Do you know who Flora Thompson is? I didn’t either until I stumbled onto a BBC series called Lark Rise to Candleford. I happen to be a You Tube junkie and I go there looking for entertainment all the time. When I found Lark Rise I was cruising through the site hoping to find something British and wonderful. I’d done all the Dickens like Bleak House, Little Dorrit and Our Mutual Friend. Loved Daniel Deronda, Cranford, and so many others. But I guess it was this title that arrested my attention. What on earth was a Lark Rise?
I brought up episode one and found out. Absolutely fell in love with it. It has everything the ‘moral romantic’ (coining a phrase here?) is looking for in the way of absorbing entertainment. I’m not the only one. Turns out it’s one of the most popular series BBC ever and it has a near cult following.
Briefly – The story of two rival towns in rural England in the late 1890’s. Brilliant actors like Brendon Coyle (Downton Abbey), Claudie Blakely, Dawn French (Vicar of Dibley) and so many others make Ms. Thompson’s remembrances of her Oxfordshire childhood come alive. One of the main characters, Dorcas Lane, is played delightfully by Julia Sawalha. Olivia Hallinan plays the young and dewy eyed Laura, and Mark Heap is a joy to watch in his role as Thomas Brown. The stories whirl through the daily activities of the Candleford Post Office and if you don’t think that sounds engaging – well – you’d be wrong. On the flip side are the doings in Lark Rise, the less economically advantaged of the two towns.
My enchantment with the series led me to seek out the book it was based on. When I found Ms. Thompson’s hefty tome – a trilogy - I bought it. Before I bought it, though, I read several reviews and was warned the book was Nothing like the series. I bought it anyway. The reviewers were right in that the book isn’t laid out in neat little episodes. It’s a memoir strewn through five hundred some odd pages peeking into English country life at the turn of the last century. I found it quite enjoyable.
But what I appreciate most about the series is the sterling work of the writers who picked apart the book in order to write episode after episode for our enjoyment. Bravo! In one instance they were able to round out a whole character, Minnie, from the mere mention of a maid who had worked for a villager. Minnie, played so well by Ruby Bentall, is a kook and one of my favorites.
Here’s the deal. Even if you’re not a ‘writer’ try to get something of your own life and times down on paper. This is the best way to keep history in its truest form. It comes from the minds of the people who live it with no agenda other than to leave a legacy for loved ones.
I still have the diary my mother gave me when I was a young girl. I wrote in it pretty faithfully for a kid. I even tucked in favorite poems, old funny paper panels and the front page of our local newspaper from the day President Kennedy was shot. A few years ago one of my sisters was visiting and I let her read it. As she thumbed through she chuckled, shook her head, and mumbled to herself, “I remember that!”
Finally she looked up at me and said, rather wistfully, “ I can’t believe you saved all this.”
Reactions like that are one of the reasons I keep writing. I think Flora would approve.
PS: I’ll tackle ‘moral romantic’ in some other post.