WHAT could be closer to the spirit of Lenten discipline than withdrawing from the world and spending a couple of nights in a religious house? Unfortunately, the medieval Butley Priory’s magnificent gatehouse is in its new guise of luxury holiday let, including a fantastically stocked bar — not exactly conducive to that austere penitence required for our spiritual well-being.
Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toksvig (Channel 4, Wednesdays) is an agreeable exercise in, well, escapism. The excellent Ms Toksvig invites a chum to taste a succession of places away from it all, each a minor architectural marvel of one kind or another.
Of course, “escape” is the very opposite of why we enter the Lenten wilderness: our purpose is to encounter and engage that which most besets us, freed from the cocoon of distractions which we constantly weave to avoid that confrontation. Here, the focus is on reconnecting with the natural world, but in a setting of superabundant cosset and comfort. Incidentally, does anyone know why it is thought the height of luxury to heap beds with a diminishing pile of four or five cushions? You can’t actually use the thing without chucking them all on the floor.
Further temptation to undermine our Lenten discipline is presented by Trump Takes On the World (three parts, BBC 2, Wednesdays). Judging others and watching the proof that, whatever else we are, we don’t sink to their depths of villainy and stupidity is no way to get to heaven; but witnessing its last President demolish all that is admirable about the United States offers masochistic fascination. It is particularly telling that so many of the contributors were his closest allies, brought in to bolster his most hawkish policies. When each one sooner or later resigned in disgust or despair, the former President insisted on tweeting that he had dismissed them. No one walks out on Donald Trump.
For the very opposite way to change the world, turn back to Craftivism: Making a difference (3 February, BBC4). A professional righter of the world’s wrongs, Sarah Corbett became deeply uncomfortable with confronting violence and anger with the violence and anger that protest actions so often release. Surely a different approach, engaging her particular skills and energies, would be far more effective.
So, has her craft, knitting, stitching, and weaving of objects making subversive points proved successful in effecting change? The comedian Jenny Eclair met a wide range of football-banner makers, Afro-Caribbean Dorcas Clubs, AIDS quilters, Yarnstormers, and Deadly Knitshade, who all employ their crafts to awaken sympathy deep enough to make people turn around their attitudes, policies, and actions.
The Repair Shop (BBC1, Wednesdays) celebrates the extraordinary ability of professional craftspeople to bring back to beauty and original working order much-loved artefacts that anyone would consider wrecked beyond redemption. Just what we want from Lent, perhaps?