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A northern man

As this story is released, the UK’s transitional deal with the EU will end, and we will step out, blinking and dazed, into a strange and unfamiliar world. For many of us, first the EEC and then the EU has been a low background thrum in our lives since childhood. The United Kingdom joined the EEC a couple of months before my third birthday, and confirmed our continued membership a little over two years later, just as I was about to start school.

All through my school life, as we learned metres alongside feet and inches, there was a sense…


Keir Starmer has apparently published a pamphlet laying out his vision for a future Britain. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) he did this on the day the Prime Minster tried to lead an address on climate with a God-awful Muppet reference, and the current and previous Foreign Secretaries went public with their squabbling over the use of a grace and favour mansion while everyone else is wondering whether we’ll be able to heat our houses during the winter. It’s a day to bury … news.

I’ve skinmed through it. It’s platitude heavy, but on page 31…


Every year it comes around quicker …

Each year, around about this time, I write a little article (like for 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017) that, just for a bit of fun, briefly points out the little disconnects in the generations between those of us working in HE, whether in teaching or in some other capacity, and the students who begin their journey in life as an undergraduate, as some of us did all those years ago. This year, like last, is going to be a strange one. This year’s freshers will start their University career in ways that few of us in living memory has ever…


source: Amazon.co.uk

A few nights ago I was watching a documentary about Jo Brand’s career and part of the discussion centred around what makes a comedian. Brand said that somewhere in most comedian’s lives is something tied to a sense of loss; there’s something missing that they are trying to make up for. I felt that intensely as I was reading Bob Mortimer’s autobiography. In his head, possibly the key moment in his life was the death of his father, aged seven, and lots of what follows plays through that emotional prism.

One of the very first things he says is that…


Dorman Long Tower, photographed from the train. Decmber 2014

One of the most effective ways to destroy a community is to destroy its culture, and any collective memory it has of itself.

This weekend the Dorman Long Tower will probably be demolished, likely as not under skulking cover of night after the newly appointed Secretary of State of Culture, Nadine Dorries, whose knowledge of culture seems to be limited to what’s in a bottle of Yakult, removed the Tower’s grade 2 listing and smoothed the way for it to be pulled down.

It’s all the more poignant that this should be happens if at the point where the tower’s…


… as Long As It’s White And It’s English

Desmond’s cast photo. Source: BFI

According to some news reports this morning, the DCMS(1) will issue guidance to Ofcom to ensure the “Britishness” of content, and that programmes made by public service broadcasters not be too “international” or “generic”. This was announced in a speech at the Royal Television Society Convention by the Media Minister, John Whittingdale. Let’s say the reaction has been “mixed”. It actually turned out to be one of his last ministerial engagements, as he was removed from the post this morning.

In this speech he said that these rules would ensure that public service broadcasters must “showcase British culture”. He cited…


… and Why Is It Seemingly Such a Mess Right Now?

Dunelm House from the river. (own photo, June 26 2021)

The Durham University newspaper, Palatinate, recently published an opinion piece, that found its way into my twitter feed this morning. I thought I’d write about it, from the perspective of someone who is an alumnus, and is a current member of staff. I will insert the obvious disclaimers here: this is my personal opinion as a member of the University, and doesn’t represent the opinion of the organisation in any capacity, whether official or unofficial. …


Why do I read this stuff?

Why do I torture myself? Why do I read Unherd sometimes? Today, into my inbox dropped an atricle called Life Is One Big Status Game, written by Ed West, and from the moment I started to read it I knew I’d made a big mistake. A mistake because I knew that afterwards, I’d be quite happy wanting to stab people through the eyes. Mostly Ed, to be scrupuloiusly fair. I really should have just settled down to read the redoubtable Louis Barfe’s new book about Morecambe and Wise, Sunshine and Laughter: it would have been a much better use of…


source: https://www.comedy.co.uk/film/sex_lives_of_the_potato_men/

I’ve owned the DVD of Sex Lives of the Potato Men for a long time, certainly more than a decade I think, and I’ve never seen more than the first few minutes or so, for one reason or another. But today, for the sake of science, I have decided to finally watch it, in its entirety, so that if anyone decides to weigh in and claim it as one of the worst British films ever made, I can at least form an opinion based on primary referencing, and not falling back to second-hand commentary.

Even though it was released in…


Some things are just funny

There are possibly younger readers (Yeah, right, who am I kidding?) who are open-mouthed listening to this, thinking that it’s incredibly offensive to Japanese people, and that you’d never get away with this now. They’d be right about the very last part. I’m not sure anyone would commission this sketch today, which is a great shame. But I love this sketch, and I’m going to try and explain why.

The first reason I love it is because it was written by Douglas Adams. Yes, that Douglas Adams, the Babel Fish and towel guy. It first appeared in Lesson 18…

Darren Stephens

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