Lucky Jim starring Ian Carmichael

One of the blessings of social distancing is that I have been looking around for films to watch at home. I stumbled on “Lucky Jim“, a 1957 Boulting Brothers classic comedy starring Ian Carmichael.

Despite being a Carmichael fan, I hadn’t previously watched this one. It is a real treat. As usual John Boulting directs it beautifully, the writing of Kingsley Amis (who wrote the novel on which the film is based), with screenplay and dialogue by Patrick Campbell and Jeffrey Dell is superb. The music by John Addison is very lively and includes the leitmotif of “O Lucky Jim” sung by  Al Fernhead, from the song “Ah, lucky Jim” by Bowers–Horwitz song which inspired the title of the book and therefore the film.

But the highlight of the film is Ian Carmichael, as James Dixon, giving a lecture on “Merrie England” while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Carmichael made a career of this sort of stuff, but this is the finest example of Carmichael’s wild scenes. A real treat. This is definitely a contender for the best performance by Ian Carmichael and best film by the Boulting Brothers – who churned out quite a few in the fifties and sixties.

You can still see the film until 7th April 2020 on BBC iPlayer and here is a glimpse of that “Merrie England” scene:

When a BBC announcer used fictional gale warnings to fill time

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I have just finished reading “The Shipping Forecast” by Nic Compton. The publisher, Ebury, sums the book up as follows:

The rhythmic lullaby of `North Utsire, South Utsire’ has been lulling the nation’s insomniacs to sleep for over 90 years. It has inspired songs, poetry and imaginations across the globe – as well as providing a very real service for the nation’s seafarers who might fall prey to storms and gales. In 1995, a plan to move the late-night broadcast by just 12 minutes caused a national outcry and was ultimately scrapped.

Published with Radio 4 and the Met Office, The Shipping Forecast is the official miscellany for seafarers and armchair travellers alike.

From the places themselves – how they got their names, what’s happened there through the ages – to the poems and parodies that it’s inspired, this is a beautifully evocative tribute to one of Britain’s – and Radio 4’s – best-loved broadcasts.

It is a great book, enlivened by the comments of and about Radio 4 announcers.

Veteran Radio 4 announcer and newsreader, Eugene Fraser pops up quite a lot. He was a wonderful announcer with a fantastic voice. Interestingly, despite the posh Oxford accent, he is Polynesian and was born in Fiji. His son is the playwright Toa Fraser.

Anyway, it appears that old Eugene, described as “the ultimate Shipping Forecast legend” had some party tricks. Number one is described by announcer Andrew Crawford 1988-99:

(He alternated) line of shipping forecast (fader open) with stages of a shaggy dog story (fader closed). It used to generate quite an audience hoping he’d muck it up. Legend has it that he never did.

Eugene Fraser also used to set light to Shipping Forecast scripts while someone else was reading them. One of his victims was Peter Donaldson who, apparently, managed to read the whole forecast without missing a beat, despite it disappearing into flames while he read it.

But my favourite is this one of Eugene’s glorious party tricks as described by Catriona Chase, Radio 4 announcer 1988-93:

(He) had a tendency to regard gale warnings as convenient “fill” material. I once saw him back-announce a programme, look at the clock and then realise there was still half a minute to go before the pips. Without batting an eyelid, he launched into an entirely fictitious “warning of gales” complete with invented wind strength and speed, finishing with a portentous “expected soon”. He didn’t specify a sea area, and I imagined ships all over the world frantically scanning their horizons and wondering if the storm was headed their way.

Photos of Newbury and Newburyport in Massachusetts, USA

I found this passage in a book called “Old Newbury” in the Newburyport Library (which is quite magnificent). It says: “From the very beginning, Newbury was Reverend Parker’s town, named for the community in England where he had last preached, and it was his family and neighbors who would form the core of the new settlement along the banks of the Quascacunquen River.” (now also called “Parker River”).

The destination board of Boston North railway station has familiar names for residents of Berkshire and Dorset in England.

The sign at Newburyport railway station. Newburyport, Massachusetts is a big maritime town with lots of 19th century buidlings. It is very neat and pretty – obviously wealthy. It has a museum and library, both of which bear witness to the migration of settlers from Wiltshire and Berkshire in the 17th century.

The main street in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Newburyport marina fronting onto the Parker River.

Newbury, Massachusetts is a short walk away and, by contrast with Newburyport, is a small, quiet village. It has this fine Lutheran church. The sign says that the church has gathered regularly since 1635.

The “First Parish Burying Ground” is opposite the Lutheran church and contains graves with names familiar to residents of Wiltshire and Berkshire in England such as “Knight”, “Little” and “Freeman”.

The Old Newbury Fire Museum in Newbury, Massachusetts

The Old Newbury Museum in Newburyport

Sign for the Old Newbury Museum.

This finely decorated child’s cot is in the Old Newbury Museum and is said to have come across on one of the ships which brought the settlers across from England. I think it was the “Mary and Jane” ship but I cannot recall the name for certain.

Newbury Street in Boston, Massachusetts, is a very wealthy street with many up-market restaurants and fine clothes shops. It was so named to celebrate the Roundheads winning the 1643 Battle of Newbury. The Puritans who inhabited Boston were delighted with this victory.

Strewth! How ABC Australia make their radio news sound very important!

ABC Australia

This is a very annorakky radio post.

ABC local radio in Australia is superb. It is a vast network providing essential information to Australians all over their huge country. At the moment, they are providing an incredible service concerning the fires.

I particularly like the way they showcase their hourly (top-of-the-hour) news. They have this very majestic fanfare before it, which just happens to be a tune called “Majestic Fanfare”, which they have used for decades.

But one little nuance which they apply actually makes the news sound more important. They have a three second gap before the news fanfare and a three second gap after the news has finished. It really is a master stroke. And it is, I guess, counter-intuitive, as the instinct of most radio folks is to fill every gap.

Here is the short fanfare they use for their hourly news:

….And here is a fuller version with the orchestra playing it (including quite a bit of “hamming it up” by the percussion section!):

Listen to what Australian shoppers are listening to now!

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…That is probably not an entirely attractive proposition, but I find listening to Coles radio grimly fascinating.

Coles supermarkets, along with Woolworths (yes, Woolies!) account for 80% of Australian supermarket activity.

So, Coles are big!

And when you push your trolley round a Coles, you hear their radio. Coles Radio. Cheery music interspersed with news of this week’s special offers.

Asda FM, in the UK, is allegedly available on the internet, although I couldn’t find it.

But Coles radio is available on the internet, not just once, but in seven different flavours, one for each of the main states of Australia.

I have listened this morning to Queensland Coles Radio. “A beautiful girl in an ugly Christmas sweater” by Garth Brooks was playing.

Now, I’m listening to Northern Territory Coles Radio and “Your kiss is on your list” by Hall and Oates. Lime Cordiale and “Robbery” followed, which seemed a half decent track.

All this may not be your cup of tea, but it’s worth sampling Coles Radio, if only out of curiosity.

PS. Coles NT are now playing “Ruby” from the Kaiser Chiefs. Back of the net!

Dee Time from 1968 with rare footage of The Equals

This video (below) is a rare full length recording of Dee Time from 1968. It was broadcast by BBC4 in 2004.

Dee Time was introduced by Simon Dee, a former pirate radio deejay, who became phenomenally successful on television for a short period before putting the “crash” in “crash and burn”.

On this show, you can see why he was very successful – his show was an attractive mix of music, topicality and star interviews, punctuated by his jokes.

But you can also see why his persona was somewhat brittle. Some of his jokes fall a bit flat or don’t come out right. He is Bob Monkhouse without the thousands of hours of preparation that the latter used to put into his performances.

That said, Dee Time was a real trail blazer for TV interview programmes. Incredibly it was live.

Guests on this edition are Susanna York, Lionel Jeffries (a very funny segment) and the The Equals (singing “Softly, Softly”).

The Equals, with lead singer Eddy Grant, deserve more credit in my view. They were the first mainly black British group to have a number one, with “Baby Come Back”.

The accolade for the first British black band to have a number one goes to The Real Thing. It is a shame that The Equals don’t get creditted for this achievement as they had a number one eight years before the Real Thing. It’s because the Equals were not wholly black, three out of their five members were black.

TV weatherman, who is Bob Monkhouse’s secret love child, rocks up down under

Back in 2007 I blogged about BBC TV weatherman, Dan Corbett, positing that he is Bob Monkhouse’s secret love child:

The slick hand movements. The comedic, chummy mid-Atlantic delivery. The clever little lines. The physical features.

It’s all there.

The little pointy hand gesture at the end is the clincher.

I hadn’t thought about Dan Corbett at all for twelve years, but I suppose in the back of my mind I had wondered:

Whatever happened to the TV weatherman who is Bob Monkhouse’s secret love child?

Well, imagine my surprise when, recently watching New Zealand’s prime 6pm national TV news show, lo and behold, up pops the cheery weatherman in flight above a contor map of New Zealand!