Today’s post was going to be about On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, as I’ve just come from Book Group where we discussed it. I was going to introduce the novel, say that I liked it, muse about the characters and the successful avoidance of a villain/victim scenario; maybe express surprise that I’ve read four count-’em-four of McEwan’s novels; tell you about the group’s response… but then I discovered a post about On Chesil Beach here… by me. Oh. So I have already written about it.
Instead, we’re going to cast our eyes over to something rather less literary. Well, not literary at all. What’s the opposite of literary? This. It is Neighbours. And today was a big day for followers of this Australia soap opera – it moved channels. Before you slope away to look at the view or flick through the newspaper, stay with me. Actually, you can probably skip the next bit. I’m just going to comment on the soap for a bit… So, Neighbours has been with the BBC for longer than I’ve been alive, and after 23 years a bidding way means that it’s moved to the least successful of the terrestrial channels, Five (which was once Channel Five, but has jettisoned the ‘Channel’ bit). More importantly, Five is a channel my digital television refuses to pick up… and so I have to go to a friend’s house everyday. So worth it.
In its heyday, Neighbours got in excess of 18 million viewers in the UK – this is down at about 5 or 6 million now, but 120 million worldwide. There is sun, family, not a lot happens but it happens in a friendly way – everything exciting or tragic is offset by a fun run or a BBQ competition. Not for Neighbours the gloom of Coronation Street (I mean, listen to their respective theme tunes – it tells you everything) or the drama of Eastenders – they’re happy meandering along with the occasional ‘plane crash, and a lot of borrowed casserole dishes. You’d think they could just buy their own. The characters are all nice (Paul was evil, but then had an operation to remove a brain tumour, which turned him nice. As our American cousins would say, go figure); most are attractive; many are funny – that’s something Neighbours does better than any other soap – humour.
Where is all this going, then? I’m talking about the lowbrow; the distractions for when I’m not flicking through Ulysees or reciting Latin to myself (ahem… or not). T. S Eliot idolised a music hall performer, Marie Lloyd. Shakespeare thrust dancing troupes into his plays. I daresay Chaucer read Heat magazine. What’s your vice? Where do you leave the literature behind and enjoy something shamefully lowbrow, but, paradoxically, without feeling any shame? I started watching Neighbours when I was about 12 or 13, and am thoroughly addicted. If it stopped being shown on UK screens, I’d move to Australia. And I don’t see that as being at odds with loving Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen… should I?
I’m aware I may just be locking myself in the stocks and awaiting the rotten apples… but I’d like to think that someone, somewhere out there empathises? No? Just me?
Bring on the apples.