The Horror of Pobol y Cwm

I am a faithful admirer of the Welsh language soap, Pobol y Cwm, shown daily on S4C, but this week’s episodes are reaching a  level of bloody melodrama which is trying even my forgiving eye – and stomach.  It is hard not to snigger as the wonderfully saturnine Richard Lynch (who plays reforming bad boy, Garry Monk) starts dragging the corpse of his rival, Kevin (Iwan Roberts) into hiding as the police buzz at the door and partner, Sheryl (Lisa Victoria), who has clocked Kev with an iron (because he raped her the day before) has hysterics. The actors must be having a hard time taking all this seriously.  And this strand is being woven in with another about Macs (Rhys Bidder), raped by a nasty psycho, and now revealed to have Hepatitis B, possibly infecting half the cwm, with whom he has, for one weird reason or another, had sex.

It has made me think about why all soaps seem to go down this particular drain eventually. East Enders is unwatchable now because of it.  It is a degeneration of the storytelling which can make soaps so entertaining into something daft and even a bit pornographic.  I don’t mind the dark themes – after all human life is full of suffering and we all lose what we love, often as a result of our own bad behaviour – and in some ways soaps are more truthful about our lives than romantic comedies or thrillers. But there are limits!  Or rather, there are ways of developing stories without resorting always to the same old melodramatic tropes.  I just dread watching tonight’s episode: supposing Kev starts banging in the boot of the car he’s been dumped in, and comes back to life to wreak terrible revenge?  I don’t think I can face it.

I have a suggestion for the PyC production team: bring in a new character, a mysterious Tibetan Buddhist (plenty of them in Wales) who wants to set up a Buddhist centre in the village, and transform all their rage into equanimity by teaching them to meditate.  The village divides into those who like the idea and those who are against the thought of non-Welsh-speaking immigrants arrogantly displacing the power of the chapel.  One of the local girls falls for the lama and he resists the temptation for only so long, and then….oh hang on I am going down the same old road myself!  Conflict, battles, hatred, murder, remorse, misery, loss and suffering.  It’s true: equanimity just doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to gripping drama.  And of course I will watch, just to see how bad it can get.

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The New Guys on the Block

ImageI had a rest day on Sunday, having been racing around and doing my OU final marking and rewriting screenplay for eighth (and not the last) time.  I was sitting in my cabin reading ‘The New Confessions’ by  William Boyd  and drinking wine when I heard a whickering noise.  Immediately I was on my feet and a good thing too, because here they were, the new ponies, cantering down my drive, nostrils flaring, three hopeful sheep close behind them.  I had left my gate open and they had already escaped from a holding field somewhere (Nigel or is it Lewis, will you put a fastening on that bloody gate?) and, had I been closeted with my computer marking, my hedge/fruit trees/veggie patch would have been trampled/consumed/desecrated.  I soon chased them out with shouts and waving arms.

Later that evening I stood at my gate and watched the high-spirited newcomers galloping around.  They are funny little horses, these Welsh ponies, usually white or grey, with big flared nostrils, not pretty but animated.   When it rains or snows they just stand there, immobile, enduring, until their owner (breeding them is a hobby round here) either moves them or sells them on.  I always ask Edna, my neighbour, whose husband is one of the fanciers, what he does with them.  She told me the first year that ‘he puts them in tack’ which I took to mean they were tucked away in some nice warm stable for the winter.  But doubt set in when I was told how little they earned on the market.  Could it be that he sold them to overseas buyers for horsemeat?  I went hot and cold at the thought of my stolid companions through the long dreich winter, being minced up for burgers.  Edna is unspecific and evasive, so I don’t know the truth.

I only know that, at the winter solstice, when I walked out in the pitch dark to stretch my legs after a long meditation session, I could hear them rustling near me as I skirted the lake.  Perhaps with senses heightened from meditation, I began to sense them perceiving me, examining me curiously and in a not particularly friendly manner.  It was a clouded, moonless night and I could see nothing in the dark.  My heart started to thump.  I was scared.  It seemed that the darkness was revealing their true agenda.  I walked as quickly as I safely could back through my gate.

I have had more respect for them since that.  Last night I heard them galloping, whinnying and neighing on and off throughout the whole night, disturbed no doubt to find themselves so suddenly transported to this open common, with kites, curlews, coots and lapwings for company. And me of course.  I raked up the grass cuttings from a strimming session and put them out on the common for them to eat.  They glared at me balefully, clearly wishing to get over the cattle grid and back to my rich grass, not be content with my offering.  But they did eat the cuttings.