The Snot’s Progress

I realise that’s a bit of an off-putting title so I’ll try to make up for it with sparkling content. Actually I really loathe it when people refer to writing that way; it’s not ‘content’, it’s writing. You hear people describing themselves as ‘content-creators’ – why? It sounds like you’re putting toothpaste into a tube, instead of choosing the best words in the best order and making the finest piece of writing of which you are capable. I think Orwell was right; language is sacred (not that he actually put it like that) and that the destruction of language is the last victory of an oppressive state. But who needs Newspeak when you have people voluntarily calling what they write ‘content’?


Anyway, apart from dealing with the aforementioned snot which with depressing predictability has now settled on my lungs, what have I been writing? I’ve not been at it full time this week but have nonetheless managed to come up with a new story featuring Dickens… I’m quite excited about that. And I’m starting to adapt my radio play into a stage play for a competition. The closing date’s July, so I’ll have to get a move on.

In between all this I’ve been listening to old episodes of Mark Steel’s in Town. If you don’t know this, it’s a series where comedian Mark Steel visits a town, spends some time going round and talking to people and then comes up with a half-hour routine which celebrates the absurdities of the place. There’s nowhere else this could happen but Britain. Where else can we laugh at our contradictions? Where else do we have goats running wild (Lynton and Lynmouth) or monkeys roaming the streets or planes crossing the road (Gibraltar) or half-finished bridges (Bedford). He picks up the nuances of the place; its prejudices and politics and without being overtly political (though he is firmly on the left) he pulls off the amazing trick of celebrating the place and bringing people together whilst taking the piss. I think this is a much underestimated series and I urge you to listen. He’s yet to visit Loughborough but I hope he does; I’d love to see what he makes of the sock man and the Carillon.

from Pinterest; image removed on request
Loughborough Carillon - Loughborough

I’m off now to listen to Alexei Sayle on Desert Island Discs.

Kirk out

Bleak Expectations and Misrepresentations

I have long been exercised by radio comedy; and specifically, by the state of the 6.30 slot on radio 4.  Now at this point I was all set to go into a rant, but I thought I’d better check my facts first.  And the fact is, it’s officially Not As Bad As I Thought.  So last week’s schedule was:

Monday – Just a Minute (always good)

Tuesday – the dreaded Pam Ayres (awful awful awful)

Wednesday – Somebody I’ve Never Heard of recreating an 18th-century bet (?? weird)

Thursday – Ed Reardon’s Week (not bad)

Friday – The News Quiz (much better than HIGNFY on TV)

So – erm – now the wind has been somewhat taken out of my sails and I’m left with a rant looking for a subject.

What I can say is that putting aside my views on the dreaded Ayres (on which I have blogged sufficiently of late) there is Far Too Much of This Sort of Thing – the most recent offering, The Case Book of Max and Ivan, which proved utterly lame.  I can’t understand it.  I was initially quite excited by this one as it featured June Whitfield as Dame Celia Deeply-Inappropriate.  Aha!  I thought.  June Whitfield! I thought.  A preposterous double-barrelled surname! I thought.  Perhaps this is in the same vein as the Dickens spoof, Bleak Expectations? I wondered.

It wasn’t.  Utter turgid tosh, in my opinion, June Whitfield notwithstanding.

How is it that woman keeps going?

But at last! there is hope on the horizon, for as I said the other day, Dead Ringers is back and yay! It is replacing the dreaded Ayres.

I wish I’d looked after me schedule…

Kirk out


Eyes Up For a Full House

And bingo!  I think we are sorted, house-wise – but I’ll leave a full description until things are properly confirmed, just in case…

Meanwhile, life on the iplayer this week has been mixed: nothing has really grabbed my attention although some programmes have been mildly enjoyable.  I’m continuing to watch ‘Last Tango in Halifax’ with a mixture of horror and fascination: it’s sort of half-way between drama and soap opera and the characters bumble from one disaster to another as their past catches up with their present and ruins their future: still, there’s enough in the way of good acting (Derek Jacobi!) and interesting story-lines to keep me watching.

There was an interesting programme about Machiavelli the other night, too, which tried to persuade us that he was not – well, as Machiavellian – as he’s painted.  It didn’t really convince me at all; I still find most of his ideas horrifying, but what was interesting was how many politicians and businessmen/women seemed to endorse them.  So I think that says a lot about the zeitgeist.

That one seems to have disappeared now, but on the radio I especially enjoyed ‘That Mitchell and Webb Sound.’  I sometimes have mixed feelings about Mitchell and Webb (the other ‘M&W’) as much of their comedy revolves around characters who continually score points off each other, and that is a trope which I find a bit wearing.  But one particular sketch was utterly brilliant; it featured a doctor dictating a letter about an operation and was full of grammatical and lexical puns:

Have a listen – it’s about 17 1/2 minutes in.  Utter brilliance.

Last night I didn’t get to watch or listen to anything at all, because after an early dinner I whisked myself straight to Duffy’s Bar for a Left Unity meeting.  Due to a football match in the bar (not literally, just on the screen) the meeting finished early, so I was able to catch most of the licensing service for Helen – erm, thingy – who is now a Pioneer Priest for the Homeless in West Leicester.  This is a brilliant role and the service was an odd mixture of Anglican formality and informal eccentricity: Helen had us all taking our shoes off for the prayers in order to experience vulnerability.  Loads of people were there including Mike (nice to see you Mike) and quite a few Martyrs folk as well.

And that was yesterday.  More news about the house tomorrow.

Kirk out

You Might Say That – I Couldn’t Possibly Comment

There was a South African racist on radio 4 last night, on the comedy slot.  No, it’s not what you think – this guy was half-white and half-black and spent most of his life until he left the country, trying to define himself in ways other than the state defined him.  When he went to America he was looking forward to being seen as black, but everyone thought he was Hispanic.  The one thing he could never be, though, was white.

To make comedy out of such experiences demands a special talent – and this guy is hilarious.  He reminded me of the best of Lenny Henry’s early stuff:

It set me thinking, though: why do we (by which I mean me and my family and most of my friends) call ourselves white?  We’re not white.  We should be more accurate – start calling ourselves ‘pinko-beige’ or something.  Except that that makes us sound like a rather bland bunch of Communists; which is an odd concept.  I mean, there were bright-red Communists, red as arterial blood – like Lenin and Trotsky – then there were grey, concrete-block Communists like Kosygin and Gromyko – but beige Communists?  I don’t know who that’d be: perhaps some left-over caucus in Barnsley.

It’s hard making your mind up about people.  Why we should feel the need to classify everyone according to race or colour, I don’t know, but we do.  Nowadays we live in a highly complex society where we meet new people all the time and have to make quick decisions about them.  We also need to make such decisions about people we hear and see on the media.  Who do we trust?  How do we know when someone is telling the truth?

Take this bloke.  He was a producer on radio 1 during the Savile years, and at first I thought he was talking quite honestly about what went on, saying that he regretted not taking action even though those were ‘other times’.  He spoke of his sorrow and repentance and I almost bought it – but the more he talked, the more something didn’t feel right.  It was all too easy, I thought; too glib – and when, having described himself as a ‘happily married man’ he equally frankly described having slept with lots of young women (‘though never under age’) I made up my mind: I didn’t buy it.

It’s about 2 hrs 10 mins in:

But how do we know?

How do you know when to trust someone?

Under-age sex and paedophilia was something we didn’t get around to discussing in our Drink and Think meeting.  Have things gone too far there as well?  Are we now so paranoid about the exploitation of children that we don’t allow them any freedom at all?

Kirk out