Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Books, Music TV (Dowton Abbey, Call the Midwife, Foyles War, Endeavour , Bowie, P.J.Harvey, Ian William Craig, Julia Kent, Edward Marston, Brooks Hansen, Alex Ferguson, Peter Mandelson

If I were to write about all the books I've read let alone comics, then my blog would be filled with  'book reviews' as  I read a great many  more than I write about.
Incidentally, I don't actually write reviews of anything. What I write, usually anyway, are appreciations. I don't feel I have the right to present myself as yet another critic, another wannabe Ambrose Bierce. How pretentious would that be? Declaring oneself a critic when no one has asked for your critique in the first place?
I have written proper reviews. Many years ago the boss I was working for incorporated into his business empire a local magazine. It featured events and news, with the odd restaurant review, about my home county. The deal was this; I'd visit a restaurant, the company would pay for my fuel and costs and I would write, from a veggie's perspective, what I thought of the food and the establishment. Under those circumstances, being paid for doing a job, I would either praise or condemn said restaurant.
The manner in which I work my blog is this. If I like something I tell everyone about it in as well-intentioned and complimentary a fashion as possible. I would also like to think that, by and large, I adopt a Zen like attitude to that which I don't like. In other words if I don't like it I say nothing. There have been exceptions but they have been few.
The temptation in writing reviews no one has asked for is to be as vitriolic as possible. That is the easier option. It's a bit like an actor seeking a part, the baddie always get the best lines. I prefer, not that I have in every case, to stick to my guns and write about that which I like.

Anyway, on the TV front...

The compulsion on British television, which has proven to be attractive to American audiences, is to produce what is effectively programmes steeped in nostalgia. 'Downton Abbey' has had great appeal here but also over the pond. Maggie Smith has captured a whole new audience with her acerbic wit whilst the popularity of the show has given greater profiles to many of the actors. Deservedly so in my opinion even though I missed the first two series and didn't watch the last.

It isn't the only show though that travels back in time. Many of the others revisit the decade of my birth and or youth. 'Call the Midwife' is one such show. The books sold well to a certain audience, that of readers who enjoyed some of the horrid truths revealed by what was in reality a biography by Jennifer Worth. When it came to presenting the show a little bit of fiction was added along with scenes of a Fifties Britain still recovering from the Second World War. Whereas the books concluded when Jennifer Worth left Poplar, London, the TV shows, having captured the essence of the stories, continue. The terrifying element for me was when one of my daughters innocently remarked what awful times they were and what a horrid hospital Whitechapel was. 'Hang on,' I said, 'I was born then. I was about three and yes, Whitechapel was horrid. I know as I have been a patient there.' Out of the mouths of babes eh?

Then there was 'The Bletchley Girls.' A show dedicated to the exploits of a group of women who after the end of the war continue to investigate murders and assorted other mysteries. As crime thrillers go it was a tad better than a great many, certainly above the average. Like 'Midwife' this too was set in the fifties. Again, the image below depicts women in coats and clothes I recall my mother wearing. Tragic isn't it?

And then there is 'Endeavour', a prequel to 'Inspector Morse,' and nothing at all like the sequel 'Lewis.' Not that I dislike that show. Kevin Whately and the rest of the cast are exemplary. I enjoy the idea of there being life after Morse. I hope the show eventually morphs into 'Hathaway' but that is neither here nor there. It is 'Endeavour,' with its taste of the sixties in the reality of Oxford rather than that of the swinging scene of London, that impresses me. Shaun Evans, in the initial show, portrayed the character John Thaw so masterfully defined, as if it really was a young Thaw reincarnated. The show is now in its third series with a fourth undoubtedly on the way. It doesn't quite have that Greco/Wagnerian tragedy that the original presented so well but by and large I find it a satisfying experience. I especially warm to 'Fred Thursday.'

But by far and away the best of the bunch is 'Foyles War.' Even with its occasional historical faux pas. The plots are well scripted. Anthony Horowitz who I hold in high regard as one of the UK's better scriptwriters brings all his skills to the show. It has a certain charm in that the central protagonist, Christopher Foyle, a man in his late fifties, is a man of another era. He was born at the end of the eighteenth century and comes defined by the Edwardian period. He is a man of courtesy, honesty and politeness.

Michael Kitchen was born to play the part of Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle. He displays all the characteristics that match exactly how Foyle would behave faultlessly. It might be a case of the actor performing in a manner he is most comfortable with. It really doesn't matter. Kitchen, like John Thaw as Morse or Jeremy Brett as Holmes, brings his abilities as an actor to portray Christopher Foyle to perfection. Michael Kitchen is Christopher Foyle.

The policeman's stoicism is equal to his sagacity. He is forever polite even in the face of verbal or physical abuse. He is a quiet man yet determined, tenacious, methodical without any sense of ego. Even in the face of superior odds such as the British Military Intelligence or often high ranking officials he gets results.

The other featured support actors, Honeysuckle Weeks (Samantha Stewart) along with Anthony Howell (Paul Millner) bring with them a breadth of personalities that flawlessly support Foyle's.


Music began disastrously this year. One of the all time greats died. I am talking about David Bowie. Fortunately for us a man like that will forever be heard, his voice at least He left behind not only a great body of work but also released his last work 'Blackstar' which again shows him at his inventive best.

Another favourite of mine is P.J. Harvey whose new recording, 'The Hope Six Demolition Project,' is due for release on 15th April 2016. The little I have heard promises a great deal. One I shall certainly be looking out for.

I am also enjoying Ian William Craig's 'Cradle for the Wanting.' It is a succulent collection of pieces with the focus being on the voice but one bereft of vocals. There are no lyrics as such just a swirling sonic set of sounds that glitter on a black background. They twist then turn, spinning celestial, hooked terrestrial floating through a vague mist. Very beautiful.
Julia Kent's 'Asperities' is another set of wordless pieces. As previously stated I love the cello. I enjoy its wooden earthiness, its connection to nature through the hands of humankind. Here we find some deep soul searching amongst some wonderfully melancholic tunes. This is as ambient as the previous album mentioned above. Where that one shimmered this seeks a darker set of emotions.
Along with those I have written about here and on New London Writers, there has been a number of other books I have read. Even though there are no words from me on these books that does not mean I didn't like them merely that I had nothing to say. In fact I enjoyed them all. To read my article on Edward Marston simply click on the link.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.


Roger Stevens said...

Kitchen is also brilliant in A Life in Rock as Brian Pern's managet.

Russell Duffy said...

I shall listen to it on Iplayer. I take managet isn't French (well you do spend time there) but is manager? :)

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog

A Utility Fish Shed Blog