Happy 60th (x2)

I couldn’t help noticing that it is Colin Firth’s 60th birthday today. Have a happy one!

And as I did so, Hugh Grant appeared as well, having celebrated his 60th yesterday. Belated happy 60th to you too!

Don’t know whether I’m surprised they are so old, or so relatively young. It’ll be one of those. Darcy and the PM. How I wish he was. Hugh as PM, I mean. I probably prefer Colin in Mamma Mia as the ‘spontaneous one.’

At least they grow older with me, and if I play it right, maybe one day they will be older than I am?

The bank manager was back

I hope his nose grows. It was either that, or a different pair of glasses, as the man himself said, halfway through the concert. That’s Andy Fairweather Low, and one of my first thoughts during his live online gig tonight was that he needed to see his optician.

He’s very self-deprecating, isn’t he? I ask because I’m still almost a complete novice, but I really enjoyed this. Short, at just over an hour, but they had worked hard at deciding which half of their most popular repertoire they’d play. Some was new, some I knew.

And I do hope that they could hear us applauding all across the globe? That’s what goes missing when the only people in the room are themselves and – by the sound of it – friends and family? Or just crew, maybe.

I was struck by the enormity of it all; the reason a group like this needs to play live via YouTube, and the fact that they can, that it is possible to organise a concert and that anyone, anywhere can buy a ticket and tune in. My own armchair is more comfortable, even with the laptop balancing on a swivelling office chair, and the queue for the toilet was non-existent. But it’s not the same as live, as in the same room.

It will have to do, though. Seems the band had not seen each other for a long time, and their next date is April 2021.

Twelve long years

I’m not generally a binger. But this past year I have binged a lot more – mainly on television shows of long duration – for various reasons. And for those reasons I haven’t managed to find the time, or perhaps more truthfully, the happy inclination, to bore you all with what I binge-watched.

Began with Downton Abbey, starting in the middle, where my co-binger happened to be. It was the episode with the pigs. Then I accidentally found myself moved on to Call the Midwife, where I was under the impression – very erroneous it turned out to be – I was only signing up for episode one. I left at some point in season three, but could be in favour of returning to it one day.

After that my recent and very sporadic watching of Gilmore Girls was reorganised into full blown proper bingeing, and it was quite enjoyable. It still is, because we’re not done yet, as the intensity of viewing has slowed down considerably, along with everything else, during lockdown.

Both these shows proved useful when I was presented with the film Spy, for the second time, and while I hadn’t exactly forgotten what happened, I was amused to discover that two of the main characters were from Call the Midwife, and Gilmore Girls respectively.

There’s so much I didn’t know.

We started the re-education of the Resident IT Consultant and myself by embarking on all the Star Wars films and all the Marvel films, some of which we’d seen over the years, but never quite ‘got’. We’ve been an embarrassment to Daughter, and I’m afraid that old age hasn’t improved us all that much. Still have more films to enjoy, especially Marvel ones, as I have discovered there are more than twenty films! (Between you and me, though, isn’t there a curious likeness between Thor and Star Wars?)

And The Mandalorian; wasn’t it just lovely? Baby Yoda, yes. But also the calm generated by a different kind of hero.

Three Ironman films is almost two too many. We also saw Big Hero 6, which bore some resemblance to Ironman, and not just because they both wear red. On the whole I found Baymax the better of the courageous, flying heroes. To prove we’ve really gone down the quality film route we watched Sister Act as a birthday treat for me, followed soon after by Argo, which might well have been my first Ben Affleck film (I didn’t even know it was him…).

Daughter did not take well to Life on Mars when we tried that, so it remains something for us oldies to watch on our own. It brings back that lovely brown-coloured glow. And it was filmed in Stockport, which has some bearing on things. Plus there was a brief glimpse of Roger Whittaker, as opposed to Marc Bolan.

And we finally got started with the fourth season of The Good Fight. Looks promising, but I can’t say more since Daughter needs no spoilers as she fails to catch up.

We took some time getting to the end of Bull, and when we did, were startled to find ourselves in a New York in mortal danger of a virus, but not that virus. It was downright eerie and weird, because they will have to revisit that idea if/when they get to season five.

It’s the 2nd of September, which we used to mark as both Culture’s birthday  -twelve today – and the birthdays of the Grandmother and the Gibbs, aka Mark Harmon. He is now 69, which is pretty old for a federal agent, methinks. The same age as the Grandmother was when NCIS began…

We are sort of looking forward to a possible start of season 18 of NCIS. We almost believe it will happen. If they can work out how to deal with the last four episodes that didn’t get made in the spring, and how on earth to work in the bloody virus? But where there’s a will…

The reason we would quite like to see them back, is that season 17 was generally a big improvement on the train crash that was season 16, and to some extent 15. Although those scriptwriters in California should get their atlases out every now and then. For McGee to get from work to Johns Hopkins he could drive. Or get a taxi. Sending him to the airport with a suitcase is overkill.

But more of the stuff with Palmer, please.

Jaja ding dong

It’s when you discover that the other two watching the film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga with you are elf deniers, that you realise you didn’t know them. And whatever they say after to rectify their status is just too late.

Clearly the elves were not only real, but their presence in the film meant they had something to add to the plot other than for people to scoff. How could Iceland win Eurovision without them? (Maybe even with them would be too impossible, but you never know.)

Anyway. As so many have said online, it was a nice film. Really funny, true to the spirit of Eurovision, offering good Icelandic scenery and using the handful of actors who appear in everything made in or for Iceland. Lots of Eurovisiony songs, mostly enjoyable, and none too awful (unlike in real life).

It is the story of the once young Lars Erickssong and his possibly sister, possibly not, Sigrit Ericksdottir, who have always wanted to sing for Iceland [and win]. While it was a bit painful to hear the younger father of Lars, played by Pierce Brosnan, speak Icelandic, it got a lot better once they all spoke in accented English, as though most of the actors weren’t already native English speakers.

A bit gruesome at one point, it is mostly very funny. Lars and Sigrit obviously make it to Eurovision in Edinburgh, mostly filmed in Glasgow, except for the improbable car race near Edinburgh Castle. Because it’s how we drive here.

Dan Stevens is excellent as the rich Russian, and the cameos of ‘real’ Eurovision singers such as Conchita Wurst and Netta Barzilai and Alexander Rybak make for a fun moment.

And I have always known Mikael Persbrandt to be a bad one.

I’d quite like an album of the songs, but if I can only have one, it would have to be Jaja ding dong, which is the favourite of the locals in their home pub. Very more-ish that is. You can play it over and over again.

Staged

Thank god for some good quality, brand new entertainment!

We’ve not been up to watching just anything, and Disney & Co will only take you so far.

But Staged on BBC One was like discovering diamonds when all you were looking for was limp, used, teabags. We were feeling grotty, but trying to make the best of things with Indian food delivered to the doorstep, when our smiles grew wider and wider as we watched David Tennant and Michael Sheen quarrelling in their respective locked-down homes.

It’s a rare thing when both the audience and the performers are in the same – albeit different – boat. They got to see how the other actors lived, and we got to see how they live, and we – almost – met Michael’s neighbour, and we wouldn’t dream of trying to hide our empty wine bottles. Not that we have any, of course.

David and Michael, ably assisted, or not, by their director and their finance woman, their respective spouses, and sister, and three heavy-weight actors in some great cameo roles. I can just about see myself writing a drama and casting Judi Dench. Although I realise she’d have to turn me down.

All three of us would have said we’d want to watch it very soon again, were it not for the fact that the Resident IT Consultant never says stuff like that, so it was just Daughter and me. But we will. It was like medicine. For the virus.

And their hair grew as we watched. Or so it seemed.

A Euro-evening with Mr Norton

We should have more of this. It was actually both fun and enjoyable. Unless that’s the same thing?

Last night’s replacement for Eurovision was far better than the real deal. I’d thought it would be, but it was good to be proven right. There was no avoiding Graham Norton, or Mr Norton, as he was addressed by the polite ladies in Rotterdam.

He behaved much better, most of the time. (But there is still room for improvement.) First we had the reminiscing of the past, playing an odd and partly predictable selection of oldies and occasionally goldies from the last 60+ years of Eurovision. It was nice to see [some of] them again. I remembered what my problem with ABBA in 1974 had been. Embarrassingly large group, embarrassing clothes, and the surprise of them suddenly singing in English. Plus the winning, except that wasn’t bad so much as a surprise. Katie Boyle looked like Mrs Thatcher’s prettier sister.

And then they won again, in Saturday’s ‘contest’. Daughter was torn between ABBA and Måns Zelmerlöw but luckily she was allowed to vote for more than one.

Then came the more ‘real’ Eurovision, with two hours of this year’s hopefuls, directed by three nice people in Rotterdam. It was lovely! I feel I got to know them so much better than through the ‘postcards’ they usually have. We saw many of them in their homes, and we enjoyed counting the pieces of IKEA furniture, or noting who seemed to have none.

We fell in love a couple of times; the lovely young Italian man and the charming cheeky chap in Austria among them. We’d not have seen any of this without the worldwide calamity that caused the change of programme.

Björn Ulvaeus appeared and spoke wise words as Eurovision’s grand old man. We discovered a UK winner from 1997 that neither of us remembers ever having heard or seen. It was good. And wow, hearing it sung by all the 2020 singers at the end..! Discovered a UK non-winner wearing an interesting dress, or vest, as I would call it. Again, a good song.

To finish a great evening, we had an hour of Eurovision A to Z presented by someone who looked like a Russian millionaire, with good teeth. That was fun, too. More memories to be revisited, and new ones made.

Four and a half hours later we rose from our armchairs, with some difficulty. Even the Resident IT Consultant had remained, and looked like he enjoyed it too. That’s never happened before.

Too old to Disney?

The house was freezing cold a few evenings ago. Daughter felt like ‘watching something.’ Having been recently set up with Disney+ it might have been me who suggested a Disney film. What with what’s happening in the world we sort of need light and fluffy. She wondered what film I’d be prepared to watch, and having very swiftly decided none of us were right for Bambi – all things considered – we looked through what they had. I settled for Frozen.

Daughter found it hard to believe that I’d want to watch it, but having missed it so far (when Offspring are old enough to do Disney without the parents) I felt I might as well educate myself. After all, there’s been enough about Frozen in the media for years.

Even the Resident IT Consultant was up for it, and having cranked up the thermostat a bit so we would be warmer than Anna, we had a lovely time. It’s true, it is a nice film. (Not at all like Moana.) And who’d not want a Sven in their life?

The next evening, we continued on the F-theme, with Freaky Friday – served up with fish & chips, delivered from the chippy in town (seeing as we can’t eat out). Many years ago I failed Daughter on two counts, by promising something was definitely going to happen and then due to unforeseen circumstances it didn’t. There were two such things. First, we never made it to see Freaky Friday in the cinemas, so had to make do with the DVD later on. The second was the meal of fish & chips that failed to materialise on holiday in Penzance.

So this was truly a killing of two Fs with one stone. Freaky Friday is a good film. It’s easy to overlook these things; light entertainment and Disney.

On social media I admitted in a Disney-thread discussion that someone had felt I was too old for Disney. I suspect it was Son. I suspect he meant little by it; mostly thinking I only ever watched because I had small children. Once. But he’s old now, and doesn’t seem to mind still watching. Hence his getting Disney+. Hence me sharing watching it.

NCIS – The North Pole

We saved this ‘Christmas episode’ of NCIS until the one who hadn’t yet caught up had departed, and while we could still muster up some Christmas cheer. Except, well, yes there were Christmas decorations. But it was not cheerful.

And either I’m getting old and slow, or the scriptwriters are upping their game considerably. I didn’t see much – any – of this coming. Despite me noticing the staircase as being a copy of Gibbs’s and wondering if it was going to be used in the same way again, seeing as Ziva was back. Again.

Well.

And there was a decent red herring, as well as a really strong clue, had I actually been awake for the first half of the season. I suppose most of us fell for that double bluff.

It’ll be interesting to see where they can go with the fallout from this. They could ignore it, and continue as if nothing had happened, as on other occasions in the past. Or not.

The card

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas!

Christmas tree

Did you know Marie?

Marie Fredriksson on Instagram

A week ago as the first news about Marie Fredriksson having died filtered through my social media, I turned to the Resident IT Consultant and said ‘If I say Marie Fredriksson has died, would you know who I meant?’

Not surprisingly the answer was ‘no.’ Then I suppose it was my fault, for trying to explain that she had – for a time – lived in the house that Mother-of-witch really wanted to live in, that she was one half of Roxette, singing with Per Gessle from Gyllene Tider. None of this hinted at greatness.

Marie Fredriksson in the Guardian

Later the same day he said with surprise that she’d been mentioned on the radio (=Radio 4). And the next day her photo was on the front page of the Guardian, with another inside and a half page article.

Marie Fredriksson in the Guardian

By the weekend the Guardian also published an obituary, quoting among the people who would miss Marie, the King (of Sweden; not Elvis).

Marie Fredriksson in the Guardian

I reckon the Resident IT Consultant was a little bemused. And I realised I should have said that Marie was one half of Roxette, second in fame and success only to ABBA. (He’s heard of them.)

The thing is, to me – who didn’t follow popular music in the 1980s or 1990s – she was the ‘local’ singer who’d done really well. Where she came from came first, not so much where she went to. And as I mentioned over on Bookwitch, I was in Sweden when her illness had just been diagnosed 17 years ago, reading the sensationalist headlines in the tabloid press. And what upset me was the thought of her small children. Because the mothers at the local playgroup considered her nice and friendly; someone who always said hello, and was not stuck-up like many other people nearby.

It was nice knowing your music, Marie, even if I came to it late. And I’m relieved your children had time to grow a little older, even if longer still would have been preferable.