Last night's viewing - The Fall of Singapore: the Great Betrayal, BBC2; Gok Cooks Chinese, Channel 4; Great British Menu, BBC2
You are a thriller writer, working on a tense scene in which an ex-Etonian toff, hugely knowledgeable about naval airpower and suspected of sharing his knowledge with a foreign power, is being questioned by intelligence officials. Present at the meeting is the Director of Public Prosecutions, presumably on hand to put the fear of God into the suspect. So, what do you name this important figure?
You need something redolent of 1920s Britain, of tweed suits and forensic penetration. What about Sir Archibald Bodkin? That'll do nicely, surely? But no, your publisher jibs on the ground that it's too ridiculously perfect to be true. Except, of course, that Sir Archibald Bodkin was exactly what he was called and the meeting really did take place. A very dodgy cove called William Forbes-Sempill was being put on the spot because of his obliging habit of leaking information to the Japanese, the only problem for his interrogators being that they couldn't let on that they knew everything already because that would reveal that they'd been tapping into diplomatic communications.
The Fall of Singapore: the Great Betrayal told the story of Forbes-Sempill and one other fellow traveller, a pioneering carrier pilot called Frederick Joseph Rutland, who went off to help the Japanese perfect the techniques they later applied against the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. In doing so, the film drew heavily on recently declassified documents and also rather over-egged the consequences of their treachery, the obtuseness of the British government being more than a match for Japanese skulduggery when it came to undermining defences in the Far East. In any case, Forbes-Sempill, in particular, seemed to occupy that murky no man's land that still exists between the promotion of the British arms industry and pre-emptive assistance to the enemy.
He also exemplified another national trait that hasn't entirely disappeared, which is the tendency of the British upper crust to look after their own when a chap is unfortunate enough to back the wrong horse. Forbes-Sempill assisted the Japanese with their anti-espionage activities. He was also an anti-Semite, with ideological reasons for sympathising with the Axis powers, but when he was caught making calls to the Japanese after the outbreak of hostilities, Churchill intervened to soften the terms of his punishment. While Rutland, who'd worked his way up through the ranks, was interned, Forbes-Sempill was offered the choice of resigning his Naval commission or taking up a position in northern Scotland, where he could do no harm. Floreat Etona, I guess.
Gok Cooks Chinese is from the bish-bosh school of cookery programmes, all fast cuts and – in this case – martial-arts sound effects. Gok channels Gordon Ramsay for the voiceover, says "Wok on!" more times than is strictly necessary, and also larks about the kitchen with his dad, who ran a Chinese restaurant when Gok was young. I seem to remember him making a rather moving film about how he was bullied when he was at school. I hadn't remembered that his father's restaurant was called Hung Lau, which can hardly have made things easier. If you like Gok's camper flourishes, incidentally, they've been toned down here, though he did milk the pause that followed the phrase, "Now I'm going to get my meat out." For about 20 seconds you thought you were going to get a blooper reel guffaw, but he controlled himself and finished the thought: "I love saying that!"
No bish-bosh in Great British Menu, but there was a rare rearguard action against the comprehensive Blumenthaling of the recipes, with one of the Welsh contenders offering a dish that required no waterbaths, frozen nitrogen or laboratory powders. Instead, he did a pigeon liver salad with accompanying sabayon. How down to earth you think a salad is when it's dressed in what is essentially a liver-flavoured custard is, I imagine, a matter of taste.
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