Watching telly was a battle zone until my hard-bitten dad took his pick of the mix...
with all that clock changing going on in fierce defiance of shire Tories who seem to think that the whole of Scotland has it in for them (hint, we do), a nation has been forced indoors. Suddenly we have to talk to each other again. Or at least, shout at the telly, which was always a feature of television viewing in our house.
I don’t think my father ever saw an entire programme through without some sort of vigorous bellowing. War films were particularly bothersome. The mere hint of American activity in the European theatre of operations was enough to trigger off a detonation hitting Force 9 on the Ranting Dad Scale.
Mum watched the telly with a furrowed brow. It was the sheer concentration of trying to hear the plot.
She had a few tactics to silence him for a while. One of them involved pick and mix from Woolworths.
She would give him the family bag of sweeties on a Saturday night. This was brilliant psychology on mum’s part. It meant he was in charge of something, a situation we as a family usually strove to avoid, but this meant he could be kept quiet for anything up to 15 minutes.
He’d be happy for a while rooting through the wrappers with the Gainsborough lady on them, and there was a chance we’d hear Henry Fonda warn the complacent Top Brass that the Germans weren’t finished yet and a big tank push was possible through the Ardennes.
There was, however, a downside. You had to ask him for a sweetie. Now, my mum would insist on mixing the pick of raspberry ripples, strawberry creams, fudge, soft caramel centres and those brittle-shelled round mints that had the consistency of a blob of toothpaste that’s cemented on the side of the sink with hard toffees, and those strange boiled things with a gooey middle that stuck to your teeth. Mind you, they were good for digging out of the remains of your back fillings for a secondary chew a few hours later.
Dad hated hard centres. So when you asked for a sweetie, he dug one out, and, without taking his eyes off the screen, bit it, and if there was resistance, you got it.
He bit through the wrapper, I hasten to add. Good heavens, there was some decorum in our house.
Don’t know your Jolson from your Chaplin? Ask Mammy
The son returned from school perplexed the other day. They had been shown a film about a tramp. It had no colour. He meant black and white. But even more bafflingly, it had no sound.
There was a time, I explained, when moving pictures were just that, moving and nothing more until 1927 when Al Jolson told us in The Jazz Singer that “you ain’t heard nuthin’ yet”.
Real colour arrived in 1939 when Technicolor hit the screens with Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, both of which shared the same director, Victor Fleming. Oh yes, do not come home and ask me movie questions. You’ll be there for a while.
Fine, he said. And Hitler was dressed as a tramp because . . .
Battery power’s a ferry clever idea
A few weeks ago I met some wonderful apprentices from the Clyde shipyards, so hopefully the contract to build two new ferries will secure their future – whoa! Get me, coming over all pundit-speak there, like Marr or Clarkson. Why, any minute now I’ll be seeking a superinjunction to stop anyone publishing scandal about me. Sadly, there isn’t any. I’d love to be a Jezebel, but honestly, I don’t have the figure for it, and I’m busy, but if Clooney calls, I’ll stall the ironing.
Anyway, it’s great to see not just Scottish shipbuilding but also innovation getting a break, because the ferries are battery-powered. This makes them sound like Airfix toys, but they’re efficient, and environmentally friendly.
Superb, now let’s work on replacing the fuel for our nuclear submarines with bicarb of soda.
To boldy go to the Hebrides
The batteries in question are lithium ion. To me this sounds a bit like dilithium.
For those of you too young to remember, dilithium crystals fuelled the engines of the Starship Enterprise on her five-year mission to explore new worlds and to boldly go splitting infinitives.
Now, I hate to rain on CalMac’s parade, but as most of us recall, the most salient feature of dilithium crystals was the fact they ran out faster than Triple A batteries on Christmas Day, forcing the crew to land in strange, wild places to hunt for fuel for their vessel.
Oh hang on. The ferries are bound for the Hebrides. Trust me, there are some seriously strange, wild places up there. Phasers on stun, lads, especially if you get lost and try to land in the wrong place on a Sunday.