Lock Down

Today there is an article in the NEW STATESMAN –

Much of it is about my friend and fellow contestant, James Doran, who played Sammie/ Charlie.

https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/tv-radio/2020/03/circle-finalists-how-to-get-through-isolation-lockdown-dan-sammie-james-paddy

After living through a month of isolation on a Channel 4 game show, finalists are heading back into lock-down for the second time

– written by Sarah Manavis

Isolation, heavy social media use, and being stuck inside with only a few sanctioned activities a day – this is a brand new reality most of us are experiencing for the very first time. But for a small group of reality TV stars who spent a month in isolation on The Circle, Channel 4’s latest breakout success, this is a past life they’re reliving after thinking they’d left it behind forever.

The Circle is a game show in which people compete to become the most popular person on a fake social media platform called “The Circle” – often catfishing or putting on fake personalities to make themselves more likeable. Contestants live in complete isolation in flats all in the same building and can only communicate via this interface, playing games, having private chats, and “blocking” (ie evicting) the least popular people several times a week. Although contestants are able to go to the roof of the building they live in, as well as the gym, they do not speak to any other people beyond a producer or showrunner, and don’t have access to television, the internet, or their phones. The finalists who make it to the end of the show experience this period of isolation for nearly four weeks, and in the first season this included a week in hiding preceding the show’s start. The prize for the winner is £100,000.

Well, nothing is always that straightforward the prize turned out to be split and, as the “viewers’ champion”, I shared this with Paddy. As with all contests of this sort, the show plays with the expectations and assumptions of the participants. It hungers for surprise and shock.

I have just reviewed the Brazilian version of the circle and I found it wanting. (I am told it redeems itself in the last two episodes and much of my gripe actually comes from the intensely boring episodes 7 and 8, possibly because Dumaresq was less prominent… ellipsis!) I must add that I found the scenes with the twins quite captivating, maybe because this was “real interaction”. And I loved their introduction as they both arrived in the apartment and only when they sat down together did we fully take on board the fact that we were watching identical twins.

The contestants were often gorgeous to look at and certainly bouncy, but they lacked any desire to bond together – which was odd: I thought Latin America was all about bonding (maybe it doesn’t quite work when there is no physical proximity?). It was the sense of intense reciprocity that I felt was lacking and seemed to me to be the very thing that made the UK Circle and set it apart from other reality tv shows of its ilk. I am also tempted to say that I am told it was particularly evident in the second series in which I was a participant. Even when James, Paddy and Georgina went over to “the dark side”, they were still bound together in a community, what James called “the circle of trust”. This sense of community is something that I feel is already developing across the UK at the moment as we all self-isolate; I am eager to see it continue and I want to nurture it. I think it is a good thing.

Now Dan was not only in the first season; he was also on the pilot so he is someone who should know about the circle. Incidentally, the lovely Jan who was in Season 2 with me was also in the original pilot. one day, I trust we will see that show too- now, would be a good time to drop it into the schedules!

Dan Mokasu was a finalist on the first ever season of The Circle in 2018 and was also a contestant since the first day, meaning he spent an entire month cut off from the outside world. “Even when we were in hiding, we weren’t allowed to watch live TV, we obviously weren’t allowed to read newspapers, we weren’t allowed to do anything really,” Dan tells me. “And then of course once you actually got on the show, you were even more limited. You can’t do anything, essentially. It’s really like primitive stuff to keep yourself entertained.”

During the show, viewers can catch glimpses of contestants playing puzzles, reading books, or doing yoga between bouts of messaging. For Dan, a month of this wasn’t necessarily cabin fever-inducing, but he did say he felt cut off and often bored. “I definitely felt disconnected,” he tells me. “We had even less [to do] than we do now.”

In contrast to Dan, I found I had plenty to do in the Circle but I am used to being on my own. I had an introduction to this as a monk and later as a goatherder on a greek mountainside. I sing, I talk to myself, I create stories and I draw. In fact, I actively enjoy my time alone. But, that time alone, I find, is actually time preparing to rejoin the community, and not knowing when that will be is now both unusual and potentially destabilising. I cannot assume, therefore, that any of this will be easy. We will all need help getting through this period.

James Doran was a finalist on Season 2 of the show who, like Dan, was in it from the beginning. However, he tells me that he suffered mental health problems both in The Circle and after he got out, and even had to be signed off for stress and anxiety when he returned to work. He says the loneliness combined with catfishing for an entire month (playing a single mother named Sammie) made him incredibly paranoid and the only human contact he had was “the kind of conversations you’d have in a lift” a couple of times a week with show producers.

“I don’t want to put a light mood on it, because it’s a really serious situation,” he says of now being in coronavirus lockdown, “but I think it’s a walk in the park comparing it to The Circle. I’m around my mum, my brother, I can speak to my girlfriend whenever I want to, I can go outside for a walk – you can’t do that stuff in there. We couldn’t use any technology, we had no sense of time… we couldn’t plan our days.”

I think the absence of time is a major issue and is something that comes with isolation. For this reason I have just reset the grandfather clock and I make sure I keep to a daily routine- up at 6, bed at 12, though I am afraid I often linger as lastnight falling asleep while watching episode 4 of “Belgravia”. (Not a criticism on Julian Fellowes by the way)

Although he felt at ease with this far more lax form of isolation, James does say that many parts of this are far more intense than his experience on The Circle. “When you’re self-isolating in The Circle there’s an end goal,” he says. “We knew how long we were going to be in there, whereas with this situation we don’t know how long it’s going to go on for. No one’s going to win 100 grand when it’s over. There was an angle, there was a target, there was something to try to get, to keep determined. It wasn’t like ‘this filming might be extended for a few months and I might still be here then’ – it’s that uncertainty that a lot of people are stressing out about.”

James has been using his Instagram account to help people struggling with isolation, creating videos on how to stay sane during lockdown and setting up an account to show people what exercises he did when he was stuck inside during filming.

We need to share our experiences and ideally each keep a blog or journal. We are now living through historical times in a way that we have not done for 70 years. In years’ to come, children will ask us what we did and we want to have these personal accounts to hand. It will also help us to order/ regulate our routines. We cannot just sit around waiting.

“I don’t want people to read this and think I’m just talking about my experience on The Circle,” James adds. “I genuinely want them to know that I care about other people, I’m not like ‘oh I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt.’”

It is very worrying to hear of Dan and James’ struggle, doubly so because the circle is actually just a bit of light entertainment. We do not want, or should not expect our entertainment ever to come at the cost of its participants’ health and I worry that the systems are not fully in place to cater to the aftercare of reality tv contestants or performers and to properly protect them. The memory of Caroline Flack remains fresh, but there is a very long list of men and women who have suffered from being in programmes like “Big Brother” where aftercare seems to be minimal and, even after all this time, contestants are unprepared for what they have signed up to. Often when it finds out about a problem, the media trot out a trite comment that these people had struggled to come to terms with their new popularity, but equally, they may have also struggled against a manipulative and very greedy management system operating in the shadows. It is not something any of us should be proud of. We cannot be entertained by reality tv and not take responsibility for the people who provide that entertainment- otherwise we are regressing to a Georgian voyeurism in Bedlam.

Manipulation and bullying turn up in many workplaces and are not at all the stuff of the school playground alone. I think, indeed, that we have become a society with a nasty underbelly of aggression.

We only get it right when we know nobody is hurting afterwards.

Trust

The circle was particularly unusual in that it was about seclusion. I can think of no other tv show or social experiment like it. And it threw up some interesting experiences that frankly even observers or the “professionals” were not aware of or prepared for. One of these is the experience of trust.  Isolation works on trust. I promise this is the case, and it makes sense when you think about it. More than that, I feel, to our credit, we are now, as a Nation, trusting one another already a lot more. That is sadly, though, something the bully is also waiting to take advantage of, so we must be wary. We must trust, but we must be sure we trust the right people.

There is nothing worse than a breakdown of trust.

It comes as no great surprise to me, sadly, to see an Art Gallery raided and a priceless Van Gogh stolen, as has just been reported. Criminals are lying in wait to take advantage of us. We need to be careful- we need to be prepared but that does not mean abandoning this healthy and new investment in trust. We just have to mind that we do not abuse it.

Community

For the isolation that we are in now, therefore, there are two points to note. The first is that we will only get through it in community, however isolated we may be. The second is that we will need to work very hard to adjust again to life on the outside after a few months in isolation. And again, we need to work together and to learn more about one another as we isolate: we need to become better neighbours and friends and build up stronger communities that go beyond the family.

We need to guard against the nastier elements in our society that will otherwise take advantage of us, indeed that are already doing so- the banks who have been trying to lever businesses into putting up collateral when the government has already offered the loan, the insurance agencies who were mealy-mouthed when theatres took the decision to close but had not actually been told to specifically shut down. I am afraid that list may grow, and it may well be “the usual suspects”.

Acceptance

This is what the winner, Paddy said. He

thinks that being cut off in The Circle is better than the lockdown we’re experiencing now.  “You can’t go outside because it’s bad for other people – if I went mad or if I needed air [in The Circle], I could do that,” he says.“If you take that out of it, I don’t really mind being in isolation now – what I do mind is that that’s a game show and this is affecting our livelihoods.”

Then Paddy adds an absolute gem of advice:

He also said to embrace isolation. “I find that, trying to fight something, you go into a state of panic… especially right now, you kind of have to go with the flow and take every day as it comes.”

Fighting against the Circle is a waste of time. We will make it work by harnessing it and taking advantage of what it offers. We are not “stuck” at home- we are “safe” at home. We are not waiting, we are actively engaged in creative activities and doing something with out time in isolation.

All three finalists I spoke to had advice about how to stay engaged during isolation. “There are a million things that you could do,” Dan says. “Learn a language, reorganise your wardrobe, talk to your pets, phone a family member… Do your mum a favour and just clean up the house!” Paddy and James conducted an Instagram Live earlier in March, giving their own tips about how to combat cabin fever. Both suggested puzzles and reading, and giving yourself something to do each day to look forward to, as well as looking after your physical health. “Take care of your body and your mind will follow,” James says.

But above all else, the one thing they valued right now that they didn’t have in The Circle was the ability to speak to the people they love. “The conversations you’d have [in The Circle], it wasn’t like deep questions,” James tells me. “ And it’s not the people you want to be speaking to, is it?”

“It wasn’t the conversations you would have with someone you’re connected with, which is really what’s important,” he adds. “Keep in touch with those people now.”

It is odd that, since isolation began, I have had more conversations with fellow Circle players than at any time since we left the show. We formed a friendship there and we all realise we have an expertise that maybe we can and should pass on to others now.

Priti please

It is a while since I wrote anything about Priti Patel, and I had thought I had drawn her once. I cannot find any record, so here goes.

priti patel home office 29 feb 2020.jpg

Hers is not currently an attractive story. Indeed, it has been brewing for a while with leaks about Ms Patel’s abrasive style coming out quite regularly since the new government took shape and certainly since the Boris’ re-shuffle. Of course, Boris likes her, but that may not be enough…

A week ago, the Metro lead with a story about “An atmosphere of fear”. Apparently, a senior Whitehall official collapsed in a meeting about the deportation of 25 people back to Jamaica (Whether we have got immigration right or wrong is quite another matter and I will return to this, I promise). the unnamed official was taken to hospital with a sodium deficiency. The metro article went a little further and quoted a source specifically saying,

 ‘The Home Office is dysfunctional and the current permanent secretary had presided over a sacking of a home secretary and accidental deportations. ‘If this were any other environment Philip Rutnam would not only be sacked he’d be denied a pension. The lack of accountability in the civil service is deeply troubling and the prime minister will not accept this in the long term.’

This is nasty. It may not even be Priti Patel’s doing, but her behaviour seems to have sparked off the spatt. Further problems were envisaged by the Metro about “the points-based system”

Leaders in agriculture, hospitality and the care system were among those who warned of serious staff shortages proposed by the new rules.

I have my own concerns about a “points’-based system” (my apostrophe). I do not believe, just to start the ball rolling, that there really are 8 million “economically inactive” people in the UK ready to take up the jobs currently being done by low-skilled immigrants, though I concede there may well be 8 million economically inactive individuals for one reason or another -um… students, the sick, unpaid carers.

Not only would we have to find and encourage these 8 million. We would also have to get them to move to the places where the jobs can be done. You cannot do most of the unskilled work from a laptop on a day away from the office at home. These people would need to be on-site, in the hospitals, police-stations, factories and so on. Logistics not mere head-count!

 

It is always a shame when people believe that the best way to look strong is to bully the help. Now, the actual consequences of Priti Patel’s actions seem to be emerging with the resignation on spectacularly nasty terms of her Permanent secretary, Sir Philip Rutnam, who resigns after 33 years as a civil servant, has gone public and writes,

sir phillip Rutnam resigination by TIM.jpg

“In the last 10 days I have been the target of a vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign. It has been alleged that I have briefed the media against the Home Secretary. This along with many other claims is completely false….The Home Secretary categorically denied any involvement in this campaign to the Cabinet Office. I regret I do not believe her….The Home Secretary categorically denied any involvement in this campaign to the Cabinet Office. I regret I do not believe her. She has not made the effort I would expect to dissociate herself from the comments.”

He pulls no punches and makes it quite clear that the buck stops with the Home Secretary herself. He will claim constructive dismissal.

But to put it into perspective: the Home Office has been a dodgy camp for a while now. I had a nasty run-in myself a few years’ ago about student visas, first with Andrea Leadsom and then with Mrs May, both abrasive encounters. The way the HO is led sets the tone for everyone else both in the Ministry and beyond. We should not be surprised, therefore, that telephone exchanges with almost any official, from the tax office to the bank, routinely field our calls by haughtily “explaining” their policies rather than answering a direct question. It is rude, condescending and it is officious (a tricolon and no oxford comma, Mr Pullman). It might even be called bullying, but this is a tone that has routinely been adopted by the Ministers running the HO. All bureaucrats look up to the mother of parliament to see how things are done and this, evidently, is the example they get. This is what they follow.  It is now in print for us all to monitor: but to her credit, and in her defence, Priti Patel seems no better and no worse than Mrs May.

On election night, I ran into Amber Rudd who also gave such a very charming and considered performance that I wrote her a brief note of congratulation. I cannot believe that she would have behaved as Priti Patel is alleged to behave, though she resigned because of the Windrush scandal. So, maybe the HO itself is not to blame.

The problem with Priti Patel’s alleged form of aggressive leadership is that no one is there to protect her back, as Mrs May also found out to her cost, and that cost may get bigger with publication of the investigation into Windrush. If all the staff are busy second-guessing what the Minister might say and how she might bark at them – as Priti is alleged to do at this Ministry, what abusive language she may have in store for them (as rumours have it), then nobody is going to be protecting her from error, nobody is watching out for her – in fact, her staff would probably celebrate her errors. Of course, there is a difference between being demanding and being a bully and Mr Patel has moments of humanity – she has observed, for instance, that under the new proposals her own “Ugandan Asian parents” would not have made it through UK immigration at all.

A good friend suggests one very interesting test- the most efficient leader chairs brief and effective meetings. I have a giggling recollection of the lengthy talks that went on in Chequers over some of Mrs May’s Brexit plans- the length of her meetings was reported as a mark of pride. Whoops! Monumental fail there!

The statements appearing in the press look damaging to Mr Patel, more so even than the allegations against Mr Bercow, though one whistle-blower like Rutnam could lead to a “Metoo” movement across Whitehall and beyond. After all, there is already a popular call to tear up NDAs.

I have seen bullying a few times, sadly. This sort of leader will always be exposed- but often long after the real damage is done, to other people as well as to herself. We need to work in a team to get the job done and for any system to work well; care of each other needs to be built into the work-place not tagged on to HR; we must find support wherever it should be. In the light of this story, I wonder whether Mr Cummins might be heading in the same direction – though his goal appears quite different even if his manner apparently also invites concern.

 

Can I talk to the Animals?

I remember the wondrous production of Dr Dolittle in London towards the end of the 1990s, with Philip Schofield. Julie Andrews lent her voice to the parrot Polynesia, so, at the time, it was a bit like the theatrical sensation when Laurence Olivier was projected on to a screen during the rock opera TIME. In the case of Dame Julie, it was also a return to musicals for a lady who had just famously lost her voice. As for the producers, it’s certainly a way to get a big name on the theatre Marquee and up there on the billboards.

Schofield, by the way, was excellent in every way.

He was much warmer, too, than Rex Harrison who had done the 1967 film, one of those handful of films that, frankly, defined my childhood. I had a jigsaw, a book I still possess and yes, a roll-out map with rub-down transfers of animals. I thought it was Magical.

Not so magical for the 20th Century Fox film-makers, however: the Producer, Arthur P Jacobs, had a heart attack and the production itself was dogged with disaster, not least because of rain in Castle Combe and the film clocked up an impressive over-budget of $29 million, three times its original estimate. Rex Harrison proved to be a nightmare, with an ego inflated by oscar success in My Fair Lady, a mad wife and a fairly alarming line in racist banter aimed at hi9s co-star Anthony Newley. It is a bit shocking, really.

There is an odd link between the old movie and the new one, by the way- in Fiennes snr, whose son lends his voice to one of the better characters and who, as a 22 year old, before hitting fame as an explorer, tried to sabotage the film by blowing up a dam created by the film-crew to make the trout river appear to be a sea-inlet in the idyllic Puddleby-on-sea. Ranulph Fiennes was arrested for what he said then was an attempt at stopping “mass entertainment from riding roughshod over the feelings of the people”. It won two oscars.

But the question remains, is it possible to talk to animals or for them ever to talk to us? My cat, Hanim, has a range of noises that seem to communicate though she can hiss at her brother, Bey, in a quite unnerving way and she still slaps him. Recently, she has stopped purring or it has become very faint. She is old now.

But much of her communication has always been about the quality of the look she gives me. In fact, depending on her mood, her whole face changes shape completely.

Samuel Peypes records seeing a “great baboon” shortly after he arrived in London. He writes, “I do believe it already understands much English and I am of a mind it might be taught to speak”. There are a number of quasi-scientific records of communicating primates, though there is always the suspicion that we are stuck in some sort of conjuring trick, a bit like those chess-playing automata of the 17th/18th centuries, or, indeed, the basis of AI where computers repeat what they have been taught to say. It is not quite genuine communication- it is elaborate imitation. Parrots do it in a more modest fashion. (Back to Julie Andrews I suppose and her performance with Schofield!)

Hanim may not articulate sentences, but she certainly communicates and it seems to go beyond a need for basic foods. She enquires, it seems to me about my well-being, she is attentive and she is curious. These days, it is a bit reversed and she responds in a series of looks to my requests about her well-being. So far, so good. But she is frail, fragile. I wish I could do more for her.

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And to the film- Oddly costing $175 million and yet abbreviated to exclude the protagonist’s  title. So, just “Dolittle” it is. No “Doctor.”and it was a disappointment that did very little if truth be told. It began with some nicely-coloured but worryingly wooden animation, gorgeous sets and inventive imagery; it was even partially redeemed by Antonio Banderas (Rassouli- yet another film version version of Lofting’s original Pirate king, “Bumpo”?) pretending to be Jack Sparrow, and Ralph Fiennes’ gorgeously animated tiger, Barry. I had high hopes for Michael Sheen, but he only came into his own at the end of the credits when he was spared a teasing moment to be eaten alive by a cave-full of bats.

The main problem, I suppose, lay in Downey jr’s welsh accent- something I had been warned about but did not realise would be as ghastly as it sounded. It was not at all wrong- indeed, to my ear, it was spot-on but just dull as ditchwater. If we want to hear an energetic welsh actor, we have plenty alive who would have done a better job- one of them bizarrely in the same movie, but Rob Brydon, Rhys Ifans and Anthony Hopkins would have done just in the title-role as well as Michael Sheen.

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Even 16 year-old Harry Collett could have taken on the main role, could have carried the film. He has form- in 10 episodes of Casualty and bits and pieces of creditable voice-work for animation. I was certainly more invested in following his adventures than Downey’s Dolittle. Let’s hope Collett gets even better and bigger opportunities- he is winsome and agile: the next ironman maybe? The next Christian Bale? I drew him here first!

Disturbing news

The last unpublished post of Caroline Flack makes for disturbing news but it raises an important point. Ms Flack’s career was defined by what she said on tv and that platform was taken away dramatically and suddenly. The loss of her voice, on top of everything else, therefore, must have been dreadful for her. She was already demonstrably vulnerable, had taken significant steps to sort things out and her boyfriend had said he did not want to press charges. An emotional breakdown has played out in public and we need to look at the way our society has allowed this to happen.

She writes with great clarity:

I am suddenly on a different kind of stage and everyone is watching it happen.

I have always taken responsibility for what happened that night. Even on the night. But the truth is …. It was an accident.

I’ve been having some sort of emotional breakdown for a very long time.

But I am NOT a domestic abuser. We had an argument and an accident happened. An accident.

The blood that someone SOLD to a newspaper was MY blood and that was something very sad and very personal.

The reason I am talking today is because my family can’t take anymore.

I’ve lost my job. My home. My ability to speak. And the truth has been taken out of my hands and used as entertainment.

I can’t spend every day hidden away being told not to say or speak to anyone.

I’m so sorry to my family for what I have brought upon them and for what my friends have had to go through.

I’m not thinking about ‘how I’m going to get my career back’. I’m thinking about how I’m going to get mine and my family’s life back.

I can’t say anymore than that.

There is now talk of “Caroline’s law” and, certainly, the death of Caroline Flack has been treated with great delicacy by the media. For the most part. One of the hosts of “This morning” may have made a slip of the tongue but it was an unfortunate one when she said on air, “The press are getting a lot of flack”.

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While the media may indeed need to do some self-searching, and while this may be  yet another reality tv tragedy, it is also another instance of the sort of mindless bureaucracy that we are allowing from public services set up to protect us, this time, from the CPS. We need to look better at people and ask what they are capable of, rather than follow a catalogue of events in -what should we call it? um- a “points’-based system”? (the punctuation alone to properly write that term should encourage us to avoid it in future).

We have the capacity to do better but we seem to be doing worse.

In terms of reality tv casualties, I can now think of 4 deaths directly linked to “Love Island”, a show that I managed to watch briefly- it is a very strange spectacle, more like a 1960’s beauty pageant. I can only speculate about the pressures the contestants must be put under every day! However, to that list – specifically, Sophie Gradon and her boyfriend Aaron Armstrong, Mike Thalassitis and now Caroline Flack, I should add Steve Dymond who was on Jeremy Kyle’s former show, but also instance the pressures that led to suicide attempts by Steve Wright, a former Big Brother winner in 2013. Aaron Allard Morgan has gone on record on “the Wright stuff” saying that 4 contestants he knew had attempted suicide following the show in 2011. This is what he said then,

They give you very little preparation for what’s likely to happen. From my year, with the 15 of us, I know that four of them have tried committing suicide after the show just because of the ramifications and impact that it has on your life.

You’re not prepared and you don’t get the aftercare that perhaps you should be getting afterwards. The people that are going in tomorrow, they’re not gonna hear this.

I just hope that if they need help afterwards, if they wanna speak to me, if they need any advice, I’m more than happy to give that.

There are, I understand, many other instances.

Despite having been on a Reality show myself, it is an area of TV that I know little about and the more I look into it, the more I realise there is an important story to be told. Reality TV has changed the dynamic of the medium and I think it will define the way tv moves forward. It has already dictated a number of checks and balances that I have seen in place, but we may need to be even more vigilant if these procedures are to have teeth and not be mere window-dressing, lipservice or a fashionable veneer over what has become a serious money-making machine.

Some years’ ago, I posted something about Robin Williams – It is a great sadness when those who are entertaining us are crushed by the very system that should be there to support them.

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Also in the news today is the statement that Prince Harry and Megan cannot use the term “Sussex Royal”. This is absurd- it is churlish, childish and cheap. It is a response, frankly, that is beneath the Royal family and those who offer them advice. At a time when senior members of that family have brought genuine shame on the Queen and are still held close, this kneejerk (do I need all that word?) reaction to the Queen’s grandson and his wife is astonishing and really should be reversed. Let’s wait for a gracious apology. If anyone can do that well, it is the Queen! She will lead the way out of this mess.

 

Tim the elephant

Today it was announced that the elderly tusker, Tim, has died in a safari park in Kenya. He had evaded the poachers and lived to a relatively ripe old age. He was much studied and drawn. I have drawn him in the past and drew him this morning as an example of how to draw elephants on my Youtube channel!

Here is a moleskine sketch along with comparisons with Disney’s Tarzan (Tantor?) and Warner bros’ Horton, both of whom have moved the eyes to a site slightly above the trunk, which is what made it so difficult to draw a convincing elephant as a child- the only elephants I had seen were in Disney’s version of “Jungle book” and this modest modification made all my efforts look more like dogs than elephants- and that was rather the plan I think by Johns Lounsbery and Ken Anderson and the 9 old men who reworked the elephant anatomy early on and especially for Dumbo. It is also evident, by the way, in the design for “elephacine” in Fantasia-

moleskine tim the elephant scriobbles.jpg

elephants Disney copy 1940.jpg

and particularly evident in the designs for Madam Mim in “the sword in the stone”. In this instance, it is a Milt Kahl design animated by Lounsbery.DEKew22U0AEXyeu.jpgDEKezCqVoAAknlG.jpg

For the record, here is my drawing:

elephant TIM by TIM.jpg

National TV Awards

It is very odd to actually find time to watch breakfast tv and to see Piers Morgan taking a swipe at the excellent David Walliams, and – was it also a back-handed swipe at Bradley Walsh as well? I could not be sure. But I was at the event and simply cannot understand where Piers is coming from.

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To be honest, more than that, after I got back to my hotel room late last night, I found myself watching “the Chase” for the first time on tv: what a treat! I couldn’t answer most of the questions, either! And some of those I gamely thought I could answer, I actually got wrong. There was one contestant on screen who plumped for a particular answer and locked it in, only to revise her decision moments later and to confirm what was actually the correct answer. I know how she felt! Oh! And Bradley Walsh is astonishing as the host: it is the kind of performance I enjoy – and warm to. It is a mixture of vulnerability and enthusiasm with also a hint of the dour and playful disdain of Les Dawson at his best – and all in the best possible taste. He is such an engaging personality and his expressions read with an immediacy and openness rarely seen. It is as if we get a first-hand experience of his thought-patterns. He does the same in Dr Who, too! What a treasure he is!

Then there was the “Love Island” contingent. I met Curtis and a few others, but the boys said hello and promptly walked off leaving the girls with me. I liked Maura, but really warmed to Molly Mae Hague – she is a classy, thoughtful girl.

So many other people to think of: Richard and Judy, Michael Palin, Ryan Mark Parsons, John Barrowman (who embarrassingly I did not recognise at all, but that could go for almost everyone there and I am sure they had no idea who I was either!). Ru Paul’s drag Queens were a scream from start to finish, and I had such fun going through the lyrics of “One thrilling combination” and “Mame” with Some Ting Wong. Vivienne is so tall, too!! Oh! and Poor Chris Hughes! Hope he is ok. It has been an education! Many thanks.

 

Nicholas Parsons

It is so sad to read of the death of the great Nicholas Parsons. He has dominated tv and radio for all my life- I remember “sale of the Century” and the “Benny Hill show” with affection when I was little and more recently, I cannot think of a weekend without a fix of “Just a minute”, even doing catch-ups in Moscow and Athens (though Gyles Brandreth took over at least once this summer- he did well, but it was not quite the same, was it?). But, most of all, I also greatly appreciate the fact that he bothered to write to me once about my hero, Edward Lear. He was, indeed, often the person of choice to recite limericks  on the radio and the tv – and his “Owl and the Pussycat” was excellent. With his passing, Lear-o-philes will be the poorer.

I also remember seeing him on stage in the “Rocky Horror” but, particularly, as the narrator in “Into the woods”, popping up at the end of act 1 with a daisy head-dress. I am about to do a programme on radio Fubar about rap and his opening of the Sondheim piece (along with the witch’s rap about vegetables of course) must qualify. It was a brave piece to do and he brought it off with aplomb.

I am not sure anyone has mentioned his Dr Who appearance as a vicar? Or that he took over from Tim Brooke Taylor as rector of St Andrews, my first university? What a wonderful man! Much to be missed.