Some Outlying Fells: Howes & Nabs Moor


Howes – The Outlying Fells 1,930′

Date: 14 September 1994

From: Selside Pike

The most easterly of my limited outings into the Outlying Fells, Howes was not a destination in itself but rather a more interesting way back from my primary target, the fell that brought me into lovely, old-world Swindale in the first place (and the last time before all road traffic except residents was barred from the valley). I was racing somewhat – to try to get the last of the Wainwrights in before the year was out, and to be back at my car in time to drive home and watch United in the Champions League. So rather than reverse my steps back to the Mosedale Corpse Road, I swung round in a wide loop south round to east, skirting the head of Hobgrumble Gill on pathless grass. Howes doesn’t stand out in any way: it’s a spur rather than a peak of any kind and from there I swung further round to head north, over the lower point of Nabs Moor, which did at least have some crags blocking a direct descent, and thence down to Mosedale Beck, within sound but not sight of its falls. The actual head of the valley was occupied by moraines, and was weirdly lower than the ground beyond it, which was an odd end to the walk. But I was back for 3.00pm, as promised to the farmer who’d graciously consented to me parking in his yard, and in good time for the match, which we won 4-2. Those were the days.

The World at War: e03 – France Falls (May-June 1940)


WAW

This was the first episode of The World at War to be truly informative in terms of events and interpretations with which I was not previously familiar. I doubt it will be the last.

Because the time period involved was so short, the conquest of France taking only five weeks from the beginning of the Blitzkrieg through the Ardennes to the beaten country requesting an Armistice, the episode had ample time to not merely trace the course of the attack on an almost daily basis, but to lay out very clearly the context of how the German Army could so thoroughly reverse its fortunes against the hereditary enemy that so comprehensively defeated it only twenty-one years previously.

The episode set out what France was as a country bettween the Wars, deeply riven by political divides between Right and Left that not only permeated Government – unstable, factional, forever falling and rising – but also the country and the people, suspicious and hating of each other. Worse still was the French Army, once so strong, but now in a severe decline. If you wanted a single word to sum up the malaise in France that made it vulnerable to German assault, it could only be complacency.

France had emerged from the First World War both strong but also innovative, in its adoption of tanks and motorised communications. As one former General succinctly put it, however, it suffered from that most insidious of failings, victory. Innovation lapsed, advances were forgotten, tanks were not developed, horses once more became a primary mode of warfare. Its Chief of Staff, General Ganelan, based all his tactics on the First World War, and was a stiff-necked fool who thought that he could not possibly be wrong. In the era between Wars he rarely if ever left his headquarters in Paris, once the attack began he removed to a chateau outside the city that – and this is scarcely credible – had neither telephone nor wireless and communicated by motorcycle dispatch riders carrying reports once an hour.

It’s difficult to watch what proved to be an almost complete display of ineptness without feeling contempt towards France but the episode, whilst unsparing, shone through with the intent to illuminate, not condemn. But it was exceptionally hard not to shower blame when the episode dealt with the ear;y 1940 Sahr Offensive.

The French Army’s tactics were wholly defensive, to sit back and await developments, to be purely reactionary, an open invitation to the enemy to take the initiative in terms of timing and thrust. But in early 1940, whilst Germany was engaged with Poland in the East, when all, and by that I mean all its tanks were on the Eastern Front, French troops entered Germany, pushing forward until they reached the as-yet incomplete Siegfried Line. And there they did nothing. They did not fire in case the Germans fired back. They took the attitude that if they weren’t causing trouble, why should we? It was a bitterly cold winter. Morale was no-existent. Then they turned round and went home. A former German General confirmed that the troops in that area could have held out at most two weeks.

But aside from this passivity, the French tactics were wholly defensive. They had constructed the Maginot Line, eighty-seven miles of linked defensive forts that, incongruously, were a miracle of advanced planning, thinking and innovation. But which stopped at the Belgian border, in case the Belgians thought France planned to abandon them, leaving a massive gap that any Army could just walk through and round.

Ganelan also miscalculated on two massive points. Believing the wooded Ardennes to be impenetrable, he placed only five Divisions, and those his least well-trained, equipped and experienced, to defend it. He assumed Germany would make for Paris, just as it had in 1914, and he placed his strongest troops, almost half his command, plus the British Expeditionary Force, to guard the route through Belgium, and sent them into that country once the attack began.

Which was exactly what the German Army expected him to do. They hit Holland rapidly, cutting it in two. They attacked Belgium. They sent Panzers through the Ardennes, round and behind the useless Maginot line, and then they wheeled north to the coast, to trap the French and British forces in Belgium, cutting them off from France.

It all sounds so simple now but it relied on France’s sclerotic systems and so it worked. Ganelan was sacked and replaced by an older man, hauled out of retrement, out of touch. Marshal Petain, a defeatist who blamed everything on the Marxists, became Prime Minister. The British forces saved themselves at Dunkirk, for which there was still some resentment even then, even from the most open and honest former French General.

Perhaps the most humanly affecting interview was with a former German General, a veteran of the First World War, in which Germany had failed to take Paris. Now the capital had not so much been captured as abandoned. Speaking of flying over the city in his private plane, he spoke honestly of his joy and exultation, and getting his pilot to land on the Place de la Concorde. You couldn’t condone his emotion, but you could understand it.

I was mildly surprised to hear practically nothing about Dunkirk but the name, but since the next episode will focus on the Battle for Britain, perhaps there’ll be more then. But this was all about the fall of France, the bitterness of and reasons for defeat, and to introduce what has been talked up as a ‘miracle’ favouring its ally would have been to shade the episode over into a partisanship it was determined to avoid.

So the real War has begun, and begun badly. It taunted us with the possibility that, even despite their failure to develop their forces and equipment and tactics and practically everything, had France’s mindset been different, the war could well have taken on a very different shape. But most of all it was about Hitler’s early successes in the West were all but fore-ordained by time, circumstance and a lack of will and spirit. A very sober story indeed.

Some Outlying Fells: Flat Fell


Flat Fell

Flat Fell – The Outlying Fells 871′

Date: 28 August 1974

From: Cleator Moor

This was the second – and last – official walk from The Outlying Fells that my family agreed to do, at my suggestion. It was a complete disaster and we didn’t even do the best part of the route Wainwright described, and I was blamed for it in no uncertain terms by my mother, in a manner not quite as savage as the one in Pooley Bridge twelve months later that put paid to me going on any future family holidays. In retrospect, I should have seen the things that would go down like the semi-legendary cup of cold sick. The walk started in Cleator Moor, not a hive of fell-walking, and by the time we’d got from where we’d parked to the bridge where we got off the streets, with everyone looking at us in our walking gear and making us feel like we were the weirdos (hey, they lived in Cleator Moor, which doesn’t say much for their normality), the atmosphere was getting chilly. At least we were into the country now. But all it was was a simple grassy walk, towards the valley of Nannycatch Beck, then up a featureless inclined grassy rise onto the featureless grassy plateau that was Flat Fell (the name should have told me something), passing a small group of placid hill ponies and reaching the – what’s the best word? Oh, yes – featureless summit, where my mother made her disgruntlement known. Ok, dumb idea from me, but the rest of the walk, first down to the delightful sheltered little nook of Nannycatch Gate, which we all agreed was lovely, and then back over the other ridge, and the higher and rockier Dent, known to be a little gem, would all be far better. This would redeem the day. Except that when we left Nannycatch Gate, the adults decided they were going to head straight back to the car, along Nannycatch Beck, a clear case of cutting their noses off to spite their faces. My name was mud. What a disappointment.

Pale, Male, Stale: The Old Tired Trope


I’m getting sick of it. Old white male who has sprent thirty years doing a job reaches pensionable age and is pensioned off. Not because it might be welcome to have a change after thirty years, not because it might just be that his attitudes and approaches have gotten into a bit of a rut, after thirty years, and maybe just a bit out of touch with now instead of 1992. No. It;s because he’s a white male, and it’s all down to ‘Woke’, whivh he promptly demonstrates he doesn’t understand.

The latest of this self-obsessed ilk is former Liverpool footballer and BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson, aged 65. I’ll be frank, I never had much time for Lawrenson. His schitck was pessimism, coupled with sarcastic humour that I never found funny. His being a Liverpool player didn’t stand him in good stead with me, and he was a notorious laugh for the years when he used to predict the Premier League re4sults on the BBC website and never, not once, no matter how poor their form, did he ever predict a Liverpool defeat.

So thirty years was a good run for someone with a fairly limited range of opinions, and the BBC didn’t exactly commit any capital crimes in pushing him out at the end of lsst seasion, especially when this was being coupled with a new format for Football Focus.

And with weary predictability, Lawrenson produces the tired trope, in fact he makes a tryptich out of it. Firstly, he’s been gotten rid of because he’s a ‘White Male’, and everyone knows there has never been a time in the history of the world when anyone was more badly persecuted than white males. Secondly, he condescends to and patronises the new Focus presenter, former footballer Alex Scott. I mean, she’s neither White nor Male and therefore has been given her job for totally illegitimate reasons. Of course, he does speak ‘in fairness’, to say that she’s ‘a lovely girl’ and is ‘still learning’, no, Lawro’s not prejudiced (but everybody else is. Against him).

And thirdly it’s all down to ‘Woke’. Woke, in the mouths of those who feel that their former hegemony, their right to exclusively dictate who and what should prevail, is an elastic buzzword meaning whatever they weant it to mean. It’s actual meaning, of senstivity to racial prejudice and intolerance can go hang. Lawrenson proves he has no idea what he’s talking about by coming up with a ‘woke’ moment from the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death whe Gary Lineker was told not to use the word ‘wall’ when describing a defensive formation. Sensitivity to an exorbitant degree, I’d go with, or just plain stupidity, but ‘Woke’? Go away and fucking read until you understand what you’re saying, you stupid ****.

I don’t like the epithet ‘Pale, Male and Stale’, which is increasingly freqently being used to castigate a culture based on the tradition of Western Culture. It’s offensivem and deliberately so, for all that it carries with it a strain of truth. But it fits Mark Lawrenson and his band of pompous brothers to a T.

The Infinite Jukebox: Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ ‘Dance Stance’


Just as was the case with The Flamin’ Groovies and ‘Shake Some Action’, once again we have the spectacle of a band not understanding what makes their own record great.
‘Dance Stance’ was the debut single by Dexys Midnight Runners, the first I and most people heard of them. It received relatively little airplay from Radio 1, who were more concerned with promoting The Q-Tips, whose lead singer was Paul Young, the big difference being that whilst both bands were soul revivalists, returning to the sounds of the Sixties, Kevin Rowland and Dexys were intent on using the sound in a new way, for their own ends, whilst The Q-Tips were just duplicating old songs. It was ever thus with Radio 1.
Nevertheless, ‘Dance Stance’ did reach the British charts, even if it was for only one week at no. 40, and more importantly it thrilled me every time I heard it, it went down brilliantly on tapes I made to dance to at parties, and it’s still as fresh as paint to this date.
Kevin Rowland hated it. He hated the production, by Clash manager Bernie Rhodes, and sacked him and everyone else involved with it, bringing in Pete ‘Eighteen with a Bullet’ Wingfield as producer for the follow-up single, ‘Geno’, which got the band their first Number 1, and their debut album, Searching for the Young Soul Rebels. For the opening track, ‘Dance Stance’ was re-recorded, and reverted to its original title, ‘Burn It Down’. Kevin may have approved much more, but to me the second version hits the ground with a dull thud, just like the Dave Edmunds-produced ‘official’ version of ‘Shake some Action’.
What’s the difference? There’s not that much difference in instrumentation and arrangement. ‘Dance Stance’ kicks off with a storming riff, blasted out on two saxaphones and a trombone, that sets the single alight, and the fire of the horns keeps returning, to break down and restart the rhythm and set your heart beating.
Rowland comes in, his voice abrasive, his words abrasive and dismissive of someone he claims doesn’t understand. This person being described is a loser, a know-nothing, ignorant, not fully understanding the meaning. For once, the lyrics don’t really matter, the sneer overlooked in the passion of the music, an active bass, a cutting guitar playing underpinning chords, and then the song hits its chorus, its chant, its real moment of fun, because the chorus is the band, mixed to a distance that makes them sound like a crowd chanting, and what this guy who’s the target doesn’t understand turns out to be… classic Irish writers.
Oscar Wilde and Brendan Behan, Sean O’Casey, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, Eugene O’Neill, Edna O’Brien and Lawrence Stern, a litany of names reeled off by the band in rhythmic delight whilst Rowland delineates different kinds of ignorance or unconcern prefixing each name.
It’s a colossal shock. Since when did pop or rock or soul concern itself with literary ignorance? But the sound’s so fresh, the beat so immersive, the chant so infectious that who gives a damn? Just dance and sing and groove on those horns until the thing fades out over a thankfully near incomprehensible rant by Kevin. Then cue up the needle and let’s go again, baby!
What you get when the song is re-recorded as ‘Burn it Down’ is, to begin with, a diffusive intro consisting of over thirty seconds of someone tuning an old-fashioned radio dial across different radio stations, talk and music, a few seconds of each, until there’s a shout from the background and a response by Rowlands, in disgusted tones, of ‘Just burn it down’, and then, finally, we get the horn riff and whilst it’s still proud and affecting, there’s something missing, or rather something’s been added, and that something is polish.
Yes, ‘Dance Stance’ is fresh, because it’s raw and the sound has an edge to it that Wingfield’s production robs completely. And Rowland’s singing is more affected, as if he’s deliberately trying to sing the lines with different tones and inflections only to be different, when he’d got it right first time. His voice is mixed further forward, to be more dominant, especially on the chorus, where the band chant close to him, sounding like two or three people, not a bunch.
Because ‘Dance Stance’s supposedly shonky production is crisp and clean. There’s a distance, a separation between the instruments. Rowland’s vocals are mixed a bit further back, and given a touch of echo, emphasising the separation from the band, both when they play and when they sing. ‘Burn it Down’ makes all the aspects of the sound into a composite, and its polish diminishes the song. The band are used to playing it by now. It doesn’t excite them the same way to be riffing on this.
Or, to put it another way, ‘Dance Stance’ has the energy of playing live baked right into it and ‘Burn it Down’ wouldn’t know what the hell to do outside a studio.
Which is why Kevin Rowland was talking through his woolly hat when he slated this song.

Some Outlying Fells: Caw


Caw – The Outlying Fells 1,735′

Date: 9 September 1996

From: Seathwaite-in-Dunnerdale

From the approach to our beloved holiday destination of Low Bleansley Farm, there were views of the eastern side of the Duddon Valley beyond. Two fells stood out, Stickle Pike and Caw, especially the latter for its elegant, pyramidical lines. When I grew old enough to start poring obsessively over the Wainwrights, I deeply resented its exclusion from The Southern Fells on its behalf, and would frequently apply to the map to try to prove that Wainwright’s arbitrary boundary line actually passed behind it, meaning it should have been included, so there. When The Outlying Fells was announced, I knew it would get it’s due at last, and was delighted to discover that it was the only top in the whole book to get the traditional ‘space-station view’: recognition long overdue. That said, it was over twenty years before I climbed Caw: the ‘official’ fells came first. It was a warm September afternoon and I parked at Seathwaite before taking the old trail between valleys known as Park Head Road, which would have led me to the Lickle Valley, if followed, where Low Bleansley still stands, proudly, to this day. Views over the head of the Duddon, with Harter Fell in the foreground and the Scafell massif in the background are never short of spectacular, and I enjoyed these to the full, both from Park Head Road and the little summit, reached by a scramble directly up the fellside from the disused Caw mines. I followed the return route in a wide loop over the subsidiary peaks of Pikes and Green Pikes, zig-zagging down the fellside in roundabout fashion, back to my car. An ambition that I’d had since the Sixties was finally realised, and I was so buoyed up that I didn’t change out of my boots when I drove back towards Ambleside, and parked up and climbed Black Fell again, just for the fun of it.

Film 2022: The Plank


Plank

Despite being under an hour in length (51 minutes, to be precise), Eric Sykes’ 1967 almost-silent comedy The Plank qualifies as a film. It was made for the cinema and I saw it in the cinema, our local cinema, the Odeon, in Burnage, South Manchester, as support film one afternoon: I cannot for the life of me remember the main film but it would have been something made for kids for I was at best twelve when I saw it.

The Plank was written and directed by the genius that was Eric Sykes, whose own brand of solemn, northern, low-key surreality was a consistent delight for many decades, under the guise of just being ordinary, everyday comedy, no different from any of the run of half-hour sitcoms of the Sixties and Seventies. Sykes co-starred in his film alongside Tommy Cooper and, in a major suporting role, the still populsr Jimmy Edwards, but also a gaggle of faces familiar from the comedy of the Sixties and before, playing numerous cameo roles in a chaotic, slapstick film whose plot was as minimal and mundane as you could wish.

Sykes and Cooper play two workmen, laying a wooden floor in a house being constructed. The room is almost done, but Sykes has cut up and burned the last plank for warmth. The pair have to go to the timberyard for another plank. Their car’s decrepit, the plank is about two and a half times longer than it’s roof and they’ve got to get it back through London traffic and people going about their business…

The film was shot entirely on location, in the streets of Barnes, in South West London. Sykes adapted and extended it from an episode of his BBC sitcom three years earlier, but what it is is a throwing together of every variation you could think of of a ‘man with a plank’ routine. If that makes it old-fashioned, and you can’t seriously argue that it doesn’t, that doesn’t keep it from being extremely funny, especially for those of us who grew up with and upon such things.

Jimmy Edwards plays a Police Constable on a bicycle in Jimmy Edwards manner, Roy Castle has asimilarly substantial supporting role as a Delivery Man who gets chucked into an old-fashioned Corporation dustcart and stinks the place out for the rest of the film. Other people, such as Jimmy Tarbuck, Kenny Lynch, Bill Oddie and Hattie Jacques, get literally only a few seconds, whilst Stratford Johns breaks ranks as a Police Station Sergeant and Graham Stark is cast as an amorous lorry driver trying to get off with an atractive young hitchhiker.

(This last scene no longer sits as well as it originally would have, in the changed sexual atttudes of comedy. It’s a re-run of the lecherous older man acting as predator which has stopped being funny, and given what has been hinted at at Stark’s private proclivities since his death in 2013, his playing the role serves only to lead it further away from the semi-innocent comedy it used to be).

The film is usually thought of as a silent film but that’s far from the case. There is a lot of dialogue, because without it the comedy wuld be left stranded, but there are no funny lines. What’s spoken is mixed down, is trivial, is purely functional, used only to help us understand the pantomime that the film consists of.

It’s incredibly silly, and there’s no real ‘story’ to it, but Sykes’ genius was able to compose a perfect ending in place of a stopping point. Much is made in the eaerly part of the film of the presence of a tiny black-and-white kitten in the house the workmen are building. It even has its own place in the credits as ‘Oh… and the cat’. So Sykes and Cooper get the plank back, they nail it in place, the floor looks perfect, jobs a good ‘un, and to Cooper’s astonishment, Sykes starts tearing the floorboards up, ripping them out, ruining the job – because he thinks the kitten has been trapped underneath them, when it’s actually sat on the stairs, looking at them, cute as a button. What happens next we hardly dare imagine…

In 1979, Sykes re-made The Plank for television, with himself in the Cooper role and Arthur Lowe playing his part. Another host of guests appeared, some of them reprising their old roles, and filmed in many of the original locations. I remember watching it without really registering my memories of the original, and trying to remember if this was what I’d once seen. No, it was a remake, largely hewing to the original, though with at least one new scene, where Charlie Drake appears as a delivery man whose face gets pushed into the cake he’s delivering (did Charlie Drake ever work with a cake that didn’t end up all over hisface?), though as the remake was 28 minutes in comparison to the film’s 51, I don’t know how it could be faithful. I enjoyed it, but a dozen years later, that slapstick style, and the old gags that sustain it, found less contemporary favour.

Sykes did other short films in the vein of The Plank, none of which I’ve seen, none of which have attained the fame, specialist as it may be, of this short and broad comedy. It made me laugh out loud, several times. What more do I ask of a comedy?

Some Outlying Fells: Boat How


Boat How – The Outlying Fells 1,105′

Date: Unknown

From: Boot

I’m not sure we actually did climb the Boat How ridge, not to its summit, and the more I think of it I very much doubt we did. It was a walk that long-pre-dated The Outlying Fells, that was done out of curiosity, and may indeed have belonged to one of those two holidays we took without Dad’s elder brother. We’d started walking, and we’d had our ill-fated expedition to Burnmoor Tarn, but trips on the Ratty were still a mandatory part of a holiday and there weren’t that many options between trains. Most of our walks out of Boot, the ‘Capitol’ of Eskdale, were up the Whillan Beck, but over the bridge, where the path to Burnmoor Tarn bore right at an angle, another route between stone walls went directly up the fellside, green and steep, and this one time we took it. It was slow going, because it was so steep, and we didn’t expend any energy on urgency, stopping frequently to survey the valley below, in which I was delighted to see clearly the abandoned stretch of the Ratty line, bypassing Dalegarth to rise to Boot and the old mines, a section abandoned because of the excessive steepness of that final climb for trains. The path disappeared once we reached the green ridge, wide and sprawling. Boat How’s summit lay to our right, overlooking Miterdale and Burnmoor, but if my memory serves me we wandered around to the left, gradually declining, until we could pick a pathless but safe route off the ridge and down to Eskdale Green. From there, rather than the road, we walked back to Dalegarth beside the railway lines, where there were verges wide enough for us to have no worries if an unfortunately timed train approached us. My pleas to divert onto the old green spur to Boot and walk that were spurned.

Dan Dare The Audio Adventures: A Debate


Dan Dare Audio

Before I listen to the latest Dan Dare Audio Adventure, I want to address a couple of things Garth Groombridge and I have been debating since I started these reviews. Garth’s reaction has been far more severe than mine with such comments as:
Ugh! No, no, please, why do people who have no love, no knowledge of, no understanding of, a well-established, beloved fictional character, let loose on writing something that pleases no one really;
Yeah, Dan Dare, but why change things? Just because they can? Annoys me; and
Why does anyone write or want to broadcast this inane crap? But, there again, changing the characters and who they were, is akin of Beeson’s equally stupid and wrong-headed changing Valerian from a time-space agent into a quasi-military Major and Laureline, rather than a fellow agent and equal, into a lowly sergeant, with Valerian only wanting to get into her panties. The word is: SACRILEGE.
Now I did enjoy the Luc Besson Valerian film, but at the time I was not at all familiar with the series, and as such wasn’t as disturbed by the changes made. I agree with Garth’s purist response to the Dan Dare stuff, but I’m less roused by it than he, possibly because I’m more resigned to it, and more cynically attuned to why something like this has been done. This was my response to him:
The short answer is that Dan Dare is, in their eyes, a valuable commercial property to be exploited. There is no point in owning the rights to him if you don’t use him. The only people interested in portraying him as he ought properly to be are Spaceship Away, and they have a licence that limits them to Hampson’s continuity (not that they’d ever want to go outside that), and that continuity restricts Dan to a dedicated audience.
The scripter who I quoted had half a point but only half. Dan is right in these constructions but everything else is wrong. It obviously made them money – the sale of the CDs, the multiple broadcasts on BBC radio, it’s all income. I was curious… But like I said, Dare is Intellectual Property and what use is IP if you can’t make money off it? That was ultimately Frank Hampson’s problem. He thought like a creator but his creation was owned by businessmen.
To expand upon that a little, I want to draw a distinction between categories of change. Almost inevitably, when a work of art is adapted from one medium to another, changes have to be made. These relate to the different media. Comics and books have the space and time to lay things out in detail. They can do background stories, situations, emotional responses in some depth because they can rely on their audience’s attention being focussed in their own time. Film and television have a different luxury: audience attention can only be given at the director’s pace, things have to be shown, not told. Stories have to be simplified, details left out, to retain the audiences’ focus. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson telescoped seventeen years of book time into about three minutes of screen-time.
If you like, these can be categorised as enforced changes. What gets Garth and my backs up are the gratuitous change, the ones unrelated to the differences in media. Sometimes these have a purpose: in his film adaptation of The Hot Rock, William Goldman reduces the Dortmunder Gang from five to four members by omitting Chefwick the locksmith and transferring his skills to Kelp, who is otherwise no more than a second-in-command: simplification.
But what possible good can it do a Valerian film to change the pair’s relationship from equal partners to military subservience? In The Devil Rides Out, what good does it do for the film to make Rex van Ryn a contemporary of the Duc de Richleau instead of thirty years younger?
The changes in the Audio Adventures are no better than this. They are in no way justifiable, but they are unfortunately explicable, however gratuitous they are. That is because the original Dan Dare, the one Garth and I respect, is sadly no longer a workable character in the Twenty-First Century.
Frank Hampson’s Dan Dare is a Fifties hero, in a Fifties-envisaged future that science and technology has condemned forever as Fantasy. He’s an optimist in an optimist’s universe that time and cynicism has condemned to be unbelievable. And in his particular roots, he is an idealised Forties character, the dashing RAF pilot brought forward into the dream of that future: it wasn’t just coincidence that his subtitle is Pilot of the Future.
Yes, he is still presented in those terms in these adaptations, and so he should be because these qualities are intrinsic to the character and what makes his stories live. To quote Garth again:
Maybe not purist purist….I could see the Dare stories modified, but within the criteria of the characters and the setting. Chang(e) personalities and you may as well give them new names and not write a Dan Dare story, but space pilot X. It’s a matter of respect for that character, and respect also for these who are fans of that character.
But I don’t see that original working anymore. Sherlock Holmes survives today because his original milieu is still valid. People are still attracted to Victorian times and Victorian crimes. The Sherlock tv series (which impressed me but not Garth) was a root and branch recreation that nevertheless kept the basic relationships between the players, transforming that into the Twenty-First Century. The Dan Dare Audio Adventures doesn’t do that. It keeps the names and nothing more, it strands the intrinsic Dan Dare in a universe whose construction is completely antithetical to his values. Better by far to leave the stories and the relationships as they were, but to do so is to try to preserve a time period in which there is no general interest, in fact for which there is a high degree of contempt, and no concurrent appeal.
I wish they would leave well alone, but understand why they make changes. I loathe the changes they make because, in rejecting the structures of the original, they reject the spirit of the original. Understanding why someone does something doesn’t mean their actions are justified.
The ones doing this for pleasure don’t understand what they’re actually doing. I think, in their way, they think they’re being creative, contributing to the legend if the character, making an addition. Instead, they’re being destructive but they don’t realise that.
As for the businessmen who own the name and the rights, they are only interested in making another penny off them, and don’t care as long as some cash comes in. Those of us who know and understand and respect the original, like Garth and I, are too few in number, and a dying audience. What these people don’t understand is that they are killing their goose, just as much as time is killing the Pilot of the Future. Dan Dare is nothing more than a label to be attached to some hard SF space adventure, to be changed on whim, without consistency to its latterday use, and that each change makes the name more and more just a label, to be be stuck on, then peel itself off as the gum decays…

Some Outlying Fells: Black Combe


Black Combe – The Outlying Fells 1,970′

Date: 29 August 1974

From: Whicham

When Alfred Wainwright completed his legendary series of Pictorial Guides in 1966, it unleashed a flow of letters from his eager followers requesting Book 8: The Outlying Fells. With his eyes on the Pennine Way, Wainwright turned his fans down, but in 1974 he complied with their wishes, producing a guide to all those hills and fells that fringe the Lake District he defined for the Guides. The number of tops thus incorporated is slightly nebulous, including as it does a dozen nameless points that some indexers include and some overlook. By either count there are over one hundred. Given that, alone and en famille, I and we were always directed to the ‘real’ fells, it comes as no surprise that my count of these never got out of single figures, but no real account of ‘All’ is properly titled All if it leaves these out, so this brief coda will sweep up these other walks.

The Outlying Fells appeared in 1974 and we bought it more or less immediately, and used it to climb the second highest fell in its pages, Black Combe, one of the most prominent fells in the Lakes, however you define it. It lies in the extreme south western corner, just across the estuary from Barrow-in-Furness, a broad, sprawling rounded fell impossible to overlook. To get to Ravenglass, and points beyond, we had to drive round two sides of it, there and back. Anyone travelling the coast road passes beneath it’s bulk. Because of its isolated position, and its prominent elevation over any fells between it and Eskdale, it commands one of the widest views in the country. It might not look elegant, and Wainwright may have ruled it out, but it was a commanding destination and we decided to climb it. The easiest route was from the Whicham valley, through which we passed every time we headed for Ravenglass. Not far short of its terminus at the coast road, the route passed a derelict school at the foot of the walk (it’s toilets were, surprisingly, still functioning, which was handy as this route obviously had no concealment for miles). The path was firm and continuous the whole way, at first ascending the confines of Moorgill Beck steadily, and then easing the gradient in sweeping curves across the upper thousand feet. There were no complications, nor, to be frank, excitements. Everything was there to be seen, all the way to the cairn, and down again by the same route, there being no alternative options, though we did visit the edge of the nearby combe that gives the fell its name before descending. It was a warm summer day with not much of a breeze which was a shame: the view might be outstandingly broad but there aren’t that many days when it was on show, and this wasn’t one of them. Haze limited the vista. Still, we had added our name to those of the millions who have climbed Black Combe, and it was our most successful family venture into the Outlying Fells. Our next trip would be far less pleasant.