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tv   Talking Books  BBC News  September 22, 2018 2:30am-3:01am BST

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who accused his us supreme court nominee, brett kavanaugh, of sexual assault. christine blasey ford said judge kavanaugh tried to rape her when they were both teenagers. british prime minister theresa may has delivered a defiant statement about her plans for brexit. she has called on the eu to show britain more respect. european council president donald tusk said he remains convinced they can still find a compromise. alcohol kills three million people worldwide each year, more than aids, violence and road accidents combined, that's according to a new report from the world health organization, which says men are particularly at risk. the report also stresses that harm from drinking is greater among poorer consumers than wealthier ones. it was the programme that some parents didn't want their their children to watch because of its real to life gritty storylines. yet, grange hill went on to become
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one of the nation's most loved childrens tv shows. to celebrate its 40th anniversary, tim muffett grabbed his satchel and went back to school with some of its former stars. back to school, with todd carty, aka tuckerjenkins... cos we hate you grange hill lot. we hate you, an' all! i still get, to this day, "tucker!" armstrong, who played alan humphreys... you're taking a chance. i think the question i get asked more than anything else is, "did i go to school with you?" ..and linda magistris, alan's on—screen girlfriend, flippin‘ ‘eck, fat man, you're well away there, me old son! we're at kingsbury high school in north london, where most of the first two series of grange hill was filmed. 39 years since we were last here. it smells like grange hill! i don't think any of us
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were prepared at all, because we didn't know what the impact would be. didn't realise that, you know, nine, ten, 11 million children and parents would be watching it. let's see what mrs mccluskey has to say about this, shall we? get lost! we had dyslexia, we have bullying, we had racism, smoking. that's what made it something that people suddenly went, "what's going on?" you know? "what is this? " "should we be showing it to kids?" to mark its 40th birthday, fans have been gathering for grange hill get—togethers. a chance to meet the cast and raise money for the good grief trust, a bereavement charity set up by linda. queueing round the block at elstree studios, it was just unbelievable. and they all came laden with all their memorabilia that they've kept for years. move your arm, fat man. grange hill ran for 30 years, often grabbing the headlines. zammo! zammo's heroin addiction, perhaps its most controversial storyline. also the way it dealt
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with relationships between teachers and pupils as well, like baxter. terrifying. useless! and you rugby tackled him, i remember. idid. he barged his way through everybody, and at the very end of the line was me. well done, lad. tomorrow, cast and fans will meet at the former bbc tv centre in west london but, to some, this school is grange hill's spiritual home. what's it been like to be back? amazing. just fantastic. fantastic memories. and what the devil do you think you're doing? flipping ‘eck, it's baxter! tim muffett, bbc news. the theme music takes you right back, doesn't it? now on bbc news, talking books. hello and welcome to talking books. i'm at the man booker 50 festival at the southbank centre in london. we've come to talk to dame hilary
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mantel, the only woman to have won the man booker prize for fiction twice for her bestselling historical novels... wolf hall her otherfiction may take you by surprise, with books about ghosts, the supernatural, and the french revolution. the world, of course, eagerly awaits the next instalment of her hugely successful thomas cromwell trilogy, the mirror and the light. hilary mantel, welcome to talking books. we will come to the mirror and the light in due course, but i want to start with the books you have written. i2 novels, short stories, a memoir,
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and i was very struck by how very different they are — from 800 pages on the french revolution to performing psychics in suburbia, your subjects are unpredictable. how deliberate is that? it's not really deliberate, it's just i don't know how people manage to write the same book over and over again, because you grow, you change, your interests change. although to me, there are subterranean threads that connect them, however disparate the subject matter they seem to believe. i do wonder if by resisting categorisation, did that potentially prevent you building an audience early in your career? i think possibly it did. it's tempting for publishers and readers to want to put an author into a category. and, to that extent, they want to be served the mixture as before. and, as you say, you couldn't really
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predict what i was going to come up with next, and there's a mixture of the contemporary and the historical, which i agree is probably quite unusual. success, when it came in the form of international recognition, fame, money, i presume, came relatively late in your career. did you feel you'd been ignored up til then? i'd always had good press, but not many sales. that changed. as soon as wolf hall was published, actually, even before the prize shortlistings. and i felt i hadn't pushed out my talent to find where it might go. so i still felt like a work in progress. so as you said, in many ways, wolf hall was the turning point. career—wise, yes, it was a huge turning point. not only in domestic sales, but translations. i think it had gone into 36, 37 languages.
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and it's just amazing to think that people on the four corners of the earth are reading about henry viii and his wives. well, what you did was followed up with another man booker winner in 2012, didn't you, with bring up the bodies? yes. i did wonder, how did people's attitudes towards you changed after those two victories? do you know, a lot of people thought they were my first books. and lovely, well—meaning people, women mainly, would rush up to me and say, how wonderful you did all of this in your 50s. and i'd feel a little bit sulky, because i would think, you know, i have been writing since i was 22. i wrote for 12 years before i was published. and that is a more typical career. but people love the idea of an overnight success. wolf hall and bring up the bodies, these books cover what must be the most famous periods in english
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history, the most talked about, the most written about. i think indeed you've said to me once that the topics are the british national soap opera, isn't it? yes, it is. what did you think you could add that was new? cromwell is vital to understanding the crucial ten years of henry's reign. and, if you stand where he is standing, then this familiar material defamiliarises itself and becomes a much more complex and rich story than we are used to from our schooldays. it's the most remarkable career, and it is the arc of it. you know, the son of the brewer blacksmith from putney, rising to become earl of essex. you have to ask yourself, how is that done? thomas cromwell, people say, that's an ingenious man.
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do you know he knows the whole of the new testament by heart? he is the very man of an argument about god breaks out. he's the very man for telling your tenants 12 good reasons their rents are fair. he's man to cut through some legal entanglement that has ensnared you for three generations. or talk your sniffling little daughter into the marriage she swears she will never make. with animals, women, and timid little ones, his manner is gentle and easy. but he makes your creditors weep. he can converse with you about the caesars, or get you venetian glassware at a very reasonable rate. nobody can out—talk him. if he wants to talk.
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nobody can better keep their head when markets are falling and weeping men are standing on the street tearing up letters of credit. "liz", he says to his wife, one night, "i believe in a year or two, we'll be rich." thank you. in the novels, you challenge the traditional view of cromwell. he was always depicted as a villain, and you make a much more sympathetic character, dare i say it even quite beguiling. so what was it that you discovered to contradict that traditional view? well, i discovered a lot of rubbish, really. errors and prejudices just being kicked along from one generation of historians to the next. in many ways, he deserves his reputation. he was ambitious and unscrupulous. he was hardheaded. he was ruthless. but i think, no more so than the typical courtier of his time.
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but he was a lot smarter. yes. so it is your view the historians got it wrong? not all of them. it's interesting sometimes to see what a novelist gets or takes away from a simple piece of documentation that a historian may not notice. but how historically accurate do you feel you have to be? i think you have to be absolutely accurate, as far as the record extends. but of course you have to be challenging the record, and you have to be saying, "who wrote this down, and what was his source of information?" so in that sense, you're getting behind the record. but i think in cromwell‘s case, certainly, you have to be very suspicious of secondary sources. you see, to the elizabethans, cromwell was a hero. by the time we got to the victorians, he was a villain.
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so something happened at some stage in between, and he is a reflection, like most historical figures, of the times. we are not looking at him, we are looking in a mirror. you explain that very well. i think that's a very interesting point. how and when did you become interested in him? because you'd wanted to write about him since the start of your career, hadn't you? i began work on a historical novel when i was very young, 22, not long out of university. and i really saw myself as a historical novelist, and i thought, right, first i will do the french revolution and then i'll turn my mind to thomas cromwell. and of course it doesn't work like that. no one's career is that smooth. and just as well, because i could write about the french revolution then, it was made by young men and women.
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i was even younger than they were. mostly they were dead by their mid—30s. you were 22? i was in my 20s and 30s when i was working on the book. and i could recognise their spirit and their hope, and their commitment and energy. i couldn't write that book now. but i can write about a man in his 50s building up and accumulating his life's experience. so i think, you know, the time when you get an idea for a book, that is not necessarily the time to execute it. sometimes you have to wait a couple of decades and then pick your moment to strike. 2003, and your memoir, giving up the ghost, in which you write about your childhood, growing up in the 19505
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in northern england, but you also explain how you came to be a writer. that was not your original plan, you were going to be a politician and a lawyer. what happened ? yes, never under ambitious. ithink... it is difficult, you know? a woman from a working—class background with no connections trying to get into law at that time, i wasn't even interested in being a solicitor, i wanted to be a barrister. it was difficult in those days. i wanted to come to london and the centre of things. but also i had health problems. i had an undiagnosed illness. but i was told that i was imagining it all. but by the time i was 21, really had a sensation of doors closing on me. and a feeling that i was not
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going to be able to make a professional career, that my health was in my way, and so i thought, well, i better have something that i am in charge of. and i still had to work, of course. i still had a job, but i started writing in the evenings, on the weekends, and i set my stall out for a big novel that i knew would take many years. but that is the beauty of being 22, because the time just stretches ahead of you. and i still had no connections, and i didn't know anybody who was a writer. but what do you need? well, you need a piece of paper and a pencil and you are ready to go. so are you telling me that if you had not been ill, you would not have become a writer? i certainly would not have taken the decision at that precise time. i think possibly i would have made my way back to writing
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when i was living abroad, during which time i didn't have any meaningful career, so i think perhaps i would have come back to writing at a later stage. but then it would not have been the same book, because i would have been a different self. yes. and of course you drew on your experiences in botswana and later in saudi arabia in novels that you did write. yes, that's right. a change of climate. i wrote about southern africa. although at an earlier era — i wrote about it in the 19505. so that was a historical novel of a kind. and then i wrote eight months ghazzah street, set in saudi arabia, reflecting my four years there. we've touched upon your illness, and as you said, it was undiagnosed for many years, and eventually you were diagnosed with endometriosis. that rendered you infertile. i was very struck by a lying
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in giving up the ghost. you wrote, "i miss the child i never had — what's to be done but to write them into being?" is it fair to say you have created the children you never had in yourfiction? it would be fair to say i've created lives. they're more like a great tribe of brothers and sisters, i think. your people, your world. you realise that you only have one life to live and you want to try on for size all the other lives. and you want to move into different eras and you want to live in a man's body for a while, and all these things writing enables you to do. you mentioned the french revolution — this epic 800 page novel, which was finally published, a place of greater safety, although it was previously rejected by publishers, hadn't it, that must have
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been difficult, was it? it seemed that someone who would write such a book must be someone of tremendous authority, someone we had heard of from oxford or cambridge. and it wasjust little me. and i don't think people could get their heads around it. they didn't know what it was. and thankfully, what i did, instead of turning around every publisher in london with it, ijust said, stop, this isn't the time, go away, write another book, do the best you can, but make it completely different. which was every day is mother's day. yes, a contemporary novel, short, funny. if that doesn't take, i would have thought i was deluded myself and stopped. but fortunately it did take. so the first decade, 12 years of my writing, was very rocky.
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my morale sank sometimes. i needed a lot of self belief to keep going. but once every day is mother's day hit the right desk, and that was the desk of the literary agent who still looks after me, everything went swimmingly, comparatively. yes. and finally, a place of greater safety was published. it was, and it won the sunday express book of the year prize. and i felt vindicated, in a sense. i mean, you started a huge epic about the french revolution. where does one start? well, manchester was my only choice. between the central reference library and the university. there was a very good collection of material and i simply read everything i could get my hands on. i was short on primary sources, but what i got were armfuls of gossipy victorian biographies.
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victorian—era biographies. which provided all the colour, the anecdotes, the personalities, and i built up from there. i've seen the binders and folders of research notes that you have, labelled "people," "places," "customs," "manners." at what point as a writer do you say, "i've done enough research now, i need to start writing?" well, to me, the two things are entwined. you know... you start them together, you run them together, and then until you come into a particular scene you may not know what you need to know. or it may be that some little piece of information that comes your way, and it need not be information, you might see a picture or hear some
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music, and it starts you off on a new trail. so you think, right, this is the background music to the scene. i will write the song and we will sing it and change the mood, you know? or you decide to describe an event through describing a painting, and it cuts through the complexities. and so you're always looking, not just for information from the historical record, but for a cultural context that will help you frame a scene. and i think that never stops. then, a little later, came another completely different novel, beyond black. you mentioned at the very beginning
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there are themes you return to in your books, and this theme of the supernatural is one of those. so where did this interest in a world beyond ours come from? probably from being brought up as a roman catholic. you're quite convinced that there is another unseen reality that is more potent than this one. and that this world is actually the illusion, something in which you are transitory, and it doesn't really matter. what really matters is the world where the dead people are. and that was powerfully true to me as a small child. i think i lost a sense of it as i grew up and moved away from the church. but that sense of another reality, sitting on your shoulder where your guardian angel is supposed to be, that's very powerful in my life. i really feel that the dead
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are only a whisper away. do you believe in ghosts? ghosts! i know about ghosts. i have to believe in ghosts. beyond black, which is a contemporary novel, and takes place mostly within the m25, is actually a kind of work—up for the tudor novels, because it is all about the dead who won't lie down. the dead are on every page of that book, nattering away about all sorts of banal topics. and the whole theme of talking to the dead and being available to them, i was actually setting the schedule for my next 15 years of work, but i didn't know it at the time. yes.
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which brings us neatly to the mirror and the light, the eagerly anticipated final instalment in your thomas cromwell trilogy. so how is it going? it's going well. it hasjust suddenly taken a leap forward, and just last week i could email my editor and say, since i emailed you last week, i have done 12,000 words, and they are good words. 12,000 words is nothing, but you suddenly think, now, this project, it's pulling away from its moorings, you know? it really wants to be written. and i think i am probably entering into the most frenzied but also, in a way, the most pleasurable days of the writing, where it seems to have taken charge and it is doing it itself. can you envisage a writing life beyond thomas cromwell now? there is so much i want to do. and notjust in prose but maybe
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in the theatre as well. and it is just a question of how much stamina have i got, what time have i got left? each project takes years to realise. so i have to have a long think. i have ideas for two or three more novels, and i am going to have to make some hard choices, i think. hillary mantel, thank you so much. thank you. hello. very mixed weather for this weekend, some improvements on the way for next week. storm bronagh swept away and following that we had a cold blustery wind on friday with some showers and plenty of rainbows. this weekend it is going to be wettest across southern parts of the uk at cool for all of us. we have seen bronagh heading up towards scandinavia, battering here with gales and severe gales, the cool showery airflow being replaced by this cloud coming in from the atlantic. quickly that cloud is coming
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into england and wales and northern ireland. thickest cloud in the south—west. outbreaks of rain in the south—west into wales, perhaps into the south midlands and later into the south—east of england as well. sunny spells and a few showers to scotland, but not very warm anywhere really. 13—14 degrees at best. under that rain in the south—west it will be a miserable day, could get more rain through the midlands, east anglia during the evening before it fades away and then more rain returns from the atlantic and this time it moves further north. still cold air to scotland and northern ireland, temperatures in scotland down to two or three degrees. into sunday sunshine and showers to scotland, improving in northern ireland but rain for england and wales, miserable day, as it clears away we get the sunshine, watch out for the strengthening winds on the back edge of that rain, it could well be gale force,
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and of course it will be a cold day. maybe only 11—12 degrees in some places. now, that area of low pressure deepens as it leaves our shores, takes the wind and rain with it, and it allows high pressure to build in quickly from the atlantic. that means the weather is going to be settling down. there will be showers across northern scotland where it will be quite windy still on monday, then some stronger winds down these north sea coasts. away from here, light winds, a fair bit of sunshine around. pleasant enough on monday but still not that warm, 16 degrees at very best. we are getting high pressure building on across the uk because the jet stream is moving further north. as we saw over the past week, jet streams pickup areas of low pressure and these areas of low pressure are going to be steered to the north—west of the uk. that is where the wind and rain is. on tuesday the winds will be lighter everywhere, plenty of sunshine after a chilly start, temperatures rising in the south,
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we may see some rain arriving in the north—west. later on tuesday and beyond tuesday as well. the centre of the high—pressure drifts further south allowing temperatures to rise in the southern parts of the uk, but towards north and northern scotland in particular we could get some wind and rain. welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. i'm lewis vaughan jones. our top stories: senators' ultimatum to the accuser of supreme court nominee — reach a deal to appear, or we vote without you. after the british prime minister's defiant speech on brexit, the european council chief says we can still find a compromise. hello.
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the woman who has accused us supreme court nominee, brett kavanaugh, of sexual assault has yet to agree a deal to give evidence to a committee of senators.
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