A Tale of Two Rockets.

Flashback 45 years…It’s July 20, 1969. And something unbelievable is about to happen.

Just four days after a rocket was blasted into the heavens, mankind is about to step foot on another ‘planet’. Okay, it’s ‘just’ the moon, but I’m only 10 and the moon is literally and metaphorically out of this world.

reflection seen in face screen of man walking on the moon

For days the world has hung on every word that is broadcast by NASA. Radio stations continually update the status of the operation. Fledgling television has finally brought more than war to our lounge rooms. The world seems united in goodwill for this event.

I remember the whole school being taken from their classrooms, sitting cross-legged in the assembly hall where scratchy black and white images were beamed into a tiny television set mounted on a pedestal on stage.

The room is hushed as we struggle to hear those immortal words…“One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” A life-long love affair with science-fiction is born.

Watching then it seems surreal, almost unthinkable. Surely now mankind is capable of doing anything, I think. The stars are within our reach!

Move forward 45 years to July 20, 2014…something unbelievable has happened.

It is just days since another rocket was fired into the heavens, and a defenceless plane became a fireball that fell to earth. Innocent lives ended in a flash; without provocation, without warning. Families and communities are devastated.

Wreckage from downed MH17 on the ground.

Bodies plummeted to the fields below, where their pockets are plundered where they lay. Watches are taken, wallets stolen, their credit cards to be used by greed-ridden ghouls just hours later.

Again the images are being beamed into our lounge rooms, where we watch in wonder as the worst of the species’ actions are splashed across our giant screens.

The world seems much too small now. How did its nations get to be so divided, its people filled with so much fear and hatred and despair?

And I realise sadly that the unthinkable is still possible, that mankind is still capable of doing anything. I see the stars receding from us, reeling in horror that we should ever be among them.

 

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The Future of Football (Part One)

The English Premier League is arguably the greatest weekly football competition in the world, filled with the finest exponents of the game. The A-League is a fledgling competition played by few in the heat of summer with limited imported players of high standard.

Yet England were out of the World Cup as fast as Australia. And Australia put on a better show; well, thanks to Timmy Cahill we outscored them in the Group games anyway. Plus we were in the Group of Death! Clearly this is a situation that has to be addressed!

Tim Cahill celebrates another World Cup goal.

One solution being considered is that England (and Portugal too now having failed to progress) need to cap the number of foreign players. In theory this would improve the quality of the home grown talent through increased involvement at the highest level. The rub is that without the foreign marquee players the viability and quality of the competition would be diminished; also the locals wouldn’t be exposed to the high performance football they need to play at in order to take on the world.

It’s true that the EPL is brimming with international players, as are the lower leagues. But many other top flight competitions are filled with imports from countries around the world. Except from England.

I struggle to name a top flight English player in La Liga, the Bundesliga, or Serie A. I’m sure they must be there, but they hardly leap out of the crowd of known players from South America, Asia and other European countries.

Why then can’t the English system produce stars that can play week in/week out at the top level in foreign competition? Is it because they lack the skills and finesse? Hard to believe given the youth academies that each EPL club has. Is it they don’t want to live abroad? It can’t be the money, the Spanish pay ridiculous amounts for players.

For Australia the Socceroos performances have improved since our players started finding places in foreign teams. Think Kewell, Emerton, Cahill and co going overseas to ply their trade. And bringing foreign players in to the A-League has lifted the local game’s profile and helped improve our skills and tactics; look at Kruse, Oar, and Leckie. And we should never forget that it was the Dutchman Guus Hiddink as manager who delivered us on to the world stage in 2006.

Coach Guus Hiddink celebrating with 2006 Socceroos.

Maybe it’s a Darwinian thing; we need the extra competition for places in our teams in order for us to evolve into better players. Let’s test that theory…

Both nations now have 4 years to prepare for the next World Cup. Hopefully Australia will keep Ange Postecoglou as coach for that period, allowing him to fully develop his vision for the side. The A-League will continue to grow and certainly shows no sign of limiting foreign players. Added to this are top Australian players being recruited in marquee positions to play at home again, a move that can only benefit and motivate local players.

If England do find a way to cap the number of imports (a tough ask given existing contracts), then a test of which system works best could be a match up of the two national sides in a couple of years. We haven’t played them since our stunning 3-1 victory at Upton Park in 2003 when they subbed 11 players at half time; could they be dodging us?

Harry Kewell and David Beckham fight for the ball in a friendly at Upton Park, 2003

Maybe it will be in Russia at the next World Cup in 2018…

Wouldn’t that be something? Australia v England in a vital 3rd match Group game to decide who goes through to the Round of 16. Worth the price of admission that one!

I believe the future’s always bright, for someone. Getting it to shine on you is the tricky bit.

Shine on Socceroos, we’ll get there yet!

What do you think is the best way forward – open the gate to imports, or shut them out in favour of locals?

 

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What Keith Urban Taught Me (In Just One Night)!

True confession – before Saturday night, I had never seen Keith Urban perform before. I barely knew a song on the set list, much less anything about the man.

Sitting anonymously among the crowd though I felt I was being given a masterclass on what it takes to make it to the top. Passion, belief, talent, delivering on the promise; it was all there on stage. So let me share some of the lessons…

Keith Urban and band on stage, Brisbane, 2013

Pay It Forward, Pay It Back

Once you’ve made it to the top it’s easy to forget all the people that helped you along the way. But success rarely happens overnight, and the results are seldom the effort of just one person.

Keith knows this. So he brought two people from his past on stage to sing with him – local stalwart Tuffy and Brad Hooper from Rusty and the Ayres Rockettes, an act Keith had played with on the pub circuit in Brisbane in the 1980’s and early 90’s. Keith paid them back with an experience that money couldn’t buy. And one they probably never thought they would have.

Keith also paid it forward when he brought Darren Percival, runner up from ‘The Voice’ season 1, out to sing a couple of songs with him. This isn’t just generous, it’s smart. Be nice to those on the way up the ladder, as you may meet them again when you’re on the way down. Karma.

Keith Urban and Darren Percival on stage, Brisbane 2013

Under Promise, Over Deliver

Keith understands that it doesn’t matter where you sit in  the crowd, you’re a fan. And fans pay the way to the lifestyle you lead. So when Keith takes the stage he makes sure that he gives 100%. He understands the importance of sharing and engages the audience.

And then some.

On the night I saw him, he didn’t just play the stage; he took the stage with him around the venue, crashing through what the theatrical set call the fourth wall. He played at the back of house for people who were seated fifty metres from where he started the night, giving them the chance to be up close with him. Later he popped up high in the bleachers at the side.

And it was here that he displayed more generosity, autographing the guitar he was playing and handing it to a young lady in the audience. You can go far with an attitude like that. And Keith has.

Keith Urban plays from back of house, Brisbane 2013

Learn Your Craft

There is no substitute for experience. Keith spent many years honing his skills. He worked with the “Vocal Coach to the Stars”Brett Manning from 1999 until 2001. He spent countless hours learning to play guitar, playing in bars and as a back up guitarist as well as doing his own act before going to Nashville. But he didn’t go until he was ready. Talent will only take you so far, and in the music industry, like most things, timing is everything.

And if you’re only going to get one shot, you better make sure it’s a good one.

Keith Urban on stage, Brisbane 2013

Love What You Do…

And you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s how it goes, and maybe that’s why Keith looks so happy when you see him on stage or screen. He’s done the hard yards, he’s suffered for his art and paid the price for success with stints in rehab. He’s come through all the stronger for it, and his legion of fans are the beneficiaries.

And yes, I guess I’m one now. I had to know more about the man after seeing the concert, and of course turned to the internet for the back story. It’s a powerful one. I told everyone what a great night I had and encouraged them to go along to one if they could. I’ll probably buy some of the songs.

It may be cold, but isn’t that what we all want in business? To take a prospect through the process, converting them into customers and then have them become raving fans who spread the word for us?

Kudos to Keith then, a job well done.

Have you ever had an experience where someone has impressed you unexpectedly? I’d love to know who and how it might have inspired you.

And yes, all photos were taken on the night by me. With an iPhone 4s.

Just adding a video I shot on the night of Keith performing ‘As Days Go by’.  Sorry it’s not the whole song, ran out of storage! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QQWBLFsYZw

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The MINI Coupe – Introverts Need Not Apply

MINI Coupe from the front“Rum.”

“You think?” she said.

“Oh, definitely. That colour is rum; Bundy Rum to be precise.”

“Really?” M’lady was giving me that look which says ‘I’m calling BS here.’

“How about we drive up to Bundaberg and you can see for yourself. They do tours there too I think.”

She picked up the iPad, and quickly sourced the Bundaberg Rum website. Tours had to be pre-booked, the only opening that day was at noon. We were some 400km away and had a deadline to meet back in Brisbane at 6pm. A 900km round trip with an hour long tour in the middle, and it was already 7:30am.

“Let’s go!”

“Quick Robin, to Bundaberg, in the Bat Coupe!”

The MINI Coupe has that effect. It makes you want to find a reason, any reason, to jump in and go somewhere. And by design it’s a car made for people who want to be seen – introverts need not apply.

MINI Coupe is a work of art.Here is a car that screams attitude, from it’s roofline derived from a baseball cap worn backwards to the spoiler that rises from the boot lid when you exceed 80kph. Who else has a feature that says ‘I’m speeding, and I don’t care that you know it’?

Fun though is what it’s really all about. It’s like the brief to the design team at Oxford was to distill the very essence of being MINI, and bottle it in a rum-coloured Coupe package. (Okay, officially it’s Spice Orange, but in my book, it’s Rum.)MINI Coupe with rear spoiler displayedThe Inside Story

Maybe it’s because I’m used to the open environment of a Cabrio, but climbing into the cabin of the MINI Coupe was akin to strapping into a cockpit. Typical of a sports car you do have to bend and twist a little to gain access, but its worth it. Everything fell easily to hand, while the combination cloth/leather upholstery on the sports seats securely ensconced me. The ambient lighting just enhanced the experience at night.

If you’ve ever been at the wheel of a MINI before, then you’ll feel right at home. Everything from the stubby steering wheel to the plate sized command centre-cum-speedo in the centre of the console carries over from the hatch. A digital speedo sits squarely in front of the driver in the tacho pod. Maybe next year they’ll give it a heads-up display.MINI Coupe speedoInside, the roof seems much closer, but a friend who is 6’6″ in the old language claimed he had more head room; perhaps the seats are set lower in the body. The windows are noticeably narrower than on the other MINIs; this tends to darken the interior a little as well as cut back on some of the visibility. But it does add to the sporty schtick.

On the highway north from Redcliffe we came to appreciate the extra space afforded by the removal of the rear seats. With limited time for stops, hours were spent inside this cosy cabin, and being able to wriggle around made it a more pleasant journey.MINI Coupe_roadsideSo too did the sound system, a 6-speaker treat that made the most of the music emanating from the iPhone via bluetooth connection. The controls for this and a few other features were on the steering wheel for the driver’s convenience.

Another plus for this two-seater is a real boot. Open the lid to this space and you could be forgiven for thinking this is a giant fast-back hatch – it is a massive maw to behold.

According to the literature there is about 280 litres of space for you to fill, which is more even than the Clubman, and way more than an MX-5. There’s also a panel that allows access from the cabin into the boot, and some space behind the seats for small items.

MINI Coupe has a massive bootPretty on the Outside

While we were nicely hidden away, the exterior was on show to the world. Without a doubt the roof sets the Coupe apart from anything else on the road. I was in two minds about its aesthetic appeal, but most people were very positive. Many people came up and asked what make it was, and were genuinely surprised it was a MINI.

Underneath the car all the good stuff that makes a MINI handle like a Mini is there. The fully independent suspension and 17″ wheels with quality run flats keeps the body glued to the blacktop. The trade-off is a harsher ride than your family sedan might offer, but then you aren’t travelling with the family – this one’s for you.MINI Coupe with black wheels, Xenon headlightsAs tested this Coupe had bi-Xenon headlamps with headlamp washers in a black shell, front and rear fog lights, 17″ wheels and cruise control. The black-finished wheels and grille gave the car a very purposeful look, while the optional pinstriping added to the sports appeal.

 Road Tripping

In the world of MINI, there are three levels of awesomeness – Cooper (Standard), Cooper S (think Sportier) and JCW ( think there goes my license). There’s also Cooper D (for Diesel), but that’s not available in the Coupe yet. Neither is the standard Cooper. You just get fast (Cooper S), and faster (JCW).MINI Coupe beside cane train BundabergWhich is great when you have a road trip planned like we had. The ride is firm (remember it’s the sporty variant) not helped by having run flat tyres gripping the road. You’ll feel the bumps, but you’ll appreciate that extra feel when you get to the corners.

Power from the 1600cc twin scroll turbo engine comes in manageable doses, and at usable revs. Stretch those revs towards the red zone, and you’ll be rewarded with a notable burble from the twin exhausts. Overtaking on the highway was a breeze – take a run up in 6th where 100kph equals 2000rpm, or knock it back to 5th and get excited by the way this car picks up its skirts and runs!

Oddly the Coupe weighs more than the Hatch, but the brakes are more than a match and will pull you up safely and predictably. And if they don’t you’re well protected with all the best in safety gizmos, from airbags to pretensioned seat belts, and plethora of acronyms like EBD, ESP,etc.

And the Winner Is…MINI Coupe at Bundaberg Distillery next to bottle of Bundaberg Rum

Anyone who gets to have one. Seriously, it’s the funnest way to get to work, and you won’t be lost for things to talk about in the car park.

Nothing comes close for looks, and few can match it’s handling out of the box. It’s economical to run, and with the huge boot it’s practical.

But you won’t buy it for that. This is a purchase of the heart, and your brain won’t get a look in. You’ll want it because it says everything about you, and your take on the world. No other car can express attitude like this one.

And it comes in Rum! Take a drive to Bundy; see for yourself.

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The MINI Roadster – Every Drive an Adventure

There comes a time in most people’s life when they sit back and take stock of all that has happened, and all they want to happen before they shuffle off. Synonymous with this syndrome among men supposedly is the desire to take off in a sports car, with one’s rapidly dwindling stocks of locks blowing in the wind.

The MINI Roadster flashing through the mountains

So who am I to buck tradition? When Brisbane MINI Garage kindly offered me a JCW Roadster for a test drive, I jumped at it.

My plan was to live the campaign – ‘Another day, another adventure.’ Get out of town, do some sight-seeing. I had a hankering for pork belly, so Bangalow in northeast New South Wales was on the agenda with Byron Bay as our destination, before turning north back to Brisbane. All in one day.

Next morning we threaded our way through the light traffic and hit the freeway south of Brisbane. In the city the slick gear change is really appreciated. It’s quick and decisive; feels solid and is well-matched to the light responsive clutch. On the open expanse of the freeway it sat comfortably in 6th, still offering plenty for overtaking at a tap of the accelerator.

Leaving #Brisbane in the #MINI Roadster

With the weather playing along nicely the canvas roof had been quickly and easily dispatched behind the two (read it, ONLY two) seats. Unlike the Cabrio, this lid is operated manually, unless you pay for the optional extra semi-automatic version.

Personally I wouldn’t bother. To open the roof it’s a simple turn of the handle and then push back and over, with a firm shove to lock it flat into place. (I’m told you can perform this manoeuvre alone from the driver’s seat with practice, and I suspect a strong shoulder. You can do it while moving too.)

A noticeable feature when the roof is up is the frame bars are visible. No biggy; it kind of reinforced the strong, no-nonsense nature of this car. When closed the roof sealed well.

Cruising with the roof down was a delight. MINI certainly got the in-cabin aerodynamics spot-on; you can hear the stereo loud and clear. In the cool of the morning the heater was effective enough to quieten m’lady, and there were no complaints of buffeting emanating from the passenger seat either.

Speeds in excess of 80kph also give the machine a chance to demonstrate its unique selling proposition – the spoiler that deploys and retracts automatically.

Designed to counter the lift caused by the raked windscreen it rises silently from its niche in the boot, and slips quietly away when speeds have dropped below 60kph for a while. No doubt it also goes some way to explaining the uncanny grip the car has on the road through fast corners.

Taking the Nerang exit the road quickly changed from well-sealed blacktop to bumpy, twisty country roads. We tacked on to the back of a couple of motorcycles and gave chase through the Gold Coast hinterland, the two-wheelers unable to shake the high-performance Roadster.

The #MINI Roadster outside Natural Bridge Cafe.

Bear in mind this is the top of the line model. The JCW packs a turbo’d 1.6-litre four cylinder engine that threatens to hurl you down the nearest worm-hole at warp speed when you plant the foot down hard.

MINI Roadster racing into a corner

According to the literature it pumps out 211 bhp and gets to 100kph in a tad over 6 seconds. Braking for corners has always been a superfluous manoeuvre for a MINI – toss in acceleration like that, add gokart-like grip and you’ll have more than enough excitement to wind back the clock on your mid-life crisis.

Despite all this the roadster never feels like things are getting out of hand, in large part due to the great feedback from all the components. The brakes are firm and progressive with plenty of feel. The suspension improved the harder it was pushed through corners, and bumps seldom unsettled the car from the line you had picked with the precise steering; it really is point and go.

Corners are no match for the MINI Roadster

After a brief stop at the Natural Bridge café, and having checked out the nice little National Park that abuts it, we continued along the range, across the border and down ever more narrow and tighter roads.

The #MINI Roadster prepares to go to the dark side - NSW.

This part of the world is just made for taking Minis through, proof of which we discovered in the little pottery at Chillingham. Hanging on the wall there was a photo taken over 30 years ago when the Mini Moke club had visited, traversing roads that were much worse back then than we had encountered to date.

#Mini Mokes making their way through #Chillingham

I have read that Mini worked hard to make the Roadster feel stiffer and sportier than the four-seat Cabrio. It has achieved this by using area vacated by the rear seat to house cross-braces. And a 45kg weight advantage also plays its part, the car feeling nimble through the tightest of curves.

Lining up the #MINI Roadster

It’s on roads like those found in this region that the engine really shines, punching out usable power from 2500rpm, the needle rapidly spinning through the numbers from there. Top down you are rewarded with a rich burble on overrun, a happy reminder that this is a sports car, and you should be forgiven for being a little irresponsible given your ’condition’.

After lunch and a stroll down main street we headed east for the coast. Again the road was its own reward, with every type of corner offered joined by short sprints up and down hills.

The #MINI Roadster overlooking #Byron Bay

The run into Byron brought out the one negative – there’s nowhere to put the surfboard. Which is not to say there isn’t room for pretty much anything else.

Packing for more than an overnight stay is no longer an exercise in frugality because with the removal of the two rear seats the Roadster has gained a real boot. While the Cabrio struggles to put away more than a briefcase and a cabin bag, the new model boasts a 240 litre space that easily holds two full size pieces of luggage and more.

The #MINI Roadster gives access to a real boot

It may not seem much compared to the cavernous maws of a family sedan, but it is a full 90 litres more than an MX-5, one of its direct competitors.

The traffic in and around Byron tested the patience of the driver, but for the car it was business as usual, the clutch and gears again proving their robustness as we crawled up to the lighthouse before seeking the relative calm of the highway for the journey home.

The #MINI Roadster cruising past the Byron Bay lighthouse

The setting sun and open road gave time for reflection.

If nothing else the Roadster is adaptable. As a city car it is well-behaved, with enough punch to get out of trouble and brakes capable of stopping you getting into it. Easy to park, and surprisingly good on fuel. Its sophisticated and sporty lines don’t go unnoticed round town either.

If safety is high on your list of priorities MINI has factored in the possibility that things can go pear shaped for the best of us – anti-skid braking with electronic brake force distribution and dynamic stability control. There are driver and passenger front and side head airbags in the event of a crash.  And if the vehicle flips the polished stainless steel roll bars come into play.

As a sports tourer this MINI has few equals, especially in its price bracket. With the extra boot space it is a genuine traveler and has a real advantage over others in its class. Its motor makes driving a charm, not a chore.

But the real surprise was its ability to perform as a time machine  – I swear I felt younger every time I got behind the wheel. Take one for a spin yourself and be reminded that life should be measured not by hours and days, but moments that live with you forever. The MINI Roadster will provide you with plenty of those.

Surfers Paradise by the dashboard lights

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The Way – Taking the Road to Understanding

While movies have only been around for a century or so, the idea of the road trip as a tale is almost as old as the written word. Its lineage can be traced from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ through a thousand diverse texts that preach the journey is paramount, the destination a convenient point to conclude the narrative.

It is a concept that has been borrowed countless times by screenwriters, providing a framework where the central character leaves home in order to grow and develop;  to be transformed in some manner that would not otherwise be possible.

In Emilio Estevez’s film “The Way” father Tom Avery (Martin Sheen) is an ophthalmologist living comfortably in California who is thrust into the real world far from his cosy existence when his son Daniel (Emilio again) dies while walking the Camino de Santiago. This, we learn, is an 800km trail that starts from St Jean-Pied-du-Port in France, goes across the Pyrenees and Spanish border to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, allegedly the resting place of St James.

Called from the golf course to come and identify his son’s body, Toms’ shock and grief is palpable. He cannot imagine why anyone would undertake such a journey. Through flashback we learn that it is his inability to understand his son that is the prime reason for their estrangement. As an act of contrition, Tom abandons his practice and, takes up the abandoned backpack and sets out to finish the journey his son had started, taking his ashes along to be spread along the trail.

Martin Sheen - 'The Way'

Tom (Martin Sheen) pauses at the spot his son was killed in the storm on the Camino de Santiago

Naturally he cannot accomplish change on his own; someone has to play devil’s advocate and hold the mirror up to him. Despite his prickly and self-absorbed nature, now compounded by a loss that he is loath to share, he soon has company. None of these pilgrims is overly spiritual, yet have no hesitation in walking a holy trail to ask for intervention from a saint. As Tom is told by one character, “Religion has nothing to do with this.”

Almost from the outset he is accompanied by Joost, a jovial Dutchman with a pharmacy in his pockets and obesity on his mind. Next to fall in is Sarah, an equally abrupt Canadian woman trying to overcome her own demons; and Jack, a stereotypical Irish writer struggling to come up with something original.

Pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago - 'The Way'

The movie travels at its own gentle pace, giving time for the characters to develop and bond. Despite the differences that threaten to split the group they find there is also much to bind them, not least their common fallibility.

Under normal circumstances these people would never interact, but here on the trail they have the opportunity to confess and play confessor, unloading themselves of the baggage that has held them back, not always comfortably. But the human dynamic between them; that is the glue that holds this movie together and maintains our interest.

The Way - Camino de Santiago

It is easy to be seduced too by the landscape and the casual, relaxed lifestyle of those who choose to tread this historical path. The Xunta de Galecia (Galician Tourist Board), who arguably re-invented the pilgrimage in 1993 with an international marketing campaign, will surely reap the benefits of this movie.

But Estevez didn’t set out to make a travelogue, and he didn’t desire a modern day Canterbury Tales. He set out to make a film about family, and loss, and redemption, and the desire to do more with our time on this planet. And along the way we learn that life should be shared, and fulfilling.

Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez - The Way

"You don't choose a life, Dad. You live it."

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Age Shall Not Weary Them – ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’

Perhaps its a sign of the global ageing of the population. Perhaps someone has discovered the untapped potential in providing entertainment for people of a certain age. Or maybe its just a decent bit of movie-making whose time has come.

The 'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' movie poster

Whatever the reasons, the producers of ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel‘ have put together a talented cast, given them a solid script to interpret, and rolled out a blue-rinsed rom-com that is sure to resonate with the retirement set. It certainly found a happy home with the audience I viewed it with.

Almost in keeping with the slow slide into old age that most will face in their lifetime, the story unfolds in its own time. The simply drawn characters are introduced, their limits and past failings are detailed, and the plot is brought slowly to the simmer, never being allowed to boil over.

Judi Dench - 'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'

The cast is rife with first class talent, actors that the potential audience has grown up with on both the silver and small screen. At the centre of the ensemble is Judi Dench in the role of Evelyn, whose voiced-over blog serves to tie the events of the movie together. She plays a woman who has trusted in one man to look after her for her whole life and must now find a way to live and fend for herself.

This is a recurring theme in the movie. Redemption for past errors of judgement are balanced with the desire to be able to begin again; to not give up on life and what it may hold in the future. As the entrepreneurial hotel manager Sonny (Dev Patel) often espouses, “All will be well in the end. And if it is not well, then it is not the end yet.”

So it is that Graham (Tom Wilkinson), the gay retired high court judge, seeks to find his first love and right the wrong he feels that he has done him.

Maggie Smith in 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'.

Muriel (Maggie Smith), is the ‘accidental’ tourist among this group of retirees, in India for a hip replacement at the behest of National Health in England. With her deep distrust of anyone not of Anglo-Saxon heritage, can she overcome her prejudices and find an opportunity to redefine her purpose in life?

Even the Marigold Hotel itself (which is actually the 17th century Ravla Khempur, a charming rural palace hotel set in the state of Rajasthan) is a metaphor of hope in old age, with its promise to rise “phoenix-like” from the ashes of its decay.

Brand India actually does quite well out of this venture too. Images of rural life, scenic beauty and Hindu ceremonies mix with bustling modern city life amid references to life and light and joy that should guarantee a surge in tourism to the sub-continent.

The comedy is gentle, the jokes are self-effacing. Bill Nighy is in his element playing a self-deprecating Englishman whose marriage has passed its use-by date. His wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) is ultimately the only one it seems who cannot sever her ties to the past, and must confront what the future holds for her if it is not within the walls of the hotel.

Ronald Pickup in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"

Ronald Pickup and Celia Imrie play the irrepressible rake Norman and would-be seductress Madge, whose desire to be ‘active’ in love despite their advancing years provides much humour. Their performances, like all the cast’s, are credible, and contribute to the success of the ensemble.

Perhaps the great takeaway from this movie is that  while growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional. The urge to be forever young like Peter Pan is stronger within some than others. Unlike that tale though, this production soars high without the aid of pixie dust. It has a magic all of its own.

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