Holby City

This week I watched Holby City for the first time in my life. So that’s something to tick off the world’s least ambitious bucket list, isn’t it?

For the uninitiated, it basically revolves around various doctors and nurses working through their personal issues and romantic entanglements, with occasional unwelcome interruptions from patients and actual… you know, work.

This week, Dr Arthur (Rob Ostlere) was planning a surprise birthday party for his girlfriend, Dr Morven (Eleanor Fanyinka). Well, it wasn’t really a party so much as some fairy lights strung up in a pagoda. And he was struggling with the ‘surprise’ element on account of a poker face that made him look like – and I quote – ‘a spaniel who’s about to do a massive poo’. (Can you picture such a face? Me neither.)

Meanwhile, chief surgeon Ric Griffin (Hugh Quarshie) spent the whole episode staring at his mobile phone, before coming to a big decision and smashing it against a wall. It wasn’t very dramatic, but was still 100 times more exciting than Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – a stain on Quarshie’s CV that no amount of surgical scrubbing can remove. (I love a good scrub-in, incidentally – especially that bit where they have to turn the taps off with their elbows. Do you think they teach that at RADA?)

What Holby City lacks is Casualty’s ‘jeopardy bingo’ – that bit where you have fun guessing if someone’s going to be KOd by a bit of exposed wiring, a rickety ladder or a panther attack. (It’s never a panther attack.) The best we had here was a batty old boy who’d driven his ride-on mower into his batty old wife, resulting in a trauma injury to her abdomen. ‘I never stopped loving you,’ he said. ‘You silly old sausage’, she replied. 20 minutes later, she was dead.

It was pretty tepid stuff, really. But it can’t all be War & Peace and Happy Valley, can it? Week in, week out, shows like this plug away at the noble business of telling stories, keeping character actors of a certain age off the streets, and property and home improvement show off our screens for another hour. Good luck to ’em, I say.

TV extra:


An Island Parish: Shetland

Reaching Unst, the most northerly inhabited island in Britain, requires a 12-hour ferry ride for from the north Scottish coast, followed by a two-hour drive and two further ferry hops. So you can imagine the feverish excitement that broke out when someone inflated a bouncy castle for the annual summer carnival. Highlights of the carnival parade, meanwhile, included a bus stop filled with puffins and a bubble car driven by two dogs in shower caps. You can laugh, but I couldn’t help noticing everyone looked much happier than they do in London.


Heston’s Dinner in Space

Challenged by Tim Peake to create an out-of-this-world menu for him to enjoy aboard the International Space Station, only Heston Blumenthal would come up with a tinned bacon sandwich – and then succeed in making it taste good.

Despite the first supply rocket exploding shortly after take-off, sending cans of Sausage Sizzle and Beef and Black Truffle Stew raining down over Germany, Major Tim eventually declared the food a triumph. Which is just as well because, at £100 million per launch, it would have been very awkward sending it back to the kitchen.


Published in Waitrose Weekend, March 24 2016

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