It is so worrying that our leader is clearly taking advice from President Putin. Before Christmas, he did a video Qand A and now he is exercising in public. I am concerned.
Last night a statue in Bristol was pulled down in protest, and today the Cenotaph has been defaced. There have been protests in the past about statues, most notably about the statue of Cecil Rhodes in Oxford, but I think this is the first time we have had a Stalinesque or Sadaam Hussein moment where we have toppled imagery.
Like those dealing with 7th century Byzantine and Roundhead iconoclasm, the authorities of the day have not gone to the hub of the problem and it is essentially philosophical. Should we respect history- that is, record what is good and what is bad? Use the imagery as a source and draw a conclusion? The evidence is all around us and only by preserving it, can it ever make any sense. Pulling down statues, erasing pictures does not actually erase the history, though it might make it harder to access even if the statement itself may be of value. At its worst, therefore, we are in danger of obliterating, or hiding our past.
What is odd is that the iconic images of statues crashing down elsewhere is applauded while here Priti Patel wags her finger at the people who have defaced public property. Priti Patel has long been a figure of fun. This is not a cause that will win her much support or change her reputation particularly as she fails to identify the problem. As ever, with this makeshift secretary of state, she is out of touch and hides behind bluster and bullying. She actually expects to be taken seriously. She is the wrong person to deal with this problem.
The statue mess has not been a sudden decision. The BBC did a programme about Colston in February 2018
In Russia, the old communist statues have been gathered together and erected in parks. In ancient Rome, the heads of figures out of favour were generally lopped off and replaced, most famously with the colossal statue of nero. We instinctively know that public statues have a meaning. They are not simply decorations to our streets; they proclaim history in a three-dimensional way, both the good and the bad. In the case of Colston, his statue was put up to commemorate his huge effort to eradicate his 11-year association with slavery and the abominable trade of the RAC (its victims were branded with the acronym before they were transported and sold. This trading company had links up the highest chain of command in the country as its nominal boss eventually became king). He put money into charities, sat in parliament and endowed schools (particularly Colston’s girls’ school) in the area. And he was not the only one in 17th/18th century society who was clearly ashamed of his past and wanted to make good. Many people through these centuries had links with slavery- George Washington is a good example (cf Lucy Worsley’s “American History’s biggest fibs” – I will find a screen shot from one of the scenes I drew for that programme and post it here later! *TW).
WE have lots of questions to answer but pulling down a statue will not give us these answers. I think the biggest question must be about when the statue was erected. A man with a known history of association with slavery has a statue put up at the end of the 19th Century when only a few years’ earlier there had been a big effort to abolish slavery for good. What message were the businesspeople of Bristol sending? If there was an attempt to erase history, was it done then at the end of the 19th Century?
The problem is that nothing is ever quite so simple. Coulston was associated with the governing board of the RAC but there is no evidence that he was actually involved in slavery. Certainly, he might be said to have endorsed it. I think the arguments for pulling done the statue of Colston are less sound than the arguments about removing the statue of Cecil Rhodes from the facade of Oriel college in Oxford. Rhodes clearly had blood on his hands.
But images matter.
Otherwise, we would not be erecting statues in the first place.
This is what the museum in Bristol has to say about Coulston:
In March1680, he bought a share in the London-based Royal African Company. Only RAC members could trade with Africa, for gold, ivory and enslaved Africans. His father William also owned shares in the RAC, and supplied trade goods to its ships.
Edward Colston never, as far as we know, traded in enslaved Africans on his own account. We do not know how much profit he took from the RAC’s trade in enslaved Africans – he was paid dividends such as 50 guineas in July 1780, and 160 guineas in November 1685. He sold William, Prince of Orange, some of his RAC shares worth £1,000 in 1689, then bought more for himself. We do not know how much of his fortune was built up from his trade in wine and oil, or from investments or loans, or from money and property inherited from his father. What we do know is that he was an active member of the governing body of the RAC, which traded in enslaved Africans, for 11 years.
I only watched Gogglebox to support Woody and his mother.
I drew furiously while watching it. It was very interesting. This, incidentally, was a picture of Woody and his mother watching “the Favourite”, certainly not a film I would have liked to have watched with my mother. But Woody was there with a quick “Oy oy!” He knows how to place these one liners.
Today, the media has been whipped up about what happened to Eamonn Holmes and rightly so.
I feel deeply for Eamonn Holmes partly because I was also the victim of some nasty editing on TV. In my case, this took place in Russia and what I had said was dubbed over with words that I never used at any point in my interview. The solution when I complained was to remove the entire episode from the live feed. Of course, I expected a better response from Gogglebox and I am pleased it has now been sorted out.
The Daily Mirror adds a very interesting line:
When one fan begged him not to take any notice of the trolls, Eamonn hit back: “Thank you SL …. but a lie unchallenged becomes the truth.”
Believe me, I can understand how wounded and upset Mr Holmes must have been. At the bottom of this page is a link to my story as reported by the BBC.
This is what the Mail on line have written this evening:
Celebrity Gogglebox have issued an apology to Eamonn Holmes after he slammed them for their editing of him during Friday’s show.
Eamonn took to Twitter calling out the show’s ‘idiotic and cruel choice’ to air a clip of him joking after a harrowing moment from the BBC series Ambulance, instead of a filmed clip of him discussing his father’s death.
Producers issued a grovelling apology on Saturday to the This Morning host, 60, in which they promised to edit future repeats of the episode.
In a statement shared on Gogglebox’s Twitter, they wrote: ‘We have apologised to Eamonn over what happened in this week’s episode. We understand and respect Eamonn’s feelings on such a deeply personal story
‘We have taken the decision to edit the episode for future repeats and All4. We look forward to working with Eamonn and Ruth for the rest of the series.’
Eamonn took to his own Twitter to re-share the statement and added his own comment.
He wrote: ‘For those who judged me wrongly. I think it’s important you read this. It was a bad edit and we move on with what should be a fun experience on what is almost always a very entertaining programme. Thank you @C4Gogglebox.’
He then shared the statement to his Instagram, but this time wrote: ‘After last night’s clumsy edit which led to a huge amount of distress and outrage to viewers ,myself and my family…. Thank you, We move on and look forward to making fun TV.’
Viewers were quick to react to the show’s apology and editing plan, with some praising the plan, while some still felt disappointed by their actions.
‘This is my favourite show and I feel let down by this! I’m pleased you have corrected your mistake’ tweeted one follower.
While another remarked: ‘Hope the damage & hurt you caused to @EamonnHolmes can be undone with this. I fear not. I’m so disappointed in my favourite show.’
A third Twitter user simply put: ‘Very very decent of you.’
‘I’m sure Eamonn and Ruth are big enough people to accept your apology and move forward, though I, for one, would understand if they chose to take no further part in the series. Your actions to edit future transmissions of this episode are correct. Just my opinion’ wrote a fourth.
‘Thank you. I messaged you earlier to do this. It was totally unacceptable to show what you did but I hope Mr Holmes can accept your apology’ commented a fifth person.
With another agreeing: ‘This is good see! I thought is was appalling the way they edited the episode! Hopefully they are more careful in the future!!!’
It comes after Celebrity Gogglebox was removed from the catch up service All4 in light of Eamonn’s outburst.
In the scene that Eamonn criticised, the celebrities were moved by a touching story where a child phoned 999 to report that her father was having a heart attack
Bizarrely, Eamonn was shown telling a story about how he drove his wife to the hospital when his son Jack was born. It was a good story and he explained that even while his wife was having contractions, she had to give him directions. The problem was that it appeared insensitive to be telling such a story in response to the very touching scene where a child gave his father life-saving first aid.
The stream of twitter criticism was intense:
One wrote: ‘@EamonnHolmes comparing taking Ruth to hospital to have a baby – with a 10 year old lad doing chest compressions on his dad that’s just had a heart attack – is beyond belief!’
Another shared: ‘Did Eamonn Holmes just compare driving his wife to hospital to a 10 year old child giving chest compressions to his dying dad on #CelebrityGogglebox? Unreal…’
I am reminded of the story told about the Cure D’ars and the girl who spread gossip. It is impossible to fully repair the damage done. It does not even have to have been done deliberately. The fact that it was done is enough. In the story of the Cure d’Ars, the girl is asked to pluck a chicken as she walks along the road and when she gets to the church, the cure tells her to go back and pick up all the lost feathers. “That would be impossible”, she replies and he agrees. That is the problem with gossip. that is why it is so important to get things right. The Mail finishes its story by printing these two telling tweets from Eamonn Holmes.
However, the presenter did not ignore the trolls and instead hit back with: ‘Please read my posts. I’m then expecting an apology or an understanding from you ….. or are you not man enough ?’
In another tweet he penned: ‘I’m devastated that the Boy, the Ambulance Service and my whole family have been hurt by this …. sometimes I despair at decision making in TV.’
My story can be found here:
I can think of only one successful example where dubbing completely different text over a tv dialogue was both efficacious and right.
I had never watched this show before and it was an interesting experience. It was certainly lovely to see Woody and Zoe, and also Nigel Havers, Maureen Lipman, Gyles Brandeth and Millie Fox – I remember her from way-back in Oxford when she performed in a series of shows that I designed and I have vivid memoried of Maureen Lipman singing and dancing in “Wonderful Town” at what was then called the “Queens theatre”., and has now been renamed and houses the new version of Les Miserables.
I did some drawings which I am adding here.
The show has sparked some controversy. Some of it is silly, about the perception of “social distancing” but there is a more worrying story. Hence, I suppose, it is currently off-line and evidently being re-edited. Certainly, it would explain a jarring/ uncomfortable moment in the episode.
For the record, this is how some of the press have reported the story:
This is from a site called “DIGITAL SPY”
The assortment of celebrities – which also included the likes of Joe Swash and Stacey Solomon, I’m a Celebrity winner Harry Redknapp and his wife Sandra, and Martin and Roman Kemp – were shown a devastating clip from the accident and emergency show, in which a 10-year-old boy had to resuscitate his dad after he suffered a heart attack.
Thankfully (and amazingly), the boy was able to bring his father back to life by performing CPR.
The moment had a huge impact on Eamonn, whose father died of a heart attack.
However, the This Morning presenter was furious to discover his emotional comments about his dad’s death had been edited out of the episode, replaced instead with a joke he made about driving wife Ruth Langsford to hospital when she went into labour.
“In reply to a number of complaints, I am hurt beyond belief that @C4Gogglebox chose not to use me talking about my father dying from a Heart Attack at the side of a road and replace it with a funny story following a young lad giving his father CPR. Idiotic and cruel edit,” Eamonn tweeted after the episode.
In reply to a number of complaints ….
I am hurt beyond belief that @C4Gogglebox chose not to use me talking about my Father dying from a Heart Attack at the side of a road and replace it with a funny story following a young lad giving his Father CPR . Idiotic and cruel edit.
This man is clearly on people’s minds- and why not? This morning, I posted a picture (@professor_tim_wilson) that I drew in a noisy garden, reflecting on the fact that there has been some fake news arising mostly from someone who has been posting modern plague diaries. The most sensational quotation is here:
“On hearing ill rumour that Londoners may soon be urged into their lodgings by Her Majesty’s men, I looked upon the street to see a gaggle of striplings making fair merry, and no doubt spreading the plague well about. Not a care had these rogues for the health of their elders!”
It is not genuine at all and belongs to someone going under the name @PepysDiaries. Would that it were real because it would suggest the great Pepys was prescient indeed. But he was not. He was not even very nice.
I cannot see why anyone would want to pretend to be Samuel Pepys! (unless they had plans for their own personal Mrs Bagwell, I suppose… she must have liked him, or maybe she was just grateful.) the whole diary is a bit distasteful, what about poor Mr Bagwell, who worked so hard to keep Samuel happy. and Samuel’s wife away in Woolwich.
What struck me most in rereading the original plague diaries is simply how patronising they are and what a distance they show between “them and us”. The plague, for all its nastiness, hit the poor far more than the rich, and Pepys wrings his hands about the people in the kent road and the unemployed seamen but I am afraid he does not do much. He is more distracted by Mrs Cooke. And so, Pepys observes at the end that “I have never lived so merrily . . . as I have done this plague-time.” Maybe, he was trying to put a Christmas gloss on a bad situation but it comes across as a bit heartless when so many died around him in London.
This, incidentally, is what the present day Pepys adds to clarify things,
“I hath been told by several fellows that my musings upon the pox in the year of our Lord 2020 are being mistook by some for my diaries of yore. I mean not to make a fool of any man, but hasten to mind my good friends that my quill here doth write of modern-day matters.”
I have found that a good friend, George (from Ireland) has identified the house of Pepys and he gives a very good account himself of the Pepys of plague-time London. It is well-worth a watch. Here is a link:
(You can also check up George’s account of the Edward Lear house.)
I was dismayed to catch a youtube clip from Vanessa Sierra who was a contestant on the Australian version of Love Island.
Vanessa brought up a number of issues that are of concern. Though she is not very precise about it, she implies bullying on and off set as well as a failure by the company in their care of duty. It is horrifying to hear that she appealed repeatedly for help and got none. There is also a reference to “box ticking”. More worryingly, she talks of a suicide attempt and her approach to restoring mental health. The points she makes about routine and a support system are vital. What, I suspect, made it so difficult for Vanessa was that the people she had trusted on set were then scattered and remote as she moved back into everyday life, or rather as she moved into a new version of everyday life.
My heart goes out to Vanessa. I drew a picture of her last night – in fact, I attempted a number of pictures and in the end, drew a picture based on one of her publicity shots.
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.
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,
“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.
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.
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.
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!