Come On Down Anne Lundon!

The songs and interviews you will hear were recorded with the 1st World War ex-servicemen at Flanders House in Glasgow just under 30 years ago. 

With the current plethora of Great War documentaries on television it would be easy to become a Great War Grief Groupie, cheek set firmly over to one shoulder and immersed in a constant slaughter / innocents / sad / epoch, social changing loop of evocative “wave the boys goodbye,” nostalgic and theatrical emotional for a lost generation that none of us ever knew but one that we choose to believe we know so well, as if the average Pals Regiment recruit came from next door. It’s true that not a family in the land was left untouched by the Great War and actually, it’s just fantastic to witness the resurgence in interest across all ages in matters historical pertaining to the conflict.

I’ve enjoyed a lifelong interest in the subject and all its geopolitical and social derivatives. The more I learn, the less I realise I really understand.  Just for now though, I would like to share just one wee small part of the massive canvas that is the Great War that utterly fascinates me. That is, the way people talked.

In a time when people could identify one another, their backgrounds, exactly where they came from, (by village, not just general region), by their accents, intonations and slang the sheer richness and depth of speech to me is an utter wonder. What might it have been like to be at Waterloo station as the trains departed for France with the general hubbub all-around of impenetrable fast Buckie voices, deep Hampshire burrs, fast witted cockney, lazy drawling Norfolk………….?  For us, the fantastic diversity of our counties has long been homogenised into approximate North East / North West / South West etc regional groups and as each year passes we lose more of our spoken heritage.

One of the wonders for me then, in watching the Great War documentaries, is to listen to the real voices of Edwardian days. We can though, do better than snatches in a television documentary.

In 1916, an Austrian academic called Alois Brandl made recordings of British prisoners-of-war and their regional accents. By a miracle, they survived the bombing of Berlin in the Second World War while being stored at the Humbolt University and were ultimately tracked down by a linguistics academic called John Adams. Well played John. Treat yourself and take a peek into history by listening to some of these magical recordings.

In fact, the British Library website has literally, a door into another world with various projects such as the Millennium Memory Bank and their survey of English Dialects.

So what can we do? We’re hardly going to adopt an “accent of the week,” and pretend to be Devonshire farmhands from 1912 are we? No we’re not. The BBC are utterly rubbish. Their idea of diversification in being a national broadcaster is to grab the three nearest northerners hanging around their shiny new headquarters in Salford and stick them on the telly but its not really exploiting the breadth that we’re looking for in our wonderful country. ITV though are even worse. They give us bloody Downton Abbey which very much sounds to me as if its cast comes straight from inner-circle-middle-class Fulham in 2014............... well, that's actually what they are but aren't they supposed to be acting as other people? Idle script, idle direction and idle acting. I'd rather spend an hour kissing someone with the Ebola virus than I would watching that drivel.

Crumble then, is here to help.

You can’t get more diverse than the beautifully soft and  melodic accent from Stornaway and that is exactly the sort of thing we need to hear more of to calm us after a stressful day at the office and the bloody awful commute home. Fortunately Anne Lundon, who at present is criminally wasted on BBC Scotland and urgently needs to be brought to the attention of the nation, is waiting for the head honcho’s at the Beep to hear the clarion call from the people.

Let’s celebrate the who and what we are as a country. Come on down Anne, West Sussex is calling.

Oh George; What Have You Done?

Unglued........................ should, oh really should and could have been so much better.

Unglued........................ should, oh really should and could have been so much better.

As an inveterate film goer, (when I have the opportunity), I’ll mostly go and see an average movie rather than none at all. I’ll read reviews but mostly prefer to make my own mind up. To this end I legged it with one of the Crumble Kids on Saturday and went to see George Clooney’s “Monuments Men.” After ten minutes, I began to wish I’d listened to the reviews but dug in nonetheless with the view that it had to pick up. It didn’t. There aren’t many movies I watch where I suffer from the magnetic pull of the foyer and fresh air but this one tested me to the limit of forbearance. Frankly, the movie’s only redemption was in the concept especially as it should have been so, so much better given the provenance of the cast. 

The cinema was quite full with an obvious demographic range tilted to the older which is unsurprising given there remains a ready and receptive audience in Britain for any Second World War cinema. When we eventually trudged to the film’s end though, there was just silence; no chatter, no emotion, no..... well nothing actually. I wasn’t alone in my disappointment. 

The disjointed timelines, and "Janet & John," explanations of the historical backdrop, did nothing to bring the viewer into the story. It felt actually as if the director and editors had a blazing row in the cutting room; inadvertently destroyed about 2000ft of reel and then had to glue together what was left as best they could and hope no one noticed. Oh and please, Hugh Bonneville as the least convincing Army officer ever regardless of what he's acting in? He gives cardboard a bad name and peaked in Notting Hill as the clueless stockbroker, (more accurate than anyone could ever believe). I thought he'd bottomed out in Downton Abbey but no, that was very much catching a falling knife.

How odd that the last movie I watched, Gravity, was a film that lifted, tested and enriched on every single cinematic level and was indeed, all the better for Mr Clooney’s on-screen presence.

Perhaps George, you should spend a bit of time doing your apprenticeship behind the camera and spend a year or two working with cinematographers, editors and the like before going straight to the first division. Some actors transition to being unbelievably good directors, Clint Eastwood being the obvious but this movie, well...... it’s a bit like an embarrassing episode in the family, “let’s just move on and say no more about it.”

The Great Beauty; raises the bar in a Citizen Kane order of magnitude. Oscar winner for sure and for certain.

On the way home then I felt I needed something to lift the spirit and soul so popped into the supermarket and bought a DVD of “The Great Beauty,” for £8. No one else in the family was in the least interested so I watched it alone. I was entranced. Every shot was a photograph and every one, every single one was good enough to cover the Sunday Times Supplement or be viewed in a gallery. They came thick and fast; the lighting, the contrasts, the framing; beauty and elegance indeed. I won’t bore you with the plot; in fact, the plot such as it is was pretty superfluous. The joy is in simply watching, feeding the eyes and looking on in wonderment that so much magic can be captured in such a short time. This film will live forever and sets a pretty high bar for those who aspire to purveying grace and beauty on the screen.

All of which sounds somewhat pretentious coming from an average film goes like me; I am after all, the least arty metrosexual person I know. If though, a three pints of Guinness and a hotdog in the West Stand at Twickenham individual like me feels like that then perhaps there might be something in it.

Where does that leave us? Well, anyone who loves art, photography and the art of films must see “The Great Beauty,” and if you don’t like art, photography and the art of films you should definitely see “The Great Beauty,” and do so with open eyes; it might just open your mind. Oh and George, in the words of Robert Capa, "if your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough." Try it and then try again.

Shocking Ommission

The Downton Abbey scriptwriter hard at it

Another unpublished letter to the Telegraph, 

Dear Sir,

My usual morning equilibrium was rocked today as I travelled on the 06:00hrs from Haslemere, when I discovered whilst passing through Woking that excepting a fleeting reference relating to a photograph on page 8, the usual fawning and sycophantic daily piece about Downton Abbey was absent from the paper. This shocking omission left me with nothing to complain about on arrival at Waterloo but has left me feeling oddly uplifted and optimistic about the rest of my day.

Yours faithfully,
— Mental Crumble

The Newsroom Returns; Thank Goodness

A pretty compelling clip from The Newsroom Courtesy of HBO. 

Good news! The Newsroom returns this evening on Sky Atlantic at nine o'clock. How sad though, that the best comedy and drama television is now produced in the USA. Here, we subsist on what seems a death spiral of talentless talent shows, the sole aim of which appears to be to enrich Simon Cowell. The rest of the schedule is packed with cookery programmes, house improvement drivel, junk yard auctions and second rate costume drama which has now sunk to a level only marginally above the talent shows. All of this puerile rubbish is ever so slowly suffocating the wit and natural creativity that once flourished and challenged us in a sector where previously, we led the world. 

Moreover, there is no longer any justification whatsoever for sticking the taxpayer with a licence fee; there simply is no value or moral proposition there anymore. 

Still, if it weren't for bloody Downton Abbey, the Daily Telegraph would have nothing to write about on pages two, three and four.................  every bloody day.

Don't agree?............ then do please watch the clip for the first series of The Newsroom; it sells itself as well written, directed, acted and produced television that leaves you with some points to ponder. 


Crumble Returns

It's been a while with some interruptions from work and elsewhere that have precluded my full attention. Never mind, I've enjoyed driving myself witless trying to re engineer this wretched page and I've ended up with a worse version than the last, (Thanks Squarespace, this new version 6 reminds me of trying to make sense of Microsoft Vista  with instructions in Swahili tabulated in Braille). Much more work required but we all need to start somewhere I suppose.

Still, not much has changed. The Government remain utterly clueless and are driving the ship hard toward the iceberg marked, "debt implosion," in a land fit for wind turbines and £80bn railways to nowhere. Bloody Downton Abbey is coming back and we're finishing one war but warming up for another. What's more the bins still are being emptied only once a fortnight and South West Trains and the public school system continue to send me into penury.  

Still, we all make our own choices in life and we can enjoy trying to make sense of it all with a bit of stoic humour and common sense. There will be something more of a financial tilt to the blog going forward; I simply feel that the financial car crash that we're hurtling toward needs a broader airing and unless the passing reader knows where to look he may remain blissfully unaware of the structural problems out there. Perhaps thats the best way to be.

Crisis Over Downton Christmas Special

Which one is Carson?

(Correct answer will be picked at random out of a hat and the unlucky winner will be tied to a chair and made to watch the Downton Abbey Christmas Special twice)

Mrs Flashbang issued an ultimatum last night over dinner. Adopting teenagespeak she said, rather sternly, “I’m just putting it out there, but whatever happens on Christmas Day, I’m watching Downton Abbey at 9 o’clock.” Silence followed until the youngest boy bravely went on the offensive with, “So, that means we won’t be having our annual family Monopoly argument then?”

Bloody Downton Abbey; I can’t stand it. It’s a pernicious attack on normal family life and I can see the boys and I will be forced to adapt our normal Christmas routine and retreat to the nether regions of the house to build, assemble and repair something that was unwrapped earlier in the day. With this in mind I may well have to do a quick reappraisal of the Christmas gift list and augment it with something suitable. Incidentally, anyone else noticed that the daft butler Carson bears more than a striking resemblance to Parker in Thunderbirds? The only difference is Parker was more realistic. 



MC Does the Downton Abbey Thing

Catton Hall

I had the oddest of deja vu moments earlier this week. I was trundling down a B road on the Staffordshire / Derbyshire border, looking for my destination for the night, Catton Hall, where I was to shoot the next day. I spotted a house on my left and thought, "that might be it, looks familiar."

It wasn't, my destination was further down the road. Later though, in conversation with the owners of Catton Hall, I learned that I had passed a house called Croxall Hall on the road.

Rewind thirty years and my girlfriend of the time picked me up from Birmingham New Street and was driving me home to meet her parents. "That's a nice house over there," I remember remarking. "That's home," she said. "Ahhh........ right then," I said. It was Croxall Hall.

Her father then proceeded to ply me with freshly shaken martini's, another new experiance. The evening didn't end well and I can now see, in retrospect, that he played me as a cat would a mouse. It's taken thirty years for me to return to the same county never mind the same road.

The shoot was a grand success with 275 birds being dispatched. Many more got past the guns though, including a not inconsiderable number past me............. just like the one thirty years ago. Wonder what became of her.

Incidentally, if you are ever the happy recipient of an invitation to shoot at Catton just say yes........ it's all you need to know.

Croxall Hall