- 'Thank you for introducing me to a completely new sensation, Baldrick.'
- 'What's that, Mr Blackadder'
- 'Being pleased to see you.'
I love Blackadder in all his guises. In fact while gulping gas and air to produce eldest child, I was listening to audio recordings of Blackadder, much to the midwife's own amusement. Today, I was reminded of the above quote for a somewhat strange reason though.
To backtrack, as a teen I was always known as a bit Millie Tant. Always had a cause and a Left wing one at that. I shouted my way past 10 Downing Street under Thatcher, I went to anti Poll Tax meetings before it was even law and listened to ranting Scots telling what misery was on the way. I had the full collection of CND and Greenpeace badges. I think I was drunk for a week in the student union when Thatcher fell.
So today, it really stuck in my throat to realise that a series of programmes I wanted to watch were a) presented by Michael Portillo and b) really quite good. A new sensation indeed. Yes, while ironing for an hour, I was totally engrossed in Portillo's State Secrets on BBC2 iPlayer. Me, who was working in Westminster when he was still in power! Me, who knew his slayer Stephen Twigg as a fellow researcher! Oh dear, oh dear.
His State Secrets are a look at some of the papers hidden in the National Archives in Kew and the items chosen were mostly fascinating - everything from an X-Ray of Hitler's head to Henry VIII's catering list for a banquet and a job review for the official executioner. I haven't watched all the episodes yet but yes, I admit that I will be watching them, choke, choke...
Having been to the Archives myself, it was amazing to see behind the scenes and there is no doubt that the collection is astounding in its breadth. It was amusing, though, to note that Portillo did not show any signs of having done the National Archives training DVDs - which ordinary users must sit through before entry. Plus, of course, he did not have to join the queuing system in order to access his chosen items. I thought it was an unbelievably efficient system when I went but now, having seen the lengths of the corridors of documents, I am even more impressed by having been able to see my choices within an hour.
Portillo has been presenting TV for a while now but none of his previous efforts had managed to break down my prejudice. He seems now to be quite "reasonable" (to quote David Cameron's favourite description of his policies!) Maybe he has mellowed in old age or is just hiding his spots better these days. State Secrets is to be recommended if you can get past the presenter's history.
As for myself, my Millie Tant days are long since past. Not sold out, just tired out. I was swiftly disillusioned once I worked in politics and this year, twenty years later, for the first time in my adult life, I am not even sure who to vote for. Being for or against Thatcher was such a galvanising force when I was young. The current leaders just seem to merge into one blur. No chance of Blackadder's totally new sensation with them, I fear...