Thursday, 11 January 2018

Strictly Come Dancing



Can you believe that we were Strictly novices in our house? Apart from the "my dad nearly being on TV with Len Goodman and Ann Widdecombe" incident, we'd never really encountered it. In our life B.C. (before child) we probably (though not necessarily) had more exciting things to do on a Saturday night than watch telly. In our P.C. (post child) life, during which we watch far too much telly, Strictly always clashed with child bedtime - bath, stories, cuddles, faffing, not going to sleep - so we could never sit down and give it a go.

But suddenly here we were as a family all willingly watching a TV series together for the first time. It wasn't Netflix or CBBC just being on and annoying in the background while our daughter played with her toys and we slightly more surreptitiously played on our phones. We were all focused and keen and - after a while - obsessed. It started when our daughter heard about Aston and Janette's Trolls dance from a friend at school and asked to watch it on iPlayer. Johnnie Peacock had already piqued Mummy and Daddy's interest in Strictly during an interview on The Last Leg. Then our daughter completely fell in love with him, and we just had to carry on watching. I couldn't be prouder of her first crush, which at one point I was worried would end up being Chase from Paw Patrol. If she brings home nice young men like Johnnie (or nice young women like Oti) in her future years, then all will be happy in our household. Just not so keen on the Alsatians.

I think our daughter's motivation was partly that it meant she could stay up late and postpone her bedtime faffing on both Saturday and Sunday nights. But how joyful it is watching people learning to dance. And how unexpectedly good some people turn out to be. Like Joe, who eventually won. And Davood. Susan Calman quickstepping with Kevin to Bring Me Sunshine was a personal highlight. Obviously the best dancers were the ones who had already had plenty of training and experience like Alexandra and Debbie, but I can see why they are the ones who struggle to get the votes at times - it's a very British thing to support the underdog.

Now we realise just how much we have missed over the years - all of Bruce Forsyth's, Len Goodman's, Ed Balls', John Sergeant's, Judy Murray's and yes, even Ann Widdecombe's appearances.


The timing of our new family obsession was perfect, as our daughter then got the part of a judge in her school play, Lights Camel Action!, which was a sort of Strictly: The Nativity. She played the Innkeeper's Wife, with lines like: "Never mind a bucket of frogs - it was fun, fresh and funky!" and "I loved the bells and watching all you young men leaping around!" Miraculously she learned them all perfectly. The teachers made her watch extra Strictly in class so she could channel her inner Darcey Bussell a little more effectively.

Though with essence of Craig at times...
Of course Caesar had all the best lines, darlings. The aforementioned bucket of frogs on the camel funk: "Legs, humps and hooves all flying around with no sense of timing." On the tango: "That had all the passion of a wet fish in a paper bag." But he did love the "extension in the arms" in the Angels' Ballet, and as for the Disco Star: "Give me big hair and some glitter and I'm away... "

It was a fun show and the teachers made their own Strictly dance video to show to parents at the end. So nice to see them still with smiles on their faces after the most interminable of terms.

Our daughter cried when Johnnie had to go home, insisting that Debbie should have been made to hop on one leg in the dance-off to make it more equal. She kind of had a point, but Johnnie was happy that the judges had made no allowances for his disability. Craig didn't like Johnnie's bum sticking out, and that was that.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Miniaturist

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Miniaturist is a slightly odd book. My overriding memory is lots of people wandering around crying "sell the sugar!". But there's also hypocritical Puritanism, gay and extra-marital sex, spooky prophecy, childbirth, drowning, racial tolerance and intolerance, and a woman wandering around Amsterdam with a surprising amount of freedom and feistiness considering the repressive age in which she is living. (I have no issue with women being free or feisty; I'm just questioning the historical accuracy of the book's representation of a wife's lot in the Dutch 1680s.)

But I did enjoy the television adaptation. It looked stunning, with the darkness of a Rembrandt gathering but the brightly coloured dresses of a Vermeer portrait. The performances were beguiling and the plot utterly absorbing, right from the opening moments. The programme began not with the sinister and tragic church funeral of the book, but with the beautiful Nella sailing past windmills on the way to her new marital home on Amsterdam's Herengracht, full of hope and expectation.

Zaanse Schans

Of course it all then goes horribly wrong. Nella's merchant husband Johannes Brandt is often physically absent and unwilling to engage in any form of passion when he is around. His sister Marin rules the roost with pious coldness. Nella's companion parakeet escapes. Nella then discovers that her husband only has sexual feelings for men, one of whom turns up to murder the family dog. The Brandts' African servant Otto stabs him in self-defence. The owners of the sugar that the Brandts are supposed to be selling, the Meermans, spot Johannes and the dog murderer in a tryst at the docks and report him to the authorities. The dog murderer claims he was attacked by Johannes and that his stab wound proves it. Nella then discovers that Marin is pregnant, and not emotionless at all. Far from it, in fact. Nella believes that the father is Frans Meerman, who had been romantically involved with Marin in her youth. But the father's identity is only revealed once the baby is born with dark skin. Sadly, Marin does not survive the birth's complications. Johannes is sentenced to death by drowning by the court. Otto witnesses this vile punishment and returns to the Brandt house to meet his new daughter and to grieve. 

And all of this is somehow foreseen by the Miniaturist. Johannes gives Nella a cabinet replica of their house as a wedding present, and she seeks someone to furnish it. From Smit's List, the Amsterdam equivalent of the Yellow Pages at the time, she locates a woman who lives at the "Sign of the Sun". Nella requests that she make items like a lute and a box of marzipan, but instead the Miniaturist delivers a child's cradle, calligraphed cryptic messages on folded scraps of paper, and accurate doll figures of everyone in and involved with the family. And there's more - the figure of the family dog acquires a drop of blood shortly before he is murdered. A tiny sugar cone grows mould just as some of the ones in the warehouse are discovered to be rotting in the damp.

Nella and the Miniaturist did meet briefly on screen at the end, which they don't as far as I recall in the book. This was an attempt to solve some of the mysteries of the text, but we still didn't get all the answers we seek. Just how does the Miniaturist of the title know so much about the families she makes things for? How does she predict the future? Where did she come from, and where does she go? 

And what will become of Nella, Otto and Cornelia and baby Thea after the deaths of Johannes and Marin? How can they make a success of the family firm with such scandal behind them? Will they ever sell that sugar?  

One of the mouldy sugar cones made it to the Castle Museum in York
The Dutch scenes were filmed in Leiden, rather than Amsterdam, which makes sense, since Amsterdam is far too busy to be a practical shoot location. You are not really going to get that authentic 17th century feel with hoards of Japanese tourists sailing past in glass Lovers canal cruiseboats and all those distracting shop windows in the seedier parts of town, which bring a whole new meaning to "sign of the Sun". The gabled houses are lower in Leiden, but it's such a wonderful city. We spent a couple of holidays camping in nearby Rijnsburg, and loved popping over to stroll along Leiden's waterways, take a boat trip, explore the not insignificant museums, visit the windmills and botanical gardens, or just shop at the Saturday market for cheese, stroopwafel and kibbeling before lunching at one of the many floating cafes along the canals.

Lower gables than Amsterdam


Lovely Leiden






We went back to Amsterdam this summer, while staying with a friend and former colleague of mine in Beverwijk, which is how I finally got to see Nella Oortman's dolls' house in the place that inspired Jessie Burton to write the story. It was the rainiest day imaginable (thankfully the only one in an otherwise glorious week), and the Rijksmuseum was the fourth we had visited that day because we was impossible to do anything outside. We bought annual museum passes which saved us hours of queuing in the deluge. Our return to science centre Nemo had gone down well:



But the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk less so with our six-year-old philistine. Moan, moan, moan.

Officially "the worst museum in the world"
Mondrian art appreciation

So the Rijksmuseum was seriously pushing our luck, even with a promise of pancakes at the end of it. Which possibly explains why our daughter was prepared to give us a maximum of 20 minutes to see the whole museum. And why the snaps of the dolls houses are very blurry - blink and we would have missed them as we hurtled past.


We also managed to catch glimpses of The Night Watch and the Milkmaid, which have now merged in my mind into images of the Brandt house from this superlative televisual feast. Thankfully the girl was safely in bed during the broadcast so I could watch it with all the time in the world. Nice work, BBC.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

A House Through Time


Have you ever wondered about all the people who lived in your house before you? Who they were, what they did, how long they were there? You may of course already know the answers - you may live in a relatively new house that's only had one set of previous owners (like the house I spent most of my childhood in), or in a house that has been in the same family for generations (like my dad's house in the Lake District, which was first lived in by my great, great grandfather). But generally, it's information a lot of us don't have.

Ours for generations

If you've bought your house, you will normally have met the previous owners to you, though not necessarily. The owner may already have moved out or be an absentee landlord, or the house may be a probate sale owing to its occupant's demise. There may be neighbours around to fill in some of the gaps in information, depending on the friendliness of your street. But however much or little you know about your house's previous occupants, everyone who has lived there before you will have left their mark somehow - their choice of bathroom or kitchen, a scrap of wallpaper several layers below yours, a wall built or knocked down, a forgotten box in the loft, a bush in the garden. Their ghosts live on, though not necessarily in a supernatural sense. For unless you completely gut the place, it will never feel entirely yours.

A House Through Time, written and presented by social historian David Olusoga, aims to chart the history of a single house, 62 Falkner Street in Liverpool, from its first occupants to the present day. He has gleaned information from archived documents and newspapers. It's an approach a bit like the one used in Who Do You Think You Are?, only without the celebrity starting point. Our starting point is instead a picture of fields, owned by the farmer after whom the street is subsequently named (though with a misspelling). The house was built in 1840, and was originally number 58, its number increasing to 62 as more houses were built piecemeal onto the road. Nowadays, it's a strikingly substantial Georgian-style (because technically it's Victorian) terraced property in what looks like a highly desirable part of town. It may have since lost a lot of its original features and fireplaces, but back in the day it had a drawing room, a maid, bespoke furniture, the works. The house was bought for around £1,000 by its first owner, Richard Glenton - a seemingly lazy and unambitious clerk in the Liverpool docks, which were then at their height. Glenton had lodgers to help him pay the bills on his meagre £50 annual income - the rest of his apparently lavish lifestyle being funded by the "bank of Dad"; a dad who had also got him his clerk's post in an extraordinary level of nepotism apparently quite normal for the time. Once Dad died, leaving his fortune to Richard's unmarried sister, Richard had to sell up and find himself a more humble abode. He sold the house to a couple called the Orrs, who had been in service but ended up the equivalent of millionaires in today's money. The husband, a former butler, worked long hours as the manager of the "newsroom" at an exclusive gentleman's club, overhearing conversations which enabled him to make shrewd financial investments.

Then the house was owned by Wilfred Steele, a cotton trader who experienced every extreme imaginable in his short life. Boom, bust, battle. He lost two young sons and ended up in a debtor's gaol, yet abandoned two stepdaughters to a miserable fate in a Liverpool workhouse. He benefited from slavery but fought in the American war against it, though the latter was probably for the money rather than the morality of the issue. David Olusoga quite understandably did not take kindly to this man, although many of the facts were speculative rather than pure.

I am very much looking forward to the next instalment. And the programme makes me want to find out more about our house in York. It was built around 1910, and for many of its recent years was a student rental property, before being sold to our vendors, who did a lot of crazy renovations, the majority of which we have had neither the luck, skill nor money to undo. We met said previous owners once - they were both academics, and like us, had moved to York from Crouch End in London, which seemed like a good omen. They spent the three months between us viewing the property and completing the sale chain-smoking and cooking greasy dinners, the aromas resulting from which it took us about ten months to eradicate. We never quite got rid of the dirt.


Edinburgh nights with Walter Scott
Our house has a name, Waverley, etched into the glass above the front door. But I have no idea when this was done or why. None of the other houses on the terrace have a name, though they all have the same Victorian tiled hallway floor. Was it Waverley after the Walter Scott novel, the steamship on the Clyde, or the great station at Edinburgh? I do know that the house was already called Waverley 50 years ago, since by chance last summer I met another previous owner. She happened to walk past when I was sitting on our new bench outside in the front yard and stopped to chat. She had bought the house with her husband but when they had two young children found it as impractical as we had with our young toddler, with its steep stairs, narrow rooms and deep draughts. They, unlike us, had got their act together and traded it in for a 1930s semi with a garden a few streets away. Their legacy was to remove a picture etched onto the glass behind the word Waverley, to knock the kitchen through into the toilet outhouse to create a downstairs bathroom, and to board out a storage area under the eaves to install a train set, where we now keep our suitcases and cat carrier.

The place I sit to learn about our house

Another previous resident turned up mildly stoned on our doorstep one night to say he liked what we had done to the front yard, since it was just a hole in the ground when he lived there. I am not even sure if he had the right house or why he had felt so compelled to knock on the door, though the story of the giant hole makes me wonder if there are more to the suspiciously diagonal cracks in our walls than my husband will ever believe.

And then there is the story of a certain school administrator who I discovered had a boyfriend who still lived with his parents in our house many years ago. "Ooh, the fun I've had in your lounge!" she merrily told me. Our lounge was his bedroom, as the family rented out the top of the house to lodgers working on the railway. I've never quite felt the same about the four walls surrounding our sofa since.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Howards End

Hidcote, Cotswolds

I thought, "Do I need to watch this? Because I've seen the film." But it turns out that the film is now 25 years old and the plot I remembered was actually the one for The Remains of the Day (there is a small cast overlap). But I suppose that is at least one step better than remembering it as Howards Way. In fact, it's pretty remarkable - I can't remember the plot of a film I see nowadays for longer than five minutes. I saw The Girl On The Train at the weekend, for example. It was about a girl on a train. She drank a lot. She got confused. And so did I.

So yes, it turned out I did need to watch Howards End, and I am glad that I did. But a shock similar to the realisation of how long ago the film was made was seeing Matthew McFadyean eligible to play the part of "stuffy old man", when I still like to think of him as "bright young thing". It's a bit like if Ewan McGregor was asked to play Grandpa Joe in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That hasn't actually happened yet (has it? Renton was still only a mildly craggy middle-aged man in T2, even if he did have a heart attack at the start (don't ask me the rest of the plot - it's been weeks)), but elsewhere Phillip Schofield is a white-haired man fronting This Morning without Gordon the Gopher, and Paul Nicholas and Wayne Sleep are presenting documentaries about retiring. It seems we've all moved on, people. Alas. I've aged, and so have they. (Shopping list item one - reading glasses.)

Another shock was how little of the plot takes place in Howards End itself. Mr Wilcox struggled with his property portfolio, inadvertently buying an estate in the wrong part of Shropshire, where there were "no grouse to shoot". He didn't seem sure what to do with any of his dwellings or which of them to live in, because there were just so many of them. He couldn't keep track and just let them all slowly decay. A bit like the landlords of the properties either side of us here in York. But then the point of this adaptation did rather seem to be its relevance to now - the class divides of wealth, opportunity and sexual attitudes; the gulf of achievements and expectations between genders; the rich decimating the lives of the poor with no heed of the consequences, like water running off a duck's back; the difficulty of climbing back on the ladder when society dictates that you slide off it; wandering about on top of a cliff edge looking longingly across to Europe.

The BBC had thrown in some racism for good measure (and Lord knows, there's still plenty of that around today) with servants and partners from ethnic minorities being regarded with a frown beyond the disapproval of all things German that the Schlegel family faced. But I loved the unconventionality of the Schlegels - the assertive sisters with their cosmopolitan tastes, wonderful dress sense and free opinions (which they were able to express, even if Mr Wilcox wasn't listening), and Tibby with his hypochondria, apprentice pipe smoking and eccentric academic foibles such as suddenly sitting down to learn Chinese. I am not sure if he set foot outside during the whole series.

It was all very subtle, with long scenes and gentle putdowns dismissing great ambitions. So subtle that I didn't even notice that the first Mrs Wilcox was terminally ill, or that Leonard and Helen were supposed to have had sex. The big dramatic climax - the reveal of the illegimate pregnancy, the beating with a sword, the bookcase end of poor Mr Bast - was over in a moment. Then we were back to a slow meadow, reminiscent of that wonderful scene between Lucy and George in A Room With A View where they kiss for the first time in the Tuscan hills (another, even older film). Only this time the love was between two sisters and a child, and for a man who finally understood what it is to honour a legacy, a dying wish, and who had accepted that you cannot act differently to the rules that you dictate to others. There was thunder rumbling in the distance.


There were many scenes in London. The Wilcox's London apartment was in a block on Kensington Gore opposite the Royal Albert Hall, through a window of which I once saw pornographic material being projected onto a giant screen during an interval at the Proms. I thought the soon-to-be-demolished Georgian terraces of Wickham Place were on that perpetual weekend film set of Lincolns Inn near Holborn but apparently they were in a square in trendy Clerkenwell.

Photo: Becky Buckley

This Howards End, with its gorgeous country garden reminiscent of the one in the opening photograph of this post, was a house near Godalming in Surrey. West Wycombe House in Buckinghamshire stood in for Oniton in Shropshire, but I can't comment on the National Trust's permissions for grouse-shooting. Aunt Juley's house and the cliffs looking out to Europe were above Studland Bay in Dorset. They all made England look far lovelier than the realities of 2017, where sadly the "remains of the day" are just too many of the attitudes in Howards End.

Dorset cliffs

Friday, 1 December 2017

Love, Lies and Records


I am enjoying this Leeds-based drama by Kay Mellor, although I haven't quite worked out whether it is comedy, drama, murder mystery, love story or just a mix of everything. That would make sense, as  "a mix of everything" is pretty much the job description of a council registrar, who must see the highs and lows of life on a daily basis.

Ashley Jensen plays Kate, a slightly unconventional senior registrar who is popular at work but has teenagers at home, with all the upheaval that brings. Dodgy texts from unknown males, truancy from school, late-night disappearances, stepsons randomly turning up to move in. Her husband is a  detective, dragging corpses of young women out of canals. Somehow it looks as though all of these things are connected by more than just family ties.

Rebecca Front plays Judy, the woman who longs to be Kate's boss but instead finds that Kate has become her boss. This brings out all of Judy's narcissistic nasty sides, with her (pardon the pun) trump card being her possession of CCTV footage of Kate's fling with a colleague at the office Christmas party. Judy doesn't seem to accept that the reason no one wants her to be the boss is that she's really a bit of a bitch. I'm not saying that it's a good idea to shag your colleagues in a stationery cupboard either, especially if you have a husband and kids, but being nice to your workmates (even the ones you aren't shagging) usually takes you far.

Then there is James, trying to become Jamie. He's been thrown out by his wife, so he moves in to Kate's as well, even if the sofa is the only space left in the house.

The office, Judy aside, is an open and tolerant place where people from all walks of life walk in. From the parents who want to call their child Chlamydia, to the gay couples finally allowed to marry after 25 years of partnership, to the Slovenian woman possibly being illegally coerced into marriage to get her husband a right to remain. Then there is the man who turns up with his newborn baby son to register his birth. The baby's mother is absent because she is dying in a hospice, having refused to start potentially life-saving cancer treatment in order to be able to continue with her pregnancy. The couple aren't married because they never had the money or time to get around to it, and now it seems it's too late. But not if Kate has anything to do with it. A couple of phonecalls, some emergency form-signing and a trip to a charity shop later, the hospice is full of flowers and family and - well, you're a heartless cow if it didn't bring a tear to your eye. Very shortly afterwards, the husband is back at the Town Hall to register his wife's death. Kate is out officiating at a wedding and trying to locate her truanting daughter, but he waits and waits, his calm and peaceful baby son lying in his arms. For it is Kate that he wants to officiate. Not Judy.

The lions of Leeds
My cousin Flo got married at Leeds Town Hall. It was an early start for us all, as the only slot available for the date she wanted was at 9 o'clock in the morning. Which may explain my slightly dishevelled look on the photo below. I was very glad I didn't have to do full bridal make-up and hair by that time, but of course Flo managed all of that effortlessly and looked amazing. And actually, it was a good thing that the wedding was so early - about an hour after we had our photos taken on the Town Hall steps it began raining torrentially and didn't stop for the rest of the day. 





Though I am fairly sure that the steps that they use in Love, Lies and Records are actually the ones that go up to the City Museum in Millennium Square, where my daughter and I have whiled away many an hour in its Toddler Town and animal-filled basement. 

And nasty Judy may run this TV Leeds Council office, but Nice Judy runs Leeds City Council in real life. I am biased of course - she happens to be my aunt. But she just got awarded a CBE by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in a ceremony alongside Mo Farah and Delia Smith, for her services to local government and the City of Leeds. So she is definitely doing something right. We are so proud of her. Bravo.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Motherland

This is just deliciously excruciating. I had been waiting for a full series ever since the pilot last year, and it hasn't disappointed.

I don't currently have a high-flying professional job to manage on top of the school run, I can't afford a nanny, and my husband isn't a total dickwad prone to disappearing off go-karting or to stag dos every other weekend, but I can still relate all too painfully to so many of the situations featured. The smug yummy mummies in the Teabags cafe making you feel vastly inferior to their manicured nails, perfect hair, high-achieving children and expensive cars while you sit at the "toilet table" wondering if you'll ever sleep again... The child who erupts with norovirus two minutes before an important event... The disastrous birthday party... The lack of enthusiasm among parents for PTA events that don't involve alcohol... The inability of a mother to listen properly to anything anyone tells her... The obsession with parking permits...

Though I was impressed with the turnout for their PTA meeting. I think we need to start holding ours at Teabags. But look, we've made a cake book! Buy it, please!


I do have two criticisms though - if these are busy professional mummies, how come they have so much spare school daytime to spend in Teabags? And how are they able to nip out to the pub so easily in the evening? Is there a babysitter surplus in Queens Park? And would a character like Julia really have such a juvenile husband? More likely to have one she never sees because he is working late in the city every night. But I suppose that isn't funny for anyone, just true. Mind you, the desperate phonecalls to him wherever he has buggered off to are very funny, and remind me of Graham Linehan's other masterpiece, Father Ted, when Ted would ring his friend Father Larry Duff on his mobile phone, to calamitous results.

We were once invited to a five year old's swimming party, which also went a bit wrong. The pool was having some building work and all the plaster dust in the air triggered the fire alarm to go off halfway through our session, meaning we had to get out of the water and evacuate the building. It was June, and sunny, but York is cold all year round when you are in a swimsuit. The pool attendants handed out space blankets in tiny packets which took so long to unfold that the alarm had ended and we had all contracted hypothermia before we managed to wrap them round our children. Never mind - the parents of the birthday girl plied us all with fine French wine afterwards to apologise and served up an excellent barbecue. And while the changing room was a total stampede, at least I wasn't wearing a white designer jacket. Because I only own waterproofs to wear to meetings.

We also held a birthday party at home one year, on our daughter's request. She spent months planning all sorts of random impossible games with rules that only she understood and frequently changed. She designed a treasure hunt and pass the parcel featuring no end of shit plastic jewels she had found on the ground, stolen from playgroups, kept from crackers or persuaded me to buy in the charity shop. She insisted on a princess theme. I had planned to turf all the kids out to the woods at the end of our road, but of course on the day, two weeks of sunshine dissolved into pouring rain, so we had to keep them all cooped up in our lounge, high on sugar. No vomiting bug, but I had gone down with a stonking migraine three hours before the party, and while my vision had just about returned to normal I still felt like I had been hit by a bus. I didn't quite resort to the "throw them a quid and feed them undiluted squash" but it came close. This year we went to a pottery painting place instead and it was so much more civilised.


We don't have family anywhere near who could help with child care (or refuse to help with child care, as in Julia's case), although something miraculous happened this half-term. During a trip to the Lake District, our daughter was suddenly old enough to tolerate my dad babysitting her for a couple of hours in the day (there may have been a teeny bribe involved), so my husband and I went out for a Michelin-starred lunch in Grasmere (Dad had given us a Forest Side gift voucher for Christmas), while Dad and his partner took the girl to Hayes Garden World and The Rock Shop in Ambleside, which she thought was brilliant, and my dad was nice enough not to squirm about. My dad never took us to such places on our Lake District holidays - he dragged us up mountains instead. I thought I was young when I think about the hills I was tackling at my daughter's age (Skiddaw, Helvellyn in a Force 8 gale) but then my brother reminded me that he was three years younger and only survived these expeditions through a perpetual supply of Fox's Glacier Mints. We're lucky if we get our daughter round a pond without her whining. The youth of today, eh? Don't know they're born.




Forest Side lunch, Grasmere

Friday, 20 October 2017

Liar



In the week of the Harvey Weinstein furore and the #metoo campaign highlighting how widespread sexual harassment and abuse still are in our times, it seemed pertinent to write about this ITV drama, which came to its chilling conclusion this week.

Not quite as sensitively handled as Broadchurch 3 on the matter of rape (no Olivia Colman for starters), Liar still packed a punch, highlighting a woman's genuine fears that she won't be believed if she reports an attack to the police. But that's how this drama worked - the clue was in the title. Just who was the liar? Laura Nielson or Andrew Earlham? How did such a promising-looking date turn so sour? For judging how the initial dinner was going, without the drugs, consensual sex looked as though it would probably very much have been on the cards. It seemed impossible that such a charming, conventionally good-looking, successful and intelligent man could commit such a callous and heinous act. The victim had a history of mental illness and had something in her past which threatened to come out, so had she just made it all up, to right a wrong, as a rebound from her failed relationship, or just because she couldn't separate fiction from truth?  Andrew seemed a broken yet justifiably angry man after her accusations.

But people are never what they seem. Apart from the sleazy school headteacher from Laura's past played by Peter Davison, who was exactly what he seemed. Even the charming surgeon saw straight through him and his brand of sexual harassment (which also went unpunished thanks to a combination of fear and blackmail and the victim's sense of hopelessness - much more of a Weinstein situation).

As the series progressed, it became clear that Laura was the victim of lie after lie - not just at the hands of Andrew Earlham, but closer to home too, at those of her sister and ex partner, who had been having an affair. And the truth behind Andrew Earlham became sicker and sicker. A long history of drugged and abused women, crushed, confused, unable to prove a thing. A dead ex-wife. But ultimately two women determined to seek justice, catch him out, and send him to jail.

The police weren't much cop (despite one of the victims being a cop), although Earlham had made his tracks hard to find, and the undercover policewoman was just too slow with her syringe of wine. No one seemed to spot Earlham's regular visits to see his mum and the possibility that she might have storage facilities that needed checking. Laura figured it out all by herself, the final prompt she needed coming from Andrew's careless slip of the tongue about "playing back" his assault. Yes, he had videoed every depraved and foul moment of what he did to these unconscious women.

The central performances, particularly from Joanne Froggatt, were superb, but the series wasn't an easy watch. And instead of retribution, of seeing Andrew get his comeuppance, or one last showdown between the two main characters, the ending was a bit of a damp squib. The carer's phonecall warning Andrew of Laura prying in the shed did not provoke a wild car chase out to the docks. Instead, Laura was able to hand the video and drug evidence into the police unheeded. Andrew was declared missing, and only as the credits rolled was he spotted lying in the marshes with his throat slit. Then series 2 was announced. Where presumably it will be revealed exactly who prevented him entering a court of law. Cos it's pretty difficult to cut your own throat. Though maybe not if you are an experienced surgeon.