The Life and Lies of Boris Johnson

Fans of Harry Potter will recognise the title here as a parody of The Life and Lies of Albus Dunbledore by the scurrilous hack Rita Skeeter. But whereas just about every page of that book was false, accusations against Boris Johnson, that he lies almost as often as he opens his mouth, are not, alas, fabricated. The leader of our great nation has lied and lied again, not only since becoming PM but throughout his life.

I’ve been reading the work of Peter Oborne. Oborne is a much-respected political commentator and journalist. He’s politically on the right but has a high regard for truth and integrity and since 2019 has made it his business to track the almost uncountable lies told by Johnson, particularly on the subject of coronavirus but by no means limited to that topic. The Assault on Truth is a detailed and scrupulously researched book detailing the rise of Johnson and Trump and how they exemplify a particular kind of politics, one with scant regard for the truth: Matilda springs to mind – I’m working on a parody as we speak. ‘Johnson told such dreadful lies/it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes.’) To my mind it’s not a question of if Johnson goes, but when: the knives are sharpening daily, a second Tory MP has defected to Labour and the only person who can’t seem to read the writing on the wall is Johnson himself.

The best scenario for Labour would be to postpone a vote of no confidence until after the May elections. If, as looks likely, the government does badly (there are reports of activists being so demoralised that they’re refusing to deliver leaflets) that would bode well for Labour. On the other hand if they go for a leadership election sooner and elect Rishi Sunak who then gives people help with energy bills, it’s not so good. Either way it’s an interesting time. Sickening, yes. But interesting.

Kirk out

Over-Egged and Dated

There are far too many box sets around at the moment and if you’re not careful you can end up swallowing one after another without digesting them. We’re onto The Tourist at the moment, an intriguing drama of murder and amnesia, but before that I watched Rules of the Game. I’m not sure I’d have bothered with this if it hadn’t starred Maxine Peake, but it did so I did. And was it worth it? Mmnah. Not really: despite good performances by Alison Steadman, Rakhee Thakrar (Holby City) and Peake herself it seemed rather stale. The premise, that in work environments men abuse and dominate and are abetted by complicit women, would be more suited to an 80s or 90s drama than one where #metoo has taken hold. I’m not suggesting of course that sexual harassment is no longer an issue, but this drama came across as rather dated and over-egged, a bit like a bad pudding.

I also worry about the effect that this may be having on boys and young men. Of course we should document and dramatise misogyny but I worry that there are no positive role models for them, if all they see is men behaving badly , where do they get their ideas of what a man is supposed to be? Sure, we have superheroes but as far as ordinary men go, I can’t see there’s much out there.

Men Behaving Badly – now there’s a great series.

Anyway Rules of the Game is still on the iplayer, though for how much longer if the government have their way, remains to be seen. I tremble if this lot stay in power, I really do.

Kirk out

Just a Little Prick..

I expect you’re wondering why I called you all here today… well, it’s because I want to talk to you about vaccines. I’m going to be blunt; health conditions aside, I simply can’t understand why anyone would choose not to have the covid vaccine. Common reasons given are that we ‘don’t know what’s in it’ so why would we trust it? Well it’s true, I don’t know what is in any of the vaccines. But this is not some wonder drug sold over the Internet. It’s developed by scientists, researched in labs and peer-reviewed: there’s a process – and by and large I trust that process. The vaccine-sceptical are fond of justifying their position by saying that they’ve ‘done their own research.’ Oh really? So you have access to a lab? What tests have you done? What conclusions have you reached? Where are the papers published? Are they peer-reviewed? Or does this ‘research’ consist of an Internet trawl digging up a few conspiracy theories? I saw a post just today saying ‘When we buy a house we do our own research and we’re praised for it, but when it comes to vaccines…’ (fill in the rest yourself.) Yeah, about that: it’s true that we’ll look at estate agents and visit houses ourselves, but do we do our own survey of the building? Do we conduct our own conveyancing? No. Most of us are not remotely qualified to do these things. We leave them in the hands of experts, and generally we trust them to do the job.

This is getting serious. Between 75 and 90% of covid patients in hospital (depending on the area) are unvaccinated, putting a great strain on the NHS. Not only that, but some staff are also unvaccinated. If they have a valid medical reason for this, fine – but I listened to a midwife on Woman’s Hour explain why she was unjabbed, and as far as I can make out it just came down to ‘personal choice.’ This is unacceptable. Can I exercise my personal choice not to wear a seat belt, or to drive when over the limit? Of course not. We understand that these rules are in place for a reason, and mostly we abide by them.

This is not to say that I agree with the Government’s stance. Threatening to fire unvaccinated NHS staff is unhelpful and draconian, especially in a climate where the government has been seen not to follow its own rules. But I simply can’t understand why anyone without an exemption would not simply get the vaccine. Its easy: think of Boris Johnson and say to yourself, just a little prick

Kirk out

Synchronicity Again

I blog about this from time to time, when things coincide out of the blue when there is no reason why they should, and today’s synchronicity is about wasps. I’m subscribed to a site which sends me a poem every Friday (I used to get one every day but reading poetry takes concentration) and today’s was about wasps. It’s not the time of year for wasps, though what with global warming they do tend to hang around later than they did, so the poem was unexpected. It was a good poem, about helping wasps to escape the chimney where they’d been nesting and assist their passage to the outside world; the whole process being compared to The Great Escape.

Apart from that I thought no more of it. At least not until I read Beetleypete’s latest instalment in his short story. And guess what? In the very first paragraph wasps were mentioned.

What is going on here?

Kirk out

Texed?

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.

Kirk out

University Challenge: is it Easier Than it Was?

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.

So there.

Kirk out

Why Can’t I Launch You?

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.

Happy Monday.

Kirk out

Landscapers

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 GĂ©rard 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.

Kirk out

Pop Goes the Culture

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.

Kirk out

Seeing the Doc

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.

Kirk out