March 25th, 2010

never there

TV Night: Coast & Seven Ages of Britain

We started off TV night with an episode of Coast that we recorded ages ago - last summer sometime I think, one of the earlier things we recorded. It covered Rosyth to Hull, so took in Northeast England - which is why we recorded it. Quite a large chunk of coastline to cover in an hour, so bits felt very briskly rushed over (like Whitby which got about 10s of screentime and off we went again). The bits they spent time on were cool tho, mostly - I'm less fond of the "lets get the locals on screen" sort of thing, like the lasses pulling the lifeboat, coz it can verge on cringeworthy. I did, however, like the bit about riveting, neat to see how it used to be done and how it's done now (when it's done at all). And I hadn't known before why British shipbuilding had declined, just that it had. (Rise of mass-production of ships in the US, manufactured by welding not riveting, but to be competitive it requires more space than UK shipyards had.) And the seaside resort that never was between Whitby & Scarborough was kinda cool - I guess less cool if your family had been one of the ones that bought a building plot then never built your house or had anything happen with it. And the Viking re-enactor and the presenter for that bit made for some good comedy as well as Bamburgh being a neat place in its own right.

And second programme of the evening was the second in the Seven Ages of Britain series - covering the Middle Ages, the Age of Worship. With a few instruments of pointy death, because after all they weren't just about the worship, they were also about killing people over who they worshipped ;) The programme opened with the Henry II "sanctioned" murder of Thomas Beckett, and how that turned Thomas into a saint and Canterbury into a place of pilgrimage. A win for the Church in the Church v. State power struggle that characterises a lot of Medieval politics. And it was nicely bookended at the end of the programme by both a discussion of Chaucer (who wrote the Canterbury Tales about pilgrims to Thomas's shrine) at the court of Richard II, and by showing an altar piece of Richard's that has heaven (in the persons of the Virgin Mary and Christ and a host of angels wearing Richard's emblem) presenting England to him. Very much a win for the State as being important in the eyes of heaven. Beautiful painting too - I have a soft spot for that sort of religious painting from that era. We were also shown the queen's crown from Richard II's reign - way OTT, like someone sticking jewels on every possible bit of the surface. Beautiful still, just very in-your-face I'm-richer-than-you ;) And in between the programme also took in the Order of the Garter and much other Arthur-related/inspired chivalric art, and also the changing styles of religious art as it came more under the purview of the artist and less of the monk.