Daily Prompt: Ripped Into the Headline*

Write about something that happened over the weekend as thought it’s the top story on your local paper.

Photographers, artists, poets show us something from your WEEKEND.

It began innocently enough in the M household.  “June Gloom” was in full force and the family ate a late breakfast of eggs and sausage washed down with coffee, though for the toddler, it was a glass of chocolate almond milk, which had been recommended as a replacement for regular milk due to certain food sensitivities.

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The ‘festivities’ began shortly after the dishes were put away and everyone settled in for a relaxing Sunday.  First Mr. M turned on the television set after Little M announced that he wanted “MI5” to play on the screen.  And so Season 8, episode 7 of MI5/Spooks began.  Halfway through the episode, as Lucas North berated and bullied a young 17-year old who had infiltrated a Hindu sect,  Mr. M was observed shouting and grumbling back at Mr. North, admonishing him about being “too hard on the kid.”

This was followed by the finale episode of Season 8 of the same show in question.  Mr. M, exhausted from his one-sided exchange with Mr. North (who wasn’t available for comment), was unable to follow the storyline as Mr. North “lost it” after CIA operative and Nightingale co-conspirator (and erstwhile bed-mate), Sarah Caulfield, lost her life.  Mr. M was actually observed drifting off to sleep on the sofa despite the tense musical score and a building exploding onscreen.

However, when the end credits rolled, Mr. M was heard saying that he would review the episode at a later time after he’d finished processing Mr. North’s “misplaced anger issues.”  Mrs. M suggested that maybe Mr. North was simply grieving the death of someone he loved though Mr. M admitted that he was not a fan of Miss Caulfield’s “frozen face.”

“Lucas North,” he aded, “I have no problem with.  He channels anger very well.”

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After a very late lunch, Little M announced that he wanted to watch “The Hobbit” on the screen and this request was promptly acknowledged.  Almost towards the end of the movie, Little M was later observed to appear distressed as Mr. Thorin Oakenshield took a beating from the white orc Azog.  Little M was heard saying again and again, “Poor Richard-baby” even after “the angry birds” took the beaten up Mr. Oakenshield on top of a crag.

All this, to the horror of Mrs. M, who quickly denied ever teaching Little M to say such a thing as “poor Richard-baby,” however she suspects that Mr. M might be involved in this conspiracy.  She also added that Little M “was simply sympathizing in Rich-, I mean, Thorin’s plight.”

Mr. Oakenshield was not available for comment.

Fortunately for this loving family, June Gloom finally lifted and they all turned off the television set, but only after Little M requested Mrs. M to sing the song “Misty Mountains” by Neil Finn as the end credits of “The Hobbit” rolled.  They then went outside of the house to enjoy some much-deserved pool time and raking of the yard before Mr. M indulged in another viewing of Strike Back with Mr. John Porter.

Apparently, it was just another Richard Armitage day in this unsuspecting household, though Mr. M was overheard saying that he was not a fan of Mr. Armitage.

Mr. Armitage, however, was unavailable for comment.

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*My apologies to non-Richard Armitage fans out there.

Daily Prompt

Sparkhouse Character Study: Andrew Lawton

It’s only been a month since I’ve first seen the BBC miniseries Sparkhouse, courtesy of some wonderful people on Youtube who have posted all the episodes online, and my first viewing left me confused.  Andrew Lawton’s character was such a whiny coward that I was tempted to fast forward past many of his scenes just to get to the parts where Richard Armitage’s character John Standring dominated the screen.

My first viewing was a bit haphazard, I admit.  I missed a few segments and probably never really saw the entire thing from beginning to end, and proceeded to the conclusion that Andrew was a complete ass.  How could he be married and still want Carol at the same time?  How could he be so selfish as to ruin Carol and John’s big day by announcing that Lisa was Carol’s daughter and that he was the father.  And really, the biggest question of all, how could he leave her at the altar after he’d promised her that they’d get married?

By the third viewing, my point of view started to shift a bit.  By the fourth viewing, it completely shifted.

Andrew, I’ve discovered, was a gentleman through and through.  Albeit a cowardly gentleman, but a gentleman just the same – at least in his mind.

Now before you stone me, hear me out.

He knew Carol since they were little children, and though he never noticed that she was pregnant at twelve (only that she wasn’t allowed out of the house to play with him that one summer), they were both devoted to each other like best friends usually are.  So they loved each other and snogged like crazy up in that ruined farmhouse on stormy nights, but as he told Becky, his wife, when she was about to break the news about Lisa’s parentage on Carol and John’s wedding day, he and Carol never had sex because “she couldn’t.”  Not after what her father had done to her.

Now, any man who actually respects a woman’s choice to say no to something she’s not comfortable doing for whatever reason – I’m on my period.  I don’t like you that way.  I’m feeling a bit bloated. I’ve got a headache.  My father raped me when I was twelve and I got pregnant so no, no sex at all because it grosses me out – is, in my book, a saint.  And Andrew respected her decision for years, it seems.

Who knows?  Did he feel the urge at sixteen?  Seventeen?  Eighteen? And yet he never pushed her all that time.  He respected her decision to say no.  He loved her so much to put his own needs aside to make sure she was alright.

When he learns that Carol is marrying John for his money so that she can fix up the farm and avoid losing tenancy, he suggests helping her out by getting a loan.  He is distressed to learn that she will be having sex with John, knowing just how she feels about sex.  Remember that they’ve never had sex together, ever.  He respected her decision then when they were teen-agers, and believe me, with hormones raging, that must have meant a LOT of self-control.  No wonder he told John that bit about making Carol into a prostitute and “what does that make you?”

And it’s actually a valid question.

When you trade money (whether it’s for lease payments, repairs to the farm, or a pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes) for sex, partnership, the prospect of having kids (though “not right away, but eventually”) or being with someone you-honestly-don’t-really-care-for-in-that-way-other-than-what-he-brings-to-the-table, it’s actually called…wait for it…prostitution.

And Andrew was actually right.

At The Fleece a few years earlier, when Carol asks John if he’d like to “shag,” he says yes, albeit a bit in shock, though this was their first “date”.  If anyone ever asked me if I wanted to shag him on the first date while his ex-girlfriend frolicked about in the dance floor close by, no matter how much I liked him, I’d probably look around and make sure I wasn’t being punked.  Sure, given a few glasses of wine or bottles of beer, I would have done it, but it wouldn’t have been something I’d base a long-term relationship on.

Now I know John does not know anything about the abuse Carol’s father had inflicted on her, but his immediate “yes” to her ‘shag’ question puts his own character into question.

The one scene that finally put Andrew Lawton in a much better light (at least to me, at this moment) than John Standring was the scene outside the registry office in Hallifax, where Andrew tells Carol that Lisa knew who her real mother was, for she’d seen her birth certificate, and that Lisa had also figured out that he, Andrew, was her father.  This was something he actually told Becky earlier that Lisa would be better off believing this fabrication rather than the truth that her own grandfather, Richard Bolton, was her real father.  Ewww…

Andrew didn’t have to do what he did, but probably remembering the horror he had felt when he first learned that Lisa was Carol’s daughter by none other than her father (and not being able to do anything about it without having Carol and Lisa end up in foster homes and the family losing the farm) prompted him to spare Lisa the same torrent of guilt and shame Carol would have felt then.  It was bad enough for Carol to have gone through such hell.  Another thing entirely to have the innocent daughter go through such knowledge as well.

And knowing that from that time onwards, Carol would be sleeping with a man she did not love for Lisa’s sake and so they could have a home, probably left Andrew so impotent, so useless that he couldn’t even live with himself if he couldn’t extricate her from the mess she’d buried herself under.

And when she told him to go away after he begged her to run away with him, it was the look in Carol’s eyes that told him she’d accepted her fate.  She’d married someone she didn’t love to save the farm and give her daughter a home.  She had made her choice, no matter how awful.  It’s one thing to be married to a man you know will do the right thing and not cut corners, it’s another to actually love the man…

I think that Andrew felt responsible for the path that Carol found herself in.  When he stood her up at the registry office five years earlier to please his parents (or maybe because he was just too weak and too young to stand up to them – come to think of it, he’d always lived a privileged existence, never having to work, and if his parents told him they’d stop supporting him, it’s enough to give one pause, really), that decision led her to this path now – a path that meant she agreed to marry someone else to be able to live a life that would be more dignified than the one she’d had in Leeds.  It gave her her home back, though the circumstances were less than ideal.

And all this, the result of that one moment of weakness and cowardice on his part.  A decision he decides to make up for by begging Carol to move away with him.  But it’s a case of too little too late, an unfortunate conclusion he reaches to that prompts him to do what he does that same night.

So please forgive me if this post isn’t about John Standring and how wonderful he was for being there for Carol, for giving her what she needed when Andrew could not.  But just as circumstances beyond their control caused Catherine and Heathcliffe to be apart in Wuthering Heights, so it is with Carol and Andrew in Sparkhouse.

One act of cowardice on Andrew’s part set the stage for Carol’s life to unfold the way it did, and from the time they reunited five years later, nothing Andrew could do could ever undo the first stone he had cast upon the water.

Yet for all his childhood cowardice, Andrew’s final act of taking the responsibility of being known as Lisa’s father, leaving the truth to be known only by another person other than himself – Carol – at least gives Lisa hope for a better life without guilt or shame.

And that, to me, makes him a true gentleman and a bittersweet hero to this tragic tale of doomed love.

Addendum:  Clearly I’ve had way too much time on my hands to write all this when I should be sleeping.  I actually LOVE John Standring’s character so his character study should be coming up soon, and I promise I’ll be nice.  Just need a few more viewings before I do pen it!

AI hope you enjoyed this little character study, and I would love to hear your thoughts!

Northbound Train

I’ve recently discovered a gem of a period drama called “North and South” on BBC while browsing through fan videos on Youtube featuring, well, period dramas.  It’s a guilty pleasure of mine to see clips of movies I’ve yet to see like “Becoming Jane” and “Wives and Daughters” or even movies that I have seen, like “Pride and Prejudice” with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen.

It was actually during this time a few years ago that I first discovered fan videos of Matthew that led me to other pieces of his work like “Spooks/MI5” and “Little Dorrit”.

And so about two months ago, I found myself looking for the dance scene from “Becoming Jane” where a sad-looking Anne Hathaway dances with some sad-looking bloke, and then her face lights up when James McAvoy dances right next to her (honestly, if James McAvoy started dancing next to me, and then with me, my face would light up, too – hubby be damned).

Then I clicked on a ‘related video’ entitled “North and South train ending” and was so riveted by the exchange between a magnificent man named John Thornton and a beautiful woman named Margaret Hale that their kiss at the end totally took my breath away. Really.

That same evening, I watched all four hours of the BBC drama on Youtube, even though North & South was actually on my Netflix queue already, and lucky for me, I got to see the unedited US version, which I much prefer anyway.

The next evening, I told hubby all about it and he proceeded to watch it on Youtube (on the big screen this time as we have Youtube streaming on our Blu-ray player) till about one in the morning.  The next morning, he told me that he had gotten only to the part of the train scene when they kissed and he couldn’t find the rest of it.

“I didn’t get to see them going back to the mill and all that,” he said.  I had the unfortunate job of informing him that what he had seen was actually the end of the mini-series, and after hearing that, he was quite disappointed, poor chap.

But I was quite happy he liked it.  He’s a union type of man and loved the parts of the cotton gin and the mill and how it showed real people with real jobs and real problems.

Anyway, I digress.  What I’m trying to say is that my return to writing again has been prompted by this character named John Thornton, and while I am not tackling any sequels to Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South” (which, by the way, is a wonderful book!), it’s the characterization of the actor, Richard Armitage, that’s to blame for my return to my pen, or in this case, to my keyboard, to write out the stories that have been populating inside my head for years.

And for that, Mr. Armitage, I am eternally grateful.  Writing, after all, has kept me out of trouble since high school (after that unfortunate incident with the floating papers that made its way into the hands of a single, ultra religious and conservative teacher that led to me being taken to the guidance counselor and to the principal, who proceeded to remove me from drama club and personally dropped me off at the writers club, thank you very much!) and at present as well.

I’ve probably seen this mini-series about three times now to fully understand the story and even though I’ve read the book as well (the comic strip incorporates Gaskell’s words with the final caption) I still cry when I see this ending.  When she takes his hand, her index finger slipping around his and then she brings his hand to her lips, yes, I cry every fricking time it’s ridiculous.