Thursday, February 22, 2024

Call to arms

Regular readers of this page (Do you really think anyone bothers? Ed.) will remember how delighted I was with the Brexit referendum. Overnight we freed ourselves of foreign dabbling in our affairs and reaffirmed our indisputable sovereignty. Hail to the house of Windsor!

There were those whingers who liked to bang on about a failing economy, people resorting to food banks, soaring costs of food, being ridiculed by the rest of the world, creating massive divisions in our society, and isolating ourselves from our neighbours. “So what!” I said, now we can get rid of those nasty plum coloured passports.

Now, alas, I am forced to admit that I was mistaken. I am stilling shaking with the decision that has been forced on my friends at Meridian Foods to discontinue the production of their organic, sugar-free fruit spreads. As I speed further into my dotage (have you sped into your dotage, missus?) I will have to do so without what has been a key part of my morning repast these 30 years. True, I still have my tahini and marmite on my home baked bread, but they will appear increasingly forlorn without the cheery accompaniment of morello cherry spread on the other half of the plate. I am not one to resort to trauma easily, and I took it stoically when they stopped make their plum spread (avoid the plural, Ed.) some time ago, but now the whole range has ceased to be.

Farage and his knuckle-dragging friends will get no further support from me! You can destroy the NHS and take education back to the Victorian era and I will consider it a fair price to pay for our freedom, but when you mess with my breakfast you have begun something the conclusion of which will be very unpleasant for you.

As A A Milne might have put it:
The Twat asked

The Receptionist, and

The Receptionist asked

The Spokesperson,

“Could we have some organic sugar-free wild blueberry spread for

The moron’s slice of bread” (Toast in this case, Ed.)

The Receptionist asked the Spokesperson,
The Spokesperson

Said “Not likely, mate, we can’t afford it, blame the Tories”. *


Who’s up for a game of insurrection?


*May have been my interpretation

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Public service initiative

I have written to the chief executive of Sainsbury’s. There is no need to thank me.



Dear Simon

I am hoping that this matter will not intrude greatly on your daily routine – I am aware that those shelves don’t stack themselves.

I am communicating on behalf of LEICESTER (Local Easily Irritated Citizens [Especially Susceptible to Ear-aching Rubbish]) having spent a less than enjoyable perambulation round the aisles of your local establishment this very morning.

You will recall your excellent initiative at the beginning of lockdown whereby the elderly and infirm were allocated times when they alone could conduct their shopping activities. I was able to take advantage of that and appreciated your kindness. It is true that concentrating the bewildered and gormless into a fixed time period could have led to issues – more than the average number of customers blankly staring at the shelves for no apparent reason while their trolley blocked the lanes, and the meaningless meandering at a pace redolent of the chubby, asthmatic boy in the egg and spoon race to cite two examples – but I was able to zip round the store, and between March and May I only ran over 3 old ladies, all of whom apologised profusely.

Anyway, as I abhor circumlocutory verbosity, I will come to the main reason for this missive, which comes in the form of a request.

Would it be possible to set aside one or two periods each week for the remainder of this month when those not wishing to be assailed by the cacophony of what is politely described as Christmas music, could conduct their purchasing pursuits? All you would have to do is to press the off switch. I appreciate that you might see this request as simplistic, but I have given some thought to the issues arising and would be prepared to sign a waiver. I am cognisant of the health and safety matters resulting from the gathering together of those likely to take advantage of this scheme. Without the “music” (I wonder what Haydn would have called it?) then the sounds of sundry villagers whose disposition might range from mildly nervous to downright grumpy, all tutting, sighing and grumbling might be discomforting for your staff – you may even have to go as far as hiring extra security guards. But, on the whole I think that if you can ride this storm all of your colleagues will benefit from having overcome the challenge and standards will improve. Indeed, I might be inclined to spend more time, and in consequence money, chez vous if it meant not having to listen to some hackneyed jeremiad or the wailings of a third-rate quasi-musical ensemble.

Anyway, my dear old cabbage, give it some thought – but time is running out. I know that you may have other pressing matters to attend to – the issue of your failing to stock wholemeal hot cross buns any longer, and why they were only ever available between New Year and Easter while the other stodgier varieties were and are in abundance throughout the year, for example – but I am sure it will gladden your heart to see me skipping gaily up your produce aisle should you be able to satisfy my plea.

Love and peace

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Evidence of further poor planning by those in charge

The BBC carries an article (tl;dr) entitled "Katie Mack: 'Knowing how the universe will end is freeing'"

The essence of it is that no-one knows how and when the universe will end, but posits that it would be a good thing if we did know.

What it fails to address are the really important issues such as:

1) If the universe ends during an Ashes series, how will it be decided which country should be considered the winner. Does the Duckworth Lewis calculation extend to include the end of existence?

2) What happens to unredeemed Nectar points?

3) Is insurance for white goods covered by this event?

4) If the Hindus have got it right - I have no reason to doubt them, other than the anecdotal evidence of knowing some who are very dodgy indeed - then the universe will be created the next day by Brahma. Will we be afforded accommodation while all this nonsense is going on? I have no objection to a temporary sojourn in a cosmic Premier Inn, provided that there is ample vegetarian/vegan food and that I don't have some noisy buggers in the room above (bloody Hindus celebrating the new Day of Brahma most likely).

5) If we are still in lockdown, will there be some warning, so that I don't have to bother to get up early on the Wednesday of that week to go shopping in Sainsbury's with all of the other doddery old twats?

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Mr Creosote

I was advised yesterday by cousin Mary to enjoy my birthday “without indulging in too much cake”. I replied ‘Please explain to me the concept of "too much cake", I admit to never having been a student of philosophy.’ 

She kindly replied ‘it might be more accurate to speak of physiology rather than philosophy in this instance! When your shirt-buttons start popping and you feel you may be "bursting at the seams", you have certainly had "too much cake"’

I was grateful for the reply but, alas, it did not satisfy me. The symptoms she described were, in my view, evidence of clothing of the wrong size or an inadequate metabolism.

Most of us are unable to devote much time to deep reflection on the essence of existence, being more driven to concentrate on those activities essential to survival – foraging for sustenance, getting the required daily 11 hours sleep, correcting errors on twitter and watching “Only Connect”. However, the current suspension of test cricket, the IPL and Super Rugby allows me a few moments of reflection.

On a similar theme to the cake conundrum above, I confess to being troubled by the simplistic “glass half full/half empty” explanation of the difference between optimists and pessimists (I have always favoured the third option, that of engineering, which posits the case that the glass is the wrong size).  Facts of which we are not informed include the size, location and contents of the receptacle.  If one were thirsty and the glass was to hand and contained some nourishing, thirst-quenching substance, then it might be safe to say that the position of seeing the glass half full was an optimistic one. Alternatively, if the glass contained a highly radioactive substance then the size of the glass and its proximity would be factors in determining degrees of optimism/pessimism.

It is not in my nature to bemoan the shortcomings of this creation. I am sure that the next upgrade, or version 2, will eliminate sweet potatoes, capitalism, carrot cake, reality tv, misanthropy, the cult of celebrity, racism and Ikea. We should not be too hard on God for his oversights, particularly if she only had seven days to complete the task. (This of course raises the troubling question of who it was who was powerful enough to set ridiculous deadlines that constrained an omnipotent being – Mary, see what your edict has unearthed?)

I hope that this helps.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Darwin Award

I have been inundated with a letter, from a Mrs Virgin Australia of New South Wales and been forced to reply.

Dear Virgin Australia (winner of the oxymoron of the year competition 2016)

I was more than a little perturbed to find, upon opening my online calendar yesterday, that you have booked me on a flight from Newcastle (NSW) to Darwin via Brisbane on February 7th (your time). It is unclear how you see me travelling to Newcastle – the journey involves 22 hours of flying and 8 hours of waiting at airports at a cost of over £8000 first class. I have no idea what attractions Darwin holds that would make this time and expenditure worthwhile. I have never been to either Darwin or Newcastle and have only a passing knowledge of Brisbane which I found to be adequately pleasant in a truly unremarkable way. I have a very good friend who lives there. I have not been to Newcastle upon Tyne either. I have been to Newcastle under Lyme, which is just down the road from Talke Pits, home of the famous Development Company, very much the Bloomsbury Group of the early 1970s.

I note that there is a ward in Darwin called Fannie Bay. I should alert you to the information that I am far too seasoned and sensible to be allured by cheap inuendo. I can find little in the way of entertainment or culture in that time period, not even the Breast Feeding Education Class at the Palmerston Recreation Centre on the 15th has any appeal.

I can only conclude that someone has given you my email address in error. I am now concerned that just as his itinerary appeared in my diary so mine might appear in his. While I am sanguine about the prospect of his taking my place at either of both of my dental and urologist appointments (tell him not to get the two confused) I don’t want him pinching my tickets for Stewart Lee at the De Montfort Hall. Please do your best to contact him and whereas I would offer a warm Pom welcome should he appear on my doorstep, I do not want him messing with my busy social calendar.

Love and peace.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

He shall have a square 'un

I am tickled pink to hear from Aaron who says:

Patient Visitation Group

Dear Brothers,

We are looking to update you on 3 areas.

  1. The concept of having a team so that when you are covered up with “matters” you can let others know that the hospitals are covered. This requires the Chaplin to be in communication with the team as well as the team being in communication with each member. This approach has worked very well in the areas that have been implemented. As you may be aware, there are multiple brothers currently assigned to each hospital. If you find that the brothers you are partnered with is unable to assist you, please notify me and let’s work on getting your team(s) built.
  2. We are sending you a template(s) for business cards. We would like you to personalize it and get it printed professionally so that you will have a card to use at the hospitals.
  3. If you do not have the link to the Google docs reporting tool it; it is as follows (link below). If you need training or having difficulty accessing the link, please let me know.

We have had many good experiences and developments with the PVG work and have received commendations from HLC for the work done. In particular, the brothers feel the love and we make Jehovah’s heart happy when we visit them.”

I have replied thus:

Hello Aaron

I trust that you have recovered from your somewhat prolonged journey across the desert.  I am not a theologian, and when the good book describes you as a “high priest” I hope that they mean exalted rather than under the influence of some narcotic. I have no issue with what folk do in the privacy of their own space, but feel compelled to express reservations about their suitability for the clergy. I recall the incident when dear old Loopy Longfellow applied for the position of Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, but failed the written exam because he tried to inhale the ink.

I deduce from your message (it isn’t entirely clear) that you propose to spread your message among the sick and infirm. I am sure that you are sincere in your objectives, but have you paused to consider the feelings of your visitees?  Were I to be lying abed just having had 28% of my giblets extracted or some appendage removed or been treated for galloping lurgy with wire-brush and Dettol, I suspect that the prospect of being targeted by a proselytiser, no matter how alluring, would be unlikely to stir feelings of a cordial nature. Indeed, I might be obliged to comment that the prospect of eternal damnation with which they were threatening me would be preferable to my current situation and state of well-being. Neither is the less-than-welcoming response limited to those sick of the palsy. The last time a member of your church called at my house they proffered a tract entitled “How do you view the future?”. “How do you view the future?” she asked. “Without tracts” was my brief but entirely veracious response, with which I closed the door. If folk do come bothering me when Rohit Sharma is on 84 then they should not have any expectations of lengthy conversation.

In short, I am not sure why you have tried to enlist my support.

I should add that I have turned down similar invitations from Mephistopheles who promised me dominion over the Earth. I told him to bugger off (I have retired and the last thing I need is more responsibility; I still have over 100 unread books on my Kindle). I believe this proves that I am an equal opportunities misanthrope.

I am not sure who HLC are. I immediately though of Harrogate Ladies’ College, naturally, but cannot see any reason for that fine body of youthful femininity to be impressed – they are non-denominational. Perhaps you may mean the village of Holton-le-Clay – just up the road from me in Lincolnshire. I should warn you that Lincolnshire is not the place to go for excitement, and its inhabitants are easily impressed.

Anyway, Aaron, old pomegranate, it was kind of you to think of me, and I reciprocate the warmth. Or perhaps you have the wrong email address?

Love and peace.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Please read the terms and conditions

I confess to bearing Luddite tendencies when it comes to cellular telephones. It is a technological phenomenon that has washed over me leaving no debris in its wake.

I have a mobile telephone. I use it, on average, once a month to make a telephone call. I seldom send a text message. Most of the time it is switched off. I prefer to see where I am going when out and about, increasingly important these days when you are constantly the subject of intrusive physical contact by those too busy texting Gary telling him what Sarah Louise has just texted to look where they are going.

I know that there are all sorts of uses for these devices. I have only dabbled at the rim of the ocean of exciting possibilities and suspect that the occasional dipping of the metaphorical toes therein will suffice.

I was bemused, however, by this headline on the BBC news website:

“I delivered a baby over the phone”

I am very concerned about this for a variety of reasons. I chose not to read the article lest I became more alarmed. I have never been one to let ignorance of the facts deter my forming an opinion, I believe, indeed, that it is one of the criteria to which you are compelled to agree when signing up for internet access.

Was the baby downloaded from the cloud? If so I shall be considerably more circumspect in my use of the device if that is the case. I have no wish to press an icon that I assumed was a link to an app that updated me with the plot synopsis of the last 8 years of “Homes under the Hammer” only to find myself in possession of a newly born human. Does the technology only work with infants? Imagine your surprise to find that while you had been intending to check your email you had inadvertently beamed Gyles Brandreth down.

Even more alarming, mainly from the point of view of the baby, is the prospect of delivery by landline. One can only assume that the expulsion from the womb is a traumatic enough event without it concluding with a tortuous journeys down very thin cable via a junction box in Cirencester.

Don’t ask me, I can barely comprehend the mechanics of a propelling pencil.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Many happy returns

An email from a young lady called Gwen, a young lady I have never met nor communicated with before, asking me whether I had a good birthday has prompted me to record some memorable birthday occasions. I do this in order to save the rest of the world from having to enquire – I trusted that your curiosity will be sated by a few of these recollections. Whether they are good is not a straightforward matter – opinions change over the years and it is perhaps better to eschew judgement on events that may have been seen differently by some of the participants.

Allow me to begin (Allow? Ed. Who tf is going to stop you) by describing the year that my birthday was spent on the Orient Express. Some friends had decided that it would be fun. I did not entirely share their sanguinity but as I had declined invitations for excursions of the same nature I felt it appropriate to join in with this one. (My cynicism was grounded in evidence, I may, should time allow, describe at some point several of the vicissitudes experienced by my social circle).

It was decided that Bucharest would be our destination – again, not my choice. I am no real fan of rail travel, and London to Bucharest takes almost as long as the 14:42 service between Waterloo and Alton.

Although we set off with optimism and expectation, our spirits were somewhat dampened when it transpired that, due to a booking glitch, Tubby Mountjoy would have to share a sleeping compartment with Lord Hailsham.  I need hardly say that Hailsham was not one of our party – we had renounced the practice of consorting with senior politicians ever since the fiasco with Duncan Sandys – he simply had chosen to travel at the same time.

Tubby complained bitterly about Quintin’s appalling flatulence. We did not take it very seriously and thought that Tubby was exaggerating, but were forced to concede that the claims bore some veracity when a particularly alarming emission set off the smoke alarm and we had to spend several hours in the waiting room of a somewhat squalid station waiting room a few miles east of Zurich while the train was fumigated and the equipment repaired. On the bright side, Tubby was happier because the staff insisted on moving his Lordship. They set him up with a mattress in the luggage compartment at the rear of the train, and insisted that the rear door be left ajar in order to improve the air flow. Someone, can’t remember who, postulated that this would propel the train forward at a faster rate and thereby make up for lost time, but I am an agnostic when it comes to the laws of physics.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Countdown to another Royal Divorce part 1.

It behoves me to assist those readers of a foreign persuasion, and also those a little slow on the uptake (that just about covers every bugger, Ed.) to explain the contents of the document whose image is currently circulating on the electric internet concerning the forthcoming shitfest in the UK.

For most of us, when informed about, and invited to, a wedding, a simple “Fuck off, I will be busy watching television” is an adequate and concise response, but dear old Lizzie Saxe-Coburg-Gotha – one of the few people old enough to remember how to use Microsoft Paint – has to make a song and dance about it.

I shall endeavour to explain some of the quaint terms and usages:

“ElizabethR”: The R stands for “Richards”. This is a throwback to the happy days she spent playing the part of Mrs Richards in Fawlty Towers. Even now, she affects to be deaf, if only to irritate the shit out of Phil.

“Our other Realms and Territories”: These days, the Scilly Isles and Lindisfarne (when the tide is out).

“To all to whom these Presents shall come”: ‘Oi! You lot’, would be more concise and easier to comprehend.  There are no presents. Young Hal will be lucky if she slips him a fiver on the day, her parsimony being the stuff of legend.

The Great Seal:

(come on, some readers expect this sort of thing).

Privy Council:

(That’s enough catering for the lowest common denominator, Ed.)

“Know Ye that We”: She refers to herself as more than one person. You will have to consult a Freudian about that, beats the shit out of me. As for the Know Ye bit, let’s just call it rhetoric, out of kindness.

“Our Most Dearly Beloved Grandson”: she can’t abide the other fuckers.

Great Seal:

(This time for the younger readers)

“Signed with her own hand”: She keeps the hands of several people who have got on the wrong side of her, in a drawer in her living room. When she uses one of those hands to sign, then the writing becomes even less comprehensible.

I will not go into all of the dialogue that has beset me these last few months about declining my invitation. Suffice it so say that I was not influenced by the prospect of having to sit immediately behind Anne Laurence and her legendary flatulence, as has been reported in some of the media.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Victory for common sense

It will not surprise you to know that I fully support the proposal of Mr Trump to train the teaching profession in the use of ordnance.

I adopt this position on the basis of experience and watching how effective it was during my schooldays.

I cannot imagine that Dr Adey would have been so successful in instilling respect for Chaucer’s popularisation of the vernacular had he not reinforced his thesis with his trademark P938.

Miss Stones, later Mrs Lewis, was famous for her enquiry about the number of Commandments – “Are there nine commandments or are there ten? Ask yourself one question – do I feel lucky?”

Who can forget the day that “Butch” Robinson and “Sundance” Hargreaves Minor came a cropper when they tried to sneak out before the bell had gone and were met with the combined fire power of the staff of the biology department?

I doubt whether many of us would have understood the birth of the Romantic movement in symphonic music had Mr Newby not kept time with Mendelssohn’s Reformation symphony by shooting the score onto the blackboard with his famous Smith and Wesson.

None of us would have mastered the declension of German verbs had not Herr Clarke and Herr Still been mounted in gun towers.

As for Barry Batterham’s replacement of the starter pistol on Sports Day with an AK47, what can one say? Seldom have the competitors in the 880 yards felt so motivated.

Happy days indeed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


The Torygraph reports:

"France declares Marquis de Sade's ... 120 Days of Sodom 'national treasure' hours before auction"

Another example of the cultural ties we will lose when we leave the European Union. Scholars should note that this fine description of life in an English public school was written 26 years before the similarly themed "Sense and Sensibility".

I have not read Monsieur de Sade’s works, but believe that he foretold the coming of the current First Lord of the Treasury by naming one of the characters “Thérèse”.

Some would argue that the gratuitous violence in “Three Men in a Boat” makes it more enjoyable than that soppy farce “The Three Musketeers” which it plagiarises, but the joyous frolics in the latter capture the spirit of those merry japesters, the French aristocracy. (You haven’t read that one either, have you? Ed.)

It is alarming that so much of the great British literature which we are encouraged to venerate while we are at school is simply a poorer reworking of sublime French works of art. Who can deny that the coming of age novels in the Harry Potter series are inspired by “À la Recherche du Temps Perdu”? Bridget Jones is clearly based on Madame Bovary, and only the most uneducated could fail to see that “Wuthering Heights” is an almost literal translation of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame".

Let me be among the first to congratulate the French government on moving to protect its national works of art and manuscripts. I shall later be writing to the cabinet to ask that the works of Jeffrey Archer be kept in the UK and only used as a deterrent in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Perhaps some of my transatlantic friends could join me in ensuring that the works of Dan Brown are also kept in maximum security.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Another helpful discourse on the nature of existence.

I am delighted to read that this year’s Nobel Physics prize has been awarded to three gentleman who have detected ripples in space time.

It is hard to explain just how much this means to me, as unlike the apparatus that was used to detect the aforementioned ripple, no mechanism has been invented to measure such refined units of meaning. Of course, much of this has passed me by; the last time I was in a physics lab the most sophisticated instrument was the micrometer screw gauge. I will pause while you make your own facile (witty, shurely? Ed.) remarks about screwing and measuring very small things. Finished? Good.

This is all to do with (excuse me if I am being simplistic) the ability of very large objects moving at speed being able to slow down or speed up time. By large objects what is meant is black holes. (All the while I am writing this I am reminded of a particularly humorous comment made by a colleague about an event germane to this thread, but as the subject of that comment may one day read this I am obliged to simply apologise for being distracted). When they collide they produce ripples.

Now, call me picky, but if I refer again to the last time I was in a physics lab, it was in the company of some of the least able pedagogues ever to exist. What they could do, however, despite their lack of mass was to make time slow down. I once spent 263 hours in double physics one Monday morning. Mr S* was a short dapper man with an admirable beard who could monotonise for Europe. The other Mr S* was a slim, sardonic creep who kept the spirit of Torquemada alive, despite being much less funny. Mr M* was a dishevelled loon who also taught RE, I suspect in an attempt to persuade a benevolent deity to instil a sense of interest in his pupils.  So please don’t come round here telling me that they’ve only just detected these phenomena.

Yellow cards will be shown to anyone trying to make jokes about raspberries or nipples. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Grass on your neighbours (geddit?)

It is reassuring to know that, in these times of change, we can always rely upon the traditional sources of information. In this fine city we have the “Leicester Mercury” a veritable Fort Knox of valuable data. As every schoolboy knows, Mercury was the messenger of the gods and also god of commerce. Capitalist twat.

Anyway, this fine organ is a constant source of useful information. Today there is some splendid stuff in an essay entitled “How to spot if you have a cannabis farm next door: Nine signs you should look out for”

I would have preferred if they had written “Nine signs for which you should look out”, but purists might say that it should be “Nine signs, out for which you should look”. It’s a funny old world isn’t it?

I won’t reprint the whole article, but these sections I found particularly useful.

“Cannabis growing equipment transported to and from the house”

I suppose that that one is a bit of a give-away. I shall quiz the postal services and delivery drivers about what they have been moving.  I am not knowledgeable about these matters so I asked my dear friends Theodore and Evadne Google about this. Rather than telephone them this late at night I used their website (are you familiar with it – it has been a closely guarded secret – we don’t want everyone being able to learn things on their own, do we, to where would that lead???). The first item that came up was an “Elite Optima Plus Side Filing Cabinet”. I will see if any of my neighbours owns such an item by discreet enquiry. Do any of your acquaintances possess expensive office equipment? If they do then they may well be a drug-crazed hippy.

“Heat, birds on the roof, and a lack of snow”

Bugger! Everyone on the estate must be a junkie. No signs of snow and quite warm (I haven’t been out wearing a cardigan for several weeks).

“9. Unsociable comings and goings.
Are there lots of unfamiliar faces turning up at the house at any time of the day and night? It could just be a popular family, but maybe it's something more sinister.”

It must be me! I had a very funny bugger from Crewe turn up the other week. Just off to hand myself in at the local nick. Anyone got Caroline Coon’s telephone number?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Those who cannot learn from history are probably watching the BBC

Having just recovered from the dreadful episode with the tedious Lucy Worsley, I dived recklessly into another attempt by those nice folk at the BBC to clarify historical events. I am sorry to say that this version was hardly an improvement on the previous disaster.

This time, via the medium of the electric television, I watched a program called “Henry VII : The Winter King”. It was presented by a chap called Thomas Penn, who, while not quite so irritating as Loopy Lucy, has probably emptied a few rooms and lecture theatres in his time.

Whoever is in charge of commissioning these historical documentaries at the Beeb, seems to be constricted by bizarre concepts of what said programs should contain.

For the most part, there is no film archive of anything more than about 100 years old. This is the fault of our ancestors who were so chronically stupid that they did not have the gumption to invent digital video cameras. (In my view, this is a much less serious oversight than the egregious criminality of not preserving “Not Only .. But Also” film archives but that is not the main thrust of this little essay.) Therefore, programs on this subject have to find something with which to fill the screen.  Further, there seems to be a severe budgetary limit (good news for those of us who pay a licence fee and would object to financing 15,000 or so actors to realistically re-enact the Battle of Bosworth Field, for example) on what can be covered. To fill this vast void we have various shots of the presenter in several incongruous locations, some of which are without explanation and few of which add anything to the substance of the story, walking about staring vaguely at things that are not shown on camera. Lucy Worsley is an expert at this, and Thomas Penn has obviously been on the same course, but has not attended the Silly Walk tutorial. We also need some melodrama, as the audience is obviously going to be too thick to appreciate a factual narrative unless it is jazzed up and dumbed down.

Here are some of the highlights from H7:tWK:

Penn is shown at Milford Haven where Henry Tudor landed in his attempt to win the Royal Premiership, season 1484-85. He is seen travelling towards the coast in a motorised dinghy. I am fairly certain that no mention was made of motorised dinghies in the treatises of G. R. Elton, but it is more than a couple of years since I did my ‘A’ levels and so it may have escaped my memory, and to be fair, I did spend long periods of those lessons pre-occupied with lustful thoughts about some of my classmates (no, not you, silly boy). He is then seen walking onto the beach (I hope water got in his wellies) and announcing that “You can imagine what this looked like”. Indeed, we have to imagine, because no clues are given – all we can see is him and his bloody dinghy on an empty shoreline. The budget does stretch, however, to a sound clip that might have resembled an army arriving in Wales during the tourist season in 1485 but could equally have been a demonstration of coffee making equipment recorded in Debenham’s in Cirencester.

The melodrama is in the form of captions which echo the words just spoken by young Tommy; probably the most nonsensical one is the shibboleth “Our history is about to change forever”. I need not, I trust, go into all 597 reasons why that statement makes no sense, do I? (Probably. Ed.)

In a scene redolent of the one I complained about the other day, we then find Tom in a field someplace that he seems to think is Bosworth Field. It may or may not be the same field that Lucy was in (who cares? But it would have been more amusing had they crossed paths. They could even have had a fight about who was there first.), most fields have characteristics in common, and many fields that were carefully minding their own business over 500 years ago may have changed considerably or be no longer extant. Like Lucy, Thomas gives no indication of where Bosworth Field is or why the armies were there. But given the clue in his reporting that Tudor had landed in Wales, we can guess that it is somewhere on mainland Great Britain. (It is actually somewhere near the village of Stoke Golding in Leicestershire and the battle probably buggered up the school summer holidays of my ancestors in 1485).

Having covered the unpleasantness perpetrated on Richard of Gloucester, he then ponces off to Westminster Abbey, where he is seen taking his shoes off. “I’m taking off my shoes” he kindly informs us. He then commences to prance about the area of the Abbey where coronations occur. “It feels amazing to stand here”. I confess to being less than amazed by the spectacle and ponder the question as to whether, were there any amazingness at all, the amazingness of the place would be enhanced by having this prize gawdelpus stuck in the middle of it. He then tells us what King Henry VII must have felt like. (Just stop it – I am referring to his majesty's emotional state, not the contours of his corporeal being.)

During a section on the battle of Stoke Field, we are shown footage of the number 35 bus to Clapham in the centre of London. I really don’t know why, Clapham is nowhere near Stoke Field, and G. R. Elton made no reference (see above for disclaimer) to John de la Pole travelling to the battle by omnibus.

Later, at Hampton Court, Penn tells us that “It was what happened behind this door that would become synonymous with Henry VII’s reign”. I have no idea to what he was alluding and would suggest that the statement had as much value as the earlier one about history changing.

I am happy to report that I spent much of the day watching the re-enactment of the Battle of Bristol, in which Moeen Ali went from 50 to 100 in 12 balls, in much the same way that I watched Tom Graveney score 70 odd against the West Indies when I should have been revising for my exams. So bollocks to history. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Tis better, sir, to be brief than tedious.

I am a patient, tolerant person as is witnessed by my gentle postings on the electric internet, but I have finally given up on, and formally denounce, any television programs featuring Lucy Worsley. Her latest foray into attempting to induce conniptions is the series "British History's Biggest Fibs".
I tried, honestly, but lasted about 20 minutes during which time the leering (hers not mine, that boy), the looking over her shoulder at stuff the viewer could not see, the preposterous gait which outdoes her speech defect and total lack of anything interesting to say caused me to make sure I am never tempted to watch her again.

The first program in this series covers the Wars of the Roses. During the section that I struggled through she gave no historical context. I probably know slightly more than the average viewer about that period in history (not enough for me to be able to teach the subject, but enough to watch the history plays of Shakespeare without having to constantly consult reference books to work out who is related to whom) but anyone watching Ms Worsley would probably be worsley (geddit?) informed after the program than before. There was no attempt to give an historical context to the Wars – the succession issue on the death of Edward III (that is king Edward the third, not Edward Iii, midfielder for Port Vale, do pay attention). Again, I did not watch the whole thing, but there was no analysis of who the houses of Lancaster and York were. Instead she launched in to the rancid chestnut of the Tudors putting a spin on history in order to validate their claim to the throne. Stock footage of Olivier glorying in his deerskin tent, ffs.

Then a scene in which she is seen rambling through foliage in the manner of a bemused dogger trying to explain that she was on the site of the battle of Bosworth. Pointing to her right she explained that until recently the site of the battle was thought to be two miles in that direction but the discovery of artefacts had proved it to be round about where she was standing. Alas, to the uninformed viewer she could have been standing anywhere. Again, I could probably find my way to the site without the aid of maps were I so disposed, but there are probably folk among the 27 or so viewers who made it thus far into the program who thought that the battle might have taken place in East Goatshag, Oklahoma or Basildon High Street. A simple display of a map may have helped.

So that those of you who are not familiar with the story of England in the 15th Century here is a brief synopsis. Edward III was a belligerent twat. He brought some stability during his reign by kicking seven shades of Shakespeare out of anyone who opposed him. He outlived his oldest son (insert your own jokes about the Black Prince) which led to disputes about who should succeed him. There followed a whole series of battles and skirmishes amongst his successors, who were also all twats, resulting in the distribution of sundry innards of the population around the country. The country has continued to be ruled by twats both royal and elected up until the publication of this learned thesis. Some of the twats were more benign than others – Clement Atlee wasn’t all that bad, for example. If you need to know more, there are lots of sources available, but avoid Ms Worsley if you want to enjoy your research.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Countdown to the royal whatever, part 2.

I know that I have been neglectful of late with tales from the Saxe Coburg Gotha clan. I apologise to those of you who have been missing the updates and also to those of you who thought that I had run out of stories and were celebrating.

It is not as though there is any shortage of interruptions to my well-deserved retirement, but more that the tone and frequency sometimes seems so predictable and tedious that I am circumspect about repeating them.

This time it was the middle of the night.

“I’m 91 you know”.

“Fuck off, Liz, you daft tart, do you know what time it is?”

“Sorry, ducky, I’m on Canadian time.”

“Don’t be so silly – you went to Canada House. Even with an escort of the entire British Army and driven slowly in a coach and horses it’s only 5 minutes. It’s just at the end of the Mall, ffs. I know you must get bored of looking out of the window, but did you notice thousands of miles of prairies or any vast expanses of water larger than, say, St James Park lake?”

“I’m 91 you know.”

“Oh piss off. Now is there any particular point to this call or am I the designated stooge this week? What’s Philip up to – surely there’s still mileage in telling him some stories about young Edward.”

“No, not since he retired. He feigns indifference and just likes to watch all the tasteless medical documentaries on the television all day.”

“Haven’t you told him that all of his treatment will be on the NHS now that he isn’t doing any official duties?”

“Shit! That’s a good one. I’m so pleased I called”.

“Well, much as I love you,  I’m not. Is this about that chap touching your elbow?”

“Yes! That was it! I knew there was something. I thought the bugger was trying to push me down the steps. I told him that he was looking for a one way trip to the Tower. If the cameras hadn’t been there I would have hit him upside the head with my handbag. ‘I wonder what she has in her handbag’ they’re always asking – well it will be a sodding great brick if I have to go back there again.”

“Stop being so precious, I’m looking forward to your meeting Trump. He’ll have his tiny hands all over you. I shall definitely watch that with the utmost attention.”

“You can forget that; we’ve already worked out how to deal with him – we’ve got an open contract with Helen Mirren to stand in for me, he won’t know the difference and she can kick him in the bollocks if he tries any funny stuff.”

“Goodnight, Brenda”

“I’m 91 you know”