I woke this morning to the news that both Michael Apted and Katharine Whitehorn have died. I whispered a double “Oh No!” at my radio from beneath my duvet.
I know Michael directed films but it was his long-running documentary UP series I admired. I reckon it was the perfect TV series: factual with a set format but the content changed over the decades. The group of seven year old children grew up and inevitably a couple of participants opted out of the series. Sadly one of them died and now so has Michael.
Taxi driver and actor Tony Walker is one of the UP participants and was interviewed for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He spoke warmly about Michael and of the UP “family” and said he hoped that the series will continue. At the end of the interview, Nick Robinson thanked Tony for speaking on air and Tony quipped, “I thought this was about Michael.” I smiled. I’m certain Apted would have said that the UP series is about the participants but clearly Michael’s admirers will say it is about him too. It’s his legacy. I hope the UP “family” keep going and produce 70 UP.
It’s odd to think that Katharine Whitehorn is dead because she’s always been “there” for me, like Lynn Barber, Diana Athill and Marj Proops. These women were attached to typewriters and telephones in a pre-internet age and they inspired me to read and write and think.
So, two deaths on a weekend when I’m thinking about the fifth anniversary of the legendary David Bowie’s death and trying to process the events in Washington D.C. this week. Heroes and villains on my mind.
There’s a beautifully-framed poster of the V&A’s David Bowie is exhibition from 2013 sitting in a picture framer’s shop in Whitley Bay. It belongs to me, I didn’t get the chance to pick it up before Christmas and so it sits there until lockdown is lifted. I’ve waited over seven years to see it on the wall, I guess I can wait another month or so.
Waiting requires patience and that’s a quality increasingly hard for us to keep reaching for after almost a year of restrictions. I’m lucky. I have a job and a home. I contracted COVID-19 in late November but I seem to have shaken it off. One of the unexpected side effects was an inability to read. I had no appetite for looking at novels, non-fiction, poetry or newspapers. I slept a good deal and listened to the radio.
Over time I coaxed my inner reader out of her COVID cocoon with a poetic triptych: Roger Robinson’s A Portable Paradise, the latest anthology from Bloodaxe Books, Staying Human and Janis Freegard’s Reading the Signs. Based in Wellington, New Zealand, I met Janis a few years ago when she made one of her regular visits to visit family in her birthplace of South Shields. We’ve kept in touch and played swapsies via airmail: a copy of my Princess of Felling for her latest, beautiful book. Recommended. Read Janis’s blog here
My plumber’s also lent me some books and I’m currently enjoying one of them, Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder. I wouldn’t have chosen it in a bookshop but it’s a riveting read. It’s great to have my appetite for reading back in working order. Just in time for this latest lockdown. Stay safe….