My wife and I had a row, the Friday before last, and things seemed pretty bleak and hopeless after that. We have been through countless times like this and come through them, but each time we feel it is the end. This time was no exception.
The argument was about freedom of speech, believe it or not. You might have heard that Channel 4 are planning a sitcom- a sitcom!- about the Irish famine. My wife is Irish, and a lot of Irish people regard the famine the way Jewish people regard the Holocaust. So for some idiot to think he can write a sitcom about it boggles the mind.
When my wife told me about it, I tried to shrug it off as another episode of modern living, where nothing is sacred. I tried hollowly to suggest, well, maybe it depends on how Channel 4 do it. Maybe it would be like Blackadder- I mean Blackadder Goes Forth, the one set in the first world war, which poked fun at the generals and politicians, and pointed out the lunacy and bloodshed that war caused.
I thought this might pour oil on troubled waters. After all, we’d both watched, and laughed at Blackadder Goes Forth. No, no dice. I suppose I should be proud that, if we did separate and divorce, it wouldn’t have been over petty domestic stuff, like putting the garbage out. It would have been over a clash of ideals. Freedom of speech versus a nation’s identity and right to recognition. But I love my wife, and I don’t want to separate or get divorced.
She told me she was going to sign an online petition to stop Channel 4 from making the programme. She was also going to join the demonstration outside Channel 4 headquarters. Which is not only a form of censorship, but will virtually guarantee that Channel 4 will make and broadcast it.
As I write, Channel 4 are only thinking about it. The writer whose idea it was hasn’t even written it yet. But now, even if the script stinks, they might feel forced to produce it anyway. This is just after the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, and Sony’s debacle over their film The Interview was not so long ago. In fact, if the writer changes his mind, they might look for someone else to write it, to prove how fearless they are.
I didn’t like Blackadder Goes Forth that much. As I said, I laughed at it, but it was the same as watching an episode of Spitting Images or Have I Got News For You. Satire, I think, dates badly; and meanwhile, the characters aren’t meant to be fully rounded. Programmes like that can make you smile wryly, but the best fictional depiction of the First World War I’ve ever come across is Alan Bleasdale’s The Monocled Mutineer.
Meanwhile, a national tragedy is somehow going to be turned into a set of half-hour episodes. The prospective author says he will be respectful of the suffering which was incurred; but then went on to suggest that his series would be something like Shameless.
So, altogether, I’ve done very little writing lately. I wrote Morning Pages, as per Julia Cameron, and did Writing Practice, as per Natalie Goldberg. But as for any fiction, I didn’t have the heart, especially after my wife suggested sarcastically that I come up with Biafra: The Musical.
I’ve been going around as though having an out-of-body experience. I dread to think what I’ve spent on takeaways.