I’d Get Up With the Lark to Watch This!
Recently I went to stay with some good friends of mine who live just outside chilly Ballarat about an hour and a half north of Melbourne (while my Northern Hemisphere chums are sweltering in the heights of summer, we’re shivering down here!). The weather was frightful – gray and bleak. Not to mention that I was coming down with a nasty bug. So most of the few days that I was there, the female half of my friendly couple and I settled down in front of the DVD with the fire roaring and the jug never far from boiling to make a cup of tea. Tea is just the ticket in such frigid weather!
For most of that DVD time, my friend and I wallowed in some very old-fashioned entertainment. Chocolate box England full of charm and humor and emotion. Very girly stuff. I’m not at all surprised that the male half of my friendly couple retired to listen to heavy rock in his man cave!
My friend had the first series of Lark Rise to Candleford ready for us and once I’d watched the first episode I was hooked. This definitely falls into the gentle entertainment bracket. It’s set in two neighboring Cotswolds villages at the close of the 19th century. Lark Rise is a tiny hamlet, riddled by poverty, but also a place where people look out for their neighbors. Candleford is a market town eight miles away (one of the marks of this show is how often and how easily people walk that eight miles!), much more prosperous but mostly lacking the close personal bonds of Lark Rise.
There are four series (clearly I need to visit my friend again!), originally broadcast between 2008 and 2011. The story has two heroines. The first, young Laura Timmons (Olivia Hallinan) from Lark Rise, is offered a place working in the Candleford post office. The second is Laura’s cousin, the much more well-to-do Dorcas Lane (Julia Sawalha), who runs the post office, a position of great responsibility and public notice for a woman at this time. The events are told mainly through Laura’s eyes so that we see both the advantages and disadvantages of both places. Laura’s proud of where she comes from, although folk in Candleford are inclined to look down on the inhabitants of Lark Rise. Most of the drama of the show is centered on Dorcas, who is suffering a hopeless love for the married lord of the manor, Timothy Midwinter (Ben Miles).
Around these main characters cluster a whole host of fascinating people, from the eccentric ne-er- do-wells at Lark Rise to some of the less than admirable snobs who live in Candleford (the two sisters who run the drapery are a case in point!). One of the most interesting is Laura’s libertarian stonemason father Robert (Brendan Coyle) whose political views get him in frequent trouble with the largely conservative powers that be.
There’s a lovely benevolence to the atmosphere of this show, which doesn’t mean it skates over difficult subjects like class division, poverty, the rights of women, misplaced love. But when it has a political point to make, it makes it in a gentle way, and common sense and goodwill will usually find a way through. I’m absolutely sure it’s idealized as a social document, but that doesn’t lessen its entertainment value in the least.
As you can probably tell, this was just the ticket for a girl getting a cold in a cold, cold place. I look forward to checking out the second season very soon!