Category Archives: Musings

Poldark, Episode Two: Dumb things men do

Dancing is not one of the dumb things.

Dancing is not one of the dumb things.

So last night found me once again sitting raptly before the TV, immersed in the world of “Poldark” while warming my hands on my obligatory cup of tea.  (I always drink tea while watching “Masterpiece Theatre.” I’m such an Anglophile dork.)

Anyhow, Episode Two was just as good as Episode One, about which I blogged last week.   I am loving this series.  It’s as good as “Downton,” though so very different; it’s like comparing apples and oranges (or like comparing bowlers and tricornes?).

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Below are a few thoughts on Episode Two.  I will warn you that there  are mild spoilers coming up, so if you DVR’d it, watch it before proceeding.  (And if you haven’t watched any of the series yet, you’re only two episodes behind!  Go watch it!)

Episode Two musings:

1) Where “Downton” has the servants, “Poldark” has the miners.  Each series, in its own way, deals with the class differences.  Class has more fluid boundaries for Ross Poldark than for Lord Grantham; this is surely a function of time, setting, and personality, as we have already seen that Ross is a bit more of a rogue than Lord G. is.  I love how Ross cares about the welfare of his miners and eats and socializes with them and won’t let Demelza demean herself.  Maybe he brought more home from the Revolutionary War than just the scar?  Could it be that those “all men are created equal” ideas rubbed off on him? (yay America!). Anyhow, this lack of snobbishness is one of the nicest parts of his character.

2)It must have been quite a job for the makeup artist to put the scar on Aidan Turner every single day of filming.  Was there a “scar continuity” person to make sure it was always the same length, width, and color?  Viewers tend to notice if it isn’t, and then they write snarky blog posts about it.  (This is not one of those posts.  It looks pretty consistent to me.)

3) We had a ball scene!  A period drama is not a period drama without one.

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Every time I watch one of these balls, the dances look so enormously complicated.  They have all these intricate weaves and patterns and turns; you really have to know what you’re doing.  I try to imagine myself in there dancing and I see myself making a wrong turn and knocking a few bewigged gentlemen down like bowling pins.  Good thing I live when I do.  But still: such dancing is lovely to look at, and these scenes always serve to further the relationships between the characters in dramatic ways.

4)  George Warleggan = thoroughly bad guy.  And if you couldn’t tell from his actions, you could tell from his hair.  Am I right in thinking they would never give a romantic hero hair like this?

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5) The media has said that Ross Poldark is the new Mr. Darcy.  There is some truth to that.  I have to say, though, that Mr. Darcy would probably never pick up a prostitute in a tavern, a plot twist which was probably less surprising to me than to others because I’ve read the books and knew it was coming.   It is unfortunate that he unwittingly chose George’s girl, a fact that would probably make Ross lose his lunch in a hurry.  Maybe he should try a different stress release next time.

6)Kudos to Ross, though, for knowing how stupid it was for Francis and Verity’s boyfriend to fight a duel.  Honestly, the male ego has been responsible for some seriously idiotic things throughout human history, and the concept of a duel has to be right up there at the top.  Women would never do anything that stupid, right?  Right?

Did you watch?  What did you think?

Poldark, Episode One: A guy with great problems and even greater hair

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Did you watch the Masterpiece series “Poldark” last night?  Based on Episode One , I can safely say I know what I’ll be doing every Sunday night at nine.  I’ll be in eighteenth-century Cornwall, watching Ross Poldark live and fight and love and learn.

This is good news indeed.  Ever since “Downton Abbey” finished for the year, I’ve been looking for another  period drama to take its place, preferably one in which people named Bates do not regularly end up accused of murder.  I believe I’ve found it.

If you missed last night’s episode, here is a quick intro: Ross Poldark is off fighting in the American War for Independence (on the wrong side, but we’ll let that pass) when he gets wounded in battle.   This has the effect of 1) giving him a rather dashing facial scar and 2) leading his family to think he is dead.  But he isn’t, and he returns home to a family dinner party at his uncle’s to a bunch of very surprised people.  No one is more surprised than Elizabeth, the girl with whom he exchanged vows of love the day before he left for war, but who is now engaged to marry his cousin Francis. Welcome home, soldier!

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Ross also finds out his father is dead, his servants have let the family home go to ruin, and he has no money.  And all this happens in the first fifteen minutes of the hour-long episode, which should let you know that this will be one roller-coaster ride of a series.

I have to admit that I knew the storyline already; the series is based on the books by Winston Graham, and so far it is adhering pretty closely to the first novel.  But the episode still had me enthralled.  The actors so far are very well-cast, in my humble opinion, and the rugged coastal scenery … oh, it’s making me put Visit Cornwall on my bucket list.  Every frame of the episode that takes place outside could be hung on a wall, it’s that gorgeous.

A few other thoughts:

*Aidan Turner (whom I had never seen before in anything) is a very good Ross.  He is the very picture of “brooding hero” (I refer you to the photos above) and he sure has a lot to brood about, seeing his girl marry his cousin.

There’s something very modern about the character of Ross.   He is a member of the landed (if impoverished) gentry, but he feels a close kinship with his poorer tenants and sees them as equal in human dignity.  I love the character because, for all his occasional outbursts of temper, he has a social conscience and is willing to risk his reputation to rescue a small dog from a fight and a teenage girl from her abusive father.  Aidan Turner thus far captures that mavericky, essentially good  side of him very well.   He is as convincing crying as he is brawling, and in the first episode Ross has ample occasion to do both.

He also has great hair. It is so great I had to put it in a paragraph of its own.  (If you don’t believe me, watch the show.)

*Elizabeth was in a bind, poor girl. What would you do if you were supposed to marry a perfectly nice if somewhat boring guy in a few weeks’ time, and then the guy you loved and were sure was dead suddenly materialized?  There is really no good way out of this.  She marries the boring guy, and we’ll see how that works out later on.

One nitpicky thing that bothered me: Elizabeth appears to be wearing a fetching purply shade of lipstick.  I’m no cosmetics historian, but I found it somewhat unrealistic to see something that looks like it should be called Maybelline Reckless Raisin in a period drama.  Then again, she also had flawless skin, which is also somewhat unrealistic in a period drama.  On the other hand, if they showed people as they really looked back then, we might all be so repulsed that there would be no audience.  (And props to them for making the teeth of Ross’s servant Jud appropriately disgusting.)

*Speaking of nitpicky: In a scene that is taken directly from the novel, Ross washes the lice of out his serving girl Demelza’s hair.  He does it simply by sticking her head under the pump, which got me wondering.    I have never yet had the pleasure of a lice outbreak myself (thank you GOD for my boys and their buzz cuts), but I know dear friends and family members who have, and by all accounts it is almost impossible to get rid of the little bastards.  Perhaps lice in the 18th century were less tenacious than their modern counterparts?  Now I am curious.

*My husband, who was watching with me (Happy Father’s Day, Honey!) remarked that he thinks the guy playing Jud is the same guy who was the murderous cabbie in Season One of “Sherlock.”  I am not convinced (perhaps I was distracted by the teeth), but it would not surprise me, because in every English period drama I watch I see at least one actor I recognize from another one.  It’s like Six Degrees of Separation, BBC-style.  I like it.  It makes it all one big family.

Did you watch Episode One?  Will you be watching Episode Two?  What did you think?

The fortune cookie said I had to do it

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If it’s on my fridge, I might just remember to do it.

I opened a fortune cookie a while back and this was the message inside: Treat yourself to something of quality.

My first reaction was Oh, goodie, can I?  And my second was to start thinking about what “something of quality” actually means.  What comes to mind when I read this phrase?

Here are a few things:

*A day at a high-end spa

*A crazy-expensive bottle of really good wine, the kind you drink only once in your lifetime

*A handbag that is a cut above my usual Old Navy/J C Penney ones

*800 thread count sheets

*A night at, say, The Ritz

*A first-class airplane ticket (whenever I fly steerage — which is all the time — I look covetously at first class and their leg room, their real meals and dishes, their private bathroom.)

None of these is actually likely to happen, given the reality of the Moyer budget, but this is still where my mind went first.  And then I thought: Why do I hear the phrase “something of quality” and automatically think of pricey things?  Aren’t there plenty of other quality things and experiences that don’t cost half my monthly salary?

*A cup of really good coffee

*A walk in a beautiful place  (like Filoli, where I hope to go again soon)

*A feel-good movie (lately I’ve rediscovered “Strictly Ballroom,” which is one of the most happy-making films I know)

*A quiet summer evening in the backyard

*A book that you just can’t put down

*A book you loved as a child and revisit as an adult, realizing that it’s just as good — or even better — than you remembered

*Some really focused writing time at a favorite cafe

*A quiet half-hour spent in prayer

The items on this second list are, actually, within my budget.  With a little planning and dedication, I can make them happen.  In fact, I think I’ll regard this as my “summer to-do” list; I will probably add to it as the weeks go on.

What about you?  What is something of quality that you’d like to treat yourself to this summer — or maybe even this week?

 

Rush slower

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If there’s anything that modern moms do well, it’s rush.

We rush from one thing to the next: from school dropoff to work, then from work to school pickup, then to the grocery store, then to the soccer or baseball or swimming practice, with that obligatory stop at the gas station shoehorned somewhere into the middle of it all.

And — if you’re anything like me– all that rushing can really sap your energy.

I wish I were better about praying through the rush.  I’m not; usually I’m too focused on watching the clock, the gas gauge, the traffic patterns on the streets around me to take a deep breath and recognize the presence of God.

But today, as I left work and got into my car for the first leg of the afternoon rush, I noticed something growing in the dirt patch by the parking space.  There, poking through the carpet of old oak leaves, was a plant with purple flowers.

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See that green thing?  Look closer …

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I have no idea what kind of plant it is.  I don’t even know if it’s what we’d classify as a weed, not a flower.  But it didn’t matter.  It made me happy.

Forgetting the schedule for a moment, I pulled out my phone and snapped some pictures.  The flower swayed in  the breeze a bit, and I had to be patient and wait to snap it in closeup.  But I finally did, and I felt better for having stared into the face of this beautiful little bloom, growing so silently and quietly in the middle of a dirt area near a parking lot, this gorgeous little thing that pulled me out of the rush for a brief, blessed moment.

It’s tempting to rush faster, to try to get everything done quickly so I can finally relax once the to-do list is completed.  But maybe that’s not the best way to go about this modern mom-life of mine.

Maybe the answer is to rush a little slower, slow enough to notice the flowers along the path.   That’s a kind of prayer, after all, and it does a soul good.

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Grateful.

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My dad on his First Communion Day

A dollhouse.  A Cabbage Patch kid.  A luggage set.  A wristwatch.  My parents have given me many gifts over the years, gifts that came under a Christmas tree or  wrapped in birthday paper.

They’ve also given me the kind of gifts you can’t put in a box: a college education, intellectual curiosity, the security of knowing that home would always be a safe place to fall.  I’m grateful for all of these.

And, the older I get, the more I appreciate another gift, too: the gift of being raised Catholic.

Dad again: middle row, second from left.

Dad again: middle row, second from left.

I didn’t always appreciate this gift.  In my college years and early twenties, I worked hard to put a certain distance between myself and my childhood faith. It wasn’t  that I regretted being raised in the faith; I could (and did) get a lot of mileage out of Catholic school jokes, and it was nice to be an English major who understood any and all Catholic allusions.  But my religious upbringing felt like a weight attached to the hem of my skirt, keeping me from moving easily into new experiences that I wanted to try.

I could never have imagined that I’d end up where I am today: a practicing Catholic, a woman who goes to Mass by choice, a writer who somehow can’t get away from scribbling about her faith, a mom who is as excited about her son’s forthcoming First Holy Communion as she would be about a trip to Hawaii.

I guess that’s how faith works, for many of us.  Your parents give you the foundation, and you grow up knowing that it’s important, that they cared enough about it to pass it on to you.  And then you have to wrestle with it at some point, maybe pull away from it for a time, maybe take some steps down another path.

But for many of us, that childhood faith remains one of the strongest influences we know.  It’s part of our identity; it’s comfortable, and comforting; it’s a link with the people whom we love, the people who have always loved us.

And maybe, as we get older and talk to our parents, we find that they once did the same dance we did.  They too pulled away from their faith, tried out something new, wrestled with questions.  And yet they returned to their Catholic roots, drawn back to the faith they knew as children.

And they passed it on to us.

Me, 1981.

Me, 1981.

And, years later, we pass it on to our own children.  We know — oh, boy, do we know – that this Catholic heritage is many different things at different times.  We know that it’s mysterious, captivating, frustrating, challenging, comforting, inspiring, perplexing, beautiful, visceral.  We know that it is sometimes all of these things at once, for good or for bad.

But most of all, we know that it is a gift: a gift that keeps on giving, from one generation to the next.