No, megalomania has not seized me!
If I Ruled the World was the title of a song that did quite well in the charts in 1963. It was sung by Harry Secombe - more on him in a moment. The song itself has suddenly popped into my head while looking through the Radio Times to plan what I'd like to watch on TV tonight. I was hoping for some decent stuff, this being Christmas Eve. But there was nothing that appealed. The best on offer, so far as I was concerned, was:
Norman Wisdom: His Story (8.00pm, BBC4)
Various people, family included, were going to talk about his life and career. My lifelong reaction to this funny man had always been to cringe. His humour was not my humour. Had I misjudged him? Would I, at any rate, see lots of fine views of the Isle of Man, where he lived in later life? He was well-loved when he died in 2010 at the ripe age of 95. Surely a recommendation.
Lewis (9.00pm ITV3)
An episode called The Great and the Good. Lewis and Hathaway uncover a web of deceit, and sordid secrets, in a rape case. This would be a sophisticated drama: upper-class, sniffy, über-civilised Oxford persons versus dogged Northern policeman. But why did I like Hathaway, and felt comfortable and intrigued with his character, but disliked Lewis himself, whose character irritated me?
Father Ted (9.00pm More4)
How many times have I seen this already? Daft Craggy Island surrealism. It's the 1996 Christmas Special. Father Ted wins the Golden Cleric Award, only to get a mysterious Christmas visitor determined to steal it. Among other things equally odd.
In the end, after my Traditional Christmas Eve Waitrose Chicken Korma - a mistake, I had intended to pick the much spicier Chicken Jalfrezi instead - I phoned my elderly aunt in Newport. I spoke to my niece also, who happened to be visiting my aunt. And then I replied at length to two emails received in the last day or so. By that time I'd missed Norman Wisdom entirely, and Lewis and Father Ted were both too far advanced to be worth watching. So I decided to write this post and then watch a DVD. It's a choice between Casablanca, Singing In The Rain, Toy Story, RED, Bridesmaids, and part one of The Lord of the Rings. Or maybe just go to bed, to be in great condition for the solitary delights of my Christmas Day! Rumour hath it that the Sun will be coming out. (You know, that Strange Luminescence not seen since early November)
Now, if I ruled the world, the Christmas TV schedules would be packed with all the things I love to watch, instead of the rubbish we are actually fed with! I'd insist on programmes on art, history and science, for starters. Forget Charles Dickens, Strictly Come Dancing, Vicar of Dibley and the rest.
I'd like to see films like Davy, which came out in 1957 and has not seen on TV for a very long time. This starred Harry Secombe, who as well as being a comedian was a very fine tenor. Wales produces the best singers, and Harry Secombe was from Swansea. Anyway, I must have seen this film on TV during the 1960s when I was still in my teens. It had a profound effect on me.
Davy is about a family of theatre entertainers, a successful touring act, and Harry Secombe plays the young man who sings best among them. In fact he can belt it out, and is the mainstay of the show they put on. But he realises that his voice really is very special, and ought to be put to better use. He goes to London and auditions for the opera. He sings a magnificent Nessun Dorma. A solo career opens before him. But without him, the family show will fall apart. He struggles with this. In the end he renounces the chance of personal singing fame so that his family can carry on as before.
This seemed to me a terrible sacrifice to make. Outstanding talent is so rare. It seemed a crime to deliberately smother it, to kill it off. In fact I was enraged and upset. This should not be.
And yet, there was the family to consider.
I saw a message in this film that individual feelings must submit to family needs. That family comes first. That something special and personal must always be stifled if it would hurt the family. No matter what.
Harry Secombe let his shoulders sag in resignation as the film ended. He was trapped. I felt for him. I felt trapped too, and saw no way out. One could only carry on, alive but not living.