Jawbone (2017) BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, director Thomas Napper.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000gx8n/jawbone

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000gx8n/jawbone

Writer Johnny Harris takes the central role of Jimmy McCabe in this smashing film with a boxing background. We’re all familiar with the Rocky theme tune playing in the background and the stereotypical rags to riches story. We know there’ll be a fight and our hero will win.

Johnny Harris gives it a bit of twist, his fight is with the booze. He can still shift, but his better days are gone. He lives in a council property that’s been torn down and he’s been torn down with it. He refuses to budge. He goes to the housing and when they give him a hard time, he turns on the security guards. Jimmy McCabe needs somewhere to park his anger.

Social realism isn’t just about rundown locations. I recognise Jimmy McCabe, he’s like my brother Sev, Stevie Mitchell, even young Robert, all dead. All boozers. They’d that edge. Prisons are full of Jimmy McCabes—all they’ve got is their pride. All unable to switch off.

Jimmy has more immediate needs than salvation. With nowhere to stay, nowhere to go,  he drifts back to the old gym he used to train. Bill’s gym is the kind of rundown place that hasn’t room for fancy stuff, or fancy people. Working class kids come to learn from Bill Carney (Ray Winstone). Winstone boxed for England as a schoolboy, but here he’s the old timer bringing new kids on, keeping them off the street, teaching them about values. He doesn’t miss a trick. When Jimmy wanders in he spots him right away. He exchanges a look with a faithful sidekick Eddie (Michael Smiley) that helps him out.

‘You alright Jimmy?’ Bill asks him.

Jimmy tells him he’s just in to train. Nothing much is said. That’s the brilliance of the script. But when something needs to be said, it’s Bill that does the talking and Jimmy listens. This is not the Jimmy we’ve seen up until now. In the school of hard knocks you only get one chance, but Bill is holding out a helping hand.

Jimmy takes the piss. He’s nowhere to stay and breaks into Bill’s gym to have somewhere to kip down. He leaves before anybody comes in the morning. Bill catches him out, of course. And it’s a thing of beauty. The script really is pitch perfect.

Jimmy needs a fight, but he’s no longer fit. He has to beg a pound to make a phone call. Use old contacts in the fight game. Joe Padgett (Ian McShane) meets him in a restaurant and buys him a steak dinner. More importantly, he gets him a bout, unlicensed, but cash, £2500, or £3000 if it’s a knockout. He also gives him a sub to get by. The guy that Jimmy’s got to fight is unbeaten, much younger and a killer. We’re in Rocky territory here.

We’re rooting for Jimmy, but we know what happens next when he buys a bottle of booze.

Later, Jimmy, in an AA meeting says what we all know, what we’ve experienced. ‘I’m a fighter, but I can fight it. I know I’ll lose. That’s why I’m here.’

He knows that’s one fight he’s going to lose. In the gym he was something. On the streets he’s less than nothing. He needs to prepare for the unlicensed fight, but he tries to keep it a secret from Bill. But Bill already knows. Bill knows a lot of things. His fatherly relationship with Jimmy and Eddie’s misgivings are realistic. Can a boozer really change? (Answers on a postcard and send it to God.)

Here the sweat of honest men, who tell it like it is, makes us hearken back to simpler times. Boxing is the most brutal sport. That’s where we get the term punch-drunk from.  Here another aspect is on show, kindness and comradeship. Whether Jimmy wins his boxing bout, or not, we know, doesn’t really matter. It’s the bout with himself and the booze he needs to win. Stepping into the ring, might be a catalyst for destruction, but when every day is a battle…Get real. Watch this.  

Miriam’s Big Fat Adventure, BBC 2, 9pm, BBC IPlayer, producer and director Simon Draper.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000g6qt/miriams-big-fat-adventure-series-1-episode-1

Miriam Margoyles is elderly (78-years old), she’s fat, she’s Jewish, she’s gay-ish and she used to be an actress. I remember her painted green as Grotbags in a witch’s cap. She’s invisibility squared. But she’s BBC’s documentary crew’s go-to-pensioner. The female equivalent of Louis Theroux, but rounder and without the cocked eyebrow. Miriam Margoyles is the Olive Kitteridge of BBC.

I’m old enough to remember there not being an obesity epidemic. One third of British adults being morbidly obese.  In St Stephen’s Primary School in the sixties there were no fat kids. Apart from Meta Bell (*I’ve changed her name not to protect her privacy but because I can’t remember her name, which is a better reason than anything Google or Facebook will offer you).

I’m also cynical. When I hear government health warming I listen for money talk. Torsten Bell (no relation to *Meta Bell) suggest Tory cuts since 2010—taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich—has led to social insecurity. A rise in child poverty in the last four of five years and an estimated five million children below the poverty line by 2024. Fling into the equation, cut of around a billion pounds from local authority budgets have wiped out Sure Start, one of the projects that was proven to work and the mass closure of youth services. In England and Wales, for example, with an average cut of seventy percent, 750 youth clubs axed and 104 closed in London  since 2011.

Paradoxically, kids are getting fatter as they get poorer. Before we get into fat shaming and the Victorian  equivalent of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Cookery and Household Management,  with advice about how to keep your socks up, we should keep in mind the five million kids that are written off every year, economical casualties. The best examples, of course, come from this cohort. The Monty-Pythonish we were poor, but now we’re thin and rich, exception to the rule, rule. This paradigm is frequently highlighted to show the system is working and if you’re failing, if you’re fat, it’s your fault—being poor is no excuse (buy the latest Mrs Beeton’s podcast).

Shaming and blaming, is nothing new. If Jeremy Kyle was a virus it takes more than frequent hand-washing to shake him off.  Here we have Miriam going to a fat boot camp to talk to survivors. £600 gets you a spot in the tent in the garden. £1400 per week, gets you a room. It’s all-inclusive. Eat green leaves. Exercise. Weight drops off quicker than your pay packet after an agency takes its cut.

Will, for example, went to Eton or Harrow and then University, piled on the pounds, but lost four stone after a week in boot camp. He was 28 stone. Losing the first few stone is the easiest part. Miriam asks about his sex life. She can be blunt that way and sometimes it’s funny.

Georgia is less funny. She’s a food addict. We follow the she’s-doing-really-well film mantra. She lives semi-permanently in boot camp. Her parents support her.

As we know most folk that lose weight, over time, put it back on. I don’t have any answers that don’t involve structural rather that personal change.

Here we are in fat is a feminist issue with Miriam attending a plus-size dance class with twenty-five plus size dancers, whopping it up. I wasn’t convinced. I’m not sure what this programme is meant to teach us, teach me. Miriam is watchable. But it’s empty viewing calories. Middle-class twaddle.     

The Rise and Fall of a Porn Superstar, Storyville, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, Director Tomer Heymann


https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000frcl/storyville-the-rise-and-fall-of-a-porn-superstar

I missed the first few minutes of this. I expected to see (not that I watch porn) blonde hair and silicon breasts and a solid arse so big it would have shamed a Kardashian and housed half of dancing Africa with bongo drums. Instead I got this guy, who called himself Jonathan Agassi and he was in Berlin. He dressed down to go out in a pair of tight-fitting swimming trunks. He went to a Berlin nightclub to collect an award for the being the best new gay porn star. He won the category, best porn actor, United States.

Fucker, you better believe it. He didn’t live in the United States.  The best, or so he thought. This is the rise part, before the world goes back to being less than a Cabaret tune. ‘Come to the Cabaret my friend, Come to the Cabaret’. Another song set in Cabaret (Berlin of the 1930s Weimar Republic) sets the tone: ‘Money, makes the world go around, the world go around, the world go around. Money makes the world go around…’ It still does. When Agassi is the queen of the porn industry and doing what he’s told, money pours in. The next big thing is always standing behind you.

I found Agassi’s relationship with his mum weird. She’s in Israel. He’s in Berlin. They Skype. He looks for reassurance he’s still beautiful. She gives it.  Then he goes back to visit her in Tel Aviv. There were some uncomfortable moments such as Agassi dressing in fishnets and high-heel shoes and his brother telling him this wasn’t Berlin, but Tel Aviv. In other words, don’t go out like that ya sissy. But he’d went to school there. Threatened suicide, when he was at school and ready to jump from a high window, his classmates shouted, ‘Jump’. I guess Israelites are too busy gobbling up the land of their poor Palestinian neighbours to be overly politically correct.   

We meet Agassi’s dad back in Berlin. Things have turned more difficult. Agassi’s bum is still for sale but the price is dropping out of the market. Worse, his dad is the worst kind of arsehole. Agassi remains fixated on his dad calling him ‘a homo’ when he was twelve. We all know the cure for that from right-wing (let’s call them) Americans who imagine a good shag with a good girl will cure them of that kind of malarkey. That was certainly my da’s view, when his best mate, Jimmy Mac, told him his son was gay.

‘No, Jimmy, yeh, cannae have that,’ were my da’s immortal words.

Agassi’s da went further. When he was twelve he set him up with this then female partner. You know, the good-shag cure, which in other societies would be looked on as paedophilia and procurement, but not here. Not in Berlin.

Later, Agassi and Da meet again. His son is out of his face on drugs most of the time. He’s filmed sleeping on top of a parked car. And admits he hadn’t slept for two days. Worse, his wanger is playing up, gone off solidarity and on strike, he can no longer ejaculate on cue. The money shot is no longer the money shot. Things are slipping.

Da talks about his mum as if he loved her. Maybe he did. But he tells the big lie. Mummy was depressed because she wanted a girl and instead had a boy, Agassi. That set her into depression, perhaps post-natal, perhaps something else. Nudge. Nudge. Wink. Wink. Your mum hated you and it’s your fault for being born.

Mummy soon put Agassi right. She was stuck in New York, penniless and young, with two kids and daddy was out spending what little money that had and whoring. That’s when I got on mummy’s side. Now I kinda liked her. She was spunky.

Agassi dresses mummy up in designer clobber and claims she looks beautiful. The answer here on this side is no, she doesn’t. She looks like an ordinary wee woman. Since we’re on the male gaze, I don’t think Agassi looks anything special either.

He ends up working in a supermarket. The kind of guy you pass every day. Gives lectures to kids about the dangers of drugs. When I watched Louise Theroux’s programme about escorts £200-an-hour seemed to be the going rate. Agassi around $4000 an hour. Must be hard, working on the checkout, minimum wage, made to eat shit. Lack of money does that to you. Porn, like anything else, is an overcrowded market. It eats the young. Hates the old. I’m sure there’s some kind of metaphor waiting to pop up.

Murder Trial: The Disappearance of Margaret Fleming, BBC iPlayer, directed by Matt Pindle.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000d2cw/murder-trial-the-disappearance-of-margaret-fleming-series-1-episode-1

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000d2fq/murder-trial-the-disappearance-of-margaret-fleming-series-1-episode-2

In 2019, Edward Cairney and Avril Jones are jointly charged with the murder of Margaret Fleming and brought to trial. The accused lived in Inverkip on the coast of the Firth of Clyde, a backwater (near where my sister used to live) but there’s no body, and little forensic evidence. Until recently bringing out the body for examination was necessary before a murder trial could take place. John George Haigh or The Acid Bath Murderer, as he was daubed in the early twentieth century was convicted of the murder of six people (he claimed nine victims) but there was still enough physical evidence to convict him. Forensic evidence in the twenty-first century is no longer a pony and trap, more of a high-speed-express train that often pre-determines which way a jury is going to vote –guilty,  not guilty, or in Scotland, the case being Unproven.

The prosecution were able to show what little forensic evidence that appears in the case of Margaret Fleming was ambiguous. Bone fragments, which were fragments, but which could have come from any number of animals and not necessarily from the body of Fleming.

There was little doubt the John George Haigh was guilty of murder, but he was asking the prosecution a simple question—prove it. Edward Cairney and Avril Jones are saying the same thing. The case rests on who has the best story?

Here we move from the whodunnit to the whydunnit. We’re looking at motive. Agatha Christie, who was guilty of a well-publicised disappearing act of her on, much quoted saying suggests, ‘very few of us are what we seem,’ and is the basis of most of her work. The before and after shock of J.B.Priestly’s An Inspector Calls.

Margaret Fleming, thirty-five, disappeared before or after police called at the depilated property investigating inconsistencies in form filling. An application for Personal Independence Payment which had been filled in by her carers, Edward Cairney and Avril Jones quickly became a missing-person enquiry then a murder trial. Margaret Fleming, the two accused suggested, had simply ran out the back door as the police came to the front door.  Cairney suggested that she had run away with gypsies. Jones went along with whatever Cairney suggested. But the last person to see Margaret Fleming was her GP and that had been in 1999.

Motive for murder, improbable as it seems, seems to have been diddling the benefit system for sixteen years. Witnesses are called to establish that Margaret Fleming had been a happy-go-lucky girl before her protective father Derick died and she was given into the care of the accused.

The only witnesses that Margaret Fleming was no longer happy and no longer lucky afterwards were Edward Cairney and Avril Jones. A doughnut shaped hole exists in the prosecution’s case.  They can’t provide the body and they can’t provide evidence that Margaret Fleming was maltreated before she was murdered.

In the Whydunnit story something always turns up—the moment in Scooby Doo when the hood is pulled off the ghostly figure and he cries, ‘I’d have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for you damn kids.’ The Scooby Doo moment arrives after Cairney and Jones are arrested, wheeling their trolley, ready to board a train to London. A supposed typed letter from Margaret Fleming to Edward Cairney and Avril Jones has a hotel address in London. You know the sort of letter, I’m doing great and I’ve ran away with gypsies, but I’ll be home soon, and p.s. you definitely didn’t kill me. In Scooby Doo setting up your alibi sets up your fall.

To recap, the police have the letter. They have the typewriter it is written on. They have dates and time in which Edward Cairney and Avril Jones were in London staying in the same alleged hotel Margaret Fleming was staying in. Time enough to post a letter to themselves, which is franked with a London postcode, and which they collected themselves as proof of Margaret Fleming’s continuing disappearance, but sudden re-appearance using language she was not grammatically capable of.   The jury could decide its circumstantial evidence—because it is. In terms of a double-twist narrative either Margaret Fleming’s body has to be found or the victim has to turn up in court the day they are convicted.

No double-twists—yet. Apart from a local vigil for Margaret Fleming. Bit late for that, vigilance should be for people that are alive.       

Billy Connolly: Portrait of a Lifetime, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer


Billy Connolly: Portrait of a Lifetime, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0535lq5/billy-connolly-portrait-of-a-lifetime

Billy Connolly might well be Scotland’s greatest export after whisky. Both ITV and BBC are competing to squeeze the last dregs of life out of The Big Yin. I’ve checked, he’s not dead yet. But he does have motor- neurone disease and he’s coming up for seventy-five. He said it himself, other people’s success tend to form an inverted U-shaped curve. His success is of the hockey-stick variety. Everything he shites turns to gold. Even his doodles are framed, exhibited as art in Glasgow’s People’s Palace. He’s come a long way from strumming a banjo and being a Humblebum. Remember Baker Street and Gerry Rafferty? Unlikely, unless you’re an old codger. Here’s a reminder. I once danced to this song, or at least moved my feet, which was much the same thing.

Billy Connolly conquered Scotland with his Wellie boots and took on the bigots with his Crucifixion.  He conquered London, by which I mean England, when he appeared on The Parkinson Show in 1975. But the Big Yin wasn’t as big as Benny Hill. Remember him? Semi-nude woman and eye rolling and a chase that went on for an hour.  That was comedy then. They’d chase you for that now. For drama try on Frankie Miller.  Billy Connolly had a part in Peter McDougall’s  Just A Boy’s Game, one of the Play’s for Today, everybody in Scotland watched and said—fuck—that’s us in Glasgow around 1979, the time of the first Referendum.  

Now fuck off with Boris fucking Johnson. It wasn’t until Braveheart in nationwide cinema that its small-screen reach could be matched and let’s face it, Braveheart was Mel Gibson chalked blue and talking shite.  But in the United States, where they they’re not keen on anyone that’s not American and even then they’re a bit iffy, Billy Connolly is known. He’s a brand. That Scottish guy with the hairy face that’s been in a couple of films, nobody much watched.  But Billy Connolly’s loaded anyway, so that makes him half American. It doesn’t matter. He’s one of us.

I’ll tell you a secret, I remember Billy Connolly and I heard his jokes, but I didn’t laugh. I’m funny that way. I get them, I really do. He’s a representation of the guy we all know that’s funny as fuck.  Connolly is a nostalgia feedbag for a better Scotland that you can strap over your nose to feel better. I like him better now. I often chuckle at his jokes now I know the punchline, in a way I never did then. Drumchapel, a desert wae windows—that’s genius, in anybody’s language.

Billy Connolly is still working, he must have Cadogan Street on his back. 5000 folk died while waiting to be re-assessed and that’s no joke. That’s the Scotland we live in now, so there’s a lot to be said for nostalgia.

While the BBC archives are trawled for stuff that tells the Billy Connolly story it’s wrapped around a poor man’s excuse—it’s all about art. Here’s the sketch, three different artists get to paint a picture of the Big Yin. Cover your ears, I never thought I’d say I was a conservative, but see that modern art-shite. I’ve really got no standards worth talking about. Here’s my preference reading from left to far right:     John Byrne, Jack Vettriano and Rachel Maclean.

The Man Who Saw Too Much, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer presenter, producer and director Alan Yentob and Jill Nicholls.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000bqt9/the-man-who-saw-too-much

The story of 106-year-old Boris Pahor is a eulogy to the twentieth century. The man who saw too much and experienced too much is a testament to man’s inhumanity to man. He wrote a memoir, Necropolis- City of the Dead about his incarceration in a little-know Nazi concentration camp, Natzweiler-Struthhof in the mountainous regions of Alsace, France.

He was also sent to Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Dora, Harzungen, Ironically, Natzweiler was one of the first concentration camps liberated by the Allies, but it was empty. Prisoners were sent to Dachau, but it was Natwieler he judged to be the most cruel. His account is illustrated by drawings by fellow prisoners.

Pahor’s ability to speak several languages, his native Slovenian, Italian, French and I imagine a bit of German saved him. It allowed him to get a job inside the barracks as a translator for the camp doctor an Austrian, who also trained him to be a diarrhoea nurse. Almost half of the 52 000 prisoners were executed, died of illness or malnutrition or died outside working in the granite quarry in sub-zero temperatures. A mountainous region, each step going up the graded slope to work was recalled as the equivalent of Christ on the road to Calvary.  The camp produced a particular type of red stone favoured by Hitler’s architects who created public buildings in honour of the thousand-year Reich.

Pahor was sent to the camp because he was considered to be an anti-fascist. He was arrested in September 1943.

Fascism comes from the term fasces, a bundle of rods with a projected axe blade, a symbol of the magisterial power in ancient Rome.

The neologism fascism was associated with the rise of Mussolini in Italy, Franco in Spain and Hitler in Germany. A megalomaniac belief in the strong-man theory of history. A contempt for the democratic process and calls for its suspension so the great man can act on behalf of the people.

Pahor, for example, recalls his upbringing in the cosmopolitan Slovenian port city of Trieste with access to the Adriatic being taken over by Italy after the first world war. As a precursor to Kristallnacht, Mussolini’s blackshirts burned down the Slovene cultural centre, closed their schools and banned the speaking of their language in public. School lessons were in Italian. Pahor, the anti-fascist was drafted into Mussolini’s army to fight the anti-fascist Allied forced.

Fascism = Capitalism.

Mussolini, the former Communist and man of the people, had a mandate to rule given by aristocracy, landowners and the moneyed classes. In contemporary terms it was based on deregulation. The bogey men of communism and working men organising themselves into trade unions was outlawed. Deregulation meant no regulation, the whip hand was with the rich and only the poor paid taxes.

King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy’s intervention in the second world war and his late backing of the Allied forces led to the arrest of Mussolini at the end of July, 1943. One fascist force replaced another. The German’s sprung Mussolini from prison and took control of the defence of Italy and split the country among fascist and non-fascist supporters.

An estimated 600 000 joined the anti-fascist resistance movement in Italy, around 70 000 of whom were women. Pahore was caught with a typewriter and accused of producing anti-fascist leaflets. So begins his odyssey in the death camps.

Primo Levi, Italian Jew, in his memoir, If This Is a Man asked a question what is it to be truly human?

Necropolis –City of the Dead is the answer. Them and us.  The ersatz category of subhuman that fight each other over a finger-tip of bread while mining pink-coloured rock that has decorative value. Capitalism in its purest form can be found here. Fascism and the strong man theory of history have made a dramatic comeback. Boris Pahor tells it like it is. He saw too much. We understand too little. This is a Boris you can trust.   

Miriam’s Dead Good Adventure, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, editor Gwyn Jones, episode 1 of 2.

miriams dead.jpg

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0004gpl/miriams-dead-good-adventure-series-1-episode-1

There’s a simple rule in life, don’t get old and don’t get fat, which becomes a commandment on television. Presenter Miriam Margolyes is the exception to the rule. She looks a bit like Grotbags, the witch, but without the green hair. Margolyes has become something of the flavour of the month on BBC, a kind of low-rent-a-gob, fat and Jewish and a lesbian version of Louis Theroux that is sent to comment on the crazy American trends that perplex and amuse us.  Miriam’s Dead Good Adventure, for those not in the know is a play on words, mimicking Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and the rewriting of history into something groovy. Groan you might.

Miriam starts episode one and ends it in Wren Hall, a place where men and women with dementia spend their last days. As you’d expect with television cameras there’s plenty of activities and the staff all smile. Nobody beats the patients or steals from them. And they even feed them regularly. They get involved in old-fashioned sing-songs. It would break my heart, if I had one. This more than anything else scares the shit out of me. My partner argues it wouldn’t matter that much because you wouldn’t know what’s happening to you. Geoff who visits his wife June most days is a case in point. Miriam went away to America and came back about a month later and they were still repeating the same conversation. You is no longer you, but somebody else. We get the usual stuff from Miriam about how in love they are. Past tense?

In California they take the dictum never get old and never get fat very seriously and test them to breaking point.  The Revolution Against Ageing and Death (RAAD). Miriam usually begins the conversation by asking what age the plastic man or women is and what beach did they wash up from. Then she says they don’t look that age. Plastic people and Domestos bottle never do. Miriam aged 77 looks her age. She has always looked 77, even when she was 57. Plastic people’s pouts give them away. No they haven’t had surgery they were born with a heavenly, fish pout. They all seem to be that certain age where they plan to live forever.

Miriam jumped from California to Arizona. This is the place to go if you want to freeze your body, or if you can’t afford that, your brain for future generations to marvel about how stupid you were.  Pioneers of the super longevity movement plan to live long enough to outstrip our current body’s capabilities by freezing the balls off themselves and achieve escape velocity. Science will have the cure for death and dying and they’ve just got to wait until they can pick up the keys at the nearest showroom.  82-year-old Bernadene, who seems more plastic mannequin than person and cryotherapy enthusiast Jim, her youth partner, who discovered the secrets of eternal youth in his freezer and you’ve only to look at his hair to know it’s true. Bernadene is honest, for those schmucks or poor folk that can’t afford to pay for treatment and live an eternal kind of life, well, the world would be a better place. The secret of eternal life is only for some rich, white folk. Here is Trump’s America in a freezer bag. There’s more, but I won’t bore you with it. Nothing I’ve not seen before.