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Resilience on show

24 February 2017

BBC/Icon Films/Darran Rees

Insight: in Andrew Marr: My brain and me, the political journalist seeks to understand his near-fatal stroke, and assesses the state of play in research

Insight: in Andrew Marr: My brain and me, the political journalist seeks to understand his near-fatal stroke, and assesses the state of play in resear...

THE great divide is between those who believe that things are fixed and immutable, and those who assume that everything is evolv­ing. An extra refinement is a large group of people (especially en­­thus­i­as­tic Chris­­tians) who ob­­serve that things are, indeed, shift­ing about the place, but that they jolly well shouldn’t, and the sooner they get back to their immemorial stasis the better.

One surprising place where, in recent years, we have come to recognise that far more change is possible than we used to think formed the subject of Andrew Marr: My brain and me (BBC 2, Tuesday of last week). Four years ago, the political journalist suffered a near-fatal stroke; in this docu­mentary, he sought to understand what had happened, and assess the state of play in stroke research and therapy.

To return to my initial point, we now recognise that any damage to the brain is nothing like as terminal as once believed. The ability of scanners to identify those parts that have been destroyed and track how other sections of the brain can set up new neural path­ways means that we can now observe healing that might loosely be called miraculous.

Marr met surgeons, therapists, and other stroke victims, and tried to increase his ability to recover full use of his left side, but much of this was well-worn TV documentary mat­­ter. What was unique was the insight into Marr’s personality.

It became clear how driven he is, how keen to return to his crippling regime (despite ac­­knowledging that it played a large part in his crisis) of journalism, broadcasting, film-making, writing, and exercise. He boasted about his refusal to acknow­ledge emotion and, in particular, what he classifies as nauseating self-pity. Marr is a remarkable man, but he does seem very hard on himself, and perhaps also on those who care for him.

Self-disclosure was also on dis­play in The Wedding Day (Channel 4, Monday of last week), fly-on-the-wall cover­age of the preparations for Serena and Jordan’s big day, worth watch­ing for the insight it offered into civil as opposed to church nuptials.

In fact, it was more about divorce than marriage. Serena’s parents are divorced, and her mother’s new husband had bought out her father’s share of the idyllic riverside hotel in whose garden the ceremony was to take place. Serena’s father flew in from Spain with his new fiancée (who looked younger and even more glamorous than his daughter), and drove up to his former home in a white Lam­borghini. As a scenario guarantee­ing simple celebration, it would be hard to do worse.

Everyone spoke their private thoughts on camera — and they were all forebodings. Serena is her daddy’s girl, with his spend, spend, spend, attitude; Jordan is like her mother, cautious and thrifty. She’s very ambitious; he isn’t. Will it last beyond the initial romance?

Once the day actually dawned, everyone put all this to one side, and peace and harmony reigned — until, I suspect, they see this film, and find out what the others really think about them.

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