Silent Witness

I’ve long been a fan of Silent Witness, probably as long as the series itself has been running (about 25 years), and I was trying to explain to OH why I like it. I think one attraction is that the characters are like a family, but it’s also unpredictable and quirky. But the main thing I like about it is that all the loose ends are tied up. There may be pain and violence but everything is resolved by the time the credits roll. It doesn’t matter how awful the story is, at the end of it we know who dunnit, how they dunnit and why they dunnit – and most importantly, all the main characters are still standing.

It’s amusing too, at times; as with Casualty we look out for cliches. Last night’s story featured a black cast including The Greengrocer of Wisdom, dispensing deep insights along with watermelons, and The University Acceptance Letter of Death. This is a variation on the Cough of Death in Casualty.

Sadly we are now running out of episodes. But never fear – the Handmaid’s Tale comes to the rescue. I think the jury’s out on this fourth series; the first half was excellent but second dragged a little.

So that’s us up to date.

Kirk out

There Must Be Dialogue

Sunday viewing in our house is always catching up on ‘Casualty’ (unless we watched it the night before) plus the unmissable ‘Handmaid’s Tale’.  I shall hold off on a review until the end of the series; all I’ll say right now is that its reputation for tense, unpredictable and thrilling drama is by no means exaggerated.  It’s a tribute to the makers that they’ve managed not only to maintain the level of drama of the original story but to build on it and ramp up the tension to an almost unbearable degree.

Meanwhile, since it’s impossible in our house to watch programmes without talking, here’s a smattering of recent conversations.  Incidentally, in my view there’s an optimal level of talking while watching TV: not so much as to interrupt the drama but enough so as not to feel silenced (this level of course varies with the programme: the bar is set quite high with ‘Casualty’ but low with ‘Handmaid’s Tale.’)

So it was that during an outbreak of cystic fibrosis in Holby ED, OH happened to mention, ‘I always think of cystic fibrosis whenever I use our yeast extract.’

Pausing only to grab my phone and record the utterance on Facebook, I continued with the drama, but later saw this ‘explanation’:

‘It’s low-salt and not as spready as Marmite. Reminds me of the higher viscosity of mucus caused by the poor transport of chloride ions across membranes in cystic fibrosis because salt includes chloride ions too.’

Yeah, we’ve all had that thought… he followed it up with this little gem:

‘Why do you think they replaced voiced consonants with the glottal stop? I mean, how did that happen?’

Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up – unlike ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’; or so we hope, since a defining feature of the drama is that no-one is free to voice their thoughts.  Offred/June has to show her reactions rather than telling them (Elisabeth Moss does this brilliantly) and the wives can no more voice their feelings than the handmaids, being just as much victims in this gruesome drama.  Even the Commander is playing a role and has to indulge any deviant desires in secret: the architects of this hell are in it just as much as its victims.  And unlike ‘Casualty’ where as soon as you see a car you know it’s going to crash, you have absolutely no idea what will happen next.

Three more episodes.  Sunday nights will never be the same…

Oh, and since I haven’t mentioned this before I’ll mention now that I was mentioned in dispatches (ie the Loughborough Echo) along with Baroness Chakrabarti.

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:

https://www.google.co.uk/search?client=opera&q=jason+and+the+argonauts&sourceid=opera&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

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

https://www.google.co.uk/search?client=opera&q=argos+greek+mythology&sourceid=opera&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

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:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-44259959/jeremy-thorpe-the-true-story-of-a-very-english-scandal

It’s all go.

Happy Tuesday.

Kirk out

The Wall of Loneliness: Radcliffe Hall, ISIS and The Handmaid’s Tale

I’ve been thinking a lot about societies lately; how they can restrict us and how hard it is to do without them.  A society is like an impossible partner: you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.  And two recent dramas which explore this theme are surprisingly similar, though one deals with ISIS in Syria and the other with a fundamentalist Christian dystopia in America.

These are so similar that at times ‘The State’ seems like a fantasy and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ like the reality: both are repressive totalitarian regimes in which women have to cover themselves when they go out or risk brutal punishments.  Beatings and executions are common, though in Gilead they go for hanging rather than beheading; and both feature stonings and chopping off hands, though Gilead being wealthier does at least anaesthatise its victims first.  In both societies women are reduced to chattels, kept only to serve or to procreate.

The difference is that, astonishing as it seems, the women in Syria have actually gone there voluntarily.  The series features two groups, one of men and one of women, and follows their diverse experiences as the men are trained in fierce combat and the women kept indoors to cook and clean.  As in Saudi Arabia they are not allowed out without a male guardian and have to obtain permission before doing anything beyond their normal duties.  It’s all the more chilling for being real; yet ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ is not less chilling for being fiction, because it’s plausible.  You can imagine a combination of circumstances in which it could happen.

Which brings me to Radcliffe Hall’s famous novel on lesbianism, ‘The Well of Loneliness.’  This is equally gripping especially if like me you remember a time when gays and lesbians had to hide for fear of internment or worse (it wasn’t all that long since Oscar Wilde had walked the treadmill at Reading Gaol.)  It was written in 1928 and immediately banned because it contained the line ‘and that night they were not divided,’ making it clear that the two women had shared a bed.  They manage to make a life together in France but in the end their isolation from home, family and society at large makes their situation intolerable, and the ending is heartbreaking.

Kirk out