Marmiteboy - Urbane Warrior.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Camberwick Green -Post Modern Kids TV

When I was young Camberwick Green was my favourite 'Watch With Mother' programme. I loved the stories from the little village in Trumptonshire. In fact I was a little bit obsessed with it. Mr Crockett, the garage mechanic, was my hero and I longed to be a mechanic just like him. Those of you that know me will see the irony in this seeing that I have no mechanical ability whatsoever.

During our long telephone conversations, before we met, Lily and I happened to chat about our favourite childrens tv programmes and I discovered she was a
fan too. She has since lent me her daughter Sybil's copy of Camberwick Green on dvd and I have been spending a happy time rewatching this classic childrens programme.

What I have discovered is that far form being twee and not what I remembered, Camberwick Green was a programme far ahead of its time. It had an underlying social message that some of you might be surprised to hear about. It also had un-nerving subversive tendancies too.

First up is Windy Miller, Camberwick Green's version of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. He is a champion of the green way of life and has many a run in with Jonathon Bell, the local farmer, about whether the old ways are the best. It's Windy's free range eggs that are bought by the villagers and not Bell's factory farmed variety and when Thomas Tripp ( the local Milkman) has an incident that smashes all the milk on his milkfloat, it is Windy and his handmilked cow that saves the day. Farmer Bells new milking equipment has broken down and he can't provide the milk needed.

But it isn't just modern farming ways and the effect upon the environment that are tackled. In one episode, a subject is tackled that still plagues us to this day. Let me set the scene.

Jonathon Bell drops by at Windy's place to pick up some sacks of flour (even the evil factory farmer can see the benefits of Windy's ways). It is a hot day and Windy offers Farmer Bell some refreshment in the form of his home made 'strong cider'. Farmer Bell refuses saying 'No thank you Windy, I'm driving'. Nothing too odd you might think, but Camberwick Green was made in 1966 and the drink driving laws in this country didn't come in until 1967!! Was writer Gordon Murray at the forefront of Government policy thinking surrounding this issue? Was it him that planted the idea of stopping people getting totally rat-faced and driving home in the Home Secretary's mind. Very possibly. The power of television cannot be underestimated.

It is the episiode involving Mrs Honeyman and her Baby though that is the most shocking. Even the biggest long-haired, pot-smoking, vegan lay-about cannot condone the events in this story. For it displayed such a disregard for the laws of this country that I'm not surprised that it was actually the very last episode in the Camberwick Green series.

Mrs Honeyman is a bit of a busy-body, for those of you who don't know the programme. In this episode, some workman arrive in the village and Mrs H obviously goes over to chat them. She misunderstands what they are doing and thinking that they are going to build an electricity substation on the village green, she goes off to tell all the other villagers. What follows is nothing short of anarchy, some might even call treason!!!

The villagers are upset about their little bit of England being dug up and as many have done since decide to take direct action. Nothing wrong in that, I applaud their actions. However, it's when they call the army out from Pippin Fort when things go too far. Even PC McGarry (number 452) is involved. This is a dreadful turn of events. And what's more when it is discovered that it's all been a mistake there is no come back. Captain Snort is not courtmarshalled for treason (some countries would have had him shot), there is no trial for the soldier boys, as obviously 'I was only following orders' is a legimate excuse in Trumptonshire. PC McGarry isn't drummed out of the force and not one of the Camberwick Green residents is beaten by truncheon weilding riot police or is dragged screaming from the tree they having chained themselves to.

I haven't seen all of the episodes yet but on what I've seen so far I will not be surprised if Mr Dagenham, the travelling salesman, has a suitcase stuffed full of crack cocaine and Mr Crockett heads up a vehicle ringing gang with ties to the Russian mafia.

Or maybe I'm taking things a little too seriously ;-)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004 -The Fall

Whenever I purchase a boxset by a band, I am always a bit daunted by the amount of music that is contained therein. The question I pose to myself is; Will I play it all? This boxset was no exception as I left my local record emporium.

You see, The Fall aren't am 'easy' band to like. They have always been on the edge of the Indie scene. Hugely respected, definitely, but they go their own, or rather maverick frontman Mark E. Smith's own way. You'll either love the ragged angular sound and Smith's unusually delivered vocals or you don't. I can't really imagine anyone 'sort of liking' The Fall.

This collection of 24 sessions recorded between 1978 and 2004 is on six cd's and has over seven hours of music on it. You need commitment for a thing like.

I needn't have had any commitment fears mind because this is a superb collection. The Fall's many guises recorded more Peel sessions than any other band and were John's favourite band. He once said "If I drop dead tomorrow, I'll have nothing to complain about- except that there'll be another Fall album out next year". No band could be paid a higher compliment. The music here is quite brilliant and deserving of that unusual praise.

As it says on the tin, this set captures all the Fall Peel sessions. Right from the first, broadcast on 15th June 1978 until the final bonus track that was broadcast on John's 65th birthday on 31st August 2004. It is fascinating to be able to track the development of a band over it's 25 year plus life cycle (they are still going strong as I write). Smith is the only surviving member from the first session, in a band that has had in excess of 40 members over the years (including Mark Riley aka Radio One DJ Lard. As someone once quipped. "There are more people who have been in The Fall, than haven't".

The quality of this set is quite astounding. There is barely a sub-standard track in the ninety-seven on view here. Although is reportedly a difficult man to work with, Mark E Smith can sure pick a band. There is so much energy in these recordings and they rae as good on the later recordings as they are on the earlier ones. Sadly, there will be no more Peel Sessions following ohn's death in October 2004 but there will be a new Fall album and that is something to celebrate.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blog Against Sexism Day

Today Vegankid emplores us to blog against sexism and who am I to argue?

As a male sexism does not have the same affect on me as it does on women. Men are generally immune form sexism. This is because it is men that are the sexist ones. Of course some radical feminists wish to redress the balance and seem to be totally biased towards women but that is from a position of years and years of oppression rather that a position of power. For I believe that power is what sexism is all about.

For years and years, women have had worse jobs, worse wages, have been unable to join the same clubs and so forth. They have also been held up as nothing more than sex objects by some. The reason? I strongly believe that some men who are still carrying out sexist policies in government and in the workplace are doing so because they are afriad of losing their power. It is very much like apartheid South Africa. The only reason the white population held on to the reins of government for so long and excluded blacks from the parliamentary process was because they were afraid of losing their power and influence over the country.

It seems a ridculous position to take because in an equal society everybody should be treated equally. Everybody has a valid contribution to make and when they do should be rewarded with exactly the same renumeration regardless of sex. How would it be if the law suddenly said that left handed colleagues should receive less wages for teh job and because they are left handed there career progression would be hampered. There would of course be uproar and quite rightly. Why successive Governments have failed to address the inequality between male and female workers is not so much of a mystery when you see the disproportionate percentage of female MP's and the even fewer that make it to Government and can therefore make a difference.

Those women that do make it are deemed freakish and not quite right in some circles (especially by the right wing press), and when we did have a woman Prime Minister in this country the cause of equality for woman took a retrograde step instead of forging ahead as it should have done.

The answer of course is simple. If a man ad a women are doing the same job they should receive the same wage. If they are of the same ability they should have an equal chance of career progression. And there should be more women in the House of Commons. How this is achieved is something I don't know.

All I do know is that change needs to happen now and some men need to wise up and let go of the strings of power so everybody can have a go.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wrapped Up In Books.

Today is World Book Day. It's day when books are celebrated in all their glory. I really don't know what I'd do without books. I cannot remember the last time when I didn't have a book on the go. It is probably my greatest pleasure. I love people to tell me about great books they have read and recommend them to me. Likewise I like to do the same in return.

With her endorsement of Skallagrigg, Lady Brackenll has not only left me permenanatly tattooed on my right calf, but has caused an upsurge in sales of William Horwood's magnificent novel. I bought it, The Goldfish bought it and my new friend Lily e-mailed me the other day to tell me that she had ordered it from Amazon after I mentioned it in an e-mail to her. She informed me this week that she was totally engrossed in it from the start.This is the most wonderful thing about books. People can lose themselves totally between the covers of a great book (or any book, it doesn't have to be great).

Last night I went to friend Debi's for tea and sat with her 6 year old son while he did his reading homework. What a joy that was. Someone so young who loves his books. My 4 year old niece loves books and knows her Angelina Ballerina stories so well that she tells me off if I try and skip a bit when I'm reading her one. Maybe th efuture is bright. Two young children who both love to pick up a book and get enjoyment from it.

World Book Day is trying to encourage people who don't usually read to pick up a book and find out what a complete joy reading is. I seriously hope it has an impact.