Last Night's Television: The Bill, ITV1
The World's Oldest Mums, Channel 4
And the beat goes on and on...
Friday 24 July 2009
Ever heard of the Kakapo? No? Well, it's a bird. You get them in New Zealand. They were there yonks ago, before anyone (or anything) else. They're amazing, actually: no sense of fear. Seriously, none at all. They don't know when to run, when to hide, nothing. God knows how they've survived. There aren't very many of them, it's true, but they're still there, soldiering on, despite all natural logic.
The Bill's a bit like that, really: surviving against the odds. Who watches it? There's so much that's good about it, but then there's even more that's terrible. It's ITV isn't it? So you get the crappy background music, the soap-opera close-ups, the cringy title sequences. The acting, for the most part, is strong. And the story-lines aren't any worse than any other shows of its sort. It's just the whiff of cheesiness that hangs about it; the dodgy camera angles and hastily-written scripts. Still, on it soldiers. And now here it is, moved to 9pm, newly "gritty", apparently. Which is fine I suppose, if a little odd. I can't think of anything less gritty that The Bill.
Obviously, they kicked it all off with knife crime. A teenage boy called Danny, stabbed while out playing football with some friends. "He was white," said his friends of the culprit. Not that the police let this worry them; they all shot off after some teenager, not in the slightest bit white, but "running from the scene". It didn't last long – the boy they were chasing ran straight into a truck. Oly, his name was. Mixed-race, not white. Still, were all convinced that it was him, however much the witnesses disagree.
His Mum says he was with her all evening (she would). As it turns out, she's lying. His alibi's actually far better: he was breaking into a house at the time. Phew, complicated. So, as they say, it's back to square one. Except... what's this? We only get to hear about it next week? Hold on a tic... hold on... I think I might – might – just be hooked. By The Bill. Well, fancy that.
Rather less gripping, though no less complicated, was Channel 4's The World's Oldest Mums. It was made all the more poignant by the recent death of Maria del Carmen Bousada, the Spanish 69 year old who died of ovarian cancer after giving birth to twins with the help of IVF. We went to India, America and Spain to meet women who'd made their decision to bypass nature and have a baby by any means. So, there was Maria, interviewed shortly after the cancer was diagnosed, trying to prepare her twins for her death. And there was Mary, in America, who's so fit that she seems decades younger anyway, water-skiing and pumping iron. And, most remarkably of all, there was Rajo from India, who, after giving birth at the age of 70, became the oldest mother in the world.
Rajo actually seems to be doing all right. She still suffers the pain of the caesarean, though given the hours she works that isn't too surprising. And, at the risk of simplifying everything enormously, the local culture appears considerably better disposed to older mothers that it does in Europe. Not just because they keep hosting street parties in her honour (which they do), but because of the structure of their families. Everyone spends time with the baby. Rajo isn't her husband's only wife – he's also married to her younger sister. Looking after the baby's a communal effort, though Rajo's sister wants to have one of her own too.
And then, of course, there's Jennie, back home in England. She's 72 and desperate to conceive. I don't know – it's all so complicated – though I can't help having my doubts. The thing is, it's one of those issues that's difficult to discuss without sounding awfully narrow-minded. But then... how to put it? It's not, perhaps her age – though I can't help but think that 72 does seem a little extreme – so much as her general existence, which all seems rather... odd. Questionable bandannas and waistcoats aside, she doesn't seem to know anyone, and she can hardly make it up the stairs. How on earth would she actually cope with a baby? Heck, forget the baby – how about a teenager? Noisy, hairy, rude. God, they're a nightmare at the best of times.
She's adamant, however, that she's doing the right thing. "It's about when one feels right, she pronounces in lofty tones. "I chose to have a career first. It happens."
In the end, though, it doesn't. Well, not for the moment. Everyone in the UK refuses to treat her. And so, off Jennie goes, merrily phoning around Europe. We leave her shouting down the phone to Poland (or somewhere). "HE-LOW," she yells like an Englishman on holiday. "DO. YOU. SPEAK. ENGLISH? I WANT A BAB-EY. No, A BAB-EY..." I'm not sure they understand, Jennie. And I'm not sure I do either.
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