So I’m sitting in my garden, soaking up the rays while flicking through the papers, when I’m stopped in my tracks by an advert on page 12 of The Times. Dunno why, as I’ve always felt I don’t look at adverts. As any fule no, adverts are just there to make photos smaller in papers and magazines, or to give you something to doodle on while in morning conference. In these dark days of credit crunch and the collapse of the advertising industry, I suppose we should all thank Evans for small Murphys (some more than others) and embrace whatever adverts actually make it into print, and thus keeping us in the poverty to which we’ve so readily become accustomed, but I do fluctuate between annoyance and agnosticism when I see a dirty great Halfords or Waitrose ad where a perfectly good story, or even better, a photo should be.
Anyway, I digress. So the offending item this time is a Samsung colour half-page ad for mobile phones. An attractive young couple grapple with each other next to insets of two mobiles, underneath the legend “Ourselves. Together” whatever that means. But something struck me about those words—they felt rather familiar. So off I popped to the wonderful web world of Wikipedia. Something in the back of my pickled mind led me to believe that Sinn Féin was a translation of just that: Ourselves Together. Was this electronics giant really a front for Irish Republicanism ? Would Chelsea soon be playing their matches in shirts emblazoned with Gerry Adams’ hairy boat ? As I should have known only too well after the week at work I’ve had, the answer was no. I was wrong. But only just.
Here’s the entry:
Sinn Féin:…The name is Irish for “ourselves” or “we ourselves”, although it is frequently mistranslated as “ourselves alone”.
Now given that around 64% of what’s on Wikipedia is a load of old cobblers, I still could be right. Wikipedia is about as reliable as a Jacqui Smith expense claim or an Ant n Dec phone-poll, so perhaps my memory has served me better than I think. Maybe not.
But where did I glean this little nugget of half-truth? Well I knew all those hours on the sofa would pay off in the end: It came to me that there’s an episode of Columbo where he investigates a murder of an Oirish (you should hear the accents in the show) republican sympathiser. The episode was full of begorrahs and to be sure, to be sures and ginger-haired young men, drinking whiskey and stout, wearing aran sweaters. The do-er is an Oirish wroiter who is undone by the fact he inscribes the inside cover of a book at a signing with Together Ourselves (I thought). There, I’ve gone and ruined the ending for you now, haven’t I? No matter— as it’s the wont of the series, you always know who the killer is during the opening credits and the fun is to be had by the in-jokes liberally sprinkled through each episode: his signature whistle of knick-knack-paddy-wack; his endearing habit of ‘just one more question, sir”; his battered Peugeot and the fact that Mrs Columbo is never ever seen on screen. Often she was mentioned in dispatches but the producers occasionally had fun with us by dangling the carrot in front of us that she was about to appear— but she never did. Mrs Columbo is one of man tv spouses who remain unseen: Dad’s Army‘s, Mrs Mainwaring; Rumpole‘s She Who Must be Obeyed; Arthur Daly‘s Er Indoors; Porrige‘s Mrs Barraclough to name a few. What a lovely way to be married— to an anonymous, faceless woman who’s never around. Perhaps that’s where I went wrong?
Peter Falk’s shambolic detective never carried a gun, didn’t even have a truncheon (night stick, y’all) and always showed his badge as identification. Remember those days? The Wire it weren’t. If it wasn’t for his willingness to identify himself, and his lack of violent tendencies Columbo could have joined the Met.
It’s a chilling thought that had Big Crosby not turned down the part when he was offered it, the famous mac might have been replaced by a straw trilby and a pipe, and each case would have revolved around a golf course. Falk, of course, eventually made the part his own (it had been played by 2 other actors in the 60’s) and he became tv’s highest-paid actor for a while. Like Grandpa Simpson and his MacGyver I’ve been addicted to the show for years and was stunned to see one on tv the other day which not only hadn’t I seen before but in which the killer was neither Patrick McGoohan nor Robert Vaughn. McGoohan and Falk were best mates and not only did the former star of The Prisoner win two Emmys for his roles, he also directed quite a few shows. I know there are those who are horrified that USTV has remade The Prisoner starring something called a Jim Caviezel as No.6 and Dame Serena McKellen as either No. 2 or a number 2, it’s not clear. Why do they insist on doing this ? I’m not great fan of the original, but some things surely are sacrosanct ? I’m sure somewhere in managerial meetings within HBO or ABC there’ll be plans to remake Ice Cold in Alex starring Hugh Jackman, or Casablanca with Cate Blanchett as Rick Blaine. If I get a whiff that they’re tee-ing up Owen Wilson to don a scruffy raincoat and play LAPD‘s favourite homicide detective in something called Columbo: the Party-on Years I shall invite you all to join me in a violent bout of civil unrest. Together. Ourselves.