Television Review

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The Independent Culture
THOSE OF you who don't live in London will have missed First Edition: London's Rubbish (Carlton). This is a pity, as you would have loved it - assuming you don't live near one of several hundred landfill sites around the capital. "Near Aylesbury. Middle of nowhere," as one of them was described. Not if you live in Aylesbury, I'd have thought.

Like the dustcart that squirted a few pints of slurry through some car driver's open window ("in theory," smirked John Mears, a Haringey refuse collector, "nothing should shoot out of it"), the programme hosed us with unpleasant facts. London recycles 5-10 per cent of its rubbish, Americans 30 per cent, Germans 35 per cent, and "leading Canadian" districts 60- 70 per cent.

Best of all were the portraits of Londoners, especially those stuck behind dustcarts. "Watch 'em showing off 'cos of the cameras," said one enraged woman. "They wouldn't touch that rubbish. You tell 'em to take a bit of rubbish, you have to cross their palm wiv silver."

Sean Smith produced a disposable, fun film. It should be sent, on non- biodegradable cassettes, to anyone thinking of moving to the Big Smoke.

Timewatch: Sex and War (BBC2) had in its sights the hypocrisy of the MoD, not an easy target to miss. Even being a celibate homosexual is a military offence these days, but there was none of that rubbish during the last war, when maybe a quarter of a million gay men were enlisted. At one camp, a signaller, Dennis Prattley, was introduced to a Leading Hand who wore make-up and preferred to be known as Bette. " `This is my friend, Joe. We call him Rita Hayworth.' I said, `Hello, Rita.' `And this is Katherine Hepburn.' I thought, Oh my God. And, of course, that's when they called me Ann Sheridan."

Prattley, who ran away with the programme, tried to get discharged, but realised that he and fellow gays were being kept on because they had such a good effect on morale. Men would climb into his bunk at night because he reminded them of their girls back home.

None of which would cut much ice with today's powers that be, represented here by Sir Michael Armitage, who spouted on about the pernicious influence of homosexuals on "unit cohesion"; forgetting that Sparta, the most successful military nation in history, virtually made homosexuality mandatory (you would fight more keenly with your lover by your side). As one gay ex-serviceman put it, "We fought the Nazis because they were condemning people for what they were, not what they'd done. These people wanted to serve their country, and that's not an ignoble wish. Perhaps it is these days."

Thomas Sutcliffe is away

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