Time for a make-over
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
AS part of its "Time of Your Life" season, which aimed to celebrate life
after 50, a one-off play was shown — When I’m Sixty-Four (BBC2,
Wednesday of last week). This embraced uncomfortable but common scenarios, and
dealt with them in a coherent and sympathetic fashion.
Alun Armnstrong played Jim, a confirmed-bachelor schoolmaster, caring for
his ailing father, but determined to celebrate retirement with a new way of
life — and a nose job to rid himself of his old image (his nickname was Beaky).
Through a credible series of accidents, he befriends Ray, a widowed taxi
driver, subtly played by Paul Freeman. A dedicated father, Ray begins to think
about his own latent bisexuality, and ends up in bed with Jim — an encounter
that seems to promise mutual happiness.
Tony Grounds’s script will probably not have helped a younger generation
come to terms with older people’s sexual needs, and better script-editing would
have given it the electricity that it needed. But its leisurely, even
hesistant, pace matched its content, and the play was a daring landmark in the
bland summer schedules.
The restoration of landmarks looks like becoming an annual event on the same
network. Restoration (BBC2, Tuesday and Sunday) ran over eight
programmes, during which the supporters of "at-risk" buildings extolled their
virtues, and viewers were invited to make premium-rate phone calls to elect a
winner. It’s the same format as Pop Idol or Big Brother, but
re-worked for National Trust supporters.
The surprise winner of the regional heat last week was the Old Grammar
School together with the Saracen’s Head (a one-time pub) in King’s Norton near
Birmingham, both of which were bought by the local church for £10 in 1911. The
Rector, Canon Rob Morris, and his parishioners wanted the buildings to continue
as the parish meeting place and as a secular centre. Nothing was made of a
former Puritan minster and headmaster, who urged his boys to "get a library
before a wife" and who preached against "the loathsomeness of long haire".
In Sunday’s final broadcast, live from Hampton Court Palace and staged with
all the gravitas of It’s a Knockout, we were urged to vote again, and to vote
often. Another finalist, the Archbishop’s "stopover" palace at Charing, midway
on his route from London to Canterbury, came nowhere. However, the King’s
Norton complex won the proceeds of the telephone voting, plus £2.5m from the
Heritage Lottery Fund. Good news for the parish, but a weird way of deciding
It was a painful but life-affirming experience to turn to
Real Life: Lin and Ralph — a Love Story (ITV, Sunday). Lin is 54, a
wheelchair-user with cerebral palsy since birth and blindness since 15. Funny
and feisty, she has earned her living as a counsellor and Braille transcriber,
and is also an ordained Methodist minister. Meeting the widowed Ralph (14 years
her senior), she fell in love — as did he. The couple have since established a
charity catering for the needs of disabled people.
In time, Ralph developed Parkinson’s Disease, and, during a flight back home
from Scotland, Lin was so badly treated by airline staff that the muscle fibres
in her legs, shoulder and back were irreparably damaged. The couple still live
independently, still waiting for compensation, and dependent on carers they
The film was made by Marilyn Gaunt, Lin’s friend and an award-winning
director. It illustrated the couple’s incredibly deep love and their
frustrations with the pursuit of dignity. It was a perfect, if harrowing,
illustration of the problem of suffering.
Gillean Craig is on holiday.