TELEVISION REVIEW / On scuttling ships and cutting throats
But then large white birds are a lot easier to protect than large white elephants, even if the elephant in question turns out some of the finest warships in the world. Time and time again in Fighting Ships (C4) people offered unsolicited testimonials to the quality of the work from the Swan Hunter shipyard, politic in some cases but heartfelt in most; it was part of the melancholy truth of Alan James's film that merit is no protection against the cold decisions of the market.
Gordon Horsfield, appointed as receiver to a company that owed around pounds 40m and had just lost a major order, used a surgical metaphor. If the patient is bleeding to death on the table, he suggested, you may have to cut off the odd limb. The men under the knife knew that he couldn't afford any anaesthetic. 'It's part of you getting cut away,' explained a solid man in overalls, who'd survived the latest round of redundancies but had seen old friends laid off. He held out his hand to show it trembling. 'I wor frightened, really frightened,' said another, describing the canteen meeting at which men had waited to hear their names called.
It didn't look like a clean amputation as the men trudged up the long sloping road out of the yard, at the beginning of their uphill battle against unemployment. It looked like a haemorrhage of skills that couldn't find a buyer any more. In the empty hangers, the lockers stood ajar, the names daubed on their doors a roll-call of those departed.
Gordon Horsfield was preparing a beast for market, which in industry means thinning down rather than fattening up. Even the trade unionist campaigner found himself using management vocabulary, telling a television interviewer that he was promoting a 'slimmer, more effective establishment than it was 10 months ago'. That accommodation with reality told its own sad story. The men, like him, were pinning their hopes on a new owner, but at the time even the freshening prospect of a sale to a German or French company didn't necessarily mean a reprieve. As Horsfield pointed out, the highest bid might come from a competitor who simply wanted to close the yard down, in which case he had been fittening up the business for slaughter. In the event it went to the French, a deal that was cleared by the Ministry of Defence only this week, but which is conditional on the yard getting the contract to refit the Sir Bedivere. They've finished with the surgeon's knife but the axe is still suspended.
Hang on a Second (C4) alerted you to the fact that at midnight last night an extra second was added to Universal Time. As far as I could work out from an enjoyable programme that leaned more to the Salvador Dali model of chronology than the Swiss version, this is because the earth has slipped a gear and fallen behind atomic time. This matters considerably to Martine Feissel (who has the splendid title 'Keeper of Universal Time') and so a leap second has been added. In case you think this is a trivial matter, the film pointed out that in one second Britons will eat 54 digestive biscuits. If only I'd known I would have stocked up against the extra demand.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 Stephen Hawking endorses Labour in the General Election
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show film
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding