Friday, 30 March 2012

Chess

Chess is one of those things that everyone seems to know how to do except me. I've tried to learn at different times over the years, but each time I find someone with a chess set and the knowledge and patience to teach me, I get a few lessons and then we end up in different countries and that's the end of my chess for another few years. By the time I get to have another go I don't remember anything and I'm back to square one.

I've been on the lookout for a cheap chess set that I can start to play around on and try to teach myself a few moves using the internet and books. Last night I was in Tesco and found a game that combines chess, draughts and backgammon. It isn't anything fancy but it's all I need for starters. It should have been a tenner but was marked down to £2.50 - how could I resist? So I now have one less excuse to put off finally learning how to play chess.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Vango Force 10 Helium 100

What gorgeous weather. It's hard to believe it's only March!

I made the most of it and finally got to erect my new tent on my mum and dad's grass. I'd bought it a few weeks ago and needed to put it up to check it was ok, but the lawn has been way too soggy. It's a Vango Helium 100 and is similar to my existing tent just a bit smaller and almost 2 kilos lighter. I'll use it for walking as I realised on the Great Glen Way last summer that I really need to get my weight down when I want to walk for days at a time carrying all my gear. Although I loved the walk, it was much more enjoyable on the last two days when I had a base camp and didn't have to carry everything all day.



I spent a lot of time looking for this tent and have read loads of reviews. I wanted something light, but not too low. Something easy and quick to get up when it's chucking it down and blowing a gale. It has to be able to stand up to bad weather and not be draughty. It has to fit me and my backpack comfortably inside. And it couldn't be too expensive. Once I'd decided on this one, it then took a long time to find one at a reasonable price.



It didn't take me long at all this afternoon to erect it (I took longer than I usually will, with it being the first time). Once it was up, I lay in it and fitted perfectly. It would be a tight squeeze for anyone much taller than me though (I'm 5.4). It feels very flimsy but supposedly the material is made that way to be light but is still really strong and weather proof. I guess I won't know till I get to use it in a storm.



The weight, by the way, is just under 1.25kg (slightly more than the advertised weight).





Saturday, 24 March 2012

Van Insurance

It was such a lovely day today and I've wasted most of it sitting indoors at my desk in my study which doesn't get any sun during the day. Why? Because I had to insure my van. I've got a week's free insurance with it but that'll only last till Wednesday. I thought it would be easy to switch my insurance from my car to the van, but no. Endsleigh doesn't insure vans. So they've cancelled my policy and are sending me a refund for the remainder. This meant I had to find another insurance company. I've rang so many and done lots of searches online.

Specialist van insurance companies don't want to insure me because I don't have my own business. Campervan insurance companies don't want to insure me because it's not a proper campervan. Car insurance companies don't want to insure me because it's not a car. The few quotes I did manage to get were astronomical. Finally after hours of searching I found a broker who has insured me through Aviva. Whilst I was on the phone I ran my details through the quote section of Aviva's website but the quote was several hundred pounds higher than the price the broker was getting for me. So I've gone with the broker.

I'm a bit miffed though that so many companies seem to think you should only own a van if you have your own business. Have these people no imagination?!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Van Owner

Well I have my van. I picked it up last night after school and took it for a short drive. It's very different to driving my car. The brakes are so keen I ricochet forwards even when I barely touch them - thank goodness for seat belts! On the other hand, I have to use a lot more gas to get going and pick speed up. This is probably due to me not being used to driving with diesel. I don't have to go very far though for me to start getting used to it so I'm sure I'll be feeling at home driving it in no time.



The interior sides and floor have been hardboarded over and there's also a piece of board completely blocking off the cab. This makes the cab feel a bit claustrophobic and shortens the length of the available space in the back. So my first job this weekend is to take that piece out. I want to be able to climb into the back from the front when it's chucking it down so that's another reason for it to go.

I feel quite excited about my new project but at the same time it was quite a wrench letting my old car go. It's served me well over the last six or seven years and I have some great memories of trips and holidays made in it. I really hope my van turns out to be as good and I get lots more great memories from it.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Waxing 3

I just got braver. I had my third waxing appointment this evening and this time I went for a bikini wax as well as a full-leg wax. I didn't do anything too dramatic with the bikini wax and just got a basic one. It hurt a bit, but nothing like I thought it might have done. Next time I go I'll get my under-arms done as well and then this challenge can be successfully ticked off. I had thought that once I'd finished the challenge I probably wouldn't bother continuing with waxing as the first time it didn't last too long and so seemed easier (and cheaper) just to shave. But the second time lasted much longer and presumably this time should last longer still. So I think this could become a regular thing for me.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Just call me Mma Ramotswe ...

... because I have got a little white van.

My mechanic checked it out yesterday and I took it for a test drive today. All went well and I'm due to collect it on Wednesday. I'm already getting excited thinking about what I'm going to do to convert it. It'll get its first camping outing at half term in June. I'm planning to use my tent but I'll try to sleep in the van at least one night to get a feel for it.

Not sure if I'll keep it white though - I might respray it orange.

Oh, and if you don't know who Mma Ramotswe is read this.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Photography blogs

I was reading one of the blogs I follow (a blog about Iceland) and noticed a comment on the bottom. The comment seemed interesting so I followed it up and discovered two bloggers who have three photography blogs between them. One of them is basically a record of photographs taken every day for a year. As this is something I've been trying to do this year (and failing miserably) this interested me straight away. The other two blogs include one in which the two bloggers set themselves a photography project once a fortnight and one which seems to have lots of opportunistic photographs. I'm looking forward to having time to look through them properly and hopefully pick up some good tips. At the very least they might help motivate me!

White Van (Wo)Man

Today I went to look at vans/cars. I either want a car that has a bit of extra height and that has easily removable seats so it can be used for sleeping in, or a van that I can do a semi-conversion on and turn it into a campervan. My other criteria are that it should be orange and have cup holders, but I realise that might be expecting a bit much.

The first place I looked didn't have anything to suit.  The second place didn't have anything either, but one of their partner showrooms did. They actually found a couple of options for me and I've decided to go with the second which is a white Berlingo van. It's only five years old and has really low mileage. At the moment it's in Doncaster so I haven't seen it myself yet, but they're going to get it driven down here this week and then I can test drive it and get my mechanic to check it over. All being well, by next weekend I'll have my van. So quite a productive Sunday really. And we were finished in time to go for a nice pub lunch.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Hajj Exhibition at the British Museum

The Hajj Exhibition at the British Museum was of relevance to me because of my interest in Islam. As an aspect of Islam the hajj is of particular fascination because it's something I'm unlikely to ever experience. To be allowed to enter the area of Mecca I'd have to be a Muslim. As a female I'd have to be in the company of my husband or close male relative who would also need to be Muslim. Now that I'm over forty I could get around the unacompanied female clause by going as part of an all female group, but there's no way around the non-Muslim bit unless I was to convert. As I'm not religious and don't hold any particular belief in God that would be rather hypocritical of me.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. All able-bodied Muslims must make this pilgrimage once in their lifetime as long as they can afford it. And of course it is something they should try to afford. As pilgrimages go this must be one of the, if not the, most ritualistic. Over the course of five or six days the various steps are followed by several million pilgrims, aided by around 12,000 guides. Bear in mind the setting is the red-hot Saudi Arabian desert, and one of the steps involves standing out on the plain of Arafat for the whole day, and you can begin to see that this is no holiday but a real test of mind and body.

This site is the official Saudi Arabian site for the hajj and gives lots of details.

But, back to the exhibition. I'd bought my ticket well in advance and so could go straight in. One of the first things I saw was a piece of a kisweh. The kisweh is the gigantic cloth, usually black and decorated with a band of Arabic inscriptions embroidered in gold thread, that covers Islam's most holy place, the Ka'aba. It is to the Ka'aba that Muslims all over the world turn when they pray. A new cloth is produced each year. The piece in the exhibition was huge and it was wonderful to get so close to it. I can't imagine the majority of pilgrims themselves getting that close. Although all pilgrims must circumambulate the Ka'aba seven times, sheer numbers must surely mean the majority are circumambulating at some distance. 

Once inside the exhibition proper, the displays wound around the hall imitating the journey of the hajj itself. The first section showed what it's like to prepare for hajj and had stories told by people departing from different countries. The next sections followed the days of hajj culminating in the pilgrims' arrival back at home. Each section had a range of exhibits, which I found quite interesting to see, and various short films, audio speels and photographs to complement them. There was plenty of information provided in each section so a visitor not so familiar with the procedures and meanings of hajj should learn plenty and have no trouble understanding what they are looking at. I found this slightly less interesting as it was a little too basic for me. Any visitors who have studied Islam should go to the exhibition with the intention of seeing artefacts they would not normally get the chance to see, rather than to learn something new.

Would I recommend this exhibition? Yes. Is this one of the best exhibitions I've been to at the British Museum? No. 

Here are some statistics about last year's hajj that I've copied from the Telegraph website.


Key numbers for the hajj this year:
– An estimated 2.5 million pilgrims are gathering in Mecca this year – 1.8 million from abroad and 700,000-800,000 from inside Saudi Arabia.
– Every Muslim country has a hajj quota of 1,000 pilgrims per million inhabitants and the biggest contingent – 200,000 pilgrims – will come from Indonesia.
– Saudi Arabia is deploying some 63,000 security forces, including 3,500 anti-riot policemen backed by 450 armoured vehicles, while the civil defence is deploying 22,000 forces and 6,000 vehicles.
– Some 1,500 CCTV cameras have been installed in and around Mecca's Grand Mosque and 29 police stations will be open to serve the holy places.

– Some 20,000 health workers have been mobilised to cope with any emergency and five rescue helicopters also have been readied to serve the faithful.

– More than 12,000 male and female guides known as "mutawif" help organise the pilgrims' stay.

– The Grand Mosque at the centre of Mecca, where pilgrims gather to pray and circle the cubic Kaaba building, covers 368,000 square meters and can hold more than 1.5 million people.

– The Kaaba rests on a marble base and is built from granite, and has a door made from 280 kilos (616 pounds) of pure gold. The black silk kiswa covering, made anew every year, is embroidered with holy phrases using 150 kilos (330 pounds) of gold and silver thread. 



Whilst I was googling I came across this site - I've only had a quick look at it but it's definitely one I'll come back to. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Hockney at the Royal Academy

I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the Hockney exhibition whilst I was in London. The online allocation of tickets had long been sold out so I was reliant on buying a ticket once I arrived. The queue for same day tickets was an hour or two long, but for next day tickets it was only 5-10 minutes long. Lucky me.

The following day I turned up and got straight in. It was quite crowded but the timed tickets made sure it wasn't over-crowded and so it was still easy to get a good look at everything.

The exhibition was much bigger than I'd expected and spanned a period of about fifty years. Many of the paintings depict landscape including a series showing the same countryside scene throughout the four seasons.

Not all of the works were paintings however. Several large scales images were actually made up of hundreds of polaroid photos. These photographs were each taken of a tiny part of a huge landscape such as the Grand Canyon and then pieced together jigsaw style to create a whole huge image. The look was really effective and this is something I really must try at some point. I don't have enough wall space (or enough patience) to do anything on his scale, but even a smaller version would be fun to try.

Hockney has recently discovered iPads and has been using one for his intial sketches. One exhibition room had a series of iPads showing the sketches he's done. In one of the main exhibition rooms was a group of primary school children all squatting on the floor with their own iPads copying his paintings. It was fascinating to watch them and seeing the iPads in use - they were getting almost as much attention as Hockney!  

One of the best exhibits was a series of films. Hockney was born in Bradford but has lived in Los Angeles for decades. A few years ago he came back to Yorkshire to spend time with his sick mother and rediscovered his love of the place. He's painted quite prolifically since then, but also got into film making pioneering a technique using 18 cameras. The cameras were all loaded onto the front of a landrover at different heights and angles. As he drove slowly up a Yorkshire lane the cameras captured the scene from eighteen different perspectives. These films are shown simultaneously on eighteen joined together screens. There is some overlap which in itself creates an interesting effect, but mostly the perspectives merge well to give the impression of actually moving down the lane yourself. One camera, even with a wide-angle lens, shows such a restricted perspective but it's only when seeing something like this do you realise how restrictive normal photography and filming is. I really felt like I was there and it seemed more realistic than any 3D film I've seen.

I spent about two hours at the exhibition and could easily have stayed longer, but I had to leave to ensure I was on time for my floatation appointment. I would highly recommend this exhibition, but do allow plenty of time.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Rococo White Chocolate with Cardamom

I've been eating my favourite chocolate. I love white chocolate and cardamom is my favourite spice. In this bar from Rococo I get both combined and it is amazing! Rococo make really good quality chocolate from organic ingredients and have lots of unusual flavours: Geranium anyone? The company is based on the King's Road in Chelsea but rather than trekking all the way down there I buy their chocolate at the Algerian Coffee Stores in Soho. I only get to buy when I'm in London and as it's expensive at more than £4 a bar, I don't buy much. So this really is a treat to be eked out and savoured.

Vertigo 42

This was another treat over half term. Paul had heard recommendations and wanted to go. I'd never heard of it but got quite excited about it after a bit of googling. Neither of us like champagne, so we were going for the experience and the view rather than the beverage. It needs to be booked in advance and a credit card number given so you can be charged if you don't turn up. We'd booked a 2 hour slot from 6pm till 8pm on the Tuesday night.

Vertigo 42 is so called because it is on the 42nd floor of the second tallest building in the City of London (it's the fifth tallest in London as a whole). At 183 metres (about 600ft) it's definitely high. The bar is basically a circular corridor round the outer edge of the floor. The lifts, kitchen, toilets and so on are in the middle bit.




The windows are floor to ceiling and the wall behind has floor to ceiling mirrors so which ever way you look you are met with an absolutely stunning view. I could easily have stayed all night just gazing at it. Because of the time of year it was dark so we were looking out over a lit London. We were fairly close to St Paul's and could see the Thames, the London Eye, Centrepoint, Big Ben and lots of other tall landmarks.



To be allowed up to the bar we had to give our names at reception and then go through airport type security, walking a though a metal detector and passing our bags through an x-ray machine. The private lift to the 42nd floor practically flew up and I felt my ears popping. Once at the top we had to give our names again and were led to our 'area'.

Each window has a low ledge which is used as a table and a couple of egg style chairs. Further round was the area for groups which had a higher ledge and bar stools. Each 'area' is labelled with the name of the something in direct sight e.g. Barbican and the direction in degrees and minutes.




We ordered a bottle of the cheapest champagne which was £60. It arrived in a silver bucket and a waiter filled our glasses. The waiters continued to fill our glasses each time they got low. We were drinking quite slowly however as we needed to make our one bottle last the two hours! We ordered some salted almonds to go with it. I'm used to bags of crisps in pubs so was very impressed with the way the almonds arrived in a dish on a platter with a white cloth. They were nice and the saltiness took away some of the taste of champagne so we actually found we were enjoying it. By the time we finished the nuts our taste buds had adjusted and we were enjoying the champagne on its own. Now this is a habit I really can't afford to develop!




Would I go again? Definitely, despite the cost. I felt chilled, relaxed, comfortable and in awe of the view. The waiters were attentive but not over-bearing. I had worried that the place would either be a tourist trap or stuffily posh, but it was neither. The clientele seemed to be mainly workers enjoying a special night out after a day at the office.


http://www.vertigo42.co.uk/

Jamie Oliver's Fifteen

Over half term I had lunch in Jamie Oliver's restaurant, Fifteen, in London. We made a booking a few weeks in advance and were able to get a table for mid-afternoon (the time we wanted). It is in a part of London I'm not familiar with and although not far from the centre, seemed a bit run-down and not really an area for people to go unless they live or work there. So I suppose Fifteen is, as well as working to help young unemployed people become trained as chefs, also helping to bring people to an area they wouldn't usually visit.



We were slightly early, but were led downstairs to the main restaurant straight away. We were sat next to the kitchen which meant we were quite warm, but it was interesting to be able to see what was going on.



The restaurant was dark (being in the basement), but lit well enough that we could easily see. Further down the room from where we were sat there seemed to be some kind of booths. On the ground floor is the bar and trattoria and this has a lighter, airier feel to it.

The waiter was attentive and explained the menu. It's a fixed price menu at lunch time depending on how many courses you have. We went for the two courses plus dessert option for £30 a head.



We started off being served with bread. The restaurant is Italian and so it came with olive oil rather than butter. We then both had the same starter of a gooey warm Mozzarella - the nicest we've had - and roasted aubergine.  



For a main I ordered a vegetarian risotto and Paul ordered the lamb. Risottos can sometimes be served in small portions but this was fine and I was full by the end. It was made with fennel and olives and had quite a delicate flavour, despite these being quite strongly flavoured ingredients. Paul's lamb looked delicious (and I'm a vegetarian saying that!) and he said it tasted as good as it looked. We ordered a side salad and some potatoes as side dishes and were absolutely stuffed by the time we had finished.







We wanted to try a dessert as this will probably be the only time we come here. We had to wait a while and let the rest of the food digest a bit before we felt up to it though. I had the pannacotta which was creamy but refreshing and served with a scoop of chocolate mousse and Paul had a slice of lemon tart. To finish off we had a coffee.





To drink with our meal we ordered a beer. At £6.50 a bottle it was quite pricey so as it was a 500ml bottle we just ordered one between us. It was Junction Ale, a brew made locally and was quite light. I'd expected something heavier. It was so nice and went so well with the food that despite the price we ordered another one.

We enjoyed our few hours here and loved the food. The only complaint I'd have would be the toilets. They obviously hadn't been cleaned over the lunch time period and so by the time I got to them at the end of the afternoon they weren't particularly enticing.




http://www.fifteen.net/

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Watching ice hockey

Last night I attended my first ice hockey game. I drove down to Nottingham and arrived in plenty of time to pick up my friend's daughter and get to the stadium for the 7pm start. Lots of people were walking from the car park towards the stadium,  many of them wearing ice hockey shirts. We presented our tickets and went inside to find our seats. Dead easy. We settled down in our front row seats and began watching the two teams practising and warming up. Then a woman came to our seats and politely informed us we were in the wrong place and that lots of people make that mistake. We'd gone into the right block and were sat on the right seats in the right row, so we were a bit confused.

We couldn't figure it out so went back out to ask a steward. Easier said than done as it was quite hard to tell who was working there and who was a supporter. Once we found someone, he directed us to another steward in a different part of the block and he found us our seats. Either there are two lots of seats with the same block, row and seat numbers, or the labelling on the doors to the blocks is incorrect. Anyway, our seats were good and we were still in plenty of time.

We sat on the front row at the centre of the rink right next to the box where players sit when they are sent off. They get sent off for two minutes at a time and are locked into this box by a warden type lady who only releases them back onto the rink when the two minutes is up.

Once the warm up was finished the players left the ice and the rink was skimmed and wetted by a big plough type vehicle. I could feel the chill rising up from the ice which I hadn't expected. A bit stupid of me really, as I was basically sat beside a giant freezer!


The plough skimming the ice. All the photos are this
quality because I was taking them through the scratched
perspex screen.


The players from the opposing team - the Fife Flyers - were then announced and they came on individually. Then the same was done for the home team - the Panthers. The player/coach of the Fife Flyers had tragically lost his wife and unborn twins a few days earlier in the week so of course he wasn't here. An announcement was made though, offering commiserations.

There seemed to be at least 18 players on each team and the ice was really crowded, but once the game was ready to start most of them went into an enclosure and there were just six from each side playing at one time. There seemed to be no official way of organising substitutions - the players randomly seemed to decide they needed a rest and would come off allowing someone else to come on. Sometimes most of them would change at the same time. Just because a player had come off didn't mean that he couldn't come back on again. I'm used to football where once a player has been substituted he can't come back on, so this all seemed a bit strange to me.


The Panthers are in white


The game was played over an hour in three thirds of 20 minutes each. There were fairly long intervals in between. It was really fast and furious; the players seemed to whizz from one end of the rink to the other, smashing into the hoardings and each other with great impact. The sticks were about shoulder high and were flying all over the place - sometimes without a player attached to the end! I could see exactly why the players were all wearing loads of padding and helmets. It would have been quite lethal otherwise.




At first the Fife Flyers seemed to be doing best and by the end of the first third were 3-1 up. For the next two thirds the Panthers did a lot better and most of the action seemed to be around the Flyers' goal, though the goalie was good and the Panthers struggled to score. Four times the fracas around the goal was so furious the nets came unstuck and were knocked across the ice. Finally the score was 3 all and it was down to the last minute or two of the game.




I don't understand what happened next, but whatever it was meant that with 30 seconds to go, the Panthers got a penalty. The ice was cleared of all but the Flyers' goalie and one Panthers' player. The puck was set in the middle of the centre circle with all eyes eagerly on it. The player skated up to it, guided it down the rink and straight into the goal. Yay! After a dubious start we'd won 4-1!

The players then all came back onto the ice for the final few seconds. Once the whistle had blown they did a few laps of the rink before lining up to shake hands with each other and have the players of the match announced. Leaving the rink for the final time, one of the Flyers seemed to be having a slanging match with one of the referees. Hm, maybe not too happy about the penalty?


Shaking hands at the end.


The spectators were all very well behaved and were even allowed to bring their beers to their seats. There was some shouting and cheering, but not nearly so much as at a football match. In the intervals there were performances by young ice skating dance troupes but not many people seemed to be paying attention to them. At the far end of the rink were four cheerleaders who performed a few lacklustre cheers every time the music started. I didn't really see the point to them as they were so far back and out of the way it wasn't particularly easy to see them and they only performed at times when everyone had all eyes on the game.

The music, which was all corny tunes like the Addam's Family, YMCA and Amarillo, seemed to be played at times when something was about to happen (the football equivalent of a free kick or a corner) and would stop abruptly once whatever was about to happen began to happen. I'd have thought this would be distracting to the players but it didn't seem to bother them. I suppose they're used to it.

So I enjoyed my first ice hockey game, though I didn't particularly understand any of it. Hopefully I will get to go again, maybe fairly soon when I'm in Germany.

2012 Twelve February Review

Hm, a bit of a rubbish month really as far as achievements go. I'll blame it on the fact that February is a short month (even with the extra day this year) and I was away for a week of it.

1. Floating in a floatation tank.  I did achieve the #1 challenge on my 2012 twelve list as I went floating over half term whilst I was in London.

3. Taking at least one photo every day of the year. Apart from taking lots of photos whilst I was in London, I haven't been keeping to my photo a day challenge. I felt quite inspired by the Hungry Cyclist's project of taking a photo of something he eats every day for a year, and this might be something I'll do in future years. However, I first need to get in the habit of taking a daily photo of anything, before I can start thinking about making it specific!

7. Learning to use at least 3 new pieces of technology or computer programmes. The 'Apple in an Hour' course was postponed at the last minute. It will still happen, but I have no idea when. So I haven't learnt how to use any new bits of technology yet.

8. Doing a writing course. I haven't started my writing course yet, though I should have more time this month.

9. Getting at least one piece of writing published. I've achieved #9 as I got a book review published (unpaid) in Wanderlust. This is quite a prestigious travel magazine, so I felt quite proud of myself when I saw the review in print alongside a photo of me. As I actually wrote it and got it accepted last month, this is more an achievement from last month but I didn't want to count it until I actually saw it in print.

So, although I've got two challenges ticked off and I'm only two months in and so technically I'm on schedule, I still feel like I haven't made much headway. March should be better, as I'll get on with the writing course and I need to make a serious effort to go over my finances to plan for the rest of the year. Once I've done this I can start making plans to change my car and for my next house. As the MOT is due on my car in mid April and I'll be away for the first half of April, I really need to get my car changed by the end of March. So this is the major project for this month.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Prague

At Easter I usually go to Germany for a week to visit my brother and nieces. Then I head off somewhere by train for the second week. Alternate years I go to Amsterdam to visit friends and the other years I try to go somewhere new and different.

I've just spent several hours on the internet trying to find cheap flights and cheap hostels and cheap trains and generally put my holiday together. After looking at a whole lot of random places I've decided on Prague. I've never been here before, not even in my inter-railing days when I had brief stops in cities all over Europe. I don't know much about it apart from that people seem to like it and it's pretty popular, so now I need an Amazon browsing session to order a guide book and a few more hours to do google research.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Beaufort - a film

I watched this on iplayer recently. The film is about the final part of the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Beaufort is an an old Crusader fortress that has been used by the Israelies as a modern day outpost complete with a maze of underground tunnels and lookout posts manned by dummies (to make it look like there are more soldiers than there actually are).

The film follows the daily routines of the soldiers; their hopes, fears and dilemmas. Most of the IDF has already pulled out and the soldiers at Beaufort are living in a temporal no-man's land not knowing whether today, tomorrow or a day next week, will be their last day in Lebanon. They dream of what they will do when they are home, their families and girlfriends. The boredom is frequently offset by regular Hizbullah attacks. Although it is common knowledge that the Israelies are pulling out, the attacks have been stepped up so Hizbullah can take the credit and say they were responsible for chasing the Israelies out. At least that what the soldiers theorise. Of course the attacks lead to deaths which seem all the more tragic in light of the fact that a few days later the young men would have been home and safe.

It was often hard to remember that these soldiers were indeed young men, most of them being only eighteen. The commander of the outpost was only 22 and yet bore the huge burden of being responsible for the lives and deaths of those under his command. His final task is to supervise the laying of explosives and the complete destruction of Beaufort as they leave.

It was a moving film to watch and it's no surprise to learn since that it has won plenty of awards. As far as I can make out the main events in the film such as the actual withdrawal are based on fact, but the soldiers themselves are only loosely based on real characters and the incidents that happen to individuals, although representative of real incidents, are fictionalised accounts.

The film is in Hebrew with English subtitles and runs for just over two hours.