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Time for a make-over

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 such matters.

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 can’t afford.

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.

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