Saturday, October 29, 2005

Nice to know that University was well spent...

Saturday morning saw a very lukewarm bowling session, with a high score of 168. On the way home, feeling rather down, I passed by the retro games shop. Outside they have an N64 where kids can stop and play games from yesteryear. Usually, it's things like Super Smash Bros or some kind of racing game. But on saturday, it was a different game. It was the game.


The game that accompanied my friends and I through three years of glorious University. The game that rekindled my coffee habit. The game that was responsible for more allnighters and at-the-time-serious bust ups than I care to remember. Playing Goldeneye was as natural a thing as brushing your teeth or blinking. Doing a very quick calculation, I estimate that during my University years, my friends and I had roughly 3500 hours of multiplayer time (it would undoubtedly have been more, but for the long holidays).

Beijing Li dropping to his knees and popping all comers in the chest with his machine gun when cornered... Llandudno Mike hiding in a shadowed corner and picking off unsuspecting body armour scavengers... French Guiyana Michel building an impregnable proximity mine dungeon... Blofeld Richard taking off two heads with one magnum bullet from distance... Eye Diamond taking out three players with his last 3 pp7 bullets whilst covered from an elevated position... the same Eye Diamond putting a full clip of RCP90 bullets in the direction of Cheam Graham's head, only for them all to magically miss, and allow the latter to slowly pull a magnum and kill... these memories all surfaced as I parked my bike and approached the Pokemon model N64, where two elementary school boys were playing. I watched them for a minute or two. They were ok players, in the way that young kids tend to be with such things, and I half considered leaving them to their game, getting on my bike and heading home for a sandwich and a few episodes of La Femme Nikita. Then I started thinking about the humiliations I suffered at the hands of gaming tots - my annihilation at the hands of a 7 year old PuyoPuyo master, my drubbing at a generic robot figher game by his even younger sister. I was in the mood for Goldeneye, but if that meant getting a bit of payback for past hurts, all the better.

I asked them if I could join in, and they said yes. The game started. Library... Golden Gun... I grabbed a pistol and ran to the main room. I saw one of the kids running around the second floor, so I aimed my gun at him...

... but, it was all wrong! The buttons were reversed (or not in this case)... on these controllers, pressing up moved the sight up, and down down. Before, throughout and beyond University we had always played with inverted aim, as is standard with the game. I was just trying to adjust to the settings when I died, with a golden gun bullet lodged in my head. One up to the older kid, who I suppose must have been 8. When I spawned again, I ran to the main room again and saw that the kids were still where they were. I quickly appraised the situation:

-they know where the main weapon is.
-they can kill at close range.
-they are not very accurate over distance.
-they know how to strafe.
-they can comfortably use the aim button.
-they don't know the levels beyond the basics.

Whilst I was considering the above points, I came across the younger kid, perhaps 6, who was dancing around the golden gun spawn point. I put a clip from the KF7 into him, but we were using the default health settings, and he was still alive. He got off a lucky shot and once again I was a victim to the golden gun.

To cut a very long story short, I slowly adjusted to the strange settings (and the very sluggish control pads) but not before I was killed another 3 times. After that, my training kicked in and the kids were nowhere. Once I slipped past them and grabbed the golden gun, there was nothing they could do. The eldest kid headed out of the main room to see if there were any other weapons to be had, but a headshot from afar stopped him. Then the younger kid managed to get the jump on me and would have killed me had his aim been better, but it was straightforward to circle around behind him and put him down.

At this point, the elder kid turned around. This was our Japanese conversation:

Kid: Who are you? Are you American?
Me: No, I'm from England. And the name's Bond, James Bond.
Kid: Who is that? I don't understand.
Me: Yes, and you never will.

Not knowing the levels is understandable...not being accurate is understandable... not knowing who James Bond is is unacceptable.

We resumed our game, and the kids' fortunes didn't change. After a double kill, the younger one huffed and puffed and stomped off inside the game shop. He returned a few minutes later but by then his companion was weary of continuing. "Ehhh Englander... this is too difficult for me," he complained in Japanese. I wanted to tell him that in order to be worthy of the moniker 007 you should train unquestioningly and fiercely, and that it is in the forges of defeat that you find the irons of victory, but with my very limited Japanese the best I could muster was "Do your best... this is good practice, right?"

So that was that. The kids' hash was settled, their clocks were cleaned and they had their chips. They got on their bikes and pedalled away, the game of Goldeneye already forgotten in their young minds. "See you, Englander!" they called in Japanese ("until our next meeting when the tides will be turned!" I heard in my head).

I cycled home and had that sandwich, and enjoyed not a few episodes of La Femme Nikita. And now as I settle down for the evening I have the following message to give:

To The Goonies, The Famous Five, Kevin from Home Alone, Shirley Temple, Little Jimmy Osmond and the kid from The Sixth Sense... your boys took a hell of a beating.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ken's Heroes of Pudding

Yes, that's right, fruit cake and a slice of cheese, preferably strong and crumbly cheese too. I know that it seems like a strange combination, but trust me it works wonderfully. This is a peculiarly Yorkshire thing to do, which is where my mum is from, and my family have done it for so long that it seems completely normal. I have no idea how it started, but it's something that I firmly believe everyone should try, at least once. Savoury and easy. A comfortable 8/10.

If fruit cake and cheese were a girl it would be: a down-to-earth girl next door in a chunky sweater.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Intercultural Understanding

A fashion magazine girl with not-so-discrete bulimia noisily slurps some nondescript noodles on national TV, almost falls off her chair and screams in mock-orgasmic/shock the inevitable "OIIIIIIISHIIIII!!!!"

Watch Japanese on any given night, and I would be willing to wager a shiny ha'penny that this kind of scene turns up at least once. Food is the main staple of TV over here. Be it a straight forward cookery show, travel show, clothes show, talk show or sports show, food and the eating of it is always brought in somehow.

As an Englishman, I can relate to a lot of things in Japan (the reluctance to complain, apologising to the person that just bumped into you, etc) but the food thing is kind of lost on me. In brutal terms, Japanese food is often very average... certainly on a grand poll of the various foods from around the world, I doubt whether Japanese cuisine would rank in the top 15, something that Japanese friends and colleauges regard as "poppycock". I enjoy a great deal of Japanese food, but it's nowhere near as exciting as the offerings from Italy, Mexico or Spain.

The fact is that there exists a strong current of arrogance regarding the Japanese and their food. A great many people I know will disregard any kind of food that hasn't been grown or farmed in Japan. They scoff and turn up their noses at certain culinary groups or dishes because they don't fit in with the indoctrinated stock of acceptable foods. As is the case with most things in Japan, there is a protocol for eating too. Fish must always be served with daikon (Japanese radish), miso soup must always be served in a red or red and black bowl, and curry rice must be served in an eliptical bowl with a spoon. Any kind of adaption of these rules in frowned upon, at least publicly. Sometimes I like to dip my inari (Japanese rice balls wrapped in sweet tofu) in my soup, or add the dregs of my miso soup to the dregs of my udon, and I can almost feel the hot daggers burning into me at work.

Despite wanting to remain in Japan indefinitely, and becoming ever more accustomed to life here, I can't see myself ever going to a foreign country just to try the food. I'm not patriotic, but I like the way that the UK uses scathing humour as an outlet for stress, something I appreciate immensely. The Japanese outlet of food-fawning and treating wives like shit just doesn't do it for me...

Friday, October 21, 2005


In the Autumn of 2002 I worked in a number of places and didn't enjoy any of them. First there was a day of backbreaking toil, loading crates of relief aid to the Phillipines (memorable moment - the sub 5' hunchback that looked and talked like an East Anglian Kurt Russell). Then there was the month working at a grain mill, where I was stuck between the rival factions of truck drivers (who were really cool and great to chat to) and one of my colleagues who was openly loathed for being a complete twat (memorable moment - Malcolm "Andre" Flatman, the rosy-cheeked farmer who always spoke like the singing policeman and looks like a monkey's arse, and was the Twat's nemesis). Then came the boiler company, which lasted for a very painful 2 months (memorable moment - when the empty-headed girlygirls that sat around me got into a tearful scrap over their dresses for the Christmas Party).

Despite my being a mixture of miserable and utterly frustrated at this time, it so happened that there was a bit of a comedy renaissance going on. I'm Alan Partrige series 2 began, The League of Gentlemen series 3 began, Phoenix Nights series 2 began and The Office series 2 began. All sequels of a sort, and incredibly, all were great. Even more incredible was the fact that these four superb series were on in a 2-3 month period. To my knowledge such a thing hasn't happened before - all the great comedies of the past were separated by years. A past equivalent would have been something along the lines of Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses, Porridge and Morcambe and Wise all on at the same time, which of course was impossible.

Will it ever happen again? Maybe, but not for a generation at least...

Walking home by numbers...

The first is the old lady in the hat that put down her shopping bag in order to stare at me head to toe without any distractions.
The second is the old lady in the hat behind her that was trying on other, identical hats from a huge table of hats.
The third is the old lady in the hat in front of me that walked in a diagonal line, causing me to stumble into her.
The fourth is the old lady without a hat that had the most insulting syrup in the world.
The fifth is the old lady in the hat pointing at the bus timetable and grumbling to no one.
The sixth is the old lady in the hat with a parasol that almost ran me over.
The seventh is the old lady in the hat on a bicycle that swerved dangerously in front of me to stop outside the fruit shop.
The eighth is the old lady in the hat that emerged from the fruit shop and caught my shin with her bag.
The ninth is the old lady in the hat that jostled past me at the pedestrian crossing.
The tenth is the old lady in the hat that stared at me open-mouthed from her daughter's car.
The eleventh is the old lady in the hat that inexplicably stopped in the middle of the pavement to stretch.
The twelfth is the old lady without the hat that muttered "gaijin" when I passed her.
The thirteenth was the old lady with the hat that stopped her pootling car in the middle of rush hour traffic, even though I had no intention of crossing the road until it was clear.
The fourteenth was the old lady with the hat that unnecessarily rang her bicycle bell at me, before slowly cycling through the 12' gap between me and the road.
The fifteenth was the old lady in the hat that stared at me from her house window as I walked up the steps to my building.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


I was musing this afternoon in my sun-warmed office about Conan the Barbarian. Not about Ahnuld or his swordplay with two roadies from an Iron Maiden gig, but about James Earl Jones' sinister character, Thulsar Doom, and more specifically the fact that he had a snake cult, and thereby a mass of devoted, brainwashed tween-agers.

With at least one or two girls in each of my classes that would unquestioningly eat hot gravel out of the palm of my hand if i asked them, i realised that i had the makings of a 12 to 20 member cult, and with careful recruitment could gather another 20 or so. Naturally, I have no desire to do such a thing, but it certainly fills the empty bureaucratic hours to consider just what they would do in the name of my bidding...

Monday, October 17, 2005

Rolling Realisation

In England, bowling was always something of a rarity, the kind of thing that you would do on a yearly school trip or with your family once in a blue moon. The fact that most centres in England are relatively poorly maintained, and charge as much as a fiver for a single game, are a couple of reasons why it hasn't seen the same kind of popularity as in other countries.

When I went to Beijing in the summer of 2000, I found that bowling was a major pasttime. There were centres all over the place, predominantly in the basements of hotels. Due to the low living costs in China, games were considerably cheaper than in England (I recall that in one hotel-basement games could be had for about 30pence each if you played between midnight and 8am). Despite going bowling quite a lot during my five weeks in China, it was always just for fun. We used house balls, we paid no attention to the lane markings, or considered our footwork. By sheer luck, I managed to get my highest ever score in one of those hotel basements - 199, which stood for 4 and a half years.

Having been bowling on and off for a year and a half in Japan, I've since made a little bit of headway. Witnessing by chance a 300 game at my local alley, I started chatting to the man of the moment (who later became known as Sausage Fingers, due to his thick, wrestling-esque digits) and he disappeared and came back with a professional ball for me. We then used to meet most weekends, and he'd show me how to bowl properly. At first it was really frustrating... my new ball weighed 15lb, and I was used to using an 11 at most. Then there was the fact that the ball would hook to the left, something I wasn't used to. For the first month, we played around 10 games a week, and I was lurking in the low hundreds, and sometimes much lower.

Then things started to make sense. My arm swing became more comfortable, and I started to think about my standing position and target boards. We'd still practice every week, and my scores would still be lower than I would have hoped, but in January of this year, I found myself able to put the ball pretty much where I wanted it to go. Having played my ten games, I happened to see a friend of Sausage Fingers on an nearby lane and so I went over to watch him play. After he played 7 games, he told me that he was tired, and would I like to bowl the last 3 for him. I was really tired but I accepted, and decided to bowl with very little time between shots and to try and clear my mind of everything.

The result was a 205 game, breaking my 4 and a half year record and finally overcoming the psychological hurdle of 200. Since then, I've been over 200 ten more times, although my average is still 155-60. Spares is the area of my game that needs the most work, as well as consistency.

Anyway, my realisation... Sausage Fingers once told me that I should hold the ball in such a way that the weight rests on the right hand side of my palm (where the index finger meets the thumb). I never really consciously tried to do this, as it felt a bit awkward at first, but on Saturday morning I tried to do it, and it worked wonderfully. Despite the constant feeling that the ball would drop from my hand, the positioning of my hand enabled the ball to roll sufficiently before hooking at the right point on the lane, resulting in a number of 'perfect strikes' (when the ball hits pins 1, 3, 5 and 9 only and pins 1,2,4 and 7 fall in alignment). My score of 212 wasn' my highest ever, but it was technically the best. Once again, consistency was a problem.. I badly need to work on my approach and form at the line, as every shot is slightly different from the last. Next time Sausage Fingers says "Ruku-san... I am idea, I am idea" in his sailor's voice, I'll be sure to listen closely...

A thought...

If Diamonds are Forever had starred Lazenby and Savalas instead of Connery and Gray, would it have been a better film?..

Friday, October 14, 2005

Roger Moore's finest hour (of the 80s...)

Friday night is a time for a well earned beer, something quick and easy for dinner and a cup or two of Kurume's finest drip coffee. It's also the perfect time for a film or two, and tonight's offering was For Your Eyes Only.

Having been raised on a diet of Bond films since birth, I must have seen every film dozens of times. And due to the 1988 FA cup quarter final between Liverpool and Manchester United at the end of the tape, For Your Eyes Only was probably the one that I watched the most. At the time of watching it, it seemed ok, nothing special, but now, with the early 80s a long, distant memory, it can be fully appreciated.

And the verdict? Cracking lickle film. Good, gritty story, and no over reliance on special effects or gadgets. Surprisingly, its the things that should sink it that make it memorable (the hideously dated disco-synth incidental music, the archaic technology on display, the phone call with Margaret Thatcher at the end).

Roger Moore's best Bond film since... well, the last two. In fact, no, hells no, the last 4. Live and Let Die was great, The Man with the Golden Gun was underrated, The Spy Who Loved Me was decent and Moonraker was excellent/poor (depending on your point of view). The next one, Octopussy, wasn't bad either, and A View to a Kill had its plus points.

With today's announcement that Daniel "Layer Cake" Craig will be the next Bond, let's hope that the team brush aside the tosh that was Die Another Day and deliver something in the vein of From Russia With Love, For Your Eyes Only or The Living Daylights. Egotistical toss may pull in more box office dollars, but driven, engaging, realistic storylines will win back the hearts of a disillusioned audience.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Nosferatu (1922)

In late November 1999, I was in the early stages of my University career. I was writing short essays on mostly interesting books, listening to Supersonic, Morcheeba and The Jimi Hendrix Experience and watching superb television thanks to Channel 4s inspired 4Later.

It was a great time. I was living away from home for the first time, I had a bit of money saved up having worked in an electronics factory for a year and I had an eagerly anticipated holiday to Hong Kong to look forward to in April. I watched a bit of 4Later as usual, and was about to call it a night when I saw a quick announcement that the late film would be Nosferatu. Curious, and vaguely remembering something about it being a silent horror movie, I decided to watch it. I went to the kitchen and made myself a rather milky coffee (as was my custom then) and returned to my room, settled down in the duvet and started watching.

Have you ever seen a film that changes your life? Nosferatu was the second film to do this to me. I watched it, spellbound. The coffee stayed where it had been placed on the carpet. My shaving light, accidentally left on, remained on well into the next day, not due to fear but simply because I was utterly immersed in the story I was being told.

I can't remember thinking of anything whilst I watched it (that is, I know that I watched it, and I remember scenes from it, but when I try to think about what I thought when those scenes took place, I draw a blank).

Nosferatu is not a horror film as we have come to know examples of the genre. There are no jumpy scenes, no gratuitous killings, no suave vampires or half naked girls screaming from a castle window. The genius of Nosferatu lies in the state of underlying uneasiness that it conjures in the mind of the viewer. I don't mean uneasiness in the sense of being afraid to walk to the bathroom. It's more the kind of feeling you get when you see something seemingly innocent, but at the same time out of place. From the opening of the film to the closing scene, the viewer experiences a kind of mild dread, not outright fear or jitters, and surely this is the kind of direction modern horror should be moving in (as the Japanese masters of the genre have done in recent years). After all, with Takashi Miike and Hideo Nakata, it's not the exploding bomb but rather the slow ticking that draws their audiences in.

Nosferatu certainly drew me in. I awoke the next morning, with the following couplets literally on my lips:

"Never will his spirit die / For as long as there is sea and sky

You'll hear the flutter of his wings / I am the songbird of death, he sings"

I moved through the rest of the morning and wrote those words down over a coffee, later turning them into a poem. I didn't think exclusively about the film for the rest of that day, but looking back, the feeling of distant, intangible despair/nostalgia for a time I will never know/"otherness" was there .

For the next few weeks I caught myself daydreaming, and then tried to think what I was daydreaming about. Nothing came to mind, but I knew it was Nosferatu. I didn't have to put it into thoughts and words, it was there, somewhere, somehow, in the back of my consciousness, just behind every sentence.

Alternative Heroes - Hannah Gordon

Hannah Gordon, aside from starring in the popular series of yesteryear Upstairs Downstairs, played a sensible elder sister in the superb late sixties film Spring and Port Wine. But she will always be remembered, at least by me, as the host of channel 4s Watercolour Challenge, which, along with Card Captor Sakura and Keeping Up Appearances was my daily daytime TV staple at University.

Hannah Gordon is a grandmotherly figure, as you would imagine your perfect grandmother to be in the decade or so before you were born. Watercolour Challenge was a delight - she would take the contestants to a picturesque garden or a beach or the like, and then let them get on with the job of painting, stopping by some flowers occasionally to read some poetry from Keats or Blake. I freely admit to being one of the least patriotic people around, yet when I watched Watercolour Challenge, I felt very in touch with my Englishness and had a strong desire to see blooming flowers and survey a sprawling lawn.

Watercolour Challenge (as well as Spring and Port Wine, which was filmed in Bolton, where I studied) will always be a part of my memories of University, a happy time before the pressures of work, the weight of responsibility. For this, and for being the celebrity that I would most like to make me a sandwich, Hannah Gordon, you are an alternative hero.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Japan has some of the worst drivers around...

By God, they are annoying... they pull out into busy traffic as slowly and annoyingly as possible, they jam on the brakes at the slightest movement of other cars, they panic and flap about when a pedestrian gets anywhere near their car, they own completely impractical Land Rover things that are far too big and cumbersome for Japanese roads, and if there happens to be a bottleneck, they sit there and stare open mouthed at eachother, instead of backing up or honking their horns.

They are of course the Japanese drivers.

I hate them for the reasons above, as well as for the way that they all, spinelessly, reverse into a parking space. You'd think that one or two would go front end in first, but no. Also for the way that they seem incapable of looking over their shoulders at their blind spot, preferring instead to rely on their mirrors when reversing like a 5am forklift in rush hour traffic.

The fact that most cars in Japan are automatics, and thus require far less skill and driving ability to operate also speaks volumes...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The last few days...

Thursday - felt incredibly sorry for the nervous schoolgirl walking up the station steps in front of me when she shyly looked around and saw a tall foreigner behind her, and then tripped and fell flat on her face, her purse skittering to the wall (when I asked her if she was ok, she smiled and made a joke - extra kudos for that. Mr T would have been proud to see that little sister recoup!)

Friday - went bowling with Sausage Fingers (use your imagination...) and was talked into entering the 8.30pm tournament. I ended up playing a 4 game 3-way with a middle aged couple. First game I won with a 194, I came third in the next, second in the third and third in the fourth. Pretty haphazard play, but a good experience.

Also settled down to watch The Great Escape - a film that, despite apparently being on every Christmas in the UK, I have never seen. I got halfway before the tiredness took me, so I'm going to watch the rest now.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Alternative Heroes - Al Leong

Here's an experiment. Ask everyone you know if they know who Al Leong is. Almost everyone won't. Then, tell them that he's the little, long-haired, balding Chinese henchman from late 80s action movies, and immediately they'll know who you're talking about.

Al Leong is a name that should be on the lips of everyone in the world. He is one of the most recognisable figures from the late 1980s, due to his appearance in some of the decades most iconic and popular action movies (Big Trouble in Little China, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, amongst others).

He rubbed shoulders with the great and the good back in the days when being a henchman was a proper job, and got the chance to play some cool roles (being a cleaver-wielding triad in Big Trouble in Little China, torturing Mel Gibson with electro-shock sponges in Lethal Weapon, being a chocolate bar-loving foot soldier in Die Hard, and being Genghis Khan in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure).

He has a large cult following on the internet, and it is well deserved. His legacy is such that the presence of Al Leong is a good indication of a decent 80s action film. For that, as well as for being yay high, having a Fu Manchu mustache and being the definitive 80s henchman, Al Leong you are an Alternative Hero.

Ken's Heroes of Pudding

Treacle pudding... one of the saving graces of primary school dinners. It's rich, sweet and reminds me of being very small and staying at my grandma's house. Essentially a sponge cake covered in oozing sweetness, it's the kind of pudding that can only be savoured once in a while, but it's well worth the wait. An artery regarding 7.5/10

If treacle pudding were a girl it would be: a cute village girl from the 1950s.

Predator 2...

Whilst it will never be as good as the original, Predator 2 is a film of some merit. It was a bold move to set it in the urban sprawls of Los Angeles, and to not get Arnie back in on the action. It was unwittingly inspired to cast a veritable who's who of late 80s, early 90s actors (Danny Glover, Robert Davi, Gary Busey, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, etc) and whilst at first it seems a little lazy to have used most of the incidental music from the first film, it gives Predator 2 some sturdy foundations on which to build. Rather like Demolition Man in that it's one of those smaller blockbusters that never exploded into cinemas but gets better with time. A pebble buster if you will.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Actually not a bad movie...

With not a lot to do the other night, I found myself watching Aliens vs Predator for the second time. When I first saw it, a long time ago, I hated it. The story seemed daft, the actors were nondescript and it was all about yawnworthy special effects.


On paper, it's a superb film (apart from the daft thing about the snow guide becoming an ancient warrior), and has some top-drawer ideas (that the predators came to earth thousands of years ago, taught humans how to build and were revered as Gods, nicely suggesting the origins of early earth civilisations, the interlocking, shifting pyramid, the idea of the great hunt).

It will never be as good as Predator or Alien and Aliens, but it's a nice sit-back-and-relax film. As is always the case with such films, the premise is always infinitely better than the product, but what the hell...

Monday, October 03, 2005

18 years of sleeping on it...

Not many people know me enough to know that 1988 was perhaps the best year of my childhood. I turned 8 that year, and enjoyed two wonderful family holidays, firstly at Center Parcs in Nottingham and then in Ibiza just before it became a party island. It was a time of garden football, taking John Barnes free-kicks and pretending to be Marco van Basten or Ruud Guillit. It was a time of Friday night Cub Scout games, with a floppy football from the days of Keegan and Toshack. It was the time of the Olympic Games in Seoul, and the old armchair that my Great Grandma once sat in, and from which I hung upside down and saw the British hockey players take gold, and Ben Johnson run his way to infamy. It was a golden time.

1988 was also in the middle of Timothy Dalton's tenure as Bond, and though I had been watching Connery and predominantly Moore films since I could open my eyes, by default the Bond of my youth was the Welshman. The year before, my parents had taken me and my younger brother to see The Living Daylights at the cinema. It was to be the first of three Bond films that I saw in the cinema (The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day were the others). I was only 7, so I didn't really understand what was going on beneath the surface. In the 18 years since the film came out, I have watched it again perhaps once, and have always considered it a poor film, with its saving grace being that it was infinitely superior to the dire License to Kill two years later.

But then last week I happened upon a James Bond website, and saw that in the annual mock oscar awards, The Living Daylights came out shining. Had I been wrong all these years? Was it, in fact, a decent film? Had enough time passed to be able to stand back and appreciate it from a safe distance?

This evening I watched it, and I have to say that the answer is yes. The Living Daylights is decent. The story is interesting and well thought out, and Dalton, at the time and for a long time after chastised for being too serious and theatrical, puts in a very good performance. Following is a potted list of the reasons I found it appealing:

- the opening pre title sequence teaser has an interesting premise (the 00 agents against the SAS in a training mission which is infiltrated by an Russian assassin, and culminates in a well executed jeep stunt).

- the staged KGB defection.

- the very effective and professional assassin Necros, who kills with simplistic, unassuming objects (headphone lead, exploding crockery).

- Q's practical skeleton key for Bond, which he claims will open 90% of the world's locks.

- the well choreographed chase scene in the cello case, using the antique cello as a rudder.

- the ingenious sliding door trap that befalls Bond's contact at the fair.

- the staged assassination of Pushkin, helping to bring the real enemies out into the open.

- the fact that Art Malik is in the film.

- the duel between Bond and Necros on the cargo plane.

- Whittaker's 3rd generation weapons, such as the ultra deadly charged uzi.

It's not a perfect film, though. If truth be told, it does drag on a little, and seems far longer than most of the other Bond films. Then there are a few other niggles, such as when Bond is fighting Whittaker, and he keeps shooting at his bulletproof glass instead of the rest of his body which is exposed, and the fact that he claims that there's nowhere to land the stalled plane, yet they somehow drop the jeep onto a road. Felix Leiter is also miscast, as is Miss Moneypenny (who as every Bond afficionado knows should be older than Bond).

But these aside, it's still a decent film, and if I were pushed I would have to say that it is the last of the great Bond films (Goldeneye was good, but the fact that the nintendo game was so hugely successful contributes much to the film's success). Against early Connery, The Living Daylights seems a little bloated and out of shape. On paper it is excellent, but it lost something in the transition to screen. Against a lot of mid to late Roger Moore, it shines.

I really think that if License to Kill had been stronger, Dalton could have gone on to do another two films, in '91 and '93. Unfortunately, Dalton, or at least the public's perceptions of Dalton as Bond, went down with the ship. George Lazenby couldn't blame his film, - On Her Majesty's Secret Service is one of the very best written - only the fact that he was stepping into the shoes of Connery, who despite his barely concealed ennui with the role had made it his own and was idolised.

The world was ready for Timothy Dalton, but it didn't know it...

What I wouldn't give for...

... two slices of crusty, doorstep bread, some heady cheddar and a bit of chilli sauce.

... fish and chips out of the paper, with generous lashings of salt and vinegar.

... crackers and cheese with a dash of marmite, and a cup of grandma's tea.

... other grandma's christmas cake with a slice of cheese on top.

... late review on BBC.

... unbiased sports commentary.

... the feel of a lawn beneath bare feet, the smell of fence-stain.

... an apple that doesn't come in a plastic jacket and cost a quid.

... shepherd's pie.