But is it Unifiable?

I’m a little dispirited that my favoured candidate is now out of the race. Emily Thornberry seemed to me the standout candidate and I can’t understand why she didn’t get more support, but there it is and there’s no point dwelling on it. So, of the three remaining contenders, who will be the best leader? Who will be able to convince the electorate? Who will unite the party? Is it even unifiable? Generally speaking, getting folk on the left to go in the same direction is like herding cats, because we don’t fall into line. We are naturally non-conformist – that goes with the territory, just as toeing the line goes with the territory of Toryism – and we don’t like being told what to do. By and large, I respect that; I like to make up my own mind and speak it, to put my cross where my mouth is (if you see what I mean.) But unless we can come together – in public at least – we can’t win elections.

So what’s a girl do to? In choosing a leader it’s always a toss-up between the policies you want and those which will convince the electorate: go too far in one direction and you’re just a protest movement with no power; too far in the other direction and you’re in a popularity contest with no agenda for change. It’s a problem. So it’s important to get this right – if we know what ‘right’ is…

In other news, I’ve just found out that Last Tango in Halifax is back for another series! Squee! And I’ve started a new Sherlock Holmes fanfiction story. Happy Monday.

Kirk out

Last Tango in Happy Halifax

It has come to my attention that although I’ve mentioned this series in dispatches I haven’t yet given it a full review, possibly because I hadn’t watched it all in one go before – by which I don’t literally mean all in one sitting but spread over a period of weeks. (What do we want? Compelling and well-written drama! When do we want it? Spread out over a number of weeks!)

So. Both Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax are written by Sally Wainwright and star (among others) Sarah Lancashire. Both feature a complex mash-up of current and ex- relationships, with in the case of HV a backdrop of crime as the main character is a police Sergeant. In LTH relationships are to the fore as two very different families smash together after two of their grandparents decide to get married. Both series feature the delights of local language and dialect in an entirely authentic, non-patronising way: imagine Alan Bennett writing Last of the Summer Wine and you’ll have a flavour.

Last Tango stars Derek Jacobi, pitch-perfect (as you’d expect) as Alan, who meets the love of his life again after sixty years of them both being married to other people. Both are now widowed and Celia (Anne Reid) is more than ready to accept his proposal after decades of unhappiness with the serially unfaithful Kenneth. So far so good, but the two families unwittingly heading for kinship could not be more different: the daughter of one is a struggling sheep farmer whilst her soon-to-be half-sister is the Headmistress of an expensive private school. There are more plots than you’d believe possible, with infuriating ex-partners (and their partners), children and friends of children, lesbian relationships, babies, deaths and a ghost that won’t quit; all of which is mashed up, twirled around and spun into a series of interconnecting stories that I simply could not stop watching even though I’d seen it all before.

Having seen all four series it was time to turn once again to Happy Valley. Oh, the joy of sets! (Box-sets, that is.) I’ll post more about this series when I’ve finished it.

Meanwhile it is, as many of you will have spotted, Valentine’s Day today so let’s spare a thought for anyone who’s alone, whether by choice or accident, whether recently separated, divorced or bereaved. It doesn’t mean we have to get all gloomy about it, just remember that not everyone is with someone.

Kirk out

…I'm Just Coasting…

As I write I’m waiting for the Victoria Derbyshire programme where a fellow-member of SPA (Straightpartnersanonymous.com) is due to speak about his experience of being married to someone who subsequently came out as gay. Due to the current polarisation of debate, most situations are like Cold-War Berlin or trouble-torn Northern Ireland; there’s a wall of brick or iron or barbed wire and any attempts to cross the divide will result in your being shot down or hopelessly entangled in spiky arguments. Debates used to be organised this way: on the one side someone speaks for the motion, on the other side someone else speaks against. Then we debate. But lately rather than attempting to shed light on a subject these things are more like boxing matches: in the blue corner we have x, a feminist author and blogger and in the red corner we have y, a right-wing misogynist. Light blue touch-paper and retire immediately. Victory is decided by social media. Seconds away, round one! Ding!

None of this is helpful, none of it sheds any light on the topic under discussion and none of it helps us to understand each other. At best you can say that certain views are aired, but that’s usually as far as it goes. So this morning I’m hoping for something more enlightening in the generally adversarial debate between those who regard gays coming out as victims or heroes, and those who champion the rights of the betrayed and left-behind partners (spoiler alert: I’m on the side of both.) So hold your horses for an hour or so and I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I’d like to tell you about my latest metaphor. I find it helpful to ‘explain’ my life in metaphors and today’s helpful image is that of a coastline. A few decades ago I discovered fractals, which teach us that there are in effect no straight lines but only wiggles. A coastline is a perfect example of this because the further you go in, the smaller the wiggles become: as Blake said, even a grain of sand has a world contained within it – and basically, there’s no such thing in nature as a straight line. Even a coast which appears to be straight will have dips and bends and rocks and inlets and those rocks will themselves have dips and inlets and those inlets will have… and so it goes on. So I consider my life at the moment to be not a city divided by a wall but a coastline that we are exploring together, asking where is the sea? how far does it come in? where is high tide? what bends and dips and curves does the coast have? and so on. It’s not a wall with one of us in the East and another in the West and no way through. It’s not a bouquet of barbed wire. It’s a coast.

Aaand – back to Victoria Derbyshire, and wow, I sat through nearly the whole programme before he was on and I have to say it was brilliant, very compassionate and thoughtful. Here‘s the link – and while you’re at it, if you’ve ever watched the VD show could you consider complaining to the BBC about the decision to axe it? Here‘s the link.

Kirk out

A Cinema Moth

image removed on request

When the kids were little we used to see a lot of these in the garden. They’re beautiful as moths but the caterpillars are not so nice; they live on ragwort and can strip a plant to a ragged stalk in a matter of hours. They’re a daytime insect and so are really butterflies rather than moths, but to me they look like a butterfly in evening dress so I dubbed them cinema moths. It amused us to think of them as figures in red gowns and black evening cloaks clustered around the entrance to the cinema.

Alas, I too used to be a species of cinema moth, especially when I lived in Spain where the flicks are cheap and plentiful. I’d sometimes go two or three times a week (though if you were seeing an English language film you’ve have to be careful to choose a VO – a subtitled version – rather than the dubbed films which were impossible to follow.) As I’ve mentioned before I once saw Almodovar in one of these cinemas.

Even before that, and before cinemas here got horribly expensive, I’d go once or twice a week. The cinema was basically your only chance to see a film until it (maybe) came on the telly years later. If you missed it you’d have to wait and see if it ‘came round’ again as popular films sometimes did, otherwise you’d had your chance.

But nowadays I’m a bit of a sad sack when it comes to cinema-going. True, I’ve seen ‘Sorry We Missed You’ and a couple of others recently but that’s about it. I really wanted to go and see 1917 last night but things got in the way and when OH said ‘we could go another day,’ I said sadly, ‘Yes. But things always get in the way.’ Which they do. Anyway, the plan is for me to go alone to the 5.15 perf so that I make sure it actually happens. I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile in a less exciting version of our evening we watched Dr Who (so-so, not one of the best episodes) and I continued with my box set of the stonking ‘Last Tango in Halifax.’

Kirk out

Cry God for Harry, England and… erm…

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that I’ve been spending a few days in the land of the free and the home of the Braveheart – no, not the US but Scotland. Dumfries is not so much bonnie scots pine as – ahem! – lowlandii, but it is nevertheless beautiful and parts of the journey are terrific. I didn’t see much of the hills from the A66 on the way there as I was too busy battling drizzle and endless truck-spray to wonder what lay beyond the clouds, but on the way back it was such a perfectly clear day that I drove slowly (or as slowly as one can without annoying everyone) and marvelled at the beauty of the Cumbrian hills with snow on the distant tops. I stopped frequently, intending to make the journey last most of the day, and as a result enjoyed it much more than if I’d hurried.

So what did I do while I was there? Well, I relaxed; I walked, I looked around, I went to pubs and cafes and shops and I spoke to people, though often not before they’d spoken to me first. Everyone is very friendly there; everyone smiles and says hello, everyone engages in conversation, so I felt very much at home. I stayed in a Travelodge which, although not recommended for its aesthetics, was nevertheless cheap, comfortable and clean and with a range of terrestrial TV channels which made me all the more thankful for Netflix and the iplayer.

So now I’m back, baby – and one of the news stories which broke during my absence was the (sort of) abdication of Harry and Megan. I was a bit gobsmacked by this as it seemed to come out of the blue; and I’m still not sure why they’ve done it, but the overwhelming narrative seems to be that he will not allow the press to do to his wife what they did to his mother. I read his speech today and found it very dignified and moving. There’s a high price to pay for being a royal and it’s a club they don’t ask to join, so on the whole I think what they’re doing is fair enough – though it distresses me that it’s even necessary.

So that’s us up to date. How have you been?

Kirk out

There May be Some Great TV Drama Around – I Couldn't Possibly Comment

It’s got to the stage now where saying ‘there’s some great TV drama around at the moment’ is completely superfluous. It’s like saying ‘the weather’s warm for the time of year’ – it’s always warm! It’s called climate change! – and in the same way since we are obviously in a golden age of TV drama, there’s always some good stuff around. Part of the reason I guess is the multiplicity of platforms; here at home we only have terrestrial plus Netflix, but there’s Sky and other digital platforms plus whatever HBO is (I’m guessing it’s not a bank.) But I suspect there are other reasons too; for a start, drama is a better way than comedy of dealing with the horrendous problems facing us. Part-escapism, part gritty-realism, good drama leads to catharsis; by immersing ourselves in the problems of other people and seeing those problems work themselves through, we are better able to deal with our own. It’s more than a distraction and less than reality.

So, having said that, which good dramas have I been watching this week? First is the BBC’s excellent ‘Trial of Christine Keeler.’ I’m not quite old enough to remember the original story but its ramifications continued well into the late ‘sixties and early ‘seventies; in fact you could say that, like the Chatterley trial it was a seminal event in the unravelling of the status quo. Chatterley unravelled the era of sexual repression; Keeler, the age of deference.

It’s brilliantly done, this; Keeler is no dumb victim (though she is a victim too) but a knowing, wisecracking, cynical yet personable young woman. Yet she is also the victim of predatory, privileged older men who pass her around for sex and of younger boyfriends who beat her up when she ends their relationship (since her boyfriends are black, they suffer too at the hands of a racist police force.) The sexual hypocrisy of the time hits home during the scene where Keeler, having induced an abortion, lies on the floor of her mother’s house crying and bleeding. Her mother enters, takes in the situation at a glance and gives her an almighty slap. Yep, that’s what it was like – I remember it well (not that my mother would have behaved in that way, but it would still have been a great scandal.)

There’s a terrific cast: Ben Miles as Profumo is almost, though not quite, the equal of Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe (another scandal which toppled a major public figure) and Sophie Cookson is pitch-perfect as Keeler. It’s not over yet, there are another two episodes to go, so make sure you catch up while you can: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000ct7b/the-trial-of-christine-keeler

This series of Dr Who has been excellent so far – though last night’s episode was a bit vanilla, harking back to the day’s of gravel pits and low budgets – but the other thing I caught up with was a film on Netflix about Lowry.

One of the encouraging things about biopics of famous people is seeing how little their work was originally valued. This was particularly true in Lowry’s case as he was completely dominated by his mother who, if Vanessa Redgrave’s ice-dagger performance is anything to go by, was a grade-A, cold-hearted, self-centred, manipulative b*tch. Lowrie reminds me of some ground-down Alan Bennett character (except that he wasn’t gay – at least as far as we know) collecting rent during the day and painting at night whilst looking after his mother. But adversity is often a spur to the dedicated artist and so it proved in this case. Nothing could stop Lowrie painting and today he is admired and loved throughout the world – and perhaps most of all by those who don’t generally ‘do’ art. There’s a centre in his native Salford dedicated to him, a recent undiscovered painting of his sold for £1m – and one of the most surreal moments of the film was seeing Timothy Spall finishing this picture and looking up from the screen to see it on our wall.

That about sums it all up I think.

So yep, there’s some good stuff around. Let’s make the most of it while it’s here – and make the most of me too. Tomorrow I’m off to Doncaster and thence to Scotland for a few days, so I shall not be posting.

Toodle pip.

Kirk out

The Sound of Silent Witnesses

I don’t know about you but I’ve got a real soft spot for Silent Witness, the forensics procedural that is now entering its 23rd series. It’s rare for a crime drama to straddle that middle ground between hard-hitting and gritty on the one hand and flabby and unconvincing on the other but SW seems to manage it. It’s quite corny in parts and there’s a lot of telling-people-things-they-ought-to-know-already (for example, last night a HEMS officer asked what diazepam is) but I just blow past it because I enjoy the programme: in fact OH and I have been following it for years.

So what is it about this series that is so appealing? Well, first off is the subject matter. There are a lot of crime and police procedurals but very few forensic ones, and the concept of probing the secrets of the dead is very appealing. Of course as it’s not a gritty drama the corpses aren’t depicted with anything approaching realism but again, we just blow past that because it’s so enjoyable. Like police procedurals the pleasure is in trying to work out the denouement before the characters get there, and the series allows the attentive viewer to twig the outcome just before Nikki and her team.

And that’s the third attraction of this show; the characters. These people are family; there are mother and father-figures (Nikki and Thomas) and squabbling siblings Jack and Clarissa. There’s no hint of sexual attraction between them – any relationships take place outside the team – and while there are tiffs and disagreements, nothing major threatens the coherence of the group.

So much for silent witnesses; less entertaining is what I call the phenomenon of the silent ‘g’. Every time I turn on Steve Wright ‘in the afternoon’ – that’ll be on his gravestone – he seems to be doing a feature called ‘serious jockin’ (no g’). I simply cannot understand the point of this. People text or email saying what they’re up to and add ‘serious’ whatever with no ‘g’ at the end. A typical one might go like this: ‘and here’s Jordan in Scarborough: Dear Steve, we’re heading up to the Lake District this weekend for some sailing. Serious boatin’ – no g.’ Why is this funny? Why do they make such a big deal out of it? OH cannot understand it and neither can I.

It also puts me in mind of the National Theatre of Brent, whose comedy seems to consist in droppin’ the g’s at the end of words.


Happy Friday

Kirk out