Ten days of gifts – number 7

As there were a couple of references to DVDs in yesterdays posting on books, it’s only fair that I continue the DVD theme by presenting a few ideas on that theme. Especially as there’s a big public holiday looming and the seasonal television choices are as safe and predictable as ever…

The first suggestions are based around history. Yes, I’ve got an O level in history, but it’s Caroline that’s more interested in such matters (I’m more of a Horrible Histories buff myself).

That could be because I’m more interested in modern history, the stuff that wasn’t really taught when I was a lad in the early to mid 1970s. I can still remember some bits from my O level days, but that’s about it.

Andrew Marr’s The Making Of Modern Britain and History Of Modern Britain have just been repeated on BBC2 over the last fortnight – in a mid-afternoon slot. As there’s been little of note on over that time, I’ve fed the DVD machine with both series when Caroline’s been working late shifts (there are only so many times you can watch the same episodes of NCIS…).

Yes, there’s some memorable events missing from later programmes (the climbing of The Old Man Of Hoy, the Torrey Canyon and Braer oil tanker problems, The Herald Of Free Enterprise and the first flight of Concord/Concorde), but both series are still very watchable a few years down the line from their original broadcast dates.

Oh, and there’s also Andrew Marr’s History Of The World too. I’ve started, so I’ll finish, but I’ll also have to remember to turn the audio description track off when the DVD is put into the player. It took a while to realise what was going on when I first played Disc One, but now that I know, I hit the set-up menu before starting to watch the programmes.

As I’d enjoyed the Andrew Marr programmes so much, I put Simon Schama’s A History Of Britain on a wish list a couple of years ago and it turned up as a present a month or so later.

I missed this completely when it was first shown on TV, but it’s proved that I wasn’t as much of a historical heathen as I thought I was, because I did remember a few things from my teenage years history lessons. The stories told, the locations and the quality of the location camera work all sank in and this, like Andrew Marr’s History Of The World could be getting another viewing next week.

Along with London The Modern Babylon, Julien Temple’s take on London since the dawn of the 20th century. The story is told using film and television footage from the archives along with specially shot interviews from those who were there (famous and not-so-famous names) and a soundtrack of familiar and unfamiliar songs that helps bind the tale together.

There’s also a great bit of sound editing too in a political story that always raises a smile – watch it and see if you can spot it!

The last of the history related DVDs is The Story Of India with Michael Wood. It’s a two disc set with all six programmes plus some bonus material. Yes, it’s been shown recently on Yesterday, but the story works best when it’s not interrupted by adverts or programme trailers. It’s also a good excuse to get a couple of curries in whilst watching it over two nights!

On a completely different note is The Illusionist, a wonderfully made animation from the director behind Belleville Rendez-vous. Yes, there’s an Edward Norton film with the same title, but this is from a screenplay by Jaques Tati which tells the story of an old-school entertainer who travels to Edinburgh.

Those who know Edinburgh well may recognise quite a few places that are onscreen. I certainly did in both this and the more recent telling of the story of Burke & Hare.

The Illusionist though is the one I ended up talking about when The Independent On Sunday stopped me one afternoon outside the BFI to ask whether I’d seen any movies that had captured the look and feel of a city. The first and only time I’ve been in the Sunday papers – which is more than could be said about a few politicians or celebrities!

When it comes to travelogues though, there’s one master of the art – Michael Palin. Most will be aware of his multi-part series shown on the BBC and The Travel Channel, but he also contributed to two programmes shown on the BBC in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Michael Palin’s Great Railway Journeys covers his 1980 trip from London to Kyle of Lochalsh and his 1994 trip from Derry/Londonderry to Dingle Bay in Kerry. Palin is as amiable as ever and both trips are worth watching when it’s a cold, wet and miserable night with either a glass of Drambuie or a glass of Jameson’s in hand.

If memory serves me right that 1994 series of Great Railway Journeys also featured a trip made on Chinese trains by Clive Anderson. I only saw it the once and haven’t seen it repeated or made available on DVD. Which is a shame really, because it was a pretty good programme!

If trains are your thing, there’s also a fine story available about the making of the steam locomotive Tornado. There’s two versions of the DVD out there, but the one I have is the longer one of the two at 103 minutes duration.

I’ve not been on Tornado yet, but I’ve seen it at both Corfe Castle and Swanage stations and yes, I’m going to save up my pennies in order to make a train journey on Tornado when I can. There is a certain irony though – Tornado was built a couple of minutes away from where I used to live in Darlington and I didn’t know what was going on, even though I passed the works around twice a day at one point!

There are also plans to head off to the Isle Of Man. As the famed Laxey Wheel is being worked on at the moment, I suspect that it may not be in 2015. Unless of course everything is being done to get the work done before the start of the tourist season and the famous TT Races.

TT Closer To The Edge is the last DVD that I’ll write about here. I knew next to nothing about bike racing or much about the Isle Of Man before buying this DVD, but there’s part of me now that wants to get over there to explore the island. Caroline’s been before and wants to return there, so she may well be my guide on that visit!

From what I’ve seen of the island, it is a place I want to go. I don’t have a bike licence so it will be exploring by bus, car or rail and it definitely won’t be at the same speed as some of the riders featured on TT Closer To The Edge.

Guy Martin and Conor Cummins survived their crashes in 2010 and have raced the Mountain Course since, but others haven’t been so lucky. Will Guy Martin win at least one TT next year? Here’s hoping, especially after it was confirmed yesterday that he’ll be riding BMW bikes in 2015!

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About Keith Rickaby

Fiftysomething writer and occasional photographer who has worked in the tailoring trade and the outdoor/travel clothing, equipment and footwear game. Past lives include working as an outdoor instructor, managing three bands and doing PR work through an agency or my own contacts. Was a student in the mid-90s and whilst I'm originally from the North East, I'm now firmly based in't Yorkshire...
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