Care, BBC 1, BBCiPlayer, written by Jimmy McGovern and Gillian Juckes, directed by David Blair.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bvbf5n/care

I like Jimmy McGovern’s dramas. Apart from Brookside, I’ve probably seen most of them. Care, well, it’s in the title. As a dramatist he’s got to make us care about single mum Jenny (Sheridan Smith) her elderly mum Mary (Alison Steadman) and the distant sister Claire (Sinead Keenan). And he begins with a car crash. Mary crashes the car with two kids in the back. Cue drama as we find out that the kids are fine, but Mary has suffered a stroke and now she has dementia.

A fragile family structure is smashed. Mary is no longer herself, but what McGovern does here is quite cute. The curled lip of Mary is given a voice. You know those text messages that appear onscreen to show the viewer what the protagonist is reading, texting, or thinking, that’s Mary thoughts as she gazes out at a world full of strangers she no longer understands or trusts.

I’ve got a bit of previous here. My mum, God bless her and may she rest in peace, had dementia. Like this drama my sister was the main caregiver. I felt that guilt and relief it wasn’t me that had to put my life on hold that Jenny dramatizes. Alice Munro draws on this experience for a number of her short stories. And the more courageous women walk away. It’s always women, of course, that does the care giving. That’s a given. And at one point Mary escapes from the dreadful home she’s been shoved into. My mum also escaped from the home twice, but it wasn’t that dreadful and I liked the staff. I felt guilty about not visiting my mum much, it was just up the road, but I reasoned she didn’t recognise me and someone else was doing the caring. I admit I was and still am a selfish bastard.

At one point my brother phoned and I’d the sound down for about fifteen minutes. The drama went on much as expected. There’s a builder in to convert the family home to make it a fit cage for Mary, and to make it easier for Jenny to care for her daughter and her mum. Jimmy McGovern (I think) once said it was his job to make things worse. No help needed in the chaotic fudge of the care system, but there’s got to be moments of light. So it’s pretty much a Mcgiven that the fit builder is going to fancy the pants off battling Jenny and is someone that shows he cares. He is handy enough to replace the feckless husband who left her penniless, stranded and got his new girlfriend pregnant.

We know that battling Jenny is going to overwrite all wrongs and find her mum a place of safety and a place of care in sunny, green countryside.

So who’s the bad guys here? Well, first up, is our glorious NHS. Even Tory scum know they are unelectable if they are shown to be killing off the NHS, but they do it by privatising the bits we don’t really care about. Old people are the ultimate bed blockers.  Like Mary and like my mum, they have multiple conditions that need treatment for which there is no cure. Bed blockers need to be gotten rid of, pronto, so here we have the professionals, the consultants, the physiotherapists, the social worker, the nursing staff all lining up like good little bureaucrats passing the buck and blaming each other, the fall guy, is always a woman, and in this case it’s Jenny’s mum. But it could and will be any of us. Richard Holloway says it openly we go to war against individual medical conditions and lose the war against common humanity. We are kept alive, but with no proper life at the end of it.

Back to the storyboard. Which icon takes on a polemic role of actress? Well, we’ve got the well-meaning woman that works in the shitty home Mary is sent to. She explains that she loves her job, but she’s expected to do too much and there’s not enough time and too many residents all crying out for attention and the owner is really a nice guy but he’s barely making a profit. That’s a lot of targets on anyone’s back.

Care work is low status, low paid work, done mainly by woman on the minimum wage and it’s the one growth area of the economy. The maximum wage is the minimum wage. And let’s face it we just don’t care.

The second part of the polemic that some poor home owner is doing his best but is getting ripped off by local authorities not willing to pay enough and a government that doesn’t care. Let’s just say most care homes are run by corporations that make honking profits for their shareholder and the money taken from poor people in taxes could be better spent elsewhere. So don’t look for any sympathy here.

Let’s get back to the real issue. Bed blockers. For that part of the polemic we have a nurse that doubles up as a demagogue that does what she has to do to make sure the NHS doesn’t pay for personal care. Let’s just say the middle-classes have this sewn up. They demand and get the best of things and don’t want to pay for it. If your mum or dad rots in a chair, they talk about personal responsibility. When it’s their mum or dad we start talking about resources and care deficits. Let’s talk about class and those that lack it.

Care as an hour-and-half drama is alright. As propaganda it falls far short of the clear-farsightedness we need. The simple facts are poor people get screwed. Poor sick people are doubly screwed and most folk don’t give a fuck, until it’s them and theirs. But with this happening to more people it becomes part of the political issue. It even pops up here as a BBC 1 drama.

 

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Celtic 5—1 Kilmarnock.

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A surprize selection for Emilo Iziguirre, who whipped in the ball for James Forest to score after four minutes and even that early it looked like a victory. Forest, with another man of the match performance did what he’s been doing recently for Celtic and Scotland, helping out in defence, but more importantly, drifting in from the touchline and scoring as he showed again today, he’s that quick defenders are left standing. His second goal to make it 5-1 was at the end of a long move and stopped the Kilmarnock keeper from being sent off after Ryan Christie had went one on one with him and nipped the ball past, only to be taken down. Forest, from an acute angle did what he does, whipped the ball into the net. Forest also hit the base of the post.

The emergence of Christie has also been a revelation. He scored again today, after scoring in midweek and in the League Cup Final and the game before that and the game before that. Christie is in the kind of goal a game form that made Sinclair such a valuable player in his first season. And Sinclair here had a good performance, turning and going at players, linking up well with Izzy, and winger was unlucky, a number of times not to score, in particular with a first-half run that was scintillating, but his finishing not as good. Late on he hit the bar.

Rogic also was unlucky not to score. Twice the Kilmarnock keeper made great saves. In between that Jozo Simunovic was unlucky with a couple of close efforts and he was hauled down for what should have been a penalty.

Filip Benkovic, the other Baltic defender, strolled it here. He’s pushed himself to the first pick choice at Celtic. It’s a pity he’s not our player and we can’t afford him. The best centre half in Scottish football and comparisons have been made with Virgil van Dijk. His long-range passing in the first half was a joy. And much the same as van Dijk made anyone playing in the centre of defence’s job easier. But it was Benkovic’s rash tackle that led to the Kilmarnock penalty that wasn’t a penalty, as the offence was outside the box.

Lustig replaced Christian Gamboa in the starting eleven and scored a goal with his studs. And Odsonne Edouard scored a brilliant goal, with neat footwork inside the box and a brilliant finish.

Griffiths came on late for Edouard and it’s still not clear who will be Celtic’s number nine. What is clear is the mid-week experiment at Firhill and the late Motherwell goal was an experiment that didn’t work.

Gamboa just isn’t good enough. Scott Brown, once the heartbeat of Celtic, but no longer, the ball goes in a quicker rhythm with Calumn McGregor and the latter can also get forward and score goals. All the midfielders are now goal scorers.  The odd man out is Oliver Ntcham, who at one stage looked first pick of the midfield, but Rodgers did him no favours playing in Sinclair’s position on the wing, and in midfield, against Motherwell. Ntcham was dreadful and hooked at half time. And he looks to have regressed back to the position he was when he first came to Celtic, some of his passing also a bit off today, when he came on. Minus Kieren (and Boyatta for Jozo) this is the Celtic first team that will win another treble. Let’s hope it’s enough to get us that result on Thursday that will take us into the knockout stages of the Europa League. Here’s hoping.

 

Barbra Streisand: Becoming an Icon 1942-1984, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, director Nicolas Maupied.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bt8x6z/barbra-streisand-becoming-an-icon-19421984?suggid=b0bt8x6z

Barbra Streisand is a bit like the Rorschach-ink-blot test. Ugly or beautiful? Well, my sister, Jo, used to get told she looked like Barbra Streisand. In other words, she had a big hooter. This was the consolation prize you didn’t want to win. Streisand redefined what it meant to be beautiful. If you listen to her feminist fan Camille Paglia not only did she do that but redefined what it meant to be a woman, an outsider and all that jazz. The trouble with this is all the Barbie notions of femininity she so despises, blond hair, Farrah Fawcett features are pretty much my mindset of what female beauty looks like. What no one can argue about is Barbra Streisand had a voice like no other.

If we start at the beginning, she was born in Brooklyn and her dad died when she was a few months old and her mother didn’t really thing much of her daughter. Barbra (she took the a out of her name later) was so thin and anaemic her mum didn’t think she should take ballet lessons. She took ballet lessons. Her mum thought Barbra should go to college. She was a straight-A student. Barbra didn’t have time for college, she’d wanted to be a star since she was four of five and the first step was getting out of Brooklyn and crossing the bridge to the bright lights of Broadway, or thereabouts.  I know it’s kind of daft, but I never thought about Streisand as being Jewish, even though the clues are all there for anybody that wants to look.

She was sixteen when she took acting lessons with Alan Miller, who became her acting mentor. Such was her dedication she took all his classes and followed him home on the bus and continually asked questions. She took a Socratic view of the world. And this continued throughout her career, where at every step she took charge of her destiny. She explained later in the programme that she’d be described as a perfectionist. And I’m sure she was, but she declared herself to ‘strive for excellence’ which was a lesser beast, which allowed compromise, but not with the ‘narrow-minded’ which is the kind of thing a perfectionist would say.

The funny thing about funny girl is no one took her seriously. She went for auditions some marked her talented but ugly, which was much the same thing. No acting roles. The mighty Lee Strasberg who gave us the iconic Marlon Brando, described Streisand as talentless and annoying. Her endless questions didn’t suit his style of learning. I guess he thought her ugly too. Everybody else did.

Sixteen to eighteen, here’s one of those crazy things, 1960-61,  she asks Barry, one of her actor friends, if she could use his Ambex recording equipment and he agrees, even though he doesn’t know if she can sing. He talks about ‘cold shivers’ when he heard her. Yeh, voice of an angel. Her father had been a cantor in Russia and her mother Streisand said was a great singer.

Her voice, not her looks or acting talent is her passport to every kind of critical and successful awards Broadway and Hollywood can fling at her. She’s a world movie star with number one hits and a massive fan base. She directs and produces her own movies. Yentl based on a short story by Issac Bashevis Singer is a showcase of her talent and leverage. Streisand writes the screenplay (with help from Jack Rosenthal, but her name comes first and foremost). She directs the movie. She raises the money for the movie and is the producer. She stars in the movie. It’s her baby and it won awards and made money.  Her voice is amazing, but really, the film is shit.

Streisand, of course, like any icon leaves the past behind and recreates herself. If I remember rightly she had a later affair with Andre Agassi, when he could play tennis and she kept Michael Jackson on speed-dial. Icons do that sort of thing. Her first husband Eliot Gould when he divorced her said he thought she’d come back to him. Icons don’t look back, they’re always looking forward. The next big thing.  Streisand is a real star, but Yentl, get real. If I wasn’t already bald I’d be pulling my hair out. Beauty is in the eye of the moneyholder.

 

The Most Hated Family in America (2007) BBCiPlayer, Louis Theroux. America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis (2011) BBCiPlayer.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b007clvf/louis-theroux-the-most-hated-family-in-america

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0107zhy/louis-theroux-americas-most-hated-family-in-crisis

These are snapshots of white America in 2006 and 2010 and the evangelical Phelp’s family from Topeka, Kansas, who preached a creed of hate and intolerance and labelled it Christianity. Who wrapped their family in the nation’s flag and the First Amendment of free speech and attended Gulf War veteran’s funeral and called them fags. A family that claimed to have a monopoly on truth and a monopoly on virtue and being true to themselves were able to tell the nation like it is. A family that claimed to be the little guys persecuted for their beliefs. Heroic in their authenticity, reliant on God and state troopers to preach their gospel of hate and their propaganda message that the great American nation had failed God because it was being controlled by the antichrist Obama and being manipulated by Jews and fags and everybody else that were not Phelps. A family that was no longer the most hated family in America. That would be the Trumps. But there is prophecy here and there is good news. The patriarch of the Phelps died in 2014.  Amen.

#End of Days, Podcast on BBC5Live, presented by Chris Warburton, produced by Ciaran Tracey and music by Hex from the album, Earth.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/search?filter=programmes&q=End%20Of%20Days&suggid=urn%3Abbc%3Aprogrammes%3Ap06qc33m

I asked my girlfriend if she’d heard of Waco. No, she hadn’t. That shocked me a bit. But I’m the reader that sometimes writes stuff in the family, nobody ever reads. And, of course, I’d heard of David Koresh, but I didn’t know that wasn’t his real name, he’d picked it for the biblical resonance in the same way Shirley Crabtree called himself Big Daddy and John Wayne called himself John Wayne. I’ve got my own beliefs about the four horsemen of the apocalypse coming here soon induced by global warming, but hopefully I’ll be dead by then, but I’ve no great belief in the great hear-ever-after. If it’s any consolation I know the dates the world never ended. 1874, 1914, 1918, 1925 and 1975. The Messianic Kingdom didn’t happen and the view from the Watchtower was they’d gotten it wrong, but they’d get it right the next time. It’s a blood sport. Us and Them.  I might even have lucked into Koresh’s association with the Seventh-Day Adventists and a splinter group of a splinter group, the Branch Davidians. There’s a kind of meme repeated in the podcast that sums up that general sense of knowing something, the wackos from Waco. That ties in with my worldview of politics in America and the moron’s moron being elected President of the United States, or the disunited States, would be more appropriate tag. Waco is in Texas and is the kind of place revivalist preachers like Burt Lancaster’s Elmer Gantry flourished in real life and where the soft drink Sergeant Pepper was borne for those that didn’t like moonshine whisky.

God’s not alone, with a slew of books and films about the End of Days and Armageddon. Tara Westover’s Educated, for example, begins with Tara, aged seven, ‘in a little patch of Idaho’ with no birth certificate and no schooling, watching her Mormon father burying rifles and preparing for The Day of Abomination and asking God for his help in the coming shoot-out with the Feds who were coming to get them. Someone is always coming to get you at the End of Days.

Thirty people from London, Manchester and Nottingham at Waco, of mainly African-Caribbean origin,  were inside the compound at Mount Carmel. Twenty-six of the seventy-two men, women and children that died came from Britain and had followed David Koresh to their deaths.  He was labelled leader of a death cult and a false prophet by security forces. And the FBI coordinated siege which lasted fifty-one days and ended in tragedy on the 19th April 1993 was called appropriately enough by the authorities ‘Showtime’.

Chris Warburton and producer Ciaran Tracey take a more measured approach than Showtime. Their aim was almost anthropological to find out who these British citizens were, where they lived and what they worked at and how they’d come into contact with David Koresh and decided to give up their lives and follow him back to Waco. I don’t need to tell you anymore. Taste and see.

A Great British Injustice: The Maguire Story. BBC 2, BBCiPlayer, produced and directed by Eamonn Devlin and presented by Stephen Nolan.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bs2v31/a-great-british-injustice-the-maguire-story?suggid=b0bs2v31

Fake news. Well, here’s a fake conviction that of the Maguire Seven: Anne Maguire, her husband Patrick, her teenage sons Vincent and Patrick, her brother Sean Smyth, her brother-in-law Guiseppe Conlon and a family friend, Patrick O’Neil. Prime minister Tony Blair was quoted on television and news media, on 10th February 2005, to apologise on behalf of the nation, for the wrongful imprisonment of the Maguire family. “They deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated”.  Along with the Guilford Four, also wrongly convicted of The Guilford bombing on the 5th October 1974, they were found guilty of the crime of being Irish.

There’s a series on telly, which I’ve not seen, called, Making A Murderer about Steve Avery. Yet I know by people talking about the twists and turns of the serial story that it contained the planting of forensic evidence, blood splatters, and that he was wrongly convicted.  The subtext is, fucking Americans, they’re all crazy, and it could never happen here.

Forensic evidence is the killer in any trial. I can vaguely remember a documentary questioning the nitroglycerine evidence in the Maguire Seven trial, the only physical prop the Crown Prosecution Service had for convicting them. Unlike the Guildford Four none of them had signed confessions. The documentary found the traces nitroglycerine found that convicted the Maguire Seven, could have been picked up by playing with an ordinary stack of playing cards.

“None of you broke,” says Nolan to Vincent Maguire. “We had nothing to break for,” he replies.

But in its own way that was also fake news. All of them broke, but in different ways.

Anne Marie, the youngest girl, aged seven was too young to be tagged an Irish bomb maker and terrorist. ‘Auntie Annie’s bomb-making factory’ was the kind of tabloid headlines which showed the media’s objectivity, an amplification of anti-Irish hatred. But the child was old enough for grown men in the streets to spit in her face. She was sent to live with her mother’s sister in Belfast and appeared on the programme and admitted to being a recovering alcoholic, her stories of loss alone were enough to make a man weep.

Vincent and Patrick, sixteen and fourteen, were sent down for four years and classified as Category A, prisoners in adult prison. Patrick, in particular, was broken, a boy that seemed disconnected from the world and at fourteen couldn’t tell the time, until he learned the hard way, by studying the clock face at his trial. Repeatedly beaten by the police, he said he gripped the desk while they were interrogating him and his tears made a puddle at his feet. In prison it was worse. He was classified as a suicide risk and locked up for twenty-three hours a day with a constant low light on, but he didn’t know what a suicide risk was until they told him and put that thought in his head. Every story here is of adults breaking because of their children and children broken on the wheel of injustice and separation.

The irony is Patrick Maguire had been a member of the British Army and he and his wife Ann Marie were members of the local Tory Party (such sins are forgivable) before being convicted of terrorist offences. Sir John May who was appointed by the government to investigate the miscarriage of justice, as expected, exonerated everyone involved from the judge who bemoaned the fact he could no longer hang Anne Maguire, and the Guilford Seven but satisfied the cry for justice by sentencing her to twenty-five years, of which she served nineteen and the lowest tariff of four years given to innocent children. Sir John exonerated police officers who battered women, men and children to gain a conviction based on lies and then covered it up, even when the Balcome Street Gang came clean and said they’d done the Guilford bombing. These ranking police officers were not held to account, nor was the Crown Prosecution Service that protected them by falsifying accounts, withholding evidence and lying in a way that if happened in open court would be classified as perjury.

The jailing of the Maguire Seven was portrayed as an unfortunate accident like a comet falling from the sky and striking their home. The forensic officer who conducted the initial examination and found traces of nitroglycerine appeared on this programme to re-iterate that the results were positive and there was no procedural error. Sir John May’s job was then to find a suitable scapegoat that would satisfy everyone but the innocent. And he found it, in all place, a tea-towel. Auntie Annie’s bomb-making factory had a tea-towel in it. And with the kind of logic, Terry Pratchett delighted in,  a flat planet balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle, it was proved conclusively that Auntie Annie had handled a tea-towel, in fact, wiped her hand on it, as had her husband, children, brother, brother-in law, and a visitor. Here’s the rub, or smear, if you like, one of her visitors –not any of the Maguire Seven, who had been exonerated – but another Irish person, a terrorist had passed through the kitchen and wiped his or her hand on that dishtowel.  Auntie Annie had then handled the dishtowel and the nitroglycrine had jumped like a virus to contaminate anyone nearby. Tony Blair’s apology, stuff it, no smoke without fire. Guilty of being Irish. Therefore, guilty of knowing a terrorist that washed and dried the dishes for you. A good heart is hard to find as Feargal Sharkey used to belt out.

The truth was, of course, far more mundane. The Surrey laboratory where testing was conducted had its work surfaces polluted with the substances they were testing for. A false positive is still a positive if you’re telling stories about an Englshman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walking into a Surrey laboratory and coming out contaminated with prejudice. But not only was the methodology flawed, which can happen, larger questions of justice had to be asked about why no one was called to account for torturing and beating adults and the Maguire children. It makes you laugh, of course, when the government appoints another impartial Queens Counsel to look at the tragedy at Grenfell. I’m sure he’ll be totally impartial, as Sir John was towards another despised group. God help our impartial justice system.

Apostasy written and directed by Daniel Kokotajlo.

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Debut screenwriter and director Daniel Kokotajalo weaves together apostasy in Kingdom Hall, and strands of growing sexuality and defiance in a North of England family setting. Middle-aged, Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran) has two teenage daughters and holds on to Jehovah Church doctrine like a nursing mother. The gold standard here is Jeanette Winterton’s autobiographical 1985 novel, adapted as a 1990 BBC serial, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.  The Jesuit maxim also applies in both cases, ‘Give me the child until he was seven, and I’ll show you the man,’ or  women.

Devout Alex (Molly Wright), and her older sister, Luisa (Sacha Parkinson) who recants her religious beliefs in the here-ever-afters and leaves the family home and relationship are a test case into the nature of belief and God.

Kokotajlo who was brought up in a Jehovah Witness household knows religion is a serious business. In Putin’s Russia, for example, Jehovah Witnesses are (and I’m meant to say here, allegedly,) persecuted for their refusal to serve in the armed forces. Heinrich Himmler also had them rounded up and placed in concentration camp and marked out with a lime-green triangle for much the same reason. Since Jehovah Witnesses were taught to expect the apocalypse, and labelled Hitler the Antichrist, this Armageddon was expected and even overdue. But Himmler made use of their pure Aryan blood, their essential honesty and willingness to work themselves to death. He advocated bureaucratic pragmatism, and women’s labour should be utilised  as servants and baby-sitters in the houses of SS guards outside the barbed wire of concentration camps.

Alex is the narrator when the film begins. She is much too pretty a match for gawky Steven (Robert Emms). In a rather awkward courtship ritual, the viewer learns he works as a window cleaner, while living alone and training to be an Elder in the Church. Alex works as a gardener, and has taken classes to learn and speak Urdu. We see her and another young Jehovah witness proselytising door to door among the Asian community of the run-down town having learned the language.

Both sisters have secrets. Alex is anaemic. She fingers a scrapbook with pictures of saved children that have died rather than have a blood transfusion.  Alex had a blood transfusion when she was a baby. She is aware of her unworthiness and how she could be shunned by her mother and the community of believers and spend the afterlife in hell. Steven squeezes her hand to show he understands. He’s pecked her on the lips. Her purity settled, the engagement is still on, until she gets a bit wobbly on her feet at a house party.

Luisia is at college studying God knows what. She explains to her mother that she might have to miss a meeting at Kingdom Hall to complete a module on Thursday night. They argue. But her secret is bigger than that.

When Luisia admits to her mother and sister she is pregnant, Ivannah tries to reassure her that the Elders in the church will understand and be merciful. But Luisia questions orthodoxy. She tells her mum that she’d been on the internet and that in the 1970s some Elders had given up their jobs, taken their kids out of school and sold their property believing that the end of the world was imminent, but the Holocaust was postponed. God’s ways are opaque.

Luisia is shunned by the Elders in her church, quoting Galatians and the church fathers’ advice about having little to do with those not on the righteous path.  Her mother and sister are told to cut themselves off from her. This is made easier when Luisia leaves home.

Transitions are difficult in life and family. When next we see Luisia she is back at Kingdom Hall and asking one of the faithful to give up her seat so she can sit in the front row, where her mother is already sitting dry-eyed. There’s a jump in which we realize the coffin is that of Alex, her wee sister and the narrator. All the questions that have been asked about faith and relationship are multiplied like the woes of Job.

Ivanna turns to the church for answers, and the Elders look at Luisia and doubt she truly has renegaded her apostasy, her return to the church a false flag of faith. Neither side is truly prepared to cede ground, a loving mother and soon-to-be grandmother caught in the middle. A new-born baby, each life brings hope of renewal.