I binge-watched the last two episodes of Mike Bartlett`s `Life` at the weekend. After it was over felt as if I had been out for a huge meal, and needed hours in which to digest what I had absorbed.
4 flats in a big old house, somewhere like Walley Range, Manchester. A grieving widower, played by Adrian Lester. A couple married for fifty years, him a doctor actually; played by Alison Steadman and Peter Davison. A single woman, who ended up looking after her niece because her sister was sectioned somewhere nearby; Belle, played by Victoria Hamilton. A young mother, played by Melissa Johns, with a devoted but rather boring boyfriend. The plots were woven and interwoven, and as the episodes flew by I felt I was watching, up close, a sociological analysis of How We Live Now. Or How People Seem to Think We Ought to Live – or Not To Live. What relationships mean, or don`t mean. In fact, the series didn`t depict life as I know it at all. It took some of life as I have known it and magnified, dramatized, ignored, eulogized, scorned, or exaggerated it. Fair enough. This was for prime time TV. The ending was relaxing, and I was only mildly sorry that when it came to closure time, there were happy or half happy conclusions for almost every character. Rare, these days.
But during the week, while madly editing my short story collection – in view of the likelihood of publication, I am returning to story after story, cutting word after word – I have been flicking through and reading The Persephone Book of Short Stories. Bought last year in Persephone Books, in Lambs Conduit Street – when you could amble up and down in London town, in and out of bookshops if you wanted.
And my mind has had to jump back and forth in time, as it were, particularly as I compare the women in Life, with the women in the stories I have so far read. Women in 1910, 1920, 1930, really did have different lives to the lives I saw exhibited in Life. I mean really.
And because I have been so time-aware in this unusually intense way, I am particularly pleased to be reading another John Wheatley novel. This one is called The Weeping Sands. Chapter one set in 1831, chapter two in the present day, and chapter three in 1644. A historical novel set in Anglesey, already colourful, and like the rest of my week, playing not for, but with – time.