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Terry Wogan

I can just about remember when Terry Wogan wasn’t a fixture of British public life but that memory was fading. In recent years he had himself receded a little from the public eye, retiring from his braekfast show and from commentating on the Eurovision Song Contest but he still popped up with an intermittent weekly radio show on Radio 2 and the annual Children in Need telethons (all in a good cause certainly but usually so laced with embarassing performances that I found it difficult to watch so I hadn’t done so for years.)

Despite his failure to appear on last year’s Children in Need in November due to illness – a warning sign as it turned out – it was still a shock to wake up to the news today that he had died.

I also noticed there were retrospective clip shows from his thrice-weekly 80s chat show on in the afternoon in the run-up to Christmas 2015. Maybe there was a hint there too.

I wasn’t one of his listeners in the 60s – or indeed in the 70s – but in later life I found his breakfast radio show congenial listening in the short interval between being woken by the alarm clock and actually getting out of bed. Perhaps it took reaching a certain age to appreciate his charms.

He always seemd perfectly genial – a great trick to pull off in the early morning – but by all accounts this was simply him; there was apparently no difference between his public and private persona.

The world feels diminished by his death. I fervently hope it doesn’t turn out he had feet of clay (as others of his vintage had) but if all that has been said of him is true there may be no need to fear.

Michael Terence “Terry” Wogan; 3/8/1938 – 31/1/2016. So it goes.

William McIlvanney Again

I noticed that Radio 2’s news on Saturday evening referred to William McIlvanney as a crime writer. That is a gross over-simplification. Laidlaw, The Papers of Tony Veitch and Strange Loyalties may have featured a detective but they were primarily novels. And there were seven more novels to add the account, as well as his poetry and journalism.

This link is to his obituary in the Guardian.

Salford City 1-1 Hartlepool United

FA Cup Round 2, Moor Lane Stadium, 4/12/15.

I posted about Hartlepool United this time last year at the same stage of the competition and again when the club miraculously retained its football league status in April.

So once again Pools were on live television courtesy of the BBC and its FA Cup coverage but apart from converting a penalty weren’t much in the game first half where Salford had much more possession and looked more threatening especially with the dead ball – culminating in a goal when their player reacted quickly in a second ball situation from a free kick.

Second half there was an improvement by Pools perhaps catalysed by the wonderfully named sub Rakish Bingham who looked very lively. Unfortunately he missed a header from five yards as did Scott Fenwick both of which would have removed the necessity for a replay. Salford also had their chances but couldn’t get past Trevor Carson in Pools’ goal.

1-1 at the end. At least I’m not a televisual jinx.

Manager Ronnie Moore was scathing about the performance after the match. His assessment was spot on. If Pools play for 90 mins in the replay they ought to get through.

Despite a winning start to the season Pools still lurk towards the bottom of League Two. I’m still nervous about that.

The Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award

This award is supported by Creative Scotland.

This year’s winner and the Saltire Scottish Fiction Book of the Year surprised me.

It was The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (whose name Sally Magnusson on Reporting Scotland pronounced as Michael. Is that how he does so?)

My review of it is here.

Your Boys

I missed Andrew Neil’s rant against Daesh (Isis/Isil) on the BBC’s This Week last night as I was on the computer but the good lady didn’t and told me about it.

It is however available on You Tube and so I have now been able to hear it:-

Neil is certainly right in his assessment of civilisation as against nihilism and on the achievements of French culture but I think he is probably out by at least a factor of ten in his statement that in a thousand years Daesh will be dust. I suspect that will happen in many less than one hundred.

The curious echo that struck me on hearing Neil’s rant, though, was of a certain similarity to Norwegian football commentator Bjørge Lillelien’s famous list:-

Blameless? I Don’t Think So

In an article in Friday’s Guardian, Nicholas Tucker put forward the thesis that “naughty” words could be got away with in more innocent days.

The trigger for this was the change of name of one of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons from Titty to Tatty in a new BBC adaptation of the books, Titty being of course too (err…) tittersome for these days.

He mentions the innocent use in bygone times of “intercourse,” “screw”, “ejaculate” and, in the case of Dr Seuss, “Boners.”

However, the quotation he gives for his next example “cock” – as in a fairground giant cockerel which a maiden aunt of Just William mounts on a merry-go-round – undermines his thesis as the text goes on to say, “It seemed to give her a joy that all her blameless life had so far failed to produce.”

For what is the purpose of that word “blameless”? It seems to me to be present precisely to signal exactly that knowledge which Tucker claims to be absent. Otherwise why include it? If the point was the one Tucker is making then the phrasing, “a joy that all her life so far had failed to produce,” would make it far more effectively, and poignantly.

Tucker then uses the same word to describe Just William’s author, Richmal Crompton, saying she was a blameless ex-classics teacher. But are not the classics – of which she therefore must have had extensive knowledge – full of instances of sexual mayhem? (The Rape of the Sabine Women for one. In case this may be thought to be an egregious example unlikely to be mentioned in school, this incident was one of those encountered by the good lady in her Latin class.)

Tucker says a similar fairground cockerel also appears in an Angela Thirkell story and adduces for her innocence of any double entendre that she was a distinctly snobbish granddaughter of the pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones. As if artists (and particularly the pre-Raphaelites) were entirely free of sexual knowledge and/or shenanigans. Moreover a glance at Thirkell’s life story might suggest rather a lack of innocence.

1864

 1864cover

When this Danish TV series – the most expensive production in Danish television history – was first trailed on the BBC and I saw the blue uniforms I thought it would be about the War Between the States (known on this side of the Atlantic as the American Civil War) as the date fitted. I was immediately interested. I’ve read a lot about that conflict and watched the Jim Burns TV series several times. Looking more closely I realised that I didn’t recognise the painting shown on the trailer or the figures within it (I most likely would have for an American Civil War painting) and of course the uniforms’ details weren’t quite right.

I was therefore even more intrigued when it dawned the series was about the Second Schleswig War as that was something I knew vaguely about from History, at school. Once read, who can forget the comment the UK Prime Minister at the time, Lord Palmerston, made about the intricacies of the Schleswig-Holstein question – which in the series was uttered to that fine actress Barbara Flynn, in the person of Queen Victoria – that there were only three men who ever understood it; the Prince Consort, who was dead, a German professor who had gone mad and Palmerston himself, who had forgotten all about it?

As presented in the series, the war seems to have been provoked by Denmark in a fit of collective insanity. The programme, which has been criticised for historical inaccuracies (it would be difficult to portray any conflict televisually without some of that I’d have thought) certainly presented the Danish Prime Minister, Monrad, as an utter nutter. There seemed to be an element of hysteria in the air that prefigured the Germany of 1939. (Then again there was widespread welcome to Britain’s declaration of war in 1914, so no need to point fingers; except the UK hadn’t sought that conflict – at least not directly.)

However the dire results of the Second Schleswig War for Denmark meant that, to that country’s credit, no Danish military action outside its frontiers again took place until the NATO bombing of Kosovo in 1999.

Scenes were shown from both sides of the conflict and also the sidelines as Palmerston affected to intercede. The subtitles were no intrusion (1864 went out in the BBC 4 European detective slot on Saturdays at 9 pm.) As near as I could tell each nationality in the series spoke in its own language. (I have a smattering of German but no Danish except what I could glean from the dialogue’s similarities to German, English and, occasionally, Scots.)

For the series the necessity of introducing a human aspect to the conflict in the shape of estate manager’s daughter Inge and the two brothers Laust and Peter, with whom she has a special bond, allowed the introduction of those perennial literary concerns, love, sex and death. There was love to be sure, but not much sex – only four scenes as I recall, three of them having not much to do with love, plus another featuring boys attempting to masturbate – but enough death and destruction to slake anyone’s desires. The battle scenes were impressive – and visceral.

Overall the series was magnificent television, well worth checking out if you didn’t catch it, but I thought the elements of mysticism involving one of the soldiers from the village were unconvincing and the framing device wherein a disaffected young woman from our century sent to his house for a form of community service helps read out Inge’s memoirs to an old man (who is Inge’s grandson) was perhaps unnecessary, though it did give the sense of consequences cascading down the years and a contrast to the privations of the soldiers of 150 years earlier.

When I last looked in the BBC shop, the DVD of this was out of stock but the Blu-ray was available.

Yes, Dave, I Blame You

Today, on the BBC’s Reporting Scotland, there was a clip of David Cameron, aka Mr Irresponsible, saying that he was to blame for many things (well you’re right in that at least, Dave) but that Labour’s collapse* in Scotland wasn’t one of them.

Really, Dave? How un-self-aware can anyone get?

It’s got nothing to do with the speech you made on the day after the Independence Referendum where you slapped down those who had just voted to remain in the UK with a, “We don’t care about you, we only care about England,” attitude? Could anything have been more likely to enrage both those who had voted no and those for yes? A clearer demonstration that Westminster politicians just don’t get it as far as Scotland is concerned would have been harder to find. To anyone who knows Scots what response could have been expected other than a rise in support for the SNP (who ought to have been set back for perhaps decades by the rejection of their key purpose for existence?)

I suppose it could all be part of a diabolical (yes, I know it means of the Devil) plan to undermine the Labour party in the UK as a whole but I don’t believe Cameron actually is as cunning as all that. (His sidekick Gideon Osborne, aka George, is another matter, though.) I realise the Tories have more than something of the night about them but I doubt in their wildest dreams could they have deliberately conceived and implemented a coherent, rather than accidental, strategy to reduce the influence of Labour on the Westminster Parliament.

Labour having conspicuously failed over the many years of my lifetime to protect Scots from governments they have not voted for, many people seem to have come round to the view that only a large bank of SNP MPs at Westminster will ensure that Westminster cannot treat Scotland off-handedly.

So yes, Dave. I do blame you.

BTW: I suspect that Labour won’t lose quite so many seats in Scotland as the polls at present predict. There are still many “always been Labour” voters around.

Stargazing Live Hunting Supernovae

I’ve been watching BBC 2’s Stargazing Live the past two nights.

Not that it’s told me much I didn’t know but the hunt for supernovae they mentoned at the zooniverse site was intriguing. Apparently humans are required to check the comparison photos of patches of sky after the before and after subtraction has been made; computers can’t do it.

Up to when I looked just now over 26,000 people have taken part in the effort and over 1,000,000 comparisons have been checked. Out of these tonight’s programme said they’d found one supernova already.

There has been a lot about tomorrow’s solar eclipse in the two programmes so far. In the morning I’ll be out with my two pieces of card pinhole camera trying to image it. As I recall the percentage coverage for the last solar eclipse I witnessed (in 1999) was less than the 95 or so for my area tomorrow. I doubt I’ll see another.

Reelin’ In the Years 100: Light Flight (Take Three Girls)

Another TV theme from the (very) early 1970s – for the first BBC drama series to be broadcast in colour, Take Three Girls – except it wasn’t just a theme as it became a minor hit for the folk band Pentangle.

Pentangle: Light Flight

For completeness here is the title sequence from the first series of Take Three Girls.

Take Three Girls Titles

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