5 Fabulous Towns for Foodies and Connoisseurs

Cheddar, UK

West Country Farmhouse Cheddar (coombecastle.com)

If you like any cheese at all it will likely be Cheddar cheese; it is the most widely eaten cheese in the world. With a mild taste, inoffensive to even the most trepid palate, it’s popular either sprinkled over a dish like your favourite pizza, stuffed into a ham and cheese sandwich or just eaten by itself.

Officially Cheddar cheese is described as ‘a relatively hard, off-white, sometimes sharp-tasting, natural cheese made from cow’s milk’.

Since the 12th Century the cheese’s popularity has grown and now Cheddar cheese has a place on millions of people’s dinner tables.

Cheddar is a town of 5000 residents and is nestled at the foot of a stunning gorge on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills in England.

Cheddar Gorge is the town’s centrepiece; with its dramatically steep, craggy walls, and a slaloming road running through, it’s breathtaking for drivers who cannot resist the urge to take their eyes off the road.

It is the caves of Cheddar Gorge that provided the ideal humidity and steady temperature for maturing the cheese in the past, and they still do. These caves, alongside the nearby Wookey Hole Caves, are now a popular family day out.

Cheddar, and its breath-taking gorge (countrylife.co.uk)

As a popular tourist destination Cheddar boasts plenty of bars and restaurants where you can sit outside and gawp at the rock walls around you. Can you still get the finest Cheddar cheese in the world there? Most definitely!

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is family-owned, independent, and has been making award-winning cheeses since 2003. Their Cheddar Cheese is still matured in the caves.

Then there is The Original Cheddar Cheese Company which opened its doors to business all the way back in 1870 and their shop and café are located at the same spot at the mouth of Cheddar Gorge. The shop is now world-famous and remains family-operated today.

Pilsen, Czech Republic

The world-famous Pilsner Urquell (theeverydayman.co.uk)

There are a gazillion types and sub-types of beer out there and none more popular than Pale Lager, otherwise called Pilsner. Described as a ‘very pale-to-golden-coloured with a well-attenuated body and a varying degree of noble hop bitterness’ …whatever that all means.

It does go down a treat on a hot Summer’s day, I know that much, and millions agree.

Pilsner came about in the early 19th Century as a result of a fermenting process imported into Bohemia from neighbouring Bavaria and that produced a beer with a longer shelf life. It’s popularity took off from there. It is no surprise that the people of the modern Czech Republic state, of which Pilsen is its fourth largest city, love the drink so much they only half-jokingly refer to it as a soft drink, or ‘liquid bread’.

Pilsen is a fine city of 175,000 residents, and it packs quite a punch to entice visitors with.

Its spacious town square is rimmed with townhouses showcasing grand Austro-Hungarian architecture and in its centre sits St Bartholomew’s Cathedral which offers a breathtaking vista from its church tower – the tallest in the country.

With its history, many parks, and landmarks like the iconic Prazdroj Brewery Gate it is no surprise that Pilsen was European Capital of Culture, 2015.

The Pilsner Fest in full swing (mistoprodeje.cz)

Its real draw is as the capital for beer lovers. One of the world’s biggest pilsner brands, Pilsner Urquell, still has its brewery in the City and is a mecca for lager lovers the world over. Visitors to the brewery can enjoy guided tours where they will learn about the history of Pilsner’s famous beer and, of course, enjoy a glass or three; nowhere does it get any fresher than straight from the company’s beer cellars.

And the highlight of the city calendar is the Pilsner Fest. Whilst in the neighbouring German city of Munich they have their world-renowned Octoberfest, also in October Pilsen hosts a two day festival of beer of its own which draws bigger and bigger crowds every year.

Cognac, France

The unique Cognac brandy (vinepair.com)

Cognac is a unique brandy produced by twice distilling white wines. So while it does indeed taste like brandy, it reflects the exclusive flavour sensations not found in other brandies.

Unlike Cheddar cheese, what makes it so sought after is that it must be made according to strictly defined regulations; namely, it must be made in or around the town for which it is named. As a result the Cognac commune, in the Charente department in southwestern France, is the centre of the universe for lovers of the iconic brandy.

So what of Cognac the town? It’s inhabited by 18,000 and is absolutely dripping with fine historical architecture. It has its own medieval quarter of unusual buildings, built between the 15th and 18th centuries, and situated on narrow cobbled streets and which contain sculptures of the salamander, the symbol of King François I, as well as gargoyles and richly decorated façades.

With its red banner, Hennessy’s Cognac Maison (blog.ruedesvignerons.com)

Over 200 producers of Cognac ply their trade and five of the biggest of them have their ‘Grande Marque’ Cognac houses in the town centre. They are Hennessy, Martell, Otard, Camus and Remy Martin, and each welcomes visitors with open arms.

Surely there is no more authentic place to enjoy a glass to sip on than in Bar Luciole on the banks of the Charente River. With more than 130 varieties of Cognac, whatever you order the team can provide a personal introduction to each and every one of them.

Every year in the last weekend of July the Cognac Festival is held, and is a very popular event. Fishermen’s huts are converted for the occasion and visitors can sit around tables and savour delicious cognac cocktails, and each night revellers can let their hair down dancing and foot-tapping at two concerts.

Camembert, France

Moist, soft, creamy camembert (countryliving.com)

Camembert is a moist, soft, creamy, surface-ripened cow’s milk cheese. It was first made in the late 18th century at Camembert, Normandy, in northern France. It’s a divisive cheese due to its strong taste. However, for those who enjoy stronger varieties of cheese Camembert is delicious and quite healthy too. So nutritious, in fact, the cheese was famously issued to French troops during World War I, becoming firmly fixed in French popular culture as a result.

It is now internationally known, and many local varieties are made around the world, yet the original Camembert, named Camembert de Normandie, can only be made from raw, unpasteurized milk from Normandes cows.

The quaint village of Camembert in Normandy, France (normandyfoodie.wordpress.com)

Meandering along quaint country lanes around Camembert, in Normandy, northern France you’ll be struck by the verdant hedgerows and the patchwork of pastures where cows sedately ruminate upon their lot under the glorious French sunshine.

It’s a lovely corner of the world, even if it sits off France’s radar as a top tourist hotspot. Yet, the village of Camembert is somewhat petite, but any fromage fan need not stray far from the village to find all the top sights (and smells) related to this much loved cheese.

At the Maison du Camembert you can learn all the history and secrets of camembert cheese production, then gorge on some gooey goodness inside the round, cream-coloured building next-door which resembles a round of camembert.

You can also visit the very home of the woman who invented Camembert, Madame Harel was inspired to create Camembert by a passing Brie cheese maker during the French Revolution in the beautiful, imposing 17th Century Beaumoncel Manor. Do check it out!

And there is no better place to stock up on Camembert than at the last remaining cheese farm located in the village – the Durand Cheesemonger at the Héronnière Farm.

The nearby Vimoutiers village is a great base to discover the area from.

Frankfurt, Germany

The much loved Frankfurter hotdog (washingtonpost.com)

Not to be confused with similar sticks of meat like the ‘Vienna Sausage’ the Frankfurter Wurchen aka ‘Frankfurter’ or ‘Hot Dog’ to most of us, is a cheap, tasty and versatile dish best eaten with little slices of gherkin or roasted onions, or even sauerkraut then topped with mustard or ketchup.

With protected geographical status since 1860, the authentic Frankfurter is a thin parboiled sausage made of pure pork in a casing of sheep’s intestine, and its taste is teased out by a special method of low-temperature smoking.

Yet, where did it get its name from? Frankfurt in southern Germany is the nation’s 5th largest metropolis and one of Europe’s major financial hubs. A city where the River Main flows past tree-lined embankments, and tourists and city workers relax on their lunch breaks to the backdrop of sleek skyscrapers clustering the city skyline.

Frankfurter fans should flock to the Kleinmarkthalle. A cultural melting pot; a culinary Aladdin’s Cave; this indoor market place has over 60 vendors and its Frankfurters are the best on the planet.

The Main Festival, to the backdrop of the Frankfurt skyline (frankfurt-tourismus.de)

Frankfurt is home to a number of other Teutonic, culinary delights than just frankfurters, this includes its own ‘Apfelwein’ apple wine and pastries. Visitors can delight in Frankfurt’s drinks, foods and vivacious vibes at its many festivals, such as the Main Festival and Fressgass Fest.

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7 Largest Coins in the World

The world’s No.1 is as heavy as a car. Presenting the biggest coins in the world.

When the Royal Mint minted a massive £10,000 coin in 2021, it got me wondering what the biggest coins in the world were. So, I reached into my bag of tricks and I came up with this; the seven most massive, very valuable coins in the world.

Note, I am only including circular metal coins with a denomination.

This may sound a little obvious yet there is a ‘massive coin’ from Sweden minted in 1644 which I would call a copper slab with hallmarks imprinted on it, and there are Rai Stones on the Micronesian Islands up to 3.6m (12ft) in diameter which served as a form of money, and therefore have been termed ‘coins’ by some, but not moi.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the seven biggest coins (by diameter), starting from seventh:

7: Queen’s Beasts Coin 

The newest coin in this list, minted in 2021 (theguardian.com)

The Queen’s Beasts Coin was minted in 2021 by the UK’s Royal Mint (RM) and is an outstanding piece of craftsmanship.

This gold coin is 20cm (7.9in) in diameter and weighs 10kg (22lbs). Unsurprisingly, it is the largest coin minted in the RM’s 1,100-year history.

It is meant as the final piece of a larger collection on the theme of heraldic beasts.

When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, 10 stone statues lined the Queen’s route to Westminster, including; a lion, griffin, falcon, bull, yale, greyhound, dragon, unicorn and a horse.

The RM subsequently made these beasts the theme of said coin collection.

With one side showing the side profile of Her Majesty’s head, the other side of the coin has another side-head profile beautifully surrounded by engravings of the 10 beasts in stunning detail.

This whopper set a new standard in coin minting. It took 400 hours to craft. They spent four days alone polishing it.

It is a £10,000 denomination coin, yet its real value is somewhere not far below the million-pound mark, so don’t forget which pocket you left it in.

6: 1000-Mohur Jahangir Coin

…to the oldest in the list, minted in 1639. A wonderful piece of craftsmanship without the state-of-the-art tools of modern mints (twitter.com)

A number of historical records tell of giant coins being forged by ancient empires.

Coins said to weigh over four kilos were minted in the Abbasid Empire, for example, and a very hefty coin was gifted by a Mughal Emperor to his court jester, but one that he bore a hole through the middle for his jester to slip his head through and bear it on his shoulders.

It was heavy enough for this poor-not-poor jester to be quite helpless and the man even had the nerve to complain out loud. That’s gratitude! Pffft.

None of these coins survived history, except one.

The fourth Mughal Emperor Jahangir minted the 1000-mohur Jahangir gold coin in 1639 weighing in at just under 12kg (26.5lbs) and with a 20.3cm (8in) diameter.

The inscription on the coin is in Persian. In the centre is the emperor’s name and title and surrounding the circular core are two couplets meticulously set on the coin with all the rules of calligraphy faithfully observed.

Considering it was made without modern minting technology, it is a fantastic piece of craftsmanship.

It is owned by Mukarram Jah, the Nizam of Hyderabad and was valued at 10 million US dollars in 1987, so who knows what its value is now.

5: Vienna Philharmonic Coin

This coin commemorates one of the world’s most famous orchestras (aguanews.com)

The 15 Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra coins were made to mark the 15th anniversary of the Vienna Philharmonic bullion coin.

They were minted in 2004 by the Austrian Mint. They each have a diameter of 37cm (14.6in), 2cm (.8in) thickness, and are 31kg (68.3lbs) of 24-carat gold.

Dubbed ‘Big Phil’, these priceless discs are inscribed with the image of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s famous hall on one side and instruments on the other, plus the coins’ 100,000 Euro face-value. Their true value was put at 1.1 million Euros each in 2014.

4: Big Maple Leaf Coin

Don’t lift it alone; that is 100kg of gold coin (nbcnews.com)

The Big Maple Leaf Coin hails from Canada, and isn’t a unique piece — six were forged in all. Just 5 remain after one was whisked away in 2017, however.

A gang of thieves made off with one of the coins on loan to the Bode Museum in Berlin, Germany. Although the cops did track down the thieves eventually, not so the coin; it is believed to have been melted down for its gold.

Minted by the Royal Canadian Mint in 2007. These giant doubloons are 50cm (19.7in) in diameter, 2.8cm (1.1in) thick and weigh a back-breaking 100kg (220lbs). They are made from 99% pure gold.

As a member of the British Commonwealth, these Canadian giants have the customary side profile of Queen Elizabeth II’s head on one side and three elegantly stylised maple leaves on the other.

Like the 1 Tonne Gold Kangaroo Coin, (see below) it is a million-dollar denomination, yet it was valued at four million US dollars in 2007.

3: ‘100 Years of The Koruna’ Coin

130 kilos and 100 million crowns (eprogram.cz)

This gargantuan gold coin was commissioned to celebrate the Czech Republic’s currency reaching its 100 year anniversary.

The old Czechoslovak state was founded just after the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. This fledgling state launched its shiny new currency called the Czech Crown (Koruna) a year later. 100 years on and a bumper era of economic success with this currency to show for it, the Czech Mint chose to splurge on a chunky, gold commemorative coin.

The ‘100 Years of The Koruna’ Coin is 53.5cm (21in) in diameter and 4.7cm (1.9in) thick. And with a weight of 130kg (287lbs) they should include a forklift in the price for any prospective buyer.

This mesmeric piece depicts the birth of the Czechoslovak Koruna among ears of wheat on one side and, in homage to the famed One-Crown coin that first went into circulation in 1922, the Czech lion is shown onto its reverse side.

With a 100 million-crown denomination, this equalled a $4.6 million valuation in 2019.

2: Ivory Coast Silver Elephant Coin

The Largest silver coin in the world (cointelevision.com)

In 2nd place is the one entry in this list not forged from gold, yet it’s still an impressive piece as the largest silver coin on Earth.

Issued by The Ivory Coast in Africa but manufactured by Geiger Edelmetalle, this set of 15 coins was minted in 2016 to champion the preservation of the continent’s iconic megafauna such as the African Elephant.

Although every coin measures 65cm (26in) and 54kg (120lb) in diameter and weight respectively, the 99% pure silver coins are handcrafted, meaning each is unique from the others in the set.

The front of each coin features the African Bush Elephant standing tall, along with the French phrase “Le Monde Animal En Peril,” translating to ‘The Animal World In Peril.’ The reverse side displays the Ivory Coast coat of arms and gives the nominal value of 1,000,000 Francs (although their true values are many times higher.)

A proportion of the profits from each coin were allocated to conservation projects that protect endangered species in the Ivory Coast republic.

1: One Tonne Gold Kangaroo Coin

The largest coin on the planet (coinnews.net)

The Perth Mint in Australia produced this absolute monster of a paperweight, the One Tonne Gold Kangaroo Coin — The world’s largest coin!

Minted in 2012, it has a diameter of 80cm (31.5in), is 12cm (4.7in) deep and is 1000kg (2,200lbs) of pure gold.

With a face-value of a million dollars, this giant coin was actually valued at 53 million dollars when it was unveiled.

It was made to be the showpiece of the Perth Mint ‘Australian Kangaroo Gold Bullion Coin Series‘ and is a triumph of coin minting.

On one side is Queen Elizabeth II’s side profile with ‘ELIZABETH II’, ‘AUSTRALIA’ and ‘1 MILLION DOLLARS’ inscribed around the edge, and the other side features a bounding red kangaroo surrounded by stylised rays of sunlight and bordered by the inscription ‘AUSTRALIAN KANGAROO’, ‘1 TONNE’, ‘9999 GOLD’ and ‘2012’.

It is legal tender, but please don’t try taking it down to your local corner shop to buy a bottle of milk; they won’t thank you for the cash in change they’ll need. Besides… it weighs an absolute tonne! (grabs coat)

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6 Films Depicting Britain without the Hollywood Filter

A selection of UK movies that left their mark; films that veer away from the Hollywood vibe and portray contemporary British culture before the Age of the Internet

These are films I enjoyed in my younger days, just out of school, forever raiding my absent brother’s legendary stack of VHS movies.

Each review includes the classic quotes and moments that make each film special.

Hard Men

Director: J. K. Amalou Year: 1997

Hard Men has been touted as inspiration to Guy Richie’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (bang2write.com)

Bear: “55,980 pounds.”

Speed: “That’s twenty quid short. What the fuck are you trying to do? Do you know who you’re fucking with?”

Mr Ross: “Hey, I made a little mistake. Relax.”

Speed: “Don’t tell me to fucking relax!”

Co-starring ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser, famed for once being a top gangland enforcer in the Kray-Twin era, and Vincent Regan a familiar face for fans of the Ancient Greece genre, Hard Men is a gangster movie portraying leery, swaggering cockney gangster geezers at their worst, or best, depending on your outlook.

The synopsis is of three underworld debt collectors ‘Tone’, ‘Speed’ and ‘Bear’ who are in the middle of a showdown when Tone discovers over the phone that he’s a new father. Tone quickly decides he wants to ditch the gangland lifestyle to make a better life for his new family yet their crime boss ‘Pops Den’ has other plans. Speed and Bear decide that Tone’s subsequent last night alive should go out with a bang, in every sense of the term.

Frankie Fraser’s part as ‘Pops Den’ gives the movie an authentic gangster feel while Lee Ross is well cast to play the part of Speed; an unpredictably violent, coked-up loose-cannon. The story centres around the three lads prowling the streets of London in a gold Rolls Royce, drinking, fighting and getting in everyone’s faces, along to a feisty rock soundtrack.

Memorable scenes include Tone singing a lullaby down the phone to his baby in a greasy spoon cafe while the other two look on, and Bear and Speed finding out the two ladies they picked up earlier are in fact drag queens.

Although much rougher around the edges than Guy Richie’s later gangster movies, it is in a similar mould and has plenty of fun twists and turns before its climax.

Nuns on the Run

Director: Jonathan Lynn Year: 1990

When you’re a gangster, and your make-up game is weak… but you’ve got to go under cover as a nun…(sorryneverheardofit.wordpress.com)

Abbott: “Kill her!”

Brian: “What with?”

Abbott: “With a gun!”

Brian: “I don’t have a gun, you homicidal pillock!”

Robert Coltraine aka ‘Dumbledore’ in the Harry Potter movies, and Monty Python’s Eric Idle make this gangster comedy the hilarious but cheesy hit it is.

Like in ‘Hard Men’, two gangsters, ‘Charlie’ and ‘Brian’, are faced with the dilemma of how to get out of the crime game with their lives intact.

They’re sent on a job that their boss ‘Casey’ intends to be their last; to rob a triad gang of their massive stash of drugs money. But the two turn the tables and steal the money for themselves, and in an ensuing chaotic hot pursuit Charlie and Brian realise their only sanctuary is a nunnery.

Of course, if the nuns find them skulking around, they’ll call the police …so there is only one thing for it; the two desperados go undercover as nuns.

Complete with squeaky voices, stuffed bras and extreme modesty, they keep the cops and crims off their backs long enough to escape on the soonest flight to Brasil.

All the while, Brian’s struggle to shoehorn his newfound romance into their plans almost meets disaster. Must he choose between freedom and love, or can he have both?

Coltraine’s performance as a man overcompensating for his strapping build with a dainty disposition is particularly hilarious and the film bounds along nicely from one awkward shenanigan to the next, despite a dialogue laden with much farce.

The scene where Charlie takes the opportunity to sit in with a class of gorgeous, young convent women students showering after a gym class gave me a wry guffaw.

Although it’s pretty PG, it’s not so PC. Nuns on the Run is a light-hearted movie that doesn’t take itself seriously.

Human Traffic

Director: Justin Kerrigan Year: 1999

A homage to Britain’s rave culture in the 90s (onlytechno.net)

Jip: “I think we’re all fucked up in our own way, you know? But we’re all doing it together. Freestyling on the broken wheel of life. Trapped in a world of internal dialogue. Like Bill Hicks said, ‘It’s an insane world, but I’m proud to be part of it.’”

Human Traffic focuses on the ecstasy rave culture of nineties Britain in Wales’ capital city; Cardiff.

It also examines themes around the emotional tumult in the most anxious but exciting period of adulthood; your 20s.

The idea was to make this comedy a realistic portrayal of the UK’s club scene in the final era before the numbing effects of social media entered our lives.

Although a lot of the movie’s cultural references haven’t aged well, it manages to candidly lay bare the ups and downs of a party animal lifestyle.

Every week of ‘Jip’, ‘Lulu’, ‘Koop’, ‘Moff’, and ‘Nina’s lives exist for the weekend when they can take their paltry earnings and experience the most euphoric time together, bouncing to psychedelic tunes with a cocktail of drugs and booze.

The drawback of partying hard; the paranoia and crushing comedowns, are played out in frequent sidesplitting imaginary cutscenes. Jip’s literal shafting by his shop-store boss with a £50 over his mouth and Lulu and Nina envisioning two stoner students talking out their arses, to name two, kept me and my friends laughing our heads off throughout.

Scenes such as when Jip audaciously dupes a nightclub owner into believing he is there to promote the nightclub for the ‘mixmag’ magazine so he can gain entry without a ticket helped give this movie a large cult following.

The soundtrack by DJs like Fatboy Slim, Underworld and Armand Van Helden is an absolute belter.

If you’ve ever been in the rave scene then this is definitely worth checking out.

Trainspotting

Director: Danny Boyle Year: 1996

Danny Boyle’s psychedelic cult classic (timeout.com)

Interviewer: “Mr. Murphy, do you mean that you lied on your application?”

Spud: “No! Uh. Yes. Only to get my foot in the door. Showing initiative and that like.”

Interviewer: “But you were referred here by the Department of Employment, there was no need for you to ‘get your foot in the door’, as you put it.”

Spud: “Ehhh… cool. Whatever you say, I’m sorry. You’re the man. The dude in the chair.”

The most successful movie in this list with its massive cult fanbase, it’s laden with iconic scenes and characters. It’s a ‘Generation X’ favourite.

This dark comedic drama follows the ups and downs of five dysfunctional friends wrestling with the banality of their young lives and various vices.

The characters are all so quirky; from the violent savagery of ‘Begbie’, (brilliantly played by Robert Carlyle) the spaced out ‘Spud’, (Ewen Bremner) to the straight-laced ‘Tommy’ (Kevin McKidd) and the main protagonist, wily ‘Rent Boy’ (Ewan McGregor) with his fluttering flame ‘Diane’ (played by Kelly Macdonald) to name a few.

With so many zany subplots along the way, the film follows the main protagonist Mark ‘Rent Boy’ Renton as he struggles to wrest himself off his heroin addiction. First, suffering the ordeal of ‘cold turkey’ then the grim clarity of sobriety before finally escaping to the bright lights of London.

His so-called friends don’t make that easy, however, yet a one-off drugs sale might give him the windfall he needs to escape Begbie’s insufferable companionship and make a better life.

Far too many memorable scenes to mention; Renton’s dream-like swim in ‘Scotland’s worst toilet’, Begby’s casual beer glass thrown onto the dance floor below just so he can have a brawl, and Spud’s dopey job interview are my favourites.

The film is famous for its often humorous cutscenes and the kind of soporific soundtrack that is a Danny Boyle trademark. It’s probably the coolest movie of the ’90s, even if it is mildly depressing.

Threads

Director: Mick Jackson Year made: 1984

Honestly one of the most bleak and bone-chilling movies you’ll ever watch (kqed.org)

Mrs. Beckett: “Ruth love, come on love, you’ll have to eat something. You’ll have to love, it’s not just you now you know, the baby needs food as well.”

Ruth Beckett: [crying] “I don’t care about this baby anymore, I wish it was dead.”

Mrs. Beckett: “Oh Ruth! Don’t say things like that.”

Ruth Beckett: “There’s no point! There’s no point with Jimmy dead.”

Threads is a 1980s docudrama depicting the likely outcome if the USSR were ever to attack the UK in a nuclear war.

With no thrills acting and special effects typical of low-budget UK movie productions bereft of CGI or Hollywood budgets, this staid production none-the-less hit me like a hammer when I watched it a few years ago, and that was largely because the plot was based on expert opinions of what would probably happen in such a nightmare.

Set in Sheffield, the producers wanted to depict the effects of nuclear war on one of the UK’s major urban centres and its citizens. It starts with introducing a senior municipal leader and a young couple named ‘Jimmy’ and ‘Ruth’ who are planning to marry after finding out Ruth is pregnant.

Yet, the global political situation is quickly unravelling as a skirmish in Iran puts the USA and USSR on course for total war.

There’s no need to warn about spoiling the plot here, folks, because the educated person can guess how it plays out.

The war triggers a full nuclear exchange and a warhead hits the city, largely obliterating it.

Millions die and the survivors are quickly forced to contend with the effects of radiation poisoning and a breakdown of food supplies then civilised society as the days, weeks and months pass.

A decade later and Britain has been reduced to a crude, barbaric society. Children born after the war are intellectually underdeveloped and speak a stunted form of English.

Poignant scenes include the senior municipal leader reassuring his wife everything will be ok with the stiff upper lip for which Brits are world-renowned before he heads down to a bunker in which he will be eventually entombed, and a soul-shattered Ruth gnawing on a dead rat as a man attempts conversation with her.

The no-thrills style of acting only adds weight to the film’s harrowing realism.

After I watched this movie it was lunchtime, and I have never been more grateful to have a plate of food in front of me than at that moment. If ever a film could be used to help define the word ‘bleak’, this is it.

Dead Man’s Shoes

Director: Shane Meadows Year: 2004

Powerful performances by Considine and Kebbell (pictured left and centre) make this small budget movie a compelling watch (ilikedthatmovie.wordpress.com)

Sonny: “You know the lads had this ridiculous idea tha…”

Richard: “Yeah, it was me.”

Sonny: “Oh, it was? Thought so.”

Considering this movie was produced with a budget of less than £750,000, Dead Man’s Shoes is a thoroughly watchable dark tale of a lone, lethal ex-soldier out for revenge against the lowlifes who bullied his brother.

Its success is borne upon the shoulders of Paddy Considine’s powerful portrayal of ‘Richard’ — a deeply troubled ex ‘Para’, and Toby Kebbell’s amazingly convincing performance as ‘Anthony’ — Richard’s mentally handicapped younger brother.

Set in England’s Peak District, the story follows Richard, with Anthony in tow, as he tracks, torments and terrorises a gang of small-time drug dealing bullies led by ‘Sonny’.

The film builds satisfyingly to its climax, as scenes alternate between Richard and Anthony’s touching moments together and Richard’s ever meaner trick attacks on the gang, leaving the worst of them to last, though not before a jarring, unexpected twist.

A sign of a good actor is when their character evokes feelings from the audience towards them, good or bad. Gary Stretch, the man who plays the sleazy, seedy Sonny, does that well as he succumbs to a most gratifying downfall.

This is a good watch although the film’s wooden script and cast means it might not keep you coming back to it again and again.

Highlights include scenic shots of the two brothers hiking across England’s hill-land and Richard brazenly screaming at drug dealer ‘Herbie’ in the middle of a social club.

(imdb.com)

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