My wife was upset this morning. As we watched the news over breakfast, she turned and asked me, “Does this mean the big bang? A nuclear war? The end of everything?”
I appreciated why she was concerned. For so long now, the BBC News (and every other media that I do not watch or read) has been spouting the doom-laden reports of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine. They get these reports from our govenment in Britain, and the US government spokespeople too.
To my mind, this fear-mongering reporting is irresponsible in the extreme, as they do not present the other side of the issue.
It would be disastrous economically for Russia to start a war with Ukraine. Sanctions would cripple their huge gas and oil industries, as most of their customers are in the EU.
Ukraine has the largest army in Europe, second only to the much larger Russian army. 250,000 regular soldiers, plus militia groups and armed civilians. A war with them would prove costly to Russia. Both in lives, and financially. And it could well drag on for a long time too.
Using nuclear weapons, suggested in one ridiculous report, does not take into account the geographical proximity of The Russian Federation to Ukraine. Using any nuclear option would be disastrous to those Russians living on the borders, as well as the whole country of Belarus, a Russian ally.
This morning, we heard dire warnings that UK and US nationals should leave Ukraine immediately, as there will be no ‘rescue mission’ should Russia invade. Irresponsible politicians, ramping up the rhetoric, tension, and threats. Panicking ordinary people for no good reason. Then irresponsible media, parroting their words with no balanced reporting.
And why do we consider Ukraine to be an ally? Because it wants to join NATO? This is a right-wing government that has ties with neo-nazis and nazi-sympathising militia groups. Should that country even be allowed to join NATO? I think not. Could it have more to do with trade deals, and Joe Biden and his son having close ties to that country?
I think it could.
Meanwhile, I would like to see less warmongering from all sides, and especially from the BBC.
From 1952, Detector vans like the one shown above were once used to detect TV signals being received in the homes of people who had not bought a licence. The operators were not allowed to force entry to your home, but if you refused to open the door, they were allowed to apply for a search warrant.
If you live in Britain, and want to watch TV, you need a licence to do that. To fund the running costs of the BBC, TV licences were introduced as long ago as 1946, when they cost £2 a year. Current charges are £157.50 per year. However, you can reduce this to £53 for a Black and White only licence. I find it hard to imagine that anyone still only has a B&W TV, but many thousands of B&W licences are still purchased every year.
There are currently some concessions, though there is talk of those being scrapped in the near future.
If you are aged 75 or over, you can apply for a free TV licence, but only if your income is so low that you receive the benefit known as ‘Pension Credit’.
If you are a ‘Registered blind’ person, you can apply for a 50% discount on the cost of the full licence.
If you are a resident of a care home, you can apply for a reduced cost licence of just £7.50 a year.
This rather outdated system looks set to change. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are not covered by the legislation, as they are transmitted over the Internet. Detector vans may no longer roam the streets looking for TV signals coming from your home, but enforcement still exists.
When you buy a television set, your details are supplied to the Licensing Authority. Failure to apply for a licence, or to already have one, will result in a letter being sent. Ignore the letter, and there is a chance that investigators may visit your home to see evidence of TV watching. This might be the presence of a TV aerial or Satellite dish on your roof, or remote controls spotted through a window.
Once this ‘evdence’ has been logged, then you could receive a visit from enforcement officers armed with a warrant to search your home for a compatible TV set. If you have been avoiding paying for a licence, you will be fined up to £1,000, plus administration costs.
On the plus side, this means we get at least three television channels from the BBC that carry no advertising whatsoever. (Except for them advertising their own forthcoming programmes.) But a generation of people who watch mainly streamed content on phones, laptops, and tablets is unlikely to concern itself with that.
Perhaps the TV Licence has had its day? Time will tell.
I have just been watching a weather feature on the BBC News channel.
Not since records began in the 1820s has Britain had so many hours of sunshine by the end of May, in any year. It has also been the driest May on record, with unprecedented low levels of rainfall. The south-eastern part of Britain has had less than 4mm ( 0.16 inches) of rain in one month.
Music to my ears.
Of course, the prophets of doom have started already. Not enough water in the rivers and reservoirs. Farmers worrying about crops wilting on the ground. (Farmers also complain when it is too wet to harvest of course.) There is a real possibility of hosepipe bans and water rationing in some areas.
Oh woe is us, living in this desert!
We live in one of the wettest countries in the world, yet seem to be incapable of working out how to store the countless milions of gallons of water that fall out of the skies annually. It wasn’t that long ago (February, to be precise) that those same experts were worried about too much rain, and huge areas of the country were devastated by flooding.
So where did all that water go? Why didn’t they save it somewhere, ready for a time such as this?
The report concluded by suggesting that Britain might soon have a ‘Mediterranean climate’. The words of the expert sounded like a warning.
Just after 5 pm last night, it started to rain in Beetley. Not torrential, but enough to be heard on the windows and roof. Enough to wet the grass, and the paths around the house. Nothing unusual there, and as we had enjoyed three days with no rain at all, I wasn’t that depressed about it.
Just before dinner, I watched the local news on TV. At the end of that, a lady weather forecaster came on to give the weather news for this part of Britain.
“A cloudy night, with a minimum temperature of 2 C in rural areas. At least it will be dry, with no chance of any rain”.
As you might imagine, it enraged me to watch such a totally inaccurate forecast, when I could still see the rain hitting the windows, and hear it too.
Much later, I went to bed, and checked my Tablet before going to sleep. Before closing it, I looked at the BBC Weather App, whilst listening to the rain hitting the roof.
0 chance of precipitation
Those people must be cracking up with laughter at what fools they think we are.
This period drama follows the usual BBC tradition of wonderful adaptations on screen. Think ‘Poldark’, or go back in time to previous serials like ‘War and Peace’.’ Cranford’, ‘North and South’, or ‘Bleak House’. The truth is that nobody does this sort of thing better, and I always anticipate any new one with relish.
Anne Lister was a landowner in Yorkshire, in the 1800s. She was a spinster, and renowned for her love of other women, long before anyone might be referred to as a Lesbian. Unusually for the time, she made little secret of that fact, dressing in male attire, and dealing with all her own business affairs. She also travelled extensively, and had open liaisons with other women, often ones who were unhappily married.
This eight-part serial starts in 1832, as Anne returns to her run-down country estate. She has to get the finances in order to save her family from financial ruin. But her return coincides with the arrival of a rich young woman at a nearby grand house. The young Miss Walker is frail, but attractive and vulnerable, and Anne soon falls for her, deciding to seduce her into a long term relationship.
At the same time, a great deal of coal is discovered on Anne’s family estate, and she realises that it is being stolen by miners working for the banking family, the Rawsons. Thus begins an ongoing feud between Anne and the Rawsons, with side stories of the struggling tenant farmers, Anne’s relatives, and her fierce reputation in the area. When she succeeds in making young Miss Walker fall for her, events take an unpleasant turn as local society and the young woman’s family turn against Anne Lister, and attempt to ruin her and her family.
Locations, costume, and period feel are all incredibly authentic. Suranne Jones shines as Anne, taking to the role as if she was born to play her. The rest of the casting is top-notch too, including such famous faces as Timothy West, Gemma Jones, and Stephanie Cole, none of whom overplay their roles. The lesbian love scenes are not graphic, and the script is superb. Suranne Jones even breaks the ‘fourth wall’, by giving knowing looks to the camera, at appropriate times.
This is the sort of drama the BBC is known for, and should do a lot more of. High production values, and a wonderful cast even in the smallest roles.
British TV at its best.
This short trailer gives a teasing snapshot of just how good this is.
The second part of this feature on recommended TV shows contains some that were mentioned in the comments on Part One. Many of you jumped the gun on some I was going to feature, but that’s a good thing. 🙂
Following on from the previous post, this looks at some current TV shows that are every bit as well-made as most modern films, and if anything, more engaging.
This outstanding series from the BBC features Idris Elba as detective John Luther. Elba is on great form as the troubled policeman, in a selection of very dark and sometimes disturbing stories filmed in and around London. Supporting actors are also top-notch, including David Dawson, Dermot Crowley, and the wickedly brilliant Ruth Wilson. In a world of run-of-the-mill, often too cosy police serials, this one breaks all the rules. Just like Luther…
Written by Sophie Waller Bridge, (see Fleabag in the previous post) this is simply marvellous television. Following the antics of a quirky serial killer all over Europe, as she is hunted by a determined team of agents out to catch her. Funny, exciting, and always incredibly addictive, with a central performance from Jodie Comer that is a revelation. I am pleased to say that series two is coming soon.
The Handmaid’s Tale.
I am eagerly awaiting the third series of this American production, after the cliff-hanger ending to series two. The lengthy adaptation of the original book allows huge scope to develop this dystopian tale, and also chillingly reflects the real possibility of such things happening, in our modern world. Leading actress Elizabeth Moss is perfect for the role, and her performance is indeed haunting. Other cast members include British actors Joseph Fiennes, and Max Minghella.
Another two-series European find from BBC 4, this time from Iceland. This has so much gong for it. Majestic locations, a claustrophobic small-town community, and a series of attacks and murders that seem strangely unconnected. Ecological issues, corrupt politicians, family problems, and a struggling provincial police department having to cope with a disturbing crime wave. This is like something from the Coen brothers, set in the volcanic bleakness of this little-known country. An unfamiliar (to us) cast is on top form, and this is one you will want to watch all the way through.
This recent series got little attention here when shown on Channel 4. It is available on Netflix, and I recommend it. Set in post-war Britain, with the Cold War very much in evidence, this is an intriguing tale of spies. British spies, Russian spies, and American spies; all operating in London, and becoming intertwined through their devious machinations as things get out of control. It also includes elements of racism, and some historical background to the rebuilding of Britain after a long war. With wonderful performances from Keeley Hawes, Emma Appleton, and American actor Michael Stuhlbarg, along with flawless period detail, I enjoyed this one a lot.
Five more to catch up on, or to continue to enjoy. Most are available as box sets, and via the usual streaming services.
Over the past few years, more and more TV shows have arrived which are every bit as good as many mainstream films. In this post, I will recommend some of those. You may know a few, and others will possibly be new to you. If you are outside of the UK, some of these are available using streaming services, or other online platforms. Quite a few will be shown (or have been shown) on BBC America. For those of you in Britain, they can usually be accessed via ‘Catch-up’ services, and watched as box sets at leisure.
This BBC historical drama stars the wonderful Tom Hardy alongside many famous faces, as well as the relative newcomer, Jessie Buckley, who is marvellous. The period detail is bitingly authentic, and locations are very convincing too. The complex tale involves a taboo subject, as the title suggests. In this case it is incest, but there is nothing distasteful shown. Often violent, at times surreal and magical, this is one of the freshest productions to have hit the screen in decades. The good news is that a second series is to follow.
Line Of Duty.
The recent series of this police drama concerning internal affairs investigators has just had this country on the edge of its seat with tension. A small cast composed of outstanding character actors, convincing police procedural, and just enough action to illustrate the story. These are the strengths of this show, which has now run into five series, with season six to follow in the future. With much of the story told in detailed interview situations, and an unflinching look at police corruption, this takes the UK cop drama to a new level.
Follow The Money.
BBC 4 is well known for highlighting some of the best European TV drama available, and this two-series thriller from Denmark is no exception. Following Copenhagen police fraud investigators looking into money laundering, is is a lot more exciting than it sounds, branching out into international drug dealing and arms smuggling as the story develops. The personal lives of the cops, and the intertwined relationships all combine to make it addictive TV, and perfect for binge-watching.
One of the most poignant yet funny series ever to hit the screens here, the magnificent Sophie Waller-Bridge writes and stars in this two-series programme from the BBC. Sexy, amusing, and also heart-breaking, we follow the exploits of cafe owner Fleabag, the men in her life, and her dysfunctional family members. Lots of swearing, some genuine tragedy, and the constant breaking of the fourth wall, as the actress talks to the audience through the camera. Packed with some of the finest British acting talent around, this is quite possibly one of the best things the BBC has ever commissioned. Sadly, there will never be a third series. Shame that…
This is well known around the world by now, but for anyone who has missed it, please do try to catch up. Period drama rarely gets better than this, as we follow the Shelby gang carving out a criminal territory in the Midlands of Britain, following WW1. A superb cast, wonderful script, and location filming all add to to making this one of the landmarks of British TV history.
There you have some to start you off, with more to follow later. If you have seen any of them, let me know if you agree. If you haven’t watched them, I respectfully suggest you have missed out.