Peter Rhodes' Express & Star column, taking a sideways look at the week's big news.
THE best part of the unearthing of Richard III’s bones in a Leicester car park is that the team began digging in a car space reserved with the letter R. Dig under R and you find Richard. The next hunt for royal bones may be in Winchester where the remains of Alfred the Great are supposed to lie. There must be a great temptation to start searching for the letters AG
THANKS for the bulging postbag on the subject of films which have made audiences spontaneously cheer. Les Miserables and The Sting are clear front-runners.
ONE reader makes a good point about the first time she saw Jaws (1975) when the giant shark suddenly erupted from the water and the whole audience applauded wildly. She says the unconvincing rubber shark which terrified us so satisfyingly in 1975 is almost laughable today, and are we becoming hardened to horror? She’s right. Can you name a single classic horror movie that still frightens us?
AS SHE took Australian citizenship, that great British actress Miriam Margolyes declared: “I don’t like class distinction and there is far too much of that in England.” Maybe there is. But class distinction, in all its infuriating silliness, is the very bedrock of the English sense of humour. Margolyes has made a very good living exploiting it, all the way from Ladies in Lavender to Jam & Jerusalem, not forgetting her glorious Queen Victoria in the Blackadder Christmas Special. Pity she has to bite the hand that fed her so well.
TALKING of class, as the world celebrates the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, can any modern work hope to challenge it as the ultimate dissection of the English class system? Yes, indeed. Look no further than Walmington-on Sea. The episode in this week’s BBC2 repeat, The Honourable Man, with Mainwaring seething at the news that his sergeant has become The Honourable Arthur Wilson was as keenly observed as anything Jane Austen wrote and arguably the funniest of all the Dad’s Army stories.
CHRIS Huhne’s ex-wife Vicky Pryce used the old law on “marital coercion” in her defence to a charge of perverting the course of justice. This rare defence dates from the 1925 Criminal Justice Act and can be used only by married women. When gay marriages become legal, all sorts of changes will have to be made to English law. The scrapping of “marital coercion” must surely be one of the first.
IT IS 20 years this week since the murder of toddler James Bulger shocked the world. I was in Preston Crown Court for the final day of the trial. The killers, two little mop-haired boys, sat a few feet away, seemingly indifferent to the hearing. After it was over, we hacks tried to string together some analysis or lessons to be learned. I began my piece with these questions: “What turned two mischievous lads, tarred with a little truanting and some silly shoplifting, into executioners? How did these 10-year-olds get from Just William to Lord of the Flies in half an afternoon?” But there were no answers, just half-baked psychobabble theories which convinced no-one. I wrote: “As each theory is stripped away, all that remains is plain, old-fashioned wickedness. The Devil, if you like.” One of the killers, Jon Venables is still in prison, having been released and then convicted of affray, drug possession and downloading the vilest child pornography. It seems significant that this boy, taken into youth custody and showered for eight years with the finest rehabilitation programmes and the most dedicated social workers the state can afford, is as dangerous today as he was 20 years ago. And it makes you wonder, however unfashionable and defeatist it may sound, whether some kids are simply born evil.
ONE of the scariest Shakespearian roles for any actress is Hermione, the queen in The Winter’s Tale who pretends to be a statue. The actress playing Hermione must keep absolutely stock-still for several minutes. In the long history of the theatre there must have been Hermiones who got cramp, had a fit of the giggles, sneezed, had hiccups or broke wind. The statue scene is as tense for the audience as it is for the cast. In the latest RSC production at Stratford, Hermione is played by Tara Fitzgerald, probably best remembered as the flugelhorn-playing love interest in the movie Brassed Off (1996). On press night at Stratford she was rock-solid perfect, proving you can give a truly moving performance while not moving at all.
THINGS you never see today. Whatever happened to small boys on cold mornings with cotton-wool in their ears? What was that all about?
IF YOU’RE left wondering whether any issue could cause the Tory party more internal strife and pave the way for electoral defeat than same-sex marriages, it would surely be an attempt to lift the ban on foxhunting. They’re working on it.