Cider With Rosie

The past is a foreign country. No, wait a minute, The Go-Between was last week. Sorry, but the BBC has been spoiling us with such a run of period classics lately, I’m starting to lose track. And the past increasingly feels very much present – less a foreign country and more, say, Swindon.

This week it was Cider With Rosie, Laurie Lee’s much-loved memoir of the English rural idyll: a lyrical paean to his Cotswolds childhood – a land ‘dizzy with scent and bees, burned all over with hot white flowers’, where ‘we had the feeling that the summer would never end’.

I’m quoting furiously here, but that’s the thing about Cider With Rosie: the beauty is all in the telling. As a book, it’s low on incident, high on rich, rustic prose-poetry, which can make it tricky to translate to the screen. Ben Vanstone’s adaptation wisely acknowledged this by having Timothy Spall narrate as Lee, his West Country vowels as long and rolling as the Gloucestershire hills.

Lee’s book was, in part, a love letter to his mother, Annie – a lion-hearted woman who remained slightly broken after her husband went off to fight in the First World War and never came back. (He wasn’t killed – he just didn’t feel like coming home, which is possibly worse.) She was beautifully brought to life with a dignified world-weariness by Samantha Morton, heading a cast of some of our finest female acting talent, including Annette Crosbie and June Whitfield as the permanently warring ‘grannies in the wainscot’ and the wonderful Jessica Hynes as ferocious schoolmistress Crabby B.

As young Loll (Archie Cox) grew older, the dizzy scent of the valleys gave way to the headrush of adolescent yearning, and it wasn’t long before he’d ditched good girl Jo in favour of flighty, free-spirited Rosie Burdock (Ruby Ashbourne Serkis, surprisingly easy on the eye for Gollum’s daughter), who seduced him beneath the haywagon with a flagon of cider – ‘that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples, and Rosie’s burning cheeks’.

You don’t really need me this week, do you?


TV extra: 


Release the Hounds

This provocatively tawdry game show, in which three friends face a forest full of terrors before trying to outrun a pack of slavering dogs – for money – is like a cross between an I’m A Celeb bushtucker trial and the SAW movies. Unfortunately, the contestants in this week’s opener were so dreadful – Jess, who claimed to be so thick she couldn’t tell the time, kept exclaiming “shut the front door!”, while her mate Bobby squealed when his eyebrow pencil was confiscated – I was literally cheering those hounds on to do their worst.


Danger Mouse

Danger Mouse may have had a 21st century makeover ­– that much was clear from the opening seconds, in which the rodent superspy accidentally destroyed the Gherkin and sent the London Eye spinning into space – but this revival of the 80s ’toon classic hasn’t lost any of its trademark anarchic humour or fourth wall-breaking in-jokes, while Alexander Armstrong and Kevin Eldon prove worthy successors to David Jason and Terry Scott as DM and Penfold. My kids loved it nearly as much as I did (though only I was word perfect on the song).

Published in Waitrose Weekend, October 1, 2015

(c) Waitrose Weekend