Saturday, 13 December 2014

Christmas Television

Christmas reading
I treated us to the Christmas edition of the Radio Times yesterday. Partly because, if I'm quick enough, I can use it to get a free Paddington book from the Early Learning Centre. I took my daughter to see the film of Paddington on the day it was released. We were having some windows replaced at home so I needed to get her out the joiner's way and Paddington was the perfect diversion - the walk to the cinema gave Charlotte some exercise, the box of popcorn fulfilled a promise from a song at her music class the day before, and the film provided nostalgia for Mummy and diversion for the four-year-old. We have a DVD of the original television series, which Charlotte absolutely loves. Notting Hill must have changed almost as much as animation techniques for an ursine Peruvian immigrant between the television series and the film. But the original is a true testament that technical quality is never an issue as long as writing quality is high. Paddington falling on the cream cakes, Paddington in the taxi, Paddington taking a bath and Paddington on the escalator all make Charlotte laugh hysterically time after time. So it was with great joy that we saw that these scenes had been replicated (and enhanced to new levels of funniness) in the film. All of us oldies will miss Michael Hordern's narration. But with Hugh Bonneville as Mr Brown, Sally Hawkins as Mrs Brown, Julie Walters as Mrs Bird and Jim Broadbent as Mr Gruber in the film, what was not to love?
Cream cakes
What was not to love? Oh, yes, Nicole Kidman as the evil taxidermist, out to stuff Paddington for the Natural History Museum. In a back story at the start of the film, her father discovered Paddington's tribe of bears deep in the Peruvian jungle. But he let them be, after teaching them a love of marmalade and enough English to be able to talk about the weather. Returning to London minus an unlive specimen, he was dismissed in disgrace by the National Geographic Society. And his daughter is determined to succeed where he - in her eyes - failed.

Children's television shows drawn out into full-length movies always have to include a scary baddie. Postman Pat had to battle a tribe of laser-wielding robots (and a Simon Cowell lookalike) earlier in the year. I don't think it's necessary. Charlotte would gladly have watched Paddington falling over and storing things under his hat for 90 minutes. Postman Pat: The Movie took away all that was familiar from CBeebies, and this doesn't work. It's the mind of a pre-schooler - they love slapstick, and they don't need scary. Scary causes meltdowns and trembling and shrieks demanding to leave the building. They don't know yet that things will always come good in the end. That in Paddington's case Mr Curry (Peter Capaldi doing his best Phil Mitchell accent - they were at one point, after all, near neighbours in Crouch End) will stop voting UKIP, the teenagers will stop being embarrassed by their parents, and a drunk Mrs Bird will... well, I'd better not include too many spoilers. It's hard to explain to a little girl that everything will be OK - because in life it usually isn't, and even a young child in a comfortable and privileged Yorkshire home can work out that she is often denied a happy ending. Mummy doesn't always give in to her arguments. The chocolate button may be denied, the broken toy irreparable, and the television switched off.

Anyway, speaking of television, what delights await us over the festive season? I haven't even bothered looking at any scheduling before Iggle Piggle sails off in his boat, because until then my control over the remote control will be, well, remote. But I am very much looking forward to Professor Branestawm, a set of books I loved as a child. I am curious about Victoria Wood's musical about the reunion of the Manchester children's choir who recorded Purcell's Nymphs and Shepherds in 1929, even if it does star Michael Ball. But otherwise, with no new Julia Donaldson feature (though I believe Stick Man is promised for 2015), it's same old, same old. Doctor Who. Call The Midwife. EastEnders. Downton bloody Abbey. Dad's Army. Morecambe And Wise. Well, it wouldn't be Christmas without television tradition. Or would it?

Having a young child does bring a lot of excitement and fun and early starts into Christmas. But it's a time of year I always find really hard. I miss my mum. Even if the word she most commonly used to describe Christmas was "crap". And even though the arguments in our house during the cooking of dinner could be spectacular until the opening of the sherry. But all of our Christmas tradition died with her. We had to find new ways of doing things. Even if it meant we just had to all be apart, to try and numb the pain of her absence a little. I can't help but be envious of my friends who all still have their family units intact, and a wealth of doting grandparents to make Christmas huge and lively and involving for their children.

So while cancer denied our family the happy ending ten years ago, we do have the girl, and a happy girl on Christmas Day will bring much of the joy back. I will, however, remain in denial that a happy girl will only be achieved with large doses of Frozen, and frozen fish fingers.

Christmas dinner in a box

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