I heard Straw-Man interviewed on the Today Programme after being caught out by those treacherous people at the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4. He declared: ‘[I have] acted with complete probity and integrity throughout my parliamentary career’. Oh, well that’s all right then.
Apparently though, Teflon Tony has come out in Straw-Man’s support... Game over I’d say Jacko. Still, look on the bright side, it will give you plenty more time to consider your position on the Iraq war for the memoirs…
Stop press: Gosh, the speaker has said Straw and Rifkind will ‘Cop it’ if they have broken parliamentary rules!
Murder on the television
I just watched Lucy Worsely’s take on the Red Barn murder as well as the case of the Mannings, the so-called ‘Bermondsey Horror’. Both cases I have researched myself fairly extensively, so I suppose it was inevitable that I might have had some issues with the way the facts were processed for a television audience – even if it was on BBC 4.
Lucy Worsely has an idiosyncratic presentational style, and got into her subjects, literally, to the extent of dressing up as Maria Martin and Marie Manning to act out snippets from their brief lives – Maria was murdered and Marie Manning committed murder and was publicly hanged along with her husband. It makes interesting material for a TV programme, but it is only as good as the quality of the research.
There were a number of errors of fact in the piece on the Red Barn murder, including some spurious material repeated from Donald McCormick’s thoroughly discredited book on the affair. Most egregious though, was the claim that Corder said his hand trembled when he was holding Maria at gunpoint, and the pistol went off by accident. In his defence in court, Corder claimed that Maria had shot herself; he only admitted shooting her in a confession made 12 hours before his execution and all he said about it was:
...A scuffle ensued, and during the scuffle, and at the time I think she had hold of me, I took the pistol from the side-pocket of my velveteen jacket, and fired. She fell, and died in an instant
Not so much to complain about on the Mannings, except to say that although Dr Worsely pointed out that Charles Dickens’ character, the French maid Hortense, who killed Mr Tulkinghorn in Bleak House was based on Marie Manning, she failed to mention the connection. Serjeant Ballantine defended Mrs Manning in the murder trial, and Ballantine was acquainted with Dickens – they were both members of the Garrick Club.
Ah well, back to Grub Street… After the book on the Red Barn murder is finished – should be ready for the summer – I will redouble efforts to get my TV script of Henry’s Trials accepted by a TV production company. Perhaps I should contact Lucy Worsley…
Cultural opportunities, like the proverbial Clapham omnibus, seem to come along in groups. Within the space of 48 hours this week, we had Mahler’s second racket at the Festival hall and the Flying Dutchman at Covent Garden.
The opera did not start well – long before curtain-up… We had bought tickets in lieu of Christmas presents to each other; the price could have got us a long weekend in the Canary Islands, flights, hotel, meals and spending money. The ‘great’ Bryn Terfel was to sing the Dutchman. My wife said she hoped he was ok; I observed that our Bryn has form for doing ‘no shows’. Sure enough, he was ill. What was it this time Bryn? A dodgy batch of Bara brith for breakfast? Or was it just the relentless depressing dampness of Wales getting into your chest?
The ROH then picked our pockets for £7 for a programme, and declined to open the auditorium earlier than 20 minutes before the performance started ensuring a rush for the lavatories – after the staff helpfully directed me entirely in the wrong direction. The seats were, admittedly, superb – first row of the stalls-circle; naturally there was a quid pro quo. My neighbour, a middle-aged lady, was entirely incapable of sitting still for ten seconds at a time, and if she gently poked me in the ribs once, it must have been fifty times (no exaggeration). That, coupled with the lady or gentleman sitting behind me who would, every now and then, kick the back of my seat, as well as the man close by with a recurring fit of coughing would have been just about bearable but for the performance.
To call it lacklustre would be kind. The Royal Opera House has undergone a major refit in recent years. Visually, the inside is stunning, but the sound is, well, flat. I think the acoustics at the London Coliseum (English National Opera) are far superior. The production was flat also, although the set decidedly not; it has been critically acclaimed (the production), but apart from a constant worry about the cast slipping on a perilously steep ship’s side, the final scene when Senta, instead of leaping off a cliff to prove her love for the Dutchman, writhes centre stage cuddling a model ship, was just silly and anticlimactic. ‘Is that the end?’ my wife asked, incredulously, as the curtain came down… Ah well.
As for the glorious Sir Simon Rattle and the equally glorious Berlin Philharmonic doing Mahler’s Resurrection symphony, that was as sublime as I have ever heard it. The Festival Hall stage was packed, with standing room only, literally, half a dozen trumpets and others crammed onto the stage at the end, and some tubular bells banished to the auditorium. Rattle has been quoted this week moaning about the lack of ‘good’ concert halls in London. Well maestro, far be it from me to disagree with you, but the sound you managed to coax out on Sunday night really would have wakened up God himself.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs