Wednesday 28 December 2011

Festive Horror

So that was Christmas and we now face the long haul through to the spring. It is sobering to contemplate that it will not really be warm enough to plant out a marrow seedling until June - nearly six months away, for heaven's sake. However, I draw comfort from the fact that, even though the worst of the winter weather is likely yet to come, you can already see the days lengthening!

My picture above shows the gloomy reality of these shortest of days taken at 3.40pm while I was exiled from the house as the recording of Downton Abbey was played back. Because that festive horror was so long I had time to penetrate far into the woods and take this snap earlier on the walk... doesn't look like much but actually there are about forty deer in the picture as you can just see from this blurry close-up...

Having avoided Downton I decide to give its writer Julian Fellowes another chance by watching his 2009 film "The Young Victoria" which is on the box. The actors do their best but can't make anything worthwhile out of the wooden script which patronises the audience by oversimplifying the subtle development of the young queen.

Her real passion for young Albert, which was truly a great romance, becomes voyeuristic and banal in this film. But the final straw comes when Albert is gunned down by a would-be regicide so that young Vic can nurse him back to health. This of course just didn't happen as the attacker missed completely and the royal couple were unhurt. The writer evidently felt he needed to spice up his plodding plot but in fact the story could have been much more exciting if based on the true story - but it would have to have been well-written.

There is a valuable story about mental illness here too. The assailant with the gun was Edward Oxford who was apprehended immediately and you might have expected him to be harshly treated for his offence. But the 1840 court looked at the case carefully and concluded that he was not guilty because he was mentally ill. He was locked up in hospital but treated well. He was released from Broadmoor some years later and went abroad to make a decent life for himself. There is little doubt that he would have been treated worse today (I mean in judicial terms), between the predictable hysteria about the monarchy and the merciless refusal of the modern justice system to accept that mental illness can be a clear and full defence (see this post).