Sounds familiar as Queen and Bond fly in

Well, it wouldn’t have been a true celebration of Britishness without some reference to the Second World War’s most famous tune – and this duly turned up in what was probably the most Wow Factor moment. Check the soundtrack between 2.30 and 4.30 on the video link below, and marvel again at the wit and vision of Danny Boyle and his colleagues in producing the most stunning Olympic opening ceremony ever. [Hat tip: Jane!]

BBC IPlayer link for UK readers

Try this link if you are outside the UK :

Christmas is all around me, and so the feeling grows…

…and so the immortal words of Billy Mack from Love Actually ring out as another year draws to a close.

This blog has just had its most successful year, with nearly 100,000 visits. So let me wish all of you, whether you’ve followed us from the beginning or have only recently come across us, a very merry Christmas and a peaceful and happy New Year.

Steady on chaps, ladies present

Fun and games at the latest production from English Touring Opera, Handel’s Xerxes. This has been reimagined as a Second World War drama, apparently inspired by The Dam Busters. Some confusion about the aircraft they flew, however, with a Spitfire on stage, rather than a Lancaster. But no matter – Xerxes sings the famous aria “Ombra mai fu” to the Spitfire before sending it off to fight in his continental campaign. According to the Guardian, his brother and rival Arsamenes is based on Guy Gibson, Ariodates is Barnes Wallis and the Hellespont becomes the Ruhr Dams. The Independent’s critic swooned over the performance of Julia Riley (that’s her above) in the title role – “no praise can be too high” for her – and said that Covent Garden “would count itself lucky to host a Baroque show of this calibre”.

The show is touring in London, Buxton, Cambridge, Lincoln (how apt!), Harrogate, Aldeburgh, Exeter and Malvern from now until 25 November, so if you get a chance to see it, go along!

Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep

Pic: Salvatore Vuono

Meet Gibson*, the latest secret weapon in Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s fight to bring the British economy out of recession. According to the Daily Telegraph, he has acquired a new pet named after the Dambusters leader:

“George named him after Guy Gibson, who led 617 Squadron on the Dam Busters raid,” whispers my man in Whitehall. “He is, like his namesake, a tough cookie. He will take a nip out of you if you don’t watch out.”

No word yet on how low he can fly and whether he can drop a bouncing bomb when under enemy fire.

*This is not the real Gibson. He declined to appear for our cameras. 

Do keep up, dear

Once upon a time the Hollywood magazine Variety was regarded as the voice of show business, regularly breaking dozens of stories in a famously sensationalist style which used a language all its own:

Now, it seems, it employs ‘reporters’ who are reduced to reading film directors’ Facebook pages and regurgitating material without any pre-existing knowledge. Last week, Dave McNary fearlessly exposed the brand new (to him) news that:

Peter Jackson has tapped British thesp Stephen Fry to play the Master of Laketown in “The Hobbit” and revealed on his Facebook page that he and Fry are collaborating on “Dambusters,” a WWII actioner that has been in development since 2006.

“I’ve known Stephen for several years, and we’re developing a ‘Dambusters’ movie together,” Jackson said in his Facebook post. “In addition to his writing skills, he’s a terrific actor and will create a very memorable Master for us.”

Fry’s involvement with “Dambusters,” produced through Jackson’s WingNut Films, hadn’t been announced previously. Project is centered on the 1943 Allied air raid on three German dams essential to the Nazi steel industry. [Emphasis added]

If Mr McNary had bothered to check on Google (it’s called a “search engine”, old boy) he would have come across a few thousand references to this ‘actioner’ project, going back several years:

Modesty forbids me mentioning the name of the blog which ranks third and fourth in these search results.

Suffice it to say that Mr Fry’s involvement with the film has been around so long that he even wrote about it in the latest instalment of his autobiography. And that came out in September last year.

Radio surprise

Pic: Vintage Radio Australia

Well, this is extraordinary! A radio adaptation of Paul Brickhill’s The Dam Busters in 26 half hour episodes, produced by ‘Australasian Radio’ in 1954, and introduced by Brickhill himself. I have to say that I never even knew this existed. As, at the moment, I don’t have 13 hours to spare to listen to every episode I’m unable to tell you a whole lot more, but stabbing around, I discovered that the raid itself is covered in Episode 6. The raid is observed almost entirely from inside Gibson’s aircraft, and the Möhne Dam is breached by the third aircraft attacking, so you could say that a certain amount of latitude has been taken with what happened in real life. There are other scenes back at Grantham and Scampton, with Air Marshal Harris’s attempts to ring the White House treated as a series of comic turns with hapless switchboard operators and annoyed hotel proprietors. The sound quality is however excellent, so I’d be fascinated to know in which vaults this has been lying for over 50 years.
[Hat tip to Oggie at Lancaster Archive, who also cites Wings Over New Zealand, although I can’t find any mention there.]

Downhill all the way

Sad decline in standards at the Daily Express. Here is a paper which once seemed never to have left the Second World War period, but which now employs writers (or sub-editors) who don’t have its essential facts and figures at their fingertips. Above is a screengrab from a preview article for a TV programme which appeared over the Christmas period, under the byline of one Adam Edwards. One problem, Mr Edwards – the RAF never had a 633 Squadron. The number was used for a fictional squadron, in a film of the same name, which was made in 1964… Perhaps you got the music muddled up?

Happy New Year!

As usual, I saw in the New Year in the company of Jools Holland and his merry band of Hootenayers. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t quite the usual range of old R’n’B stars belting out catchy soul numbers. However, towards the end of the evening the ‘sound artist’ Henry Dagg performed a familiar tune on a previously unknown instrument. (Courtesy of Youtube)

Er, yes, I think it is…

One of the humdrum tasks in writing a blog is checking and deleting the spam which WordPress’s Akismet software has flagged up as ‘possible’. This is normally a tedious task. No thank you, I don’t want any of your organ enhancement projects, nor do I want to meet a new Russian lady friend. But occasionally they make me laugh, which is what happened today. Step forward a gentleman by the name of Mister Pikavippi, who wanted to tell me:

I have infer from a scarcely any of the articles on your website trendy, and I definitely like your fashionableness of blogging. I added it to my favorites net age list and disposition be checking assist soon. Will report register into public notice my orientation as well and fail me conscious what you think. Thanks.

I couldn’t have expressed it better myself.

If you’ve got a few bob to spare…

… you could do worse than investing in these goodies.

Being sold next week at Canterbury Auctions is this first edition of Paul Brickhill’s  magnum opus, signed by its late owner Flg Off Brian Goodale, wireless operator in David Shannon’s AJ-L on the Dams Raid, and various other luminaries. Guide price £500-£700.

Rather more expensive are three documents featuring the signature of Guy Gibson. They are on sale at Paul Fraser Collectibles for no less than £22,000. I have to say this seems an enormous price for a photograph, a page from an autograph album and an application form for a Skegness ‘entertainment’ club. In these straitened times, will anybody pay this amount? As the sale will be private, we shall probably never know.