63 UP, ITV, directed by Michael Apted.

7 Up.jpg

https://www.itv.com/hub/7-63-up-uk/2a1866a0001

‘Give me a child and I will show you the man.’

That old Jesuit or ancient Greek aphorism is alive and well. I’m at 56 and UPward myself and one of my classmates, George Devine’s funeral, was on Wednesday. Arthritis creeps around my bones, but I’m still gloriously alive. When I went to school Mrs Boyle taught us that 9 x 7 = 63 (UP). My life has been in eight instalments, but I’ve followed the nine episodes of this soap opera and read into it things I already know. Class is alive and flourishing in Britain as it was in 1964; a half-hour documentary made by Granada, a World in Action, looked at the state of the nation through children’s eyes.

The villains of the series, as in life, have always been to me the upper classes. I’m like that old priest in Father Ted that when drink is mentioned his eyes glaze and he jumps out of his chair. With me it’s Tories. Fucking, Tory scum.

The first series (7UP) shows us three boys representative of that class, aged 7, Andrew, Charles and John.  They are shown singing Waltzing Matilda in Latin.  In their posh English accents they also boast about what newspapers they read. The Financial Times and Guardian. And tell the viewer exactly what prep school. public school and universities they will attend. And this all comes to pass with Biblical accuracy.  A world away from North Kensington, Grenfell Tower, the same rich South Kensington, London borough, where these boys hailed from.

The exception to the rule was Charles. We see him in 21 UP, long hair, hipster, telling the viewer how glad he didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge and attended Durham University instead. And he was glad of that because it gave him a different view of the world. Ho-hom. He does not appear in the subsequent programmes. Being educated at the right schools and having the right connections, of course, he went on to become something big in Channel 4,  something big in film and theatre and  threatened to sue his fellow documentary maker Michael Apted for using his image. This shows no class at all. Apted being one of those national treasures, like David Attenborough. Imagine, for example, a beluga whale suing Attenborough for impinging on his right’s images and all because of a bit of plastic.

Andrew went on to become a partner in his solicitor’s firm at 31, by that time he’d married outside his class to a good Yorkshire lass, plain Jane and they had two sons, Alexander and Timothy. His firm was taken over by a larger corporation and he regretted spending so much time at work, but in his modest way, admitted those were the choices he made. I quite liked Andrew.

I detested his and my namesake John. Of all the upper-class twats that little Tony wanted to punch, he would have been my prime candidate. I hated everything about him. The way he looked and sounded. His pronouncements that (Luton) car workers with their fabulous wages could afford to send their children to public schools. His life went exactly to the book, his pronouncements, aged 7 UP, realised. He became a Queen’s Council and gained his silk robe. He married the daughter of a former ambassador to Bulgaria and admitted his great grandfather, Todor Burmov, had fought against the Turks to gain independence and had been Prime Minister. No surprise, the gone, gone, gone girl, Teresa May, who attended the same Oxbridge institution, and helped create the hostile environment for immigrants didn’t exactly rush to deport him. John had the wrong accent, the right register of the Queen’s English, fabulous social connections and the pasty-white colour of skin favoured by immigrant officials. Two of his friends were Ministers in the Government.  Even Nigel Farage, the ex-Etonian, would have complained if John had suddenly been napped and put on a flight to Sofia, but then a strange thing happened. I didn’t mind John so much, and actually admired him.

He was one of the few that didn’t tell the viewer whether he had family or not. The reason he kept appearing in subsequent programmes was to promote a charity that helped disabled and disadvantage citizens in Bulgaria. He admitted modestly that he’d worked hard. While that usually would have me thinking nobody had worked harder than coal miners who’d powered the Industrial Revolution and paid in silicosis and black death, or Jimmy Savile who prided himself on being a Bevin boy and working (hard) down the pits and incredibly hard with his charity work and had other interests. John mentioned his mother had needed to work to send him to public school, in the same way that tens of millions of mothers have to work to put food on the table. John gained a scholarship to attend Oxford University, with the inference he was poor. I’m not sure if his mother was a Luton car worker, but I’m sure she didn’t work as a cleaner in a tower block in South Kensington. I didn’t exactly like John, but I understood him better, which is the beginning of knowledge.

I guess like many other viewers I identified with Tony, this tiny kid from the East End of London, his dad a card-shark crook and he looked to be going the same way. Larger than life Tony from 7 UP was a working-class cliché. He was never going to make anything of school. Left at 15 and he tells you early he yearned to be a jockey. He was helping out at the stables and got a job there. I know how he feels. I wanted to play for Celtic and trained with the boy’s club at 15. Trained with Davie Moyes, Charlie Nicholas on the next red gravel training pitch. Clutching my boots in a plastic bag I wasn’t even good enough to be molested by Frank Cairns, although he did give me a passing, playful, punch in the stomach. I guess he was aiming lower down and the lower league. Tony in a later UP series told us he’d ridden in a race against Lester Piggot. He wasn’t good enough, and is big enough to admit it.

Tony with his outdated attitude to women. The four Fs. Fuck them, forget them and I can’t remember the other two. Debbie sorted that out. She gave him three kids and now he’s got three grandkids. Tony admitted he’d had an affair. Tony, plucky London cabbie, having done The Knowledge, as did his wife and son. A spell in Spain trying to work out as a property broker. I guess, I should have guessed. Tony admitted he’d voted Tory all his days and now he wasn’t sure. More of a Farage man. Fuck off Tony.

Tony got a bit heated when he thought Apted had accused him of being a racist. ‘I’m a people’s man,’ he said. ‘You know me.’

Then he talks about the Arabs, in the same way you’d talk about poofs and Paki shops. The Arabs were the only ones that were helping him make money. It wasn’t Uber, that was ripping him off, but Labour that were taking everything and giving nothing back. Fuck off Tony, read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist and find out what part of Mugsborough you’ve moved to. Yet, there were his daughter, something that had gone wrong. Sometimes we’ve got to realise that although we circle the wagons, as Tony claimed, only a community can save us.

The old lies are made new again.

Let’s look at the girls from the same social background as Tony. My kind of people. Straight as a die, Lynn, attended the same primary school as Jackie and Sue. Married for 40 years. Two daughter and two granddaughters, Riley, only two-and-a-half ounces at birth. God bless the NHS. Lynn whose first job was in a mobile library. Lynn, who loved kids and loved helping kids to read. Then she worked in Bethnal Green in the library. Under the Tories, of course, we don’t need libraries; we don’t need women like Lynn. Her job was redundant. She was redundant. RIP.

Jackie was always the mouthy one in the triumvirate of girls pictured together. She  told Apted he wasn’t asking her the right kind of questions and patronising them – which he was, a product of his own class. Jackie, first married of the group. First divorced. Said she didn’t want children, but had three boys and ended up  in a council estate in Scotland, but separated from the father of the two of them, but still in love and in touch with him. Jackie, who had rheumatoid arthritis and told the camera, and David Cameron, if he thought she was fit for work then he should show her what kind of job. Disabled, she was classified as not disabled enough and fit for work. Tory scum. Here it is in person. Public policy without humanity and based on a lie. No great surprise the suicide rate on those deprived of benefits has rocketed. I wonder what Farage, who has never worked and continues to draw a hefty stipend from rich fools and from the European Parliament he wants to destroy thinks about that. We know what he thinks. He thinks what rich people tell him. Jackie can speak for herself. Speak for us.

Sue can think for herself too. She got married to have children and had two kids, but divorced their father because she didn’t love him. Karaoke singer, she met Glen and they’ve been engaged for twenty years or more. She works as head administrator in the law faculty of Queen Mary, University of London. She’s thinking about retirement and does a bit of acting and singing. A working class life, made good. But she worries that the world we’re passing on to her children and our children isn’t as good. Doesn’t have the same level of opportunity and social mobility. She’s right to be worried.

Bruce, representative of the middle class,  who when he was 7 UP claimed to have a girlfriend in Africa that he probably wouldn’t see again and wanted to be a missionary, always had that look on his face as if he’d missed something. His father, perhaps, in Southern Rhodesia.  Bruce was beaten at public school. He freely admits it and agonised whether Christianity was an outdated doctrine and whether it was liveable. I wonder about that too. I see the façade and under the façade more façade. The devil seems to me more real than any god and Jesus whose only weapon was love. Yeh, I like Bruce. For a start, although he was public school and went to Oxford to study Maths, he was never a Tory. He taught maths to children in Sylhet, Bangladesh and in the East End of London (Tony’s old school, if I remember correctly). Late in life he married and had two sons.

Peter, who went to the same school in Liverpool as Neil, was also representative of a different strand of the middle class. Both boys claimed they wanted be astronauts, but Neil hedged his bets and claimed he would be as equally happy being a bus driver. Peter went to university, got a degree and took up teaching. The greatest moment of his life was, he claimed, the 1977 Tommy Smith goal for Liverpool in the European Cup Final in Rome. No mention of his marriage or his teaching career. He dropped out of the 7 UP series after being targeted by the Daily Hate Mail and other right-wing publications for criticising Thatcherism. He later re-appeared, in 56 UP, having remarried and hoping to promote his burgeoning musical career. He claimed to be happy working in the Civil Service. Good rate of pay, good pension. He must be ecstatic now that Mo Salah and Liverpool have given him another greatest moment of his life in Bilbao. Anyone that sees through Thatcherism has walked in my shoes and I love my team, Celtic in the same way he loves Liverpool.

Neil never became an astronaut or bus driver. He did go to study in Aberdeen University, but dropped out in the first year and at 21 UP was living in a squat in London and working as casual labour on building sites. Neil makes for good television. Contrast the bright, beautiful and confidant seven-year-old boy with what he’d become, a shifty-eyed loner, with obvious what we’d term now, mental health problems, or as he admitted depression or problems with his nerves, madness. At 28 UP he was living in a caravan in Scotland. Then he was living in Orkney.  Neil never fulfilled his boyhood potential. But I guess that’s true of us all. Then somehow, in that long curve on life he seemed to be making a comeback. 42 UP he’s living with Bruce and later becomes a Liberal Democrat councillor in Hackney. 56 UP he’s moved again to middle England as well as being a councillor is a lay preacher in the Eden district of Cumbria. Able to administer all the rites of the Church of England, apart from communion. 63 UP he’s living in northern France, a house in the countryside he’s bought with money inherited from his parent’s estate. Neil has become a squire. Like me he hoped to have written something people would want to read.

Nick, educated in a one room school house in the tiny village of Arncliffe, in the Yorkshire Dales, a farmer’s son, who went to Oxford and gained a doctorate in nuclear physics, is a story of meritocracy and upward mobility. He didn’t want to run the farm, he said, perhaps his brother that was deaf, could inherit the farm. Nick wanted to change the world. A fellow student at Oxford commented that he didn’t associate Neil’s Northern accent with intelligence.  He was right, of course, intelligence has nothing to do with accent, and upward mobility has nothing to do with meritocracy. Nick’s comments that Teresa May would never have become Prime Minister if she’s gone to an obscure polytechnic would have at one time seemed inflammatory. But Nick lives and teaches in Wisconsin-Madison. Before Trump, and the moron’s moron continual twittering, nothing has ever been the same again. Nick had a son with his first wife and later remarried Cryss. But in 63 UP he admits to having throat cancer. He’s intelligent enough to know what that mean.

In 56 UP, Nick admitted having long conversations with Suzy, who had appeared in eight of the nine episodes, but not in 63 UP. Suzy when asked about the series when she was a chain-smoking, twenty-one-year old, thought the series pointless and silly. By that time her father had died, she’d dropped out of school and been to Paris to learn secretarial skills. Her upper-class background true to form meant she was a pretty enough catch. She duly married Rupert, a solicitor and prospered as a housewife and mother of two girls and a boy. After 28 UP she glowed with good health.

Symon and Paul were the bottom of the heap in the first series of 7 UP in 1964. Symon was the only mixed race kid in the programme. His mother was white. He missed her when he was in the home. She just couldn’t cope with him, but later they became close.

Symon went to work in Wall’s freezer room. He had five kids and was married by 28 UP. He wanted to be film star. He didn’t know what he wanted to do. At 35 he was divorced and remarried. He remarried a childhood sweetheart. They met in the laundrette. She had a kid and they had a son. They fostered hundreds of kids over the years. If you take away the money Symon has been the biggest success story and has given the most.

Symon and Paul kept in touch and they reunited in 63 UP in Australia where Paul lived. He emigrated, following his father down under. Paul worked in the building trade. He was always one of the shy ones in the programme. He went walkabouts with his wife Susan, who thought him handsome and that he had a nice bum. They had a couple of kids and stacks of grandkids. Their daughter went to university. The first of their family to enter an institution of higher learning. Paul and his wife work together in a retirement home.

The 7 UP series tells us about ourselves. When it began the Cuban Missile Crisis had been played out the threat of nuclear annihilation had passed. Or so we thought. With global warming and tens of millions of migrants on the move, the threat of nuclear annihilation is more likely, but for a different reason, because countries divert rivers and tributaries and claim them as their own.

The jobs that each one did will be redundant. Self-driving cars mean taxing will be for the birds. Amazon are already delivering by drone. Any kind of administration is child’s play for artificial intelligence. The bastion of law and medicine is based on pattern recognition. We can expect the new Google to run our health service, or what’s left of it. Nick, the nuclear engineer, might not have much of a future. The future is green, totally green. Those Arab states that rely on the mono-crop of oil will become bankrupt almost overnight, like a Middle-Eastern Venezuela. Russia has long been bankrupt, but without oil it implodes. Let’s hope it doesn’t take the rest of us with it. Money flows from the poor to the rich at an increasing. rate, like an ever-growing, speeded up, Pacman creating new wealth and eating it up more quickly. We are left with dysfunctional politics, tyranny and chaos. The centre cannot hold. Our homes will be battery powered. Plants and trees are already solar powered. They shall become our new cathedrals. Scotland should be green by then.  That’s something a celticman appreciates.

 

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The Snow Wolf: A Winter’s Tale, BBC 2, BBCiPlayer, writer and director Fred Fougea, narrator Emilia Fox.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bwqdbg/the-snow-wolf-a-winters-tale

Here we have a Fox, in this case Emilia, talking about a wolf, or Snow Wolf. I know what you’re thinking. Where’s David Attenborough? That whispering presence that adds the glitter and gold dust to so many BBC productions and ensures the gold standard of reportage. Here we have to do with the lesser known relative, of lesser lineage, but admirable in her own way.

The camera work is a miracle. We know how they get up close with tracking collars and cameras that film for twenty-four hours. We see the Snow Wolf’s trek through the Alps, the Dolomites and other European mountains such as the Pyrenees.

In any drama there is equilibrium and then there is chaos. So we have the alpha male and the alpha female, our Snow Wolf, hunting and then we have disequilibrium. Or tragedy. The alpha male is mauled by a bear.

We’re told with bated breath that wolves mate for life. She stays, the wolf pack goes. Her daughter becomes the new queen and the Snow Wolf must leave or the pack will turn upon and kill her.

But the Snow Wolf has a secret, she is with child, or six cubs. She must flee alone and find sanctuary where she can give birth and nurture the next pack of wee wolves.

And so it comes to pass, with a lot of snow and mountain passes. Beautiful, photogenic little puppies, frolicking.  We also see a lynx cat stalking the cubs, ready to make a meal of them for her own cubs. There’s always that wee cub that is more cute than the rest and more liable to stray and not last another day. Good dramatically.

The Snow Wolf has the dilemma faced by many wild animals. Easy pickings on the doorstep, in this case, sheep driven up the mountains by a shepherd and his dogs. Man is the real killer. The Snow Wolf dodges a bullet here. But in dodging the bullet and trying to find enough food and milk to feed her young they stray into another pack of wolves’ territory. They too will hunt and kill intruders.

The Snow Wolf and her cute little cubs need to find their way through city streets and bridges, they need to find their way to open ground where they can be safe. We see them scooting through alleys and bypassing man. They look as if they know where they are going to, which they do, because I’m pretty sure this bit is made up.

Safely, on the other side of freedom, all they need to complete their family is another single male wolf. She Wolf puts up ads. Single male wanted. Please pish on this bush, so I can scent you’re interested. Then we get it, the blood-curdling call of the Snow Wolf. Here I’m over here, she howls. Before you can say jack robin, a wolf is swimming across lakes and striding across lands, he’s looking for a family of six and he now knows where to find them. They’re in a National Park and so safe, plenty of take-aways on tap.

Beautifully done, for a hard-working and single mum.

 

 

Dynasties BBC 1, BBC iPlayer.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p06mvqjc/dynasties-series-1-2-emperor

David Attenborough may be over ninety and have more liver spots than a cartoon leopard, his dynasty extends through British culture, but he’s still king of the jungle when it comes to these types of big budget programmes. David Attenborough’s whispering voice gives that imprint of quality control. Planet Earth. Blue Planet, Blue Peter.

Aye, David, you’re right up there and down there. Remember that bit where a whale mourned the loss of its calf? It led to nationwide campaigns to eradicate plastic. Here in Scotland we had newspaper campaigns calling for the elimination of plastic straws. No mention, of course, of the elimination of plastic water bottles, which with tap water of the same quality is the equivalent of buying sunlight or clean air. Both of these are also on sale. Buy now since its Black Friday, but actually it’s Monday. We’ve moved our days about as a marketing trick.

So last week, Dynasties had David, not an Attenborough, but a chimp, who would know better than to fall for that kind of guff. He was king of the jungle in his wee bit of the world. Happy ending. Then he died.

This week we had Emperor Penguins. There’s that old joke, all Emperor Penguins look the same. They didn’t bother giving them names. What they did  (just as expected) was get up close and personal in Ataka Bay, Antartica, where temperatures dipped to below sixty-degree Centigrade.

The camera follows the travails of the Emperor Penguins from courtship ritual, egg laying, to gestation, to a friendly bit of huddling, chick stealing, and death in a ravine. Well, I must admit, they cheated here. Nature may be red in tooth and claw, even in a whiteout, but the production team dug holes in the snow so some Empire Penguins could get out with their chicks and make the long march to the sea.

Two-thirds of those that started out in the journey make it to food and happiness in the freezing cold waters. That’s the good news.

Whisper the bad news David. Those chicks that made it to the sea, when it’s their turn to court and have chicks there’s less ice, less of a season to incubate the egg and more sea. So with global warming Emperor Penguins, like David the chimp, will be one of those species we capture on camera and keep alive in zoos. I’m assuming mankind will still be here, which is also not a given we care to face.

 

Tim Winton (2017) The Boy Behind the Curtain: Notes from an Australian Life.

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Tim Winton is one of those annoying kids. He wanted to be a writer when he grew up and by the time he was nineteen he was publishing. Pisses you off, doesn’t it. It’s the story of the exception to the rule. Here’s a white, working-class kid, from Perth of all places, that won all kinds of prizes and made it not just in Australia, but world-wide. Good on yer cobber I say.

My mock-Australian is like my writing, to be avoided, but I just keep doing it anyway. Anyone that has read Cloudstreet will recognise his dad. Here he is a traffic cop with a backstory in which he’s nearly killed, not expected to live, expected to be invalidated out of the service. Life with a single wage then no wage suddenly becomes something that even a kid recognises as life changing. Quick in Clouldsteet finds his feet in the love of the water and in  ‘Havoc: A Life in Accidents’ life changes in a heartbeat.

In fiction I’ve been a chronicler of sudden moments like these. Because the abrupt and headlong are old familiars. For all the comforts and privileges that have come my way over the years, my life feels like topography of accidents. Sometimes, for better or worse, they are the landmarks by which I take my bearings. I suppose they form a large part of my sentimental education. They’re havoc’s vanguard. They fascinate me. I respect them. But I dread them too.

Others like his father often carry what you cannot, but it can lead to a kind of strangeness evident in Cloudstreet with the mother of one household that shared the house sleeping outside in a tent, literally, her own space, much the same as Winton’s granny. And if you read a homage to ‘Betsy’ and find out that it’s a car built to last and last and last and embarrass a boy forever and a day then you’ll know that these smart adverts we watch about Renault is nothing new.

In ‘The Battle for Nigaloo Reef’ we see a Blue Planet and David Attenborough kind of world. A world Tim Winton grew up in and he’s held his granddaughter’s hand as she finds her feet in the waves. A shrinking world. The miracle here is like Winton’s father walking again is that the battle was won, Nigaloo Reef was saved – momentarily- but the world is shrinking and things change.

I’d read ‘In the Shadow of the Hospital’ before. This is another epicentre in which suffering seeps out and there are no civilians. People suffering and in pain have no boundaries. A car, for example, crashing into accident and emergency was no accident.

The opening story/essay ‘The Boy at the Window’ is a cautionary tale.

When I was a kid I like to stand at the window with a rifle and aim it at people. I hid behind the terylene curtain in my parents’ bedroom with the .22 and whenever anyone approached I drew a bead on them.

There might have come a time when he pulled the trigger. He didn’t. But that’s happenstance or circumstance or just plum good luck. Winton recognises the power of guns and having one changes who we are. All those gun nuts really are nuts. Taking away a gun is like taking away a woman’s breast or emasculation. It lessens the person they think they are. Think how having a mobile phone, even in the same room, as others, changes the focus and narrative, how much more powerful is having a gun. When we’re young we’re impetuous. Having access to a gun makes us dangerous. That’s what he’s saying, dangerous and callous.

In ‘The Demon Shark,’ for example, Winton remembers a time when the good old boys would bait shark with whale oil and meat and shoot at them because they were sharks, there to be shot at and butchered for the common good. But not the good of the shark or the health of the sea.

‘Using the C-word’ is something I’m quite partial to. Winton recognises that he’s come a long way from the working-class kid he was. He’s comfortable, by many measures, rich. But he isn’t blind and he isn’t deaf and he isn’t dumb. We’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns. And those that are getting screwed big time are the poorest in society. We, the working class, have lost the propaganda war and the winners are hanging us from hooks and skinning us to the bone and blaming us for being poor and stupid. Hatred. Things there were once taboo is mainstream. We don’t need to look to the moron’s moron in the White House. Look closer to home Winton is saying. Middle class Australians are quite happy to screw the working class and in the blame game the c-word is often used as a handbrake and shorthand meaning not one of us. Fuck you I say to that. It’s not the politics of envy it’s the reality of being screwed again and again and calling it Austerity – for who? – cunts.

‘Barefoot in the Temple of Art’ is a reminder that black is never white and white is never black. There’s no profit without people. And there’s no life, but just existence, without art. Read on.

Big Cats, BBC 1, 8pm, BBC iPlayer, Narrator -Bertie Carvel

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p05q59zk/big-cats-series-1-episode-1

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09p26p3/credits

Big Cats are killers. They have adapted to every corner of the globe (not that a globe has corners). So successful are they in the Australian outback Tim Winton tell us readers in his book The Boy Behind the Curtain they have pretty much helped destroy most of the indigenous wildlife.  I’ve also read in the papers about leopards in India taking children. My own cat seemed unconcerned. It does bring back mice.  Of the 40 big cats, 33 are small cats. Downsizing seems like a good idea in these difficult times. The real killer is, of course, man. We literally create deserts of lands and seas.

This celebration of cat life is one of the wonders of the world. Beautiful and full of awe. What’s missing, of course, is David Attenborough. We might see a rusty-spotted cat 200 times smaller than its carnivore cousin the lion, but with an impressive 60% strike rate (where do they get that stat and who’s counting the mice and small birds?) it’s king of the Sri Lankan jungle. In the Himalayas we see a snow leopard doing a pee, otherwise known as marking its territory and hoping a mate might swing by. I’ve done that as well.  There’s a pride of Africa lions – no jokes here please about Gloria Gaynor and I torch songs I Will Survive. (No you willnae) Then there’s those cubs whose mum looks like BagPuss, but it’s wee  Pallas cat from the steppes of Outer Mongolia. Not Steps on Top of the Pops singing the Bee-Gee’s number Tragedy.   But the next best thing if you’re a cat fan, which I’m not. But you know the next line. I wouldnae be cruel to one.

Blue Planet II, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, Presenter David Attenborough.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p04thmv7/blue-planet-ii-series-1-1-one-ocean

The Golden Record carried by the Voyager I spacecraft by NASA on the pretext of an infinitesimally small chance it would bump into an alien lifeform that would be able to understand it missed a trick. They should have just sent David Attenborough. He would have told them we live in a wee blue planet, seventy percent water that we’re heating up like an egg. Then David could whip out his film and show them the Artic, or what used to be the Artic, but is now Butlins on sea, a bit like Skegness but with plastic seal pubs. I did my best, he could say, four years we rued the waves, 1000 hours of film just to get the picture of a dolphin messing about with his mates. The number crunchers were going wild. How could you do that? Waste so much time and money on fish that’s not even one you put on a supper and isn’t even a fish but a cetacean. Fuck sake David, get a grip. Money that could have went to rich folk. Just when they need it most, you’re out faffing about talking about pollution and plastic bags and showing why we need to get rid of the communists in the BBC that produce this kind of left-wing, Corbynite propaganda. But it’s tough for the number crunchers because in a poll of most beloved Britain and a straight choice between Queen Elizabeth II, Blue Planet II and David Attenborough I, the queen comes in last. Royalty might Trump, trump, but it doesn’t trump a walrus trying to get its seal pup onto a bit of ice when there’s no ice and a polar bear is hanging about with its cubs. Or if we dive deep into the ocean a squid putting its tentacles into a tiger shark’s gills and around its jaws so it can’t eat it. The Blue Planet we used to live on used to be a great place. Attenborough in his measured tone would tell those ETs where we went wrong. For a start, international collaboration, trumps the what’s-in-it-for-us brigade. At the end of the year, Blue Planet II will win best documentary, best drama, best screenplay and best soundtrack AND with David Attenborough. We save money because he appears and the fish dance for him. If Jesus was a white man and got to live long enough to be an old geezer, he’d be David Attenborough. Can he save our blue planet?

The programme usual ends with notes about how they filmed in exotic locations with hard to pin-down extras. The money-shot.

Pollutants: plastic, broken down and ingested by smallest creatures, plankton, eaten by bigger fish and we end with the mother’s milk of dolphins and the world’s largest whales.

We’ll miss Antarctica but Miami will be under water and we can cruise around its remains.

Wars for food and water, ironically, and tens of millions on the move.

Bleached coral theme parks filled with small people dressed as fish and fat people dressed as polar bears or walruses. A job’s a job.

Television Programme of the year – Planet Earth II

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02544td

Must see television programmes are like a good marriage, you’ve heard of them, but up close they rarely exist. But this is David Attenborough territory. So you can suspend belief and watch this like a child, with open-mouthed wonder. My bet is you’ve never seen over a million penguins on Zavodoski island, a live volcano rock. That’s a lot of methane and lots of guano. Until we get smell-o-vision we’ll not get the real feel, but we do see them feeding and falling and generally getting on with things and wondering what species these lumbering bipeds are. Or perhaps you’d rather watch golden eagles with twelve-foot wing spans diving at two-hundred- miles-per-hour and  fighting over the carrion of a dead fox in the Pyrenees. A standout is newly hatched iguanas trying to make it to the safety of the rocks and sea, while colonies of snakes try to eat them. I mean, who really cares about beasties like this? But it’s absolutely riveting.  How about snow leopard in the high Andes? Or if you don’t fancy that, leopards hunting wild pigs in an Indian city.  A flamingo parade in heat that would peal paint. And for a bit of added comedy bowerbirds stealing a man-made love heart for his bower  and a shiny toy car in an Australian golf course. Langurs jumping from rooftop to rooftop and stealing out of people’s hands, fruit and vegetable and most other things that take their fancy.   There is great beauty in such diversity. And we’re rooting for all kinds of bugs, and beasts, we’ve most likely never heard of. Attenborough does allude to man-made destruction. Encroachment of the Alps by humans and snow and ice also retreating in the Andes (glacier loss estimated at fifty-percent less than 30 years ago) and the temperature in the Himalayas soaring. It is Attenborough’s job to entertain and inform, with the former necessarily outdoing the latter.

But the figures are stark. See these creatures in their natural habitat in all their glory, because they won’t be with us much longer. The report from WWF Living Planet Report, highlighted by Professor Georgina Mace, professor of biodiversity and ecosystems, UCL, shows the number of wild vertebrates on Earth have been reduced by 58% in the last 40 years. Andrea Selia, professor of materials and inorganic chemistry, UCL, adding her voice to that of, for example Peter Wadham’s eulogy, A Farewell to Ice. A Report from the Arctic. Seliah’s message is equally as snappy: ‘The ice doesn’t lie’ Mass global warming. Sea ice thinning and melting in an area the size of western Europe in the Antarctic and Arctic. The chances of that happening randomly – a 7 sigma event – one in a hundred billion.  Climate science is even more specific. Taking Charles Kneeling’s 1957 measurement as a baseline for the rise of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, it has passed the 400-parts-per- million mark, reports Tasmin Edwards, lecturer in environmental sciences, Open University. The highest level in three million years. An accident waiting to happen, but it’s not an accident. Goodbye to all that.