I have an elderly relative who says this, but I put it down to them growing up in an age before mobiles. Then I heard it on TV; in the drama series The Girl Before to be specific, and again today on the radio. It’s taking hold. What is it? The phenomenon of texed.
You can see how it happens: as the word text morphs from a noun into a verb it begins to sound like a past tense in itself: you have to stop and think in order to realise that the past tense is actually texted. But it sounds clumsy so instead people say he text me or he texed me, which isn’t actually a word. How would you write it?
The Girl Before is an excellent drama a little reminiscent of The Draughtsman’s Contract. A paranoid and deeply controlling architect designs an extraordinary house. In the process his wife and child die. Is it an accident? Did he kill them? And is he responsible for what happened to the girl before? His latest tenant tries to find out and nearly loses her life in the process. Fascinating stuff.
Alas, the same cannot be said of A Very British Scandal, the story of how the Duchess of Argyll was hung out to dry for doing the exact things her husband was guilty of. But in order to care I’d have to be interested in the characters and after half an hour in the company of the most boring and self-absorbed people I’d ever come across, I switched it off and watched the Christmas University Challenge instead.
So I got my DNA results today. No, I haven’t been involved in some sort of crime, I’ve had my genome sequenced for Xmas. Anyone can do this: there are various sites where you can sign up and for a fee you get a jar to spit in which you then send off, a bit like a covid test but without the anxiety, and then you get all sorts of information back about your genetic make-up.
Mine wasn’t terribly surprising. I know that I come from three generations of Londoners, but I also have one Scottish great grandparent and some Scandinavian input. You can find out loads more including your predisposition to diseases, but I haven’t done that yet. Anyway I’m 63% British or Irish, 28% French or Belgian and bits of Scandinavian. I’m also more Neanderthal than 53% of the population. Not sure what to make of that really, though OH reckons the Neanderthals have a bad press.
So now you know. I hope you all had a good Xmas and are enjoying the holiday.
There’s a bell tower in Loughborough, just yards from our window in fact, called the Carillon https://www.carillontower.org.uk/ Most people call it The Carri-llon whereas, being a French word it should be pronounced Carry-on, but however you say it the bell tower is a focal point of the town. A couple of years ago I went up the tower and saw that the bells were rung not by means of ropes but via a keyboard, except not with piano keys but layers of wooden levers hit with the hand, a bit like Monty Python’s Mouse Organ but without the cruelty. Very strange. Anyway at lunchtime today a crowd gathered to sing carols accompanied by the Carillon. All the usual favourites were there; Hark the Herald, Away in a Manger (predictive text just suggested Away in a Mango), Ding Dong Merrily on High , Good King Wenceslas and many many more. It was cold but good fun, even if trying to keep in time with the Carillon made it a bit like that game in I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue where they try to sing in time to a record.
So that’s me over and out for a few days. Have a very happy Christmas and see you on the other side.
A few weeks ago I blogged about University Challenge and Beetleypete commented that it seemed to be easier now than in the days of Bamber Gascoigne. Ever since then I’ve been meaning to watch an old episode and compare, and today I managed it.
There are lots of episodes available on YouTube but the one I chose was from 1984, UWIST v Queen Elizabeth London. This is obviously far from being an exhaustive study but it does give you a reasonable idea of the differences. What struck me first of all was the friendliness of the presenter: Gascoigne is approachable and smiles a lot, unlike the irascibly avuncular Paxton who rarely smiles, is often critical and sometimes verges on rudeness. Paxman is much stricter than Gascoigne, although he allows more time for the bonus questions, just saying irascibly, ‘Oh, come on!’ when they take too long. Gascoigne also indulges in friendly banter, a skill which seems alien to the soul of Paxman, so that the 1984 experience comes across as altogether more relaxed than now.
But what about the questions themselves: are they any easier now than they were then? On this sampling, I’d have to say no, definitely not. On a good day with Paxo I get around 12-15 questions right: with Gascoigne I managed 18. That’s not unheard of nowadays but if anything I found the 1984 version easier. Interestingly there were 2 questions which also came up in Monday’s Christmas episode (FYI I’m not comparing the Gascoigne version with the Christmas episodes as the latter tend to be easier.)
If anything I think the modern University Challenge is sharper, more focused and yes, harder.
I’ve had my booster jab now. Not that I’m going to boast about it: I leave all that to the just-about Prime Minister. (Great joke on Dead Ringers: We now go to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson – unless you’re listening to the repeat). No, if I boast, let it be in the NHS that made all this possible. Mind you, it was a bit of a palaver: I turned up at the main entrance and asked for the Grace Dieu ward (named after a local abbey). I was wearing a mask of course so the receptionist didn’t hear properly. ‘The Breast Care centre? Yes of course…’ and she was half way through the directions before I stopped her and repeated my request. ‘For a booster jab, ‘ I clarified. ‘Oh, the Grays Dew ward? Yes, it’s round the back.’ Hopefully under my mask she couldn’t see me grimacing at the pronunciation. I went round and round until it seemed impossible that there could be any more back left, and still I wasn’t there. I stopped in a car park and some freshly vaccinated folk took pity on me. ‘It’s round the back!’ they said.
I got there in the end. A very nice soldier took my details: I’d heard the army were helping out but it was the first time I’d seen any. Finally I got the jab and having come nearly 9/10 of the way round the hospital, found a rather muddy short cut back to my car.
I’m a little tired this afternoon but no other ill effects. It’s a real boost…
You know the song: sung with unbearable slowness, it goes, ‘if a picture paints a thousand words then why can’t I paint you?’ Fair question: it then goes on to wonder, ‘if a face could launch a thousand ships,’ to which the obvious follow-up is ‘why can’t I launch you?’ It brings a bit of light relief to a very sloooow song. I don’t know why I mention this except that it was on my mind and I often start blog posts with something that’s on my mind and hope it will lead somewhere.
We’ve been having a bit of a Doc Martin fest lately, but all good things come to an end and after 9 series we were left missing our Port Wenn fix. But fear not! cried OH, for there are films available. Indeed there are, three of them in all, fairly short, made-for-tv films. So watch them we jolly well did. Two of them anyway. They’re very different from the series, with a much jollier doc being pleasant and polite to the patients he inherits from an incompetent sitting GP, having fled London to escape the pain of his wife’s multiple infidelities. All the Dibley-on-sea rural charm is there but none of the other characters are, and Port Wenn is cloudy unlike the eternal sunshine of the TV series. It’s like going home again and finding everything the same but different.
And on radio we have the delight of a new Douglas Adams that isn’t actually Douglas Adams, Starship Titanic. I’ll get to that later.
In the meantime I have to go and get my booster jab.
I am pleased to announce that the car passed its MOT. This is a feat which grows more improbable with each passing year as the Focus is now 17 years old and counting. Mind you, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. I went down to the garage early as the arrangement is to turn up and wait. Alas, since Covid you have to book an appointment. What a turn-up! Anyway the guy said to leave it with him and he’d try to fit it in. I waited all day with no word and when I tried to call there was no answer. Poor little Bertie had to spend the night alone in the garage. Fortunately in the morning all was well and I picked him up safe and sound. That’s 3 years in a row he’s passed the test.
I didn’t think we’d be able to see this highly acclaimed series as it’s on Sky something or other, but turns out it’s available on our Now TV stick. And it was certainly worth it.
Landscapers is an odd title for a true crime series, though how accurate the series is, is debatable (the intro tells us it’s a true story before deleting the word true). The title refers to the fact that Susan and Clive Edwards ‘landscaped’ Susan’s parents’ garden by burying their bodies in it, a crime which remained undetected for 16 years; it also denotes the landscape of their fantasy world, immersed in cowboy films.
The delightfully ubiquitous Olivia Coleman stars with David Thewlis (Harry Potter, An Inspector Calls) as a couple seemingly adrift in modern society. But this is a story not a documentary, and the question of whether they, or she were guilty of murder or whether, as Susan claimed, her mother shot her father whom she then shot in self-defence, is not answered. What isn’t in doubt is that they then buried the bodies in the garden and ran off to France.
As crime dramas go, this is a very unusual production, with flights of fantasy interspersed with realistic drama. At times it’s almost play-like and you can easily imagine the set pieces transferred to a stage. Susan and Clive are shown as people born out their time and clueless at navigating the modern world. She was supposedly abused by her father with the full knowledge of her mother, abuse which according to this narrative continued in other forms after she left home and which may have triggered the double murder.
Whatever their guilt or otherwise, Clive and Susan seem to have been a very strange couple. In spite of having an adequate income they racked up massive debts through buying signed celebrity photos, and seemed to have a fantasy relationship with Gérard Depardieu. In the final episode I could have done with a bit more of the courtroom and a bit less of the cowboy fantasy but overall this was a compelling and very unusual drama.
It is becoming obvious to me as I watch quizzes like Mastermind and University Challenge which nowadays include questions on popular culture, as well as competitions on radio 2, that my knowledge of pop music after about 1990 is practically non-existent. This is partly because from 1990-93 I was largely abroad and listened more to flamenco and my tapes of Simply Red (Holding Back the Years got me through a snowy February in Madrid with a metro strike) after which I was too busy getting married and raising children to pay much attention.
I’m practically perfect on music of the 70s, reasonably good on the 80s and not too bad on the 60s but anything after 1989 is a bit of a blur (ho ho). Added to which, it doesn’t interest me. This is natural I suppose as it’s not my generation, but I can’t help thinking that most music nowadays is just pap. There are some good singers like Taylor Swift and Ava Maxx, but the music just doesn’t move me. And don’t get me started on the inexplicable popularity of Ed Sheeran.
So there you are, my boring old fart status confirmed forever.
No, I’m not ill: I’ve been remarkably energetic lately, what with decorating the bedroom (now a lovely shade of aqua) and moving things around, but come the evening I’m fit for nothing but a sprawl on the new sofa and a binge-watch of good drama. We can’t seem to find much worth watching on terrestrial TV, hence Britbox where we found no fewer than all 9 series of Doc Martin.
I say drama but it’s also quite like sitcom with stock characters Large and Son doing their own Only Fools and Horses sub-plot, but most of it is drama with comic moments (I’m resisting the word dramedy but I guess that’s how you’d describe it.)
For the benefit of the two and a half people who have been asleep for the last decade, Doc Martin centres on a character with autism and his struggles to connect with the rest of society – or to be more accurate, the rest of society’s struggles to connect with him, in particular his eventual wife, normal-human-being Louisa Glasson. Martin Ellingham (we’ve just sussed that the name is an anagram of writer Minghella) is cold, unemotional and spectacularly rude, but is redeemed by being an excellent doctor who genuinely cares about the health of the community he serves.
Comic staples aside, there is a real authenticity to the characters, not only the doc and Louisa but his aunts Joan (Stephanie Cole) and Ruth (Eileen Atkins), the former a farmer and the only person who cared about Martin as a child, the latter a dry, sardonic but decent woman, herself a retired psychologist. And of course there’s an endless parade of patients with interesting problems: part of the pleasure of watching is in trying to figure out what’s wrong with them before the doc does.
But perhaps the greatest joy of watching this is in the setting. Port Wenn (real-life Port Isaac) is stunningly beautiful in the way only a Cornish village can be, with fantastic coves, bays, headlands, twisty roads and cottages all providing a variety of locations and, since it’s always sunny when they film, a great antidote to these cold grey winter days.