Archive for the Television Category

Antiques Roadshow

Posted in Cardiff, Television on September 5, 2017 by telescoper

I passed by this in front of Cardiff Castle on my way home yesterday. I’m thinking of taking a few of my colleagues along to see if they’re worth anything…



Please look after this bear…

Posted in Literature, Television with tags , on June 28, 2017 by telescoper

R.I.P. Michael Bond (13 January 1926 to 27 June 2017)

R.I.P. Colin Dexter (1930-2017)

Posted in Crosswords, Literature, Television with tags , , , on March 21, 2017 by telescoper

I was saddened this afternoon to hear of the death, at the age of 86, of Colin Dexter, the novelist who created the character of  Inspector Morse, memorably played on the long-running TV series of the same name by John Thaw.

The television series of Inspector Morse came to an end in 2000, with a poignant episode called The Remorseful Day, but has led to two successful spin-offs, in Lewis and Endeavour both of which are still running.  Colin Dexter regularly appeared in  in both Inspector Morse and Lewis, mainly in non-speaking roles and part of the fun of these programmes was trying to spot him in the background.

As a crime writer, Colin Dexter was definitely in the `English’ tradition of Agatha Christie, in that his detective stories relied more on cleverly convoluted plots than depth of characterization, but the central character of Morse was a brilliant creation in itself and is rightly celebrated. Crime fiction is too often undervalued in literary circles, but I find it a fascinating genre and Colin Dexter was a fine exponent.

Colin Dexter was also an avid solver of crossword puzzles, a characteristic shared by his Detective Inspector Morse. In fact I met Colin Dexter once, back in 2010, at a lunch to celebrate the 2000th Azed puzzle in the Observer which I blogged about ¬†here. ¬†Colin Dexter used to be a regular entrant – and often a winner – in Azed‘s¬†¬†monthly clue-setting competition, but I haven’t seen his name among the winners for a while. You can see his outstanding record on the “&lit” archive¬†here. I guess he retired from crosswords just has he had done from writing crime novels. To be honest, he seemed quite frail back in 2010 so I’m not surprised he decided to take it easy in his later years.

Incidentally, Colin Dexter took the name `Morse’ from his friend Jeremy Morse, another keen cruciverbalist. Sadly he passed away last year, at the age of 87. Jeremy Morse was another frequent winner of the Azed competition and he produced some really cracking clues¬†– you can find them all on the “&lit”¬†archive¬†too.

Here’s a little cryptic tribute:

Morse inventor developed Nordic Telex (5,6)

Now I think I’ll head home to cook my traditional mid-week vegetable curry, have a glass of wine, and see if I can watch a ¬†DVD last episode of Inspector Morse without crying

R.I.P. Norman Colin Dexter (1930-2017)



R.I.P John Hurt (1940-2017)

Posted in Film, Television with tags , , on January 28, 2017 by telescoper

I just heard today of the death (on Wednesday 25th January, aged 77) of the great British actor John Hurt. 

John Hurt was an extremely versatile actor who starred in many different roles, from Elephant Man to Alien, but I shall always remember him best as Quentin Crisp (above) in the 1975 television drama adapted from Crisp’s book The Naked Civil  Servant which I saw on TV when it was first broadcast.

Rest in peace, John Hurt (1940-2017).

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Posted in Biographical, Film, LGBT, Television with tags , , , , on January 22, 2017 by telescoper

I realized this afternoon that I was going to have to come into my office at Cardiff University as there is something I was supposed to finish by midnight today and I had forgotten to bring some stuff I needed to complete it. Setting aside the absurdity of an employer who sets deadlines at 24.00 on a Sunday evening, I was planning to have a quiet night doing the Azed crossword. As I got ready to leave the house I heard myself muttering “Sunday Bloody Sunday” under my breath, and walking through town to get here I was thinking about John Schlesinger’s 1971 film of that title, starring Glenda Jackson, Peter Finch and Murray Head. This film was shown on TV – rather late at night – when I was a teenager in the late 1970s and I’ll never forget the impact this particular scene had on me then. Here’s a clip of Murray Head talking about the scene, which caused quite a stir at the time in some quarters, in which he describes it as a “giant step forward”. Let’s hope we’re not all about to take giant steps backward.

I Know Nothing!

Posted in Television with tags , on December 2, 2016 by telescoper

R.I.P. Andrew Sachs (1930-2016)

The Byker Grove Connection

Posted in Biographical, History, Television with tags , , , on September 21, 2016 by telescoper

One of the interesting things about having a blog that has been running for some time is that old posts continue to attract comments even after many years. Some of the posts that have been getting comments recently are about my early childhood growing up in Benwell which is to the West of Newcastle upon Tyne; you can find a couple of examples here and here. The place has changed beyond all recognition since I was a kid, which I suppose accounts for the fact that people are googling about looking for memories of what it used to be like.

Here is a Google Earth rendition of the area I grew up in..


We used to live in one of the two cottages right next to Pendower School, which was just off Fox and Hounds Lane. ¬†You can see road that led to the front of our house, just between the text of “Benwell Village” and “Fox and Hounds Lane”. ¬†The cottages and school are now demolished, and a housing development stands where they were. That’s all in the middle of the top of the image.

My Dad used to run a  shop which was was on the corner of Whickham View and Delaval Road, about halfway down the image to the left. The green strips to the East of Delaval Road and running parallel to it were all terraced when I lived there. Virtually everything has now gone, but it was a nice little community with old-fashioned little shops.

What drew my attention recently however, is that there is a location (to the top left of the image) marked Byker Grove., right next to where I used to live. When I was a lad that was ¬†Benwell Towers, which we were told was haunted – presumably to scare us off trying to get in. There was a rather scary and formidable fence separating the grounds of Benwell Towers from the School, but it was not unknown for kids to climb it…

There have been buildings on the site of Benwell Towers since the 13th Century. A tower house was built there in 1221 and stood until it was demolished to make way for the current, much larger,¬†building which was constructed in 1831. The old building was for a time owned by a branch of the Shafto family, of Bobby Shafto fame. At the time of the construction of the new building, Benwell hadn’t been engulfed by the westward sprawl of Newcastle itself and was very much a separate village. “Benwell Village” still felt like a distinct, self-contained community, when I was growing up there in the Sixties.

The “new” Benwell Towers was, for a time, the residence of the Bishop of Newcastle,¬†but when I lived there it was being used as a base for the National Coal Board and used primarily as the Headquarters ¬†of the Mine Rescue Service. There were some pits still open in those days. ¬†When the Coal Board didn’t need it any more, it became a tacky nightclub called The Mitre.¬†

That’s all I knew about the place as I never really visited it again after going to University . But a chance comment on this blog followed by a Google Search revealed that when The Mitre closed the building was used to film the long-running TV series Byker Grove.¬†I knew about the programme, but had always assumed it was filmed in Byker (which is in the East End of Newcastle) rather than Benwell (which is in the West End). It certainly never occurred to me that it was made just a hundred yards from where I grew up. You live and learn.