The Covert Agenda

Incredulity fused with a Panglossian sense of optimism.

Category: Culture

Recovering with Return of the Jedi

Written for Future of the Force, January 2017

Read the article on Future of the Force


There was one film that I used to watch repeatedly while recovering at home after a near-fatal car crash: Return of the Jedi.  Despite having recounted stories of the accident and recovery many times in the twenty-one years since they took place, including the beyond-compulsive viewing of the third instalment of the original Star Wars trilogy, it had never occurred to me to question what it was about that particular film that lead to its selection as an obsessive focal point.

Until recently, when a conversation with Future of the Force co-founder, Radio Ryloth, left me considering the choice for the first time.  Of all the numerous films available on DVD or VHS in the family home, including A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, what was it about ROTJ that made me want to watch that specific film again and again and again?

The fact that I had suffered a severe head injury certainly contributed to the repetitious element of the viewing.   While I would never be so bold as to claim that the force is strong in me, it certainly feels like it was with me on the day of the accident.  I was hurled through a car windscreen at 80 mph, ending up in an induced coma in intensive care in order to reduce the severity and permanence of any damage to my bleeding and swollen brain. There was also no shortage of damage to my limbs, internal bleeding, a punctured lung, etc.

When I got home from just under three months in hospital, my memory was so bad I’d sometimes forget what I was saying mid-sentence.  Severe head injuries can also make people become obsessive and inflexible, particularly in the months and years immediately following their accidents, so it’s possible that I simply could not adequately remember the film each time or that it just became a habitual fixation.

This still does not explain the reason for the rigid and particular preference for ROTJ, though.  I can’t remember but perhaps it was the last film I watched before the crash?  Maybe there was a remnant of a memory of watching it shortly before in my scrambled grey matter.  I used to watch episodes four, five and six a fair bit so perhaps the comforting familiarity of ROTJ was the cause – but why that episode over the previous two?

Could it be character association?  I may not have been bionic to the extent Darth Vader was but maybe undergoing a sequence of operations, rehabilitation and having metal inserted into my body drew me to this dark side titan.  That Vader’s right hand is severed from his body is a key witness in the case for association’s responsibility.  My left arm, wrist and hand were terribly damaged and needed extensive surgery and rehabilitation, which was still ongoing at this time.  It may not have been the right arm, as Vader lost, but it’s not too great a leap of the imagination to see the potential connection there.


Equally, I could have felt akin to Luke Skywalker, seeing as he had also lost his right hand, albeit in the previous episode.  That the future dexterity of my withered arm was still very much in question also lends credibility to this line of argument.  Did Luke represent a successful recovery, hope and a positive outcome?  Or is it just a really good film?

In reality, the reason for selecting ROTJ for repeat viewing will remain a mystery.  There is always the possibility that the choice was totally arbitrary, although this does not instinctively feel right.  Ultimately, it does not matter; what I do know is that it played a regular, positive role in my tedious recovery.  With hindsight, it feels like it acted as a sort of crutch, and for this reason episode six has a special significance for me.   So who knows?  Perhaps the Force did play a part in my near-miraculous recovery.


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Regeneration sets out historic market’s stall for the future – Greenwich Market

Published in Architects Datafile, September 2016

Greenwich Market has adapted over the centuries, but has its latest regeneration, realised in the wake of a high-profile failure, future-proofed it? Amy Dron finds out.

Read more…


Around the World in Eighty Minutes – A Trip to the Travel Photographer of the Year Exhibition, Greenwich

Zhou Jianyong/

Zhou Jianyong/

A crash course in anthropology, wildlife, geography, ecology and more is not what you’d normally expect from a photography exhibition.  Apart from simply enjoying the stunning award-winning images, this is exactly what we received when my children and I visited the Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY) exhibition in Greenwich.

A sense of wonder combines with paradoxical feelings: of learning so much yet at the same time having confirmed how little we know, how much there is to discover in and about our remarkable world.  The display drives home the horizon-broadening importance of travel and the value of our understanding more about others and our natural environment.

We may not be fortunate enough to witness personally all the captured people and places, so the exhibition provides a concentrated way of experiencing a large number of different flavours found in our very wide world.  From images of the Chambri tribe of Papua New Guinea and their reptilian ritual scarring arising from their reverence of crocodiles, to Chinese swimmers crammed into a Sichuan swimming pool, obscuring any sign of water as they cling to a sea of colourful inflatables in order to escape the unbearable heat of one of the country’s most overpopulated provinces.

Captivating colours featured in aerial shots of phosphogypsum-stained lakes in Rio Tinto, angelically elegant Egrets caring for their young in China’s Xiangshan Forest and personality-oozing pelicans in Namibia contrast with the inescapable reality of life for the Untouchable caste dwelling in their grim surroundings in the city of Varanasi.

Gary Pullar/

A large map of the world, studded with colourful, round-headed drawing pins caught our attention for some time.  It invites visitors to place a pin in the location they would most like to visit and was remarkably striking and thought-provoking on many levels.  We studied the scattering and concentrations of pins that represent previous visitors’ dream destinations; discussed different locations and our own possible choices; agonised over where to finally decide upon (we each chose two different locations in the end).

The map and exhibition really engaged the children and brought home just how many different and varied places there are on this planet.  It is also worth noting that some of the remarkable featured photographs were submitted by children as young as eleven years old.

Technology is not neglected, with underwater camera shots mixing with bold images of man’s engineering and architectural ingenuity, such as a lighthouse-lit tunnel on the German island of Heligoland.  There is also a dedicated category for HD video and a new one for smart shots taken on mobile devices.

Francisco Mingorance/

I certainly left with a greater consideration for the photos I took once we went to explore the other attractions of Greenwich, and thought more about utilising the capabilities of my iPhone’s camera.  We managed to visit Greenwich Market, the Painted Hall and Chapel in the Old Royal Naval College and the Cutty Sark before the children’s stamina gave out.

The TPOTY exhibition recently relocated from its former annual home at the Royal Geographical Society to its new residency in the University of Greenwich’s award-winning 10 Stockwell Street building.  With the area’s history so steeped in navigation, travel and discovery, this new home within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Maritime Greenwich is a perfect fit.

Entry to the exhibition is free, and it is open seven days a week (see

Jianhui Liao/

Uli Kunz/

Stuart Redler/

Marsel van Oosten/

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