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

Up and Out and Poeting in Leicester and Thurnby

Well first of all a quick catch-up.  I’m always gratified to see that my readership doesn’t slide into the abyss when I’m absent for a few days, but as you will see I’ve been busy.  First, the gigs.  All poets are basically frustrated rock stars: we talk about ‘gigs’ and ‘touring’ as though we were Mick Jagger or Suzie Quattro (that dates me I expect although someone last night commented that they’d recently been to see the Stones and said they were brilliant.)  So on Saturday four of us (three musicians et moi) took the stage for a fundraiser for Momentum at Leicester’s Criterion pub.  Thirty or so people came along to listen and I did a 20-minute set featuring a poem about Corbyn (JC4PM), ‘Spike’ the homeless poem, a couple of poems about Blair and a couple about Jo Cox and her memorial picnic.  These were very well-received and you could hear a pin drop even when the waitress came in to serve pizza.  I like hearing pins drop.

Then last night I finally made it to TABAC which sounds like some underground wartime group but in fact stands for Thurnby and Billesden Acoustic Club, where a good crowd of musicians assembled.  I’m always slightly dubious as to how poetry will be received at these events but I needn’t have worried; it was received with enthusiasm.  It was a great evening with a terrific variety of instruments being aired including a whole caseful of harmonicas, a piano-accordion played by a retired headmistress; a concertina and several guitars and of course Jan with her recorder.  I did three poems: ‘Is Vic There?’ for Victoria Wood; ‘The Lady in the Van’ and ‘Spike’ again.  The evening ended quite late with a lengthy impromptu rendition of ‘Yellow is the Colour of my True Love’s Hair’ to which my contribution was ‘black is the colour of my true love’s feet’.  And so to bed; except that first we had to drive back from Thurnby with missed turnings and diminishing petrol.

What I missed last night (but will catch up on, thanks to the miracle of iplayer) was the final episode of A Very English Scandal, a dramatisation of the Jeremy Thorpe affair in the ’70’s.  Hugh Grant is a revelation in this!  I had him down as this generation’s John le Mesurier, only good for one particular brand of romantic comedy – but I was wrong.  In this miniseries, a drama with a touch of farce, he is utterly thrilling as the dark and menacing Thorpe; in fact he has the man (appropriately enough) to a T.  Ben Wishaw is also brilliant as his victim-turned-blackmailer Norman Scott and Alex Jennings (Charles in ‘The Queen’) plays his Machiavellian sidekick.

I could also have been watching the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.  So I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Toodle pip!

Kirk out

Have You Eyes?

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that in yesterday’s sign-off I said it was Tuesday when it was in fact Monday.  All day.  For some reason yesterday seemed like a long day.  Maybe it was because I felt tired – the close, thundery weather that never seems to break can be quite oppressive – or maybe it was because of the sheer Bank-holidayness of it all, but whatever the reason I became a day ahead of myself.

I also wondered if I’d get comments about the title.  Why Jason?  Then again maybe you’re all far more educated than I give you credit for and had sussed straight away the connection between Argos and the story of Jason and the Argonauts:


Argos (the store) is of course named after the hundred-eyed monster of Greek myth:


Eyes also feature strongly (and disturbingly) in King Lear, the latest production of which was broadcast last night.  More on this later as I have yet to catch up with it since we were catching up with The Handmaid’s Tale having watched A Very English Scandal on Sunday night:


It’s all go.

Happy Tuesday.

Kirk out