So far, February has delivered freezing Russian snow and an icy blast from the past on Channel Four. Storm Darcy brought two-foot snowdrifts, abandoned cars and our resident pheasant pecking about for frozen morsels. But it was Russell T Davies’ AIDS-era drama, ‘It’s a Sin’, that really chilled us to the bone. Brilliant as it is, the series made for tough (though compulsive) viewing especially for those, like me, who survived the worst of times, ducking the Grim Reaper’s scythe by the skin of the teeth. By episode three I was ripping open the wine box to squeeze the last drop from the plastic bag.
Many have binge-watched the series on-demand. That wasn’t for us. There’s not enough wine in the box for that. So we took it as it came, broadcast-wise. Last night’s brutal and uncompromising finale was the bitter pill that had us fighting over the Kleenex. The irony of screening the series during another health crisis was not lost on us. I hear it’s gone down a storm with the current cohort of young gay boys putting it about town, leading to a record uptake in HIV testing. Good job, Russell.
This lockdown malarky has played havoc with our sense of time. Samey days have merged into one and our weekly routine now dances to an entirely new rhythm – the supermarkets giveth, the binmen taketh away. Much of our recycling rattles. Despite daily trips on the exercise bike and scenic walks down by the River Chet, we’ve both piled on the pounds. I daren’t pull on a pair of skinny jeans as it might cut off the circulation.
Personal care has suffered too. We wash, of course, but other essentials – shaving, haircuts and judicious pruning of other important little places – are on a strictly when-we-can-be-arsed basis. So much so, Liam is starting to resemble Catweazle.
For those not in the know, Catweazle, was a British children’s TV series back in the day. The eponymous Catweazle is an 11th century wizard who accidentally travels through time, arriving in 1969. Poor old Catweazle mistakes all modern technology for powerful magic, particularly ‘elec-trickery’ (electricity) and the ‘telling bone’ (telephone). It was a hugely successful show and I loved it as a 10 year-old!
Despite a charming and traditional appearance, Loddon Village comes with all mod cons – well, almost. A decent mobile phone signal would be nice. So imagine our surprise when we stumbled on this classic thirties Austin Seven in the church car park.
A few days on, feet up and glasses clinked, we settled down to watch the newly rebooted ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ on the telly box. Imagine our surprise when we spotted this classic Austin Seven taking centre stage.
Must be a rural thing.
All Creatures Great and Small is based on the books of the British country vet Alf Wight, writing as James Herriot. The hugely popular original series was made by the BBC and ran from the seventies all the way through to the noughties, so the Channel Five remake has a lot to live up to. So far so good – classy and timeless, just like the cars. And it wouldn’t be the same without James Herriot’s arm up a cow.
The fourth of July was independence day for boozers in England. For the first time since lockdown in March, pubs threw open their doors with staff waiting anxiously at the pumps. We were like rats out of a trap. First stop for a cheeky bottle of blush, the White Horse, transformed into a virus-free sanctuary (as much as anything can be) by the jolly landlord, Simon Peck, and his trusty staff.
The pandemic revealed an entirely different side to Simon as a bumbling and uncannily accurate BoJo impersonator as you can see in this tongue firmly in cheek performance.
Simon even made it on to Look East, our regional BBC news programme. If you’re on Facebook, give the video a like if you would. Simon would be chuffed.
Next stop was the Swan for a couple and then the King’s Head for a final snifter. We didn’t quite make it up to the Angel. That’s on the menu for next time. Too early for opening time? I’m no expert so I’ll leave that to the know-it-alls to speculate. What I do know is each establishment did their bit to keep people safe and all the punters behaved. Was it worth it? You bet! We got totally tiddlypooped.
I cannot lie. I was so relieved when off licences were added to the list of essential retailers. A dry lockdown would be way beyond the pale ale and, thankfully, local shops are well-stocked with the hard stuff, helping to tranquilise us through the coronavirus crisis.
We’re creatures of habit, Liam and I. And touring the village watering holes for a few bevvies is one of them. We call it doing our bit for the local economy. As they’re all shut up for the time being, we get our fix by cracking open a bottle and joining in the White Horse virtual pub quiz on Facebook every Monday at 8pm. It’s not quite the same as the real thing and it’s too easy to cheat – not that we do, of course – but it’s as good as it gets right now.
Simon, Chedgrave’s very own jolly landlord, is doing his bit to keep community peckers up and the virtual quiz really helps. He also does a nice line in colourful shirts to brighten up the dullest of days – always a talking point. Sartorially, though, he’s got a long way to go before he can compete with the nation’s all-time favourite pub landlady – bottle-blond, chain-smoker, Bet Lynch (AKA Julie Goodyear). Bet’s signature look was leopard skin. She covered everything in it, even her chest exerciser.
Brassy Bet’s tenure behind the bar at the Rovers Return on Coronation Street may be long over but you can catch her glory days weekday afternoons on ITV3. That’s what I do.