Category Archives: television

Bodiam on the telly and another year’s work

A new TV series ‘Castles: Britain’s Fortified History’ ( starts tonight at 9pm on BBC4. The series is presented by Dr Sam Willis. The programmes trace the story of Britain’s castles and their unique role in our history, art and literature (it says).

Bodiam Castle features in next week’s episode on 11th December. I was there when they shot the scene but I don’t know if I make the final cut!

Also on TV (but not featuring Bodiam) is ‘Secrets of the castle with Ruth, Peter and Tom‘ on BBC2. Episodes 2 & 3 are still available on iPlayer and episodes 4 and 5 are still to come. It’s an excellent series set at Guédelon in Burgundy. Guédelon is a fantastic project – they are building a 13th century castle from scratch using (as far as possible) original techniques. The project is scheduled to take 25 years to complete. We saw a scene being filmed when we were there in September.

Meanwhile December at the castle means lots of work. It’s also a lot colder all of a sudden. We’re not grumbling though* – Winter can be a lonely time of year for a live interpreter at the castle. Most shifts at the moment are solo affairs and visitor numbers naturally drop away. December means working with colleagues and lots of excited visitors. I hope it sets us up for our first January with 7-day-a-week opening for many years.

This season has seen many changes at the castle, many of them in live interpretation. We’ve stepped up what we offer and on the whole it has been successful. The increased live interpretation element has been extended through most of next season. This will, I hope, allow us to consolidate and improve what we have achieved.

* Not too much.

A Taste of Britain

Bodiam Castle features in episode 1 of BBC1’s new programme ‘A Taste of Britain’ with Janet Street-Porter and Brian Turner. You can catch it on iPlayer here for the next 13 days. I get a walk on part at about 18 minutes in!


>No racing last weekend – sick of the guts. Saturday was meant to be a club ’10’, so no problem there (entry on the line) but Sunday was the last ’25’ of the West London Combine season. I felt guilty about missing that. Sounded like a good day as well.

I’m still deaf. I’ve been putting olive oil in my ears twice a day for the last two weeks. My hair is now glossy, I have a Mediterranean complexion and I’m developing an Italian accent (which is strange, it’s Greek oil) but every day I hear less. On Wednesday I get to see the Lady With The Syringe – I am hoping that this works. Otherwise I might feel obliged to share the madness that is engulfing me.

I’ve been watching season 2 of The Wire on DVD. At least I can switch on the subtitles. It is a great series. I appreciate that I might be the last person in the world to realise this.


>Great to see The Sopranos back on the TV last night. There were some intriguing set ups. There is such joy in watching US drama of this quality (though I have failed to engage with Heroes and Lost).

We’re just back from another family wedding – this time in Liverpool (plus a night at the Widnes Travelodge). Luckily P’s family are a little less intense than T’s. The Red’s 6-0 victory made at least half the room happy – and the Blue’s won as well I believe.

>Tapenade Screws

>We bought a new DVD player for £30. The old one (the ‘Tesco clockwork DVD chewer’) was fine, except that it took exception to several of our discs. This was nothing to do with region 1 or region 2 – just petulance. The new machine is much more accommodating – in the last couple of days we have watched Napoleon Dynamite and The Squid and The Whale. Both films were good nights in – I can’t see what the old player had against them. We checked our shelves and we reckon we have about 20 films to catch up on. These include Bicycle Thieves, The Seventh Seal, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, The Werner Herzog boxed set, High Hopes and many more. I bet we haven’t watched them all by next Christmas.

“You need some of those outdoor screws. You know the ones. Tapenade screws – that’s it. Not tapenade. No. It definitely begins with a ‘T’ though… Tee, Tee, Tee, Tee… Japanned Screws!” This from the same wonderful person who once confused the words rutabega and winnebago, as in “Why don’t we hire a rutabega and drive around America in it?”. It’s just a pity they’re not a Hollywood agent – “Good news, Mr Cruise, I’ve negotiated the biggest rutabega on the lot for you…”

Two out of three plumbers have been. Still waiting for the quotes to come in. Neither of those who turned up wanted to do the full job – “you need someone special for that bit”…

>Enter SL

>Lyn Gardner has another interesting piece in The Guardian Arts Blog today. She gives a qualified welcome to what she identifies as an emerging trend for comics to be cast in straight roles. Her qualification is that the final judgment must be made on acting ability rather than box office (i.e. Kevin Spacey rather than Madonna). I do think she’s right that the best of them (Lee Evans, Eddie Izzard) bring new perspectives to existing roles.

I wonder where the next batch of new energy to shake up the theatre will come from? Do I see the stars of ‘lifestyle’ TV appearing over the horizon? I must admit that I’m looking forward to Alan Titchmarsh‘s King Lear at The Barbican, but I’m less convinced by the prospect of Jamie Oliver as Titus Andronicus at The Globe (although the pie should be good). How would you cast Davina McCall? (“Into the outer darkness” is not an allowable answer.)

Turning over for the great Green Wing, we caught the last two minutes of Celebrity Big Brother last night – Leo Sayer talking to a wall and a bare arse (he wasn’t talking to a bare arse, it was another shot). Personally I hope that CBB is not catching – I can’t afford the time for another obsession. David Eldridge mounts a defence of the programme here.

The ECG and blood tests came back normal, so it looks like it is an inflamed hypochondrium. Head still muzzy and guts still gnnffty though.

Plumber due tonight…

>Well that’s that then

>I forgot that my radio play was on. I only remembered when a couple of people rang up to say that they’d heard it. It’s the first first night (afternoon) that I’ve ever missed. Apparently everyone remembered their lines.

I’ve remembered where I saw the screenwriting site referred to in the previous post. It’s John August’s jaWiki site and people are invited to contribute. I found it via the Writers’ Guild blog, which is regularly updated with articles from around the world.

Enough unpaid advertising – did you see Imagine… on BBC 1 last night? What a great programme. It drew together the stories of the people who guard great works of art (from a leaf sweeper at Anghor Wat to gallery attendants in the Louvre, Uffizi and Hermitage to the custodian of a Stanley Spencer decorated chapel. All the time it was drawing together the individual stories and the works of art. So many themes of death, resurrection and redemption. The only ‘odd one out’ seemed to be the custodian – all of the others seemed to have been touched by death. And then, in one of the last lines, she said something like “Yes, I suppose they are like children. But better than children. They’ll never change”. But she said it better than that. I’ve made it sound morbid (I do that), but it wasn’t. It was full of joy and triumph and it linked great art to real life lived now.

City Slicker has been to see Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? and didn’t like it (see my note below). She has a lot more experience of critiquing these events and I suppose she’s on to something. I may be guilty of seeing the play that I thought Churchill was trying to write rather than the production in front of me (something I lambast critics for doing – hypocritical or what?). I do think the play moves from a kind of stylised, crude Agit Prop (almost like a student piece) towards something more complicated. I like that it is ahistorical – there’s no consistent time line, so you’re always struggling to find your feet. I like the truncated speeches for the same reason – you have to work to make sense. For all of this, I was never truly surprised or carried away – it’s a play dominated by the head rather than the heart. Which is okay for a short play. This was a first for me – a London premiere. Maybe when I’ve been to a few more I’ll discover some objectivity (and set the bar higher).

Today I must write (and deliver). I’m meeting a Literary Manager to discuss material on Saturday.