Blue Peter for Big Boys

If it's Seventies innuendo they want; no need to watch Bake Off...... I can do that.

I understand perfectly well that in the interests of good order and preserving love and affection between couples, that there must be some basic rules in place based on mutual trust and respect, which promote and enhance harmonious living. Most couples have these rules which, over time, become simply habit and routine driven and very rarely do they attract any comment. We're talking about  laundry, dishwasher, toothpaste, towels, ice in the freezer sort of routine and that is all well and good. Until that is, random rules are introduced, the breach of which is usually followed with, 'I told you the other day.' The two most recent rules in my household which suddenly appeared are apparently, 'no talking during the Archers trial,' and 'don't record over Bake Off.' Seriously? Ambridge has been in a spiral of self absorbed leftie love-in since at least 1995 and as for Bake Off, well, I've never seen so much fuss about making iced buns in my life. Who is going to live long enough to waste their time watching that rubbish and all the seventies innuendo which comes with it which at worst isn't funny and at best comes nowhere close to equalling the art form perfected by the original masters. It makes me want to lob a brick through the flatscreen.

In fact Bake Off represents the race to the bottom between the BBC and ITV to find the lowest denominator of the viewing public and they've hit the target with this one. In desperation, I often take the path less travelled and occasionally discover a gem which I'm happy to share and this one is an absolute 24ct nugget.

We're talking The Reassembler,' on BBC Four. This three part series sees James May in his shed reassembling iconic bit's of kit, piece by piece. The series is genius. In fact, it is pretty much Blue Peter for big boys. So far he has done a 1959 petrol engined lawn mower and an old Bakelite GPO telephone, both classic examples of design and engineering. The programmes are utterly absorbing. Which one of us hasn't stripped down an engine or piece of machinery only to expend hours if not days being frustrated in attempting to put everything back together? I've been plagued since childhood with the age old problem of reassembling things and always finishing with two screws spare which ought not to be spare. Sometimes I don't finish at all and find myself on the Electrical And Mechanical Goods For Sale To Husbands Who Attempted Home Repairs And Completely Buggered Them Up website. The series ends on Wednesday with the assembly of an electric guitar, I can't wait. 

In the pottering-about-the-shed-talking-to-himself format May is of course filling the considerable cultural boots of Jack Hargreaves who presented 'Out of Town,' for oh, just about all my growing up years. Jack Hargreaves had a formidable knowledge of the countryside and the old pre war ways of the countryside. It was a fascinating series. 

Schoolboys doing metalwork in the 1960's, (much more interesting than maths and easily my favourite subject. I made a trowel and a screwdriver).

Schoolboys doing metalwork in the 1960's, (much more interesting than maths and easily my favourite subject. I made a trowel and a screwdriver).

The other can-do programme of the era for young boys was Blue Peter. I don't suppose they make train sets on that programme anymore or have presenters skydiving from Hercules aircraft. That's a shame and here's the rub. The luvvies at Television Centre only show what they decide is best for us which is not necessarily what we want. James May shouldn't be doing his programme on BBC 4 at nine thirty in the evening. He should be broadcast at the weekends at times when kids can watch with their Dad's and perhaps not start with the Grade Really Difficult stuff but with easier to do projects for aspirant kids fed up with toys with chips.  All kids love a challenge, all kids have a thirst for knowledge and all kids enjoy making things and the sense of purpose and achievement they bring. Come on Mr May, time to properly take over old Jack's legacy. Go and rattle some cages, (any way but the Clarkson way).



What Now?

My God, he really is a robot.

The interviewer in that clip, Damon Green, was none to pleased with the result either. His post interview thoughts are worth a read.

To the debate last night and anyone landing from another Galaxy this morning will quickly realise that the UK is heading down a perilous path to a kind of unreconstructed socialism that we haven’t seen since the seventies. Whilst many hope for a Tory surge, and are no doubt tiring of the Spin Meisters drive for “discredit Milliband and steady as she goes,” approach, any outcome other than a Labour + loony fringe support looks at this point, tenuous. The remarkable thing is that the pound, gilts and equities appear relatively unruffled. Although weaker, sterling will take a good old fashioned hammering on May 8th and likely, long before. 

I’m not quite sure what tofu munching unreconstructed Trotskyists like the Greens, who have one MP, are doing on the national stage when the DUP are barred. Its also shocking that none of the other parties have the stones to call them out for what they are. Personally, I’d rather vote for a pigeon shouting alcoholic tramp than that lunatic Australian women. The Welsh woman is stuck in a 1973 entitlement frenzy and the SNP are just scary. If the electorate in Scotland, who seem to be permanently out to lunch,  deliver as the polls are indicating the breakup of the UK is simply inevitable. UKIP meanwhile strike the occasional chord with most voters but lack the maturity, breadth, quality of candidates  and organisation to reach a position of significant influence. That leaves the robotic Milliband who seems to be edging forward which ought to worry every sensible and reasonable thinking individual.

UK National Debt = £1.29 trillion, (chart is in €) That's tough to visualise; try this to help.

All of the parties, except perhaps UKIP, are either too stupid to understand the position of the national finances or are too fearful to be honest. They talk about the “deficit,” while conveniently forgetting the £1.29 trillion debt mountain lurking in the background. Interest payments on that debt are due to surge to over £40bn in 2016 and that’s with interest rates at a 230 year low. The truth is all they are claiming they will achieve is a reduction in the trajectory of the growth of the deficit. 

If these jokers think they have experienced austerity then they’re in for a shock. Regardless of who is elected, cuts will have to be enforced and taxes are going up, that’s just a starter for 10. One thing is for sure and for certain, if Milliband walks into No 10 on May 8th our economy, and the markets, will collapse like one of Fred Dibnah’s chimneys.

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.