Need some overblown nonsense about heroic truck drivers and impressive-sounding numbers? Send for Eddie Stobart
“Eddie Stobart is shifting up a gear,” we’re told at the start of series five (five!) of Eddie Stobart: Trucks and Trailers (Channel 5). “They’re already one of the kings of road and rail. Now they’re aiming high, flying to an ever-growing number of international destinations.”
What, there’s now an Eddie Stobart airline, is there? With green-and-red planes whose pilots are Yorkie-eating men with big bellies and tats? Oh, no – they now have one plane de-icing truck, operating at Southend Airport, glamorously. This show does a lot of that: turning the mundane into the extraordinary. So putting the plane de-icer to the “ultimate test” turns out to be … de-icing a plane. Guess what “the ultimate test” for trucker Peter Grant’s snow chains is? Yup, driving on a bit of snow. (The chains, incidentally are the “ace up [Peter's] sleeve in his fight against the frost.”)
The show throws a lot of impressive big numbers into the mix. Eddie Stobart’s red and green lorries drive half a million miles every day, the same distance as to the moon and back. The forest in Scotland where Peter, Eddie Stobart’s one and only log-wagon specialist, is picking up his logs is 100,000 acres in size, the same as 50,000 football pitches, and home to 40m trees. His monster 500-horsepower timber truck – Laura Jane – carries 25 tonnes of logs, the same weight as five elephants … etc.
Then there’s the odd truck-sounds-a-bit-like-fuck gag. Welsh driver Ashley Maddox has a day from “trucking hell” (he takes a few rolls of loft insulation from Wales and delivers them around London). And there’s a truckload of alliteration in the narration. “From the forests to the factory to the final destination in Kent is an epic 500-mile journey.” More big numbers, more heroic drivers, and a heroic rock guitar soundtrack, and there you have it, Eddie Stobart: Trucks and Trailers. I’d say it was more like an Eddie Stobart marketing film than a TV documentary. But then I’ve always been more of a Norbert Dentressangle man myself.
Miranda Richardson is one of Britain’s leading actors, and this year is chair of judges for the Women’s prize for fiction. On one thing she is clear: leave Hilary Mantel alone, she’s brilliant
Miranda Richardson was fully primed for a fight. Ahead of the recent meeting to decide the shortlist for the Women’s prize for fiction – previously the Orange prize – the actor, chair of this year’s judges, had her fists balled tight in defence of Hilary Mantel and her novel Bring Up the Bodies. Over the past six months, as Mantel racked up her second win in the Booker prize and her first in the Costa, before adding the David Cohen award – sometimes known as the “British Nobel” – to her haul last month, Richardson noticed a growing disdain for the writer’s success, a swirling bitterness. “I so despised the backchat that I heard in relation to Bring Up the Bodies,” she says, wrinkling her nose. “I picked up a very negative vibe, and it was very distasteful to me.”
There have been increasing murmurs that Mantel doesn’t need another prize, that less well-known writers could use the veneration instead. This undercurrent bubbled up ferociously in February, when an excellent, perceptive speech Mantel had given on society’s treatment of royalty was selectively quoted in the tabloids, her comments about the Duchess of Cambridge described as vicious and venomous. (These articles conveniently ignored the essay’s conclusion, which called for everyone “to back off and not be brutes” to Kate.) The hullabaloo was used by some as an excuse to kick Mantel in the most personal terms, to bring up her weight and infertility; an attempt, said the author later, to
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