Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Roger Whittaker interview

Roger Whittaker 7

Here it is; the first CultureWitch interview! (And if that link doesn’t work, try this instead.) Good thing she practised on so many unsuspecting writers over at Bookwitch, before tackling her number one and most favourite singer. In the end Roger Whittaker was nowhere near as scary as I’d imagined.  ; )

In fact, he’s perfectly lovely, and very friendly. I’ll interview him again, any time. If only because I had more questions than time.

Happy 79th, Rolf Harris!

Rolf Harris is 79 today. Let’s hope he’s not in Australia right now, as in that case it will almost be tomorrow, and I’ve missed it.

When she was much younger, Daughter went round telling people (=strangers) that I love Rolf Harris. I do, but not quite the way she made it sound. Even Swedes got to see Rolf’s show on television in the 1960s, but after that he disappeared off our radar. It was good to find him crying over the fate of animals on Animal Hospital, decades later. Not good that he, and we, were crying, but the programme was wonderful.

When Offspring were much younger we went to a Rolf Harris concert in Liverpool. It was one of those occasions when you nearly get divorced or have a nervous breakdown while trying to find where you’re supposed to be going, but the concert itself more than made up for the travelling. It must have been one of the most wonderful, and successful for us, shows we’ve ever been to. It’s a rare thing to find someone with an audience in every age group, and nobody looks as though they’ve been dragged there, kicking and screaming.

Another bonus for me, is that Rolf is friends with Roger Whittaker. I tried finding a video to show here, with the two of them singing Ye Le. It’s great! But not on YouTube, so buy a CD instead. To make up  for that I give you Two Little Boys, with Rolf and male voice choir.

I had to do some market research to find the best version, so could have used some of  those hankies from last night. I suffer for my blogging. The witch is partial to male voice choirs, so that’s why I picked this one.

And just as I put iTunes back on to shuffle, it was Rolf himself who popped up.

Tears of the giraffe

Tears all round, is how tonight’s excursion to Botswana can best be described.

No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Still cannot fathom why people don’t like The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. It continues just as good as it began, and there are some very astute observations on human nature in there. This evening we were all three shedding tears, and that is a very rare occurrence, I can tell you. I’ll stock up on hankies for next time.

Daughter is halfway to Africa (in her dreams!), and the witch is wondering if it would be a good move to invest in dresses for the traditionally built. Alternately, we’ll have to settle for ‘bush tea’, which is always pleasant.

More television woes

As a little postscript to yesterdays’s moans; I have just done my Saturday morning quick browse of the Guide. How are people supposed to cope? Just today there are more films on, than I can shake a video at. Pruning will be required, but how and what?

Meanwhile the clever people who make comments on programmes continue to be uncomplimentary about The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. They are so wrong.

As the Resident IT Consultant entered the breakfast area, I informed him that The Wire finally begins on terrestrial on Monday. ‘The Wire? What’s that?’ says he.

What can I do?

The television guide

I don’t know about you, but I twitch guiltily when I read the the television programme in the paper most days. I’m not keeping up with things! I’m not watching all those programmes people will talk about!

The question is why I feel guilty. There is as yet no law on compulsory television ownership, let alone rules for a compulsory number of hours watching. The license people believe we all have a set, but I don’t think they worry about how much I watch. Or how little.

I don’t have much spare time. What I have is spent on NCIS and films with Daughter, all in the name of bonding and sharing and whatever. I have not watched The Wire. Yet. I want to, but have none of the right channels. So, I’m pleased that BBC2 supposedly has The Wire coming to a box near me, soon. Though, having been advised to have the subtitles on for the first episodes, until I get used to the language, I’m wondering if I can do that with television. Can I?

G2 has just been advising what to watch after The Wire, which is premature for me, but I gather it ought to be Battlestar Galactica. Whatever that is.

We used to relax as a family, with the travel and decorating programmes. A mix of fun and the ridiculous. These days we don’t relax, and I note that Grand Designs is on, again. And I won’t be watching. But the niggle that I may run out of topics for conversation worries me.

How can a CultureWitch spare so little time for television?

We used to have neighbours once. Well, we still have neighbours, but not those ones. I’d been chatting to the mother across the road who had the same age son as me, but felt embarrassed I didn’t know their name when it came to party invitations. So when talking to another neighbour, I inquired whether he knew their surname. He just looked at me and suggested I’d find it in the credits of Coronation Street. I don’t watch Corrie! So I was none the wiser, except I realised why the boy’s father went round looking aloof and mysterious. He was nearly famous. Well, a friend of mine, a Corrie fan, knew who he was. But he never spoke to me. Can’t blame him.


It has Colin Firth at least. At first I thought it’d prove ideal for our ex-Mr Darcy to walk around looking stiff and upset, grieving for his dead wife, but there’s not much of that. Throughout his new film Genova, I kept screaming (silently, of course) that what his daughters needed was constancy. Taking them to Genoa is so Not A Good Thing. But does he learn? I don’t think so.

His 10-year-old daughter, Mary, keeps seeing her dead Mum. She believes her mother has forgiven her for ‘killing’ her in the first place, but then why would Mum try and get Mary run over? While Mary goes round churches lighting candles for her mother and seeing her all over the place, her sister Kelly, 16, travels round Genoa on motorbikes with beautiful young men, and doing her best to lose Mary.

What is it with Americans and their infatuation with Europe? A year working and going to school in Italy is far less romantic than a long holiday, especially for the recently bereaved. I kept urging them to go home. Then there are the two women vying for Dad’s attention; one is his Italian student, and the other his old American pal, who’d like to be so much more, and who keeps taking Mary into churches and goes on about counselling.

Don’t experiment with your children like this.

Genoa looks good, except for some of the dark and narrow alleys with dubious people hanging around. I’m surprised they don’t get more lost than they do. And I don’t understand the need for advertising one of our less loved airlines.

Genova is on at Cornerhouse from tomorrow.

Roger Whittaker in Köln

I’ve seen Roger Whittaker begin his concerts in a variety of ways, and for his final concert of the Liebe Endet Nie tour, he entered the Lanxess Arena in Köln, walking along the front row of the stalls, shaking people’s hands, ‘protected’ or possibly just accompanied, by George Thornton, who does the Künstlerbetreuung on the tour. (No, I don’t know what it means either. It’s just that since I had drunk George’s Darjeeling a few hours before, I feel he must be mentioned.) 

Once on stage, Roger commenced his fast paced show, which lasted over two hours, and that’s not bad going on the eve of your 73rd birthday, after 28 concerts throughout Germany and Austria, before this last one in Köln.

Not that it’s important, but I counted 24 songs, of which only two were in English, and that’s as it should be. The Germans like ‘their own’ Roger Whittaker songs. It’s what has them clapping and singing from the word go. Mind you, the two English songs were both accompanied by Roger’s ‘acting’, which also went down well. If I Were A Rich Man is an old favourite of Roger’s and he does ‘doddery old man’ to perfection.

If I Were A Rich Man

The other one was Uncle Benny, and it might have been the proximity to St Patrick’s Day which had Roger wearing a really tasteless green velvet hat. When Daughter muttered the name John Travolta, I thought she meant he wore a green Guinness hat, too, but I understand now it was the dance moves she was referring to.

Roger Whittaker - Uncle Benny

And there is a dancing horse. Not in real life, but on the video screen, and what a sight it is to find a horse dancing to a Roger Whittaker tune. It wouldn’t be a real concert without Roger’s whistling lessons. For some reason he likes to teach his audiences to whistle backwards, but I’m still not convinced he’s not pulling our legs. I don’t know what the witch looks like when whistling, but here is a good close-up of Roger in full flow.

Roger Whittaker - lesson in whistling the African way

In the interval we went looking for another Roger fan. Not that the place was short of them, you understand, but there was a specific other fan we wanted to meet. Turned out she hails from the same place as the witch’s Swedish family, which could be a coincidence, but I believe that’s typical of the Whittaker world. We just have to travel the world to meet.

Roger offered two new songs among the old favourites; Du bist ein Engel, and Dafür lieb ich Dich. The latter is a song for Natalie (Mrs W), who arrived specially for the last concert. More family involvement included granddaughter Isabella, aged two, but because of her age she only  appeared courtesy of a video with her grandfather, to illustrate Mit kleinen Schritten. She’s a born performer, that girl. Isabella’s mum originally recorded A Perfect Day with Roger, but in Köln it was Kirstin Campbell who sang the duet with Roger in German. Her colleague Angie Horn sang another duet in Leben mit dir.

Kirstin Campbell, Roger Whittaker and Angie Horn

By the middle of the second half of the concert the number of people coming up to hang out near the stage had grown considerably. Daughter took advantage of this by joining them to get better photos, and was soon clinging to the edge of the stage while couples danced behind her. In the German concerts you get couples dancing spontaneously in the aisles and by the stage, and not just the enthusiastic stomping in your seats.

Flowers for Roger Whittaker

I firmly believe Roger would have found a larger table on stage useful, as the tiny one he had was overflowing with flowers, brought to him by fans coming up to shake his hand. It’s a busy life up there, singing and receiving gift. And down on the floor there were beautiful young girls coming up to be closer to Roger, not to mention the fan with flashing red horns. It takes all sorts.

Ein bisschen Aroma

They don’t bother with pretense, so the extra songs were in the programme from the beginning. We all know how the concert will end. The dancing had grown wilder still by the time Ein bisschen Aroma finished a beautiful evening. It is true ‘footstomping, handclapping, dancing wherever you like’ stuff. And when Roger reached the end of the song, he left, but because the others on stage continued singing and dancing, nobody realised that Roger must have been back at his hotel before we’d even begun to put our coats on.

And the band played on

(All photos by H Giles)


Or Cologne to the rest of you. Daughter and I have travelled to Germany to see Roger Whittaker. Tonight could be his last concert. We hope it’s not. But right now it’s the end of his most recent farewell tour, and we just daren’t stay away. 

Roger Whittaker and dog

No Eau-de-Cologne for us, unless we fall in the river, but we both want to see the cathedral again, and another Roger Whittaker fan told me about the chocolate museum…

Apparently you can buy the cathedral in chocolate. Will investigate.


Vance family

I find it unlikely that the director of a federal agency wouldn’t have a dishwasher at home. Other than his young children, that is. Does them no harm to wash and dry.

Gibbs and Vance

It was Director Vance’s turn in this week’s NCIS, and we got to see a new side to this man who we still don’t know whether to like. Or not. Lovely family, though, and maybe Gibbs’ opinions on pitbulls will persuade Vance that they are quite nice, really. The dogs, I mean.


Abby can be quite sneaky, and does sign language count as speaking?


Protest songs

The Guardian have really got the bug for lists, and the silly witch reads most of them. With books it was exciting to see what they picked, so I could moan about their poor choice. This time it’s music, and unlike with books it doesn’t take much effort to know a song. You can know rather a lot of songs, simply through inertia. Unless the selection is flawed. Or possibly it’s just me who’s flawed.

Have just had a quick look through the ‘protest and politics’ list, and for someone who listened to a lot of protest songs once, I know very few of the ones they have chosen. Most of mine are Swedish, and the question I don’t know the answer to, is where the Swedish songs so much better, or does one tend to be more interested in protest closer to home?

If I dare mention the credit crunch, I’ve been struck in recent months by how well some of my old tracks from the 1970s fit in with the current situation. Lines about corrupt politicians and companies are more relevant than ever. There is a song called Herkules written and performed by my old favourites Hoola Bandoola Band. I tried finding it on YouTube, but failed. So I’ll link to some other tracks instead.

Hoola Bandoola were unusual in that they sang in a south Swedish dialect, which changed how a lot of singers behaved. The image of them that comes to mind the most, is hearing them live for the first time. They played in the hall at the ‘other’ sixth form college in my home town. None of the girls from my school were there, but the boys were, whatever that says about us. Afterwards the band sold their LPs from the stage, and I remember kneeling next to the lead singer as he hunted for change.

I don’t think they were ever that ‘small’ again, and the last time I saw them was at the concert hall in Gothenburg. Björn Afzelius, the lead singer from the stage floor, died about ten years ago, at far too early an age. His counterpart, Mikael Wiehe, is still big in the music world, and as far as I know has not compromised on their political stance.

One of their songs, Juanita, feels surprisingly dated now. It’s strange how you tend to forget that Spain was once regarded as an unsuitable place, politically, to go for your holiday. The other big issue in those days was Chile, and Hoola Bandoola wrote a song for Victor Jara.

I’ve always played their music, but right now I play more Hoola Bandoola Band than I have done for years.

The last one is just a short, interrupted, video of Björn singing Bläckfisken (The Octopus) live, and I really don’t know what the horse is doing there at the end.