Hindsight

Watched a couple of random episodes of NCIS on this eve of September 11th, fifteen years on. The Resident IT Consultant is away for a few days, which is why I indulged myself. He is back in Moscow, which is where he was that fateful day in 2001 as well.

Russian station

It was a strange feeling, having him there, his brother near Boston, the rest of us somewhere in the middle, and all watching the same thing developing.

But that’s not what I wanted to say here. One of the episodes was Broken Arrow, the one where DiNozzo Sr assists the team in solving the crime, by staying at his favourite Washington hotel, running up a vast bill, having hitched a lift from Geneva on someone’s private plane. (Most likely one of the ones Daughter sees from her kitchen window.)

And then as we’ve got all sweet at the end and Jr and Sr finally see eye to eye, we have the older DiNozzo declining a taxi to the airport, because he just ran into Donald Trump in the lobby and has begged a lift home.

Six years ago that was amusing. Now, not so much. And I hope that whatever happens in real life won’t mean a repeat of that day fifteen years ago, just because someone was unable to do the right thing.

Happy 8th, dear Culture!

Yeah, it’s not quite the done thing to wish yourself a happy birthday. Even when yourself is your blog. But CultureWitch is eight today, and I almost forgot, because I’ve been masterminding some windows for a week.

And anything to get my mind off windows right now!

As is customary around here, a Happy Birthday to Mark Harmon as well. He is 65 today and by rights ought to retire, but it seems he’s good for a bit longer. After all, it was only earlier this year that he had the First Lady guest star on NCIS.

Michelle Obama and Mark Harmon

That is worth celebrating. The fact that Michelle Obama is an NCIS fan, along with the rest of us, and not afraid to admit it.

So, Happy cake eating to all!

NCIS 300th cake

(Photos © CBS)

Keeping us guessing

I don’t like uncertainty much. And when someone has spilled beans, I prefer for those to be the beans, and not red herrings. Or a side dish.

I’m fairly certain Clayton Reeves was introduced to us as taking over from DiNozzo, even though I felt it seemed unlikely on an immediate basis, what with him being MI6. But we had Ziva and Mossad and that worked. And they half offered us a female FBI agent in the spring, without saying on what basis. I assumed it was that DiNozzo has left big footsteps and more than one might be needed to fill his boots (if I am allowed to throw footwear around like this).

And then we learn they have Wilmer Valderrama lined up, seemingly for the same part; taking over from our annoying-but-will-be-missed agent. It’s cunning having someone who already is an agent with NCIS, but who has a reason for not ever having come up in discussions. Deep cover, indeed. I don’t know him from anything, but I’m sure he’s OK. Looks a bit too DiNozzo-ish, perhaps.

This appears not to be all. There is another regular (or semi-regular?) character on the way. Another female, Jennifer Esposito. Another name that means nothing to me. Again, she might be fantastic. But I hate having so many new people all at once. And I’d like a slightly less perfect looking woman to join; someone older, uglier, maybe shorter and fatter. Same goes for the men, obviously.

If these characters all turn up at the same time, it will be more the old team getting used to them, rather than the new ones having to fit in with an existing team. While not being all eggs in one basket, which can be good, I see a whole lot of baskets out there.

And I’m not that hungry.

Music en route

The bad thing about the Edinburgh festival season during August is that travelling turns into a nightmare. I find myself choosing not to go to events at times or days of the week when I suspect travelling will undo any good the event might offer.

So yesterday my trusted photographer and I picked a train earlier than we had to, just so we could go on the King’s Cross train, with four or five times as many coaches as the local one. It was even worth waiting for it as it ran late, just not to get squashed on the little train.

As the Resident IT Consultant dropped us off it was mayhem by the station entrance. There was an interview being conducted on the pavement, complete with BBC camera and everything. Loads of people wearing t-shirts or hoodies with Stirling Orchestra on the back, and an unusual number of double basses for a railway station. Even in August.

I remembered reading something in the local paper about the orchestra; they had been chosen for something special. My photographer googled as we waited and could tell me they were going to London to take part in All Together Now: The Great Orchestra Challenge, a ‘four-part series, which will celebrate the breadth and quality of amateur orchestral playing across the UK, will follow five orchestras as they compete for a place in the Grand Final. It will begin on BBC Four at the end of August, with the final episode to be broadcast on BBC Two.’

That’s pretty good, and I’m sufficiently pleased for them that I didn’t even mind the squeeze on the train. The double basses and the stools, etc, got stowed elsewhere, and it was only the smaller instruments that were all over the place, along with the BBC crew’s junk, carefully blocking the Edinburgh exit door…

Now, if they could only have whipped out their instruments and serenaded us as we went!

From cake to Cecil

The whole thing began with cake, but I forget quite how we ended up on the subject of homemade versus bought cake, and the effect of certain television programmes. But when we really should have been tidying books, we got lost in odd – and old – memories, much to the surprise and interest of Daughter.

It was my madeira cake – back in 1982 – which led us to my old friend No Filmstar. It was he who admired my cake so much he reckoned it had to be an M&S cake. For some reason Daughter required more information, and slowly, step by step, we arrived at the sculptor Cecil Thomas.

At first I couldn’t remember his name, but the Resident IT Consultant knew we’d looked him up before, in a past where there was no Google. But with the few facts we had, Daughter eventually found him and his impressive work and reputation.

Having known so little back then, it was interesting learning more. I met No Filmstar soon after Thomas’s death in 1976, and whereas he was mentioned now and again, I never knew any real facts. No Filmstar was one of the somewhat strange individuals hanging out in Queensway, back in the day when the young witch began witching.

So we moved sideways from the sculptor to the other people, including Dulcie and Mrs MacLean, and I remembered more about Mrs Hop and Cyril with the guinea pigs, and the old couple with the dog, and I realised what an odd life these people had, eating out every night, because they hadn’t the means to cook where they lived (most likely just a room). It seemed a bit glamorous then, but now I feel mostly sorry for them.

It’s the idea of being so ‘posh’ that you don’t go to work – other than charitably – but live ‘frugally’ off an inheritance, which inevitably dwindles as you go, that seems strange.

As always, I wish I could get the photos out, but I stuffed them all in a box when we moved, so can’t easily find individual ones, and the last letter I received in connection with these people I threw out a couple of months ago…

Except, Dulcie the 1st, who was eventually replaced by her niece Dulcie the 2nd, recently caused Bookwitch to receive a contact email from someone who could turn into Dulcie the 3rd, if her name wasn’t something else.

And I know none of this makes sense. I’m merely reminiscing. There was a Russian spy – whose name I forget – in there too.

David Calder

‘Oh, there he is.’ That’s usually what I think when I see David Calder in something. And the point is he looks so familiar, like a long lost friend, but I still won’t remember his name. Or what else I’ve seen him in. I suppose some actors just are like that; like your neighbour whom you know well without knowing them at all.

This last happened in The Lady in the Van, where he was Maggie Smith’s long-suffering brother. Whenever I see him I want him to be good. It’d feel wrong if he was a baddie, but you can never be sure, so I always worry. I suppose I need my neighbours to be good.

Forgetting his name isn’t a problem, so long as there is IMDb. And with its help I can check what else I’ve seen him in, and the list is surprisingly short. Half a dozen television crime things, and perhaps something else. You know, not enough for that intense familiar feeling.

But perhaps that’s it. All you need is for a face to pop up every now and then, and you are convinced you are old – and dear – friends. Maybe we are.

And, erm, yes, David is 70 today. Happy Birthday!

Treadmilling Gibbs

When I think back to the early days of NCIS, I know I only watched for the sake of David McCallum, and he didn’t disappoint. I found the writing pretty good and enjoyed most weeks’ viewing. Going away on holiday, however, I didn’t feel the need to catch up on missed episodes.

I didn’t particularly like Gibbs. That lasted until towards the end of season two when I finally found I could like him.

Thinking back to those sentiments, I’ve felt I must have missed something. That I was slow. But I’m finding the same thing all over again.

I got myself a treadmill, which is a frightfully boring activity, so I need entertainment as I ‘go.’ My ambition is to walk my way through all thirteen seasons of NCIS, unless I walk so slowly that it’s fourteen by then. Or more.

Walking chronologically with the NCIS team, I have rediscovered my early lack of enthusiasm for Gibbs. And with hindsight, because I know how his character has developed, he is behaving illogically. He was happier at the start than he was later, despite him supposedly mourning Shannon and Kelly. (While kissing Mrs Bellisario as the mystery woman in many episodes.)

He’s quite a jokey man at times, and both he and Kate do the film stuff later left to DiNozzo.

The other thing that grates is how the whole team – including the experienced Gibbs – learn as they go. I assume this is for the benefit of the viewers, but with hindsight it feels nonsensical.

Still, it’s fun. I’ll tread on.