I’ve found a cure for the Summertime Blues. Now I know that Jeremy Clarkson is a Marmite individual, but ‘Clarkson’s Farm’ is definitely worth a watch if only for the characters in this ‘fly on the wall’ insight into how a farm is actually run. Take twenty-one year old Kaleb, a mini farming entrepreneur who barely leaves the sanctity of Chipping Norton. The episode, in which he travels to London in a doomed attempt to sell wasabi to top London restaurants, makes you realise why he has such a strong aversion to ‘the city.’ Yet he has more knowledge in his little finger than someone of more senior years (including Clarkson) and is unafraid to express it in a forthright manner. ‘Cheerful Charlie,’ Clarkson’s long-suffering land agent and rural advisor, who spells out the genuine cost of running a farm – the amounts made my eyes water – offers a steady hand at the tractor wheel. All-round elderly labourer, Gerald, literally speaks a language only understood by himself. Together with the very calm, Lisa, Clarkson’s other half, these are the folk that makes this series tick.
When Clarkson took the reckless decision to run ‘Diddly-Squat’ after his farm manager retired, he had no idea that the knowledge that has served him well in his motoring career has little place in modern farming. Quite often, his actions, by his own admission, are cack-handed. To be fair, he was up against it from the outset due to the weather, which was set to be the wettest in decades, upsetting planting times and ruining crops. A rosy-tinted view of ‘having a few sheep’ (seventy-eight) is quickly dispelled by reality. Sheep have escapology running through their genes. They are prone to disease and barrenness. In short, they cost. Farming is not for the sentimental and, at times, Clarkson was deeply sentimental, an unusual sight for most viewers. Not only was the series entertaining, it gives a fresh insight into the average day in a farmer’s life. Having bolted through all seven episodes last weekend I found myself calmly driving along, caught in a tailback of traffic, behind a rickety tractor, on my way to Ludlow. Normally, I’d be frothing at the mouth. This time, I thought: ‘So what? These guys have an important job to do in the most difficult of conditions.’ Whether you like the man or not, Clarkson’s show softened my attitude, and its legacy is something worthwhile and enduring.
The mass-market paperback of ‘SIX’ is released under my pseudonym, G.S. Locke in August. A key character in the novel, Danny Hallam, has spent twenty-five years in prison. As you might imagine, I carried out research to find out about prison life, so when Jimmy McGovern’s ‘TIME’ hit the screen it was of special interest to me. ‘TIME’ makes for tough viewing. Prison is not the soft option as often portrayed in the media. The reality of prison life is searing and McGovern is unflinching in conveying the savagery of inmates and the basic cruelties that can turn an average day into a living hell. The loneliness and sense of abandonment felt by vulnerable prisoners and, at times, those who guard them absolutely resonated. Magnificent performances by Sean Bean and Stephen Graham lift the story to a very superior level. Catch it if you can.
‘Battle Sight Zero’ by Gerald Seymour (no relation) gets my vote for book of the month. It features Andy Knight who lives a dangerous life as an undercover officer. His task is to penetrate a terrorist cell and to do this he must befriend a young woman. The most basic rule is never to become close to the target but Andy falls for her, as she does for him. No spoilers, so I won’t reveal what happens other than to say that if you’re interested in the history of guns, the Kalashnikov AK47 plays a vital role, to the extent that it almost become a character in it’s own right. A clever story, skilfully executed, Seymour proves that once again he is one of the best thriller writers in the world. With the summer upon us, I’ll be taking a long break from writing this blog until, at least, September. Enjoy the summer. Hope you have plenty of great books to read. See you on the other side