I can remember being deeply moved as a young lad by the original 1958 black and white film. Was it Sink the Titanic? No – hang on: that was 1960’s Sink the Bismarck! In my defence, Kenneth More in the both of them. I mean – oh yes, I remember – A night to remember; here’s the trailer on YouTube. I was never going to watch James Cameron’s 1997 movie for reasons that should be obvious, like that song. And I certainly wasn’t going to watch this latest TV version. I’d hated Upstairs, downstairs first time around.
Alison Graham has been on the case of this “damp epic” in the Radio Times of late. This from Sunday, March 25:
All the classes play their allotted roles in Julian Fellowes’s new blockbuster. The upper classes on the Titanic are toxic snobs, the middle classes peevish artisans and the lower classes noble riffraff who want only better lives for themselves and their children. […] We join them all (and the bigness of the boat is signified by people looking up and going all wide-eyed) as they embark […] It’s Drownton Abbey. […] When doom comes out of the watery darkness, it’s a strange moment, made odder by the fact that the iceberg looks like a big peak of icing sugar.
This woman is to be trusted. The next week she warns:
The Titanic hasn’t even set sail and the dramatically ironic hints about What is to Come are already dropping like dead bats …
And on the same day, maybe a bit unfair about Silent witness – its silences and pace can haunt – but you can’t but admire and appreciate the turn of phrase, nonetheless:
Somehow the word “convoluted” just doesn’t quite work when applied to the Byzantine pathways of a Silent witness plot, so we are all over the place as perpetually tormented Leo has much to be tormented about when he ponders an old case. And Nikki floats through the action looking thoughtful in a series of pretty blouses.
We were in South Wales for a wedding – congratulations Ali & Steve – at the weekend. The Titanic illustration I’ve used above is from the mural decorating the Penllywn Millennium Centre in Blackwood, Caerphilly (or for older readers, Monmouthshire). It celebrates the town’s history and the Centre’s current uses, and was, it says, “Painted by the people of Penllywn”. Good for them. It would have been a very dull wall without the official graffiti. The Romans, Captain Morgan (a privateer, not a pirate – oh yeah – but one-time resident), the wartime Yanks, the miners (though it was never a mining town the Miners Institute was a cultural hub) and the music (among others, it’s where the Manic Street Preachers hail from – love the concept, but I regret to say I’m unmoved by their works). And there’s the Titanic connection.
Shame the mural doesn’t make anything of – or at least I couldn’t see it – the area being a centre of Chartist organisation and agitation in the 1830s. But what I particularly like about this mural is its hopefulness, that there are lives to be lived hence, nicely encapsulated in the ‘Volume 1’ on the book’s spine.
The Titanic connection is fascinating. Artie Moore lived in Gelligroes, just outside of town. A keen young inventor and early radio enthusiast, he was the first in the UK to know anything was amiss on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. He picked up a faint Morse code distress signal from the stricken ship on his crude home-made apparatus up in the loft at the Old Mill in the early hours of April 15, 1912. He told his family and people in the town and went to the police but no-one believed him. At the time the ship was well beyond what was thought to be the maximum wireless range. It was only two days later that the locals received confirmation through the national press that it was true. As a direct result of this exploit Moore went on to have a successful career with the Marconi company.