Greed with Steve Coogan (warning contains spoilers)

I came across this the way you do, trawling through Netflix and alighting on a slice of Steve Coogan. I was never a fan of Alan Partridge – I think comedy should be a release, not make people more uptight – but recent incarnations of his in films such as Philomena have revised my opinion. So we gave this a go.

From the trailer I thought it was pretty clear that ‘Greedy’ McReadie was a portrait of Philip Green, though as the action progressed we decided it was more a composite of Green and Mike Ashley: anyway the action shifted from present to past to distant past in a way that seems de rigueur nowadays, showing us bits of his childhood as well as some deals he’d made and centring on the staging (the word is apt) of his 60th birthday party on a Greek island.

For the centrepiece builders are constructing a wooden amphitheatre where a real lion (actually a very convincing piece of CGI) waits caged up to fight a ‘gladiator.’ The parallel is apt; McReadie is never happier than when shouting at people, unless it’s when he makes a deal that will net him millions while crushing the poor garment workers who have to fulfil the order. He’d have made a good Roman emperor.

There are some frankly revolting scenes as a film crew making a ‘reality show’ on the same island are obstructed by a group of refugees camping on the beach. They can’t clear them away so they decide to film themselves giving the refugees some food. The poor sods are just about to tuck in when the director shouts ‘Cut!’ and they have to wrestle the food away from the refugees so they can film it all again. It reminded me of this Steely Dan song.

The climactic scene comes when Amanda, a member of staff who has tried to help the refugees, spies McReadie taunting the lion and presses the button to open the cage door. The result is predictable: McReadie shows his hubris by believing he can talk the lion out of eating him. He can’t. He dies, horribly. Afterwards Amanda says, ‘I didn’t feel it was me pressing the button. I just happened to press it and the cage door opened. Then the lion came out and killed him. That’s how McReadie is; he makes a deal, the company cuts its costs and the workers suffer. But he thinks it’s nothing to do with him.’

I’d have enjoyed this film more if it hadn’t spent so long skipping about time-wise. It also needed to make up its mind what type of film it wanted to be: sometimes it was a drama, sometimes a documentary and sometimes a comedy. Of course a film can have elements of all three, but it needs to decide which one predominates, otherwise it’ll feel like a muddle.

But I still recommend it.

Kirk out

Finally, For Cryering Out Loud

I was beginning to think nobody was going to pay attention. Barry Cryer died several weeks ago and I expected a flurry of tributes; special editions of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue or reminiscences by old colleagues, but found only radio silence. Finally today I came across a radio 4 tribute, Cryering with Laughter, presented by Jack Dee and featuring numerous people who’d worked with him. It’s an entertaining listen featuring many of his favourite jokes, but there was one story I liked the best. Cryer was one of a kind; old-school in the same way as, say, The Goodies (yet not quite so corny) but devoid of sexism or racism and always interested in up-and-coming comedians. One of his friends was Kenny Everett and he tells this story about Ken’s TV show, in which he was involved:

‘Kenny used to have a character called Cupid Stunt. After the first series Bill Cotton (a bigwig in the BBC) collared me and said look, we can’t have this kind of Spoonerism on the BBC. He’ll have to change it. I said OK, and in the second series Kenny changed the character’s name to Mary Hinge. Bill Cotton came over. See? he said. You don’t have to be rude to be funny.’

Like Jack Dee and many others, Cryer was great at self-deprecation. When asked which series of a radio show he’d liked best he said, ‘the third – because I was just beginning to get the hang of it.’

For Cryering With Laughter is a great listen, featuring colleagues such as Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry, Andy Hamilton and Jo Brand. Go forth and seek it out, I command you.

Kirk out

Full of Minty Goodness

A while ago there was a joke doing the rounds on social media with ghost-like figures rampaging around with raised arms. The caption read: ‘There are no ghosts, only people who got lost in their duvet covers.’ I know how they feel as I’ve spent the last week getting lost in mine. But no longer! For the duvet is finished. I would love to upload a photo but I can’t figure out how to do that from my phone as I’m on the desktop so maybe later… in the meantime imagine a smooth silky expanse of crisp minty green spread over a wide area and facilitating deep and peaceful sleep and you’ll get the picture. It actually did seem to help us sleep for some reason – maybe the smoothness, maybe the freshness, I don’t know. Anyway despite all the hassles – and there were many hassles, what with finding thread that wasn’t fit for purpose, running out of bobbin thread two inches from the end of a seam and filling the bobbin only to run out of top thread necessitating a trip to the shops, not to mention the difficulties of wrestling with massive pieces of fabric – despite all these hassles it really was worth it, not only to have a cover I actually like but also the satisfaction of having made it myself. And here it is:

What next awaits me in the soft furnishings department, I wonder? Reupholstering an armchair? Who knows? Watch this space I guess.

Kirk out

Fifty Shades of Green

Very exciting today; my fabric came. Large swathes of crisp polycotton in a fetching mint green sat folded up in a grey package just waiting for me to unfold them. I spent several minutes just appreciating the minty freshness before I began measuring. The advice when cutting fabric is ‘measure twice, cut once’ but I must have measured half a dozen times before getting out the scissors, so paranoid was I about getting it wrong. It’s not a straightforward operation: the duvet is wider than the fabric and so I had to cut one strip folded lengthways and another folded across. But I’ve measured them on the actual duvet and it all looks good. There’s even enough left over to make two pillow cases. Joy.

But of course before I could even get to this stage I needed some thread. No joy at my local craft shop: they had all shades of green but not mint, so Sarah directed me to a market stall where a woman called Janet has been known to sell thread. She had some but again, every shade but mint. So Janet directed me to Loros (charity shop) where oh joy, they had two in exactly the right shade of minty goodness. But, oh no! When I got them home I found that one reel was almost finished and the other completely tangled. So what I shall do now, I don’t know.

Have a good weekend.

Kirk out

Making it at Home for Nothing

A saga of bed linen in an unspecified number of sizzling parts…

Well, I did my research, as flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers are wont to say, and I came up with just one fabric supplier who does polycotton anywhere near wide enough for a king size duvet cover. And I ordered some in a fetching mint colour. Even so it’s still not wide enough to do it in one go: it’ll have to have a seam set rakishly to one side. But it’ll be good to do some sewing again. It is very satisfying to make something exactly the way you want it, as opposed to choosing from what’s in the shops, and if I’m lucky there may even be enough left over to make a matching pillow case. Sweet.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Kirk out

Gadgets or Widgets

I’ve been trying to find a king-size duvet cover that isn’t horribly floral and accompanied by unnecessary pillow cases, but so far no joy. Then I thought: why not make one? The joy of being able to sew is that whenever you can’t find what you want you can make it at home for nothing! Though perhaps not with a small aubergine… Actually it’s often more expensive when you make it at home, which brings into focus the problems with the entire clothing industry being highly exploitative – but there’s no doubt it’s infinitely more satisfying. The trouble is that most fabrics are 45 or 60 in wide and I need 225 cm which is nearly 89 inches. (Have a lot of sites gone back to inches since Brexit? There seem to be a lot more imperial measures around than there were.) So that means the cover will have to have a seam down the middle, which isn’t ideal. I’ve found one place that does fabric 165 cm wide but the website is very hard to navigate and won’t let you delete things from your shopping cart, so I’ve left it for a while.

I’m feeling a bit spaced this morning. I had a weird night; I was tired enough when I went to bed but then woke at 2.30 and felt as if I’d had totally enough sleep. This being illogical I tried to get back to sleep but without much success and ended up dozing fitfully for the next four hours. The thought occurs: could this be the end of the fatigue? Have I finally actually had enough rest? We shall see.

At the top right-hand corner of my screen there are several widgets. I think they’re called widgets, though I have only the vaguest idea of what a widget is – anyway, they’re like browsing bouncers, summarily ejecting unwanted visitors from my pages. There’s good old adblocker turning away unwanted ads; next to him there’s privacy badger who stops me from being tracked across the internet (this is quite a scary phenomenon; I’ll casually click on a link on Facebook selling, say, kids toys, and the next thing I know children’s toys are following me everywhere. But now I just watch privacy badger rack up numbers telling me how many attempts to follow me have been blocked (between email and wordpress it racked up 6 attempts. Scary.)

I think I’m going to have to go into Leicester for my fabric. Unless anyone knows a really good website?

Kirk out