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Double Deckers - To the countryside

Episode 6: Summer Camp
First shown: 17 October 1970 (US), 4 February 1971 (UK)
Director: Harry Booth
Writers: Harry Booth and Glyn Jones
Appearing apart from the Double Deckers:
Melvyn Hayes as Albert the Street Cleaner
Betty Marsden as Millie
Hugh Paddick as Gerald
George Woodbridge as Farmer Giles


Albert and the gang go camping, much to the annoyance of a couple camping in the next field, but entirely witht he approval of the local farmer. Japes ensue when their donkey misbehaves, and the it rains overnight.


I've put the French version of the opening song up top; "Into the Countryside" is by regular series song-writers Ivor Slaney and Michael Begg, and features some cinematography reminiscent of Procul Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" (which is from 1967 so it cannot be a coincidence). Do have a watch.

"Granny's Rocking Chair" is a beautiful sweet little song, where for the first time we see the Double Deckers as Billie and her backing singers (minus the sleeping Tiger):

Double Deckers - Grannie's Rocking Chair par love15

"Granny's Rocking Chair" credited to a Mair Somerton-Davies, of whom little else is known except that she is also credited for a 1966 single by a band called Situation. At least, little was known of her until I contacted her daughter, who told me:

Mum was an amazing lady - she had a group called the Tip Toppers we were based in Watford and used to raise money for mentally handicapped... also we regularly used to put on performances for the elderly and had concerts at Watford Town Hall. Mum had two bands one called Tiles Big Band the other called Manego - these were in addition to the Tip Toppers and also she was a Drama Teacher Song Writer, Teacher and also helped people with speech impediments.

"Granny's rocking chair" actually started off as "Granny's Rocking horse" but then as she put it to music it became "Granny's Rocking Chair". The original theme song for the double Deckers was actually written by Mum but in those days they changed a small part of it and she was never paid royalties on it. The song was called "Get On Board" and the original line was "get on board all you people" and they changed it to "get on board with the double deckers" therefore rewriting some of the melody... originally an album was to have been released called The Kids Next Door... it was a shame she was never fully recognised for her amazing talents.

Let that recognition start here.

(And while we're on music, note the nod to Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice for an early scene with the donkey.)

Glorious moments

This is a real delight of an episode, with two excellent songs and some excellent comedy moments. The potential villain, Farmer Giles, turns out to be a good guy; and the actual villains, the snooty camping couple, are redeemed by ἀγάπη after ὕβρις and νέμεσις.

Less glorious moments

There's a slightly nasty element of class sneering at Millie and Gerald, who are clearly not as respectable as they think they are. (And they sleep in separate beds; and she's unaware of his military record. Interesting.)

What's all this then?

This is so totally derivative of the 1969 film Carry On Camping that it actually has one of the film's main performers, Betty Marsden, in a very similar role. (Though there is no equivalent here of the memorable Barbara Windsor shower scene; this is a kids' show, after all.)

Where's that?

The bridge is the one at Tyke's Water Lake in the grounds of Haberdasher's Aske's School for Boys, three miles from the studios where most of Here Come the Double Deckers was made. The bridge also featured the previous year in the opening titles of several of the Tara King episodes of The Avengers, and was soon used again for the opening credits of Dracula A.D. 1972 starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The pupils at the school at this time would have included Britain's current minister for Europe, David Lidington, and also my mate Andrew who works for the European Commission.

The other locations are nearby.

Who's that?

This episode has an particularly high-powered guest cast for its time.

Betty Marsden (Millie) was born in 1919, and was particularly well-known for her regular roles in the 1960s radio comedy shows of Kenneth Horne, Beyond Our Ken and Round the Horne. She also appeared in two Carry On films, Carry On Camping, as noted above, and a small part in the 1961 Carry On Regardless. She also plays the tipsy slave auctioneer Verlis in Assassin, a particularly camp episode of Blake's 7. She died in 1998.

Hugh Paddick (Gerald), born in 1915, was also a veteran of Beyond Our Ken and Round the Horne, where he played Kenneth Williams' sidekick and together they made an unsuspecting public aware of
Polari. Other than that, he tended to be a straight man to the likes of Tommy Cooper, Jimmy Tarbuck and Morecambe and Wise, though he got two now-forgotten sitcoms of his own, Rentaghost fore-runner Pardon My Genie (he was the Genie) and Can We Get On Now, Please? in which he played the quietly brilliant clerk of the court. He died in 2000.

George Woodbridge (Farmer Giles), born in 1907, was typecast as playing yokels, inn-keepers and farmers in horror films. But at this stage he was moving into more friendly territory, and he really hit the big time as Inigo Pipkin, the kindly old puppeteer in the ITV children's show of the same name, first broadcast in 1973. Unfortunately he died that year, only a few weeks into the filming of the second series. Pipkins, as the show was renamed, actually worked his death into the plot, brave territory for a children's programme. The show ran until 1981.

Glyn Jones (co-writer and script editor) has been mentioned here a few times. I posted about his life here and the extracts from his autobiography relating to Double Deckers here.

See you next week...

...for The Pop Singer.

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Friday reading

Watership Down, by Richard Adams (a chapter a week)
Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin

Last books finished
The Sword of Forever, by Jim Mortimore
The Sinn Féin Rebellion As I Saw It, by Mrs Hamilton Norway

Next books
Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson
The Magic Cup, by Andrew M. Greeley

Books acquired in last week
Gentleman Jolie and the Red Queen, by Lois McMaster Bujold - special signed limited edition, gloat gloat
Mother of Eden, by Chris Beckett
The Legends of Ashildr, by James Goss, David Llewellyn, Jenny T. Colgan and Justin Richards

Tik-Tok by John Sladek

BSFA Award winner from 1983. I thought I'd read this before, but in fact the robot book by John Sladek I'd previously read was Roderick, his take on Candide. Tik-Tok is about a robot who decides to subvert the Asimovian laws of robotics (which any sensible person must cheer) and manages to secretly wage a campaign of crime and murder across the country before, in a Being There sort of moment, becoming Vice-President of the United States. There's a lot of dark humour, gratuitous violence, and not terribly well drawn analogies with slavery and racism.

I don't really think the BSFA covered itself in glory that year. The other shortlisted novels were Cat Karina, by Michael Coney; Golden Witchbreed, by Mary Gentle; Helliconia Summer, by Brian Aldiss; and The Citadel of the Autarch, by Gene Wolfe. I haven't read Cat Karina; frankly I think the other three are all better than the rather heavy-handed satire of Tik-Tok, and while I would have voted for Aldiss I think the BSFA award would have most respectably gone to Wolfe. The Hugo and Nebula for Best Novel that year both went to Startide Rising. (The BSFA short form award went to Malcolm Edwards' one and only published fiction, "After-Images".)

This came to the top of my TBR pile because it won the BSFA award for 1983. The next two winners of that award were Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock and Helliconia Winter by Brian Aldiss, both of which I have reviewed here not too long ago. So my next from that particular list will be The Ragged Astronauts by Bob Shaw.
I got this from the authors (all three of whom are friends of mine) back in 2009 when it was published. At that stage there seemed to be an opportunity for a breakthrough in the Cyprus problem; the Turkish Cypriot president, Mehmet Ali Talat (full disclosure: I was advising him from 2007 to 2010) had been elected in 2005 on a platform of securing a solution, and the newly elected Greek Cypriot president, Demetris Christofias, was ostensibly committed to doing the same.

A People's Peace for Cyprus, published by the Centre for European Policy Studies (where I worked from 1999 to 2002), gives the results of extensive public opinion polling on both sides of the island about what might or might not be acceptable elements of a new peace agreement to reunify the island. It's actually quite an encouraging read; the gaps exist, of course, but even on difficult issues such as the constitutional arrangements for a power-sharing government, the arrangements for property owned by Greek Cypriots in Turkish Cypriot-controlled territory, and the future security guarantees and responsibilities of Greek, Turkey and the UK, a bridgeable gap could be envisaged. I suspect that opinion has not moved very far in the seven years since the research was done - iof anything there may have been a further drift towards finding accommodation.

I'm afraid there is one very silly idea in the book, which I pointed out at the time. It is that as part of the settlement, there should be agreement on a kind of playbook for what external interventions should be appropriate in case one or other side should block implementation of any part of the agreement. Quite apart from the Chekhov's gun point that agreeing in advance on what disagreements can be envisaged more or less guarantees that those disagreements will happen, the fact is that offering a new set of rules to play with to two sides who are already over-equipped with lawyers is simply asking for trouble. Much better to get a commitment to full implementation, and nothing else, up front, and for international mediators to be ready to come and bang heads together when sticking points are reached.

Apart from that, all of the rest of the findings are pretty sound, and indicated that there was (and I think still is) room to find agreement on a settlement plan for both sides on Cyprus.

The 2009 opening proved to be illusory. Talat, who is one of the nicest and best politicians I have ever worked with, appeared to be a lame duck after his party lost the 2009 parliamentary elections in northern Cyprus - though my own view is that he could have still sold an agreement to his own electorate, but that unfortunately Christofias had never been serious about negotiating with him. Christofias went on to preside over the disastrous July 2011 Mari explosion and the even more disastrous collapse of the economy, both of which happened directly because of decisions that he took (or rather didn't take). He was indolent and incompetent, and those of us (including me) who hoped in 2009 that he might negotiate a settlement as he had promised were engaging in wishful thinking.

Things have now, thank heavens, moved in a positive direction again. The two current Cypriot leaders, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akıncı, seem to have found a new dynamic - witness this charming video from December of them valiantly attempting to read seasonal greetings in each other's languages:

Apart from the encouraging dynamic between the leaders, I also want to point out that the two chief negotiators, Özdil Nami and Andrea Mavroyannis, are really seriously committed to finding a solution. The findings of the 2009 CEPS survey may soon become relevant once more.

This came to the top of my TBR pile as the shortest book of those I had bought in 2009 and not yet read. Next on that list - having polished off On The Way to Diplomacy - is A History of Anthropology by Thomas Hylland Eriksen.

Interesting Links for 11-02-2016

I picked this up aaaages ago about a year after I started working for Independent Diplomat, and did not get around to reading it until about a year after I stopped working for Independent Diplomat. I don't think the lack of having read it impacted my work; it's a rather philosophical book, analysing diplomacy as communication from the point of view of aesthetics and political theory - it begins with a long analysis of Holbein's The Ambassadors, drawing attention to the controversy over its attribution and subjects, which is all very well but only marginally connected to diplomacy as it is practiced these days. I find myself once again confirmed in my view that anthropology is much more useful to me in my daily life as a political actor than any amount of political theory or philosophy.

The came to the top of my TBR pile as the shortest book of those acquired in 2009 that I had not yet read. Actually it was second on that list as I couldn't lay my hands on the one that actually was the shortest. But then I found that one too and will write it up tomorrow.

Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie

It's really a bit frustrating that, having finished the third book of the trilogy (after I voted for both previous books in the BSFA and Hugo ballots last year and the year before) and again hugely enjoyed it, I now find that I can't really express why I like this book, and these books, so much. I guess a lot of things come together: the fish-out-of-water leadership of Breq, the central character; the interplay between the other established characters from previous books; the humorous social and linguistic malapropisms of the Translator; the completely overt yet subtly done political threads in the plot, and the interplay between wielding power and communication. Others have written at greater length than this about its merits and its few flaws. Me, I'm just going to vote for it.

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No Official Umbrella, by Glyn Jones

Glyn Jones was an actor, writer and director, who was born in South Africa in 1931 and died in Crete in 2014. This 700-page autobiography recounts the high and low points of his career, somewhat rambling in places, name-dropping of course, but mainly complimenting those who did him favours of various kinds over his long career or noting with satisfaction that he spotted this or that star on his way up (Peter Firth, Maul McGann). The parts about his South African childhood and early acting career are fascinating; the story of his most frustrating failure, a play about the Connaught Rangers' mutiny on 1922, is very moving; the assembling of his letters home from teaching trips to the USA rather less exciting. It is a bit of a shame that he did not run it past a thorough editor - a bit more structure would have done the reader a world of good, and a half day with Google would have filled in some of the frustrating blanks.

Jones hit my personal interests in two respects in particular. He was the script editor for Here Come The Double Deckers in 1969-70, and is credited with writing or co-writing 9 of the 17 episodes of the show - in fact he probably really wrote them all, that being the role of a script editor in those days. I excerpted the pages of the book about Double Deckers here.

But he is also one of the very few people to have both appeared as an actor in Doctor Who, and written a story. (The others were Victor Pemberton in Old Who, Mark Gatiss in New Who, and I would also count Noel Clarke who wrote an episode of Torchwood.) He appeared in the early Tom Baker story The Sontaran Experiment as one of a group of stranded astronauts (who all had South African accents):

But earlier on he wrote the William Hartnell story The Space Museum, a four-part story where the second, third and fourth episodes are about the overthrow of a rather dull despotic regime, but the first is a real work of genius, one of the spookiest Who episodes ever and a good candidate for being one of the best single Hartnell episodes. the relevant pagesCollapse )

There are a few later references to Who in passing, mostly to his novelisation of the story (in which he Tuckerised at least two of his friends). It's a good perspective on how brief his engagement with the show was in a long career. And in general the book is a good read if you skip some of the later chapters.

Mathematical limericks

A Dozen, a Gross, and a Score,
plus three times the square root of four,
divided by seven,
plus five times eleven,
is nine squared and not a bit more.

A second one, from nmg (requires "zee" rather than "zed" for the last letter of the alphabet):

Integral z-squared dz
from 1 to the cube root of 3
times the cosine
of three pi over 9
equals log of the cube root of e.

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And so the awards season starts in earnest. Official BSFA press release here. Congrats to all concerned. In particular, I think the non-fiction short list is a lot better than in previous years.

The Goodreads / LibraryThing stats for the shortlisted novels are as follows. Ranking is consistent between the two (except that there is a tie st the end for LibraryThing). I've read three and must now get the other two.

Goodreads LibraryThing
owners av rating owners av rating
The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard 6,981 3.49 150 3.84
Luna: New Moon, by Ian McDonald 5,506 4.04 110 3.98
Mother of Eden, by Chris Beckett 1,894 3.77 65 3.59
Glorious Angels, by Justina Robson 633 3.44 31 3.11
Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson 407 4.26 31 3.88

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott

A classic of nineteenth century sf, where the story is told by an inhabitant of a two-dimensional universe who has become aware that a third dimension exists. As a teenager I had read Martin Gardner's extended review of this book and similar writings, and to be honest it was better than the original source material, which is laden with assumptions about what the reader would find funny which rather grate on today's sensitivities particularly with regard to gender but also class and race; it has not aged well. But at the same time the core message, challenging the reader to conceive of a conceptual breakthrough where our universe is just one aspect of a higher dimensional reality, is well executed - and of course the concept of other dimensions has become much more operational since 1884.

This came to the top of my TBR pile as the most popular sf book in my LibraryThing that I had not yet read. Next on that list is Walking on Glass, by Iain M. Banks.
May have just been the mood I was in at the time, but this failed to grab me; I didn't understand the setting, or what the characters were trying to do. I love the way de Bodard writes in general, so for me this was a rare miss.

The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro

Another superb book of short stories by the Canadian Nobel Prize winner. The two that particularly grabbed me were the very first, "The Love of a Good Woman", about the mysterious death of an optician, and "Before the Change", about the daughter of a small-town abortionist. But they are all pretty good.

No screenshots this time, I'm afraid - my picture quality for this episode is rather poor.

Episode 5: Happy Haunting
First shown: 10 October 1970 (US), 28 January 1971 (UK)
Director: Harry Booth
Writers: Harry Booth and Glyn Jones
Appearing apart from the Double Deckers:
Melvyn Hayes as Albert the Street Cleaner
Clive Dunn as Hodge
Pat Coombs as Doris
Frederick Peisley as The Duke
Ruth Kettlewell as The Duchess

Read more...Collapse )

2016 Read Harder Challenge List

Not quite sure where this came from, but it's an interesting list of books to aim to read this year.

The 2016 Read Harder Challenge List
(annotated where I've read books in the relevant category in January 2016)
  • Read a horror book
  • Read a nonfiction book about science
  • Read a collection of essays
         Baptism of Fire: The Birth of the Modern British Fantastic in World War I, ed. Janet Brennan Croft
         Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien, eds. Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie A. Donovan
  • Read a book aloud to someone else
  • Read a middle grade novel [ie aimed at 8-12]
  • Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography)
  • Read a dystopian and post-apocalyptic novel
         Streetlethal, by Steven Barnes
  • Read a book originally published in decade you were born [the 1960s]
  • Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award
  • Read a book over 500 pages long
         No Official Umbrella, by Glyn Jones (710)
  • Read a book under 100 pages
         The Story of Ireland, by Brendan O'Brien (96)
         Flatland, by Edwin A. Abbott (96)
         Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef, by Cassandra Khaw (95)
         A Day In Deep Freeze, by Lisa Shapter (74)
         Bételgeuse v 3: L'Expédition, by Leo (48)
  • Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender
  • Read a book that is set in the Middle East
  • Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia
         Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef, by Cassandra Khaw (from Malaysia)
         Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho (also from Malaysia)
  • Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900
  • Read the first book in a series by a person of colour
         again, Streetlethal, by Steven Barnes
         again, Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho
  • Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years
         I think Saga counts? Though perhaps the spirit of the challenge is to find a new one. Thanks to drplokta for clarification.
  • Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie and discuss which is better
  • Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes
         again, Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien, eds. Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie A. Donovan
  • Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction
         possibly Jews vs Aliens, ed. Lavie Tidhar and Rebecca Levene
  • Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction)
  • Read a food memoir
  • Read a play
  • Read a book with a main character with a mental illness
Most of these are represented on my reading list already. I would not have thought to look at the Audie awards, but a quick skim of their website looks very encouraging. The biggest challenge will be finding someone who is willing for me to read an entire book to them. I may have to borrow a small child.


Friday reading

Watership Down, by Richard Adams (a chapter a week)
Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver

Last books finished
No Official Umbrella, by Glyn Jones
Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie
On The Way To Diplomacy, by Costas Constantinou
A People's Peace for Cyprus, by Alexander Lordos, Erol Kaymak and Nathalie Tocci 
Tik-Tok by John Sladek
Short Trips: The Muses, ed. Jacqueline Rayner
Europe at Midnight, by Dave Hutchinson
Citadel of Dreams by Dave Stone

Next books
Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson
The Magic Cup, by Andrew M. Greeley
The Sword of Forever by Jim Mortimore

Books acquired in last week
A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin
I will be in London next Monday (8 February) for work meetings, and wondered if anyone might be up for dinner that evening? Unfortunately my favourite Georgian restaurant is closed on Mondays, but I'm open to other suggestions. I'm staying on Lincoln's Inn Fields and would prefer to eat somewhere moderately convenient to there, without too much background noise given my middle-aged ears.

Also I'm going to take a couple of hours off on Tuesday morning, 9 February, and go see the Lost Library of Dr John Dee in the Royal College of Physicians (off Albany St, near Great Portland St and Regent's Park tube stations). I would want to get there promptly for 9 am, and probably stay for a couple of hours before going back to work. Company very welcome.

January Books

I'm on the road this weekend, so no time to finalise my write-up of Happy Haunting, I'm afraid. Instead, please enjoy these extracts from No Official Umbrella, the 700-page autobiography of Glyn Jones, who was the script editor of Here Come The Double Deckers and also wrote or co-wrote many of the episodes.

pages from the bookCollapse )

There is also a little about Doctor Who - along with Mark Gatiss and Victor Pemberton, Jones is one of the few people to have both written a Who story (The Space Museum) and appeared in one (The Sontaran Experiment) - but I'll save that for when I write the book up properly.

Interesting Links for 30-01-2016


Friday reading

Watership Down, by Richard Adams (a chapter a week)
No Official Umbrella, by Glyn Jones
Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie
Europe at Midnight, by Dave Hutchinson

Last books finished
Touch, by Claire North
Streetlethal, by Steven Barnes
Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho
The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro
House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard
Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott

Last week's audios

Next books
On The Way To Diplomacy, by Costas Constantinou
Tik-Tok by John Sladek

Books acquired in last week
Europe at Midnight, by Dave Hutchinson
Faith in Politics, by John Bruton
Les Lumières de l'Amalou, by Claire Wendling
Hardwired, by Walter Jon Williams
A Darker Shade, ed. Jon-Henri Holmberg


Encouraged by rosefox here and rmc28 here, I bit the bullet and forked out €15 (the first time I've bought a music album for myself for over a decade) for the Broadway cast recording of Hamilton, the musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, based on the Ron Chernow biography which I read in 2006, and starring a mainly black cast.

Gosh. It hooked me less than two minutes in:
Well, the word got around, they said, “This kid is insane, man”
Took up a collection just to send him to the mainland
“Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came, and
The world is gonna know your name. What’s your name, man?”

Alexander Hamilton
My name is Alexander Hamilton
And there’s a million things I haven’t done
But just you wait, just you wait...
And then I couldn't stop listening. I'd loaded up the iPod with the album, and casually thought I'd listen to it on a long walk after a day of travel. But I found I just had to get back to the computer and read through the annotated lyrics right through to the end. It is fantastic.

I love the clever wordplay, including the repeated use of "satisfaction" and "time" and "I will not throw away my ... shot" hurtling towards the awful conclusion; I loved the many nods to Les Miserables; I loved the Schuyler sisters as Destiny's Child; I loved the successful attempt to set cabinet meetings to music; I loved the epilogue sung by Eliza about her fifty years of widowhood. This is one of the most amazing musicals I have experienced, and if I get a chance I will try to see it on stage in New York.

Here is Lin-Manuel Miranda performing the opening song at the White House in 2009.

What I find interesting is that the audience, including the President of the United States and the First Lady, think it's rather funny that anyone should try and write a hip-hop opera about the only one of the Founding Fathers who didn't become President because he got shot dead by the sitting Vice-President in 1804. I don't think they're laughing now.

For more info here's a short documentary about it.

Go get it, listen to it.


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