Saturday, 22 March 2014

Dad's Army

When I was a small child we had what we called The White Cupboard just outside our bathroom. It had in more snobby days been the linen cupboard but my family had stuffed this place with all the things they didn't want. It was to me at seven a treasure trove. It had shelves and I could stand on them and reach up to the top, I think at one time I even climbed into the top of the cupboard and there I discovered riches. My aunt's Queen Alexandra nursing uniform from when she was in Greece during the second world war. My dad's sergeant's uniform for what became the home guard.

On tv tonight was a fast talking Victoria Wood introducing a programme all about the making of Dad's Army. My dad was in the home guard because he was in a reserved occupation, making steel for the ships. When I was a little kid people were that damned glad to be alive they didn't talk about the war.

By the time Dad's Army was made thirty years ago war was a memory but I didn't realise that so many of the cast had been in the second world war and some of them had bitter memories of it. How lovely to be able to make comedy about such a hard thing, how intelligent, how superb. The writers of course had been through the war and it was their inspiration. War makes good copy. Victoria Wood didn't actually say that but a people in crisis is a good place for art and she also said very pertinently that writing about the past meant that it didn't date, so even now, thirty years on from the making and even though many of the cast has died there it is fresh and lovely. Isn't that what writers do best for us?  They make us laugh and cry about the hardest times of our lives?

Ian Lavender who played Pike said that people would shout across the road to him the week after the writers had coined their best phrases, 'Stupid boy!' and my own favourite which we still quote to one another 'Don't panic, Mr Mannering'.

I also like how when they went on location people knew the weather would be good and booked their holidays. There were shots of the cast and their wives. Wives were wives those days, sitting about, bringing cups of tea and what the cast really cared for was 'the cheque at the end of the week'. Isn't that what we all want, to do something which we think is fine and good and be paid for it?

Lately I have been watching Sherlock. I know, I know, everybody else saw it when it was on and knew it was brilliant but I write in the evenings and missed it. It has all the same characteristics as Dad's Army. It's witty and innovative and the best thing I have seen in years. The writers are fearless, obviously having such a good time and revelling in their talent. And it too is about war, good versus evil.  I liked best the episode of the Wedding. Wow, minds at large. The construction was so good I shall watch it again and again, just like I always watch Inspector Morse. Some things never die. And unlike old soldiers and thankfully for modern technology, they don't fade away.

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