Our first film of 2023 was ‘Empire of Light’ written and directed by Sam Mendes and set around a grand old art deco cinema in a forlorn English seaside resort during the early nineties. We were expecting a gentle love affair between two social misfits – a single white woman of a certain age and a handsome young black fella – an evocative period piece to warm the heart on a damp afternoon, set against the decline in traditional bucket and spade holidays. What we got was much more: a beautifully filmed, visually absorbing in-yer-face exposé of depression, repression and racism – and a little hope too – during rapidly changing times.
Opening to mixed reviews, the film stars the superb Olivia Coleman and easy-on-the-eye Micheal Ward as the star-crossed lovers with an excellent supporting cast, including Colin Firth as the sleazy cinema manager and Toby Jones as the geeky projectionist. Some critics thought the screenplay was a bit thin, whereas we saw the actors speak volumes with just a glance. We loved it, though I can’t quite get over Colin Firth demanding to be sucked off – quite the departure from Mr Darcy and his magnificent britches in ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
I’m constantly surprised by the milk of human kindness. Right across Europe the humanitarian crisis created by Tsar Putin’s invasion of Ukraine seems to have struck a chord and the response has been phenomenal. Even in this obscure little corner of our green and pleasant land, people have stepped up to the plate with gifts of cash and essentials, and offers of a roof to refugees – if and when slippery BoJo’s feckless government gets its collective finger out. Local people hereabouts have even driven trucks loaded with supplies all the way to the Polish-Ukrainian border – a distance of over 1,300 miles. Incredible.
Images courtesy of Ukraine Loddon & Chedgrave Support
I’m also constantly surprised by the lack of human kindness, but that’s a post for another time.
With all the endless doom and gloom swilling around us, it’s easy to forget just how far we’ve come. It says something incredibly powerful about our society when the three finalists of Strictly Come Dancing – the most popular show on British TV – were a black woman, a deaf actor and a same-sex couple, as voted for by the viewers. As critic Barbara Ellen put it in her Guardian review:
“A ground-breaking Strictly final in step with modern Britain.”
“… Strictly, and the BBC, at its best: everyone welcome, and everything all the better for it.”
Hot on the heels of Strictly came the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year, also a public vote. It was won by the child of Chinese-Romanian immigrants with a gay diver bringing up the rear in second place.
And then came the out-of-the-blue and very public marriage proposal on the stage of Norwich’s splendid Theatre Royal at the end of their Christmas panto production of Dick Whittington. When Joe popped the question, the kids went wild. Just as well Luke said yes!
British weather is famed for being predictably unpredictable – rain one minute, sunshine the next, with the mercury up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. The poor Met Office struggles to keep pace with an ever-shifting forecast. It’s no wonder the weather is Britain’s favourite topic of conversation – that and the footie (but best not go there). But so far this summer the weather has been predictably wet, windy and miserable even here in the driest county in the land (usually). A few warm days and a couple of BBQs in early June does not a summer make.
We may sit around the house in shorts trying to pretend it’s summer but who has the heating on in July? We do, that’s who. As more benevolent foreign climes are off the agenda this year for obvious reasons, we try to make do with what old Ma Nature chucks at us but please, old girl, stop pissing on our parade.
Every cloud, as they say. The damp and dismal weather has at least provided a bumper crop all around us, particularly now it’s become de rigueur to let the grass grow to encourage wildflowers, bees and other pollinating insects. And the ducks quite like it too.
What a year. Who would have predicted that 2020 would have brought a pandemic to strike us down and trash the global economy? Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus dominated the pansy charts this year. And there was death too but not because of the virus. Professionally, I lost a fellow author in a horrific murder and, personally, I lost my oldest friend to a sudden and totally unexpected cardiac arrest. But then came the COVID-19 survivor close to my heart and a birthday milestone, both of which brought some hope and happiness to a tragic year best left behind.
Despite the hurricane that swirled around us, Liam and I have been incredibly fortunate and life remains calm and peaceful. We know how lucky we are. The pansies remain forever perked.
Ladies and gents, both, neither and all those in between, I give you top of the pansy pops for 2020.
The most popular image of 2020 was this fuzzy black and white photo of my old primary school in Malaysia during my army brat years. Usually it’s something smutty or a hunk in the buff.
2020 was a write-off but do I see more hopeful times for the New Year? I think so but then I’m an eternal optimist. Clearly, the vaccine will be centre-stage. With a bit of luck and a fair wind, life should start returning to normal. Wishing us all a safe and sane 2021.