All the Fells: Robinson


Robinson

Robinson – The North Western Fells 2,417′ (67)

Date: 16 September 1987

From: Dale Head

I do not have fond memories of Robinson. It, or rather my stubborn insistence on climbing it, was directly responsible for one of my worst experiences out fellwalking. It was to be part of a Newlands Round, the Big Walk to end both that holiday and that calendar year, though it was something of a tendentious part of the day. I set off from Newlands, ascending to the Western Wall of Borrowdale and following this south and down and around to Dale Head. It started and it stayed sunny and bright, though in the morning there was a stiffish breeze that, at one point, got rather forceful. By Dale Head, the sun was high above, the atmosphere still, the heat starting to sap my strength. I had a choice to make. I was here, up above the valleys. I wanted to climb both Robinson and Hindscarth, and descend from the latter. But that meant ignoring Hindscarth to follow the ridge on, above Honister Bottom, to Robinson and then to return. Not for the first time sense came up against stubbornness and stubbornness won out. The ridge, or rather the pair of ridges, were easy enough, but Robinson’s slopes were a trudge, getting up onto, and then having to walk some way to reach its summit. I started a headache on that last slope and the sun and the lack of shelter was making it worse. I reversed my steps. With each of them, my head throbbed even more, and the energy left in my body left it. I was over 2,000′, with miles to go to get down. Not since my near-bout of heat stroke on Glaramara had I been in a worse state in the fells, with so far to go. I don’t blame Robinson, I blame me. But it was where this happened, and my memories are not happy.

Dalziel & Pascoe: s02 e02 – A Killing Kindness


Dalziel

Watching a Dalziel & Pascoe episode is a completely different experience to watching an episode of Sherlock. The similarities are there: a murder mystery, ninety minute episodes, a central pair of mis-matched eccentrics. But the two series have completely different aims.

Dalziel & Pascoe is clearly the conventional version. At this stage, whilst the series is still adapting Reginald Hill’s novels (this one again by Malcolm Bradbury), it adheres to the template set by the Inspector Morse television adaptations, the grumpy elder detective and his younger sidekick, a telegenic setting, complex crimes that take time to puzzle out. But, like Morse, the series offers a better balance between character and crime, a thing that Sherlock has, to the point at which I’ve re-viewed it, mostly abandoned.

‘A Killing Kindness’ was the sixth novel in the series (skipping over ‘A Pinch of Snuff’, the story adapted by ITV for their abortive attempt, starring Hale and Pace). Having read it gave me an advantage over other viewers, though not necessarily a good advantage, because it meant that I knew who the killer was, and his motive, from the outset, which did not help with the episode, in which identifying the real killer after a succession of mysteries, complexities and false leads, followed the course of the book and left the revelation until very close to the end.

For the first time in the series, Central Yorkshire’s odd couple, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel (Warren Clarke, playing the outrageous bully, brute and ignorant copper) and Detective Inspector Peter Pascoe (Colin Buchanan, the intelligent, imaginative, graduate copper) – to whom we can now add Detective Sergeant Edgar Weild (David Royle, imperturbable, unflappable, well-organised) – are facing a serial killer, the Yorkshire Choker.

We begin by following the last movements of Brebda Sorbey (Danielle Tilley), 18 year old Bank Clerk, buying her own engagement ring and going to the Horse Fair to meet her scruffy, long-haired fiance Tommy Maggs, but missing him because his employer is dragging him away to do a break-in. When we next see Brenda she is in the canal, dead. Someone phones the local paper to deliver a line from Hamlet.

Brebda’s the third victim. Usually, the Choker strangles them and lays them out on their back, hands crossed on their chest. Chucking the body in the canal is out of his pattern, established on the killings of Mary Dunwoodie, a 37 year old widow, and Jane Lansbury, a 17 year old girl. Two more teenagers will be killed, and laid out neatly as the story develops.

The Police are already under pressure: three killings and neither clues nor suspect. The National Press start sniffing around: Andy Dalziel’s dismissal of them as vultures is both accurate and naive. He can’t bully them like he can his local cronies. From a different direction comes Adi Pritchard (Julie Graham), local Solicitor, radical, liberal, feminist, in short everything that Andy Dalziel isn’t which she loathes with a fury. Also a friend of Ellie Pascoe. Ms Pritchard reacts to everything. unfortunately, the Horse Fair has a Gypsy camp more or less attached to it, and one of the ‘Gyppoes’, as Dalziel calls them, is a suspect. Ms Pritchard defends him and the gypsies, on the seeming grounds that because they are a minority discriminated against, any suspicion of them is based on Police, i.e., Andy Dalziel prejudice, and that actual evidence, such as the suspect admitting to robbing Brenda’s body and moving it from the lake near the campsite to the canal, is to be disregarded when set against minority status.

Actually, Ms Pritchard’s performance in this episode is considerably tuned down when compared to the books, yet though she’s a hardline radical set up to be a fall-person, both here and there she’s merely an exaggeration of important views.

So, one the one hand we have the gypsy Dave Lee. For a short time we’re pointed at Brenda’s manager, Mr Mulgan. Then there’s Mark Wildgoose, drama teacher and the local Comprehensive and noted screwer of the more attractive Sixth Formers, one of whom gets engaged to him and immediately becomes victim no. 5. There’s nothing really to connect him to the Choker apart from the accusations of his bitter not-yet-ex-wife Lorraine (another of Ellie’s friends) and the fact that this year’s School Play is Hamlet, that is until he’s found not only to have taught two of the then-victims, and known Mary Dunwoodie. But it’s not him, even though his response to even being considered is the usual television one of extreme snottiness and non-co-operation on a level that makes me want to bang him up (it’s such a fucking cliche, I loathe it).

I am surprised that no-one makes more of the odd victim out, Mary Dunwoodie. Mary was a 37 year old widow who’s lost not just her purported husband (they weren’t actually married, which was a fundamental clue to the real killer) but also her 17 year old daughter, killed in a car crash returning from Scotland with her husband. Mary was 37. Everyone else was 17/18. Yet she was killed by the Choker. If the Police had concentrated more upon how she fit into, as opposed to broke the pattern, it might have been different, because Mary was the key to where the finger ought to be pointed. And it was through Mary’s former home that Peter Pascoe got onto the real murderer.

I’m not going to spoil the ending. The murderer was insane, acting with the cold hard logic of someone whose premise is cracked, and tuning his intentions to the broken chord that had shattered their life. And the ending, in which he brought his own story to an end, was visually lyrical and wierdly beautiful, though not necessarily germane to his delusions.

I’ve not mentioned the part that clairvoyance played in this episode. It’s dialled a long way down from the book, though it couldn’t be wholly omitted. It gets more credibility than it deserves, said the sceptic, but you should read the book for the full flavour of it.

Actually, you should read the book. It’s not the best one, but we’re still in the best phase of the series, where the characters are fully established but long before Reginal Hill got bored with writing mere crime fiction and wanted to be more literary. Which, in its own way, is another parallel with Sherlock, though if you’re into crime fiction as crime fiction, the series should be up your street, for as long as they adapt the novels. After that, forget it.

All the Fells: Rest Dodd


Rest Dodd – The Far Eastern Fells 2,278′ (103)

Date: 12 September 1988/ 1997

From: The Knott/Hayeswater

Rest Dodd is not a favourite fell to walk for me. Though it doesn’t look particularly different from its surrounding tops from any distance, underfoot it is one of those fells that is tedious and tiring to ascend. Something about it is draining of the legs and the energy. I found this out from two separate approaches. The first of these was towards the end of my Hayeswater Round, coming down off The Knott, with Rest Dodd as the eighth and penultimate summit. I came down to the Patterdale path but, rather than follow it round, went straight across and down a track accompanying a wall. It was steep but easy walking for the miles I’d already covered. The dell at the bottom was narrow, at most two strides across and I was heading upwards again, still dead straight, same gradient, but I found this part of the walking very tiring. Of course, any such ascent after all I’d done that day would have been the same but there was something peculiarly draining about this slope. I got to the top, where two walls didn’t quite meet, slipped between them and made it up much easier slopes to the summit, with my legs still dragging. I didn’t stay long, enough to look out over Martindale, my personal valley, and the long peaty back of The Nab, then it was back to the non-junction and following the other wall down to the Patterdale path and onwards until the point at which I’d turn off for Brock Crags. Personally, I’d have never bothered to come back but if I were to climb The Nab – which was still trespass then – the only way to do so, to cause minimum disruption and maximum avoidance of being caught where I shouldn’t be, it had to be from Rest Dodd. So I parked at Hartsop and took the rough road to Hayeswater, relishing the sparkling freshness of the water on a sunny day that had been dusty in the confines of the gill. Then I set off up Rest Dodd’s green slopes. There was no track, nor need of one, and no especial strain in the lower part, but once the gradient began to steepen, I started contouring to and fro across. Yet even that was tedious and draining, no matter how easy I made the angle. Eventually I reached the non-junction and carried on to the summit, determined never to put myself through climbing Rest Dodd again, no matter what the reason.

All the Fells: Red Screes


 

Red Screes – The Eastern Fells 2,541′ (114)

Date: 10 May 1989/26 May 1997

From: Little Hart Crag/Scandale Head

I never fancied the direct route to Red Screes, from Keystone Pass, neither from Wainwright’s description nor from looking at it through the door of the Keystone Inn whilst consuming a welcome pint of lager and lime. The name of the game was as many fells in a walk as I could feasibly and physically manage, so for Red Screes in the beginning that was as a circuit of Caisten Glen. I came down off Little Hart Crag to the top of Scandale Head Pass and immediately marched onwards, up the broad whaleback of Red Screes, following the low wall that made route-finding otiose. It was a sunny day and a bit of a long labour by that point, though one of distance rather than difficulty, and the summit was the highest point of the day, leaving only the long retreat back over Middle Dodd. By the time I finished the Wainwrights, I had also stood at the top of each of the official passes, but Scandale Head stood out as the only one I had neither ascended or descended, merely crossed from fell to fell. The opportunity to repair that came about by happy accident. I’d gone up for the day, heading for the Northern Fells, most likely Blencathra, but found myself frustrated by low cloud. Less than three months had passed since I’d started my novel on Lord’s Seat: I’d finished it in 52 days but wanted to research certain details, one of which was the summit of Red Screes, where the climactic fight took place. So I piled south, down Thirlmere and Dunmail Raise. Rather than music I had the Radio 2 morning phone-in on. Two child psychologists had been summoned to discuss the then-new phenomenon of Teletubbies. I listened in disgust. If I’d had a mobile phone at that time I’d have rung the BBC to complain about their experts: I might not have been a child specialist of any kind but I had a better tight to talk about the programme than either of the two being paid for their thoughts, because unlike them, I had actually seen it! Still: I pulled up in Ambleside and took the familiar route to Scandale as I had done twice before for the Fairfield Horseshoe, but instead of turning off at High Sweden Bridge, I carried on up Scandale to reach the Pass summit. It was neither exciting nor inspiring, Scandale being a wholly grassy valley, without views to relieve the dullness of the walking. By the time I reached the Pass, there was cloud down on Red Screes, covering the top two hundred feet. I didn’t mind: in fact I positively welcomed it, probably the only fellwalker in the Lakes that Bank Holiday Monday that wanted cloud, because that climactic fight I wanted to research took place in low cloud and the circumstances were perfect. For a change of route, I descended Red Screes’ south shoulder, a long, slow, easy drop. By the time I was three hundred feet down the cloud had dispersed, for good. It still wasn’t too far back… but once I’ve started on my way down, I’m in returning mode, and I stuck to the path all the way back to Ambleside and my car, and the M6 home for work the next morning.

Valerian et Laureline: 13 – The Ghosts of Inverloch


Valerian

One two-parter is followed by another, and a continuity from the past two stories is maintained by the mysterious and evidently hostile planet of Hypsis. But there is also a significant continuity to a much earlier two-parter, or rather it’s first half, ‘The City of Shifting Waters’. Because our intrepid heroes, or at least one of them to begin with, are back in the Twentieth Century. A short but important jump from 1980 to 1986. The year a nuclear explosion at the North Pole melted the Polar icecap and flooded and ultimately destroyed the Earth. As Valerian and Laureline have already seen.
Once again, this episode is used to set everything up. There are multiple protagonists, whose experiences slowly dovetail, until everyone is brought together at Castle Inverloch in the Scottish Highlands. I’d also just like to add that this is my favourite cover of the whole series.
It’s a slightly-modified Rashomon approach, as each of – in order – Laureline, Valerian, Mr Albert, the Shingouz, Lord Basil Seal (a highly-respected member of British Intelligence), and Galaxity’s Chief of the Spatiotemporal Service start to assemble the edges of the jigsaw puzzle, whose centre only begins to become slightly clear after everyone gathers at Castle Inverloch, which is where we begin.
The Castle, set remotely in Northern Scotland, is an idyllic place, presided over by Lady Charlotte, an elderly aristocrat of the fictionally best kind, of the Clan McCulloch, whose ancestral home this has been for centuries. She has a houseguest, a certain red-headed young lady who rocks a riding habit and who has been here for several days, upon orders, doing nothing but occupy her time gently, going for rides with the implacably calm Lady Charlotte (who rides side-saddle).
It reminded me most strongly of Powell and Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going, which also presents Scottish lairds who enjoy the deference of the folk because their thread of continuity makes them as much a part of the land as the grass and the rocks. Lady Charlotte commands a deference that she receives for her own qualities rather than her title, and exhibits an unshakeable confidence and intelligence that is built upon that long association with the place.
Idyllic though the setting is, Laureline is worried. She doesn’t know why she is here, nor what it is she is supposed to do. She’s separated from her ‘usual partner’, who’s off doing some menial task (so there’s going to be no emotional carry over from ‘Brooklyn Line, Terminus Cosmos’).
This is our cue to switch to Valerian. It’s turnabout time: Laureline’s on Earth in the past, he’s in space in the future, on the aquatic planet of Glapum’t, ordered to capture a native Glapum’tian without any idea of why. Val’s talking to himself, there being no-one else about, which is rather an awkward device to dump exposition on us. He’s been there for days, going at things like a bull at a gate, starting with all manner of physical force, most unsuccessfully. Now he’s being smooth and subtle, by concealing a strong sedative in something the Glapum’tian will eat.
What significance they have is indiscernible at this point. The creatures resembles crustaceans, a broad shell above long feelers that it uses as legs. They are preternaturally fast, with the innate ability to instantly plot the trajectories to any projectile fired at them and evade it. Valerian hates what he is doing: this is not Spatiotemporal Agent work, and besides, whether it be for good or otherwise, he has never liked collecting native specimens.
His monologue to himself tells us the next piece of most significant information. After instructions not to return to Galaxity, as is standard, but to go to some late Twentieth Century location on Earth, all communications with Galaxity have shut down. He, and by extension Laureline, are on their own.
This brings us to Mr Albert, in London, catching a train to Edinburgh. He too is largely talking to himself, but we don’t learn all that much about the overall state of affairs, and rather more about contemporary conditions in Britain, enduring wave after wave of strikes. It isn’t helped by the printing error that omits page 13 of the story and gives us page 14 twice. There is one portentous line about the unassailable optimism for the future of two upper class ladies with whom Albert shares a carriage, a simple ‘if only they knew…’ then we’re off to the planet Rubanis, briefly mentioned in ‘Chatelet Station, Destination Cassiopeia’.
This is where the Shingouz reappear, meeting with security chief Colonel Tlocq, who has information our expert barterers want. But they have to have something that the smug Colonel doesn’t know in order to exchange, and all the stuff about his planet and its rebel forces and gangs he has already. Looks like no deal… until the Shingouz produce his extremely private medical records, showing he has the incurable Scunindar Virus.
That properly puts the wind up Colonel Tlocq, as the Rubanis Medical service is less Doctors than Thanatolgists: anyone who gets Scunindar is killed by them before it can actually affect him, but more importantly before he can spread it to anyone else in their tightly-packed population. But the Shingouz do have information to barter, namely the hidden whereabouts of the only person who has cured Scunindar. In exchange for which they want everything the Colonel has on the mysterious planet Hypsis, ‘that’s threatening Earth’.
So now we have a centre to focus upon. Why Hypsis is attacking Earth we have yet to discover, but Tlocq confirms they are taking over key concerns in an era they are interested in, that they have agents in human form on the planet and that Hypsis itself is strangely peripatetic: all he can give the Shingouz is the planet’s last known position as an artificial moon orbiting Anubil, a gas giant.
The Colonel departs, ahead of the Thanatolgists. The Shingouz head for their ship, discussing how well that went, and remarking how pleasant (and profitable) it always is, working for Earth.
Our next scene is a remote West Virginian valley, and an old building taken over by US Intelligence, because Washington is no longer remotely safe, for a meeting with Lord Seal. Like his wife, Lady Charlotte, the noble and unflappable Lord, dressed in pin-stripe suit and bearing a stereotypical moustache, is both highly intelligent, overwhelmingly secure and the kind of aristocrat that would make that part of the social spectrum bearable if it existed in real life.
He’s there to be briefed about the situation that has arisen. Suddenly, otherwise stable and trustworthy military officers are cracking up and destroying their nuclear commands. Intelligence officers are going nuts, command systems and encryption have been broken. People are having their brains scrambled by devices concealed in cheap toy gifts. Intelligence reports suggest the same thing is happening in Russia, at which point we’re treated to a cameo by two of Christin’s characters created for The Hunting Party, as drawn by Enki Bilal.
The picture is becoming clearer. But there is one final episode to draw the strings together. And this is the Superintendent, in Galaxity. But it’s a Galaxity empty of life, filled with concealing mists, that is slowly dissolving. Against all his responsibilities, the Superintendent has to flee, into time, before he too is erased ‘by the devastating process (he’s) allowed to be set in motion’.
Now we have all the straight edges in place, it’s time to bring our players together at Inverloch. One by one they arrive: the Shingouz, Lord Seal, Mr Albert, and lastly Valerian, who gets lost in the Scotch Mist but who is greeted with all her old enthusiasm by Laureline, who has now become the dominant voice in their partnership, role reversing by calling him her little Valerian.
All are gathered for a traditional evening meal, before Lady Catherine rises to inform them that Castle Inverloch has a Ghost, who appears at certain times, and who has helped… advance the family fortunes. Everyone adjourns to the isolated chapel where the Ghost appears, everyone including Ralph, which is the name the over-looked Glapum’tian gives himself.
The Ghost manifests itself by means of a Spatiotemporal Relay, which was how Laureline got here in the first place, in case we’d wondered. But the ‘Ghost’ is the Superintendent, shocking Val by being in the field instead of at his post. But he shocks Val even more, forcing him to recall the devastation of The City of Shifting Waters. And telling him that Galaxity itself might disappear, leaving the three of them as Ghosts more unreal than the Ghosts of Inverloch.
They have a new mission, and its outcome is unknown. By now, Christin and Mezieres have told us enough to know that it will be of supreme importance, with incalculable consequences. We are already sketching in the middle of the jigsaw for ourselves, anticipating the picture. Is it to be asked for Time to change? We’ll see.
I am really anticipating the next episode.

All the Fells: Red Pike (Wasdale)


Red Pike (Wasdale) – The Western Fells 2,707′ (134)

Date: 2 May 1991

From: Wasdale

There was a time when, just the four of us, my family made a desultory attempt to climb Red Pike from Wasdale, parking at the end of Yewbarrow’s long prow, entering into the valley of Over Beck and making our way along it. Red Pike was clearly visible, but it looked a very long way away, too far away from my teenage liking, and too far for the grown-ups to pursue very far, so we turned up Yewbarrow instead. It was left to me to tackle on my own, as part of, and the final top of the Mosedale Horseshoe. This rather robbed the fell of much of its appeal, as all I had to do was to walk down the back of Scoat Fell on the path that would eventually lead to Yewbarrow, diverting off the direct route to follow the short and precipitous edge to the peaked top, and then down again. This was however compensated for by falling in with a fellow walker, also descending, in whose company I descended the long ridge, talking about the fells and other things, so that I didn’t notice how far it was – though I did notice, and paused to take photos of the gorgeous view that, for a very long section, showed me Black Sail and Sty Head Passes in full. Our joint intent was to descend via Dore Head, but when we got to its top, the narrow, bare, steep channel that seemed to indicate the starting point, on which only the top ten feet or so was visible from above, kicked in my safety instincts. I left him to do that on his own. And it had been a long and glorious day, too long to consider climbing Yewbarrow, so I descended Over Beck, and then walked back up to Down-in-the-Dale, where I had left my car. It was nearly half past six, much later than I normally find myself out with my boots still on, and the light was a rich, gold colour that made the valley and the Lake as peaceful as a still photograph. The road was almost totally free of any cars, though my recent companion passed me, driving away, though not before stopping for a final chat. The light did strange things my camera could never have captured: it almost looked as if I could stretch out a hand and touch the summit of Scafell Pike. I might not have treated Red Pike with the respect it deserved, but the long retreat from it repaid me tenfold, most undeservedly.

Due South: s02 e08 – One Good Man, or, Thank You, Kindly, Mr Capra


Due South

The episode’s sub-title tells you all you need to know about where this week’s episode is going to spend it’s time. Frank Capra directed great American feelgood films, and not in the way the term’s usually used today. Feelgood was the little man, the pure, idealistic common man, standing up for what is right, in the face of the overwhelming force of the rich, the powerful and the indifferent to what is right, and fair, and just. If you’re not thinking of It’s a Wonderful Life by now, whyever not?

But it’s not that classic that the episode is mentally streaming this week, but Capra’s Mr Smith Goes To Washington, also starring Jimmy Stewart, and if you know that film you know what to expect as the episode’s climax. But, as I have often made this point when discussing the difference between Forties films and those of later years, don’t expect to be taken in the way Capra took us in, and takes us in still.

Let me set out the situation. Firstly, despite his character’s death last week, Daniel Kash’s name remains in the credits, but all the supporting Cast are offscreen this weelk, and the only link to last week is Ray Vecchio on the lookout for another green 1972 Buick and mentioning that the last one got blown up. Benton Fraser is leading a clean out at his slum of an apartment building: the Landlord, Mr Potter (and if you know It’s a Wonderful Life…) is selling it to John Taylor, a rich developer, and Fraser, who thinks Taylor will be a better, kinder, more caring landlord, is leading his neighbours in some very vigorous sprucing up.

Fraser, who shows himself to be very insightful in terms of analysing crime situations, is otherwise almost impossibly naive – and interesting combination – and has got it completely wrong. Via the sleazy, rat-like Building Supervisor Dennis (Dominic Cuzzocrea), Taylor serves notice to increase the rent by $1,000 per month. All above board and legal. The fact that no-one can afford this is immaterial. Taylor has bought four tenements on this block. He intends to buy up six blocks, raze them and build condominums. Social gentrification. Very Nineties.

Of course, you can’t raze buildings if there are people living in them so first there are the eviction notices then those wonderful little tricks landlords play, like shutting off the heat, the water, the electric and moving in a trio of thugs to terrorise anyone who hasn’t yet left. It’s all legal. I mean, it isn’t, obviously, especially the last bit but whilst it’s not a legal principle, Might makes Right is way too often a legal fact.

Fraser’s in the middle of this. He’s gotten his neighbours into this and he sees it as his obligation on that all-important moral level to get them out of it. Just because the odds are insuperable…

This is where the story goes slightly off the rails. In order to garner publicity, Fraser turns to journalist McKenzie King (Maria Bello, later to star in both E.R. and NCIS). Both he and Ray refer to her as if they have had previous dealings with her that have, what else, prejudiced her against Fraser, and besides the character is named after the Canadian Prime Minister during the Second World War (though that one was a bloke). Except that imdb reveals this to be her only appearance in the series, so it confused for a long time over why she was put forward as having appeared previously in an episode that I temporarily couldn’t recall.

Anyway. Things come to a double head when the three thugs cut the elevator cable whilst a woman and her young daughter are in the car. It’s a brilliant sequence, as the ancient machinery breaks down bit by bit in a convincing matter, ratchetting up the danger, whilst Fraser struggles to get both the girl and her mother – and finally himself – out before the car drops to the basement and the death of anyone still in it.

It’s a turning point, though we don’t have that telegraphed. The next stage is the Mr Smith Goes To Wahington bit, where Fraser, as a last resort, pleads for justice and fairness before a clearly indifferent City Council who have been greased by Taylor and, when refused so much as an answer, starts a filibuster. Thank you, kindly, indeed, Mr Capra.

Of course he wins. We haven’t watched 30 episodes of Due South by now without knowing that’s what will happen. And Fraser does indeed win over the Council to his side, implausible as that is, by telling the story of how his grandmother saved the children of an Inuitvillage from death in a fire, and sustained serious burns herself, because she insisted upon holding to the idea of doing what was right. But this is 1995, not 1940, and no-one believes such things can ever happen, not any more.

No, the real saving grace is Dennis, the sleazebag. Who saw the lift incident and experienced a Road to Damascus moment. Who comes before the City Council having ‘found’ a Lease, his Lease, granted him by Mr Potter, 10 years, no rent increases, four years unexpired. It provides the City Council with grounds, other than the goodness of their hearts, to revoke all Taylor’s permits, until further notice, thus enabling the tenants to return. Awww!

Ms King goes on her way, for no easily discernible reason except perhaps for the fact that Taylor owns her newspaper, telling Fraser not to come near her again, which he didn’t, which was a shame because, although her part wasn’t that well defined, she brought enough vigour to it for me to like her. Fraser’s neighbours rally round to help clear up his apartment which got smashed during the fight with the thugs.

But we ended on something that had absolutely no connection to the story, and which stood out like the proverbial sore thumb for having nothing to do with anything. Ray’s looking at replacing the Buick and goes to his cousin Al’s motor shop. A dark-haired woman called Angie pops in, needing her car fixing. She and Ray seem awkward with each other, though she’s the more relaxed. Ray doesn’t want to talk about her but, when she’s seen again, fleetingly, tells Fraser that she’s his ex-wife (and she’s played by Katayoun Amini, better known as Katayoun Marciano, David Marciano’s real life wife).

The episode ends on a flashback to Ray and Angie sitting in Ray’s first Buick, not-arguing about his blowing their savings on it. What it’s all about is impossible to tell. It’s true to life in that odd encounters with old fruends and lovers do occasionally happen and they usually have no bearing on what you’re doing at the time, but it’s not true to professional primetime television series. Katayoun Amini does appear once more, in this series, but not for several weeks so it’s not as if this is a case of foreshadowing – which is not one of Due South‘s bag of tricks to begin with.

Nevertheless, and having due regard to the sugariness with which any tribute to Capra is necessarily invested, I did enjoy the episode without considering it great in any way, except the elevator sequence. And I did like Ms McKenzie King.

The Infinite Jukebox: Steve Martin’s ‘Two by Two’


In the days when American singles were usually not released over here until several months after their currency in their native land, a lot of UK bands, or perhaps their labels, would seize on a hit single and have it recorded by a band they wanted to score a hit single. This is why, instead of The American Breed’s ‘Bend Me, Shape Me’, a no. 5 hit Stateside, repeating its success in Britain, Welsh blues-rockers Amen Corner were pressed into recording it, in a wilder, rougher arrangement that went to no. 3 and saved their label contract. Oddly enough, it was also a very rare instance of the British cover being better than the original.
Of course, it wasn’t just the Brits that did this. It was The Four Tops’ version of ‘Walk Away Renee’ that hit the top 3 over here, usurping the original version which was a no. 5 success in America for a little known band called The Left Banke who, for an altogether too short time, pioneered the concept of baroque’n’roll: pure, sweet pop with gorgeous melodies that were played in lush arrangements, of harpsichords and strings.
And the guy responsible for this was 16 year old Michael Brown. Yes, only 16, player of the harpsichord, arranger of the music, creative inspiration for ‘Renee’, and for a whole album of sheer gorgeous music.
In a better world, the same one as in which Honeybus were as long-lasting and influential as The Beatles, in which Brian Wilson managed to bring Smile together when it was composed, The Left Banke would have been massive. But things have a habit of going wrong. Tensions within the band, brought about by Brown recruiting a brand new line-up to record new songs led to his absence from a second album, titled The Left Banke Too, and the band dissolving in 1971.
That same year, Left Banke lead singer, Steve Martin (no relation to the comedian, and later going by Steve Martin Caro once the other Martin made it big) recorded a Michael Brown song under his own name, though in every respect except the credits it is a Left Banke song, sweet, yearning, utterly beautiful. It is a song that should be as well known as ‘Walk Away Renee’, but which instead is almost totally unknown. The fact it was just the b-side was a contributory factor.
I came to it by wandering ways. One Saturday morning, my wife and I listening to Sounds of the Sixties whilst travelling to a distant non-League ground, Brian Mathew played The Left Banke’s ‘Desiree’, a late pre-split single. I had a hi-fi with a timer in those days that recorded the entire show onto a C120 cassette, and a twin-cassette deck that allowed me to transfer songs I liked onto a more permanent cassette.
My wife also had CD-burning software on her desktop computer so, having been deeply impressed by ‘Desiree’, I downloaded the entire first album, in individual tracks, from one of the file-sharing systems that recorded bits from multiple seeds, whose name I’ve totally forgotten (Bit-Torrents!), plus all the additional Michael Brown tracks, to burn into a CD. I ignored anything from the post-Brown era of the band.
So it took me an additional decade and a half to eventually discover ‘Two by Two’, and under three minutes to fall in love with it. Like ‘Renee’, it’s a love song, but whilst that was a fatalistic lament from a man who knew his love was doomed to be unrequited, this is approached with the same heartbreak in mind, though it is an appeal from the heart to a girl that the singer loves and wants and needs, but who fears she’s slipping away.
If I showed you that I knew the way, would you call my name tonight, he asks, if I told you what I feel today, would you come and stay with me? And then without a pause the song glides into that inexpressibly lovely chorus: two by two, I’ve got to get through, slowly. And then its opposite: two by two, I’m losing you, slowly.
Call and response, a step forward, a step back. Each verse, Martin sings about if, if I showed you, if I made it clear to you, the depth of my feelings for you, would it convince you? Would it persuade you that my love is right for you? Would it make us into the Two that I believe we should be, he phrases and rephrases, hoping to find the words that will bring her to him. And two by two he swings between desperation to succeed and fear that he is failing.
Which will it be? Martin’s voice and Brown’s words – and he still only 21 at most to write this exquisite horns of a dilemma – add up to a question never answered. Our hearts bleed with the lover, and hope for his hopes to be fulfilled. Love like this, sung so sweetly, must, we feel, in a proper world be answered in the affirmative. Mustn’t it?
To think that we hide such things away, on soundtracks of crappy comedy films that are apparently now lost, on b-sides of obscure singles. There is more in music than we ever get to hear, unless we follow our passions to the point of obsession. You however can today take the short-cut.

All the Fells: Red Pike (Buttermere)


Red Pike (Buttermere) – The Western Fells 2,479′ (181)

Date: 16 September 1993

From: Buttermere Village

Some fell’s names are duplicated across the Lake District, but only Red Pike shows up twice in the same volume of Wainwright, in such close proximity. Indeed, but for the fact that the Wasdale Red Pike lies just on the other side of the ridge, the two fells might more or less face each other across the forested fastness of Ennerdale. Both fells were walked as part of a larger round, in the Buttermere Red Pike’s case the High Stile Range, and it’s just another of life’s commonplace little ironies that one should be the first and the other the last of the day. The High Stile Range was clearly going to be a last-day-of-the-holiday Big Walk and my natural inclination to anti-clockwise routes lead me to park at Buttermere Village and take the low, flat route across the valley, to the foot of the Lake and the shore path that is such a lovely walk in itself. The start of the Red Pike route came about a hundred yards further on, a track angling up and across the wooded fellside. There were lots of us heading that way that day, so much so that it was an actual procession, uphill at a constant gradient, in single file. We shared the same pace – there was no room to overtake or be overtaken whilst you took a breather – just an endless upwards, like climbing an infinite set of stairs, everyone tied to the slowest pace before us. It was a strange experience for fellwalking. At the end, coming out into the open, there was a short uphill scramble, then we turned back on ourselves to recross the fellside, on a broad and rock ledge, with ample room to go at our own speeds. I took it with heady adrenaline, relishing the openness after so long a time spent in the trees, and the ability to move at my own pace. At the end of this, I turned upwards, alongside the tumbling Bleaberry Gill and into the bowl of Bleaberry Comb and its brilliant tarn. Thus far, so good. But the cloud that had been threatening my plans and which would ruin High Stile now took over. It was swirling above, on High Stile, flirting with Red Pike. The thought of it, and where exactly it would be when I gained the ridge, cast a damper over me. I took the well-defined and angled track up into the col beneath the subsidiary peak of Dodd, considering whether to tackle that, it not being a Wainwright. However, it’s one thing after the business of the day to divert to an inessential point, when time and energy permits, and another to expend that additional time and strength when you don’t know how much of it may be required to do all the things you want to, so I tackled the long ascent direct to Red Pike, constantly watching the cloudline drift and lift and drop. The day grew greyer as I neared it. In the end, it didn’t quite conceal the summit, though it was less than a couple of yards above my head at best. And High Stile was clearly wrapped in it.

Some Books: Josephine Tey’s ‘The Daughter of Time’


tey

This irregular series began as a conscious decision to re-read certain books I had enjoyed many years ago when borrowed from Didsbury Library in South Manchester, and to consider how well, or otherwise, they stood up to my recollection of them. Since then, it’s expanded beyond the confines of the Library.
I’ve known this book for over fifty years, and owe my discovery of it to my Grammar School. In either the Second or the Third Year, most likely the earlier, we were regularly given books to read in English that were not part of the official curriculum. We would read these and write a short report on them, something intended to develop our analytical skills alongside the breadth of our reading. Of all the books I read I can only remember two, that is if you count remembering that a book was a crime-thriller featuring an underground Gang Leader known as The Funny Toff, of which I have no idea as to the book’s title or its author ‘remembering’. Nor does a Google Search for this vicious criminal turn up anything. If anyone out there can help?
But ‘The Daughter of Time’ was something else, something beyond my experience to that point, and a very highly regarded crime fiction novel, so highly regarded that, in 1990, the British Crime Writers Association voted it the best crime novel of all time. And you’d expect them to know.
Josephine Tey was a pen-name for the very private Scottish writer Elizabeth MacKintosh, who used it for a select run of eight crime novels, six of which featured Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard (though the first of these was originally published as Gordon Daviot, the name she used for all her plays). ‘The Daughter of Time’ was the last novel ‘Tey’ published in her lifetime, though one more novel appeared posthumously, and whilst her earlier ‘The Franchise Affair’ was filmed, this is the most famous book of her career.
The situation is simple. Grant is in hospital, confined to bed, after falling through a trap-door in hot pursuit of a suspect, resulting in a broken leg and a compressed spine. More than confined: he is stuck lying on his back. The ceiling has become intimately familiar. And Grant is bored, as bored as is possible for an intelligent man with an active mind. Friends bring books that mostly bore him. His actress friend Marta Hilyard brings photos, faces for him to study and analyse. Grant prides himself on reading faces, professionally. One painting catches his attention, obviously some kind of Judge, austere, sensitive, intelligent, responsible.
It is Richard III, the murderer of The Princes in the Tower.
That is what the book is about. Grant cannot believe he has been so wrong in his estimation of the face, and begins an investigation of the facts of the case, assisted as Researcher and sounding board by a young American student named Brent Carradine. Step by step they methodically work from the accepted histories to the provable facts of the matter, to try to determine if Richard, Duke of Gloucester really was one of history’s most reviled murderers, or else one of history’s most unjustly maligned innocents.
The book fascinated me on two immediate levels. The first was the ingenuity of setting a fictional detective to examine an historical crime (the BBC would copy the format for a 1972 series in which the Jack the Ripper murders was investigated Barlow and Watt of Z-Cars and Softly Softly whilst Colin Dexter would pilfer the set-up for his eighth Inspector Morse book) and the second was the challenge to the historical ‘fact’ that Richard III was a monster who had his two young nephews murdered.
Not only was this a direct contradiction of something I’d already learned via my original and nascent interest in English History – I cannot remember if we’d reached Richard III in school by that point – but I had seen at least some of the Olivier film of Shakespeare’s play on TV – ‘A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a horse!’ and this was the first time I became aware that the Official History was not necessarily the gospel truth.
Tey conducts Grant and Carradine’s investigation of the facts calmly, methodically and professionally. Grant starts from wounded vanity and is merely digging deeper, seeking detail that he expects will explain his mistake. The first established authority on the subject is Sir Thomas More’s Life of Richard III, and that’s where Tey springs her first, jarring bombshell.
Because The Sainted More, as the book sardonically terms him, is associated with the reign of Henry VII, who deposed Richard, whose claims to the throne on genealogical terms were massively stronger than Henry’s, and who needed to strengthen his claim that otherwise rested only on conquest. And Grant picks out the salient facts: that when Richard died, More was only 5. That More resided in the household of John Morton, an implacable hater of Richard, whose entire fortune was dependent upon Henry. And that there is no evidence that More actually even wrote the book, only that it’s manuscript was found among his possessions after his death, leaving open the possibility that it could have been written by anyone: his mentor?
I’ll return to that fact shortly. Once More has been discredited in the true Policeman’s manner as offering only hearsay evidence, the compilation of facts starts to grow. Tey alludes to other instances where fantasy has taken the place of fact in History, her key factor being the supposed killing of downtrodden Welsh miners at Tonypandy, that very provably never happened. Tonypandy becomes another watchword, like The Sainted More.
The evidence begins to pile up until the thrust of the book, exonerating Richard, becomes an overwhelming tide, until Tey reveals at the last her crowning point; that all of this has been exposed, at least once a century, since the Seventeenth Century. Yet Richard III’s basic reputation rides roughshod over all refutation. It’s rather like my own favourite piece of historical flim-flammery, the famous words, ‘Not tonight, Josephine!’, reputed to Napoleon Buonaparte on the evening of Waterloo, rejecting the ill-timed sexual advantages of l’Empress Josephine. This never happened, and that’s beyond doubt, because not only did Buonaparte divorce Jospehine in 1810, she had been dead for three years before Waterloo occurred.
Is Tey right? I can only say that the book convinced me then and convinces me now, although I have to allow for the appeal of conspiracy theories in taking that attitude. So far as I can find, no-one has challenged the facts she adduces, and even the necessarily cursory entry in Wikipedia confirms all the points she makes.
But facts are one thing and their interpretation another, and the greater part of The Daughter of Time is based in psychology, and the ordinary human response to circumstances. I’m not going to go into much detail, but to give two examples, there is the complete contrast between Richard’s evident and heartfelt loyalty to his family demonstrated up to mere weeks before his nephew’s intended Coronation, and there is the fact that even after the Princes died, assuming they died in his reign, there were almost a dozen other family members with claims to the throne who survived him, but not for all that long under Henry.
What we have is in fact a Conspiracy Theory, based in the interpretation of the facts and an attempt to determine the most plausible reactions of the central players. I mentioned above Tey’s broad suggestion that Sir Thomas More’s History was actually written by John Morton: there isn’t the least scrap of evidence to support that, but it’s woven into a thread as a possibility whose strength derives from everything that surrounds it.
Still, that is the weakest point Tey brings up and, in the context of the overall story she puts forward, her interpretation is completely consistent.
As with all Conspiracy Theories, I try to keep a concerned neutrality about how far I believe it. The Daughter of Time is cogent and its case is very powerful. On the facts of the case, the idea that Richard did order his nephews to be murdered is weak and implausible, both in terms of the benefits it would bring him being marginal, and the simple fact that, on any intelligent basis, any Fifteenth Century equivalent of Sir Humphrey Appleby would have undoubtedly have told him, ‘If you must do this damn silly thing, don’t do it in this damn silly way.’
Which is my sticking point.