I was all set, in full rant mode. But within minutes of Kate Humble appearing on the box it was forgotten, and I was taken elsewhere.
I had read an interview with the blonde and curly-mopped one a few days earlier, over at Wanderlust, and was looking forward to Wild Shepherdess airing on our screens. But in that first episode, in the High Pamir mountains of Afghanistan, my expectations were exceeded.
It’s all about People & Places for me, and the Wakhan Valley and the villagers clinging to life with their flocks did it for me. Gladly would I have tucked into that steaming sheips’ heid stew served up at the end, blood, guts and all. I hope the families were well rewarded for this intrusion from the west, and much more than in the price of a valuable member of the flock and a rare nosh up.
Yurts were packed on yaks’ backs, all poles, trellis, crown and rolls of felt, as the families moved from the high plains to lower ground. Coloured finery came out for the occasion. Every night the flocks are gathered, safe from marauding wolves, and milked, by hand. Children know no other life than gathering and tending, milking, and packing. Few survive.
Bread is made, flatbreads, stretched over a yak dung fire; and butter is churned, for hours, by hand, and for hours more, in a smoky yurt; womens’ work, as most of it is.
Life expectancy is a pitiful 35 years, each one of those hard years etched deeply in toughened skin. Back here there are parts of this civilised, democratised, developed, fourth most unequal society that we have allowed to be created, that are not far behind. But life in the High Pamir seems so much richer than the degradation on our streets.
I’m looking forward to hearing what our Welsh shepherd makes of the altiplano alpacas. But I won’t be reading a preview in The Scotsman next weekend, which was the subject of the rant.
For some years now I’ve tried to take some time out of a Saturday morning, a pot of fresh-brewed decaff and a morning paper or two on the kitchen table. It’s the book reviews, and the travel articles that prompt the purchase, my only version of the dead-tree press these days. One paper fell by the wayside, as book reviews space was decimated.
But The Scotsman retained excellent book reviews; eight full pages. And the family got a seven day TV guide. Until last weekend.
For the Saturday magazine had a revamp. Books were cut from eight pages to four. Even television was a victim of The Cuts, with only two days scheduled instead of seven. And for that pitiful output I’m expected to pay a higher cover price.
So The Scotsman can add at least one more to the 50,000 or so ex-readers, circulation plummeting to 30,000 or so these days. They can explain to advertisers why that is so; though even that is only done half yearly now as they escape the monthly audits of the nationals by downgrading their own status to that of a regional. It is dead.
And I’m not even going to think about the rest of the paper, for it would line the litter tray if puss had such a thing. But he doesn’t so it goes straight to the recycling pile, a victim of editorial policy – a grand paper once, a grand title; but one with colours nailed to the mast, and opinions I have no interest in reading.
Now I told you I wasn’t going to rant. Think I need another does of La Humble. Where’s that iPlayer? Any suggestions for a weekly book section?
PS And just because it’s Monday morning, here’s one to really rant about.