Category Archives: Television

Kermie?

What a difference a day makes.

On Thursday I felt slightly annoyed with Steve Whitmire, when I read that he was retiring as Kermit the Frog’s puppeteer after 27 years. I remember at the time that I was astounded by how someone else could take over after Jim Henson. I mean that they could sound pretty much the same; not that someone else needed to do the job.

But I thought that it might be tiring to do voices every day, year after year. And that Steve had something else he wanted to do. It’s a ‘free’ country, after all.

And on Friday I learned that he’s been fired, and that he’d very much like to remain as Kermit.

I know, it can be hard to know who’s right and who’s being economical with the truth, but a man who has kept quiet about his fate for nine months, and who refrained from screaming and shouting in his blog post about what had happened, strikes me as the likeliest injured party.

After all, it can’t be easy going up against Disney.

As the Guardian points out, Steve is the only one many fans know as Kermit. I’m old enough to have been there when it was Jim Henson, but I too have watched a lot of Steve’s Kermit.

I expect his successor will do a good job, as it’s unlikely they would pick someone who was rubbish at it, and they can’t really kill Kermit off. But still. I’d have liked to see and hear Steve reach retirement as our beloved frog. Then I’d be happy about him being replaced.

The Demon Headmaster – Total Control

The Demon Headmaster is back! Yes, Gillian Cross has written another book about the man with the scary eyes.

Back in the day I used to semi-watch the Headmaster on television when we got home from school. That will be why I feel I know the man so well, while never really understanding what he did or how and why. I only knew he was creepy as h*ll. Actor Terrence Hardiman did a great job of frightening at least this parent.

So it’s his face and eyes I saw as I read this new school horror. But do you know what? It is better to read. Now I get what he was and what he was trying to do. And why the children at his schools acted all funny, but also why he needed to be outwitted.

Gillian Cross, The Demon Headmaster - Total Control

In Total Control we have siblings Lizzie and Tyler returning to school after an absence, and finding the place transformed. Their new friend Ethan has become a super soccer player and all the other children excel at something, including their old bully who has become quite polite and charming.

Once Lizzie works out that this is all wrong and it must be stopped, we have a race against a hypnotist Headmaster; someone who appears to be able to read minds and is always a few steps ahead.

It’s scary. Yes. A bit. But also exciting, and hilarious.

I should have read the books much sooner.

And no, I will not look into your eyes.

ABCs and much more

I do miss Sesame Street. We used to watch every lunchtime; me in the corner of the Klippan sofa, lunch balanced on the armrest (I think it only fell off once or twice), Daughter on my lap and Son nestled next to me.

Presumably we moved away from it gradually, or school got in the way. I can’t recall. And when I woke up missing it, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I have been thinking about Sesame Street on and off over the years, trying to convince myself I’m too old for it. That I don’t need it.

But when I read about their new autistic character, I was seized by a strong wish to start watching again. This time I researched a bit more. And it is on, but only on some pay channel I’d never heard of and that I can’t get. I mean, I suppose I can, but we don’t believe in paying for parcels of programmes that will rarely if ever be watched.

So I’m feeling a bit disappointed, to be honest.

I’m wondering, too, how it ended up on a pay channel. Is it because it is so valuable that you must pay, like for new movies and sports events, or is it because it’s so uninteresting that none of the regular channels could be bothered? Had a quick look at a typical day on CBBC and it was dire. I used to enjoy watching after school. Not everything, but quite a lot, and would have to drag myself off to cook dinner. Mornings were also good, but I could rarely fit in more than a minute here and there as we were getting ready to leave the house.

Whereas I’d actually sit down for Sesame Street. ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ…

Eurohearing

They call it Eurovision in Sweden these days. I’m sure it used to be Melodifestivalen, even when it was the European finale, rather than the qualifying rounds at home. What’s more, each country had to sing in their own language. Maybe it’s ‘fairer’ when all can be heard in English. I don’t know. Sometimes there is a lot to be said for the sounds of home.

People rarely sing in local dialect. Somehow you adopt a one-size-fits-all approach when singing, despite speaking with a local accent. In my teens there was a [political] rock group who sang in dialect. It just wasn’t my dialect.

So to find HishultaBörje on a local [to me] CD some years ago, was quite refreshing. Gunnar Bringman (who seems to be a local dentist, of all things) sings the sad story of Börje from Hishult (southern Halland, in southern Sweden) with a Halmstad accent. It’s a catchy tune and the tale is sort of fun, as long as you’re not Börje himself. But it’s the accent I like. It takes me home, every time.

And I believe there is something important being lost. Not only do most people not sing in dialect, but they often sing in English. It does bring the lyrics closer to more listeners, but still. In my part of the world as I listen to children talk, I have discovered they are ditching the accent, and swapping it for some ‘posher’ sounding mongrel dialect which only tells me someone is ashamed of what they are and is trying to sound ‘better.’ Except by now it’s so general, that children will believe it’s the real deal. And if it has usurped the way we used to speak, then by definition it probably is the local dialect today.

So I rather wish they’d remove the English from Eurovision, except from the UK, Irish and Maltese entries. The UK one won’t win anyway. (And Swedish songs are always great, no matter what language.) Oh, and maybe the Australian song.

This well know European country is most welcome if only for their enthusiasm for the whole thing. I’m still not sure about Brugel, though. I was under the impression this tiny state had never been allowed to enter, but on checking my facts I see that [author] Ebony McKenna describes her small country as never having won. Maybe. Possibly they are so small we never see the Brugel entries. I’m a little hazy on what language they would sing in. Although the lovely part-time ferret Hamish speaks with a Scottish accent, so perhaps that is it. And ferrets are tiny, which could explane why Brugel is less visible.

Ebony McKenna, Ondine books

I do like an author who isn’t too cool to admit to a fervent love for Eurovision. This is presumably the attitude that brought Australia into the midst of the European Azerbaijanis and Israelis and so on. Soon it is only the UK who will neither win, nor be able to call themselves European.

Sweden hasn’t won for year at least. Must be time again?

Paint it black

It wasn’t an entirely traditional Easter Saturday, but I suppose it was all right.

The Resident IT Consultant drove across half of Central Scotland searching for black spray paint, and as soon as he brought some home I went outside and sprayed it all over the dining table. After enough cans had been used up, the table looks sort of finished. And black.

The [formerly green] grass is also slightly black.

And my arms hurt. Who knew paint-spraying was so tiring?

I also sprayed some tomato all over myself, causing a red-orange streak down my front. As we didn’t have a bonfire to grill sausages on, we made do with the grill pan in the kitchen. And I didn’t fly over the cooker on my broom, partly because of lack of space and partly because a witch needs a proper bonfire to be sent on her way. Daughter bought one of those foil barbecue things, but I absolutely refuse to broom over that as well.

In-between the countless black layers I read Tanya Landman’s new book. It’s so good I didn’t always want to put it down to attend to my painting.

Daughter decided to stretch Lent as far as she could, so made us Lent buns to have with our afternoon cup of tea. I reckon as long as it was before Easter Sunday it’s probably almost legal.

We watched Doctor Who, which we liked, and then we played The Great Penguin Bookchase, which we also liked, and which I lost.

Tom, George and the others

A long time ago, when the New Librarian had just left school, she came and stayed with us, doing some unpaid work in the local bookshop. One day she came home and mentioned she’d been out on a school visit with some actor who’d written a book. I asked who. She’d clearly not had a lot of interest in an older man she’d never heard of, so the name was some time coming, but once I’d established it was George Layton – and I’d had no idea he was visiting! – I turned green [with envy].

It was so unfair that she’d met him, when I’d ‘always loved him’ and I wanted to stomp my foot.

Luckily, George came back, and more than once. So I did get to meet him (see about lunch here), and I bought his short story collections and got his autograph, and… Well, at the time I liked the stories. I don’t know if I still would.

Same bookshop, slightly later, another of my younger days’ favourites turned up. Tom Conti, who’s even more handsome than George. I know that in book terms this is irrelevant, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. He came because he’d written a novel, and I bought a copy. Obviously.

I sort of wish I hadn’t. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. These days I’d start by assuming it to be just another celebrity book, but then I was more naïve. Besides, it had been written [I hope it had, anyway] by my kind of celebrity. But yeah, I wouldn’t mind if I’d not read it.

The celebrity avalanche is just getting worse and worse. Someone on social media was saying how the latest announcement of a celebrity book [by someone I don’t know] was so welcome, because it had to have been at least 48 hours since the one before it.

The most recent one I received in the post I put to the side immediately. I felt slightly rotten doing it, but if someone is already famous – even when I don’t have any idea who they are – and are getting a good financial deal from the publisher, then they don’t need a review from me. I can’t help them on their way to greater greatness.

I’m very happy to have met Tom Conti and only slightly annoyed that he didn’t sign the book I then went on to not like (there is a farcical story about the non-signing of his books, involving a train). But I got closer than the 20-year-old me would ever have thought possible.

Likewise with George Layton. As I watched Doctor in the House in pre-historic times, I simply didn’t believe that one day I’d meet him. Or that the first thing he’d say was that he needed to pee.

Please enter

The other week I got so furious with everything to do with immigrants not being wanted, that I hunted out a book I’ve had lying around for about seven years and read it.

The book was Floella Benjamin’s Coming to England, which was first published twenty years ago, and tells the story of what it was like for her when she came to England in 1960 at the age of eleven.

Floella Benjamin, Coming to England

At first I was afraid it was going to turn out that Trinidad had been paradise and England was not, but their idyllic life in Trinidad turned sour when Floella’s parents had to leave four of their six children behind, as they didn’t have enough money for all at once. Life for those left behind quickly became hell, which presumably made the reality of England less bad, even if it was cold and grey and unwelcoming.

Through hard work and love they prospered and did well, and as we know, Floella has been very successful. But it wasn’t for England opening its arms and being friendly and giving things away freely, even then.

The facts of this book are more pertinent than ever. The style is rather wooden and boring, but that is outweighed by how important it is to read.


And then, I’d not had time to read the Guardian Weekend two weeks ago, so first picked it up a week late, to find Floella Benjamin the subject of their Q&A page. And the reason she was, was that the book has been republished again.

If that’s not witchy, I don’t know what is.