Monthly Archives: February 2012

30 seconds of fame

15 minutes is really hoping for too much. In fact, I wouldn’t want that 15 minutes of fame. My seconds were more than enough.

I was reminded of this embarrassing event when author Lucy Coats told ‘all’ about her recent interview on Blue Peter. In a way it was a relief to hear how much time was spent on what turned out to be so brief. And it’s a lesson that you don’t need to go to too much effort. Just be yourself.

And whatever you do, don’t bother cleaning the house.

For me it was walking home from school with Offspring. Just an ordinary afternoon, with Daughter in the pushchair and Son walking next to me. We saw these weird types outside the local theatre, and I realised I was about to be used for something.

The short one told me they were from the BBC and the news was that the theatre was due for demolition and what did I think of that? I told him. (I was quite fluent and sensible, on the whole.)

Then he said, would I mind repeating that on camera, and I couldn’t very well refuse. Except I was barely able to recall what I said the first time, so sounded pretty incoherent. I went home and put the video recorder on for the local news. I had dinner to make and people to feed.

It was embarrassingly bad. I had no idea I sound like that. I wondered how anyone could possibly put up with me. Two more people were interviewed. My neighbour across the road, and another school-run mother.

Afterwards the local children stared at me, and my friend’s husband told her to ask for my autograph. Luckily for her she didn’t.

Roger Whittaker

The theatre went some months after. In its place is the ‘magnificent’ entrance to the new car park for the public school which owned the building and had been waiting to get rid of it. At least the parents collecting their children by car have somewhere to park.

We no longer have the Roger Whittaker concerts or the pantos or any of the other entertainment in this former 1930s cinema.

Upstairs Downstairs

On returning to 165 Eaton Place I felt awfully confused. It was a mere year since we were last there. How could I have forgotten? And how come that woman looked so familiar, while still leaving me wondering who on earth she might be?

Upstairs Downstairs

So, encountering River Song back in 1938 was perfectly normal. They do time travel in Cardiff, after all. It’s thanks to nerdy Daughter that I now know they weren’t in London at all, but in Cardiff. It would explain the Resident IT Consultant’s concern over the hill in the park. No such hills in central London.

But what had happened to the old woman? And did they already have a child? I had no recollection of him at all. Not to mention the lack of a housekeeper. But, I slowly found my footing again and it was fun.

Not as fun as Downton Abbey, which of course is the thing that has come between us and messed with my brain and my memories. But you just don’t kill off the dowagers! And why bring out the ‘shameful’ sister only when she can be a nuisance, rather than a member of the family like everyone else?

Upstairs Downstairs

Where Downton is soapy, Upstairs Downstairs is probably more ‘realistic.’ Fewer servants seems more normal. Having the butler cook dinner in a tight spot makes sense. And then there is the war. The Kindertransport brought tears to our eyes, with Kristallnacht bringing reality home.

Upstairs Downstairs

At the risk of sounding too fluffy, there is also the gorgeous Art Deco interiors and the dresses to be considered. Not to mention J F Kennedy being sick. Was it the oysters?

We want Rejseholdet!

And we want it now. Are you listening, BBC4? Pretty please?

What I mean is, seeing as British viewers are now clamouring for – almost – anything Danish, especially with a woman at the helm, we could do with a speedy purchase of Rejseholdet, aka Unit 1.

It’s old, so should be affordable, and it would be a pleasant way to spend the time before we get Borgen 2 or Forbrydelsen 3. Has been available in English speaking countries, so should come with ready made subtitles. (Unlike us at CultureWitch Towers who are working with the Danish original, complemented by Swedish subtitles.)


Old, but not too old. They do have mobile phones. And sex. Not to mention a strong woman – Ingrid Dahl – heading her team of Denmark-wide detectives. It’s ideal. I’m surprised no one has thought of it. And if they have, what’s happening?

Just think! 32 episodes of beautiful Danish crime, and the marvellous Charlotte Fich doing a Lund/Nyborg. (And two Troels connections.)

NCIS – Psych Out

Dr Cranston and Gibbs

Good solid episode! I’ve not been saying that too much this season of NCIS. And despite Psych Out featuring Kate-who-isn’t-Kate (why does she appear so often now, when she didn’t before?) it didn’t feel as if there was too much of the crime in their midst kind of thing.

McGee and Abby

I’ll have to start doing what I’ve been pondering for a year or so, which is to keep tabs on who writes the best episodes. Early on, they were nearly all good, but more recently it’s been far too uneven. Psych Out was written by Gary Glasberg and Reed Steiner. Let’s see if their next one is good, or if the next good episode is theirs.

I like Jamie Lee Curtis, and I thought it was – probably – a Good Thing for her to be on NCIS. But I wasn’t sure. I am now. It worked really well, and I just hope they won’t ruin it later. There wasn’t even any of the soppiness in the script when she and Gibbs get ‘more private.’ We have seen so many idiotic women pass through, that I was beginning to despair. But this ‘Head Brain Gamer’ recognised that Gibbs ‘makes people feel safe.’ She likes questions and he likes answers, making them a good couple.

DiNozzo and Dr Ryan

Her Dr Ryan’s meeting with DiNozzo was perfect, as well. He’s an idiot, and she played him just right. Not so sure about Vance, however. And poor McGee had to actually use paper. Is it even possible? As for finally finding Gibbs in the ladies’ toilet. Well.

Gibbs and Dr Ryan

(Photos © CBS)

Bowery Songs

OK, so afternoon tea sounds a little OTT. But we like that pot of tea we have in the afternoon, usually with toast and jam. It’s sometimes the only time we sit down peacefully in the ‘nicest’ room in the house. It’s a bit crazy, but that’s how it is. Sometimes we even engage in conversation.

If conversation seems too daring there is always music. I generally listen to everything on shuffle on the iPod, so the novelty of putting on a CD and hearing a whole album from start to finish has some value. If it’s to go with the pot of tea I tend to pick a CD that no one will object to.

Joan Baez

One of the ones I pick more and more frequently is Bowery Songs by Joan Baez. The more I hear it, the better it gets. There is something about it that makes me feel calm and happy. And it’s not as if the songs are particularly ‘happy’ as Joan is still protesting all that is bad with society. But she does so with music that is good for the soul.

I try not to pick Bowery Songs every time. In case someone complains.

John Barrowman – the book interview

In my infinite generosity I have decided to share last week’s book interview with John and Carole Barrowman with my CultureWitch readers on the grounds of John generally being a culture kind of celebrity. He sings and he acts, but he certainly doesn’t write books.

I know, it’s confusing isn’t it? He gets his sister Carole to write books for him. This time it’s Hollow Earth, which is a children’s adventure novel, and that is why I went to Glasgow a week ago to speak to them.

Carole and John Barrowman

They are crazy, and very nice. The interview is a little crazy too. It sort of rubbed off.

Finding Pam Dawber

Recently, online searches for Pam Dawber have overtaken even those for Abby’s tattoos, which for so long have been my most wanted items. And it’s easy to post blogs on Abby and her tattoos. Far harder to give readers anything new on Pam. Or even something old. There is simply not very much about Pam out there.

But then I stumbled across a proper length ‘interview‘ with Pam on YouTube. Can’t remember what I was actually looking for, but there it was. And I’m fairly certain it hadn’t been available before. Intimate Portrait: Pam Dawber, Lifetime Real Women, and I’m guessing it’s a television programme from about 15 years ago, judging by what people look like. Pam herself looks as beautiful as ever, and ‘Mr Dawber’ still has dark(ish) hair.

Pam Dawber

It’s divided into five parts, presumably where the breaks for commercials would have come. It’s a nice interview, albeit with little new content. Interesting to see Pam’s friends and colleagues talking about her, and sometimes I’m just really surprised to find people are willing to tell so much. Pam strikes me as a woman who likes her private life private, in which case this portrait is her pay-off, ‘you can have this, but that’s all you get’ kind of thing.

The Muppets

Was it worth seeing? Yes. And no. It was good, and it wasn’t. It’s not every film that features a singing cheese sandwich. But sometimes musical food isn’t enough.

As with most things, if you are a real fan, there is always something which can be salvaged. So it was good to see the old Muppets again. It had been too long. But I didn’t care all that much about human Gary or – dare I say it? – new muppet Walter. The will was there, but not very much more.

Miss Piggy and Kermit

Mr Richman and friends

The cameos were fun. Would have been more fun still if I’d known who they all were. Possibly not their fault, but cameos want to be totally recognisable famous people.

The plot was worthy enough, and the bits where the Muppets find each other and get started on working again were just what a fan wants. The show they put together wasn’t terribly good, however. It was there to raise money, and it did, so presumably the show was supposed to be a highlight? If it was meant to be so bad it was good, then it needed to be bad a lot better. It’s as if they decided it was going to be funny, but forgot – or were incapable of – making it so.

(Back in my student days, the writing was great enough that it was used as examples of linguistics in my university lectures.)

On the other hand, the good bits were very enjoyable, even if a long abstinence might have helped to make me feel that way. I hope if there is less opportunity for abstinence in the near future, that we can have something with a far better script.

The Muppets

and John

By very strange coincidence I appear to have processed another television hero in the book business. My photographer and I travelled to Glasgow on Monday to witness the book signing for Hollow Earth, the new children’s book by Carole Barrowman and her baby brother John.

I thought it’d be a profound sort of thing to interview John and Carole on their old home ground in Glasgow, although I quite forgot to ask them to switch to a Scottish accent. But we had a great deal of fun anyway, and I’m sure they’ve never encountered the concept of acting their age.

Carole and John Barrowman

There is no doubt about John’s popularity. As the two of them walked down the stairs at Waterstones in Argyle Street they were greeted like like superstars by the fans, many of whom had queued for four hours.


I will leave it to you to work out how you want to pronounce it. Mis-pronouncing Swedish words and names is extremely hard for me. Guessing which way to get it wrong (i.e. the official Ikea mangling by English speakers) generally causes no end of difficulties for me.

But our family are very fond of Pjätteryd.

It’s a place name. Somewhere fairly insignificant in the county of Småland. Many years ago we were driving through Småland, on our way back from a visit to Ikea HQ in Älmhult. Every road sign – or so it seemed – promised to take us to Pjätteryd. The more we said it, the funnier it got. But we never arrived in this Pjätteryd, so I suspect it was all an elaborate hoax.

Over the years, whenever we needed to giggle about something, the Resident IT Consultant would bring Pjätteryd up. We’d laugh, and then forget about it until the next time.

That’s when Ikea brought in products bearing the wonderful name of the village that seems not to exist. It’s mainly arty stuff that’s been given the name of Pjätteryd. To the best of my knowledge we haven’t yet bought any.

Or maybe we have?