Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Wisdom of the 80s

I'm reading - for work purposes, naturally - Alan Plater's 1985-1992 jazz-inflected Beiderbecke trilogy, novels adapted from the comedy-drama series he wrote, starring (as appeared to be compulsory), James Bolam.

It's got some decent plotting, sharp characterisation and a good pace, but it's undercut by the addiction to one-liners at the expense of any plot or character development.

Mind you, pretty much every one-liner is very funny indeed. Try these:
You think I don't know what a thesis is. Well I do. I've got a daughter at a polytechnic and she's doing one. Great fat bundle of words about sod all. 

On class distinctions, mealtimes are a battleground - which reminds me of my existential doubt when the plumber's 'dinnertime' visit turned out to be lunchtime… a day late of course, and of the notorious 'country suppers' and 'kitchen suppers' so beloved of the Tories and the Chipping Norton set:
In Trevor's world there were three fixed meals and one optional: breakfast, dinner, tea and fish-and-chips or chicken vindaloo if you'd been to the pub. In Jill's world these became breakfast, lunch and a floater that was sometimes dinner, sometimes supper. An element called afternoon tea occasionally sneaked in under the fence.
My favourite character is Sylvia, named after the good Pankhurst and a veteran of the Spanish Civil War:
Her view of the world was clear-cut. People were marvellous and politicians were shit. Asked for evidence she would say: read a history book. 
There's also a bit that rather presciently summarises my awful MP Paul Uppal's theory of regeneration:
     In the early 1960s, property developers and financiers prowled the North of England, brandishing bags of gold before the eyes of councils, great and small, making an offer that few could refuse: allow us to demolish your town centre, your much-loved but obsolescent market halls and High Streets, your ancient tea-houses and variety theatres, your bakeries and butcheries, your tie shops and pie shops, and we will give you in return mighty skyscrapers and crystal palaces, precincts and parking lots and a nominal mural or piece of sculpture and the people will rise in their thousands and cry: verily, this is the Athens of the North.
     The gold changed hands, the old towns were demolished and stiller there was only one Athens in the world, where it had always been, in Greece. The North of England was left with an abundance of office blocks, unwanted, unloved, unused. 

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