June 19th, 2016


Interesting Links for 19-06-2016


A Hit For A Miss: Episode 17 of Here Come The Double Deckers

Episode 17: A Hit For A Miss
First shown: 2 January 1971 (US), 2 April 1971 (UK)
Director: Harry Booth
Writers: Glyn Jones and Harry Booth
Appearing apart from the Double Deckers:
Georgina Simpson as Miss Petit
Damaris Hayman as Miss Finch
Brian Hayes as the Head Master
John Clive, Lucy Griffiths and Bryan Hunt as amdram members


Billie and Tiger are jealous of the boys' attraction to Miss Pettit, the new teacher. But they are won over by working together on a show to help an old people's home.


The boys alone sing "With A Little Bit Of Love", by Ivor Slaney and Glyn Jones. It's one of Jones' better songs, but the performance is a bit ragged especially on the higher notes, and we definitely miss Billie's voice keeping them in line.

The climax of the episode, and thus of the entire series, is everyone except Tiger singing "Fat Ladies", by Ivor Slaney and Michael Begg, the boys in drag. The kindest thing to say is that not all aspects of Double Deckers have aged well.

Glorious Moments

The sequence of the boys attempting to clear up the den is a good bit of slapstick. (NB that the vacuum cleaner doesn't seem to be plugged in.)

The first song is well-choreographed (shame about the singing).

Less glorious moments

It is a bit jarring to be honest. The scenes where each of the kids sees Miss Pettit as their own fantasy are well dodgy - for Springer she's a Hawaiian maiden (wrong ocean, folks); for Sticks a Calamity Jane type.

The old people's home for which they are supposedly raising money is also conspicuous by its absence.

And the "Fat Ladies" song... a very disappointing last note for the show.

What's all this then?

This episode opens up new areas to explore. It's the first time we've seen the gang at school. The boys' attraction to Miss Pettit, and Billie's jealousy of her, is the first real acknowledgement of grown-up things like relationships; it's all bee pretty chaste up till now. If there had been a second series, this might have been fertile ground for plot development. (Or, in fairness, it might just have been excruciating; this episode is a little embarrassing as it is.)

The Hot Teacher trope is one of the oldest in the book, and the usual outcome is, as here, that it's a learning experience for the pupils without the relationship being consummated (even though we tend to remember the minority where it does lead to mutual romance). It's rarer though for the boys to have a crush on a young woman teacher; one recent movie which could have fed into this (rather indirectly) might be The Graduate (1967).

Who's That?

Georgina Simpson (Miss Pettit), born in 1946, had a pretty brief acting career between 1967 and 1972, of which the high point was playing Blanche (one of Lucy's posh Belgian pupils) in a BBC adaptation of Villette earlier in 1970. She married the actor/director Anthony Andrews in 1971. Her family owned Simpsons of Piccadilly, the inspiration for Are You Being Served? - the building now houses the big Waterstone's.

Damaris Hayman (Miss Pike) is revered by Doctor Who fans as the white witch Miss Hawthorne in The Dæmons (1971). Born in 1929, she appeared in a string of minor character parts from 1953 to 1995. (Doctor Who seems to have been the best known thing she did, but I remember her also in The Small World of Samuel Tweet, a short-lived BBC kids sitcom from 1974.)

Brian Hayes (the Headmaster), born in 1912, has the same name as a member of the European Parliament who I know. His biggest role seems to have been the stationmaster in the 1968 TV version of The Railway Children, which starred Jenny Agutter as Roberta and Gillian "Billie" Bailey as Phyllis. He died in 1983.

John Clive (one of the amdrams), born in 1933, got a couple of leading roles in chldrens shows later in the 1970s - the titular Robert in Roberts Robots (1973), and Rosko in the 1974 show Perils of Pendragon - and then turned to writing from 1977. He died in 2012.

Lucy Griffiths (another amdram), born in 1919, played minor roles of spinsters and then little old ladies from 1952 until 1981; she died in 1982.

Bryan Hunt (third amdram) has six credited roles in IMDB from 1964 to 1971. (There's also one given for 1999, but I think this must be someone with the same name, as the part is "Young Toby".)

Where's that?

The school is St Teresa's Catholic Primary School on Brook Road in Borehamwood, around the corner from the studio. Another scene is shot on Barton Way, ten minutes' walk from the school.

See you next week...

...well, I'm afraid not. Although the gang cheerfully sing the closing line at the end, this is the final episode. But I will do a roundup post in due course.

The Last Man, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Second paragraph of third chapter:
After a residence of about a year at Ullswater, Adrian visited London, and came back full of plans for our benefit. You must begin life, he said: you are seventeen, and longer delay would render the necessary apprenticeship more and more irksome. He foresaw that his own life would be one of struggle, and I must partake his labours with him. The better to fit me for this task, we must now separate. He found my name a good passport to preferment, and he had procured for me the situation of private secretary to the Ambassador at Vienna, where I should enter on my career under the best auspices. In two years, I should return to my country, with a name well known and a reputation already founded.
This is in some ways a slightly silly book, but in other ways profoundly interesting. The first half of it is dominated by the debate about the best way forward for Art, and for England, between Adrian - a thinly disguised Percy Bysshe Shelley, who happens to be the displaced heir to the recently abolished British throne - and his more ebullient friend Lord Raymond, who (apologies for the spoiler) eventually dies fighting for the Greeks against the Turks; can you imagine who he might be based on? In the year 2073 there has been no advance on technology since 1826, but our chums can just live in Windsor Castle and pop down to London now and then for a spot of governing. But given the importance of the relationship between Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to literature and especially to sf, it is fascinating to have an insight, even if a fictionalised insight, from one of the protagonists. However the interpersonal relationships bit is not as exciting as I would have liked.

The second half, when a great plague comes and wipes out humanity, is better executed but perhaps not quite as interesting. I recently read The Last Man (aka No Other Man) by Alfred Noyes, written over a century later but, I now realise, leaning a bit on Shelley; in both cases, the surviving central characters flee the post-holocaust England through a devastated France to find refuge in Italy. There are some great descriptions of places Shelley must herself have known quite well, and she doesn't shirk the awfulness of death by disease (which she had far too much personal experience of). Romantic ideals fail through death of the gallant protagonists. (Adrian, the Shelley character, drowns in a boating accident, in case you were wondering.)

There's a nice framing narrative of Shelley herself finding the text of the story in prophecy in the cave of the Cumaean Sibyl near Naples. And in general, it's very interesting as an early example of post-apocalyptic fiction. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in knowing what happened to the author after Frankenstein - which was written 200 years ago this summer.

This came to the top of my pile as the most popular unread book that I acquired in 2014. Next on that list is Earthlight by Arthur C.Clarke - one I have in fact read before, but not for decades.
Last Man

To my British friends

As you may know, I was born in Belfast. I grew up in a country which was not at peace. I sat in the back row during the first six months of the 1996-98 talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement. Peace in Northern Ireland would simply not have been possible without the European dimension, which transformed the relations between the UK and Ireland from a zero-sum game over sovereignty and loyalty, to a co-operative project of shared growth.

I see the Leave campaign asserting that nothing would change between Northern Ireland and the Republic if Britain left the European Union. I can’t reconcile this with their commitment to regain control of Britain’s borders. At the very least, there would need to be customs posts if the UK is no longer in the EU customs union. (And if nothing is going to change, what is Thursday’s vote actually for?)

On similar lines, I recently had a very interesting chat with leading members of the government of Gibraltar, who are very concerned that their delicate relationship with Spain will be critically undermined if the UK votes to leave. Northern Ireland and Gibraltar are both likely to deliver strong votes for Remain on Thursday; these are the people who face the sharp end of the sovereignty question, and perhaps their views matter.

I've worked in other troubled parts of the world. I contributed to the 2001 EU-brokered Macedonian peace agreement. I advised Croatia's negotiators on their EU accession, and Montenegro and Kosovo on how to anchor their independent status in the European framework. In the Balkans, the governments and peoples that were at war with each other in the 1990s are now committed to working out their differences peacefully, in the framework of joining the EU.

I have also advised the Turkish Cypriot leadership and the Moldovan government. In both cases, the attraction of the EU is proving to be crucial in overcoming the deep divisions that have previously erupted into conflict. These are imperfect processes – what process is perfect? – but the shared factor is clear. Compare these two situations, inching forward, with other frozen conflicts in the neighbourhood (Israel/Palestine being the most obvious) which remain intractable and coincidentally have no prospect of European integration.

Britain may well choose to walk away from the project of making and keeping peace in Europe by building a common future. But that will certainly weaken the mission as a whole, increasing the risk of new conflict. I hope it doesn’t happen.

Just two other points, if I may. First, I’m really saddened by the vicious rhetoric about migration that has characterised the campaign. I take it personally. I am a migrant, as are several of my closest relatives. It seems to me, from afar, that if public services in Britain are under stress, that is because of a broader problem with the funding model. Blaming migrants, particularly considering how much they actually contribute to delivery of those services, is a distraction.

I also want to say that, contrary to some perceptions, I find the Brussels policy machinery very open to external input. It’s not surprising that this is the case, given that a broad consensus from business, unions, consumers and citizens is needed to persuade a sufficient majority of elected governments and elected MEPs to agree to any particular proposal. I may have been fortunate – I work on a fairly narrow range of issues – but I really think that this is the single aspect that has been most maliciously reported by the UK media. I’m happy to talk more about this if you have any questions.

Of course, Brexit will be a bonanza for public affairs consultants like me. The process itself will include lots of moving parts to report on and to try and influence; the end result will be more decisions taken in London, where lobbying is barely scrutinised, rather than Brussels, where the demands of transparency are getting tougher. But my pocket does not always rule my head.

Anyway, I’ll be up all night on Thursday, hoping for the best. Good luck.

(Sent to a large number of people this evening - not quite as large as I'd have liked, as Gmail has a limit to the number of messages you can send!)