Let's try doing this again! Yes, let's!
WATCHING: The Mystery of Edwin Drood / Horizon Special (both BBC2/BBC HD). The BBC has done some stirling work these last few weeks marking Charles Dickens' 200th birthday. The biggie was a three-part adaptation of Great Expectations between Christmas and New Year, and excellent it was too, but to my surprise it was bested by The Mystery of Edwin Drood - all the more surprising given the source material is famously unfinished.
It was an absolute pleasure to watch, with some superb acting - Matthew Rhys' performance as John Jasper was remarkable - some exceedingly Dickensian characters played at just the right level of theatricality (take a bow, third-person-referring Durdles, the office-loathing Bazzard and Deputy, best urchin ever) balancing out the brooding fevered darkness at the heart of the central character, the whole thing beautifully filmed and scored. All that, and a genuinely satisfying ending, so bravo to Gwyneth Hughes for pulling that off - I'd like to think Mr Dickens would have been quite delighted. An excellent start to the year for BBC Drama - if you missed it, do catch both parts on iPlayer until 10pm 18 January. A Blu-Ray release wouldn't go amiss...
Also excellent, also on BBC2, though pretty much the polar opposite of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was The Hunt for Higgs - the Higgs bosun, that is. This was a Horizon special, presented by Falling Sky favourite Jim Al-Khalili, essentially getting into what they're up to over at CERN and why 2012 is going to be so exciting. It was fascinating stuff, pitched at just the right level of complexity - no mean feat given the science involved. Catch it on the iPlayer until 10pm 24 January.
LISTENING: We've been indulging in unabashed clichéd French music thanks to Putumayo's French Café compilation. It's the soundtrack to the perfect imagined French café, and while there are contemporary artists on there it's not a reflection of the modern French music scene. It is, nevertheless, a real pleasure to listen to. There's 13 tracks, not a duff one among them, though I particularly like the fun that Jane Birkin has with each syllable of Elaeudania Teiteia, and the beautiful melancholy of Un Jour Comme Un Autre by Brigitte Bardot (both touched by the hand of Gainsbourg, who also makes an appearance on this album). Tres belle.
READING: The coverage this week concerning the eventual referendum on Scottish independence has been of wildly varying quality. Obviously, given my employer, I'm not going to start sounding off my own opinions on this here site, and recommendations of articles should not be taken as endorsements of either side. Proviso in place, I very much enjoyed this refreshingly long post by the Economist's Bagehot columnist recounting an interview with Alex Salmond earlier this week. The comments, inevitably, get into the usual ranting territory that any online article about Scottish independence does, but the piece itself is a fine one. Too often, particularly south of the border, the issue (and individuals involved) are painted far too simplistically, hysterically, all pantomime, indignation and stroppiness. The issue, the considerations and the consequences for those both north and south of the Tweed deserve much better than that. Whether you support Salmond's policies or not, he is unquestionably one of, if not the, most interesting and charismatic politicians in British politics right now, and the Bagehot post gives a real flavour of that - plus the delicious line "It felt a bit like interviewing a teddy bear driving a bulldozer."