What Do You Think of it So Far? Rubbish!

British readers of a certain age will get the reference right away. At a certain point during their show, Ernie Wise would turn to Eric Morecambe with a hopeful boyish grin and say ‘What do you think of it so far?’ to which Eric would always reply ‘Rubbish!’ So – what do you think of it so far? It’s pretty rubbish, isn’t it? We have the worst death rate in Europe, a chaotic response to the crisis and a government advisor who breaks his own rules and refuses to apologise and a Prime Minister who by backing him, jeopardises not only his own position but the standing of his government. Rubbish barely covers it. As Marina Hyde points out in the article I quoted yesterday, Boris Johnson wanted to be Prime Minister. He wants to have been Prime Minister. It’s just the bit in between that he struggles with. What a clown.

So let us consider the opposition’s response. I’m reserving judgment on Keir Starmer; I don’t see him as another Blair, as many on the left have suggested, though he’s certainly not another Corbyn. He seems cautious in his approach, which may be because that’s his nature or may be because he’s wary of taking too many risks at this stage. It’s the predicament of every Labour leader; with most of the press automatically against you, do you pursue a radical agenda or do you play it safe? Either way you can’t win. But since I was highly critical of those who never gave Corbyn a chance, I feel duty bound to give Starmer a chance – at any rate his current policy of standing back and letting the government destroy itself seems a sensible one.

Speaking of duty, I see Johnson has had the temerity to call on the public’s sense of duty in co-operating with the ‘trace, track and test’ programme; and many of today’s headlines rightly call upon him and Cummings to lead by example. Johnson seems to be getting daily further out of touch with public opinion. Well, this is what you get for electing a narcissist.

Kirk out

My Working Week

You might be interested to know what I’ve been up to this week. Well, work-wise, I’m finishing off a short story for a competition on a Jane Austen theme, I’m also writing a review of a book of short stories by various authors.  But the bonus ball this week comes from a meeting last weekend with a publisher. Turns out they are accepting submissions now, so I got some poems together and sent them off. Apart from that I’ve been deciding what to do with the novel and writing an account of my recent dark experiences. So – a full week!

All this and Morecambe and Wise too!

Kirk out

Happy Days -The Fonz et Origo of Comedy

Sometimes a programme you used to love can still inspire affection: I’ve been watching compilation episodes of the great Morecambe and Wise


and pondering exactly what it was that made them so funny.  It wasn’t only the ease and perfect pitch of their performances, nor was it the effortless, natural humour of Eric Morecambe and his range of bizarre tics like looking at the camera and saying ‘the boy’s a fool!’ saying ‘Ern!’ in strangled tones; pulling his co-star aside and saying ‘can I have a word with you please?’, though these are undoubtedly funny.  But what struck me watching these shows was the combination of two distinct styles: the classic double act of music hall, coupled with the surreal comedy of the scripts.  They don’t just do routines to camera; they do them with, from, by and outside the camera.  They break the fourth wall regularly by talking to the audience at home; they talk about ‘doing the show’ as though the whole programme is a rehearsal for the programme – and don’t even get me started on the ‘two men in bed’ routine.  It’s impossible to put your finger on why it’s funny – but it is.  It’s rare that comedy from that long ago would stand the test of time, but it so does.  It’s as if M&W are the fount – the fons et origo, you might say – of all modern comedy.  (See what I did there?)*

Something that has not stood that test is the American sitcom ‘Happy Days.’  I used to like this partly for the warm, fuzzy feeling it gave me – but mostly because I liked looking at the Fonz in his leather jacket astride that huge bike.

But now, looking at Henry Winkler in that pose makes me shudder.  I can’t believe I ever thought the guy was cool; or that I actually wanted to be him (yeah, I know, I was a girl so I was supposed to just want to date him).  He’s creepy – and nowadays the whole series is famous just for the phrase ‘jumping the shark’:


Morecambe and Wise were never cool; so I think maybe that’s the key to survival – not, ever, to be cool.  And certainly to resist any temptation to jump a marine mammal on water-skis.

* The Fonz et origo – geddit?
*sigh* I’m wasted here


Kirk out

Oh, Look! They’re Growing our Tree!

Sorry I’ve been absent for a few days: I’ve been very up and down – in fact I feel a little seasick.  But!  I notice the blossom is just exploding everywhere; there are little flowers like stars landed in our hedge and bigger stars exploded on one of the bushes, and today I see that the magnolia is blossoming.  I love magnolia – it’s one of my favourite trees.  There’s something primeval about them, I think, like a mangrove-swamp; and the delicate beauty of the petals is beyond description.  Mark and I were discussing the unsatisfactoriness of the paint-colour and how little relation it bears to the actual thing.  A triumph of marketing over reality, I think.  But then, doesn’t marketing always triumph over reality?

At the weekend we managed to identify our tree.  This grows in the gardens of the Friends’ Meeting House (well, in the car-park to be exact) and we gave it to them because it was a wedding present and we didn’t have a garden to plant it in.  We’d like to take a cutting at some point and propagate an offspring.

My news-fast is going quite well.  I haven’t been able to escape a couple of deaths – Tony Benn and Clarissa Dixon-Wright, political opposites if there ever were any; but I haven’t followed up on them.  I am not really missing it at all, and quite frankly I’ve got enough of my own stuff going on without hearing the world’s problems every day as well.

And now I must be off, as dinner awaits.  Toodle-pip and I love you all (I think I’ve been watching too much Morecambe and Wise…)

Kirk otu

Still Funny After All These Years

Well, it’s Thursday and that means life on the i-player.  So what have I watched this week?  A lot of factual stuff, as it happens: firstly, I’ve been comparing and contrasting Mastermind and University Challenge, and then I’ve been finishing the two-part retrospective on Morecambe and Wise.

So, first the quiz-shows.  Well, the first thing I notice is that women are woefully under-represented in both but tend to do a lot better on Mastermind than they do on University Challenge.  This cannot be because fewer women go to University, so why is it?  Is it that by the time they get to Mastermind they are older and have more confidence?  I watched a Bangor team made up of 3/4 women get utterly slaughtered by a gang of four supremely confident men; you could see the women sagging every time they failed to buzz or got an answer wrong.  I can’t help wondering whether UC still favours the old-style Oxbridge culture, both in its style and in the type of questions, though that might not be fair.  It’s just that Oxbridge students seem to figure disproportionately in it.  Or is it the abrasive and often sneering style of Paxman?  His brusqueness is bad enough; what’s harder to stomach is the sneering way he corrects wrong answers, when we are only too well-aware that he only knows the correct answer because it’s written down in front of him.  I much prefer Humphrys.  Though a pit-bull when interviewing politicians on ‘Today’, he strikes exactly the right balance of rigour and sympathy when chairing Mastermind.  And the contestants are ordinary people: last night they numbered three men and one women, one of whom gave his occupation as ‘Enforcement Manager’.  This, when translated by Google, turned out to mean Traffic Warden.


And the woman won…

I worry, too, about the under-representation of women in comedy.  Shows like QI, which I love, rarely have women on, but even the occasional appearance by Sandi Toksvig or Jo Brand (I met her once, you know) is an improvement on how things used to be, back in the day when Morecambe and Wise trod the floors of the Beeb.  The BBC’s two-part retrospective of the duo was really interesting; a sympathetic portrayal of them as human beings and performers; the ups and downs of their career, the writers who worked for them and the intense rehearsing that went in to making every sketch look totally spontaneous.  I could probably write reams about this: the guests they had on the show (people like Andre Previn, Penelope Keith, Glenda Jackson and Angela Rippon), how they were able to share a bed without suggesting they were gay; exactly why they were so funny (I still can’t put my finger on that) – but what occurred to me as I watched, more than anything, was that they were never sexist.  Now that I think about it, I don’t remember them being racist either – or homophobic.  Lots of comics were – it was an easy way to get a laugh – but they never went for easy laughs.  And perhaps that is why, because they were so inclusive – that they were, and are, so much loved.

So catch this before it disappears:


Likewise the latest round of Mastermind:


and if you must, here’s University Challenge:


Kirk out

The Wrong Kind of News

And yes, there’s the usual bout of national self-flagellation about the weather and our response to it, and as ever, the inevitable comparisons with other countries.  Here’s a photo that sums it all up:


But let’s be fair.  We never know when we’re going to get snow until we get it (yes, I know that with satellites long-range weather forecasts are a lot more accurate, but still, we were supposed to have this snow a week or two ago and sometimes they forecast it and it just doesn’t happen) so we never really know till it comes.  The fact is, our weather is just downright unpredictable; we can have a heatwave in summer and moan about being unprepared for that, but it will only last a few days: likewise a freeze in winter comes but once every few years and only lasts a mere week or two – or less.  That’s why we remember the winter of ’63 (and some people may also remember the winter of ’48 too) – because it was unusual.  I remember the winter of ’63 very well, as I told you before: every day I tried working with that pile of frozen snow my Dad had shovelled for me, and every day I was forced to concede defeat.  So really I think we need to cut ourselves some slack here.  In fact I think we ought to be proud of ourselves – since the only thing we know for sure is that the weather is unpredictable, and we cope pretty well with that.

What Do You Think of it So Far?

Does that phrase ring any bells?  If so, you’re probably old enough to remember at least one of those frozen winters, for it was a line from the perennial Morecambe and Wise Show.  A staple of Saturday nights, it’s hard to say why these guys were so funny – they just were.  It wasn’t what they did or said; they were just funny in themselves.  Their material was good, but hardly ground-breaking: not the sort of thing you’d expect someone of my generation to like – and yet I watched them religiously every Saturday.

(I am compelled here to add a brief aside – which you can skip if you want – on the word ‘religiously’ and how it is used to mean only one aspect of religion – that of regular observance – and so ends up sounding bizarre if you think about it.  It reminds me of a joke I always used to make about the phrase ‘slept like a baby’ to which I responded with: ‘woke up every hour screaming?’

OK that’s over now.  Back to the script…)

So, one thing they always used to do at some point in the show was ask each other – or the audience – ‘What do you think of it so far?’ to which the other (or the audience) would cry: ‘Rubbish!’

Perhaps it was that self-deprecation which endeared them so well to the British public.  So.. today I am going to ask myself the same question of a book I am reading:

‘What do you think of it so far?’

to which I shall cry:


For yes! I have got hold of the latest Ian Rankin.  And what do I think of it so far?

Pretty good.

As good as the others?

Jury’s out.

OK then.  So today I shall be mostly… staying indoors as there has been Even More of the Wrong Sort of Snow.

Happy birthday Peter!

Kirk out