Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Cranford has finally made it to our tv screens here, some time I believe after it was screened to considerable acclaim in the UK. I enjoyed it thoroughly, though I must admit I have not read Elizabeth Gaskell's book. It has been on my shelf for many years, since my long-past days as a rather lazy English Lit student, when it was on the required reading list but I somehow managed to avoid it. Some people, of course, loathe period dramas, and there are elements to them which you can see would rankle: first, the oft-levelled charge: "But nothing happens!" and also, that they present an idealised view of the past. Both of which are mostly true. No-one ever seems to have bad teeth or body odour issues, unless the story is set during the Black Death, and these surely must have been the case in the days before toothpaste and efficient water supply systems. But there are also components to these dramas which must be basically accurate depictions of the pre-electricity age. The slowness of life. People did not leap into their cars and head out of town. They didn't plan holidays on the other side of the world (except in extraordinary circumstances). They didn't have emails to check or mobile phones to answer and they certainly didn't read blogs. They went visiting. They were aware of what was going on immediately around them (perhaps too aware if Cranford is anything to go by). They observed the seasons. They rose with the sun and often slept when it set. They lived by candlelight. They sewed, knitted or baked what they needed. And, of course, a lot of this often made for very hard work (especially if you were not fortunate enough to be born into the middle or upper classes) but it also gave communities a slow tempo and an essential bond which is perhaps lacking in many ways today and which people seem to be seeking out - the trend towards slow food, the growing interest in making rather than buying, the multitudes of communities grouping together online. I am not sorry bonnets, corsets and many societal restrictions have fallen by the wayside, but perhaps we have lost other things too, and it is the echo of them which draws us to Cranford.

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