Saturday, June 20, 2020

"When Sorrows Come, They Come Not Single Spies But In Battalions"

So another From The North bloggerisationisms update is - very much - upon us, dear blog reader. Which is always nice. Well, usually nice. Well, sometimes ... Anyway, how are you all doing out there in Self-Isolated Blogland in these dark, troubled and troubling times? As well as can expected, this blogger hopes. Keith Telly Topping his very self is, sad to report ... well, broken, basically. But, more - much, much more - on that malarkey later.
Firstly, the really important news. Or not, as the case may be. 'Will Doctor Who series thirteen be delayed by the lockdown?' asked the Radio Times' Huw Fullerton breathlessly in an annoyingly nothing example of space-filling recently. To which question, the sodding obvious answer is 'well, of course it will be you stupid glake,' just like more-or-less everything else on the planet - in most aspects of life - which don't involve the use of PPE. This blogger doesn't know whether you've noticed, Huwie me auld cock sparra, but the world is currently still stuck in the middle of a global pandemic of the kind we haven't seen in a Century. TV production has, as a consequence, taken something of a back-seat. 'It's been the question on many a Whovian's lips ever since the coronavirus pandemic forced various TV productions to shut down,' continued Fullerton. Which, if for no other reason than his use of the hated and hateful 'W' word puts Fullerton jolly high up on this blogger's extensive 'that plank really deserves a damned good talking-to' list. 'And, while "socially-distanced" TV is now beginning to film again, a BBC executive has cast doubt on whether Doctor Who could return under those circumstances.' No shit? So, what you're saying if this blogger understands you correctly, Huw, is that a major BBC drama production which involves dozens of actors, crew, technicians and other assorted production staff would probably have some difficulty in being made whilst there are still government-imposed restrictions in place regarding how many people can be in one place at one time? And this nonsense revelation constitutes 'news' apparently.
'It'll be down to social distancing,' Rhodri Talfan Davies, the Director of BBC Wales, said during an online Q&A when asked about the immediate future of Doctor Who. 'A production like that, which at any point employs hundreds of people, freelance and staff, I don't believe can be made to the current standard in a socially distanced environment. So it depends when you think social distancing is going to end.' Comments which, this blogger believes, anyone - at least, anyone with half-a-working-brain in their skull - would have been able to work out for themselves without needing somebody to spell it out for them. Does anybody else remember when the Radio Times used to be written by, you know, grown-ups?
     Davies also noted that these 'production issues' could vary between Wales and England, thanks to the differing social distancing guidelines currently being enacted by the Welsh Assembly Government. 'Since 2005, Doctor Who has been made in Wales and for the last few series filming and production has been centred at the Roath Lock Production Hub in Cardiff Bay,' added Fullerton. Really? Wow. Whom amongst us knew that? 'It may well be that the rules on social distancing in Wales are different to those in England,' Davies said. Actually, they are, just in case you were wondering - there's no 'may be' about it. 'Obviously each production centre from those two countries is going to need to respond to the specific rules and regulations that each of the governments are introducing.' Currently, Doctor Who has one upcoming episode already filmed - the 2020-21 festive special Revolution Of the Daleks - with series thirteen production previously rumoured to have been scheduled to start around September 2020. 'If Davies is correct and socially distanced filming rules still apply at that time, it could be that Doctor Who fans have to wait even longer for the new episodes than previously thought,' adds Fullerton before rushing off to appear as a contestant on a new - socially-distanced - episode of Mastermind where his specialist subject is rumoured to be 'Stating The Bleeding Obvious.' 'However, the truth may be more complex than first appears. While the BBC declined to comment on Davies' remarks, Radio Times understands that the broadcaster still has no concrete plans to delay the start of Doctor Who production, a date for which was never officially decided anyway.' It was at around this stage of reading this shite that this blogger pretty much lost the will to live. Huw being, clearly, paid by the word to write nothing even remotely substantial in as verbose a way as possible. Nice work if you can get it - trust this blogger, dear blog reader, he's something of an expert at that very technique. As From The North frequently proves. 'It's also worth noting that social distancing measures have been changing regularly and by autumn TV production might be able to operate with fewer restrictions.' Twenty four more words into the Fullerton bank account, there, dear blog reader. Although, a tip to you, Huw, if you'd written 'it is' rather than 'it's' you would have received an extra ten pee. 'Overall, though, it sounds like there's still a bit of a question mark over the future of Doctor Who. If only we knew someone with a time machine who could go and take a look,' this utter waste-of-trees concludes. So, to sum up, then, Doctor Who is not currently in production, we don't know when it will be going into production and, even if we did, Huw Fullerton of the Radio Times probably wouldn't be told before some real journalists got the scoop instead.
Huw's bulging bank balance was, no doubt, further swelled by yet another piece of speculative tripe based on virtually nothing (a photo posted on Twitter, no less) about a 'potential new design' for the Daleks for the forthcoming festive special. Which, should you have the necessary patience for nothing-dressed-as-something, you can check out the gist of here. This blogger will leave it up to you, dear blog reader, to decide whether that is three minutes of your valuable life you're happy to waste and never get back. Or otherwise.
Meanwhile, for some odd reason, a Daily Mirra story originally published in 2005 about the Queen allegedly being a 'secret' fan of Doctor Who popped up on a lot of people's Facebook news-feeds this week. If you hadn't previously come across the article, dear blog reader, unlike the work of Huw Full Of Himself, this one genuinely is worth a few moments of your time. For thigh-slapping comedy value if nothing else. 'Royal aides say the monarch, pictured far right, is also a fan of the Daleks and she intends to while away August evenings watching the series at her Scottish residence,' the ludicrous excuse for a tabloid claimed in July 2005.
A couple of points worth making at this juncture; firstly the Queen's alleged 'secret' Doctor Who fandom is so secret it would seem that the Daily Mirra knew all about it. Not really all that 'secret' dare one suggest? But, of course, that brings up the next obvious question as one is forced to wonder how, exactly the Daily Mirra uncovered this impressive - if alleged - scoop? Although, given that at the time the article was written some journalists at the Daily Mirra - and its sister papers, the Sunday Mirra and the People - were actively engaged in the illegal hacking of the mobile phones of at least seventy one people (and that figure merely accounts for those who have, to date, successfully sued Trinity Mirra Publishing's sorry ass for positively eye-watering amounts of cash) one could, perhaps, dare to speculate about the alleged 'source' of the Mirra's alleged 'exclusive.' Secondly, are Royal Aids in the habit of casually snitching up Her Majesty's TV viewing habits to tabloid hacks like a filthy stinkin' Copper's Nark? And, if they are, do they remain in positions of trust within the royal household after they have done so? And, thirdly, given the widely-reported 2015 story about the discovery of home-movie footage from 1933 of a young, then, Princess Elizabeth apparently giving a Nazi salute (which the Mirra - along with most of the rest of the British press - gleefully reported) could the phrase 'the Queen - pictured far right' be any more potentially embarrassing?
An - alleged, though suspiciously anonymous and, therefore, almost certainly fictitious - Buckingham Palace 'source' allegedly told the Mirra in 2005: 'The Queen loves the programme and has requested a full set of DVDs. She has asked the BBC to send her copies so she can watch the series again during her stay at Balmoral.' Quoted, please note, in exactly that tabloidesque 'real people don't talk like that' way we know and recognise as, probably, a load of made-up bullshit.
Mind you, if Her Maj is, indeed, a closet Whooveriser (© Yer actual K Telly Topping, 2020 - if you use it, Huw Fullerton, you pay for it) would she still be quite so 'into' the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama if she was aware that one of the show's best scriptwriters, the late, great Malcolm Hulke. was a committed Communist. A man who would, in all likelihood, have greatly enjoyed seeing Her Maj and the rest of her family hanging from lampposts outside Buck House. All, whilst the peasant proletariat danced in the streets and celebrated the fall of a self-perpetuating autocracy and the coming of a Marxist/Leninist Anarcho Syndicalist Commune to run the country? To which Her Majesty would, perhaps, have observed: 'Come and see the violence inherent in the system. Help! Help! I'm being repressed ...'
And, should that have occurred, no doubt, te story would then have become a lead item on FAUX News.
Seriously, dear blog reader, it's a question that, once again, needs to be asked ...
Now, dear blog reader, a further medical update for you all - since Keith Telly Topping knows a few of you have been a bit worried about this blogger's current state of being. Firstly, Keith Telly Topping's rotten bad back is still both knackin' and, indeed, knackered; the pain-killing drugs he has been prescribed have somewhat taken the edge off the constant teeth-grinding pain but mobility remains a significant issue with this blogger limping and stumbling around the gaff like a little old man. (There's probably an 'I feel like a little old man', 'a specific one or will any of them do?' joke in there somewhere, dear blog reader.) And, for the most part, this blogger is still spending much of each day either flat on his back in bed or flat on his back on the couch watching telly (see below). Neither of which are particularly unpleasant tasks in the great scheme of things although getting from a lying position to a sitting position and then to a standing position is far more of an issue for this blogger than it ever should be.
This blogger, let it be noted, is trying hard not to feel too sorry for his very self. Since there are undoubtedly, people in the world far worse-off than he. Can't think whom just at the moment but this blogger is sure that there, indeed, are. Keith Telly Topping only been out the house but once since the accident described in the last From The North update occurred and that was to go to the surgery last week for this blogger's six monthly type-two diabetes check-up (and, to pay his rent at the nearby Post Office whilst he had the chance). The journey to and from which fair wore Keith Telly Topping out something fierce, so it did. (The check-up itself, though, was happily excellent; this blogger's blood sugar level is at forty six this time. The general consensus from the staff was: 'Whatever it is you've been doing - apart from putting your back out of joint, obviously - keep doing it'.)
This blogger has to say, mind, that whilst he remains a really big fan of the NHS in general and his own surgery in particular, getting both the first - and, this week, a second - sick note sent out via e-mail proved to be far harder than it needed to be. This blogger's blood pressure wasn't exactly helped by the trial he had in getting the first medical note so that he could forward it on to his employer (who, to be scrupulously fair to them, haven't exactly been hassling this blogger for it). Four phone calls, at least two broken promises and one outright lie later ('we can't, possibly, under any circumstances, send you it out by e-mail, no siree, Bob' - only, actually, it turned out they could and indeed - eventually - did), this blogger finally received the damned thing seven days after first contact. The latest one was slightly - but only slightly - less problematic. That only took three days, two phone calls - and an e-mail from this blogger to them - before they got their shit together to send it. However, this blogger felt it was wise to note, truthfully, in his e-mail: 'I'm sure you have far more important stuff to deal with than my bad back!' Let it be noted, this blogger still loves them and think they're doing a fantastic job like all of their NHS colleagues.
Anyway, this blogger remains off work and laid up in the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House until at least 6 July and he is still on Diazepam (and, therefore, off alcohol of any kind), Ibuprofen and Paracetamol (as well as all of the rest of the pills his takes for his diabetes, his hypertension, his embiggened prostate, his nerves et cetera). This blogger, as this latest bloggerisationisms update hopefully proves, remains surprisingly sanguine in terms of his own mental health although extremely frustrated and often really very cross and vexed indeed because he can't get around the house as easily as he would like. Hopefully, another couple of weeks laid up with industrial strength painkillers flowing through his bloodstream will sort yer actual Keith Telly Topping out after a fashion. Anyway, thank you to the various Facebook fiends and dear blog readers who have PM'd and e-mailed this blogger over the last couple of weeks (presumably to make sure that he wasn't, you know, dead. Yet).
And this blogger has, apparently, been chosen by the government and the Imperial College London to take part in a 'Covid-Nineteen in-home antibody testing research study.' Which is jolly nice. This blogger is, as a consequence, soon to become one of those statistics trotted out at the government's daily briefings. Keith Telly Topping feels like his life has, suddenly, been validated. And, it's only taken fifty six years on the planet for that to happen. Sweet.
Usually, this blogger gets out of his stinkin' pit each morning at around 7am and the first thing he does is to take the initial batch of the various - industrial strength - pain medications he has recently been prescribed. Consequently, by around 10.30am to 11am each morning the effects of the drugs have just about started to wear off but it's still a little bit early to take the next dose(s). So, what this blogger usually does is to go for a lie down in bed and either, if he can, grab a quick forty winks or, if not, then at least take his mind off the searing, agonising, incandescently awful pain he is in by sticking his MP3 player on random and seeing what interesting segues it comes up with. Friday's first three choices were Nick Drake's 'Northern Sky', followed by Girl Aloud's 'Something Kinda Ooh', followed by Toots & The Maytals' 'Pressure Drop'. Trust this blogger, dear blog readers, when Keith Telly Topping tells you that there are time when you don't need drugs for the world to appear, you know, a bit weird ...
Still, dear blog reader, even in this blogger's current abject misery and soul-crushing agony, there are occasional moments where the phrase 'I really deserve this' still applies. Like this one.
Or, indeed, this one. Really, really, really.
So, dear blog reader, you are probably wondering at this juncture what, exactly, yer actual Keith Telly Topping has been diverting himself with on the gogglebox, iPlayer, SkyGo and UKTVPlay during his more lucid, less drugged-up moments of late? And, if you're not then, don't worry, this blogger is going to tell you anyway ...
The Salisbury Poisonings.
A Greek Odyssey With Bettany Hughes.
What's The Matter With Tony Slattery?
We Hunt Together.
Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish.
I May Destroy You.
Mrs America.
Kermode & Mayo's Home Entertainment Service.
Blackadder's History.
The Brokenwood Mysteries.
Nazi Victory: The Post-War Plan.
Deadliest Crash: Disaster At Le Mans.
Actual proper, live, not repeated, Association Football (though, without Sky Main Event's horribly fake 'added crowd noise', obviously).
Here is the latest of an occasional From The North semi-regular series, Things We Discovered From TV This Week - this one from Friday's episode of BBC2's Later ... With Jools Holland. Dame Diana Rigg has, apparently, been spending lockdown at the home of her daughter, Rachel Stirling and her son-in-law, Elbow's singer/songwriter Guy Garvey.
This week's 'feel-good' story from the BBC News website is, undoubtedly, this one. And, it's genuinely touching. Librarians are recording an audiobook for a one hundred and two-year-old lady so she can again enjoy a story read to her decades ago by her 'wonderful' father. Doris Bugg wanted to reminisce with Francis Brett Young's 1927 novel Portrait Of Clare, but the out-of-print book was unavailable at her library in Ipswich. Touched by her memories, librarians bought a copy for her online and are busy reading all eight hundred and twenty seven pages, recorded on CDs. 'I was absolutely amazed at the kindness of them,' said Mrs Bugg. Doris regularly visited the town centre library in person until a couple of years ago and continues to borrow audiobooks online. During lockdown she has received regular phone calls from library staff checking on her welfare and to chat, which is how they heard about her memories of the book, which was the first she borrowed from the library as a child. 'The book was important to me because I had a wonderful father who taught me the value of books,' said Mrs Bugg. '[The staff] found the book and that was when they suggested they read it out loud and record it for me.' The novel is split into seven books, with three recorded so far. Library manager Charmain Osborne said that it was 'really heartwarming' to be able to help. Krystal Vittles, head of service delivery at Suffolk Libraries, tweeted about the gesture, saying 'my heart wants to burst.' She added: 'It's just so wonderful they found the book - they bought it with their own money. They were so self-deprecating about it as, to them, it's no big deal, it's just what they do.' The romantic family saga was described by Vittles as 'very much of its time.' Inspired by her colleagues' kindness, Vittles said she had just bought Mrs Bugg a DVD copy of the 1950 movie adaptation of Portrait Of Clare (starring Margaret Johnson and Richard Todd), for her to also enjoy.
Now, dear blog reader, to one of From The North's most popular semi-regular features, this blog's Headline Of The Week award. Which, this week, goes to some Middle Class hippy Communist of no importance at the Independent for The Darkness Frontman Justin Hawkins Hospitalised After Freak Accident Involving Melted Shorts. And yes, you're right, there almost certainly is a 'don't let the bells end' joke in there somewhere. If you look hard enough.
Also mentioned in dispatches in this regard and a narrow runner-up, the US magazine People's fine effort - Gwyneth Paltrow Reveals Goop's New 'This Smells Like My Orgasm' Candle: 'The Box Has Fireworks'. No further comment is necessary. Or, indeed, printable, even if it was necessary.
And, as for the Global News website's Metal Drummer Will Carroll Claims He Met Satan In COVID-Nineteen Coma ... well, stranger things have happened. Though, not much stranger, admittedly. The musician claimed that Satan would transform him into a creature similar to that of Star Wars' Jabba The Hutt and that he would 'vomit blood until he ultimately had a heart attack.'
This blogger's favourite article of the week comes, oddly, from the much-loathed Gruniad Morning Star. But, at least, it's by From The North favourite, the columnist Marina Hyde: Marcus Rashford Is Showing Our Failing Politicians How To Do Their Jobs. To quote Marina, at some length: 'We'll come to Gavin Williamson, the forty three-year-old secretary of state for education, in due course. Suffice to say Gavin has gone so missing in the biggest game of his career that the coastguard has called off the search and it has now become a matter for the Hubble telescope. As for the prime minister, shortly before Marcus Rashford was born to a single mother who he idolises for her tireless work and sacrifices, Boris Johnson was writing that single mothers were producing a generation of "ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children." Which, let's face it, means so much more coming from him. For now, a reminder of where we were two-and-a-half months ago. Taking the podium at a government press conference, even as Covid-Nineteen was ripping silently through the care homes he'd later lie he'd put "a ring of steel" around, Gavin's cabinet colleague Matt Hancock was very keen to show he had his priorities in order. "I think the first thing that Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution," Matt proclaimed. "Take a pay cut and play their part." It must have seemed such an easy win, for politicians who know nothing about footballers, or indeed about football. Or, increasingly, about winning. Just a reminder of where the "world-beating" UK currently is: we have the third highest death toll in the world, the OECD has predicted we will have the worst-hit economy in the developed world and we are on course for one of the slowest and most socially painful exits from lockdown. If this is world-beating I'd hate to see us lose. I don't need to tell you that during this entire shitshow, under their exclusive management, the government has only suggested a single group in our society should take a pay cut: Premier League footballers. To dispense with the more irrelevant end of the housekeeping first: Premier League players were going to take a pay cut anyway when Matt was going for his headline; they announced the thirty per cent reduction within hours; and have since contributed in a vast - and mostly unpublicised - number of ways to social and charitable initiatives within their communities and beyond. But even if they had done absolutely none of that – genuinely unthinkable – imagine Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health in a time of pandemic, spending even one minute having a view on what footballers were doing. Because that actually happened. I know the buzzphrase is "easy to say in hindsight" - but on the basis that I wrote about it at the time, I'm going to have to go with "easy to say in sight." This is not a matter of retrospect - it was always a matter of spect.' What she said.
Still on the subject of ignorant shite-scum politicians using football as a political, well, football basically, a third MP - one Angus MacNeill (no, me neither) - has written to trade secretary Liz Truss to 'voice his concerns' over the proposed takeover of this blogger's beloved (though, tragically unsellable) Newcastle United. MacNeill demanded - demanded - that the government should 'block' the Saudi Arabian-led takeover (whether the government can, legally, do so even if they wanted to is something of an unknown, just in case you were wondering). Like his parliamentary colleagues Karl McCartney and Giles Watling, however, MacNeill did not do so from a human rights point of view (which, to be honest, would be difficult to argue against, even for the biggest supporters of the proposed deal - which this blogger is not, as a matter of pure disinterest). Rather, MacNeill's chief objection - as with his colleagues - is, seemingly, over the issue of TV piracy. Earlier this week the World Trade Organisation ruled that Saudi Arabia had, indeed, helped to breach international piracy laws in relation to the broadcaster beoutQ. MacNeill - like McCartney and Watling - however stopped well-short of suggesting that if Saudi Arabia are, indeed, such a pariah who casually flout international law, then the British government should, also, stop trading with them, selling them vast quantities of arms and other British-made products and making lots of lovely wonga in the process. So, is this crass, ignorant, twattish hypocrisy from a politician? This blogger will leave the answer to that question entirely up to your own sensibilities, dear blog reader. He, himself, couldn't possibly comment. But it is certainly illustrative that - as with virtually everything else involved in football - money is, seemingly, King and human rights are 'someone else's problem.'
Joelinton scored only his second Premier League goal - and the first since 25 August - as this blogger's beloved though still unsellable (even to oil-rich, alleged human-rights-abusing, alleged pirates) Magpies swept aside ten-man Sheffield United to take a huge step towards safety in their first game since all sport in the UK was suspended in March. The relief on the Brazilian striker's face was evident when he tapped in the Magpies' third goal and, although there were no fans inside St James' Park to celebrate with him, no doubt many were screaming with delight (and, probably, astonishment) from their front rooms as the forty million knicker striker ended his torrid run. And managed not to trip over his own feet in the process. This blogger certainly was. That was the icing on a properly-sweet Magpies cake, baked in an eerily quiet St James' with the only noise heard being frequent bursts of bad language coming from the Sheffield United bench which had the Sky Sports commentary team squirming with embarrassment and grovellingly apologising to viewers. Most of whom, one suspects, frankly couldn't have given a flying fuck about such nonsense. Returning to competitive action after an enforced one hundred and six day break since a victory at Southampton, ten of the eleven fielded at St Mary's by Newcastle were retained, Joelinton returning at the expense of Dwight Gayle. Despite playing their first match since the restart, Th' Toon looked far fresher and more interested than their opponents who produced one of their worst defensive displays of the season, capped off by the red card for John Egan five minutes after the break. It means Chris Wilder's side, who drew against Aston Villains in their opening match back, have taken just one point from two games. As for Newcastle, who have been dealing with that never-ending takeover saga during the lockdown (you knew that, right?), they now have thirty eight points and are eleven points above the drop-zone. Allan Saint-Maximin sent them on their way when he fired home at the far post after Enda Stevens inexplicably allowed Matt Ritchie's fizzing cross to go between his legs. Ritchie then added a second with a thunderous drive from the edge of the area. Then came Joelinton's strike from close range after Miguel Almiron delivered a pinpoint ball to his feet. Newcastle stay at home for their next match against the struggling Villains. Steve Bruccie's team selections, particularly his seeming reluctance to drop Joelinton, had frustrated many supporters and now the possibility of new, moneyed owners from Saudi Arabia has cast further doubt on the future of the manager. But now and again Brucie (nasty to see him, to see him, nasty) has confounded his critics this season (this blogger very much included) with wins over Stottingtot Hotshots, The Scum, Moscow Chelski FC and, now, this double over The Blunt Blades. His side produced a disciplined display with plenty of verve and pace provided by Saint-Maximin, Almiron and Ritchie. Saint-Maximin, in particular, was excellent. The twenty million smackers summer signing now seems a snip for the twenty three-year-old who embarrassed the visiting defence with his trickery and bursts of speed, before he got his just reward in the fifty fifth minute. Ritchie added the second fourteen minutes later with the goal of the game - a fierce drive which was too hot to handle for Dean Henderson. And, with twelve minutes remaining, Joelinton, who had arsed-up what seemed a relatively easy chance in the first half by tripping over his own feet, scored his second league goal for the club - two thousand one hundred and thirty minutes and thirty nine shots at goal after scoring the first. (To be completely fair to the lad, he has scored a couple of goals in the FA Cup during that period and another two in recent friendlies.) Wilder's post-match talk to his team might not be repeatable in polite company (or, on Sky Sports). His side's success thus far this season has been built on unwavering discipline and a miserly defence - the second best in the league before Sunday - but neither were evident here. There were suggestions something was not right early in the match when midfielder Oliver Norwood lost possession far too easily on a couple of occasions before Egan got caught up in an unnecessary altercation with Joelinton which earned him a yellow card. That became two yellows for the Irishman in the fiftieth minute when he got on the wrong side of the striker, who he pulled back as Joelinton tried to run in on goal. Referee David Coote was given an easy decision and sent Egan for an early bath. If Wilder had his face in his hands at that moment, worse was to follow. For Newcastle's first, the usually dependable Stevens got his legs in a muddle as he tried to stop Ritchie's ball finding Saint-Maximin at the back post and for the second, right-back George Baldock's reluctance to close down Ritchie gave the Scot room to shoot whilst Henderson's positioning for the shot was also questionable.
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, we've also had this fantastic news announced by Bashing Boris his very self. So, does anyone particularly fancy shacking up with this blogger over the weekend? No? To be fair, this blogger can't say he blames you.
This blogger is thoroughly indebted to his nephew, the legend that is Our Graeme Telly-Topping, who recently posted the following observation on Facebook. 'Rewatching some classic X-Files and to help me pick the best episodes (well from the first five seasons anyway) have this bad boy to refer to.' Good book, that, dear blog reader. Local author apparently.
On a slightly self-aggrandising note, one of the few good things to come out of the lockdown is the fact that more people appear to be spending time on The Interweb and, as a consequence, From The North's daily traffic has been on the rise again. It's a age-old truism, dear blog reader, but it's an ill-wind that blow's off someone's cornet. Or something like that, anyway.
Ian Holm, the versatile character actor who played everything from androids to hobbits via Harold Pinter and Shakespeare, has died in London aged eighty eight, his agent confirmed. 'It is with great sadness that the actor Sir Ian Holm CBE passed away this morning,' they said. 'He died peacefully in hospital, with his family and carer,' adding that his illness was Parkinson's-related. 'Charming, kind and ferociously talented, we will miss him hugely.' Holm's final days were documented in a series of pastel portraits by his wife, Sophie de Stempel. Holm, who won a BAFTA and was nominated for an Oscar for his role as maverick athletics coach Sam Mussabini in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, may have looked destined for a career in colourful supporting roles on screen - especially after quitting the theatre in 1976 after a severe case of stage fright - but he found a new generation of admirers after being cast as Bilbo Baggins in the blockbusting Lord of the Rings trilogy. Earlier this month, he expressed his sadness that he was unable to participate in a virtual reunion for the film's cast, saying: 'I am sorry to not see you in person, I miss you all and hope your adventures have taken you to many places, I am in lockdown in my hobbit home, or holm.'
Ian Holm was born in 1931 in Essex, where his father was superintendent of the West Ham Corporation psychiatric hospital; he later described his childhood there as 'a pretty idyllic existence.' Falling in love with acting at an early age, he went from RADA in London to the Shakespeare Memorial theatre in Stratford, staying on to become part of the Royal Shakespeare Company on its foundation in 1960. Holm became a leading figure at the RSC, winning an Evening Standard best actor award for Henry V in 1965, part of the seminal Wars of The Roses cycle put together by Peter Hall and John Barton. He also earned plaudits for his work with Pinter, playing Lenny in the premiere production of The Homecoming (which won him a TONY award after its transfer to Broadway) and then in the 1973 film version, directed by Hall. Not least of all from Pinter himself, who is reported to have said of Holm: 'He puts on my shoe and it fits!' Holm underwent severe stage fright, which he described as 'a sort of breakdown' during a performance of The Iceman Cometh in 1976. It was, he added, 'a scar on my memory that will never go away.' Having abandoned the theatre, Holm developed his screen-acting career, which had hitherto largely been confined to regular but sporadic parts in British films such as The Bofors Gun (for which he won a Best Supporting Actor BAFTA), Oh! What A Lovely War and Young Winston. Seen as a safe pair of hands, his casting as the android Ash in the Ridley Scott-directed Alien gave him hitherto undreamed-of international exposure. This role was followed up by his turn as Mussabini, the ostracised running coach of sprinter Harold Abrahams in Chariots Of Fire.
After his best supporting actor nomination in 1982 (which he lost to John Giegud), Holm was now a bona fide acting grandee, though one whose eccentric-seeming, pugnacious qualities were best suited for memorable supporting parts. He played Napoleon in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits and hapless Mister Kurtzmann in the same director's Brazil; other highlights included Lewis Carroll in the Dennis Potter-scripted fantasy Dreamchild, Doctor Willis in The Madness Of King George and Father Cornelius in Luc Besson's SF epic The Fifth Element. However, he did find a leading role in Atom Egoyan's adaptation of The Sweet Hereafter, released in 1997, playing the smooth-talking lawyer who persuades grieving parents to launch a class-action suit after several children are killed in a bus crash. His CV also include appearances in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Nicholas & Alexandra, Robin & Marian, Shout At The Devil, Inside the Third Reich, Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, The Browning Version, Dance With A Stranger, Naked Lunch, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, A Life Less Ordinary, Wisconsin Death Trip, From Hell, The Day After Tomorrow, The Aviator, The Treatment, Napoleon & Love, Jesus Of NazarethThe Lost Boys, Holocaust, We, The Accused, The Bell, Game, Set & Match and The Borrowers.
Holm returned to Shakespeare in 1997, in the Richard Eyre-directed King Lear at the National Theatre and was knighted a year later for 'services to drama.' Having played Frodo Baggins in a 1981 radio adaptation of Lord Of The Rings, Holm was cast as Bilbo in Peter Jackson's mammoth three-part screen adaptation, with filming on The Fellowship Of The Ring beginning in 1999. Bilbo did not appear in The Two Towers, but Holm was back for the final part, The Return Of The King, as well as the first and third instalments of the Hobbit trilogy, which were released in 2012 and 2014 respectively. In between the two sets of Tolkien adaptations, Holm developed an unexpected reputation as a lothario, after the publication of his autobiography in 2004. Hailed by the Daily Scum Mail as 'Lord of the Flings', he candidly chronicled his serial marriages and extramarital affairs. He is survived by his fourth wife, de Stempel and five children - Jessica, Sarah-Jane, Harry, Melissa and Barnaby from previous relationships, as well as by his third wife, the actress Penelope Wilton.
Denny O'Neil, best known for writing and editing some of DC's finest comics, died on 11 June of natural causes. He was eighty one. O'Neil wrote Batman, Detective Comics and Legends Of The Dark Knight in addition to serving as an editor for DC's Batman-related comic books from 1986 until 2000. Along with editor Julius Schwartz and artist Neal Adams, O'Neil helped to bring Batman back to his original, more ominous persona after the 1960s Batman TV series had produced a campier take on the superhero. DC Comics publisher Jim Lee remembered Denny on Twitter as his 'favourite Green Lantern writer to date.' Lee continued, 'Denny was one of the earliest writers whose work and focus on social issues pushed comics to wider respectability and acceptance as an artform. Through his work and mentorship, he influenced generations of writers and artists.' Denny was born in May 1939 in St Louis and graduated from St Louis University, where he studied English literature, creative writing and philosophy. He joined the navy just in time to participate in the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis before eventually landing a job writing columns for a newspaper in Missouri. O'Neil wrote bi-weekly columns for the youth page, and during the slow summer months he filled the space with a series on the revival of the comics industry. This put him on the radar of Roy Thomas, who helped him get his start at Marvel, at one time working as Stan Lee's assistant, where Denny wrote for Strange Tales, Rawhide Kid, Millie The Model, Daredevil, The Uncanny X-Men and other titles. He briefly worked at Charlton Comics under the pseudonym of Sergius O'Shaugnessy before he was hired by DC in 1968. While at DC, he worked on Wonder Woman, Atom & Hawkman, Justice League Of America, The Brave & The Bold and, most notably, Green Lantern/Green Arrow. O'Neil recounted that 'my journalism background and laid-back social activism had led me to wonder if I couldn't combine those things with what I did for a living. So this was my chance to see if this idea I had would work. It was a situation where nobody had anything to lose. And I think that writing about things that really concerned me pulled out of me a higher level of craft. Also, it gave me real problems to solve in terms of craft which I hadn't faced before.' In a famous sequence in issue seventy six of Green Lantern/Green Arrow - No Evil Shall Escape My Sight! Oliver Queen and Hal Jordan meet a poor Black man who asks the latter: 'I been readin' about you. How you work for the Blue skins. And how on a planet someplace you helped out the Orange skins. And you done considerable for the Purple skins. Only there's skins you never bothered with. The Black skins. I want to know how come? Answer me that, Mister Green Lantern!' At a loss for words, Jordan simply answers: 'I can't.'
In another sequence, Green Arrow laments the passing of Martin Luther King Junior, President Robert Kennedy and the problems facing 1970's America as 'a hideous moral cancer,' deserving to be addressed just as much as any cosmic-level threat. The duo - the liberal Queen and the more myopic Jordan then embark on a quest to 'find America,' witnessing the problems of corruption, racism, pollution, social injustice and overpopulation confronting the nation. O'Neil took on then-current events, such as the Manson Family cult murders, in issue seventy eight - My Kind Of Loving, A Way Of Death - where Green Arrow's girlfriend, Black Canary, falls briefly under the spell of a false prophet who advocates violence. It was during this period that the most famous story appeared, in issues eighty five and eighty six - Snowbirds Don't Fly/'They Say It'll Kill me ... But They Won't Say When' - when it was revealed that Green Arrow's ward, Speedy, had become addicted to heroin. As a result of his work on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, O'Neil recounted, 'I went from total obscurity to seeing my name featured in The New York Times and being invited to do talk shows. It's by no means an unmixed blessing. That messed up my head pretty thoroughly for a couple of years. Deteriorating marriage, bad habits, deteriorating relationships with human beings - with anything that wasn't a typewriter, in fact. It was a bad few years there.' While at Batman, O'Neil and Adams are credited with creating supervillains Ra's Al Ghul, Talia Al Ghul and Richard Dragon, as well as the characters of Leslie Thompkins and Azrael. O'Neil also helped to reinvent The Joker and Two-Face as they are seen today and was instrumental in the death of Jason Todd, Batman's second Robin. In 1980, O'Neil briefly returned to Marvel, where he wrote for The Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man and Daredevil. He went back to DC in 1986 and continued writing and editing Batman while also working on Green Arrow and The Question. Beyond comics, he wrote TV episodes of Logan's Run, Superboy, Batman: The Animated Series and GI Joe: A Real American Hero, taught at the School of Visual Arts and authored The DC Guide To Writing Comics. In December 2018, O'Neil was the keynote speaker at The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library's Comic Books and Social Justice event and Phoenix declared 25 May as Dennis O'Neil Day in 2019. O'Neil was married to Marifran O'Neil, until her death. He was the father of writer/director/producer Lawrence O'Neil, best known for the 1997 film Breast Men.
Bob The Cat, whose special role in James Bowen's personal journey was written about in bestseller A Street Cat Named Bob, has died, having reached over fourteen years of age. Long credited by Bowen with saving his life, Bob died on Monday. Bowen, a recovering addict, first met Bob in 2007 when he found the cat abandoned and injured. He went on to take care of Bob who in turn gave Bowen a reason to get up each morning. They quickly became inseparable, busking and selling The Big Issue on the streets of London. In 2012 Hodder & Stoughton published Bowen's first book, A Street Cat Named Bob, telling his and Bob's story. The book became a bestseller, along with its sequels The World According To Bob, A Gift From Bob and The Little Book Of Bob. In all the books sold eight million copies in more than forty languages. The original story was also made into a film released in 2016 starring Luke Treadaway as Bowen. Bob appeared in the film as himself and will appear in a sequel, A Gift From Bob which is to be released later this year. Hodder released a statement: 'As James and Bob continued to find fans all over the world, Bob led an incredible life meeting well-wishers at book signings, travelling the world and coping with feline fame. He was an extraordinary cat who will be greatly missed.' Bowen said: 'Bob saved my life, it's as simple as that. He gave me so much more than companionship. With him at my side, I found a direction and purpose that I'd been missing. The success we achieved together through our books and films was miraculous. He's met thousands of people, touched millions of lives. There's never been a cat like him. And never will again. I feel like the light has gone out in my life. I will never forget him.'
And finally, dear blog reader, the other extremely widely-reported media-related death story this week was that of Dame Vera Lynn at the age of one hundred and three. This blogger cannot pretend that he has either the knowledge of Dame Vera's life or work to properly celebrate it here. But, the fact that she once, infamously, shared a bill with Hawkwind is reason enough for From The North to express our sincere collective sadness at her passing.