Monday, 20 June 2011

Douglas Adams ... And thanks for all the fish

When I started this blog I was worried that I may not have enough to write about. The reality is that, despite regular blogging, I’ve struggled to keep up with events  - a sign of scraping the barrel bottom, perhaps?

Which is why I am only now writing about Towel Day. This day, the 25th May, marks the untimely death in 2001 at 49 of Douglas Adams, best known as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The name "Towel Day" comes from the Guide, which defines the towel as the most important item a hitchhiker can have and then goes on for a page or so extolling the virtues of the towel and all the uses to which it can be put. The Towel Day website shows how widely Adams is read and, incidentally, shows people celebrating with their towels ...

Douglas was in my year at school and, although I did not know him at all well, he seemed a nice enough guy – although he was on a different intellectual plane to me and most of my classmates. At a careers fair he was the one earnestly discussing a career at the BBC, while I was meandering aimlessly from stand to stand, picking up bits of promotional stuff and wondering what job two mediocre A levels would equip me for.

I haven't read much of Hitchhiker’s Guide recently. I did watch the 1981 BBC adaption (Douglas’s overtures to the BBC had paid off) with some admiration – more for the cleverness of his constructed alternative world than anything else. I’ve only seen snippets of it since, but it does feel a bit dated – which is generally not good for a piece of science fiction, even a humorous one.

The film in 2005 still appeared dated but also lacked the warmth of the TV production.

But I did enjoy the adaption of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency that the BBC showed last year. Critics said that this wasn't very close to the original and I'm sure that the cast - Stephen Mangan, Helen Baxendale, and Darren Boyd - contributed much to its success. Nevertheless, I'm glad to say that the BBC is now filming a further three episodes, and these will appear on BBC4 later this year. Here's a link to the BBC preview to the pilot episode.

Incidentally, other luminaries from my year at school included Charlie Thomson of the Stuckists - who was in my class but I don’t recall being very ‘arty’; and Griff Rhys Jones (actually in the year below, although we probably overlapped in the sixth form) – who I don’t recall being especially 'funny'.

Tracey Emin, Charlie Thomson and Billy Childish
(before they fell out and Tracey became rich and famous)
Both seemed nice enough guys then, and they haven't done badly since. Griff got a share of £62m when he sold Hat Trick Productions, and Charlie is a fairly (in)famous artist - although he seems more than a little nerdy in this video on the Stuckists website.

Anyway, to get back to Douglas Adams: Although he achieved a lot in his life, the biggest impact on me was to make me think – pretty much for the first time – that we are all getting older and are all mortal. Heavy, man ...

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