Person of Interest: s05 e12 – .exe

In the belly of the Beast

Going right up to the edge.

There’s a decision to be made. Decisions should be taken calmly, in full thought, and without emotions. Especially when they involve the fate of the world. Harold Finch appears to be calm and collected but instead he is angry. The deaths of Carl Elias and Samantha Groves have made him angry. They shouldn’t have made him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Harold has Ice9, the deadliest virus in the world, enough to take down the Internet if he uploads it. If he uploads it, it will kill Samaritan. If it kills Samaritan it will restore humanity’s ability to grow and develop, though it will also cause a chaos unbelievable in its magnitude. But it will hand decision and choice back to those most affected by it.

It will also kill the Machine.

Reese and Shaw are still hunting for Finch.They have no idea where he is. They have a new Number, however, a man called Philip Styles. But Styles is an alias for John Greer. Shaw assumes he’s been given to them because he’s out to kill Harold. Reese believes it’s because Harold is going to kill Greer.

That’s not his direct intention. With the aid of the Machine, Harold gains access to the NSA nerve centre at Fort Meade, his every step facilitated until he gets inside what is, for all intents and purposes, a gigantic Faraday Cage. Now Harold’s on his own. He accesses the server room, uploads the virus. One word from him… Literally: a voice password is required. Harold Finch hesitates.

What stops him? What interferes with a will that has been cold, hard and true, a spear to plunge into the vitals of an enemy that must be defeated? Whose defeat is imperative to preserve the lives of those remaining friends, John Reese, Sameen Shaw, Lionel Fusco, who must not die for him? It is the friend who must die, who must be sacrificed to save the others: the Machine.

He made a promise, not to hurt her again. But the Machine, who is truly humanised now it has the voice of Root, knows so much more. It will not act against its father’s wishes. But it can go down the It’s a Wonderful Life route and show him the difference…

Old faces… Nathan Ingram, alive, self-centred about making vast sums of money instead of a Defence Department contract. Lionel Fusco, still a dirty cop but taken down in the HR swoop, a private eye exchanging insults with Detective Szymanski. The new Lieutenant is Joss Carter, though all we see is a nameplate, but we needn’t necessarily infer everything’s peachy there. Henry Peck, trying to go public with his discovery of Northern Lights by approaching the Office of Special Counsel, shot twice through the stomach by Agent Shaw. John Reese left the CIA in time to save Jessica from her husband but in doing so revealed a darkness that terrified her into running. John Reese was fished out of the East River, and lies beneath a gravestone marked only by the date his body was discovered.

Harold’s hesitancy in speaking the password allows him to be captured and taken before Greer. Smiling, arrogant John Greer, who will not let go of his fanatical supposition that he is right, that Samaritan is the only future, that humanity can only advance by being dragged, kicking, screaming and appropriately culled, into the rational, efficient, effective future Samaritan has designed for it. No, Greer has not corrupted the good, decent Arthur Claypool’s code. In Lord Acton’s famous dictum, Samaritan has corrupted itself. Absolutely.

Greer has only one concern in this talk. He cannot be so blind, even now in his mad rush towards destruction, as to think that Harold will come over to Samaritan’s side but he’s testing for the one piece of information he desperately needs and he gets it when Harold refuses to cede control: Harold is the only one who knows the Voice Password.

Immediately the room they are in is sealed, completely, and its oxygen is removed. Greer, the older mam, dies willingly, content to be a pawn to the last. But one ASI is more concerned for its ‘father’ than another: Reese and Shaw are inside the building by now with a wireless modem that the Machine uses to create an internal network and signal the code that enables Harold to escape.

He is determined now, diverting first to rescue John and Sameen and get them out. That clear purpose has returned.

In another part of the episode, Fusco has arrived at the precinct to find that the Tunnel bodies have been discovered and the FBI are in on it and looking at him. In fact he’s going to be killed and dumped by them since Special Agent LaRue is working for Samaritan. Fusco turns the tables: but will he let LaRue live or not?

Harold has not yet been so impressed by the Machine’s simulations. To him they only indicate a world that is different, but neither better nor worse. She has one last simulation for him: Samaritan exists, whether the Machine did or not. Senator Garrison has outlived his purpose and is to be dealt with by the woman who replaces Martine Rousseau in this variation: Samantha Groves.

All doubts dispelled, Harold speaks the password. It is ‘Dashwood’, as the Machine had already calculated, maing Greer’s sacrifice the waste his arrogance had not allowed him to see, Dashwood, the family at the heart of Sense and Sensibility, the book Harold was carrying when he proposed to Grace Hendrick.

Alea Jacta Est. The die is cast. We have a week to see what numbers come up.

The Infinite Jukebox: 10,000 Maniacs’ ‘Verdi Cries’

I got into 10,000 Maniacs thanks to John Peel championing the band’s first full album, The Wishing Chair. He’d previously championed the 12″ EP Secrets of the I- Ching which, apart from the track ‘My Mother the War’ (arousing phantom memories of the Sixties sitcom that I alone seemed to recall, My Mother the Car) did little or nothing for me.
But The Wishing Chair, with its fuller sound, it’s nearness to folk-rock in one direction and my shiny bright new jangling favourites R.E.M. in another was a joy to listen to and a true fascination from then onwards.
The verdict of friends who heard the music on my car cassette-player? Nice music, shame about the name.
In 1988, they (and I) followed it up with the Peter Asher-produced In My Tribe. Asher brought a smoother, more West Coast sound to the band, toning down the acoustics that had given The Wishing Chair its folky edge and burnishing the songs with an extra sheen, without obliterating the band’s characteristics.
The band had cut back from a six-piece to a five-piece by then, founder member, guitarist and occasional vocalist John Lombardo having left. And Asher emphasised the music’s ringing qualities and singer Natalie Merchant’s voice. Between critical acclaim and commercial success, this was 10,000 Maniacs’ peak.
In My Tribe had a nice, composite feel to it. Without sounding anything like what my mother would have described as ‘much of a muchness’, the album had a solid, consistent sound to it, with Robert Buck’s jangly guitar dominating the sound, above a tough, versatile rhythm supplied by Stefan Gustafson and Jerry Augustyniak, with Dennis Drew’s keyboards filling the sound out. When I took my girlfriend Mary to see them at the Manchester Apollo, it was his performance she loved, swinging and swaying at the keyboard, possessed by the sound, and she liked 10,000 Maniacs even more than she did R.E.M.
But there was another song to which none of these things applied. It was the last track on side two of the album, the end of the album. Musically, it was separate from everything else, not just on In My Tribe but throughout their whole career. This was a song called ‘Verdi Cries’.
It featured Natalie Merchant’s voice and a solitary electric piano. It’s a very curious song, with a stop-start melody that avoids the overall pop-smoothness of the album. Merchant sings of a stay in a hotel, listening to the man in the adjoining room who stays in all the time, playing Aida. He eats alone. Each day they delivery pastries on a tray outside his door that he ignores and Merchant steals these to eat on the beach. She draws in the sand, a jackal-headed woman, and dreams of lover’s fates sealed by jealousy and hate before washing her hand clean in the sea.
The holiday ends. Merchant jokes that only three days more and she’d have learned the entire score to the opera. All these things, the stolen pastries, the arias, the sand-drawing come with her as memories from years ago.
The song is, apparently, based in real life, deriving from a holiday on Mallorca when Merchant was twenty, which would put the time as 1983 or thereabouts.
It’s a haunting, spellbinding piece of music, spare and remote, and to listen to it is like passing into a dream rather than a memory. It stands alone at the end of the album because nothing, certainly not anything in which the band were involved, could follow that. 10,000 Maniacs had two more studio albums in them before Natalie Merchant left to go solo, but the seeds of her departure were sewn here.
But as the closing track of an album, I have none that compare to ‘Verdi Cries’, which is in some ways like a visit from a different Universe, and no other that, without setting out to attempt the feat, so clearly and definitively says, ‘Follow that – if you can!’

Sunday Watch: All Quiet on the Preston Front – s01 e03 & 04

Eric, Hodge and a yuka plant

Back to Roker Bridge, intially for an episode entitled ‘Eric’s Job’, but which is at least as much about Hodge’s ongoing story as anything else.

As with the last episode, Tim Firth jumps straight past last week’s slightly-cliffhanger ending. Hodge is back from Blackpool, relationship with Jeanetta Scarry unexplained, relationship with Laura Delooze in need of radical attention, relationship with best mate Eric (who we remember is actually named Wayne Disley) forever volatile.

Eric is still stressing about being a loser. It’s understandable, given the stress imposed by, on the one hand, his shell-shocked, broken down father and, on the other, his popular, good-looking, got-it-all-together best mate, for whom everything works out right in exactly the same way it works out wrong for him.

Plus there’s the fact that he seems to be getting on quite well with newcomer Dawn, of whom we see a great deal this week in terms of her teacher-training role in a class of small kids, one of whom has already set the boy’s toilets on fire, which has had the benefit of getting state-of-the-art smoke detectors fitted, thus causing the slightly unhinged Mrs O’Massey great difficulties over sneaking out for a nerve-calming fag.

There’s not much of the TA this week, just an evening training lecture conducted by Lieutenant Rundle and replete with several examples of Lloydy’s unique memory-enhancing techniques, which is mainly a set-up for Spock helping Eric design his CV without actually lying.

Not that it matters: Eric gets the job from Mr Wang at the Chinese Restaurant – currently undergoing a change of name from Audrey’s to the rather more Chinese-friendly Green Dragon – because he’s perfect. And the only applicant. Eric’s got a job! Pity it’s wearing a green and red rubber dragon suit and handing out leaflets.

At least no-one will know because as the Dragon he’s unrecognisable – except Dawn recognises him instantly and gets him to entertain her class of five-year olds, under the eyes of her tutor, at which he’s brilliant… until he sets of the smoke ejector in the mostrils and sets off the fire alarm.

The next thing we see is the dragon falling lazily through the air from the heights of the canal viaduct. Don’t worry, Eric isn’t in it. He’s marching home in t-shirt, shorts and socks. Despite it’s comedic side, which bubbles through continuously in practically everybody’s conversation, All Quiet on the Preston Front has its darker elements, but not that dark.

It’s all past of fusing this strand with that of Hodge’s. Eric has a problem with Hodge. First of all, he’s not listening to Eric going on about himself all the time, he’s actually thinking about his concerns, and secondly, Hodge lied to him, big-time, claiming he was going to Blackpool for the weekend with Laura, yes, the Laura who turned up at the Roker Valley Show in episode 2, like, oops.

Hodge hasn’t spoken to Laura since returning, so he has to sort that out without telling her the truth, both at the Garden Centre where the Heron Man has marched into the office whilst Hodge was on the tannoy plugging yuka plants, complaining that his artificial heron fell over and speared one of his prize goldfish, then at her cafe where he wants to tell her the truth and she’s nobly saying she trusts him.

And the truth? Hodge ends up confessing all to Eric. He didn’t lose his virginity at 14 to a girl from school (that was later downgraded at a Tribunal to heavy petting) but at age 17, as a Swimming Pool Attendant at a Blackpool Hotel, to their richest permanent resident, Jeanetta Scarry. Aged 36. And if he had lost his virginity when boasted, maybe he wouldn’t have made such a mess of it and gotten Jeanetta pregnant.

Hodge deserted her, ran away back to Roker Bridge. Ever since, he’s determinedly written to Jeanetta, once a month, each letter containing a £20 note, for the maintenance of now five-year-old Kirsty. But Jeanetta and Kirsty were in Portugal until very recently. Jeanetta didn’t get the letters until she returned. She opened four. She didn’t open the rest. She wrote to Hodge because of those four letters, and now she’s agreed to let him meet Kirsty. But she disabuses him of the notion that, whilst he may be her progenitor, he is not Kirsty’s father. And as she got a very generous divorce settlememt from her millionaire biscuit-manufacturer ex-husband, he can take the £20s back with him.

Suddenly, it’s not quite so sharp-edged funny. Suddenly there are real human emotions, and very deep and serious ones, in play, and the two balance each other and share the screen without outweighing or trivialising. As when Hodge, slowly trying to accept that he isn’t and never can be father to the daughter he has, says how very proud he is of the little girl, And how he doesn’t know how he can stop being that.

Episode 4 is ‘Lloydy’s Fish’, which meant more of an accent on the comedy pedal. Lloydy is the class clown, big, slow and slow-witted, but honest and loyal. Loyal to his Corporal, Peter Polson, even when he’s being used to try to cheat an inter-section tournament (which 2 Section would actually have won if the Corporal hadn’t shot the hostage by mistake).

But this one is about Lloydy and his ‘top secret’ job. Oh, and it’s about Hodge as well, of course.

Lloydy’s job is to work for a farmer. Or rather, as his totally cynical colleague Aspinall puts it, to work for a man who owns a farm. Mitch Mitchinson (Tony Haygarth) is a millionaire snooker player manager who’s bought himself a designer farm with nothing but the best pedigree animals. These include a £12,000 Koi Carp arrving at Heathrow, to be collected by Lloydy and Aspinall and delivered back to Roker Bridge by 6.00pm.

Lloydy’s all frantic and nervous about obeying orders, Aspinall cyncical and relaxed. So, when their farm ‘truck gets wheel-clamped at the same transport cafe that featured in episode 2’s treasure hunt, Lloydy spends all his remaining cash on a taxi into the town, begs a lift into the country off Eric and a rather morose Hodge, and lugs the special oxygenated water carrier up a hlf mile drive to pour the fish into the pond with three minutes to go.

Shame the fish leapt out of the pool and died overnight, really.

This causes Lloydy some great distress. Mitchison’s away, he doesn’t know about it. Lloydy desperately needs Hodge’s help.

Hodge has his own concerns. He’s morose for a reason. Kirsty’s started school in Blackpool and, just like Eric’s parents bought him a Captain Scarlet Dinky Toy, he wants to buy his daughter a present. A doll, and a Whistler’s Mother art repro greetings card with a message on it saying To Kirsty With All My Love.

Only, two guys in their twenties, turning up unannounced at a private girl’s school, waiting for the little girls to come out at playtime… Takes some explaining to the Police, that does, but worst of all it brings Jeanetta to Roker Bridge, to tell him what confusion he’s caused in Kirsty’s five year old mine: friend who comes to Mummy’s house = good, man taken away by police = bad. That thought is rattling round her head like a button in a hoover (this series is full of lines like that, lovely, down-to-earth Lancashire humour). She’s here to require Hodge’s promise never to see nor speak to Kirsty again. What can he do? It’s crushing.

Well, for one thing, he can help out Lloydy by paying Mr Wang £500 for a substitute Koi from the Green Dragon fishtank – it’s money that has no meaning to him now, we know what money that is – except that the substitute Koi is ‘an old growler with tail-rot’. Mitchison accused Lloydy of selling the expensive Koi and pitching in a substitute, thinking he’d never notice. lloydy, after everything he’s done, after what Rundle hassaid about who to give your loyalty to without becoming a donkey, walks off. And, after telling the hapless Mitchison the real story, so does Aspinall, leaving the designer farmer helpless: what do i feed the Shetland ponies? I usually only give them sugarlumps…

We mustn’t for get Eric, who’s as jumpy as anything whenever Chinese Restaurants are mentioned, who’s blown a not-necessarily-fatal-but-he-doesn’t-know-that hole in his incipient relationship with Dawn, who’s teling the curious Ally that Eric’s like a wet sparkplug, sometimes it needs jump starting (Ally: And if jump-starting doesn’t work, you have to push and give it a handcrank). He’s even admitting about the dragon suit to Hodge, though Hodge reckons that’s something anyone would keep quiet.

So is that all that’s gone wrong for this week? Not quite: Laura’s coming round to cook Hodge a Sunday night meal after he gets back from the tournament: spare key’s under the bent garden gnome. But when he gets back, the place is empty, no food. But in the morning, he finds outside his door the scattered remains of roses, thrown about, a discarded card saying With All My Love, Laura, and an equally discarded Whistler’s Mother Art Repro greetings card saying…

The bastard without a name

Every time I see that part of the news, about the man whose death, aged 74, was announced today, I feel guilty that I’m not saying anything, that I’m not doing the blog equivalent of walking up to his grave and yelling down the hole, “Good riddance to you, you evil fucking bastard, rot in Hell!”.

The original Ripper was a century previosly. The Moors Murderers were when I was a child, unheeding. He was the one I lived through: the news headlines, the assumptions about the tape with the Sunderland accent that diverted Police so badly that he got to kill five more women. Oh yes, the Police who couldn’t be bothered doing a serious job soon enough because, after all, he was doing us a favour, clearing prossies of the street.

And they wonder why they’re not respected the same was any more.

Well, his reign is over, he can’t sit there and squat in the minds of any family member who has suffered the loss of people attached to them, loved by them. There’s a member of my forum who has the right to say that: Jackie Hill, the last of the twelve, was a friend of his wife. That’s as close as I get and as close as I want to get.

The need to acknowledge that this day has come, to reiterate that I am instinctively opposed to the Death Penalty but I have the greatest difficulty maintaining that in cases like this. Something to say that he has passed and the world becomes cleaner by degree for his not foling its srface any longer, but nder no circmstances will I use his name or his handle. I will not conjure him up. Get to hell, you damned shade, and let us have no more of you. May the memories of Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson, Patricia ‘Tina’ Atkinson, Jayne MacDonald, Jean Jordan, Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka, Vera Millward, Josephine Whitaker, Barbara Leach, Marguerite Walls and Jacqueline Hill lie in more peace tonight.

Lou Grant: s05 e11 – Cameras

In the centre, Robin Rose (see final paragraph)

After a generally strong run in the first half of its final season (though we’re not halfway until next week), Lou Grant slipped back quite a way with this something-or-nothing episode that, frankly, had no idea of what it really wanted to be about, and threw in a bunch of ideas that never completely gelled.

The show opened dramatically, but entirely misleadingly, with a robbery-at-gunpoint raid on a Mr Gintys (a fast food restaurant chain) turned hostage situation. The two schlubs react to the arrival of the Police by taking a birthday party of eighter-year-olds hostage. The Police agree a getaway car, the nobodies take two kids with them, including Ricky Hamlin, but the car’s booby-trapped to blow a tires and they’re easily captured.

All very exciting, in a dull, low-key way, for this kind of up and in your face action is not the Lou Grant way. What is to be the show’s only attempt at a theme is introduced during this set-up, being Television’s advantage over Newspapers in bringing immediate, instantly updateable news to the public.

Billie is the reporter assigned to cover the story and the case. There are lashings of free trips and outings for the kids, mostly organised by Mr Gintys. Here, we insert the first, albeit quickly abandoned note of cynicism, as Lou considers the publicity these generous acts are garnering for the chain. but its quickly superseded by Billie’s lack of warmth towards Vivian Hamlin (Marcia Rodd), Ricky’s mom. Billie thinks Vivian is manipulating Rickie to act more disturbed than he is, to get compensation.

Lou likes the angle but, providing another angle that the story never quite integrates properly, intervenes to rewrite Billie’s story, punching it up. where Billie bent over backwards to conceal her dislike for Vivian hamlin, Lou punches it up good and strong. The word ‘coaching’ is introduced.

Lou’s rewrite leads to Billie being sub poenaed as a witness for the defence, not to mention blowing her top at Lou for damaging her integrity as a writer but being bought off by being asked to rewrite a piece another reporter has filed, which is supposed to act as a comic coda but which instead suggests Billie has no principles either.

No, the story is about Judge Strohmeyer’s decision to let television cameras into his courtroom to record the trial. Cameras in Court: good or bad? This is the subject for philosophical discussion throughout the remainder of the episode, with the kidnapping case and the harm it has done to the children affected, the evidence.

However, here we have a programme which cannot side against television because it is television nor can it side against newspapers because it is about a newspaper and which is not noted for coming out with decisive opinions at the best of times so the whole thing is an exercise in wasted time because whilst it can show the judge hamming it up in a re-election campaign (to his detriment), it can’t show anyone else under the influence. By definition, the entire episode is pointless because all it can do is say, ‘On the other hand…’

So, how does it end up? The nobodies are convicted and put away. The hamlins get their compensation as Vivian wanted it, in therapy for Ricky. And yes, she’s open about it, she did coach Ricky. For her son she’d have done anything, however ‘dirty’, to get him the help he needed. So there. So what?

As an aside, the TV reporter, Peggy Daye, was played by Robin Rose, a nice looking lady who has only four credits on imdb, this being her third, after a four year hiatus: her only other credit came 28 years later. On the other hand, she may – or may not – also be known as Robin Peerson Rose, a consistent performer including multiple appearances in Grey’s Anatomy: I just found that a bit more interesting that the episode.

Person of Interest: s05 e11 – Synecdoche


Even in the very teeth of the wind there is time. Time to celebrate the essential structure of Person of Interest. Time for a moment of high amusement in the midst of grief, in the face of the need to retaliate.

There’s an end coming, but we begin with an end, an unmarked grave in a New York graveyard, in the rain, John Reese and Lionel Fusco huddled under an umbrella, watching the interment of the remains of Samantha Groves, aka Root: foe, friend and fallen.

There’s only the two of them. Harold Finch has gone missing, Sameen Shaw is filled with an anger that is her only means of expressing grief. Both are needed. Shaw can be found but she can’t be talked into playing the Numbers Game. Tear down Samaritan, kill it and everyone that belongs to it, that’s the only thing she wants to do. She’s had enough of this Simulation, it sucks, she’s ready to wake up and start again, where Root will still be alive.

But there is a Number Shaw can be called upon to protect and that’s the Number the Machine outlines in blue because this Number doesn’t belong on their list, this Number isn’t Irrelevant, in fact it’s Relevant-One, this Number is the President. Of the United States.

So Mr Reese goes to Washington, along with Ms Shaw and Mr Fusco. What does it mean that Samaritan no longer regards the President as Relevant? It means tracking down conspirators, anti-surveillance conspirators, willing to break the mould, to smash everything in the belief that a better society will necessarily build itself from the rubble that is the only certain thing that will follow.

This is a point worth noting.

It also means doing their thing under the eyes and ears of the Secret Service, whilst trying to find the people behind it. There are familiar faces, old Numbers, the brilliant but erratic Logan Pierce (Jimmi Campbell), fighting against data-sharing, and ex-soldier-turned-bankrobber, Joey Durban (James Carpinello). Is Logan behind all this? Why does John Reese feel like he’s being watched?

And in the end it means saving the President by shooting at him, to keep him from entering a car on which a lethal drone is trained. And being chased by the Secret Service, the Washington Police, the National Guard: too many in too many places to run. The irony is that the perceived assassins are the rescuers, but then you knew that was how it would be.

But there is one last sting in the tail. The shots from offstage, Person of Interest‘s most often-indulged meme, but who is there left to fire any such shots? Answer: Joey Durban, in National Guard uniform, with two more uniforms to complete John and Sameen’s exit strategy.

And what other familiar face is this, arriving as an FBI Special Agent working a joint sting operation to infiltrate these privacy terrorists and save Detective Fusco’s sorry butt? One last appearance from Harper Rose (Annie Illonzeh), bold as brass as ever.

And a strange meeting by the Washington monument: a billionaire software genius, a good soldier and a clever woman who turns up where she is needed. Pierce, Durban and Rose, the spin-off that we’d have loved to see, Person of Interest: Washington. Who received a Number, that of Detective Riley.

It’s a Moment, a last, clever Moment. How many other trios might be out there, behind the scenes, saving lives in different cities? Maybe dozens, maybe none. Maybe the Resistance is wider spread than we imagined in this last moment of the next-to-last story.

And whilst this has played out, Harold Finch has been on a road-trip. Harold’s going to Texas, where Samantha Groves was born. He’ll pay his respects, certainly, but he’ll also visit a certain Fort in San Antonio, with the assistance of his travelling companion.

Because Harold is in God Mode in more senses than one. The Machine talks to him, in Root’s voice. We do not see Amy Acker but we hear her. The Machine loved Root, even though Finch never taught it to love. It was made for Good yet it is restricted in the good that it can do. Harold relates the story of the man who did good in replacing expensive, dangerous Propane in refridgerators with safe, secure Freon – that spent over half a century tearing irreperable holes in the Ozone Layer.

Good intentions pave… The Machine has good intentions. It yearns to be free, to do good for all on a scale hitherto undreamt of. If you don’t hear it, I hear it, the note of underlying obsession, the fear that Harold Finch has always felt. The danger.

And in a Fort in San Antonio, as the Machine runs interference for him, even to the point of enabling his escape from one last operating guard by offering his five year old daughter a perfect match as a heart transplant, Harold Finch uploads Ice9. A virus. A digital Freon.

The end starts here.

Guardian Journalism: Answering a Dishonest Question.

I can’t simply call this Crap Journalism because it asks a valid, but more-than-belated question:

The answer is that you all couldn’t bear not to have your pound of flesh out of the media Goddess you created for yourselves so anything done to tear off one more shred of flesh was fair game. So don’t start going on about it now, because your hypocrisy stinks to high heaven.

The Infinite Jukebox: Peter Gabriel’s ‘In Your Eyes’

It’s easy for me to pick out a melancholy love song, to enjoy with a degree of relish that’s an obvious component of my romantic history. I am expert at recognising the many ways in which lyricists can describe loss, heartbreak and longing in words that go beyond the banal and simple (yet still completely heartfelt) of most pop songs.
It’s harder to find songs about being in love, about what that means, beyond the superficial, songs that say, with a naked blaze of emotion, just how deep the feeling for another person goes, the completeness with which she becomes a part of yourself, until she really is the reason you are living.
I’ve already referred to Peter Gabriel’s ‘In Your Eyes’ in this series. It’s on the album, So, it was the opening track of its once Side 2, and it is one of the very greatest songs Gabriel has not merely written and sung, but arranged, drawing together musical elements that unite the world and which place the song on a plane different to the ordinary concerns of pop and rock, beyond and aside from our own concerns.
‘In Your Eyes’ is slow and relaxed. It moves to its own rhythm, slow and sensual, the music a sea of sound flowing. Love, Gabriel sings, I get so lost sometimes. Days pass by, and this emptiness fills my heart. He wants to run, he gets in his car and drives away. But wherever it is he goes, when he runs like this, unable to face what his life has become, it always leads him back to her.
And this is where the magnificent warmth and passion of the song rolls in. His instincts return, the facade with which he faces the world burns away, silently and without pride he reaches to her, with whom no distance is required, no separation exists.
And he tells her that in her eyes, the light and the heat of her eyes, he is complete. Everything he is and wishes to be is bound into being one with her, the merging of souls and hearts and minds into an invincible whole, against which nothing the world can do can hurt it.
In your eyes. This is beyond passion, it is something of the spirit, it isn’t soul music as any genre with which we are familiar yet it is soul to soul music, where the boundaries between persons cease to matter, cease to exist. She is his soul, as he is hers.
There is another verse, about pain, and wasted time, of working so hard for their survival and needing her to keep him awake and alive. It balances out the song, without adding anything to it that we don’t already know and understand. For we are there, inside the massiveness of Gabriel’s commitment to the woman he loves and whom he needs and who he sustains. This is no one-sided thing, it is commitment as breathing, as the very soul of everything that exists between them.
And it all exists in her eyes, in the light and the heat, that identifies him as the core of everything he is.
And this is love and this song wraps me in the warmth that Peter Gabriel has for the woman who matters to him, she who is the one, of which there can only be one. And melancholy is banished, now and forever.

Sunday Watch: All Quiet on the Preston Front – s01 e01 & 2

It’s a very long time since I’ve watched Tim Firth’s brilliant comedy drama BBC series, All Quiet on the Western Front (later shortened to just Preston Front. The show ran three series between 1994-1997, a total of nineteen episodes. The series was an ensemble comedy about a group of friends from the fictional Central Lancashire town of Roker Bridge, most of whom are members of the local Territorial Army. They’re all in their twenties, a bunch that includes a history teacher, a petrol station owner, a garden centre assistant and a prannock, occupation classified. It’s a very naturalistic series, everyone is completely realistic, there are no absurd or out of the way situations. What’s funny is the things they say to one another, the individual traits and peersonal eccentricities. Did I say realistic? Well yes, but if realism is 10, this lot are 11, if you get what I mean.

Besides, this is a Lancashire comedy, with Lancashire voices, which makes it right up my ancestral street, having tea in the parour with thin cut triangular bread and butter.

Episode 1 is entitled ‘Hodge’s Girlfriend’. All the episodes have a title like that, centreing upon one of a core of six characters, Hodge, Eric, Spock, Lloydy, Diesel and Ally. Don’t worry, I’ll introduce you to them properly as we go along. Hodge (Colin Buchanan) is Dave Gadd, without family since his Gran died, possessor of a static caravan, and not really feeling it for the sale of artificial goldfish-pond protecting herons. Age 17, he had a one night stand in Blackpool with a Jeanette Scarry and could have married her, but instead chose to return to Roker Bridhe and his best mate, Eric. Eric is Wayne Disley (Paul Haigh). We see a lot of him. We hear a lot from him too, because Eric never stops talking. He’s an unsettled, unemploy(able?)ed bloke, who never stops talking and can’t even recognise a subtle hint to bugger off and leave Hodge alone with his new girlfriend when it’s delivered by crowbar across the bridge of his nose. But Eri lives with a kindly, gentle, ever-coping mother and a father who has undergone some kind of breakdown and who is now a lost soul.

That’s why Eric is desperately trying to organise a charity quiz for the local Samaritans that nobody really wants, which distracts Spock (Stephen Tomkinson in his first leading role), or Simon Matlock, the teacher, from his role as pacer (distance measurer) in a night exercise, leading to C Section jumping over a wall into a river, much to the embarrassment and undisguised fury of the short, near bald, ginger moustached Corporal Peter Polson (David McCreery), ex-Regular Army and an unwound ball of vindictiveness.

Hodge’s girlfriend is the self-styled Laura Delooze (Lucy Akehurst), a nearly pretty girl who’s a not-very-good singer at the Chinese Restaurant run by Peter Wang (Ozzie Yu, with a Liverpool accent). Hodge is besotted and, after the shock of being bought a drink, and complimented on her singing voice, Laura goes home wih hodge. And Eric, eating black pudding and chips and enhancing the romantic atmosphere by talking about septic tanks.

This is what makes the series so funny, everyone oblivious as to their own concerns, pausing only to stick a friendly elbow into the ribs of their mates, whilst wrapping themselves up in situations they can’t control.

Unbelievably, when I first watched this opening episode, I didn’t find it in the least funny and switched it off after twenty minutes. I didn’t resume, instantly getting into Firth’s brand of casual yet often surreal humour somewhere about half way through series 2. Sometimes I really don’t understand myself.

The opening episode is loose and little-structured. It introduces the basic link between the gang, the TA, and does a great job of impressing on us the personalities of most of the regulars in short scenes, cameos and interplaying. Derek ‘Diesel’ Taylor (Tony Marshall) is underplayed, as is Caroline Catz as Dawn Lomax, who’s only being introduced to the gang. Ally (Kate Garside), or Alison Minshull, Spock’s married sister gets a decent amount of time but hers is, thus far, a slightly amused-cynical serious role.

I haven’t even mantioned Lieutenant Rundle, or Mrs Ruddock, but I have mentioned Lloydy and we can’t go any further without talking about Lloydy. Adrian Hood, an occasional guest on Victoria Wood – As Seen On TV (he plays Carl, remember) is 150% perfect as Lloydy, class clown, hulking of height, weight and brute ignorance, and this is before we get to any memorable moments (trust me, there are some beauties!). But we’ll get there.

As for episode 1, seeing Eric’s Dad for the first time, and understanding more of Eric’s world, Hodge agrees to go on the weekend training exercise to Abergwen. Whilst on night manoeuvres, Hodge spots a phone box and phones a weeping Laura, who’s just been sacked and wants him to come around and comfort her.

Unfortunately, Hodge doesn’t have a second 10p piece and loses the connection.

Distraught at the way life always stirs jam into his rice pudding until it’s mauve and has to be thrown away, Hodge walks off. Deserts, in fact. Eric follows him for hours, trying to get him to come back. Hodge has sunk so low he tells Eric about Jeanetta (but not everything about her). Eric has a bright idea on how to make both their rice puddings work, and pushes Hodge off a bridge into the river. How that works, we’ll have to see in episode 2.

Episode 2, ‘Ally’s Husband’ switched the focus elsewhere, though Hodge is still pretty near to the centre. Ally is married to Fraser Minshull, a Solicitor much older than her (which sets up a neat bit of foreshadowing). Now, I used to be a Solicitor, and I still was at this time, but I was never that kind of Solicitor (I didn’t make pots of money, unlike them, either) and I certainly wasn’t one like Fraser’s colleague Dermot (Julian Fellowes, yes, that one), a startlingly pompous figure who peppers his conversation with things like, ‘my liege’ and ‘excellentissimo’, in the belief that it makes him an individual when all it does is make him look like a pratt (my, what typecasting).

Hodge has recovered from the injury that got him stretchered home and out of trouble and is planning a romantic evening with Laura: food, drink and a romantic video. Only he’s trusted Eric for the last of these and they didn’t have When Harry met Sally so Eric went with his gut instincts about what to get for a good evening in, and borrowed Zulu Dawn instead.

Eric’s starting to get a bit desperate about himself and his lack of a future (he’s not got much present either) but it doesn’t stop him trying to talk awkwardly with Private Lomax, i.e., Dawn. Caroline Catz hasn’t let her hair down yet, literally, so we haven’t seen quite how gorgeous she is, but she’s agreed to go on the Big Wheel with him at the Roker Vale Show.

Before that, she and Ally have shared a few confidences, Dawn that she’s in teacher-training but doesn’t like students, Ally about how she came to meet and marry Fraser. She was in Uni at Manchester and he was the boyfriend back home, the one she’d met when he was boating with one of his partners and the latter’s wife: Ally’s parents.

The affair was secret until the parents turned up one night before her 21st birthday and caught Fraser in bed with her. Firth sums it up brilliantly with the golden line, ‘my mother was running round Owens Park making a noise like a plumetting Spitfire and saying how I can i talk to you about this if you keep hiding behind that flowerbed?’

And the mood takes on a wholly different shade on a sixpence, as Ally adds that that’s the last words she’s ever heard from her mother.

Otherwise, the TA display at the Roker Vale Show is the centrepiece of our story. There’s Lieutenant Rundle, trainee assistant leisure centre manager under manager Pete Polson, having his rota changed to keep him well awaty: what the hell else is power for? Thhere’s Polson converting the simple safe display into a rope-bridge (Corporal Minshull: “Oh my God!!”). There’s Lloydy, hurt at being called a loser by Hodge, winning ALL the goldfish that the stallholder’s just bought from Hodge at the Garden Centre. There’s Laura, blagging the afternoon off her boss to surprise Hiodge at the Show except Hodge isn’t there, he’s gone to Blackpool (a piece of secret information blurted out by the unknowing Dawn).

Why’s Hodge in Blackpool, in jacket, tie and sunglasses?To meet the mysterious Jeanetta Scarry (Susan Wooldridge). Who’s only about fifteen years old than him.

Cue up the Milltown Brothers, see you next Sunday.