Archive for November, 2009

His name is Max.

Sunday, November 29th, 2009


This my cousin, Max.

He passed away ten days ago, very suddenly, as a result of a heart defect. It was pretty much his only serious defect, but turns out it was as serious as defects come.

The coroner described it as an ‘enlarged heart’. His heart was too big. For anyone lucky enough to have known Max, that’s always going to have more than a little poetry to it.

I don’t want this post to turn into a eulogy.  I already wrote one of those.  It was written to be spoken at the funeral, not read online, and for me it was very much in the moment, but a few people have asked me to make it available so here it is.

The bottom line is that it was a great honour to be asked to pay tribute to Max, and to do so in a church packed to the absolute rafters has left an indelible mark.

It’s also worth mentioning that Facebook has really come into its own through the course of the last week or so, allowing everybody who was ever close to Max to express a shared sense of his loss, and to better understand what it means to each of us.  Pooling grief is a fundamental part of the process of overcoming it, and Facebook has made that possible in a way that it wouldn’t have been otherwise.

I want this post to look forward though, not backwards.  To mark the end of a long and remarkable weekend spent grieving Max’s loss, but also to register the beginning of a new phase, that of his legacy.

First up is to announce that we’ll be holding our second ever #VHSMovieClub somewhere in London some time in January, at which we’ll be screening one of Max’s favourite movies – John Carpenter’s The Thing.

There’s a long and unlikely story about how I managed to get hold of a copy the day we heard that he’d passed, which also happened to be the day of our first ever #VHSMovieClub.  Catch me on the night if you want to hear it.  In the mean time, watch this space for details of where and when.

I’m hoping to use the occasion to launch a project, one that feels right, one that feels like it HAS to happen.

Max had a screenplay he was working on for a remake of Creature from the Black Lagoon.  His sister Briony has offered to send me the latest draft.  I’m thinking I’ve mixed it with more than enough indie film-making talent in the last year or two to try and take it forward.  Fuck knows where, but right now I’m feeling seriously hungry to find out.  I’m guessing we might have a few problems getting the rights to produce an official remake (of which there happens to be one already in pre-production) but I know enough about movies to know that you can pay homage to a film without buying the rights to do so.

With that in mind, and, given that my old friend Walter is (a) a university pal of Briony’s, (b) the unpretentious laird of a hard-working 200-acre Scottish estate and (c) pretty much the most resourceful fixer of things you could ever hope to meet, he was the first person I called.  A few minutes later I sat down at my laptop and registered

Walter and I have worked on a couple of projects before now, to good effect.  We’ve been looking for the excuse we need to turn something around at Inshriach, a £50k indie with a 3-week schedule as wildly optimistic as the budget.

I don’t know how we’ll finance it, but I’ve got a couple of ideas.  I can tell you this – beyond anything I have to give away to make it happen, anything above and beyond goes to CRY, the charity nominated in Max’s memory.

So, picture the scene…

A handsome young man winds his way down a highland path, the weight of his knapsack barely registering on a pair of impossibly broad shoulders.

He is a monster hunter, making his way by foot to Loch Ness, in search of the ultimate proof of the existence of Scotland’s most fabled creature.  He will not arrive today though, and must find a warm meal and a bed for the night,

Suddenly, out of the darkness, a signpost, promising the close proximity of civilisation – or something like it.

The name of the place?  Loch Ghoon.

And his name?

His name is Max.

“One of the moviest movies of all time.”

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

I’ve been trying to keep up with National Vlog Posting Month – or #NaVloPoMo for short.

The long and the short is that you have to post some sort of video every day in November – I’ve been using Vimeo, and so far it’s been a real mixed bag.

Today, though, I got in at 8pm with nothing in the can, and I’ve managed to pull together this:

If this doesn’t make any sense at all, you might want to watch this:

Are We Nearly There Yet?

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

If you can judge a society by its criminals, you can judge a family by its car journeys.  The interminable confinement of kinship is never more apparent than when you’re doing life on a trunk road, somewhere between A and B.

At the same time, there’s nothing better than when you get to cut loose and share a smile, weaving along country lanes, the sounds of Summer on the radio, everybody looking forward to a day in the sun.  That’s what this video’s all about – living out the day, all the fun you’ll have and the discoveries you’ll make, before you even get there.

We had the best and the worst of car time this summer, spending a week in Cornwall at our old family haunt of Prussia Cove.  I posted a while back that we were hoping to return there, twenty-five years on from the last of a series of family holidays at Porth En Alls; a quiet little congregation of coastal cottages nestled halfway between the UK’s westernmost point, Land’s End, and its southernmost, on the tip of the Lizard Peninsula.

View Larger Map

Peter Tunstall-Behrens is the sixth generation of his family looking after the estate. A quick look at his 2009 bookings shows that keeping the cottages occupied through the year is less about sales and more about quality control. We were lucky to get a week in the Granary (pictured below), and even luckier to pick up an extra week-end in the Look-out (also pictured below), a little cottage on the very tip of Cudden Point offering breath-taking views (best enjoyed from its outdoor, gas-heated bath, pictured, you guessed it, below).

The Granary:
The girls and the Granary

The Look-out:
The Look-out

The bath:
Good morning beautiful

A great holiday was by no means assured. Our car broke down on the way down there, never to recover. Emma spent the first full day of the holiday on a train headed back to Godalming to pick up my parents’ spare motor (for which only she could be insured), and the morning of the following day motoring all the way back down to ‘Cornwood’, as Lola called it.  The weather was pretty indifferent for the first few days, meaning that trips to favourite beaches including Kenneggy Sand and Porthcurno (below) took place through heavy sea mist and under more than the occasional cloud.

Ruby Rose, Prussia Cove and Kenneggy Sands

Dalmatian coast

Kenneggy and Porthcurno are Light family classics, but the pick of Cornwall’s beaches is surely Chapel Porth. A high tide leaves a yard or two of sand exposed, where a low spring sees the beach extend out along the coast on either side, exposing miles of pristine sand and bountiful mussel beds. By the time we ventured that far north the bad weather had broken, and the skies were blue, giving us the chance to enjoy some proper beach life.

Good for my girls, wolfing down freshly picked, freshly cooke... on Twitpic

Most of my posts wind up with a point, something beyond the here and now, or then and there. This one doesn’t. No more than that the four of us were together for a while, as a family, and it made us happy. What more do you need?