Sunday, 23 September 2018

A Television Revolution

By the way, I still reserve the right to call it the 'tele' rather than 'telly', the former, to this writer's mind, being the more acceptable diminutive of 'television'. Deal with it - as fans of the Buffalo Bills used so aptly to put it (sorry haven't got time to explain that one).

There is a glut of really quite passable drama on the tele at the moment. Most notably the big old beast of the BBC is kicking back at the mooted hegemony of the subscription services, in particular Netflix and Amazon. For what it's worth, we prefer Netflix, the Amazon interface not being as user friendly, at least to this sad old e-cripple.

A selection of these new dramas competing for our attention: Bodyguard; Black Earth Rising; Killing Eve; Jack Ryan.

Bodyguard is attracting much of the attention and prompting the discussions in the broadsheets. It has garnered huge (by modern standards, that is to say miles short of the old Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show gold standard) viewing figures for the Beeb. It's quite good, no more - laden with just too many implausibilities. From the enviable mind and pen of Jed Mercurio, it is not a patch on his earlier and brilliant Line of Duty.

Black Earth Rising is a joint production between the BBC and Netflix - the latter screeening it everywhere but the UK. It has a stellar cast and suitably dead serious pretnesions. I've only seen the first episode and that wasn't quite as good as it obviously thinks it ought to be, but since that would be an impossibly high bar, I think this one has potential.

Killing Eve - Again the BBC but this time BBC America, hence presumably the forty-two minute episodes and the casting of the excellent Sandra Oh. Two episodes into this one and for me this is the best of the lot. Quirky, disturbing, amusing, all at the same time. It's an odd sort of target audience that will stay tuned after two such venerable shows as Strictly Come Dancing and Casualty, but let us asume that the schedulers know what they're doing. We watched it on iPlayer, whereat you can get the whole series if you're impatient.

Jack Ryan - I have to confess a guilty pleasure here - I am a fan of the Tom Clancy novels which introduced Ryan to the world - an everyman hero who (spoiler alert) rises to become US President. In the age of Trump this seems more than mildly attractive. This show is more old-fashioned with a lot of big bangs and deafening gun-play, but it's well done.

So all in all, no bad thing for Big Fat Pig to have lapsed back into couch potato mode. There are extenuating crcumstances - a deadline at university is looming and it is BFP's long-practised method to leave things to the last minute. Plus, indignity upon indignity, having set off in my habitual lycra and wholly necessary Oakleys the other day I went arse over tit over an uneven paving slab and had to beat a cowed retreat back to base, dripping blood from hand and arm wounds. Groupie has not been entirely sympathetic particularly as I left some blood stains on the clean bedding. I still bear the scars but I'm being a very brave soldier.  

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

A Tour De Force Followed By A Bloody Big Meal

Sunday: still feeling flabby and lazy in the aftermath of a major session on the beer on Friday. The Groupie stirs me from my torpor with the suggestion that we go to the pictures. We discover that there is a cinema cum cafe at Barton-under-Needwood of all places, part of the marina complex no less. The Children Act is showing. We go. Sat nav sends us up a dead end but we get there unscathed and with time for a glass of wine before the show. We sit too close to the screen so suffer from cricked necks but this is nonetheless two hours spent in communal darkness that is decidedly worthwhile. As for the film, well, Emma Thompson, bloody hell. Woman can act. Superb. This is by some margin her film although the support of Stanley Tucci and Jason Watkins is understatedly competent. Unlike the Groupie I have difficulties with the novels of Ian McEwan, but this translates better to the screen than most critics seem to have asserted. Film - good. Thompson - brilliant. Whole thing - 8/10.

As for the cinema at Barton - recommended - not a popcorn machine in sight and no wankers on mobile phones. Post screening we walked down to the Waterfront pub and had really good pizzas and a mountainous portion of fries. Top draw.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

In Praise Of The Honest Professional

Test cricket has been well served by the series between England and India which ended yesterday. The gap between the sides was markedly smaller than might be suggested by the bare statistics of England's 4-1 series victory. Both sides have manifested frailty, particularly with bat (the magisterial Kohli excepted) but the drawn-out tautness of the contest might hopefully have won some converts from the false faith of twenty20.

Attention has in particular fallen upon two yeoman professionals - men who are just bloody good at their respective jobs. Both Alastair Cook and James Anderson arguably fall a mite short of absolute greatness but there is no shame in that. Cook's sheer weight of runs (made moreover as an opener) is testament to a mighty obduracy. Anderson gets better with age. Anderson yesterday overtook Glenn McGrath's record test match haul of wickets amongst seam bowlers - McGrath's strike rate and average are signifiers of his greatness but one should remember that he never had to bowl against the titanic Australian line-up of which he was a part. Equally Anderson never gets to bowl at England's brittle top order. Incidentally if you want to see an example of good grace in operation then track down McGrath's generous words of congratulation for Anderson.

Test cricket does itself no favours with its slow over rates but it remains the true expression of a beautiful sport. Long may it survive. 

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Grumbling And Some Antidotes

I'll tell you what is true: Donald Trump is an idiot with peculiar skills; Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-semite but is so far lost in his wretchedness that he has no access to self-knowledge; criticism of the state of Israel is not per se racist; the Brexit process descends daily into a less and less amusing mess; I'm struggling to think of a current public figure who fills me with confidence. It's not just today that I feel all of these things - a little cloud of reflective misery follows me most of the time.

an antidote
Antidotes: I played golf at Cavendish Golf Club with my great mate Big Willy Mac last week and it seemed that God was in his Heaven and all was well in the world, most particularly as I parred the eighteenth before retiring to the bar for a Guinness and a bowl of chips; the next day I played twilight golf at Pype Hayes with three old rugby buddies - once again there was Guinness but no chips this time; Daughters Numbered One and Two are both home for the weekend so my family are all to hand; we had a curry last night and then watched Rain Man, a good film but not a great one - 7/10.

multiple antidotes
Life's been good to me so far.    

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Great Uncle Big Fat Pig

Rather as Margaret Thatcher might have put it - we are a great uncle. Welcome to the world Henry Owen Geraint Parfitt, born to my brother's daughter and for whom the world need hold no greater concern than whether he will play rugby for his mother's England or his father's Wales. Since both parents are fine cricketers perhaps the problem will not arise and he will simply play cricket for England. Let us hope he is of that forgotten breed, a staunch top order batsman. Even as I type, another engrossing test match against India is unfolding and England's manful bowling attack attempts to compensate for the manifest inadequacy of the batting. Test cricket, you can't beat it.

What else of moment is going on in the world? Well, I have been amusing myself reading Timothy Snyder's The Road to Unfreedom, a skilfully composed polemic which is fascinating on the phenomenon of Donald Trump but misguided on the nature of the EU. I will return with a more considered review in due course.

BFP is still on his exercise regime - A bike ride on Friday took in two turns up Hillwood Common and one up Worcester Lane. A seventy-five minute run followed on Saturday, which was very tough going. The old legs are feeling it today hence I am sitting at my keyboard and nursing the first glass of wine of the Sabbath - the Ned sauvignon blanc, good cooking white.

My bedtime reading is Len Deighton's Faith - I have read it before but I want to tackle as a unit the final Bernard Sansom trilogy - this is popular fiction produced at its best, the work of a great jobbing writer. He should be taught on creative writing modules. Perhaps he is.

We've found something good on Netflix - Rake, the doings of a degenerate Australian lawyer.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

The Small Matter Of 2.9 Million Votes

2.9 million votes. We don't mention this often enough - it is the number of votes by which Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the popular vote in 2016. There are perfectly good justifications for the vagaries of the Electoral College but you might think that the 2.9 million margin would engender a little humility in the victor. Has it bollocks.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

This Is The Age Of The Contracting Man

Big Fat Pig is keeping up with the latest of his exercise fixations. Nothing de trop you understand but a suitable commitment for a Pig of advanced years. I managed to clock up over an hour running on Sunday, helped in no small part by the most welcome and refreshing rainfall - only problem, I can't wear my Oakleys when it's raining - well, of course, I can wear them but then I can't see where the hell I'm going. Just concerned my image will suffer if I'm seen without the shades too often. It's tough being me.

This morning I wheeled out the Precious Bike and skittered my way over the potholes of Four Oaks for upwards of an hour and a half during which, and this is the good bit, I tackled Mont Worcester twice and Col de Hillwoood Common once. Thus is the Pig waistline shrinking a little.

Pig looking svelte
I've also been playing a bit of golf - at Pype Hayes, the municipal course where I played my first ever game more than forty years ago. I'm still crap but getting less so by small degrees and enjoying the company of good rugby men whilst doing so. The thirteenth has been stretched considerably since my youth and is now a very good par five. All in all, jolly good fun - which is rather the object of the exercise, an object I had overlooked in a dark past.

Talking of good guys (which I sort of was), what a joy to see Chris Woakes make a maiden Test hundred at the weekend. Woakes was coached as a youth at Aston Manor CC by no less a luminary than my dear friend ICW. I shall bask in his reflected glory the next time we share a long lunch.

Come on you Bears
Internet serendipity: I have just typed 'pig playing golf' into Google Images as I look to illustrate this blog. One of the first images thrown up is of Donald Trump playing golf. Fake news? I don't think so.