But when I became a man…

I (rather failed to) put away childish things (but, then again, I do not now – nor ever have – lived in Corinth).

I’m sure many of you (like me) were expecting this post (101) to include some lazy link to Eric Blair’s most famous book (and no, I do not refer to the Road to Wigan Pier) and one of the rooms referenced therein – but, no instead we start with a quotation from the recently defeated AV.

As I have briefly and obliquely referenced in earlier posts, I am rather a fan of Doctor Who – this was true when I was a child (and so the target audience) in the days when Tom Baker was the definitive Doctor, but seems to be even more true today (when I am at some considerable distance from the target, and so must assume I’m being hit by a stray shot or ricochet) with the youthful Matt Smith in the Doctor’s current incarnation (or, I suppose, generation as the character is said to regenerate rather than reincarnate).  I have found myself awaiting the second of some of the recent two-part stories with even greater excitement and anticipation than when I was a nipper – is it that I’m starting my second (or nth, for suitable n) childhood early?

I do have some alternative theories which may help to explain my condition, some of which I will now expound:

  • The writers and controllers of the show are now roughly my age, and so perhaps share my views on how Doctor Who should be – and will have grown up with Tom Baker, as all right-thinking fans should.  I also enjoyed Steven Moffat’s sitcoms of earlier years – yes, even Chalk! – so perhaps I share the sense of humour of the guy in charge.
  • Matt Smith – despite his youth, a temporary condition which will all too soon be cured – is very good as the Doctor.  I suspect this is partly because he is rather a good actor, but more because he seems to be channelling several of my “tawdry quirks”.  For a while, I did worry that I was copying him – but on mature consideration, I’m pretty sure I’ve been doing these things for years and so now worry that I am being secretly filmed.  Like me he has been criticised for speaking too quickly, he also shares some of my verbal ticks and makes very full use of his hands and arms while speaking to the detriment of nearby breakables (on this last front, someone did once ask if I was French – not a question they’d have asked had they heard me speak that particular language, which I apparently do with quite a strong Spanish accent?!).
  • Karen Gillen is really rather dishy and, as I’m sure I must have indicated before, I am definitely drawn to the Titian-haired.  Also, I’m rather fond of the accent – as an inveterate radio listener, I am a sucker for a voice.  On the subject of voices in Who, Mark Sheppard who starred in the first two eps of the current series has the most amazing voice as Canton Everett Delaware III (and, for all I know, in real life) – with a voice like that, I could rule the world (or, more likely, would spend the entire time talking to myself and swooning).
  • Alex Kingston, who gets many of the best lines and the lioness’s share of the flirting, is – like Keanu Reeves – older than me and I always like those, who’ve spent more time on the earth than I, being viewed as objects of desire (it gives me hope).
  • My favourite regular character though is Rory – not sure why, though the fact he is tall, thin (we saw him topless this week, and he is seriously thin – he makes me look obese, and I can only cling anywhere near the bottom end of the normal weight for my height by regular gym visits and constant eating) and has a sizeable nose may mean that perhaps I can relate to his character more than most we see on our screens.  It may help that he is also the one character who tends to act as I might in the face of danger, i.e. to panic and attempt to leave and only face the danger at all out of a misplaced need not to seem impolite. However, I do worry that poor Rory is becoming the Kenny of Doctor Who (not sure who’d be Cartman in this analogy) – though I’ve only once seen him in a hood, and would strongly advise him to stay out of hooded clothing in future – in that he is being killed (or almost killed) in a worryingly large number of episodes.  The actor who plays him also has a wonderfully historical-feeling name – Arthur Darvill, a name I feel would be at home in Dickens, or even Austen.
  • The new series villains, the Silence are really rather terrifying – but, and more importantly, somehow reassuring to a man of advancing years.  No longer do I need to blame a senior moment, or oncoming senility, when I  arrive in a room with no idea why or when I find a spanner in the fridge or butter in the toolbox – now I can blame an encounter with the Silence!
  • Finally, the show is quite densely written with a lot of words, jokes and plot (even if, given the nature of the show, the plot may have some holes if over-analysed) which gives my brain something to do while watching it.  During so many programmes, I find myself doing something else whilst watching to provide sufficient stimulation to keep my brain going.  Some critics – who presumably watch TV professionally, rather than my own watching which is in a more Corinthian spirit (and that may be my favourite ever call back to the title of a post) – claim the show is hard to follow: it isn’t, I fear their critique may speak more to the corrosive diminution of attention span which afflicts the modern era.

I wouldn’t want you to think that my excessive enjoyment of some children’s programming – and, on this topic, right-thinking readers will be thrilled to know that BBC4 is showing Noggin the Nog as part of its Iceland season this coming week – indicates some lack of emotional development on my part (even if this happens to be true).  In my defence, I would like to point to my serious BBC4 habit (it’s ok, I can handle it) and addiction to slow moving, depressing European police series coupled to my rather extensive watching of subtitled movies (and, my current reading is the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam). Nor should I want you to think that I only watch programmes where the characters represent some aspect of myself – though now I think about it, this rather solipsistic explanation of my viewing habits does explain quite a lot…

So, more BBC, more! More programming for (and with) tall thin, generously nosed, childish, pseudo-intellectual, geeky men in their mid-40’s with a love of wordplay!  Surely, this demographic must be larger than one?  And just feel my ABC1-ness and disposable income!

[PS: If anyone can guess the one “line” in this post which forms its raison d’être then I will be seriously impressed.  The only prize, however, will be the feeling of satisfaction that the correct answer will provide to its deducer.]

Cartoon Canonisation

Earlier, I found myself thinking about the television of my childhood days – I think this form of nostalgia is an occupational hazard (along with presbyopia) of my advancing years.  At least I haven’t started telling complete strangers my age… yet.

In common with, I assume, all generations, I believe the television of my youth was vastly better than that produced in these debased, modern times.  Though there are some honourable exceptions, for example, I would heartily recommend Shaun the Sheep (despite the sub-optimal spelling of our hero’s name) to any comers.

Almost everything I know about herbs, I learnt from the Herb Garden – and I have now eaten most of the characters, though have yet to try (Constable) Knapweed (I’m not even sure what you might serve him with – a writ of habeas corpus?).  To this day, I tend to sing the relevant song to myself when chopping each herb – though I grow increasingly shaky on the words (but, this is one area in which the internet is a real boon).

Much of my knowledge of society came from the folk of Trumptonshire.  I well remember my disappointment on starting my first job – which was in an office above a factory – to discover that at knocking-off time there was no siren and the staff did not dress up in period costume to dance whilst accompanied by the local lord on his “Dutch organ” (which is a lot less dodgy than it sounds).

I would say that Oliver Postgate was (at last partly) responsible for getting me a job.  The interest in Norse myth, engendered by the tales of Noggin the Nog, paid off many years later.  A talk on Egil’s bones (he of the saga, combative nature and Paget’s disease) as my interview “party” piece won me the job in education from where I was later able to muse about various gerunds to such great comic effect (see previous post) – but you really shouldn’t blame Mr Postgate for that.

But, finally, we come to the main subject for tonight’s symposium.  Mary, Mungo and Midge – an animation produced by the makers of Captain Pugwash – tried to convince us of the joys of living atop a tower block with a large dog.  I fear it was not wholly successful in this brief, but it did move children’s “drama” away from the boarding school or countryside for the first time.  (By the way, for a good laugh – and an indication of how times have changed (or at least, children’s fiction) – I thoroughly recommend the recent Good Show Clarissa on Radio 4.  It contains vocabulary that even I have stopped using!).

Many a time I have found myself inside St Mary’s, or more recently, Great St Mary’s (I refer here to churches, there has been no tupping with the canonised deceased, I can assure you – though I suppose it might count as one of the obligatory two miracles were it to happen).  St Mungo is the patron saint of Glasgow – not bad for a dog!  But, even after 40 years, no St Midge – not even a Venerable or Blessed Midge!

The time has come to campaign for poor little old Midge.  Our exact tack will depend on whether he was martyred or not – but the first step is a recommendation to the Pope.  Thereafter, we are probably looking for miracles performed through Midge’s intercession.  It is 40 years since I last saw MM&M, but I do remember he would stand on Mungo’s muzzle and press the buttons on the lift to descend (or ascend) – so perhaps we should be looking for miracles within the works of Messers Otis or Schindler?  (Certainly, through the entire TV series, the lift never once failed – which I think would make it unique – and miraculous – in tower-block based TV drama)

Please feel free to report your lift-based miracles here, and let’s get Midge the canonisation he so richly deserves.