The Ballad of Steve and Peggy *Endgame Spoilers Ahead*

As promised, a more detailed look at one element of Endgame that’s got people’s knickers in a twist.

Again, spoilers coming up – for Agent Carter, too – so look away now.

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First of all, let’s touch on the problem that the writers (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) and the directors (Joe and Anthony Russo) both have a different viewpoint on how the time travel in Endgame actually works, and specifically, where Steve went at the end.

I’m favouring the writers, but the previously mentioned anomalies do come into play and it seems there is a method to Marvel’s madness, which I’ve picked up from an excellent and insightful interview with Markus & McFeely – you can see it in full here. They also drop the very exciting bombshell that they have a studio with the Russos and are working on other projects! (Not Marvel, don’t start. *dreams*).

The Russo brothers have stated* that Steve went into an alternative timeline, and there is evidence of this. Specifically, the new shield. Since his original shield was destroyed in the fight with Thanos, it makes sense that it comes from another timeline. Steve tells Sam “it doesn’t” (belong to anyone else), so it appears that in the other timeline, he’s handed it over to Sam before. *They also stated that Loki escape with the Time stone, so y’know, they’re a bit confused too.

Suffice to say, Steve creating a whole new timeline means anything goes – he could go back to before Bucky fell from the train, since his past isn’t the future in that timeline. Marrying Peggy, having kids, saving Bucky and the Starks, it can all happen without him affecting the original MCU timeline.

The anomalies here are that a) he doesn’t appear back through the portal, and if he was using the GPS tracker and the Pym particles then surely he would have? Unless, in the alternative timeline, Howard and/or Tony and/or Hank Pym have created another. Now, you could call that convenient – I call it exciting!

And b) the rules created for Endgame state that creating an alternate timeline can only happen if an Infinity Stone is not replaced, and since Steve replaced them all, he can’t have created an alternative timeline.

The case for the original timeline:

As I said, I’m with the writers, because a) it’s more romantic and b) they’ve written all the Captain America films, plus Avengers 3 and 4 and they created Agent Carter. Their intention was that he went back to Peggy in the original timeline, and the evidence in Winter Soldier and Endgame supports that. As they say in the video:

“Things need to add up emotionally more than they do logically …”

For clarification, M & M confirmed that two particles can exist in the same timeline (their quantum scientists told them about experiments done in the CERN Hadron Collider). Therefore, frozen Steve and future Steve co-exist and future Steve ensures their paths don’t cross once his younger self is defrosted.

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M & M confirm in the video that Steve returned to Peggy in 1948 – at the end of Agent Carter Series 2, so all of that happened. They reckon she had a falling out with Sousa. You can imagine the conversation:

INT. SOUSA’S OFFICE – DAY

Peggy and Daniel snog with abandon. A flash of light glints in their eyes as a god-like man appears.

Peggy

Steve?

Steve

Peggy!

Peggy

You’re late!

Steve

My ride hadn’t been invented!

Peggy

Er, Daniel. This is Steve.

Daniel

Aw, fuck it.

Steve

You got any oranges? I really fancy an orange.

Actually, Steve, being the considerate man he is, wouldn’t just turn up like that. He’d go to Howard first, someone whose shock would soon be overtaken by excitement and who could hide him effectively, then break it to Peggy gently. Or set her up for an enormous shock just for the fun of it. Either way works.

My (mundane) theory was that Steve went back in the early fifties after Peggy got a divorce. Steve, having visited Peggy from his defrosting in 2012 to her passing in 2016 would know her life story and when this happened. Therefore, having seen his photo on her desk in 1970, he had no qualms about going back to her.

M & M say Steve was always Peggy’s husband and father of the children seen in the photos in Winter Soldier (no husband in them, remember?). When I first heard there might be time travel in Endgame, this is totally what I wanted it to be (probably why I’m so happy with Endgame!).

The interview Peggy gave doesn’t have her mention her husband naturally “.. including the man who would eventually become my husband, as it turned out” – why not “including my husband…” if she were still married?

It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that the possible husband resented even the memory of Steve and if he was a bit of a manbaby, she’d only have to say “Why can’t you be more like Steve?” and boom, marriage over. Like I said, I’m a romantic.

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Before you start with the whatabout Sharon? she was a great-niece by marriage, not a blood relative, and defrosted Cap saw her as the closest thing he could have to Peggy. He’d no idea then he’d be able to go back. Anyway, it was only one, not-so-passionate snog – we got over Luke and Leia, we can get over that.

So there you go, Steve is now living a quiet life with Peggy, knowing that he cannot change anything in that timeline. There’s no social media and publicly, he usually wore a cowl, so it’s unlikely he’s ever going to get recognised in real life. How many times have you bumped into someone from the telly and not been able to place them? And there must be thousands of Steve Rogers in America – it’s not like he’s called Benylin Cumberband or something.

Personally, I love the idea of toddler Tony being babysat by Steve and no-one is ever going to take that away from me. This might have been exactly what they had in mind for AC S3. Disney+, come on!

When we see Old Cap, he’s simply made his own way to the portal site on the right date, waited for himself to go back in time and then sat on the bench. The only anomaly for me is handing off the shield, which he didn’t have – unless he stopped in Wakanda on the way back, and asked Shuri nicely to make him a new one.

*Update* Due to some snotty nosed little cretin arguing with me on Youtube (and completely undermining himself by stating that two Steves couldn’t be in the same place at the same time. Did I imagine Cap V Cap #Americasass?) my mind wandered enough to find another explanation for the shield.

And I decided that Howard Stark had kept some vibranium back, and was able to make Steve a new one. The more I thought about this, the more convinced I became. Why would you use this incredible material to make just one item (and leave it under your desk)? Knowing Howard, genius inventor, it’s completely in character that he’d have retained some to play with.

Steve’s words to Sam, equally, could be interpreted differently: It doesn’t belong to anyone else because he made the decision to pass it onto Sam.

Just because you didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen!

In conclusion, there is evidence and anomalies that support and undermine both versions. And Markus and McFeely came up with the perfect reasoning as to why that is:

“It kind of depends on what Marvel wants to do going forward. We watched the Spiderman Far From Home trailer like everyone else and they mention branched realities and alternate multiverse … we didn’t know they were going to do that. So they may have a different need (to our version) going forward.”

Basically, Marvel left their options open.

And I’m left with the smuggest feeling of being on the same wavelength as the writers of five of the MCU’s best films.

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I’m going to explode if I don’t talk about Avengers: Endgame **SPOILERS**

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I’ve seen it three times but I’ve friends who’ve still yet to see it, because they’re simply too busy. Consequently, I’ve had to resort to Facebook.

There are some real idiots on Facebook, aren’t there? I have to question if they even watched the same film or in fact, any of the previous MCU films, or whether their attention span has fled them entirely, since they clearly missed some of the major plot points. And that’s just the writers of online “news” platforms putting shit out there.

*It’s not a plot hole or an unanswered question just because YOU didn’t understand it!*

Ok, so now you’ve gathered I will be referring to said plot of Avengers: Endgame and if you don’t want to know – why are you still here?

So, the main issue: Time Travel. Specifically, the MCU’s version of time travel which is not like Back to the Future and sundry others mentioned.

Now, I should state that, as someone who couldn’t even pass CSE Maths and Physics (think GCSE failure and double it), I’m no expert in the quantum realm. So this is just what I think. But what I think is at least grounded in what I’ve seen and heard in the films. I guess I’m lucky they explained it in plain English and not algebra!

To preserve the timeline of the whole 22 film MCU, clearly they had to come up with something different from the usual Back to the Future type time travel. Hence:

“You cannot change the future from the past!”

Yes, it’s that simple a premise. Everything that happened in the earlier films has still happened regardless of any time travel shenanigans in Endgame. Because them’s the rules. They got a science adviser in about it an’ everything. This will be referred to as the original timeline.

Banner told the Avengers the rules. He and the Ancient One even drew a fucking diagram showing what would happen if the stones weren’t replaced. Seriously. The original timeline cannot be changed but if the stones aren’t replaced, they can cause an additional, alternative timeline. *Update* Presumably, Thanos not replacing the stones he took in 2018 has created the alternate timelines/multiverse mentioned in the Far From Home trailer.

But whataboutery …

But Loki took the Tesseract and disappeared! Therefore the space stone didn’t get replaced and surely an alternative timeline came into being? Yes and no. Loki took the space stone from 2012 and disappeared into a new timeline (Disney+). The space stone the Avengers took was from 1970 and it was replaced. So, original timeline intact.

But surely Steve would’ve told S.H.I.E.L.D everything about Hydra? Well, he could – wouldn’t have made any difference to events. Sure, he knew about Pierce, Sitwell and Rumlow and could stop them being hired but – cut off one head, and two more will take their place. And unless he was going to murder Zola in cold blood, the algorithm will still be created.

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Steve couldn’t save or rescue Bucky or save the Starks – everything that happened, happened. Even though he went back in time, those events are all in his past so he cannot change them. The best he could do would be to warn. There’s a reason Fury was suspicious of S.H.I.E.L.D – why else would he hire hijackers to attack the Lemurian Star? And know to always keep his light sabre with him? See? SEE?

But Gamora, how can Gamora still be alive? And Thanos? They were both killed in the original timeline. Indeed they were, but thanks to your traditional time travel, they came to 2023 from 2014, and all the events between 2014-2023 still happened.

But then, why can’t we just bring Natasha and Tony back? Because that’s not the story the creators wanted to tell. Tony was on a crisscross arc with Steve, and Natasha’s mission was to clear the red from her ledger. And you can’t just tear them away from their life in a different time because you miss them. Gamora knew exactly what was happening, and why, and it was a natural part of the story.

Natasha was clearly at her wits end and suffering, the only thing that mattered to her was getting everyone back, whatever it takes. I’m gutted too, I loved Natasha. I’ve more to say on Nat, the other female Avengers and how, if Marvel really want to, they could bring her back. In another blog post, hopefully soon.

But, but, but … Steve and Peggy – he went back and deleted her husband and children and their children and he kissed his own granddaughter. No, just no. Stop it right now. This is a whole other blog post too, otherwise I’ll be here all night.

Let’s just be happy for Steve that, post 2023, he’s content running a dog rescue home, with a nice sideline in gentleman’s knitwear.

There are some anomalies, of course there are – it’s a time travel story, so there are going to be, aren’t there?! And if we can’t suspend our disbelief and just accept an epic, rollicking great, adventure superhero film for what it is, then why are we watching?

Cap lifting Mjolnir, Tony’s final “I am … Iron Man” “AVENGERS. Assemble.” The portals. “On your left!” So many epic moments.

Don’t cry that it’s over; smile because it happened.

On a Spring roll …

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For novelists, November is a huge month, with a small endeavour known as  NaNoWriMo keeping them busy. It’s like the vomit draft I mentioned previously, aimed at getting some 50,000 words of a novel down on paper.

For screenwriters, the equivalent is Zero Draft Thirty – a month long attempt to bash out the first draft of your screenplay, or plan or rewrite – there are no rules. It fitted well with my three pages a day plan.

March was ZDT and I decided to adapt a thirty page short sci-fi story. I quickly realised that the twist at the end was really only the end of the first act and then came the hard part of upping the stakes.

I took vomit draft to a whole new level as I struggled to make sense of the story – and also struggled to not edit as I went along  – until finally, something clicked. It might only be 48 pages in total at present, as the 3 pages a day gave way to thrashing out the story, but it has a beginning, a middle and an end, and I’m pleased with the overall concept. My main character turned out to be fun too!

Although I found the rewriting process with the other two projects a lot of fun, I’ve parked this story for now – it was more of an experiment for my first ZDT – and am going to focus on another project that I feel more passionate about, one that has a beginning and an end but a higgledy-piggledy middle.  This one, a darkly comic crime caper, has been one of my main projects since I started to focus on screenplays and I’m itching to crack on with it.

Flitting between the two stories is a bit of luxury at present, as the two completed projects are now with a script consultant. The pilot I’m going to enter in Thousand Films competition, and the feature will be sent to Sheridan Smith’s production company, Barking Mad Productions – Sheridan very kindly put out a call for scripts and has promised to read all of them – I’m guessing she’s decided for forego sleep for a while!

All this is happening while putting together the next RLF Murderous Medway (21st September), for which we have some cracking authors already lined up. A pretty productive March, which has energised me for April!

Do we have the right to tell true stories?

This was the question posed by filmmaker Vincent Lambe to justify his Oscar nominated film Detainment.

Subsequently, the overriding sentiment from most people was: Yes – provided you have permission from the victim’s family.

Detainment was made using the archived transcripts of interviews with the killers of James Bulger. Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were just 10 years old at the time they kidnapped the two year old from a shopping centre and terrorised him before killing him. The transcripts are in the public domain so permission isn’t needed.

However, as many pointed out, common courtesy dictates that you’d at least contact the family and ask for their blessing before you went ahead. This Lambe did not do – and therein lies the main issue for most people.

As the mother of a two year old at the time, my sympathies lie entirely with Denise Bulger and what she went through then, and what she is going through again now.

Another Twitter user took umbrage that I’d dared to express my opinion on the matter and after a long conversation, pointed out that I’m a screenwriter and they hoped karma would get me, by way of a project I’d spent hundreds of hours on being withdrawn.

I pointed out that it wouldn’t happen* – because I would never even begin to write a screenplay about such a sensitive subject without having got the relevant parties on board.

I guess for those who don’t remember this case – too young, outside of the UK, perhaps – it’s hard to understand why there is such a backlash against this film. But I do. I can remember the atrocities that small innocent boy suffered without needing to look it up.

For me, this is the side of a true story that simply didn’t need telling again.

*Sadly, the nature of the film and TV  industry means there are many projects whose collaborators put in hundreds of hours of work for them never to appear. It doesn’t have to be controversial.

Writing daze

The Coffee Break Screenwriter by Pilar Alessandra

You know I said I’d be writing at least 3 pages a day? I actually have!

Therefore, as we near the end of January, I can look back on the month and be really proud that I’ve now two complete project drafts. And it’s thanks in part to the excellent book (see above) by Pilar Alessandra: The Coffee Break Screenwriter.

I was stuck at a rough 12 pages for the pilot episode of my TV series, so, since it was Pilar’s weekend TV writing course that set me on the journey with it last year, I revisited her book to jump start me again.

Going into the weekend last year with just the basic concept, I came away with the full template for all the elements of a mini series bible, which subsequently turned into a 5 page document that set a strong framework for me to work from.

But knowing my characters and where I want them to go turned out to be the easy bit. So using Pilar’s book, I’ve begun to work through the 10 minute exercises and concentrate on one part of the script at a time. Before I knew it, I’d hit 45 pages. And I’m still only at the beginnings of the rewrite processes!

Having already completed the vomit draft (as I’ve charmingly seen it called) of my feature – Pilar refers to it as the speed draft (as in you write it quickly, not while you’re high) – I’ve started the rewriting process on that and already it’s gained another 4 pages.

It helps that I’ve finally made the effort to make more, dedicated, time. I’d let too many distractions keep me away from the writing but a new approach has proven worthwhile. This is essentially not writing just on the computer – printing the drafts off and going through with a red pen (like in the olden days) clearly works for me. Pen and paper, you can’t beat it.

Yesterday I was at the second Rochester Write Then Socialise and basically sat quietly for 3 whole hours working through the script, with Pilar’s book becoming more and more thumbed as the day wore on. The beauty of this was that once I felt a break was in order, I could reward myself by chatting to fellow writers over a coffee, the importance of which can’t be underestimated.

Writing is a lonely, solitary business and it’s easy to become isolated. While we were all concentrating on our own projects, the sounds of low chatter, tapping on keyboards and the scratching of pens reminded me I’m not on my own.

Breaking into broadcasting as a disabled person

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I met Christina Lee when we were both on a workshop while volunteering for Leonard Cheshire. She was immediately a fantastic addition to the LitFest’s volunteers and here, she shares her insights on breaking into the broadcasting industry as a disabled person.

Photo: Christina with Joanna from Wall to Wall.

Recently the government announced that national broadcasters, including the BBC, ITV, and Sky, plan to double the number of disabled people working in television by 2020 in an attempt to diversify the industry. The Creative Diversity Network (CDN), who proposed the Doubling Disability plan, had found that disabled people only make 6.8% of those appearing on screen, and 4.5% of those off screen, despite the fact that 18% of the UK population is disabled.

Why are there so few disabled people working in television?

In the media sector, work experience is vital. But getting work experience can be extremely difficult for young people with disabilities for reasons such as access problems, financial costs, health limitations and cultural attitudes towards disability. Misconceptions about what working in television is actually like, also put off many people with disabilities from the industry.

Back in February this year, I had the fantastic opportunity to undertake a work placement at Wall to Wall television production company for two weeks. (I wrote about my experience for Muscular Dystrophy UK, which you can read about here.) Later I caught up with Joanna Gatcum, Talent Assistant, and had a great post-placement chat about the experience. We talked about how to get more young disabled people into the media industry, and she gave some fantastic advice on how young disabled people interested in television can embark on their careers.

The television industry is without doubt a very competitive sector for anyone. Depending on the type of job you apply for, it can be physically and mentally demanding, involving working long hours or out-of-hours, or travelling frequently between sets. This may appear daunting, especially for young people whose disability may limit the type or duration of work they do. The good news, as I found out at my work placement, is that the television industry is incredibly diverse and accommodating. Given the nature of television production, you never really just do one thing at a job. So if there are certain tasks (e.g., heavy lifting, being on outdoor sets), it is often possible to swap with colleagues and do the tasks you can do (e.g. logging or transcribing).

There are increasingly more and more companies operating flexible hours and job-share schemes, not just for people with disabilities, but also for parents and caregivers. Joanna herself job-shares with another colleague and works different hours to normal office hours to accommodate childcare. On the days during my placement when the UK was hit by a freakish snowstorm, I worked from home and communicated with the team via email. Employers are often happy to negotiate and make appropriate compromises to enable people with disabilities to do their jobs well (in fact, they are legally obliged to do so, as we learned from the Disability Law workshop). Joanna was optimistic that young people with disabilities stand as much chance in television as anyone and encouraged anyone interested in the sector to give it their best shot.

I asked Joanna what, from her experience working in Talent, are the most skills and attributes young people need to succeed in television. She explained that since most jobs in television are contract-based and project-based, flexibility and ability to adapt are crucial survival skills, especially for freelancers. The skill requirements vary depending on the type of job you are applying for, but as there are tight deadlines and things can (and often do) go wrong, problem-solving and organisational skills are also very important. Most graduates starting a career in television won’t have much experience in the media and they are bound to come across sector-specific practices that they are not familiar with.

Even if your degree has nothing to do with media or if you didn’t go to university, it is still possible to have a successful career in television. More than qualifications, it’s experience that matters. That’s why willingness to learn is key to getting to grips with the tricks of the trade. Entry level jobs such as secretarial roles and PA positions may not sound very impressive, but they provide opportunities to learn how television works behind the scenes and meet important people like directors and producers, who could be useful contacts for the future. The words that we went back to again and again were passion and enthusiasm. All the staff I met loved their work; even though it’s hard, their passion shines through and that’s what make their work so brilliant.

Evidently, the television sector is far from perfect and disability representation remains low. But things are changing, onscreen and off-screen. And hopefully getting more young disabled people into the television industry will drive change to the right direction.

Special thanks to Muscular Dystrophy UK and Wall to Wall for the fantastic opportunity and experience. If you are a young person with disabilities and would like to learn more about similar work opportunities, please visit their Moving Up page for details.

Final Tips:

  • Be boldDon’t be afraid to try something new, even if you don’t think you are good at it. For me, pushing myself out of my comfort zone by taking up placements at MDUK and Wall to Wall taught me not only about the industries and the workplace but I also learned about myself and what I can do. It made me realise that a lot of my existing skills are transferable and made me more optimistic about my career options.
  • Be proactive! Television is a creative industry, it’s competitive, so you need to create your own opportunities. Joanna gets a lot of emails from applicants every day, so it’s not always possible to reply to emails quickly. However, this does not mean that your application is rejected; your CV gets stored on the company database for future uses. If the company does not reply within a few weeks, send a follow-up email. Sometimes companies will require someone urgently for a specific job, and if your email arrives at the right time then the job could be yours. There are job-posting websites and talent databases like TalentBases and MediaParent where companies recruit freelancers that are free for applicants.
  • Be-friend! Networking is important for any career, but especially for television. Freelancers work with different teams on every project, so it’s a good idea to keep a list of contacts from each project who can potentially point you to other projects and introduce you to other people. Taking up work experience placements, internships, and media events are also very good ways of meeting people. For writers, finding a good agency with the right contacts can make a huge difference.

Good Luck!

With huge thanks to Christina for sharing this with us 🙂

It’s been almost two years (I thought it was longer)

2019

Yep, almost two years since I last blogged. Outrageous isn’t it? Or would be if I hadn’t been busy with all sorts of things that, sadly, were just more important.

But here I am, having guilt tripped myself into it, mainly to get back in the habit of just writing freely – even if it’s a load of nonsense (which it quite likely will be).

I’ve been concentrating on screenwriting, which includes reading and watching lots of stuff too, and also organising the first Murderous Medway which – even if I say it myself – was bloody good. Quote of the day? “The quality of the panel discussions was as good as any I’ve heard at Harrogate” – from a regular Theakston’s Old Peculiar attendee.

So it’ll be happening again this year – details will come in due course. My personal aim for 2019? To write at least 3 pages per day. I’ve still a few hours left today …

First up though (and the guilt comes from having had this a while) from one of the Litfest’s lovely volunteer’s Christina, who did some work experience at a television production company earlier this year and shared her thoughts on how disabled creatives can break into the industry. Stay tuned!

Nine unique luxury items on Desert Island Discs

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Desert Island Discs celebrates its 75th anniversary this week, having first aired on 29 January 1942 when original host Roy Plomley interviewed popular Viennese comedian, actor and musician, Vic Oliver.

Originally a Forces Programme, its peek into the private lives of public figures from the worlds of politics, entertainment and everything in between has proven irresistible to Radio 4 listeners.

The host’s chair has since been inhabited by Michael Parkinson, Sue Lawley and the current incumbent, Kirsty Young, who will be talking to one of Britain’s modern brand of National Treasures, David Beckham, in its regular slot at 11.15am on Sunday.

Since this is a man who can buy anything he wants, I’m curious about his choice of luxury item.

Will he follow the majority of guests and opt for the usual home comforts, art or writing materials, musical instruments, sports equipment, a desire to learn new languages or astronomy  – or will he surprise us, and decide on something utterly unique like these previous guests:

TV Presenter Julian Clary wanted an all purpose prosthetic arm. Having seen a sound man with one that had a multi purpose tool instead of a hand, he believes it would be very useful for cracking open shellfish and peeling the bark off trees, while the glint off it might attract a passing ship to rescue him.

Journalist Virginia Ironside chose to take an enormous bag of plaster. Having dabbled with sculpture, she’d make the heads of all her friends and dot them around the island like an art installation, and be forever surrounded by the people she loves.

Actor Maureen Lipman would take a parking meter with a year’s supply of tickets (but didn’t actually say why) and a gypsy caravan with a wooden floor to tap dance on until rescue.

A life sized laminated picture of the “adorable” and “deeply attractive” James Caan from Dragon’s Den would be actor and director Kathy Burke’s choice – to body surf on!

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Comedian turned actor Hugh Laurie is someone you might want to avoid upon his return – he wants two sets of throwing knives so he can come home with an uncanny skill: “being able to knock the piv out of the Ace of Spades at 20 paces would be a great thing”!

It’s lovely to know that the Pythons are so close still. John Cleese wanted to take Michael Palin but wasn’t allowed because he’s animate. You could have him stuffed, advised host Sue Lawley. “That’ll do,” replied John.

Captain Jacques Costeau, the conservationist and oceanographer who co-invented the aqua-lung with engineer Emille Gagnan, wanted something he could touch all day long, choosing the stone from the stomach of a fossilised dinosaur he’d once been gifted.

High wire walker Philippe Petit felt his ‘Mysterious Object’ would force him to keep thinking while marooned on the island. It was found in a barn when he was a child, and his father tried without success to get it identified by tool manufacturers and other trades across different continents. It’s wooden and looks like an artillery shell, about 20cm tall. Inside, it has two rows of sharp teeth, suggesting some kind of trap. But they only fit together when the object is closed. Any ideas? 

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It’s Lego all the way for actor Hugh Bonneville. An enormous pile has been accumulating in his den for the past decade, which he built and then foolishly dismantled. He has the instruction leaflets though, and will rebuild the lot. He also had a practical use for it – struts for all the sand tunnels he’s going to build! Is there a Lego Downton Abbey? There should be, shouldn’t there? 

I’m completely predictable – writing materials all the way for me!

14 Things You Didn’t Know About Milton Keynes

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The Milton Keynes Cows in the town centre

‘New Town’ Milton Keynes isn’t so new anymore – it’s 50 years old today! It was formally designated a new town by the government on 23rd January 1957 and is famous for its roundabouts. But it must have more going for it than that, surely?

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Enigma code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, is situated in the area, and is credited with shortening World War II by between 2-4 years. Alan Turing, whose story is told in The Imitation Game, was instrumental in breaking the Enigma code while at Bletchley, working alongside other mathematicians, chess champions, linguists and crossword experts to crack transmissions made by the Axis powers.

An Enigma machine at Bletchley Park

Bletchley hosts the National Museum of Computing. It opened in 2007 and houses Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, and offers the opportunity to revisit all those old games in the PC Gallery.

The government intends to open a cyber-security college at Bletchley in 2018, for which students would be selected due to their aptitude (see above criteria) and include coders and computer programmers rather than academic achievers.

Who’s who?

Reigning Ping Pong World Champion, Olympian and winner of Britain’s most table tennis medals in the Commonwealth Games, Andrew Baggaley was born and raised in the town. His mum began playing table tennis with him in their back garden and he hasn’t looked back. He will be defending his title this week at Alexandra Palace.

Arguably Britain’s most famous television Geordie, actor Kevin Whatley – a star of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, Morse and of course his own spin off, Lewis – has made the Woburn Sands area his home.

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Kevin Whately as Inspector Lewis in Oxford, August 2015.

Award winning horror writer Sarah Pinborough aka children’s fantasy author Sarah Silverwood, was born in the town and has written a series of spinoff novels based on the shared Torchwood/Dr Who universe.

Where to go and what to see:

The town’s most iconic attraction is cows! Concrete Cows, to be exact, a sculpture created by Canadian artist Liz Leyh in 1978 from materials donated by a local builder. Comprising three cows and three calves, all half life size, they reside in the Milton Keynes museum, while Bill Billings’ more famous replicas are situated on the A422 Monks Way.

Making the most of the area’s connection with covert activities, Si5 Spy Missions and Room Escape give an opportunity to think like the cryptologists of the past. Can you pass muster?

The National Bowl is the town’s major entertainment venue, playing host to any and everyone from the late David Bowie to the Foo Fighters. Formerly a clay pit, it’s an open grassed area in the form of an amphitheatre which holds 65,000 people unseated, but is the subject of constant speculation about its future.

The Bounce Trampoline Park was the first of its kind in the UK. Forget spotters, this is wall to wall trampolines where you can play with your mates or all the family, engage in dodgeball or dive around in foam pits!

Wimbledon FC moved from south London to MK when it became apparent their home ground at Plough Lane wouldn’t allow them to keep growing. They eventually changed their name to MK Dons, and  enjoyed a second round Capital One Cup victory over Manchester United in 2014, beating the self styled Biggest Club in the World 4-0!

The Buddhist Peace Pagoda – erected in 1980 in Willen Lake – was the first Buddhist stupa built in the western hemisphere.

Milton Keynes Peace Pagoda

There is evidence of human settlements as far back as 2000BC, with the Milton Keynes Hoard, a valuable bronze age find, now housed in the British Museum

Fears that this new town would be a concrete jungle proved unfounded – there are three ancient woodlands, 4000 acres of parks, 400 acres of lakes and at least 20 million trees. The Parks Trust, an independent body, is pledged to prevent building on any of the park lands, a power bestowed upon them by the departing development corporation.

50th anniversary celebrations are taking place throughout the first part of the year, including this weekend – find out more here.

Image credits:

Cows

Enigma Machine

Kevin Whatley

Peace Pagoda

Happy 60th Birthday The Cavern Club: 18 facts you never knew about The Beatles spiritual home

On this day in 1957, the most famous music club in the world opened its doors: Liverpool’s Cavern Club.

The Cavern Club Christopher Brown Flickr

The Cavern Club by Christopher Brown on Flickr

Want to impress your Liverpudlian friends? Here are all the things you need to know:

Now a major tourist attraction, it’s located in a warehouse cellar at number 10 Mathew Street, in the heart of the city centre near the River Mersey, local theatres, museums and shopping centres.

It was originally a jazz club, hosting Ronnie Scott and Acker Bilk in its early days.

The club has closed down, remodelled and re-opened on several occasions, and was owned at one time by former Liverpool FC hardman Tommy Smith.

Closing down in February 1966, the club was officially opened again by then Prime Minister Harold Wilson in July the same year.

Its original owner, Alan Sytner, named the club after a Paris jazz club, Le Caveau De La Huchette, hoping to make it the biggest jazz club outside of London.

The first jazz festival held in Liverpool and featuring many of Britain’s top acts took place at the Cavern Club on January 16, 1960.

the_cavern_club_wall_mathew_street_liverpool_2011

The Cavern Club Wall – Ian Ransley on Flickr

The club is home to 25 resident artists, from The Cavern Club Beatles tribute band – brought together following comprehensive auditions to find those who captured the look and sound of the four Liverpool lads – to The Amazing Kappa Band, who are somehow an eclectic mix of Led Zeppelin, Ravel, Dolly Parton and more!

A statue of former club hat-check girl  Cilla Black is being unveiled outside the club today, a present to the city from her family.

The club offers Rock School Tuition, with expert tutors in bass guitar, guitar, piano/keyboard and drums.

In 1983, the Strawberry Fields Children’s home benefitted financially following the sale of 5000 bricks from the original cellar area of the club.

Hosted by the club, Liverpool’s first Mathew Street Festival took place on August 28, 1983 until being replaced by the Liverpool International Music Festival in 2013.

Books about the club include three by Spencer Leigh, BBC Radio Merseyside presenter: ‘Twist and Shout! – Merseybeat, the Cavern, the Star-Club and the Beatles’, ‘The Cavern – The Most Famous Club in the World’ and ‘The Cavern Club: The Rise of the Beatles and Merseybeat’ and one by former Liverpool FC player and coach Phil Thompson, called ‘The Best of Cellars’.

American actor Billy Bob Thornton appeared at the club in 2002 and said: “It’s the dream of my life to be here in Liverpool and playing the Cavern because this music got me through my childhood.”

The artist for the original club posters and signage, Tony Booth, has been commissioned to produce the 60th anniversary artwork which will feature all the artists ever to appear at the club.

In July 2006, American golfer John Daly took to the stage and performed during the launch of his autobiography.

The Cavern Club by Ronald Saunders on Flickr Jaye Nolan Freelance Writer

The Cavern Club by Ronald Saunders on Flickr

The first Beatle to play at the club is rumoured to be Ringo Starr, who was apparently a member of the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group when they appeared there in July 1957.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney debuted at the club a few months apart but both with The Quarrymen, John in August 1957, and Paul in January 1958, after joining The Quarrymen in October 1957.

The first performance at the club by The Beatles was on February 9, 1961. Brian Epstein saw them in November that year and subsequently took over their management. The last of their 292 performances at the club was on August 1, 1963.

Do you have any special memories from the Cavern Club? Let me know in the comments.

Photo Credits: Christopher BrownIan Ransley, Ronald Saunders