I still have to tell you about our bread making exploits, and our trip to the food festival, but my mind has been distracted by other things, well one other thing in particular, and I need to share it with you.
Recently, Matilda and I have watched quite a lot of history programmes. We are watching the excellent series on The Normans, by the BBC. There are only three episodes, but we have other things to fit in between the episodes and lots of film making to do, so we like to take things at a leisurely pace. We are also fitting in programmes on Rome in between our English history. It’s all go here at the coal face of home education.
Last night we also watched a fascinating programme on BBC4 about Anglo Saxon treasures, which was presented by an art historian. She showed how the decoration on the treasures changed as England evolved under different cultures and leaders, from Roman influences, through the beliefs of the Danes and Vikings and on into the early Christian church, both with input from the Irish church, and the early church in Rome. It was wonderful, and there were lots of sparkly bling things to delight the heart.
What I have noticed in both these programmes though is a new fashion in the world of presenting historical information. It seems that it is very important, while you are telling your public about Dane Law, or the Book of Kells or William the Conqueror, that you stride about purposefully. It is not the done thing anymore to sit down and look earnest. You must keep moving.
I wonder why this is?
Perhaps it is so that you are not an easy target for the anti-history documentary brigade. Those guerilla groups who think that there should be more current affairs programmes on the telly, and that tax payers money is being wasted with all this nonsense about the past, and glorified field trips to Normandy?
Perhaps the blame should be laid at Simon Schama’s door? He has been responsible for revolutionising the world of the historical television programming after all. No more the balding man with the crazy comb over and leather look patches on his tweed blazer. No more pointing at photographs of a series of low walls in the drizzle at three in the morning while the Open University theme tune bongs away in the background.
No, Simon has made history sexy. With his tousled, come hither hair, his focus on sex, scandal and all that is salacious, and his leather jackets flying in the wind as he strides purposefully across a windswept beach.
Well, I don’t mind when Simon does it. He makes it look easy. But that must be the touch of a true master. Because it really isn’t easy. I watched the poor Professor Robert Bartlett, talking about the Normans whilst huffing and puffing up hill and down dale. He looked knackered. When he was manfully slogging through the fen lands, up to his ankles in cold, boggy water, you could tell his mind wasn’t on Hereward the Wake, it was on the fact that his socks were sopping, and what he really wanted was to sit down and have a cup of tea and a towel down in front of a roaring log fire.
Similarly Dr. Nina Ramirez, who we watched last night was toiling away, mostly marching through the highways and byways of Kent whilst expounding the glories of this belt buckle and that sword, all the time wearing three inch high stiletto, winkle picker boots, and looking extraordinarily uncomfortable.
I found it very distracting if I’m honest. I kept thinking: ‘Oh lovey. Just sit down for a minute. Your feet must be killing you. Surely you should have picked a more sensible shoe, or possibly just taken a taxi?’
I have decided to found an anti-striding movement, solely for the world of history based television programmes. I shall start with with a petition to the BBC. I prefer my presenters sedentary, or at least more limber if they will insist on wandering about all the time. Perhaps I could start a collection and use it to fund ‘The Simon Schama Historical Fitness Programme’?
Clearly anyone can find out about history, but it is a whole other ball game walking and talking about it at the same time. It is something best left to the experts.
Simon, we salute you and your skilful perambulations.