Panorama: The Billion Pound Savings Scandal, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, Directed by Andrew Thompson and Luke Mendham.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m001b7jh/panorama-the-billionpound-savings-scandal

Britain is the money-laundering capital of the world. An estimated billion pounds is lost every year to companies that go bust, create ‘anonymous’ limited accounts, disappear or hide their wealth in tax havens in former British colonies. Panorama follows one company, Blackmore Bonds and other subsidiaries to an address in Gibraltar. Blackmore as a limited company went bust, leaving around 2000 investors in Britain with worthless bits of paper where their savings were.

A £46 million fraud, in which the two directors of Blackmore, Philip Nunn and Patrick McCreesh walk away with millions of pounds, seems an open-and-shut case for a police investigation.

Financial expert, Paul Carlier, reported Blackmore to the proper authorities. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which was set up to regulate firms and financial markets in the United Kingdom had oversight in such cases.

Whistle-blowers in the FCA reported widespread managerial incompetence and graft. Large fees being paid to those at the top for marketing themselves rather than protecting their clients. Andrew Bailey began his term as Governor of the Bank of England on 16th March 2020. Prior to his appointment he was Chief Executive Officer of FCA.

Those left with worthless Blackmore bonds know they have little or no hope of being reimbursed. But they hope for a public enquiry. We get the usual sentiments about making sure these fraudsters are made to pay, and making sure others don’t have to suffer as they did.

Money talks. A public enquiry that uncovered the PPI scandal, one of the many edifices that lead to the banking crash of 2007-8, in which banks sold policies knowing they were worthless to their customers, resulted in no prosecutions. But many customers got their money reimbursed. In the same way, those with Blackmore bonds feel themselves cheated and think they should qualify to be reimbursed—which they will do, if there is a public enquiry—because the FDA failed to act, despite being continually informed what was happening on the ground.   

A letter addressed to Paul Carlier, included much information that the FDA was trying to hide and hoodwink others they were doing a great job of oversight in finance and fraud. The Queen famously asked economists why they hadn’t seen the global financial crass of 2007-8 coming. Here it is in black and white. Andrew Bailey is culpable but gets promoted to one of the most prestigious jobs in Britain. Here he’s lost £50 million. Let’s see how he deals with inflation. I’m no financial expert, but I can tell you how it will go. He will raise interest rates by a quarter-point. Round up the usual suspect. Raise interest rates by another quarter point. When he walks away from the job he’ll be all the richer. We’ll be none the wiser. Stagflation will continue regardless.  

Philip Nunn and Patrick McCreesh are crooks. Andrew Bailey is a different kind of charlatan. His incompetence costs him nothing.  

The Mule, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, Writer Nick Schenk, Director Clint Eastwood.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0019n5y/the-mule

Based on a true story (kinda, but not really). An article in The New York Times reported that Earl Stone, aged 90, had been convicted for transporting drugs for a Mexican cartel. If Earl Stone had been aged 30 or 40, or even 50, there’d be no story. The story is in his age. He was just doing what a man gotta do.

You have, for example, Brian Cox leaving the Scottish islands and chasing Patricia Arquette in Rory’s Way. This is meant to be a wry look at getting older and the aging process.

Anne Reid getting up to the naughty with a bearded (James Bond) Daniel Craig in The Mother.

Glenn Close, The Wife, standing behind her man, who is not much of a man and more of a meme dictionary with nice hair.

King of Thieves, The Hatton Garden job pulled off by old codgers Michael Caine, Tom Courtney, Michael Gambon, Charlie Cox, Jim Broadbent, Paul Whitehouse and Ray Winston.

Going in Style, a remake of a heist movie also starring Michael Caine. Morgan Freeman is the lead, as he’s always going to be. The premise of the movie is familiar. Like Clint Eastwood’s The Mule, old age brings with it baggage and no pension pot. Make my day, becomes make my pension please, or we’ll take it anyway. But, of course, they’d never hurt anyone in the taking. They’d be kind and courteous. Christopher Lloyd brings an aged geeky angle and the glamour comes from a youthful looking Ann-Margret (remember her?)

It’s not difficult to get Clint Eastwood to look ninety. He just looks like he always did. But older, when younger. Then, of course, there are the ladies. Just because Earl is ninety…girls a third of his age go for him…two at a time. Wow. Hmmmm. But he’s still loyal to his wife. Still a straight talker. He did the jobs for the best of reasons. He lost his business and home. His pal’s place burned down, but Earl provides. Earl always provides. That’s the moral of these stories. Everything goes to shit, but the old codgers see it out in Clint Eastwood style barking at the judge he’s guilty. Of course, he’s guilty, he’s Clint Eastwood protector of the faith.  

Panorama, Undercover: Britain’s Biggest GP chains, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, undercover reporter Jacqui Wakefield

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0017x2b/panorama-undercover-britains-biggest-gp-chain

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jun/13/britains-biggest-chain-of-gp-surgeries-accused-of-profiteering

My partner recently had to go into hospital. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow, Accident and Emergency. It was recently slated for having up to a thirteen-hour waiting time. We know there is little point phoning for a GP appointment on the Tuesday, after a Bank Holiday. The phone will ring off the hook. My tactic to avoid this is go to the surgery window and wait to catch the receptionist’s gaze. We’re an ageing population with more money needed to be channelled into health care.

What we get instead is Thatcherite ideology of the market knows best. The market does know best. It knows best how to take money from poor people and give it to the rich. In this case Operose Health, which is a subsidiary of private healthcare firm Centene. In the United States their looting of welfare funds led to them being sued by a number of State bodies for fraud. They paid the fine, but, of course, didn’t admit guilt.

What we have here is a different kind of fraud. A rentier class, who are paid a fixed amount for providing a service where there is no risk to the rich. We also did it with trains. Subsidised other nation’s rain networks and it gave them a guaranteed income.  

70 GP surgeries and 600 000 patients. Jacqui Wakefield logged 300 patients waiting to get through to her. And she couldn’t offer any GP appointments for any of them. One ruse was to offer appointments with a cheaper option. Put them in a white coat. Give them a fancy title. Work them with appointment after appointment so they do the equivalent work of two GPs. That’s called efficiency savings. In other words, profit for destroying the worker’s health and the health of the people he or she is trying, but failing to help.

  A study of the equivalent of Norwegian GP’s, for example, found that the more highly qualified those practicing medicine the better outcome for the patient. Not only were they able to pick up early signs of disease and treat it earlier saving more costly treatments with knock-on effects at later stages. A virtuous circle.   

A vicious circle looks something like this model. Underqualified staff.  Clinical correspondence – medical reports, test results and hospital letters – that had not been read for up to six months.

In the Thatcherite model of health care, patients would be able to shop around for better treatment, where they weren’t treated to the indignity of having to spend days on the phone. Similarly, GP practices would compete against each other to bring in the brightest and best and innovate, while making a profit. In the same way we did with our prisons, or the probation service, before that was scrapped as being unworkable.

Scotland has largely rejected this carpetbagger model of modern finance. But the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was extended with many of the same principles. Give money to rich people for building something you could do cheaper and better with forward planning. We can clap NHS workers, while not giving them a pay rise and look for savings elsewhere.  We know how this looks. It looks very much like the one rule for the rich and one rule for the poor of Centene and their ilk. Efficiency savings are only efficient if they end up in a tax haven. We all know how that feels. Because we’re all in it together. In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, ‘some animals are more equal than others’.  Some patients are more valued than others.

Future of Work, PBS America, writer, director and producer Laurens Grant.

Future of Work, PBS America, writer, director and producer Laurens Grant.

In this three-part series, The New Industrial Age, Future Proof, Changing Work, Changing Workers, Laurens Grant looks at the Future of Work. If you fell asleep while reading this far you are quite safe, because I’m not artificially intelligent. I’m not even intelligent. My feeble powers of fiction and non-fiction have already been far outstripped. Economics is a better bet. Quite a simple science, easy to read, with the rider that John Maynard Keynes suggested it’s not a science. The answer is demand and the question is supply. The opportunity cost is where the money meets. In It Ain’t Half Hot Mum which around 15 million viewers used to watch on BBC 1 in the late 1970s, for example, a running gag was the Punkawallah. A stereotypical half-naked Indian in a dirty turban whose big toe was tied to a piece of string which he rocked back and forth and powered an overhead fan. Look how primitive rural Indians were was the joke. The opportunity cost of a Punkawallah was electricity and a motor. But if human labour is so cheap, it makes more sense economically to employ a Punkawallah. As the price of labour rises and super-intelligent machines become cheaper the opportunity cost favours the latter and not the former.  We’re all Punkawallahs now working harder for less. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend.

Sweat bands and Bruce Springsteen in Steeltown, Pittsburgh, Byron August, for example, suggested that in the 1970s in the United States, while we were watching It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, 90% of American children born then could expect to have a better income than their mums and dads.  By 2000, 50% of children born to that cohort could expect to outstrip the earning power of mum and dad. Baby We Were Born to Run.

Rust-bucket states and outsourcing as capital went abroad seeking ever-increasing labour costs. Jobs were lost and hours were cut. The American Dream was remarketed in the blame game of political fiction, and the great replacement theory which saw the rise and fall of the moron’s moron as the first and last President to suggest injecting disinfectant as a cure-all for a virus.

Dr Jeff Rediger, in his book Cured, has an optimistic outlook on the future of medicine. In his radiant future, medical practitioners will spend more time with their patients. Artificial Intelligence (AI), which is a synonym for Pattern Recognition, will be able to read breast cancer screening incidences and probabilities better than any human, and already does. Robots will do the surgery remotely, with the aid of a surgeon. But he or she too will be replaced by AI. Machine thinking will complement machine doing. The robot cleaning the ward floors and delivering meals will be single purpose and modular in the same way as the self-driving car or drone. But when our fridge is connected to the shops which deliver food and medicine it doesn’t need a genius to work out that companies like Amazon will run our NHS. The step after that is when machine learning and machine doing work it out for themselves and not just to increase shareholder value to the 1% that own pretty much everything and us with it.

Here we step out of Future Work and into the dystopian, cuckoo-in-the-next world of Nick Bostron. In the 1950s, Alan Turing of Bletchley Park and Enigma code-cracking, like his middle-class countryman, George Orwell saw the future by design. Professor Stuart Russell of Berkley, California quotes Turing:

‘The first ultra-intelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided the machine is docile enough to keep it under control.’  

Futureproofing looks pointless, but we’ve still got to live. The nine-to-five regular job that paid the rent, put the kids through school and left enough for medical emergencies and retirement still exists, but for increasingly fewer people. Education and adaptation are the buzzwords here. The American high-school diploma that took those into work from the 1950s to the 1970s was enough to build a white-picket fence, home and middle-class life. The GI- Bill and grade inflation mean a college degree is the minimum needed to put workers in the job carousel. But then, of course, there are more workers with doctorates working in Walmart on minimum wage than ever before, which is our new normal.

Changing Work and Changing Workers has, for example, Xian Flores working longer hours at home during the pandemic and finding she worked more efficiently. Michael Tubbs, Stockton Mayor of California, with a twenty-percent-unemployment rate and a fear of civic bankruptcy, piloting a payment of universal credit. Tomas Vargas, a landscaper, for example, receiving $500 a month, regardless of whether he works or doesn’t. Then there’s Carl Francis, who sold his home and bought and his new home and put it on wheels, and travels looking for work with his wife and kid in their Recreational Vehicle. Others that go further afield working on their laptops from Thailand and Vietnam were the rents are much cheaper. From The Grapes of Wrath dust bowl and the Okies trading up, mule power to the promise of plenty, and enough time to sit about eating grapes, nothing new here. Move along folks. Move along. I fear I’ve already been left behind. Nothing new about that either.   

The Trick, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, Writer Owen Sheers and Director Pip Broughton

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0010s10/the-trick

A drama based on a true story has to be factual—with lots of room for interpretation—for script writer Owen Sheers and Director Pip Broughton.

Man-made climate change brought about by burning fossil fuels is simpler and more complex. We are reliant on experts to interpret the world for us. We are reliant on scientists. But it’s a simple yes or no answer, like does gravity exist?

Let’s try a different question. Do you want your children and grandchildren to live?

COP 26 is in Glasgow this November. The 26th meeting of world leaders to discuss climate change and do nothing about it, but prevaricate and lie. Or as the modern Jeremiah, Greta Thunberg declared at a rally in London on October 2018, ‘Almost everything is Black and White.’ Britain, where the Industrial Revolution begun has one of the largest global debts and burned more fossil fuels than most other countries, but continually lie about how we are meeting our targets by the creative accounting we’ve become familiar with.  

The ‘Climategate’ scandal in 2009 was something conspiracy theorists could get their teeth into. Professor Phil Jones (Jason Watkins) suffers from a meltdown when he finds he and his team of climatologists at the University of East Anglia emails have been hacked by climate-change deniers. Their contents cherry-picked. Jones, using a kind of short-hand, asks one colleague in an email exchange to manipulate historical date using ‘the trick’.  

Let’s jump ahead to when the data used by climatologists at the University of East Anglia was released and audited by climate-change deniers in California, including a maverick who had targeted Professor Jones and his team, bombarding them with Freedom of Information requests. The University of California published findings where consistent with Jones and his teams. Climate change does exist and is progressing the way described by leading climatologists and NASA scientists in the 1970s. Climate change deniers have slunk away to fight other battles where science is less robust.

Greta Thunberg believes ‘No One is Too Small to Make A Difference’ and if nations work together, we can make the Paris Agreement work and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees centigrade. I see no evidence for her assertion. I believe your children and grandchildren will die in their tens of millions, certainly in numbers exceeding the first and second world wars combined. She remains optimistic. I’m pessimistic. But I’m older, more conservative in these matters, and have less life in front of me.

‘What happens Phil for our children and their children?’

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p09ykmhd

No numbers, just the consequences.

Well, by 2100, dustbowl conditions across North America and Africa, Asia, too. Sooner than that. A massive reduction in agricultural production. Access to drinking water. Migration in huge numbers. Bushfires on a massive scale, in Australia and the West Coast. Melting at the Poles. West Antarctica ice-sheets, because of that a global sea-level rise of meters.

What does that all mean for people? Make me see it, Phil.

In the worst-case scenario, 70 percent of the habitable world will no longer be able to sustain life anymore.  Coastal and delta cites underwater. If methane on sea bed and polar frost is released—the climate will collapse. And the world as we know it will be gone.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/oct/20/joe-manchin-oil-and-gas-fossil-fuels-senator

The Keeper, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, written by Michael J Schofield and Marcus H Rosenmüller, director Marcus H Rosenmüller.

The Keeper, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, written by Michael J Schofield and Marcus H Rosenmüller, director Marcus H Rosenmüller.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000zhk8/the-keeper

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Trautmann

I usually check out late-night films to see if there are any worth watching. I wasn’t sure of The Keeper. Advertised as a biopic of Bert Trautmann, my first thoughts were it was something to do with music, and I probably wouldn’t like it. Before I pulled up the preview, I realised it might have something to do with goalkeeper, Bert Trautmann, (yeh, I know, it’s in the title) but I didn’t remember his name. My memories are as fragmentary as the bones in his neck. I couldn’t remember what team, but knew it was a post-war English team.

Celtic’s John Thompson died as a result of an accidental collision with Rangers player Sam English during an Old Firm match at Ibrox on 5th September 1931. But not many English players played in Scotland. Our best players usually went the other way, to play in England, where players were paid two or three times as much as a normal working man, down the pits. Example Jock Stein, Bill Shankly and Matt Busby.  The Celtic team that won the European Cup was famously made up of eleven players that lived with twelve miles of Glasgow. Bobby Lennox, being the furthest, living in Saltcoats. Even the quality street Celtic team that destroyed Leeds but lost the European Cup final to Feyenoord in 1970 was also home grown. We’d have probably won that game if instead of Evan Williams in goal we had Billy the Fish, or Rocky and Rambo combined in Sylvester Stallone who famously made the Nazis pay by not only saving everything flung at him in a match against the guards, but also sneaked out of the stadium, incognito, with Pele in  Escape to Victory.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_Half_Times_in_Hell)

I can’t think of any other films about goalkeepers. Bernhard Carl ‘Bert’ Trautmann played for Manchester City from 1949 to 1964. He’s played by a fresh-faced David Kross in the film. Lots to work with here. But, basically, it’s a love story.  He falls in love with Margaret Friar (Freya Mavor).

The ‘meet-cute’ is he agrees to a wager. He’ll save penalties taken by other inmates in the prisoner of war camp in Lancashire between St Helens and Wigan, and if the taker scores he will give them a cigarette, if they miss, the inmate pays double. Margaret Friar watches him making save after save. She steps up to take a penalty. I expected him to let her score, but no. We know he’ll score with her later.

A few rudimentary obstacles stand in his way. Firstly, he’s interred and classified as a Nazi. Evidence of this is he won a handful of medals, including the prestigious Iron Cross. His past was later to surface, and crowd protest took place outside the Manchester City ground when he signed.  

The war ends, he can go back to his homeland. First, he’s got to win the heart of the number one babe. He’s a bit of help from her dad, Jack Friar (John Henshaw) an Arthur Daly type with ties to the camp and his own shop. He’s also manager of non-league St Helens. A team struggling and in a relegation battle. They have a goalkeeper, but you guessed it, he’s the type of keeper Celtic signed from Greece and couldn’t catch a cold.  Of course, Friar brings in Trautmann, ‘Bert’, to his new pals and he plays like Billy the Fish.

Bert, of course, has other fish to fry with Friar’s daughter. But she’s got a boyfriend. And her best pal, Betsy Walters (Chloe Harris) is snuggled up with the current, woeful, goalie. Ho-hum, kick up the park and he moves in with his boss. Only a blind goalie would miss what happened next.

How to deal with collective guilt and the Nazi murder of six million Jews? Bert had previous; he’d spent a few years on the Eastern Front, where a large part of the genocidal killing took place, arguably, more than took place in concentration camps.  His argument that he’d just followed orders had the familiar ring of an Eichmann before being hanged by Albert Pierrepoint.

Bert, being a good German, and not a Nazi, suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He suffers flashbacks of the boy he couldn’t save. Shot dead by a Nazi, who stole his leather football. The same boy turns up later in the film. A cosmic equaliser and forbearer of bad tidings. Hokum.

Bert wins over the Manchester City fans by his performances. He was simply an outstanding goalkeeper, and innovative in his use of flinging the ball out to a wing-half (as they were called in those days) to start attacks. Simple. You’re no longer a Nazi when your team keeps winning. In the same way, the current Manchester City team is sponsored by a Saudi regime that has committed mass murder and sponsored one of their citizens Osman Bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida, who helped plan bringing down the Twin Towers, the Taliban and most extremist Muslim groups that follow their brand of religion, but nobody seems to care. There’s some archive footage, as football was played then. Not only was it a black-and-white world, but seems in slow motion. Maybe we could send our Greek dud out on loan to 1950s Manchester. He’d fit in just great.   

9/11: Inside the President’s War Room, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, produced and directed by Adam Wishart.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000z8p5/911-inside-the-presidents-war-room

Hagiography (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) any biography that idealizes or idolizes its subject

Around 3000 United States citizens were killed in what has become known as 9/11. This is A Day in the Life of President George W. Bush.

A ticking clock. The rest is a history of good guys and bad guys, when 9/11 became shorthand for President George W. Bush can-do and holding a poster of Osman Bin Laden with a ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’. it. BBC and Apple take us back to that day with archive footage and all the Republican big hitters that were talking heads paying lip service to their former boss: Vice-President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Ironically, Inside the President’s War Room was bookmarked by BBC 1, News at 10 and the chaotic scenes of US troops evacuating Afghanistan citizens ringing Kabul airport. In the twenty year war over $2 trillion had been spent, around 16 500 members of the US armed forces had been killed (and around 500 members of the British armed forces) with approximately ten times that numbered severally injured. With the average cost of one soldier stationed in Afghanistan estimated at around $1 million a year. Taliban spokesmen on New at 10 said they’d made more territorial gains than twenty years ago.

Civilian casualties are more difficult to estimate. Women and children figuring highly in any estimates of 171 000 to 360 000 dead. Multiply by ten for those injured.  Multiply by whatever figure you like to take into account the casualty rate in Iraq.

11th September 2001. 9.03am, President George W. Bush, is in Florida, (he was once Governor).  If you’d asked him what 9/11 was, he’d have looked bemused. He has that innate ability. But he was smiling as he listened to a teacher going through a presentation in front of seven-year-old schoolchildren. An aide whispers in the President’s ear.

Anyone that has read Robert A. Caro’s account of the ascent of Lyndon B. Johnston to the Presidency knows what happens after 9/11 was predictable. An algorithmic version of George W. Bush—even with the wonky technology of 2001, with Air Force One, for example frequently losing contact with ground signals and having to swoop over cities to pick up satellite signals and news footage—would have saved time. It would have been difficult for even a charismatic genius of John F. Kennedy standing to do any different, not go to war, even though in the Cuban Missile Crisis with nuclear Armageddon at stake, he cut a deal. But that was with bigger fry. This was just men in robes with boxcutters.  Caro argued, ‘power corrupts, but it also reveals.’ In the case of the moron’s moron, Trump, for example, it reveals a malignant evil that has diminished, but not gone away. Trump would have loved a war. Caro’s advice stands good then as it does now. ‘Turn every page and do the maths.’ Going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq was the easy part. No US President could afford not to. We’re still counting the cost.

‘I’m comfortable with the decision I made,’ former President George W. Bush tells the camera.

(Greg Palast documents how Democrat Presidential candidate, Al Gore, won the 2000-1 election, but another unfamiliar word, like ‘9/11’, entered the lexicon – ‘chad’. Let’s not confuse this with the scare tactics of the moron’s moron Trump. An appeal to the Supreme Court called for a recount of the votes in Florida.

Fast forward, just as the US Supreme Court trashed women’s right to abortion in Texas and by extension, Jane Doe is dead. But that’s an aside for women’s rights not in Afghanistan were the bad guys are pictured with bulky robes and marked out as Muslim and, therefore, other, likely to take women’s rights back to the seventh-century.)

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises: ‘How did you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.’

Daisy Maskell: Insomnia and Me, BBC 1, BBC 3, BBC iPlayer, Director Emmanuel Ayettey.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p09qkrq8/daisy-maskell-insomnia-and-me

I watched this last night. The programme started at 10.35pm, and I was almost falling asleep. A poor joke, which also happens to be true. My partner has problems sleeping. The woman across from us said she doesn’t sleep much. My sister goes to bed in the afternoon, and her son isn’t much better. As Henry Marsh writes in Do No Harm, exercise is supposed to help prevent early onset Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t you’re just able to run away better. Margaret Thatcher famously never slept much, and she got Alzheimer’s. There may be a link in the same way there may be a god. It’s complex.

‘According to research by the NHS, hospital admissions due to sleep disorders among young people have almost doubled over the past eight years, and the recent Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the issue further still. In research conducted by Kings College London on a cross-section of 2,500 people across the UK, almost half of 16- to 24-year-olds stated that they were sleeping significantly fewer hours than they had been prior to lockdown, in comparison to just a third of those aged 35 and over.’

I’d never heard of Daisy Maskell. She tells us she’s had insomnia since she was a child. Her job as a radio host at 6.30 am seems to me a good fit. But she said she worries about her mental health and the possible longer-term effect on her immune system.

She meets her best friend, and other young and pretty people, to discuss some of these issues. How, for example, Covid lockdowns may have made things worse. Normalised insomnia.  She tries cognitive therapy, psychotherapy and has her brain scanned. She admits to rewarding herself with food treats and purging with laxatives (bulimia) when she’s up late and the world is asleep. Yawn.  

An Impossible Love, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, writers Catherine Corsini, Laurette Polmanss, Christine Angot, and Director Catherine Corsini.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000x8l2/an-impossible-love

A French film, with English subtitles. Set on the cusp of the swinging sixties, it begins as a coming-of-age drama. We are told in voice-over by Chantal (Estelle Lescure and the older Chantal played by Jehnny Beth) how her mother, beautiful, young Rachel (Virginie Efira) meets Philippe (Niels Schneider) at a local dance. He’s down from Paris to sub-rural hicksville and works as a translator on the American army base. Rachel’s friend teases Phillipe and asks him to translate a phrase into Spanish, into Italian, and even Chinese. Phillipe obliges her, but it’s Rachel he’s after.

She’s an office worker and admits the boss hates her and demoted her after he tried to have an affair with her. Philippe waits for her to finish every night. They make love, or have sex, whenever and wherever they can. Rachel is in love. Philippe doesn’t believe in love. He gets her to read Nietzsche. Dazzles her with notions of the Übermensch, Beyond Man, the philosophy adopted by Nazis apologists. Philippe tells her he doesn’t believe in marriage and will never marry. He’s above such notions. And Rachel, with her lower-class Jewish origins, should be above such things too. As a parting gift, Rachel lets him cum inside her, rather than on her stomach as they agreed.

Inevitably, Rachel gets pregnant and gives birth to a girl, Chantal (our narrator whose story this nominally is). Chantal is registered as a bastard, with father unknown on the birth certificate. Rachel begins a crusade to get Philippe to legally acknowledge Chantal as his daughter. Perhaps even be something of a father to her?

Years pass. Rachel ages and Chantal grows from being a baby to a young girl. Philippe, like Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray looks and sounds much the same. He agrees to be named as father but then changes his mind. They make love or have sex, again and again. It suits him, and he tries to convince her that’s what they agreed to. He’ll never marry.  And she’ll going on working in the same old office and living with her mother, waiting for him, hoping to rekindle that great passion in her life.

The lies we tell ourselves are the most difficult to unravel. Her life is on hold, waiting. The older Chantal narrates in voice over the changes that come in their relationship and hers with her father. Blink and you’ll miss it, when Chantal tells the viewer when it started. A smooth transition. Intention and desire unpicked in the movement towards the denouement. Elegantly done.

Time, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, written by Jimmy McGovern and directed by Lewis Arnold.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p09fs2x4/time-series-1-episode-1

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p09fs2x6/time-series-1-episode-2

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p09fs2x8/time-series-1-episode-3?seriesId=p09fs2tp

Writer Jimmy McGovern guarantees quality, his production company is a must have drama factory for BBC, and his series gets the full marketing treatment and premium billing on Sunday-night telly. Our viewing habits have, of course, changed. I watched the first episode of Time last Sunday and during the week watched the other two episodes on iPlayer. That’s the new norm. Unless it’s Line of Duty, (none of which I’ve watched) expecting upwards of ten million viewers to tune in on a Sunday night is economic and entertainment madness. As consumers we want to watch when we have time. Or so the theory goes.

The Howard League for Prison Reform tells us there are currently 78 037 people in prisons and young offender institutions in England and Wales. David Leslie in Banged Up (published in 2014) tells us there are 120 prisons in England. Scotland has the highest number of people in prison or probation in the UK, and the highest in Europe. Statistics from the Council of Europe, a human rights organisation, show Scotland’s “correctional rate” is 548 people per 100,000 – behind only Russia and Lithuania. The correctional rate for England and Wales was 459, while the Europe-wide median was 318. That’s all the boring stuff nobody much reads. Jimmy McGovern knows this, people want stories they can relate to, and that’s what he’s selling us.

I’m sure I passed an ex-lifer walking down Duntocher Road on Thursday, who had been serving a sentence for two murders. He drunk in my pub, and he’ll be out on license. I talked to another guy whose son is in prison for murder. His date for release was put back because he got involved in a gym brawl. Then there is the ongoing case of a twenty-six-year-old Dalmuir lad, who was said to have been put in a bath of what was described as ‘a corrosive substance’, and later died. The number of murderers on license has doubled in the past five years. The Probation Service was privatised and renationalised because it was in such a colossal failure that couldn’t be ignored even by Tory scum.  But here’s the rub, our prisons are in a permanent state of siege and overcrowding. Yet crime levels are generally falling.  I live in a very quiet bit of Dalmuir with other old folk, nothing much happens, and that’s the way I like it. I don’t want drama.

Jimmy McGovern’s day job (most writers’ task) is not just making something happen, but to make things worse. So here we have the new fish, Mark Cobden (Sean Bean) sent to prison. He’s killed somebody, after drink driving. Is he mad, bad, or sad?

Well, he’s remorseful, but not really bad, after all he’s a middle-class schoolteacher and most prisoner are working class and come from deprived backgrounds (or ex-school teacher, McGovern had Sean Bean dress up at night as a woman and recite The Lady of Shallot [https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45359/the-lady-of-shalott-1832] to his pupils in a previous production, which is a poetry crime in extremis, so they have previous).

The twin strand of the storyline has prison officer Eric McNally (Stephen Graham) on the wing that Mark Cobden is imprisoned. ‘You were hard but fair,’ a former inmate tells him when he’s picking up drugs. But that’s to jump ahead.

Then you have the mad, Bernard (Aneurin Barnard). ‘Top bunk or bottom?’ Mark Cobden asks when he’s introduced to his new cellmate. Bernard’s body is covered in scars. He cuts himself, self-harms and is dragged away to the hospital wing regularly. He’s sick in the head. Prison officer McNally tells his mum, he’s sorry about what happened, but they were doing the best they could. The truth was most of the folk in prison were sick in the head. She doesn’t care. She only cares about her son.

In the preface to David Leslie’s Banged Up, he explains prisoner’s crimes range from the farcical to the terrible, but prisoners have one thing in common. Time. How to beat the boredom of being locked up 23 out of 24 hours, how to do time. Boredom is a killer. Drugs and bootleg booze a welcome relief. Cobden finds himself being stuck in his cell a bit of relief (like many others), because he’s been bullied by Johno (James Nelson Joyce). He steals his grub. Jumps in front of him in the queue for phones. And threatens to set his feet on fire with turpentine. He’s already flung a kettle of boiling water and added sugar so it sticks to a fellow prisoner he calls a grass. Cobden hides in his cell as a coping strategy.

The local Glaswegian kingpin on the block tells him that ‘his life will be hell’ until he hits back. Prison officer McNally’s life is already hell. His son is in a Young Offender’s and he’s told he’ll be assaulted unless McNally brings in stuff to the prison. McNally arranges with his governor for his son to be ghosted to another institution. But he’s sent a reminder that didn’t work. McNally isn’t trying to protect himself, but his son, and family. Hard choices.

Jimmy McGovern knows how to save face. Stevie (Dean Fagan) for example is Cobden’s new cell mate. And as part of retributive justice is allowed to tell his story to the victim’s parents. A lad he stabbed in a brawl. McGovern allows us to look at it in two ways. Stevie admits he was skint and took a drink from the man he murder’s pint, but he didn’t have enough money to buy him another. He’s in the sad category, but to save face he challenged him to fight. Took a hammering and stabbed him. It makes the convoluted sense that anyone living in a working-class district well understands.

Prisoners worst enemies are themselves is the message McGovern pitches again and again. And he’s right. But it’s not a vote winner. Locking so many people up, especially women makes no sense either economically (McGovern gets in the cost by admitting for every prisoner inside there’s an administrator’s wage being paid, and of course, added profit for private companies added as we ape the American model) or morally. Next to wrapping yourself in the flag, floggings and beating of prisoner is a sure way to get yourself elected and stay elected. The Honourable Margaret Thatcher, for example, favoured hanging and corporal punishment. Johnson favours whatever makes him sound less like the dim-witted pantomime horse he really is. Back to the drama. Yeh, worth watching. McGovern, as we expect, hits all the right beats in the right way and asks question of what we mean by atonement, and if such a thing as justice is possible outside The Book of Job?