Dame Vera Lynn: Happy 100th Birthday!

Dame Vera Lynn: Happy 100th Birthday!

It was the old soldiers who made the programme. No matter how much fun it is to hear famous people say lovely things about our Vera Lynn on the occasion of her 100th birthday (Wow!), it was the men who fought in WWII, and who are still with us, like Vera, who started the waterworks, both on me and on themselves.

Hearing Vera discuss the past with her daughter was almost like hearing any mother and daughter pair hark back in time. And that’s good in itself, as it proves how normal she still manages to be. Dame and the forces’ sweetheart she may be, but deep down Vera Lynn comes across like that aunt from east London I never had.

The music specialists had much nice to say, as did those famous people dug up to talk. Odd in a way to have Paul McCartney sit there as though he personally remembered listening to Vera on the radio during the war. Maybe he did.

But as I said, the old soldiers, reminiscing about hearing Vera live somewhere in Burma, or on the radio, and crying at the memories; that’s what made this programme. Telling their own stories, and singing along to We’ll Meet Again, before finally wishing their star a happy 100th. There’s not many of them left.

(Photo © BBC)

Regular

I read an article, probably in the Guardian, on eating the same thing – in the same place – all the time. I believe it was seen as odd.

Now, most of us tend to eat the same thing for breakfast every day, with little concern for nutritional variety or boredom. We just do. And if you’re the type to eat breakfast out, then that is the meal where variation is not required. You can pop into the same café every day of your life if you want to.

And can afford to, obviously. I’d say that having the money to pay for meals out in restaurants all the time is what matters. Not going to the same restaurant every time, nor ordering the same dish. Or not having to order, because staff bring it without being asked.

I don’t have the money, and I like being at home. But I can see the attraction in being a regular somewhere.

In fact, I used to be a regular in an Italian restaurant in London many years ago. Not every day, as I didn’t live there. But every time I was in London I ate there; sometimes several times a day. Once I discovered this place and realised I felt comfortable there and that the food was just right, and affordable, it became my home from home.

I believe this is what we need. We don’t want to trawl round looking at new places every time. I made ‘friends’ with the staff, and got acquainted with many of the other regular diners, some of whom ate out every day because they had no cooking facilities where they lived, often in rented rooms. It’s no different from drinking in your local [pub].

‘My’ restaurant is no more. It was housed in a narrow in-fill between larger properties, and the time came when land in London became so valuable that it had to go, and it has been replaced by a run of dreadful shops. I miss it every time I walk past, and if it was still in business, I’d eat there every time I’m in London.

When we held hands

There we were, behind a makeshift curtain on the stage at one of the sixth form colleges in Halmstad, staring down at a bucket filled with compost. And then we walked out in front of the audience, hand in hand, and I certified that I had in fact seen a naked, Spanish man at the back. That’s all Björn Granath needed me for.

I must have looked the type who just adores being the one to ‘volunteer’ to come up on stage. I wasn’t, but realised I had to, since my friends on either side didn’t really fit the bill for looking at naked men.

It was the mid-1970s and we’d come to see Dario Fo’s Dom har dödat en gitarr men folket har tusen åter,* brought to us by Teater Narren. There were two of them, but I can only recall the one who held my hand, and whenever Björn has popped up on screens since that night, I remember the bucket. And how much of an idiot I felt like.

(I have to point out here that bucket of compost in Swedish ‘could’ sound just like naked Spanish man. So I didn’t lie.)

Björn’s character had to persuade the other character that there was this person in a state of undress at the back. Sounds like typical Dario Fo, if you ask me. And I suppose he did ask me.

I’ve just learned that Björn died earlier this month. Far too early. He was only ten years older than me. But at least from those early beginnings, he went on to pretty close to the top in Swedish drama. And now that I’m no longer standing in front of my grinning companions, I suppose I quite liked my couple of minutes up there.

*’Han matado una guitarra’ in honour of the then recently murdered Víctor Jara.

Hidden Figures

I’ve been known to check my watch in the cinema. That is, if I can manage to see what time it is. I have to admit to having checked it during Hidden Figures too. I wanted to see – I hoped I’d find – that I had lots more film left. Ten minutes. Just ten minutes of a film I could have watched all night.

People are busy saying it’s not fun enough to do well in the Oscars. I suppose it depends on what you look for in a film, and the current climate is perhaps not ideal for black role models or intelligence, or even something as unsexy as the US space programme.

Hidden Figures

For me it’s the best I’ve seen since From the Earth to the Moon. I could easily watch it again. And that is why I worried we were not even going to get it on our local screen. A few days before the UK release it seemed we’d have to travel to see Hidden Figures, and I realised that perhaps we live in a small town more interested in sex and action movies, the more mindless the better.

But then, there it was. Only a few screenings, and the audience was like us, old and sedate and with few oversized trays of popcorn, multi-coloured sweets and fizzy drinks.

And what a story! What a great title! I didn’t know the three leading actresses from anything, and it was all the better for it. This way I wasn’t seeing a superstar pretending to be a maths genius. After Apollo 13 it seems we need an Ed Harris lookalike working for NASA, and I was happy with Kevin Costner. He could almost carry off being clever. Jim Parsons, however, is far too much Sheldon Cooper to work in this role as genius sidelined by clever black woman. I couldn’t get a grip on what he was meant to be like.

My companions who understand maths a bit better than I do, felt that while dumbed down, the maths was mostly OK.

Hidden Figures

I’d have loved this story if it had been mere fiction. I loved it a lot more for being mostly true, and to see the real three women at the end was marvellous. It was so good to know that they did well and were role models for many who came after them. And fantastic to see the real Katherine Johnson honoured by President Obama, and equally great to learn that she has had a long life with her second husband.

The film leaves me wanting to learn more.

Rogue or La La

We disgraced ourselves over Rogue One, the Resident IT Consultant and I. Don’t know whether he liked it, but neither of us understood what was going on. This is partly because neither of us are Star Wars fans. And when I saw the original back in the olden days, I didn’t get what it was about; nor even who was good or who was bad.

But it’s not important. We can’t all like the same things, and no one can be a fan of everything. This time we went with Daughter, who is a fan and who wanted company. Although we might not be asked – allowed – again.

If you don’t have to know who is fighting, or why, it was OK as an action film of sorts.

I had more or less decided against seeing La La land, for some reason. And then ‘everyone’ was going on about it and how wonderful it was and how they don’t even like musicals but they’d even bought the soundtrack afterwards.

Which would be why, when I really needed cheering up one day last week, we went to see it. Didn’t even consider any of the other films on, since a musical, praised by all, ought to be what I needed.

And OK, after that first song and dance thing on the motorway slip road (yes, they are probably called something else), I almost felt like applause would be the right response.

But after that, it was downhill all the way. It was boring. I didn’t like the characters, or the actors. The music did nothing for me, and the setting was not my kind of place at all. And the plot? I kept thinking that surely something sensible would happen to it soon?

It seems the Resident IT Consultant was slightly more tolerant than I was, but even so.

Comparing the two films, Rogue One wins comfortably.

NCIS – Keep Going

Wow. They really can do it if they try. Was this week’s NCIS a happy accident, or have they been listening? Or, perish the thought, had they kept a little something extra good up their sleeves in case the world needed cheering up?

I’ve been watching some old episodes this week, so feel quite confident in stating that Keep Going would have fitted in well in almost any of the older seasons. The middle ones. Some of the flashbacks coincidentally were from the episodes I watched. Weird.

Gibbs, Torres, Palmer and Ryan

So, first they actually wrote a good script. Then they directed it extremely well. They let Palmer be the main character, with Torres the only newbie there for him. And there was admirably little to be seen of Quinn. Gibbs behaved just as you’d expect him to, which means that he was back to old, normal Gibbs. The kind of Gibbs you don’t think about, because he just is.

Abby was given more time than of late, which is what we want. There was more life to McGee, and Ducky was Duckier than ever. Bishop was OK, and did I mention that Quinn didn’t get enough of an opportunity to annoy?

The vertigo was more than real. I almost fell off my armchair watching the street down below. Palmer was scared and not abnormally brave standing on that ledge, working hard to persuade the suicidal young man not to jump. He gave so much of himself. The flashbacks were clever, in that we both got to see snippets from the good old days of NCIS, but they also fitted in with the story, which isn’t always the case.

So it was feelgood on two fronts; story with wow factor, and revisiting the past. You could tell the end was coming, but it was no worse for being obvious.

(Photo © CBS)

So long, Granger

I’d like to think that Miguel Ferrer, who died yesterday, told NCIS: Los Angeles scriptwriters to stick a knife in him. If you know you’re ill and if you are still working, it’s such an obvious thing to do, killing your character in style.

I’m obviously speculating here, which is something I don’t approve of. We’re in a cliffhanger, waiting to see what will happen in LA, but Deputy Director Granger has clearly been unwell, and now he’s not just been arrested but stabbed. As Daughter pointed out, they already have him unconscious in a hospital bed.

Granger

Owen Granger was that kind of character I’ve come to realise I like. By that I mean they turn up and act bad and you hate them and want them gone, and then ever so slowly, they inch their way into the show they’re on and gain respect, and love. (Vance was another one we mistrusted deeply.)

And I wonder if he was brought in, in case Hetty was looking for retirement? In which case we have a Dallas situation, like when they retired the Ewings’ mother and then her replacement died and she herself came back, not as old or tired as had been made out.

Thinking about it now, I feel as if Granger has been – mostly – elsewhere for some time. They are talking about him, but he’s not actually there with the rest of the team. Like Daniela Ruah’s pregnancy, maybe this was planned long ago.

So, it remains to be seen what they do about Granger. I’m assuming they will kill him in the next episode. In which case he died with his boots on.

Miguel Ferrer can’t be replaced.

(Photo © CBS)