Sunday, February 23, 2020

Death Comes (Again) To The Blog

It seems, dear blog reader, that the only times we get to converse these days is to mourn the passing of some people whom this blogger (and, he trusts, his dear blog readers) really rather admired. Which is sad - in every sense of the word.
Indeed, there may be times during this latest bloggerisationisms update where dear blog readers might wonder if they've accidentally wandered into the final scene of The Masque Of The Red Death such is the unremitting gloom of much of the following. Sorry, dear blog readers, this blogger just reports the news as he gets it, you know?
Heather Couper, one of the UK's most prolific astronomy broadcasters and writers and someone who inspired many to take up stargazing, has died at the age of seventy. Heather came to prominence in the 1980s, writing and presenting two landmark Channel Four series, The Planets (1985) and The Stars (1988), as well as 1989's The Neptune Encounter for ITV, which was made under the auspices of her own production company Pioneer Productions, which she founded with her long-time friend and collaborator Nigel Henbest and the director Stuart Carter. Heather also narrated Pioneer Productions' award-winning Channel Four documentary Electric Skies (1994), about lightning, as well as the ten-part Raging Planet (1997) and Space Shuttle: Human Time Bomb? (2003). Couper has also presented numerous radio documentaries, including Radio 4's Cosmic Quest about the history of astronomy and the long-running Seeing Stars on the BBC World Service, presented alongside Henbest. She won the 2008 Sir Arthur Clarke Award for Britain's Space Race on Radio 4. She also presented the 1981 ITV children's series Heavens Above.
     Heather Anita Couper was born in June 1949 in Wallasey, the only child of George Couper, an airline pilot and Anita. She was brought up in Ruislip and fell in love with astronomy as a child and recalled a day, in 1968, when she realised astronomy was not just 'for shambolic old men in tweed jackets any more.' She went home and wrote in her diary: 'I want to help knowledge. I want to ... publicise science.' So she left her job to become a research assistant at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge. Her big break came when she was asked to appear as a guest on Sir Patrick Moore's The Sky At Night. Sir Patrick later recalled: 'She wrote to me when she was a little girl and said, "Is there any future for me in astronomy?" And I said: "Of course there is."' Heather attended St Mary's Grammar School, Northwood, where the careers mistress advised her that she could not be an astronomer unless she made a discovery. 'I wrote to Patrick Moore about it, adding: "PS I'm a girl,"' she recalled. 'He wrote back, saying that was no handicap but you did need maths.' In fact, she achieved just two A-levels - an A in geography and an E in physics - and after leaving school enrolled as a Top Shop management trainee. But she refused to give up and at nineteen landed a lowly one-year post analysing data at the Cambridge Observatories. While there she managed to get a mathematics A-level and won a place to read Astrophysics at Leicester University, where she became president of the University Astronomical Society ('an excuse to have amazing parties'). She graduated with a BSc in Astronomy and Physics, although by her own admission in an interview for the Independent (for whom she was also a columnist), she was not a model student at school or university. However, it was her passion for astronomy, having witnessed a green meteor as a child, that spurred her on. After leaving research halfway through her PhD studies at Oxford, she joined the planetarium at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich as Senior Lecturer, where she remained until 1983 when she departed to pursue her media career. Couper helped break down boundaries for women in astronomy. The year after leaving Greenwich she was elected President of the British Astronomical Association - the first woman and the second youngest person (at the age of thirty five), to hold the position. Between 1987 and 1989 she was President for what is now as The Society for Popular Astronomy. She was one of the speakers at the very first European AstroFest conference in 1992. In 1993, she became Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College in London - the first female professor at Gresham in its four hundred-year history (Carolin Crawford and Katherine Blundell have since followed in her footsteps) - where she gave public talks on astronomy for three years. And of course, as one of the public faces of astronomy on television, she inspired many girls, as well as boys, to take an interest in astronomy. She was also a prolific writer alongside Henbest, with dozens of titles spanning forty years, including companions to The Planets and The Stars, The Secret Life Of Space and her most recent books including Philips' 2020 Stargazing Month By Month and The Universe Explained: A Cosmic Q&A, published by Firefly. In 1994 Couper was elected to serve on the Millennium Commission, which awarded money raised by the National Lottery to good causes. She remained on the commission until it closed in 2009; in 2007 she was awarded a CBE for her work on both the commission and her life-long mission to promote astronomy. She and Doctor Henbest co-wrote monthly astronomy columns for the Independent, the last of which was published on 6 February. The pair even applied to be the first British astronauts, Doctor Couper told the Guardian in 1993, but were quickly rejected. 'They wanted someone technologically on the ball, someone who would know what buttons to press in an emergency,' she said. 'If something blew up, I would think, "Oh Christ! What wire goes where?"' She also has an asteroid named after her, asteroid 3922 Heather. Couper and Henbest lived and worked together in what an interviewer in 1993 described as 'a life of blissful celibacy': 'Nigel is absolutely my best friend and we share so much,' she explained. She had never wanted children: 'What Nigel and I would really like is a dog.' She died in her sleep at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, following a short illness.
The voice of the actor John Shrapnel, who has died aged seventy seven after suffering from cancer, was instantly recognisable on stage or screen over the past fifty years. He was, therefore, much in demand for voice-over work on documentaries or TV adverts. But his glory was on the stage, often with the Royal Shakespeare Company or the National Theatre, for whom he played leading and prominent supporting roles from 1968 onwards, including a clutch with Laurence Olivier's NT company at the Old Vic - Banquo in Macbeth, Pentheus in The Bacchae and Orsino in Twelfth Night - between 1972 and 1975. His NT debut came as Charles Surface in Jonathan Miller's 1972 production of The School For Scandal. He worked often with Miller: as a notable Andrey in Chekhov's Three Sisters at the Cambridge Theatre in 1976 and in Miller's BBC television Shakespeare series of the 1980s, where he played Alcibiades opposite Jonathan Pryce's Timon Of Athens, Hector in Troilus & Cressida and Kent to Sir Michael Hordern's King Lear. Shrapnel was always interesting in these 'solid' roles because he played them with such force and intelligence. He oozed gravitas and could make dullness seem virtuous, as he did with Tesman in a 1977 Hedda Gabler with Janet Suzman at the Duke of York's Theatre or, later, as Duncan in the Kenneth Branagh Macbeth for the 2013 Manchester international festival. Unusually, he was marvellous as both Brutus (Riverside Studios, 1980) and Julius Caesar (for Deborah Warner, at the Barbican, 2005). And he made a final indelible impression as an archbishop in the 2017 televised version of Mike Bartlett's King Charles III, starring his friend Tim Pigott-Smith in his final TV appearance.
    Shrapnel was born in Birmingham, the elder son of the Guardian's parliamentary correspondent Norman Shrapnel and his wife, Myfanwy. One of his ancestors, Lieutenant General Henry Shrapnel, invented the exploding cannonball and gave his name to the shards of metal produced in the impact. John was educated at Mile End School, Stockport and, when the family moved South, the City of London School, where he played the title role in Hamlet. He took a degree at St Catharine's College, Cambridge and made a professional debut as Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1965. His film debut was in Franklin J Schaffner's Nicholas & Alexandra (1971) starring Suzman and Michael Jayston and he scored a string of big successes on television as the Earl of Sussex in Elizabeth R (1971) with Glenda Jackson - he would be Lord Howard to Cate Blanchett's Gloriana in Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth: The Golden Age in 2007 - as Sir Percival Glyde in The Woman In White (1982) with Diana Quick and Ian Richardson and as Semper in Tony Palmer's Wagner (1983) alongside Richard Burton in the title role. An intensity of presence on the stage, as well as a forbidding authority, made him a natural Claudius in Hamlet, but he added something else in Miller's production of that play (with Anton Lesser) at the Donmar in 1982: a moving and almost sympathetic study of a man seriously under-endowed with imagination. This ability to convey psychological layers in powerful figures served Shrapnel well both in John Barton's ten-play epic, The Greeks, at the Aldwych in 1980, when he doubled a laconically wry Agamemnon with an imperious Apollo and, especially, as the monstrously unflinching King Creon in Sophocles' Oedipal Theban trilogy, a role he played twice - first, in Don Taylor's BBC adaptation in 1986 (Juliet Stevenson as Antigone and John Gielgud as Tiresias) and then for the RSC in Timberlake Wertenbaker's version directed by Adrian Noble in 1992. In the second of these his tyrant, with a face of granite and a voice of gravel, became strangely battered and susceptible to emotional pleading. Creon does not cave in and nor did Shrapnel, but he always found colour and humanity in his inhumanity. He played a jovial Samuel Pepys in Palmer's England, My England (1995), written by Charles Wood and John Osborne and starring Michael Ball as Henry Purcell and Simon Callow as King Charles II; a non-speaking, dog-hunting taxidermist in the 101 Dalmatians film (1996), Julia Roberts's British press agent in Notting Hill (1999) and another Greek worthy, old Nestor, in Wolfgang Petersen's Troy (2004) opposite Brad Pitt. He was a Russian admiral in K-19: The Widowmaker (2001), Kathryn Bigelow's gripping movie, with Harrison Ford, about the Russian nuclear submarine malfunction. One of Shrapnel's sons, Lex, also appeared in that film, but their blood relationship was more movingly mined in a 2015 Young Vic revival of Caryl Churchill's A Number. In this poignant piece about cloning and parenting, John played a father turning to a scientist who is meddling with genetic material, in order to clone his son, played by Lex. Later in the same year Shrapnel rejoined Branagh in his season at the Garrick, playing Camillo in The Winter's Tale and a mutinous old actor in Terence Rattigan's Harlequinade. His CV also included appearances in Merlin, Waking The Dead, New Tricks, The Palace, The Last Detective, Spine Chillers, Foyle's War, Jonathan Creek, Inspector Morse, Between The Lines, Selling Hitler, GBH, For The Greater Good, Centrepoint, Blackeyes, My Cousin Rachel, Private Schultz, Edward & Mrs Simpson, Z Cars, Space 1999, Good Girl and Justice. Outside his acting work, Shrapnel loved mountaineering, skiing and music. He is survived by his wife, Francesca Bartley, a landscape designer (the daughter of Deborah Kerr), whom he married in 1975, by their three sons, Joe, Lex and Thomas - and by his younger brother, Hugh.
Although she became one of the most reliable of character actors on stage and television, Frances Cuka, who has died aged eighty three, seemed destined for stardom when her career took off in the late 1950s with Joan Littlewood at Stratford East and George Devine at the Royal Court. For Littlewood, she originated the role of the pregnant teenager Jo in Shelagh Delaney's A Taste Of Honey (1958), acclaimed by Kenneth Tynan for acting 'with a shock-haired, careless passion that suggests an embryonic Anna Magnani.' On joining Devine's Royal Court she appeared in John Arden's Live Like Pigs (1958) - a study of working-class factions on a Northern council estate - and in Beckett's Endgame with Devine and Jack MacGowran, before hitting the West End in A Taste Of Honey and, in 1961, succeeding Joan Plowright as Jo on Broadway. In between, she was a notable firebrand in Peter Hall's 1960 season at Stratford-upon-Avon which heralded the birth of the Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing with Peter O'Toole, Diana Rigg, Dorothy Tutin, Eric Porter and Ian Richardson. She was Jessica in The Merchant Of Venice (with O'Toole as Shylock) and Maria, one of her signature roles, in Twelfth Night. Small, energetic and red-haired, she was always a powerful and sympathetic presence, especially good in comedy. But, unluckily, she missed out on the film version of A Taste Of Honey to Rita Tushingham just as, years later, having been initially cast as Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, the role was reassigned to Jo Warne (for ten episodes) before, subsequently, Barbara Windsor took over. Cuka's career seemed to settle into a pattern of welcome familiarity, but occasionally she would come into sharper focus and assert her true pedigree - most memorably, perhaps, when starring opposite Michael Crawford in Bernard Slade's Same Time, Next Year (1976) at the Prince of Wales, in which a one-night stand between a couple married to other people is replayed once a year. The discreet sexiness of the role suited Cuka, who was encouraged to unbutton more extravagantly on television as Doll Tearsheet in Henry IV, Part Two in the BBC Shakespeare series, or as the homeless Mrs Bassey in Casualty, suffering a grisly death from burns in an explosion in a shopping mall. Her last television appearance came in Channel Four's sitcom Friday Night Dinner (2011 to 2017) as Nelly Buller, the mother of Jackie Goodman (Tamsin Greig), another vibrantly awkward elderly customer.
    Cuka was born in London, the only child of Joseph Cuka, a process engraver of Czech antecedence and his wife, Letitia, a tailor. She was educated at Tollington prep school in Fortis Green and, when her parents moved to the South coast, Brighton and Hove high school. As a child, she appeared in BBC radio broadcasts as part of Children's Hour. She trained at the Guildhall school of music and drama and made her stage debut in 1955 as Effie in a murder thriller, Meet Mr Callaghan, at the Royal Court, Warrington. Two years in repertory around the country took her to Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, with whom she toured to the Zurich festival and the Moscow Art theatre in 1957. In the heady next few years she played (and sang) Becky Sharp in a musical of Vanity Fair (1962) by Robin Miller and Julian Slade which flopped at The Queen's Theatre. She was back at the Royal Court, London, for the 1965 to 1966 season playing Mary Godwin in Ann Jellicoe's Shelley, Annie in Jane Howell's revival of Arden's Serjeant Musgrave's Dance and Mrs Allwit in William Gaskill's stylish revival of Middleton's Jacobean comedy A Chaste Maid In Cheapside. Her association with the RSC continued at the Aldwych in the late 1960s in Marguerite Duras's Days In The Trees with Peggy Ashcroft, the Pinter double bill of Landscape and Silence and Seán O'Casey's The Silver Tassie with Ben Kingsley, Helen Mirren and Patrick Stewart. Her most notable film performances followed: as Mrs Cratchit in Scrooge (1970) with Albert Finney and Edith Evans and as Catherine of Aragon in Henry VIII & His Six Wives (1972), Keith Michell reprising his performance from the BBC television series. She succeeded Barbara Leigh-Hunt in Tom Stoppard's Travesties in the West End and on Broadway. After Same Time Next Year, there was a 1979 revival of NC Hunter's Waters Of The Moon at The Haymarket, in which she again kept first class company with Ingrid Bergman and Wendy Hiller. At the same theatre in 1985 she scored a delightful cameo as Boss Finley's wife in Pinter's revival of Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird Of Youth, led by Lauren Bacall. Cuka went to New York in 1981 with the first RSC production of Nicholas Nickleby and joined the 1986 RSC revival as Mrs Nickleby and a wheezy Miss Knag at Stratford-upon-Avon before touring to Newcastle, Manchester, Los Angeles and New York again. Her stage work in the 1990s included appearances in a revival of Ibsen's The Wild Duck at the Phoenix, with Alex Jennings, the 1930s French comedy Tovarich starring Natalia Makarova and Robert Powell at the Piccadilly and as Hugh Bonneville's mother in George Bernard Shaw's US war of independence comedy The Devil's Disciple. An eclectic roster of film roles included The Watcher In The Woods (1980), Bob Rafelson's Mountains Of The Moon (1990), a Gothic horror twist on Snow White (1997) with Sigourney Weaver as the wicked stepmother, Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist (2005) with Kingsley as Fagin and Closer To The Moon (2014) a Romanian heist comedy starring Mark Strong. Her television CV included appearances in Adam Adamant Lives!, Hammer House Of Horror (in the episode Charlie Boy), The Champions, The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Within These Walls, Play For Today, Sky, Zodiac, The Wednesday Play, Thirty-Minute Theatre, Knock On Any Door, Emergency Ward Ten and Minder. It was typical that she should have made her last stage appearances in North London fringe theatres as Oscar Wilde's Lady Bracknell and 'a blousy Bermondsey broad' in a play called Carry On Brighton. She suffered a stroke a few years ago and was then diagnosed with cancer. Cuka had a fascinating private life, with two significant long-term relationships with married men. She was a voracious reader and a dedicated gardener in the large ground floor Hampstead apartment she occupied for the past fifty years.
The list of Andrew Weatherall's achievements as a DJ, musician, songwriter, producer and remixer could fill a far larger blog than this. His career took him from working as an acid house DJ in the late 1980s to being a celebrated remixer of songs by Happy Mondays, New Order and Primal Scream. His production work on Primal Scream's Screamadelica (1991), creating a revolutionary mix of indie, hard rock, house and rave, helped the CD to win the inaugural Mercury music prize the following year and remains Weatherall's most memorable calling card to a mainstream audience. Then he moved on to an assortment of collaborative projects such as Blood Sugar, Two Lone Swordsmen and The Asphodells. More recently he had released a sequence of solo CDs including Convenanza, Consolamentum (both 2016) and Qualia (2017). Weatherall, who died of a pulmonary embolism this week aged fifty six, was regarded as a figurehead of electronic and techno music, but he was also a widely read man with whom a conversation might range from the Thirteenth-Century Albigensian Crusade to obscure mystics from the 1920s. He possessed a scalpel-sharp sense of the absurd which enabled him to maintain a wry scepticism about his own abilities. 'I never meant this to be a career,' he said in 2012. 'It was just a job that paid for new clothes and records.' Weatherall cited Donna Summer's 'Love To Love You, Baby' (1975), produced by Giorgio Moroder, as a record which helped fire his enthusiasm for music. His parents, Robert, a businessman and Carol usually preferred middle-of-the-road pop, but were big fans of Summer's record. 'I like that there was something risque about it ... I just knew it was something taboo,' said Weatherall. He was also intrigued by his parents saying that 'it wasn't real music because it was made by machines.'
    Born in Windsor, as a pupil at Windsor grammar school he spent his teen years going to soul weekenders and disco clubs. 'I was into Brit-funk, Olympic Runners and Hi-Tension, things like that,' he explained. 'The initial punk scene in London was a load of bored soul boys who liked dressing up and that's what I was at the age of fourteen.' After leaving home at eighteen he did a variety of jobs including labouring on building sites, working as a carpenter's mate and shifting furniture. In 1987 he moved to London, where his record collection and encyclopedic musical knowledge soon brought him many invitations to DJ at parties. Nicky Holloway ran The Trip Club at the Astoria and recruited Weatherall, who played a lot of Northern Soul and indie records. Then he caught the ear of Danny Rampling, who hired Weatherall to DJ at his South London club Shoom, which had brought Balearic rave to the UK and helped to pioneer acid house. Having earlier tried his hand at freelance journalism, Weatherall had joined with Farley, Cymon Eckel and Steve Mayes to form Boy's Own Crew, an organisation which ran raves, produced records and printed a fanzine which probed the nooks and crannies of British youth fashion, politics, football and dance culture. In 1990 Weatherall set up his own label, Boy's Own Productions, through London Records and began to find himself in demand doing remixes. A key moment was his work (with Paul Oakenfold) on Happy Mondays' 'Hallelujah' (1989) and another career highlight was his remix (with Farley) of New Order's World Cup anthem 'World In Motion' (1990). Weatherall's remix of My Bloody Valentine's 'Soon' (1990) topped the NME's list of the fifty best remixes. His connection with Primal Scream began - after he had reviewed the band's live show for the NME - when he remixed their song 'I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have', transforming it with an array of loops and samples into the masterpiece, 'Loaded'. This became the lead single from Screamadelica (partly produced by Weatherall), the band's first commercially successful CD. Weatherall resisted the temptation to cash in on the remix boom which he had helped to create. 'I could have cleaned up after Screamadelica but I'll only work on tracks I like by bands I'm into,' he said. 'If a band sound like wankers, I won't work with them.' Other artists who passed the Weatherall quality threshold included Björk, Siouxsie Sioux, The Manic Street Preachers and Saint Etienne (for whom Weatherall created the celebrated 'A Mix Of Two Halves' of their version of Neil Young's 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart'). His production work on Beth Orton's Trailer Park (1996) helped define the mix of hip-hop and electronica that became known as trip-hop. Weatherall's energies continued to expand in all directions. His Sabres Of Paradise project, which began in 1992, encompassed a label, a band and the Sabresonic club night. Two Lone Swordsmen (1996) was a collaboration with Keith Tenniswood and the pair later collaborated on the Rotters Golf Club label (2001). It was on this imprint that he released his solo EP The Bullet Catcher's Apprentice (2006), followed by his debut solo, A Pox On The Pioneers (2009). He teamed up with Tim Fairplay as The Asphodells, releasing Ruled By Passion Destroyed By Lust in 2012, while The Woodleigh Research Facility was a joint effort with the composer and producer Nina Walsh, who had been his partner during the 1990s. They released The Phoenix Suburb (and Other Stories) in 2015. Andrew is survived by his partner, Elizabeth Walker, his father and his brother, Ian.
Moving away from death on a large scale at last, dear blog reader, now it's time for a bit of this ...
... and, it's not a long list because this blogger had been working some decidedly odd hours this week.
'History is vulnerable tonight.' The best Doctor Who episode of the series thus far (and, it's had some stiff competition), The Haunting Of Villa Diodati. In which Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin wrote the first Cyberman story, Percy Bysshe went on a trip to another planet, baby and George Byron lost his heart to a starship trooper. This blogger thought it was bloody great. 'Arise like lions after slumber, in an unvanquishable number, shake to Earth these chains like dew, which in sleep have fallen on you, ye are many, they are few.' Words matter, as a very wise Time Ladygirl once said.
Star Trek: Picard also had its best episode of the series so far this week. Cos, Borg's with really big fek-off phasers ... You know, sexy.
Endeavour, having reached the 1970s. On several levels.
And, that's about it, really. As this blogger has noted, now that he's become a vital cog in The Capitalist System once more, 'having a life' has taken second place to that whole 'work comes first, I'm sure you understand' thing.
Nevertheless, being A Working Man does have some compensations, mainly in terms of this blogger being able to indulge in his other favourite hobby besides telly, feeding his stomach. Whether that is via occasional trips to the on-site Bento Box outlet for something to get him through the afternoon ...
... or, Wednesday-in-town-masquerading-as-Saturdays-in-town, which really don't feel anything like Saturdays-in-town. On account of it being Wednesday, fairly obviously. Nevertheless, they do sometimes feature an 'I really deserve this' moment. Like this one, fr instance.
Or, this blogger's first Big Boozy Lads Night Out in quite a while with his good pal, Young Malcolm. Of course, we would have chosen the wettest night since Noah took up shipbuilding to have it on, wouldn't we?
Or, a rather fine Thai sweet-chilli takeaway, after a particularly stressful days graft, ordered from a new place in Byker delighting in the name Sauce Warrior and delivered to Stately Telly Topping Manor in record-quick time.
Or, indeed, this well-delish Deep Fried Salt and Chilli Chicken Egg Fried Rice malarkey on yet another midweek-day-off-in-town-masquerading-as-a-Saturday-in-town.
Since From The North was last updated, dear blog reader, sad to report that this blogger has also suffered from more than a few general health woes; Keith Telly Topping had really bad headaches for a week or so combined with a general 'feeling bloody 'orrible' vibe, an off-on fever and a hacking cough. Then, one night about three weeks ago when waking up for a pee around 3am, something which at the time was really troubling occurred. This blogger had what his dear old mam always used to call 'a bit of a funny turn' - he felt light-headed and (briefly) passed out (luckily he was sitting on the bed at the time and fell backwards so he had a soft landing). It's called Vasovagal Syncope for those interested in the technicalities; it can be caused by stress, blood pressure fluctuations, pain or several other contributing factors. Anyway, it was - even before that but, certainly, afterwards - a night of virtually no sleep and more than a bit of worry. Because, you know, Keith Telly Topping has, by now, got to that age where whenever one gets a headache one immediately thinks, 'is that just a headache or is it a brain aneurysm?!' First thing the next morning (well, 8am, when they opened), this blogger hotfooted it up to the walk-in medical centre in Byker where he was seen quite quickly and the doctor whom he saw managed to diagnose the cause of the headaches (a really nasty flair-up of sinusitis, which this blogger had kind of suspected anyway). Various other symptoms were also linked to this (a bit of earache, chiefly); the doctor prescribed an industrial strength decongestant plus painkillers and keeping well-hydrated. She also checked all Keith Telly Topping's vitals - blood pressure was normal(ish), heart and liver were fine, but she was concerned enough about the occasional light-headedness to take a blood sample for checking. Which, thankfully, this blogger subsequently heard was normal (it is blood apparently so, that was a relief, Keith Telly Topping thought it might've been snot or something). So, dear blog reader, if you're wondering this blogger is alive. Though unlike Johnny Thunder, he is not exactly 'seein' things mighty clear today.' You may express your sympathy, incredulity or cold-hearted cynicism now if you wish!
On his day off last week, dear blog reader this blogger was watching some documentary on the Yesterday Channel (it was about the German occupation of the Channel Islands) and he heard the phrase 'nefarious skulduggery' used. Without any apparent irony being involved. There are nowhere near enough usages of that particular phrase in modern parlance, I think.
On a, somewhat, related note, current reading at Stately Telly Topping Manor is Ben Macintyre's award-winning Agent Zigzag.
Although, this blogger disagrees with Macintyre's rather dismissive attitude towards the 1966 movie Triple Cross, based - extremely loosely, let it be noted - on Eddie Chapman's wartime exploits as a double agent. This blogger thinks it was a fine movie. Historically ludicrous, maybe, but very entertaining.
After much - careful and thorough - consideration and research this blogger can confirm that the extended version of 'Chime' by Orbital is the perfect soundtrack when you're sitting on the top deck of a number twelve on the way into town on a cold Saturday morning in February. Without question. And, the ideal soundtrack for the return journey is, unquestionably, Kraftwerk's 'Ruckzuck'. Cold, glacial, imposing ... Just like the Byker Bridge, in fact.
And finally, dear blog reader, Sunday is the day of rest, they all reckon. So, thus far on this particular day of rest, this blogger has, in addition to updating From The North, done the weekly Stately Telly Topping Manor washing, cooked some breakfast, charged up the vacuum cleaner battery to do some cleaning this afternoon, changed the sheets on the bed, been to Morrison's to get some food shopping done and now, having done all that, he's taking ten minutes off before carrying on with all this 'rest.' It's a dirty job, dear blog reader, but someone's got to do it.
This blog will, again, be updated the next time that The Grim Reaper comes a'calling on some people this blogger admires. Once again please note, it's a dirty job ... and all that.