I certainly got the impression that being a foreign correspondent in the 80s and 90s wasn’t particularly safe, but more from the likelihood of getting ill than anything else. There were a lot of stories that made me wonder why anyone would want the job, but Adie told them all with good humour and tremendous enthusiasm for what she was doing. It did get grimmer and more serious towards the end - the chapter about Tiananmen Square was told with no levity at all, as you would expect - and the last bit about changing technology was a little dry. But, overall, a highly entertaining and fascinating book.
On Good Friday, Simon came round for the afternoon and we did Film Exchange, whereby we each select a film the other hasn’t seen, and attempt to get some kind of contrast. Dave was involved this time around, and he chose Eye In The Sky, in which Helen Mirren oversees an operation in Nairobi, deciding whether or not to blow up a house containing terrorists planning a bomb attack. Dave told me how good it was at the time, but I hadn’t wanted to go and see it. It was, as expected, very tense and quite unpleasant, but also very good, as he had promised. What was most interesting about it, though, was that it looked at the dilemma from every angle, demonstrated that there were good and bad motivations on both sides of the argument, and didn’t actually state an opinion on which choice may have been the correct one.
Overall, I thought it was very well done, with excellent performances from Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman in particular, but a great cast all round. Lots of great moral, political and legal questions raised and debated - and the three of us paused the film on several occasions to discuss the situation amongst ourselves, which shows how invested we were in what was going on!
Simon’s choice was The Outlaw Josey Wales, which initially looked like it would be quite a grim as the previous film, but turned out to be unexpectedly funny in places. Clint Eastwood did his usual monosyllabic, compelling thing, but was supported by some great secondary characters. There were a lot of great lines, running jokes, exciting action set pieces, and an interesting faux-ending, which involved an avoidance of action I found really satisfying. So, again, not a film I would ever have watch otherwise, but one which I was glad to have seen.
I didn’t choose a film, but rather decided we should play a new game Dave had bought earlier in the week - Kodama. In it, each player starts with the trunk of a tree, and has to build branches by placing new cards around it. There are rules about where and how you can place branches, and the points are based on the placement and number of various features on the cards (eg mushrooms, clouds, stars, flowers). What makes it interesting and quite tricky is that there are three different scoring phases - one based on a card that affects the whole season, one based on the individual branch cards placed, and one based on spirit cards you hold in your hand and can play at various points in the game. The Kodama of the title are the tree spirits (a bit like Totoro from the Studio Ghibli film), who all like different arrangements of tree features. So, you have to try and maximise your points for each individual card, while also building towards a particular spirit arrangement, which I found very difficult. Simon and I ended up tied for first place (I won on the tie break), with Dave only one point behind, so it was a very even game, and a lot of fun.