Goodnight Sweetheart

I’m currently working my way through all six series of ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ starring Nicholas Lyndhurst and devised by Lawrence Marks and Maurice Gran. Gary Sparrow, a TV repair man in the ’90s married to the go-getting Yvonne, discovers by accident that he can travel back in time to the 1940’s. He finds himself in a wartime pub and after the initial bafflement gets to know people, explaining his weird clothes and outlandish expressions by saying he’s spent time in America. He returns home with no intention of going back there but is drawn by his attraction to Phoebe whose father runs the pub. Thereafter each episode finds him dividing his life between wartime London and the 1990’s. There’s lots of humour here arising from the time difference but what makes the series so good is its inventiveness. Gary needs a confidant and finds one in his friend Ron who, very handily, is a printer and supplies Gary with wartime five pound notes. Gary’s cover story for Phoebe is his secret war work (he’s a spy, though he can’t talk about it) and once he opens a 1940s memorabilia shop his cover story for Yvonne is that he has to go to trade fairs.

This could easily have been a series about a man who is discontented with his feminist wife and prefers someone more biddable in the 1940’s, but it’s much more subtle than that – and anyway, Phoebe’s no pushover. It could easily be a story of someone very pleased with himself that he’s managed to get away with bigamy, but it’s not that either: Gary is tormented by guilt and unable to give up either of his wives. When Phoebe falls pregnant he almost chooses to stay in the past but he can’t give Yvonne up.

Nicholas Lyndhurst won awards for this two years running as the nation’s favourite comedy performer, and deservedly so. He’s a terrific comic actor and no-one can do slow reactions like him – see his performance in Only Fools and Horses as the ‘plonker’ Rodney who always gets it wrong. The series ends with the war and with Gary having to stay in the 1940’s but there’s a coda in 2016 with a one-off episode called ‘Many Happy Returns’ when he manages to come back to the present day. It’s on Britbox right now so have a look if you haven’t seen it, and if you have it’s a great nostalgia-fest – in more ways than one.

I’ve been doing a bit of time travel myself in a literary sense with a series of stories about a time portal. The main character works for a company that can bring famous people here from the past. They can only come for a day and their memories are wiped as they go back so that nothing in the past is changed (this was Gary Sparrow’s problem.) The main character’s area of expertise is literature; she’s hosted Dickens, George Orwell and C S Lewis among others, but something nearly always goes wrong. She longs for Jane Austen but never gets her, and is lumbered with Stalin after mentioning her history A Level. One of these stories, ‘George Orwell is Better than War-Warwell’ (geddit?) has been published in Stand magazine and I hope to publish others soon.

Kirk out