June 3rd, 2010


Seven Ages of Britain; Joanna Lumley's Nile

Having run out of Bettany Hughes programmes, we started the evening with the last episode of David Dimbleby's Seven Ages of Britain. The "Age of Ambition" which could, unfortunately, be better titled the "Age of Art Margaret Doesn't Like" ;) That's not entirely fair to the programme - the first half was interesting, and I liked some of the cuts where they'd show a bus driving past and change the footage shown from modern to early 20th century, or back again. And that first half covered the rise of radio (and design of radio sets), and war era art - both first & second World Wars, some quite brutal modernist pictures of WW1, and more human WW2 blitz drawings. He also talked for quite a while about Mass Observation (which I'd only run across recently, as bopeepsheep had mentioned them) - recording by a variety of somewhat creepy methods the everyday lives of everyday people. David Dimbleby also recorded a segment in an operating theatre in a hospital, covering the founding of the NHS and someone's drawings of surgeons at work - somewhat inappropriate I thought, to be talking to the surgeon while he was actually operating on someone. And then we were on to still living modern artists, where the theme was explicitly described as looking to shock. So we had the living sculpture guys (who I'd never heard of before) and Tracey Emin and Anish Kapoor (also hadn't heard of before) and Damien Hirst. The closest to liking anything in this segment of the programme was that I liked the look of some of Kapoor's work that we were shown in passing - all elegant metal shapes and optical illusions - but then what we dwelt on was disturbing wax creations being flayed or something. It presumably makes me a philistine, but as "art" none of that stuff does anything for me (yes, yes, you're shocking or sticking it to the man or whatever, yaaaaaaaawn) and interviews with the artists just made me roll my eyes. Except Hirst, actually, despite still not liking his art I was entertained by his persona.

So that left me a tad grumpy & not well set up for more TV ;) We had a pause to have syrup sponge pudding, and then back to watch the third episode of Joanna Lumley's Nile. I kind of grumped my way through the first part, but she had me in stitches in the second section & I was out of the bad mood then & enjoyed the rest of it. This programme covered the Blue Nile from Khartoum to the source in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia. Along the way she had a beauty treatment in Sudan (basically you sit dressed only in a tent-like robed on a stool, with hole in it, over a pit containing burning acacia wood and are smoked ... that's the bit that had me giggling away), ate local food (a sort of cold pancake thing with stew in it), had a drink of Tej (sp? - a mead like drink I think) with locals, got baptised (by accident?) at the source, met a troop of Ethiopian girl athletes. All with a great sense of humour, needed to cheer me up after the I'm-a-philistine grump at the end of our first programme ;)