4 November 2011

Firework week



It's chucking it down. Let it rain, I say. I've spent the entire night up with three spooked Basset hounds after a particularly long and loud evening of fireworks.

Bentley, especially, is affected by the bangs and crashes. For Saturday night, the one evening where we should reasonably expect fireworks to go off for a bit, contingency plans were made. The radio was going into the kennel and blinds were being put up. But last night, on the playing field close to the house, a group of ne'erdowells were setting fire to a few quid of their pocket money for hours on end.

It's a gripe we have every year, and never does anything seem to be done about it. Is it wrong to ask that fireworks are not sold until a short, set time prior to Bonfire Night itself, or not at all unless to places doing official functions? They've been going off round here for days now. And only wet nights have given my dogs any peace.

Bentley is nine years old now and has always been something of a wussy character, but all animals of varying degrees of courage are spooked by fireworks going off. Granted, some of them react by looking bemused out of the window - all my cats are in this group - while others howl and screech and whine, which is the stock Basset reaction. Bentley, however, gets so stressed that it affects him physically - and it's me who had to keep getting up during the night to clean up.

There are at least two more nights of this ahead unless the one saving grace can keep the neighbourhood quiet and the animals chilled. And that's the rain. Right now it's pelting down against my window, but during the day it's of little value. Hopefully it'll keep up through the night and beyond, and Bentley can get comfortable again. So let it rain, I say. Let it rain.

3 November 2011

"You have your legs open a lot, it's very unfeminine..."


So, she's gone at last, after three goes in the bottom two. I was starting to get worried, to be honest. But the dreaded Nancy Dell'Olio has made good her exit from Strictly Come Dancing and now the competition can begin without any further distractions.

And, even by her standards, she deserved it. It was clear from her attitude, her self-obsession and her known approach to the whole competition that she wasn't putting in the effort. The judges were kindly one week, claiming there could be some talent under all the posing and awkwardness, but I'm not so sure. Anton du Beke got a dud, yet again. And this time it was a dud whose ineptitude couldn't be turned into comedy and used as a tool for survival.

This is where we thought we were going to find Russell Grant, perhaps. However, the astrologer is showing a genuine aptitude for showmanship on the floor which, with a rough cut of the correct steps, could take him far. He garnered comic and sympathy points in the first couple of weeks, but that tango to Sweet Dreams was terrific as a showcase and had a technical competence to it, turning him from wooden spoon contender into someone for the longer term. He won't win, but in this vein, he may boot out a few of the more humourless duos on his way.

So now we have ten left. There are probably three who are currently nailed-on finalists - Jason Donovan, Chelsee Healey and Anita Dobson - a further four who could make the final but simultaneously are one rick away from being kicked out - Alex Jones, Harry Judd, Holly Valance and Robbie Savage - and three who will only get any further now through luck, charisma and application - Grant, Lulu and Audley Harrison.

My other beef at the moment is with the marks being handed to Judd, the drummer from McFly. I can't help but feel that Alesha Dixon is not happy about being in the papers too rarely these days, and so has given tens to him to garner some publicity. This will add fuel to the fire over the extent of her knowledge, as simultaneous to these perfect scores were criticisms from the other judges over the lack of traditional content his partner Aliona Vilani has put into the dances, something that Strictly connoisseurs claim cost Matt Baker the title in cahoots with her last year. Did McFly and Misteeq ever tour together, I wonder?

I still don't like Lulu very much, but there is something brilliant about watching a Scottish 1960s diva, dressed as a bat, flying through the air prior to doing a Spanish bullfighters' dance with a prickly New Zealander as a BBC orchestra and classically trained session singer perform Highway To Hell by AC/DC. That alone explains why Strictly is storming the ratings.

1 November 2011

"Look after yourself for seven days until we return for more Fix Its..."

I watched Jim'll Fix It religiously, like many other kids of that era. I don't think I ever wrote to the programme though. A pal at school called Mark, who was a wiz at BMX biking, wrote to ask if he could go round some complicated course with the top rider of the time (whose name escapes me) and was put on standby. It never happened though.

Isolated Fix Its still stick out. The kid who wanted to jump through a paper hoop, the one who sang with Tight Fit (and got kissed by both women at once, to his obvious delight), the one who read the football scores (he supported Everton and Cambridge United so their scores were both 35-0, or something), Peter Cushing's quest for a rose in his late wife's name, and the much-repeated bunch of cub scouts spilling their Snoopy flasks on the rollercoaster.

I've looked for two in particular. This is the first. I think it's significant because in 1985, Duran Duran had stopped needing to do kids telly and Top of The Pops, they were so globally huge. And yet their lead singer had time for this...



I love that the "victim" is way too overwhelmed to react in the way you'd expect a Duranie from the mid-80s to react, and that there is generally very little bruhaahaa from the kids in general, barring a few older girls screaming as he disappears on the horse. Also, the editing is clever enough not to show the real rider coming into the school, but still manages to show him, in knight's regalia, pulling the horse away afterwards while the two of them sit on top. Brilliant.

Then there's this one. No dousing down of anyone's bonfire is intended, but I can't help but think this one isn't as genuine as it makes out...



Her parents must have told her to expect nothing, and Jimmy himself said she was the lucky one of thousands, but there she is, with a line to speak on EastEnders, purely from writing to Jim'll Fix It. The use of specially made end credits over footage of her at school, rather than actual credits that appeared over the cartoon image of the Thames, is a giveaway too. If it really did happen then one assumes there was an acting union agreement that she'd not get crediting. Plenty of agents and parents representing professional child actors would have had a fit, wouldn't they?

It's not online, but I'd love to see again a clip of the bloke who was taught by the show's videotape editor how to be a videotape editor, as his daughter had noticed from the Jim'll Fix It credits that they shared the same name - Chris Booth. We then got a set-up whereby Jimmy was shown some pottery by an enthusiast (played by Tony "Merry Balladeer" Aitken) who accidentally broke one, so produced another, and then misidentified who gave it to him - he said it was his brother, rather than his mother. One Mr Booth then showed the other how to edit the film so that all mistakes were cut out and it all emerged as intended.

Sir Jimmy Savile was a radio man who transferred effortlessly to telly, something that not all radio greats have been able to do (and even fewer telly experts can do radio, of course) and the tributes from the famous and the not famous since his death at the weekend have been very warm indeed. Jim'll Fix It, as a television institution, is as brilliant a legacy as any guy of his professionalism and longevity could have hoped to leave.