberised, the smart thing to do would be to send a few of them in one hit.

 And the other typer that I hauled out was the circa 1951 Olympia SM2;

I loaded a sheet of paper into both of them and started typing. I love how the Olivetti looks, but it has a hard touch to the keys and the typeslugs are loud as they hit the platen. The Olympia SM2 is wonderful to type with. I also have a SM3 model from 1954 which types just as nicely. 

So far, it feels like a case of brains vs beauty. I think in the end, the Olivetti will go, but I don't think I'm ready to let it go just yet. This is as much an exercise in de-cluttering as it is anything else. As I've said before, if it ain't being used, it's just taking up space. I have fourteen typewriters, and I'm trying to get it down to a respectable dozen.     

Possibly a Baker's Dozen, the way I'm going. I think I'll have to lay them all out and have a bash at the keys on all of them. I already know that my 1936 Smith-Corona Standard types a little rough, but it's charisma is through the roof!

Have to say I'm really enjoying Any Human Heart, by William Boyd. The protagonist, Logan Mountstuart, has gotten out of Oxford and has tried his hand at writing a few books and selling artwork as World War II looms. Told in the first person, the character of Mountstuart comes off the page, with all of his observations, quirks and flaws.

Okay, I have a lot of DVDs. I haven't counted them but there are quite a few that I've accumulated over the last fifteen or twenty years. Movies, TV show box-sets, Japanese animes, foreign films, etc. As I continue to (slowly) de-clutter here and there, I thought it was time to do something about them. I purchased a DVD ripping software app and began loading films onto a 1Tb portable hard drive. These are films that have no Director's commentaries or worthy (in my view) extras. A lot of them are movies from the '80s, such as The Money Pit, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Bull Durham, Midnight Run. This collection of discs filled up a 6.5 foot tall DVD shelf, two drawers of the tv cabinet, and a wooden chest that was in a corner of the lounge room. Something had to be done. 

Aside from the portable hard drive, I bought some plastic sleeves off eBay. These can hold up to three discs, as well as the cover insert from the DVD's jewel case. 

I also bought some small paper envelopes for CDs. These would be used for the extra discs of any double or triple-disc set. I was then going to hunt around for plastic tubs or boxes that could hold a stack of these DVD sleeves. To my surprise, I found that a standard cardboard wine box would hold anywhere from 70 to 85 films, depending on how many extras discs they came with. Perfect. 

We have another tall DVD shelf in the spare room and that's loaded with music CDs. My wife was getting rid of her entire CD collection and I suggested that I could burn her favourite albums into iTunes and then load them onto the 160 Gb iPod that I bought for her about five years ago that she's never used. One-Sixty Gig should hold every CD in the house. I plan on slipping my CDs into plastic sleeves as well, since a lot of my music is made up of hard-to-find movie scores and soundtracks, a lot of Rolling Stones, Bowie, Springsteen and The Beatles. This is all a big job, but when it's all done, the leftover DVD and CD collections should all fit onto the 6.5 foot tall DVD shelf in the spare room, hopefully with room to spare.

The fiddly part of this task is the TV series boxed-set collections. All seven (or is it eight?) seasons of the Kiefer Sutherland series 24 comprise of 55 discs! Add other shows, such as Mad Men, Alias and The Sopranos and you can see that I'll have my work cut out for me. Thank God I never started buying The Simpsons! I've already started loading Magnum PI onto the hard drive. Once that's done, I may try putting all eight seasons on eBay. Got a soft-spot for this show. More than likely, I'll probably end up watching every episode over the next few years and then delete them from the hard drive. 

So, at the moment, I have a lot of empty DVD jewel cases lying around and a bag full of movies to get rid of, with more on the way as I continue to burn onto the hard drive and/or store into sleeves. Then, the plan is to take them to a nearby nursing home and offer it to them free if they have a TV room for their residents. Failing that, they'll all go to a thrift store. 

Now, the only wild card with this whole process is the portable hard drive. From what I've read, these can degrade over time, rendering their contents useless. Well, I guess I'll just take my chances. Maybe transfer the contents onto a new drive in three to five years or so,  

I wore the Omega Seamaster 300 WatchCo edition while working on this momentous act of folly;

And also the Movember Edition Oris Divers SixtyFive, on a black NATO strap;

My daughter turned 18 this month.  The years have flown by. We made her favourite meal for her birthday (lasagna) and I gave her her presents. She's had an eye on my Pelikan M400 fountain pen for some time, but as you may know, fountain pens require a little more care and feeding than a basic ballpoint pen, so I got her the ballpoint equivalent of my 'milk & honey' pen. And I got a leather NATO strap for her to put on her other Oris watch.



And then, after dinner, I mixed her up a Grasshopper cocktail;

30ml of Green Crème de Menthe          

30ml of Crème de Cacao                

30ml of cream                                   

Put all three ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake for 20 to 30 seconds and then pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of grated chocolate. Serve. 

It basically tastes like a mint-flavoured chocolate bar, but it IS a classic cocktail. Probably goes very nicely with an ice cream dessert. So, she had it along with a tartufo.  

Not a bad way to spend your 18th Birthday in lock-down.

I picked up a $40 bracelet off eBay, to try it out on the Tudor Oyster hand-wound watch that I recently had serviced. I opted to try out a 'straight-edged' bracelet because I already have a couple which feature a curved edge and they just don't fit against the watch's case properly.  Straight-edge bracelets were used on watches during the 1950s. Yes, they leave a gap between case and bracelet, just like a leather strap would, but I have no quibbles with this, as the watch dates back to somewhere between 1958 and say, 1963. This bracelet suits the watch perfectly. It does feel a little cheap, as any $40 buck steel bracelet might, so I may purchase something similar, in a higher price bracket if I find that this one gets more wear. 

I currently still have two watches that have been repaired and are awaiting collection from the watchmaker. He had to close due to the lock-down, so with a bit of luck, I should be able to go pick them up in the next few weeks. And then, time to put a few watches on eBay. 

Friday, September 25th

                                      This statewide lock-down is due to be lifted in the next few days, subject to Covid cases staying low. The last seven days have shown;

18th - 48    19th - 24     20th - 13    21st - 14     22nd -30     23rd -31     24th -10    25th -17              


          5                7                  5                 2                   3                    5                    2                    8

Difficult to tell if the numbers will subside to single digits for a consistent period of time, signalling that our state has this virus under some sort of control.  Either way, my employer has applied for worker permits so that we can return to work in a limited capacity. I'll be heading in to the office next Thursday and Friday, along with the watchmaker, to tackle the work that has mounted up since August 4th. The other staff will do two-day shifts on other days. This two-day roster may well continue through the rest of October and possibly into November as well. 

The office will be given a deep clean twice daily. I plan to wipe down surfaces before and after touching them, but I also plan on staying at my desk as much as possible, to minimise the amount of surfaces that I touch. No couriers are permitted to visit our office. All deliveries will be sent to our post office box address. We'll still conduct Zoom meetings every morning at 10:30, to keep us all in the loop. Till we get back to some kind of normal, or the 'new' normal, that's how things will be. 

Can't say that I've moved mountains during this lock-down period. Glad to have gotten the DVD task underway and I started exercising also, though not on as regular basis as I'd like. I'll have to work out a proper routine for it. 

Still, the family have been together throughout this time and nobody has picked up an axe and wiped everybody else out. We've all gotten along fine, with only minor fraying of tempers here and there. Not only that, but I filled the tank of my car on August 5th and I still have half a tank left over. The only driving I've done over the past two months has been to the nearby supermarket, staying within the 5 kilometre radius of my house. 

Yessiree, Bob, I'll be glad when this whole mess is over. 

And a couple more watch photos. I also wore the Citizen Eco-Drive Nighthawk this month;

And the Sinn 103 St Sa Chronograph;

I hope you've all been well, and thanks for reading!

Stay safe!

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020 - My Town in Lock-down, The NightHawk Has Landed, De Havilland Gets Her Wings, Marlowe Says a Long Good-Bye & Recent Wristwatches.

Coronavirus cases in Victoria, Australia, Pop;- 6.5 million (approx.);

Fri, July 31st - 627 new cases, 8 deaths

Sat, August 1st - 397 new cases, 3 deaths

Sun, August 2nd - 671 new cases., 7 deaths. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announces stringent measures to be announced the following day.

Mon, August 3rd - 429 new cases, 13 deaths
                                                                      Premier Andrews announces Victoria to go into lock-down for six weeks at midnight Wednesday. Non-essential workers to work from home if possible, retail stores, restaurants and bars to close, nightly curfew from 8:oopm to 5:ooam, people allowed to go outside for one hour of exercise, masks must be worn when outdoors, except for strenuous exercise (jogging, cycling), people cannot travel more than 5 kilometres from home when going shopping for essentials, and only one person from each household is permitted to shop for these essentials. On-the-spot fines for people not wearing masks in public or out and about after curfew. Heavy police presence on the streets (although I haven't noticed any). Fines can be anywhere between $200 to $1,600 for individuals found to be breaking these quarantine restrictions. Work permit required for people who have to go to work in a semi-essential service, such as charity workers. 

Tue, August 4th - 439 new cases, 11 deaths 

Wed, August 5th - 725 new cases, 15 deaths 

Thur, August 6th - 471 new cases on first day of lock-down. 8 deaths.

Fri, August 7th - 450 new cases, 11 deaths

Sat, August 8th - 466 new cases, 12 deaths

Sun, August 9th - 394 new cases, 17 deaths

Mon, August 10 - 322 new cases, 19 deaths

Now, these numbers are nowhere near what other countries have experienced. We have, however, seen cases occurring in a few nursing homes and a couple of meat-works/abattoirs, and this has most likely convinced our state government to introduce this severe lock-down measure in an effort to 'flatten the curve' and reduce the spread of this virus.

It all feels like some dystopian bad-future sci-fi, with a little bit of '1984' and 'Escape From New York' thrown in.
Apologies if I sound flippant, but I think that's what's gonna help me get through the next six weeks.

As we continue through this weird year of 2020, I first thought that writing about what watches I wear on any given day seems a little silly, in light of what we're all going through. 
And then I thought; "Well, fuck it. I'm writing these posts as much for my own amusement as anybody else's. Yes, they're just wristwatches, and we all have bigger things to concern ourselves with at this point in time, but writing these blog posts, and looking at watches, cameras, and such on the web is a brief respite from all that's currently going on. 

Aside from watches, I've found myself mixing up a Dry Martini on Friday nights, as a book-end to my working week. Three olives makes for a pretty crowded glass. No social distancing going on in there. And rather than using a modern V-shaped cocktail glass, which holds 160ml (5.4 oz), I tend to scour the thrift stores for those old-style cocktail glasses that hold around 90ml (about 3oz). These tend to hold the same amount as a sherry or port glass. Either way, three ounces (90ml) is three shots of alcohol. Factor in the ice used in the cocktail shaker and you end up getting a little less than that into the glass when all is said and done. Generally, I pour two or two-and-a-half shots of gin into the shaker. That's 60 to 75ml. The ice dilutes a little and adds volume, even though the gin doesn't spend very long in the shaker and I stir the mixture for about twenty/twenty-five seconds rather than shake it. That's enough time to chill the gin without diluting it too much. A Dry Martini calls for some White Vermouth as well, but that stuff barely gets a look-in in my Martini. 
Regular readers may recall my post about Dry Martinis from some years ago;

I plan on changing some of the photos in that post, since I have a better camera and some better lighting. I'll get around to it at some point. 

Wristwatch-wise, let me see...Ah! This one came in about two months ago;

It's a Citizen NightHawk from around 2010/2012, I think. I got it from an upmarket pawnbrokers (if such a thing exists) that sells power tools, electric guitars, out-dated PlayStation games and other stuff. 
Despite the whole slide-rule function around the dial (which I don't know how to use), the bold hands and dial markers make for a very legible watch. Two-hundred metres of water-resistance AND it has Citizen's famous Eco-Drive movement. Basically, the dial is a solar panel. Yes, there's a battery inside the watch, but it doesn't need replacing for a long, long time. Once the watch is fully charged, it'll run non-stop for six months. If kept in the dark, that is. With day-to-day wear, the dial is constantly recharging the battery as the watch is exposed to light. 
Okay, remember how I just said that the battery in these Eco-Drive watches don't have to be replaced for a long, long time? I just did a little reading up on these Eco-Drive movements. The battery is recharged by sunlight which is converted into electrical energy. The battery in these watches is considered a 'secondary' source of power. As such, they don't need to be replaced for about FORTY YEARS! They do, however, drop down to 80%  of their capacity after TWENTY YEARS. 
Folks, if you only ever want to buy one watch in your lifetime, a Citizen Eco-Drive (or a Seiko Solar) could be that one watch. 
Oh, and it has a 2nd time-zone dial, visible over on the left of the main dial, but obscured by the hands. If there's one thing I'm not crazy about with this watch, it's the date window. Or rather, the date wheel, which is the disc inside the movement with all 31 days of the month printed on it. It appears to be fairly recessed and it looks to me like I have to look through a window into a room to see the date. And it's a little smaller than I'd prefer. But that's a small quibble. 

So anyway, I'm working from home at the moment. To be honest, there's a limit to what I can actually do, since my job entails a lot of hands-on stuff that can't be done at home. The watchmaker has taken a bunch of repairs home to work on while the office and workshop are closed. I spend a couple of hours checking e-mails in the morning and then again later in the evening, in case there have been any replies. I reply to any customer enquiries and we have a Zoom meeting each morning at 10:30 to discuss anything from the previous day that may have come up and requires attention from other departments. 
So far, I'm hobbling along okay with it all. For sure, there will be a tonne of stuff to deal with once the office re-opens in the middle of next month, but that will all be dealt with in due course. 
Considering the circumstances, it's all working as well as it can. 

Since I have some free time throughout the day, I've been taking pictures of items to sell on eBay, not because I'm desperate for the money per se, but it seems like a good time to clear out some stuff that I no longer need, want or use. 

I gave it a lot of thought and decided that my Olympia SF typewriter should go. I've been holding on to it for years because of this picture of Ian Fleming in 1964. 
Getty Images photo courtesy of

Still, I can't say this machine thrills me when it comes to actually using it. My Tower Chieftain III (a Smith-Corona Skyriter by any other name) has a nicer feel to it. I also have my Olivetti Lettera 32 that I bought back in high school and that one's going nowhere. And then there's the Groma Kolibri which is a slightly better type than this SF, in my humble opinion. 
So, the SF should go. And go it shall. 

Watch-wise, ever since I got the Hamilton Khaki Automatic to use as a 'beater' watch...

...I've found myself using the Seiko SKX031 'beater watch' less and less. A beater watch is what collectors call a watch that is used with no regard for how it's treated or bashed around. Some folks will wear it for heavy-duty water sporting activities where it may get knocked around, others (like myself) will use a beater for handyman or gardening chores where the watch could be subjected to knocks, scrapes and scratches. I figured that the Hamilton might look good with a few marks on it here and there, and so I tend to wear it when using power tools and such. So far, I haven't managed  to put a mark on it. I think I'm still reasonably careful with my watches. And so, I decided that, after almost twenty years, it's perhaps time to sell the Seiko so that it will get more use from its next owner. I gave the case a light polish with a Cape Cod cloth, re-fitted the original bracelet and added all extra links to it, and gave it a quick rinse under warm water. It looks as good as it ever will. 

It definitely has marks on it from use, but that's what a beater watch is for. Regardless, somebody's gonna get themselves a good watch. They can either leave it as is, or they can modify it with after-market parts to really jazz it up a little.

Tues, August 11th - 331 cases, 19 deaths.

I got back into reading some Raymond Chandler. It was finally time to give The Long Good-Bye a crack. I have a 2nd Edition hardback from December 1953. I have to say I really liked it, but I was amazed at the amount of typos I found in this book. Little things, like sentences beginning with a lower-case letter, or a letter missing from the end of a word. Or the word 'butler' laid out as 'but ler'. 
Silly little mistakes that I've come to expect in modern magazines and newspapers, now that proof-readers have become extinct thanks to computer spell-checks and the like, but I don't expect to find these kinds of rookie mistakes in a vintage book published by the esteemed Hamish Hamilton. 
The editor and proof-reader must've had a golf game that day.

Aside from that, I liked the book. Now, you don't actually read Chandler for the plotting. You read it for his protagonist Philip Marlowe, the Los Angeles private detective. The gumshoe who rarely carries a gun, the shamus who has a clear-cut moral code, and doesn't do divorce work - it's the romantic in him, you see -, the sleuth who plays out old chess strategies on a board set up in his living room, the PI who has a smart mouth that gets him in and out of trouble. 
I read Farewell, My Lovely back in 1982 (or '83), as part of our English curriculum in high school. Miss Butler, bless her, was a fan of it. The book must have had an effect on me. Coupled with the smart-assy web-slinger of Marvel Comics' The Amazing SpiderMan and Warner Bros. Golden Era of Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes featuring the wise-cracking Bugs Bunny, that I read and watched in the 1970s, I developed a liking for character that were wise-asses. Throw in old Hollywood movies of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, plus the early Connery Bond movies, and my smart-aleck apprenticeship was well underway. 
Of course, as I got older I learned that real life ain't like a Bond movie or Spiderman comic, and cracking wise can get you into a lot of trouble. I found that out the hard way over the years.
I now use my smart mouth a little more sparingly, or when I have the ammunition to back it up. 
Much safer that way.

Anyway, I read the book, thinking that I'd now read of of Chandler's works, but then I remembered that I have never read his classic, The Big Sleep. Probably because the Bogart/Bacall movie is so firmly etched in my head. So, I have that book to look forward to. 
As an aside, Chandler began work on a novel called The Poodle Springs Story, which finds Marlowe freshly married and living in a town modelled on Palm Springs. Chandler wrote four chapters before he died in 1959. I get a buzz out of the fact that he included a character named Tino in the last paragraph that he ever wrote. 
That's my name. 
What are the chances? 

The book was finished by Spenser crime author Robert B. Parker and published in 1989. I have it, but have yet to read it.
I wrote this little snippet and put in on the blog about seven years ago. I added a couple of extra paragraphs - where Marlowe gets to his apartment - last month. 

I turned the corner where Lowenstein & Lowe, Attorneys at Law, had their offices on the ground floor back when Eisenhower was running things. Their office is long gone. It’s a pizzeria now. And sure, Aldo makes a nice Napoletana, but I miss the old neighborhood. There’s a Yoga studio upstairs. Back in the day, you’d have been arrested for running a yoga class in this burg. This town had changed a lot. Like some squeaky-clean distant cousin you saw at a wedding when you were kids and bumped into years later to find that they’d turned into a juiced-up hop-head who’s first words to you after all this time were “Hey, nice to see ya, pal. What’s it been, twenny years? Say, listen, can ya spare me a few bucks?”
Up ahead, I saw a drunk stumbling towards me. He took a few wavering steps and would have fallen flat on his face if he didn’t have the wall of the Venus Building to hold him up. He got about ten feet away from me when he straightened up and in a very sober voice said “Gimme yer wallet and watch, man, and you’ll get to have breakfast.”

I thought he was kidding at first, but the one-eyed stare from the .38 in his hand kept a straight face. Served me right for walking the streets at this hour. Did I mention that this town had changed a lot? I slowly reached into my jacket pocket and fished out a pack of Luckies. I flicked it one-handed and a butt popped up half-way out of the pack. And some people say I have no skills.
"Think I'm kiddin' here, man?", he added with an edge.  Whatever happened to patience, anyway?
His hair was long, the way kids are wearing it these days, thanks to that band from Liverpool, and his faded Levi’s were torn at one knee. I tossed the cigarette pack towards his face. Amateur that he was, he lifted the pistol up to shield his eyes. That was all I needed, despite my age. I lunged at his gun arm, grabbed his wrist with my right hand and twisted downwards. He pivoted away from me. Good. I then clamped my left just above his elbow. Then I pulled back a little with my right. Not too much. Just enough to make it memorable for him.
I couldn’t say which was louder, his scream or his elbow joint popping. I grabbed the gun by the barrel and clocked him just under his right ear with the butt of it. He fell faster than yesterday’s stock prices.

“I’ll keep the hardware, chum. Sleep tight”, I said, but I doubt he heard me.

Back at my apartment, I slid off my jacket and threw it towards the sofa as I headed to the kitchen, giving the drinks trolley a sideways glance. A glint of emerald green caught the light. The fresh fifth of Tanqueray dared me to tangle with it. The ice tray in the freezer held six cubes, the lower shelf in the door showed a half-bottle of Canada Dry tonic water and an unopened jar of olives. I could mix up a Gin & tonic or a Dry Martini, which suited me just fine. A man oughta have options, after all.

The Gin & tonic won. I cracked the Tanqueray open and built myself a night-cap in a highball glass even though I wasn’t expecting Hepburn to come calling. Neither one of them.  I took the drink back to the sofa, slipped off my shoes and sat down. I heard a sigh, but it could have been the sofa cushions or me. I took a first long gulp of the drink, as thoughts of the young punk took a walk through my empty head. I reached for the jacket and pulled the revolver from the side pocket and placed it gently on the coffee table. Then I stretched out my legs and poised one ankle on top of the other.
“You’re getting too old for this, Marlowe”, I murmured to myself as I loosened my tie.                        

But I’d known that for years.


That's the Oris Artelier hand-wound up above, which I wore a few times throughout July. By the time I got half-way through The Long Good-Bye, I was getting cravings for Gimlets. That's a drink that Marlowe and his enigmatic new friend Terry Lennox imbibe in the book. 
I hadn't had one since the '80s, when I was working in bars and poring through cocktail recipe books. 
Basically, take a glass, cocktail or tumbler, and add a shot of gin and a shot of lime juice cordial and ice. Rose's Lime Juice Cordial is what's used in the book, but we can't get it anymore in Australia, so I used Bickford's. 
In the Chandler book (and most recipe books), it's prepared as a cocktail in a shaker with ice. Then it gets poured nicely chilled into a cocktail glass with a slice of lemon or lime peel as a garnish. I did it differently, by just building the ingredients into an ice-filled whisky glass and giving it a decent stir.
Tangy, with a little kick at the end. 
A nice sipping drink on a summer evening.

Olivia de Havilland passed away late last month at the age of 104. I considered her to be the Last Keeper of The Old Hollywood Flame. I can't think of any major other star of that era who's still around. She appeared in Captain Blood (Dir: Michael Curtiz, 1935), The Charge of The Light Brigade (Dir: Michael Curtiz, 1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (Dirs: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley, 1938), as well as Gone With the Wind (Dir: Victor Fleming, George Cukor (uncredited), 1939), as well as other films throughout the 1940s and '50s. She was nominated for Academy Awards on numerous occasions - losing out to her sister Joan Fontaine*, who won the statuette for Suspicion in 1941- and was awarded the Best Actress Oscar in 1946 for her role in To Each His Own (Dir:Mitchell Leisen).
Truly the end of an era. 

* de Havilland and Fontaine had a long-standing feud. Accounts vary. It is said that they patched things up in later years, other sources state that they remained estranged all their lives. Fontaine died at age 96 in 2013.

 Wed, Aug 12th - 410 cases, 21 deaths

Most of the deaths in recent weeks have mainly occurred within the 80+ age group and many of them were aged-care residents. A few people in their 70s succumbed to COVID-19, and there have been deaths among those in their 50s and 60s, as well as a few people aged in their 30s, hence the stringent lock-down measures currently in place. 
I think it may still be a week or two before we begin to see a significant drop in cases. 
Wash your hands, wear your masks in public, keep your distance, folks. 

Okay, enough doom and gloom. I wore these watches since my last post;

The late 1960s Seiko Skyliner. No date, just time. Nicely made, it conjures up images in my head of old National Panasonic transistor radios and Mazda 1600s. That stock-take that we did at work that day went pretty smoothly, I have to say. Very few discrepancies, and they were accounted for once we put our forensic hats on and systematically sorted through the finer details. I've kept a closer eye on watch straps and bracelet movements over the past six months, in an effort to keep track of stock coming in and going out.

The Oris Big Crown Pointer Date Small Seconds, from circa 1996.    This picture was taken just after I got to work and parked the car. This is a labour in itself, as I don't have my own parking space at work, so I park in a 4 hour parking zone a few streets away and then rush out of the office four hours later and move it into a 2 hour spot closer to the office. Within this two-hour time-frame, I'll usually head out to grab some lunch. When I get back, I park the car in another 2 hour zone behind our office building and, sometime after 2:30pm, I put the car into our building's internal car-park because one of the other tenants in the building closes their office at 2:15pm and five or six spots in the car-park are then (unofficially) available for a couple of staff in our office to use. It's a friggin' song and dance, but I've yet to get an eighty dollar parking fine as a result of this musical cars process.
                                                                                                                                                                   The Omega Seamaster 300 also spent some time on the wrist, since I'd been without it so long while it was being serviced.It was out of action for almost a year, while the watchmaker hunted around for a movement part which I ended up finding on eBay. The watch is currently on a '90s Speedmaster bracelet which makes for a slightly snug fit, but gets the job done. This watch is one that I'll never get rid of. Took me five years or so of looking at crappy-condition models on eBay before I finally got this one through a guy I used to work with.
And the Rolex Submariner 5513 from 1982 got some wear as well. 
I have a thing for dive watches, but I don't dive. I like the legibility of the dials, the more-than-I-need water-resistance, and the rotating bezels, which come in handier than you might think.                             I don't know what Rolex are planning to release in the next six to twelve months. Not that it matters to me. I'm not in the market for a new Rolex. Mind you, anybody who is in the market for a current Rolex sports model is going through agony as most dealers have empty display cabinets. Demand is high world-wide and supply (for whatever reasons) is very low. Meanwhile, the prices keep going up incrementally. For a product that nobody has. 

And that's it for the first six days of this lock-down. I have more that I could write, but I figure I'll start a new post in the next few days in an effort to produce shorter posts. Even though this has been a long one. 

I hope you're all keeping well under the circumstances.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe!