Saints, Poets, and Sneezing.
This week, I have been mostly responsible for the death of many, many trees, in the form of many, many tissues. A lurgy is upon me, and while I’ve managed to go to work (and have been blessed by working alone in a satellite office so I can blow my nose at a honking-great volume that my granddad would be proud of, while not infecting others) when I get home I’ve just been plonked on the sofa, drinking tea and watching housework accumulate around me.
Before the arrival of the plague, I was reading Janina Ramirez’s The Private Life of Saints, which is a fascinating read, often about how quite unsaintly these folk were.
Standards were lower in those days, and it shows it would now be almost impossible to acquire sainthood, even if there were no previous Tweets or teenage shoplifting record to scupper a person, we demand a little more evidence these days when it comes to miracles and such. I really enjoyed Ramirez’s documentary series on BBC4, Saints and Sinners: Britain’s Millennium of Monasteries, to the point of actually paying real money for it on BBC Store. Due to the tiny, mouse-suitable print of book being out of my range of abilities at the moment, I’ve been re-watching the documentaries instead.
The Youtube documentary hole is a great thing to fall down when you have time, and are guilt-free due to an inability to do anything else. Once upon a time a poorly person would just have Henry Kelly’s ‘Going For Gold’ and awful recipe/interview/chat nightmare that was ‘Pebble Mill at One’ (a sentence that made no sense to me as a child, and still doesn’t, how does one mill pebbles? And the place was not made of pebbles. It was all a lie.)
Seems particularly cruel that when this country had our highest level of unemployed in living memory, there was nothing for them to watch.
However, it’s not all rubbishy-tat I’ve been watching! I found this great W. H Auden documentary, with Kenneth Cranham reciting the poems sliced in with old TV footage. I love Auden’s accent, it seems a strange mix, but even without an American influence, he has that wonderful Noel Coward ring. We really don’t say our letter ‘R’s properly anymore, not in a way Kenneth Williams or Coward would approve of.
I also found Philip Larkin being interview by John Betjeman for ‘Monitor’, an old BBC art show from the 60s, and jackpot! Betjeman, Maggie Smith and Williams on Parkinson! Kenneth goes off on one about trade unions and Parkinson tells him he’s talking crap, it’s wonderful. My daughter came in when I watching this and announced she couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying, bar Maggie. Honestly, kids today.
My head is definitely not in the game, and this will be one of those posts I look back and wonder if I’d been over-doing the Lemsip, but the general conclusion I have come to is that Australian soap operas saved this country from itself, and I’d be fine with bestowing sainthood on Betjeman. We could do worse.