Adam Boulton and the large suitcase

So there I was, having a pink gin with a couple of ex-colleagues, in a heaving pub near Charing Cross on Friday. When who should we see barging through the crowds other than Sky News political editor (forgive me, I haven’t looked up his correct title) Adam Boulton. He was carrying a rather large and I think pink suitcase and behind him followed a lady we took to be his wife. She could have been anyone.

The area was, as I say, crowded. It was 6pm on a Friday near Charing Cross in the goodly town of London and Londoners, nay Britons in general, are gagging for a drink of any kind at that hour of the day and week. Non-alcoholic refreshments are available.

I said: “Oh, look, it’s only Adam Boulton.” One of our crew, let’s call her Amy, said: “God, he looks furious.” Now if you know anything about Adam Boulton’s recent brushes with the media headlines and/or Alastair Campbell then you will find this as hilarious as we did.

Also amusing was our conjecture that he travels everywhere with that suitcase and that within it there is a kind of pop-up studio backdrop and the top, front half of a suit with tie attached. Also a microphone. So that he can literally broadcast from anywhere.

Oh, would that it were so. I expect he was just in a hurry to get away for the weekend and I sincerely hope it was a good one.


Alexander Armstrong in Micro Men

Alexander Armstrong in Micro Men

Alexander Armstrong as Clive Sinclair in Micro Men

And the award for worst hair and make-up on television for some time goes to BBC 4’s Micro Men which was first shown in October 2009 and repeated on Thursday this week. I know I’m criticising someone’s work here, but whoever was responsible for gluing bits of ginger carpet and some pink latex to Alex Armstrong’s head in an attempt to make him look like the frustrated inventor Clive Sinclair ruined what might have otherwise been a perfectly good drama.

Instead, Armstrong – who is a comedian, not an actor – appeared to be playing a character in one of his Armstrong & Miller sketch shows, complete with a risible voice, while everyone else around him acted normally.

Martin Freeman reprised his roles as Watson from Sherlock and Tim from The Office but with more 1980s clothes and accessories. The other actors in the piece and the whole beige and grey tone of the drama conveyed the story of a race to create the first British personal computer extremely well. But every time Armstrong was in shot, with that headgear and the ridiculously sculpted stick-on facial hair, the scene descended into parody.

I like Xander Armstrong as a comedian and he was quite good in Mutual Friends. But I suspect in that comedy drama he played a character that comes easily to him: someone slightly arrogant but also slightly less good at seducing people than he thinks he is. If his agent is reading, Armstrong should stick to the comedy. We literally cannot have enough Armstrong & Miller sketches in our lives.


Sweet memories of The Brits

Robbie Williams at the Brit Awards 99

Robbie Williams at the Brit Awards 99

It occurs to me that one of the things I can do with this blog is recount various hilarious stories, old and new, of life in the television fast lane. And of life in the slow lane, now that I’ve pulled over to let the boy racers get past. I’m observing the speed limits these days so I’ll see all those boy racers at the roundabout or the next set of roadworks.

You do know I write this whole blog with my tongue stuck firmly in my cheek, don’t you? So when I use a word such as “hilarious” it is to be taken lightly or not taken at all. As my best friends will tell you, I am not a funny person. If others occasionally find me amusing it is by accident rather than design. I merely aim to tell it like it is, or like it feels or felt to me at the time.

So, the Brit Awards take place tonight. I have just heard Chris Evans closing his breakfast Radio 2 show and swapping Brits memories with Ken Bruce. Both agreed that even the Brits amount to just another awards show which goes on for too long. I would add that despite the glamour even the most famous and apparently self-assured faces are slightly on edge on the night.

I have been to the Brits twice and my main question is: why the hell are they held on a weeknight? If you are a corporate guest of, say, ITV (who broadcast the Brits to an expectant nation) then once you are past the rock-concert-meets-film-premiere style security you drift to one of the corporate hospitality tables where you are plied with alcohol and so-so food before the actual awards start. There is pumping music, but you are in an echoey and initially quite cold arena (I went to Earl’s Court) which, let’s face it, wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice for dinner with 7 like-minded souls. Table in the middle of this vast, dark aircraft hanger, madam? This way, please.

So you eat. You drink a lot, if you do that sort of thing. Then the awards start. On comes a star presenter or Davina McCall or a series of different presenters for different awards categories. It’s a tough audience to play to. At some point the screaming masses are let into the place, wearing wristbands and lacking access to anywhere except the pit in front of the main stage. Another lot of people – presumably mortals – file in to fill the rows and rows of seating around the place. Quite what the general public make of the corporate few, noshing their noodles at candle-lit tables on a specially constructed dias in full view of the rest of the proceedings is anyone’s guess. But at that point in the evening, none of the music or tv executives present actually care.

As I said, I’ve been to the Brits twice, both times courtesy of someone who was far too nice for the TV industry but hasn’t actually left it. Once Robbie Williams was the star turn and his Let Me Entertain You did exactly what it said on the tin. But Williams was already entering the stage of his career when he became disaffected with fame and his acceptance speech for one of the awards he garnered that night went something like this: “This is for my nephew. This was when your uncle Robbie was famous.” During half of his turn, Williams didn’t even trouble himself to mouth the words to his hit. Why bother, when several thousand adoring fans are singing for you.

The other year was the year Geri Halliwell appeared on stage from between a set of giant prosthetic ladies’ legs. The sets were quite good and, in that strange way of the turning world, I later discovered that the creator of Halliwell’s vaginal stage entrance lived in Suffolk close to friends of ours. I wrote about that at the time elsewhere.

So good luck to all of tonight’s Brits nominees and the various hacks and media executives assembled to adore and schmooze. Enjoy your night, especially if you are a guest of corporate hospitality. Try not to be sick before you leave and remember where your ride home is to be found at the end of the night. I shall be watching on ITV.


Madagascar on BBC 2

A lemur galloping

A lemur galloping. BBC

I was really meaning to blog about BBC 2’s Madagascar as narrated by David Attenborough. I caught most of the first epsiode on Wednesday this week. Attenborough’s dusky tones and the lemurs had me well soothed and almost fully engaged. Then, or perhaps before the lemurs, we saw tortoises. One tortoise lived for 188 years. These particular tortoises typically reproduce aged 20. Imagine being a parent for 168 years. And I thought I was tired that night. There were also spiders doing something in shells hanging by filaments of gossamer. One got it wrong and started, in Attenborough’s words, spinning out of control. It was quite funny.

It’s not just Attenborough’s delivery that makes this worth watching, although that delivery is as good as ever. The script for the programme, and the brilliant foley artistry plus of course the filming, make it another joy to watch.


February, March, April


A purse

Hi bloggers. I’ve been thinking about you, honest, even though I haven’t had time to be with you for the last 2 days. Believe me, I had good reasons.

So far in February we’ve had National Sickie Day – last Monday apparently although of course it’s all cooked up in a PR diary with the aid of a little note that says “Week 6” since the year started. And so we look ahead to National Nookie Day or St Valentine’s, if you will.

Here’s an aside to confide that I suffer in my writing, as in much else, with a conviction that everything I write or say has been written before. And indeed much of it has. I clearly am not the only original thinker in the blogosphere although I am avowedly a woman and that distinguishes me from Stephen Fry. (Did I just compare myself to Mr Fry? No.)

I am not even an original thinker. I remember like an elephant and I plagiarise without mercy. My personal maxim is: if you don’t want to see it in print, don’t say it. And that’s my defence against accusations of plagiarism too.

Back to February. What with sickies and nookie my feeling is February is a month when we think largely of health. The excesses of the winter festival are behind us; the days are drawing out; things are peeking out of the ground to see if it’s safe to come out. Not yet. Ne’er shed a clout til May is out. Heavy snow is forecast for the end of February. So said someone in the gym the other day.

And again to my central theme: if February is the month of health, it follows that March will be a month of wealth, and all the months of the year after that will be the months of happiness. Until November.

I’m just telling you how I see the year panning out, not pitching for a role as astrologer on the News of the World. Although I won’t say no to anything right now. I’m saying yes, yes, yes and then deciding what I actually want to do. The rest will be sub-contracted.

And to the final putt: there’s life in the old dog yet; get up when you get knocked down again; and some more original maxims if you keep reading.


Now or never


I am literally writing this into the QuickPress box of the back end of this blog, so please forgive the lack of forethought, accuracy or style of any sort.

Clearly I am going through some sort of midlife crisis. It’s similar to my various juvenile crises and the crisis at 21 and again at 31. Let’s call them decades. I recall my mother absolutely raving about a live Pink Floyd gig in London somewhereabouts circa 1981. Never saw the point myself. I liked the fact the kids from the school I might have gone to had we stayed in London sang or shouted on Brick in the Wall and I knew some of the lyrics to some of their songs. But I found the rest frightening.

Cometh 40, cometh understanding. Hence this.

Life has been reduced to a series of lists, on my computer, in my notebooks, on my phone. Don’t tell me to centralise the lists. That’s process. Look at what’s on them.

Spirituality: check. Recognising a calling and finally acting on it: check. Reproduction: check. Material comfort: well, we’re still working on bits of the list. Health: like I said, if this was a finished project I’d be dying and that’s the bit I’m not rushing into.


Louis Theroux and the extreme zionists

Louis Theroux meets committed Jewish settlers

Theroux meets Daniel Luria who helps Jews buy property in East Jerusalem. BBC

What did we think about Louis Theroux‘s film on the extreme or ultra Zionists shown on BBC 2 last week? I am reluctant to say anything about it because I can’t comment on the programme without commenting on its content and that content, human relations in Gaza and East Jerusalem, is so politically loaded and complex that I’m tempted to start giggling about something inane instead. It’s a defence mechanism. My problem, not the world’s.

There were points in the programme when I felt I understood some of the history of that part of the world, so for me the programme was a success. Theroux is still a joy to watch, especially as he has been graciously absent from our screens for some time. I enjoy the contrast between heavy global issues and Theroux’s expression of slight bemusement and passing concern (the Yiddish word which Wikipedia says means comic theme or gimmick feels inappropriate here).

Fortunately, as I struggle both to understand international issues and remember the details and various punchlines, I am helped by an oracle who occasionally stumbles into the room from another room where there’s another screen. We like to check each other’s breathing from time to time.

The oracle says things haven’t been right in that part of the world for centuries and while there have been certain punctuation marks in history (if memory serves some things happened after one of the world wars and again in 1967) it’s really quite difficult to judge who has the better claim to any disputed land. Theroux and his fantastic crew observed some of the side effects of all this. Summed up, for me, by scenes of a family travelling to and from their heavily protected house in a well bashed up, paint-covered Land Rover. People in different tribes throw things at each other, you see.


A little pep talk

Three Towers beach

Wind and sand

It’s apparently National Sickie Day, when the nation’s collective energy and commitment to getting things done slumps temporarily and we withdraw to our duvets and swivel chairs and eat fattening produce and stare bleakly in a sleep deprived fashion out at the wind and the rain. Or perhaps I am, once again, alone in doing all of those things.

But I am going to share another nugget with you today and that is the confession that this blog is no longer exclusively about TV or the programmes that are shown on it.

Regular readers, if derekofthehesperus is still out there, will know that it never was exclusively about TV. Another fan (yes, there were two) has always known this blog is about life, the universe and where I might find a hot shower. More about that later.

So, relax, have a warming drink. Look after your health and let’s have fun and share a little wisdom together. Adieu for now.


Are you lurking at my post?

Half a pint of lager

Ladies and Gents, I really have nothing to say today so feel free to click away now. But thanks for visiting, bye.

To anyone still here, I dedicate this post to you just as a way of driving traffic. Lurkers: I may not know who you are but I know you’re out there. And while we’re all here let’s hear it for pubgoers everywhere, but particularly in York, where the desire for a punch up is almost always preceded by the immortal line: “Are you looking at my pint?”

Over and out.


BBC 2’s Episodes

Episodes. BBC Press Office

Stephen Mangan & Tamsin Greig in Episodes

Putting aside any fears I may have that I look a bit like Stephen Mangan with straighter hair, I actually quite like Episodes. I like the Britishness of the whole production, even though it’s set in LA and co-written by one of the writers of Friends. I liked Sean (Mangan) taking a leak while talking to his on-screen wife Beverley (Tamsin Greig); I liked Matt LeBlanc being sick on Beverley’s shoulder just after a briefly endearing moment.

The series is all a bit washed out to look at, by which I mean beige, and it’s terribly LA scriptwriter in tone. But that is what the series is all about – British writers Sean and Beverley Lincoln are temporarily living in LA while they attempt to recreate their hit UK TV show for a US audience.

And it’s because of the basic premise that I suspect Episodes will never be a ratings winner. I like Episodes just as I would have liked to have seen more of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which was billed as a behind-the-scenes look at a TV comedy sketch show featuring Matthew Perry (Friends) and Bradley Whitford (West Wing). But I am among a select number of people who find the making of TV shows interesting. Most people watch TV shows about other ordinary people (Coronation Street, EastEnders) or about things that they fear (Holby City, Silent Witness or series starring Trevor Eve). Most people do not, by and large, think about how television is made and will not relate to an English couple zooming around greater Los Angeles in a convertible, constantly having to reintroduce themselves to the star-gazy security man on the gate of their sham-glitz residential compound. Still, like I said, Matt LeBlanc is in it and he was sick on Tamsin Greig’s shoulder. Plus there are some very funny lines. It’s getting a 7 to 8% share of the viewing in its timeslot. Surely there’s enough here for a second series?