Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cranford Episode Two

Dr Harrison wakes late for Church and hurries there, only to find the service in full swing and a rousing hymn being sung. Dr. Harrison is trying to make a good impression, especially on Sophy and her father and is extremely put out when he finds that he's late.

Neither the congregation nor the rector himself are best pleased with the late arrival. For his tardiness, Dr. Harrison gets the collection plate shoved in his face and a disapproving look from Miss Pole. But every cloud has a silver lining and Sophy smiles at him and little Walter gives a friendly wave.

On the way home from church the Jenkyns and Mary are invited to dinner at Captain Brown's house as they have a guest, a softly spoken Scot, Major Gordon (Alistair Petrie). It transpires that he had asked Jessie to marry him when they were both younger, but she had declined due to her sisters poor health. Nevertheless, Major Gordon and Jessie sing, a little tunelessly, but at least they both finish at the same time. It is apparent to all the ladies that Major Gordon still has huge affection and love for Jessie, unfortunately Captain Brown bumbles along not noticing any attraction at all between his daughter and guest.

Miss Caroline Tompkinson was overcome in the store, suffering giddiness and palpitations, which necessitates a visit from Dr Harrison who listens to Caroline's fast beating heart (but only when he's near) and doesn't notice that she fancies him rotten.

He doesn't diagnose anything that a short rest wouldn't solve and she and her sister are now under the delusion that he'd be a good match for her.

Miss Matty has bought a new carpet, but to prevent the colours bleaching away in the sun, she and Mary spend time sewing sheets of newspaper together to lay over the patches of carpet that are directly exposed. Jessie arrives clutching a posy of Anemones. Mary consults that book of secret love flower codes (or something like it) and it appears that Anemones signify "love ever steadfast". This delights Jessie and the ladies, because the normally slightly ragged around the edges looking Jessie has suddenly blossomed with happiness and looks transformed.

Harry's Father Job is nowhere to be found and his Mother is sick after having had her baby, and the rest of the children need to be fed. Harry bribes his younger brother (who "doesn't like touching udders") with the promise of a bun of his very own on Friday if he'll milk Mrs. Forrester's beloved cow and take the milk back to his Mother and the baby while he goes to find food on the Hanbury estate.

Harry's nameless brother completes his task, but in his haste to get the milk back home, while taking a few surreptitious gulps himself, he forgets to fasten the gate behind him.

The following morning, Mrs Forrester arrives to milk the cow and to her shock and horror, finds it missing. She jogs into town at quite a fair lick for a lady of her age and rallies help.
Major Gordon and Captain Brown search the fields looking for Bessie the cow and are informed that shouting "Bessie Dearest" is more likely to find the cow than simply Bessie. Swallowing their pride and their dignity, both men screech the offending phrase lustily.

Eventually the poor bovine creature is found, to Mrs. Forrester's dismay, wallowing in a pit of lime and mooing plaintively.

Major Gordon and Jessie return to the village for help in pulling Bessie from her limey pit of doom. Miss Matty remarks that Major Gordon has his arm around Jessie, to which Miss Deborah replies, "that is exactly where it ought to be"!

En route Jessie and Major Gordon stop in a leafy glade and Major Gordon proposes to the delighted Jessie, but due to the fact that he is shortly to leave to go to India, he wants to be married sooner rather than later. As Jessie is still in mourning for her sister and is dismayed that she would have to leave her father, she mournfully declines and both she and Major Gordon are quietly devastated.

As Mrs. Forrester's cow sustained a large amount of hair loss and no doubt chemical burns from the lime, Captain Brown suggests that the best course of action would be to put the cow down. This causes great consternation to Mrs. Forrester, so the second best solution is to dress the cow in flannel pyjamas, to much comedic effect and to the delight of Cranford's children, who wonder how the cow is milked. Answer: it has a flap at the bottom!

The day of Lady Ludlow's garden party arrives and all the ladies assemble in their finery, on the common, to attend. Mary is forced to travel with her quite young, very tiresome and permanently pregnant step-mother (Finty Williams) and is entreated to hold the baby, as she will look so much better with a baby's face next to hers. Mary looks royally pissed off and that being jammed in next to Miss Pole would be far more preferable.
The Hutton sisters are also waiting to on the common to attend, but Sophy is fretting that Walter is a bit hoarse and is on the brink of staying at home to look after him, when she catches sight of Dr Harrison and decides that Walter isn't quite so ill after all.

When Dr Harrison rides up to say hello, he also offers Walter a ride on his horse to the Garden Party, which Sophy allows and Walter clambers up next to Dr Harrison eagerly.The Garden party is in full swing, with Ladies eating Ice Cream, children racing around and Egg and Spoon races to be organised. Miss Matty, after having dispensed some eggs and set the children off on the Egg and Spoon race (which Walter wins!), she is distracted by a distinguished gentleman (a subdued Michael Gambon), who gently shakes her by the hand and then departs, leaving Miss Matty shaken and in a strangely quiet mood that Miss Deborah comments on. Miss Matty doesn't mention the interlude between her and Mr. Holbrook and instead blames her quietness on the "superfluity of dainties" to which she is not accustomed.

Mrs Forrester and Miss Pole have news, they fly across the grass, causing people to look up in fright at the scary sight of two middle aged ladies sprinting across the lawn. Unfortunately while Miss Pole is getting her breath, the slower Mrs Forrester arrives and blurts out the juicy gossip they have just overheard: the railway is coming to Cranford! Miss Pole is annoyed, she'd been building up to that!
A delegation of Amazons search out Captain Brown trying to have a quiet cup of tea and demand to know the truth of the matter. Captain Brown proudly affirms that the railway is to come and that he is to be the manager for the project. The ladies are aghast at the news and his betrayal. It's a wonder that the man doesn't instantly expire with the looks of horror, scorn and disgust being scowled his way.

Gently, Jessie berates Captain Brown about not telling her and when he states that his new job will take him away from town and she will be alone. Jessie realises that this means that her rejection of Major Gordon was a mistake and when she hesitantly claims that she could have been married, the self absorbed Captain Brown dismisses the idea and settles back down to his tea.

Miss Matty and Miss Deborah reach home and Deborah is fuming at the news, claiming that it will bring all manner of undesirables, rather nastily singling out "the Irish" for her particular ire. The anger that she feels has brought on a headache and she goes upstairs, getting a little giddy towards the top and goes into her room.
Mary, Martha and Miss Matty hear a loud thud from Deborah's room and Mary and Martha race up the stairs and find that Miss Deborah has collapsed. Mary keeps calm and tells Miss Matty to fetch the doctor.

Dr Harrison has been called to Reverend Huttons house as Walter is ill. His earlier hoarseness has developed into very nasty bout of Croup. Reverend Hutton is silently devastated and Sophy is distraught at the thought that she could have prevented Walter's illness by staying home instead of going to the Garden Party.

Meanwhile at the Jenkyns household, Dr. Morgan gently tells Miss Matty that Miss Deborah is dead. Miss Matty is utterly shocked and saddened. Judi Dench communicates the utter devastation she feels in a simple silent scene and the audience is also completely saddened by the loss of Miss Deborah. The series will be poorer for Eileen Atkins departure.There is no better news at Reverend Huttons, despite Sophy's, Dr. Harrison's and Dr Morgan's ministrations, as well as Reverend Huttons most fervent prayers, little adorable Walter dies. The doctors leave as the family say good bye to him. Kimberly Nixon was coming across as a bit of a shallow actress, with nothing to do but fuss over Walter and simper at Dr Harrison until now, but her desolation and sorrow at Walters death convinces otherwise.
Miss Matty sits in the parlour gazing at the seat her sister used to rule the Cranford court from as if, were she to gaze long enough, that Miss Deborah would resume her throne and continue to reign once more.

Miss Matty tells Mary that Deborah disapproved of people called her Matty and much rather preferred Matilda and she laments that no one will call her Matilda again.
Mary leaves Miss Matilda to her thoughts and Miss Matty, remains in her chair overwhelmed by grief.

Another fine episode, with the early comedy being leavened by tragedy. Miss Deborah was a formidable character given real depth and affection by Eileen Atkins and will be sorely missed.

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