Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

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.


J’ai du bon tabac

October 22, 2014

You may know the traditional French song ‘J’ai du bon tabac’.

J’ai du bon tabac dans ma tabatière
J’ai du bon tabac, tu n’en auras pas.

J’en ai du fin et du bien râpé,
Mais ce n’est pas pour ton vilain nez.

J’ai du bon tabac dans ma tabatière
J’ai du bon tabac, tu n’en auras pas.

The thrust of the thing is, I’ve got some good tobacco but you can’t have any.

I first came to know it as a boy, as we had it on a 45 rpm record, performed by the Maîtrise de l’O.R.T.F. Part of the appeal of the song, and many like it, is that the melody, being simple, lends itself to multiple interpretations and reharmonisations.

A few months ago, pondering the validity of a version for piano or piano duet, I did a bit of casual playing around with it on my own piano:

This version by Les Quatre Barbus, whose arrangements I don’t always care for, is attractive and bitonal:

A harmonisation with chords I and V alone might be a pretty tedious thing, but the Québécoise Madeleine Chartrand turns it into something beautiful and exhilarating and enormously cool, and a pop song, which in essence is what it is:

Best of all? This French children’s show (probably late ’60s). Nounours the bear is down. He has many woes and feels misunderstood. But Dada the horse brings him some tobacco and a pipe to make everything better:

Nounours and the Quatre Barbus prefer ‘fichu’ to ‘vilain’, which I fancy is a more emphatic word with which to condemn the addressee’s nose. Too emphatic, perhaps. Bonne nuit les petits.