+++*

Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts tagged with ‘The Parents’

Broadcast

In which we recommend some telly

Regular readers might remember that, back in the mists of time – well, December – I mentioned that we’d been watching The Wire on DVD. And that it was very good. None of the bogus and ridiculous “science” you get on CSI;* not much patronising or heartstring-tugging, no deus ex machina and no wrapping the plotlines up inside an hour; just lots of what was – to someone who doesn’t know anything about the real thing, like me – lots of realistic investigative work.

Well, we’ve finally finished watching Season One, just as it finally makes its way onto the BBC. And, to be honest, I’m glad we had the DVDs to watch it from. It took us six months to do, twice as long as it will take BBC2 to show it. It’s a complicated programme, and we ended up watching several episodes twice because we hadn’t been concentrating the first time. In the end, we had to make sure that we only tried to watch it when we were definitely wide awake, otherwise we’d end up missing half of what went on. If we’d tried watching an episode on late night TV every week, we’d have been baffled – we had enough trouble with Dexter season two, just finished on ITV1,** and as unlike The Wire as it is possible for a cop show to be.***

I did wonder, idly, about recommending The Wire to The Parents. They’ve always liked police procedurals, both on telly and in books, and long-form dramas, so, I thought, they’d probably love it.**** But then, I remembered, how much The Mother tuts at the slightest hint of a bad word. The Wire has realistic dialogue.***** It wouldn’t work out. Before they were ten minutes into the first episode, she’d have asked to turn it off.

If you’ve seen the mysterious trailers for The Wire on the BBC, and you’ve not heard of it, go and watch it. It really is good. Very good. As for us: we’ve had the Season 2 DVDs sitting on the bookshelf since Christmas. As soon as we’re properly awake, they’re going in the DVD player. Hurrah!

Update, April 2nd 2009: BBC2 currently seem to be showing episodes of The Wire daily. Meaning that, for one thing, they will whip through the whole series in under three weeks; and for another, if you didn’t start watching on Monday then it’s already too late. Tonight is Episode 4, and the plot is already well under way.

* insert your favourite “CSI [somewhere]” joke here. I’ve mentioned CSI Bedminster myself before, and [Half Man Half Biscuit](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half_Man_Half_Biscuit) have produced CSI:Ambleside.

** I’m still not used to the name “ITV1″. In my mind it’s still the old federated network – Yorkshire TV where I grew up.

*** Dexter, though, certainly had more tension. Even though we knew full well that there are at least three more series after the one ITV have just been showing, we were still on edge at practically every cliffhanger.

**** Unlike us, they have a DVD recorder, so it would still be compatible with their in-bed-by-10 lifestyle.

***** And at least one scene where every single word of dialogue is a swear word. Every word. A bit like the opening scene in Four Weddings And A Funeral, but set at a scene-of-crime.

Devotion

In which The Parents are keeping track of all the numbers

The Parents have always been fans of gadgetry. Moreover, whenever they get a new gadget, they become strangely devoted to it. I can still remember, when I was small, and The Parents bought a dehumidifier. My mother set it up in the middle of the kitchen with its back off, sat down in front of it on the uncomfortable kitchen stool, and watched it operate: watched the ice slowly and imperceptibly build up on its freezing tubes, before melting off again into the collection bucket.

My dad’s always been worst, if anything, so I knew what would happen as soon as his latest toy was fitted. A solar water heating system, complete with dials and gauges and sensors and settings to tweak. As soon as someone gets in the shower, Dad is in the airing cupboard watching all the sensors slowly change, checking that the solar pump starts up at the right point,* watching the water tank temperature, the solar collector temperature, the glycol flow rate, the system pressure, monitoring all the dials he possibly can. And, as soon as you get out of the shower: “Was it hot enough? The tank temperature was down to fifteen degrees – the pump activity reached 90% because the collector was still up around thirty”.

He loves it; he loves tracking all the various numbers. But, as a wise person once said: just because something is measurable, or tweakable, doesn’t mean it’s worth measuring or tweaking.** Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if, the next time I see him, he’s started drawing graphs.

* Yes, we have an energy-efficient environmentally friendly solar water-heating system now: so why does it need an electric pump, powered by our local gas-fired power station no doubt, to run it?

** I have no idea who first said that, but I’m sure I first read it in Essential System Administration.

Ancestors

In which we discover some family history

The Mother has discovered The Internet. Specifically, she has discovered a plethora of genealogy websites, and is using them to try to track down our family tree.

Now, her family is fairly easy to trace back into the 19th century. They had a family bible, kept newspaper clippings and wedding invitations, and are nice, simple, and straightforward to track. My Dad’s family, on the other hand, is another matter.

Dad doesn’t know anything at all about his family tree, beyond his parents, sisters, and the names of a few more distant relatives. Questions to my grandmother, before her death, always went unanswered. However, my aunt has kept plenty of details about our family, and does know a lot more about how they’re all related. As we were visiting her anyway, The Mother asked her if she could get out her family births book so The Mother could copy it all down. And we quickly found out just how complex and baroque my father’s family really was.

For one thing, their surnames are all rather confusing. Once you go back beyond the current generations, very few people in our family bothered to get married. This was, it turns out, one of the reasons why my grandmother always refused to answer queries about family history. It’s very unclear whether her parents ever did marry – there’s no record of it, and my great-grandmother kept paperwork in both surnames until her death – but, my aunt told us, anyone who asked my gran directly about this would usually get punched. Some of my gran’s brothers and sisters shared her surname; but some of them took their mother’s name. My great-grandfather was apparently in the Cavalry – “there’s a photo of him in uniform, on a horse” – in India, in the 1920s, but nobody knows any other details about him.

My grandfather’s family is just as confusing. They, also, rarely bothered to marry. When they did, it often made things worse. One of my grandfather’s close relatives married a man called Frank. Her sister then married Frank’s son – I’m not even sure how you draw that on a family tree. Their son, incidentally, was the mayor of Southampton a few years ago. Having a grandfather who is also your uncle, in an entirely legal way I should add, clearly doesn’t stop you entering politics.

The Mother, being upright, respectable, churchgoing, and definitely no-sex-before-marriage, was rather shocked at all this. She is one of those people who sees The Past as a golden age of morality, when things were done properly and you didn’t get all these single mothers all over the place; so she was rather surprised to see that before her own generation, a lot of my ancestors just didn’t think that way. Myself, I’ve always had a suspicion that Victorian morals are both fairly modern and a middle-class innovation, so I was rather pleased to find all this out. Even though it might make genealogists blanche at the thought of trying to draw the tree out, I rather like my ancestors now.

Update, September 24th 2005: we’ve since discovered that my gran’s parents never were married, because my great-grandfather already had a wife, who he never bothered to divorce.