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Changing fortunes

Well, maybe not exactly fortunes, but maybe priorities.

I watched a film I haven't seen for years - Sparrows Can't Sing - over the weekend. It was directed by Joan Littlewood, and starred/featured several of her company of actors (at the time) from the Theatre Workshop, based at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. I suppose you could say they were the Comic Strip of their time - new, brash, cutting edge, left-wing, anti-establishment, although focused more on drama and satire than comedy. And the comparison doesn't end there (more of that later).

Although the Theatre Workshop wasn't a comedy outfit, the cast list of Sparrows Can't Sing reads like a Who's Who of British comic actors of the 60s and 70s, and this is what interests me. The Workshop was such a serious and intense group of people, and yet so many of them went on to become well known in what you couldn't really call highbrow productions.

Barbara Windsor made her name in the Carry On films as the busty blonde.
Yootha Joyce and Brian Murphy both went on to star in sitcoms, both of them ending up in Man About the House and then its spinoff, George and Mildred.
Stephen Lewis, who wrote the play Sparrows Can't Sing was based on as well as the screenplay for the film, became famous as Blakey from On the Buses.
Also in On the Buses, although having a part so small in Sparrows Can't Sing that you'd miss it if you blinked, was Bob Grant (Reg Varney's conductor).
Arthur Mullard and Queenie Watts, both in the film although I'm not sure for certain if they were members of the Workshop, starred in two sitcoms - Romany Jones and Yus My Dear.

All the sitcoms in that list are the sort we look back on now with a degree of, well, not exactly embarrassment, but they're not what you might call quality fare, relying as most of them did on stereotypes, innuendo, double entendres, cheap laughs and stock situations. Young women were sex objects. Older women were either battleaxes or sex-starved maneaters. Husbands were henpecked. Any young or unmarried man was only after one thing.

Which brings me to the Comic Strip. Or, more specifically, Ade Edmondson. Now, I have to say here that I love Ade to bits and I don't intend any criticism - I'm only making an observation. His work with Rik Mayall as 20th Century Coyote and the Dangerous Brothers has always had me in stitches. I much prefer Bottom to The Young Ones because it gave both he and Rik far more scope to be their own comic selves, plus Ben Elton was out of the picture as writer. And indeed, in The Young Ones Vivyan is easily my favourite character.

In recent years I've noticed that Ade has turned into a sort of professional quaint English eccentric. I've seen (and enjoyed) all 20 episodes of the first series of Ade in Britain, and I've seen the first four or five of the second series.

They're in that genre of programme that seems to have sprung up in the past three or four years - bung a celebrity in an interesting vehicle and wheel them around the country looking for oddballs, old crafts and customs, strange businesses and shops, grand houses and mansions, buildings with macabre histories, and British traditions that everyone (except the people who take part in them) thought had died out.

But mostly they get the celebrity to try their hand at one of these old crafts or customs, inevitably looking very silly.

There's been Ade in Britain (followed by Ade at Sea, which I haven't yet seen) going around the country in his Mini towing that odd little caravan, Rory Bremner's Great British Views (in a Morgan), Robbie Coltrane's B-Road Britain (in a beautiful old Jaguar smiley - bigeyes), Richard Wilson in Britain's Best Drives (in a different vehicle each episode, to whit a VW minibus, a 1957 Ford Zodiac, a Morris Traveller, a Triumph TR3, a 1958 Austin Cambridge and a 1952 Bentley Mark 6), and Griff Rhys Jones in Britain's Lost Routes (mostly on foot, but also on a Thames barge, and in one episode in a beautiful Rolls Royce limousine).

And we mustn't forget Clare Balding on her bike, or Timothy Spall and wife sailing around the UK in their coastal barge smiley - biggrin

Clare, to her eternal credit, kept things on a serious level and didn't look a fool by trying to make clogs, spin sugar or Morris dance, and there wasn't much that Timothy and Shane could find to try their hand at while two miles off the coast, except having the occasional barney and trying not to drown.

I won't include Oz and James Drink to Britain because that was more of a specialist programme in that it dealt specifically with booze, but it's in the same vicinity, particularly since they were in a Roller towing a crappy old caravan, thus satisfying the wacky vehicle rule smiley - laugh

Any road up. It strikes me as interesting that people who spend their youth being so apparently anti-establishment will sometimes end up being such a part of it.

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Latest reply: Last Week

This is a bit worrying

It's been so long since I last drank any wine that I honestly can't remember when it was. You know me, I'm beer through and through, and whisk(e)y. Quite partial to a jinnantonnyx too.

But in the last few weeks I've been getting a strong - and growing - urge for a glass of red.

I blame Floyd smiley - redwine

Discuss this Journal entry [7]

Latest reply: Last Week

We're really getting any better, are we

I heard (and then read) a news piece this morning about Malaysia Airlines and a competition they've begun, originally called 'My Ultimate Bucket List'. Suddenly this has blown up all over the internet and the news because of the connection with bucket lists and dying, Malaysian Airlines having lost two planes this year killing many hundreds of people.

Unfortunately, it's become the nature of modern life, thanks to the childishness of both social media and news media, to inflate stories involving someone's mistake out of all proportion to their actual importance, and pounce upon them with headlines shouting 'gaffe', 'blunder', 'bungle' and other similar adjectives, and then hunting for someone to make an apology.

When this happens I despair for the decline in the decency of human beings rather than for the company or person who made the mistake in the first place. As this predatory style of news becomes more prevalent, and 'the norm' in some respects, the kids growing up with it will see it at an impressionable age and come to think of it as the way *they* should behave too. Anyone who spends any time on Twitter or Facebook will have seen evidence of that already, and perhaps, like me, wondered at how people can be so judgemental, wilfully ignorant and dogmatic.

Social media is the equivalent of the school playground, and we all know what a bearpit that can be, with stronger kids bullying weaker kids, and kids who consider themselves 'normal' taunting any kid who has a perceived difference of any kind. I expect better from the news though, because the news media is run and operated by adults, but that's just crazy talk really, isn't it. Optimism so strong you move a mountain with it. News organisations being irresponsible is part of the job description and nothing new. Just watch a film like Billy Wilder's Hold the Front Page (I think it was Billy Wilder). Or the documentary I saw recently about mods and rockers, and the Bank Holiday punch-ups in the 1960s.

It turns out that the first few were nothing more than damp squibs, a few hundred pounds-worth of damage caused, a handful of black eyes and lost teeth, and it might have withered on the vine right there, but for one thing. The papers blew it out of all proportion and splashed it all over their front pages with scare headlines. You've probably already guessed what happened next. Over-reaction by the authorities when the next Bank Holiday came around, and a huge invitation for more kids to jump on their scooters and Triumphs and head down to Brighton. Naturally, the next one was far worse, and solely because of the exaggerated newspaper coverage.

So when I read stories like the one about the Malaysia Airlines competition, I sigh, and move on.

Discuss this Journal entry [8]

Latest reply: 2 Weeks Ago

Where am I today?

I've started using the Tor browser this week. That's the one that supposedly anonymises your location, doesn't allow cookies, keeps no history etc.

The tinfoil hat suits me, by the way, don't you think?

It works by routing your internet trip through several different nodes, computers, servers, and brings you out almost anywhere, so that's where the website you're accessing thinks you are. Which makes it very interesting when Gmail serves you those little text ads to the right of your inbox.

So far today I've been in Germany, Romania and Portugal, at least. I may have been in some other other English speaking countries too smiley - tongueout

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Latest reply: 3 Weeks Ago

Gosho's acronym game

I've been playing one of these on another website. The rules are simple - you copy and paste the previous post, choose one word from it, highlight it and make a new sentence from the initial letters.

Prizes* will be awarded for:
Sentences that relate to the chosen word.
Sentences that follow on from or relate to the previous sentence.
Choosing the longest word from the previous sentence.
Not resorting to obscure, archaic or overly long words purely for the sake of it.
Avoiding the use of proper names indiscriminately.
Not hyphenating that which should not be hyphenated.
Avoiding what I shall call, in the absence of any other description, h2g2 silliness. Let's keep a modicum of sensibility and grown-upness about this.

In short, sticking to the rules of good English usage and not being a smartarse smiley - nahnah

Colons, semi-colons, dashes and commas are allowed, also *one* question mark may be used where artistically justified, but the only full stop should come at the end, and exclamation marks are right out. As much as possible, it should be one complete sentence in its own right.

Sentence fragments (omitting definite and indefinite articles, as long it's not gratuitous) are allowed, simply because it'd be too restrictive to enforce the use of them in a game of this nature, but not the dropping of personal pronouns in the style of an internet post or text message (eg 'Was reading a newspaper today').

Using more than two adjectives or adverbs in a row in order to use up letters will be heavily frowned upon smiley - cross

Existing acronyms and three-letter-abbreviations (such as DNA) are considered words and count as their first letter only.

The rules are subject to change and amendment at any time, and, in the words of Roy Plomley, the chairman's (that's me in perpetuity) decision is final no matter how wrong he is.

Since we don't have formatting on h2g2 (yet) we'll have to find our own way of highlighting the chosen word. I reckon I'll be doing it with asterisks. The next post will show the format.

*There are no prizes.

Discuss this Journal entry [36]

Latest reply: 3 Weeks Ago


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