Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Ten random books

May 31, 2017

Courtesy of Simon, another getting-to-know-you exercise, the gist of this one being that you pick at random from your shelves or (more likely, in my case) piles ten books, and write a bit about them. Well, lookee here.

1. The Witch and the Holiday Club / Margaret Stuart Barry

I’m going through a Simon and the Witch phase at present. The BBC adaptation by Valerie Georgeson was my most beloved programme when I was about six, and I am belatedly reading the eight books. Most of them I have sourced from Cambridge University Library (finally proving its worth after several fruitless centuries), but the BBC tie-in editions I wanted my own copies of. Elizabeth Spriggs on the cover, squee! I also bought a copy of Joan Sims’ autobiography. What superb actresses they were. How I love them.

2. The Norman Conquests / Alan Ayckbourn

The sort of book one likes to have handy in case of emergency, not that I open it very often. This trilogy of plays was my introduction to Ayckbourn, twelve or so years ago, and their ingenuity and fun are enduring. Perhaps it’s because of Norman that I became an Assistant Librarian. But probably not.

3. Anybody: Poems / Ari Banias

A present I received for Christmas and read in March. Some lovely writing.

And the tree is a television
where the president appears in the form of a finch
(‘The Feeling’)

4. Transgender History / Susan Stryker

A birthday present last year from my brother. He knows what I like (because it was on my Amazon wish list). And I will definitely read it one day.

5. The Pious Ones: The World of Hasidim and Their Battles With America / Joseph Berger

Staying in a largely Hasidic Jewish area of Brooklyn for a week last year made me curious about the lives of Hasidim, and this book looked interesting. I haven’t read it yet.

6. Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories / Robert Walser

I saw a pile of copies of this book in McNally Jackson and fell in love with it. I couldn’t afford it at that moment, but bought it on my return to the UK. It consists of fragments – ‘Some dwell on childish or transient topics – carousels, the latest hairstyles, an ekphrasis of the illustrations in a picture book – others on the grand themes of nature, art, and love.’ (Publisher description.) I love and covet these NYRB editions, and I expect one day I’ll read it.

7. The Book of Daniel / E.L. Doctorow

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

Whenever anyone trots out the old question about what the best opening line is, I think of that sentence, from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. I’m sure I hadn’t heard of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg when I read it, but they later turned into a fascination. This novel inspired by their story is a book I bought as long ago as 2008, but I will finally read it soon because it ties in neatly with Tony Kushner’s brilliant Angels in America, which I’m going to see in a couple of months at the National Theatre.

8. Four English Comedies

The four comedies in question being Volpone, The Way of the World, She Stoops to Conquer and The School for Scandal, of which I’ve read the first and third. I used to love these 1990s-era Penguin Classics editions, the colour-coded spines, the larger-than-usual format. The first copy of Pride and Prejudice I read was in the same edition, with a red stripe along the top. I don’t remember She Stoops to Conquer one bit, but I know I enjoyed Volpone. Maybe it had some jokes in.

9. The Girls, Vol. 1 / Henry de Montherlant

The encapsulation of a recurring theme: I bought this beautiful two-volume set dirt cheap on eBay in about 2003, and I haven’t opened it yet, put off, possibly, by its reputation as a repository of misogyny. Still, the bright orange and pink are nice, and there are other Montherlant books (the homoerotic ones) that I have read and loved. Perhaps next year’s reading project, Proustathon aside, should be to resist buying books where possible until I’ve made inroads into those I own. I tried that once before, in 2011: I ended up buying 24 books that year, of which I have to date read only 12.

10. Harrison Birtwistle: Wild Tracks / Fiona Maddocks

A perk of being a librarian is that there’s some scope for buying books you yourself want to read. This ‘conversation diary’ is one such book, though it fitted neatly into our collection or I wouldn’t have chanced it. On first impression it appears immensely approachable. Opening a page at random, you find Birtwistle and Maddocks playing ‘horse, bird, muffin’.

Beethoven is the horse. So Mozart’s the bird and Brahms is the muffin … I think Stockhausen is the muffin and Boulez is the horse. [and so on]

Do post your own!


I remember 2

August 8, 2015

I remember going to a children’s concert at Jackdaws in Great Elm and the programme giving the name of one piece as ‘Vaginia Reel’.


I remember the happiness of going to National Trust properties and, against the odds, not being bored, perhaps because of the shop or the tea room.


I remember playing the word COON in a Scrabble game because I’d got it mixed up with ‘coot’, and sensing from the grown-ups’ reactions that I’d done something wrong, though no one said anything.


I remember feeling inhibited about waving my arms when we sang hateful evangelical songs in school like ‘We are climbing Jesus’ ladder’.


I remember feeling embarrassed by my unbroken singing voice.


I remember the sickly smell of breakfast in Barry: pineapple juice and Weetabix.


I remember D saying confidentially to me that there was someone in the changing room with awful BO and my suspecting that it was me. Perhaps he was trying to be diplomatic. He wasn’t an academic boy, but he was kind, like Piggy in Lord of the Flies.


I remember seeing a comma butterfly in Welshmill Park on an inset day.


I remember stroking my tortoiseshell butterfly until its wings fell off and all that remained was the abdomen.


I remember the summer when I went down the road to the petrol station to buy a 500ml bottle of Sprite and the lid was a special one that meant I won a free bottle of Sprite and it happened several times in a row so the people on the checkout began to get suspicious.


I remember Tiger Tokens.


I remember reading The Great Gatsby and picturing the gas station as the one at the bottom of Weymouth Road.


I remember a boy shouting ‘Queer’ at me from a window, and realising he’d only shouted it because I happened to be there, but also half thinking, How does he know?


I remember Miss Davies showing us Blackadder the Third in class to explain about rotten boroughs.


I remember getting shyer as I got older.


I remember feeling absolutely indifferent to cars.

Tortoiseshell, July 2015

The pether business is definitely out

April 8, 2015

More typos from online Blackadder transcripts, following on from this post. This time, ‘Major Star’. Pether is probably my favourite word. OED offers it as a historical variant spelling of pewter and pedder (i.e. pedlar), but not in the sense here.

Major Star

Edmund: George, the day this war began I was cheezed off. Within ten minutes of you turning up, I finished the cheeze and moved on to the coffee and cigars. And at this late stage, I’m in a cab with two lady companions on my way to the Pink Pussycat in Lower Regency.

[Lower Regent Street]

Baldrick: No sir, I’ve been sopping the milk of freedom.


Baldrick: The Russian Revolution has started. The masses have risen up and shoveled their nobs!

[shot all their nobs]

George: Well, we soon sawed them off, didn’t we sir? Miserable slant-eye, sausage eating swine.

[saw them off]

George: I need that applause in the same way that a osler needs his osle.

[ostler / ostle]

Melchett: Ah, welcome to the great director, Miestrum.


Darling: Like a private hedge, sir.


Darling: You’ll have her coming out of your moustache for a week, sir.

[You’ll be combing women out of your moustache for weeks]

Melchett: I want to cover every inch of your gorgeous body in pether and sneeze all over you.
Darling: Well, it’s all so sudden, I mean the nest bit’s fine, but the pether business is definitely out!


Melchett: Honestly Darling, you really are the most graceless, dim-witted pumpkin I ever met.


Edmund: No, that old stoke Melchett tried for a snog behind the fruit cup.


Edmund: Well thank God the horny old blighthead didn’t ask you to marry him.


Edmund: Whereas on the other hand, of course, he’s going to give you the Victoria Cross when he lifts up your frock on the wedding night and finds himself looking at the blast turkey at the shop.

[last turkey in the shop]

Edmund: Yes, from Shaftsbury Avenue to the Co^te du Jour, they’ll be saying, ‘I like the little black one, but who’s that burkey sitting on it?’

[Côte d’Azur / who’s that berk he’s sitting on]

Edmund: Not at all Darling. Uh, care for a licoriche assortment(?)?

[liquorice allsort]

Speckled Tim

January 19, 2015

I have an attention span of approximately four seconds, which is probably why I search Google about 50 times a day. If I’m really well behaved I can make it through a film without resorting to my laptop, but more often than not these days I have my TV and computer on simultaneously, and give each of them half of my attention. I’m your typical 21st-century consumer.

This is by way of explaining how, a few years ago, I came across a number of Blackadder transcripts full of delightful and sometimes endearingly outlandish typographical errors. I suspect they date from before the publication of the scripts in book form. In one of them Darling compares Melchett’s moustache to a ‘private hedge’. You can find them now on any number of websites if you look for them.


Here are some selected highlights from one episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, ‘Corporal Punishment’. I hope this post doesn’t come across as an opportunistic assault on the illiterate or, as I suspect was the case with the original transcriber, the foreign. My intention is merely to shed light on some of the difficulties of writing things down if you don’t understand the language; if it makes you smile then that is quite coincidental. Several of the mistranscriptions arise from a lack of knowledge of what Doctor Johnson famously called ‘demotic Anglo-Saxon’ (Blackadder the Third, ‘Ink & Incapability’).

Edmund: You’d like to book a table for three by the window for 9.30 PM, not too near the band, in the name of Obel-ointment Fungentula.

[Oberleutnant von Genschler]

Edmund: We have orders for six meters of Hungarian crushed velvet curtain material, four rock salmon and a ha’pence of chips and a cab for a Mr. Redgrave picking up from 14 Arnost Grove Raintop Bell.

[14 Arnos Grove, ring top bell]

George: Rather we don’t want those sort of orders, we want orders to Deck Old Glory.

[death or glory]

Edmund: (puts on a record) “A wandering minstral eye in the…(record goes off, Edmund speaks) ..on Gail Force Eight.

[‘A wand’ring minstrel I’ / gale force eight]

George: I say, come on, sir, what’s the message? I’m on tenderhooks, do tell!


Baldrick: Look, it’s got a little ring ’round it’s leg, there’s a novelity!


Edmund: Well, sir, call me a bluffo traditionalist, but I was always taught to wait for the order to attack before attacking.

[bluff old traditionalist]

Melchett: I don’t care if he’s been watering the Duke of York with a prize-winning leak!

[rogering / leek]

Edmund: Not when he’s the finest mind in English legal history. Ever heard of Bob Mattingburg?


George: But anyway, let me open up my defence straight away, by saying that I’ve known this man for three years, he’s an absolutely gawking chap.


Melchett: The case before us is that of the crown vs. Captain Edmund Blackadder, the flanderous pigeon murderer!


Melchett: Nonsence! He’s a hound and a rutter, and he’s going to be shot!


Firing Squad Leader: Ahh, wish I could pause, sir. I really wish I could, but I can’t, you see, cos I’m a tabler, you see.


George: Ah, I think this calls for a celebration, don’t you? What about a toss of old Morehen’s Shredded Sporum, which Mum has just sent over?

[a tot of Old Moorhen’s Shredded Sporran]

George: (awaking) Oh, my head! Ah, my head! Feels like the time I was initiated into teh Silly Buggers society at Cambridge. I misheard the rules and push a whole oberjing into my earhole.