Saturday Ramble: The behemoth begins
Ladies Beach Volleyball Team
So, it is upon us at last. The longed-for event will arrive next week and dominate our lives into the near future.
I refer, of course, to the British summer.
How strange then that it should coincide with that other event of the year, the Olympic Games, a behemoth of gargantuan proportions that is, in fact, just a collection of minor sports that most of us ignore most of the time.
We in the far West Country will not be spared. Weymouth is hosting the sailing, as anyone who has tried to drive in south Dorset for the past year will be aware. Charming country lanes are even now being turned into major trunk roads to accommodate the expected traffic.
Oh, and the dock at the ferry port has collapsed, possibly from horror, leaving anyone coming in by sea stranded at Poole. An omen, surely!
You probably already know that sailing is not in any way a spectator sport. It’s fun to do, but paint drying over-emphasises the excitement for those who watch from the shore. Not even local hero Ben Ainslie can rustle up a frisson of interest in the rest of us, the poor punters who are paying for it all.
Like many others, I suspect, the BBC will be a no-go area for us during the long interregnum of this painful occasion. Apart from the early morning slots on Radio 4, our allegiance will be transferred to the Beeb’s American cousin, PBS.
PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) has been available in Britain for a while, languishing in the downmarket swamp where the digital channels hang out. A pity, it is by far the best provider of intelligent documentaries and docu-dramas on British television. To coin a phrase, it is Olympic Gold all the way.
Last weekend it gave us two 75-minute docu-dramas on Luther — Martin Luther, the German monk who single-handedly destroyed the might of the grasping Vatican “Corporation” back in the Middle Ages, eerily echoing the downfall of our own Masters of the Universe. Amazingly, the Medici Popes of the era were bankers.
No expense was spared. Top British thesp, Timothy West played the older Luther amid fine location filming and reconstructions. It also boasted a magnificent score of plainsong, and some expert talking heads.
The absence of contrary voices, deemed essential by the Beeb, gave a pleasing unity to the whole production. Fine broadcasting, indeed.
This has been adroitly followed up with four docu-dramas on successive nights about the Medicis themselves. The cast of characters include, Leonardo, Botticelli and Michelangelo, superbly filmed and dramatised.
The section on Brunelleschi’s creation of Florence’s cathedral dome is a masterpiece, as is the gem of Michelangelo’s torrid time painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
PBS is not preachy, nor politically-correct. It doesn’t summon up a trade union leader to “balance” a programme. It tells it like it is. The best of its output is in the 10 – 11.30pm slot, an arid zone of politics and paper reviews on British TV.
Goodbye, Newsnight. Farewell, Olympics.
… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
Mysticism in the Modern World is coming soon.
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