Thursday, 30 April 2015

Gently in Durham

If I don't go out in the evenings I always work. Well, last night I was so fed up of trying to get on with the book which is due in July that I gave it up just after eight. I don't remember the last time I did this, I was surprised and rather upset that I could give in so easily but the die was cast when I remembered that Inspector Gently was at that very moment righting Durham's wrongs so I took my wine and went through into the  back room ( confusing, I know. I'm now like the old ladies who had parlours. I never sit in the front room unless somebody comes to call and I work in my little garden room where we eat whenever my kids come home so the back room is not much more than a television room where I huddle in bad weather because it's the only inside room in the house.)

However, I digress. Oh dear. I'm listening to so much Anthony Trollope in bed at night ( and even sometimes in the mornings) that I'm turning into him but whereas he could be as long winded as he liked and retain my interest, I don't have his talent and cannot expect you to bear with me forever so back to Gently.

When the Gently stories first came to television I was prepared to be entranced. They are set in my favourite area, Northumberland and Durham. I love this area to distraction, am terribly prejudiced about it, wondering why people can ever live in areas which I'm sure are just as beautiful as Durham but never quite convinced that they can be happy there.

I was confused from the beginning because I knew that the books were set in Norfolk. They are well written but old and cop shows change, well, at least some of them do and they vary a great deal and these days since I work at night ( see first paragraph ) I don't usually see them.

I do sometimes think I'm missing things and bought the first series of Game of Thrones a couple of weeks ago. I had read and enjoyed the first book but the second just didn't do it for me and I gave it up. Knowing that Sean Bean played Ned Stark I went out and bought the first series on DVD. Not a good move. People slaughtered all over the place, men guffawing about women they've slept with ( yawn, yawn)  and a beautiful dog about to have its throat cut. No, I thought, not amusing, and the dialogue, well, let's just say, Trollope aside, that I'm very picky about dialogue.

So, the first series of Gently was set in Durham, except that it wasn't. I kept trying to make out different places and couldn't and while the place looked absolutely stunning, a blind man in the middle of an Iowa cornfield couldn't have been so lost. It was set in Ireland. I think it must have been cheaper to do there but Norfolk, Ireland and Durham? Oh dear.

 And the accents, oh God. The really good thing about it was that, well - actually there were lots of good things about it. The acting was superb, the stories were wonderful and some of the humour - I've never forgotten the lassie ( and her accent was perfect, she must be local ) telling Inspector Gently that she'd set her dad on him if he didn't shut up. And his side kick. I was very upset to discover that this young man didn't come from Chester le Street. I could have handled if he came from Stockton or Consett but when I saw him in a chat show I thought, my God this lad really can act. Forgive me, I don't catch on to actors but this guy sounds like he was born and brought up in Gateshead.

Gently, of course, is southern posh and they haven't made him alter it. Poor Martin Shaw. He is now ill in the series and his face!! It looks like Brimham Rocks ( in Yorkshire. Yes, I know it isn't Durham but I like it ). Like Clint Eastwood, Martin Shaw doesn't have to say anything, his face does it all. I squirmed when they made him Judge John Deed and all the women fell for him, it distracted from the story. Sex, like everything else, works when it works. Here he is playing the guy who's trying to get justice for women. The fact that the story is set way back is very dispiriting in that we still haven't got anywhere with rape but at least he was making salient points and at least women got a bit of a voice. Rachel, I really liked. More please. It would be great if she became a major character.

One quibble, people in this area don't all sound like they come from Newcastle.

I loved the shots of Prebends Bridge, although, knowing the place so well I kept thinking, 'The train station isn't three miles away, it's just up the road'. You can know too much.  I did like the shots of the cathedral fellas, you can't better it anywhere and unlike Westminster Abbey, where I gather it's sixteen pounds to go in!!  Durham is free.
They do like you to contribute so please do. ( An aside. Ahem. )

Anyway, I didn't work and I got to slaver over my favourite places. I don't remember anything about the story, I was too busy wondering where the boathouse had gone to. It was thoroughly entertaining and I was convinced that all those people watching wished they lived in Durham so I got a lot out of it. Thanks, writers and actors, those lovely camera people  and everybody concerned and most of all shots of Denise Welch playing a madam. My God, I wish my legs looked as good as that.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

My heroes have always been Cowboys

When I was small I was a cowgirl. I had a wonderful black skirt with silver tassels, a black bolero, white bodice, a black hat and two silver guns with black holsters.
We had a big field at the back of our house, no doubt in the old days it was where the carriage horses grazed. When I was little the local scrap man grazed his horses there and we got to ride them, bareback mostly, hanging on to the reins like hell.
My favourite childhood television was cowboy films which I used to watch while my Dad dozed on Saturday afternoons by the fire. I loved John Wayne and later Clint Eastwood and best of all the Man from Laramie himself, James Stewart. The slow talking keen eyed man who rode out of camera shot at the end of the film, leaving the woman inconsolable behind him. John Wayne framed in the doorway, Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates, surveying the cattle, his eyes narrowed against the sunlight.
I don't think I've ever forgiven my sister as a baby for screaming when I was trying to watch the Lone Ranger and Tonto. My Dad said that the Lone Ranger was on at the local Picture Palace so often that he stabled his horse there.
My favourite writer became Zane Grey. His descriptions of sunsets were still the best I've ever read. I longed to write a western. I knew there was no money in it but can quite honestly say, fool that I am, that the only time money has been my first priority was when I was a journalist and afterwards when I worked as a house journal editor. These days I wouldn't write a novel I wasn't being paid for but in the beginning I wrote because I loved it. I still love it.  I love the words coming up on my screen, I love my pens and notebooks and the ideas tumbling from my head. It's such a thrill but it's a hard thrill, writing fiction is heavy work but it isn't the same kind of work as many people have, on their feet toiling eight hours a day.
I did once write a cowboy book but when I sent it to my agent she laughed and said it was a saga in disguise.
I married a cowboy. He only once got on a horse and demanded to know where the gears were but he was a shootist, a forager, he manoeuvred for gain, bent the rules, traded, fished, built, set up endless business opportunities and was always surprising.
Now when I see James Stewart and John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance it reminds me of who I was in my childhood and early life. Somewhere out on the range all my cowboys are still there, recreated in the sagas that make up my fiction.