Oh jings, is it that time again? Already? For the semi-regular look into the lives, laughs and lunacy of my lot? Yes, it is. So, what do you need to know? Well, MDBJ got a new rug for the living room. The children, quoth she, are to be banned from going near it, looking at it, thinking about it in general and that is that! They will destroy it inadvertently and my life will be ruined again. No, don’t mention the couch! Anyway, as you can expect Sweep and STG took this ban remarkably well. For about three days. Really, they sat and ate their meals at the kitchen table without a telly anywhere in sight.[1] Stanley, on the other hand, has now become a confirmed rug dog and seems to prefer being on it than the couch.

Fig. 1: I Know my Place…

He’s also grown quite a lot since you last saw him. He’s nearly nine months old now and he’s a firm favourite of both grandparents, well, once the ten minutes zooming around their respective houses crashing into heirlooms is over after his arrival. And he managed a night in kennels recently without getting into a fight or phoning us to say how much he missed us and could he come home.[2]

Anyway, the observant amongst you will have seen the title of this piece rant and are probably wondering if it is all actually rubbish. Well, no it isn’t. It can’t be because otherwise we’d not be here having all this fun. But over the last few weeks we (come on, me and MDBJ, keep up) have really been struggling to get into telly shows again. There’s really not been a lot that has managed to keep our attention. And we’re not sure why.

I’m, at the time of writing this bit, at my Dad’s house and I watched the final episode of Titans on the big N last night. I watched it so MDBJ didn’t have to. The first season, we quite liked. The second season, not so much, it was a bit worthy/judgey, y’know? The third season, MDBJ gave up on so here I am, at my Dad’s, and I’ve finished it. And it was a slog, believe me. Even with wine. I mean the last few episodes did get a little better, mostly as two of the older characters reappeared (quite literally back from the dead in one case), but it was just, I don’t know. A bit bloated? Is that what I mean? There was the usual thing with these superhero shows where a character achieved redemption and was given a gift that would enhance their powers and so on but, and this is crucial here, the gift mostly appeared to be a really figure-hugging outfit. Like, really. I mean I kind of get it, they’re superheroes, they’re very fit and athletic and so on but do we really need to be able to see what she didn’t have for lunch? Couldn’t she wear something a little looser, or maybe with more cape? Her sister could certainly have done with some longer skirts, I’ll tell you that. Anyway, it’s over and MDBJ doesn’t have to watch it so that’s a good thing.

Fig. 2: I’m not alone in thinking she’ll catch a chill if that’s all she’s wearing, am I? I mean, aye, there’s a coat but is it warm?

We also started watching that thing with Christina Hendricks in it, again on the big N, although I think it was NBC originally, Good Girls it’s called. The first season was quite good fun, strong female characters (they’re not really are they, they’re all bullied by men all the way through) doing, um, strong, female character stuff. At the instruction of men. Uh…anyway, the second season was, well, I’ll put it this way, the next one to watch in the list is episode four. Of thirteen. And another two seasons after it. I don’t think we’re going to get through it. It’s just lost us in the early part of the second series and neither of us know why. Really. It just wandered away.

What else has there been? Well, festive telly (YES IT HAS BEEN THAT LONG SINCE I WROTE FOR THIS) was its usual mix of guff, shite and leftovers but there was a lovely episode of Ghosts and some Only Connect specials, and they’re always a good thing.[3] Morecambe and Wise featured, as they always do in our house and we’ve got Sweep hooked on the brown paper bag trick. The rest of Primary 3 are mystified by her new-found powers of comedy.[4]

Cobra Kai continued to be an 80s hair metal video crossed with Hannah Montana (I think) but was pretty good fun. And it was watched over a few nights. All we need now is a wasp to punch impressively.

We’ve still got the Mouse so The Book of Boba Fett is getting an airing. And, oh blimey, it’s been bloody dull so far hasn’t it? Every episode has been the same, structurally. It’s not going anywhere, there’s no sense of danger/drama/excitement about it. Is it just me? Am I too close to Star Wars, even at the ripe old age of 48? Is my fandom, my expectations letting me down as it isn’t what I’d hoped for? Is it actually bloody boring so far or am I missing something? I’m quite annoyed about it to be honest, I was really looking forward to it and it’s just, just pish so far. Talking about trade deals and that sort of twatty-wankery that Lucas shoved in the prequels to grab the kids’ attention from the off! We gave up about twenty minutes into the fourth one. I’ll get round to finishing it off but I suspect MDBJ may need to be bribed.[5] Because, let’s face it Boba Fett was a bounty hunter. And so was Colt Seavers and I can’t decide which of them has a cooler name or better transport.[6]

And whilst I’m on the subject of transport it’s time for a confession. Maybe it’s the wine. Maybe it’s that we are tired of slick, high end productions (that aren’t that good). Maybe it’s just that we really need something that isn’t challenging at all that we can dip in and out of if we need to. Maybe it’s a bit of all of those factors. I think it is. And that’s why we’ve been watching Great Coastal Railway Journeys. With Michael Portillo.[7] And it’s really nice and fluffy and lets me think about stuff like, how has he got there, there isn’t a train line there anymore and is this related to the local knowledge spoiling the drama idea I talked about once, somewhere else.[8] And it is a genuinely box ticking show for the Beeb. It informs, it entertains, and it educates. All the Reithian stuff there and it’s also actually really good fun watching the former Minister for Defence getting noised up by ex-servicemen for what he did whilst in office. I’d really recommend it, it’s a great example of what the BBC does better than anyone else in the world. You learn, you enjoy it and you get to see Portillo wearing mind-boggling colour co-ordinations that scream from the screen at you. He also has a singular walk which the actor in me thinks is marvellous as a way into a character. Try it, he’s awful (in a fascinating way) and the show is brilliant.

Fig. 3: See? It SCREAMS at you from the screen and this is one of the tamer outfits …

And there’s another quite cosy, you’re wearing a big warm cardigan type, show which is Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toksvig (on C4, streaming on All4 in the UK) in which la Toksvig invites extraordinary women that she knows to spend some time with her in a variety of stunning locations in, well, I suppose Air BnBs that will break the bank. But it is lovely, unhurried and unforced telly which has actually interesting people on it who are allowed to talk and find the space to breathe. It’s well worth a watch, especially if you feel like a big cardy and a mug of hot chocolate evening.

Fig. 4: Sandi Toksvig, seen here wearing the rest of Portillo’s trouser material as a jacket, with Sarah Millican.

And I have felt like that quite a lot recently. Because well, look, let me put it this way, last time we were here we were talking about my mum being able to get the opposition to score by walking into the room to see how the rugby was going. We knew then that she wouldn’t be able to do it again as she was living in a care home in Melrose but we didn’t know that she really wouldn’t ever do it again until the 4th of January this year. As that was the day she died, in the care home in Melrose, miles away from us. I can’t remember which social media site I said it on on the day of her cremation but give your kids or your parents a hug while you can and try to get a recording of their voice. That’s important. And then remember the good times and let the laughter roll back into life as you remember the silly stuff and the good bits and so on.[9] Or the weird stuff like the first time I watched Engrenages at their house and my Mum looked at me watching the telly and simply said, “Forget it, your Dad saw her first.”[10]

Dad has a photo of Mum above the fireplace now, it’s a really good photo and she’s happy and really, really alive in it and having a great time. But it is in the living room so, of course, when Scotland played England in this year’s opening round of the 6 Nations we put a cloth over it during the game. Just in case, y’know.


John Ritchie is a Post-Doc Research Fellow and works as an actor and has two kids, a stupidly large rabbit and a puppy with no off switch. He’s so busy he had to eat yogurt with a fork recently as there was no time to rectify the lack of cutlery. Always make sure you have cutlery kids.




[1] Aha, who needs a telly anyway? Sweep has a laptop and STG has a phone so, y’know, screens are there.

[2] To be fair, he might have achieved some of that by being a dog. Not got the thumbs for a phone. And he can’t really talk.

[3] Ok, really, who is going to be the third member of our team? Myself and MDBJ and you? I’m totally up for it, anyone actually want to give it a go?

[4] Now we need to work on her pronunciation of Arsenal…

[5] Drunk.

[6] It’s Boba Fett. For the transport anyway. Now, who’s got the theme to The Fall Guy in their head? Anyway, quick update, I watched the rest of the fourth episode over lunch the other day. The lunch was interesting.

[7] Not in the room, that would be weird.

[8] You know this one – you watch a TV show that’s been filmed in a city you know really well and in the space of one cut they go from one side of the city to the other. Movies do it too. It’s almost as if they aren’t real.

[9] On her first visit to the house for a meal, Uncle Iain’s new wife, Kim (Mum’s new sister-in-law, not the Kim of this parish) was mortified. Mum had made a Beef Wellington, a really finely crafted piece of cooking which smelt amazing and Iain loudly declared, “Christ, Sheena, I’ve no come all this way for a sausage roll!”

[10] Mum was talking about Audrey Fleurot. And that’s the mention of Mlle Fleurot for this column.