DVD review: Inside No. 9 – Series Three

Chris Hallam's World View

inside no 9 s3 dvd

Cert: 18. BBC Worldwide

Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Philip Glenister, Keeley Hawes, Tamzin Outhwaite, Peter Kay

Continuing in the richly darkly comic vein of the previous two series, onetime League of Gentlemen Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith write and perform in six more one off stories, all linked by the fact that they involve the number nine.

For the 2016 Christmas special The Devil At Christmas, we join the Devonshire family (including Pemberton, plus his pregnant wife played by Jessica Raine and mother-in-law Rula Lenska) as they embark on an alpine holiday in 1970s Austria. Ingeniously, the episode is presented in the form of a 1970s film apparently being accompanied by a DVD audio commentary supplied by the production’s director (voiced by Derek Jacobi). There’s thus more than a shade of Acorn Antiques or perhaps Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace as continuity errors within the slightly shoddily made film within the…

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DVD/Blu-ray review: School For Scoundrels (1960)

Chris Hallam's World View

scoundrels - bow tie

Directed by: Robert Hamer

Starring: Ian Carmichael, Terry Thomas, Alastair Sim, Janette Scott, Dennis Price, Peter Jones

Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) is, by his own admission, a failure. Though he runs his own small office, he proves totally incapable of keeping his newfound girlfriend (Scott) away from the bounderish intentions of Raymond Delaunay (Terry-Thomas). After he is conned further into buying a ridiculously clapped out car, Palfrey decides to take action, travelling to College of Lifemanship headed by one Dr. Potter (Sim) in Yeovil.

There is plenty to charm here in this adaptation of Stephen Potter’s now largely forgotten Gamesmanship books. Terry-Thomas is on career best form, peaking during a game of tennis, while the remaining cast (all except Scott are sadly now deceased) are as reliable as they are familiar to the audience as they must have been to each other. John Le Mesurier, Hattie Jacques and Irene Handl…

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Book review: Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Chris Hallam's World View

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“So here I am, upside down in a woman.”

The opening to Ian McEwan’s latest novella may go down as the best first line of 2016. Intriguingly, the author claims he thought up the line first and thought up the ensuing story afterwards. The story may essentially be summarised as a murder mystery told from the perspective of an unborn infant nestling within its mother womb. The mystery – without wishing to give too much away – has a strong Shakespearian element.

The fetus is a very clever fetus, having picked up more in the womb than many people pick up in their entire lives. The book is clever too, very clever. Not too clever either, although as it’s more of an experiment in narrative than a full blown novel is unlikely to gain the following that McEwan’s other books such as Atonement and Saturday have. But the experiment is undoubtedly…

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100 years of Gerald Ford

Chris Hallam's World View

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July 2013 is the centenary of US President Gerald Ford. Here are a few facts about the man.

  1. Gerald Rudolph Ford was the 38th US president. He took over when Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974 and left office in January 1977 after being narrowly defeated by Jimmy Carter.
  2. He was born in July 1913 (the same year as Richard Nixon) and died in December 2006, aged 93. He lived longer than any other US president (narrowly beating Ronald Reagan). Jimmy Carter and George HW Bush may beat this record if they live until 2018.
  3. Ford was the only president never to be elected as President or Vice President. He succeeded Spiro Agnew as Veep when the latter was charged with tax evasion. He then succeeded Nixon when he became the first and only president to resign (over the Watergate Scandal). Agnew was and is only the second…

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Book review: Hinterland by Chris Mullin

Chris Hallam's World View

chris-mullin-book-jacket-newAll politicians are supposed to have a hinterland: a realm of interest and experience beyond the Westminster Bubble, which they typically in Britain, inhabit. The late former Labour Chancellor Denis Healey, for example, with whom the term is often associated, had a huge range of experience and cultural and classical knowledge outside the political sphere and was much the better and more rounded a figure for it. Margaret Thatcher, in contrast, although in many ways more successful than him politically, had almost  no interests outside politics and thus had a boring and miserable retirement, often spent making a nuisance of herself.

Chris Mullin shouldn’t have this problem. Though his twenty three years as an MP for Sunderland South are now over, he entered parliament late in life (age 39) and as this memoir confirms, he did much before, during and since. He achieved ministerial rank under Blair and has perhaps subtly…

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Food book review round-up

Chris Hallam's World View

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A Girl Called Jack

100 Delicious Budget Recopies

By Jack Monroe

Penguin/Michael Joseph Paperback

RRP: £12.99

A Girl Called Jack: Update!

Further to our earlier review, we are increasingly finding this to be one of the best food books around. The cost of our own household food shopping budget has been effectively halved with recipes proving tasty, easy to follow and requiring only must use cupboard essentials. There is thus little need to plan far in advance.

Particular favourite have proven to be courgette and mini fritters (p116) and courgettes and creamy Greek cheese and courgette pasta (p98).

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Bill’s Italian Food

Bill Granger

Published by HarperCollins

RRP £20

A good book with nice pictures throughout for the aspirational reader who may easily be able to visit Italy themselves. This book was of less use to us personally though.

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John Whaites Bakes At Home

Published by: Headline

RRP £20

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Book review: A Year in 120 Recipes by Jack Monroe

Chris Hallam's World View

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You probably know Jack Monroe. She is a single mum whose blog hit the big time. Rather than waffling on about old long dead politicians as some people choose to do, she decided to put recipes on hers and it soon became a smash hit. This led to a book A Girl Called Jack
https://chrishallamworldview.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/a-girl-called-jack-book-review/ released earlier this year described as “the best cookery book of all” by my wife. If this seems sexist, in my defence a) I am a rubbish cook and my wife genuinely does all the cooking and b) I do most of the cleaning around the house and all the washing up.

Jack Monroe photographed for Observer Food Monthly

This is the follow up book to A Girl Called Jack anyway. It is actually a slightly plusher and better presented book than thee first (though is also more expensive). Like the first, however, it does contain many easily affordable recipes which are…

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A Girl Called Jack book review

Chris Hallam's World View

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A Girl Called Jack

100 Delicious Budget Recopies

By Jack Monroe

Penguin/Michael Joseph Paperback

£12.99

Let’s face it: Jack Monroe isn’t the first and won’t be the last. Numerous cookbook authors have stressed their low budget credentials before and will do so again. While aspirational cookery has always remained popular even during the darkest days of the recent recession, it would be a foolish foodie indeed who entirely ignored entirely the constraints forced upon many ordinary people by the slump resulting from the jiggery pokery of our once esteemed global banking, plus the subsequent devastating economic slump.

The difference is that, without wishing to get all Karl Marx-y about it, author Jack Monroe has solid recent and raw experience of life on what used to be called “the breadline”.  She was and is a single mother from Southend and spent a full year on the dole as recently as 2011…

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Book review: No Cunning Plan by Tony Robinson

Chris Hallam's World View

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Blackadder was not the sort of programme to rely on catchphrases. Most that were deployed such as “You have a woman’s hand, m’lord,” or the lecherous “woof woof! were used by one-off or very occasional visitors to the saga such as Captain Rum (Tom Baker) or Lord Flashheart (the late Rik Mayall).

A notable exception was “I have a cunning plan…” words which Blackaddder’s sidekick Baldrick (Tony Robinson) would use to signal a usually absurd scheme to get the duo out of trouble. These included a plan to rewrite Dr Johnson’s famous dictionary in one night after Baldrick had accidentally burnt it (Baldrick’s helpful definition for the letter C (sea) being “big blue wobbly thing where mermaids live”). Another ruse involved an attempt to save Charles I (Stephen Fry) from execution by disguising a pumpkin as the King’s head.

Blackadder

This is not the life of Baldrick, however, but the life…

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Book review: The Conservative Party by Tim Bale

Chris Hallam's World View

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With all the publicity about Labour  recent and genuine problems, it’s easy to forget that until comparatively recently, the Tories were in similar dire straits. Tim Bale’s provides an excellent reminder of this.

Perhaps some of you disagree? Well, let’s us consider the electoral hole Labour currently finds itself in. Certainly, the loss of Scotland has been a disaster for the party and opinion polls currently offer few encouraging signs of any nationwide recovery. On the other hand, the Tories have one of their smallest parliamentary majorities since the war. In 2010, at the height of the slump, they didn’t even win a majority at all. Labour have not suffered a heavy General Election defeat since 1987, close to thirty years’ ago.

Compare this to the Tories. In 1990, John Major became Prime Minister inheriting virtually all of Thatcher’s majority from that same 1987 landslide, by then around a 100…

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