Not Dressing Up for The Radio

From the back of the Radio Theatre

From the back of the Radio Theatre

In the early days of broadcasting by the BBC the story goes, the radio announcers had to wear evening dress, bow ties and dinner jackets, to read the evening news.  Somehow it must have been thought that the discerning listener would be able to tell if the gentleman inside the crystal set was improperly attired.

Some time between then and now, standards have changed.  If the audience can’t see you, it doesn’t matter what you wear.  It makes a certain sense, sitting in a sound proof room in a huge building somewhere, what does it matter what you wear?

I’d never really thought about it, until I went to a recording of the Radio 4 satirical programme The News Quiz a couple of weeks ago, where it was clear that the notion of informality for the radio, even when in front of an audience of 150 or so, was now the accepted norm.  All four panellists and the host were dressed in broadly what might be described as t-shirt and jeans, and probably not even their ‘best’ such combination.

It’s not a judgement, merely an observation, but it surprised me.  It perhaps shouldn’t have, because now I come to think of it, on the couple of occasions I’ve been to stand up comedy events, the performers have all been dressed as if they’ve stopped in on their way to the supermarket to tell a few jokes.

The News Quiz is a 30 minute programme, for which, on the night I was there, they recorded nearly 90 minutes of chat, and it was during the not very funny longueurs in the middle of the experience that I started wondering about why it was that the audience, looking largely like people who had come to Broadcasting House straight from work, were significantly more smartly dressed than the performers.

It’s clearly the fashion.  Perhaps it’s still the tail-end of the revolt against the ‘old fashioned’ comics of the 1960s and 70s who told mildly offensive jokes dressed in wide lapelled velvet jackets and stick on bow ties, who were swept away in the 80s by the punk aesthetic of determined offence-giving through curled lips, while  in ripped clothing.

But now when the same performers are on one of the plethora of TV shows that gives them a living, they are made up and titivated for the bright lights and camera….. I developed a theory, although it might already seem obvious to you (some of the recording was really rather dull and long winded…..):

Standard of smartness  must have a directly proportional relationship to the number of people who are going to see you, and each job or profession has its own base level.  So, for example, if you work in a professional advisory role, the base level is sitting at your desk talking on the phone, so ‘casual’ clothing is appropriate, but meeting one customer or client in a day would mean you would dress smartly;  if you’re a comedian, one room full of people is the base level, so jeans and t-shirt is the uniform, but if it’s on television, where people you can’t see can see you, then smarter attire is called for.  The key determinant in each calculation is clearly the base level at which no effort is required.

Being in a Radio 4 audience is relatively straightforward: join the mailing list and take your chances in the ticket lottery (and it’s another free thing to do in London).  You could come up with your own theories……..

Talking About Sir Walter Scott

2013-04-25 14.03.08-1I suppose when you’ve been named after a character in a novel, it’s inevitable that you develop a complicated relationship with its author.  And if the name is a relatively unusual one, and the book a well known one, or at least one that is the inspiration for many teatime television classic adaptations, that relationship can go through distinctly fractious phases.

It was a difficult time when Ivanhoe was on the school curriculum, and everyone who cracked a joke about the book to me thought they were the first; but since then, I have been more pleasantly surprised when people I have met around the world have unexpectedly commented on the name and made the link to the book or to actors who have played the characters on television.

Taking a moment to think about it though, I couldn’t recall if I had ever read any other Scott books.  (Indeed of all the 19th century Scottish literature I read at school, I had to spend a few moments checking which were by him and which by Robert Louis Stevenson, so little did I enjoy them at the time.  That research revealed that the ones I did recall were by RLS, apart from Marmion, noted especially for its soporific qualities.)

So when I heard that, as a part of a wider programme of commemoration of Sir Walter Scott, Radio 4’s ‘Open Book’ was recording a special discussion of his contemporary relevance, I thought it would be a good opportunity to reassess my own knowledge of his work.  The recording took place in the Crush Bar at the Opera House Covent Garden, a red and gold plush interior lit by a splendid chandelier, and was filled with a crowd of what must have been typical members of the Radio 4 audience.  Interestingly, a show of hands revealed that fewer than half the people present had read a Scott novel, and only a handful had read more than one.

The panel comprised Scott enthusiasts Stuart Kelly and Allan Massie, and recent convert, Denise Mina.  All of them praised the humour of the works, but recommended developing the ‘laudable’ art of skim reading to overcome the more verbose sections of the novels, but then pointed out how many well known literary tropes had originated with him: Robin Hood splitting an arrow when he fired his own into a tree, Sir Walter Raleigh laying his cloak over a puddle for Queen Elizabeth to step over, two rival heroines, a blond and a brunette, re imagining history by recounting the third Jacobite Rebellion that never was ……

At the end of the discussion, a second show of hands showed that the majority of the audience had been convinced that they would try one of his books sometime soon.  Maybe you can be persuaded too, now you know about the skipping?  What do you think?

The programme featuring my contribution to audience ambience and applause will be broadcast on Sunday.

Reading or Studying?

I often listen to Radio 4’s A Good Read on a Friday night as I’m getting ready for bed, and so sometimes, I admit, I fall asleep before it’s got quite to the end.  But last week I heard it all the way through, more alert than usual perhaps because of a comment made by one of the contributors which set me wondering.

The format of the programme is very simple.  Two guests are invited to recommend a paperback book as ‘a good read’ and, together with the host, who has also nominated a book, they come together and discuss them.  Generally, as with so many discussions, the most interesting programmes are the one during which the contributors disagree.  Where one person fails to see the charms of the others all time favourite volume from childhood, or where another admits to not being able to finish something because they hated it so much.

Last week had some elements of that when opinions differed on Anne Enright’s The Gathering, and The Box of Delights by John Masefield. But it was the work that united them that generated the most thought provoking comment, which each of them repeated in their own way.

TS Eliot’s Four Quartets was selected by historian Ruth Richardson.  It is unusual in itself for a book of poetry to feature on the programme, which mostly focusses on fiction, with a dash of history and popular science, so it was not unexpected that this would be a point of note.  Ruth Richardson explained why she loved the poetry, picking out lines that meant something particular to her, or which had struck a chord with her on different times.  She also confessed that although she didn’t understand it all, she loved it none the less.

I’ve never studied it, she said at one point, rather defensively, as if failure to have ‘studied’ it might disqualify her from liking it.  Later, when giving her reaction to reading it, Harriet Gilbert, the host, also said that while she had read the book many years ago, she too had not studied it.

And I wondered what they meant.  Are there things that have to be studied rather than just read? Is reading a lesser activity than studying?  Which novels that you love might you have to qualify your enjoyment of by admitting a failure of study?

Is it about understanding every inter textual/mythological/ historical/ philosophical/ biographical reference contained in the text, or enjoying the rhythm and richness of the words; rather like understanding all the allegorical references in the bits and pieces around the edges of a Renaissance painting without actually looking at the rich colours or the sweep of the drapery?

Or does study imply that you have both read the thing itself, and read what other people have had to say about it?  My first thought was the idea of studying something at school or university, where the act of being taught it, revising it, and writing an essay about it, drained most things of any kind of excitement or enjoyment.

Are there any novels that you’ve enjoyed but which, if you were to recommend them, you feel you’d have to confess that you’d never studied?  I’ve certainly never done so, therefore for one day only, I’m going to give it a go…. looking back through the 19th century canon……

I read War and Peace (*)when I was a teenager, and loved it.  I don’t think I understood all the philosophy bits because I’ve never studied it, but it’s a great story.

* Insert as appropriate

Anna Karenina

Madame Bovary

Crime and Punishment

Cousin Bette

Tale of Two Cities

Away From the Centre of Things

Where the sun was shining……

As a London resident I suppose I have grown used to how utterly focussed on the capital most of the UK media is, and let it pass without really noticing.  These last few days it has been thrown into vivid highlight, however.

It’s understandable to a certain extent; it’s the Jubilee Weekend, two public holidays and a number of mass participation events involving the Queen, outside on the River, at an open air concert and riding around in various open top carriages.  And, according to the news coverage, the weather has been fairly awful, but we plucky Brits are out there celebrating in spite of the weather.

My issue with the news, however, is that when I turned on the radio on both Sunday and Monday mornings the announcer told me that my day was going to be a trial because of the terrible weather forecast to over shadow my outdoor festivities and dampen my enthusiasm for celebration.  All this, while I opened the curtains to admire the bright blue sky, brilliant sunshine and the reflections of the buildings on the other side of the river in the still and shining surface of the Clyde.

Yes, the breeze was a little chilly when I walked, shading my eyes against the sunshine, for the newspaper, but that soon settled, and we were able to enjoy a day of warm weather in the garden.

I don’t know how far beyond Helensburgh the good weather extended because the available meteorological information is rather limited to that for the environs of London, which appear, at present, in the minds of the BBC radio current affairs programmers, to represent the entirety of the known world.

It reminded me of when I first returned to the UK after spending a couple of years in Russia.  There I was an avid listener to the BBC World Service, and a regular, if not necessarily enthusiastic, viewer of BBC Prime.  Both of these services offered extensive weather information.  It was only after I came back to the UK that I realised how accustomed I had grown to absorbing the comparative temperatures of, say, Moscow, St Petersburg, Abu Dhabi, Stockholm, Manchester and New York. The UK weather and news looked incredibly parochial and small by comparison.  This week it has appeared even smaller

Following the Rabbit of Enquiry Down the Tunnel of Google

Even though I’m not at all interested in sport, I’ve been listening to Sport and the British by way of a podcast, so have occasional binges of listening, followed by periods in which the episodes just accumulate.

It is essentially social history told through the lens of sport; telling of class, social and sexual differences, Empire and commerce.  It’s yet another subject in that category of things that I don’t want to be involved in myself, but which I’m happy to hear people who are interested, talk intelligently about.

Had you ever wondered why, for example, if all of football, rugby and cricket originated in Britain, why rugby was exported to the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand, while cricket made it to the latter two as well as India, Pakistan and the West Indies, and football went primarily to South America?  Well, no, nor had I, but it was, nevertheless,  interesting to hear an explanation involving which type of Briton went to which place, whether for colonial government or for trade.

A couple of the frequently mentioned expert contributors are academics from De Montfort University.  I remark on this only because I had never before heard of that University.  So, of course I did what I always now do in those situations, I went online and searched for it, and I now know that it is Leicester and became a university in the early 1990s.  Perhaps because the only university I might have previously associated with sport and sporty things is Loughborough, I delved further into why De Montfort is the source of such a fund of knowledge on the history of this subject.

And now I know; they have a whole team of people there – a collection of no less than 8 Professors and Doctors with a multiplicity of publications to their names.  And to top it all, you can do an MA in the subject, should you be so minded.

The idea that there are so many academics operating in what, until now, I could only have imagined was a very tiny arena, made me pause.  It reminded me of a Partner of the accounting firm where I did my training, a diminutive man, disappointed that he never grew tall enough to be a footballer, in the same way a young ballerina might be aggrieved that she grew too tall for the Royal Ballet, who turned all his professional attention onto being the tax adviser of choice to football clubs, when, in the 1980s they were first rushing headlong into public Listings to raise capital.

He was ferocious in his pursuit of footballing clients, going directly head to head with anyone who might try to compete with him.  Doing whatever it took, and then bouncing along on an inflated cushion of his own self importance at having such ‘glamorous’ clients.

And I wondered about the dynamics of competition between 8 academics, in the same department, all studying aspects of the same thing.  Maybe it’s no more competitive than academics expert in Medieval swordplay, or 18th century domestics arguing the odds, but somehow I can’t help but think that people who choose sport as their area will be particularly cut throat in their ambition to be the winner, the top dog, the most published, the most frequently consulted.  I like the idea too that now they’ll be able to crow that it doesn’t matter any more that they’ve never been invited on In Our Time; they’ve had a whole series.

So there you have it.  All I was doing was listening to a quite interesting programme on the radio, and now I’m constructing a drama, with a new cast of characters, at a university in the Midlands.

‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes

When Santa very kindly brought me a Kindle for Christmas I knew immediately that this would be the book I would download first.  A number of my friends had spoken about it, waiting for me to read it so that we could discuss it, and then it won the Booker Prize from a much criticised short list, but I had been waiting for the paperback to appear…..

I’d heard bits of it on Book at Bedtime on Radio 4 so I knew to expect the rather laconic, laid back tone of a rather dull man looking back over the most puzzling or interesting thing that had happened in his life.  The impatience of friends to talk about it made me suspect that there were layers of ambiguity in the plot which begged for discussion and speculation.

I also spent a little time scanning the multitude of reviews on the amazon site.  Clearly this is a book that has polarised opinions; some love it, others simply ‘don’t get it’, to quote Veronica in the book.  I suspect it is that one either likes the rather cool style and the lack of clear resolution, or one doesn’t.

The novel is short and told in the first person by Tony, now retired, who looks back on certain events in his life.  The first of the three sections focuses on the friendship of three and then, when Adrian arrives at the school, four school friends; pretentious, believing themselves destined for great things, they debate the nature of history both amongst themselves and in class.

In the second, the friends disperse to different universities and Tony begins what is an unsatisfactory relationship, for him, with Veronica culminating in an awkward weekend spent at Veronica’s parents’ home.  When they subsequently split up Tony is appalled to receive a letter from Adrian telling him that Adrian and Veronica were going out.

Many years later, after he has been married and divorced, become a father and grandfather and retired from his job, Tony receives a letter from a solicitor informing him of a bequest from Veronica’s mother.

It is at this point that we realise that Tony may not be as reliable a narrator in his straightforward ordinariness would have us believe.

This, and the subsequently unleashed events, forces Tony to reconsider his telling of his own story.  Has he been entirely honest with himself or us?  Has he fully appreciated the impact his past actions had on the people around him?  The more he thinks about it, the more details he recalls; details which throw in the potential for a very different interpretation of the events in the story he is telling.

There is a twist at the very end which you may or may not anticipate, but it did make me go back and think about all the little clues which had been scattered through the narrative until then, but there remain unanswered questions, and huge uncertainty about some of the things which neither Tony nor I are ever going to ‘get’.  Clearly, however, he was much crueller and significantly less empathetic than he thought he was.

I found it a very easy book to read, and finished it very quickly; I’m not sure how much of it I will retain, perhaps the contemplation of what unreliable narrators of our own lives we all are, how we work on and embellish those stories of ourselves, from our own point of view, and how they probably become less and less recognisable to others who were there at the time with us.

Stand-Up Comedy – Will It Ever Make Me Laugh?

Before Christmas I watched a two part Imagine programme about Stand-Up comedy.  Now, those of you who know me may wonder why I would spend any time on comedy, as I generally don’t find it amusing.  But that is the very reason why I did watch.

The majority of orchestrated comedy, stand-up and sit-com, usually has a broadly negative impact on me; not only does it rarely make me laugh, it actively irritates me.  But I have witnessed, on many occasions, in cinemas, theatres, and other people’s sitting rooms, that other people do find such things funny, are even attracted by reviews that mention rolling around in the aisle or crying with helpless laughter.

Usually when I say that I don’t like comedy, my interlocutor will tell me that I must try this or that show, performer or act, because they are ‘really funny’.  I nod and smile ‘Oh really?’ just to be polite.

It is such a question of personal taste, and yet, the fact that some performers attract large crowds and make lots of money, interests me.  It’s unlikely to make me crack a smile, but it is nevertheless a cultural phenomenon that I’d like to understand better.

Watching the Imagine shows was, however, a surprisingly gloomy experience: talking heads, popular stand up comedians seriously analysing what it is they think they’re doing, how they calculate the content and performance of their shows, and how long it has taken them to develop their particular shtick.  Interspersed with the interviews were filmed extracts from their shows, presumably illustrating the points they had just made; all of them uniformly, to my eye and ear, entirely unfunny.  I can see that some of them are clever, but there was nothing in it to make me laugh.  It seemed such a shame that they put in so much effort to so little effect on me.

There were however many parallels between the way the comics described how they generated their material and their stage persona to what any writer takes into account in their own work; to take small details of life and to exaggerate, to riff, to change, to improve and then to deliver it in their own individual authentic voice.  A couple commented that early in their careers they had been told their material was clever but that they had not found yet the right voice in which to deliver it.

I’m still puzzling about why I am so put off by stand-up comedy.  Some of it is the shoutiness of so many of them, and the pausing for effect, the craven begging that they be found funny, the laughing at their own jokes, the ‘trying so hard’-ness of it all.

I do however quite enjoy the silly panel shows that are often on television, where the quick witted repartee does amuse me.  Yet it is often the same performers who are on these shows, who, on their own doing the ‘Hello, Swansea’ type shows, will always make me operate the off switch on the TV and radio.

So if there is a joke, I’m still not in on it.

The Killing 2 – Another Twisting Turning Tale

Late though it was, I was immediately on the phone after the end of the final episode of the second season of The Killing on Saturday night.  I simply had to share the post watch analysis with a friend.  She’d already correctly predicted the identity of the killer, but, as with the first series of the programme, the identity of the perpetrator is by the by, it’s all about the twists and turns along the way, about the questions of trust and morality, about the grey areas between expediency and truth.

Even when we were fairly sure we had identified the killer, there remained plenty of tension over how he would be revealed and what he might do before that happened.  In our conversation we agreed on the moment certain things became clear, and then recapped on all the little clues and questions along the way.  There may have been a couple of points which stretched credibility to the limit, but that, in a way, is a signal of all of the complexity of the plot and characterisation; and that’s the fin of it.

Brought out of a dead end job at a border crossing to which she was consigned at the end of Series 1, Sarah Lund is temporarily reassigned to a murder enquiry by Brix, her old boss.  He’s asked her to come back because of the unusual nature of the circumstances of the murder.  At the same time, Buch, a young member of Parliament is the surprise new appointment as Justice Minister.

As more murders are committed by the same perpetrator, Buch begins to suspect that there is some kind of mystery being covered up by his Cabinet colleagues.  The army is involved because it is clear that both the murders and the political manoeuvring have something to do with a disputed incident in Afghanistan in which Danish soldiers may have been responsible for the death of a family of civilians.

At every step of the way through the plot both Lund and Buch have to decide whom to trust, who is misleading them and who is trying to manipulate them.  The question of trust is key, especially as each has to decide if they are being undermined by someone close to them, in their team.  Lund stares at them closely, and we try to discern what decision she has reached; Buch shambles about, shouting and eating, or in the final episode, brushing his teeth.  Both rush headlong up blind alleys, and only at the end understand the extent to which they have been betrayed.

Once again, the quality of the acting made me believe that I could understand Danish.  In fact, a couple of times, when Lund was interviewing Raben, a disturbed veteran of the war whose story of the massacre has been officially discredited, I was so concentrating on her face and the intensity in her eyes that I forgot to read the subtitles, but I’d like to think I didn’t miss any of the substance of the scene.

Once again Lund is the only one to emerge from the story with any integrity, but at what a cost.  The politicians seem to be the most venous of all the characters, and even Buch is compromised into capitulation by the end.  Lund looked as if she had lost everything at the end of Series 1, her career, her boyfriend, her son. Then in Series 2 she may have the chance to recoup something of her career and maybe do something with the spark that develops between her and her new partner Strange, but even that is taken from her.

I’ve heard there’s to be a third series, so maybe her career will survive.  Can’t wait.

On the Radio, Maybe

When I first started work in London, in an office in Surrey St, if it was raining  I would take a short cut from Kingsway to the Strand by ducking through Bush House; through the fancy main door on the midpoint of Aldwych, down the stairs and out through the back door onto the Strand.  It didn’t cut that much time off the journey, but it afforded a bit of shelter, and made me feel like a new ‘secret things’ about my new city.

This week it was an entirely different experience to enter the building, involving queuing outside, having my name ticked off a list, my bag inspected, wearing a special badge around my neck and walking through a metal detector before being escorted down the stairs and across a courtyard and down more stairs.

A lot has changed in the intervening years: Aldwych Tube station is now used only as a set for movies and pop videos and, these days, we expect to be challenged and searched before entering any building, and it is fair to assume that the BBC is more vulnerable than most institutions to the headline seeking trouble maker.

Experience sharp moments of insight into the huge changes that I’ve stopped noticing, it was comforting to also see that some things have the potential to be universal: that people will want to gather together to talk about books.

I was part of the audience for a recording of Radio4 Book Club.  About two dozen people gathered together in a small studio in the basement of Bush House.  We sat facing Jim Naughtie and the author Ross Raisin, who were either side of a coffee table over which two microphones were angled like awkward birds.

There was no mistaking that this was a radio programme, and not to be seen by anyone else.  The coffee table was chipped and marked, the chairs were the sort that would grace a church hall, the walls were fawn and padded, the illumination was fluorescent strips, technicians at banks of controls were visible through a glass partition and Jim was tie-less in shirt sleeves, a set of earphones clamped to his head.

I often wake up to Jim Naughtie’s voice on the Radio 4 Today programme, it’s a voice that is part of the radio listening psyche.  I  know it belongs to a person, but it usually has a magic disembodied character to it; it has a force and an authority.  In person, it’s a quiet voice, presumably modulated by years of experience to be the perfect voice for radio.  He didn’t raise it to quell the hubbub of pre-show chatter; throughout he spoke quite softly, either used to being listened to, or happy to carry on whether people are listening or not.

Everything about the proceedings was informal.  In advance, we had been asked to submit questions, but this was more to make sure that we were prepared with some, rather than to pre select which would be asked.  The first person was picked out and briefed, but after that it was open to anyone to ask anything they liked, by raising their hand and attracting the attention of the man with the wandering mic on a long stick.

It’s all glued together with Jim’s quiet authority and relevant interjections at suitable intervals.  He acknowledges that he may look silly with the headphones on, and that it can be a bit ridiculous to have to repeat the same introductions several times trying out different intonations, but he’s not self concious about having to do it, so we all sat there in silence watching a professional at work.

I liked the calmness of it all, especially when in a break to deal with a crackling microphone the author pointed out that in his introduction, Jim had awarded him with prized he’d not won.  A quick redraft, and off they were rolling again.

We were discussing ‘God’s Own Country’ by Ross Raisin, a book I warmed to during the discussion.  Ross Raisin has a lot of charm, and he engaged with every question and gave thoughtful answers, especially to a small group of teenagers who had come as part of a school trip.

I was disappointed not to ask a question.  I was primed and ready to go until I had a coughing fit; and there is nothing worse than trying not to cough when you need to; it makes it all so much worse.  In my panic, I missed a couple of questions which I think may have covered some of the topics I was interested in, and I didn’t want to repeat a point, and then it took a while to recover my composure…..

They recorded much more than they will need, so I will be listening keenly when it’s broadcast to hear how they fashion the programme out of the raw material.

I’ll let you know the transmission date when I know; it’s likely to be April or May next year.  I’m working on a review of the book too.

Following the Choir

Gareth Malone is just the sort of person you want to put in your pocket; dedicated, determined, but with a quiet twinkly charm, and what looks like a genuine interest in people, and a passion for singing.

In a television world where the theatre of cruelty seems to hold sway, where deluded tone deaf people push themselves into the limelight to be ridiculed, the new series of The Choir is an unlikely, yet much more interesting, programme.  The premise is the same as always, Gareth is sent to an incongruous environment to encourage a community into learning to sing and to form a choir that will, in the final episode, perform triumphantly at a public event.

The underlying contention is that singing together does everyone good.

The structure of each season so far has been broadly the same: Gareth, a bit geeky in skinny jeans and tweed jacket, talks to people in the street or at a school assembly or local fete, and receives nothing but more or less polite disinterest in the idea of a choir.  Against all odds, however, some people do show up for the first rehearsal, and the process begins.  So far, so very reality television fake jeopardy.

What comes next though, is the charm of this particular strand of the genre.  Gareth seems to genuinely want everyone to be able to sing, and to do it with their heads held high, with confidence and emotion.  Once they’ve shown up for the first rehearsal, he doesn’t want to let them go.  So even the most timid and strangulated receive special attention and encouragement.  And the key of that recipe is the determined, but non threatening, Gareth.

As I watch another sequence of him walking up to someone’s front door, his electric piano under his arm, to give them a private lesson in singing and personal confidence, I wonder if they’d watched any of the earlier series and thought that they’d be the one singled out for this kind of attention.

I know it’s all been carefully edited, and there will have been lots of small stories, and many hours of rehearsals, filmed, that we don’t see, but there are always individual stories which carve a path through the series; always one painfully shy person who, at the outset can barely squeeze out a few squeaking notes, but who will flourish under the balm of Gareth’s attention and refusal to write someone off for timidity.

This time, it’s my guess that it is the young woman who can’t stop herself from apologising for her singing and then apologising for apologising, whose tattoos peek out from the neckline and sleeves of her vest top, belying her deep lack of self confidence.

The series is set in military base, where families are left behind by the servicemen serving in Afghanistan; the choir is to be formed from the wives and partners of those serving abroad.  As well as turning a spotlight on this group of people who have to  live with the terrible background stress of worrying about their loved ones, it has revealed a collection of women who live a deeply traditional life of keeping the home operating and raising their children, effectively on their own, and who, as a result seem to have lost much of their confidence and engagement with the world outside the army base.

I’ll be watching again next week, certain that Gareth is going to make them sing.

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