Last Night's Television - Winds,BBC4; Henry VIII: Mind of a Tyrant, Channel 4

Completely blown away

The last of three documentaries about British weather conditions,
Winds interested me on several levels, not least of which was the title. The first programme in the trilogy was called Rain, the second Snow, and the third Winds. So why pluralise it? The answer, of course, is obvious. You can't call a British television programme "Wind", because everyone will think it's about flatulence, a national obsession even greater than the weather. I realised this when I told other members of my family that I was about to sit down in front of a documentary about wind, and farting noises followed me out of the room. That could just be us, I suppose, but I don't think so. Ask 10 passers-by what they think of when they hear the word "wind", and I bet more of them will say baked beans than the Beaufort scale. Even when Winds opened with a solemn voice saying, "we ignore this elemental force at our peril", there was still some room for misinterpretation.

Anyway, you can now read on safely in the knowledge that I have got flatulence out of my system, although paradoxically, it might never have occurred to me had the programme-makers not opted to add that prim, party-pooping S. In all other ways, it was an estimable documentary, featuring some marvellous newsreel footage of people struggling to walk into fierce headwinds, and that celebrated recording, made during gales in 1940, of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington state twisting like a ribbon, before collapsing into the river below.

Between these scraps of footage there was rather a lot of science about wind. Indeed, I was blown back to my O-level years and found myself trying to memorise a line about wind being an interraction of temperature, pressure and the Earth's rotation. I'm not normally sorry that my exam-taking years are behind me, but I've found that as I get older I acquire bits of knowledge that positively demand a sharp pencil and a desk in a quiet room, with an invigilator padding up and down the aisles. The only alternative outlet for that definition of wind is the next lull in conversation at a dinner party, but it would have to be a hell of a lull.

Anyway, last night's programme was the only one of this trilogy that I saw, but I'm told that the others were excellent, too, and it's good to be reminded that there's a great deal more to Britain's weather than idle chit-chat over the garden fence. I can also now tell you that in relation to its area, Britain experiences the highest frequency of tornados in the world. It's a good job we don't believe, as the ancient Greeks did, that wind is a punishment sent by the gods, although the poet Ian McMillan astutely observed that there is still a sense of wind as a curse, recalling that his mother used to talk about particularly bitter north-easterlies coming "straight from Siberia" as if to torment us.

On the other hand, the programme emphasised that winds can also bring blessings, such as the 24,000 cases of finest Scotch whisky washed up on a Hebridean island in 1941, as chronicled in the film Whisky Galore!. And in 1588, strong winds were rather more influential than the Royal Navy in overwhelming the formidable Spanish Armada.

That said, Elizabeth I at least had a strong Royal Navy at her disposal, and for that she was indebted to her father Henry VIII, who started to develop England as a naval power following his break from the Roman Catholic church, which dramatically altered his country's sense of identity. In the concluding episode of Henry VIII: Mind of a Tyrant, David Starkey effectively presented Henry as England's first Euro-sceptic, not only building up the Navy but also funding the construction of coastal fortifications – so extensive and long-lasting that they were deployed as recently as the Second World War – from his morally indefensible but highly lucrative sacking of the monasteries. Under Henry, said Starkey, the English Channel, which had been a highway to the continent, now became a defensive moat.

This was all highly fascinating, but now that the series is over, I'm still not sure whether I was fascinated more by Henry, or Starkey. I have alluded before to Starkey's eerie resemblance to Steve Pemberton from The League of Gentlemen – perhaps his next project could be a series on local history for local people? – but last night I also noticed elements of the late Kenneth Williams, intensified by the cameraman's unfortunate habit of filming "the rudest man in England" from below, giving us a view up his nostrils.

I also suggested earlier in the series that Starkey, perhaps subliminally, considers himself to be a kind of reincarnation of Henry VIII, and blow me down if he didn't go and confirm it, telling us that England reflected its most famous king's character "and to the extent that it still does, we're all still made in Henry's image". Some of us more than others.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada