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Poppy Watch 2017

It was one month and one day before Armistice Day this year (ie on October 10th) when I saw my first paper poppies beside a shop’s till. If you were to wear them for all that time they would have surely have deteriorated beyond use.

On Friday 20th Oct I saw one in the wild (as it were.) A young girl at the entrance to Kirkcaldy Library had just “dropped her flower.” She didn’t seem to know what it represented.

At least the politicians haven’t – quite – got round to it yet. Unless I’ve missed them.

My first sighting on TV this year was on Saturday night (21st Oct) and it was sported by an Italian! That is just bizarre. OK they were our allies in the Great War but in (most of) World War 2 we were enemies – even if their soldiers’ hearts weren’t really in it. (The Italian in question was Chelsea’s manager Antonio Conte. This just goes to show the unpleasant overtones of coercion associated with poppy wearing by public figures these days.)

Tonight came the first “normal” TV appearance – on the BBC’s Countryfile. Three weeks before Remembrance Day. And how long before it was the piece filmed?

I will make my contribution to the Earl Haig Fund as usual this year but reserve my right not to wear the poppy. I’ll say it again. The servicemen it commemorates died for my right not to be forced to wear one.

Live It Up 38: Chocolate Girl

This could be considered a 1980s answer in reverse to Carpet Man (see last week.)

I remember seeing the band perform this on the daily lunchtime BBC Scotland TV programme broadcast from the Glasgow Garden Festival.

Looking at this video messrs Ricky Ross and Dougie Vipond seem impossibly young. (I have taught Vipond’s eldest son.) And what was Lorraine McIntosh thinking about with that outfit?

Deacon Blue: Chocolate Girl

How Much Do Ant and Dec Get Paid?

The Tories came up with this wheeze to get the BBC to publish the salaries of its top earners as a way of kowtowing to the wishes of their masters’ at News Corp, Sky and elsewhere as part of their continuing project to undermine the BBC. The theory seems to be that people will object to TV Licence money being “wasted” on celebrities who (by definition) are not doing a “proper” job.

Agreed these are ludicrous sums, but no more so than top footballers’ pay (perhaps less) or the even more egregious amounts paid to heads of banks and CEOs/directors at large companies, who don’t do a proper job either.

And what’s appropriate for the BBC is surely good for its broadcasting rivals too.

After all, if I happen to buy a product that has been advertised on ITV, I still pay for Ant and Dec’s salaries even though I never watch them. Ditto for anyone that appears on Sky. Why should their payments be any more commercially confidential than those who appear on the BBC?

I look forward to the day when the salaries of those at ITV and Sky are made public instead of just being estimated.

I won’t be holding my breath though.

The Ring of Brodgar

“The Ring of Brodgar is the finest known truly circular late Neolithic or early Bronze Age stone ring and a later expression of the spirit which gave rise to Maeshowe, Stenness and Skara Brae.”

Earlier this year a BBC TV series called Britain’s Ancient Capital: Secrets of Orkney fronted by Neil Oliver argued convincingly that Orkney was an extremely important cultural centre in neolithic times and that the construction of stone circles originated in Orkney, spreading south from there – eventually to produce Stonehenge.

Unfortunately the path directly round the outside of the Ring was undergoing maintenance when we visited so it was not showing its best appearance. And as you can see we were not the only visitors:-

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney, From Path 1

I did try to get a photo without other people in it:-

Ring of Brodgar From Path 2

Ring of Brodgar from perimeter:-

Ring of Brodgar From Perimeter

You’re absolutely tripping over ancient man-made structures in the Stenness area. This mound, by the shores of the Loch of Stenness and not far from the Ring (from where this photo was taken) is called Salt Knowe. The hills in the background are on Hoy:-

Salt Knowe from Ring of Brodgar

Ring from perimeter path, Loch of Harray in the background:-

Ring of Brodgar

Single stone, with man to show scale, part of Loch of Harray behind. You can easily see wear to the grass around the stone, emphasising the need for maintenance:-

Ring of Brodgar, Single Stone

Looking Towards Ness of Brodgar and Maeshowe from Ring of Brodgar. Loch of Harray to left of Ness of Brodgar, Loch of Stenness to right, Maeshowe just to left of middle of photo:-

Looking Towards Ness of Brodgar and Maeshowe

Friday on my Mind 149: Foot Tapper. RIP Brian Matthew

It was with great sadness I heard on Sunday of the death of Brian Matthew, one of the voices of my youth and, through the BBC Radio 2 programme Sounds of the Sixties, also of my recent adulthood.

This came only a few days after the BBC had mistakenly reported his death.

Despite his apparent dismay at a crass decision by the powers that be to replace him, and his stated intention to make further programmes for Radio 2, Mathew was obviously not as hale and hearty as he once was (none of us are.) There had been another lengthy absence from the programme a couple of years ago so the final news was merely a confirmation of what I had feared.

Whatever, Sounds of the Sixties is not – and never can be – the same without him. The new incumbent, Tony Blackburn, is far too chatty (what is all that stuff with Dermot O’Leary, who follows him on air? Just play the music and give us the information about the acts) and always sounds fundamentally unserious about the show’s contents. It’s Blackburn’s style and has always been his style but it grates somehow.

So. Here is the tune that will forever now be associated with Matthew – the one with which Sounds of the Sixties played (and plays) out every episode and which I will never in future be able to hear without a further tinge of sadness.

The Shadows: Foot Tapper

Brian Matthew: 17/9/1928 – 8/4/2017. So it goes.

End of an Era

Regular readers will know I occasionally mention the Radio 2 programme Sounds of the Sixties.

Barring two minor interludes when he was unwell, for all the time I’ve been listening to it – many years now – it has been compered by Brian Matthew, a well-known voice from the Light Programme of my youth. In fact he has introduced the show for 27 years.

Recently he has been absent for a span of time during which Tim Rice filled in. I was pleased when I learned on 18/2/17 that Matthew was set to return – as he did last Saturday, the 25th.

This turned out to be a temporary reprieve as Saturday’s episode was valedictory and Matthew informed us it would be his last ever Sounds of the Sixties.

Fair enough, Matthew is not a young man any more. I wish him well in his (part) retirement. I say part as he did say he would be introducing other Radio 2 shows from time to time in the future. But I’ll miss him.

The good lady and I speculated on who might or could replace him – neither of us thought Tim Rice had quite the timbre of voice for it – whether a star of the 60s or the only other DJ from that time presumably available (Johnnie Walker already ensconced in the Sounds of the Seventies seat) Tony Blackburn.

All was revealed in a trailer I heard on Sunday. It’s to be Blackburn. I suppose it’s the obvious choice. The show will feel very different, though. Blackburn does not have the gravitas that Matthew has.

Another change is that Sounds of the Sixties will now be aired at 6.00 am rather than 8.00 am as previously. That’ll be me listening on catch-up then.

If any of you still hanker after Matthew and his style that last show is available on the iPlayer for another three weeks or so.

Closing Time: Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughn, Jimmy Young

I had intended to publish remembrance posts today in the one day this year between Armistice Day and Remembrance Day but 2016 just keeps piling it on.

Now it’s Leonard Cohen who has left us.

Not to mention actor Robert Vaughn – aka Napoleon Solo in the Man From U.N.C.L.E. but whose best performance was as a conscientious German officer, Major Paul Kreuger, undone by circumstances in the film The Bridge at Remagen – and, earlier in the week, a voice from my youth (though he was too soft-edged to be a anything like a favourite,) Jimmy Young, once a stalwart of BBC Radio 2.

I suppose everybody will be using Hallelujah to sign Leonard Cohen off. Here instead is one of his songs from 1992, Closing Time.

Leonard Norman Cohen: 21/9/1934 – 7/11/2016. So it goes.
Robert Vaughn: 22/11/1932 – 11/11/2016. So it goes.
Leslie Ronald “Jimmy” Young: 21/9/1921 – 7/11/2016. So it goes.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Building

In an item on today’s Reporting Scotland on BBC 1 Scotland I immediately recognised this building:-

Helensburgh Shop Building

I had posted about it here.

It seems this is one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s designs and the building has now been refurbished and it is intended to turn it into an art gallery.

Tonight’s episode featuring the building will be available for a short time only on the iPlayer here.

Scotland’s Favourite Book

In a programme on BBC 1 Scotland last night the results of a poll to discover Scotland’s favourite book were announced.

These were apparently voted on from a long list of thirty books.

As usual the titles marked in bold I have read; italics are on my tbr pile.The ones marked by a strike-through I may get round to sometime.

An Oidhche Mus Do Sheol Sinn (The Night Before We Sailed) by Angus Peter Campbell
Garnethill by Denise Mina
Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman
Imagined Corners by Willa Muir
Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin
Laidlaw by William McIlvanney
Lanark by Alasdair Gray
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Morvern Callar by Alan Warner
Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott
So I Am Glad by A.L. Kennedy
Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins
The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson
The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
The White Bird Passes by Jessie Kesson

The Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Trumpet by Jackie Kay
Under the Skin by Michel Faber

Thanks to my working through of the 100 best Scottish Books and the Herald’s “100” best Scottish Fiction Books I have read nineteen of these, with two on the tbr and others maybe to consider.

I suspect that in the fullness of time some of the more modern of them will fall away from public affection.

My strike rate for the final top ten was 7/10. The list (in descending order) was:-

10. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg
9. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
8. Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin
7. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
6. Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling
5. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
4. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
3. Lanark by Alasdair Gray
2. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
1. Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

I am particularly pleased that James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner made it here and the strong showing of Alasdair Gray was also welcome. Personally I don’t think The Wasp Factory is Iain Banks’s best book but only one from each author was on the long list.

Gibbon’s Sunset Song was the one I predicted to the good lady would come first. Since its publication it has been an enduring favourite with Scottish readers.

‘Tis Fifty Years Since

If you peruse Radio 2’s schedule for today you will find an unusual item at 14.50.

World Cup ’66 Live.

(If you listen to Radio 2 you may also have heard the trailers for this being aired hourly since about the end of April – or does it just seem like that?)

Guys. I know it’s been fifty years and your only major trophy win is not likely to be repeated any time soon. But it’s not as if it hasn’t been mentioned at all in the interim.

Don’t you think it’s maybe time you got over it?

After today might we possibly have a moratorium on the whole business? Please?

What?

Thought not.

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