Television Review

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The Independent Culture
"SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL" were an item long before Cosmopolitan invented the column. And contrary to what Larkin wrote, sexual intercourse did not begin in 1963 - it began on the home front in 1941. Lynn Phillips remembers the moment well. It was on the porch of her parents' house. For Lynn, along with Chloe, Miriam and Margaret, life during wartime will be forever linked in the heart and mind with bluebells, bright April mornings, and days of feeling that the world is yours. These are the keepsakes they hold dear, now that they are in their dotage. Each of these women sparkled like the girls they once were as they recalled the lust and passion at the heart of these ambrosial moments in the exquisite Hidden Love: What Granny Did In The War (C4).

While Britain was at war in the Forties, an atmosphere pervaded in which people were brought together, moral codes were broken down, and attitudes to sex were not what they had been a few years previously. The women in this documentary recalled the secret sexual revolution that took place. With wit and candour they told of the lifestyle they pursued at a time when new brides were virgins, and mothers never told daughters how babies were conceived. "My mother always said the physical side of marriage was degrading," said Miriam Hopgood, a seventysomething woman with a smoky voice and vanilla hair. She had two marriages behind her, and a current boyfriend of 36. War was a time of goodbyes, when no one knew if they would be here from one day to the next, and so, each dangerous liaison and brief encounter with a man was, in the words of one interviewee, a gesture towards life rather than death.

In complete contrast, a former debutante in Seeking Pleasure: Clubs (BBC2), recalled a moment from the same era when being seen in Piccadilly Circus without a hat almost had her ostracised by her family. She was one of the ladies who lunch at the exclusive Parrot Club in Knightsbridge. Here, women speak in shrill yaps that could break glass and beckon dogs.

The brief of the programme was to take us through various private clubs where members are joined together by the common bonds of status and income. The approach? That of give 'em enough rope. The gushing Belindas and Victorias at London's Soho House somehow didn't need to tell us they "work in the mee-jah"; we could hazard a guess. It was as though media was a kind of Freemasonry, with outsiders not privy to its rituals and practices, and this club its temple. This particular establishment came across as more pompous and complacent than the gentlemen's clubs of Pall Mall that its owner purported to find stuffy. The chinless wonders and clipped debs in the other clubs featured in the programme paled beside the image of actor Neil Morrissey, a Soho House committee member, on the lawns of the club's countryside branch. He was repeating into a mobile phone that he was waiting for a chopper to take him back to Battersea. Had a doodlebug arrived instead, the moment would have united a nation of viewers.

Robert Hanks is away

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