Tune in, switch off - Jollity, jam and journeys

28th August 2009 at 01:00

"Politicians are like supply teachers: the public is the class they have to control," mused Natalie Haynes in The Funny Side of Politics (BBC Two). Clive Anderson offered his class a video of the best political embarrassments - and how we laughed.

John Prescott's punch, as clumsy as his language, would have got him struck off the supply register before you could say "CRB check", but he remained deputy prime minister. So let's see it again shall we? This time in slow motion.

It looked as if John Redwood's rendition of the Welsh national anthem was in slow motion too and I'll bet he felt it was. Not knowing the words, the former Welsh secretary made them up with his eyebrows and lips dancing in time to the rhythm. First rule of supply teaching - look as if you know what you're doing.

Jam and Jerusalem (BBC One), a sort of comedy Archers, also had its embarrassing moments. Rosie (Dawn French) had some of the best lines delivered in the worst Devonian accent I've heard. Well, taxi drivers know everything and my last one, from Oakie (Oakhampton) taught me how to pronounce some local words properly. So, for example, the nearby South Zeal is "Sow Zell". Rosie could do with him as a voice coach.

"This is Devon: a dinner party can take weeks to prepare," claimed Caroline, Jennifer Saunders' stiffly snooty creation, because "one can't just nip out to the local deli". Well Chagford, close by, has a very fine deli. In fact, I can personally recommend the freshly baked pies and tarts.

Rosie's dinner party slurping of "lemon soup", the finger bowl, was comic. Told the bowl was for prawns, she studiously dipped each one in the water before eating. Playing the game of Define British Values, Rosie topped "tolerance" with "cat food". But there was an affecting moment when watching a video message from Caroline's son in Afghanistan.

The modern world malapropped them by. Rosie "Wikipeed" Charles Dance to discover he's now single; Eileen "Goggled" to find information on her computer; and atheist Katy, the community support officer, asked: "Do you twitter, vicar?"

He had no idea. But he was having conscience trouble. "God's not looking after you is he?" she asked soothingly. So the vicar looked after himself instead, ravishing the unbeliever on the Dartmoor rocks.

There was more rural tranquillity in River Journeys with Griff Rhys Jones (BBC One) where we learnt why "nearly all towns were built on rivers". Geography lesson done, there was history too - particularly the fascinating clash of uses for the waterways, for transport or energy and sometimes both at once.

We were on the River Lea where the best barley in the world is grown. Apparently, it was safer to drink beer than water in the seventeenth century. I think it still is in some parts of the world. Griff took in a factory tour to see the malting process and cried out in delight at the damp barley.

Actually, I thought he rather overdid the delight but perhaps he'd not been risking the water either. If he ever wants a job as a supply teacher though, I'd snap him up.

Ray Tarleton is principal of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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