Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Today I accompanied my mother to a hospital appointment in Brighton. We went by taxi, which seemed liked a good idea until the driver cheerfully told us that he was being treated for a brain tumour and wasn't really supposed to be at work. I watched his erratic driving and wondered if my life was going to end where it began, with my mother.
While I was sitting in the back of the car, like a child on a day out, my mother talked about the light dusting of snow on the hills as if it was the beginning of a new ice age. The driver nodded and concluded that "There's worse to come, loike."
I knew that a graphic description of Vera's leg was about to follow, so I quickly got out my copy of Jonathan Franzen's 'Freedom' and started reading. My mother took the hint.
An hour later, we were met by a different taxi driver. My mother introduced him as her favourite and as they sat in the front, chatting about the weather, kitchen extensions and the terrible parking at the hospital, I couldn't help feeling that he was the son she should have had.
I wonder if I am a disappointment to her.
One of the most perceptive and moving television dramas about family life that I've seen recently is HBO's 'Olive Kitteridge', adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-wining 2008 novel by Elizabeth Strout. Beautifully acted, this four-hour mini-series has been almost universally acclaimed, apart from a Guardian critic who complained that it was "slack" (it wasn't).
Here's a trailer, in case you haven't seen it:
In the background, you can hear a haunting arrangement by Martha Wainwright of a 1980 song from the album 'Xanadu'. I'd never come across 'Magic' before and have tried in vain to find Wainwright's performance. However, if you strip away the cheesiness, the original by Olivia Newton John is rather gorgeous too:
You may disagree.