This afternoon, I spent a very pleasant hour lying on the sofa watching a recording of BBC2’s latest Wonderland documentary. These programmes never fail to inspire & amuse me, each managing to find an intriguing and unusual slice of life and present them in a straightforward manner: there’s no sense of a joke being played on the participants, no sly digs but no being sycophantic either. Some participants you like, some you don’t like, but the judgement is always yours to make, with little input from the production team.
This week’s episode was entitled ‘High Society Brides’. I thought it looked quite fun to watch – a glimpse into how the other half lived in the not-too-distant past – but ended up finding it quite moving & thought-provoking on a level that I hadn’t imagined. My politics are such that I hold little admiration for the upper-classes and I have little nostlgia for their heyday; I used to love You Rang M’Lord? as a child (I still do love it) but even back then I was aware enough to realise that had I been born a hundred years earlier, I would have been part of life ‘downstairs’ rather than up. Despite this, I found that much in the stories of the five women featured spoke across class-boundaries. Some of the participants seemed more likeable than others – and some expressed views that I found misguided to the point of abhorrence – but the issues of beauty and ageing, alcoholism, social pressure, gender roles, expectations of romance and idealism, were universal and not limited to the privileged world of Country Life magazine.
I particularly took to Catherine Sackville-West, whose fabulous outfits, enviable job (assistant casting director at the Royal Opera House) and lovely home portrayed a life as I imagine my own in a couple of decades’ time. Reflecting on remaining single since the end of her short-lived marriage, Sackville-West made the following comment:
I don’t need someone to sit on the sofa and watch telly with. I mean, it’s such a sort of over-used cliche to describe myself as a free-spirit but I think I probably am and it was as though, with my marriage, that was the one moment in my life where I kind of broke faith with that and did something that was kind of against my instincts and against my character and that’s probably one of the reasons why it didn’t work. I don’t know, I don’t think I’m marriage material.
Her words so clearly spoke to me and seemed to chime in accord with this project/blog, encouraging me to stick to my guns and reassuring me that I am not alone in my quest. Her words also made me chuckle, as watching TV appears to be an activity around which many statements about relationships focus: along with Sackville-West’s I don’t need someone to sit on the sofa and watch telly with, another favourite quotation of mine is I’m finding more pleasure in a tray of tea and a boiled egg in front of the telly than I ever found in that bed with him – made by a widow in Sally Kline’s book Women, Passion and Celibacy.
Sackville-West’s words also spoke to me on a day when I’m beginning a new journal. I like to write something inspiring on the first page, so have copied her words down in the middle – the first bright dash of blue ink on a fresh page. Sackville-West has created a life of her own, a world briefly glimpsed in the Wonderland documentary and as I sit here now, blogging away in in the lamplight, surrounded by my most treasured possessions and artefacts, I feel that I am in my own little wonderland too.