Right now, I don’t want anything that’s edgy, scary, weird or deals with social and world issues I can’t do anything about. For the time being I want a duvet of emotional comfort around me and luckily I’m finding it with books and DVDs.
I’ve doted on The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series from the first book and the very latest, The Double Comfort Safari Club, doesn’t disappoint. True, some bad things happen, and to nice people, but the basic goodness of Mma Ramotswe and Mr J L B Matekoni still encourages belief in the possibility of niceness and the value of life. I’m also re-reading O Douglas yet again; she had the same gift of writing about good people without making them boring.
I loved the radio series After Henry and twenty years on it’s still being repeated on BBC 7 and is available on Listen Again right now. Simon Brett’s saga is about widowed Sarah, her domineering mother Eleanor and moody daughter Clare; all living in the same house but in (theoretically) separate flats. It’s funny, poignant and makes you feel you're eavesdropping. Prunella Scales and Joan Sanderson are brilliant.
The BBC slipped up badly by not thinking it suitable for television so Thames snapped it up for several very successful series. On holiday in the Netherlands we were surprised to see a Dutch version; obviously the characters have wide appeal! For television, they changed the actors playing Clare and Russell, cut half the script and showed us characters like Valerie-Brown-on-the Pension-Counter's-Sister-Mary who should remain mythical. Nevertheless I’m really enjoying watching the programmes again and for so little outlay; Amazon has the thirteen episodes of series two for £4.43. Second time around I notice eighties details that passed me by at the time; not just the clothes but the crochet cover on the chair, the old phones and the lack of computers.
I’ve also treated myself to the complete Mapp and Lucia series, starring Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales (again) and Nigel Hawthorne. I remember at the time there were criticisms of ‘over-acting’. What? How can these characters possibly be over-acted? There are weaknesses (notably Quaint Irene) but it’s still enjoyable viewing, although of course not as good as the books.
I daresay there was a lot of dross on television in the 1980s (I didn’t watch much then, anyway) but just look at this little list:
Yes, Minister 1980
Brideshead Revisited 1981
Barchester Chronicles 1982
Jewel in the Crown 1984
Mapp & Lucia 1985
After Henry 1988
Today? I might as well not buy a listings magazine because there’s absolutely NOTHING I want to watch apart from repeats of When the Boat Comes In for the pleasure of watching that fine actor James Bolam. What a bonny lad he was.