When it comes to blogging about Christmas films, followers of my blog would tend to get the distinct impression that Christmas in The Frozen Northerner’s household may be a dark and sombre place given that the last two Christmas films I have blogged about have left me with nightmares that I have to this day. But it not all doom and gloom most of my childhood memories of films at Christmas are great, they would feature all of the Hollywood greats such as Flynn, Colman, Gable and Bogart, even better the BBC would often run a season of films with all of the aforementioned or maybe someone like Cary Grant or Fred Astaire these legends of the screen were from the golden age of Hollywood and I have to admit I watched them all religiously. My parents were great movie fans, especially the Hollywood musicals, so no Christmas was going to complete without me and my family sitting though host of classic song and dance movies featuring the likes of Crosby, Sinatra, Astaire and Kelly. If you want something really festive then forget White Christmas with Bing and Danny and start thinking about Holiday Inn with Bing and Fred, sure the film is saccharin sweet and the plot is as cheesy as a pot of fondue but that doesn’t matter a jot. The storyline is simple, Crosby as Jim Hardy and Astaire as Ted Hanover head a song and dance team featuring a girl performer Lila Dixon played by Virginia Dale, Hardy (Crosby) wants to retire to the country and take Lila (Dale) with him. However, Lila (Dale) decides to stay on the New York nightclub scene with Hanover (Astaire), Hardy (Crosby) hurt by Lila’s rebuff dutifully leaves for a farm in the country to lick his wounds, turning the farm into a holiday retreat, Hardy (Crosby) performs shows at various holiday around the year, while preparing up for his New Year’s show, Hardy meets and falls for Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds). Ex-partner Hanover (Astaire) now dumped by the lovely Lila (Dale), needs a new partner and heads to Holiday Inn to seek advice off Hardy (Crosby), now that he has lost his dance partner. Arriving at Holiday inn the very drunk Hanover (Astaire) ends up dancing with Mason (Reynolds) who he now sees as ideal new dance partner. It should be fairly simple to work out the plot form hereon in and that is to say everything ends well. No sex or violence just Crosby crooning and Astaire dancing, ably supported by the very underrated Reynolds, this is a slice of honest to goodness Americana, the way Hollywood liked to think people lived, with songs by the great Irving Berlin, Holiday Inn is one of the great Christmas movies, it may be lost on the youth of today but to me it is a timeless classic. Happy Holidays!
The Frozen Northerner on one December Sunday afternoon before Christmas will make his annual pilgrimage into his beloved hometown of Newcastle, although I regularly visit the greatest city in the world my Christmas trip will be different to any other jaunt that I take to the town over the year and because it is Christmas must meet with a certain criteria. For a start it must be dark, around about 4 pm, the journey needs be made alone and it must be by bus, this excursion will roughly take half an hour leading me through a host of pit villages which are now sadly in decline, the trip will eventually reach South Gosforth taking us up Matthew Bank and onto the Great North Road, once on the GNR which, is Geordie equivalent of the Appian way, you will see the affluence of Jesmond on one side and the Town Moor on the other, on whose horizon you will see the cathedral that is St James Park, home to association footballs’ greatest underachievers of all time Newcastle United. Disembarking at the Haymarket the Frozen Northerner will wander the streets of the city stopping to gaze at three places that he holds dear to his heart. The first stop will be at the Central Arcade, where I will stop and stare upon a genuine piece of Edwardian wizardry, designed by Oswald and Son and built by the very great Richard Grainger this building is one the finest pieces of neoclassical architecture you will find anywhere in the country, never mind Newcastle. Standing alone outside the old Marcus Price shop now sadly empty, I will gaze upon the Central Arcade’s beautiful lines and contours, awestruck by the sheer splendour of the building. Leaving the arcade behind I will head for another Newcastle landmark, The Northern Goldsmiths on corner of Pilgrim Street and Blackett Street with its Rolex gold clock and Venus statue lit up in the dark we are starting to get of more of a Christmas feel which is appropriate as we are now heading towards what should always be top of any Geordie’s Christmas list and that is a viewing of Fenwick’s window. Fenwick’s has been Newcastle’s most renowned department store for as long I can remember, where other department stores have decided to entrench themselves in the ghastly labyrinth that is Eldon Square, other stores have come and gone with the decay of Newcastle, but Fenwick’s has always stood resolute, maintaining its prime spot on Northumberland Street and remains the best shop in the city. As my readers well know the Frozen Northerner is no fan of department stores but if you are from the north east of England you have got to go and view Fenwick’s window at Christmas, there might be bigger and better windows displays in this country and around the world but, if you’re a Geordie then there is only one window display and this is it, this should always be a place that you visit at Christmas time. This spectacle is normally derived from children’s tales or fairy stories, the theme for 2017 is Paddington bear which a bit more predicable than usual however, it will make no difference to The Frozen Northerner who as normal be enchanted by the moving figures in each frame of this wonderful window. Adult or child if you’re moved by this spectacular presentation then you must be made of stone, if this not what Christmas is then I don’t know what is, Christmas is often a very dark place for The Frozen Northerner, but any visit to Fenwick’s window will always lift my spirits.
With this being my 100th blog I thought I would write a piece on my favourite player of all time, Graeme Souness. Some people may be dumbfounded with my choice as Mr Souness has gained in my opinion a rather unjust reputation of being a bit of an acquired taste. At his peak the moustachioed Souness would strut around grounds such as Anfield and Hampden Park like he owned the place, controlling each game with a steely determination whist spraying a sparkling array of passes around the park. He was demanding, arrogant, aloof and ruthless, possessing an inner strength which all great players demand of themselves, such was his influence during his time at Liverpool that when he left in the summer of 1984 to join the Italian club Sampdoria, the Liverpool forward Michael Robinson felt that half the changing room had gone. Others were not quite as complimentary with fellow Scottish international Archie Gemmill saying that if Souness “was made of chocolate he would eat himself”. Despite his unwavering self-belief in his own ability Souness was never able to establish himself in the first team at Tottenham Hotspur, dismayed by the lack of opportunities at Spurs, Souness would leave the bright lights of London behind him for the grit and grim of Middlesbrough a city hardly paved with gold, but a place that would shape his destiny for glory. At this point it is probably fair to say that Souness could have ended up on the scrapheap, fortunately for Souness his career was probably saved by two men, Jack Charlton and Bobby Murdoch. Charlton was an old school hard man that pounded the need for discipline into the young Souness whereas the highly underrated former Celtic midfield general Murdoch showed him how to perform to the highest standards on the pitch, they turned Souness into the consummate professional and you cannot underestimate how influential these two individuals would be for Souness. He left Middlesbrough for Liverpool in 1978 for a then record fee between English clubs, at Liverpool he would now mix with players that had the same hunger and desire that burned like acid in his belly, it took him a while to settle into his new surroundings but once he adapted, he would quickly establish himself as the best midfield player in Britain. Now in his pomp he cut a ferocious figure with his slide rule passing aligned to his merciless tacking, no one was going to stand in his way and if they were he would wreak terror and destruction to anyone that would try and knock him off his pedestal. With Souness at the helm Liverpool tore across Europe defeating anyone that stood in their way, if you wanted to play them they would play you, if wanted to kick them they would kick you back, at this time they were so superior to anything else around it was frightening. When he left Liverpool in 1984 for the riches of Italy I was devastated and things would never be the same. The Italian lifestyle was made for Souness and although he enjoyed a successful period at Sampdoria, the lure of becoming player/manager at Rangers would prove irresistible and would see him return to these shores for the start of the 86-87 season. To say his time at Rangers was explosive would be an understatement to say the least. He set about creating the Ibrox revolution changing the face of Scottish football forever, with his ambition now at its zenith like his time at Liverpool he neither asked nor wanted any quarter to be given by anyone, he constantly clashed with the Scottish authorities who did not like the way he wanted to transform the Scottish game. It didn’t make any difference he was now a mission from god and woe betide anyone that got in his way. He retired from playing in 1989 at the age of 38 to concentrate on management something that he embraced with a varying degree of success, but never reaching the heights of his playing career. These days Souness works as pundit for sky sports and given the right occasion he can still be as abrasive and confrontational as he was as an awe-inspiring player. Souness played for Scotland in three world cups, won a host of European and domestic honours with all of the clubs that he played for and for me he is the greatest Liverpool player I have ever seen, he may not have been the most popular player to wear that famous red shirt, but them again that was never going bother him, he was all about winning and was prepared to go to any lengths to succeed in his quest for fame and glory, the sight of him leading out that great Liverpool on a European night still makes the hairs on the back neck stand up, so there you have it blog number 100 the very great Graeme Souness or should I say Renoir with a razor blade.