Archive for the Television Category

The Strand at Lough Beg – Seamus Heaney

Posted in History, Poetry, Television with tags , , , , , on September 17, 2020 by telescoper

Last night I watched a harrowing but compelling film called Unquiet Graves which is about the activities of the Glenanne gang, a loyalist paramilitary group which carried out in excess of 120 murders during the 1970s including the horrific bombings in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974. Many members of this gang were serving members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment which ensured that these heinous crimes were never properly investigated and in many cases the families of the victims are still waiting for justice.

The film makes very difficult viewing but is a timely reminder of a terrible period in Irish history and gives reason to reflect on the importance of the Belfast Agreement that brought peace to a part of the world that so recently stood on the brink of civil war.

One of the victims of the Glenanne gang was a young man called Colum McCartney, a cousin of the poet Seamus Heaney. Colum’s car was stopped not far from Armagh by men in army uniforms. He was made to get out and kneel, and then he was shot in the back of the head. His companion, who tried to run away, was shot in the back as he fled. Seamus Heaney composed this poignant elegy to his murdered relative.

In Memory of Colum McCartney

All round this little island, on the strand
Far down below there, where the breakers strive
Grow the tall rushes from the oozy sand.
–Dante, Purgatorio, I, 100-3

Leaving the white glow of filling stations
And a few lonely streetlamps among fields
You climbed the hills toward Newtownhamilton
Past the Fews Forest, out beneath the stars–
Along the road, a high, bare pilgrim’s track
Where Sweeney fled before the bloodied heads,
Goat-beards and dogs’ eyes in a demon pack
Blazing out of the ground, snapping and squealing.
What blazed ahead of you? A faked road block?
The red lamp swung, the sudden brakes and stalling
Engine, voices, heads hooded and the cold-nosed gun?
Or in your driving mirror, tailing headlights
That pulled out suddenly and flagged you down
Where you weren’t known and far from what you knew:
The lowland clays and waters of Lough Beg,
Church Island’s spire, its soft treeline of yew.

There you used hear guns fired behind the house
Long before rising time, when duck shooters
Haunted the marigolds and bulrushes,
But still were scared to find spent cartridges,
Acrid, brassy, genital, ejected,
On your way across the strand to fetch the cows.
For you and yours and yours and mine fought the shy,
Spoke an old language of conspirators
And could not crack the whip or seize the day:
Big-voiced scullions, herders, feelers round
Haycocks and hindquarters, talkers in byres,
Slow arbitrators of the burial ground.

Across that strand of ours the cattle graze
Up to their bellies in an early mist
And now they turn their unbewildered gaze
To where we work our way through squeaking sedge
Drowning in dew. Like a dull blade with its edge
Honed bright, Lough Beg half shines under the haze.
I turn because the sweeping of your feet
Has stopped behind me, to find you on your knees
With blood and roadside muck in your hair and eyes,
Then kneel in front of you in brimming grass
And gather up cold handfuls of the dew
To wash you, cousin. I dab you clean with moss
Fine as the drizzle out of a low cloud.
I lift you under the arms and lay you flat.
With rushes that shoot green again, I plait
Green scapulars to wear over your shroud.

Astronomy Look-alikes No. 100

Posted in Astronomy Lookalikes, Cardiff, Television with tags , , , on September 16, 2020 by telescoper

I haven’t done any of these for a while, but last night I was surprised to see Professor Jane Greaves of Cardiff University on television for the second time in a week so I couldn’t resist. I wonder how while discovering phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus she finds the time to play Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope in the popular detective series Vera?

R.I.P. Diana Rigg (1938-2020)

Posted in Film, Television, Theatre with tags , , on September 10, 2020 by telescoper

More sad news today: the death at the age of 82 of the wonderful actress Diana Rigg. She had a long and distinguished career on TV, film and in the theatre. I had the privilege of seeing her opposite David Suchet in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf on stage in London many years ago and thought she was brilliant. But it is as Emma Peel in The Avengers that people of my age will remember her best. Here, by way of a small tribute, is her very first appearance in that role, way back in 1965.

Rest in peace, Diana Rigg (1938-2020)

The people who do things and what they do

Posted in Art, Cricket, Football, Opera, Television with tags , on July 19, 2020 by telescoper

It’s a tough lesson to learn in life that the people you admire or idolize for their contribution in a particular arena (whether that be sport, art, science or something else) turn out to be people you can’t stand in terms of their character or political views.

You have to separate, for example, having a high regard for Ian Botham’s cricketing prowess from having a high regard for his personal character. In fact I can think of few sportspeople whose company I’d enjoy socially.

The same goes in many other spheres. Richard Feynman was a truly great physicist but I’ve never bought into the personality cult surrounding him. In fact I doubt I would have liked him very much at all if we’d ever met in person. They say you should never meet your heroes. They’re right.

Another example is Richard Wagner, a brilliant composer but really horrible man, who brings us to this clip from the end of Twilight of the Gods (the last episode of Series 7 of Inspector Morse, first broadcast in 1993).

I won’t spoil the plot if you haven’t seen it but it involves a famous opera singer, Gladys Probert, who visits Oxford to perform and receive an honorary degree. On the way to the ceremony she is shot, but was she the intended victim?

Opera-loving Morse is a huge admirer of Gladys Probert but in the course of his investigation he uncovers some unpleasant truths about her private life. He solves the crime but the case leaves him dispirited.

Here is the ending. John Thaw is Inspector Morse and Kevin Whateley is Detective Sergeant Lewis.

R.I.P. Tim Brooke-Taylor (1940-2020)

Posted in Television with tags , , on April 13, 2020 by telescoper

More sad news arrived yesterday: comedy legend Tim Brooke-Taylor passed away with Covid-19 at the age of 79.

Together with Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke-Taylor starred an The Goodies, a TV programme I loved and watched religiously as a kid. I remember when my whole class at came down with Gibbon-Mania when the trio reached Number One in the Hit Parade with The Funky Gibbon.

Later on I discovered the radio series I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue and was immediately hooked. Chaired by the incomparable Humphrey Lyttelton (front left in the picture) , the original four panellists given silly things to do were Tim Brooke-Taylor (behind Humph) , Barry Cryer (centre), Willie Rushton (front right) and Graeme Garden (right) . I listened regularly to that show until Humph passed away in 2008. It never seemed the same after that. Now only two of the original team are still with us; Willie Rushton died in 1996.

It seems this cruel virus is targeting an entire generation, cutting short so many lives of so many people who meant so much to us.

Sad days.

Rest in peace, Tim Brooke-Taylor (1940-2020)

R. I. P. Honor Blackman (1925-2020)

Posted in Film, Television with tags , , on April 6, 2020 by telescoper

More sad news today: the wonderful actress Honor Blackman, best known as Cathy Gale, John Steed’s first sidekick in The Avengers, and as Pussy Galore in the Bond film Goldfinger, has passed away at the age of 94.

Rest in peace, Honor Blackman (1925-2020).

On Boredom

Posted in Biographical, Covid-19, Television with tags , , on April 1, 2020 by telescoper

During this time of isolation and social distancing I’ve noticed how many people are posting messages on social media about being bored.

Conscious that I am in danger once again of being excluded from a popular cultural phenomenon I have been trying recently to join in this craze. Unfortunately whenever I try to experience a bit of boredom I find there is far too much to distract me.

There’s working from home, of course: lecture recordings to make, notes to prepare, assignments to correct, virtual meetings to attend, papers to write, and so on

But outside of work it’s just as difficult. Whenever I try to interrupt my day with a bit of boredom I find that there’s so much music to listen to, so many books and newspapers to read, so many crossword puzzles to solve so many other things to do, that I always get distracted and fail dismally.

Perhaps it is the fact that I don’t have a television set that makes me such a failure? It seems that there may be a strong correlation between possession of a TV and being susceptible to boredom. Perhaps if I bought one I could be more like normal people?

Anyway, never let it be said that I don’t know when I’m beaten. That is why I am asking readers of this blog for help. Could anyone who is expert in being bored please send tips on how to achieve it? I’d be quite interested in your suggestions.

Your advice through the comments box would be greatly appreciated as I fear that without it I may always remain a social outcast.

P. S. Before anyone says it: if you are yourself struggling to get bored you could try reading through the back catalogue of posts on this blog!

Survivors!

Posted in Television with tags , on March 14, 2020 by telescoper

Who among you is old enough to remember the 1975 TV series Survivors?

I remember it well, as it scared me to bits. I never figured out, though, why if 99% of the human race had died, why were there no bodies anywhere?

R.I.P. Terry Jones (1942-2020)

Posted in Television with tags , on January 22, 2020 by telescoper

So Terry Jones has ceased to be, expired and gone to meet his maker, kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. In fact I bet he’s playing the organ for them:

The loss of a life is no laughing matter, but I’m sure Terry Jones wouldn’t mind the references to the Parrot Sketch. We should try to remember him for the laughter he gave us before that cruel bastard dementia started to take him away.

May he rest in peace.

R.I.P. Terry Jones (1942-2020)

R.I.P. Jonathan Miller (1934-2019) – The Piano in Question

Posted in Music, Television with tags , , on November 27, 2019 by telescoper

I was very sad to read just now of the death of writer, humorist, director and polymath Dr Jonathan Miller who has passed away at the age of 85. The papers are already filled with tributes to Jonathan Miller to which I’ll add a personal recollection that made a big impression on me when I was young and which makes me remember Dr Miller with great fondness.

While I was at school I was captivated by the BBC TV series, directed and introduced by Jonathan Miller, called the Body in Question.

This episode, first broadcast in 1978, shows Dr Miller at the piano with Dudley Moore, his old friend from Beyond the Fringe. They’re exploring the mysterious process by which pianists manage to put their fingers on the right keys without apparently consciously thinking about the mechanical operations involved or even looking at the keyboard. Practice seems to program the hands so that the translation from sheet music to sound becomes second nature, but to those without the ability to effect the transformation (like myself), the process still seems almost miraculous.

R.I.P. Jonathan Miller (1934-2019)