Watercolours of a history waiting to happen

The Man Who Paints the Future, C5, Friday

A Very Scottish Garden, BBC1, Sunday

Twenty years ago David Mandell began to record his sinister dreams. He painted their images, then embellished them with footnotes to add to the details of what he had "seen". On 11 September 1996 he dreamed the destruction of two towers. Beside the towers, in Mandell’s painting, was outlined the head of the Statue of Liberty. Around the towers the painting depicted billows of smoke, or it may have been dust.

Five years later to the day something remarkably akin to Mandell’s ghastly premonition actually happened. This we know. For, in The Man Who Paints the Future, tucked into a corner of his painting, easy to miss, there was the silhouette of an aircraft flying towards death. Or it might have been innocently passing in the background. The salient questions begin with the obvious: are Mandell’s dreams a spate of coincidence? Is he a seer? One tabloid headline screamed "Nostradamus!" beside his photograph - that of a wizened, benign-looking pensioner. Or is he merely a sad old fake? His other dreams included premonitions - we saw the paintings - of 16 children and a teacher being attacked by a sinister male. Could this be Dunblane? And perhaps most remarkable was his picture of the gas attack on the underground in Tokyo. Beside the image, Mandell’s notes named the Japanese capital as the venue of the outrage.

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The programme scrupulously sought to establish whether or not Mandell was receiving apocalyptic warnings. Each key painting had been photographed by staff at his local bank, in front of a calendar-clock clearly displaying the date by which the painting had been made. Every painting predated the incident it foretold.

The shots were examined by a forensics expert who certified them genuine. Mandell passed a lie-detector test, then allowed himself to be hypnotised. One expert thought he was mirroring the laws of probability - but the evidence suggested, given the relatively small number of dreams recorded and his high "hit-rate", that Mandell was mirroring the laws of improbability.

After an hour of documentary scrutiny, you had to concede that Mandell looked clean and probably psychic. But what was the point of it all? If his "gift" is no more than an instance of the macabre, a curiosity to be cynically exploited by TV, then the programme was a sick and tasteless joke. We saw Mandell in the last few minutes make a call to London City Airport to report another dream - this time of a crash at that location. But will it happen? And if so - when? No cause of the crash was vouchsafed in the dream. What we had witnessed was a man pre-empting his guilt, unloading his burden.

In A Very Scottish Garden we had the timely celebration of graft, good humour and human resolve in the face of very Scottish weather. For 25 years the Beechgrove Garden has graced the box and made household names of its early duo of presenters, Jim and George. In every sense it broke new ground. Until 1978, as Jim McColl pointed out, "beamed into our sitting rooms in Scotland came gardening programmes that were made in the south of England". Half the stuff planted there hadn’t a snowball’s chance in Aberdeen. Celebrity fans of the show sung its praise. Magnus Magnusson remembered his children waiting every week for George to say: "I’ll just away and do a wee jobbie in the greenhouse." Hoe, hoe, hoe. We basked in a genuine feelgood vibe.

Yes, A Very Scottish Garden was made-to-measure viewing, a touch nostalgic, but not sentimental. Many old faces graced the screen and proved, by their unabated good humour, that The Garden owed its success to its gang of great gardeners-cum-presenters. "Tits like coconuts," chirruped Bill Torrance, amazed he’d actually got away with it. Aye, and they probably loved this miscellany.

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