Going through fire

In the Cape we live with fires, as many as 75 a day, with one shack death every other day. So why would we want to see a movie about fighting fires in Arizona? Because we’d heard that FMR’s movie critic Stephen “Spling” Aspeling had rated a new release Only the Brave as 8 out of 10 on his Splingometer. High praise indeed.

The movie cost $38m to make, much of which probably went on reproducing footage of terrifying fires including the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire, which was ignited by lightning on June 28, 2013. Two days later it overran and killed 19 City of Prescott firefighters, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots in whose memory the movie is dedicated.

In the large cast two characters stand out – Eric “Supe” Marsh, the tough, taciturn experienced team leader, (played by Josh Brolin) and a youthful newcomer Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) drifting along on drugs and petty thefts, until the birth of a daughter he didn’t know he had conceived, serves as a wake-up call. He persuades Marsh to include him in his super-fit team where he is nicknamed “Donut” because he’s a softy and they can’t pronounce his surname.

The equipment of the Hotshots would be the envy of our own firefighters. Limitless sturdy vehicles to reach inaccessible fires. Air tankers that can drop 20 000 gallons of fire retardants rather than buckets of water from a helicopter. And fire shelters, the last resort of men in danger – bivy sack-size aluminium tents that can deflect heat of up to 300 degrees but melt when hit directly by flames.

Alas for the 19 trapped Hotshots the odds were stacked against them. Arizona was in the midst of a severe drought. The 300 acre-blaze threatening a town was in chaparral – the dreaded mix of scrub oak and brush that grows so dense it’s a struggle to walk through.

When dry it’s a tinderbox. Exceptional winds raised the fire temperature to 1 200 degrees F, vaporising 14 inhabited fire shelters while the other five were ripped off by the wind. Donut survived as he’d been sent to keep a look-out.
Spling was right. Only the Brave proved a spell-binding movie which honours all firefighters. It left me shattered to hear that it was the deadliest incident of any kind for USAmerican firefighters since the 9/11 attacks.

Spur of the moment

After an early evening movie at the Blue Route, we often pop into the nearby Spur to sup with two friends. On Tuesdays, the added attraction is that sometimes pupils from neighbouring schools “shadow” the waiters, following them around as the adults take orders.

However this particular night a small bright, bespectacled lad, accompanied by a girl of similar size from Sweet Valley School, came to our table with pencil and notebook to ask what we wanted. Our main courses included a plate of the day’s veggies (“with a separate plate and a spoon please”) and three variations of chicken served with/or without chips, onion rings and mushroom sauce.

James in Grade 5 read it back to us perfectly, and then shot off to relay our request for a bottle of red wine with three glasses and two of iced water.

A few minutes later, a staff waiter returned to re-check our order. He needn’t have bothered. The bright schoolboy, whose surname cannot be used, had everything right. We were most impressed.

Summer sounds

For the first two concerts of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra’s Summer Symphony Season, audiences have been treated to two outstanding young, beautiful and talented woman pianists performing under the baton of the Bulgarian-born conductor Martin Panteleev.

On November 9, it was the German-Italian Sophie Pacini, in a daffodil yellow evening dress, and on November 16 the Ukraine-born artist Valentina Lisitsa, who is the first YouTube star of classical music. Moreover she has converted her internet success into a global concert career in Europe, the Americas and Asia.

After emigrating to the US, Valentina launched her career as a piano duet partner alongside her husband. Several competitions, successes and concert engagements later, she looked for new ways to enlarge her audience. Ten years ago she posted her first video – a recording of an etude by Rachmaninov – on YouTube. It launched a social-network career unparalleled in the history of classical music. Her channel now records 346 000 subscribers and 147 million views, with an average of 75 000 a day.

It is easy to see why she is so popular. Adding to her brilliant playing, she has long blonde hair, a comely figure which she displays in stylish gowns and amazingly elegant arms and fingers.

Chinks in the park

I was delighted to hear from Tokai pianist Sibyl Morris that she too had seen chinkerinchees growing in the Lower Tokai Park and was able to find the photograph she had taken in the late 1990s. She thinks the chinks chinkerinchees appeared after a fire which was not the case of the clump I saw recently under the pines.

Incidentally MTO have started chipping the woody debris which volunteers have been collecting to reduce the danger of a forest fire. As arranged by Parkscape, those who had helped regularly would be able to take the chippings away to mulch their gardens.

As it is a DIY thing, spades and bags are needed.

So it’s best to wait until there are piles of chippings near an entrance to the forest to avoid a struggle getting a load into your car.

Healthy love

Love is lying awake all night with a sick child. Or a very healthy adult – David Frost.