We Love You! We Need You! We Hear You!

This page written circa 11 February, 2004.

In these dark times small packets of good news are welcome, and I am delighted to report that several have recently appeared.

After years of scouring shops, years of searching the web, and after a 6-month pre-order period with amazon.co.uk, I have finally got a DVD of the first series of "A Very Peculiar Practice". This magnificent black comedy portrays a university in England being crushed by apathy, commercial greed, and Thatcher's deep funding cuts, through the eyes of a doctor in the campus medical practice (played by Peter Davidson). It has a panoramic cast of losers and eccentric characters ridiculing every imaginable negative social trait, including a mindlessly happy pastor (played by a young Hugh Grant), a scheming lesbian feminist doctor blaming all female ills on men (played by Barbara Flynn), insane academics, nuns who steal from garbage trucks and run over people's feet, and a creative writer whose outlandish fictions keep becoming fact before he can publish. Of course it is not as black as living in Bush's America---Dr Daker's girlfriend and his flatmate are both sane and lovely---but it is pricelessly heartwarming. As Greenslade's title music proclaims, "it's further from anywhere than you've ever been before".

Since my graduate student days I have longed for a tool with which to assassinate police cameras... a light sabre for the late-20th-century liberator, something like a cordless 5-inch angle grinder. For those of you who do not know, the highway patrol in New South Wales is a thinly disguised revenue-generating exercise wrapped up for public consumption in a cloak of safety concerns. (Garry, who was a policeman for decades and in the HWP for some time would have been quick to confirm this accusation from the inside.) Kay and I found it a great pleasure to drive here in California where roads and drivers are better organised and the highway patrol does not have a bad reputation or a mandate to raise revenue first and make people safe later. Now there comes via Danny the news that England, long a country to give rise to justified rebellion, has a movement to destroy the vile tools of opression: The BBC at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/bristol/3461785.stm tells of "A GBP40,000 speed camera [...] destroyed after it was blasted with a home-made bomb." One of the other cameras on the road was demolished using an angle grinder and three others were burned using tyres filled with petrol. The news source encouragingly concludes with the report that "Avon and Somerset Police added the camera was blown up with easily obtainable homemade items". Now here is the new Olympic sport of the underdogs. I pray someone founds the Australian movement with all speed.

(PS: A week after posting this, Marion brought to my attention a widely-circulating but unconfirmed report from a "British newspaper" that suggests Aussies are not to be left behind:
"Four youths from Canberra, Australia, pulled off a trick of breathtaking bravado in order to gain revenge on a mobile speed camera van operating in the area. Three of the group approached the van and distracted the operator's attention by asking a series of questions about how the equipment worked and how many cars the operator could catch in a day. Meanwhile, the fourth musketeer sneaked to the front of the van and unscrewed its number plate. After bidding the van operator goodbye, the friends returned home, fixed the number plate to their car and drove through the camera's radar at high speed - 17 times.")

Richard and I reminisced about old times playing Zoom. Zoom is a game requiring a great deal of concentration, self discipline, logical reasoning, and quick reaction. The web now affords the possibility to look up distant people's comments on the game, and we find that there are numerous variants out there. Some are quite daunting, not the least of which may be the variant from a Mathematical Society at Cambridge University. Miraculously, I can still recall my first experience with this game in a room in Upper Callaghan in Wesley College. Ming took his girlfriend's penalties and still held up well against the likes of Richard. Had our reminiscences not been via email, we would probably have started playing. I want to play this game again while I am yet able, take note if you are reading this!

In our regular care package from Lynne and Denis there came tapes of the original Dr Who, William Hartnell's character. It is funny how you do not notice that it is in Black and White after a few moments. Like so many TV programs it has brilliant parts embedded in stretches of dull, crappy drivel. Even Monty Python is the same: Some gems padded with anything from minutes to whole episodes of quite tiresome fill. Nevertheless, there is something endearing about this 40-plus-year-old low-budget SciFi series. Watching these tapes invokes fond memories of the familiar sounds from the BBC radiophonic workshop ringing out from the Callaghan balcony across the Wesley court yard of an evening as we settled in to watch the good Doctor.

Finally I got to "The Da Vinci Code" that Kay had given me for Christmas. This is a good read, plenty of switches and turns, betraying good research on the part of the author, but it is not a literary work of the highest standing. Why does it rate as a high point? It is easy to look back at it, and see how it might have been constructed. As books go, I found it a magnificent example of "how to write a best seller". It rests upon an existing basis of conspiracy theory, has a dash of messianic import, has plenty of mystery (ideally you never know who is with our hero and heroine and who is against them) and plenty of action. It left me thinking that I might actually be able to make a living as a fiction writer.

| Home | Back |