- 25 Jun 19
A new(ish) sit-com about the challenges and pleasures of growing older has captured the heart of our columnist
The second-best line from the third and last season of Mum on BBC2 came when Cathy observed to the unconvincingly haughty Pauline that, "I have learned from dealing with my mum that if someone is mean and spends all their time boasting and putting you down, it's just their way of coping with how sad they are."
Leslie Manville, the most bewitchingly sexy 60-something here, there or anywhere, and long-time Ken Loach collaborator Peter Mullan, are an ever-hesitant pair of incipient lovers. She's recently widowed, he was her husband's best friend. They find themselves in a sit-com that's can throw its hat into the ring with Fleabag.
There's only a couple of episodes to go. There will have been 18 in all. If you've never seen it, latch onto the BBC iPlayer. Mum is full of grace and subtlety and never wastes a word. Which brings me to the best line of all. Lisa McGrillis as the engagingly daft Kelly asks husband Jason (Sam Swainsbury) out of the blue yonder: "If you owned the moon, how much would you charge people to look at it?"
As Joxer observed, "That's a question, captain, that's a question."
A very clever person once said that, "The purpose of education is not to fill you with knowledge but to make you hungry for knowledge."
Jarvis Cocker would have instantly gotten the gist. The venerable rocker is writing a book, not of pulp fiction (sorry about that) but on the creation of art. He recalls the misty morning of his own creativity, attending art school, which, as he mentions, would be beyond the range of possibilities open to his nieces and nephews now. Both might have followed him to art college, or wherever talent and luck would lead them, but these days college costs money which they don't have.
"Education has turned into a bit of a racket. Artistic creation is a shared part of human experience, everybody can do it, but it's basically disappeared from the school curriculum"
It's impossible to go to college if you are from a from a certain social class. So you are cut off from something that is your birth-right. Understandably, people don't want to get into debt without knowing they'll get a job at the end of it...Nobody's going to look at an arts degree and say: 'Well, that sounds like it's worth 60 grand.'"
Same here. I have been involved for years in a campaign to bring a proper university to Derry, rather than the outhouse of Ulster University which we currently, so to speak, enjoy. I am, as is my wont, an outrider. The dominant arguments on both sides have to do not with the meaning or value or right to education but about the potential of a third-level institution to attract hi-tech industry.
"STEM" is the word most frequently deployed in debate: science, technology, electronics, mathematics. All else counts for next to nothing. In what way would an arts department serve the economy, equip Derry-based companies to compete in the global marketplace? Who thinks of an arts degree as worth 60 grand? Same goes for Latin, Greek, ancient history, even literature. Hard to coin a profit from that sort of stuff. Even as an economy expands and strengthens, it can crush creativity, squeeze life out of learning, deprive the generality of young people of the best part of their potential, stamp on a flicker of genius rather than blow softly to coax it to flare into flame. That's what's inspirational about the student strikes for action on climate change, full of energy, colour, ingenuity, determination to find meaning in life that can't be measured by percentage points of GDP.
"Why aren't they in school being educated instead of shouting in the street," wondered a Fine Gael TD (in exactly those words.) But the artistic (and political, same thing really) education available from rowdy rampage on the streets may be better preparation than school lessons for the bleakness that's looming before us. There's a better us in all of us. As the national anthem of age-appropriateness would have it - "Hey what happened to you/Whatever happened to me/What became of the people we used to be?" Don't let them make that into the epitaph of a generation.
Meanwhile, I note another flurry of desperation and squeaks of excitement from 'progressives' and 'liberals' on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean as former CIA boss Robert Mueller emerged from his netherworld to not answer questions on his Trump Report. You will have noticed that there's not a lot of talk now about Trump having worked with "the Russians" to manipulate voters and hand the White House to the scary orange man with the bad toupee - although this, at the outset, was their number one casus belli. Trump may well have been up to his thick neck in collusion with Russian banksters to launder dirty money, evade tax and defraud anybody in the vicinity he reckoned could be ripped off. But no evidence has emerged to suggest he was hugger-mugger with the Putin regime to rig the 2016 election. "Russian collusion" will be marked down in history as this generation's Weapons of Mass Destruction. Let's concentrate instead on the real evils that Trump represents.