Thursday, 28 June 2018
I wish a television channel — or at least a programme — existed, in which almost nothing happened.
I love costume drama; but it's the costumes I love, not the drama. I look wistfully at the pictures of Poldark and wish I could face actually watching it. But the sadness, the adulteries, the intrigues, the betrayals — I hate them, and they are the stuff of the unfolding story.
I started watching The Crown and got on quite well with it at first, but gave up. I couldn't keep company with its descent into exploration of marital strife, school bullying, promiscuity, spitefulness and family rows.
No story seems complete without bitter arguments, people storming out, terrible revelations, suffering and tension. I can't cope with it.
I wish there could be a programme where elegant people in Edwardian clothing, living marvellous lives in country chateaux and superb town houses, had tea with each other and drove about in their beautiful cars. They could go to the opera and open imposing black umbrellas against the rain and travel on steam trains and enjoy picnics in idyllic countryside. We could see their lovely china and crystal and beautiful décor, their silk and linen and lace, their noble horses and their dogs and farm animals. Which is to say, we would see the farm animals doing their work, or being brushed or fed, but not lengthy close-ups of copulation and shit.
We could see them going to church, and singing the hymns in all four parts, with a sensible and intelligent clergyman who actually had something to say worth hearing, with a wise and kind face and the ability to speak thoughtfully without pontificating or making a fool of himself. Not all the clergy are idiots.
There could be problems — characters could get sick and die or do something they were ashamed of or make a mistake; but they would explain what had happened and it would be received with kindness. They would support one another in pain or distress, hear each other's trouble with understanding, and together work towards putting it right.
They could identify social evil and set about making things better. The wealthy landowning people could be kind and generous to their servants, and they could all behave with dignity and restraint, speaking courteously — even about people who weren't there.
The servants of the big houses could have their own cottages with gardens and chickens, and we could enjoy seeing the simplicity of their lives — the humble homes and the grand palaces, equally beautiful in different ways; the skills of working men and women and the responsibility of wise and trustworthy landowners, working together with mutual respect.
And the women wouldn't all have to be thin; they could be plump but still beautiful and interesting. And the children could be quiet and studious, and polite to their parents, not always bullying each other or flouncing about complaining.
The interest in it would come from seeing realistic problems constructively overcome — illnesses of humans, animals, plants; the challenges of development and change as industry alters the landscape and new skills are required; the domestic challenges of managing conflict well and communicating with people who aren't very bright. Everyday life has so much to think about and overcome: learning how to be a parent, the struggle of being shy or lonely, looking after bees and roses and new lambs, cooking complicated meals and planning banquets, training puppies and making friends with wild birds, the experience of growing old or of caring for a family member with a disability . . .
Why not? Is that unrealistic? Is it boring? I didn't think so. I think there have always been such people. Life isn't one great big slanging match of corruption and cruelty and people taking advantage of one another. Some people are good, and happy, and content. Life is difficult and funny and interesting all by itself.
I tell you what, I could watch it all day.
Picture: William McGregor Paxton, Tea Leaves, oil on canvas, 1909, Metropolitan Museum of Art — public domain