September 29th, 2013


The Sky At Night

The BBC is thinking of cancelling The Sky at Night. I've been sent a petition to ask them not to.

I won't sign it.

The Sky at Night is a peculiar, hand-knitted programme- a lone survivor from the early days of television- which never changed and has always looked as if it cost about thruppence ha'penny to make.  I hardly ever watched it ( and barely understood it when I did) but I was happy to know it was out there somewhere.  Patrick Moore- with his mannerisms and monocle and quaint old-fashioned views- was a one-man justification for the licence fee. The BBC's willingness to carry on with his show for as long as he lived  (filming in his study when he became too frail to travel) was a commendable act of gallantry

I've no idea who presents it now. The format was wrapped around Moore's persona and there seems little reason to preserve the shell. Bury it reverently and come up with something new.

There is, as Ecclesiastes says, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them together and this is a time for scattering.

The Accidental: Ali Smith

It's almost a genre, but maybe not quite. A mysterious stranger comes to town and transforms every life he or she touches. Works in this almost-a-genre range from Mary Poppins to Brimstone and Treacle, from An Inspector Calls to Teorema. A number of westerns- including several Clint Eastwood westerns- qualify. In Smith's treatment of the theme the angel is an ageing hippie chick and the people she turns over are a middle-class family on holiday in Norfolk. I liked the 12 year old daughter best- Smith does a grand job of getting inside her head- and the womanizing husband least- she makes him awfully soft- and has him think in verse- which is something no novelist should ever attempt. You want to lose your readers? Try tossing them a sonnet.