Channel 4

Review of Channel 4’s DDay live programme – wow!

I don’t know if any of you watched the amazing programmes on Channel 4 over the last couple of days about D Day.

When hubby said he wanted to watch it, I visibly groaned. How dull. How wrong was I. Using the lovely Peter Snow, they did a documentary as if the key 24-hour period for D Day was happening now and they followed seven people through their D Day journey.

For my own children who think of WW2 in the same way I might think of the Tudors, this was a clever way of bringing the human stories to life and reminding us that these were ordinary people, doing extraordinary things in order that we could be sitting in our living rooms tonight watching that footage.

Indeed they even showed a rare voice-over from a war journalist talking to people 100 years on – 2044 – about the things he was witnessing. What was incredible is that this recording was scratched on to a vinyl disc actually in the field. It’s amazing that in those hours where there was death and fear all around, people still took photographs, filmed and recorded some of what  happened.

What the old films also showed was that the power of the broadcast media was evident. For example, on Omaha beach thousands of British soldiers were killed. Written evidence shows that was the case but there is barely any footage of dead soldiers. There was clearly a strategy of minimising shots of death to keep up morale back home.

Indeed they even mentioned Operation Tiger – which was kept secret. Look it up and you’ll see what I mean. It would be very hard to do such a thing today.

And we must remember that it was the Nazis who were masters at propaganda and selection of news. Is it any surprise that in cases of war, the media are always vulnerable. It’s about control of information too.

Be careful what you say and see during a war!

Be careful what you say and see during a war!

Today I really thought about D Day, thanks to Channel 4, and I thought of those soldiers and others who faced terror to fight for our way of life. Of the seven individuals who were followed, six survived and went on to have a life in peacetime.

Thanks to them we too can enjoy that privilege.

9/11 the firemen’s story – what it meant to me

I have this need to watch programmes about 9/11 – it was event which left an indelible mark on my psyche and last night was no exception.

On watching the programme, The Firemen’s Story (Channel 4 or 5) and those remarkable pictures I remember where I was when it happened so clearly. Do you? What’s your story? 


What were you doing when those pictures went across the world and we knew without doubt that we were watching thousands perish before our eyes?


I was filming a light entertainment show in a beautiful house in Somerset owned by a couple who’d decorated it with stuff they’d rescued and recycled.


I was heavily pregnant and wearing a long, huge, black dress. It was very hot and I was having a drink downstairs and the tv was on. Just a few months earlier I’d been in the twin towers having a meal with my husband – a lovely weekend away in New York.


I called him on the telephone telling him there’d been an accident and to turn on the tv. As we were talking I watched the second plane go into the south tower and I knew then it was no accident.


I knew I was looking on helplessly as people died needlessly. It was among the most humbling experiences of my life.

I’ve asked my children to watch some of the programmes as I want them to know what fanaticism can lead to – great pain, great horror, great devastation, and for what? What good came of that act? There were heroes created, but no one wants to be hero because of that act. And there’ve been so many since.


What moved me last night was an interview with a widow, ten years on, who described telling her daughter that her daddy wouldn’t be coming home – ever. Her daughter crumpled on to the floor, ‘she looked like I slapped her’ the mum said. She said she’d never forget it.


All parents can imagine such a dreadful moment – but recently I had to live through it, even if it was as a close bystander. Believe me, I pray it’s never me in that position.


I sat with my beautiful sister as she told her six year old daughter that her daddy, who’d gone to the gym as usual the night before, would never be coming home again. He’d felt ill and had to go to hospital but he was so ill that he’d had to go to heaven. He didn’t want to go but he had no choice.


In adult language – he’d collapsed and died at the age of 49. Gone from our lives, just like that.

It’s like hitting a brick wall that’s so big

What would you tell your child?

and so tall that you just have to hit it. It cannot be avoided.

My sister dealt with it with so much love and dignity that I could hardly bear it – she told my lovely niece that we would feel sad for a while but we would all be happy and have lovely times because that’s what Daddy would want.


All of this when I knew the dark chasm that life had put before this mum of three. A widow at 40 with three small children.


Though the circumstances were vastly different, the effect was the same. A family in total devastation but trying to survive even in the following hours. Trying to ensure that bereaved children still felt there was hope and magic in the world.

To all who lost in 9/11, 7/7 or in any other personal tragedy – I salute you.

Gadgets, Stephen Fry and me!

I can’t help but watch this Channel 4 programme about Stephen Fry’s 100 gadgets.

I’m falling for this latest in a long line of ‘Top 100 this or that’ and I can’t help it.

Does someone as intelligent as Stephen Fry like the same gadgets as me, does that make me intelligent too? I don’t think so!


Our ages are only a little different – less than a decade – so I can be nostalgic with his permission.

What is it about Mr Fry that makes him so full of gravitas – if he says it, it must be true.


What gadget stands out for you?

Yes, I do follow him on Twitter in the vain hope that one day he might be bothered to tweet back. Perhaps then I can be smug in the knowledge that I must have said something vaguely interesting. Then I might write that book I’ve been promising myself.


Don’t cringe, I recognise that it’s mad to measure myself against someone I don’t know other than by their public persona. Yes, even journalists have their icons, even with a strong pinch of cynicism.

So far in this programme, I’ve agreed with so many gadgets – scissors, the garlic press, the iPad, the smartphone, the transistor radio, the lawn mower, the tin opener. I’m amazed how many great gadgets are in fact so old, but oh so brilliant.

There are also a few that I hate, one in particular –  the soda stream. When I was a kid, my friend’s family had one.

It always made something still,  taste fizzy and odd at the same time. It never tasted quite right to me. I can’t imagine what would possess anyone to buy one now. In fact watching Heston the scientific chef pretending that his ‘soda streamed’ wine actually tasted okay – well, let’s just say I think my instinct is right.

The one thing I don’t like about the programme is the comments by the celebs who’ve lined up to comment.


Once again it’s subjective, I love some, bring on Suzie Perry, Jason Bradbury, Krishnan, Gok Wan but please go away Rufus Hound, some woman who looks like an over-the-hill model and a woman with stripy hair. I don’t know these people but why should I care what they think any more than Joe Bloggs on the street. In fact….


Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have comments from John Smith from Swindon, or Fred Bloggs from Basildon. Ordinary people who’s views are just as interesting, or not, as celebrities. John Bishop does it on BBC1 and it works. Probably cost less too.

But here we are at 10.45pm and I’m waiting for the top five – do I agree with the choices?

Five – Typewriter – I agree, I passed my typewriting exam in the 1980s and it’s the one exam that I’ve done that I’ve used almost every day of my life ever since. The exam I did was secretarial course (and I was never going to be a secretary) but how strange that my somewhat random choice to do a course that none of my peers were doing, has worked out so well. It was a morning a week at a local tech college with me like a fish out of water. A lonely experience but extremely worthwhile.

Four – Television – how could I not agree. I watch, love and work around tv land. It’s the ultimate in entertainment, education and is full of information. The choice now is amazing compared to the three main channels when I was a child – black & white, and the test card. Now it’s unthinkable that there’s nothing on the tv. But of course, that doesn’t mean that everything is good – but at least there’s always choice. You can always turn off or turn over.

Three – iPod – not sure. It’s great but would I put it above tv and the typewriter. Not for me. I love music, I love its capacity, its size but for me personally, it’s not as great. Also I use my smartphone for music so my iPod is rarely used. I feel its days are numbered.

Two – wristwatch – of course, don’t you feel undressed without it. Doesn’t it control our day, our thinking, our schedule (yuk!). People love wristwatches and there’s a huge snobbery around watches – Breitling or Rolex?

One – cigarette lighter – brilliant to have fire at your fingertips but if it’s truly a way of harnessing the power of the gods, I don’t have it.

I’ve never smoked so I’ve never carried one. If I knew I needed a light a fire I suppose I would.  So his number one is a lighter – I understand it, I get it, I can see it’s value, it might even save a life. It’s the intelligent choice but for me,  I don’t feel it.


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