Of the disparate campaign groups that might cite the new Shaun the Sheep movie in their literature (the NFU, the vegetarian society, anti-fracking activists) those who seek to save rural bus services perhaps have the most to gain. In the film, frequent, gleaming double deckers depart from the gate of Mossy Bottom farm ferrying shoppers, commuters and livestock to the city. Without them, there would be no plot, no chance of rescue for the friendly farmer languishing in hospital with amnesia after an unfortunate donkey/caravan incident.
The conductors are courteous and helpful, the passengers numerous and ethnically diverse. One punky female driver not only makes an emergency stop to avoid hitting a stray dog, she invites it to snuggle up with her in the cabin (not the safest way to negotiate traffic, but still). Once in the metropolis, our woolly hero has several scenes at the bus station – a rusting shed with a corrugated iron roof and pigeon dropping-strewn floor, grey light and yellow lines, frequent beeps and creeping boredom. Even in plasticine, it’s so realistic you can almost smell the lichen.
British kids’ films frequently unfold at transport terminals, of course. Harry Potter features a railway station; Paddington likewise. These are grand halls of easy drama, teeming with activity. Hollywood too tends to look to landmark train stations and airport departure lounges as sites for action movie smackdowns and romcom climaxes. Even European cinema isn’t immune: the Gare du Nord in Paris is rentboy central, Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse a den of gritty iniquity.
So in its happy grappling with that most parochial location, the regional bus station, Shaun the Sheep stakes out some radical turf. These are places about which some parents and children are at best snooty, at worst nervous. In normalising, even glamorising, their draughty charms, Shaun the Sheep performs a public service.
Poor old Cathy Newman was turned away from a Streatham mosque on Sunday, despite respectful dress and headscarf. Up in Finsbury Park they were using chocolates and free Qur’ans to entice in even the lairiest Arsenal fan (and me, despite bobble hat and shopping). Inside the mosque – of Abu Hamza fame – many revelations awaited. I had no idea, for instance, until I saw the fatwa suggestion box, that the word had multiple meanings. Sitting on the floor in the men’s prayer room, I learned that the Qur’an apparently forbids people from putting their parents in care homes. Admirable in theory, but in certain circumstances surely not feasible, nor even desirable (not everyone has the most caring children). Perhaps more realistic would be upping the #VisitMyMosque-type initiatives to try and further integrate care homes into the community. In French villages, they’re often cheek-by-jowl with the primary school, with obvious upsides for all. Staff and residents would doubtless feel the benefit of a greater interest taken by those without vested interest. On my way home from the mosque, bag full of pamphlets, I walked past Haringey’s Kurdish advice centre – always open, welcoming and lively. Its hall – decorated with portraits of fallen female peshmerga fighters – plays host to local art shows and fetes, regardless of participants’ origins; its car park until recently to the local farmers market. It’s a place in which even the least Kurdish person can take real civic pride.
Next Friday is a key release date for erotic thrillers. I’m looking forward to Jennifer Lopez’s reverse Fatal Attraction potboiler The Boy Next Door, in which she’s stalked by a hunky student who gifts her “a first edition of the Iliad”. Out the same day is Fifty Shades of Grey, the book of which I’ve just started reading as prep. That too is quite the revelation – less for the porn than the prose. My favourite line so far comes early on, as Anastasia first encounters Christian Grey: “If this guy’s over 30, I’m a monkey’s uncle.” Fingers crossed they keep that in the film.