Posts Tagged With: Hilary Mantel

The wolves are dawdling

I am too full of cake / cheese / salami to write anything substantial at the moment. You know how it is at Christmas. But I’ve been keeping these three puns in reserve for a day when I really ought to post anything, while lacking the momentum to actually do it.

First: one of those Lord of the Rings moments that would have arguably improved the scene if they’d actually done it.

Second: I’m not even going to explain this one, as you need to have read Wolf Hall to appreciate it, and if you haven’t, it won’t be funny even if I explain why.



And lastly: I know I’m not the first person to have thought of this, but it strikes me as very odd that more people haven’t done it.


Happy New Year. May all your camels be fertile.

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The Dark Side of Flop: Bing meets Wolf Hall





You know, when I think about it, I’m pretty sure this whole thing started with Mrs Doyle.

I knew about Wolf Hall already, of course, although I’d not seen it. “It’s weird,” they said on the social media pages. “That sinister bloke from that costume drama playing Flop!” Well, yes, but I had no frame of reference. And then there was the day that Bing found the dog in the park, and when her owner arrives to find out where she’s got to, it turns out to be Pauline McLynn.

Father Ted is twenty years old this year, which has led to an abundance of lists – popular quotes, memorable episodes, and a few of those animated GIFs that are so popular on Tumblr. There will be the “small, far away” clip and you can guarantee that at least one person will use the words “Down with this sort of thing” (and that the next comment, in turn, will read “Careful now”). But I know the scene I always think of when I see Pauline McLynn, and it is the one where she swears.

Distressingly, this clip omits Mrs Doyle’s departing remark – but the point is, the moment I heard Pauline voicing Gilly I wanted her to shout “RIDE ME SIDEWAYS, THAT WAS ANOTHER ONE!” at Bing and Flop. And it sort of went from there, really. It went from there primarily because I’m getting a little tired at the constant ‘Find your inner Flop’ mantras that seem to have become a thing. Flop’s a role model in the same way that Jesus was a role model. His approach is totally impractical because he has a limitless supply of patience, of the sort that human beings do not possess. Let’s also not forget that Bing himself, though young, is also an alarmingly obedient child, digesting and dealing with Flop’s advice and reproaches without question, each and every time. Not for Bing the strop in the supermarket or the insistence on having his bed all to himself, even if Pando’s fallen asleep inside it. When Flop tells him ‘no’, he listens, and he listens first time.

And look, here’s the thing – Flop doesn’t have a smartphone.* Perhaps Bing is set in a world thirty years behind ours, or even longer (have there been any stories in which the characters watch, or even want to watch TV? I genuinely don’t remember any). Flop appears to devote twenty-four hours a day to the servitude and care of his charge. Perhaps he’s like Davy Jones in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, cursed to ferry the Flying Dutchman back and forth to and from the land of the dead, or risk being turned into an octopus. (I am now entertaining the notion of a collectible Flop with detachable Cthulhu-like tentacles. It is an amusing, if disturbing thought.)

But I wonder, sometimes. I wonder what he’s really thinking. Someone, somewhere really needs to produce a blog in which Flop recounts the events of an episode of Bing from his own perspective, in which he whines about the rabbit’s stupidity, perhaps referring to him as ‘The little shit’. I would very much like to do this, had I the time, not to mention the inclination to stop-start view all seventy-six episodes of season one – again – so that I can make dialogue notes.

In the absence of that, this will do. Because it’s time we brought the zen-like sock puppet down off his pedestal. He’s been allowed to embarrass decent, flawed parents for too long. He and the other carers in the show are annoyingly, irritatingly perfect. It’s why it’s a shock when this happens in the iPlayer listings:


It was a mistake, of course, and I pointed it out, only to have the official Bing Bunny page say something random that completely missed the point. “You’re far too young for a Facebook account, Bing,” I remarked. “Does Flop know?”

Anyway, a few technical notes on that video. The longest component of assembling this one was actually watching Wolf Hall, which I did in the space of three or four days, thoroughly enjoying every minute (except when the rented DVD turned out to be scratched). I’ve written about the majesty of the BBC’s Hilary Mantel adaptation elsewhere, so we won’t dwell on Cromwell and his machinations for today. What struck me going through was how little there actually was, in the grand scheme of things – I’d expected Thomas Cromwell to be darker, somehow, forgetting that the whole point to his characterisation is a sense of enigmatic aloofness, with far more revealed in what he doesn’t say – the space between the notes, as Miles Davis used to riff when he was defining music.

Bernard Hill, on the other hand, was a gift from a multi-denominational God. He swears like a trooper. He had to be Pando; there was nothing else for it. The Duke of Norfolk spends much of his time harrumphing and shouting like a child; he has thus rather fittingly become one. There’s no set narrative to this collection, which is instead loosely grouped according to mood – although you’ll see certain scenes are split to keep the pace up. I purposely didn’t use every sound clip I obtained, realising (as I have of late) that less is more. It’s a lesson I could have done with learning on the Red Dwarf / Doctor Who crossover I did last year – one that’s earned its fair share of negative comments, comments which I fear with increasing certainty may be absolutely right.

But if nothing else, this hopefully throws up a subtext to some of Flop’s oh-so-perfect parenting techniques, as well as demonstrating the versatility of the frankly sensational Mark Rylance. Sadly, Pauline McLynn still doesn’t get to say “Ride me sideways”, but you can’t have everything. Maybe I’ll do a sequel next year when they adapt The Light and the Mirror. Patience. It’s a Bing thing. As for the rest of us, we’re all drumming our fingers.

* Edit: it turns out, as I discovered just this week, that Flop does have a smartphone, although it’s left marginally less intelligent when Bing breaks it. I’m still basically right, anyway.


I received an email this morning informing me that the video has been taken offline by YouTube, in response to a legal claim from Aardman. This wasn’t one of those indiscriminate web-crawling automated takedowns that I can contest under fair use; this was a manual request. When I queried, the (truncated) response from Aardman was:

“With kids brands, the general rule of thumb is not to mix pre-school with adult comedy, this is the main reason in this case for removing the video, which we have done on behalf of the Bing team.

The secondary reason is your video is also an infringement of copyright associated with the Bing brand.

FYI – Some production companies are stricter than others with regards to copyright breach, some see it as promotion, others see it as property theft, different strokes for different folks basically.”

Under the circumstances, I won’t be contesting. He has a point, and all the parental advisories in the world (and there are at least two) probably won’t stop kids from clicking through. Ted Dewan’s Twitter approval counts for zip; Aardman hold the copyright, they call the shots.

The three most annoying things about this –

1. My copyright standing has been relegated, at least until January, and I have a strike on my account

2. I had to sit through a tedious and patronising ‘Copyright school’ video; the sort of thing I imagine speeding drivers have to go through

3. I dare not even put this on Vimeo, because they’ll probably do it again.

I have, however, made the video available at Dropbox, if you want to see or download it there. Alternatively, you could have a look at this transcript.


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Five things that happened in every episode of Wolf Hall


Look, there he is. He’s doing his ‘haunted’ face. This chap has a mysterious past, apparently. We still don’t know all the details. But there is trouble in sixteenth-century England, in particular with its relations with Rome, and it seems that Thomas Cromwell is the man to sort it out. But firstly he’d like the king to stop off for a couple of weeks at Wolf Hall, home of a youthful Jane Seymour…

Last time I talked about Bing Bunny. Today Mark Rylance crops up again in Wolf Hall, one of the BBC’s flagship programmes for 2015 and itself an adaptation of two novels by Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies). Both deal with the life of Thomas Cromwell and his rise to power (the eventual fall from grace, presumably, being the subject of the upcoming The Mirror and the Light). If Rylance played a saintly guardian in Bing, his character in Wolf Hall could not be more different, with Cromwell’s Machiavellian ruses forming the bulk of the narrative, his true intents usually hidden behind that chiselled, enigmatic face.

Ostensibly, this has nothing to do with Doctor Who – although this being a BBC costume drama there are the inevitable familiar faces. Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Jessica Raine, Mark Gatiss, Harry Lloyd and Jonathan Pryce all feature – although the show also finds parts for Richard Dillane, Tim Plester and Hannah Steele, all of whom have appeared in Who, along with numerous others that I’d tell you about if I had the inclination to go through every single IMDB listing. Harry Lloyd, in particular, is marvellous, playing as he does a slightly older and only slightly less warped version of the demonic Baines / Son of Mine in the ‘Human Nature’ / ‘Family of Blood’ two-parter. As for Jonathan Pryce, I kept expecting him to grow a beard and cackle, or start singing Lloyd Webber songs.

It’s wonderful television. Those who complain about the pacing have clearly never seen a Ken Loach movie. There is a place for frantic cuts and heavily condensed exposition, but it’s not in the court of Henry VIII. The sets are moody and well-lit, and the score is mournful and sets the mood perfectly. The script is by turns witty and as quotable as Shakespeare. There is not a single duff performance – even Mark Gatiss turns in something that might passably be considered acting – and the air of menace and intrigue is beautifully, subtly realised. This is not a nice England (even if you’re rich), nor is it safe. But it is bawdy. The BBC got into hot water over its use of the word ‘cunt’ – which seems unfair, somehow, given that that’s how people spoke. There are books on the etymology of bad language and its history, and this isn’t the place for such a debate, but sometimes I look at the stuff in The Canterbury Tales and I wonder when we got quite so prudish. The Victorian era, perhaps. That’s probably when. If nothing else, blame the Victorians.

Historical liberties may be up for grabs, of course. Cromwell, in particular, is given a greater degree of humanity than he is perhaps normally granted (this is presumably down to his depiction in Hilary Mantel’s original text, which I’m about to read, as much as it is due to Rylance’s carefully precise performance). Thomas More, meanwhile, is seen torturing a would-be protestant, something that Cromwell is notably not seen doing, even though he makes good on his promise for revenge in the closing episode with some particularly calculated nastiness (I’d tell you more, but we’re in spoiler territory). Cromwell is not a nice man, you sense, but early scenes with his family show him in a more positive light than More is granted – a moment, in particular, when he opens a contraband English copy of the Bible, noting “How can it be sacrilege?”, makes it hard to disagree with his intentions, even if the end doesn’t always justify the means.

So it’s great, and if you haven’t seen it, you really should. But if you go through all six episodes of a dramatic serial more or less back to back, the recurring motifs become a little more visible. So here are the things I spotted. I was going to turn this into a drinking game, but from what I can see that ship has sailed. Nonetheless, if you watch Wolf Hall you’ll notice –

1. Damian Lewis (Henry VIII) spreads his legs and puts his hands on his hips in an uncanny impersonation of a sugar bowl. (He’ll tell you he’s a little teapot, of course, but he’s in denial.)


2. Claire Foy (Anne Boleyn) says something acidic.


3. Bernard Hill (the Duke of Norfolk) shouts, usually using at least one of the words ‘fuck’, ‘arse’ or ‘bollocks’. Or any combination thereof.



(Memo to the Doctor Who production team – can we please get Bernard Hill in series ten, preferably as a grumpy luddite who teams up with the Doctor at a nineteenth century cotton mill invaded by evil meerkats?)

4. Two words: needlework.


5. Finally, Mark Rylance stands at a group gathering looking like he’s just smelled a fart.


Next time: east meets west. But you’ll have to wait ’til Friday…

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