May 15, 2013

DID YOU SEE IT?

Image for Episode 1

The drama series “The Village” was on TV recently and unfortunately I missed half of it.  I remembered to record episode 5 and watched some of the earlier ones on BBC iPlayer before it became unavailable.

The story is about a family living in Derbyshire and begins in 1914, just before the beginning of the First World War.  Imagine Downton Abbey, but rather more gritty and raw.

We see the younger son, Burt, being caned by his teacher at school for writing with his left hand.

We see the older son, Jo, returning from the war on leave and suffering badly from shell shock, being dragged away by the military police to be dealt with severely for being a deserter when he failed to report back for duty.

Image for Episode 5

We see the father John spending what little money they had in the village pub and taking his misery and inadequacy out on his wife and children.

The series appealed to me initially because it is set in Derbyshire.  In fact it takes place in a different part of the county from where I live, in the most rugged and, although beautiful, most unforgiving part of the Peak District where the winters are very hard.  They were even harder then.

The thing that really caught my imagination is that if you exchanged agriculture for mining the story could almost be that of my father’s family. 

My father’s grandfather was a miner and regularly spent what little money they had in the pub and went home drunk to his wife and children.  The three eldest sons joined up as soon as war was declared in 1914, a way to escape the abuse at home.  Sam and Enoch enlisted for the army and paraded through the village to brass bands and people waving them off as they set out on their journey to France, just like in the TV programme.

Enoch was 17 and survived two weeks.  Sam was 34 and survived two years.  George ran away from home and lied about his age in order to join the navy and survived the war completely – he was my grandfather. 

My father’s grandmother died aged 47 after years of abuse and malnutrition, having lost two sons in the war and one having run away to the navy.  Her two youngest children were taken into care after she died because their father was incapable of looking after them.  The youngest, Lillian, spent her whole life in an institution.

Image for Episode 4

Although it was obviously fiction I think the story was pretty true to how life was for ordinary folk at that time, certainly if the stories my father tells are anything to go by.  When people are grumbling about how hard life is nowadays I can’t help thinking they have no concept of real hardship or even real hard work.

I shall have to wait until the series is repeated or buy the DVD to find out what happened in the end.  Was Jo shot for being a deserter?  Many seriously traumatised young men, who went to war totally unprepared for the horrors that awaited them, were shot because they were “cowards”.  How things have changed, thankfully.

9 comments:

  1. What fantasizing and tragic family history. Sounds to me like your family's story would make a brilliant mini-series.

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  2. Fascinating and so, so sad, especially the respective fates of Enoch and Lillian.
    Proof that it is the history of 'ordinary' people that is actually extraordinary.

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  3. Get writing, Jean.

    I did see the final episode but it was the only episode I watched. I won't spoil it for you.

    I agree wholeheartedly about the trials of life in those days. There will surely be parallels between your Derbyshire and my Welsh hills.

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  4. And there are similarities, as Gaynor says, with the lives my Carolina ancestors lived. Fortunately, life has been better for more recent generations, like ours.

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  5. 1914 - Drinking away the family money on booze.

    In Ireland, that is still a major problem.

    In the late 80's and early 90's, it was a major cause of conflict for my family.

    Great post. Thank you

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  6. I watched all the episodes, do see if you can find the DVD, I'm sure the BBC will have it ready soon. It was such a bleak drama but marvellous for not portraying the story through rose tinted spectacles, the acting was excellent and I loved young Bert. On a musical front thare was an inaccuracy in that the little band played the tune to Jerusalem by Parry as the men marched off to the war in 1914 but Parry did not write that tune until 1916. Nonetheless, a really thought provoking dramatisation of life back then.
    Veronica

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    1. Whoops! That's the sort of mistake you don't expect from the good old Beeb!

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  7. I'm afraid I missed this completely, which is a shame as it's just the kind of drama that appeals to me. Your description of it and your story of your grandfather's family echo some of the things my grandmother used to tell me about life in the so-called Good Old Days, which were very often nothing of the sort. I must look out for a repeat.

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  8. This sounds a fab series. I love these series rooted in reality and social problems exacerbated by much larger issues like a major war. The Germans did a fantastic series called Heimat that I would like to see again some time.

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