What’s On?

What’s on the telly tonight? Good news, you can avoid Covid Crisis and indulge in Covid Comfort. Whether you need relaxation or intellectual stimulation, television can help.

University Challenge is back and I managed to answer quite a few questions, perhaps they are going easy on us in the first round, usually I can’t understand half the questions let alone answer more than three. It is obviously pre-recorded; nobody in a post Covid world is going to sit cosily in teams of four putting their heads together to decide on the answer.

There are many programmes we must enjoy before the pre-recorded stock runs out. Great British Sewing Bee is fabric fantasy, whether you like making clothes or wearing them. The winner, Clare Bradley, turned out to not only be brilliant at sewing, but is also a hospital respiratory consultant and since her win has been helping to save Covid patients. Could there be a post Covid sewing bee? No one allowed to touch the material or each other’s sewing machines, no hugging and congratulating. But perhaps they could do a glamourous slant on making facemasks and scrubs, as long as they only have one contestant at a time…https://metro.co.uk/2020/06/24/great-british-sewing-bee-2020-declares-winner-intense-finale-

All the cookery programmes will have the same problem in future, no one allowed to taste the food, no one will know what the food smells like with their masks on, no presenters hanging over the cook’s shoulders asking how they are getting on. I have never followed cookery shows as it’s too painful to see all that lovely food that we can’t eat. But in lockdown Cyberspouse has been watching them all. There are two main types of shows. Master chefs compete against each other to create beautiful banquets or delicious deserts that are works of art; pudding porn, perfect creations that are then mercilessly stabbed and rent asunder by the judges, who alone enjoy heavenly melting moments. Then there are the celebrities we have never heard of who can’t cook and are sent on an emotional roller coaster, baking perfect pastry or told they have to cook twenty octopuses ( or is it octopi ) for the guests at a posh hotel.

But some programmes are with us in real time. Nature and gardens brought into our living rooms by presenters on their home patch, alone, no irritating chatting with fellow presenters, giving the viewers their undivided attention. Gardener’s World brings calm and peace on Friday evenings. I know every day is the same as a carer in a pandemic, but I like to pretend it’s the end of the week. Monty Don wanders around his own large garden, with trailing dogs, digging and potting. But my favourite parts are viewers’ home videos, enthusiastically showing us an endless variety of inventive gardens of all shapes and sizes, bringing us all sorts of useful tips – and I thought I was obsessive about saving water… some don’t even have a balcony, let alone a garden; apartments filled with plants so you feel you are in a jungle. One young chap even had endlessly circulating water running down the wall into a fishpond.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006mw1h/clips

Drama has not been forgotten. Alan Bennet’s Talking Heads have been given a new production with a few new tales; monologues are perfect for social distancing and his characters move us as they gradually reveal their often surprising stories. There has also been a good selection of new short plays with actors having equipment delivered to their own homes, presumably with a few instructions. Filming themselves and conveniently often married to other actors, thus providing a cast of two.

Radio has always been a lifeline since our mothers’ and grandmothers’ day for housewives, mothers and anyone at home all day and I’m sure it was for many confined during Covid. Cyberspouse has listened to Woman’s Hour every day and BBC Radio 4 has three serialised books before lunch. But there is one drama that has let me down. I have been listening to the Archers ( the world’s longest running soap? )  on and off since I was in the womb and I thought Ambridge was a real place in a real county, Borsetshire. Imagine my confusion when farming life carried on as usual, The Bull still open for drinkers, while the rest of England was in total lockdown, everyone isolated. No one in Ambridge even mentioned there was a world wide  pandemic. Opinion was divided on Archers Facebook fan pages and among listeners emailing ‘Feedback’, some were glad of the escape from Covid while others like me thought it ridiculous. Eventually they ran out of recorded episodes and there was the first ever break in transmission, followed by a relaunch of a different type of soap. Endless monologues by any actors who knew how to work the recording equipment at home. For the first time, all those characters we love, or love to hate were expressing their own feelings, creepy or what. Soap operas by their nature are written in the third person, we have to wait till a character opens their heart to another character for insights and we like it that way.

http://www.thearchers.co.uk/

For fiction in real time drop in to my Friday Flash Fiction – tiny tales of ordinary folk in a pandemic.

Have your viewing and listening habits changed since the pandemic? What have your Covid comforts been?

Sunday Salon – Fact or Fiction?

This week I finished reading two short story collections and one novel. The first I reviewed was Sally Cronin’s ‘Life’s Rich Tapestry’. Once again Amazon rejected my review and as usual I have posted my 5 star review on Goodreads and also decided I should put all my book reviews on my Facebook Author Page.

from Janet Gogerty on 13 February 2020

A delightful collection of all sorts to dip into.

We start with the seasons, words carefully chosen, some poems succinct …I stopped to smell the roses… precious time well spent. Then all things human such as ‘From Cave to the Stars’ the first cave drawings onwards to beaming our messages out beyond the stars. The other verses follow mankind’s evolution. Fairies and other Folk takes us somewhere else, starting with the poignant tale of the ugly troll with the sweet nature. The Natural World peacocks, magpies and a murder of crows. Pets, Random Thoughts then 99 Words in a Flash. Telling a story in just 99 words is a skill. A Close Match is a good opener to this section. In the short story selection Brian the dog wins the day and Jack, another old dog, finds a happy ending. Then cats get their turn and love of a cat helps Millicent stand up for herself. Who can resist Speculative Fiction which starts with a family secret? The Wrong Turn is a poignant story, but we are glad Gerald gets his comeuppance in the next tale. A couple of strange stories and then we finish with a poetic tribute to the author’s mother-in-law. A great collection of all sorts to dip into.

 

Sally’s collection made nice light bedtime reading after some of the television programmes I have been watching.
In Wednesday’s blog I wrote about television, because I know some bloggers do not watch it at all and gathering from the comments, others watch programmes or films with various screens and technology without actually tuning in to live television. But it is good to watch something your friends are also following… do you like fact or fiction on television?
This week we finished watching a real life six part ITV crime drama, White House Farm, about the murder of parents, daughter and two young twin grandsons in August 1985. Lots of us remember it being in the news because it was such a tragedy. At first the daughter with mental health issues was thought to have committed the murders and then killed herself, but the story revolves around the doubts that led to the arrest and trial of the surviving son, Jeremy Bamber. To this day he is still protesting his innocence. The leading detective was sure he could have the case neatly sewn up, convinced it was the daughter, while the sergeant, passed over for promotion more than once we gather, is convinced she could not have done it. Modern viewers brought up on CSI and Silent Witness will have been cringing as evidence was cleared away, blood soaked mattresses burnt. Most of us would agree that a young woman who had little idea of how to use a gun could not have shot everyone and beaten up her father. Added to the tensions in the CID office was the interplay in the family. The twins’ father was separated from his wife and the boys lived with him and his girlfriend, as his ex wife had recently been in a mental hospital. He had just taken her and the boys to the farm to stay with their grandparents, never imagining it was a death sentence. Jeremy Bamber had a girlfriend who after a month turned and gave evidence against him. His cousin was equally suspicious because of the way he behaved afterwards. The Bamber son and daughter were adopted, adding another thread; did he feel he didn’t belong, was he the cuckoo in the nest as his cousin suggested?

https://www.itv.com/presscentre/press-releases/itv-announces-details-new-factual-drama-white-house-farm
Coincidentally Chanel Four had a four part drama running parallel and with a similar theme. Deadwater Fell was set in a village in lovely Scottish countryside. After a happy village event introducing the characters, everyone is awoken that night to see the local doctor’s house on fire. His village policeman friend manages to rescue him and drag the wife out, too late. In the darkness and smoke he had discovered the three little girls ( as cute and adorable as the twin boys in the other drama ) were padlocked into their bedroom. At the post mortem it is discovered the children had already been killed with a drug injection. What on earth was going on? The village is grief stricken and then further shocked when the doctor comes out of his coma and pieces together what happened and claimed his wife killed his children, tried to kill him and committed suicide! Amongst all this going on are the complex lives of the leading characters, revealed in flashbacks. The policeman’s ex wife is with someone else, but their boys are with him and his girlfriend and they are undergoing IVF. She was the best friend of the dead woman and worked at the same school with her, but had accidentally had sex with the doctor once – an event she described as controlling sex as he had slammed her face against the patio door!
The policeman begins to suspect his doctor friend; their marriage was not all sweetness and because of ‘what happened after Harriet was born’ he was regularly tranquilizing her, against her will. And then there was the poor grandmother, the doctor’s mother, I felt sorry for her; not only had she lost her grandchildren, but began to suspect her son, perhaps had suspected all along…
It was a good story and we know from the news that whatever writers make up can never be as strange and awful as real life.

https://inews.co.uk/culture/television/deadwater-fell-finale-channel-4-review-david-tennant-cush-jumbo-1382177

liebster-award

TV or not TV

When I have mentioned or reviewed television programmes on my blog at least two bloggers have commented that they never watch television. I’m sure they are not alone, but probably in the minority. If you are reading this you obviously don’t spend your life glued to the TV screen; you would not have time for blogging and life on line. But most people watch regularly or occasionally. Is television a terrible time waster or a valid part of our culture and family memories?

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Radio Times was first issued on 28 September 1923 for the price of 2d, carrying details of BBC wireless programmes. I have not been reading it for that long, but I do buy it every week so I can read proper listings and details of radio and television programmes for  my discerning selection!

Those of us in other countries may think the USA was first with television, but the BBC is the world’s oldest and largest broadcaster, its first analogue terrestrial channel, the BBC Television Service, launched in 1936. Not many people had a set or were actually watching it then and World War Two put a damper on things, with wireless being far more important for hearing news, momentous speeches and morale boosting music. The coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second in 1953 is credited with being the spur for people to rent or buy a television set. In our family a telly did not arrive until I was four, when Mum was expecting my brother and had to rest because of pre-eclampsia; she would have had to wait till 1.45pm to turn it on for Watch With Mother.

Here is a great time waster; you can look at any past copies of Radio Times and even click to see programme details. See what my parents were watching not long before my brother was born. I am glad to say I have not misremembered Saturday evenings in our Twickenham flat.

https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/39a23af27ebf412690375fe97134556e

So Bill and Ben, Rin Tin Tin , The Lone Ranger and Billy Bunter came into our lives. I thought the people on screen lived in the cabinet underneath the television and was terrified of opening the doors. There were plenty of cowboys, but good English programmes as well, from Emergency Ward Ten, an early hospital drama to Panorama…

With the first episode being broadcast on November 11, 1953, Panorama is the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme and the longest-running public affairs TV programme in the world. 

Cosy evenings in with the telly, but up until the early 1980s all good things had to come to an end; after the last programme had finished a BBC announcer would wish us all a very good night, remind us to turn our television sets off and then leave the national anthem playing. The live screen was sucked into a tiny white dot which itself disappeared.
Now that you can watch any programme anytime on anything we can look back with nostalgia on the snug days of families gathered in their living rooms to watch the one television set. And it was a shared experience in the moment, that you couldn’t experience with books, apart from the golden days of father reading the latest instalment of Charles Dickens. Before the advent of video recorders everyone at school or work had probably seen the same programme the night before and be eager to discuss it. The Forsyte Saga’s 26 episodes were broadcast on Sunday evenings in1967/68 and churches had to hold evening service earlier to keep their congregation. Eighteen million people watched the final episode, a truly shared experience.
That shared experience does still exist. Plenty of households watch the latest drama serial in real time, or at least catch up in the same week before the next episode. I don’t follow dancing or cooking programmes and certainly not celebrities in jungles, but if we have visitors staying or we are at someone else’s place it is good fun to all watch together; I can annoy everyone by interrupting with ‘Who on earth is that?’ or ‘What IS she wearing’.
But even in the good old days there was a downside to television. In one of my many previous incarnations I did silver service waitressing for the money, but an older lady did it to get out of the house and away from the television her husband was glued to. While wives complained about husbands watching sport there would be husbands complaining about wives viewing endless soaps.

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Then homes began to get more than one television set, TVs appeared in young children’s bedrooms, satellite dishes and cables appeared. Theoretically you could watch rubbish on television 24 hours a day, civilisation was under threat…


The advent of home computers brought more change. Husbands retreated to other corners of the house to play with the new toy, leaving their wives in peace to choose what to watch. Later on, wives discovered the internet, social media and blogging and did not even notice if their husbands were glued to the telly. The previous two sentences are of course sweeping generalisations – feel free to correct them…

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Tune in to some more of my thoughts on TV…

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2020/01/18/silly-saturday-slowly/
Do you watch television?
What are your earliest memories of TV?
When did your family first get a TV set?

Sunday Salon – Fact and Fiction

I am enjoying several books on my Kindle, one novel, two short story collections, poetry and a cutting humorous slice of real life, but no new reviews since the January’s  Sunday Salon… in the meantime we have been to the theatre and seen some excellent programmes on television. Here are two stories that have stood the test of time…
Agatha Christie’s murder mystery play The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End in 1952 and has been running continuously ever since then. It is the longest-running West End show, the longest initial run of any play in history; there is a twist ending, which the audience are traditionally asked not to reveal after leaving the theatre.

The play began life as a short radio play called Three Blind Mice, written as a birthday present for Queen Mary, The Queen’s grandmother and broadcast on 30 May 1947. The theatre play is based on a short story based on the radio play, but Christie asked that the story not be published as long as the play ran in the West End of London. The short story has still not been published within the United Kingdom, but it has appeared in the United States in the 1950 collection Three Blind Mice and Other Stories.
When she wrote the play, Christie gave the rights to her grandson Mathew Prichard as a birthday present. In the United Kingdom only one production of the play in addition to the West End production can be performed annually. Under the contract terms of the play no film adaptation can be produced until the West End production has been closed for at least six months. So don’t expect to see any time soon a block buster movie brought into the 21st century and set in Bollywood or Hollywood, or perhaps on a space station. The play was set in ‘the present’ but has been left safely in the 1950’s.

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I first saw The Mousetrap in London in the seventies while over from Australia on the ‘working holiday’ that never ended. As for many visitors to London it was a must see and my mother had always talked about the audiences being sworn to secrecy; how amazing that no one has ever given the game away! I enjoyed it and was proud to have guessed who dunnit.

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This time we were at The Lighthouse in Poole, an early stop on the play’s 2020 UK Tour. I remembered who dunnit from last time, but recalled nothing of the plot so it was a fun evening. There is one set, the interior of Monkswell Manor, recently converted to a guest house run by a young couple. On the radio we hear of a murder and the police looking for a suspect in a dark overcoat; as each character appears on stage they are all wearing dark overcoats. Heavy snow leaves Monkswell cut off from the rest of the world, so of course when a murder occurs we know the murderer is in the house… A plot happily repeated on islands and trains etc. by Christie. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep us guessing and the second half especially moves along at a good pace. I’m not going to tell you what happens and if you know, don’t mention it in the comments.

https://www.mousetrapontour.com/uk-tour/
We move along a few years into in the early 1960s for an excellent six part BBC Sunday evening drama ‘The Trial of Christine Keeler’. This is a story that never seems to lose its fascination, there have been documentaries, books and a film; the scandal has been examined with 21st century eyes. When I was a child it seemed to be on the news all the time, though I had no idea what The Profumo Affair might be. John Profumo was the Minister for War in the turbulent times of the Cuban Missile Crisis; not only did he have an affair with the naïve ( perhaps not sexually naïve, but in every other way ) Christine Keeler, who also slept with a Russian spy; to make matters worse, he lied to The House of Commons, his chums and presumably to his wife, who happened to be famous actress Valery Hobson. Stephen Ward the society osteopath was another leading character, a ‘libertine’ who mixed with the aristocracy and politicians, groomed Mandy Rice-Davies and Christine Keeler and was responsible for Keeler meeting these men in the first place. The press had a field day.
It is a tribute to the actors that our sympathies were with the two girls and Stephen Ward. They enjoyed living at his flat, looked after them is hardly the right term, Keeler was only seventeen when Ward met her, but to them he was a friend and they were having fun. When Profumo suggested he put Keeler in her own flat she replied ‘But what about Mand?’ She didn’t want to live by herself, she wanted to stay with her friend at Ward’s.
The six part drama was able to explore a lot more about Christine’s early life and the ex boyfriend dramas also going on at the time. Most viewers probably knew Ward ended up committing suicide, perhaps making all the more poignant the lead up to the sham trial of Ward. He was expecting his many important friends and clients to step forward as witnesses for his defence, but in the end they all deserted him. James Norton was brilliant as Stephen Ward. So too were Sophie Cookson and Ellie Bamber as Christine and Mandy, two girls who were real people, not just two dumb models to be exploited by everyone. From Stephen Ward’s elegant mews flat to the sixties clothes, makeup and hair do’s this was a polished production.

https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2020-01-26/trial-of-christine-keeler-cast/
Have you seen the Mousetrap?
Do you prefer fiction or real life drama?

Silly Saturday Slowly

First there was slow food, then there was slow television, the antidote to 24 hour news, sport and noisy, violent dramas. With slow TV you can spend two hours drifting down a canal or take a real time steam train journey.

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At this time of year in the northern hemisphere you may be settling down on winter evenings to watch your favourite dramas and probably your favourite crime dramas. January 2020 saw the start of new series of two popular and enduring detectives.
As Vera drove her Land Rover through the wilds of Northumberland a thought occurred. What if she just kept driving and didn’t bother to arrive at the police station, didn’t get any urgent calls on her mobile about a murder? Two hours of lowering Northumberland skies and rugged green landscape, advertisements providing the only drama. How relaxing.

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Vera Stanhope is the creation of a crime writer I enjoy, Anne Cleaves and is played by one of our national treasures, Brenda Blethyn. Antidote to glamorous cops, a middle aged woman in sensible, scruffy clothes and the muddy Land Rover. Some of her team have changed but she’s still going strong in this tenth series.

http://www.anncleeves.com/vera/

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A complete contrast is Granchester, set in a delightful village near Cambridge in the nineteen fifties. The stories were originally written by James Runcie, son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury. His crime solving vicar Sidney Chambers has been replaced by an impossibly handsome young vicar who rides a motorbike and fortunately also has a talent for talking to people ( getting confessions out of them ) and solving crimes, helped by the police inspector Geordie Keating. Life in the lovely village is slow, but a surprising number of murders occur. Life in the village would be pleasantly slower if there were no murders or crime of any sort and the police inspector became a lay reader and helped the vicar with his church services instead.

https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2020-01-17/grantchester-series-five-cast-characters/

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Slow Crime, No Crime could be applied to dramas set in any part of the world. There is always ‘the drive’ – through Scandinavian snow or the red dust of The Kimberleys at the top of Western Australia. Frantic chase scenes in cities could easily be slowed to a halt with road works or green protestors.
But how soon before the novelty wore off for viewers? The truth is, most of us don’t want people being killed just for our Sunday evening entertainment. We want to see scenery and in winter we like to watch anything filmed in summer, but we also want to peep into other people’s lives. The advantage of murders is that they give the perfect excuse for screen writers, the police and us to dissect every detail of the life of the victim and the lives of every person known to the victim.

sunshine-blogger
Do you like fast crime, slow crime or no crime?

Silly Saturday – Difficult Daemons

I have not read Phillip Pullman’s trilogy ‘His Dark Materials’ but we have been watching  the BBC series of His Dark Materials. Animal lovers will be entranced by the variety of pets that follow the characters around – but wait! These are not pets, they are daemons! Every human in Pullman’s world is born with a dæmon – a physical manifestation of that person’s inner self that takes the form of an animal.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07s8824

Once we have grasped this important fact questions come to mind.

What would my daemon be?

How do people avoid tripping over their daemons?

What would a rugby match be like if the players all came on with their daemons? When characters argue or fight in the story, so do the daemons. Commentators would be very busy in sport if there was a parallel scrum of assorted animals or an eagle daemon grabbed the tennis ball and prevented the opponent’s winning point. As for the Tour de France, can you imagine the chaos as they speed down those winding roads with rabbits, rats and cheetahs getting tangled in the spokes?

Would we take politicians even less seriously if their daemons were monkeys telling them what to say?

Children’s daemons take different forms until they ‘settle’ during adolescence. Lyra the heroine’s daemon seems to be swift and agile, usually a white ferret and small enough to cuddle in bed like a teddy. One chap has a cougar/leopard, another an eagled perched on his shoulder, but most of the adults have small animals. A horse would be handy for transport, but nobody has a giraffe, elephant or rhino – that would be a challenge.

Phillip Pullman did not invent the name; the Ancient Greek daemon referred to a lesser deity or guiding spirit. Nor is he the only one to reinvent the word; a daemon is a computer programme that runs as a background process, rather than being under the direct control of an interactive user. Have you got daemons lurking in your computer?

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I may already have a daemon, our resident robin does follow me round when I’m gardening, like a bluebird in a Disney cartoon.

What would you choose as your daemon?

sunshine-blogger

 

Silly Saturday in Subtitles

As the clocks go back, as night falls early, do you like to curl up with the television? What are your favourites, reality, soap operas or medical dramas?  At Chez Tidalscribe it is subtitle heaven lately; if a programme has subtitles I try and watch it.

Saturday night, BBC4 is now showing the seventh series of Engrenages ( Spiral ), we couldn’t wait to get back to Paris with this gritty police series which has an excellent cast and interweaving story lines.

One Sunday Night and Day in Catalan started over on More4, but it turns out we have to catch the rest of the series On Demand. Not to worry, Sunday evenings on BBC1 brings a moving drama World on Fire, World War Two seen through English, Polish and German eyes.

Monday and Tuesday we are following  Dublin Murders, dark and very intriguing. Okay, so it’s in English, not  Irish (Gaeilge ) and I believe filmed in Northern Ireland, but it is set in A Nother country…

But come Thursday it’s Giri/Haji set in London and Tokyo, another crime thriller, but done with real style and humour. It is written by an English chap, but has plenty of Japanese scenes and story lines. Darting back and forth across the world and back into the past, you have to concentrate.

What is such fun about sub titles? Seeing different places, nosing into homes and lives that are different. If you only speak one language fluently people speaking other languages sound so clever. I don’t particularly want to see crime dramas, it’s just that they predominate, although Inspector Montalbano on Sicily is a lot sunnier that Scandi Noir. We have watched Icelandic comedy and the brilliant Borgen about a Danish Prime Minister.

One of the most important reasons for voting Remain and wanting to stay in the European Union was surely to make sure we don’t lose our sub titled programmes.

Guess what started last night? The Team over on More4, billed as a punchy multilingual cop show in…. English, German, Flemish, French, Danish and subtitles, what a dream! It started in Danish wetlands and we were just getting involved in the lives of an assortment of people in a remote house, when suddenly they were all murdered. Of course this necessitated the bringing together of the special officers from Germany, Denmark and Belgium who we had been briefly introduced to. And when they all arrived remarkably quickly at the scene of the crime, how did they communicate with each other – in English!

Sub titles – do you love them or hate them? Can you tune in to programmes broadcast from other countries?

Robes and Royalty

The State Opening of Parliament was on Monday, a colourful and dignified distraction from politics and Brexit. If you like history, colourful costumes and beautiful horses watching it on television is a good way to spend a rainy morning. These royal events always present curious questions, often little to do with the ceremony.

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Television presenters must do a lot of homework to enable them to tell ( confuse ) us who all the participants are and their duties. All you need to know is that there are a lot of horses and members of the armed forces and the Palace of Westminster is packed with ‘Important People’ in uniforms, with red being a popular colour. They have to take part in the  processions; in turn they have lots of smartly dressed people looking after them, who in turn have lots of security and organisers making sure it goes smoothly… and it did.

It all starts very early in the morning; breakfast television news goes over to the Royal Mews where the horses have been groomed to perfection. I wonder if they are like children, you get them ready to go out in their best clothes, but it’s raining and they are soon muddy.

 

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In the studio a presenter has gathered some people we don’t know; people who are no longer MPs or who didn’t get a ticket to the show? They talk about politics, history and what will happen during the morning’s events. There have been a few tweaks to the ceremony in concession to Her Majesty’s age. Prince Charles is her escort as The Duke of Edinburgh has retired from royal duties. She will not wear the heavy crown, thus creating another job opportunity for a costumed person to carry it in on a cushion.

 

The Royal fairytale coach to be used is not old, but made this century in Australia and apparently warmer and more comfortable than the old coaches. The Queen’s two ladies-in-waiting arrive in the next carriage and climb out with a little difficulty, they are not young either. Off they go to the robing room to help The Queen get ready while we hear more important names reeled off. The Marquess of Chumley sounds like someone out of a children’s puppet show, but his name is not spelt how it sounds – David George Philip Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, The Lord Great Chamberlain has charge over the Palace of Westminster.

Enough of hereditary positions; how do you get to be Black Rod? What do you want to be when you grow up? Black Rod… The current Black Rod is the first ever woman to hold the position. Black Rod is sent from the Lords Chamber to the Commons Chamber to summon MPs to hear the Queen’s Speech. Traditionally the door of the Commons is slammed in Black Rod’s face to symbolise the Commons independence. She then bangs three times on the door with the rod. The door to the Commons Chamber is opened and all MPs – talking loudly – follow Black Rod back to the Lords to hear the Queen’s Speech. This is the fun part because there is not room for them all in the House of Lords so there is jostling to the front. Boris and Jeremy, leader of the opposition, lead the way, not talking to each other. Like school the rest of the MPs shuffle along in pairs with their friends… I guess there will always be some who have no friends to walk with…

https://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/principal/black-rod/

How do you get your sons to be Pages of Honour and carry the Queen’s train? Teenage sons of nobility who look fresh faced and do not have any piercings…

Prince Charles escorted his mother to the throne and sat down on the other throne, yet another person delivered the speech in a little bag. Alas the Queen did not write this speech which tells what Her Government will do in the coming session of Parliament. Each time I hope she will toss it onto the red carpet and from her robes produce one she wrote earlier…

https://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2019/october/state-opening-of-parliament-2019/

Impossibly Positive

One of my favourite parts of summer is the world’s greatest music festival, the BBC Proms.

It didn’t always belong to the BBC and it wasn’t always held in the Royal Albert Hall. The first Proms concert took place on 10 August 1895 in the newly built Queen’s Hall in London. The aim was to reach a wider audience by offering more popular programmes, adopting a less formal promenade arrangement and keeping ticket prices low.

The first radio broadcast of a promenade concert by the BBC was in 1927 and every prom is now broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and repeated, so there is plenty of chance to listen at home.

The Queen’s Hall was destroyed by bombs in 1941, during WW2.

The Royal Albert Hall was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871 and is inextricably linked with The Proms. Even if you have never been to South Kensington you may recognise the famous round building and the warm red interior. Some of the prom concerts are broadcast on television and always of course the Last Night. When a camera pans down the height of the hall you feel dizzy and the top seats and gallery are very high. We once had cheap seats near the top for a concert with a famous pianist; we looked down as a tiny puppet tip toed over to a toy piano. The year we booked lots of concerts, so we could qualify for last night seats, we planned with care; big symphonies sit anywhere, but if you want to see your favourite soloist get the best seats you can afford nearer the stage. Live concerts are always different from listening to recorded music and The Proms have extra atmosphere; everyone is there to enjoy themselves and because they love music. At the end you emerge into a summer night and surge with the happy throng walking down Exhibition Road to South Kensington tube station.

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But there is a lot to be said for watching on television. As happens every year, with life getting in the way, I have recorded more proms than I have watched since they started on July 19th, but I have enjoyed several very different concerts so far. What struck me this year was how wonderful it is to have two hours of positive thoughts and enthusiasm with no mention of Brexit, world leaders or general doom. Music is a universal language that brings us together.

The advantage of television is having presenters to tell you about the music and chat to musicians during the interval. Our presenters are impossibly positive; after all they are listening to the best musicians from around the world and being paid to share their love of music. One of them is so enthusiastic he talks at twice the normal speed, if he was a piece of music he would be ‘Flight of the Bumblebee.’ Often presenters get so excited they nearly topple off their high balcony.

If we are not musicians we may not always understand what presenters and musical guests are talking about, perhaps they don’t either, but that’s all part of the fun. They may spend longer talking about a new piece of music having its world premiere than the piece actually lasts. If you hear the words this wonderful sound picture it probably means there is no tune, but hearing pieces of music you don’t know is all part of the experience.

When the music actually starts, there is more entertainment. The camera pans over members of the orchestra, to the happy prommers standing in the arena, then round to the huge choir. We can wonder why the biggest bloke in the choir has been put next to the skinniest, we can make comments on the dresses of the soloists and we can marvel at the blur of bows in the string sections. It’s all very different from 125 years ago.

Read more about The Proms

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1sgMxZvFzHQG3Y1HktMfg6w/history-of-the-proms

Have you been to The Proms? Are you a musician or a listener?

My novel Brief Encounters of the Third Kind follows the story of a golden couple of music. The Royal Albert Hall has a walk on part.

As the first in a trilogy you can download for just 99 pence.

sunshine-blogger

 

 

Silly Saturday – How to Cheat at Wimbledon

No, not how to cheat playing tennis at Wimbledon…

Nor how to cheat your way to the front of the queue the night before the gates open at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, or how to get a cheap ticket for Centre Court on Finals Day…

I have been to Wimbledon the railway station ( many times ), the town hall ( amateur dramatics ), but not the tennis. How do you cheat at Wimbledon without going there?

My best Wimbledon was played when I was at junior school. Our friends round the corner had six children in their family. The eldest girl no longer a child, but a sophisticated ( to my eyes ) teenager at the local secondary modern. One year she was going with the school to Wimbledon and had made her own tennis racquet brooch, properly strung with cotton sewing thread; a perfect miniature that fitted in the palm of her hand. The excitement filtered down through sister two and sister three, my best friend and with wooden racquets we played tennis in the middle of our little road. The sophisticated game consisted of seeing how many times we could hit the ball back and forth without dropping it; no referees, no losers.

Learning tennis at high school was quite fun and a friend and I cycled to a Saturday morning tennis club, where the height of our achievement was a certificate for doing 20 forehands and 20 backhands in a row.

green tennis ball on court
Photo by Bogdan Glisik on Pexels.com

For most adults, tennis means watching Wimbledon on television. This is where some of us have to cheat. I dread the frequent question at this special fortnight of the summer. Not how is your novel going or have you been busy in the garden but

‘Have you been watching the tennis?’

I cringe in shame, I could simply say NO, but find myself apologising… not yet or just caught the end of er um oh how about that fifteen year old who beat Serena or was it Venus.

It is very difficult to cheat at watching tennis on television, you cannot pretend you watched Venus Williams being beaten by Coco Gauff; even if you get the names right you need to recount how play went. You cannot claim to have watched avidly every day without knowing every name, who played who and for how long. Some people book their annual leave so they can watch it all properly, so why don’t I get around to viewing?

Perhaps the protestant work ethic, watching television during the day? Or the sunshine; I may live one hundred miles from Wimbledon, but if it’s sunny there it will probably be sunny at home and how could I stay indoors on a nice day. I have tried to watch, I like the notion of tennis and have a fair idea of what they are supposed to be doing; hitting the ball before it hits the court or not hitting the ball before it lands outside the court. It is exciting when players make horizontal leaps and lob the ball two inches over the net, five yards from their opponent. But you have to concentrate; don’t tackle a complicated knitting pattern, sneak a look at your smart phone, doze off, or pop to the kitchen to make a sandwich, for you will miss the shock defeat or the fastest volley in history.

If you have not been glued to teletennis you can cheat by catching up with the sport highlights on television in the evening. Write down the relevant names and scores and memorise them so at work the next day when someone asks if  you saw the tennis you can reply

‘Did you see Selina Kalashnikov in that last set?’

sunshine-blogger

 

Have you been watching Wimbledon?

Have you been there for real?