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Showing Up Out Of the Blue

In Doc Martin there are many people who appear on Martin’s doorstep unannounced. Or Martin appears at someone’s home unexpectedly. I love it when Louisa asks Martin if his mother has ever shown up out of the blue before. Louisa does it all the time!

This sort of event is called an “Inciting Incident” by Robert McKee (you know, the writer of Story, the book I’ve referred to before). We also see these incidents on occasion with other characters, e.g. Joan, Edith, Ruth, Mrs. Tishell, and Bert.

McKee notes that an Inciting Incident must radically upset the balance of forces in the protagonist’s life. Next the protagonist must respond to the Inciting Incident.  “The protagonist responds to the sudden negative or positive change in the balance of his life in whatever way is appropriate to character and world.” However, our protagonist will always want to restore balance. Lastly, the Inciting Incident “propels the protagonist into an active pursuit of this object or goal…But for those protagonists we tend to admire the most, the Inciting Incident arouses not only a conscious desire but an unconscious one as well. These complex characters suffer intense inner battles because these two desires are in direct conflict with each other.”

In DM the person who appears out of the blue on Martin’s doorstep, or to be more accurate, Martin’s kitchen door, is Louisa. Every time she does this we can call it an inciting incident because she always upsets the balance of his life. There are several times when Louisa appears that make the largest impact on him and I thought I would use these as the best examples.

In S7 the location is different because now she is living in the surgery building. By E3, however, she has appeared unexpectedly at Martin’s front door and completed the act of unbalancing his life again. By the end of E3, he is poised to leave at the front door to the surgery when she stops him hoping to reach out to him in her own noncommittal way. When he doesn’t stop long enough, she runs after him and leaves him much more hopeful by offering to do couple’s counseling with him. This series is the “Louisa in Charge” show, although maybe she’s been in that position the whole time.

For this post I wanted to highlight the times when Louisa’s unanticipated appearance incites imbalance and results in Martin pursuing a return to equipoise. I’m sure the examples I choose will not necessarily coincide with ones you would have chosen, and I hope you will add your views to mine. Also, I am aware that Louisa has shown up unannounced on other occasions outside the surgery, and some of those occasions could be considered destabilizing as well. Here I’m trying to pick out the times that are of major significance.

The first consequential time Louisa appears unannounced at his door is when she brings Allison by to apologize. When she knocks on the back door, Martin is mislead into thinking that she has come alone and is pleasantly surprised. She succeeds in making clear to him that she thinks Allison owes him her child’s life. She sends Allison out so that she can have a few moments alone with him. During that time she tells him she wants to stay, to which he responds affirmatively, thinking she means for a visit. What she really means is she wants to remain his patient, and he’s a little disappointed in the misinterpretation; however, she also approaches him and they have a close, personal encounter with a discussion of what they see for themselves in the future and she expresses her own doubts about her plans. Everything that happens after she shows up puts him off balance. He has to answer Allison and accept her apology; he agrees to allow Louisa to stay, whether it’s for a visit or as a patient (although we know he would welcome a visit); and her decision to step close to him and ask him about his plans for the future forces him to confront those in a way he hasn’t before.

The next time that I would call an inciting incident is when Louisa shows up wearing her wedding gown but carrying a letter telling him she has decided not to marry him. She apprises him that the letter says she loves him, but that he wouldn’t make her happy. Although he has also come to the conclusion that marrying isn’t the best decision at this point, her appearance flusters him. He follows her outside, digesting what they have just chosen to do, and watches as she walks away. His pursuit of Louisa has upended his life, but now their decision to part ways is just as disruptive to him. It’s a life-altering moment that once again must make him think about what he will do with his future.

I have to follow that unannounced appearance with the one that begins S4 when Louisa returns to Portwenn pregnant. Here he is just getting his life back in order, with a tinge of regret and forlornness, when in she pops to turn everything upside down again. As in the last scene of S3, Martin watches as Louisa walks away, carrying her suitcase and his baby. It doesn’t get any more unsettling than that!

The last occasion when Louisa shows up out of the blue to cause a marked upheaval is her arrival back in Portwenn in S7E2. I think we are supposed to believe that Martin was expecting her back; however, her arrival pushing James in his stroller while pulling her bag behind her is timed to put him off balance. It’s rare to find the waiting room as crowded and chaotic as in that scene. With so many townspeople there, and Martin unaware that Louisa is back, the shock for him is evident. He recovers fairly quickly, and he wants her there, but we know that Louisa’s return is going to unbalance his life once again.

Margaret’s appearance out of the blue is certainly one that we should count. Previously Joan has thrown him when she appears with a casserole after his disastrous concert date with Louisa. Then there’s Ruth coming to Joan’s funeral and bringing a new force into his life. And we can’t forget Edith and all of her unplanned visits.

Martin has been known to arrive unannounced at times himself. He surprises Joan in the first episode and has shown up at Ruth’s door without warning as well. I would call these inciting incidents too because they lead to significant changes in his life.

There are other times I can think of when the unplanned arrival of one person or another drives the plot, e.g. John Slater, Danny, Eleanor. All of these are inciting incidents that are frequently used to great effect by bringing imbalance to the main protagonists.

Originally posted 2015-09-25 11:36:19.

A Break Of Our Own

As anyone who has been reading this blog can tell by now, both you readers and I have not had as much to say lately. I think I have one or two more posts in me before the next series begins, and I’d like to think you readers might have a few more things to say. But I am not surprised that we are at a point where the anticipation of a new series coupled with some fatigue over saying more about what’s happened before is leading to all of us taking a break.

Several of you have previously wanted me to continue, and I’ve tried to do my best. I will write more when I can. Currently I am once again on the road. It will probably be the end of this week before I can write another post.

Thank you, kind readers, for all your support. I expect to find much more to write about once we get into the new series.

Originally posted 2015-08-23 06:37:58.

Essential Elements of Story

Even though I may be seen as a downer to those who like to treat these characters as if they are real people having responses to each other and to situations as though they are actually going through these events, this post is going to attempt to reveal the method every show (or film), including “Doc Martin,” uses if it expects to be successful. We are watching characters act in particular ways because they are being manipulated by the writers to achieve a specific reaction. Sure, they are supposed to be believable and appear as though they are people we could meet and become friends with. However, no matter how much we care about what their relationship with their mothers was like when they were children, or what their psychological circumstances are, we should somewhere keep in mind that we are engaging in the suspension of disbelief for the sake of enjoying a good story. By that I mean we are allowing ourselves to be drawn into the story of these characters for a certain length of time knowing they are symbolic figures and will not necessarily follow the likely path that would occur if they were operating in the real world.

A Handbook to Literature, basically the bible for understanding literary terminology, distinguishes story from plot. Significantly for our purposes, the Handbook states, “the plot lies in relations among episodes…it is, therefore, a guiding principle for the author and an ordering control for the reader….Since the plot consists of characters performing actions in incidents that comprise a ‘single, whole, and complete’ ACTION, this relation involves conflict between opposing forces. Without conflict, without opposition, plot does not exist…This opposition knits one INCIDENT to another and dictates the causal pattern that develops the struggle. This struggle…comes to a head in some incident — the CRISIS — that forms the turning point of the STORY and usually marks the moment of greatest SUSPENSE. In this climactic EPISODE the RISING ACTION comes to a termination and the FALLING ACTION begins; and as a result of this incident some DÉNOUEMENT or CATASTROPHE is bound to follow.”

The next comment it makes is most important: “Plot is, in this sense, an artificial rather than a natural ordering of events. Its function is to simplify life by imposing order thereon…Plot brings order out of life; it selects only one or two emotions out of a dozen, one or two conflicts out of hundreds, only one or two or three people out of thousands, and a half dozen EPISODES from possible millions. In this sense it focuses and clarifies life.”

Furthermore, the Handbook tells us: “The most effective incidents are those springing naturally from the given characters, the most effective plot, from this point of view is to translate CHARACTER into ACTION.”

Here we have the fundamentals of writing a strong plot that create the link between author (writer) and reader (viewer). All good stories contain these elements and we can certainly see how they work in each episode of “Doc Martin” as well as each series. Because DM has evolved into a story about the relationship woes between Martin and Louisa, which I think was inevitable and should have been obvious from the moment they portrayed them conflicting in S1E1, they have developed plots based on these conflicting characters. They are the primary players in the series and, for the most part, the other characters are important only insofar as they impact these two.

Another source I like to use is Robert McKee’s Story , a book written by a prominent teacher of screenwriting. I took his grueling seminar about ten years ago and so have many famous writers for screen, including Peter Jackson, William Goldman, Quincy Jones, Kirk Douglas, and many more. When I took his course in NYC, Faye Dunaway was also in attendance. For our purposes, his elucidation of story in his book that I want to quote is: “The grand difference between story and life is that in story we cast out the minutiae of daily existence in which human beings take actions expecting a certain enabling reaction from the world and, more or less, get what they expect. In story we concentrate on that moment, and only that moment, in which a character takes an action expecting a useful reaction from his world, but instead the effect of his action is to provoke forces of antagonism. The world of the character reacts differently than expected, more powerfully than expected, or both.”

Since probably my favorite episode is S6E1, I want to use it to illustrate the above elements. I will describe what I see as the plot points that are employed and note how the writers, et. al. select these scenes out of all the ones they could have chosen from Real life.

We can start at the very beginning. It’s Martin and Louisa’s wedding day, but we don’t know this immediately because the first scene is Martin doing a gynecological exam on the green grocer. But wait, we left off S5 with him and Louisa walking together hand in hand. What’s happened between that moment and this one? How much time has transpired? Martin treats this patient the way he typically has treated most patients in the past and she, somehow, doesn’t know it’s his wedding day. But, we have no objections once we find out that’s where he’s going next.

We still don’t know where Louisa is or how long it’s been since we last saw them together. However, that’s about to become clearer once Martin changes his clothes and gets into the taxi. Wait…where is he going in a taxi looking so serious? Why isn’t he driving his Lexus? Don’t ask. Just suspend your disbelief some more because he’s greeted by the crew once he steps out of the taxi and we are more interested in knowing that he is at the church to be married to Louisa. Now we see JH for the first time in S6 and we can tell that he’s older, probably 5-6 months old. If we bother to think about it, we can now say it’s been about 4 months since we left them walking away from the Castle.

Once again Louisa is not there, and the likelihood is that her delay is meant to remind us of the aborted wedding plans from S3. There’s a little suspense while we wait for her to appear. In that period, we may notice that Ruth and baby James are the only family members in attendance. If it’s been 4 months since the last series, Louisa’s mother Elinor would have been back from any trip she took and could have been invited to the wedding. Why isn’t she there? Well, my view is that reintroducing her in this series only brings in plot points they don’t want or need. Besides, later in the series we hear Martin say his family consists of his wife, his son, and Ruth. They are neatly packaged in this first episode as such and it never occurs to us to wonder where Elinor is. In real life, there would probably be much more difficulty keeping her out of the picture. After all, Louisa had made peace with Elinor by the end of S5 and accepted her mother’s need to head off on more adventures. Why wouldn’t she want her mother at her wedding? However, it’s only at the end of S6 that Louisa decides to visit her mother in Spain and mentions her again. Have they spoken during the past few months? Has Louisa sought Elinor’s advice or sympathy while dealing with Martin and his mother? That’s not important to this plot and not included.

Louisa does show up, claiming that her hair delayed her (a funny excuse that could be a reference to how much brides fuss about their hair). The wedding proceeds without Elinor, but with humorous comments by the vicar and the usual missteps, and the reception that follows is filled with the many secondary characters behaving in ways we’ve come to expect and enjoy. Penhale makes a speech that is laudatory but gets interrupted by Bert, who wants the event to move along. Bert has already sampled the food and found it deficient, and Morwenna has been used as a link between Martin and Louisa and led us to the dancing scene. Meanwhile, Chippy Miller has approached Martin with a medical problem while Martin is admiring Louisa and possibly marveling at/internalizing having Louisa as a wife. Would a patient do this at a real wedding. I hope not! But it happens here because it’s part of the plot of the show to have patients come up to ask Martin for advice at the oddest times. It also prompts Martin to seek out Louisa and suggest leaving.

At this moment, the music begins and everyone expects them to dance. They have their dance, with a few minor glitches, and decide to slip out to avoid any shenanigans by Bert. Somehow most of the guests don’t notice they are leaving, and they make it outside with the baby in hand. However, again somehow the important characters are out there before they show up and are ready to encourage them to spend a night at a lodge. Ruth is sure she can handle the baby for one night, their bags have been secretly packed, and they are whisked off with Bert driving. No mess, no fuss. Martin didn’t have a car to worry about anyway and no one gives it another thought.

Along the route to the lodge they pass the man they will later encounter in the woods. Here he is holding some animal over his shoulder and follows the car with his eyes as it passes him. They, too, see him, and he may give them a few misgivings because of his inhospitable appearance. We also see a horse that figures in a later scene. (At night when they hear someone yelling in the woods, they don’t think of him and, when they come upon his caravan, they don’t appear to recognize him, or him them.)  Perhaps they originally set this up so that they would remember each other and then ditched it. Primarily, though, the effect is to let us know that where they are going is isolated and wild. They don’t mention any of this to each other so we have no idea what they’re thinking; we can only use their faces as a guide and Louisa looks a little uncomfortable.

Of course, they make it to the lodge where they have no phone reception and shouldn’t need it if the night goes as planned. Needless to say, it doesn’t, and Martin decides to head out to find a phone they can use. The reality is that they actually would have had trouble getting phone reception out there (or in town for that matter), but wouldn’t he have been better off retracing the route Bert used to bring them to the lodge? That’s what most people would do, but for this plot they need him to head into the woods. It turns out they spend the entire night in the woods, entering it and exiting it during daylight. (The nights in Cornwall are shorter than in some other places, but that would still mean spending at least 6 hours in the dark.) Do we care how long they’ve been in the woods? Not really.

Once they enter the woods, Martin and Louisa begin to disagree. She thinks he’s going the wrong way and he’s sure he knows what he’s doing. They have a confrontation with the horse that leads to Louisa making fun of Martin. But the CONFLICT between them reaches its height when they arrive at the brook and Louisa refuses to walk across it. In my opinion it is at this point where a CRISIS develops. Even though Martin suggests that he carry Louisa across, they have a heated argument over how their honeymoon plans had been determined and by the time they reach the other side of the water, Louisa’s anger level is raised to a point that she tells Martin he never understands anything and she says, “you’re right, this was a mistake.” She appears to mean spending the night at the lodge, but we could also consider her to be making a remark about getting married at all. Nevertheless, their encounter with the caravan owner brings them together by motivating them to defend each other to him and by using the plot device of having them work together to tend to the damage to the man’s carotid artery that was caused by broken glass from the awning falling on him. The dénouement has been reached, catastrophe averted, and all ends rather harmoniously as they walk up the dirt road pushing the man in a wheelbarrow.

We don’t know how they got the wheelbarrow, how they made it to the road, and when the sun arose, and we don’t need to know. We also don’t know what transpires between the time they hail the truck that fortuitously appears on the road at that moment and when they are back in their house. It’s not important for the plot. The episode ends with more of the typical mayhem during which the kitchen is once again filled with the main characters of the story plus the appearance of a patient at a most unpropitious time accompanied by the barking dog. We know, however, that their marriage is on a good footing at this point because they find a moment to speak to each other quietly and decide together what they plan to do next.

We could be tempted to fill in the gaps, and often that is exactly what fan fiction does, but for the purposes of the show, they are left open and should be. As McKee writes: “The substance of story is the gap that splits open between what a human being expects to happened when he takes an action and what really does happen; the rift between expectation and result, probability and necessity. To build a scene, we constantly break open these breaches in reality.” In addition, he states, “the source of the energy in story… [is]…the gap. The audience empathizes with the character, vicariously seeking his desire. It more or less expects the world to react the way the character expects. When the gap opens for character, it opens for the audience. This is the ‘Oh, my God!’ moment, the ‘Oh, no!’ or ‘Oh yes!’ you’ve experienced again and again in well-crafted stories.”

There’s nothing better than getting taken away by the plot of a story in which you identify with the characters and empathize with them. My goal in writing this post is not to diminish that in any way. However, I struggle with going too far and developing detailed backstories for our protagonists. Much of what we see on our screens was never meant to be taken to that extent. In fact, if we get too deep into concocting childhood events that may have led to one or another behavior as an adult, I think we may suck all the enjoyment out of simply going along with the story. We wouldn’t want that to happen!

Originally posted 2015-08-16 14:40:02.

A Doc Martin Lexicography

I feel the need to have a little fun and Marta has sent me something I think we can all play with. I hope you all find this amusing. We thought we could take these examples and convert some Doc Martin associated words into something we could all laugh about. They don’t approach the wit of the winners of the Wash. Post contest, but I think they are pretty good.

The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational invites readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are the winners (from last year):
 
1. Cashtration (n.):  The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.  
 
2. Ignoranus A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxicaton
 Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation
 Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): 
 The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future. 
 
6. Giraffiti Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
 
7. Sarchasm The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
 
8. Inoculatte To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

9. Osteopornosis
 A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit)

10. Karmageddon
 It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
 
11. Decafalon (n): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

12. Glibido
 All talk and no action. 

13. Dopeler Effect
 The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly. 

14. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): 
 The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

15. Beelzebug (n.): 
 Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

16. Caterpallor (n.):  The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating. 
 
 
The WashingtonPost also published this year’s winning submissions for alternate meanings of common words:
 
1. Coffee, n.  The person upon whom one coughs. 
 
2. Flabbergasted, adj.  Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.  
 
3. Abdicate, v.  To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade, v. 
 To attempt an explanation while drunk.
 
5. Willy-nilly, adj.  Impotent. 

6. Negligent, adj. 
 Absent mindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.
 
7. Lymph, v.  To walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle, n. 
 Olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence, n. 
 Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash, n. 
 A rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle, n. 
 A humorous question on an exam. 

12. Rectitude, n. 
 The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists. 
 
13.  Pokemon , n.  A Rastafarian proctologist. 
 
14.  Oyster , n.  A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms. 
 
15.  Frisbeetarianism , n.  The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
 
16.  Circumvent , n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
Here’s what Marta came up with:
Lew Weezer, n.  an old geezer who lusts after pretty girls
PartWenn, n.  end of every Doc Martin series when Martin and Louisa split
A Tishell, n. kleenex for self-medicating matrons with a Dr. Ellingham infatuation
The Harbar, n. place on the shore to drink
PC Pinhale, n. name for a dumb copper
DoanTawk, n. place of silence in PortWenn
Rose Karen, n.  girl who lives at the top of the hill
Anti Joan, n. Martin’s father, Christopher
More Regret, n. what Martin feels when speaking to his mother, Margaret
Hellinore, n. Martin’s worst nightmare of a mother-in-law
Badmen, n. loansharks on the moor
Foe Bea, n. a very difficult enemy from Martin’s past
The Birth Taxi, n.  natural vehicle for inducing labor
Corn Wall, n.  place where Daphne deMurier dispensed literary gems
Then I tried a few:
Locations in Port Isaac/Portwenn
Insulting Room, n.  place where your GP makes snide remarks to you about your body
Wasting Room, n. place where you pass the time while hoping to get a cup of tea
Sneeze Belly Alley, n. a place where it’s so narrow it’s dangerous to sneeze

Margaret’s Cane, n. the physical implement that a shrew uses to hurt people
Rise Hill, n. steep street that is handicapped challenged
Names
At Large, n. a person who can’t decide who to date or where to live
Joe Inhale, n. a man who talks too much
Joan Torton, n.  either someone who likes to bake tortes OR someone who habitually gets into trouble for being uninsured
John Slayer, n. a man who breaks women’s hearts
Other words:
Tossee, n. a person who throws up easily
haemorphobia, n. a concern about needing to change
 I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to think of some of your own. If nothing else, it keeps our minds working!
(New more serious post coming soon.)

Originally posted 2015-08-13 09:34:05.

Time and Tide (apologies to Basia)

Recently on Facebook Santa decided to post her ideas of how S7 will progress. That led to a series of posts that made attempts at determining when certain scenes between Martin and Louisa take place and what they might indicate in terms of their relationship. As you all know by now, I am averse to speculating and like to depend on evidence whenever I analyze the show. As a result, I decided to see whether there is anything worthwhile I can contribute to this discussion. I am doing this on the blog because I prefer to express myself here and my post will be much longer than anything I would want to say on Facebook.

The two issues that seem to be of concern are when does the series begin and when do this couple appear to be getting along better. I have now gone back through the first episodes and final episodes of each series, and if history is prologue, there is a pattern that can be identified.

I realize they don’t have to stick with any time patterns. Nevertheless, I think there is a way to pin down their typical methodology. Also, I thought I would see if there is a pattern to how the Martin/Louisa relationship has been handled throughout the 6 series we’ve already viewed. One thing we know is they consistently set up reasons that cause them to separate from each other only to be drawn together again, most often through some sort of medical emergency. But maybe there’s a little more to it than that.

Let’s begin with the time passage between series: Most of the series begin very soon after the conclusion of the previous one. The shortest amount of time passage between series occurs between S4 and S5 where S5 begins the same day as S4 ended. Louisa has given birth at the pub at the end of S4 and S5 begins in the hospital where they went for her to be properly checked. The longest passage of time takes place between S3 and S4 because Louisa has moved to London following their decision not to marry. She returns in the first episode of S4 6 months pregnant which means she was gone for approximately 5 months. She must have been pregnant the day of the wedding and did not know it. The wedding is supposed to have been planned for three weeks after they first sleep together.

This gives us an expectation that S7 will be likely to fall between same day and around 5 months after S6 ended. Because Louisa has just had AVM surgery and is still recovering from a broken clavicle, we would expect her to need help at home. We know that Michael has turned himself into the army authorities and that leaves them without help at home with James Henry. We also know that Louisa has time off from school responsibilities at the time of her AVM surgery because she had planned use her school break to visit her mother in Spain before Martin retrieved her from the plane. If the first time we see Louisa is truly the picture we see in the iTV preview of shows for their Fall season, she is no longer wearing a sling and the sunglasses on her head seem to indicate she has been somewhere sunny. In my opinion, she would have had to have gone back home with Martin from the hospital, had a few days prior to feeling up to traveling, and spent some of that time talking about their plans. Perhaps Martin took a few days off from work to help with James. It would make sense to me that Louisa would want to keep her plan to fly to Spain to see her mother because her mother could help with James, she could be in a warm setting, and she could have time to think while Martin gets back to work. In addition there’s a likelihood that while she’s away, Martin’s mission was to find someone to take care of James once she and James return. That would mean that she had plans to return all along.

Except when Louisa leaves for London after their first wedding plans are canceled, Louisa has never left work. Being the headmistress at the school in Portwenn is what she wants to do with her time. Thus, she would be likely to want to return pretty soon. I could imagine that, due to her injuries, she was allowed to take more time off than the school break might have been, but she would be anxious to get back to work.

I would also have to guess that she knows that Martin has found a new child minder who will start upon Louisa’s return. It seems logical that she would not want to move back in with Martin immediately even though he wants her to. To me, it also is a good sign that Martin offers to have her stay in the surgery while he lives elsewhere. As others have said, having her in the surgery is a smart choice on his part because he knows he’ll see her fairly frequently. I also noted online that his decision to move instead of having her leave would be seen by her as very thoughtful and would be a touching gesture.

After that they have decided to find a therapist and seek marriage guidance. It seems clear that there will be many helpful suggestions by the therapist but also some things that go wrong. If it went smoothly we would all be suspicious and we would not recognize these characters.

Of course there are many secondary stories throughout the series, some of which involve medical emergencies. The medical emergencies that matter to this discussion are the ones that bring Martin and Louisa together. In every previous series we can easily pinpoint the medical emergencies that reunite this couple.

S1: Peter Cronk must be rushed to hospital for ruptured spleen. Martin and Louisa ride with Peter in the ambulance and spend the night waiting to find out if he’s all right. Despite Martin looking pleased that Louisa is with him, and despite Louisa running back into the hospital to tell off Adrian Pitts, Martin spoils their kiss during  the taxi ride home and Louisa throws him out of the car. This combination initiates what becomes the typical sequence for them: affection followed by some inappropriate comment by Martin that leads to Louisa being insulted and offended.

S2: We have two endings to this series but both work equally well with this pattern. In “Erotomania,” a medical condition he has while drinking wine causes Martin to fall asleep in the middle of kissing Louisa and just after telling her he loves her. She affectionately covers him and touches the back of his head when she leaves. I suppose calling this a medical emergency is a little strong, but the effect wine has on Martin is related to something medical. He ruins the incident the next day when she brings him something for a hangover and expresses love for him only to be accused by him of stalking. In “On the Edge,,” the baker falls down a cliffside and Martin must save him by drilling a hole in his skull to alleviate the pressure from a head injury. During the episode this couple have been tied together and forced to deal with a disturbed man, but it’s after the scene with the baker and Martin’s climb back to safety that Louisa is tender with him again. She wipes the blood on his cheek and is obviously worried about him. Martin has previously angered Louisa by insulting her father in an inappropriate manner.

S3: The first episode contains a medical emergency that brings them together. This time it’s Allison’s daughter Delph who is the catalyst. The episode ends with Louisa and Martin having a personal conversation and Louisa wanting him to be her doctor again. Of course, S3 is the one in which they have the concert date that ends with him ruining another kiss but then Louisa’s friend Holly falls and injures herself and redeems the relationship. Another medical emergency occurs when Louisa’s friend Isobel goes into labor unexpectedly and Martin and Louisa join together to deliver the baby. This time, however, the emergency delivery does not bring these two much luck. Louisa continues to be impressed with Martin’s medical skills, but the series ends with them parting ways.

S4: The most significant medical emergency in this series is Tommy’s methanol poisoning. Martin’s concern for finding Tommy and saving his life is accompanied by his even greater desire to make sure Louisa is safe. His pressing need to find Louisa ends with the delivery of their baby and one of the most passionate scenes of the show.

S5: Mrs. Tishell’s mental breakdown provides the situation that unites Louisa and Martin. Martin finally expresses his love for Louisa and she is comforted by his pledge to always love her.

S6: The most important medical emergency is the AVM surgery, although Louisa’s collision with a car shocks Martin out of his obstinate mood. They have some tender moments in the hospital in both cases. (The first episode of S6 uses an injury to the caravan owner to bring them together after they argue over how to get to the road and what Louisa might have liked for a honeymoon.)

S7: From what I can tell from pictures, there is a likelihood that Ruth suffers some medical emergency sometime early in the series. We also know that there is a scene in which the therapist has a car wreck and the nanny loses control of the stroller with James Henry in it. My sense is that neither of  these events leads to any serious outcome. Ruth appears again later in the series and the therapist and JH are not badly injured; however, I can easily imagine that Louisa and Martin would come together at these occasions. They probably incorporate these scenes as a way to follow the pattern they established in S1.

Using medical emergencies as a vehicle to unify these two gives Martin a chance to demonstrate his medical skills, which are the most confidence and strength building for him, while making clear to Louisa how much she admires him and finds him reassuring under particular stressful circumstances. In S7 the therapy sessions also bring them together, both while being seen by the therapist and when they unite to terminate the sessions.

When I looked back through these series, I was reminded of two important comments made by Louisa. The first was at the end of S3E1 when she tells Martin she worries about everything and what she’s doing with her life. The second was after the baby is born in S4E8 and she tells the baby “You’ll get used to him eventually.” The first remark gives us insight into her mindset and makes us aware that she isn’t nearly as confident as she acts. This scene is one of the few when she expresses her doubts to anyone. Maybe we’ll see more of that in therapy or as a result of therapy. The second makes clear that she knows Martin isn’t easy to be around, but that she plans to stay with him long enough for the baby to get used to him. I would expect that to mean far past the baby’s first year.

Martin has already been willing to admit that he needs help and has previously conceded that he’s made mistakes with Louisa. We shouldn’t forget that all of the preceding series lead up to this one and build on each other. I do not expect Louisa to ask for a divorce in S7 nor do I think she will be able to stop interacting with Martin for long. They may live separately, but Portwenn is too small and their lives too intertwined for them to avoid each other. Also, we have scenes with them doing things together early in the series. I think Martin Clunes is being sincere when he says they are going to find a way to get this couple back together again in this series. I know the going will be rocky, and that’s part of the fun, but I am looking forward to seeing how they set it up. I look forward to a series that brings back the humor, the awkwardness, and the miscommunications, but that ultimately includes affectionate scenes and a reconciliation.

Originally posted 2015-08-08 15:48:29.

The Pursuit of Happiness

This post will interrogate what it means to be happy in greater depth. Even though I’ve written several posts on happiness already and have recently added some posts on emotions, which include joy and sadness, I want to look at this so called unalienable right further. I have been surprised by the number of articles that have recently appeared in the NYTimes and elsewhere about the concept of happiness. Then I did a little more digging and discovered that, like the US, many countries consider happiness a major goal for their citizens and one that government can assist in. In fact, in 2010 British Prime Minister David Cameron made a speech about his concern for sustaining his countrymen’s happiness and asked the Office of National Statistics to devise a new way of measuring wellbeing in Britain. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the writers for DM included some of the references to happiness as a result of Cameron’s speech on wellbeing. Series 5 and 6 came along after that speech and contained many scenes that related to the happiness level reached by several characters, e.g. Martin and Louisa (of course), Al, Bert, Ruth. The scene at the end of series 3 in which Martin and Louisa declare that they wouldn’t make each other happy had already taken place, but, in my mind, that may have been the set piece for starting down this path of thinking about happiness.

Before I go into all of the articles and try to put their contents into some sort of coherent form, I want to mention that I have now seen the film “Inside Out.” The film is brilliant in addressing a serious subject by using animation and humor. The central concern is what goes on inside our minds when we deal with major disruptions in life.  In the film the key protagonist is an 11 year old girl named Riley whose family is moving from Minnesota to San Francisco. The fact that she is 11 plays a major role because along with the change in locations she is experiencing some emotional peaks and valleys due to puberty. For me, an important message of the film is that joy is Riley’s most prominent emotion, but joy needs to drag around sadness, literally. Joy wants sadness to suggest ideas about how to make Riley’s life go well, but not take away the joy of memories. In the end, though, this growing and developing child must lose her attachment to those memories so that she can enjoy life again in a new setting. The idea is that without sadness there can be no joy, and without family and loving support from them, there is difficulty transitioning to a new stage of life.

Since “Inside Out” is a Walt Disney production, it is especially coincidental that last weekend an article titled “The Happiness Project” appeared in the NYTimes Style Magazine, and that the article makes some similar points about happiness. The article is about how Disney, its parks and films, brings happiness to many and inspires non-Americans to love America. (I should say here that many Brits only visit America to go to Disneyland. There are several non-stop flights from London to Orlando on at least 5 airlines, and they contain 11,257 seats per week. When we were in England, we met quite a few Brits who had been to Disneyland, and nowhere else in America.)  For one thing, the author of the article, Andrew O’Hagan (a British novelist), argues that “the idea of Disneyland has a fear of disaster embedded in it. Happiness, after all, is like that. We can hardly live with happiness for fear of it suddenly ending.” Later he states, “happiness is paired with a basic drive to do something that defies gladness.” These comments come in the midst of a long article about how happy visiting Disney makes people and that some people cry with happiness when they visit the park. They also are combined with a description of the joy he gets from taking his daughter there. This reconfirms that joy often is conjoined with family. It also might highlight the fact that S6 of DM and its downward trajectory could be used as a springboard for getting Martin and Louisa on a much better path to finding joy once more. The fear of losing happiness is rather prominent in their marriage.

Ultimately, the film “Inside Out” reflects what most of the research on happiness has found. People consider family a significant source of happiness. In addition, like most studies on happiness the film indicates that there is a lot of self-governance involved. As a result, the issue of control frequently comes up.

We can also see this in David Cameron’s speech on wellbeing in which he said: “We have got an instinct that people who feel in control of their own destiny feel more fulfilled. That’s why we’re giving parents real choice over schools and patients real choice over where they get treated. We have an instinct that having the purpose of a job is as important to the soul as it is to the bank balance, and it’s there in our hugely ambitious work programme to get people off welfare. Our instinct that most people have a real yearning to belong to something bigger than themselves – that is leading our plans to bring neighbourhoods together, to increase social action and to build what I call the Big Society.”

He goes on to say: “Let me give you three examples where I really do believe there is a link between what politics and government does and people’s happiness, contentedness and quality of life.

One is I do believe if you give people more control over their life, if they feel they have more of a say, they are authors of their own destiny, that actually increases people’s self-worth and wellbeing. Now that has a real effect on, for instance, education policy or health policy. We should be trying to give more power to the patient and the parent to have more choice over where they are treated, where their kids go to school and the rest of it. So that has a real-life effect.

The second one was mentioned – relationships. It is absolutely right that people’s wellbeing often depends on the quality of their relationships, so we should ask as a country, why do we spend billions and billions on the consequences of family breakdown, but so little on trying to help families stay together? £20 million on the budget of Relate, but £20 billion on the consequences of social breakdown, so again if we think about wellbeing, rather than just GDP, we might actually change that.

Another one is planning policy. People, definitely, the way your happiness, contentedness, wellbeing does partly depend on your surroundings, and your surroundings depend on planning policy and how much you are involved and have a say over your neighbourhood and what it looks like. So therefore, I would say: give people more power over the planning policy in the neighbourhood and they will be more contented.”

The ONS did follow up on Cameron’s request. and produced a  report: “Reflections on the National Debate.” In total, ONS held 175 events, involving around 7,250 people. The debate generated 34,000 responses, some of which were from organisations and groups representing thousands more. The quotes on each page of this report were taken from online contributions, where permission was given to reproduce the participant’s words anonymously.

The following are the salient points, in my opinion:

The term ‘well-being’ is often taken to mean ‘happiness’. Happiness is one aspect of the well-being of individuals and can be measured by asking them about their feelings – subjective well-being. As we define it, well-being includes both subjective and objective measures. It includes feelings of happiness and other aspects of subjective well-being, such as feeling that one’s activities are worthwhile, or being satisfied with family relationships. It also includes aspects of well-being which can be measured by more objective approaches, such as life expectancy and educational achievements. These issues can also be looked at for population groups – within a local area, or region, or the UK as a whole.

The debate ran between 25 November 2010 and 15 April 2011 and was conducted both online and at events around the UK. The debate was structured around a consultation paper, which asked five main questions:

  • what things in life matter to you?
  • of the things that matter to you, which should be reflected in measures of national well-being?
  • which of the following sets of information do you think help measure national well-being and how life in the UK is changing over time?
  • which of the following ways would be best to give a picture of national well-being?
  • how would you use measures of national well-being?

The main questions from the consultation questionnaire are listed below with the most common answers from a predefined list.

What things in life matter to you? What is well-being?

  • health
  • good connections with friends and family
  • good connections with a spouse or partner
  • job satisfaction and economic security
  • present and future conditions of the environment.

All the age groups highlighted the importance of family, friends, health, financial security, equality and fairness in determining well-being.

Having a general sense of well-being is important to nations and individuals. When Martin asks “Why does everyone always have to be happy?” in S6, we can now answer that asking that question truly demonstrates how out of sync he is with the world. However, we also consider his question one that reflects his personal agony and desperation in the face of hearing Louisa say that she plans to leave again. His question is plaintive and shows how pitifully sad he is with his life. Like everyone else, his sense of well-being would be likely to derive from health, good connections with his spouse, and the conditions determined by his environment. Until he performs Louisa’s AVM surgery, his health is a major concern for him, his connections to his spouse are precarious, and the conditions of his environment are problematic. The surgery is accompanied by some phobic symptoms (vomiting), but he’s able to carry on; he expresses his sincere wish to work on their marriage and be a better husband; and we can only hope that they can find a balance at home between their need for quiet and some private space while spending time with JH. S7 may be headed toward managing some of these essential elements for achieving happiness in this marriage.

In addition to Cameron’s emphasis on the importance of control for reaching a sense of well-being another article I came across also emphasizes control in regard to happiness. In “Two Ways to Be Happy” (NYTimes, June 1, 2015). the author describes studies that draw a distinction between primary control and secondary control. Primary Control is that ability to directly affect one’s circumstances; Secondary Control is the ability to affect how one responds to circumstances. These researchers assert that for most people secondary control is most important for life satisfaction; however, for those in committed relationships, primary control is more important. Their explanation for this discrepancy is that it’s possible that having a partner may help people deal with adversity the same way secondary control does. (This assumes you have a partner who is allowed to help with adversity, a definite problem with Martin and Louisa.)

Previously I wrote about Carol Ryff’s theories of happiness and eudaemonia. I also mentioned Aristotle’s theories and that many others have written their views about this emotion. However, the person most associated with psychological studies of happiness is Martin Seligman. What makes his studies more impressive is his belief that the complete practice of psychology should include an understanding of suffering and happiness, their interaction, and the use of interventions to relieve suffering and increase happiness. In an article on Positive Psychology that was published in American Psychologist (July-August 2005), he and his co-authors try to answer the question “What makes life worth living?”

Seligman, et. al. developed a guide that describes and classifies the strengths and virtues that enable human thriving. (They call it the CSV for Classified Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification.) They have determined that there are 24 strengths and 6 overarching virtues that span all cultures. The strengths include: kindness, fairness, authenticity, gratitude, open-mindedness, prudence, modesty, and self-regulation. The virtues are: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.

Here is a Table that explains their findings:

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 10.57.31 AM
They contend there are 3 defined routes to happiness:
a) positive emotion and pleasure (the pleasant life)
b) engagement (the engaged life)
c) meaning (the meaningful life)
They have determined that the most satisfied people are those who orient their pursuits towards all 3 but put the greatest weight on engagement and meaning. Furthermore, they believe that happiness brings many added benefits. “Happy people are healthier, more successful, and more socially engaged.” The goal, therefore, would be to provide a means for people to reach a state of happiness because then they will build on that positive cycle they’ve been establishing.
The team devised some exercises to see if they could increase happiness and decrease depressive symptoms. They were pleased to find that some of the exercises led to a sense of happiness that lasted for 6 months (which was the maximum time period for which they checked). Those participants who continued to do the exercises benefited the most and were the happiest.
They conclude that since these exercises reduce depressive symptoms lastingly, they could be another means for treating depression, especially in talk therapy. They recognize that the individuals in their study were only mildly depressed and were motivated to become happier.
Their final judgement is that “the  pursuit of happiness is [not] futile because of inevitable adaptation or an immutable hedonic set point.” In other words, they believe that despite happiness being subjective and self-reported, everyone can reach a rewarding level of happiness through consistent effort. Furthermore, pursuing happiness is a valuable goal because of all the advantages that result.
I want to close this post by saying that, like the article above, there is a book entitled The Happiness Project that was written by Gretchen Rubin and published in 2009. Much of the book is pretty simplistic, but she did a lot of reading in preparation for writing it. She read all of the big names associated with the philosophy of happiness as well as several novelists’ views on happiness. She has a blog and suggests various ways people can work on being happier. For me, there are two significant comments she makes. One is “the opposite of happiness is unhappiness, not depression,” by which she means her suggestions are not to be mistaken for treatments of severe depression.
The other is more comprehensive:
“According to current research, in the determination of a person’s level of happiness, genetics accounts for about 50 percent; life circumstances, such as age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, income, health, occupation, and religious affiliation, account for about 10-20 percent; and the remainder is a product of how a person thinks and acts…It seems obvious that some people are more naturally ebullient or melancholic than others, and that, at some time, people’s decisions about how to live their lives also affect their happiness.”
So we are back to the idea of whether people can change and we now have a lot of data that supports the conviction that we are capable of changing our level of happiness. I think we can generalize that to other aspects of our emotional lives. We are the authors of our lives to a great extent, especially if we have a strong desire to make certain changes. Why does everyone always want to be happy? Because happiness is an important emotion and being happy makes our lives worth living.
[I am very sorry that for some reason the font changed in this post and I was unable to figure out how to make the spacing function normally after I included the Table. Believe me, I tried!]

 

 

Originally posted 2015-07-28 21:46:04.

Hiding and Seeking

I’m not done yet with referencing articles about psychological treatments. This time I will be quoting an article from June 30th. In this article, the therapist argues that many times a patient’s trauma stems from generations of family members having been mistreated. To a great extent this psychologist hesitates to condemn any parent because of the way he or she treats their children. They may simply be carrying on the patterns of horrible parenting they were subjected to as children.

Although I have some trouble exonerating parents entirely, and we would certainly have to know whether they themselves had similarly bad parenting, this position sounds very close to the damage that occurs in families where alcoholism or abuse of all kinds can be traced back for generations. It’s well accepted that children learn patterns of behavior by what they experience in the home, and that genetic traits are hard to fight.

According to this article, a mother’s behavior toward her child that includes shaming may be an indication that she was once shamed by her parents. Oddly enough, the one thing the mother and child share is the shaming they’ve both suffered through. But that does not bring them together in any way.

The reason this therapist refers to the game of hide and seek is that children may hide their feelings yet wish to have them uncovered. If no one tries to unearth what those feelings are, the children are apt to withdraw in the belief that no one cares. According to this therapist, “we all need to hide sometimes. We need to go into the private space of our mind and take measure of our thoughts. We need to enter this space so we can reflect. And then, having done so, we long to be discovered by someone who’s looking, someone who really wants to find us. If we never have our feelings known and accepted by the people who are important to us, then hiding is no game; it’s a way of life.

It is “‘joy to be hidden,’ the pediatrician and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott once wrote, ‘but disaster not to be found.’” (Yes, D. W. Winnicott again.)

What this article leads me to think is that even as an adult, we want someone to seek to determine what our feelings and inner thoughts are, and when that doesn’t happen, we withdraw again. In the case of Martin Ellingham (or Louisa, for that matter), childhood has inclined him to be protective of his inner thoughts and feelings. Now that he’s married, he continues to safeguard himself even though he would really like to know that his feelings are important enough for someone to want to draw them out.

That is the dilemma for Louisa. How much pressure should anyone put on a spouse to share his/her inner thoughts? How hard is it to drop one’s own protective barriers and express those innermost feelings, perhaps leaving oneself exposed or probing too deeply into one’s partner’s emotions?

Originally posted 2015-07-17 11:11:07.

Depression, it’s complicated

Santa suggested reading this article about depression and I agree that it’s a great explanation about the difficulties in diagnosing depression and in treating it.

I particularly liked the section on how depression could result from habit formation and that, according to neuroscientist Marc Lewis, “as time goes on you build your prison by continually repeating those particular thoughts. Until that becomes your mental world.”

See what you all think.

Originally posted 2015-07-15 09:29:59.

Is Martin Depressed?

I am ready to return to posts about the many topics of interest we have explored previously. The first subject I find fascinating is whether we are correct in diagnosing ME as suffering from Major Depressive Disorder. Of course, the reason I came to this question is by reading an article in the NYTimes in March that mentions accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy. This type of therapy is new to me, although the therapists in our group may be familiar with it. The article is intriguing, however, because of the example used.

The patient in the article had been diagnosed with intractable depression and “he had been through cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, supportive therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy” without success. He had also been medicated without a significant change other than intolerable side effects. Most importantly, he had grown up in a very detached and cold family atmosphere. The therapist recalls that “Brian had few memories of being held, comforted, played with or asked how we was doing.”

The therapist writes: “Based on what he (Brian) told me, I decided to treat him as a survivor of childhood neglect — a form of trauma. Even when two parents live under the same roof and provide the basics of care like food, shelter and physical safety, as Brian’s parents had, the child can be neglected if the parents do not bond emotionally with him.” It is the emotional engagement that is so important to children.

The therapist goes on to say: “One innate response to this type of environment is for the child to develop chronic shame. He interprets his distress, which is caused by his emotional aloneness, as a personal flaw. He blames himself for what he is feeling and concludes that there must be something wrong with him. This all happens unconsciously. For the child, shaming himself is less terrifying than accepting that his caregivers can’t be counted on for comfort or connection.”

Furthermore, this therapist explains that “to understand Brian’s type of shame, it helps to know that there are basically two categories of emotions. There are core emotions, like anger, joy and sadness, which when experienced viscerally lead to a sense of relief and clarity (even if they are initially unpleasant). And there are inhibitory emotions, like shame, guilt and anxiety, which serve to block you from experiencing core emotions…Children with too much shame grow up to be adults who can no longer sense their inner experiences. They learn not to feel, and they lose the ability to use their emotions as a compass for living. “

This description strikes me as being analogous to what we’ve been told about Martin’s childhood and what we see in his behavior as an adult. (Again, I am not proposing that the writers thought this all through when they created the character of Martin Ellingham. I am simply continuing to do more armchair analysis.) The portrayal of ME is weighted more towards the inhibitory emotions in general, although we’ve seen occasions during which he has appeared either joyful or sad, e.g. when he holds Louisa’s hand after the concert or when she accepts his proposal of marriage, and when Louisa tells him she doesn’t want to see him anymore. By the end of S6, ME has begun to experience many of the core emotions, particularly joyfulness and sadness. We know he feels joy during his wedding ceremony and the initial arrival at the lodge, and we know he’s sad during much of the latter episodes, but most especially when Louisa tells him she’s going to Spain and departs for the airport. (We see him tearful in the hospital following the AVM operation, and that’s a sign that he has begun to be in touch with his core emotions even though his tears are due to a mixture of relief and concern.) We may see him squashing his core feelings at the very end of S6 when he once again has trouble expressing any emotion in Louisa’s presence, but at least we know he can access his core emotions.

In the article the therapist encourages his patient ” to inhabit a stance of curiosity and openness to whatever he was feeling. This is how a person reacquaints himself with his feelings: to name them; to learn how they feel in his body; to sense what response the feeling is calling for; and in the case of a grief like Brian’s, to learn to let himself cry until the crying stops naturally (which it will, contrary to a belief common among traumatized people) and he feels a sense of visceral relief.”

I am pretty sure we will never see anything like this sort of therapy take place on the show, and they appear to be using couple’s therapy rather than individual anyway. Nevertheless, we’ve never shied away from considering the best form of therapy for someone in these circumstances and I don’t see why we should stop now! It certainly seems true that Martin’s childhood was similarly lacking in emotional attachment to either of his parents and that he could easily have developed a sense of shame.

There is much action for S7 that has been filmed in interior locations where no one outside of the cast and crew knows what has taken place. It’s possible that we may see some tears from ME and/or LE, and we may see some openness to expressing core emotions to each other beyond Louisa’s displays of anger we saw in S6. I hope to hear what all of you think of this distinction between core emotions and inhibitory emotions as well as what anyone knows about AEDP therapy. Actually, anything this post brings to mind is welcome!

Originally posted 2015-07-10 14:03:49.

Being Moral

This blog has basically been languishing for a couple of months because there has been very little to write about while filming for S8 was underway. During the previous two year lull between series we managed to find some intriguing topics to write about that were, even if tangentially, related to the show. We covered many of the psychological and the narrative elements brought up by the characters and situations depicted.

My most recent posts have been about laughter and civility and then about why this show should be categorized as a comedy. My argument providing evidence that it’s a comedy contributes to this post. I am very troubled by many things going on in our country and the world these days, and I thought I could express my concerns about another major area that is of great consequence to me — morality.

Students of Shakespeare often come across studies of his comedies by Northrup Frye. Northrop Frye was a Canadian literary critic and theorist whose work is so well known in literary circles, that I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned him before. His lasting reputation rests principally on the theory of literary criticism that he developed in Anatomy of Criticism (1957), one of the most important works of literary theory published in the twentieth century. One of the areas that Frye addresses in his work is how comedy treats morality, and I want to mention a bit of his critical analysis here. Among some of his remarks we can find his view that a Shakespearean comedy tends to end with either a marriage or a festival that brings about a “social integration [that] may be called, first, a kind of moral norm and, second, the pattern of a free society. We can see this more clearly if we look at the sort of characters who impede the progress of the comedy toward the hero’s victory. These are always people who are in some kind of mental bondage, who are helplessly driven by ruling passions, neurotic compulsions, social rituals, and selfishness. The miser, the hypochondriac, the hypocrite, the pedant, the snob: these are humors, people who do not fully know what they are doing, who are slaves to a predictable self-imposed pattern of behavior. What we call the moral norm is, then, not morality but deliverance from moral bondage. Comedy is designed not to condemn evil, but to ridicule a lack of self-knowledge.”

As a comedy, Doc Martin fits rather nicely into Frye’s description. We have the variety of characters who are there to frustrate the reconciliation between Martin and Louisa and who follow a stereotypical behavior pattern. They are included, I would argue, as examples of people who lack self-knowledge. To a great extent I would include both Martin and Louisa in this category. We consider these characters comical because of their lack of self-knowledge, not because their behavior has moral lapses.

The subject of morality comes up directly in the show in the last episode of S3 when Isobel asks Louisa what her fiancé is like and Louisa replies “He’s straightforward, he’s moral, he’s…Martin.” What does Louisa mean when she says he’s moral (based on what we know from the show)? Here are some of my thoughts: Louisa believes she can trust him (and Martin asks her to trust him throughout this episode); he’s someone who wouldn’t cheat on her, which she would find important because she needs that sense of security and loyalty; she would probably be looking for a man who she thinks will never break the law (like her father has); she would want someone who is reliable, a man of his word (as opposed to her mother); and a man who is thoughtful and treats people without prejudice (I surmise this based on her own sensitivities toward others). Being straightforward could refer to his tendency to speak his mind without softening the message. Even when Martin asks Louisa to marry him, he states his feelings openly and unguardedly. And yet we know that often his unfiltered comments have shocked Louisa, and even hurt her feelings.

Morality refers to norms about right and wrong human conduct that are so widely shared that they form a stable (although usually incomplete) social consensus. Since Martin Ellingham is a doctor, I thought it appropriate to include the manner in which medical matters interact with morality and ethics. Larry Churchill, Stahlman Professor of Medical Ethics, Vanderbilt University who specializes in medical ethics and bioethics, has written about moral quandaries as they relate specifically to medical circumstances. Churchill reminds readers that “we are the species who says ‘ought’.” “Ethical problem-solving usually involves critical, applied analysis of…rules and principles, as well as reflective thinking, remembering and imagining.” There is a certain amount of difficulty in arriving at a single all-encompassing concept of ethical theories, according to Churchill. Each theory has “a useful, but limited, range of application.” Nevertheless, Suffering and empathy are central to the moral life of medicine.

A recent article in the journal “Cognition” also argues that people’s conception of the normal deviates from the average in the direction of what they think ought to be so. When thought about with this in mind we can identify some moral quandaries in DM: Ought Louisa have changed her mind and decided so late not to marry Martin? Ought she have told Martin about the baby? Ought Martin have told Louisa about leaving for London? Ought Louisa have mentioned how her father left Portwenn in disgrace? When it comes to the doctor-patient relationship, Martin likes to assert the confidentiality of the patient; however, there are times when keeping that position introduces a moral quandary. Ought Martin have told Aunt Joan about John Slater’s medical condition? Ought Martin have allowed Louisa to be seen by his old flame Edith? Ought he have suggested that he could take care of Louisa during her pregnancy? Ought he have called his patients by so many derogatory names in public?

An example of a norm would be restraining oneself from making any personal comments out loud. Conventional etiquette instructs that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” For me this means that there is no profit in public derogatory comments about someone’s appearance, intelligence, or habits. If we want to be critical of something (or someone), comment on its (or his/her) importance and essential assets and deficits in a nonspecific manner.

But since this is a show that infringes on norms, we also see a mishmash of behavior that muddles morality and norms. Is he moral at times and immoral at other times? Can a doctor be considered moral even when he doesn’t follow norms of behavior? Much has been written about the ethics of power between doctors and patients. To a great extent, this show takes it for granted that because it’s meant to be funny, Martin’s abrupt and rude behavior towards his patients should not involve whether his imposing posture, tone of voice, and superior education makes his approach immoral (or amoral). Nevertheless, there are times when he crosses that boundary. Luckily, there are also times when he softens his tone and we see enough of his compassion to consider him morally upstanding. It seems likely they realized that despite the fun it was to have him bark at patients and call them idiots, if they included too much of that, they would cross that line and those scenes would no longer be funny.

The same authors of the above article also assert: “You are certainly capable of distinguishing carefully between what is typical and what is good. You are able to understand that something occurs frequently without also thinking that it is morally acceptable, or that something occurs infrequently without thinking that it is weird or deviant.” So we might arrive at the conclusion that we have some compunctions about Martin’s treatment of his patients without allowing those reservations to reach the level of serious impropriety for a doctor. (I must say that more and more I am struggling with whether I can laugh at this part of his persona. It’s all meant as innocent mockery, but lately such banter by people in power has taken on a malevolent tone that makes me recoil. I know the show is distinct from reality; nevertheless, too much of shows like that and, it seems to me, repugnant personal behavior becomes normalized.)

To many morality means what is proper behavior as opposed to what is improper conduct. Even that sort of designation has its problems. The terms morals and principles may seem distinct from each other to some and quite interchangeable to others. Some use these words together, as in moral principles. What seems most important is that we agree that there are guidelines for behavior that have developed over time and that we all acknowledge as morally acceptable and of high principle.

You may find this hard to believe, but the initial instigation for this post was the Grenfell Tower fire in London on June 14th. Here was a case of the owners of the building making what I would consider an immoral decision to clad the exterior in less expensive but attractive flammable material. They may have believed that a fire was highly unlikely and that it was important to improve the appearance of the building. Nevertheless, like so many other businesses lately (e.g. Volkswagen, Takata, BP, and others), they chose to save money over lives. (We shouldn’t be smug about this sort of thing because we have some of the same immoral behavior in the US. Just recently there was a fire in a building in Honolulu that had no sprinkler system. That prompted a call for mandates for all high rises to have sprinkler systems. Apparently many cities across this country do not require them.)

Then I started thinking about other things going on in this country and became aware that there are many people writing about the question of moral behavior these days. If morality is important to us, then why are we currently struggling so much to find our moral compass?

Ethics, too, are dependent on codes of conduct specific to a certain place. Are we now experiencing, as David Brooks has argued, a lot of dying old orders — demographic, political, even moral? Brooks continues: “As Joseph Bottum wrote in ‘An Anxious Age,’ mainline Protestants created a kind of unifying culture that bound people of different political views. You could be Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or atheist, but still you were influenced by certain mainline ideas — the Protestant work ethic, the WASP definition of a gentleman…Over the last several decades mainline Protestantism has withered. The country became more diverse. The WASPs lost their perch atop society. The mainline denominations lost their vitality…the country divided into at least three blocks: white evangelical Protestantism that at least in its public face seems to care more about eros than caritas; secular progressivism that is spiritually formed by feminism, environmentalism and the quest for individual rights; and realist nationalism that gets its manners from reality TV and its spiritual succor from in-group/out-group solidarity…But where are people going to go for a new standard of decency? They’re not going to go back to the old WASP ideal. That’s dead…but who is going to fill it and with what?”

Bioethicist Larry Churchill has written: “Ethics, understood as the capacity to think critically about moral values and direct our actions in terms of such values, is a generic human capacity.” I hope so.

An article in the NYT on 7/9/2017 referred to “why certain morally charged content goes ‘viral.’ The main reason to mention this article is that they note that “a moral emotion is something like hate or hope — an emotion that features normative judgment and affective mood. In contrast, a non-moral emotion is something like fear or love, and a non-emotional moral concept is something like ‘injustice’ or ‘fairness.'” I interpret this to mean that they surmise that moral concepts can be either emotional or non-emotional, ergo they are either based on how they affect someone subjectively or on how they are a disinterested summation based on accepted norms. Another op/ed article, this time from 7/14, explains: “I don’t think moral obliviousness is built in a day. It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a person’s mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing; to take the normal human yearning to be good and replace it with a single-minded desire for material conquest; to take the normal human instinct for kindness and replace it with a law-of-the-jungle mentality.”

When it comes to Grenfell, an article in the NYT written by Henry Wismayer wonders if “it remains too early to say whether this ambient regret will translate into a greater popular will to forestall the city’s course. But if there was ever an indelible image to wake a city from its coma, it’s there staring down at you when you get off the Tube at Latimer Road station — the tower of the unwanted, London’s shame.” Not every moral dilemma has as evident and abhorrent a reminder as Grenfell tower.

Originally posted 2017-08-20 12:30:04.

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!

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Another Look at Happiness

I know, you’re thinking that we’ve covered happiness up one side and down another. And we have, BUT, I was finishing the book Sapiens when I discovered that writer Yuval Noah Harari has a chapter on the subject. What he has to say turned out to be quite interesting and I thought it would be worth recording it and adding it to our previous discussions. He poses the question that he says is rarely asked: “Did the wealth humankind accumulated over the last five centuries translate into a new-found contentment?…Have the seventy or so turbulent millennia since the Cognitive Revolution made the world a better place to live?…If not, what was the point of developing agriculture, cities, writing, coinage, empires, science and industry?” It’s a troubling query to consider.

He covers a lot of ground in this chapter and mentions many factors that have been viewed as contributing to the happiness of sapiens.  (In this book he identifies humans as belonging to the species sapiens (wise) of the genus Homo (man). Furthermore, he adds that he uses “the term ‘Sapiens’ to denote members of the species Homo sapiens, while reserving the term ‘human’ to refer to all extant members of the genus Homo.” The book depends a lot on scientific data and knowledge for its arguments.)

Among the multiple processes Harari discusses in connection with happiness is the conclusion of some studies that “happiness is not the surplus of pleasant over unpleasant moments. Rather, happiness consists in seeing one’s life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile. There is an important cognitive and ethical component to happiness…As Nietzsche put it, if you have a why to live, you can bear almost any how. A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship, whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is.” (I have mentioned some of this before.)

As for the matter of happiness and marriage, Harari takes on the notion that people who are married tend to register themselves as happier than those who are not. His interpretation of why research finds that married people are happier is that it’s not necessarily due to the married state producing their happiness, but rather that being a happy person by nature leads to being married because happy people are more attractive spouses. He adds that biochemistry is only one aspect of happiness and that psychological and sociological factors also contribute so that “somebody born with an average of level five happiness [on a scale of ten] would never dance wildly in the streets. But a good marriage should enable her to enjoy level seven from time to time, and to avoid the despondency of level three.”

Ultimately, Harari notes that from the times of Apollo (thousands of years BCE) it was believed that “the average person is ignorant of his true self, and is therefore likely to be ignorant of true happiness.” Moreover, “the main question is whether people know the truth about themselves,” and we have no evidence that contemporary people have any better understanding of that truth than those from ancient time had.

Oddly enough, Harari explains that Buddhism has elevated happiness to a position of higher importance than most religions and has studied its essence and causes for centuries. What Buddhism has concluded is that happiness is ephemeral and chasing happiness is the root of suffering. Therefore, Buddhists make every effort to detach themselves from their impermanent feelings and try to stop pursuing them. You live in the moment, which means accepting your feelings without craving any of them. Thus, true happiness is independent of our inner feelings. The relentless pursuit of particular feelings is a misery trap.

Since this is a blog about Doc Martin, I want to bring this discussion back to some of these issues as they impact the show. Let’s dispense with the subject of Buddhism first. From the earliest episodes of the show we have been aware of the Buddhas in Martin Ellingham’s office, and now and then those Buddha figurines are handled with some prominence. Edith notices one of the Buddhas when she’s in Martin’s office and recollects that they were together when he bought it. Soon after that we see him separate out that Buddha from the rest of his possessions being loaded onto a moving van and place it in the backseat of his car. It isn’t long before the rocky ride to catch up to Louisa causes a bottle of vodka to smash into the Buddha, yet the figurine remains in the car even as Louisa and the baby are seated with it in the backseat. No one mentions it, however. And now, in S8, we have the Vicar ask Martin if he practices Buddhism.

I speculated about some possible explanations for the Buddhas in a previous post, and I remain a bit unsure if there is any real meaning behind them. I hate to make too much of something that could simply be what could be called a MacGuffin, or a thing of value that declines in importance but may reappear later in the story. I really don’t know what the purpose of the Buddhas in this show is, but it’s fun to find a way to apply them, so here goes:

When Martin is flummoxed by why people always have to be happy and has trouble figuring out why it should matter if he’s happy, the reason could be that he has a psychological impediment to knowing his own feelings, and that he has repressed his desire to be happy because of his childhood and his parents’ obvious disregard for his happiness. Or the whole subject of pursuing happiness, which Louisa considers important, is being depicted as a fruitless endeavor, as Buddhism teaches. By S7 he has given up his clocks, which used to be a source of pleasure (or at least accomplishment and sublimation). His self-abnegation might be a sign that he wants to detach from some of his worldly things in an effort to get more in touch with his feelings.

He has decided that his marriage to Louisa requires him to make her happy as much as he can, and he is shown making efforts to arrange lunches and dinners, accept her decisions on JH and her own future, and restrain his typical inclination to object to the car she wants to buy. I can’t say that he is necessarily more aware of his inner feelings, but his consistent argument against being concerned about pursuing happiness could be seen as aligning with Buddhist principles. Furthermore, I have to wonder if Louisa is actually happy, or happier than before, now that Martin is preferencing her over other things.

Insofar as marriage is concerned, we might be able to argue that Louisa’s innate sense of happiness that we witnessed in the early series helped to make her a more attractive prospect as a spouse, but that wouldn’t work in the case of Martin. However, it may be that because he has been with Louisa he is now having a reduced risk of depression and a heightened ability to be at a higher level of happiness. Thus we hear him say he’s glad to be in Portwenn at the end of S8. And Louisa’s pursuit of happiness has perhaps concluded because it was making her miserable.

Residing in a small, self-contained community with very little contact with the rest of the country, much less the world, makes life much less complicated. Staying in Portwenn gives Martin a greater chance of doing what he likes to do, which is taking care of medical problems of all kinds, while being married with a child. He can shut out the outside world for the most part, his expenses are low, and, under these circumstances he can be as happy as he could ever be. Louisa has found the “right” man, has had the child she’s wanted (and may have more), while continuing to live amongst the community that has been a family for her. She may not be deliriously happy; but she’s content.

There…I have solved every problem: happiness, their marriage, why they want to stay in Portwenn, the possible significance of the Buddhas, the possible reason for the departure of clocks from Martin’s world. Done! 🤭 😜

 

 

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.