Category Archives: Television


In mid-September a Swedish book fan was ordered by Stirling Sheriff Court to leave her favourite author alone, and to go back to Sweden the next day. And no, that wasn’t me.

The author in question is Stirling historian Neil Oliver, who has been bombarded with letters and photos and CDs by this woman over the last year. Her stalking continued when she turned up at a book signing Neil was doing at Waterstones in Glasgow this month, trying to hand him an envelope.

I understand that this must have been upsetting for Neil. I’m wary of people knowing where I live, so for his address* to have become known to her will have made him feel unsafe.

But, the man appears on television regularly. It’s easy to ‘fall’ for a charismatic television presenter at the best of times. As an author he’s a bit of a public figure. At a bookshop signing he is doing a public event.

It’s tricky. I understand her fervour, and I get his fear. I don’t know what the solution is.

But I can sort of see myself in her place. It can be hard not to admire too much.

(*The full name and address of the poor fan has been made public, with the help of the Stirling Observer. This is something that wouldn’t happen in Sweden.)

Btw, I love you all!!!!!!

The Go-Between

It’s idiotic. With all the technological advances we have, you can watch all the television you like [have time for]. You record one and watch one. You use watch-again services. No need to fret over programmes that clash.

Like Downton Abbey tonight, and The Go-Between. As the Guardian Guide says, ‘The Beeb brings out a big gun to spoil Downton’s party.’  They describe and praise this new version of The Go-Between. And then finish by saying ‘skippable if you’ve seen the 1971 movie.’

Yeah, so in other words, it’s not that good?

What I thought was, what about the book?

It was a set book at university, and I dutifully read it. Hated it, but that’s beside the point. And so, I never watched the 1971 film (which, incidentally, provided the cover for my copy of the book). Because, I didn’t enjoy the book, I never felt I wanted to repeat my non-enjoyment of it. But I still feel I can be excused from watching tonight’s offering.

Because I read the book. And because I reckon I’ll enjoy Downton.

Goings-on in the Scottish book world

I’ve mentioned before how much I appreciate the work of Scottish Book Trust, and how well they keep me informed of what’s happening in Scotland. I don’t always share with you their full press releases, but I’m going to make an exception here, as I found the following most interesting:


Scottish Book Trust has today (1st April 2015) announced that its planned documentary, Between the Covers, has been cancelled.

The programme, filmed on location at the Trust’s offices off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and due to be premiered on British television next week, was set to be a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the literature promotion business and the charismatic characters found within.

Though an exact reason for the cancellation of the programme has not been forthcoming from the production agency, Scottish Book Trust would like to make clear that rumours that staff were deemed to spend ‘too much time reading’ and were ‘far too introverted’ and ‘bookish’ for television are unfounded.

Reports that a month of fly-on-the-wall filming only yielded 15 minutes of useable footage, including one staff member picking their nose and a minor fracas over three Garibaldi following the office’s bi-weekly ‘biscuit run’, are also categorically untrue.

Andrew McLaughton, President of Real Scotlives TV, the production company behind classic docusoap Hebridean Vets: After Hours, said:

“Whilst we’re incredibly disappointed with today’s announcement, we have a commitment to provide viewers with entertaining, educational content and it was felt that the programme fell far short of our own broadcasting guidelines. The language used during the Biscuit Incident was deemed to be far too coarse to be shown pre-watershed. We do hope to work with Scottish Book Trust in the future, perhaps on a series of food vlogs.”

Chris Leslie, Schools Resource Developer at Scottish Book Trust, said:

“It’s a shame it was cancelled. I was the one who came up with the title. People click on things if they think it’s going to be sexy. Fact.”

PHOTOS: Though no footage stills are available for publication, x-rays of the Marketing Manager’s broken metatarsal and a doctor’s report concerning the removal of a Custard Cream from a staff member’s nasal cavity can be obtained by emailing…

Well, never mind that. The Grandmother has told me how fond of their biscuits the Scots are, and now I see what she meant. I quite like a good Custard Cream myself, actually.

Katie Morag

I’m probably the last person to know that Katie Morag is now on television. Oh well. I know now.

But it can’t possibly be as good as the books! We used to read Katie Morag a lot at Bookwitch Towers, when Offspring were tiny. Now that I’ve recently unpacked the books, I’ve seen with my own eyes quite how many Katie Morag books we actually have. I was suprised, but I shouldn’t have been, really, as Mairi Hedderwick knows how to make a good book; great story, wonderful illustrations.

The Isle of Struay

And now we have The Katie Morag Treasury, which means lots of old stories in one volume, with six bonus folk tales, as told at Grannie Island’s Ceilidh. I approached those with some level of suspicion, which was silly of me, because they were fantastic. Too.

I have come to the conclusion, however, that Katie Morag isn’t for children. It’s for us oldies. We love all the romance of living on a remote Scottish island, with a boat once a week, and bad weather all the time. And drop dead beautiful scenery all around. We like the idea of living quietly, with the Aga and the friendly neighbours, living off the sea and the tatties grown in our back garden. A little dancing at the ceilidh every now and then.

Sheer romance, the well-worn, old-fashioned way.

I’d never stopped to notice Katie Morag’s mother openly breastfeeding her baby. But I did now. I suppose it’s very New Age, but life on the Isle of Struay is a dream come true. I wasn’t concentrating on the stories, which are very good, because I could ogle the cottage interiors and the perfect but rough landscape. The scones (I’m sure there were scones) and the public toilets and the tearoom and the sheep, and you know… everything.

Katie Morag

The good thing is that children like these stories too. And there’s some pretty decent morals to those folk tales. I’m a firm believer of inviting a smelly goat to come and live with you. And what’s some spinach-stained clothing between friends?

I knew that. I think

Things tend to get done when Son is around. He won’t tolerate the slow pace at which the old people do what they need to do. (I mean, I obviously didn’t get any of my other things done, but at least a fair few of the house move related jobs got tackled. Head on, at a speed to make us oldies feel giddy.)

So my lone trolley has been joined by quite a few items. No more trendy minimalism, but still acceptably nice.

Anyway, I thought while we had the whirlwind with us I’d mention my idea of setting up the old DVD-player to play R1 DVDs, while the other box takes care of the rest. Felt that with Son here it’d happen faster than if left to the Resident IT Consultant.

I mentioned this. Son asked what box I meant. I waved my hand vaguely in the right direction. He flung open the cupboard door and after a split second informed me the offending box is region free and can, and will, play anything.

It seems when it was new a few years ago he arranged this, to make our lives easier.

The thought of this fact seeped slowly through my mind and I think I can almost remember it. Shame I’d been eyeing my Man From U.N.C.L.E. DVDs as though they are from outer space for so long. To prove how right he – always – is, he played the first episode.

The situation is this: I get some very good ideas. I have my Resident IT Consultant to help make them happen. Meanwhile Son has already done what I wanted in the first place.



How I have waited for ‘the next’ Michelle Magorian novel! And here it is, and it is absolutely perfect and well worth the six-year wait, and I love it! (No apologies for the exclamation marks. There is one in the title of the book, too, and I’m not sure I understand the title. I might have missed something.)

Impossible! is a continuation of the theatre saga featuring the Hollis family from Cuckoo In the Nest and A Spoonful of Jam, as well as blending in with the Carpenters from Just Henry. I just love re-visiting old friends! Ten years on from Henry, we meet Josie Hollis, Elsie’s baby sister; the little girl born at the end of Cuckoo In the Nest 12 years earlier. And what a girl she is!

Michelle Magorian, Impossible!

Josie has just started stage school, and is living with her Auntie Win in London. She misses her family, but desperately wants to act. But somehow it seems as if her school doesn’t want her to. They obstruct her every step. (Between you and me, they turn out to be a useless bunch, in more ways than one. But fear not.)

Struggling to make friends and to survive her school’s rules, Josie still lands some acting parts, before she is kidnapped. It’s a case of mistaken identity, and she has to be very brave.

This book is also a tribute to (the real) Joan Littlewood’s theatre company, and it’s where Josie ends up when she’s on the run from the baddies. It’s where she learns what acting should really be about and her life changes totally, again.

You can tell that Michelle knows her theatre/film/acting world, and also that she knows exactly what life in 1959 was like. This is a wonderful adventure as far as the kidnapping drama goes, and a marvellous tale of life on the stage and on the screen, big or small. The dreaded ITV was in its infancy, and it wasn’t the done thing to watch it. I guess Michelle did anyway, just like Josie.

There is no need to be interested in acting. The story will make you want to know. As far as I’m concerned it could have gone on for a few hundred pages more than the 600 it is. This is feelgood excitement of the very best kind.

(Impossible! was published last month, right on cue to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Joan Littlewood’s birth. I wish she’d been here to read it.)

Bookwitch bites #125

You know how interested you are in things I’ve not done? (You are! I know you are.)

Well, anyway, the other week I could have gone to Norröra. ‘Where?’ I hear you ask. Saltkråkan. The summer island Astrid Lindgren wrote about. The place that is summer to many Swedes, especially people my age.

For once I was in the right part of the country, right time of year and with time to spare. Well, I had, but then plans changed and the Norröra idea was no more. My free day disappeared. It was especially galling as people I know had just been and it sounded rather nice. Apparently they have kept the house from the television series intact and you can go back in time.


But let’s look on the bright side! I’m back home. The other home. I’m always home. Mostly.

And the Edinburgh International Book Festival starts today! I’m here for the duration, except I don’t think I can go straight off the plane to Charlotte Square, even though the Resident IT Consultant pointed out it would deal with the taxi issue. He’s right. Again. But older witches need rest, too.

So I’ll be in soon. Raring to go.