Monthly Archives: April 2017

About British TV

As a final post on my trip to England in May, I feel compelled to write about TV in Great Britain. When we were tired from a long day of driving or walking around (or both), we switched on the TV. What we had to choose from did not “wow” us at all, and that’s important to me because I have a particular antipathy for making broad statements of condemnation without knowing enough about the facts.

Throughout the time that I’ve been writing this blog and checking Facebook sites about “Doc Martin,” I have read many comments about how much better British TV is than American TV. Now that I’ve been to England and spent 3 weeks there, I feel somewhat qualified to assess the quality of British TV and compare it to what we have in the US. At the risk of causing an uproar, I am taking a stand in defense of American TV and in favor of a more reasoned response when comparing the two. This is not to say that I think American TV is so great; rather, it’s to say that when we take into account the number of channels available on American TV as compared to British TV and also look at what makes a regular appearance on both, I find it difficult to arrive at this sort of gross approval of British TV over American.

First of all, I do not watch much daytime TV. What I’ll be discussing is the shows that are on starting around 5 pm and running through 11 pm, or what we usually call primetime. Secondly, although I have sampled many shows on American TV, I’m not a fan of reality TV unless it’s something that’s educational. Thirdly, I will never assert that I am thrilled with the choices we have and I tend to record the shows I like and watch them at a time that suits me rather than when they are actually on TV. Having the option of recording shows has made my viewing experience much better. In addition, I watch shows on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, etc. and consider the choice of alternate sources other than network TV an important bonus.

One thing I quickly discovered when I looked at the TV guide in “The Guardian” newspaper is that there are a lot of American TV shows on British TV. Even if Americans consider their TV awful, the British certainly don’t. If you turn on the TV schedule in England, you’ll find “The Mentalist,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Simpsons,” and many hours of “The Big Bang Theory,” just to mention a few. In fact, there are many British TV shows that are versions of American shows, e.g. “Law & Order: UK” or game shows. There is also a judge show along the lines of “Judge Judy” there. Their talk shows are reminiscent of those in America. I like some of them, but they are not original nor are they an improvement over American TV — they are American TV! Plus they offer Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” and Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show.” In fact they have the Comedy Central TV channel as well as The Disney Channel, A + E Networks UK, AMC/CBS Networks International, Spike TV, Nickelodeon UK, BET, Discovery Networks including Animal Planet, TCM, National Geographic, Bloomberg TV, CNBC Europe, and QVC. They know and want to see our TV shows.

If anything, I would say they might argue that American TV is better than their TV.

Another thing we have to understand is that the British TV shows we see in America are a distillation of the best of British TV. We aren’t comparing apples to apples if we are putting their best shows up against all of American TV. Furthermore, those of us who watch PBS are a select group of TV viewers not really representative of our country as a whole or of the UK as a whole. I will watch almost every Ken Burns special while I will never watch “The Bachelorette.” That doesn’t mean I am a better judge of quality; it means my viewing habits differ from many others. My preferences are not necessarily of higher value; they may be elitist and arrogant. I wish a lot of popular shows appealed to me, but I generally tend to like the shows that end up having short runs, e.g. “Deadwood,” or “Carnivale,” or “Harry’s Law.” I thought all of those were smart, entertaining shows with great characters and important messages, but not enough people agreed with me.

I haven’t always picked unpopular shows. I was a big fan of “Law & Order” when it first appeared in 1990, and I liked “CSI” when it started in 2000, but they both had so many spinoffs they became diluted and bastardized, in my opinion. Too much of a good thing can also wear thin.

If we look back through the years we can recall many great American TV shows that have set the standard for TV around the world: westerns, sci-fi (like Twilight Zone, Star Trek), crime, comedy, soap operas, etc. I don’t want to bore you with a list of excellent American TV shows throughout the history of TV, but the list would be long and contain many that were groundbreaking at the time and would be listed in the canon of outstanding TV shows throughout the world. They also led to many actors becoming more prominent.

I love many British TV shows and feel lucky to have access to them. And, yes, some of them have inspired some good American shows. I see no reason to have to rebuke American TV in order to express one’s appreciation of British TV. From what I can tell, these two countries exchange many themes and actors in the field of TV and movies and we are better off as a result.

I’ve had my say and feel better now! I will move on to other topics.

Originally posted 2015-07-05 21:22:26.

The Other Filming Days

Now that I have written about the day I spent on the set being involved with the filming, I wanted to describe some things I noticed while I was simply watching. In total my husband and I were in Port Isaac renting a house at the top of Fore Street for 12 days. We arrived on a Monday and departed the Saturday of the next week. That means we were in Port Isaac for one weekend during which there was, of course, no filming. My day on the set was the first Wednesday we were there and that was extremely fortuitous because after that the weather became erratic to say the least.

We watched some filming on the Tues. after we arrived and I found the location of the so-called filming schedule. I would say two things about posting a schedule: 1. We learned quickly that no schedule could be followed because of the unpredictable nature of the weather, and 2. If they are filming in Port Isaac or Port Gaverne, it’s pretty obvious where they are because of the trucks, equipment and crew swarming around. We happened to be able to go to the top floor of the house we rented and look out across the harbour to Roscarrock Hill and see if anything was happening out there. If there wasn’t any sign of action, we could take a walk down the hill into the village and immediately tell if they were filming there OR we could walk down the other side of the hill into Port Gaverne and quickly see if there was filming going on below. It may be a courtesy to the town and the people who live and work there to post a schedule, but while we were there, and I venture to guess more than 50% of the time, the weather forces a change. I will confess that I exercise a lot and have no trouble walking up and down the steep streets of these adjacent towns; however, the towns are so small and compact that I think anyone could sweep the area in twenty minutes or less to figure out where the filming is taking place.

We were primed to watch 9 days of filming, but ended up with 6: Tues., Wed., Thurs., and the following Wed., Thurs., and Fri. There was no filming in town on the first Fri. for some unknown reason, perhaps filming indoors or taking a break, and the Mon. and Tues. after the weekend had monsoon type rain and wind, not to mention cold. When they resumed filming on Wed., they had to be very behind schedule for the outdoor shots. Even that Wed. was not a great day to be outside because the wind made us very chilly. That was the day from which you’ve probably seen many photos. The entire day was spent near and on the beach at Port Gaverne (and I use the term beach liberally here). I have some pictures to share from that day too, some of which I haven’t seen posted anywhere yet.

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The beach at Port Gaverne, 20 May 2015: rocky, muddy, windy. You can see some sunbathers on the right huddling behind a wind screen. (Wind screens are used on many beaches in Cornwall.) They were only there as extras and never figured much in the filming. I bet they were pretty cold though!

My general observation is that the choice of Port Isaac as a location may be scenic and charming, but is fraught with all sorts of challenges. Apart from the changeable weather and windy, cold temps throughout much of the filming period, PI seems to be a popular place for people to hike through and to enjoy for a day. The place was no ghost town on the weekends even though there is never any filming then. As I mentioned in my previous post, people come there with dogs and children and wander the narrow streets, walk along the coast path, eat ice cream, and enjoy the scenery. Then there are the vehicles that seem intent on driving though town no matter what the obstacles. On the first day we watched filming, there was a construction vehicle with a substantial size loader on its front that kept going up and down Roscarrock Hill while they were attempting to film a scene with ME, the nanny and the baby. (This was the scene in which the young teenager stands too close to JH’s stroller while looking at her mobile phone and ME taps her phone and angrily asks her what she wants.) There were plenty of people bunched together trying to watch and we all had to move out of the vehicle’s way each time they drove through the scene. The hill is narrow, steep and has very little cushioning on the side, but that didn’t bother these guys. At one point, they had to stop for the take to be shot and we all stood up against the vehicle in a precarious position. In addition, there is almost no phone reception. There were several times when I saw people who work on the show holding more than one phone and trying hard to find a place that would get reception. The crew uses two way radios to communicate with each other most of the time, and that’s true on many productions, but it’s especially necessary in PI. (We also had terrible radio reception in the car.) The selection of PI definitely tests the crew in many ways.

Since we were staying in Port Isaac, we went to other villages in the area during the days without filming. The other villages and towns were also filled with visitors, some more than others.

We saw:

  1. Wadebridge: closest sizable town to PI and a good place to go for supplies. It has a pedestrian mall with several banks with ATMs, some shops, restaurants, pharmacies, grocery stores, etc.
  2. Delabole: a good place to wash our car and get gas. We got so much seagull bombing on the car that it was sometimes disagreeable to try to open the door. The town is inland and tiny, maybe one main street and not much else.
  3. Newquay: a surprisingly honky-tonk city with arcades, all sorts of stores selling beach wares because there is a decent beach once you walk past the conglomeration of places selling stuff. There is an airport just outside Newquay which makes it accessible as well as functional. It did not look to me like the airport used in S6E8.
  4. Tintagel: where there are the ruins of a castle and some nice views. This is definitely a tourist destination and tour buses swing through regularly.
  5. Boscastle: where there is a river flowing through the center of town, unless it’s low tide. It has a touristy feel to it because there is a designated parking area from which to take walks as well as several shops. It’s quite scenic though and I have now seen pictures from when they were filming there.
  6. Rock: where the houses are more upscale, there is a golf course and resort with the main Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant, and a lovely Bay to look at. We were lucky with the weather that day and enjoyed having a drink while sitting on the porch of the restaurant looking down at the Bay. This town is very close to PI.
  7. Truro: we actually saw this on our way to Bath but since it’s often mentioned in the show, it’s worth noting here. We checked out the hospital areas and did not determine which hospital was used for any of the outside shots. It has more stores and would be a place to shop.

I know we should have gone to Padstow and some other nearby towns, but we saw a lot.

At any rate, as you’ve read in many places, each scene is done many times over from various angles and that requires the runners and crew to keep herding the onlookers from one position to another. We couldn’t really complain since we were getting in their way and were a nuisance, but they must be feeling a mixture of flattery and frustration with all the onlookers. It’s also quite difficult to hear any of the dialogue. We weren’t that far away, but their voices aren’t that loud and the sound doesn’t carry that well. I think it’s pretty hard to put together what’s happening by seeing 2-3 minute takes during which you can’t really make out what’s being said. While we were there episode 5 was being filmed. We saw 6 days of that episode being filmed and I would still be guessing as to how they will arrange it all in the end. I have some ideas, but it remains to be seen if I made the correct deductions. I also think they filmed some scenes that will be eliminated during the editing phase. (Maybe that’s obvious!)

As you’ve read repeatedly, MC willingly allows people to take a picture with him whenever there is a break in the action. There was always an immediate rush to go through his receiving line to have him smile for each picture. He was always good natured about it. There was no such rush to have a picture with the nanny or JH or the teenager.

I noted that John Marquez had a very busy day on the Wednesday that I did the walk-on part. Well, following that long day, he had a four day weekend and a young woman who seemed to be his girlfriend arrived. By chance we kept bumping into them everywhere we went for the next two days. First we saw them in Wadebridge, then we went for a walk up Roscarrock Hill and saw them taking a selfie with PI in the background. I offered to take their picture for them and they accepted.

The Wednesday following the two days of heavy rain and wind found everyone in Port Gaverne. The first scene they attempted to film was of the BBQ in front of the police station. In this scene, Penhale has invited Al, Morwenna and Janice to the Police Station for an outdoor get together. This all sounds good until they tried filming it with the wind blowing and the temps hovering in the low 50s. The crew set up a wind screen to try to reduce the wind and the actors gamely made it look as though they were enjoying a nice, warm day when they were really freezing cold. The two young women were dressed in their summer attire, but kept their winter parkas and boots on as long as possible. The men made an effort to look warm too but also wore their coats as much as they could. Joe Absalom has a very short haircut at the moment and put his hood on regularly. Those of us crazy enough to be watching were also shivering, with the exception of some people for whom temps in the 50s feel warm. I think my right ear froze in the wind because I wasn’t wearing anything on my head! (Naturally we sacrificed for the event that we had traveled so far to see.)

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At the table

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Morwenna and Janice waiting to enter the scene

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The ladies are surprised to discover the bottles are real. Joe and Al stand in the background behind director with Al’s furry hood around his neck.

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Here’s Al/Joe with his hood on

The cold wind led to some problems with lighting the BBQ and I’m pretty sure they suspended filming it that day in favor of waiting for a better opportunity. But that gave me a chance to take a picture from the actor’s POV:

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They arranged for the grill to have a big flame upon lighting

They then turned to filming scenes with Louisa, Martin and JH having a picnic at the beach. First they had to overcome a rivulet that made it difficult for the couple to walk across the beach to their destination. They decided they needed a few well-placed stepping stones to keep them from having wet feet.

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Caroline even helped. She had no trouble finding several stones to use.

Next came the filming of the two of them, Louisa carrying the picnic basket while Martin carries JH and the sand bucket. The plan was for Martin to notice some sunbathers as he walks past them with Louisa leading the way. Not only did these young ladies have to lie out in skimpy outfits, but also they had to appear to be having a lovely day at the beach. Martin can’t help but stop and (most likely) warn them of the dangers of too much sun. The hiccup was that every time Martin leaned over to talk to the nearest young lady, the baby he was carrying would start to cry. They tried it several times and leaning over did not suit the baby; he cried every time. At first Martin did as much as he could to comfort the little guy and they wrapped him in a blanket, but once he was settled down again and they could do another take, the same thing happened. I must say that Martin was very good with the baby. The young one just wasn’t having it.

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The above will not be part of the episode. It was just MC soothing the baby. I don’t know if they will keep that segment in and allow JH to cry or have to ditch it.

Louisa has continued past the sunbathers and retraces her steps to extract Martin from lecturing them. It’s a scene reminiscent of so many from the past and totally in character for ME. For that reason, I hope they are able to include it. I saw that there were other scenes filmed on the beach that involved a teenager throwing a frisbee into the Ellingham family space and the Ellinghams attempting to eat something. I was not present for those scenes and will be interested to see what gets used.

Martin was at the beach the entire day, which gave us all lots of time to watch him. There’s no question that he is the main attraction and just about everyone coming to see the filming is most interested in taking pictures of him and with him. There’s also no doubt that he is well aware of this. My impression is that he is performing all the time, either as Martin Ellingham or as Martin Clunes. He has an uncanny ability to switch each of these characters on and off at will. Thus, when it’s time to rehearse and/or film, he snaps into his ME demeanor and satisfies the demands of filming. As soon as the take is over, he snaps into his MC persona and makes the most of where he is. It’s easy to see that he genuinely enjoys people and dogs (not necessarily in that order) and is making the most of the days he spends on the set.

In the case of being on the beach, he took treats from Dodger’s trainer and danced around with the dog seemingly unconcerned about getting paw prints or splatters on his pants, then he waved at all of us watching from behind the stone wall above, and at one point, he took out his own camera from the backpack he carries with him and started taking pictures of the crew, etc. He even had fun taking a selfie:

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He also climbed the rocks that jutted out along the edge of the beach and joked around with Caroline Quentin and John Marquez. (If you see pictures of him jumping down from the rocks or otherwise messing around, you should know that those are not part of the show and just scenes of MC having fun.) They were rehearsing and filming the scene captured by many of Angela (CQ) acting like she sees something in the sky and then running into the ocean. Penhale (JM) runs after her asking ME if he should tase her but ultimately tackles her in the water. (That final part is done by stunt doubles and John Marquez expressed his appreciation by giving them a loud round of applause once they completed it. I’m sure he was very glad he didn’t have to fall into the water in those temps. I checked… the air temp was 50 F and so was the water temp.!!) Angela has been acting as though she sees things that aren’t there throughout her appearances and is probably having side effects from medication she’s taking.

It took a while for all of the beach scenes to be completed and, once again, the crew were exceptionally dedicated. Eventually the tide started to come in and they had to keep moving the equipment closer and closer towards town. I never stopped being impressed with the amount of energy they all had. They truly go non-stop, all day long.

The final two days of filming we were able to see had more to do with scenes of Louisa with students and a bit of Ruth with Bert. Thursday actually turned out to be a warmer, sunnier day and filming began on Dolphin St. where Ruth’s residence is. The street is not wide enough for cars, thank goodness, and Ruth’s house is on a fairly steep rise. We arrived there to find that the exterior of the house was wrapped with black sheathing.

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Long shot

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Close up

Although it was morning, they were shooting a scene that is supposed to take place at night. As you can see, we were all in the dark and could not see what was going on. A little while later they took down the sheathing and we were able to watch Bert approach the door, knock on it, and talk to Ruth. What I heard him say was something like he wanted to come by before he left and thought she would appreciate him “doing something” (I couldn’t make out what). She responds in some way and then rather abruptly shuts the door on him while saying “Goodbye Bert.” He could have been suggesting another of his rather questionable proposals or any number of other things. She was clearly not interested. (I heard someone conjecture that ME must have been inside and slammed the door on Bert because that would be more typical of him, but there was absolutely no sign of MC and Ruth’s voice clearly pronounced the goodbye. I’d say this is how rumors get started.)

I had watched a scene with Ruth the previous week in which she was asked to walk towards the pharmacy carrying a couple of bags that seem to weigh her down. They tried that scene a variety of ways because Dame Eileen was not happy with her approach nor with where they situated the conversation between Ruth and Mrs. T. In the end, Ruth carries only one bag and does not appear nearly as worn out, then she walks in front of the pharmacy only to be confronted with Mrs. T. Mrs. T is in a tizzy because Clive has returned and she tells Ruth he wants to try again. The ever practical Ruth tells Mrs. T to talk to Clive and find out more from him. They toyed with the scene several times and I can’t say which version they will settle on. However, the way they adjusted the scene demonstrated how much the actors contribute to each scene, and the respect the director has for the actors’ intuitions.

Friday was Caroline Catz day. From early in the morning until late in the evening, CC was filmed in various locations. The day started out rather foggy, but filming began on Roscarrock Hill. I missed the very beginning. When I got over there, they were filming a segment that involved two students and their teacher lagging behind and needing to be urged along. They had the planets that figured in scenes throughout the day. It looked like the class was walking to a field perhaps where they might arrange the planets as a display for understanding their relationship to each other (?). (Again that’s pure speculation on my part.) Eventually we watched as Headmistress Ellingham led the way holding a large orange sphere in one hand and a student’s hand in the other as the class heads up the hill. Part way up she turns to talk to the teacher bringing up the rear. I would imagine that we’ll see the two students with the teacher at that point. My sense was that they were using Roscarrock Hill without any reference to actually walking by the surgery building. This is also speculation, but there seemed to be no relationship to being in the vicinity of the surgery as they walked up the hill. I know you’ve seen pictures from this scene, but I’ll throw in one of mine:

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Later the filming resumed at the schoolhouse where the students were supposed to be playing on their hard surface playground and then line up to walk from there with the planets. Basically, the day was scenes filmed in reverse order. Here they are ready to depart from the schoolyard:

 

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Having observed Caroline Catz as she negotiates the filming of her scenes, I have to say that she seems to be a serious actor who probably needs to stay within her character while working. I can’t say this unequivocally, but I would imagine that it’s more typical of actors to tune out distractions so that they can present their best work. The working conditions in PI place actors extremely close to the onlookers, and some of those onlookers have no hesitations about talking to the actors. One rather disturbing incident my husband witnessed was during a scene when Louisa and Martin are headed down an alley that spills out into the harbour area. Louisa is carrying the picnic basket that she later brings to the beach and Martin is walking behind her pushing JH in the stroller. As they left the alley and came around the corner one rude man loudly said to Caroline, “You don’t need to be so angry.” This was totally inappropriate and rather obnoxious. She’s in character, forced to walk into a crowd, and then he thinks it’s ok to berate her or taunt her. Enough of those sorts of experiences and anyone would want to be shielded. It’s a sad fact that women need to be more careful than men when surrounded by strangers. Caroline may also be less of an extrovert than MC, but she makes plenty of appearances at all sorts of events. She is simply more private and less interested in working the crowd. Even so, she’s a good sport and does have her picture taken with fans quite often.

It was really interesting to watch how they handle all of the features of the village and accommodate the fans while doing their best to get the filming accomplished. I live in a city in NC (Wilmington) that has had many TV shows and movies filmed in it. It’s not a big city, but it’s much larger than Port Isaac. Plus we have a Screen Gems studio here for indoor scenes and many places around town that are converted into various settings. They often block off streets for filming and alert us that we might hear gunfire or other noises and not to be alarmed. TV shows “Sleepy Hollow” and “Under the Dome” have been filmed here recently; “One Tree Hill” and “Dawson’s Creek” were filmed here for many years. But our area is so much more spread out and quite a bit larger that I’m sure the film crews are not nearly as under pressure as the crew working on DM. They not only work together all day, but they also live with each other in and around modest and remote PI. I know most of the actors live there too while filming. I can only give them a standing ovation for managing it all for close to half a year.

 

 

 

Originally posted 2015-06-28 09:56:24.

Walk On Part

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My adventure with getting a walk-on part on “Doc Martin” began in March, 2014 when I bid on it. The Haven breast cancer charity had offered three items donated by Martin Clunes for auction so that they could raise money to help those in need pay for their program. The three items were a blue suit worn by Martin Clunes during DM, a two night stay at The Bay Hotel B&B in Port Isaac, or a walk-on part. I had no interest in the other items and set the max I was willing to pay for the walk-on part. Then I waited until the last day of the auction. My daughter told me that nothing ever happens online until the last day of bidding. I actually couldn’t wait until the last minute after all because I was visiting my mother in NY and had to get to the airport. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry because after bidding a couple of times and receiving responses that I had been outbid, I went to my max and quickly got an email saying I had won. That was followed by a letter from The Haven telling me it was their first time running this sort of event and they had raised enough money to ensure that “5 Visitors and their families can benefit from our vital services.” Unfortunately, I have had far too many friends who have dealt with breast cancer; however, that made me feel good about giving to this charity.

I also received a letter on Buffalo Pictures letterhead and signed by Martin Clunes to confirm my award and was told on this letter to contact Philippa Braithwaite at her email address. I had a brief mixup when the email address they sent me turned out to have been changed, but it all ended well.

Philippa answered me but then turned all correspondence over to Katie Neal. (I have read Karen Gilleland’s blog, with her description of her walk-on part so I’ll try not to be repetitive. As you know, I am much more inclined to write rather than use pictures to report on various topics. My pictures wouldn’t differ too much from Karen’s, although I was there at a different time and during filming of other scenes. I’ll fill in more details wherever I can and add a few pictures from time to time.)

From the moment I found out I had gotten the walk-on part I started wondering if Buffalo Pictures would be contacting me to ask me questions about myself – you know, height, weight, age, ethnicity, anything. That never happened. Then I wondered if they would give me some choices of dates to be in Port Isaac. They simply left that up to me. Finally, I wondered if they would tell me what to wear, but I never heard from them about that either. It’s possible that they figured I should know that regardless of when I showed up, they would expect me to look as though it was a warm, sunny day. I, on the other hand, jumped to the conclusion that they would have something for me to wear. So, although I own light, summer dresses and sandals, I didn’t bring them. In the end I wore an outfit that was along the lighter side, but not nearly as summery as the other extras had on, and I was still cold.

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Here’s how I’ll look. Blue sort of sweatshirt and pants. Director Charlie Martin(?) looking at camera.

I live in North Carolina where the temps start warming up in March. At the moment, we are enduring temps of around 30 degrees F warmer than in Port Isaac. I mean, when it’s 50 something F and the wind is blowing, it’s not beach weather to me!! We’ve lived all over the US, including Minnesota, and we know we get acclimated to wherever we live, but we’ve now lived in NC for 38 years and are used to being hot for at least 3-4 months out of the year. I have always seen college students walking around campus in flip-flops during the winter, but that will never be me! (I have to say that a little part of me wished I were of some unusual ethnic group – Asian, Arab, African-American, Indian, something. The show has had very few, if any, minority groups represented and I thought how fun it would be to shake things up, especially since they wouldn’t be expecting it. But I’m Caucasian like everyone else in the cast. Admittedly I did not see many ethnic looking people in Port Isaac. I did see a variety of ethnic groups in other places in Cornwall, however.)

The extras employed for that day were asked to wear particular types of clothing and bring changes. After breakfast we were all asked to line up so that our choice of clothes could be assessed. It felt a little like being faced with a firing squad and someone joked about that. Naturally, there was nothing at all frightening about it. The joking among the extras started early and kept up throughout the day. In addition, everyone in the group was extremely nice to me. I learned that many of them have been extras several times and in various shows. A few of us had teaching backgrounds and that led us to muse about whether teaching professionals are particularly drawn to want to try this sort of thing. We were all wearing coats and layers and only took them off when we had to.

Like Karen G., I, too, met Debbie as soon as I arrived at the Farm. By that time I had also been in touch with Glyn and Lindsay, Philippa’s assistant. My understanding is that Glyn is the person responsible for the cast. Debbie seemed more involved with the 4 babies being used and the older children too. As Karen G. mentions, Debbie and the rest of the staff continued to be very friendly towards me whenever they saw me. Thus, my day extended to my entire stay, and I continued to feel as though I was being treated as special even after the day on the set.

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Debbie is the woman walking towards the camera

Here is a picture of me with the extras:

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I’m between the white haired man with the beard and the other man with boots. My husband and I are such good photographers that I’m not even looking at the camera. In the other picture of me with the extras I have my eyes closed. I bet you’ll see some of these extras in the show. We were filming episode 5.

In the above picture we are all sitting along the wall across from the Old Schoolhouse Hotel and Restaurant (which doubles as the school in Portwenn) because we needed to gather in one spot. As we sat there, a parking guard came along and noticed the vans used for filming that were parked in front of the school didn’t have the proper permits to park there. She started writing tickets and some of the men thought it would be fun to harass her. She handled it well and retorted that we were being paid for sitting on a wall. Other people walked by and joked around with us too. Everyone enjoyed poking fun at everything.

Among the first people I saw when I arrived at the Farm that morning was Martin Clunes in jeans and a sweater, but I did not have a chance to talk to him at that point. However, once we were shuttled to PI, he was in the harbour area now dressed in his DM suit and tie. I was so caught up in what they were telling the extras to do and in being introduced to others in the crew like Hannah (who I believe assists the director) that I did not approach MC. My husband met me in town and he went up to MC and had a nice chat. Once I noticed they were chatting, I joined them. Peter told me later they talked about how we came to be there. In addition, it turned out that there was a scene being rehearsed that involved Joe Penhale (John Marquez) talking to a young girl sitting on the curb and staring. My husband is a neurologist, as you may remember, and recognized that she was supposed to be having an absence or partial complex seizure. In general, her behavior mimicked closely what might happen during one of those seizures, although she fell over and that doesn’t always take place. My husband also runs the Palliative Care and End of Life Program at UNC and thanked MC for his work with hospice in Dorset.

When I joined them, MC asked me about the charity that offered the part and we talked briefly about their work helping breast cancer patients. He has had a friend who was treated for breast cancer and survived, which is what got him involved. He once again mentioned the requirement in British TV that medical conditions be depicted accurately. I am not convinced that British TV is that much more accurate than American TV, although it may be a matter of volume rather than specific programs. My husband thinks DM does a good job of keeping things close to accurate, even though some scenes strain credulity. Of course, our soap operas are not accurate and some of the prime time shows can be a mixture. “House,” for example, started out using cases that were accurately presented, but then went off the rails. My husband was always very pleased that Gregory House demonstrated the use of differential diagnoses in trying to narrow down what a patient might be suffering from. He told MC that the first two years of “House” were good and he enjoyed trying to figure out what unusual syndrome the patient had. As it happened, we had watched some TV the night before and had seen a show called “Holby City.” It is set in a hospital and, from what I’ve now learned, has been on TV in England a long time (since 1999) and probably could be described as soap operaish even though it’s on during prime time. Believe me, they were definitely NOT being accurate. I couldn’t help myself and told MC about that show and that they were winging it. (I plan to write a post about British TV soon.)

We observed the scene with Joe Penhale and the young girl several times while standing with MC. He watched closely too and occasionally made comments. Once he told the young girl that there was a real neurologist watching and pointed to Peter. Another time he told her she looked really eerie. He seemed to be trying to make her feel at ease, which impressed me as something very nice to do. Her grandfather was there and we talked. He said she has acted a few times, is 13 yo, and would be in other scenes too. I saw her in one other outdoor scene where she becomes uncommunicative while standing near JH’s stroller. During this scene, ME taps her phone and asks her what she wants. I’m guessing other scenes might be when her parents bring her to see ME in his office.

Prior to the occasion when Joe Penhale is in that scene, ME is supposed to walk down the nearby alley and past JP. Penhale says “Hello Doc” and gets his usual “Yes” answer. During this sequence, several extras were used. Initially I was asked to stand midway down the alley and walk towards ME. I knew I should keep a straight face, but as he passed by me MC said “I’ll just scowl at you” and I struggled not to smile. Hannah immediately told me not to smile and we tried it again. As Karen G. mentions, each scene is repeated over and over no matter what. My assumption is that the director wants to try the scenes from a variety of perspectives and with various emphases so that he has several to choose from. After I walked up the alley, they switched me with another extra and did it again several times. MC left at that point and the scene with Penhale and the girl was repeated many times. During this scene I was asked to walk through again. This time I was to start walking when Penhale tells the young girl that she is legally required to listen to him. I continued walking past him and around behind him. I liked that scene the best and hope that’s the one they use.

Later that day, though, MC returned and they filmed that same walk down the alley again. This time I was asked to walk across the egress of the alley while a couple walked up the alley and other extras walked along the harbour area. We were all given different times to start walking after “action” was called. I walked 5 seconds after “action.” (The regular steps of preparing to film involved the actors rehearsing the scene with their coats, etc. on and getting pointers from the director. The assistant director would say “rehearsing” and make sure everything was in place, including the onlookers, then announce “turning over,” during which time everyone needs to make sure they are in position, and finally “action.” When they filmed the take, the same demands were announced. I have to suppose that the actors have had table readings prior to this during which they decided how best to say their lines because every actor seemed to know the lines by this point. Now and then they had to look at their sheets, but more often they knew their lines already and how they were planning to deliver them.

I need to stop here and say that the hardest working person during the time I was there was the assistant director. I wish I could tell you her name, but I do have a picture of her. She was utterly indefatigable. Every day, from 7 to 7, no matter what the weather or the location, she was moving nonstop and on her feet. She had her list of scenes for the day and she was the one who prepared for each scene with the help of a few others, and she made sure each actor was attended to. The day I was filming was also a day when Caroline Quentin was on the set. The AD clearly knew her well and they hugged, but that was true of several actors. She made each of them feel special and well treated while also keeping things moving. I can’t imagine how they could do the show without her and I think she must be totally exhausted by the end of each day. She must sleep all weekend and then get up and do it all over again the following week. She has to love her job!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The woman I’m referring to is the one with the long red hair and black top. Here she stands next to Janice, Morwenna, and Angela (CQ). (I have no idea why there’s a line across the bottom of the picture. Even more evidence of our poor photography skills!)

The next hardest workers are the camera crew and sound people. They use all sorts of equipment and sometimes set everything up only to have to take it all down so that cars and people can pass. Because PI is so small there is no way to block off a street for filming like they would in other towns. There are literally only 3 streets that will take you in or out of the village. Roscarrock Hill, the street that runs by the surgery building, ends in a cul-de sac even though it often looks like there are people and cars driving by the surgery on their way to some place. (If you look at Portwenn Online’s locations maps you can see that, but I never noticed until I was actually there.) If you walk to the end of Roscarrock Hill you get to the coast path and can walk up the hill to where some scenes have been filmed by the bench. If you keep walking, you arrive at a very steep natural staircase that takes you up to the top of a cliff and more path.

Anyway, the camera crew switch between steadicam on their shoulders to camera on tripod to camera on dolly in the wink of an eye, or so it seems. In many shots they use them all as another way to once again, I suppose, have options to choose amongst. They also disassemble it quickly. They all follow the party line that they are the ones imposing on the town and they don’t want to upset anyone by blocking the way. This is a lovely attitude, but it does give them headaches. Even though they all act very willing to move out of the way, taking screens and equipment off the road, I bet they secretly swear to each other about it. Constantly setting things up and dismantling them over and over has to be frustrating. It’s definitely time consuming. But these guys do it all many times throughout each day. I think they must all be relieved when they film on the beach or inside or in an alleyway. I have to say they do relieve the tedium of the day by messing around. I saw them playing games, fake wrestling, and doing things that men like to do to blow off steam. After all, there is a lot of standing around. On the other hand, sometimes they were fooling around when we were trying to see what the actors were doing and they didn’t seem to notice they were in the way.

During my day on the set I was never forgotten, which I considered quite astounding. I kept trying to stay out of the way, but Hannah often came looking for me and offered to have me see what they were doing either behind the director or in a myriad of other activities. Debbie found me for lunch, and Lindsay made a special trip in from the Farm to meet me. I couldn’t have felt more welcome and well treated. Lindsay is incredibly capable and extremely thoughtful. I was fortunate to have a chance to talk to her for a while and get to know her.

My only other moment when I was asked to be in a scene was during a scene with Mrs. T (Selena Caddell) and Angela (CQ). Angela works in animal rescue and was taking Buddy to see the doc. Mrs. T stops her as she heads in the direction of the surgery. I was told to stand on the street and look like I was talking on my cell phone. Other extras walked through the scene at different points. I felt the most superfluous during this scene.

Other scenes shot during that day included one with Penhale and the fish monger that I found very funny. They must have said their lines a dozen times and I laughed every time. The scene had to do with Penhale needing something to serve at a BBQ he was having. (Another day we saw the filming of the BBQ.) He asks the fish monger for a suggestion of what to make. He tells him he wants to be seen as a man of the world but still approachable. The suggestion is sardines. Penhale says he wants something more exotic and the new recommendation is Italian sardines. The idea of grilling sardines was funny in itself, and adding the notion of being a man of the world was priceless.

It was now getting to be 6 o’clock and they were still not even close to done. My husband had long since gone back to our rental house and I was definitely fading. I wanted to stay for the final shots, but they were with Penhale and Janice with the baby on the coast path where it would be hard to see anything and then I saw the shuttle bus heading out and jumped on. Almost all the extras were on the bus and I talked to a few more during the drive back to the Farm. I was fortunate to sit next to a young man who had been a chef but was now a handyman. He recommended some good restaurants in the area and we tried the one in Boscastle called Wellington’s, which was quite good. We actually went to Boscastle twice and now I’ve seen that some filming was done there. It’s very scenic there too and also has the requisite steep roads. The river that runs through it distinguishes it from other towns. Like PI, when the tide is out, the boats are left stranded on sand. I’ve never quite seen that before. Here when the tide is out, boats can still float.

Back at the Farm I spoke to Glyn and Katie but never got to see Philippa. They said she was out looking for locations. Another time she was in London doing some casting. My impression is that Philippa is the total opposite of Martin and would rather not meet people or have her picture taken. Karen G. said she never got to talk to Philippa either and, like Karen G., I saw Philippa on the set another day. I guess she leaves the socializing and promoting to Martin.

I did not have a chance to see the interior sets and should have asked before leaving that evening. I have to say I was too tired to remember to ask and ready to drive home. It was a really great experience that I’m sure I’ll never have again. I now feel as though I know Port Isaac well and have a lot of respect for all the work the people behind the scenes do. The sound person, another woman whose name I don’t have, told me she loves what she does and has been doing it for 20 years. She, too, spends most of the day on her feet in all kinds of weather holding the long rod with the microphone on the end over the actors speaking. She has to find a place to stand where she can reach the actors and not be in the picture. Somehow she manages to do that all day every day too. We all admire the actors, and they get all the credit, but the show wouldn’t be anywhere as good without the ancillary workers. That they operate with such good attitudes is very much to their credit and to the credit of those who hired them and supervise them.

Oh, another thing, I asked and Philippa is involved in all aspects of the show and considers the show her “baby.” She does not get a writing credit though because she does no writing. What she does is what producers in the US do too — she reads the scripts and comments on them. Much like a person building a house doesn’t design it, they tell the architect what they want and collaborate with the architect until they are happy with the design, a producer talks to the writers to develop the storyline, the writers go write and send their work to the producer(s) who then read it and respond. Each note is sent back to the writer who tries to make the requested changes or who argues for their point of view until the final product is achieved. Philippa is not the only one who reads each script. Her assistant Lindsay gives notes and there are other producers. The main thing is it’s a collaborative effort.

Also, I tried to meet with Jack Lothian because he’s my favorite writer on the show. I found out that he’s a favorite among the producers too but he lives in Thailand. He flies in for meetings. He has a thick Scottish accent and has decided he wants to be in Thailand. I have no plans to fly to Thailand at the moment!

 

 

 

Originally posted 2015-06-21 16:59:08.

May Travels

I have decided to come clean about what I did during my hiatus in May: I went to Port Isaac where I had a walk-on part. Like Abby and Linda, I journeyed to Cornwall to see the setting and the filming for myself. I haven’t posted any pictures because it looked like so many others were already doing that. My day of filming was Wednesday, May 13th and I want to tell you all about it from a variety of perspectives.

My first post will simply make some observations about England and what I saw of life in that country. These are truly meant to be observations and should not be taken as criticisms in any way. Our daily lives are really not that different from the ones I witnessed in England, and we use many of the same expressions. Although there are many Britishisms and linguistic disparities, I think there are more similarities than differences. They may say “Give Way” when we say “Yield,” or they use “Sat Nav” while we use “GPS,” but I never felt like I was speaking a strange language. In fact, London is such a diverse city with people from all over the world speaking English with accents of all kinds, that my American accent just fit right in.

This was my 4th visit to the UK, but it’s been quite a while between visits now. I have never been to Cornwall before either. I have driven cars on the left side of the road while sitting on the right side of the car; nevertheless, I was not very comfortable driving in London, and getting on the M4 was quite an experience. The lanes are much narrower than I’m used to and I definitely had to pay close attention to my left side. We rented a Mercedes, which by the way, appears to be the most popular brand of car. From what we saw, the British like German brands the most: Mercedes, BMW, VW, Audi. We also saw a lot of Peugeots, some Hyundais and Toyotas, but surprisingly few British made cars and very few Lexuses (Lexi?).  This struck me as odd because of the notorious dislike of the Germans in England. However, you have to hand it to the Germans for making good cars!  A very difficult thing for us throughout the trip was dealing with the parking rules, if there are any. Unlike in the U.S., drivers can park in any direction in England and they can park on roadsides even if the street is very narrow. Therefore, trying to drive through a town can be like driving through an obstacle course. Delabole was particularly problematic. Every time we drove through that town there were cars parked along the main street on both sides in both directions. It was a challenge to figure out who has the right of way. (Instead of Main St. being their most common street name, I’d say Fore Street is.) Of course, the English love their roundabouts (known here as traffic circles). I got the feeling that they put them in as much as possible even when there was no reason. On the other hand, at least everyone knows how to drive around them!

The other thing that is curious is that they intermingle the metric system with the imperial unit system. (This is true for time, volume, and weight as well as speed.) When you’re driving, the speed limit signs are posted in mph even though the car includes both kmh and mph. Distances are measured in miles too. This was of some help to me since I didn’t have to compute anything. On the other hand, they use Celsius for temps, but I learned quickly how to convert those to Fahrenheit in my head.

The width of the lanes got somewhat better once we reached the outskirts of London, however, they got much worse again once we arrived in Cornwall. Those scenes of Martin Ellingham nervously watching the approaching pickup truck while driving around Port Isaac are something I can easily relate to now! For some reason the Sat Nav in our car loved sending us down narrow back roads rather than staying on the wider main roads. Eventually we became familiar with the area around Port Isaac and knew when to ignore the Sat Nav. It was pretty nerve wracking driving between the tall hedgerows on narrow two way roads, never knowing if there was a car coming from the other direction. If we did encounter a car, one of us either had to back up or hope there was a slightly wider space where we could move over to let the other car pass. Somehow we never had a very close call. I think that was pure luck.

The other thing is that in Cornwall the roads are extremely steep going into most of the towns. This is especially true in a town called Mousehole, although Port Isaac is right up there with some of the steepest. (Yup, the name of the town is Mousehole, but pronounced Mouseull.)  Thus, the streets are narrow and steep and then you have the trucks, vans, and full sized cars making their way through the towns. I never stopped being amazed that there seemed to be little hesitation in the drivers. It was tough enough for most people to walk up and down the street not that that stopped anyone. I saw people of all ages and abilities heading down to the harbour area in PI only to later have to climb their way back up. They usually had to take breaks along the way. In addition, there were many more people using walking sticks or canes than we see in the U.S.. Some were hiking with poles, but most needed help with walking in general. This was a pronounced difference from what we see here and may be a sign that they don’t do as many knee and hip replacement surgeries.

PI seems to be a tourist destination for many walkers, even those who have no idea that there is filming going on. In fact, there were many visitors to PI on the weekends when there is no filming planned. Some people would come upon the filming during the week and be thoroughly surprised. Of course, they would often become interested once they saw the crowds, but many just wanted to get through and on with their walks.

The weather was very erratic. One day we could have lovely sunshine and relative warmth (maybe upper 50s to lower 60s), and the next day we might have chilly temps and wind, and a third day might be utterly awful with wind, rain, and cold temps. This situation makes it hard to stay on the filming schedule and makes it hell to figure out what to wear! While I was there, episode 5 was being filmed and there were at least 2 days when the filming schedule was affected by extremely bad weather. Of course, this was disappointing for us, but it also played havoc with their plans. I think they filmed indoors during those days. We found some other things to do which mostly involved driving around to other small towns nearby.

Once they got back to filming, they spent the whole day filming some scenes at the beach at Port Gaverne, which is literally down another narrow, steep street on the opposite side of Port Isaac. Walking there couldn’t have been easier. They also filmed the police station scenes in Port Gaverne because that’s where the mock police station is located. We saw the BBQ scene with Joe, Al, Morwenna, and Janice(?) being filmed there. Although the heavy rain had stopped and the sun was out, the wind was still blustery and the temps were quite cool. I was very happy to wear my coat with scarf and other warm clothes while watching, whereas the cast and extras had to be filmed wearing light clothing and beachwear. The conceit that it’s always sunny and warm in Portwenn can be very demanding on the actors and is definitely NOT the case in Port Isaac!

There are also much nicer beaches elsewhere. St. Ives is particularly nice, for example. Even Newquay has a sandier and wider beach than Port Gaverne. I also felt sorry for the cast and extras watching them lie on very rocky spaces and act like they were having a lovely day at the beach.

Cornwall is known for its fish and seafood, particularly crab and lobster ( as the inn is called). Mussels are great there too. What they don’t have much of is vegetables and fruits. Although salads were offered at times in restaurants, it was often impossible to find any vegetables on the menu. The salads were generally not made with the sorts of lettuce we find plentiful in the U.S., but with mixed greens of mostly what I think is called Looseleaf type. Even the grocery stores in the area did not have the kinds of vegetable selection we have available here. Port Isaac has a Co-op grocery store that is adequate for small purchases, but on the limited side. Wadebridge is close enough to get to quickly and has a much bigger Co-op store. But even there, the selection of veg and fruit was limited and mostly prepackaged. (One shock we had was finding a Whole Foods Store in London. Who would have guessed that Whole Foods based in Austin, Texas has become international?) So the organic produce stand they use in scenes of Portwenn is a fantasy that we would have liked to have had as an option in reality. After driving around on several days while staying in Port Isaac, we realized we didn’t see any crops growing in the surrounding fields. Most of the area was composed of pastures for cows and lots and lots of sheep. Sheep are everywhere.

While I’m on the subject of animals, I want to also say that the British absolutely love dogs. We have our share of dog lovers here too, but I’ve never seen so many people taking their dogs with them wherever they go. They were all very well behaved and hardly ever barked or got into scuffles with each other. We have a sweet dog at home and many neighbors with dogs, some of whom take their dogs on trips, but the numbers pale in comparison to England. You might argue that people brought their dogs to Port Isaac because they know Martin Clunes is a dog lover and pets most dogs he sees, but most of the folks I saw with their dogs were simply there for a walk/hike. I also saw many dogs with their owners in other towns in Cornwall. The English just love their dogs and want to take them along. If Martin Clunes really didn’t like dogs, that would be remarkable.

Although this isn’t necessarily something I need to say, I wanted to mention that in almost every case, the people there were extremely nice and helpful. In general we expect service personnel to treat us well, but I’d say we had only one occasion when the service was poor and the people in the pub were less than friendly. This took place in Bath away from the downtown area.

Because my husband is a doctor and he’s interested in medical practices everywhere, and because this show is about a GP and the functioning of his surgery, we visited the actual surgery building in Port Isaac. It may surprise you to learn that Port Isaac’s surgery is in a large, modern medical building just a short distance away from the center of town. There are four GPs who practice there. They have specific parameters to follow, e.g. you should be seen within 15 minutes of your appointment, the doctor has ten minutes to examine you and determine what to advise, they may have some meds right there, but you may have to go to the pharmacy. (We saw a reality show on TV about doctors practicing medicine and the ten minute limit is strongly imposed. So much so that one of the doctors on TV was watching the time and neglected to ask pertinent questions as a result. When a patient was kept waiting for a significantly long time, he complained to the doctor. The doctor was extremely apologetic. I was hoping to see him tell the patient he was an idiot and throw him out, but was disappointed!) Also, the NHS is very concerned about which meds are prescribed and how often antibiotics are chosen. We are all concerned about antibiotic resistance, but they seem to have a very heightened awareness.

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Going to the the pharmacy was interesting too. Of course, it’s not at all like Mrs. Tishell’s store. In fact, we had to go to Wadebridge to find a pharmacy because PI doesn’t have one. Anyone living in PI has to find a way to get their meds out of town or hope the doctor’s office has what they need. The largest chain is called Boots but there are smaller vendors. Still not as small as Mrs. T’s. They sell many of the same brands and types as we have in the U.S., e.g. Sudafed, Benadryl. The difference was in the dosing. We usually have Sudafed in 10 mg tablets. In England the choice is between 3.5 mg and 60 mg. Quite a jump! My impression was that they have more essential oils and vitamins for sale.

I hope I haven’t bored you with all of these facts. I was very interested to learn how closely the show represents the real world in that area and found some of the differences rather impressive. I definitely need more than three weeks of driving on the “wrong” side of the street and car to feel comfortable with it! I plan to write next about my day on the set.

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2015-06-13 17:19:51.

Immutable Personality Traits Plus

First, I need to say that I have been having a lot of trouble with my modem and that is one of the reasons it’s taken me this long to write a post. In addition, my week has been extremely busy and has not allowed for much writing. When I post this, it will be after dealing with many frustrations with both computer and time!

As previously mentioned, I want to write something about Santa’s recent comment that referred to the show “Mad Men” as asking the question “Can People Change,” and whether I think literature has often posed that question too. I’ve been mulling over the general acceptance of the Five Immutable Personality Traits that Santa directed us to because that stance is mentioned in the article. I suppose a little review is appropriate here.

Even though none of us has made note of this well-known list, the traits have usually been identified by the acronym OCEAN, or some other arrangements of the letters. OCEAN stands for:

O – Openness to experience

C – Conscientiousness

E – Extraversion

A – Agreeableness

N – Neuroticism

You can read about how these traits became identified as immutable here. I would like to make clear that since the original composing of this list many studies have disagreed with whether they are immutable and, after further study, most psychologists agree that change often occurs within these categories due to many factors. These factors include age (generally accepted as after the age of 30), environment, health, marriage, and work. (I would add having children.) There is also a variability in the constancy of personality traits wherein certain traits stay consistent and others change. Therefore, the article Santa referenced was really being too perfunctory when it mentioned the immutable traits. The article states: “You can change your reaction to things, you can change your behavior to the people around you, you can become different enough that you  seem different, but underneath it all, you are still you.” Actually, the situation is much more complicated than that. Nevertheless, considering the scope of the article, we can use both positions: the one that considers change as it is represented by superficial modifications in behavior, and change as it is represented by more permanent and substantial permutations of one’s personality.

I say this because the article takes into account the aging of the cast as the show continued through ten years as well as the aging of the viewers over that time span. As we all know, as the years flow by, we begin to look older. Apparently, “Mad Men” is one of the few shows in which the aging of its stars has been incorporated into the show. Rather than trying to pretend that those years have not really passed, as most shows, including “Doc Martin,” most often do, the creators of “MM” decided to have the cast age along with its audience.

How have we changed? Who knows how many ways life has impacted us over the past ten years? (In my case, I only started watching “DM” in the past two years, but I can still say that a lot has happened in those two years.) Do life experiences change us? My answer would be a resounding “Yes.” Sheryl Sandberg recently wrote in her essay about losing her husband only  one month ago, she has learned a lot about loss and what to say to others, about some practical things, and that resilience can be learned, that connections to others change, and she has learned gratitude. If she can learn all those things in one month, just think what we’ve learned in two years, or ten! The writer of the article notes, she has changed throughout the time during which she’s been watching “Mad Men,” yet she believes she is the same person. She acknowledges that there is no clear yes or no answer to the question “can people change?”

In my humble opinion, I am not the same person as I was when I was in college, or since I had children and grandchildren, or since my parents have grown old and my father has died, or since some close friends have died. Those experiences have changed me in more than superficial ways. Perhaps my college friends I haven’t seen in decades would say I haven’t changed (except to have aged), but I know I have. Some events have softened me and others have made me tougher; I’ve learned a lot about myself and realized what is most important to me in life. The question is not whether people can change, rather how much can people change and what sorts of circumstances lead to those changes? If we look at the OCEAN traits, where can we find significant areas of change?

Openness: sometimes called intellect. Although someone may be open on some areas to new experiences, they may be less open on others. Again, in my opinion and based on personal observation, once someone is introduced to a new activity or lives through a momentous event, he/she can become more open. A trip, meeting a person of another culture, having an accident — many events can open one up beyond one’s usual approach.

Conscientiousness: High scores on conscientiousness indicate a preference for planned rather than spontaneous behavior. I think the operative word here is preference. We may want things to be planned, but life teaches us that plans usually have to be changed. We plan to have the baby after we graduate, but the baby comes early; we plan for the movers to deliver our furniture on a particular day, but they come much later; we plan to surprise someone with a special ticket to a concert, but they get sick the day before. If we’re rigid, we’ll be stuck over and over. Eventually we learn that we can’t control the world.

Extraversion: The trait is marked by pronounced engagement with the external world. Even though I think this is one of the traits that is toughest to change, traumatic and/or extraordinary events can change one’s approach to the world in either direction. We know people withdraw under certain circumstances. I think, under the right conditions, people can also be drawn out and become more willing to participate.

Agreeableness: Agreeable individuals value getting along with others. On a large scale we know that strongly prejudiced people can have conversion events in which they become aware that their biases were based on false premises. There are also breakthrough moments when a person may realize that he/she cares enough about another to want to be more agreeable. Conversely, there can be major events that cause one to lose faith in others. (Bernie Maddoff may have caused a few of these changes.)

Neuroticism: Those who score high in neuroticism are emotionally reactive and vulnerable to stress. They are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. This may take a lifetime to change, but with regular and steady good outcomes, can change.

I haven’t applied these to “DM” because I am certain you can all do that as well as I can.

When it comes to literature, I can state unequivocally that most, if not all, great works of literature emphasize characters changing in some form. When I think back on the earliest novels, such as Pamela by Samuel Richardson, or Don Quixote by Cervantes, the characters are on missions to make changes in themselves or in the world. Indeed Chaucer’s and Boccaccio’s tales were meant to be stories of warning, political commentary, and philosophical messages that would bring about change through shining a light on the authorities of the time. Presumably, those authorities would recognize the absurdity in some of their rules and laws and have some sort of insight into themselves. In terms of personality traits, many characters want to change to improve their chances to capture the hearts of someone they love. Don Quixote loves Dulcinea although he realizes he’s dreaming about her loving him back. Pamela is first the victim of her employer’s lust and then the victim of his guilt and desire to win her love despite their different social status.

The novel that perhaps has the most to say about someone changing is Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Why does Kafka have his protagonist become a large beetle? It has a lot to do with personality changes, both those of Gregor Samsa and those of his family. And he is quite convincing that people can change!

Across cultures, across time, and across genres, change in how people behave, how they approach the world, and how they manage their fates has always been a prominent theme.

Finally, I think it’s important to remember that all of these personality traits are on a continuum, just as the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test demonstrated. Our personality traits fluctuate along the continuum and are not fixed.

I hope I’ve addressed what Santa was asking. I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say about this topic. Also, I hope to have a chance to write several more posts in the near future. My internet connection should be repaired by tomorrow afternoon, fingers crossed, and I’ll be better able to post more in less time. Thank you for sticking with me!

 

Originally posted 2015-06-07 11:04:56.

It’s June 1st and I am ready to write!

Hello, all. Hopefully I still have some readers out there! Taking off the month of May gave me a chance to have time to do some traveling and some thinking. As the days passed, I collected many ideas of new posts to write. I also want to address Santa’s last comment which included an article about “Mad Men” that asserted its central story was also about whether people can change.

My plan is to start with that article and whether literature often deals with that subject. Then I will do my best to add the other posts as quickly as possible and with as much analysis as I can muster.

I hope Linda had a great week in Port Isaac and will write more about her experiences there. I haven’t seen her pictures on Facebook, but maybe I haven’t looked in the right places.

I look forward to reestablishing our conversations.

Originally posted 2015-06-01 15:45:06.

Gather Ye Rosebuds

Now that I’ve pretty much overdone the discussion of whether people can change, and we’ve reached the conclusion that there will be some change, but probably not too much, we can look at what attributes these characters have that should be good for their marriage. Despite Louisa being a woman who likes small town and middle-class life, especially in Portwenn, and Martin being a man who has an affinity for London and the more upper crust life, there is much that they have in common.

Previously I wrote about whether Martin and Louisa should stay together. I questioned the whole notion of bringing up that issue because I am the type of reader/viewer who takes the storyline as something to accept as written. I tried to make allowances in a second post (“Ambiguity”) for those who read/watch as if they are looking through a keyhole rather than looking into a box. I want to be open to those who like to imagine what might happen “if.” This post is different because I can use the information we’ve been given in the show to discuss why Martin and Louisa are well matched. In my opinion, the writers have given us sufficient evidence that this couple could be compatible.

I have my own ideas about what criteria might be used to determine compatibility, but I thought I should see what the established guidelines are. Psychology Today published keys to functional compatibility (as opposed to dysfunctional, which I assume means those couples who stay together but have a very problematic relationship).

Key #1: basic values. These values reflect one’s moral standards, one’s religious beliefs, and one’s sense of gender roles. (I would add one’s interest in having children, although this subject could be folded into several of the keys.) From what we’ve seen of Martin and Louisa, they have very similar feelings about morals and religion, but may have somewhat different views about gender roles.

Both Martin and Louisa are concerned about others and make the time and effort to help the townspeople whenever called upon. As a doctor, M would be expected to take care of any medical problems, but he frequently goes well beyond that. (The “Kindness” post from last November delineated much of that behavior.) L demonstrates concern for her students, for their parents, and for others in the community, including Roger Fenn, Mrs. T, Morwenna, and Ruth. She worries about her friend Caroline as well as Mark and Al.

Religion plays a very minor role in their lives. They get married in a church but do not participate otherwise. They both react with surprise and derision to Danny’s regular invocation of God.

Their differences regarding gender roles may coincide in theory, i.e. they both think women should have the same opportunity to work as men and can handle the same positions. (Surely Martin’s aunts have been an influence on him.) Where they differ is whether women should work once they’ve had a baby, most especially when the baby is very young. Louisa’s desire to return to work within a few months of having James is contrary to Martin’s beliefs and a source of conflict between them. They never really resolve that issue; however, Martin takes on the care of James despite his objections to Louisa’s decision to work and in spite of its inconvenience to him. He deals with childcare at least as much as Louisa and hires Michael to help with James.

Key #2: degree of being ego-centered. This refers to a willingness to compromise. The way I understand this is that each partner can have strong convictions, but it is their ability to be tolerant of each other’s positions that is important. Thus, when Martin attends the school concert with Louisa he is sublimating his disenchantment with this sort of event to satisfy Louisa. Similarly, when Louisa wants to go to a social event that she realizes will not appeal to Martin, she doesn’t press him. Another example would be helping out as receptionist until Martin can find someone else. Or accepting his interest in fixing clocks even if it takes time away from her and James. (To be honest, in the show Martin is more often the one who does the compromising. That circumstance actually bolsters our sense that he is not stuck in a gender rut.)

Key #3: shared insight and perspective. Here we are talking about having comparable intellectual abilities such that both members of the couple can comprehend ideas, issues, and problems in a reasonable and thoughtful manner. In this show we have seen Martin and Louisa handle issues jointly and reasonably. There are many examples that come to mind, e.g. when Allison’s daughter acts hyper and ultimately badly injures herself. Louisa brings Allison to apologize to Martin and mediates the conversation between them. Louisa displays her problem-solving prowess and Martin and she have a meeting of the minds. We could also point to their handling of the porphyria addled headmaster; many cases with students, especially Peter Cronk and Theo Wenn; Mrs. Tishell; as well as their agreement about the personal traits of Mrs. Wilson and the Oakwoods. Indeed, this category is the one that stands out to me as demonstrating excellent compatibility in this pair.

Key #4: shared interests. I suppose we could suggest music as one activity they both enjoy, although Louisa doesn’t have any in depth knowledge of classical music or the instruments. After their sojourn to the concert, they clash over the children’s music Louisa has on in the kitchen. Other than that, the only truly shared interest they have is their son, unless we once again include shared concern for the townspeople.

Keys #5 and 6 are where we hit a major snag. These have to do with the temperaments of each member of the couple and their ability to relate authentically. We have spent quite a bit of time discussing how much Martin and Louisa need to talk to each other about their inner thoughts and probably their histories. To be in a truly functional marriage both parties should feel comfortable disclosing things to one another and leveling with each other. We haven’t seen much of this sort of behavior so far. We’ve gotten snippets, e.g. when Louisa can’t sleep because she is concerned about Mrs. Tishell’s return and Martin tries to reassure her. Most often they have been unwilling to share their most personal thoughts and troubles. It seems clear that Louisa would like to reach a deeper level of sharing and that Martin is the one who has the most trouble with this. Early on we see her try to get Martin to talk to her and in S6, she tells Martin she’s available to talk about his father’s death, and she suggests taking a weekend away presumably to have time to talk to each other.  On the other hand, there is much that Louisa has not told Martin (or us). We could speculate that she’s hesitant to be too open because of his apparent lack of interest in hearing it or in reciprocating, or because she’s being self-protective. Whatever the reason, their inability to be more authentic with each other is a major source of trouble in their marriage and the area that needs to change most.

Key #7 is whether the couple is attracted to each other. This seems rather ridiculous unless the marriage is arranged or something, but I guess it is a factor. Martin and Louisa fulfill this requirement; they have been attracted to each other from the moment they met. Martin never stops wanting to catch a glimpse of Louisa, he has a different tone of voice when talking to her, and he agrees to do almost anything she asks of him. That is hardly the case with anyone else. Meanwhile, Louisa defends him to others, and becomes jealous whenever there’s another woman around. She worries about him, and she invites him out and finds ways to bump into him. Also, they are the best dressed people in Port Wenn and appear to have the same interest in good grooming habits. If Louisa weren’t clean and neat, Martin would have trouble finding her attractive. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone marrying unless they are physically attracted to each other, but we can’t deny that attraction is important.

In addition to the above, I would like to add that they both are very trustworthy. They can be secure in the knowledge that neither one of them will stray. They’ve made a commitment to each other, and from what we know of them, they will keep that commitment. To me that is an essential ingredient to a good marriage.

Furthermore, I think it’s important to remember that their marriage is starting with a baby already on board. They have had no time to get acclimated to living with each other without the stress of a newborn. The fact that they have been shown complementing each other throughout the early months of James’ life shows a strong foundation for their union.

Another thing that seems to be fairly common is that, for some unknown reason, many people who love each other hurt each other. Whether this is some sort of test or hurdle, I can’t be sure. (The Carpenters actually had a song called “Hurting Each Other,” it’s so  unexceptional. Here are the lyrics. I think they sum up what we see with M and L quite well.)

I can’t end this post without stating that falling in love has many ineffable aspects about it. We can’t always define what captures our interest and desire. Sometimes we just know that we have met the person we want to be with because there is something deep in our hearts and minds that gives us that signal. To a certain extent, that is what has happened to Martin and Louisa, and we want them to embrace that. Neither of them had found the right mate before and now Fate has brought them together. Isn’t that a strength in itself?

One final thing…This will be my last post until June. I will be traveling in May and can only reveal that I hope to have a lot more posts to write when I get back. I won’t be leaving for another week and will be checking the blog until I leave and while I’m away. Thank you all for hanging in here with me. It’s been a demanding endeavor to keep the blog going throughout the long break between series! I couldn’t have done it without your help. I plan to continue until we’ve seen S7 and added our analyses of its episodes to our discussions. After that, who knows?

Originally posted 2015-04-30 17:28:42.

What’s the Matter with Edith?

As Santa said in a recent comment, S7 may turn out to be a series we would compare to S4 because we may watch Martin and Louisa Ellingham “move through most of their anger at each other to some realization of how much they wanted to be together, even if they feared rejection from the other.” Although Santa’s remarks are not about Edith, Edith is the outside force that complicates the relationship between Martin and Louisa even further in S4.

I doubt I need to remind you that Edith only appears in S4. The last time we see her she marches into ME’s office to tell him she’s not mad at him, and that once he’s back in London, she’s sure things will seem very different. She thinks she has helped him conquer his haemophobia, and now he has intimacy issues that she can help him with. As of S6, we know he has not conquered his blood phobia and he has stayed in Portwenn.

As promised, I want to take on the subject of Edith. To do this, I think we need to look at the role Edith plays in this story, and the reason for bringing her into it. If we look at the structure of DM, Martin Ellingham is the protagonist and Louisa Glasson Ellingham is the deuteragonist. When Edith joins this twosome, she would be considered the tritagonist, or the least sympathetic character of a drama. A tritagonist also occasions the situations by which pity and sympathy for the protagonist are excited. Another way of identifying her is as the “Foil,” or someone who provides a strong contrast with another character in order to highlight or underscore a distinctive characteristic of the other character. Furthermore, the readiness to act by a foil can accentuate the other character’s delay.

In S4, Edith is certainly the least sympathetic character. She does, indeed, act as a foil to Louisa and, in doing so, she fulfills all of the qualities attributed to a foil.

The fact that Edith is a physician, who functions in both the clinical and research areas of obstetrics and gynecology, makes her highly accomplished. Even so, she misdiagnoses a mass instead of diverticulitis and is loathe to admit it. As a result, we see how Edith is similar to Martin in that she is well respected in her field and she hates to admit making mistakes. We also notice the tension between them as they jostle for superiority first with this patient, then with Louisa, and also with his haemophobia.

We are predisposed to disliking any woman who might seek to replace Louisa as Martin’s love interest. With Edith, though, it’s hard to get past her bright red, spiky hair, her severe, dark clothes, and her condescending manner of talking to Martin. Then she continues to make advances toward Martin despite knowing that he has had an intimate relationship with Louisa and that Louisa has quite obviously returned to Portwenn to reconnect with him. Furthermore, Edith barges into Martin’s home or office at her own convenience, has little compassion for Martin’s blood phobia troubles, and acts totally indifferent to him when he faints. Her efforts to treat the phobia fall somewhere between self-congratulation and meddling. She wants him to return to London, and she seems to want to reignite their love life, but it all appears to be mostly because that would work best for her. Therefore, we can conclude that she is self-centered, self-assured, strong-willed, unapologetic, matter-of-fact, and unkind. She has moments of warmth, e.g. when she looks at the Buddha figurine, when she recalls the poem he once wrote for her, and when she kisses his cheek. However, those are fleeting and the kisses seem self-serving and meant to manipulate him.

Her behavior elicits pity for Martin insofar as he is buffeted by her persistence even while he is conflicted about Louisa and her pregnancy. Time and again Edith intrudes into his life to entice him away from Portwenn only to be turned down by him. I particularly liked the time when she’s waiting for Martin to join her and Robert Dashwood for lunch where she is planning for Martin to make a strong effort to convince Dashwood to offer him a position as a surgeon again. Instead, Martin is rushing to get to a patient in distress and never gets to the lunch. Edith’s priorities are not Martin’s.

As the “Foil,” Edith is the provocateur in this series, forcing Louisa to admit to herself, if not yet to Martin, how much she wants him to be a part of her life and the pregnancy. In scene after scene, we see Louisa exhibit jealousy as well as forcefulness in response to something Edith has done or said. We know more than Louisa about Edith’s devious manipulation of Martin, especially when it comes to trying to lure him away from Louisa. Nevertheless, Louisa is aware that Martin and Edith were once engaged to marry, and she can easily see that Edith is finding ways to visit Martin fairly often. There are enough occasions when Martin is summoned to help Louisa throughout her pregnancy that we can come to the conclusion that Louisa is battling with her own hesitations about including him. The ultrasound scene and Edith’s assessment that the baby might be SGA (small for gestational age), provide an important interaction where Louisa seeks out Martin’s opinion. Martin reassures Louisa and keeps the ultrasound picture of the baby, and Louisa makes it clear that she has mixed feelings about having Edith as her obstetrician. Edith has provoked Louisa during her examination, both because she asks intrusive and unethical questions and because she has mentioned possible complications with the baby. The episode ends with Martin taking another look at the baby’s ultrasound picture and appearing quite pleased.

We also see these two women clash over Martin when an obstetrical nurse asks whether the father will be accompanying Louisa to prenatal classes. Louisa answers that the father won’t be joining her. In her case it’s because she has denied him that option, but Edith is convinced he wouldn’t participate because she thinks she knows him better. Once again, Louisa looks miffed.

Louisa doesn’t allow Martin to be involved in the pregnancy the way he would like, but Edith’s presence highlights Louisa’s fluctuating feelings and eventually leads to Martin’s conviction that he wants to be with Louisa and not with Edith. His decision to leave the hotel while Edith is giving a lecture and cannot stop him is bookended, in the next episode, by Martin’s race to catch up to Tommy’s taxi and Louisa, and the birth of the baby. Although he packs up and is ready to leave Portwenn for London, he’s waylaid by all the patients who want to see him one last time, and by Tasha’s collapse. Tasha’s condition awakens Martin’s protective instincts for Louisa and the baby, and off he goes. The initiation of labor while Louisa and he are dealing with Tommy leads to his realization that he doesn’t want to leave either Louisa or Portwenn after all.

The amorous kiss that Martin and Louisa share during the birth of the baby is a total abnegation of anything Edith was hoping for, and plotting for. With her prodding, Martin and Louisa’s feelings for each other are consummated.

Originally posted 2015-04-17 11:28:29.

Marital Happiness

Not surprisingly, my attempts at writing light posts have fallen pretty flat. There’s not really much anyone can say about them anyway.

Since we know there will be marital/couples counseling at some point in S7, I figured another topic of interest might be what it takes to achieve happiness in a marriage. I’ve written about the topic of happiness a few times because I think there is a significant emphasis placed in the show on happiness and its importance. I have to assume they purposely chose to underline this mental and emotional state. (Among the many intriguing topics brought up on this show, making happiness one seems rather curious to me. While taking Martin deeper into depression as the show goes along until in S6 he reaches Major Depression, they continue to broach the subject of the overall importance of happiness. (Why else have the conversation in the hospital near the end of S6 between Louisa and Martin in which, after she tells him she’s taking James to Spain, she says “I’m not happy and I’m not making you happy am I” and he answers “Happy…Why does everybody have to be happy all the time?” That question hangs there while Louisa looks at him crestfallen. Once again she’s asking him if she’s the reason for his problems and his answer is indirect and noncommittal, as it was before. Besides, is this an existential question? Are we supposed to wonder whether being happy is even on his radar? Or should we ask whether being happy is a state he has lost any desire to strive for? In spite of all these uncertainties in regard to happiness, I will go ahead with this post about happiness in marriage and couples.)

I have now learned that John Gottman, who is a professor emeritus at the University of Washington, is considered an authority on marriage and its major pitfalls. He is known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis through scientific direct observations, many of which were published in peer-reviewed literature. Gottman was recognized in 2007 as one of the 10 most influential therapists of the past quarter century. He is best known for his Four Horsemen concept ( which is a reference to what can bring on an apocalypse in a marriage). It defines four major negative communication styles that can cause significant problems in a marriage: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling.

It might be useful to go through each of these and see how Martin and Louisa have been depicted in relation to these behaviors  and what we might like to see them do to change them. If we’re talking about change, and we have heard both Martin and Louisa say they think people can change, we should consider what particular changes could best help their marriage. Since Gottman has studied marriage, his assessment seems a pretty good place to start.

John Gottman’s FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE:

1. Criticism: Attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong:

Generalizations: “you always…” “you never…”“you’re the type of person who …” “why are you so …”

2. Contempt: Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her:

– Insults and name-calling: “bitch, bastard, wimp, fat, stupid, ugly, slob, lazy…”
– Hostile humor, sarcasm or mockery
– Body language & tone of voice: sneering, rolling your eyes, curling your upper lip

3. Defensiveness: Seeing self as the victim, warding off a perceived attack:

– Making excuses (e.g., external circumstances beyond your control forced you to act in a certain way) “It’s not my fault…”, “I didn’t…”

– Cross-complaining: meeting your partner’s complaint, or criticism with a complaint of your own, ignoring what your partner said

– Disagreeing and then cross-complaining “That’s not true, you’re the one who …” “I did this because you did that…”

– Yes-butting: start off agreeing but end up disagreeing
– Repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying – Whining “It’s not fair.”

4. Stonewalling: Withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. Partners may think they are trying to be “neutral” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness:

– Stony silence
– Monosyllabic mutterings
– Changing the subject
– Removing yourself physically
– Silent Treatment

So lets look at the Four Horsemen as they relate to what we’ve seen transpire between Martin and Louisa. (Perhaps a slight caution is appropriate here. Louisa will seem to be the instigator or culprit most often because she does most of the talking. Also, to a great extent the humor of the show often depends on these problematic sorts of interactions. I wouldn’t want to have them work on making themselves too much different at the expense of the humor.)

At various times in the show we have heard Louisa use some of the phrasing associated with the “Criticism” category. She has said, for example, “Everything’s always up to me, isn’t it? You never do anything or say anything to help us move on…”(S3E1) Or, “Why are our conversations so combative?” (I’m paraphrasing here). In both cases, she implies that Martin is causing the difficulty between them. Granted, these occur before they are married, but they exemplify the sort of interaction that belittles Martin. Louisa clearly thinks she’s the victim and being wronged. Although we haven’t heard her use that terminology during S5 or 6, she’s come close. She’s told him that she’ll be the one to question her mother’s behavior and that he’s expecting too much to want her to keep the baby quiet during his office hours. One occasion that stands out to me is on the first morning following his mother’s arrival in S6 when she has to leave the kitchen to find Martin after talking to his mother in the kitchen. She finds Martin tinkering with a clock in his office and angrily asks him what he’s doing. The implication is that he is guilty of leaving Louisa to deal with his mother by herself and she finds that absolutely wrong. Even the time when Louisa quickly comes into the kitchen to tell Martin to take James to music class is accusatory. “We don’t want him to grow up to be shy and introverted?” (motioning towards Martin and leaving us to fill in “like you”). Martin has asserted to Louisa that he doesn’t want James to be like him, but now Louisa is reminding him of that at a point when Martin is under pressure to agree.

The next category is “Contempt,” and they are both guilty of doing this from time to time. Most often this behavior is in the form of body language on both their sides. Louisa is more likely to roll her eyes when Martin does something annoying, which is admittedly humorous, but she also does it when she’s meant to be angry with him. For example, after Martin asks Dennis to come to dinner, and once again hasn’t taken the time to check with Louisa first, Louisa looks irked. This time she gives Martin the stink eye and then closes her eyes in frustration. The one action that Martin cannot seem to alter is making decisions without Louisa’s input, and she is always incensed by it. Because Martin has no awareness of how unhappy she is when he neglects to consult her, he innocently puts himself in a position to receive her disdain. I don’t think Louisa is supposed to be deliberately insulting him here; she is simply reacting naturally, if with anger. (It’s remarkable that Martin frequently has so much trouble simply asking Louisa’s opinion, especially since that is the one thing that always puts her off.)

Martin sometimes behaves contemptuously towards Louisa when talking about her job and her students. He belittles the value of the school that she heads and the students she cares so much about. She is proud of how she handles the troubles that take place at the school and it’s demeaning that he considers the school subpar and her as easily replaced. We do see a sneer and a curling of his lip at times when he refers to what he witnesses at the school and her importance there. He also uses some hostile humor, e.g. when the students get sick due to daring each other.

“Defensiveness” is the third category. I’m not sure I can think of any examples of this. Martin has sometimes protested that he didn’t mean what he said to be taken the way it was, but that’s not the same as acting defensively to ward off an attack by Louisa. I really don’t remember Louisa using this tactic either. If any of you think of a time when this happens, please help me out.

Number four is “Stonewalling.” This one is huge in this show. I don’t want to confuse Martin’s lack of talking skills or introversion with deliberately avoiding giving an answer or knowingly removing himself.

Martin is the one who exhibits this behavior most frequently, of course. The example I used above where Louisa has to find him in his study is one of several. He also immediately absents himself once he and Louisa have gotten the bedroom ready for his mother’s stay. Their first night together begins with Martin walking off without his bride and making it difficult for her to keep up. I would definitely put the scene at the Sports Day celebration as a good example of him stonewalling. His silent treatment begins early that day when Louisa tries to eat breakfast with him and suggests a weekend outing. It continues when Louisa reminds him of his promise to speak at Sports Day. It reaches its apex at the celebration and then he walks off.

Louisa is not immune to this reaction either. Leaving is her métier, or her default position. When the going gets tough, Louisa gets going.

In both cases, my feeling is they are demonstrating a sense of disconnection and distance from each other.

There are ways Gottman suggests of reversing these behaviors. Here are some basic recommendations:

– Learn to make specific complaints & requests (when X happened, I felt Y, I want Z)

– Conscious communication: Speaking the unarguable truth & listening generously

– Validate your partner (let your partner know what makes sense to you about what they are saying; let them know you understand what they are feeling, see through their eyes)

– Shift to appreciation (5 times as much positive feeling & interaction as negative) – Claim responsibility: “What can I learn from this?” & “What can I do about it?”

– Re-write your inner script (replace thoughts of righteous indignation or innocent victimization with thoughts of appreciation, responsibility that are soothing & validating)

– Practice getting undefended (allowing your partner’s utterances to be what they really are: just thoughts and puffs of air) and let go of the stories that you are making up

Surprisingly, I noticed that when Louisa requested that Martin take James to music circle, it was she who wouldn’t listen or talk about it. In that instance, Martin asked if they could talk about the plan and she cut him off. She was in a hurry and had a lot of driving ahead of her, and that often makes it harder to take a few minutes to discuss anything; however, he is offering to talk and she refuses and becomes critical.

Is that enough to keep him from trying again? It has to be more complicated than that. They’ve had some good conversations at times and they clearly want to find a way to resolve their marital conflicts. I don’t see them ever hugging for very long, but a little affection can go a long way. Louisa kisses Martin spontaneously from time to time, including in S6. Martin needs to do more of that. We know he can; he has kissed her without prompting before they got married. Everyone likes to be complimented and shown some appreciation. It was nice when Louisa told Martin she would miss him before leaving for work. He didn’t respond, but I imagine those words touched him as well as embarrassed him.

This show would not remain what it’s been if Martin and Louisa no longer clash, but maybe we can get an answer to that question left hanging about happiness. It’s just possible that their happiness hinges on each of them providing the support and companionship they each need. That’s not a terrible way to leave this couple…A little sappy, but not terrible.

 

 

 

Originally posted 2015-03-31 18:21:24.

Firsts

I apologize if the title is misleading and you were expecting a more important topic. This title could have been an in depth look at first times for things that happen in the show or something.

I admit I’m getting a little silly now, but I have a question to ask. Do you clean as you go when you’re cooking or wait until you’re finished and clean everything then?

There was this great bit in “All in the Family” years ago when Archie was watching Michael put on his socks and shoes. Michael put on his left sock, then his left shoe, and Archie was appalled. Archie tells Michael you should put on both socks, then both shoes. What if there’s a fire? Michael responds that at least he’d have on one shoe. I almost always think of that when I’m putting on my running shoes: sock and a shoe, or sock and a sock?

In S6 on DM when Louisa is cooking, Martin comes in and wants to find things to do. He starts cleaning the cutting board and she tells him she still plans to use it. He says she should clean as she goes and gets an “Oh Really” answer from her. She wants him to stay out of her way and tells him to feed the baby.

So now I’m always thinking about how I clean as I go when I cook. It’s so funny how something minor like that can stand out and sometimes cause conflicts!

Originally posted 2015-03-28 09:09:09.

Everything old is new again

Here’s something to lighten our recent discussions.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to see that the new fashion styles being advertised hark back to the days that I suggested seemed retro when I wrote about the dresses Louisa wears. So much of fashion gets recycled over the years.

It looks like the little floral dresses we are used to seeing Louisa wear are now being promoted as great choices for Spring. See

It  might just be an Easter thing, but there are certainly more stores making pretty floral dresses available this year! (I gotta say most of them don’t appeal to me! But then again, I’m not the right age for them either.)

Originally posted 2015-03-26 09:24:19.

Attached to Feeling Ineffectual

Since I have obviously run out of personally generated ideas, and the NYTimes seems to regularly publish articles that I find relevant to the show, I hope you don’t mind if I continue to refer to what I’ve read.

The Times has been publishing a series of articles called “Couch” that “features essays by psychotherapists, patients and others about the experience of therapy — psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, marriage therapy, hypnotherapy or any other kind of curative talk between people behind closed doors.” That has turned out to be incredibly fortuitous, especially because we have been mentioning all of the above on this blog.

This week the article is written by a psychiatrist in private practice in Cambridge, MA and is about a possible explanation for having little tolerance for risk and choosing known dangers over unknown ones. The patient in the story and Martin Ellingham have one thing in common: his father is a brilliant, larger-than-life figure who bullied and belittled him. In the patient’s case, he has continued to try to impress his father. When, at last, this patient’s father and he decide to work together on a business venture, he continues to feel disparaged or ignored until their business becomes a success. Oddly, however, it is at this point that the patient feels worse than ever.

The psychiatrist’s assessment is that having success with his father is unknown territory for the patient and that makes him extraordinarily frightened. “What if he lets himself taste victory and it still fails? There is so much to lose now. Maybe even more terrifying, what if he gets what he wants? Then who would he be? He does not know how to assimilate the identity of successful entrepreneur and worthy son, however much he has coveted it. Doing so would represent a bizarre kind of loss: That is not who he has known himself to be.”

Here’s another way of looking at ME and his achievement of marriage to the woman he has pursued for so long. Is ME now overtaken by fear because he has married Louisa and there’s so much to lose if he fails? Furthermore, having a successful love life is alien to him despite having coveted it for a long time, and now he may be having an identity crisis. He wants to change and has wanted to for a long time, but, faced with having reached such an exceptionally desirable state, he’s not sure how to handle it. He is not who he has known himself to be.

In conclusion, the psychiatrist writing the article boldly states: “We are all afraid of acquiring what we can so easily lose, whether professional status or someone to love. We are caught in a dilemma. Pursuing these commitments can be terrifying. But letting ourselves ignore them can be dangerous, even fatal.” Although I’d like to think that many of us can withstand the sense of accomplishment that comes with success in an important chapter of one’s life, I have to agree that these kinds of major adjustments are accompanied by trepidation. In the case of ME, he has allowed himself to be vulnerable because of his supreme love of Louisa. He might find it very anxiety provoking, even to the point of putting him into a dangerous depression, but his decision to follow her and to work on their marriage should take him out of the danger zone.

Success has immobilized him for quite a while; hopefully he will be rescued from the edge of the abyss by his own efforts to accept this change and by discovering Louisa needs him as much as he needs her. It’s her turn to reach down and grab him as he’s falling. (Sorry, sometimes I get carried away.)

Originally posted 2015-03-15 15:50:42.

Opting to Stay

I would have liked to have called this post the same thing as the article in the NYTimes Magazine: “Should We Stay or Should We Go” because I like that so much, but I felt uncomfortable stealing it. Obviously, I am still finding articles in the NYTimes and a few other places that inspire me to write posts for this blog. I am an incorrigible user of material that originates elsewhere!

In this case, the discussion is about how the trend in films has gone from the constant use of the phrase “Let’s get out of here” to the command to stay and be strong enough to stay. “Where ‘Let’s get out of here’ is all bravado and yang, stay is self-absorbed yin. In this context, the balance of cultural power seems to have shifted from the getting-outta-here rebels who used to tell the squares and schoolmarms to kiss off to the squares and schoolmarms themselves, who just wish everyone would hold on a second and think this thing through.” This article also addresses the complications of staying which include the possibility of being oppressive and/or being too protective.

In our case, I see the “Doc Martin” show as following the same progression. (I say this with the full recognition that Portwenn is a place that most people rarely leave. What I’m focusing on is Louisa’s behavior in regard to the relationship that builds with Martin.) Martin arrives at Portwenn because he has decided to get out of London. Leaving London and being a vascular surgeon gives him an opportunity to start a new life. He isn’t thrilled with the place he’s chosen and, for many reasons, decides to leave Portwenn to return to London. Louisa wants to have a relationship with Martin and stay in Portwenn, but she is always leaving the relationship for one reason or another.

Nevertheless, once we reach the end of S5, we have witnessed Martin make a decision to stay so that he can be with Louisa, and Louisa has been convinced of his sincerity and looks forward to having a life in Portwenn with him. S6 finds the couple making a commitment to each other and settling into being in Portwenn. By the end of S6, however, Louisa has decided she would like to leave town, somewhat reminiscent of the end of S3. Her plan to leave is thwarted by a serious medical condition and now she must stay and think things through. So the series has established that Martin and Louisa will stay in Portwenn despite their marital troubles. At this point, we expect them to look at themselves and their marriage and stay — stay in Portwenn, stay together, and stay in their professions.

Probably unwittingly, the show has adopted (or sensed) the trend that has become a part of filmmaking recently and is following it. We can only lean back and enjoy!

 

 

Originally posted 2015-03-05 16:05:52.

A Bit More on Louisa

I have written about emotions versus rational thinking, and we have discussed the contrast between Martin’s difficulties with expressing emotion and Louisa’s passionate reactions. We have also done our best to take the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory as if we are Martin and Louisa. When we did that, we rated Louisa as a definite Extrovert and a Feeling type.

In one comment, Abby explained something about how the brain’s physiological construction operates: “So, regarding Louisa, as long as her middle prefrontal cortex is engaged, she is able to understand Martin and his needs and limitations. However, when she feels threatened, as when he tells her she should stop working (which triggers her fear of depending on anyone) or he withdraws from her due to his depression (which triggers her fear of abandonment), her amygdala starts firing, triggering a fight/flight response, both of which we have seen her do with him. At that point, she is completely running on autopilot; there is no ability to watch her reactions to him and decide whether or not to act on those reactions. She simply REACTS. Her prefrontal cortex is offline at that point.”  (Jan. 10, 2015)

All of the above gives us several reasons for Louisa’s passionate reactions. I now have one more thing to add to why Louisa may be more emotional. In yesterday’s NYTimes Sunday Review, psychiatrist Julie Holland wrote an op-ed about women’s feelings in which she says “Women are moody. By evolutionary design, we are hard-wired to be sensitive to our environments, empathic to our children’s needs and intuitive of our partners’ intentions. This is basic to our survival and that of our offspring. Some research suggests that women are often better at articulating their feelings than men because as the female brain develops, more capacity is reserved for language, memory, hearing and observing emotions in others…Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power. But we are under constant pressure to restrain our emotional lives. We have been taught to apologize for our tears, to suppress our anger and to fear being called hysterical…Crying isn’t just about sadness. When we are scared, or frustrated, when we see injustice, when we are deeply touched by the poignancy of humanity, we cry. And some women cry more easily than others. It doesn’t mean we’re weak or out of control…We need to stop labeling our sadness and anxiety as uncomfortable symptoms, and to appreciate them as a healthy, adaptive part of our biology.”

As a woman, Louisa is subject to the same biological tendencies that all women have, and that generally leads to being moody, empathic, and more emotional. I think Dr. Holland is right that being emotional is a sign of health and crying is not a sign of weakness. In fact, in Louisa’s case, she does suppress any inclination to cry, and we could consider that unfortunate. I remember one occasion in particular when Louisa wants to cry while talking to Martin but contains her tears after he asks her if she’s crying. (I cannot remember which episode this occurs in. I believe they are standing at the back kitchen door.) To the best of my recollection, this is the only time we see Louisa close to tears even though there are plenty of instances in Louisa’s experiences when we might all tear up. They seem to have decided to represent her strength by having her refrain from crying. We wouldn’t want to see her shedding tears during every emotional scene, on the other hand, a few tears would only make her more human and possibly reduce the sense that some viewers have that she’s too demanding.

 

Originally posted 2015-03-02 15:18:11.

Martin’s Mothering Morass

Man is of woman born, and her face bends over him in infancy with an expression he can never quite forget. Margaret Fuller, The Dial, IV, July 1843.

(Once again, many apologies for the long break between posts about mothering. There are never enough hours in the day lately!!)

I decided to open with the Margaret Fuller quote because her observation recognizes the very early impact on a baby that a mother has. Its ambiguity encompasses the many facial expressions a baby might see when his/her mother comes into view. Whereas, for example, we can imagine Louisa’s mother looking at her little girl with love in her eyes, we have much more difficulty visualizing Margaret’s face appearing anything but disgusted and resentful towards her baby boy. From what she has told Martin, she was never happy to be a mother and always considered him a wedge between Christopher and her. No matter how Martin was treated at home, even the basic fact that he was not wanted had to have been extremely damaging to his psyche.

We would have to assume that Margaret avoided doing much with her son. Neglect is almost too trite a word for how the absence of a mother’s love should be described. Many studies have been done on the effects of neglect on babies. In most of the classic studies the babies failed to thrive and were generally considered compromised for life. Recently, however, there have been follow-up studies that have found some interesting variations on what neglect can do to babies. One study seems particularly pertinent to what could have happened in Martin’s case. (Again, I want to always make the disclaimer that there is no evidence that anyone from the show might have thought about this. The study I am quoting was only completed within the last year, which means no one on the show would have known about what regions of the brain might have been affected when the show was first written.) What stands out to me is that “the affected brain regions include nerve bundles that support attention, general cognition, and emotion processing…The most affected tracts included nerve circuits involved in general cognitive performance, emotion, maintaining attention and executive function, and sensory processing.”  Thus, early childhood neglect by his mother could have led to Martin’s difficulties with emotions, or to being unable to comprehend the importance of affection, and even having the capacity to reach the decision to stop Louisa from leaving at various pivotal moments.

Another thing in the article that is worth noting is their finding that “white matter losses may be reversible. What worked in Romania to improve brain development—moving children into a supportive family environment—might work elsewhere as a remedy for child neglect. ‘This has really important implications,’ says lead author Johanna Bick, a clinical psychologist at the Boston Children’s Hospital: ‘It suggests that the harm that takes place in a family setting may be reversible, too.'”

In the case of Martin Ellingham, perhaps his stays with Joan were just long enough, and loving enough, to have been able to reverse some of the effects of his mother’s dismissal of him.

In addition, research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012 showed differences between genders in the long-lasting effects of neglect by mothers. While the males had high levels of a stress hormone known as cortisol and low levels of the metabolite of the mood-related neurotransmitter serotonin, this difference was not seen in females. Lead author Gabriella Conti of the University of Chicago suggests that this may be because in the womb, female fetuses are also more resilient than males. (Aside: Of course!)

High levels of stress hormones can increase risk for both mental and physical illnesses, including depression, which also can involve low levels of serotonin.

Martin clearly suffers from depression in S6.  According to the study above, this tendency would be quite likely. So now we have several possible causes for Martin to be depressed. He could, as I mentioned in my post of June 30, 2014, be depressed because many parents experience depression following at 3-6 months postpartum; or he might have had high levels of stress hormones due to his mother’s neglect; or he may have Asperger’s which is often linked to depression. This is not to mention feeling like he’s a failure as a husband and discovering his mother’s primary reason for coming to visit him is to snooker him into giving her some money! Thus, he has both physiological and psychological sources for finding himself depressed, and most of them originate in his mother.

The authors conclude: “[T]he lack of a secure attachment relationship in the early years has detrimental consequences for both physical and mental health later in life, with long-lasting effects that vary by sex.” Louisa may have been abandoned at a young age like Martin, but the likelihood is that she had more love from her mother than Martin ever had from his and that, as a female, she is better equipped to manage any stress or neglect.

Another thing that I feel compelled to mention is that Martin could almost be said to be a better “mother” than many of the women in town. As I know I’ve mentioned before, there is rarely a time when JH is nearby that Martin doesn’t touch him in some way. Many studies have demonstrated the key importance of being touched by another human, especially one’s parents. One of these studies notes: “We all need human touch and loving affection at every stage of our lives for healthy emotional and neurobiological development.” Despite his own parental deprivation, Martin provides his son with the very thing he never got. (If we’re very cynical, we might suggest he knows to touch his son because he’s studied human development. I prefer to think he is supposed to be doing it instinctually.)

Ultimately, there is no denying the importance of a mother’s relationship with her child and the amount of harm that arises from a mother’s neglect. We’ve all recognized the wounds Martin has suffered due to his mother’s treatment of him. I have no doubt the writers, et. al. intended us to attribute some of Martin’s behavior and social ineptitude to how he was treated by his mother. This newer research gives us even more reason to associate her with his emotional and physical awkwardness.

 

Originally posted 2015-02-24 14:37:46.

The Importance of Being a Mother

In Sept. 2013 I wrote a post called “Mothering” and reviewed the generally poor mothering skills  of the women in Portwenn. I want to revisit the topic of mothering because I have become convinced that the role of mother is eminently important and that when Martin and Louisa enter marriage counseling, they will have to address their experiences with their own mothers.

In Sept. 2013, I wrote that Joan and Louisa were the only women in the show who demonstrated an aptitude for mothering. It’s especially curious that Joan is portrayed as a good mother figure because she has never had children of her own. Instead, Martin’s summer visits seem to have been a vicarious way for her to fulfill her mothering instincts (unless we consider her animals her children). We are led to believe that she always loved Martin and was sincerely hurt when his parents no longer allowed him to visit; however, we also know that whatever mothering she provided was limited to the few months he visited each summer. We also know that during his visits he met John Slater who was actually Joan’s lover, not her husband. What sort of relationship Martin had with Joan’s husband remains unexplored. Therefore, not only was Martin subjected to a biological mother who rejected him, and even resented him, but also the one loving mother figure in his life was only with him a few months each year and had a questionable home life herself. (We have speculated that there might have been a loving nanny/governess during his early childhood years, but we haven’t heard anything about that on the show.)

Louisa demonstrates natural mothering instincts when she has her baby. She has previously told Bert that she wants children of her own, she spends her days working with children as a nurturer and teacher, and she has come to her student Peter Cronk’s rescue more than once. Hence we are not very surprised that she falls easily into her role as mother. From the moment the baby is born, we see Louisa hold the baby close, have difficulty letting the baby cry, worry about whether she’s handling things right and reading the current literature pre and post natal. She starts out breastfeeding, although we aren’t shown too much of that (something that would be much more a part of her daily life under normal circumstances), and she has the baby near her a lot of the time. Once she returns to work, she is conflicted about leaving the baby, except with his father (and sometimes even with his father). Thus, we have the overall sense that Louisa is the kind of mother neither Martin nor she had themselves, and who Martin appears to take delight in when observing her. She would probably be seen by Martin as the sort of mother he would have liked to have had.

What I find most interesting, however, is Louisa’s relationship with her own mother and how that may have played a role in Louisa’s personal development. What we’ve been told about Louisa’s childhood begins at the age of 11. To the best of our knowledge, she was born in or near Portwenn and grew up there. She remembers good times with her father, Terry,  who occasionally took her for ice cream. The most significant memory of her mother, however, is that she left for Spain to be with Javier when Louisa was 11 years old. We have no idea what her home life was like until then, but her mother’s departure to be with another man must have been preceded by some sort of affair with him as well as some sort of estrangement between Eleanor and Terry. It certainly seems as though Louisa and Eleanor have been out of contact with each other much of the time Eleanor has been in Spain, despite the fact that Louisa decided to write her mother about her pregnancy. Clearly Eleanor considered a letter from her daughter significant enough to fly to see her after the baby is born. (She also came because she wanted to make a deal for a seafood supplier for the restaurant in Spain.)

In Eleanor we meet a fun loving, free spirited woman who acts totally unaffected by the long break in their contact with each other. She immediately tells Louisa she looks like she could use a rest and she wants to hold the baby. There’s not even a slight hesitation on her part.

Soon Eleanor becomes involved in their family life and Louisa trusts her, with some reservations, to care for James Henry. They need someone to watch the baby while they both continue to work, and Eleanor appears competent until she adds a few drops of her elixir to JH’s bottle to calm him. Once that somewhat innocent blunder is overcome, Eleanor disappoints again when she  shows up late and hires a questionable teen to watch JH so she can work in Bert’s restaurant. Eleanor is not sufficiently committed to the baby’s care even after she is given this second chance to redeem herself. Moreover, it is at Louisa’s lowest moment that Eleanor decides to leave again.

The unexpected behaviors Louisa exhibits are turning to her mother twice following difficulties with Martin. The first time is in S5 when Louisa decides she can’t stay with Martin due to his consistent failure to consult her about matters of the home. She takes JH in his carriage to her mother’s house and is received there with genuine sympathy. The second time is in the last two episodes of S6 when she decides to fly to Spain with JH to have some time to think about her marriage. As Martin says, in his constant state of bewilderment, she doesn’t even like her mother. But such is the power of mothers and the need for their comforting and nurturing that, despite ongoing conflicted feelings, Louisa looks to her mother for sanctuary.

Because I find the decision to have Louisa seek out her mother under trying circumstances in her marriage so credible and yet so startling, I think it’s worth writing about. While acknowledging that the show needs a place for Louisa to go in both cases, and her mother fulfills that need quite well, it’s also telling that they choose her mother as the person Louisa seeks out. Here’s a thirtysomething woman who has been on her own most of her life and now needs a soft place to land. And the place she decides on is with her mother, the person who abandoned her and has disappointed her many times.

We could think there aren’t many options for Louisa, and we have to say that’s true. However, there could also be something else going on here. To some degree there could be some sense of unresolved abandonment issues in Louisa. Throughout Eleanor’s reappearance in Portwenn following James Henry’s birth, Louisa tries to excuse her behavior. She gives Eleanor second chances, she thinks her mother is having a romantic dinner with an old flame, and is jealous of her, when she’s only going out to close a business deal and has no concern for the man as a person. Once he’s injured and can’t fulfill his contract, she’s off to find someone else. No matter what Eleanor does, Louisa continues to care about her. When she ultimately requires an emergency surgical procedure, Louisa is markedly worried and acts very relieved when it all goes well. Thus, Louisa is depicted as much more compassionate than her mother and towards her mother than her mother is towards her.

Another thing that could be going on is some feelings of self-doubt in Louisa. One source notes the following rather pedestrian, but substantive, observations: “All children who have been abandoned by their mothers, either physically or psychologically, wonder what they did to cause “Mommy” to leave. They ask themselves if they did something wrong; if they did, they want to figure out what it was. These children also wonder if they are lovable.” There is a strong likelihood that Louisa is still blaming herself for her mother’s departure during her childhood and she is probably still yearning for her mother to treat her in a loving manner. When Eleanor ushers Louisa into her home in S5, she is showing Louisa the acceptance and love she craves; and when Eleanor talks to Louisa prior to departing again at the end of S5, she tells her how proud she is of her. To a certain extent, Eleanor has finally answered Louisa’s apprehensions developed in childhood about her mother. After that resolution, minimal as it may appear, perhaps Louisa’s decision to fly to Spain to stay with her mother isn’t so surprising.

It’s also perhaps not surprising that Louisa habitually decides to leave Martin whenever they have dissension in their relationship. According to the same source, “Some children who have experienced a maternal abandonment will come to the mistaken conclusion that they are better off protecting themselves from any more hurt. They also decide that it’s better to do the abandoning than to go through the pain of being abandoned again.” Marriage counseling should at some point identify these inclinations as well as how Louisa’s mother has played a role in her approach to her marriage. Feeling abandoned by one’s mother is traumatic at any age. In this show we have two main characters who have been either physically or psychologically (or both) abandoned by their mothers. It’s a topic of some importance to the show.

We have discussed Martin’s mother’s influence on him to some extent, but in my next post I want to add more to that too. It’s nice to get back to writing another post and I hope to hear from some of you. Sorry for the lengthy break.

 

Originally posted 2015-02-14 15:21:57.

The Urge to “Fix”

By now you all know how much of a fan of both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul I am. As it turns out, I’ve been wondering when the third series of Better Call Saul will be shown and just saw an article that gave me hope it will be soon.

But the reason I’m telling you about this is because of something actor Bob Odenkirk said in his answer to one of the last questions he was asked in this interview. In many of our discussions we have noted that MC always asserts that they never want to “fix” Martin Ellingham. Nevertheless, many viewers seem to have trouble restraining their urges to turn him into someone more affectionate, or more socially adept, or who smiles more.

This sort of inclination goes also to the idea of whether people can change, a topic we’ve discussed continuously because it has been addressed in the show.

Well, Bob Odenkirk plays the role of an anti-hero in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul and his assessment of his character comes extremely close to what we could say about ME. First he says:

“Saul Goodman, to me, is kind of a guy who’s shut down a lot of his emotional life, because I guess his feelings have been hurt, and he’s decided to play tough with the world. In this season, some pretty bad things happen to Jimmy, and we see him starting to shut down those connections, the way his emotions flow. He starts to shut down in this season—not completely, but it’s like you feel these gates closing around the character, and he’s just getting darker and tougher.

It’s wonderful because that is the journey we’re on, and we’re getting somewhere. But it’s also kind of sad to play him, and to feel a person whose response to disappointment is to close himself off more and more from the world, and from hope.”

Then he’s asked: “Do you ever find yourself being driven mad by Jimmy’s behavior? He’s a guy who’s so easy to root for, and yet he’s also exasperating.” (FYI, Jimmy is his actual name, but he adopts the name of Saul Goodman later in the show.)

And he answers: “Yes. You want to give advice to him. It’s like the way you feel about a friend or a sibling who maybe has…you know, we all have different broken responses to our circumstances. It’s like having someone like that in your life, that you’re close to, and you want to instruct them on not making the same mistake again and again. So I do have those feelings, and I think what’s important for me, as part of a creative team in this effort, is that this desire to fix him is the same desire you have when you watch [Breaking Bad’s] Walter White. You say, ‘Don’t do that! Just take the money and go!’ But he’s on a path, and he’s going to stay on it, and you can’t change it. And the psychological truth that these guys establish and follow is pretty strong and deeply thought out. So, similar to your friend or your family member, you just have to bite your tongue, and suffer, and let them go on their road and root for them.”

What I infer from that is even the actors portraying these troubled characters have an urge to “fix” them and stop them from heading in the wrong direction, but they understand the demands of the plot and accept that changing the characters would damage the storyline. Thus, whether or not we believe that people can change, and whether or not we have this humane desire to warn the character that he is headed in the wrong direction, a fictional story doesn’t allow for that. Not only that, but it’s exactly because we want to “fix” these characters that they are so compelling.

And now I think we are back in the scope of our discussion of the post titled “Should Martin and Louisa Stay Together.” We should not lose sight of the fact that it is a story contrived precisely to cause a wellspring of emotions. We cannot meddle with the story no matter how much we might feel the urge to!

Originally posted 2017-02-16 10:43:52.

Where Do We Go From Here?

As you know I’ve been trying to keep this blog going even though finding something to write about is getting pretty difficult. I have one or two ideas rambling around in my head, but I’ll be honest and admit that I’m definitely stretching myself thin at this point.

From the relatively few comments people are writing, it looks like you are all experiencing “Doc Martin” fatigue. I started this blog thinking that I was mostly writing it for myself and would write it whether I had readers or not. I was delighted when people started making comments and we developed a pretty active blog. Lately, I’m getting the impression that I’m writing more for myself again. I enjoy the reading and writing, and I’ve been excited to learn a lot about all of the topics we’ve had on the blog. So, I’m very happy with how everything turned out.

I will continue writing posts whenever I think of something new that’s worth putting out there. And I am still open to any suggestions anyone might like to float. I just want everyone to know that there may be longer breaks between posts. Of course, when something significant happens, I’ll be back in force. Certainly when S7 begins, this blog will heat up again — or at least I hope it will.

Originally posted 2015-01-24 14:25:18.

Acting & Aging

A few weeks ago Santa suggested a post about how older people are treated in the show. It is remarkable how many older actors have been included in DM. I suppose one reason the show has older villagers is because of the cross-section of ages that makes up the totality of any small town. In this show, Louisa is the headmistress of an elementary school, which means we have quite a few very young actors. Then we have the parents of the young children and a smattering of citizens in their teens, twenties, and thirties. Somehow Portwenn has retained a fairly well distributed group of townspeople in relation to age. But the mainstay of any town is the older citizens who have lived there many years.

Despite my previous mention of Stephanie Cole having the only actual sex scene in the show (see “Women’s Issues, Part 1,” Sept. 9, 2013) , which was significant because she is an older woman and was representing the loneliness and lack of affection that often accompanies being an older woman whose spouse has died, I have not written much about the many older characters in the show. Of course, that scene was also used for comedic purposes, especially because Martin walks in on Aunt Joan and Edward in flagrante delicto and is exceptionally astonished, so much so that he can’t get the image out of his mind and almost runs into Carrie Wilson with his car. The thoroughly modest/moral Martin is offended that his aunt would be willing to carry on an affair with a man young enough to be her son, and that Edward would be at all tempted to have sex with an older and marterteral woman. (Fun fact: I just learned that the female version of avuncular is marterteral.) Basically, Aunt Joan does not appear to be a sexually active woman, yet there she is, having sex on the kitchen table. Not bad for a woman ostensibly in her 70s! (Actually, at the time Stephanie Cole was only 66.)

After giving this subject more thought, I am convinced that we should focus on how many older female thespians appear in this show. I am particularly singling out the women because, sadly, it is much harder for older women to find roles in TV or film. We can certainly add a discussion of the men as well following this post. I’m not sure what emphasis Santa would have put on this subject, but this is my take on it. Hopefully, much of what I say about the position of older women in the show will also be applicable to the men.

As luck would have it, recently there was an article in The New York Times – “Arts and Leisure” section about Jessica Lange and her role in the TV show “American Horror Story.” I have to admit I have not watched this show at all, however, from what the article says, each year the show has found a way to refer to Hollywood metaphorically. This year its subtitle is “Freak Show” and it is about “a troupe of carnival sideshow performers” in 1952. The article goes on to say “Freaks were how older movie stars were regarded in Hollywood after their careers dried up; television was the sideshow where aging performers sought work when studio bosses stopped calling…[T]he sad truth is that the older an actress is, the harder it is for her to be cast as an attractive character, let alone a love interest.” The article notes that television is no longer considered a comedown for stars. It also goes on to say that Jessica Lange, who is 65, creates many poignant characters in this TV show and this year she “hams it up as…an aging German chanteuse with no legs – they were cut off in 1932 for a pornographic snuff film.” We eventually learn that “she went from a failed career in cabaret and carnival side shows to television stardom,” in what is assumed to be a joke about show business. One way of looking at the sex scene with Aunt Joan is as a satirical reenactment of this serious circumstance for aging actresses. On the one hand, I find it admirable that the show addresses the very real feeling of desolation many women face in older age; on the other hand, there is a certain degree of absurdity in finding Joan willingly having intercourse in her kitchen and later in a hotel room where a party for Penhale will soon be taking place. I mean, hormone replacements or not, what happened to Joan’s sense of propriety?

(We shouldn’t forget that seniors are still interested in sex. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, more than a quarter of adults aged 75-85 and over half of adults aged 65-74 are sexually active. Not only that, but “the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases in people 45 and over has doubled over the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).” Aunt Joan represents that part of the senior population that is still having sex.)

Most of the older actresses on DM have spent their careers in British television. (Indeed, Caroline Catz has done that too, as has Martin Clunes.) There could be many reasons for choosing to act in television; nevertheless, I find it impressive that apart from Eileen Atkins, Claire Bloom, and Phyllida Law, the older actresses have spent decades performing exclusively in television series, including Stephanie Cole. This circumstance could be related to the difficulty women have in being cast in films as well as the evolution of television to a place of prominence rather than a sideshow. Moreover, the approximately 20 older actresses (age ~ 70-90) in DM may be the beneficiaries of an enlightened production company that has faith that older women can be valuable in many roles. Surely, the older actresses must be grateful for the opportunity to participate in a successful show. I think they add a lot of depth and humor to the show while also keeping the show grounded in the reality of life in a small village and in the aging of our populations in general. I want to single out a few examples below.

Another matter of importance to me is the whole idea of fending for oneself. Despite Louisa taking offense when Chris Parsons remarks at the post funeral gathering that after Martin leaves for London, she’ll have to fend for herself (S5,E2), I do not find any reason to consider the idea of “fending” demeaning. In Louisa’s case, she has understood the comment to indicate that Chris thinks it will be hard for her to handle all the responsibilities of childcare and work on her own but, as an independent and self-sufficient woman, she has not thought of Martin as being any more than their baby’s father and her significant other (mate?). She likes knowing he’s there to assist and share duties, but she isn’t dependent on it. Whatever Louisa finds offensive, the fact is that most of us use “fend” in a positive manner, even an assertion of self-assurance. As I see it, the many older female characters in DM are generally on their own and must handle their affairs without any evident help from spouses, children, or other relatives. (There are a few exceptions to this: Muriel Steel has Danny; Beth Sawle has Janet; Helen Pratt has Phil; and Mrs. McLynn has Mr. McLynn. We may or may not consider these counterparts as helpful.) In essence, they are all fending for themselves quite well.

Aunt Joan seems perfectly capable of fending for herself by managing her farm, including chickens, sheep, and vegetables. She comes up against some money difficulties when the downturn in the economy reduces the sales of her vegetables, but she is resourceful and decides to turn her home into a Bed and Breakfast Inn. The Inn never has a real chance to take off, but neither her brother and his effort to take the farm away, nor any financial troubles are able to wrest the farm from her. Not only that, but Phil Pratt and his rifle don’t ruffle her either. She also has her own opinions that she has no hesitation expressing. She’s kind, caring, and motherly while also being strong-willed, determined, and independent.

The Ellingham family has a powerful stubborn streak along with high intelligence and self-sufficiency. Ruth, like Martin, has always lived alone and has no trouble keeping herself busy. She takes up residence in Portwenn and manages to write a book. Furthermore, she continues to consult on criminal cases. Ruth, like Joan, has no antipathy towards people in general, and she interacts with Al, Penhale, Louisa, Mrs. T, and others with insight into their personalities, which we’d expect from a psychiatrist. However, she also has no inclination to share her life or home with anyone else. Like her sister, we see her take matters into her own hands in difficult situations. She deals with the Dunwiches despite the possibility of danger; she handles Robert Campbell without much trepidation; and she immediately shows sympathy for her neighbor Mr. Moysey when he takes ill. She’s been damaged by her upbringing, but she bears few of the scars that plague Martin. Fending is really quotidian for her.

Moreover, both Joan and Ruth often make us laugh. The first episode brings Martin out to reunite with Aunt Joan only to be handed a chicken in order to snap its neck. Next she brings Martin inside and plans to chop off the chicken’s head while he sits at the table. The scene immediately makes him uncomfortable and lets us know that Joan is a no nonsense woman. But Ruth is the aunt that makes us laugh the most. Her dry wit is also in evidence from the moment we meet her and it continues throughout. These two women are key to the structure of the show because of their age. Wisdom may come with age, but so does confidence and imperturbability, at least for these two women.

Besides these two main characters who contribute to the humor of the show, many of the other older women play a major role in adding humor to the show. The two women who liven up S6E4, Mrs. Eddy and Ethel, are the ones that stand out. They have gotten infected by self applied tattoos that read “Do Not Resuscitate.” They are members of a tea club that has pooled its money to buy a medical dictionary. Now Mrs. Eddy feels qualified to diagnose a melanoma. (Of course, as in so many of the cases Doc Martin sees each day, these patients have decided for themselves what is wrong with them and exasperate Doc M. And, as so often happens, they are totally wrong.) The bottom line is that these elderly women are quite aware of their circumstances and have taken matters into their own hands. They’re getting old and physically weaker so they’ve bought an ink gun off the internet and made sure that if they are unable to tell anyone directly, the medical personnel will see clearly what their wishes are. Mrs. Eddy is bright eyed, obstinate, and vigorous. Still, she doesn’t want to trust that the medical establishment will follow any medical directives in her file. Furthermore, these women have been quite resourceful, using modern conveniences like Ebay to make purchases. The tea club appears to be filled with older women who discuss important personal issues rather than sitting around sipping tea and eating cucumber sandwiches. Ethel, who makes a joke out of showing Doc M her tattoo, has also got a rodent ulcer. Once the doc tells her he can remove it, she’s ready to have that done immediately. Old women are not ones to wait. In the last episode, Ethel returns and incorrectly receives a rabies vaccine. Her complaint is of a headache, but Doc M is so distracted by Louisa’s plans to leave that he mistakes her for a different patient. In this scene, too, Ethel is demanding and outspoken. Even during these very troubling moments, she shows no mercy.

Indeed the older women in this show can be best described as feisty, or gutsy, plucky, and overall lively and aggressive. Doc M quizzes Muriel Steel about orientation to day and time and she responds with an answer much more complex than expected, then he prescribes a certain medicine and she hides it in the plant; he tells Beth Sawle to take antibiotics and her sister Janet gives her her own concoction; he tells Mrs. Selkirk she’s hallucinating due to her husband’s sudden death, she objects, and it turns out to be Lyme disease; Mrs. McLynn can’t see so she uses her husband as her guide and refuses to stop driving; he tells Mrs. Averill to stop smoking and she sneaks cigarettes. All of the above include a large dose of humor in each incident while also being good examples of all sorts of difficulties with older patients that doctors have to deal with.

I don’t want to end this post without mentioning the most devious and gutsy older woman of them all, Margaret. We may laugh and find the other older women exemplars of the best kind of aging we can all aspire to; however, Margaret is in a class by herself. She is the only older woman of the group who is imperious. Our introduction to her is accompanied by her unwillingness to be at all congenial even though she hasn’t seen or talked to her son in seven years. Then, when she does finally talk to him, she says extremely hateful things. That same attitude continues in S6 when she returns, and by the end of her visit, she has cemented our impression of her as unkind, judgmental, and dishonest. She’s gutsy, but in a totally different manner from the others. In her case, her aging has solidified her abhorrent qualities.

I think we can say that the older women in this show add dimensions that wouldn’t be possible with only younger characters. Their bodies may be failing them, but their personalities are intact. For the most part, at their stage in life they are doing their best to approach the end of life with sanguinity (there’s that word again!). Apart from Margaret, they are a good way to look at aging.

Originally posted 2015-01-21 19:24:26.

“Into the Woods”

Since it looks like this may be a good time to write about something new, I thought I’d post this little observation just for fun.

I recently saw the movie “Into the Woods” and loved the concept of all sorts of characters from fairy tales being brought together because they must travel through the woods to reach their destinations or complete their missions. The woods have always had the connotation of being dark and scary and we can recall Hansel and Gretel getting lost in the woods, or “The Princess Bride” using the woods for all sorts of fearful objects to overcome. Certainly Little Red Riding Hood has always taken a path into the woods to find her grandmother’s house. In this film Cinderella also escapes by running into the woods, Jack (of beanstalk fame) takes the cow to market by walking through the woods, and Rapunzel lets down her hair while being held prisoner in a tree in the woods.

It occurred to me that, like other examples I used in my post of  June 16, 2014, titled “Doc Martin and the Mystery of the Folktale,” having Martin and Louisa enter the woods (and even mention there’s a difference between a forest and a wood) is another way the writers of the show undercut the concept of the fairytale. In these woods our couple encounter scary animals, an obstacle they must find a way around, and an old man who makes his home in the woods and from whom they seek help but who treats them as intruders instead. Aren’t these all the ingredients of a fairytale? But here, as before, the animal isn’t ominous or threatening-it’s a pony who is just as scared of them as they are of him; the brook they must cross is dealt with by Martin giving Louisa a piggy back ride (after first trying to put her over his shoulder) while they argue (amusingly) over the idea of going on a honeymoon; and the old man turns out to need their help and ends up in a wheelbarrow being (humorously) pushed by them to safety.

They have used all the tropes of Fairytales and turned them into comedic events.

Originally posted 2015-01-17 12:17:16.

Making Hard Choices

Recently I read an article by Ruth Chang, a professor of philosophy at Rutgers University, and then watched her TED talk.  The talk had to do with what makes some choices hard; the article was closely related to that but also about being the person you want to be and creating a new you. When she refers to hard choices, she’s talking about decisions we make between two options that are “‘on a par'” or between alternatives that are equal in value and are difficult to choose between because of that. There is no wrong answer, but they may not be equally good either. What she argues is that the choice we make must be something we can stand behind and commit to and thereby turn it into a position of value. To me, the strongest statement she makes in the article is “when we choose between options that are on a par, we make ourselves the authors of our own lives.” This assertion reverberated with me because it sounds very similar to what Ruth tells Al when he’s at loose ends. She tells him in S6E6, “we are the authors of our lives.” (I doubt the writers knew about Ruth Chang. Her TED talk was given on June 18, 2014 and the filming of S6 was over by that time. However, her earliest articles on this subject appeared in 1997 and thereafter she continued to write about this subject regularly.) Like so many interesting issues in human behavior, there are both psychological and philosophical ways to view them.

There are many hard choices confronting Martin and Louisa. We have been discussing the personality traits of these two characters. Presumably these would play a role in how they would go about deciding between the options they must face now. Ruth Chang’s article uses the tradition of making resolutions for the New Year as a starting point and ends by noting: “Our task then is to reflect on what kind of person we can commit to being when making those choices.” I think we can put this to work for the situation at hand, especially because it relates to making changes that can lead to being a different person, and change is what Martin plans for himself.

I’m going to take a stab at some of the hard “on a par” choices Martin and Louisa have to make and see what all of you think about these and what others you come up with.

1. Louisa must decide whether to return to the house. The alternative is to live in Portwenn and be separated (right now she can’t leave because of her recent surgery). This decision would be on a par because Louisa loves Martin and wants to be married and parent JH with his father; however, Louisa knows being married to Martin is difficult and Martin would continue to have a relationship with JH even if they lived apart.

2. Martin must decide whether to confide in Louisa and admit he needs her help. The alternative is to decide that he continues to be unable to have an intimate conversation with Louisa. This decision is on a par because Martin wants to be with Louisa and he recognizes that she has been very disturbed by his secrecy and unwillingness to reach out to her; however, Martin struggles to allow anyone into his inner world and he knows it will be arduous to convert himself into someone who asks for help and shares his thoughts.

3. They must decide whether to seek counseling, marriage or individual or both. The alternative is to try to reconcile on their own, possibly with Ruth’s help. This decision is on a par because both Martin and Louisa are aware that a counselor could be helpful and counseling has been recommended by both Edith and Ruth; however, Martin is skeptical of most counselors and likes to manage his own care, and both of them will want to go to counseling in a location not well-known by Portwenn villagers. Finding a way to budget the time for that may be too much trouble.

I could go on, but I’ll leave it to you to suggest other hard choices. I’d like to consider how this philosophical view can be combined with the psychological traits we’ve been discussing too.

In addition, I’d like to refer you to an article by Ruth Chang titled “Commitments, Reasons, and the Will” in which she discusses internal commitments. On page 78, Chang explains, “a promise to love and to cherish has greater normative significance than that of incurring an obligation through a promise. This is because it is backed by an internal commitment—something the promisor has done all by himself that gives his subsequent promise special significance or meaning.” We know Martin is a moral man, and we consider Louisa moral as well. They have taken the step to get married after having many vacillations in their interaction as a couple. Now that they’ve taken a vow to be together, they have made an internal commitment that Chang makes a strong argument about — it changes who they are and the significance of their relationship. That has to play some sort of role in what they decide to do and in what kind of people they want to commit to being.

Originally posted 2015-01-14 17:16:21.

And we’re back!

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you all had a good holiday and are ready to get back to our discussion about the MBTI and the personality traits of Martin and Louisa Ellingham. I’ve had a few moments to think about my view of where these two characters would land on the MBTI spectrum. When I took the MBTI as if I were Martin Ellingham, I came up with ISTJ, or The Examiner. All of the traits had percentages of 90-100%. (Here’s a description of the ISTJ from one website.)  When I took the inventory as if I were Louisa, the results were ENFJ, or The Mentor, but the Extroversion trait was the strongest while the others were in the 60-65% level. (The same website gives this description for the ENFJ.) While answering the questions as each character I noticed where they would overlap in their approach. To me, Louisa is often just as grounded as Martin and relates to the world on a practical and realistic level to a great extent.

It was a fun exercise and I look forward to reading more comments from you about this and to reading what Abby will write when she gets a chance.

I have also read another article about introverts that I would like to refer you to. This article was helpful to me in several ways. I was impressed by the mention of phone conversations being difficult for introverts because I have previously noted that ME often neglects to use the phone when it would be most convenient and expected. In addition, the article notes how much introverts prefer being on stage to being in a mass audience and making small talk. That led me to think that the move for ME from London to Portwenn actually might have been better for him than he realizes. It took him away from the surgery he loved and felt especially accomplished at, but it also removed him from a large city where he was surrounded by commotion and many people all the time. Essentially he is on stage in Portwenn because of his position as GP and its importance to a small town. He continues to dislike small talk, and we see this at the party for Joe Penhale in S3 when he takes Louisa aside rather than mingle with the other partygoers; nevertheless, in Portwenn he has more time to himself despite the fact that being a GP requires him to interact with patients more than being a surgeon had.

I think we can all agree that the most significant difference between these two characters is that Martin is quite prominently an introvert and Louisa is just as much an extrovert. I think they can both be seen as having had some influence on each other relative to these major differences between them. As series 6 advanced, Louisa was able to encourage Martin to interact with the community more in small ways, e.g. attending the school performance, taking JH to the music circle. At the same time, she also appears to have accepted his desire to stay home and there are no more occasions where she goes out with friends while he takes care of JH. Once again I can’t make the argument that there is any effort by the writers to deliberately reference these two characters’ markedly different ways of dealing with the outside world. However, the introversion/extroversion distinction is so pronounced in these characters, that we have to imagine it was planned.

It’s nice to get back to the blog. Please join the conversation!

Originally posted 2015-01-04 14:19:01.

Myers-Briggs Personality Test

The following is a further explication of the Myers-Briggs personality test that we have discussed in earlier posts. Abby has put together an introduction to the test that should give you a good overview of it. In addition, she has provided a link to a website where you can take the test yourselves. Then, if you like, you can take it as if you are Louisa and/or Martin (and hopefully base your answers to the questions on what you know about them through the show) to come up with their profiles. It will be interesting to see how similar our results are and how they compare to what Abby’s findings are. Of course, all of this is meant to be a fun exercise and not predictive of anything. We hope you enjoy this as illuminating, yet simply another way to look at these characters.

Abby writes:

The post “Dr. Martin Ellingham, Patient” seems to have sparked an interest in learning more about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). While I am not an expert in the MBTI, I do use it with most of my clients in order to 1) understand them better; 2) help them understand themselves better; and 3) help them understand other important people in their lives. So, what follows is an explanation of the MBTI model, as I understand it.

There are a number of personality instruments that have been developed over the years. Some are meant to help mental health practitioners with diagnoses; some for use by business and government for hiring purposes; and a few meant to help people understand themselves better. The MBTI is in the latter category, and, as such, does not pathologize. Indeed, every type in the MBTI model is deemed as having the same worth as any other.

The MBTI was developed by a mother-daughter pair of researchers, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, based on Carl Jung’s work on archetypes. The MBTI looks at four aspects of how we function in the world. Each of these four aspects has two possibilities, or preferences, as they are referred to. So, a person who takes the test ends up with four letters, which is their type. The four dichotomous aspects are Extraversion/Introversion (E/I), Intuition/Sensing (N/S), Feeling/Thinking (F/T), and Judging/Perceiving (J/P). It is important to understand that each of these four dichotomous pairs falls on a continuum. That is, we are not all one and none of the other.

The first, E/I, describes how people “recharge their batteries”. It also involves whether we focus our attention primarily on the outer world or on our inner world. So, the questions to ask yourself are 1) When you are tired at the end of the day, do you recharge by going out and being with friends (E) or by going home and being by yourself (or with one or two other close people)(I)? 2) When you are at a party, do you feel energized (E), or do you tire out early in the evening (I)? 3) Do you consider yourself an observant person (E), or do you miss things because you are so focused on your inner life (I)?

The second aspect, N/S, describes how a person gathers information, or perceives things. Sensing types perceive things through their five senses, and are concrete thinkers who tend to be practical people focused on facts and details. Intuitive types perceive things through internal processes in the mind. They are abstract thinkers, who tend to see the big picture and are interested in theory. So, if there were a group of people tasked to do a project, the intuitives would be the ones to come up with the overarching ideas, while the sensing types would take those ideas and figure out how to make the project happen.

The third aspect, F/T, describes how a person makes a decision, after gathering information through intuition or sensing. This is the only aspect where there is a statistical gender difference: Men are 60/40 T/F, while women are 60/40 F/T. Thinking types base their decisions on logic, while for feeling types incorporating values and human impact are important. So, if you have a married couple, where the husband is a thinking type and the wife is a feeling type, and they are planning a road trip, the husband would likely choose the most direct route (logic) to their destination, while the wife would likely want to make a detour to visit Grandma (values/people).

The fourth aspect, J/P, describes how we structure our lives. Judging types tend to be organized, to like routines and schedules, and are good at completing tasks. They also tend to have fixed ideas about how things should be. Js love the closure that comes when a decision is made and feel anxiety when things are open-ended. Perceiving types, on the other hand, are not comfortable with routines and schedules, but prefer a lot of flexibility. They tend to be spontaneous people who are open and flexible in their thinking. They love possibilities, and so feel anxious when having to make a decision, because once the decision is made, all of the other possibilities disappear. Because of their love of possibilities, Ps tend to jump from one task to the next, not finishing the first before they start the second.

As was said above, all of the pairs should be viewed as being on a continuum. Therefore, we may be 60% feeling and 40% thinking. If we are close to 50/50, we will display behaviors of both preferences. If we are more toward the ends of the continuum, we will mostly show our stronger preference. We can, and should, draw on the less preferred preference when appropriate. So, going back to our couple taking the road trip, the husband would be able to see his wife’s point about visiting Grandma, even though his mind didn’t automatically go there. And, his wife is perfectly capable of seeing the logic of taking the most direct route. The MBTI is not about putting people in boxes, but simply to help them understand their “default settings”.

If you would like to take the test yourself, here is a free website: www.psychology-tools.com/myers-briggs-type-indicator. If you take it, be sure you answer the questions quickly, not thinking too much. It’s important to answer as you really are, not the way you wish you were or think others want you to be.

After reading this post and perhaps taking the test, please jump in and make your guesses as to Martin and Louisa’s types. Once we have some responses, I will share my guesses with you. Keep in mind, there are no right or wrong answers on this, because these are fictional characters (WHAT?!) we are talking about. I look forward to reading your replies.

Originally posted 2014-12-20 13:35:57.

A look at Mindfulness

Abby mentioned recently that she would recommend Mindfulness among the therapies useful for dealing with many of the symptoms Martin Ellingham seems to be suffering from. Coincidentally, “60 Minutes” last Sunday had a piece on Mindfulness and I thought I’d provide the link. I would also recommend watching some of the additional segments with Anderson Cooper, especially the Mindfulness and Technology one.

In addition, Abby wants everyone to know that besides the breathing and walking exercises shown by “60 Minutes,” there are other ways of following the breath. “Then there are focusing on the body, focusing on a mantra, and disciplines like Yoga and Tai Chi.  There is also simply noticing anything that comes into your awareness and then letting it float by,” according to Abby.

I found this article on Mindfulness that seems worth mentioning. I don’t think ME has as much anxiety as this author, maybe very few people do, but there is something to this method that seems to really work.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried it. I’ve tried meditation and now know I should practice it more frequently – like every day! It looks as though we could all benefit from being more Mindful.

 

 

Originally posted 2014-12-17 11:49:46.

NHS News

The following is something I have been thinking about for a while and decided it was time to put it on the blog. It’s not nearly as exciting as some of our other topics, but I think it’s relevant. So here goes:

I am very interested in what’s going on in the UK with their National Health Service for two reasons. I want to understand it better to be able to judge its role in “Doc Martin” and because I want to know how it compares to our health care in the US. I read the BBC News every day for many reasons and I’ve been collecting articles about the NHS. Before I lose track of all the articles, I wanted to post them and make some comments about them.

The way I propose to list these articles is not in chronological order, but in order of significance based on how their content affects health care and can be a reflection of what we see on DM.

The first article was published recently (Nov.) and refers to at risk GP surgeries. Ever since the “doctor’s friend” showed up in Portwenn, I’ve wondered how GPs are monitored. This article makes clear that there is a Care Quality Commission that is a watchdog that pays attention to how patients are treated. According to the article “the CQC look at whether surgeries are safe, effective, caring, responsive, and well-led.” Thus, Gavin Peters was properly looking into the GP in Portwenn following some complaints, and ME was performing all his duties correctly with the possible exception of the “caring” part. As they say in the article, “‘it is only when we inspect we can determine if a practice provides safe, high-quality and compassionate care,'” said CQC chief inspector of general practice Prof Steve Field.” Compassion is the question in ME’s surgery. It’s not clear if ME ever took that course Peters recommended. But it’s clear that caring and compassion are considered essential ingredients to good health care in UK. (Of course, I think we can all agree that those sentiments are important to good care here too. Not only do we prefer to be treated with compassion, but also there have been studies that demonstrate the value of compassionate care by doctors on the outcome of their treatment, e.g. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-joy-giving/201107/compassionate-medical-care-benefits-professionals-patients-students-and-3)

Another article notes a small number of GP practices have been getting complaints and the CQC has ranked all GP surgeries based on risk of providing poor care. And there has been an increase in complaints made about NHS care, according to this article. Then there is the concern that GPs may be missing diagnoses of lung cancer as a result of not having the proper tools. This article also blames patients for not seeking medical care in a timely fashion. I can imagine that how welcoming the GP is towards his/her patients would be a factor here. There is some tightrope line that must be walked between making sure patients who make appointments are the ones who have valid complaints and patients who need to be seen don’t neglect to come in. On the other hand, there is also a move to punish doctors more harshly for making mistakes, according to this article. In one case reported by the BBC, a doctor was sacked because of substandard care.

In a related article, there is a discussion of how many GPs will be retiring soon, leaving the remaining GPs to take care of more patients. In addition, there is a shortage of GPs entering the medical profession and this article mentions that the NHS needs to increase spending on training GPs and more GPs will need to be recruited. If ME decides to return to doing surgery, finding a new GP for Portwenn might not be so easy. Also, as an adjunct to the first article, the CQC may not have many options when it comes to demanding more compassion from Martin; they may just have to be content that he has so many of the other qualities.

Surgeons are not immune to oversight by the NHS and one article reports that they must publish their mortality rates or be sanctioned.

Not surprisingly, the NHS has some money problems and, according to this article increased funding is something that’s been requested. In October there was a strike by health care workers demanding more pay.

The systems of health care are quite different between the UK and US, yet UK is struggling with many of the same issues we have here in US. The show hasn’t done much with these problems, although I remember Pauline thinking she should get paid more because she was now a phlebotomist as well as a receptionist. Also, like the UK, the US is seeing a shortage of physicians and it’s a concern in terms of access to care, see this article for one. The other thing that we see in DM that is of interest is the procedure for registering with a GP in UK. The GP is usually associated with your postal code and the length of time you plan to be a resident in said location. The minimum stay is 3 months to qualify to register with a GP. New patients can be rejected if the GP is not accepting new patients. In US physicians may consider their practices full too and be unable to take on new patients, but there are no residency requirements. In DM there have been a few occasions when new patients have visited Dr. Ellingham to register, e.g. Julie, the Oakwoods, and it seems they have departed before being residents for 3 months. I’m not sure what actually would have happened with their registration.  All of the above provides some opportunity for a secondary storyline.

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2014-12-13 13:02:47.

Dr. Martin Ellingham, patient

The following is an intake assessment of Dr. Martin Ellingham completed as if he were a new patient seeking therapy. It was written by Santa, a retired counselor, with input and advice from Abby, currently practicing as a therapist. I contributed to some degree, mostly by asking questions and getting clarifications. I think you will all find this quite enlightening. Santa exposes many insightful details about ME as her assessment summarizes all that we have learned about Martin Ellingham relevant to what a therapist would want to know. As she has told me, she is impressed with how many personal details the show writers have provided from Martin’s life throughout the 6 series. I am convinced that her efforts will inspire much discussion. I invite any other readers of this blog to add observations of their own.

This initial analysis is meant to provide a basis upon which to elicit various treatment protocols and approaches to therapy for this “patient” from any of you who might venture to recommend them. We are interested in any treatment plans you might like to suggest.

As you will notice, we have included medication in his care. We figured Ruth would be likely to refer Martin to a psychiatrist and that he would prefer to be seen by an MD. Most psychiatrists would recommend medicines. On the other hand, we consider it important that therapy include establishing a relationship with someone who is competent in many sorts of therapeutic methods. Santa and Abby believe Martin would benefit from individual therapy as well as couples therapy with Louisa. Of course, we have no idea how the show will handle therapy in series 7, but since there are only 8 episodes in each series, we expect that couples counseling may be all we see.

Presenting Problem:  Martin Ellingham, M.D.  was referred by Ruth Ellingham, M.D. (his aunt).  Dr. Ellingham says that he has sought help because his wife of 6 months has recently told him that she is not happy in their marriage and needs to take “a break.”  She told him this shortly after she had a serious accident, which patient believes he was instrumental in causing.  She was in fact on her way to Spain with their 9 month old son, to visit her mother for an undetermined period of time, when she was forced to return to Truro for emergency surgery to correct a potentially life threatening arteriovenous malformation.  The threat of losing his marriage is a source of deep distress for Dr. Ellingham. He acknowledges that he must “change” in order for their marriage to succeed.   However, his desire to change is not very specific and he is uncertain about how to proceed and what he needs to do in order to be “a better husband.”

He further states that for some time before his wife indicated her unhappiness with the marriage, he had been preoccupied with worries about his health, precipitated by a return of a hemophobia.  He had lost his appetite and was sleeping poorly.  He tried to self-diagnose a physical disorder that might be causing these somatic symptoms; he did not consult a physician.  He also reports increased irritability and decreased libido during this period.   He states that he “shut out” his wife from these concerns, although he can’t explain why he did so.  He believes this to be one source of his wife’s unhappiness and frustration with him. Furthermore, he states that he has never understood why she was attracted to “someone like me.”  He now acknowledges that these somatic issues may have an emotional origin and is interested in exploring issues in his family of origin that may relate to his present difficulties, especially as they may relate to his wife’s decision to take a break from their marriage.   He denies that the return of his phobia has anything to do with his marriage, stating that he loves his wife and son very much.  He reluctantly admits, however, that the chaos and disorder attendant upon life with an infant, as well as sharing his living space for the first time, and with someone who doesn’t share his habits of tidiness, sometimes have been difficult to deal with.    He says that he has been eating and sleeping a little better since he made the conscious decision to seek help in order to “change.”  He admits to being “very sad” from time to time at the prospect of being separated from his wife and son.

Mental Status, Affect and Mood:  Dr. Ellingham is a tall, immaculately groomed Caucasian man, formally dressed, in his late 40s, who appears to be his stated age. His clothes are somewhat loose and he says that he has lost weight.  His affect is restricted, and his mood is somewhat dysphoric. He denies suicidal ideation.   He shows no evidence of a thought disorder; he is oriented and his judgment is unimpaired.  He makes good eye contact and is responsive.  His answers are concise and to the point.   His insight into his difficulties is somewhat limited.  During the interview, he occasionally appeared anxious or irritated, or sad, but these emotions were quickly suppressed.

Substance Use:  Patient states that he disapproves of liquor and never drinks.  He has never smoked, or used any banned substances.

Relevant Psycho-Social History:  Dr. Ellingham is currently a General Practitioner in Portwenn, Cornwall.  Formerly, he was a surgeon in London, for 12 years head of Vascular Surgery at St. Thomas.   About 5 years ago, he suddenly developed hemophobia, disabling him from the practice of surgery.  He reports that the phobia developed when operating on a patient who he had recently seen interacting with concerned family members.  Their concern and affection for the patient suddenly struck him in a way that was unusual for him.  He was unable to finish the operation or to perform any subsequent operations.   He retrained as a general practitioner, and relocated in Portwenn, a place where he had family (an aunt, since deceased) and had spent time as a boy.  It is unclear why he chose to retrain and relocate rather than to seek treatment for his condition.   About a year ago, he utilized cognitive-behavioral techniques to desensitize himself to the sight and smell of blood.  This succeeded enough that he felt able to apply for and accept a position as surgeon at Imperial Hospital in London.  This position was not taken up, as he decided instead to marry the mother of his child and remain in Portwenn, where she was most comfortable.  He states that he detests Portwenn, and finds dealing with his patients frustrating on account of their unwillingness to follow advice or sound hygienic principles.   He denies, however, that foregoing the opportunity to resume his career as a surgeon, and living in a place that he dislikes, have anything to do with his dysphoric mood or the return of his phobia.

He reports that he did not expect to marry or to have a child, and his relationship with his current wife has been tumultuous, marked by missteps, separations and miscommunication throughout their courtship and in their marriage.   Nevertheless, he states that he is deeply in love with her, and has been since their initial encounter several years ago.  (She is head teacher at the primary school in Portwenn.)  They did not begin living together until after their son was born, and the decision to marry was not made until 3 months after that.

Patient states that this is his first marriage and his first serious relationship since he was in medical school.  His first real relationship  ended when the woman, a fellow student, chose to leave England to study abroad.  He reports that he was devastated by  this.  With few and brief exceptions, he has neither sought nor welcomed female companionship thereafter.  At the same time, he is clear that his orientation is heterosexual.

Social Supports.  He has lived alone all his adult life.  He reports few friendships of any significance, with the exception of a former classmate from medical school, who is now the head of the Cornwall NHS, and who helped him to relocate and later in his effort to find a job in London.  He does admit to being friendly with one or two inhabitants of Portwenn.   He was fond of his aunt, now deceased, who was living in Portwenn when he relocated, and she was a source of support to him both when he moved to Portwenn and as a child.  He is close to another aunt who now lives in Portwenn, and she is perhaps the only person in whom he feels he can confide.   He reports that he has little time for social niceties, which he considers “rubbish,” and always speaks his mind.  He admits that some may find his manner abrasive.  In any case, he feels that finding a friend among the inhabitants of Portwenn is highly unlikely, as he finds most of them extremely irritating.  He has no church affiliation. His sole hobby is repairing antique clocks, an activity that he does alone. His wife does not share this interest.

Family of Origin Issues:  Patient reports a long-standing estrangement from both parents.   He had no communication with them at all for seven years, until a couple of years ago, when they showed up to ask for money and announce their separation.  During this visit, his mother made clear how much she had always resented and disliked him, to the point of saying that she wished he had never been born.  Predictably, the visit ended badly, and he had no further communication with them until a few weeks ago.  At that point, his mother arrived unannounced, and told him that his father had recently died and she had come to re-establish a relationship with him as her sole remaining family.    It developed that she was without financial resources and that  her real goal in contacting him was to obtain from him enough money to support herself.   Upon realizing the extent of her duplicity, Dr. Ellingham asked her to leave his house and indicated that he desired to sever all further relations with her.

Patient’s childhood was marked by bedwetting, social isolation, ridicule and shaming from both parents, little affection, and harsh punishments, including spanking with a belt and enforced enclosure in small spaces for seemingly trivial infractions.  His aunt recently told him that between the ages of 4 and 6, his behavior underwent a change and he became significantly more defended.  He was sent to boarding school from age six on, where he notes that his bedwetting and social isolation continued and he was the object of considerable bullying.  Uncoordinated and physically clumsy, he did not participate in team sports.    He was, however, good at chess and derived some pleasure from winning competitions.

Patient’s father and grandfather were surgeons, and patient seems to have internalized their belief that a surgical career was the top of the medical profession, and that being a GP was far inferior.  His father was contemptuous of his position in Portwenn.

Patient reports that he had only very recently come to understand that he did not deserve his parents’ treatment of him and that, in fact, it was abusive.   He notes the contrast between his childhood, and his wife’s and his own loving interactions with their son.    He wonders if he might possibly have developed a sense that he does not deserve to be treated lovingly.

Summary and Clinical Assessment:  It should be noted that Dr. Ellingham has recently experienced multiple significant stressors, including recent marriage and fatherhood, marital difficulties, death of a parent, and the severing of ties with his mother.   At this point, he certainly meets criteria for a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, with periods of sadness, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, loss of interest in usual activities, increased irritability, and feelings of worthlessness, and guilt.  He has agreed to a trial of anti-depressant medication, and medication to help him sleep.

Dr. Ellingham has a specific anxiety disorder, i.e., hemophobia.  The hemophobia is of secondary clinical concern, although it should be addressed at some point, ideally by returning to a course of desensitization, supervised by a cognitive-behavioral therapist to make sure he reaches a point of “overtraining.”

Dr. Ellingham has few interpersonal skills, and little understanding of their utility.  He tends to have little empathy with others, and has lived as a social isolate for most of his life.  He makes good eye contact, however, and his lack of empathy may well be a result of suppressing emotions he considers “soft” rather than an inability to sense the feelings of others.  While a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, i.e., Asperger’s, can be kept in mind, this interviewer does not currently find much support for such a diagnosis

The clinical impression of this interviewer is that Dr. Ellingham is a man of formidable intelligence, who learned very early in his life to formulate a defensive structure that protected his deep sense of vulnerability and defectiveness.  This was necessitated by emotional and physical abuse, but more significantly, a profound failure of maternal attachment.   This defensive structure includes an insistence on order and control, on minimizing affective reactions, and on a degree of autonomy and lack of entanglement in relationships that might expose his neediness and vulnerability.   In short, intimacy presents serious difficulties for him.  He is unable to seek help from others, and because this “counter-dependent” structure emerged so early – certainly by the age of 6 or 7 – he has been unable to manage or integrate emotional responses that occur in later life.  Another way to say this is that much of his emotional development has been frozen at the “child” level.  Thus, “falling in love” was an experience which essentially blind-sided him, and for which he was in no way prepared.   Ultimately, this impulse was too strong for his defensive structure, and he acted on it.   The burden, however, of living intimately with a wife and child and surrendering much of his sense of control, has been another major stressor, under which, this interviewer believes, his anxiety disorder, as well as other somatizing symptoms,  re-emerged.

It is this interviewer’s impression also that his feelings about his loss of his surgical career, both from his hemophobia and the decision to remain in Portwenn, are unresolved and probably contribute to his depression.

Last, there is a hint of some traumatic event between the ages of 4 and 6, which should be explored as the therapeutic alliance becomes stronger and the patient’s symptoms of depression are resolving.

Recommendations:   Dr. Ellingham’s wife, Louisa, should participate in some sessions with the treating therapist.  He has never been able to share much of his inner self with her, and may need support and assistance in doing so.  Helping her to understand his difficulties may go a long way toward healing their marital problems.    Couples counseling is also recommended, if his wife will agree to it.

Nevertheless, Dr. Ellingham could benefit from individual therapy.  He has many losses to grieve, among them the loss of his career (and identification) as a surgeon, and the loss of his parents, both now and as a child.  He needs to repair a sense of himself as defective and undeserving of love.  He certainly needs to develop better access to his own emotional life.   A cognitive-behavioral strategy or “restructuring” negative thoughts would be a good place to start.  The experience of a therapeutic alliance with a treating therapist would be of significant benefit to him.

 

 

Originally posted 2014-12-07 14:34:19.

Love Actually (I Know, Not Original)

[Something weird is going on with my blog right now and I can’t figure out how to change it. Please do not click on any links that have the green circle with arrow. They should not be there. I’ll keep trying to remove them.]

As has happened many times in the past, the NYTimes published an article last Sunday that can be applied to this show. (I first learned about it from Santa, and I thank her for bringing it to  my attention. I rarely miss articles in the Sunday Review of the NYT because there are often so many good ones. I’m glad I’ve taken this long to publish this post because the Sunday NYTimes from this week contains several letters in reaction to the article.) Anyway, the article was written by Alain de Botton, a Swiss-born, British-based philosopher who has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL), which appears to be quite an honor. He has been writing novels based on the philosophy of love and marriage for some time. This particular article precedes his forthcoming novel The Course of Love and is titled “Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person.” He has some singular ways of viewing marriage.

Botton covers several pertinent issues related to what we’ve seen going on between Martin and Louisa that I want to take on individually. (This article will also give me a chance to reference several of my previous posts and I hope it won’t appear presumptuous if I call your attention to those whenever it seems appropriate.)

The first thing that jumped out at me was his use of the adjective “normal.” To quote him: “We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well.” I’m pretty sure his use of “normal” here is the common usage that each of us goes about the day fitting into society. And it is generally true that most of us aren’t walking around muttering to ourselves or making strange gestures in public. But, as a philosopher, Botton must be aware that the word “normal” is loaded, as Dr. Timoney says.  [As you probably remember, I wrote a post on what the term “normal” means on Jan. 12, 2016 named “Normal Is A Loaded Word.”]

Nevertheless his concluding paragraph begins with: “Romanticism has been unhelpful to us; it is a harsh philosophy. It has made a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling. We end up  and convinced that our union, with its imperfections, is not ‘normal.’” In this case Botton is using the term to connote some form of happiness that comes from an idealized notion of how a marriage should look. [ I wrote a post on 11-04-2013 called “Marriage As An Institution” in which I looked at all the reasons why Martin and Louisa would want to marry as well as some of the reasons they might have problems being married. In some ways that post is a companion piece to this one and you may want to read it. I’ve also written 6 posts on “Happiness.” After the subject of change and all of its manifestations, I’d say the topic of happiness is the next most frequent that comes up in the show.]

Although I think that when most people fall in love, they can’t help being blinded to some of the faults in their lovers, and it’s nice to have that period of time when love is blissful, lately we are becoming less likely to rush into marriage. Once you’ve been around your intended for a year or so, it would be surprising if you didn’t pick up on a few of their idiosyncrasies. We still make mistakes, of course, and sometimes that can be due to being a bit starry eyed; nevertheless, I think couples generally don’t miss those foibles in each other; they just believe they can overlook them or overcome them. In Martin and Louisa’s case, they have known each other and lived with each other over a fairly extended period of time. By the time they decide to marry they have had plenty of occasions that should have given them enough opportunities to recognize the potential areas of conflict. Despite all of these moments, we are supposed to believe that Louisa doesn’t realize yet that Martin is inclined to be unwilling/unable to share his innermost thoughts and fears with her. (Interestingly, one letter to the NYTimes notes that “marrying the right person…requires the strength to lower your walls. All of your walls, all the way down.” Apparently there are many people who erect walls and have to find a way to lower them.) We’re also supposed to believe that Martin continues to have trouble knowing what makes Louisa happy. She has explicitly told him at the end of S5 that she wants to hear him say “nice” things to her, and she has been pretty clear that it matters to her that he join her in some school activities. Moreover, they have both stated they plan to do their best to prevent James Henry from becoming as introverted as his father (if we remember what Martin says to Louisa during that conversation at the end of S5, and what Louisa says to Martin when she asks him to take JH to the music group).

Botton’s title for the essay refers to marrying the “wrong” person. What he really means is that people may have an idealized notion of what marriage should be like, and how a marriage should unfold. Botton relates our tendency to have false expectations to the circumstances we experienced during childhood, which definitely plays a role in how  Doc Martin  has been constructed. Botton asserts “we marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.” This takes place if we have had troubled childhoods in which we’ve experienced feelings of “wanting to help an adult who was out of control, [or] of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes.” In Doc Martin Louisa has had to deal with parents who are out of control in the sense that her father’s gambling led to debts and possibly to problems between him and her mother. Martin has definitely been deprived of any warmth from his parents and on the receiving end of unjustified anger. He must have felt insecure. Thus, there is a sort of disconnect between the notion of love and that of happiness.

If Martin has no idea why it’s so important for people to be happy, and why he thinks happiness is overrated, it could be because he has never really known actual happiness. Now when he has brief flashes of happiness, they don’t seem to last, and Botton would consider this expected. Yet Martin is aware that Louisa finds being happy important, and we know that Louisa has had moments of happiness in her childhood (e.g. when her father took her for ice cream). Somewhere buried in Louisa, according to Botton, is that good sensation of happiness during her childhood that she wants to recreate.

But Botton is reassuring. He goes on to say “the good news is that it doesn’t matter if we find we have married the wrong person…We need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.” And we can make a case for this point of view using the show as a guide. As a dramedy, Doc Martin uses both the tragic and comic aspects of marriage and shows us that some of the tensions arise out of situations we can laugh about. So when Martin wants Louisa to keep the baby quiet during his workday or when Louisa keeps the house less tidy than Martin would like, it’s amusing and these are very common problems.

By the end of S7, we have arrived at something akin to Botton’s view that “rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity” that is the key to making a marriage work. Martin is willing to endure more noise and mess while Louisa has decided that she can accept Martin’s quirks. Botton concludes that “we should learn to accommodate ourselves to ‘wrongness,’ striving always to adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kindly perspective on its multiple examples in ourselves and in our partners” and believes that “compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”

If we agree with Botton, then we can drop any difficulties we might have with whether Martin and Louisa are compatible, and should be married, and recognize that now they have reached a nexus point. Hallelujah!

[Some quotes from Alain de Botton:

“We fall in love because we long to escape from ourselves with someone as beautiful, intelligent, and witty as we are ugly, stupid, and dull. But what if such a perfect being should one day turn around and decide they will love us back? We can only be somewhat shocked-how can they be as wonderful as we had hoped when they have the bad taste to approve of someone like us?”
― Alain de BottonOn Love

“If cynicism and love lie at opposite ends of a spectrum, do we not sometimes fall in love in order to escape the debilitating cynicism to which we are prone? Is there not in every coup de foudre a certain willful exaggeration of the qualities of the beloved, an exaggeration which distracts us from our habitual pessimism and focuses our energies on someone in whom we can believe in a way we have never believed in ourselves?”
― Alain de BottonOn Love

Do you love me enough that I may be weak with you? Everyone loves strength, but do you love me for my weakness? That is the real test.

Alain de Botton]

 

Originally posted 2016-06-05 18:01:51.

Another post coming soon — Really!

I know it’s been a long time since I published a new post. I honestly thought I’d have one ready by now, but it’s taking me longer than expected. Please do not despair and desert the blog!! We will have several new posts very soon. I’m pretty sure you will like what’s coming up.

My next blog post will be of some interest, I hope. However, here’s a teaser for one that will be popular…Some knowledgable contributors to this blog are putting together something about the Martin Ellingham character that everyone should find exciting and powerful. We’ll try to publish it as soon as possible, so keep checking.

Thanks for your continued support and participation.

Originally posted 2014-12-04 22:23:09.

Some additional comments

I can see our comments have kind of slowed, and I haven’t posted anything new for a little while. I would love to see more discussion about acts of kindness and acts of nastiness or unfriendliness. There’s Mrs. T’s comment that Louisa only had the baby to catch Martin and then her drugged up diatribe about Louisa being a trollop; there’s Edith and her reprehensible decision to make overtures to Martin even though, or maybe because, she knows that he’s about to become a father; and Margaret’s comment to Louisa that she looks terrible when she returns from the hospital; and several other examples. A small town can pull together and help each other out, or it can have a tendency to be petty and self-protective.

I won’t say more about that, and I probably shouldn’t bring this up again either, but I found this article very touching and it makes a number of good points about how clothing can matter. I thought it was worth posting. I particularly like how the author’s mother chose to dress to instill some sense of control over her life. There’s little question that the way ME dresses gives him a sense of control and is part of his armor against the demands of life. We might think of Edith’s clothes functioning similarly and possibly Joan’s and the receptionists’ too.

I also found it lovely that when the author went for her own colonoscopy, she decided to dress in something that made her feel good (and reminded her of her mother). (On the other hand, I would never wear anything nice to a colonoscopy. No offense, but I just want to get in and out of there as fast as possible without much bother.)

I think we can all relate to associating certain clothes with loved ones. I’ve kept a few things in my closet that used to be worn by people who meant a lot to me. They are nice reminiscences. I realize the clothing posts have not been all that stimulating to you, but I’m obviously hardheaded and can’t help saying more.

I hope to write a few other posts soon, although I will be away for the next week. I’ll be checking the blog regularly, however.

Originally posted 2014-11-22 16:47:02.