TV

Someone pointed out to me the other day that a profile of the Virgin Mary appears in the opening and closing credits of EastEnders (BBC1) . This is one of those facts which, once admitted to the vestibule of the mind, is almost impossible to eject again. Because when you look with the eyes of faith - or even scepticism - there does seem to be something vaguely icon-like about a small loop of Bow Creek opposite the site of the Millenium Dome. The Mother of God is looking across the river with a conventional sorrowing expression, probably aggravated in this case by the fact that she is directly under the flightpath into London Docklands Airport.

Soaps are a form of sacred observance for many, of course, and like any religion they have their days of obligation - episodes which are must- watches for the devotee. This year the apostolic powers at the BBC have arranged that one them should coincide with the calender of the Christian church. So Good Friday will be notable for some viewers not because it is the commemoration of Christ's crucifixion, but because it is the date on which Kathy is supposed to leave for South Africa, a plot development which last night led to a small crowd of besotted men gazing forlornly up at her lighted window and - rather more sulkily - at each other. The episode, which also delivered the verdict on Ian's custody battle with Cindy, ended on a question mark, as all good teasers should. Kathy admitted that she was having doubts about her flight to the sun because there was someone she would be sad to leave. "Who, Kathy? Who?" said Pat in anguished tones, cuing the bongos. Tune in tonight to find out... possibly.

Like a religion, EastEnders also has its fixed rituals. I'm not a regular attender myself, but even so I've noticed that it's almost impossible to go for more than four episodes without either Grant or Phil reminding one another of their fraternal status - this week "You're me bruvver" came on Tuesday, after a brief recriminatory exchange about Kath's secret plan. If you missed it, don't worry, because another one will be along soon, perhaps sooner than is usually the case, given that Grant has been showing rather too much concern for Kathy's feelings about the outcome of the court case. In a plot development which almost exactly parallels Mike Baldwin's difficulties with Alma in Coronation Street, his Good Samaritan act is beginning to put a strain on his marriage. In another parallel, the British justice system has once again proved itself capable of shocking perversity, the judge having decided in favour of Cindy, a serial adulterer who employs hired-killers. This is understandably causing some comment in Walford, but I'm not too worried, because Ian has Claire Grogan on his side and she seems fiercely determined to extend her presence as guest star with the help of a really vicious appeal.

Hired guns happened to be the subject of last night's Dispatches (C4), though I imagine that Executive Outcomes, a company which provides security services to third world governments, would not like the description. In John Updike's latest novel, set in post-apocalyptic America, there is a black, running joke about the re-emergence of civil governance. At first, local thugs run a basic protection racket for prosperous citizens. Then Federal Express moves in on the business, realising that its corporate structure make it perfectly placed to offer privatised stability. In the case of some of the more wretched countries on the planet this black joke has come true. For a very large sum, and a thick slice of mineral rights, Executive Outcomes will deliver a small army anywhere in the world. They claim to be the acceptable face of the mercenary, operating under the Geneva Convention and respecting democratic mandates. But Dispatches suggested that the rosy picture delivered by their corporate video might not match the facts on the ground. What's more it argued that - however damaging this kind of private enterpriseis to vulnerable countries - it suits Western Governments to look the other way. Here is a "peace-keeping" force which costs domestic tax-payers nothing, protects Western interests in important resources and can be piously denounced the instant anything goes wrong. No wonder the founders are making a killing.

Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect