Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tractor Factory

Here's a new US edition of Tractor Factory, delivered to me this very day. How pretty it looks. I've added a bit of tinsel to the background, in that spirit of seasonal jollity for which I am of course famous.

Tractor Factory has been in print for almost fifteen years now, a fact that's both scary and uplifting. It's great that so many children continue to find pleasure in this, the very first pop-up book that I ever produced. But where have those fifteen years gone? And will the next fifteen whizz by at the same bewildering rate? Crivvens!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bombing in Coventry?

The Gents are playing near Coventry in a couple of months time. Here's one of the flyers. Good, eh? I might treat myself to a new set of double bass strings for Christmas.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Mr Tibbs

A number of readers have asked after Mr. Tibbs, our giraffe-necked cat. I'm not sure whether this is out of curiosity or concern, but I thought I'd put up this pic anyway.

He's a furry fellow, is Mr Tibbs, which makes it difficult to count the rings, but there are actually thirteen. Doing well. We work in cat years, so he gets a new one every couple of months.

It's all done in accordance with Mr. Tibbs' wishes and cultural beliefs, although I suspect there's an element of bling here. He doesn't like to be outshone by the ladies.

I must stress that on no account should you try this at home. Very few cats have the temperament for the giraffe-necked way of life, and the ring fitting process itself can be tricky. It requires proper training, and quite sophisticated pipe bending equipment. Also, the cat has to keep very still during fittings. Mr Tibbs was more or less born with his head in a vise, and so he's used to it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Watch With Mother

Utterly convincing and very funny sketch from Jane Horrocks. It's a spoof on the 1950s children's TV programmes 'Watch With Mother', which I mentioned in the previous post.

What becomes apparent, on repeat viewings, is the flawlessness of Jane Horrocks' performance. Every little action and inflection and nuance is quite perfect. She remains true to the originals by filming 'live', with no cutaways. The picture of the cake has been inserted into what I suspect was one continuous take. Good actress, to say the least.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Things once common, now extinct. No. 7: The Interlude.

Nowadays the phrase 'nothing on the telly' simply means that there's nothing that interests you specifically. There will of course be a million things to choose from, 24/7. But at one time 'nothing on the telly' meant that there really was nothing. Zippo. Zilch. Daytime television didn't exist. Programmes began with 'Watch With Mother', at around 4.30, and ended with 'The Epilogue' at 11.pm. The only entertainment available beyond that hour was a bottle of Wincarnis and a Woodbine.

But even when the nightly extravaganza began, the programmes weren't continuous. There were a lot of comfort breaks, as it were, where nothing at all happened and the screen went completely blank. I suppose they had to allow time for the next set of puppets to be untangled, or for somebody to run round to Malcolm Muggeridge's house and wake him up.

Canny programmers knew that once their audience got up from their chairs they could be exposed to other attractions - the lure of the allotment, the siren call of the fretsaw - and then they'd be lost for the evening. How to keep them engaged?

They hit upon a brilliant idea: The Interlude. These little films were slotted in between the main programmes, the intention being to simply keep something on screen. It didn't matter what - a kitten playing with a ball of wool, a potter at his wheel, a plank warping.

I liked the Interludes, and I wish we had more of them now. The Interlude allows time for reflection. It offers both a window to gaze out of and a chance to look inward, an opportunity to wonder about all manner of things - like why am I wasting my life on this crap? Television has a moral duty to remind us of how awful it actually is, how it can never be a substitute for digging up carrots, or chewing on a twig. The Interlude served that purpose very well.

Here's my absolute banging favourite: 'The Spinning Wheel'. Watch this and be amazed at how energised your brain becomes, how quickly you can think of something better to do.

The Spinning Wheel