‘There’s no present like the time.’
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
I happened to catch the end of that lovely film the other day. A more stellar cast there could not be! Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, to name but a few. I hadn’t realised Maggie Smith’s pivotal role but a film with a message, it most certainly is – my kind of film.
Time. The most precious gift of all. Strangely, I have always known that. Perhaps I’ve been here before … Re-incarnation was, actually, one of my planned topics having listened to a segment on Jeremy Vine, recently, on Foreign Accent Syndrome. Proof, surely, of the aforementioned? I, for one, need no convincing. For another day.
The most precious gift of all … Parky was eighty-eight when he died on the 16th August. Same day as Elvis, forty-six years before. Another reminder of the passage of time. A huge part of my childhood, there will never be another Michael Parkinson. Our family – like every other in the country – would gather round the television, without fail, every Saturday night in the Seventies. The hey-day of television, there were only three channels in those days, a landline for a phone and a table around which we ate our meals – and chatted, laughed and, inevitably, argued! No technology just home-cooked food and us; family. No ambiguity back then either, that meant a mother, father and their children! Oh, for the simple life, one in which ‘pride’ stood for self-respect; that is, before it was hi-jacked by the LGBTQI community – or virtually the whole alphabet, let’s face it! My point is, once upon a time, there was a pride in everything, the quality of television programmes being but one. Saturday night’s menu was glorious, from The Generation Game through to Starsky & Hutch or Ironside, followed by Morecambe & Wise or The Two Ronnies, Match of the Day and Parkinson. The good-looking working-class Yorkshireman with the long hair and sideburns was ‘admired’ by mothers galore – mine included – while the calibre of his guests was second to none. Intelligent and interested, he was superb at his job and his retirement in 2007 from his later run of chat shows on ITV marked the end of an era. There has been no worthy successor, nor could there be, for the world has changed irrevocably. More’s the pity.
‘Parkinson was part of an era, a moment in the history of BBC television, when we first saw what a comic genius Billy Connolly was … The golden age of Hollywood and the golden age of the BBC are both gone. Michael Parkinson brought a glimpse of both into our Saturday night sitting rooms.’
David Herman, Parkinson: the heyday of Saturday night TV.
Glad I was there.
The gift of time … I had plenty to rant about, here. The Lionesses were top of my list. Surely, I wasn’t alone in being sick to death of the ‘enforced’ excitement about a women’s football team? Perhaps, I was. Yes, women – well, if such a biological enigma were deemed to exist – have two legs and, unbelievably, can run and kick a ball and, yes – until now – the focus has always been on the men’s game but I can’t help but feel that the nation’s fixation with a women’s football team is just part of today’s narrative. Woke, diversity, inclusion, just three of the key words, front and centre, in a world which has been turned upside down. Once upon a time, there were certainties. Now, there are none. The security of my childhood – family, tradition, respect, community, one phone and only three channels – has long gone; more than that, it has been positively targeted, nay, obliterated! Why? Three words: divide and conquer.
Before leaving the subject of the Lionesses, I couldn’t believe Olga Carmona – whose goal won the Women’s World Cup for Spain – was deliberately kept in the dark as to her father’s death, two days before, for fear of distraction! My God, has it really come to this, when a football match is more important than the death of one’s parent? When ambition trumps love?
England fell at the final hurdle. However, such was the support throughout the nation, that fans were keen to give the team a hero’s welcome, regardless, and some forty – including children – had gathered at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 for the eagerly anticipated early morning arrival, many waiting overnight. The Lionesses went nowhere near them, departing through a private exit. Apparently, sources at the FA said this was normal and always planned. Really? Dignity in defeat. That’s the mark of a true sportsman – or woman (were there such a ‘thing’!).
‘Time wounds all heals.’
Tracy Letts, August: Osage County
Such a simple but ingenious play on words. For, the wounds remain and time can erase any superficial healing. I was reminded of Parkinson at 50, the programme screened, once more, as a tribute following his death – and what a tribute! I remember them all, his iconic interviews. However, when asked which guest was his favourite, surprisingly, it was not a celebrity. Rather, it was Dr Jacob Bronowski, the renowned scientist who was both writer and presenter of the acclaimed 1973 documentary series, The Ascent of Man. An interview which took place in 1974, Parkinson recalled it as being one which brought him to tears – and which he would ‘never forget’.
The Ascent of Man, within the series, documented one man’s account of the horror of what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, including footage of Bronowski’s emotional return to Auschwitz. Shown at the end of the Parkinson interview, this extraordinary man describes the moment he was asked to say a piece to camera at the end of the day’s shooting. He pondered, then spoke the words of Oliver Cromwell …
‘I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may have been mistaken?’
Oliver Cromwell, 1650.
I have those profoundly moving words written in my book of quotes. Inherent is the cry for understanding; the desperation to comprehend the horror of man’s calculated inhumanity towards his fellow man. Surely there must be some mistake? Regret?
Thursday marked the funeral of the older brother of a dear friend. Only 67, he was a part of my childhood, our families being close during our formative years. Families both, now, in tatters. The wounds remain. Time has not healed them, nor ever will. Misunderstandings? Regret? The treachery of siblings is one thing but the cruelty of a parent – albeit emotional – how does one forgive that? I phoned the younger brother the night before to arrange – and reassure. His mobile reception was terrible and I asked him where he was? Laying flowers at the grave of his mother and father. He wanted it to look nice, just in case … He is my Dr Jacob Bronowski! His story is such that his wounds will never heal but he is a far better man than I and it is a privilege to call him my friend.
‘Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.’
This is Trish, signing off.