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Territorial television

I’m fine now, really. The nightmares are receding, the rash is responding to aromatherapy and I’ve cut back the shrink to once a day. It was a near thing just before Easter, however, watching all that shite on the telly and not having a gun. My Uncle Frank would have known what to do; he was the one who shot the telly to demonstrate the principle of implosion to his kids, but I think really it was because he was fed up with I Love Lucy.

My old dad used to shout and thump the floor with his walking stick, which doubled as a remote control after he and Mum got the new telly with push-button controls instead of those circular dials. It channelled his energies into something more creative, because he got quite nifty with it: even though the stick’s black rubber base was wider than the buttons, he used to sort of angle the edge of it and push. Worked a treat, but when Mum got her own walking stick I regret to say that there were occasional spats, involving much combative poking and prodding of the set, which was starting to lose all the chrome edging from the buttons. Dad used to object to sex on the screen, being a good old-fashioned Puritan. Also rock music and poncy religious commentators who weren’t Catholics. When his favourite wildlife documentaries started to get all jiggy he was devastated, seeing his beloved animals turned into porn stars. ‘I turned on that one about zebras’, he said, ‘and I was bloody disgusted. Can’t the buggers give the poor beasts a bit of privacy?’ Mum would oppose him on general principle, and sometimes we had to distract them with tea and buns.

I felt I was channelling Dad when I watched that damned silly Henry VIII thing on the ABC, with Henry as an East-Ender bovver boy. And although I’m not what anyone would call a historian or an authentic Early Music Fascist, the use of Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’ as the end credits rolled was about as meaningful as using ‘Like A Virgin.’ Given its total lack of historical cred, it was a surprise and a relief to find no hobbits had been added, but that’s about all I can say in favour of it. Where was David Starkey when we needed him?

The same goes for those unspeakably crude and silly cod-documentaries Who Killed Jesus? and Did Jesus Die? These beauties were perpetrated by writer-producer Richard Denton, who is ex-BBC Religious Affairs, and is on record elsewhere as saying that anyone who believes in religion is sad, lonely and inadequate, though not of course in the script of either program. His examples of Christians who believed in the resurrection were Filipino crucifixion re-enactors and loony Canadian
charismatics. Tom Wright, Anglican bishop of Durham, and Peter Stanford were trotted out from time to time, but the whiz-bangery and weight were all given to legends that were far sketchier than the gospel and historical accounts which he strained to breaking point with speculation. He recycled a patchwork of the Knights Templar legend and hedged the bets by saying that Jesus was drugged with hyssop, woke up a bit afterwards and scooted off to Kashmir, because he was really a Buddhist. Which of course would be cool.

Inspired by such flights, I have written my own series, called simply Vicky. I think it will shed new light on the life of Queen Victoria, the well-known Cockney matriarch.

Let’s have Pauline Quirk, or better still, Barbara Windsor, in the lead, with Sean Bean as Ed, because he turns up in all of these efforts.

Opening scene

Queen Victoria bustles into the morning room at Balmoral:

Q. Victoria: Oy! Eddie! If yer don’t stop shagging Lawd Ponsonby’s wife we’ll give yer such a clip round the ear’ole! We ain’t bloody amused, yer little barstid.
Edward, Prince of Wales: Aww, turn it up Ma, you’re no angel yourself, innit? Wot abaht John Brown eh?
Q. Vic: Yer cheeky devil, come ‘ere an’ we’ll belt yer one. Johnny the Scot ain’t none er yer business. And have yer bin pinching the royal ciggies?
Ed: Nah. Don’t like menthol do I? Ere, ‘ave one of mine.
Q. Vic: Oh orright then, we know, we was young ourself once; yer old Pa useter say we was a real little raver. But yer gotta be careful luv, cos the way yer goin it’s gonna drop orf. 
Ed: Yer a legend, Ma.
Q. Vic: You allus could get round yer old ma, yer little devil. ‘Ere, garsong! Pass us a rum & whiskey fer our royle stummick, cos those bleedin’ kippers made us fart sumfink awful lars night. See youse all termorrer then, cos we’re goin out ternight wiv Johnny the Scot fer a bit of the other. Nudge nudge wink wink.’
Exit mother and son, smoking and arm in arm.

End credits roll with Donna Summer’s ‘I Want Some Hot Stuff Baby Tonight’.

Pass me the hyssop. I want to forget.       

Juliette Hughes is a freelance writer.


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