Divine intervention.  Not that of the miracle kind – I wish – but sufficient to get me up and dressed by 8am!  Yes, not a wink of sleep, either.  Let me explain …  We had the annual boiler check yesterday and all good.  However, as the heating was just kicking in around 6pm, I received a phonecall requesting that I switch off the gas outside and the girls would return first thing tomorrow – that is, today.  Apparently, there was a reading with which the boss wasn’t happy. Well, who was I to argue, particularly when it involved gas?!  Outside I went, turned the leaver and that was the end of both heat and hob.  Perfect.  Large Gin, Dominos and Virgin River, all to the accompaniment of chattering teeth.  Grind, chatter, crumble …  I suppose they have served me well!

Let me interject, here, with a bit about Virgin River.  A discovery on Netflix and not a day too soon.  I can only imagine the endless arguments in households throughout the land courtesy of differing viewing tastes – and tolerance is not at an all-time high!  Thankfully, Downton Abbey was our saviour during the first lockdown but, sadly, it was finite.  Affording me the escapism I craved to an era and a life I believe considerably more fitting, it was back to reality with a thud.  Don’t worry, I was told, you will love The Crown!  Are you kidding?  Perfect for insomnia, granted, but I am at pains to discover any further attributes.  Filmed in darkness seemingly, for starters, the gloom of Buckingham Palace is all-consuming, perhaps contributing to a Queen devoid of any glimmer of humour whatsoever.  In truth, she is portrayed as far from likeable; cold, even, and deadly dull!  Yes, I know, she was forced into a life of duty from a young age but, still.  Things could have been worse.  She has never been subjected to Greggs, flown Ryanair, run out of Gin or toilet roll, drawn her own bath, saddled her own pony – or, God forbid, lived in Cammo!  All the more reason to crack a smile occasionally.

We thought we’d start at the beginning – a very good place to start, apparently – and we were looking forward to it.  Oh, boy!  I think we managed the first two episodes and then, when feeling particularly strong, we have attempted one or two more.  Always the same result, out like a light!  The Queen Mother I do recall, though, is particularly unpleasing.  I have read many tomes on the erstwhile Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and, I concede, my judgement was set.  Her portrayal in The Crown did nothing to change it.  I have always thought her particularly cruel and bitter towards Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor of whom, I believe, she was always jealous.  Anyway, apparently, she, herself, was a compulsive thrower of parties, enjoying weekends filled with Gin and Dubonnet – oh, and ice, of course!   ‘I think that I will take two small bottles of Dubonnet and Gin with me this morning, in case it is needed.’  Words attributed to the Queen Mother – Google’s Wikipedia under Dubonnet – before a trip – as in ‘outing’, I presume.  Perhaps some deadly dull ribbon-cutting engagement requiring a little stash under the tartan blanket?  Definitely one for the high life, then, she left an overdraft in the region of £7 million when she died – aged 101 – in April 2002.  We happened to be in London the night she lay in state in Westminster Hall and, after dinner, spookily, we were all but alone in the vast hall as we walked round her coffin.  A moment in history.  One of the friends we were with also wished to sign the book of condolence.  Almost twenty years on, I have no clue what I wrote.  I’m sure it was sufficiently respectful.  No reference to her teeth, at least, which, 25 years earlier when she came to our school Centenary, left an impression!  I’m sure had whitening been available back then …

Oh, I could continue berating The Crown – and the Queen Mother – deservedly, in my book!  We skipped forward to the Diana years in the hope of some improvement but … perhaps the story is still too real; the old footage still too sad.  Not my choice of escapism.  So, following many weeks in the wilderness, as it were, Becca discovered Virgin River!  Sneakily watching the first episode, alone, she quickly realised that it was my kind of thing.  The advertising still even looks like Montana!  Snow-capped mountains, river running through them, girl with long hair and … outdoor hunk in checked shirt and jeans!  Cowboy hat?  Well, if not in the photo, he definitely wears one.  She described him to me as a bit Keith Urban-esque.  No further marketing required!  Oh, except, in giving me a quick synopsis – heartbroken girl leaves LA and heads for a hick town to erase the memories only to find the good-looking, perfect guy waiting with open arms – she happened to mention that the town doctor was sarcastic, ‘grumpy’, in possession of a full head of hair and my type.  Name of actor?  Oh, something like Tim Matheson.  Tim Matheson?  The Tim Matheson?!  If only I still had my cupboard door, he would be affixed to it forever …

I first came across the adonis that was/is Tim Matheson when he joined The Virginian in the late 60s.  The best-looking cowboy I have ever come across!  Obviously, many agreed and he went on to play a similar character in The Quest as he and his brother crossed the wild west in search of their sister, Patricia.  Had to be!  Such a fan – who would have thought – my prized possession was a poster which hung above my bed in our Haymarket flat – and probably beyond.  My ideal guy.  What happened to that poster?  I would never have thrown it out …  Tucked away among my childhood treasures in Lyndhurst, would my mother?  Perhaps I do her a dis-service.  Perhaps I have, yet, to find it in one of the random boxes in the container.  How I would love that …

So, Virgin River.  Tim Matheson.  Now 73-years-old, he is still my perfect guy!  Full head of hair, all his own teeth, still dresses perfectly – outdoorish-ly – still that twinkle, that sarcasm, that obvious intelligence together with an innate kindness.  Where does one find the Tim Mathesons of this world?  Is he too much to ask?  Rhetorical.  Suffice to say, any arguments Becca and I used to have regarding what to watch on TV – well, they’re dead in the water!  She swoons at Jack while I morn the choices I made all these years ago.  Forget ‘I Should Have Married a Vet’!  I should have married a cowboy, for goodness sake.  Mine’s a one-way ticket to Montana.  Sorry?  A COVID passport?  Think daleks and stairs …  What happened to the right to choose?  (Ode to COVID – still relevant)

Be thankful.  So much to say about the vaccine, vaccine passports et al as, gullibly, we slide into an authoritarian existence – without end.  A phone app to go to a pub, restaurant, to travel, to leave one’s house!  Don’t worry, the insertion of the chip is painless and, I promise you, you won’t see it on the underside of your wrist.  Your watch will cover it … set to our time.

I don’t mix with rubbish, you know!’ 

Miriam Margolyes referring to her criteria for choosing friends on ‘This Morning’, yesterday.

Go Miriam!  An individual in the true sense of the word.  Wonder how she’ll react to the chip?!

This is Trish, signing off.