A few days ago an invitation dropped through our door to a ‘social distancing street party’. Apart from being somewhat baffled as to how this would work, I experienced a strong reluctance to go. I felt a bit bad about this. It was a community event; I am community-minded – why wouldn’t I support it? It was only after I realised that today is the anniversary of VE day that I twigged: I don’t want to go to a VE day street party because I don’t want to celebrate VE day.
But why not? Surely the defeat of fascism is an event worth celebrating? I am only too aware that people gave their lives for our freedom and that this should not be forgotten. But in my opinion it should be remembered, not celebrated, particularly in these post-Brexit, global pandemic days. It seems entirely inappropriate that we should celebrate a victory over nations that are now our allies and who are suffering as we are with the virus. My fear is that with the toxic xenophobia generated by Brexit it could all turn quite nasty. But I could be wrong. In any case it’d be interesting to see if the never-seen neighbours in the mysterious ivy-covered house with the LEAVE MEANS LEAVE, emerge from their dwelling like Boo Radley to celebrate.
So rather than celebrating we will be having a family pizza and video night. I’m not sure what we’ll be watching but here’s what I’ve been looking at. First, the excellent drama Silk, starring Maxine Peake. The phrase ‘courtroom drama’ is almost a tautology since you’ve already got the elements of drama: the thesis of the prosecution, the antithesis of the defence, all resolving – hopefully – in the synthesis of the verdict. You’ve got the cast of characters all dressed up in gowns and wigs, you’ve got heroes and villains. All any writer has to do is choose from a series of offences to make an interesting plot, and the thing practically writes itself.
Except that without some kind of twist it could easily become dull and predictable. Not so Silk. Rather than the usual upper-class chaps, Maxine Peake is a working-class Northern lass on her way to becoming a QC and with a passion for defending clients. Her opposite number, Clive Reader, is the epitome of the traditional barrister; ex-Harrovian, white, smooth, plausible and very charming, especially with women. These two share an office, some cases and before the series began, a bed. They frequently clash but also genuinely like and respect each other.
So that’s worth watching – and having finished that, I’m re-watching the most recent series of The Crown, starring Olivia Coleman. Last night Mountbatten attempted to lead a coup against the Wilson government, reminding us that democracy is always under threat from those who believe they have the right to rule. Which I guess brings us back to VE day. So let’s remember and raise a glass to the men and women who fought fascism and won – at least for now.