Thursday, 14 April 2011

Bryant and May

No, not a box of matches but (now) the names of a pair of elderly detectives in a series of excellent and eccentric murder mysteries by Christopher Fowler. While there's an undercurrent of gruesomeness in all the novels (Mr Fowler has also written horror stories), there's definitely a great affection for, and observation of, his characters. Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about the stories is the way they evoke the atmosphere of a mysterious and hidden London - uncovering things we didn't know about the capital and its often murky history: underground passages, buried rooms and convoluted crimes.

I'm re-reading The Victoria vanishes at the moment and it's struck me again that these stories are so tailor-made for TV that it's amazing that they haven't already been done. The only potential issue I can see with a series is that elderly actors are apt to die, giving the makers recasting problems. Can I make one request to any TV producer that might happen to read this - please remember there are other elderly actors than David Jason! I can see that he might seem ideal casting to some as the cantankerous Arthur Bryant, but we see quite enough of him on TV already. A better candidate (depending on budget) might be Albert Finney or Bernard Cribbins, and perhaps Tom Courtenay or John Challis as Bryant's colleague, John May.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Desert Island Discs

Just heard this on the radio. Looks like a great site to visit for anyone interested in both people and music. Maybe this is more of a Twitter-type post - will see if I can squeeze it on there as well...

Found the money down the back of the sofa

This week we had the sad event of around thirty people from our (local government) service leaving simultaneously on voluntary redundancy, with more to go by June. It seemed odd without some of them, but their loss will only be felt properly in the long term. We're told that similar cuts will have to be made next year and the year after - which will undoubtedly mean compulsory (rather than voluntary) redundancies.

Those of us who work in local government know that the impact on services of the cuts is already being felt. We're told that, with good management, the impact of these on frontline services should be minimal; we're not told how we can provide services of a similar standard with (in the long term) a possible 30% reduction in our budgets.

Anyone with half an eye or half a brain can see that Britain's adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are controversial. Are either of those countries really better off now than they were before our armed forces went in? Are we succeeding in our long-term aim to foster democracy in those countries and - more to the point - is it our job to do that? As if completely blind to the lessons of the past, it now seems that our "prudent", financially careful government has decided that a "quick" and "limited" intervention in Libya could get rid of the Big Bad Gaddafi and allow democracy to take over there. Although it's vital to pay off our deficit, we could miraculously afford a new military venture that, we're told, is costing "hundreds of millions of dollars". That was a couple of weeks ago but (surprise surprise) it hasn't worked! As I write, Gaddafi is still in power and the situation is looking murky...

Good intentions are all very well, but isn't it time to recognise that the days of the British Empire are long past? If Britain is really broke to the extent that it can't afford to maintain public services, how can it possibly afford to get involved in yet another open-ended foreign war with no plans for the aftermath?