Monday, January 14, 2008
Lark Rise to Candleford#2
Oh dear! Whoever asked Bill Gallagher to adapt Flora Thomson's Lark Rise to Candleford for the BBC forgot to tell him to read the trilogy first. I watched the first episode, screened last night but, apart from a few names, there was nothing bearing any resemblance to the book I love so much. We had been warned that characters and events had been 'extended' for the sake of dramatic effect, but 'invented' would have been a more accurate description.
Lark Rise to Candleford is a detailed account of country life in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, seen through the affectionate but honest eye of a close observer. Every aspect of life is dealt with. She describes 'THE BOX' which every farm labourer's wife sent to the Rectory for, when a new baby was born. "It contained half a dozen of everything - tiny shirts, swathes, long flannel barrows, nighties, and napkins, made, kept in repair, and lent for every confinement by the clergyman's daughter. In addition to the loaned clothes, it would contain, as a gift, packets of tea and sugar and a tin of patent groats for making gruel." The contents of the Box could be kept for a month, until the baby could be dressed in 'short clothes', thus the poorer families were saved the expense of providing a layette.
At the other end of life, we see what happens to the elderly who were 'not in comfortable circumstances': "... as soon as they got past work, they had either to go to the workhouse or find accommodation in the the already overcrowded cottages of their children. A father or mother could usually be squeezed in, but there was never room for both, so one child would take one parent and another the other, and even then, as they used to say, there was always the in-law to be dealt with. It was a common thing to hear ageing people say they hoped God would be pleased to take them before they got past work and became a trouble to anybody."
In between these extremities of life, we find accounts of home, school, play, men working in the fields or trade, women calling on each other for a 'bit of a tell'. Then there are the high points of the year such as Harvest Home and the very special celebration of Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887. The fundamental feature of Flora Thompson's writing is her love and respect for the people she grew up with and the places they inhabited: "She was never to see any of these again, but she was to carry a mental picture of them, to be recalled at will, through the changing scenes of a lifetime...... the threads which were to bind her to her native country were more enduring than gossamer. They were spun of love and kinship and cherished memories."
The BBC production of Lark Rise to Candleford may prove to be a pleasant way to while away an hour on a Sunday evening if all you want is a little costume drama but, whatever you do, don't confuse it with the book of the same name.