06 January 2015

our weekend suppers

A certain little lady drives for ninety minutes. This is just some of what she brings with her. To say we eat a supper of bread and cheese does no justice at all to this sumptuous feast: numerous exotic, flavoured cheeses; rosemary bread; dipping oils loaded with herbs and spices; crackers; bruschetta; antipasto tomato salad; a giant cheese cake; and milk chocolate.

As if all that were not enough, she bakes buttermilk biscuits (scones in the UK) which sit in bags in my freezer.

Early on dark and windy mornings she rises at 5am and trudges across my icy parking lot amid swirling snow flurries to face a ninety minute drive to work.

It's an incredible life.

03 January 2015


1975 was a year of exciting innovative TV. So does it still feel that way forty years later? I pulled out my box set of Poldark, a darkly romantic saga charting the ups and downs of 18th century Cornish gentry. Back in the day it was compulsive viewing but my anticipated nostalgia trip fell flat. Frankly, although the story is cute, the production values are ludicrously dated. It has the feel of a cheap theatre production, all stationary camera views and big projected voices! The lighting is absurd; since when did candlelight illuminate the tops of heads, still less follow people around! How did I not notice in 1975. Maybe we settled for less more easily. We certainly expected dramatic music and crashing waves in our opening credits!

The best modern programming has set the bar so high that older material doesn't compare at all well; the acting is pedestrian and somewhat lame. Sadly abandoning the dated period drama Poldark, I sought solace in its 1975 companion, the John Cleese penned Fawlty Towers and had much better luck. Not only is the comedy timeless, and a landmark example of British humour, loaded with sarcasm and irony, but the acting is plausible and realistic. While never crude, the humour is direct, and downright startling at times; something to savour and relish in these pathetic days of political correctness. I'd go further, much of my own (mostly hidden from view) comic persona is drawn from the biting sarcasm and eccentric reactions of "Basil Fawlty"!

Between these two widely divergent stalwarts of 70's TV, there is a curious connection: Robin Ellis appeared in both. Obviously he is forever known as the swashbuckling, handsome, lover and tin miner Ross Poldark, but perhaps few remember that he made a guest appearance in the first episode of Fawlty Towers, as the undercover Cockney cop on the trail of con-artist Lord Melbury.

Forty years has a habit of changing things. Robin Ellis, now 72, lives in France and writes cookery books; the gorgeous Angharad Rees (his screen wife Demelza Poldark) sadly died recently at 63. Sybil Fawlty (the marvellous Prunella Scales, aged 82), veteran nagger, and foil for Basil's acerbic humour, has Alzheimer's. John Cleese divorced his first wife and co-writer, American Connie Booth, and is currently entertaining wife number four.