The big BBC cover-up

Billy Connolly had an observation about the Wee Frees wanting to ban sex while standing because it might lead to dancing. Well, if there are any of them left they must have had paroxysms of puce-coloured outrage if they tuned into the BBC drama series Normal People because, my goodness, there was a lot of toned and naked flesh jiggling about.

I’d be surprised if the two leading actors didn’t catch hypothermia in the filming of it. Perhaps to assuage a religious Hebridean audience, all the action took place horizontally, so no foot-tapping.

Without spoiling it – well, they did that themselves – it’s about a young couple growing up and lying down, getting together and consoling themselves apart, set largely in Dublin, with forays abroad, just to bulk the budget. It is beautifully filmed and directed, and while it opened brightly, for me it descended into predictability and self-indulgence.

It’s based on the book by Sally Rooney and once again the novel soared to the top of the bestseller lists last week. The Irish Times even hailed Marianne (played by Daisy Edgar Jones) as the first great millennial TV style icon, although Paul Mescal (Connell) played the part so woodenly he’s not so much an icon as a nesting target.

It is glossily-expensive production – a friend in the TV business who knows these things put the budget at upwards of £5 million – although it is a co-production with the US subscription service Hulu, owned by Disney, so perhaps cost disnae matter? The point I’m coming to, and not over 12 episodes, is that we will never know the bill, how much the actors, the directors and crew were paid, because the BBC won’t say.

I’m not arguing that it shouldn’t have been made – I appreciate that they have to make entertainment – but that there is no transparency by Auntie. In fact, she goes to great lengths to cover up, unlike the young ones in the drama. We’re paying, or at least part-paying, for it so why shouldn’t we know and have an opinion about it?

The BBC was forced by public opinion into releasing the salary bands its top talent fall into, without the actual sums – and without giving any details whatsoever about the wages and costs of the numerous outside productions they pay for, like Normal People. There is no argument for commercial confidentiality. There is, however, a mutually-beneficial contractual pact between all the parties involved in BBC productions like this not to let the payer know how much they’re all being wedged.

The Beeb is forever wheedling for more cash, while avoiding scrutiny over whether it’s being prudently spent. Take a lesson from the drama, Auntie, and reveal all.

Bah humbug

As the curmudgeon’s curmudgeon – which a fellow Herald columnist called me and which I took as the highest of praise – I am, of course, grumpily following these Government Covid health warnings. Stay alert. Keep two metres apart. But why so close? It might lead to conversation.

Stone me

Otters in captivity (and why would you want to?) juggle stones which, researchers at the University of Exeter hypothesised, could be because they want fed. It’s like young humans hammering the table for service or uncouth older ones snapping fingers at a waiter. Otter weans and senior ones juggled more than those with offspring, probably because they have more time on their hands just to juggle.

This is all supposition by the academics who have no evidence for any of their observations.

One went even further: “In a similar way to how humans stave off Alzheimer’s by reading and doing puzzles, we hypothesised that the senior otters may be performing the behaviour to engage their brains to prevent cognitive decline.”

Well, here’s my equally valid hypothesis. They want the observers with cameras and notebooks just to come close enough so that they can hit them with one of the juggling stones and escape.

Dog's abuse

I HAVE an aged cat called Sully which my wife adopted in France and brought back, at great cost, and obviously against my wishes. She named him, in part, after a Paris Metro station called Sully-Morland, I think because she was taking my kids to a concert and she fancied the name.

Sully was a duke and Morland was a general in the Napoleonic wars killed at Austerlitz, whose body was repatriated in a barrel of rum, which is the way I’ve insisted that I’m disposed of.

I mention this only to display my pet-loving credentials. However, I draw the line at dogs, which are just as likely to have sparked off this coronavirus thing as a bat in my totally unscientific opinion. I mean they can pass on everything from ringworm to Campylobacter (I’ve had it and it is far from pleasant), scabies and harvest mites, and I could go on, so it’s entirely possible.

It’s not dogs’ fault, of course, but the stupid and uncaring owners who don’t look after them properly. And don’t get me started on the mess they leave on the pavements in cities and towns where they shouldn’t be anyway.

Until the late 1980s you had to have a licence for a dog which, at the end, was a mere 37p, and, of course, most of the selfish owners ignored paying it and no-one did anything. We need to put red lines round the major conurbations and charge owners within a licence fee, say a tenner a week per dog. The dogs would have a tracker inserted, and police and posties would be allowed to Taser the obstreperous – the owners.

Another fine mess

The SFA and the SPFL have a cunning plan to bring back football. It accepts that the Scottish game is dependent on spectators and that playing behind closed doors is not an option. They haven’t spelled the measures out but, logically, it would seem to involve people sitting at least one seat apart. But what if you want to go for a pee which means squeezing past? And how do you get to the game, on public transport? Surely not. Only single car owners allowed?

There is one obvious solution which I’ve adapted from a cafe in the German city of Schwerin where you are only served if you wear a hat with foam helicopter-like blades which preserve the two-metre distance. So these would be issued to fans here, although with sharpened metal blades to provide a real disincentive to hugging your pal when your team scores.They could also be painted in team colours. I accept there may well be casualties in the jostle for a pie and Bovril at half-time but that’s an acceptable outcome, surely?