As another year draws to a close, it's sort of expected for blogs to sign off with some relevant thoughts and reflections on the past 12 months and those that know me will be fully aware that I'm a sucker for tradition. Having said that, this Christmas has seen a significant departure from the norm at blog HQ. Apart from the 'Call the Midwife' special and in the absence of 'The Great Escape' from every channel's offerings, a collective decision was made to indulge in some personal programming and have a massive blow-out on BBC Boxed Sets instead.
It started with 22 hours of 'Line of Duty', not consumed in one session you understand, and has just ended with both series of 'Happy Valley' Yes, it did feel a bit like work in quite a few places, because all probation staff recognise most of the story lines and characters, but oh doesn't Calderdale and that magnificent millstone grit just look wonderful? Surely the series is sponsored by the Yorkshire Tourist Board, even though the behaviour of some of the inhabitants might be a tad scary for some?
Like many I suspect, I've always loved a good crime drama since growing up on Lockhart, Dixon, Barlow, Watt, Fancy Smith and Bert Lynch. Of course there's been many since and Sergeant Cawood is but the latest to don a uniform as part of a very long and illustrious pedigree of gripping British police drama. I know it's only a story, but I just can't help mentioning that any guy coming out on licence from 8 years of a determinate sentence would almost definitely be a MAPPA case and therefore unlikely to be AWOL for very long before considerable effort was put into being apprehended and returned to prison. But I'm not a scriptwriter.
And there's the rub, probation never seems to get a fair outing in drama and even in 'Line of Duty' we all had to cringe at the 'offender manager's' hostel visit that got him a well-deserved kick in the goolies. Probation just seems too hard to portray and we all remember the dreadful 'Public Enemies' series in 2012 which thankfully never got repeated. 'Hard Cases' from back in 1988 was better, but before that you have to go back to the late 1960's and 'Probation Officer' to get any reasonable portrayal of believable Probation practice.
I sympathise with screen writers though as the pace of change is so great. I couldn't help but be amused at the 'front desk' scenes in 'Happy Valley' and am reminded of the expression 'what are those grandad?' It's sobering to reflect that as we come to the end of 2017, I'm told there isn't a single police station in Wakefield city centre, let alone a 'front desk', the very home and administrative HQ of the West Yorkshire force.
Ironically, the 'nick' portrayed in 'Happy Valley' closed several years ago, along with other stations all down the Calder Valley, but in a neat twist, was therefore available to the film production company. I think Sergeant Cawoods former station at Sowerby Bridge is still available to live in following its recent sale.
It's almost certainly too late to get a decent portrayal of what probation was all about and I'll have to be content with waiting for another trip to the 'Happy Valley' scheduled for 2019. In the meantime, lets enjoy 2018.
Happy New Year!