A quote I nearly put in this week was Carrie Fisher’s: You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will flow.
I am confident in some ways and have very little in other ways, especially in social situations. I will do anything not to enter a room of strangers. Having said that, if I have to do it, I will, and I think there is truth in what Carrie Fisher says. I just find it tiring to pretend to be something I am not, and so I’d never do it long enough for it to become second nature.
What set me off on this train of ramblings was watching the latest series of Last Tango In Halifax. Undoubtedly on of the best television series of recent times. For ages in the first series I was slightly troubled by the seeming lack of consistency in the characters, until I realised that was the whole point. Sally Wainwright’s writing is one of those rare examples of showing “real” people. They are funny but not necessarily likeable, they are sympathetic but probably don’t share any of my interests. They are bloody minded, selfish, grumpy, caring, stubborn, loyal, passionate….well let’s face it her characters are Yorkshire born and bred, and I am completely at home in their company. I utterly understand these people and although I grew up with Coronation Street, I was too young to appreciate that. and then suddenly, in Last Tango In Halifax (I hadn’t seen any of her previous TV work), there they were. People I knew and know. People like me.
Sally Wainwright’s gift is the dialogue she writes. She must be a dream for actors. And then there’s Sarah Lancashire, who of course found fame in Coronation Street. Lancashire and Wainwright are a great double-act. And it’s the character of Caroline in Last Tango who so fascinates me. If I was to meet a real Caroline, she would scare the pants off me. To watch the fictional Caroline on screen is a joy. Sarah Lancashire’s eyes can harden, soften and the harden again in seconds. There’s a scene in the last series where Lancashire as Caroline is listening to someone talk to her in the kitchen, and her head is tilted to one side slightly, and there’s a slight smile on her lips and I had no idea if she was absolutely focused on what she was listening to, or whether she was wishing herself elsewhere.
And I thought I wish I was more like Caroline. In the generality of daily life nothing and no one fazes her. She is blunt and direct, but warm, loving and vulnerable. She is half destroyed by grief, but it’s not bravery which helps her to carry on, it’s sheer force of will. Yet for all that she has married an idiot husband who is just not good enough for her. That jarred with me, until the writing revealed the complexities of the relationship and how, no matter how strong she is, she is still as vulnerable and fragile as any human.
It’s this odd mixture that makes up Northern-ness. Interestingly Sally Wainright herself said of why recognition of her writing took so long:
“It’s the opposite of confidence. It’s having a chip on your shoulder. I think it’s very northern. And it is a class thing.”
I’d say it’s also personified in Alan Bennett, and Victoria Wood : that mixture of the shy and the sharp. I think that it is why so many northern people are “plain-spoken”. It’s a sort of defensiveness against having that chip on your shoulder, an attack before being attacked. There’s a thin line between being truthful and being hurtful, and I know I can cross that line. And there’s the Yorkshire sense of humour, finding humour in dark places, again as a coping mechanism. It’s easy to miss because you shouldn’t take it at face value, hence the misconception of northern dourness.
I’ll leave you with these: