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You can't go home again

I had a fantastic week. It was the first week of two weeks off and I did a great deal of lounging around reading books, then I went to the Imperial War Museum and saw their Weapons of Mass Communication exhibition, about the power of propaganda posters from the Great War to the present. Though I had issues with the way the exhibition is hung (the information on the posters is in clumps of small type and there isn't enough information about the context) it raised lots of fascinating issues about the way different countries appeal to their populace and demonise the enemy and also made it completely clear that the propaganda poster as a means of influencing the populace is now almost entirely used by the opponents of war. I cannot think of a single example of pro-'intervention' posters in this country, not even an attempt to convince the populace that it's somehow a righteous or even necessary mission through posters (or even advertising). The posters are all about the British Legion poppy appeal or recruiting to the services. I also went to the galleries on the secret services, which are well worth your time. All about codes and double crosses and secret letter drops from the nineteenth century through the Cold War.

After, I drove up to Manchester to see a close friend I haven't seen for seven years. The day before I went to see my old offices in the town where they filmed Yanks, which is about 10 miles outside Manchester. When I lived there, it was a lovely place if you're fond of sadly neglected Lancashire towns with lots of heart and no money at all. It was stuck in the early 80s, it had a fabulous cinema you could drink and smoke in, a la the old days, and every fourth shop was boarded over. I lived there 10 years ago, for my first job, at which I earned £8,000 pa. If you've ever tried to live on £8,000pa not as a student, but paying your rent and bills, without any tax credits or tax breaks, you will know how difficult it is. You can live on it, and go out on it, but one poor decision or one big bill and you're stuffed for months. Even when you've been careful you spend the week before payday living on beans on toast and multipack yoghurts and the fruit and veggies in the half-price section. You have Friday night parties in your flats, drinking Bontempi Martini at two quid a bottle because neither you nor your friends can afford pub prices or to take the bus into the city.

But despite being permanently skint, it was one of the happiest periods of my life.

Now the town is all spruced up, and they've rerouted the river into a canal and taken it through the centre of town. There's a statue in front of the cleaned up old market hall and all the tacky boarded over shops are cheap pubs or bars. The tripe shop is gone and there's a bloody huge Tesco in the middle of town instead of one crappy Aldi. The old cinema has succumbed to the multiplexes and is now an appalling looking nightclub. I couldn't find my way around. This became a theme of the trip.

The last time I was in Manchester was just after the IRA bombed the shite out of it, and my abiding memory remains car alarms and glass across the streets thick as snow. Now the place is utterly transformed. The Arndale no longer looks like a 70s public toilet, Piccadilly gardens is no longer a sunken garden for drunks and the Corn Exchange is an utterly redundant arcade. They've made over the city so much that I got lost walking around. This is a place that I once knew intimately, knew like a native. There's a huge undercover cinema restaurant complex that reminds me of the one in St Louis near the railway station, a kind of ersatz US experience, and a big wheel like London. They'd just switched on the Christmas lights when I was there and they were giving away huge trays of free Krispy Kreme doughnuts because, I think, they must be opening a Krispy Kreme outlet somewhere around Albert Square. I refrained, and expect my telegram from Pope Granpa Munster any day now, explaining that I have been beatified for my shocking levels of restraint.

Then I went to see my friend -- who I have not been to see for seven years for various complicated and stupid reasons that I regret very much -- and met her daughter, who is a delight. I like children of that age, who are infinitely distractable with stories about socks made of gravy and storing biscuits down the back of your pants and other silliness. It was entirely lovely. I have now gotten back in contact with four out of my six closest university friends and it has been a fabulous experience to see how they are all doing. Now I just have to try to keep in touch. It's going to be up to me, but that's okay. It's worth it.

And another good thing is this: I have been feeling very homesick lately, for the north. But visiting Manchester made me realise that it's a north of my imaginings, a north that no longer exists because it was a particular place at a particular time. Maybe I am a Londoner now, albeit of that peculiar tribe that Stuart Maconie describes in Pies & Prejudice, the transplant.

There's also a story to be told about the absolutely bizarre experience I had going back to my old workplace and encountering a former soap star but that may be one for the friends lock, I think.

I am watching "My Boy Jack", the TV drama about Rudyard Kipling sending his 17-year-old, myopic son off to war in a surfeit of over-earnest patriotism. It's got Daniel Radcliffe as the son, Jack, and it's a salutory reminder of how frighteningly young they were as they marched into the Great War. Of course, Jack Kipling was killed in his first battle -- sent over the top during a rain storm which robbed him of his vision, his men carrying bloody pigeons for God's sake. Kipling was utterly bereft.

The drama is completely unsubtle yet powerful, and the performances are really good, particularly that of David Haig, who also wrote it, as Kipling. It stops before a lot of the interesting stuff that Kipling did in atonement for his guilt, and that was a shame, but the scope of the two-hour drama could not have easily encompassed it.

The best thing I heard about the Great War in this week of remembrance was Memorials to the Missing (Thursday's afternoon play) which was about Fabian Ware's struggle to set up the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It sounds dry and boring but it was haunting. (The fact that it was Anton Lesser playing Fabian Ware helped. He played Falco in the radio adaptation of the Falco novels and oh, that voice!)

The best thing I've ever seen about the Great War remains Blackadder Goes Forth. The whole thing is gloriously cynical and tragic and funny, and the final scene is one of the most impressive television endings I've ever seen.

(3)Stargate Atlantis is something I am watching in a sort of half-hearted way, in as much as if the LJ hivebrain says it's a good episode (or a particularly bad one) I will download it.

ETA: See comments (::sigh::)

I watched this week's SGA and there was NOT ENOUGH EYE-ROLLING IN THE WORLD for that last bit. Surely you know what's coming. You don't fire a gun in the fourth act without loading it in the first, just as you don't mention that Teyla has a newly acquired lover in the first act without the medical revelation in the fourth act being about bloody pregnancy. Again. That's going to end up with yet another fantastic heroine being f***ing pregnant and pining away for a lost lover while losing 70% of her kickassity. Enough of the writers using the "pregnancy in tragic circumstances" card -- particularly if they can't even be arsed to introduce us to the daddy. Enough of the gender muppetry. ENOUGH I SAY. NO PREGNANT TEYLA. Pregnancy is either boring or icky or both on genre shows. Until they can do it properly, it's not allowed. That is my position on the matter.

Please note: I would like to be very, very wrong about that. Feel free to spoil me if I am. I would consider it a kindness.

So, the episode. I really liked the look at Teyla, who was allowed to be the smart, icy warrior she has in her, with Rachel Luttrell selling the story as much through the quiet intensity of her delivery as the actual lines themselves.

It's a shame they had to make Keller *quite* so clueless with the ankle-spraining and YELLING when they were being pursued by musclebound cavemen nasties, but she came good at the end. I think if anyone who did not have the reserve of love commanded by Jewel Staite because of Firefly had played the role of Keller, there would be screaming and slagging aplenty about how she was a rubbish female and why weren't Rodney and Shepherd in it more. (to which I spit, because who complains when Rodney is whinging and being rubbish?

(4) Kudos only torment us because they love us. They give us snakes and sarky old birds and naked Rupert Penry-Jones and ice-cold women assassinating their lover's other shag because "she's not good for you".

How completely fantastic was that? The mistakes coming home to roost one by one, from Zaf's warning to his co-workers in Tehran which told the Iranians that the bomb was a plot not an internal accident; to Ros's entanglement with Yalta to Adam's fatal weakness for Anna allowing the plans to get to Tehran.

I loved that Jo ended up in Zoe's position but played it much more cannily with the undercover journalist. Adam continues to be creepy and out of order what with murdering the mugger, shagging his Iranian lover even though he has been warned that she is compromised, and lying to Ros and Jo about it. I think we're meant to find him cold and creepy: this is Adam without the softer, protective side that Fiona and Wes brought out in him, an Adam who has packed his major vulnerability, Wes, off to boarding school, and is only ever honest with Ros, who is as hard and damaged as he is.

Last season RPJ played him as someone fatally holed under the water by circumstances and trying desperately not to sink. This season the ruthless streak he always had is right to the fore and I love it. You could map Tom to Adam and Zoe to Jo and see that the series is dispensing with the ideal of duty and patriotism; even Jo is increasingly accepting the "by any means necessary" philosophy that Ros and Adam espouse.

The ensemble is working at its best since Ruth left, because Jo no longer has to be pseudo-Ruth and can instead be out turning into Roz's mini-me but in a good way. Commenters on rez_lo's journal pointed out that they are playing out variations on previous storylines but taking less obvious routes with them. Like Tessa in season one, Roz is bent but she's doing it out of patriotism (or fanaticism, if you're feeling harsh) rather than for monetary gain. Jo's encounter with the undercover journalist and last week with the former boyfriend match previous storylines given to Zoe but Jo is harder than Zoe and more professional about hardening her heart and using the situation to her best advantage.

Nor does Harry seem to be quite on top of his game, trying to disentangle the mess left by the Tehran operation, one of his agents missing presumed dead and pining for Ruth (okay, that last bit is very very much subtext*) Thank heavens for Connie, who is a magnificent old Russian-speaking bird, taking in the previous roles of Ruth and of Colin as sounding board, deliverer of some of the best lines and genius infowoman. I still miss Zaf and wish they had given him a proper couple of stories that dealt with his interesting personal circumstances -- I don't think we're ever going to get that now -- but I think he's not dead. No one's dead in genre telly until you see the body.

[*in my head. But supported by proper subtext last week, honest!]

But OH! that final scene. We've seen how Ros operates, how she hates, but now we see how Ros loves. I'm not suggesting that she and Adam are love's young dream or that this is anything other than a pairing of equals, friends, mutual respect, admiration, convenience, but I think she loves Adam in her own way because he's good at his job and he saved her and they understand each other (or think they do). But her fierceness in trying to protect him from Anna because she's "not good for [him]" and at the end, the way she screamed and fought to keep him alive showed, I think, that Adam has become one of the few people she truly cares for. I *loved* that at the end she killed Anna -- I absolutely believed that that was something she would do. She's ruthless and fucked up and fascinating.

Show, I plight you my troth. Seriously. Don't ever change too much. And please don't kill Ros or Adam. Or Malcolm. Or anyone else. And have another season, even if RPJ leaves, as I suspect he will. kthanxbyeeeee!

ETA: ::::draws little hearts around Peter Firth::::


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 12th, 2007 12:27 am (UTC)
They've talked about it on and off for years but I am assuming they must know that they're never going to top that series or that ending. They did the Christmas Carol but they've not really done much more than Comic Relief skits since.
Nov. 12th, 2007 01:59 pm (UTC)
They did the Christmas Carol but they've not really done much more than Comic Relief skits since.

I remember reading at the time, after that episode aired as I recall, that Richard Curtis had drawn that line for a reason. The Blackadders line died in the Great War. He was pretty much pushed into the Christmas Carol for fundraising, as I think has been the case with EVERY Dr Who special.

I agree that the ending is utter class, and frankly does more for explaining the utter futility of that entire four year period than most films have done before and since.
Nov. 13th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
I know. `Are you looking forward to the internet exploding after Friday's CIN special?
Nov. 12th, 2007 01:46 am (UTC)
Nov. 13th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
I *know*. I'm getting quite tinhatted about it
Nov. 12th, 2007 02:18 am (UTC)
Well, Rachel Luttrell was pregnant, so. I think it would have been fairly obvious if they'd suddenly had Teyla stop going on missions and instead spending all of her time behind tables.

This is not to say that they're not going to handle it badly, because, you know, it's SGA. It's what they do.
Nov. 12th, 2007 02:21 am (UTC)
Ahhh, okay. I exist so far out of the fannish swim on SGA that I did not know that. All right. They're forgiven. Sort of.
Nov. 12th, 2007 02:38 am (UTC)
Oh, I feel like they'll still need to apologize for the *way* they handle the pregnancy. I'm, like, 100% sure of that. But yeah, they presumably wouldn't have gone there if it hadn't been for real life.

...though they did the mystical pregnancy for Claudia Black on SG1. So maybe they would have gone there.
Nov. 12th, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
Claudia Black was also pregnant, though.
Nov. 13th, 2007 03:15 pm (UTC)
Oh please no. I am getting to the point where I don't want any character I like to be pregnant on any show* out of fear of what might happen.

*except the male ones. Because the very idea makes me smile
Nov. 12th, 2007 02:46 am (UTC)
Well, OK, I caved and read a little bit, as given your glee, I had an inkling of what might have happened, and... \o/ MUST CATCH UP ON SPOOKS NOW.

And yeah, Rachel Lutterell is pregnant. I shall be very cross they let this storyline interfere with Teyla's awesomeness. Not that I have a huge faith in SGA folks in this regard, mind you. *sigh*

Edited at 2007-11-12 02:47 am (UTC)
Nov. 13th, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC)
I am filled with Spooks glee these days -- I'm not quite sure what that says about me given how dark and cynical and misanthropic the show is these days. In fact I am only slightly less filled with glee than the crazy people at the Spooks news site. I am getting quite tinhat about the whole thing.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 13th, 2007 03:20 pm (UTC)
I think the secret service galleries may be a new thing. They were tremendous though. As for revisiting Manchester, I am not sure where they got the grimy cityscapes for 70s Manchester since everywhere there seemed to have been shinied up lately.

I am lucky with SGA in that I don't actually give a bugger except in as much as it will annoy my friendslist if they mess it up and that makes me sad. *g*
Nov. 12th, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
I kow what you mean about Urban Regeneration. My birth town's undergone much of the same and frankly I don't have a clue.

Peter Firth has been WIN! (as the gaming kids say) for several decades now. At least he's not gone the Robert Vaughan (sp) way into old age.

Oh yeah and I bought Spooks from the start. Bandwagon is a long way ahead but I may get there soon...
Nov. 13th, 2007 03:21 pm (UTC)
I wish my birthtown could get a little regeneration, poor place, but it is weird not recognising places.

I am glad to hear you're watching Spooks. It has a lot to recommend it, particularly the gleeful way it tears out your heart and stomps on it, just for kicks, at least once a season. Weirdly, I like that in a piece of entertainment *g*
Nov. 13th, 2007 06:45 am (UTC)
crap, I spoiled myself for spooks. OMG Ros kills Anna? OMG.

Tomorrow night; I shall watch tomorrow. Saw 604 on the plane home, and it was pretty awesome.

Nov. 13th, 2007 01:05 pm (UTC)
as you're spoiled already...
I just watched it again. You don't see Ros pull the trigger and kill Ana. You see Ros threaten Ana with the gun, then you see her shut the door on Adam, then a female hand screwing a silencer onto a gun, then you hear two silenced shots.

With this show, unless you see it happen...

Nov. 18th, 2007 11:55 pm (UTC)
Re: as you're spoiled already...
and now we've seen the next one and Ros is even smarter and colder-hearted than we thought! ::draws hearts around Ros::

Love that Peter Firth interview. RUTH! OMG!
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )