A Couple of Very British Scandals

I realised after I’d written the previous post that my plan had been to tell you about what I’d been watching during August. But I got diverted by the jobsworth. Well: I’ve been watching a lot of things but the series that stand out are, as it happens, to do with crime in one way or another. Apart from ‘A Suitable Boy.

I’d been looking forward to this adaptation as I’d read the book two or three times and liked it very much. Vikram Seth’s story of two families in post-independence India is said to tell the story of how his parents got together. Mrs Mehra (‘Ma’ to everyone) is a sort of Indian Mrs Bennett whose business is to get her children married. At the start of the story she has just married her elder daughter and now turns her attention to Lata, her youngest. ‘You too will marry a boy I choose,’ she informs her briskly after the wedding, but Lata has other ideas and falls in love with a boy from the university who turns out to be a Muslim. The twists and turns of love unfold against a backdrop of the first post-independence elections involving sectarian violence which embroils the two families. This is a brilliant adaptation which sticks close to the spirit of the novel. I was deeply impressed: in its way, it’s as good as the classic ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Whilst that was ongoing I filled in the gaps by revisiting ‘A Very English Scandal,’ the story of Jeremy Thorpe MP and the allegations that he tried to kill his former lover Norman Scott. In those days the merest hint of homosexuality was enough to end a career but fortunately for Thorpe the establishment closed ranks against Scott: the judge’s summing-up was scandalously biassed and was subsequently lampooned by Peter Cook (the sketch is reproduced as the credits roll.) Hugh Grant was an absolute revelation in this: whilst I enjoyed his Charles in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ very much, he didn’t seem to be capable of much more than posh-boy humour. In ‘Sense and Sensibility’ his Edward Ferrars seemed like Charles with a stick up his backside and neither did I rate him in ‘About a Boy.’ But in this he is astonishing; Jeremy Thorpe to the life.

Another actor who’s astonished me of late is Jason Watkins. I enjoyed his shit-stirring Simon in ‘W1A’ and his spoilt son in ‘Hold the Sunset’ but hadn’t rated him as a serious actor. That all changed when I saw him as Harold Wilson in ‘The Crown.’ Wilson is a difficult character to play as he had a very distinctive voice but Watkins does him to the life; a highly realistic portrayal with no hint of caricature. These same strengths emerge in ‘The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies’, the true story of a retired teacher outed by the press as a suspect in a murder case, whose character is publicly assassinated by the gutter press for no reason other than that he is a loner and highly eccentric. In fact, as his lawyer showed, he was an exemplary citizen who had never received so much as a parking fine. He was let off, but not before his reputation had been destroyed. He successfully sued for damages and later gave evidence to the Levison enquiry on abuses in the press, something he has in common with Hugh Grant.

We got onto the Christopher Jefferies series via ‘The Jury’ on ITV because they are written by the same person. I hadn’t heard of Peter Morgan but he’s written some very successful dramas including ‘Frost/Nixon’ and ‘The Queen’. But in ‘The Jury’ he focuses on underdogs who are accused of crimes with little evidence because there is prejudice against them; in the first series a Sikh boy and in the second a man who’s committed crimes before and totally looks the part. What’s unusual about the series is that the back-stories of the individual jurors feature alongside the trial itself and influence the outcome.

So that was us. The Jury is available on Britbox, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies is on Amazon Prime and A Suitable Boy and A Very English Scandal are both on BBC iplayer. Enjoy.

Kirk out

Jobsworth Award for 2020

You would think that in these Covid days people would try to be compassionate and helpful; that despite the illegal raves which inexplicably still occur, despite the crowded beaches and the selfishness of the maskless, paid staff would be going out of their way to be helpful. Such has been my experience in general: supermarket staff, whilst shielding themselves, have welcomed me to the store and stood armed with sanitising sprays and gels should I wish to avail myself thereof. They have been chatty and ready to direct me to any aisle I wish. Likewise NHS staff; though tired and overworked, they have been generally friendly, helpful and apologetic about not letting visitors onto the wards.

Not so yesterday. I got the call about midday to pick up a friend from the Royal as they were being discharged. So after a hasty lunch I jumped in the car and put the satnav app on my phone as Leicester seems to change its road systems on a weekly basis. Half a mile down the road there were a couple of insistent phone calls from said friend so I pulled over to phone them back. A nurse told me not to go to the main entrance but to Gate 9 which is just before it. Fine. No problem. I put the phone down again and set off. A few yards later there was a thunk and my phone had disappeared. I pulled in again to look for it. Nope, it was invisible. Not on the seat, not on the floor, not in my bag. I got out, pulled back both seats and ferreted about underneath. Nothing. Curiouser and curiouser, I thought. Well, there was nothing for it but to drive on. I put the car in gear and pulled out, enshrouded in a sense of deep mystery. Where the hell was my phone? Where could it have gone? Half a mile later a slightly muffled voice proceeding from the depths of the car told me ‘at the roundabout, take the second exit onto A6.’ How are you doing this? I yelled at it. Where are you? But answer came there none. At the next traffic lights I heard it again and finally located it wedged in the tiniest gap between the seat and the handbrake. How the hell had it managed that?

I arrived in Leicester and in the middle of doing one of the twiddly bits needed to get to the hospital I let someone pull out in front. I immediately regretted this as the person then drove at fifteen miles per hour, slowing down frequently and giving no indication of what the hell they were up to. A theme was emerging to the day and a sense of doom began to settle in my stomach. I found the right road: good. I finally managed to get past the ditherer in front; better. But could I find Gate 9? I could not. So I pulled into the main car park and set off to find it on foot. The good news: I found it. The bad news: I’d have to go round the block again. This I did, and finally pulled into Gate 9. But even though this is where I’d been told to come all the bays were either disabled or ambulance. What to do? Eventually I decided that since the person I was collecting had mobility problems I was probably OK in a disabled space. I got out of the car feeling somewhat frazzled only to be accosted by a man in a mask. ‘Didn’t you see the sign?’ he demanded, pointing to a sign that said ‘staff only.’ I explained that I was here to pick up a disabled patient and that I’d been told to come here. ‘Who told you?’ he demanded. ‘A nurse,’ I replied, feeling somewhat hot under the collar at all this hostility. ‘Nurses! They don’t know anything!’ he retorted, at which I began to walk off, seriously hoping my friend would be ready and waiting so I wouldn’t have to deal with any more of this. Fortunately he was, but the guy didn’t stop. ‘You’ll get a ticket,’ he warned me. ‘What should I do then?’ I demanded. ‘Back up into one of the other spaces?’

‘I’m not going to be responsible for you backing up,’ he said belligerently. By this time I’d had enough; I wanted to get my friend in the car and get out of there. But he wasn’t done. Having spotted my friend with a couple of nurses he strode over to give them a hard time as well, presumably telling them they had no business asking me to park there. If I’d had any presence of mind I’d have got his name and job title; then I’d have put in a complaint. But as it is…(cue fanfare)

the 2020 Jobsworth Award for the least helpful and most bureaucratic member of NHS staff goes to… Man in Car Park at Gate 9, LRI. Whoever you are, Man in Car Park, you made a difficult day harder and upset a volunteer driver and two hardworking nurses. Get a life.

Gosh, that feels better.

Kirk out