Tuesday, January 06, 2009


What's with it with men and lists? Some of the TV schedules are filled with them. 'The hundred best comedy classics'. 'Twenty worst turkeys of the noughties'. 'Ten best cop shows'. And of course we have the 'Billboard Hot Hundred' and the NME top twenty. Sports fans want to know the position in the league of their favorite football team and now we have league tables for schools and hospitals.

I first started making lists when I was under ten. Following the 1951 census I made a list of the largest cities in the United Kingdom. London was 8 million plus, Both Birmingham and Glasgow around one million, one hundred thousand, Manchester and Liverpool both in the seven hundred and eighty thousands, then it was Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast, then Newcastle, Nottingham and Hull, and when we reached cities of about a quarter of a million people there were too many - Stoke, Southampton, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Coventry, Leicester. It all got a lot more complicated when you started to define what a city is. What was the edge of London? Should you count the London boroughs like Croydon and Bromley - each with more than 300,000 people as part of London or separate entities? Is Newcastle just Newcastle or should you include Gateshead, Jarrow, North and South Shields and Wallsend? Bournemouth is only 150,000, but if you include Poole, Christchurch and all the contiguous towns it has nearly half a million people. When we say that Glasgow has declined to 600,000 people, is that real or due to boundary changes? What about Manchester? it is much smaller now, but Greater Manchester has 2.5 million people. If London is defined as everywhere withing the M25, the London orbital motorway, then it include a third of the population of England - about 16 million people.

Once you have a list there is this temptation to start analysing it. When I was first appointed a consultant hematologist I started making lists of my patients. Although all the excitement was in acute leukemia, by far the largest list I had was of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. It was when I started subclassifying this list that my interest in CLL began.

Over the past few days I have been making a list of my DVDs. I have noticed one thing, at least. Although film is said to be a director's medium, and who has not heard of Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, John Ford, Marin Scorsese and the rest, but some quite famous films have quite obscure directors. Who's ever heard of Rowdy Herrington or Robby Henson or Peter Webber? Yet they managed to attract actors like Jim Caviezel, Malcolm McDowell, Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Wilkinson and Scarlet Johansson to their films. Perhaps after paying the stars, the producers didn't have much left to pay the director?

The occasion for my list is a determination to replace my old technology with new. I am ditching my VHS tapes and replacing with DVDs. Whether this is a wise decision I am not sure. Already DVDs are passing into history and Blu-Ray is taking their place. While we now have equipment to play our old LPs, is there really any reason to replace our tapes? I am not sure.

There is a pleasure in owning things, though the pleasure is not so much using them as listing them. Kids at school collect swap cards of various sorts. Collecting is the pleasure. They will collect anything that has absolutely no use. I have not watched 90 of my DVDs yet. That's about 180 hours of sitting down watching television. I doubt I shall have completed this by this time next year. Note to self: Don't buy any more DVDs.


Anonymous said...

Rent instead. Do they have Netflix or a similar service in the UK?

Terry Hamblin said...

Renting is more expensive.