Geoffrey Boycott and Patricia Hodge : Separated at Birth?

I’m sure that those of you who listen to Test Match Special will have become used, over the years, to Geoffrey Boycott’s habit of prefixing almost any technical term with the phrase “what I call“.  I think he began by using it to refer to some catchphrase of his own (e.g. “The Corridor of Uncertainty”), but it seems to have developed into a kind of obsessive verbal tic, so that he finds himself saying things like “What I call the bowler is handing what I call his sweater to what I call the umpire”.

This also finds its way into print, as in this example from the Telegraph –

I also think India’s batsmen must target Tillakaratne Dilshan’s gentle off spinners and the same goes for Rangana Herath, the left-arm spinner, because you just can’t allow what I call two ordinary bowlers to tie you down.”

and this (from Pak Passion) – he’s talking about Shoiab Akhtar –

 “It’s a gift to be able to bowl fast, genuinely what I call really fast.”

But I realised, listening to his commentary on the last Test Match, that he seems to have retired the phrase, and replaced it with “what we call“.  Now perhaps someone at the BBC might have suggested that he was beginning to sound a little – what I call – egocentric – or perhaps someone has pointed out another resemblance …

Gilbert and George on the Sofa

Highlight of this evening’s viewing, I thought, was The One Show.  I have a soft spot for this programme, if only because, if it’s on when I walk  through the door, I know I’m home roughly on time.  But it does also seem to be in the hands of someone prone to counterintuitive decisions.  For instance, it employs Phil Tufnell as a roving Arts Correspondent.  It has suprisingly erudite historical features presented, often, by Giles Brandreth (turning down the buffoonery level to about 3).  When their star presenters left they replaced them with lookalikes.

This evening’s show featured a report on the last outbreak of rabies in Great Britain (in Camberley in 1969) and one on the history of royal memorabilia, but the stars of the show – the ones sitting on the sofa –  were Gilbert and George.  To make them feel welcome the presenters (one of them, for some reason, Alexander Armstrong) had dressed up in G&G-style suits and ties.  What do I think about Gilbert and George?  I really don’t know.  If asked, I open and close my mouth like a recently-landed fish, because I struggle to have any strong feelings about them at all.  I suppose I quite like them, but more as a pair of harmless English eccentrics than artists.

I do remember visiting Tate Modern when G&G were having a major retrospective, wondering whether it was worth a tenner and deciding to settle for the modest selection of their work that was available for free.  That did, though, include this – an early work, entitled Gordon’s Gets Us Drunk (I have tried to embed this, but it seems to involve signing your life away … the link should work, though) – which I’ve always quite liked.  I suspect it was inspired by the character in Kingsley Amis’s “I Like It Here” who fantasises about selling beer with the slogan “Gets You Drunk” .  It does have the merit of embodying a literal truth.


Another Chance to See … Her Majesty the Queen

In case any of you didn’t manage to catch the Queen’s broadcast this afternoon, I thought you might appreciate the chance to watch the first of her televised broadcasts, from 1957.

I was planning (as is my wont) to provide some facetious commentary on this, but – watching it back – I find it strangely moving, if only because of her obvious sincerity and the relief on her face when she reaches the end of it without fluffing her lines.  As you will see, it predates the invention of the autocue. 

Tales of the Riverbank

There has been some fascinating stuff on this year’s Springwatch, but nothing, I think, that quite compares with this extraordinary footage of riverside animals (presumably feral pets, as they include a hamster and a guinea pig) using powertools and talking to each other in a variety of regional accents.

(I was about to say that this was my favourite programme when I was a small child, but I think this must be a later remake, as it is not only in colour but also more fast-paced and hi-tech.  In the version I remember the animals basically just used to amble around a bit and have a little chat.  Top entertainment!)

Ambient Liberalism : an Ending (Ascent)

I was interested to see Eno contributing to the Liberal Democrats’ election campaign by providing the background music to tonight’s party political broadcast.  At first I thought it was “Final Sunset”, from Music for Films – which I suppose might have been apt in one way – but I think it was, in fact, “An Ending (Ascent)”, from Apollo, which sounds a bit more hopeful.

Here is another (litter free) visual interpretation of the same piece of music.

Ian Carmichael

Thought I’d briefly mark the passing of Ian Carmichael at the weekend.

Others will know him best from his roles in various Boulting Brothers comedies, or as Bertie Wooster in The World of Wodehouse (which was slightly before my time).  I remember him best for his portrayal of Lord Peter Wimsey in the series that was shown on TV in the early seventies.  I think I must have been about eleven when I saw the first episode, and for some reason I loved it.  I immediately (well not quite immediately, but eventually) went out and bought the novels (in the old NEL editions with the cheap paper and the lurid covers) and I have them still somewhere.  (All except Gaudy Night, which at that age I thought sounded a bit soppy – must catch up with that one).  Why I liked them so much is a subject I shall return to another time.

 – Oh no you won’t – you never do when you say that – (Reader’s voice)

Oh yes I will.

Anyway here is a brief clip, as illustration – the opening and closing credits for Clouds of Witness.


– He’s hardly in that at all though, is he?  Haven’t you got anything better than that?  (Reader’s voice)

No, I don’t.  I’m sorry.  I’m a busy man.  Why don’t you look him up on the internet?

– We just did (R’s V)


This Is Your Life EXTREME

One TV programme I’d pay good money to watch would be C.B. Fry (passim – he’s over to the right under Tags)’s appearance on ‘This Is Your Life”, originally shown in 1955, when he was aged 83.

I do find this hard to envisage, partly because most of Fry’s significant contemporaries must have been dead by this stage – though they did apparently persuade Jack Hobbs and S.F. Barnes to appear – and partly because it’s hard to picture quite how a man of Fry’s notorious hauteur would have reacted to Eamonn Andrews leaping out at him from the shrubbery and hauling him off to a TV studio.

I tried to find some footage on YouTube, but the best I could come up with was this – This is your life – where, quite unaccountably, they’ve chosen to go with Charlie Drake instead.  It occurs to me that – given the choice they had at the time – they missed a trick in not choosing – say – Evelyn Waugh as a subject: if they had pounced on him as he stumbled out of White’s late one night it would have made for a very entertaining half hour – or possibly two minutes’ – viewing.  

“This is Your Life” vanished from our screens some time ago, although I believe there was a “one-off special”  featuring Simon Cowell a couple of years ago.  From C.B. Fry to Simon Cowell – I don’t think I need  labour the point. 

I imagine the reason it was taken off was because in its heyday it treated its subjects gently, indeed cosily, and clearly this won’t cut the mustard with today’s sensation-sated audiences, nor be adequate to the eventful lives of today’s celebrities.  There is potential though, I think, if the brand was refreshed.

 What I envisage is as follows.  Instead of Eamonn Andrews, the show would be hosted by Jeremy Kyle.  Instead of the subject’s dear old white-haired parents coming on to explain how they never dreamed – all those years ago- that  their child would ever appear on TV, the introduction might be (unseen voice) –

“I was so off my head at the time I didn’t realise I’d given birth.  When I realised what had happened I took here down to the Council Tip and left here there”.

Kyle – “You said you never wanted to see her again, and that she’d ruined your life. But tonight she’s here – yes, it’s your mother Doreen!”

And so on.  Instead of the perceptive and kindly teacher who had detected early promise, the best friend at school with the mildly embarassing but amusing anecdote about girls/boys, the pals from ENSA days, the old trouper who remembered his/her first appearance on the professional stage and so on, we could have …

The  bullying teacher who said you’d never amount to anything – the good-for-nothing boyfriend who first introduced you to drugs – the dodgy photographer – the less-talented bandmates who forced you out of the group – the manager who ripped you off – the Love Rat who kissed-and-told to the News of the World – the plastic surgeon who warned you against any more surgery, but you wouldn’t listen – the feuding WAG – the friend who helped you escape from rehab and the producer who revealed that you’d never sung on your records anyway.

The show would become more and more acrimonious, and contain more scenes of gratuitous shouting  until the finale.  On the old version of the show this would usually involve some long Auntie who had emigrated to Australia and hadn’t been seen for twenty years being flown back for an emotional reunion. 

In the new version the final guest would be the person with whom the subject has had a public and long-running feud – so for Katie Price it might be Peter Andre, for Martin Amis – Julian Barnes.

The entire thing would then descend into an unseemly brawl and, indeed, a general melee, in which chairs would be smashed over the host’s head as the credits rolled and the audience stormed the stage with violence in their hearts.

I feel this idea might even be the saving of ITV.  Now, what did I do with Endemol’s number …