Life in Lockdown

After six weeks, lockdown is beginning to get to me a little. I was fine for a month or so; enjoying it really, relishing not having to organise anything or remember appointments, not needing to bother about rotas and timetables, just having time to myself to be introspective and of course to learn Ancient Greek.

The Greek’s going pretty well actually – it seems to reach parts of the brain modern languages can’t reach. I’m against elitism in learning but it has to be said that learning a classical language does something to your grey matter. I can feel bits of it sparking up and making connections I haven’t made since I was at school and laughing at Miss Kettlewell. But enough of that later…

Alas in the seventh week the time is starting to hang heavy and I’m going a little stir-crazy. There are only so many videos you can watch or courses you can do or Zoom meetings you can attend without some kind of burnout and basically when it comes down to it there’s no substitute for full-on human contact. I’m a mixture of introvert and extravert and whilst I enjoy company I also need from time to time to hibernate. My usual periods for doing this are Christmas and summer; at Christmas I take a couple of weeks and in the summer I go for a month. It’s very wholesome but at the end of it I’m glad to go out and see people again.

I’m lucky of course not to be living alone. I don’t know what I’d do if I were in that situation or else stuck in a flat with small children pinging off the walls. Then again they say that this period without frenetic activity has helped children to focus more – and as we found when doing Home Education, when children say they’re bored if you leave them to find something to do they usually will.

On the TV I’m continuing with Doctor Foster, a positively Greek drama with everything you could want in a modern tale of betrayal and vengeance. The eponymous doctor is basically Medea; a calm and supportive woman who, when she finds out her husband has been cheating on her for years, stops at nothing to destroy him. It’s appalling and highly compelling in about equal measure.

Reading-wise I’m between books at the moment: I’ve finished Beloved and The House of the Spirits and I tried Annie Proulx’s Barkskins again

but I just can’t get into it. The latest edition of Granta arrived on Saturday and I launched into it with such fervour that I’ve read nearly all the stories and articles. I have ordered the Booker prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other which should arrive in the next few days, so till then I am resigned to having spaces in the day with nothing to read but Facebook or the Guardian app. Ah well.

The trouble is, when a book arrives that I really want to read, I devour it within days and then I have nothing to read any more.

Back to Miss Kettlewell. I’ve mentioned her before but just in case you don’t remember, she was our Latin teacher at school. Red-faced and plump, looking rather like a German sausage in an ill-fitting crimplene dress, she cut a ridiculous figure to our 14-year-old eyes. She not only taught Classics, she spoke English in a Latinate way like a female Doctor Johnson, giving equal weight to each syllable and pronouncing every letter clearly. One day as the lesson started, her eye lit on a vase of dead flowers on the windowsill (how they got there no-one knew.) She screwed up her face, pointed a trembling finger at them and in a sonorous tone said, to no-one in particular, ‘Take those flowers away – I dislike them intensely!’

Poor Miss Kettlewell. She’s probably been dead thirty years and we’re still laughing at her.

Kirk out

Two Docs, Three Families, One Viewer

About a week ago I discovered that Doctor Foster is now on Netflix.  The first series which I watched a few years back was awful but compelling and I was happy to find a second series I hadn’t known existed.  Alas, though one series was too short, two is definitely too many and after the third episode it doesn’t seem to know where to go at all.  I can’t be bothered giving you the ins and outs of the plot but basically it’s a war between cheating husband and virtuous but wronged wife who goes haywire and takes revenge in acts which largely rebound on herself.  It just goes on too long, like a terrible row  which nobody wants, but no-one can think how to end.  There comes a silence: you think it’s all over; then somebody says, ‘It’s just that…’ and the whole thing kicks off again.  Only sheer bloody curiosity kept me watching to the final credits, and afterwards I couldn’t help thinking: yes, the guy’s awful; yes, he cheated and lied and spent all their money; yes, he’s a total creep who never takes responsibility for his actions – but do they really have to make such a Greek tragedy out of it?  Divorce happens every day, but they make of this a drama where it’s kill or be killed – and in the end it’s like MotherFatherSon, totally over the top.

But at least DF knows what it is, whereas MFS doesn’t seem to have a clue.  Is it a political drama?  Is it a story of family breakdown?  Is it a tale of journalism investigating corruption?  Is it about the downfall of a powerful guy?  The answer is yes to all: it tries to be every one of these things but ends up being none – because it doesn’t know how to prioritise.  It’s like an overworked secretary doing a bit of this and a bit of that and getting nothing actually done.  Some dramas have a main plot and successfully juggle lots of interweaving sub-plots, but this does neither: it has quite literally lost the plot.

So after all the wearying emotions of these dramas I needed some light relief, and where better to turn than Portwen?  The location (Port Isaac in Cornwall) is one of the main attractions of Doc Martin, being a village with whitewashed houses, steep hills and a natural harbour: the other is Martin Clunes as ‘the Doc’, a highly competent and dedicated doctor but a sad, ridiculous human being unable to sustain close relationships (comparisons with Sherlock abound).  There’s a terrific supporting cast in a number of revolving stories (Eileen Atkins, Claire Bloom, Ian McNeice and before the character’s death, Stephanie Cole) as well as guest appearances by the likes of Sigourney Weaver: all in all it’s an object lesson in how to make setting, cast and story work together.  The plots may sometimes be contrived but in the moment they never feel so; and alongside the ongoing tragi-comedy of Martin and Louisa’s marriage there are enough interesting medical emergencies and comic moments to make this highly watchable.

So if you have Netflix check out Doctor Foster.  MotherFatherSon is available on iplayer and if you want Doc Martin it’s on ITV but for older series you’ll have to go somewhere like NowTV.

Of course nobody’s interested in any of this because they’re all agog for the latest yawnfest, Game of Thrones.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Kirk out

 

 

 

Humankind Cannot Bear Too Much Reality TV

I bought the Big Issue today – something I don’t do very often because I don’t usually have £2.50 to spare – and in it, a reviewer was blasting the Beeb for not doing much drama.  I have to say, you can criticise them for doing too much ‘reality’ (humankind cannot bear too much reality TV) but not for insufficient drama: a trawl through the iplayer category throws up dozens of offerings and some of them are actually good.

A couple I’ve watched in the last week were ‘Doctor Foster’ and ‘An Inspector Calls’.  I thought I’d seen the JB Priestley play before but I don’t think I have, since I don’t remember it.  (Mind you, that doesn’t mean much these days – it’s only by reading this blog that I can recall what I did yesterday).  Still I have to report that I was disappointed.  It was a good cast including Ken Stott, Miranda Richardson and David (Remus Lupin) Thewlis but I found the play somewhat contrived and the ending confusing.  Plus, I hadn’t realised Ken Stott had gotten so fat – or was that just for the role?  (I still haven’t caught up with him playing Rebus).  Anyway, the play concerns a rich family who have all in different ways screwed up a working woman’s life and at the end there’s a sort of time-slip.  It’s still on i-player, as is the new series Doctor Foster.

I found this compelling but frustrating.  The doctor, a ‘good woman’, finds out that her husband is having an affair – but instead of talking to him she goes straight into revenge mode and then when he doesn’t even notice that she’s packed his bags and put them by the door, she goes straight back into doormat mode.  There’s not nearly enough about their marriage and very little about them as people to explain why they are behaving like this; plus, I’m getting rather sick of marital infidelity being a staple of TV drama.  It’s practically routine and it can make you feel that everyone’s at it.

Which they ain’t.

Anyway here are the links:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06cjy63/doctor-foster-episode-2

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p02z80kq/an-inspector-calls

Oh!  and I know what I was going to tell you: this morning as I was buying bits and pieces for the samosa chaat Mark is going to make tonight, I had planned to look for some wine.  Then I decided to buy a Big Issue instead.  ‘If I need the wine it will come to me,’ I thought.

I went home with some soya yoghurt but sans the sev which is unavailable in Clarendon Park, especially if you don’t pronounce it correctly (sehw not sev).  About an hour later a patient of Mark’s turned up to fetch some medicine.  She entered the kitchen with a bottle of wine.  ‘I’ve brought this for you,’ she said.  ‘It was just hanging around at home.’

I know how it feels.

Off for a walk now,

Kirk out