Sunday, 15 January 2012

Tales from Denmark . . .

How are we all coping with January then? We're halfway through and Christmas now seems like a distant memory. The weather is wavering between brisk, cold, bright days and rather overcast stuffy ones. I'm currently feasting on the books that came my way on December 25th. David Downing's Potsdam Station is the latest in a series of books set in Germany before, during and after the last war. Downing ratchets up the suspense with each chapter but does so in a believable way. I found myself rooting for the central characters, John Russell and Effi Koenen at the turn of every page.

My latest read is A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan's Pulizer Prize winning tale of, and I quote, "... moments where lives interact and where fortunes ebb and flow". Fair enough.

Musically I'm reconnecting with Northern Soul at the moment. Not everyone's cuppa I guess but January is definitely the month for hearty tunes. Fine purveyors of such fare include April Stevens, Dottie Cambridge and Muriel Day. April, Dottie & Muriel. You hear of many doting parents lavisihing such names on their kids these days do you? I'd love it for a beaming new Mum to say "Meet baby Mavis!"

I can't see the scoreboard from here . . .
The long road to Eurovision 2012 unwinds before me too. This year's festival of song is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan where the president and his family seem to be 'guiding' preparations along. A venue is being built from scratch and we are promised that the ambitiously named Crystal Hall will be ready by May. Not sure which year though. Anyway entrants to date include the intriguingly named Rambo Amadeus (Montenegro) whose music seems a little . . . err, challenging. Spain have opted for Pastora Soler, a woman whose name sounds like something from a Dulux colour chart. No sign of the BBC's challenger yet but the usual worrying names of Katherine Jenkins, Pixie Lott and JLS abound.

No nonsense Danish PM (ficticious . . .)
Denmark chooses it's Eurovision entry next week but for the moment it is their drama output that seems to proving popular. Although I missed The Killing, I am hooked on the latest Danish froth to wash ashore on BBC4. Borgen is the tale of politics, Copenhagen-style which may sound a bit dry but is far from it. Hero of the hour is Birgitte Nyborg, leader of the Moderate Party who is unexpectedly catapulted into the job of Prime Minister. She is played by the excellent Sidse Babett Knudsen who chooses to portray her as a normal human being as opposed to some manic, disorganised career mum. Special mention should also be made of Birgitte Hjort Sørensen who takes on the role of ambitious (i.e. a bit of a bitch) TV news anchor, Katrine Fønsmark. She may tun out to be a bit of a bad 'un. Anyway, this is certainly a classy production and compelling viewing. Not a woolly jumper in sight either.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Reality check . . .

Christmas is over. There. That's now dealt with. I know a great many people fear January with a passion. The empty month looming ahead. The undecorated living room. Food that doesn't contain 90% lard. It makes you want to weep. YOU maybe but, for the moment at least, not me. Having dragged the tree and tinsel back to the furthest reaches of the garden shed, I slapped my hands together and prepared for 2012. By visiting a nuclear bunker. Yes, I could think of no better way to greet the new year other than by descending into Mother Earth and reliving every nightmare brought on by the BBC's Threads in the 1980s.

Wish you were here? No . . .
Kelvedon Hatch was the bunker in which Thatcher et al would have hunkered down as the rest of the nation was vaporised. Not so much a bunker, more a small town was the impression that I got. It was equipped with a small hospital, offices galore, a massive industrial kitchen and even a BBC studio. As the remnants of humanity were breathing in fallout on the surface, at least they could have done so knowing that Gloria Hunniford was spinning discs in safety.

There is always a need for a bit of comfort telly first thing in January. For a couple of years, this was provided by Celebrity Big Brother. Having seen the line-up for 2012, I visibly sagged and my brain went into standby mode. I've managed to ween myself off most God-awful TV. The last series of the X Factor was definitely (probably . . .) the last one I'll bother with. Celeb BB seems to be peoopled by the usual rent-a-blondes with the ratty hair and black eyes. Add to that a non-entity rapper, a Corrie barmaid and Sonia Jackson from EastEnders and you can feel, the will to watch draining from the nation.

She's gorne forever, ain't she?
Speaking of Enders, I tuned in to the old nonsense on New Year's Day. Now I haven't watched it for a few years so was saddened to discover that Michelle Fowler and Doctor Legg are no longer residents. The only reason I switched it on was to see Pat Butcher in her death throws. Fat Pat. I remember her joining the show back in 1947 (well, it was quite a few years ago), with her peroxide 'biker's helmet' hairdo and M & S flasher mack. For the first year Pat was, if we're being honest, a bit of an old slag. She was the type of woman who lit one fag from the dying embers of her last one and drank the dregs from glasses at parties. However twelve months of being a right old cow began to wear thin, so the producers had Pat beaten up and left for dead. She emerged from her coma as the matriach who snuffed it last week. A nifty bit of re-writing saved us from twenty five years of having to view some clapped out tart propping up the bar at the Queen Vic. She just served from the other side instead.

I'm greeting 2012 then with a pile of books to read, some interesting music to discover (check out Michael Kiwanuka and Bry Webb) plus a few visits to the gym. Already the place is being overrun by chub-armed women and middle managers in corporate gymwear (You work for JP Morgan? Well done you!) I may just escape to a nuclear bunker for a few weeks. Happy New Year!