Monday, 19 February 2018

Film And Television

I've taken in a fair old slaw of televisual stuff recently, much of it really quite good.

Netflix and the various catch-up services dominate our viewing so you will forgive me if it has taken several light years to catch on to particular programmes. Most notable in that category would be Doc Martin, the sort of (so I thought) schlock it would not occur to me to watch. Well, it may very well be schlock, in fact it is, but it's reliably well-done and, from Martin Clunes, features a beguiling title performance. Has he won any awards for it? Probably not, in fact definitely not according to the miracle of Google. The plot structure is dependably similar each time but the central conceit can bear the weight of predictability.

convincing curmudgeon

As the man used to say, now for something completely different. Collateral  has a stellar cast, presumably because the assembled glitterati were wooed by the prospect of a David Hare script. Well the script (on the evidence of the first episode) is the problem. The actors are splendid but the script tries too hard and is weighted with outbursts of preachiness. I will, however, be watching the rest, so Hare may think job done.

Mais oui monsieur j'aime le tv Francais. We have enjoyed Spiral. Tres bien. Je recommende.

Finally, a film. Will Smith is superb in Seven Pounds. The picture is not quite as enigmatic as it would like to be but it does get you thinking. Which is good. 7/10.  

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Misery Acquaints A Man With Strange Bedfellows

Chuka Umunna has been out and about recently preaching his well-meaning, soft-left, we know what is good for you bilge. That's his right but the poor chap finds himself yoked to the absurd Anna Soubry, she who can hardly hide her absolute delight at the temporary fame her own soft-right, well-meaning etc drivel is bringing her. It's quite good fun when this unlikely couple get wheeled in front of the cameras and you can see the unspoken doubt oozing from Umunna's every pore. Aren't people funny?

Chuka: "You ain't seen me, right?"

Monday, 12 February 2018

6N18: Week 2

And lo we see the age old truth - you never do actually beat Wales, merely score more points than them. Gatland and Jones both managed to show a singular lack of grace in their post-match comments which was a pity because TMO foul-up or not, this was a good old-fashioned arm-wrestle. The press is full of platitudinous Englishmen trying their hardest to be generous in victory and thereby missing the point - the better side (albeit not by a large margin) won the game. Don't take my word for it, try Sir Ian McGeechan in a considered piece in the Sunday Telegraph:
It was all too much for a Wales side which was ruthlessly squeezed from the get-go. They came back into the match at the end, but it was all too little too late.
Much for England to work on and they have to go to both Edinburgh and Paris, both of which will be tricky. As for the OG well he is happy and so should all of you be too - I assume you took the 10/11 from Paddy Power on Wales with an eleven point start. Twice a winner!

As for the other matches, Ireland were slick and ruthless in dismantling Italy. The Irish remain the best coached team in the championship and OG is still backing them to win out overall. Scotland and France produced a frenetic game which the Scots won, in no small part thanks to the grace under pressure of Greig Laidlaw. The French are a team who can afford to regard Louis Picamoles as their third best number eight yet still contrive to lose on a regular basis. Sooner or later they are going to dismantle an opponent.

I enjoyed these instalments of the championship in the company of a lusty Argentine malbec. Nice.

Monday, 5 February 2018

6N18: Week 1

What a weekend! Not for you necessarily but for me I mean. I was in Anglesey, did a bit of walking with the Groupie and rather more eating and drinking. And in between times (thanks to the boon that is catch-up television) I watched all three of the rugby internationals and rounded things off with the Superbowl.

The eating and drinking first - walked around the bay from the family estate to Red Wharf Bay - bracingly cold, inspiring high tide, and just a bit of rain. Bosting. Ship Inn: pint of Timothy Taylor's Landlord to whet the appetite, then a very good seafood chowder, banoffee waffle, washed down with sauvignon blanc. Bosting but definitely slowed me down on the walk back - a bit more rain but not so much that you would complain.

some second-string
Next, the rugby. A stolid affair in Paris, where Ireland were markedly better than France but almost conspired to lose. This Irish side is potentially very good and after years of scepticism I'm beginning to see why they make such a fuss of Johnny Sexton. My favourites for the title, but only just. Wales v Scotland was oddly funny because it made complete charlies out of the alleged experts. This was to be the new dawn for Scotland, and Wales would be hobbled by injuries. As it was, the bad old Scotland turned up and got duffed up by a very impressive Wales team. Rhys Patchell is a player I have long liked and I think the injury to the always impressive Biggar may have done Wales a favour. International rugby is a hard school. It could all have been even worse for the Scots, what with Wales knocking on two scoring passes due to over-enthusiasm. As for the supposed lack of strength in depth in Welsh resources, I would say only this - anyone would miss Faletau but Moriarty is some second-string and if you can afford to leave Tipuric on the bench then things can't be all bad.

some third-string
On Sunday England won tidily enough in Rome but, as ever, there were errors and omissions. Mind you if Richard Moriarty is an impressive second-string, then Sam Simmonds is just as mighty a third-string at number eight. It all makes for a resounding clash between England and Wales next Saturday. Before that we will no doubt have to endure the childish mind-games of the two coaches. Paddy Power have the spread at eleven in England's favour - that strikes me as ridiculously optimistic and worth a punt on Wales. But what do I know?

Two very good things to come out of this first weekend: nobody won the Ronan O'Gara Gobshite Award and there were free-kicks awarded for not straight in the scrum. Good grief, they'll stop allowing New Zealand to get away with forward passes if things continue like this. We can hope.

Finally the Superbowl. I dutifully sat myself down in the company of several beers and a surfeit of hot dogs with no great expectation of a great match. Wrong again. A high scoring and dramatic clash. Some weekend. 

Monday, 29 January 2018

I Suspect I Must Be Middlebrow

You see it's like this - on Friday we went to the Symphony Hall (a piece of civic architecture I love - am I wrong to like the fact that the weight-lifting is set to be held there when Birmingham hosts the Commonwealth Games?) but not for one of your full-on classical concerts. No this was the CBSO playing film music with an announcer introducing each piece to the assembled masses. I'm searching for the right words - yes I know, it was bloody brilliant. And to prove the point was the sight of the happy throng of fellow middlebrows at the conclusion. We had been for a McDonald's before the concert - I can't decide whether we were being ironic in doing this. I enjoyed it.

civic architecture
More culture on Saturday evening: this time to the King Edward's School/King Edward's High School joint production of Oh What A Lovely War. This was held in the rather magnificent Ruddock Performing Arts Centre, a building which serves to remind you of the privileges that can be attached to private education. A good production even if some of the dialogue was inaudible. As for the piece itself, which I had only previously witnessed in its filmed version, it retains its power to affect. A good programme note by the Head of History at KES which quite properly posed questions about the way the conflict has been culturally appropriated. Just as the British perhaps learn their middle history (unwarrantedly) from Shakespeare, so they also tend to rely a tad too heavily on Blackadder and Oh What A Lovely War (I make no denial of the brilliance of both texts) for their understanding of the Great War.

Two hundred and forty-five KES boys died in the Great War. Their names were projected above the darkened stage at the conclusion of the drama. Chilling.

more civic architecture
Talking of civic architecture (which I was three paragraphs ago) Lord Digby Jones was sitting two seats in front of me at the Symphony Hall. In my cynical middle-age I'm afraid I used to regard Jones as something of a charlatan (something to do with my own self-loathing attitude to the profession that spawned us both and the fact that he went to UCL) but I've grown out of that phase. His oft-repeated defence of business as the principal engine for societal wealth, is a tune far too few are singing.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

There's A Lot Of Spleen Venting Going On

And quite right too. Mind you much of the venting is uninformed and, surprise, surprise, a lot of those making the wrong noises are our spectacularly daft politicians. Ignorance crosses all political divides it would seem.

First up - the horrid case of John Worboys, taxi driver cum sex pest - Worboys . This low-life has been released on parole amidst all sorts of administrative bungling. And after a surfeit of outraged concern the government have confirmed that they will not be seeking a judicial review. It seems someone finally had the bright of getting some legal advice before sounding-off on the subject. Worboys, it seems to me, was under-prosecuted back when he faced charges, net result being that he got a sentence ill-fitted to his actual criminality. And here's the rub, his parole board could only consider his case in the context of the proven record. For a judicial review to succeed it would need to be established that no reasonable board (acting upon the information properly available to it) could have reached the decision that was reached. It is the prospects of such a review upon which the government lawyers have now said their piece. How about re-opening the many other cases in which he was thought to be involved and using that as the method of banging the scumbag up for a proper interval? Just saying.

If you want to hear a slurry of old bollocks then a corporate collapse is often a good starting point. Take the shit and fan scenario at Carillion - Carillion Insolvency . Now this is an absolutely shameful situation and, enthusiast for open markets that I may be, I really do hope that the right people end up in the slammer for this one. Are you telling me that successive corporate fat-arse directors did not see this coming? That no one within KPMG (the auditors) had spotted that something smelt putrid? This sort of shit could turn a man socialist. But before politicians are let loose on the subject can someone give them remedial lessons in the difference between cash and profits and on the meaning of a profit warning. Due diligence anyone?

Cheery bye.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Sport, Bloody Hell

I've been musing on a weekend of rather pleasing sporting drama. On Friday night an inspired Llanelli eviscerated Bath on the rugby field. Simply beautiful. And rugby was not finished with us, still to come was a bloody-minded Harlequin victory over Wasps - Quins had nothing to play for whereas their opponents could keep alive their prospects of qualification for the European Cup quarter-finals. The explosion of delight from the Quins players when they scored the late and decisive try was a perfect illustration of the joy that is to be had from spoiling a rival's party. Cherishable even if it does leave us perilously close to there being no English team left in the competition. Hey ho, a bit of humility never goes amiss in English rugby.

Moving on to football, of the association ilk. The January transfer window is open so we are constantly reminded of the quite obscene bucketloads of cash that players and their agents take out of the game. But Sunday also saw lambent evidence of why this is the 'beautiful game' - Liverpool - 4, Manchester City 3. Beautiful, skilful, joyous.

And on again - the NFL play-offs, that mixture of ballet and brutality. Did you see the final and decisive play of the New Orleans/Minnesota match? Thrilling.

Finally a mention for an old hero who has died too young. Cyrille Regis was a muscuar Christian who graced the West Bromwich Albion shirt. In an age before footballers made millions, he lived round the corner from us and used to nod to me when he was out washing his car as I ran by on a Sunday morning. Football was played at three o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, end of.