Weekend In Review #01
Most weekends I head down to Manchester and usually try to get out & do things, but sometimes it's nice to just stay home, not get dressed and catch up on the errands you skived off from during the week. Laundry, unloading the dishwasher, cleaning out the fridge...you know the ones I mean.
This weekend I had a couple of really relaxing, lazy days spent slobbed out in front of the telly and it was amazing. I came into work today feeling really energised and recharged - proof that sometimes you just have to take a step back and let your inner sloth reign free. Anyway, this wasn't really meant to be a blogpost about being lazy, what I really wanted to write about today were the few things I discovered this weekend that really inspired me, and put a boot up my lazy arse and encouraged me to plan out a few much more adventurous and active weekends.
Of course I am going to start with the Time Crashers programme that was on Channel 4 last night at 9pm. I'll admit that I had read the bio for the show and initially didn't seem that interested - celebrities being sent back in time to live like people from previous era's of history seems to be quite a popular format at the moment and none of these shows have really captured my interest so far (who wants to see Ann Widdecombe throwing ridiculous tantrums on 24 Hours in the Past?)- with the exception of the BBC's Back In Time For Dinner, which I loved. Albeit this was mainly because I watched it with my Mum who had lived through all the eras and it was entertaining listening to her anecdotes and remember food trends she'd forgotten - her story about having to order a green pepper specially from the local greengrocer was a particularly good 'un, ending with him presenting it to her like it was some sort of mystical ingredient from a faraway land (which of course in those days, it was. She wanted to make a curry she believes - unheard of in our small rural town!) Anyway - back to point, 9pm on a Sunday rolled round & I couldn't be bothered spending 20 mins browsing through the Sky Movies selection so I stuck Time Crashers on and loved it! Of course Sir Tony Robinson is a big draw, a really fantastic presenter and personality, i've grown up watching Blackadder, Maid Marian & Her Merry Men, Time Team, and have been really enjoying his more recent series Walking Through History (why has he not written a book about this series?!) I also oohed and aahed at the wonderful Haddon Hall where the episode was filmed - I've already planned a trip to visit as it's just down the road near Bakewell. I'm mad about Tudor history, who knew such an impressive Tudor Hall was just down the road from me all this time? I feel like i've been cheated! I hope they have a gift shop!
Anyway, once again - back to the programme - even if you're not a total History buff then I would still recommend this programme for it's entertainment factor. With an impressive array of celebs gamely tackling day to day life in Elizabethan times you are bound to have plenty of brilliant moments - Keith Allen, Chris Ramsey and Jermaine Jenas struggling to stiffly bow to their Master and stifle their giggles whilst serving the grand feast, Fern Britton's attempt at stripping a boar's face from its skull and Charlie Condou's bewilderment at being faced with the challenge of creating a cockatrice - a half goose, half pig monstrosity required for the feast. There seemed to be quite a few naysayers on Twitter during the programme but I thoroughly enjoyed it, I felt it gave an accurate depiction of the hardships and order of daily Elizabethan life that's maybe not so well portrayed in the hugely popular novels and films that address the era. The feast was incredibly well organised and etiquette and tradition was fiercely followed - the huge number of dishes all needed to be brought out and placed exactly and symmetrically before eating could commence, and each dish had to be presented with three bows from the serving men. These men had to repeat practice each time they entered the Hall, and even had to bow to the top table when the room was empty! These men could be bowing over 200 times a day so I wonder whether it had an impact on their skeletons? The celebrities found life tough and restrictive with several remarking that they felt they were simply living to work. Elizabethan life for the upper classes seemed to revolve around showing off their status and wealth - intricate sugarwork and marzipan were created that was presented to a select few VIP guests of the master, and the feasts dishes were all designed to impress with animals being stuffed inside other animals and a huge peacock taking over much of the top table. We also got to experience a classic Tudor joke - a frog pie with real live frogs! Overall I thought the programme was fantastic, and it definitely removed the glamour associated with the age and showed how life actually was like - dirty, smelly and hard. I'm really looking forward to the next episode where they go back even further to 1468 and try their hands at being squires during a joust. I've put the whole series on record so I don't miss an episode - a huge accolade I think you'll agree.
Return of the Black Death: Secret History
I love the Secret History programmes, I was recently enthralled by London's Lost Graveyard: Crossrail Discovery and last night we had Return of the Black Death. A slightly darker, heavier and more serious documentary programme than Time Crashers, it was incredibly informative and interesting. Taking a look at the skeletons from the victims of the 1348 outbreak of Plague in London it examined the impact of the disease, how the city coped and the lives of the victims - or rather how they prepared to meet their ends. They had chosen to put a modern focus on the investigation - described by the Director as the victims of the Black Death literally returning to our streets . The scenes examining the plague pit burials and the city's crisis response were interlaced with scenes of modern figures in hazmat suits, really emphasising the point that whilst we see the Black Death as something stuck in the past - we are still very much at risk of a similar virus sweeping through our population with a similar impact. The battle with Ebola in West Africa is a sinister reminder of this.
I enjoyed the readings of the accounts from the victims by modern counterparts - sometimes you have to put a real face to something to help the facts and message sink in, and the use of the wills to determine the spread and impact of the disease was brilliant. It was especially hard-hitting about how quickly and disastrous the spread of the disease was when people were dying only days after writing their wills. It was also touching to see the accounts of them passing down the possessions that meant the most to them, with a mother leaving her daughter a floral coverlet, her silver spoons and a golden dress amongst other possessions. It was a sombre programme but one worth watching and I'm definitely going to start looking more into the social history of this time. When I was younger I struggled through Samuel Pepys' diary giving an account of the 1665 outbreak of Plague, as well as the Great Fire that followed. However I don't think it's commonly known that plague was such a constant threat to the medieval world for quite such a long time, with many serious outbreaks happening in London and across Europe. I'd definitely like to compare the response and impact in 1349 to 1665 - as we all know the Great Fire was a disaster but it eventually enabled the people of London to rebuild safer houses and greatly improve general sanitation. I wonder whether the people of 1349 tried to put anything in place after the Black Death to try and prevent another serious outbreak? Definitely give the programme a watch and see what you think & if anyone has any recommendations as to how I can explore the subject further then please let me know!
Big Blue Live
After some really engaging snippets I think everyone was looking forward to seeing what Big Blue Live was about, and it finally had it's first episode on BBC1 last night! There's been some really great programmes looking at life in the ocean recently, and it seems the importance of ocean conservation is a matter that a lot of people are noticing and feel passionately about. Pharrell Williams' latest G-Star RAW collection has been created using plastic materials recycled from the ocean and there has been a huge collective condemnation of places like SeaWorld since the release of documentaries like Blackfish. Big Blue Live gives us the opportunity to see these extraordinary creatures in their natural habitat - where they belong. The show so far has been slick, well researched and well put together but of course the animals themselves are the stars of the show - within the first few minutes of last nights show we had live footage of humpback whales surfacing, and they had a fabulous segment on sea lions - although I did tear up a bit at the footage of the sea lion babies crying for their mums. I was also shocked at the damage inflicted upon a whale's tail after being caught in some fishing line - however it's good to see the teams of volunteers responding to these calls and acting quickly to save the lives of these sea creatures. Wildlife conservation is a serious issue that has been forced into the forefront of people's minds after the huge amount of media coverage given to the murder of Cecil the Lion by an American dentist in Zimbabwe recently. As angry as I am about this act I hope something good can come from this situation in that people finally get really angry about what we are doing to our planet and change can be made that protects these animals. Programmes like Big Blue Live are incredibly important as it shows the beauty of these animals and how are actions are affecting them. It makes it something that we can't ignore and hopefully encourages more people to get involved in some way. I was shocked to recently read that 97% of Britain's meadows have been destroyed so I'm going to be looking at what I can do about it, starting with purchasing a pollinating bee log to help save the bees.
A lot of TV was watched this weekend so I really could just go on and on but I'm very aware of just how wordy this post has become. I did try to keep it short I swear! I had also planned to talk about some books that I've been reading but I think we'll just keep that for another time. I don't often find so much to watch but it seems that there is a whole host of really great programmes starting at the moment (this does not include X Factor, which I won't be watching) I'm really looking forward to seeing the next episodes of these shows and seeing how the series develops. Jermaine Jenas in Time Crashers mentioned that he had put forward the idea of the next series going to different countries to experience life in these eras over there. I think this would be brilliant and would genuinely be a very fresh format. We don't often get social history programmes exploring and comparing different countries so I think a lot of people would tune in.
Anyway, I'll finish this off now - thanks for reading!
Did you watch the programmes that I've mentioned? What are your thoughts - let me know!