Responsibinity

It’s a great responsibility putting the bins out. I’ll tell you why in a minute, but first: the TV event everyone’s talking about. No, not the Crown – though I’ll definitely be all over that as soon as I’ve watched His Dark Materials on Sunday – but the last episode of Doc Martin.

Or is it? The teasing people at ITV have left us on a cliffhanger. Faced with the prospect of failing his medical board examination run by his old mentor (played by a sadly ageing Tom Conti – god, that man was gorgeous in his youth) he resigns from General Practice and tells Louisa at the same moment (in the middle of Al and Morwenna’s wedding) as she tries to tell him she’s pregnant.

Oops.

To be honest, much as I’ve enjoyed the series, I think it’s time they stopped. After nine series they seem to be running out of ideas and recycling the same plot lines with different characters. It happens – but they should bow out gracefully because, as the song says, burnout is better than fading away. It’s been a stonking series, comic and sad by turns with a stellar performance by Martin Clunes as the irascible, no-nonsense autist whose saving grace is his love for Louisa (Caroline Catz) and their son. They’ve had some great actors guesting too; Eileen Atkins is a regular, as was Stephanie Cole; popping in and out before popping her clogs was Claire Bloom as Martin’s mother – in fact spotting the guest actors is as much fun as enjoying the sunny beaches and cliffs of its Cornish setting. But all good things come to an end and this should. Now.

So, as I said it’s a big responsibility putting the bins out. In our town they alternate each week between recycling and rubbish (much to the annoyance of the righteous, like nous who have far more recycling and only put the black bin out once in a – ahem! – blue moon) but the problem is we can never remember which week is which. Checking the bins is no good because the green bin fills up in no time whereas the black one keeps a homeopathic quantity inside, so every Thursday we peek out of the windows to see which bins our neighbours have put out. But it occurred to me this morning, what if everyone else does the same? Then the first person to put their bin out would be responsible for leading the rest of the street astray, and since I put the black bin out last night, that would be me!!!

Horrors.

While we’re on domestic issues, we had more to put in both bins this week as the dishwasher was finally delivered, generating more plastic, cardboard and polystyrene than any bin can reasonably be expected to hold. It was plumbed in yesterday and I am happy to report that the first wash is delightfully clean and sparkling or, to use a word OH coined, sping.

So now all we have to moan about is filling and emptying the bloody thing…

Kirk out

Doc Behaving Badly

Now, I’m sure that you have been here before me.  You’ve almost certainly watched every series, bought the DVD and worn the t-shirt until it’s threadbare – but I have only just caught up with the excellent ‘Doc Martin’.  I knew it was there, but for some reason I avoided it: perhaps I had some idea that it was about a vet (a joke on ‘Bob Martin’?) and I’d had enough of James Herriot to last me several lifetimes.

But!  I just clicked on an episode out of curiosity and now I’ve started, I can’t stop: in the space of a couple of weeks I’ve seen almost every episode.  Which compels me to ask the question, why is it so addictive?

The series hovers between drama and sitcom, and lasts 50 minutes, which allows time for plots and characters to develop in a more leisurely way.  So it could be that…

Or is it the scenery?  It could be that, too: Portwenn, the setting for the stories (in reality Port Isaac) –

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=portwenn+location&rlz=1C1CHMO_enGB507GB507&oq=portwenn&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.4734j0j7&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8

is a village in Cornwall – and Cornwall is utterly beguiling.  It’s not only the very tip of the country which juts out into a watery waste that stretches all the way to America:

https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=cornwall&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x486ab7f0bf270ec9:0x6e423c85d94b4571,Cornwall&gl=uk&ei=YqJfUruOL5GBhAe7_IC4Cg&ved=0CN4BELYD

it’s also a land of crags and cows where every twist in the road brings a completely different view; a land where villages cling to cliffs, a land where houses perch one above the other: and add to that the fact that they always seem to film the episodes in summer with the sparkling blue sea behind them, and you’ve got a winner.

Or is it the characters?  The series has a wide cast of characters; some permanent, some dipping in and out, and some only lasting one episode.  The actors are excellent, and include guest stars such as Ben Miller, Claire Bloom and John Alderton, while Stephanie Cole plays the Doc’s aunt, a dauntless hill-farmer and all-round Old Bat (such as I hope to become myself one day*).  The wide cast of regulars and their medical complaints keep the Doc busy – and here we come to it; because really it’s the main character himself which keeps this series engaging.

With all the social skills of Benedict Cumberpatch’s Sherlock Holmes, Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes, of ‘Men Behaving Badly’) manages to upset everyone in the village, most of all the woman he secretly loves and who loves him.  To keep up a ‘will-they-won’t-they’ romance for three series is no mean feat, and in spite of having lots of chances, Martin manages to screw things up at every turn with his utter lack of tact and empathy.  And yet he wins our respect and affection by his dedication to his patient’s health: when there’s an emergency he drops everything and rushes to the scene: but if a malingerer comes to his door they will be booted out post-haste – and that is also deeply satisfying.

So perhaps it’s the medical dramas that keep me watching.  Like ‘Casualty’ there is great delight to be had in guessing people’s conditions or trying to predict the disasters that are about to happen.

But whatever it is, if for some bizarre reason you have not caught up with Doc Martin, I urge you to do so forthwith.  Sadly, it’s not on i-player so you’ll have to go to Netflix or get the DVD.

On i-player I also watched a retrospective of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, the album everyone owns.  The first bit of Tubular Bells was played at our wedding, and also while Holly was being extracted from my uterus; and this programme is well worth watching for an inside view on the album, its making and its legacy.  There’s a brief glimpse of John Peel too, as I mentioned the other day.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03cw8g0/Tubular_Bells_The_Mike_Oldfield_Story/

Kirk out

*an old bat, not a hill-farmer