Tuesday, 25 December 2012


Happy Christmas!
from Mounds & Circles

and Happy New Year as well!

FEBRUARY 1st, 2013.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Five Easy Pieces

We're going to give you your Mounds and Circles Christmas present a day early, because if you're checking your blogs on Christmas Day it would suggest you're probably doing something wrong.

I love a good TV theme. I like film scores and library soundtracks too but certain TV themes possess the ability to transport me to memories of very specific times and places in my life. So here is a small personal selection of rips.

The Martian Chronicles
Late 70s TV adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic. Rock Hudson may be more wooden that a pile of logs and the effects 'special' (though not in a good way) but the story is gold standard SF, intelligent and original. Theme by Stanley Myers.

Shock of the New
Australian art critic Robert Hughes' seminal series assessing the development of modern art in the 20th century. Radiophonic theme courtesy of Paddy Kingsland.

The King's Dragon
Short series from the BBC's Look and Read kids educational series. I only have to hear this and I'm back in kindergarten. Theme by the quiet man of the Radiophonc Workshop, Roger Limb.

BBC's Watch was a pre-school favourite of mine. The piece is actually called Primaballerina and performed on Carlos Diernhammer's easy listening gem Swing Bach.

Ways of Seeing
Another fave from my days at art school. John Berger opened a lot of minds as he was able to introduce complex ideas in an easily comprehensible way. He had some great shirts too. Edited by David Gladwell. Unknown composer.

Happy Christmas from Mounds & Circles. Or, as Margot Leadbetter would say, "Yuletide felicitations" to you all.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Good Life: Silly, But It's Fun

'Silly, But It's Fun...' was the 1977 Xmas edition of 'The Good Life'.

Tom and Barbara Good are successful at self-suffiency because they are unsentimental and know how to make the most of their finite resources. When Christmas comes, for instance, they kill a chicken from the coop, dig up the veg from the garden, make decorations out of newspaper, crackers out of toilet roll tubes and have a two foot tree because that was donated by the greengrocer after it snapped off the top of a larger one. It’s played for laughs but, as you watch, you realise just how daft many of our festive traditions are, and how meaningless if not imbued with the right spirit.

Holly pinched from the golf course...

The top of a broken Xmas tree...

Next door, of course, things are very different. Margo is lambasting a tradesman for delivering an eight foot six rather than nine foot tree. Bill the tradesman is played by the magnificently lugubrious David Battley, a mix of the gormless and perceptive, a man who likes to make quite piquant observations.  There is an extraordinary bit when Barbara asks him what he has observed about her and, utterly deadpan, he says that she ‘has the type of eyes that men kill for. Eyes that reveal a deeply sexual nature’. Barbara is delighted.  

David Battley.

Sexy Barbara.

When moody Margo orders Bill to take the ‘faulty’ tree and all the other attendant trappings (food, drink, presents, decorations) away until they can get the order right, she is haughtily sowing the seeds of her own destruction: her Christmas ‘comes in a van’, and this van, once dismissed, will not be returning. Left without so much as a pine cone or a box of Paxo, Margo has to pretend that Jerry has the chicken pox to extricate themselves from the endless social commitments they have made. Desperate, they turn to The Good’s for help, swapping their all the trimmings, shop bought, spare Goose Xmas for the Good’s homemade one, total cost fifteen pence (they couldn’t make their own balloons).
Have a Good Xmas...

Tom will, the lucky devil.

O, Margo.

At first it’s hard going, Margo can’t loosen up and just enjoy herself. When she pulls a cracker she can’t say ‘bang’ (the crackers don’t have their own bangs), and refuses to wear a paper hat made out of 'The Daily Mirror' and insists on one fashioned from 'The Telegraph'. Taking her aside, Tom says that she’ll have to go home if she can’t enjoy herself and Margo makes the tragic admission ‘I don’t know how to’. A quick pep talk from Tom, and some mild sexual harassment and she soon readily throws herself into the action.

Margo throws herself into the action.

Look at Jerry's face - that's mugging to the audience.

Christmas has come early...

'Who are you calling a cheat?'

At the end, after some raucous games and several glasses of pea pod burgundy, it is clear that, for Margo, free from social convention and the pressure of keeping up with the Surbiton set, this has been the ‘best Xmas ever’, and Jerry has enjoyed it too, particularly when Barbara was rubbing a balloon against his crotch . 
The Goods present the Leadbetter’s with their gifts, voluminous sickly green jumpers made on their loom. As the Leadbetters go next door to fetch their present for the Goods, Tom and Barbara speculate on what expensive impracticalities Margo and Jerry may have wasted their money on – a briefcase for Tom to take to the allotment, for instance, or a silver Georgian trowel – only to be amazed when Margo leads in a gift wrapped cow – far more useful than a big green tank top – the gift that, if milked correctly, keeps on giving.

The original 'onesie'?

& a Happy Moo Year...

Xmas Vulture.
The message: as Doctor Seuss concluded ‘Christmas doesn’t come from a store, perhaps Christmas means a little bit more’, here amended to note that it doesn’t come in a van either, especially one driven by David Battley.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Arses in Surbiton

Dreaming Leaps

Dreaming Leaps: Sonia Araquistain
Ithell Colquhoun (1945)

Painted to commemorate the suicide of the young daughter of the Spanish Ambassador to Britain, who had leapt naked from a Bayswater rooftop. At the inquest it was disclosed that she had 'dabbled' in Freudian psychoanalysis, which the coroner condemned. The subject is brilliantly conveyed by the use of the idea of 'pure, psychic automatism'.

Friday, 21 December 2012

She'll Follow You Anywhere

'She’ll Follow You Anywhere' is a strange one, a smutter that is generally quite serious in tone and makes an attempt to present a coherent drama, as well as have genuine characters rather than crass caricatures. That said, it is about an aftershave that makes women want to shag, so it’s not exactly ‘A Long Day’s Journey Into Night’.

Barron & Cope, Mad Parfumiers to Mankind.

The Magic Potion.

It's working at work.
Kenneth Cope and Keith Barron play a pair of chemists working in the perfume industry who inadvertently invent a scent that drives women crackers and leads to immediate sex. As scientists, they need to test the efficacy of the product under controlled conditions; as randy 70’s men they do this by setting up a shag pad in an old military barracks, festooned with fairy lights and fully stocked with miniature bottles of liqueurs and cans of pale ale.

The depths of sophistication.

Don't spill any, Keith!

Keith Barron's actual line is 'Phwoar! SEX!'

Kenneth copes with the shameless Collinson twins.

Now here in lies the problem – the aftershave doesn’t attract women to the actual wearer, rather it makes them think that the wearer is someone they desire: a loved one, George Best, Ted Heath (good luck with that one) and, in the case of an attractive blond German lady, Adolf Hitler. When a dog sniffs it, for instance, he imagines he’s looking at a sexy Afghan Hound instead of Keith Barron, and sticks his tongue into Keith’s gob. To his credit, Keith clearly isn’t interested. So, what we have is an artificial means of confusing women to lower their inhibitions that wears off leaving them with no recollection of what has happened. Congratulations, lads, you’ve just invented Rohypnol!

Dirty Dulux!

The boys get so caught up in their research that they begin to neglect their wives and their work and their fantastically typical 1970's suburban homes.

Fantastically typical 1970's suburban home.
It's all a stark contrast from their earlier experiences where, not having made the link between the perfume and their sudden irresistibility, they were left cowering in corners or being chased around train toilets by smitten ladies wanting immediate gratification (Keith Barron is particularly good at conveying the abject terror of being sexually harassed, using a small, frightened, wheedling voice to whimper ‘what are you doing, love?’, ‘what do you think you’re doing?’ as a blonde in her bra and pants tries to unzip his trousers).

A form of stalking.

The glamour of the railways.

Making headlines.

When French stick was exotic AND erotic.

Even Richard Vernon gets dragged into it. 
It all ends, as you might as guessed, with the existing stocks of the scent being destroyed and an experimental new batch turning Kenneth Cope temporarily gay, just in time for the fella's wives to catch them in an awkward embrace.

'This isn't what it looks like! Actually, it is!'

Quite dogged in terms of working out the details of the story, the film is well made and presented without any of the usual cheery hysteria and excessive winking associated with the genre. This applies to the actors, too, who resist the urge to mug and do a load of unfunny running about. Keith Barron in particular plays the role dead straight, seemingly ignoring the normal panto type performance in order to provide a real character, albeit one in a ridiculous situation.
There is lots of implied smut, but virtually no dirt whatsoever. You only actually get to see one breast, and it belongs to one of the Collinson twins so that hardly counts – they’d have got ‘em out on ‘Playschool’, dirty cows. it's so tame, it's hard to believe it was given an 'X' certificate but, clearly, it was.

I won’t watch it again, but I found it painless and enjoyable and, as a one off experience, a refreshing change of pace. I don’t rate these things, but, if I did, I’d give it nine out of twelve.  

POSTSCRIPT: Inspired by their roles in this film, Kenneth Cope and Keith Barron continued making perfumes, albeit on a part time, strictly as a hobby basis. Their most famous scent to date is 'Titanium Target', but they have high hopes for an aftershave currently under development which they are calling 'Fanny Magnet'.  

Thursday, 20 December 2012

What Happened to You ?

By 1974, 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads' was on it's second series, and audiences were enjoying the darker, more adult storylines that had begun to emerge.

The Christmas special from the same year is now a recognized classic, and features a perfect distillation of all the elements that made the series such a success.

The episode begins with a great argument between Thelma and Bob regarding the fancy dress party they've been invited to by one of Thelma's work colleagues. Bob would prefer to go to the Fat Ox for a few pints with best friend Terry instead, and Thelma is giving him a hard time because he doesn't want to spend time with her "boring" friends.

However, once Bob sees the sexy nurses uniform Thelma has chosen to wear, he relents and is persuaded to get into the car and go to the party.

The gathering turns out to be a dull affair, and Bob sneaks out of the back door to join Terry at the pub for a beer or five. As the pints keep coming, Bob confides in Terry that he's becoming sick and tired of Thelma's hen-pecking, and is planning to "teach her a lesson she wont forget". Terry calmly agrees that this is for the best, while hiding his inner delight that Bob's relationship is heading for trouble.

Bob and Terry both return to the party -both blind drunk- and manage to quickly disgrace themselves in front of the respectable crowd of social climbers.

This leads to a doorstep row in which Thelma demands that Bob must choose between her and Terry, and results in Thelma driving away in tears as the lads urinate onto her car as she passes them.

After drinking a further bottle of neat whiskey, they decide to follow her home. The scene fades as we see the drunken pair giggling and staggering off down the street.

  A slow zoom reveals Thelma's naked corpse, to a soundtrack of complete silence.

In the final scene, Terry walks out of court a free man after testifying against his old friend; Bob receives a life sentence, and the entire series came to a close.

It's easy to point the finger at this story as an example of how attitudes to comedy have changed over the years, and many have argued that the subject matter was misjudged for a Christmas special. I agree that it's sad to see Terry turning against Bob in order to protect his own back, but that selfishness has always been a fundamental part of his character, and this highlights the excellent standard of writing consistent throughout the series.  Re-watching this every Boxing Day has always been a happy occasion in my house, and I look forward to chuckling along once again this year.