Peter Rhodes on a fairytale village, too many trees and dragons at Trooping the Colour

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Staithes – lovely, but little (Photo: Chris Kirk)
Staithes – lovely, but little (Photo: Chris Kirk)

I suggested a few days ago that the power of The Crown (Netflix) is that it features real people and that if the characters were fictitious it would not be such a crowd-puller. A reader counters: “Game of Thrones is set in imaginary kingdoms, concerns royal families and is watched by millions.” Hmm.

Not really a fair comparison, is it? Game of Thrones, being entirely fictitious, can offer warfare, nudity, dragons and multiple disembowellings while The Crown, being based on borin' ol' facts, has to get by with divorce, grumbling and Trooping the Colour.

Who can deny that if our own dear Queen reviewed an army composed of Dothraki cavalry, and warhammer-wielding psychopathic giants in Horse Guards Parade, it would get more viewers? The 2020 Trooping the Colour had to be abandoned because of the virus. There is time to plan something really special for 2021. Dragons flying up the Mall? Bring 'em on.

Staithes is off the main road and down a footpath from the visitors' car park. This may explain why the Yorkshire village is so small, so charming and so unchanged. Using Staithes as a setting for Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing (BBC1) pressed all the buttons marked nostalgia, heritage and good company. After Bob and Paul's visit earlier this month, tourism inquiries about Staithes have reportedly “gone ballistic,” with much interest in the self-catering old fishing cottages used by the pair. And good luck to the punters. But having visited Staithes for an afternoon, I'd be wary of booking for more than a couple of nights. It is very small. One ten-minute walk and a pint in the pub and that's Staithes. And as with any other much-loved movie location, the stars won't actually be there. And nor will the soulful background music, the wistful lighting or the gourmet meals, prepared at your command. Telly flatters.

Staithes is also the setting for the children's TV series, Old Jack's Boat., starring Bernard Cribbins. On our trip there a few years ago we were impressed with the number of locals who, without any bidding, said what a lovely bloke he was.

Talking of which, I was pleased, some months ago, to direct you to BBC4 and that charming 1980s series, The Art of Painting with the late, great Bob Ross. He was a remarkable man, not only for his TV art classes, followed avidly every week by millions of brush-in-hand Americans, but for his love of wildlife and his talent for saving and raising tiny orphaned birds and animals.

But Ross had a bit of a thing about trees. How many of his 30-minute masterpieces would be much improved without the addition, in the closing minutes, of a “happy ol' tree” dominating the foreground? In a recent programme, Bob admitted many viewers felt the same way. His response, treating us all as potential artists, was a smiling: “If you don't wanna tree, don't have a tree.” I bet nobody ever disliked Bob Ross.

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