Abby vs Gibbs

It’s amazing how little you see, unless you know to look. After what I discovered yesterday, I’ve spent the morning on some NCIS-based research. It’s anything but complete, and I admit I don’t have access to any official facts, but when a Facebook friend posted a photo of a couple of US magazines to illustrate a point he wanted to make about something totally unrelated, my eyes were drawn to another magazine on the edge of the picture, which prompted me to do a search on the words on the cover of whatever the magazine might be: ‘Harmon drove Perrette off show.’

Magazine cover

I’m one of the last people I know who would write publicly about something based on gossip, which might very well be just that. But, for once I am tempted to believe there is some truth in what I accidentally came across.

OK, maybe Pauley Perrette didn’t decide to leave NCIS at the end of season 15 because Mark Harmon insists on bringing his pitbull Dave to work with him, or that she’s scared of the dog. What seems clear after more looking into things is that a year before her announcement, Dave took a bite out of someone on the NCIS set. All sources at the time (October 2016) claim Dave has not been back.

But there’s a reason for Pauley’s decision to leave. I’d been intending to speculate a little on this, since short of her being ill, I didn’t have her down as a quitter. She has always seemed to be someone who might well be the last one standing, in fact.

Maybe Dave is now back. Maybe not. Perhaps Pauley complained about him and met only hostility. Maybe she is angry at this. Maybe Mark Harmon is angry about Dave-related issues, or about something entirely different.

Because there has to be a reason why – just like the gossip magazine claimed – Gibbs and Abby are not filmed together in season 15.

All right, a few episodes is not proof of anything, and I can’t believe I never noticed that one is not there if the other is; that there are no more kisses for Abby when she’s done well. Other people visit her in her lab. The one time I found them talking to each other, it was over the phone.

I don’t know. But it makes the public comments from Mark about her departure sound rather hollow. If the set is still really like one big happy family, there would be no need to keep the two in separate rooms.

What’s more, it makes it harder watching older – and happier – episodes, as I found when I happened to catch the beginning of season three last night.

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Not just a pretty face

It’s amazing how coming face-to-face with someone off television makes you feel as if you’re meeting an old friend. And in this instance I don’t mean in the street, but seeing them on a different television screen. Like the Christmas University Challenge.

Now, I do know a few people who’ve been on the ‘celebrity’ teams anyway. But then the other day, Daughter and I were taken aback to find Bishop’s screen ex-husband (the snake..!) Jake on one of the Cambridge teams, as himself; Jamie Bamber.

We did always like Jake on NCIS. At least until he cheated on Bishop and had to be escorted off the premises by Gibbs.

Anyway, it was nice to see him again, and even nicer to find he’s a knowledgeable and intelligent man. Somehow you suspect actors and musicians of being a bit substandard in a general educational way. Here I have to say that without Jamie his team would have done a lot worse.

In the semi-finals they were up against an Oxford team, on which we were very happy to find Frank Cottrell Boyce, and happier still to hear him describe himself as a children’s author (and not the man responsible for having the Queen fling herself out of a helicopter in the company of James Bond). Frank is a very educated and intelligent man, and more than a credit to his team.

There have also been a few musicians this year, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what they know.

And then you tend to be equally surprised by how little some others know. But as Jeremy Paxman says, they did not have to do this.

My feeling is that more women would make for better teams. And more authors, preferably children’s authors. I can provide a list of suggestions, should the BBC require help.

The Stone of Destiny

The Resident IT Consultant rather surprised me. Back in the summer we wanted to have a few films to watch, and I asked him if there was anything he fancied getting. The response was immediate, and surprising. He wanted The Stone of Destiny.

For reasons I can’t easily explain here, he sees many more film trailers than I do. I assumed he’d come across it in the cinema during the last year or so. And then it turned out the film was almost ten years old. I was amazed he even remembered.

But of course he would, as it’s about Scottish history. We could see a trailer on YouTube, but then we hit a stone wall. In the end he sourced a Polish version online, with subtitles and everything. (If you’re really clever you can turn the subtitles off, but it was harder than it usually is.)

Ian Hamilton, Stone of Destiny

This is the true story of a group of young people from Scotland who go to London in 1950 to steal the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey. They do it on Christmas Eve (because that’s such a good time to commit a crime…). And they succeed.

Naturally.

It’s not an outstanding film or anything, but it’s fun and informative for rookie Scots. It’s got Robert Carlyle in it, and a group of relatively unknown actors (to me, anyway). I enjoyed it, and I could really feel the cold in that unheated B&B somewhere in London. The capital at Christmas looks very fine, if chilly, and then they drive north with the stone and it looks like summer near the Scottish border. That drive either took a long time, or the weather’s so much better up here. Or continuity forgot to lose the leaves on the trees.)

Stone of Destiny - film

It was not a forever triumph over the English, but it was good enough.

The film is worth seeing, especially without the subtitles. And the Resident IT Consultant got so fired up he [re]read Ian Hamilton’s book about his exploits as a young man, which we had on our Scottish shelves.

Naturally.

(Co-published with Bookwitch.)

Christmas card 2017

Christmas card

Happy Christmas!

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

I was lacking the Christmas peace I craved. When not even the three tenors helped, I resorted to Roger Whittaker and his Tidings of Comfort and Joy. The 22-track selection, which came on LP and cassette. Not the short measure of the CD.

When I’ve not listened to music for a while, such as during the gap from one Christmas to the next, I fear that something won’t be as good as I remember it. But Tidings of Comfort and Joy is every bit as excellent as I discovered that first January after I’d bought it, more than 25 years ago. It was so wonderful that I gave myself special dispensation to listen to it even after the tree had been taken out, and for a couple of weeks mid-January I listened intensively.

Now I’m back doing the same thing, only at the ‘permitted’ time, as it’s still before Christmas. I find that a half hour or so last thing before bed sets me up feeling nice and calm.

It’s not only Roger’s voice. It’s the songs. Some are the same songs ‘everyone’ records, but others are less clichéd, giving me that little bit extra.

NCIS – Double Down

And then we all cried a little.

That’s the thing about Christmas episodes. They are likely to be sadder – in a good way – and generally likelier to have its temporary characters survive. But you obviously can’t be certain.

I was sure that there was going to be bonding going on, and how right I was. You start by loathing someone and end up admiring them. The interesting thing is that even when you know to expect a slightly clichéd story, you can still enjoy it.

Palmer and Abby

This was one of the better Christmas stories, after the baby born in the petrol station. And it was about loving your children, and sometimes love in the other direction too. McGee has to learn that his babies will not hate him for having worked their first Christmas. Palmer’s father-in-law has already discovered what it’s like at NCIS at Christmas, so shouldn’t be a problem. (Script-writers take note.)

Torres and Sloane went to Afghanistan; with Sloane seemingly having an agenda (I wasn’t clear on what she dug up), and Torres having no objection to shooting spiders. That was one well used film location, btw. I know it almost as well as I do my own neighbourhood.

NCIS

People seemed to recover pretty quickly from bumps on the head and being shot. It’s the Christmas effect.

With a couple of exceptions, it ended well for most. And it was a great exercise in honouring the military. You can always find good use for a hanky under these circumstances. When they played The Little Drummer Boy towards the close, it made my hair stand on end.

(Photos © CBS)

Advent Roger

I have a crazy friend. Crazy is generally the best. But even so, I didn’t expect this.

This year for Advent, my friend is giving away gifts to her Facebook friends. You know, if money was no object, kind of thing. So after a safe start of a holiday in Florida and a £2,000,000 house in Devon, this morning it was my turn.

I had had my doubts. I am a notoriously difficult person, and I was mainly settling down to see what inappropriate gift ‘her money’ would provide. I take it all back! This is what I woke up to:

‘If I had money, I would offer so much of it to Roger Whittaker that he would agree to come and sing one last time, especially for you. As one of his signature songs is The Last Farewell, I would hire a tall ship and crew from Topsail to bring Roger over from the nearest port in France, where he now lives, to Leith. You and Roger would have a fine meal on board in the harbour, and Roger would sing The Last Farewell to you, before sailing away into the sunset.’

Roger Whittaker and CultureWitch

What a lucky witch I am, to have a friend like that!

She’s right. It is what I’d want. Well, maybe I’d whisper into Roger’s ear that he could pick a different song, if he felt up to it, but my goodness, what a spectacular gift!

(And for anyone who wants to help my friend get rich, do buy her books. I thoroughly recommend her Belgian trilogy for a good scare. It’s so scary I have recently learned that her husband couldn’t quite finish the last one… Here is a list of all Helen Grant’s books. They are very good. And very scary.)