Saturday, March 28, 2020

Not Going Out

When From The North was last updated, dear blog reader, you may recall that yer actual Keith Telly Topping had just gone into self-isolation due to his sincere wish not to catch the deadly killer coronavirus and, you know, die. A little over a week on and, this blogger is back to report that he is still well-isolated. The fever which this blogger mentioned he had developed last time finally broke a few days later, though this blogger was still then - and, actually, remains now - feeling more than a touch grotty; the general consensus (from NHS One-One-One) seemed to be that it's merely been a nasty bout of bronchitis rather than influenza (or, indeed, anything apocalyptically worse). A diagnosis which would certainly help to explain that bloody annoying cough which this blogger had for weeks before he locked the doors of Stately Telly Topping Manor behind him. So, it looks like this blogger not going anywhere for a bit - not that he could even if he wanted to without getting Pinched By The Fuzz for general loitering. Especially as 'coughing at a policeman' is now, seemingly, an arrestable crime. About time, too.
To be fair, dear blog reader - and not wishing to blow off his own cornet nor nothing of the sort - but this blogger was self-isolating long before it was fashionable to do so. You know, before members of royalty and leading politicians starting testing positive for this ghastly lurgy.
Of course, not unexpectedly, whilst this current health crisis has highlighted, if any highlighting was needed, how great and vastly under-appreciated many people are in life, the reverse has also been true. So, whilst we - rightly and uncynically - applaud our brilliant NHS staff and also praise those working in perhaps less glamorous industries like carers, the retail sector, transport, finance and broadcasting - those who, whilst we've all been sitting in our collective gaff feeling sorry for ourselves, have been getting on with their jobs and keeping the country from collapsing completely, let us also have a jolly big round of appreciation for others. Like, for instance, the boss of Weatherspoons who is reported to have refused to pay suppliers until the crisis is over. Big applause for you, mate. Or, for that matter, let us all stand up and salute That Awful Branson Individual who is expected to get out the begging bowl and demand a government bailout worth hundreds of millions of knicker for Virgin Atlantic. This, just a few days after asking (for which read ordering) his staff to take eight weeks - unpaid - leave. Mister Branson, you beardy git, we totally salute you.
Nevertheless, all of the sick profiteers and hypocrites happy to get their greed right on and put money before the safety of their staff, of course, fade into utter insignificance when compared to yer man Mike Ashley. Within moments of the government announcing the decision to instruct all retail outlets that didn't provide 'vital services to the public' to close, the loathsome, twattish Sports Direct boss and owner of this blogger's beloved (though tragically unsellable) Magpies grandly announced that Sports Direct would be staying open whatever the government said as Ashley considers selling cheap trainers is providing 'a vital service' to the public. Which it isn't, or anything even remotely like it although, arguably, it does provide a vital service to greed-bucket Mike Ashley's vast pockets. It didn't take long for a massive backlash against this crass misjudging of the public mood to cool Ashley's jets somewhat and produce a grovelling u-turn. Followed, a few days later, by an allegedly contrite Ashley humbly begging the government's pardon for the error of his ways and claiming he was 'led stray by older boys'. Probably. This blogger will leave it entirely up to you, dear blog reader, to decide for yourselves whether you believe there is so much as an ounce of sincerity or genuine regret in Ashley's apology or if it is no more than an example of 'I'm sorry I got caught.' This all came during the same week that supporters of Newcastle were given another timely reminder of Ashley's uncanny ability to score embarrassing metaphorical own goals. On the same day that fellow Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albinos announced payment holidays for their supporters, NUFC opted to take direct debits for 2020-21 season tickets from the bank accounts of existing ticket holders despite a good chunk of the 2019-20 season remaining to be played and no one having the slightest idea when (or, even if) the 2020-21 season will actually kick-off. Having already caused dismay with clumsy attempts to keep his shops open and imposing online price rises, it came as little shock that another Ashley enterprise has placed profits above people. Quick to publicise their own 'generosity' when giving away tickets when it suits them, the club are rather less forthcoming about plans for those who have already stumped up for match tickets for games that have been postponed. It's satisfying to know that even in these uncertain times, some things remain reliably consistent. The fact that there are many good people in the world and then, there are some who are, simply, scum being one of them.
So, anyway, dear blog reader. Self-Isolation Diary, Day Two in the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House: This blogger was, by that stage, 99.999 per cent certain it is was merely a (heavy) cold he was suffering from rather than the dreaded coronavirus - although bronchitis would not be diagnosed for another couple of days. Entertainment-wise, already Keith Telly Topping had watched the previous evening's excellent BBC4 Steve McQueen/Le Mans doc, the latest episode of Picard and then had a second viewing of the Westworld series opener (this time when this blogger wasn't half-asleep, occasionally being shaken awake by that dress Evan Rachel Wood was almost wearing), followed by one of this blogger's favourite movies, Orson Welles's F For Fake. And, all that took him up to about eleven o'clock on the first morning of self-isolation.
In the meantime, this blogger had a quick check to make sure that he had enough food in the house to last for at least a week and noted that he did, aside from a few perishables like bread, milk and eggs. So, Keith Telly Topping thought to himself, 'at least I can always get Morrisons to deliver those, given that they were making such a fuss the previous day about all of the extra driving and delivery staff they're taking on.' This blogger, therefore, went onto the Morrisons website, registered his very self and, it was only at that point, he noticed the 'minimum delivery forty smackers' bit in the small print. This blogger lives alone in the crumbling splendour of Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House, dear blog reader, so, he is lucky to get through forty quid's worth of purchases in a month, let alone seven days. This blogger did drop Morrisons a quick e-mail enquiring, basically, 'are you taking the feking piss, or what?' Keith Telly Topping will let you all know the reply when - or if - he gets one. So that, of course, meant this blogger did have to go out to ALDI and back a couple of days later. Which was no great hardship - it's only a five minute walk, after all - but it did, rather, make this whole 'avoid contact with anyone' thing a bit of a nonsense.
Self-Isolation Diary. Day Three: This was the day's self-isolation entertainment sorted. The horror.
This blogger went for The Masque Of The Red Death first, followed by The Satanic Rites Of Dracula. Then he dug out The Andromeda Strain, The Satan Bug, the opening episode of Survivors, that episode of NCIS where Tony and Caitlin get the plague and the last episode of series two of Millennium. Plus Monty Python & The Holy Grail. Just, you know, to take his mind off the current world situation.
It was only at about this stage - Monday - that many people started to realise just how really serious the whole situation had become. Bashing Boris's address to the nation was more than a touch like Chapter Eight from the Book of Revelation, was it not? 'My fellow Britons ... The Seventh Trumpet shall sound, The Horned Beast shall appear, The Temple shall be rent in twain and cast into The Bottomless Pit. And there will be a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. So, to sum up, then ...'
Boris Johnson's statement announcing strict new coronavirus restrictions was watched live by more than twenty seven million punters, according to overnight figures. Which does rather make one wonder what the other thirty five million of the British population were doing at the time? Contemplating on the inherently ludicrous nature of existence, perhaps? I mean, they can't all be working in 'vital public services,' can they? His televised address to a terrified nation was seen by over fifteen million viewers on BBC 1, while 5.7 million tuned in to ITV and 1.6 million saw it on Channel Four. An additional 4.4 million watched the thing on the BBC News Channel and on the Sky News Channel.
That figure makes it the most watched broadcast in the UK for several years, probably since the Closing Ceremony of London Olympics in 2012. The statement was also streamed live on Amazon Prime. To about four confused Grand Tour fans who wondered where Jezza and the boys had got to.
Amol Rajan's article on the BBC News website, Coronavirus & A Media Paradox explains a significant problem that all broadcasters are currently facing. 'It's obviously not the most important thing happening right now, but with millions of people working from home, ratings for television channels and streaming services are soaring. Demand for news and entertainment is surging. It's not just the BBC. In news terms, ITV and Channel Four News are seeing both the sort of absolute numbers and audience shares that, in normal times, they would dream of. But there are a couple of paradoxes here. The first is that though demand is surging, it is going to get harder and harder to supply fresh material to meet that demand. ITV has now suspended [production of] Coronation Street and Emmerdale. The BBC had already suspended Eastenders, Peaky Blinders, Line Of Duty, Casualty, Holby City and many others. Netflix has suspended all productions across the globe, which is of course unprecedented. It is impossible to overstate the anguish and turmoil this will cause for members of an industry which is largely staffed by freelancers on short-term contracts. With no job security, and no other productions to turn to because of the far-reaching consequences of the virus, this will cause widespread immiseration.'
Still, at least Wor Canny Jodie Whittaker is helping people through these dark and dreadful times. Thanks, Jodie. Appreciated.
Day Four of Isolation by Joy Division was, indeed, the first time since the previous Tuesday evening that this blogger was forced to venture beyond the walls of Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House and have a stroll down to ALDI for bread, milk, eggs, ham and ... biscuits. And pizza. This blogger was there and back inside twenty minutes, dear blog reader and managed to thoroughly avoid physical (or, indeed, emotional) contact with anyone. Which was helped due to the shop being virtually empty when this blogger got there except for the lass on the till. And even she was wearing rubber gloves (something, one imagine, which was becoming de rigueur in shops across the country by that stage). 'They'll be having you in a hazmat suit next' this blogger joked. If she saw the funny side, she kept it to herself.
This blogger was able to do all of the above on that particular day because the delivery of the new Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House kettle, ordered the previous day online from Argos, was satisfactorily completed at an obscenely early hour of the morning. She's called Kelly, if anyone was wondering ... And, she lights up blue when one jiggles her button.
Still, to be fair, telephone conversations like the following were still possible: 'Hello. Do you deliver? Specifically to Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House where yer actual Keith Telly Topping is currently self-isolating and in desperate need of some decent grub?' 'Yes sir, we do.' 'That's excellent to know.' 'And, why's that, sir?' 'Because, I really deserve this king prawn curry with egg-fired rice.'
Of course, it says so much about our society that one of the main 'oh, no, that's awful' aspects of the announcement that Prince Chas has tested positive for Covid-Nineteen and is currently self-isolating, wasn't that he might have passed this potentially deadly virus onto his parents - both of whom are in their nineties - but, rather, that he attended an event with Ant and/or Dec the previous week and, although they didn't shake hands, he was within two metres of them. Take the Daily Mirra's report for example. Or the same story appearing in the Daily Scum Express. This is the Twenty First Century we've created, dear blog reader.
Of course, this blogger was not completely isolated from the outside world. He spoke to his brother on the phone, for example. And, he is glad to report that everyone over there is fine, albeit, self-isolating as best they can, just like the rest of us. And then, there's always the interweb ...
So, this 'name one band and/or artist that you've seen live for every letter of the alphabet' thing which is currently whizzing around Facebook like a ... big whizzing thing. Okay, then. Aztec Camera, The Bodines, Edwyn Collins, Doctor Feelgood, Echo & The Bunnymen, Fun Boy Three, Goldfrapp, The Housemartins, Icicle Works, james, Kraftwerk, Lindisfarne, Paul McCartney & Wings, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Oasis, Pixies, The Quads, Rockpile, The Smiths, The Teardrop Explodes, Underworld, The Velvet Underground, The Wonder Stuff, XTC, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, The Zutons. And, typing all of that out alleviated the self-isolationisms boredom for about thirty seconds.
Mind you, it could equally have been ... Ash, The Bootleg Be-Atles, The Clash, Denim, Everything But The Girl, The Fall, Goodbye Mister MacKenzie, Hawkwind, I Am Kloot, The Jam, Killing Joke, The La's, The Mighty Lemon Drops, New Order, Orbital, Primal Scream, The Quads, R.E.M, The Specials, The The, U2, The Verve, The Waterboys, XTC, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, The Zutons. Either/or, take yer pick.
And, you know what dear blog reader? Keith Telly Topping his very self regrets almost none of the above gigs attended across the years. Well, except for The Wonder Stuff, maybe. They were a big disappointment. Get yer hair cut, hippies.
So, dear blog reader, it would appear to be that time again ...
The return of The Blacklist and, particularly, this week's episode a kind of testosterone-snorting variant on ... And Then There Were None in which guest-star Joely Richardson got to deliver one of the best lines in the history of television: 'You really know how to show a girl a good time, tell me do you do autopsies during all your dates or am I special?'
The Picard series finale. Well, that was emotional. Though, inevitably, some whinging whingers hated it. And other whinging whingers really hated it. This blogger, needless to say, thought it was great.
To celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of its first first broadcast in 2005, Rose. And, you know what, it still looks great - with, or without that Graham Norton interruption.
Ashes To Ashes repeats on the Drama channel.
And finally, dear blog reader, this blogger has always been - and will remain long after this current crisis is over - a big fan of the National Health Service; it didn't need a national emergency to remind this blogger of just what a remarkable job those people do on a daily basis. Underpaid, over-worked, often under-appreciated or taken for granted by scum politicians and those for whom paying for their own health care is no problem, the post-war creation of the National Health Service remains one of this country's proudest ever achievement and those who work in it should be safe in the knowledge that the majority of us in this country do not forget that fact for a single second. But, of course, this is the real world and we, sadly, do. And, for that reason, it very was gratifying this week to see millions demonstrating their appreciation for the NHS in loud, highly attention-grabbing ways. It's easy to be cynical about this sort of thing, of course, or to try and score some cheap political points on the back of it - and true to their usual form, the Middle Class hippy Communists at the Gruniad Morning Star did both simultaneously. But this week has, perhaps, been a timely reminder to politicians of all stripes that, whilst they can mess around with many aspects of British life, the NHS is one of the few things that will get millions marching through the street to defend it. Perhaps it's a sad indictment of us all that it's taken a national emergency of this sort to make that point so clearly but, nevertheless, now it has been made it would be a very stupid politician indeed that would ignore it. Not that the world is short of very stupid politicians, of course. Here endeth the lesson.
So, from the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House, dear blog reader, that's another  From The North update concluded. Stay safe wherever you are, stay as well as you can, keep in touch with those you care about, occupy your time as best you are able to and, remember, you may be on your own at the moment but you are not alone.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


So, dear blog reader, here is the sitch (by which, of course, this blogger is desperately trying to sound all young and 'with it' when, instead of explaining all of this to you, he could have just written out the word 'situation' in full and saved us all a lot of time and energy). Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is now, as it were, somewhat akin to Italy. In that Stately Telly Topping Manor is in effective lock-down under a self-isolationists-style(e) regime and all that. And no, it's not because this blogger is over-seventy ... Although there are days where he feels like he is.
Thing is, this blogger - as he has probably mentioned more than a few times on From The North when he's been fishing for sympathy - has had a nasty on-off cough for about four months; he had a cough, in fact, before it was fashionable amongst the Coronaistas to have one. However, on Tuesday night Keith Telly Topping was also running a bit of a temperature. To be honest, this blogger felt a bit of a fraud ringing into work on Wednesday morning to tell them about his - somewhat trivial - medical woes because Keith Telly Topping is pretty sure this is merely a cold and, in a couple of days he will be feeling fine and dandy. However, because this blogger has got a couple of potentially serious underlying health conditions (Type Two Diabetes and Hypertension) this blogger is taking, to the letter, Bashing Boris's advice and keeping the world safe from Keith Telly Topping's germs for the next seven days.
Work have actually been very good about it; this blogger is to stay off till next Thursday. Officially. So, the four walls of Stately Telly Topping Manor (and its telly) are about all this blogger will be seeing for the next week. Fortunately, he did get in a decent-sized weekly shopping trip on Saturday, the rent is more or less up-to-date and, barring a desperate need for a bit of fresh-air, this blogger has no reason to leave the gaff for a while as he recovers and makes absolutely one hundred per cent sure that hasn't got the full-blown dreaded lurgy.
It is, admittedly, a good excuse to put ones feet up and watch a bit of daytime telly. Sadly, this blogger's first port of call on days off would normally have been the various Sky Sports channels. But they are also, currently in effective lock-down. And, the Gruniad Morning Star's not-very-helpful Daytime Telly Choices For Middle Class Hippy Communists Off Work Through Corvid-Nineteen piece - which you can check out here - is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Nevertheless, there's always Dave, Yesterday, Talking Pictures and BBC4. And, this blogger has got plenty of books and DVDs. Plus, he is even, as you may have noticed, taking the opportunity to update this here very bloggerisationisms for the first time in a while (almost a month, in fact). It's an ill-wind and all that ...
When this blogger was doing his - last, for the time-being - weekly shopping on Saturday, he was shocked - shocked, he notes - into shame to discover that Morrison's were rationing the purchase of various items, including both toilet rolls and bacterial wipes. Customers were allowed a maximum of two (of each) per person. As it happens this blogger only needed one of each but it was very nice of the lady on the till to ask if Keith Telly Topping wanted to take his full allowance of the 'restricted items.'
Police have been informed about this lavatory roll shortage-type malarkey, dear blog reader. But, they say, they have 'nothing to go on.'
    Hey, be fair, this blogger is working with limited material here ...
It is, however, always nice to see a bit of Thatcherite-style enterprise culture at work in the economy. Someone spotting a potential hole in the market and, you know, going for it. Good on you, sir. More power to yer elbow. And, your sphincter for that matter.
This blogger's own bit of panic buying, Keith Telly Topping freely admits, was getting three - yes three - multi-packs of Fry's Raspberry Cream from Poundland. This blogger is, of course, thoroughly ashamed of his very self and his selfish and disgraceful panic buying actions and Keith Telly Topping intends to turn his very self into the authorities. Just as soon as he has eaten all of the chocolate, obviously.
Also on Saturday, as the current remake of Survivors continued apace, please let it be noted that this blogger only went and increased the bank balances of The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) and Mister Big Rusty Davies (also OBE) with the following purchases. Keith Telly Topping noted on Facebook with what proved to be some uncannily accurate Mystic Meg-style powers of foresight, 'I'll be needing something to read whilst waiting for Pestilence and his three mates (and, their horses) to rock up at Stately Telly Topping Manor.' This blogger also urged Steven and Russell to 'use your royalties wisely gentlemen. Though if you're planning on buying any toilet rolls, I've got some bad news for you ...'
The Moff his very self more of less immediately replied: 'Well I've got a lot of spare copies of the book, so ...' Which was funny. A day later, he posted the following on his own Facebook page along with the observation that some of his fellow writers thought he was crazy in going for a larger page-count for his Target novelisation of The Day Of The Doctor but, who's laughing now, eh? Which was even funnier.
Getting back home to Stately Telly Topping Manor on Saturday, of course, meant an afternoon for this blogger in front of the telly. However, just to reiterate, this blogger's default channel of choice on days off tends to be Sky Sports News. And, what with all football in the UK (except a handful of National League games) having been 'postponed due to an almost biblical pandemic from which we're all, probably, going to die,' Soccer Saturday was looking like being a little light on content - in the event, it too, became a victim of one of the Ten Plagues of Exodus. Though, this blogger was led to understand that Sky, at one point, were actively considering live coverage of Jeff, Kammy, Tis, Merse, Thommo and Champagne Charlie having a kick-about in the staff car park ...
This blogger's good mate Barnaby noted that one of his local pubs had, at least, been getting creative with their rearranged schedules for the big screen.
Ever the pedant, this blogger was obviously moved to point out that they had spelled 'Midsomer' incorrectly. Unless Mid Summer Murders is a new Channel Five documentary series about murders being committed on or around 21 July. You know what they say, summaer is-a cummin in ...
It must be said, dear blog reader, Newcastle city centre was unnervingly quiet on Saturday. Particularly on what should have been a match-day. This was taken just before one o'clock on the day that The Mighty Boys Of English Soch-Her didn't take on AFC Bournemouth. One had seldom seen Gallowgate so quiet.
This blogger had worked six out of the previous seven Saturdays so, being able to say 'I Really Deserve This' on that particular Saturday was jolly welcome. Particularly as, due to not only Keith Telly Topping's own self-isolationist stance but, also, the government advising everyone and their dog to avoid restaurants like this plague, it'll be God only knows when this blogger is going to get to enjoy a nice sit-down meal in an eatery of this choice again.
Or, indeed, the opportunity to pop over to the local Asian fusion gaff for a nice Bento Box as his weekly work-treat on Friday lunchtimes. Oh, the inherent tragedy of it all.
So, no more of this for a while, sad to say. Whether this blogger really deserves it or not ...
Thankfully, though, there will still be plenty of this as all of the takeaways local to Stately Telly Topping Manor remain open and, best part, are still delivering.
So, dear blog reader, fear not for yer actual Keith Telly Topping, for he shall not starve that's for sure.
Also, in the news this week, this blogger's big brother, Colin Telly Topping, made a brief-but-memorable appearance on The ONE Show being vox-popped on Northumberland Street by Alex Riley on the subject of the morality of having CCTV cameras in pub netties.
Pfft. Call yerself a TV star, Our Kid? When this blogger goes on TV, he gets his own caption! A necessary difference, one feels.
So, the world continues to turn on its axis, dear blog reader. Despite the terrible suspicion this blogger has that we've all woken up one morning to find ourselves characters in a Terry Nation-penned post-apocalyptic nightmare TV drama with a memorably sinister title sequence. Expect a conspiracy theory that this is all the work of dark forces within the BBC to start very soon. In the Daily Scum Mail. Probably.
On a slightly brighter note, real, actual living things have recently appeared in the ground outside Stately Telly Topping Manor. Perhaps, dear blog reader, this seemingly endless winter is coming to an end and those of us who manage to survive the current remake of Survivors can look forward to warmer, brighter days ahead. Or, is that optimistic metaphor a case of this blogger reading too much into the appearance of a few manky crocuses?
One lyric yer actual Sir Macca (MBE) never wrote (but, probably should have) was 'Venus and the Moon are dead bright, tonight.' As this - admittedly, rather lo-fi and shaky - photo taken on the estate one day last week when this blogger was on his way home from a late shift ably proves.
The following was spotted in the window of a - rather fine - sports book shop in town recently. This blogger doesn't know about anyone else, but he finds a (topless) mocked-up imagine of the late Sir Bobby Robson to be one of the more disturbing things Keith Telly Topping has ever seen in his entire life. And, every time he see Sir Bobby's picture from now on, this blogger is never going to be able to get this image out of his mind!
Blog rant time, dear blog reader, so strap yourselves in for a potentially bumpy ride. This blogger reckons this is a sodding ludicrous country - we get about two inches of snow three times a year and, each time, without fail, the whole bloody country grinds to a standstill. Exactly that happened on the morning of 24 February - the Sixty Two bus was fifty three minutes late arriving at Longbenton. Fifty three minutes. This blogger should have been half-an-hour early for work, in the end, he was twenty odd minutes late which, despite this being 'an act of God,' he still had to work a bit later that day because of it. The traffic chaos on Chillingham Road had to be seen to be believed (far worse than anything Keith Telly Topping has seen since ... well, about this time last year, the last time it snowed). Worse, on the previous Friday this blogger - as he usually does - had ordered a week's top-up on his bus card online and received an e-mail in confirmation. Getting on the Twelve first thing, the card didn't work and this blogger ended up having to spend another fifteen quid to update it so he could board the bloody bus. He then spent half of his lunch time on the phone to a very nice lad at Stagecoach, Matthew, who said that he was going to, hopefully, help this blogger get his fifteen quid back. In the end, that took three weeks, several very annoyed e-mails and a second 'I've ordered a week but the card didn't work so I had to pay again' type scenario before this blogger finally got a cheque from Stagecoach. And, whilst we're about it, a cheque? Who the Hell still uses cheques these days? Well, Stagecoach do, fairly obviously, but apart from them ... Anyway, back to the events of the 24 February. Add in the fact that this blogger didn't have time, all day, for a cup of coffee, or to pop over to Gregg's for a sandwich (his lunch that day consisted of two chocolate bars and a packet of Hoola Hoops) all he needed was some rectal surgery and it'd've been MY BEST DAY EVER! Hateful, horrible day. Ooo, this blogger was mad-vexed and all of a kerfuffle, so he was. You'd managed to work that out, right dear blog reader?
This blogger's usual commute to work under normal (non-'ooo, look, it's snowing') circumstances is about an hour in each direction. Which means that he gets a couple of hours quality reading time each day (that is when he's not on his mobile phone checking out Facebook or his e-mails, obviously). Recent reading material from the Stately Telly Topping Manor library have included the following ...
An hour in each direction except for one day last week, that is. This blogger left work at 7pm and, through a combination of a lift to Four Lane Ends from his old mate Paul Cook, running to - and just getting - a Sixty Two there and then, a Twelve turning up far earlier than expected in Byker, that was, by a considerable distance, Keith Telly Topping's quickest commute ever. Less than thirty five minutes, door-to-door. That'll never happen again.
Glorious Newcastle on a Thursday night last week, though. Not one but two (seemingly entirely separate) fights kicking-off outside The Raby on Shields Road, dear blog reader. And, both of them apparently involving extremely drunk women saying things like 'are ye ganna let her talk t'ye like that?' at the top of their - not inconsiderable - voices. European City of Culture delusions - look upon our works, ye mighty and despair.
And so, finally on this latest From The North update, Keith Telly Topping can start talking about television. First up, there's that two-part Doctor Who series finale. You know the drill and what this blogger thought by now, dear blog reader. And, nothing has changed in that regard.
Apparently, some of The Usual Suspects didn't like it very much. Their loss, frankly.
Though, this blogger is somewhat saddened by the news that yer actual Bradley Walsh will be leaving the show in the next Christmas/New Year special. One sincerely hopes that Graeme gets a happy ending.
This blogger has also been very much enjoying Picard. As previously noted Keith Telly Topping wasn't too sure what to expect from the series at the start (except that it would, in all likelihood, be an epic nostalgia-fest for old Next Generation fans like this blogger; which it is, admittedly, but in a good way). What this blogger likes most about it is that it's a continuous narrative, a heroes journey and a character piece all rolled into one. But, also includes examples of big fek-off set-piece violence about once per episode. Cos, let's face it, dear blog reader, one can never have too much of that.
And, as for the return this week of Westword, well, they already had this blogger long before Evan Rachel Wood got on a motorbike. Oh, sweet mother ...
Plus, the tool-stiffeningly violent gunfight at the end of the episode was almost worthy of Picard. This blogger has absolutely no idea where they are going with the Westworld story now, but there was more than enough intrigue and cleverness in the series opener to keep him in it for the long haul.
We end this latest - mostly health-related - bloggerisationisms update, dear blog reader, with a couple of obituaries for people that this blogger really admired. Which now seems to be a regular occurrence on From The North.
      Genesis P-Orridge, founding member of cult experimental rock and/or roll collectives Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, has died. The musician and artist, who had been battling leukaemia for over two, was seventy. With Throbbing Gristle, Genesis helped to pioneer the genre of industrial music. In later life, s/he became a 'body evolutionist,' proposing a new gender that was beyond male and female. The death was confirmed by Genesis's daughters, Genesse and Caresse. In a statement, they said their father 'dropped he/r body early this morning. S/he will be laid to rest with he/r other half, Jaqueline "Lady Jaye" Breyer who left us in 2007, where they will be re-united.' They concluded their post by thanking people for their 'love and support and for respecting our privacy as we are grieving.' Born Neil Megson in Manchester in 1950, Genesis P-Orridge's career began in Hull in 1969 with the radical art outfit COUM Transmissions. They once supported Hawkwind at St George's Hall in Bradford in October 1971, where they performed a piece called Edna & The Great Surfers, which reportedly went down fantastically badly with the audience. Alongside his then-partner Cosey Fanni Tutti (Christine Newby), the group played an abrasive brand of industrial rock, often combined with sexually-explicit live shows. COUM's earliest public events were impromptu dadesque gigs performed at various pubs around Hull; titles for these events included Thee Fabulous Mutations, Space Between The Violins and Clockwork Hot Spoiled Acid Test. COUM's music was anarchic and improvised, making use of such instruments as broken violins, prepared pianos, guitars and bongos. As time went on, they added further theatrics to their performances, in one instance making the audience crawl through a polythene tunnel to enter the venue. Their 1976 exhibition at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, titled Prostitution, scandalised the art world and prompted some knobcheese Conservative MP, Nicholas Fairbairn, to denounce the group as 'the wreckers of civilisation.' Shortly afterwards, Genesis and Tutti formed Throbbing Gristle with Peter Christopherson and Chris Carter, releasing their debut LP The Second Annual Report in 1977. Crude, uncompromising and deliberately malicious, it was not an easy listen - based around multiple versions of the songs 'Slug Bait' and 'Maggot Death', which detailed sadistic acts of violence and murder. Only seven hundred and eighty copies were pressed, but the LP was a key influence on the industrial movement, a more antagonistic second-cousin of punk. 'In terms of being shocking, punk was pretty tame in comparison,' said Simon Reynolds, the author of Rip It Up & Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. 'They were writing songs about serial killers and cutting themselves onstage.' Indeed, Throbbing Gristle's best-selling single was 'Zyklon B Zombie' (1978), the title being a reference to the Zyklon B poison gas used at Auschwitz extermination camp. Their masterpiece, however, was 'Discipline' (1980), a terrifying slab of minimalist electronica with some of Genesis's most extreme lyrics. Live, the song ranged in length from eight to twelve minutes, although it could be stretched out much longer: a version from one of their last shows at the Lyceum in London was over half-an-hour long. The band upped the dread on their second LP, D.O.A, but discovered a more accessible side on 1979's Twenty Jazz Funk Greats, recorded on a sixteen track recording console they had borrowed from Paul McCartney (Christopherson had previously designed the cover for Wings' Venus & Mars LP).
Two years later, Genesis formed another band, Psychic TV, which explored the singer's interest in the occult and fetishism and even scored a minor hit single with the anthemic 'Godstar', a tribute to one of Genesis's heroes, the late Rolling Stone guitarist Brian Jones. The band's output was prolific - releasing more than one hundred LPs and entering The Guinness Book Of World Records after issuing fourteen live records in the space of eighteen months. In the early 1990s, Genesis's house in Brighton was raided by Scotland Yard's Obscene Publications Squad. Having been encouraged by Christian groups involved in propagating the moral panic about alleged Satanic ritual abuse, the Channel Four documentary series Dispatches claimed to have discovered videotapes depicting P-Orridge sexually abusing children in a ritual setting. Police confiscated several tonnes of art work. At the time, P-Orridge was in Thailand undertaking famine-relief work; fearing arrest and loss of child custody upon return to the UK, P-Orridge stayed out of the country for several years, settling in the United States. P-Orridge believed that the negative press and police attention were the result of a vendetta conceived by a right-wing fundamentalist Christian group. It was subsequently revealed that the footage obtained did not depict child abuse. Instead, it was a video artwork titled First Transmissions that had been made in the early 1980s - partially funded by Channel Four themselves; the footage depicted sex-magic rites between adults, blood-letting performances and scenes of the filmmaker Derek Jarman reading passages from the work of Geoffrey Chaucer. Embarrassed by these revelations, Channel Four retracted their accusations. In the US, Genesis met Jacqueline Lady Jaye Breyer, a dominatrix, nurse and soon to be muse. Together they launched a 'Pandrogeny Project' - surgically altering their bodies to resemble each other as closely as possible, becoming a single 'pandrogynous' being named Breyer P-Orridge. The couple also adopted genderless pronouns - s/he and he/r - explaining that they wanted to create a third gender. 'It's not male or female, not either/or - just complete,' Genesis told Paper magazine last year. 'We thought it was important to remind people of that idea, and as artists, we figured the best way to do so was visually.' In 1995, Genesis nearly lost an arm while escaping a fire at the Los Angeles home of the producer Rick Rubin. S/he was awarded one-and-a-half million dollars in damages and used the money to bankroll experiments in photography, collage, sculpture and cosmetic surgery. Having been a fringe artist for years, Genesis began to find he/r work embraced by the fine art world, including Tate Britain, which acquired several pieces. In recent years, however, the musician's legacy was called into question by Throbbing Gristle bandmate Tutti, whose memoir revealed allegations of abusive and domineering behaviour. The guitarist claimed that Genesis threw a concrete block at her head from a balcony and ran at her with a knife after she attempted to end their relationship. Genesis always denied the accusations. After Lady Jaye died of an acute heart arrhythmia in 2007, Genesis continued their Pandrogeny Project and recorded a final CD with Psychic TV, Alienist, in 2016. Genesis is survived by two daughters, Genesse and Caresse and first wife Paula P-Orridge, now known as Alaura O'Dell.
The great Swedish film and stage actor Max von Sydow, who has died aged ninety, will be remembered by different people for different roles: the title role in The Exorcist, Christ in The Greatest Story Ever Told and his Oscar-nominated part as the slave-driven Lasse in Pelle The Conqueror, but his passport to cinema immortality will be his many remarkable performances under the direction of Ingmar Bergman. The tall, gaunt and imposing blond Von Sydow made his mark internationally in 1957 as the disillusioned Fourteenth-Century knight Antonius Block, in Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Returning from the crusades to his plague-stricken country, he finds that he has lost his faith in God and can no longer pray. Suddenly, he is confronted by a personification of Death. Seeking more time on Earth, he challenges Death to a game of chess. Von Sydow's portrayal of a man in spiritual turmoil demonstrated a maturity beyond his years and was to exemplify his solemn and dignified persona in further Bergman films, even extending to some of his less worthier enterprises.
Although it was the actor’s first film for Bergman, they had previously worked together at the Municipal theatre in Malmö on several plays and would continue to do so between films. From 1956 to 1958, for Bergman, Von Sydow played Brick in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, the title role in Peer Gynt, Alceste in The Misanthrope and Faust in Urfaust. In the same company were Gunnar Björnstrand, Ingrid Thulin, Bibi Andersson and Gunnel Lindblom, who, with Von Sydow, were to become part of the Bergman repertory company of the screen. He was born Carl Adolf Von Sydow to an academic family in Lund. His father, Carl Wilhelm, was an ethnologist and professor of comparative folklore at the university of Lund; his mother, Maria Margareta, was a school teacher. He attended a Catholic school before doing his military service. From 1948 to 1951, Von Sydow attended the acting school at the Royal Dramatic theatre in Stockholm; while still a student there, he had small parts in two films directed by Alf Sjöberg, Only A Mother (1949) and Miss Julie (1951). After graduating, Von Sydow, who had married Christina Olin in 1951, joined the Municipal theatre in Helsingborg before moving to Malmö, which resulted in the significant meeting with Bergman. Following The Seventh Seal, Von Sydow played in six sombre films in a row for Bergman; he was quite content to play supporting roles when asked. He had a small part in Wild Strawberries (1957) and was rather peripheral in Brink Of Life (1957), as Eva Dahlbeck's husband, waiting calmly for his wife to have a baby (which she loses), but was central in The Face (1958). As Vogler, a Nineteenth-Century mesmerist and magician, Von Sydow embodied admirably the part-charlatan, part-messiah character. It was back to medieval Sweden in The Virgin Spring (1960), with Von Sydow as the vengeful father of a girl who has been raped and murdered. In Through A Glass Darkly (1961), he was the anguished husband of Harriet Andersson, watching his wife lapsing into insanity and in Winter Light (1962), he was a man terrified of nuclear annihilation. Von Sydow refused offers of work outside Sweden, even - according to ast least one source - the title role in the first James Bond movie, Dr No (1962), though two decades later he played Blofeld to Sean Connery's Bond in Never Say Never Again. He finally gave in when George Stevens begged him to play Jesus in his epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) even managing to keep a straight face when John Wayne turned up as the Roman Centurion who says 'awww, truly he was the Son of God!' Max's next two Hollywood movies were not much better: The Reward (1965), in which he was an impoverished crop-dusting pilot trapped in the Mexican desert and Hawaii (1966), as an unbending and arrogant missionary who makes no effort to understand the islanders. Von Sydow's two sons played his son in the film, aged seven (Henrik) and twelve (Clas). The scheming German aristocrat in The Quiller Memorandum (1966) was the first of many bad Germans he would play well. Complex roles in four films for Bergman temporarily stopped the rot: as an artist subject to terrible nightmares and hallucinations in Hour Of The Wolf (1968); as a big, gangling innocent forced to face reality in Shame (1968), a powerful parable in which he was allowed to improvise some of his dialogue for the first time; as a man whose peaceful seclusion is disturbed by a woman recovering from the car accident that killed her husband and son (Liv Ullmann), as well as a warring couple and a homicidal maniac in The Passion Of Anna (1969) and as the cold cuckolded doctor husband of Bibi Andersson in The Touch (1971), Bergman's first English-language film. Von Sydow and Ullmann suffered beautifully as poor Swedish peasants trying to survive in Nineteenth-century Minnesota in Jan Troell's diptych, The Emigrants (1971) and The New Land (1972). It was almost inevitable that Von Sydow should be cast as the Jesuit priest, Father Merrin, in William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973) after having gone through so many metaphysical crises in Bergman films. His craggy features haunt the film and its ratyher preposterous sequel The Exorcist II – The Heretic (1977).
On the whole, his films tended to oscillate between the very serious and the rather silly. Among the former were Steppenwolf (1974), in which he played Hermann Hesse's alter-ego Harry Haller, a disillusioned man going on a spiritual journey; Duet For One (1986), in which he was the callous, death-fearing psychoanalyst and Woody Allen's Hannah & Her Sisters (1986), where he was a prickly, antisocial artist. Allen has said that the only two actors he directed of whom he found himself in awe were Von Sydow and Geraldine Page. On the more ridiculous side were his so-far-over-the-top-he-was-down-the-other-side Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon (1980) and King Osric in Conan the Barbarian (1982). He felt much more in his element in Bille August's Pelle The Conqueror (1987), which won the best foreign film Oscar. Von Sydow elegantly captured the simple grandeur of an illiterate widowed farmer who leaves a poverty-stricken Sweden for a Danish island with his nine-year-old son, to find himself almost a slave on a farm. Von Sydow reconnected with Bergman when he played the latter's maternal grandfather in The Best Intentions (1992), directed by August from Bergman's autobiographical script. However, his portrayal of the Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun in the biopic Hamsun (1996), directed by Troell, was far too sympathetic for a man who tried to rationalise his admiration for Hitler. 'Why me?' was Von Sydow's reaction to the director Jonathan Miller, after he had been cast as Prospero in The Tempest at the Old Vic, in 1988. 'Do you have to cross the river to fetch water when you have so many wonderful actors in England?' But Miller was entirely justified in his choice because Von Sydow brought the aura of the Bergman films to the role as well as authority and warmth. In 1988, he directed Katinka, a simple tale about a woman stifled by a loveless marriage, which made little impact. Von Sydow was glad to have made it, but said that he would never direct again. He continued to alternate between mainstream Hollywood (he was in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report in 2002) and more challenging material such as The Diving Bell & The Butterfly (2007), mostly in small scene-stealing roles. He was a sinister German doctor in Martin Scorsese's psychological thriller Shutter Island (2010); a mysterious mute in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011), for which he received his second Oscar nomination; Lor San Tekka in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and the Three-Eyed Raven in the sixth series of Game Of Thrones (2016). His last film role came in Thomas Vinterberg's Kursk (2018). He and Olin divorced in 1979; in 1997 he married the French film-maker Catherine Brelet and they settled in Paris (Von Sydow became a French citizen in 2002). He is survived by Brelet and their sons, Cédric and Yvan and by Henrik and Clas, the sons of his first marriage.