Veterans left to die

Yes, I am a veteran. I have quite a number of veterans and serving members of HM Forces on my Facebook friends list.

What worries me more than anything is the number of posts telling each other its OK to not be OK and offering helplines for suicide prevention.

This Government and those before it are in my opinion criminally negligent in the aftercare offered to service personnel of all arms.

We have too many of our veterans living on the streets. Far too many are suffering when returning to civilian life that they turn to drugs or drink, and eventually they end up in prison, on the streets or contemplating self-harm.

Meanwhile, we have charities that were set up to help injured soldiers that are sitting on millions of pounds of donations.

Why? What good is it in a bank, when we have personnel sleeping rough and in need of help?

At the head of it all, we have a government who are content to accept yet another pay increase and whose much-lauded Armed Forces covenant is largely a box ticking exercise.

I visit the USA and the way they treat their veterans is not just streets ahead of the UK, but decades.

You walk into an airport and they have their own lounges to use, they get boarded ahead of others and are generally treat with the respect they deserve.

We get a badge.

And later this year, a card…

When I told my GP practice I was a veteran, it was scrawled on a scrap of paper and I was told they’d update my file, but 5 months later, this wasn’t the case. So much for the covenant…

If those entrusted with my day to day health don’t care, then why should I expect those who hold elected office to be bothered?

Suicide last week took one of the most respected NCO’s in the Royal Engineers.

Robert ‘Rab’ McAvoy had served his country with pride and distinction when and wherever he was asked to.

Aged only 39, and leaving behind a family, how can we allow our Armed Forces personnel to suffer like this?

We have a soldier facing prosecution for doing his job in Northern Ireland while those terrorists he was shot at by are free to walk the streets with a piece of paper thanks to Tony Blair.

How on earth can any serving member of the forces have any faith in those who are in power when they are repeatedly stabbed in the back and let down?

Recruitment across all the arms is at an all time low. Some say this is a fault in the recruitment process and its use of civilian firms in the process, but when you see just how badly the forces are treat, would you join up to serve?

This is a failure from top to bottom. From the Prime Minister of today, and going back to when I served, the Government has let service men and women down repeatedly.

Sadly, Rab was just the latest in a long line of soldiers who suffered to the point where they felt unable to carry on.

Why is the mental health of our servicemen and women so important?

Because it is they who do the jobs around the world when asked to by politicians that others cannot or will not do.

They put their lives on the line to keep you, and others safe without thought of harm to themselves.

It’s impossible to verify how many former service men and women DO commit suicide as these statistics are not collected, which is VERY convenient for the Government and the MOD.

They are not just Armed Forces, they are British Armed Forces and they deserve better from those who are supposed to support them.


REVIEW: Green Book (2018)

With a couple of days to go before the Oscars ceremony, Andrew Riley looks at one of the front runners for the top award. Green Book.

I’ve been a fan of Viggo Mortensen going back as far as “A History of Violence”.

Yes, he’d appeared in many films before then, but when he took that lead role, he was transformed into a lead actor of real presence. From then on, in this writers opinion, he’s grown and grown into one of the finest lead actors.

We see him here share the screen with Mahershala Ali, who has grown into a leading actor, as a working-class Italian-American bouncer who becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

Based on a true story, it shines from start to finish as one of THE films of the last 12 months.

As they get to know each other throughout the eight weeks of the tour, we see each of them come to change. In one opening scene, we see Mortensen pick up two glasses that have been used by a pair of coloured workmen in his home and put them into the bin, rather than wash them and use them himself.

Yes, he’s prejudiced, but so is the pianist played by Ali.

Almost an outcast from his own race, because he’s been pampered in the New York glitterati who fawn over his playing and has never really suffered some of the racism people of his colour have had to put up with.

Neither fish nor fowl, he struggles to be accepted as he tours the deep south during the ’60s.

This is not helped when the Dr is caught In flagrante delicto with a white gentleman in a hotel pool, the Dr can’t quite believe that Tony is as good as his word in dealing with any situations that come up without judging him for his sexuality or race.

As the pair travel from concert to concert, Mortensen and Ali gradually begin to respect and change and grow into each others company, the Dr helping Tony write his letters to his wife that he promised to send her from the road, and Tony turning down an offer of better pay from some wise guys to stay with the Dr.

What we have here is a buddy movie for the 21st century. It’s a superb piece of work, and the direction by Peter Farrelly is fantastic. The interplay between the two leads is subtle and handled so very well.

Take two opposites, lock them in a car with each other for two months, add in the deeply ingrained racism of the time, and you see that both are struggling to make their own way in the world.

It’s easy to see why this is one of the favourites for Oscar glory.

Prejudice abounds across the tour, and as stoically as Ali tries to brave it out, eventually, something has to give.

This film is easily one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Would I put money on it winning the Oscar?

No, I think Roma has that sewn up.

What it does show is why when people like Jussie Smollett should never work in the industry again after his “stunt”.



REVIEW: Robin Hood (2018)

I have a couple of friends who are in the acting business. I call it a business, because that is exactly what it is, a business.

You may deride acting as a non-job, but without it, we would pretty much have no entertainment industry, no TV, film, adverts, waiting staff or theatre.

For me, I’d have very little to write about other than sports, and that really would be a drag.

I know people who get upset because it feels like every other movie is a superhero movie, and that every other theatre show is a revival.

Now, Robin Hood.

Another revival/reboot?

Going back to my childhood, you had Michael Praed in the 1984 show.

Hot on its heels came Robin Hood: Men in Tights and of course, who could forget Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. After that, we’ve had another TV show and Russell Crowe had a go at a Nottingham accent (and failed) in 2010.

Now we’ve had another reboot/revival.

Robin Hood 2018 though is a very well thought out and modern take on the myth of the men of the greensward. The current go to English actor of his generation, Taron Egerton takes the titular role, and also has Jamie Foxx in the role of the Moor known as Yahya / John.

It would be very easy to get upset at the shortcuts this movie takes with historical fact, but come on, IT’S A MOVIE!

If you’re looking for a movie that will take your mind off of Brexit, austerity, and all the other stuff that’s going in un the UK today, here it is.

Just short of two hours of fun.

You get Ben Mendelsohn as a very good Sheriff, Paul Anderson as the most menacing Guy of Gisbourne and Eve Hewson as Marion.

Also, worth a mention is Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck.

Yes, this film plays fast and loose with the myth, but please remember, it is a myth.

Robin Hood is also no superhero.

Suspend your disbelief, sit back, grab some popcorn and crack open a bottle of whatever takes your fancy.

Without spoilers, the ending allows for a sequel, and I for one, hope that Egerton and Co. find time in their schedule to make one because this is a reboot that might just have enough legs for a trilogy.


2019 and the start of (another) new era

I do love a great game of rugby.

Note, I didn’t clarify that statement with either a “league” or “union” caveat. I like watching both codes. I was brought up in Hull by a father who had played union as a Marine, but when he moved to Hull in the late ’60s, his mates took him to Craven Park and he began to watch league, and Hull KR in particular.

Growing up, he happily took me to Craven Park and also sat me down to watch union on TV whenever possible, hence my growing up with an appreciation for both codes.

It’s only been in the last 10 years that I’ve followed league in a semi-professional capacity as a journalist and have also covered a smaller amount of union in that time, the differences in the game have become more apparent off the field than on it.

League has always been the lesser of the two in the eyes of both the public and mainstream media. Just look at the amount of broadcast time given to the Autumn internationals on both terrestrial and satellite broadcasters.

From what I can gather, Sky has no interest in showing international league at all.

The BBC were practically given the rights to England v New Zealand and only showed England games from the 2017 World Cup, meaning that Wales and Scotland’s fans had to shell out an additional £9.99 for Premier Sports if they wanted to follow games live.

Broadcasters are falling over themselves to cover union. BT Sport has been showing three games on a Saturday covering the European cup alongside Channel 4, Channel 5 shows the Gallagher Premiership and the BBC will be showing the 6 nations alongside ITV until 2021.

All of Wales’ home matches will be shown live on the BBC, along with France and Scotland home matches. ITV will screen England, Ireland and Italy home games.

I think Sky have done a great job of standing still where broadcast of league is concerned. Yes, they trialled 3D league, but only gave it 6 or maybe 7 games. To be fair, Sky has all but binned 3D as a broadcast medium for live anything, so to even have had that small amount was something, but there is no longer a “Boots n All” show, and I’ve yet to see an advert for the new season on there.

The problem lies with the game still thinking its small, which, compared to union, it is.

I’m really hopeful that the new structure brought in by Robert Elstone and his team will mean that Super League undergoes a period of controlled growth, with clubs in the Championship and below having the chance to grow organically and that promotion and relegation in the old-fashioned new way of one up and one down.

I’m hopeful that Mr Elstone will at least put the new broadcast rights out to a much wider process than we are led to believe the previous one was.

League is in desperate need of a great season in 2019. We are (again) at the beginning of (another) brave new restructure.

What is needed is a competition where the playoff spots are changing all the way until the final day, as is the relegation spot. A competition where players become superstars outside of their home town, but who can (like Jonathon Davies 30 years ago) make headlines on the front pages for the right reasons in National papers.

Until league can compete with union on the screens of the UK, it will always be second best.

I don’t believe league will ever be as big as union currently is, there is too much of a gap to close in that respect, but I do believe that with the right management in place, and the right people making the off-field deals, we can at least compete when it comes to getting the product on screens in front of viewers and then we can start to get people into stadiums.

If people can’t see what’s on offer, how will they know where to watch?

This season, I should be providing coverage of Rochdale Hornets for Roch Valley Radio

I hope if you can’t be at the ground, you will join me online using the link above

REVIEW: First Man (2018)

Charting the story of Neil Armstrong, Andrew Riley looks at the upcoming release of First Man.

This film could, in the hands of a less capable director, been a saccharine and sanitised affair, as it is, Damien Chazelle gives us a riveting look at the life of the man who will forever be known as the first human being to walk on another celestial body.

At nearly 2 hours 30 minutes, Its worth every second.

Known for his Oscar-winning hit “La La Land” and “Whiplash” Chazelle moves away from his usual musical fare and into territory that most of us would like to think we know about, that of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

This though is much more than the telling of Armstrong. It documents the loss of his daughter, Karen, in 1961 all the way through his selection to the Gemini program, the loss of his friends in the tragedy of Apollo 1 and through to his steps on the moon with Buzz Aldrin.

The script by Josh Singer, and based on the book by James R. Hansen is kept sparse, and the film is all the more compelling a watch for it.

Ryan Gosling plays the titular First Man and Stockport born Claire Foy his wife Janet, with both having to come to terms with the strains that the space race placed on their marriage and family.

The scene when Mission Control shut down the contact between Janet and Gemini 8, and she rushes over to demand they put it back on is an exceptional piece, in which Foy manages to display the entire range of emotion you would expect of a wife whose husband is spinning in space, not knowing if he’ll ever get to see home again.

This plays nicely to the Apollo 11 mission itself when she admonishes him for spending all his time packing and not talking to their sons about the mission and what might happen…

The whole movie shows how close failure was at almost every turn for NASA and its crews.

Chazelle directs this with a deftness that was so needed. A less competent director may well have focused on Apollo and left the family as an aside, but he manages to keep the story moving without resorting to base emotion. By showing how the job affected not only Armstrongs family, but also showing how everyone was affected by losses elsewhere, we get to see the real astronauts and how they looked at each other.

This is so much more than a biopic. Its a look at how the Americans were desperate to catch and overtake the USSR in the early years of the space race, one which although they ultimately won, it’s telling that no one has walked on the surface of the moon since Gene Cernan in 1972.

Overall, this is one hell of a good movie, and it’s worth setting aside the time to watch.