April 22nd, 2010

never there

Seven Ages of Britain; Joanna Lumley's Nile

The episode of Seven Ages of Britain that we watched this week was the Age of Money - which seemed a little more of a stretch than some of the previous themes. Basically this was covering mostly the 18th Century (I think) and the "money" side of it was due to the rise of "people of the middling sort" during this time, ie the middle-class. Which I suspect started earlier and continues (clearly) later. So the programme looked at the things made to give this new group of people with disposable income something to spend it on - Wedgewood china, Chippendale furniture and such like. Another theme was the scientific side both of the art and of the era in general - so we saw Wedgewood's little clay markers where he'd looked at different clays/glazes/position in the kiln and seen what effect that had on colour and quality. All properly organised to allow him to repeat things consistently. And for some non-anglocentric art/science we were shown the work of a midwife in Edinburgh, whose name I forget. He made plastercasts of the (opened up) wombs of women who'd died in childbirth, and commissioned an artist to draw them too, to advance his understanding both of how it all worked and what could go wrong. Continuing on the money theme we were also shown William Hogarth's "Rakes Progress" series of paintings - which are in the Sir John Soane's Museum in London that J & I visited recently. And with David Dimbley talking us through them they were actually a lot more interesting to look at than I'd found them when we were there (which shows up my lack of knowledge of what I was looking at, I guess). And also discussed was the setting up of the Royal Academy and other public art galleries. It felt a bit bitty as a programme - each thing nicely lead onto the next via some sort of sensible path, but the overall whole felt less coherent to me than some of the other episodes.

And then, after a break for J to submit his hieroglyphs homework, we moved on to the first episode of Joanna Lumley's Nile. In which, over 4 episodes, Joanna Lumley travels up the Nile from Alexandria to the source of the White Nile in Rwanda. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I'm not sure I could tell you what I'd been expecting and how this was different. Overall I think it has perhaps a little more "interacting with the locals" than I find comfortable to watch, but Joanna Lumley herself makes me laugh with the things she says (and the expressions she pulls) so that offsets it. This episode covered Egypt - so we had a brief glimpse of Alexandria, then off to Cairo (where we tried to see if we could spot our hotel on the screen) before a visit to the Pyramids at Giza (she rode a camel to get there). Then Luxor, a glimpse of the temples at Karnak & Luxor, before she got on a Nile cruise boat for a bit. Which made us think of our holiday again - and included (for us) a great sense of relief that we'd skipped the "entertainment" on the boat ;) And then on to Aswan on a felucca carrying stone - where she and the guy sailing the boat had a conversation about demons haunting the Nile where I don't think anyone (her, him, us watching) was entirely clear if he was winding up the foreigner who was playing along with it, or she was humouring the local superstitions, which was well played.