Beyond the Pale


The Crimson Petal and the White: BBC2, Episode 2 (Spoiler Free)

Last week I breathlessly began watching the BBC’s four-part adaptation of Michel Faber’s epic novel, The Crimson Petal and the White.

Vintage Shoe Pin Cushion: $20 from Sweet Love Vintage - There's something eerily beautiful about this pin cushion. I'd love to have it on my dressing table with 'To Do' lists secured to it with hatpins, or just to display brooches.

I had been concerned that, for want of a better expression, they would bugger it up, and wrote in my last post about the unique type of fear that ripples through you when you discover they’re filming a book you’ve really enjoyed. I know not everyone feels the same, but I happen to think they’ve made a pretty good stab at adapting a novel which mainly consists of richly detailed descriptive passages of narrative – surely a difficult task by anyone’s standards.

Let the Light In, photograph: $12 by 3 Lambs Design - This is just stunning, I love the way the photographer has captured the light on the petals of this peony, and the shocking splash of red at the heart of the white petals.

(By the way, if you missed the first episode of The Crimson Petal and the White, catch-up by watching it here)

In the first episode we spend more time at Mrs Castaway’s house of ill repute, learning about the inhabitants and their various vices. We meet Sugar, just as the narrator introduces us to the cast of characters in the novel, and we know just as surely we’re in the wrong side of town.

Burlesque Red Hat: $155 by Order Abandon - People don't wear hats enough these days, do they? I think this is just darling and would make a welcome change to the usual creations one sees at weddings, Ascot and so forth. Great photo, too!

In my previous post, I squealed about how gorgeous the pictures of the costumes and sets were; having watched the first two episodes, I’m here to tell you the pictures don’t do them justice. I could gaze for simply ages at the way the sets have been dressed, that overarching Gothic gloom that shrouds both the worlds of the velvet-clad upper classes and the ghastly wretches in tatters.

Victorian Drawstring Bag: $12 by Giddy Now - This is an original Victorian bag, with the cutest little button bottom. Perfect for the next Gin & Whores event (see earlier posts!) or just as a unique evening bag. I love wondering who owned objects like these; how often they used them, what happened in their lives...

Even the filth and mire of the notorious St. Giles Rookery area of Victorian London is lovingly realised, with the raucous dens of iniquity thrown into sharp relief against the lusciously opulent interiors of the upper echelons of society.

Private Collection Victorian Tile & Pearls Bracelet: $75 by Wickedly Good - This is from the artist's private collection, unique items not previously available to the public. I always enjoy pieces which celebrate beauty and decay, and this bracelet perfectly encapsulates that theme

In the second episode we see the two worlds colliding, the velvet besmirched as the rot sets in. It’s wonderfully vivid stuff and, despite critics’ fears (hopes?) that it would be wall-to-wall rumpy pumpy; it’s really not that filthy, considering the subject matter and how salaciously titillating it could well have been!

Hand Blown Glass Perfume Bottle: $165 by Kiva Ford - There are so many utterly stunning hand blown bottles & glass objects in Kiva Ford's shop that I hardly knew where to begin. This one really caught my eye, though. I think it's those vivd splashes of red against the white background. Sinister and beautiful.

I think Romola Garai makes a wonderful Sugar – I especially liked the way she kept her facial expressions entirely free of emotion – except perhaps of sheer boredom – as she, um, welcomed her clients. So to speak. Until she knew they could see her face again, at which point it lit up like an overly decorated Christmas tree.

Oriana Ruffled Victorian Shrug: $165 by Countessa - Utterly delectable in every way, this shrug/jacket is just the sort off thing I'd like to have in my own wardrobe. Adore the rich colour and just the right amount of ruffles - pretty without being too frou-frou to wear in reality without feeling like the Sugar Plum Fairy.

All of this is nectar to me, as you may imagine, and very inspiring. Even before the first episode, I began building a collection of seedy Victorian items for use in an Etsy Treasury. The layout of that treasury may be seen at the start of this post.

Infatuation Antique Repurposed Tintype Necklace: $36 by Luminoddities - Old photographs are always engaging, aren't they? I wonder who this handsome chap was, if he was in love when this picture was taken, if his heart had been broken, or if he was a disreputable cad. Luminoddities has some wonderfully imaginative pieces, I love their style.

I hadn’t had time to finish that before posting previously, but it’s now been published (linked above), and I thought I’d share its contents with you here.

London Fog Fine Art Photograph: $12 by Keri Bevan - Gorgeously murky colours, here, that sickly yellow and the violet tinging, like a bruised sunset.

Pictures from my treasury are scattered throughout this post, or click the link to go to the full-sized treasury list, and browse from there if you prefer.

Red Curled Feather Hairclip: $13 by Midnight Boudoir - Release your inner harlot and wear red feathers in your up-do, I say. Make sure a few curls are escaping and that you recently rumpled, or it could look too prissy. And we don't want that. This clip is gloriously decadent - don't just save it for weddings!

Anyway, yes. It’s right up my street (or St. Giles alleyway), really, this tickling of the seedy underbelly of Victorian London. A look right up the lacy petticoats at the seething moral dichotomy which Victorian society so loved to wrestle with. Wonderful stuff.

1880's Stranger's Guide to London: $8 from sandp1 - This antique guide looks fascinating, I wonder how many of these places still exist, if any?

If you read my previous post on The Crimson Petal and the White adaptation, you will have seen that some people got all hot under the collar, they felt it was “gaudily over-painted” and full of “Victorian Gothic Melodrama” – as though they’re BAD things. Well, anyone who thinks that would put me off obviously hasn’t cast an eye over the rest of this blog, and we doubtless wouldn’t see eye-to-eye. The gaudier and more melodramatic the better, if you ask me!

Antique Postcard Couple, by Old Tyme Notions: $3.00 - I have a small collection of hand-coloured vintage photographs, they're fabulously romantic and tacky, but in the good way. Yes, there is "good tacky".

I find it rather amusing that sniffy people peering over the tops of their glasses are declaring it rather declassé, and in doing so, have completely and utterly missed the point. The Victorian public adored high Gothic melodrama, and both the book and the television adaptation are tipping the wink to this era in the form of an affectionate pastiche. As for gaudy, well, the Victorians could hardly be called minimalist, and thank the Lord for that.

Antique Velvet Photo Album, by La Petite Abeille Ruche: $21 - Gorgeously faded cover, just waiting to be filled with photos and scraps from your own life. I think an empty photo album is very poignant, somehow. Lonely, forgotten, mysterious. I wonder what images it once held...

Indeed, you could say it’s the decadence and the “pantomime characters” that serve as an attraction for me, in this austere age of dowdy realism and dull, lifeless, clumsy ‘re-imaginings’ of novels. I dare say that if you loathed the novel, you wont enjoy the BBC adaptation – just as if you detest mandarins, you should probably steer clear of mandarin flavoured sorbet. My advice is: Go for the lemon, old bean! Don’t put yourself through hours of torture on anyone’s behalf. I loathe Hollyoaks. I watched it once and hated it, and decided never to watch it again as it wasn’t at all my thing, but I shouldn’t dream of saying it should be banned, or criticising others for liking it.

Red Geranium Petals, dried, by Pleasant Hedges: $6.00 - These would be heavenly scattered over a table as the finishing touch to a decadent dinner party. Or strewn on a bed, as a change from rose petals (yawn), if you like. I have no idea what you lot get up to in your spare time, and prefer to keep it that way. Even the description of these is blowsily romantic: "I grew these flowers in my garden, here on Larkspur Hill, and dried them to be preserved until your special day..." How lovely Larkspur Hill sounds! Let's all don straw hats and eat strawberries whilst running through the fields at Larkspur Hill! It could be an industrial estate for all I know, but it sounds beautiful so I don't care.

I am here to tell you that television producers very rarely have my taste in mind when they make programmes. They practically never consult me before spending millions on their latest project. But neither should they, because I do not consider my taste (or lack of) is more or less important than anyone else’s. If I dislike a programme I may give it another go, or I may choose to switch it off and never let it darken my life again.

Turkish Mocha Victorian Teardrop Soap, by Stockwell Cottage: $2.00 - I'm a huge fan of handmade soaps, particularly those with goat's milk in, as they seem kinder and more moisturising to my skin. I have always hankered after a huge conch shell filled with exotic soaps, but instead make do with a Victorian looking wrought-iron cakestand, on which I place soaps, perfume bottles and other assorted nick-nacks. Again, I should stress that I'm not generally in favour of mimimalism... ;)

One thing I will never do, is apologise for liking gaudy melodrama. Never. I’m really quite awfully proud of it, as you can possibly tell by the merest glance at the rest of my blog! I rather suspect that persons who are troubled by things being too over-the-top and showy will have found their entire (albeit fleeting) visit to my blog to have been jolly upsetting…

Early Victorian Skate Cape, from Petrune: $750 - Now, there are probably very rare occasions when you could wear an early Victorian skate cape (except perhaps in an early Victorian skating party, of which there are shockingly few), but this is so colourful and jolly, in a sort of toothpaste stripe way, that I just had to include it.

Nurse! The smelling salts!

I do hope you make a full recovery, dearhearts. Don’t forget to loosen a few stays, put your head between your knees and breathe deeply into a paper bag.

If all else fails, have some gin!

Until next time,poppets

Yours Gaudily,

Miss Nightingale

x



The Crimson Petal and the White: BBC Adaptation Starts TONIGHT!

Michel Faber’s The crimson Petal and the White, ticks so many of my boxes I hardly know where to begin. A richly detailed, viscerally engaging, beguilingly written novel that I fell deeply in love with when it first came out. Of course, ever practical, I got it in hardback and schlomped it around with me like a weighty talisman in the increasingly tattered velvet bag I carried everywhere at the time.

The narrative just drips with deliciously rank descriptions of The Great Stink which was Victorian London, the contrast between the perfumed, lace-clad middle classes and the guttersnipes living in utter poverty amidst unthinkable filth of every kind. Just my cup of tea, as regular readers of this blog will readily attest!

Here’s an excerpt from the start of Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White, taken from Book Browse (you can read the first ten pages of the novel by following the above link):

Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before. You may imagine, from other stories you’ve read, that you know it well, but those stories flattered you, welcoming you as a friend, treating you as if you belonged. The truth is that you are an alien from another time and place altogether.

When I first caught your eye and you decided to come with me, you were probably thinking you would simply arrive and make yourself at home. Now that you’re actually here, the air is bitterly cold, and you find yourself being led along in complete darkness, stumbling on uneven ground, recognising nothing. Looking left and right, blinking against an icy wind, you realise you have entered an unknown street of unlit houses full of unknown people.

And yet you did not choose me blindly. Certain expectations were aroused. Let’s not be coy: you were hoping I would satisfy all the desires you’re too shy to name, or at least show you a good time. Now you hesitate, still holding on to me, but tempted to let me go. When you first picked me up, you didn’t fully appreciate the size of me, nor did you expect I would grip you so tightly, so fast. Sleet stings your cheeks, sharp little spits of it so cold they feel hot, like fiery cinders in the wind. Your ears begin to hurt. But you’ve allowed yourself to be led astray, and it’s too late to turn back now.

It’s an ashen hour of night, blackish-grey and almost readable like undisturbed pages of burnt manuscript. You blunder forward into the haze of your own spent breath, still following me. The cobblestones beneath your feet are wet and mucky, the air is frigid and smells of sour spirits and slowly dissolving dung. You hear muffled drunken voices from somewhere nearby, but what little you can understand doesn’t sound like the carefully chosen opening speeches of a grand romantic drama; instead, you find yourself hoping to God that the voices come no closer.

The main characters in this story, with whom you want to become intimate, are nowhere near here. They aren’t expecting you; you mean nothing to them. If you think they’re going to get out of their warm beds and travel miles to meet you, you are mistaken.

You may wonder, then: why did I bring you here? Why this delay in meeting the people you thought you were going to meet? The answer is simple: their servants wouldn’t have let you in the door.

What you lack is the right connections, and that is what I’ve brought you here to make: connections. A person who is worth nothing must introduce you to a person worth next-to-nothing, and that person to another, and so on and so forth until finally you can step across the threshold, almost one of the family.

That is why I’ve brought you here to Church Lane, St Giles: I’ve found just the right person for you.

Now I am eagerly awaiting the first in a 4-part BBC adaptation which begins tonight on BBC2 at 9pm. I CAN’T WAIT! Well, I mean I can wait, I suppose, because it’s not going to be shown before then and I doubt the BBC are going to courier a DVD copy over to me, either. The rotters.

Romola Garai, Chris O’Dowd, Gillian Anderson, Richard E Grant, Shirley Henderson, Amanda Hale and Mark Gatiss star in a bold four-part adaptation of The Crimson Petal And The White adapted from Michel Faber’s best selling novel by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon and directed by award-winning Marc Munden (The Devil’s Whore, The Mark Of Cain), produced by Origin Pictures for the BBC.

A tale of love, lust, desire and revenge, it reveals the true sexual politics of Victorian life. In the words of the heroine, Sugar: “If you dare enter this world, you had better tread carefully.”

As ever, when someone films or in any way adapts a favourite book, one is struck with an initial shivering thrill of excitement. This is followed hot on the heels by that slowly sinking dread that they are absolutely bound to bugger it up. Oh, they are going to RUIN IT for you; and that if they do, you’ll shake your fist at the skies, shouting “Why, God, WHY did you let these incompetent curs loose on my favourite book/film/other thing?” and then you’ll write a letter to the Guardian’s Media section, treating the editor to a frame-by-frame critique, entitled Everything That is Wrong with This Adaptation and including that well-worn line “I cannot believe the BBC have spent MY license fee on this utter drivel”, as though you, alone, fund The BBC and are entitled to personally approve of every single thing they produce.

But I digress.

Imagine how scary it must be to have written that novel, and to be watching your ‘baby’ reborn on TV. Luckily, Michel Faber entirely approves and was actually incredibly moved by the adaptation.

A few days ago, watching a TV show, I got tears in my eyes. That doesn’t happen very often. For a start, I haven’t watched television for many years, and also, it takes a lot to make me cry. My own private sorrows can make me weep, and occasionally a song can penetrate my defences (June Tabor’s “A Proper Sort of Gardener” does it to me every time), but when it comes to novels or on-screen narratives, I’m tough to crack. Pathos and poignancy are, to me, tactics and techniques; in my work as a writer, I fetch them from my toolbox and use them as required. Show me a tear-jerking movie, and I’ll sit stony-faced, analysing the hell out of it. “Oh yes, this is the bit where they hope people will start sniffling. Not badly done at all, I suppose, for this sort of thing. I’d rate it a 6/10. Maybe even a 7.” Yet a few days ago, sitting in front of the TV, I got choked up… I was anxious what TV would have done to my baby in the BBC’s adaptation, but its new artistic guardians have treated it very well indeed.

You can read his reaction in full in the piece he wrote for The Guardian today.

I am currently finalising my choices for an Etsy Treasury inspired by The Crimson Petal and the White (a themed, curated collection of items available at Etsy) and shall hopefully publish this in the next couple of days, after I’ve seen the programme and can let you know what I think of it!

Now, must be off as I’m trying to combine cooking Jambalaya, ironing and looking at delicious things on Etsy.

Until next time, darlings

Yours excitedly,

Miss Nightingale

x



Upstairs Downstairs: The Return of Mitford-esque Glamour

The recently screened new series of BBC drama, Upstairs Downstairs has been a huge hit with audiences and critics alike; despite the fact that fans of the original had been anxiously biting their lips, with some getting ready to spew forth poison if their golden memories were tarnished. Thankfully, it was beautifully written, wonderfully acted and with many a sensitive, respectful nod to the past.

One of the greatest treats for viewers (well, certainly for this viewer) were the lust-worthy costumes – many being original vintage pieces of the period – which just shone from the screen and quite made one sigh with envy. It’s a very particular British kind of glamour – all aristocratic complexions, matte lipstick, clicky heels and that clipped Mitford-esque brittleness which defines the period for me.

The two sisters had most of the envy-making ensembles, with Lady Persephone (played by Claire Foy) wearing a particularly memorable outfit in one scene, consisting of a scarlet red bias cut silk gown worn with a fur stole.

Even though I don’t personally like fur, one could not help but gasp at the effect: she looked absolutely stunning.

I adore vintage clothes, but many of the delicate fabrics of this period can be too fragile to wear without fear of spoiling them forever, along with the fact that women were, generally speaking, far more petite than nowadays, so the sizing can be an issue. With this in mind, I wanted to re-create two of the most memorable looks from the series, using contemporary clothes and accessories but echoing that vintage look as closely as possible.

The first outfit I’ve re-created is that of Lady Persephone – I do hope you like it!

Upstairs Downstairs: Lady Persephone

Upstairs Downstairs: Lady Persephone by Beyond the Pale featuring a suede leather handbag

Fur tippet Grey
25 GBP – houseoffraser.co.uk
Fur shawls »



Downton Abbey: Costume Drama Heaven?

Just as the call of a cuckoo is held as the first sign of Spring; surely nothing heralds the start of Autumn more certainly than the clarion call of confirmed National Treasure, Dame Maggie Smith in a Sunday evening costume drama.

Downton Abbey is a brand new series by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes (he of Gosford Park fame and – his most recent film – The Young Victoria) and it begins tonight on ITV1 at 9pm. Fear not, American chums, apparently you will be able to feast your eyes by seeing this on PBS in January 2011.

The sun is rising behind Downton Abbey, a great and splendid house in a great and splendid park. So secure does it appear, that it seems as if the way of life it represents will last for another thousand years.

It won’t.

Set in a stunning country house (actually filmed in Highclere Castle, Hampshire) in 1912, Downton Abbey will follow the turbulent lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them. I know one shouldn’t pre-judge, but I think it’s quite a safe bet that I’ll be glued to the screen for every episode!

“In 1912, England was teetering on the brink. Apparently placid, still rooted in the traditions of many centuries, it would be less than ten years before the First World War and the Jazz Age had ripped every certainty to shreds. This is the moment when we enter the world of Downton Abbey, the great house of a great family, where the Granthams and their daughters preside over a household in the charge of Carson, the butler, and Mrs Hughes, the housekeeper. All these people must, in their different ways, deal with the changes that are coming. The cast, led by Maggie Smith as the Dowager, Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern as the Earl and Countess of Grantham, Dan Stevens and Penelope Wilton as the unwanted heir and his mother, and a staff led by Jim Carter as Carson, and Phyllis Logan as Mrs Hughes, will bring the halls and passages of Downton to life, with splendour, discipline and passion.” – Julian Fellowes

To say I am excited would be something of an understatement.

I mean honestly – a fabulous setting, drool-worthy costumes, a pedigree cast & Oscar-winning writer: what’s not to like? There’s an excellent page dedicated to Downton Abbey at the Enchanted Serenity of Period Films blog – the Meet the Characters section being particularly useful, I think.

The Ladies of Downton Abbey (from Enchanted Serenity pucture gallery)

This looks set to be the cosy costume drama of choice for the Autumn season – and how refreshing that it should NEW! You know I love my Austen adaptations and am a sucker for bit of Dickens, but the endless cavalcade of re-hashes can become (dare one say) tiresome over time. To have something specifically written – and by a writer of such prestige – is a real treat.

Ring for the butler, darlings, and demand tea and crumpets.

(P.S: Searching for images of tea & crumpets was harder than I imagined. I was found screaming “That’s NOT a crumpet!” many a time. Had to settle on this beautiful picture which also includes scones (via the Brambleberry Cottage and Tea Shoppe). Am all calm, now.

I was inspired to put together an Etsy Treasury (a curated collection of themed items, all available from the diverse sellers on Etsy.com), hoping to evoke the Edwardian era, and cosy costume dramas in general… I do hope you enjoy browsing around these gorgeous shops!

Direct links to items listed, left to right:

1st Row: 1) Three Red Apples, 2) Decades, 3) Pink Burlesque, 4) Christmas Angel

2nd Row: 1) The Church of Vintage, 2) Luna Shoes UK, 3) An Era’s Ambiance, 4) Attila Design

3rd Row: 1) Jennifer Whitmer, 2) Floremark Shop, 3) Crochet Lab, 4) Divine Y

4th Row: 1) Giardino, 2) Ghost Love Jewelry, 3) Redthreaded, 4) Katarina Couture

Well,dears, it begins in under 20 minutes, so forgive me whilst I hop off to butter my crumpets (so to speak)!

Until next time,

Yours dramatically,

Miss Nightingale

x



Georgette Heyer’s Regency Buck: Romance, Historical & Modern
February 14, 2010, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Costume Dramas, Cosy, Georgette Heyer, Modern Nostalgic, Regency | Tags: , , ,

Long-term readers will know that I am quite unashamedly giddy about Georgette Heyer’s historical romance novels, and I’m delighted to announce that BBC Radio 7 dramatised Georgette Heyer’s Regency Buck (some time ago, but the first time I’d heard it).

It’s a very… Am-Dram sort of a piece, if you ask me. Lots of unnecessary vowels and the distinct whiff of ham. However, it gets a lot better as it goes along and is still delightful to listen to on a cosy Sunday afternoon.

It’s available to listen to right now (7 days left to listen again on their website, linked above). Next Sunday, they are dramatising Friday’s Child (which should also be available by Listen Again after it has been broadcast).

Hurrah! I far prefer Friday’s Child, anyway, and shall hope for less…braying… performances.

Neoclassical Grecian fern silver headband, My Lavaliere: $18

Oh, I love this headband – so pretty and very Regency looking. I think it would be perfect for a bride or bridesmaids to wear. :)

Anyway, I have had a lovely day of coffee truffles for breakfast (they are allowed, as they are the most breakfasty of the chocolates I was presented with by the be-ringleted finace). I received the now traditional “In Sympathy” card with effusive declarations and the also traditional bacon sandwich (made with huge Irish soda farls) and a steaming mug of tea. Bliss.

Josephine Gown, Anne Sophie Toniazzi: $100

How adorable is this Josephine Gown? I think it could work equally well as a simple wedding gown or a boho style maxi dress worn with sandals or little pumps, layers of necklaces and flowing locks for the Summer.

Regency Chemisette, Bells Mill Clothiers: $30

The same could be said for versatility of this darling little chemisette based on a traditional pattern. Not one just for the costume-party, I think, but imagine this being worn under a simple shift dress for work on a hot day, in place of a shirt. Practical and more than a little sexy, in a modest way. By the way, the current buttons are plastic, but may be replaced with period correct ones on request, which is a lovely touch.

Other than the romantic breakfast (our sort of romance), I have been pottering about, listening to the above whimsical historical romance, and, as you see, searching a treasure trove of Regency-inspired delights to make a ‘Regency Buck’ themed selection.

Direct links to items shown:

1st Row: 1) Handy Little Me, 2) Miss Quite Contrary, 3) Atelier de Wolvelay

2nd Row: 1) Bonny Blue Hearts, 2) My Lavaliere, 3) Pemberley Dreams

3rd Row: 1) Which Goose, 2) Vicious Vintage Finds, 3) Miss Crowland

4th Row: 1) Thread Head, 2) Our Treasures, 3) Little Bits

I do hope you enjoy looking at them and exploring the shops they are located in.

Until next time, dear hearts,

Miss Nightingale

x



Cranford Redux: Costume Drama Style

Hullo dear hearts,

I return misty-eyed from watching the second part of BBC1’s Cranford Christmas special. I take back what some of what I said just before actually watching it. There I bemoaned (well, tutted a little) that it hadn’t really been as moving or gripping as the first [proper] series. Well. Rest assured, the second half is infinitely superior to the first episode!

Loved it. Cried a lot. Smiled a lot.

If I had a lace hankie I’d have dabbed at eyes in a delicate fashion, but had to make do with the back of a pyjama sleeve.

I promised a selection of suitably Cranfordian themed goodies, and I shall not fail you…

Direct links to items shown, left to right:

1st Row: 1) Lady Rose Treasures, 2) Miss Sadie Baxter, 3) Art Photo Girl

2nd Row: 1) Carton Company, 2) Poppenkraal, 3) Teardrum

3rd Row: 1) Matti Online, 2) Sky Watcher 1121, 3) Flutter

4th Row: 1) Pish Posh Vintage, 2) Chrissy Piper, 3) Prudence Mae Patterns

All of these finds warrant a closer look. The Locomotive Scarf, for example,  is so intricately worked and has the phrase “Got Steam?” crocheted into the design. Amazing!

Until next time, poppets,

Miss Nightingale
x



Cranford, BBC1 Christmas Special
December 27, 2009, 8:33 pm
Filed under: BBC, Costume Dramas, Cosy, Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell

Last year, I would have to say that my two favourite TV shows were, undoubtedly, Cranford and The Wire.

Obviously they inhabit somewhat different ends of the spectrum of TV drama, being slightly different in their content; but a good indicator of the two extremes of my taste, perhaps!

Only one of these brilliant series saw fit to have a reprise in the form of a misty-eyed Christmas Special on BBC1 this year. Can you guess which? ;p

Funnily enough, The Guardian newspaper did an online poll to see which of these shows people would rather watch, and The Wire won by a startling 79.1%. However, one of the stars of The Wire did admit to liking a bit of the ol’ costume drama, himself:

Dominic West said, ‘No one does costume drama like the BBC … I thought Cranford was incredible, but we don’t seem to be able to do contemporary stuff.’

Which I think is a perfectly acceptable point to make. The BBC are apparently going to be cutting down on costume dramas, to make way for gritty, urban or modern TV programmes. I have to say I think they’ll be shooting themselves in the foot. Where else can we go for a cosy refuge from dreadfulness?

The British are, generally (before anyone shoots me!) bloody awful at anything “gritty”, “urban” or even “modern”. They always seem to come across as creaking, tin-pot parodies of Eastenders written [and sometimes acted] by deeply emotional Sixth Form drama groups who are Trying to Make a Point. Embarrassing for all concerned.

No, far better to don the bonnets, I say, and do what they’re best at. Of course try new things and experiment – they may even get good at it when they can employ decent scriptwriters – but don’t lop off all the roses whilst they continue to bloom!

Based on the books by Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford manages to be extremely moving (more than one of my female companions admits to having quite a sob-fest whilst watching) with genuinely funny moments of high comedy and slapstick action, mixed in with social commentary and a document of how the railways came to hasten The Future, much to the horror/delight of local inhabitants.

Of course it has a stellar cast, with Dame Judi Dench reprising her role as the much-loved Miss Matty Jenkyns, and heading a roll-call Britain’s top film, television and stage talent, with Cranford newcomers: Jonathan Pryce, Celia Imrie, Lesley Sharp, Nicholas Le Prevost, Jodie Whittaker, Tom Hiddleston, Michelle Dockery, Matthew McNulty, Rory Kinnear and Tim Curry.

This second outing to Cranford hasn’t been as moving or engaging as the first – but they are unfair comparisons to begin with, the first being a whole series and this being a two-part special which is more in the way of a special treat for the original fans and perhaps a way to gather some new to the comfy, welcoming bosom of Cranford.

It’s a warm bath of a show. It’s nice cup of tea and a biscuit. It isn’t cutting edge and it’s hardly going to rock any boats or break any boundaries, but that’s okay, BBC programme makers. Stop sweating about being Gritty. It’s really alright. You’re allowed to be brilliant at Nice.

Of course, there will be a themed collection of items to follow shortly… but now I am off to change into my PJ’s, put my cranberry coloured fluffy bed socks on, make a turkey sandwich (NO I’m not bored of them, so there!) have a nice cup of tea, and watch the second part of Cranford.

Oh yeah, baby.

I am so rock and roll.




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