My hopes and predictions for season two of Prodigal Son (when I finally get to watch it).

I thought we could do with a more whimsical subject after the last miseryfest of a blog and it’s been a very long week (check on your friends with strong willed daughters who don’t like home schooling,  they are not okay).  So I figured I’d cheer myself by writing about a subject that is very dear to my heart. 

What’s your favourite (it’s not misspelled, I’m British, live with it) show?  I’ll tell you mine.  It’s ‘Prodigal Son’.  In a year that has, truthfully, seen me sat on the floor sobbing because my four-year-old shouted at me when her learning assault course wasn’t exactly right, this show really made me smile and that has given it a disproportionate sense of value.  Made yet greater by the fact that my husband announced that he didn’t like it, so it was elevated yet further to the status of ‘Mummy’s little treat’.  To be indulged in only when the house is empty and I can curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea in my hand and an excited little ‘Eeep!’ in my heart.  

If you’ve not watched it, it’s about Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), the son of a serial killer, Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), who grows up to be a manic and traumatized criminal profiler, who solves crimes while battling PTSD. If you think that sounds rather dour, you’d be dead wrong.  (Equally if you haven’t watched, don’t read this, it’s overflowing spoilers). If this show was a dessert, it would be a knickerbocker glory, and I would be in need of a whole new wardrobe.  ‘Prodigal Son’ is infused with a joyful, deranged exuberance, Sheen plays the world’s most lovable psychopath, while Payne flies from hand tremors to one liners with the skill of a circus performer on the trapeze.   I love this show.  Love it.  The fact that I am intensively parenting my way through a second British lockdown in the knowledge that season 2 is showing the US, as we speak, and I won’t get to watch it for months, feels like a monumental injustice (I hear it’s on hulu, I don’t even know what that is).  This blog is a self-indulgence.  An opportunity to think about what I might have to look forward to when it finally crosses the pond. 

Where to start?  So much to say and so much space on the page….. 

I guess the obvious place to start is how on earth is Malcolm going to wiggle his way out of this one?  We left him framed for the murder of his former girlfriend’s assassin.  We know how he was framed and, indeed, Malcolm has been able to track down the real culprit but he won’t turn her in, for she is the girl in the box herself.  The one he was told didn’t exist and who has haunted his dreams and hallucinations for much of this first series.  Can Edrisa (Keiko Agena), the medical examiner, possibly pull another cat out of the bag?  Or will the girl in the box turn herself in for the sad eyed boy who’s tortured himself, for most of his life, with the thought that he couldn’t save her?  I know what I would do if I was her.  I’m hoping it’s the latter.  I think Malcolm deserves for someone to save him for a change.  

Of course, then there’s Gil (Lou Diamond Philips (how cool is this guy?))  in hospital having been stabbed in the stomach.  Obviously, he can’t die.  But then stranger things have happened (that horse becoming pope (if you get that, you’re my people)).  I wouldn’t usually worry but, just before being stabbed in the stomach, it looked as though Gil might finally be getting it together with Jessica Whitly (Bellamy Young), Malcolm’s mother.  There’s a beautiful poetry to that and a kind of justice in seeing Malcom finally get the parents he deserves but…but…it looks like a happy ending and the trouble with happy endings is that they usually come at the end.  The end of what though?  The end of Gil is unacceptable.  Possibly the end of Gil’s time in the police force?  That would be interesting and a new level of tension would be created with the arrival of a new team leader.  But what would Gil do with his retirement? Or maybe the path to true love has a few more bumps in road with the real happy ending can be found? 

We can’t possibly forget the potential fate of Malcolm’s sister, Ainsley Whitly (Halston Sage), we left her saying ‘What just happened?’  (as well she might, I was thinking the exact same thing, love, and I read the spoilers) having just brutally slashed a very bad man’s throat.  I’m not sure if there is any way that she can use a self-defense plea.  Is she going to be reunited with Daddy in prison?  Is she going to start hallucinating like Malcolm?  Are we going to start finding out about the repressed memories that she doesn’t yet know she has?  Can’t really remember anything about her Dad, huh?  We shall see. One way or another I see her storyline becoming a lot more interesting. 

Martin Whitly himself was left in the process of more or less stirring up a prison riot.  Michael Sheen was the big draw for me when I first turned on and he is epic (not enough to get me to watch ‘Good Omens’ though, It was my favourite book ever when I was a teenager and I’m just so scared in case I don’t like it).  Just thinking about him saying ‘My boy’ starts the little ‘Eeep!’ building in my belly and makes the smile spread across my face.  But I find I have no idea what to wish for. Further exploration of the dichotomy between his apparent love for his family and his evident cruelty and psychopathy. More time to explore his relationship with Jessica? Obviously, more time with Malcom. Maybe just more? He’s brilliant.

What of the rest of the team?  My sincere hope for Dani (Aurora Perrineau) is that she doesn’t become romantically entangled with Malcolm.  I’m aware that this might be an unpopular view.  They are both beautiful people, who like each other, so obviously it must be true love.  Let’s just apply a tiny bit of emotional maturity to that for just a second.  Malcolm is an emotional mess.  There is no future in any relationship he has right now.  Yes, of course, it’s wonderful to think that that one special someone could kiss it all better but that simply isn’t true.  Dani may well be one of those people who long to fix a wounded soul but those people often break themselves in the process.  I think we can all, wholeheartedly, say that we want something better for her.  Not to mention the fact that she is an awesome character in her own right and does not deserve to be turned into a bit player in his story.  She hasn’t yet had her time to shine.  There is a lot more that can be done with Dani far beyond anything that we could achieved by turning her into a love interest.  Equally if she isn’t a fixer, then she’s excited by the crazy itself and that would be disasterous for them both, mutually assured destruction, she won’t help him heal, she’s throw fuel on the flames. Not because she means to but because she won’t be able to help herself. If that hasn’t convinced you, then I refer you back to my earlier point about happy endings, they come at the end for a reason.  Happiness is boring.  Not, of course, to those who are experiencing it, but definitely to those who are watching it.  Good narrative is based around tension and conflict, even if you are entirely sold on the Macolm/Dani story, the buildup will be far more interesting than the consummation, I promise you.  Personally, I think what Malcom needs right now is a friend and she has that written all over her. 

I hope we don’t find out JT’s (Frank Harts) name.  It’s too much fun not knowing.  I’m sure that we’ll run out of potential options eventually (unless it turns out to be Jamface Turtleneck, no one’s ever going to guess that).  I hope JT also gets to do a bit more.  He’s very likeable, and every show needs an everyman, but it seems unfair in the face of all these overblown characters that he’s so very normal.  I also hope he has a healthy baby, and one that sleeps well.  (I have two that still don’t.  They’re adorable, mostly, but if I could only find the off switch…) 

Then there’s Edresa,  her longing for Malcom is like a character in its own right, following him around vaporously, hanging on to his ankles when he tries to leave the room.  The writers have created more to her character than that but it often it comes back to swooning and making a tit out of her herself.  I really hope that series two finds her a nice boyfriend.  Maybe it’s because she reminds me of myself as a teenager and she’s awoken a weird sense of anxiety that maybe it’s not emotional maturity that has saved me from that kind of embarrassment in adult life and that, instead, it’s just the fact that I’ve only been single for about two months in all that time.  There but for the grace of god go I.  Poor, poor woman, please, please put her out of her misery and throw her a bone.  (No. That pun wasn’t intended but it’s far too good to take out now.  If you’re giggling like a child, you are also my people). 

And back to Malcolm.  Apart from getting out of a murder charge, what do I hope for Malcolm?  I would say that I wish he would find some inner peace but where would be the fun in that?  No, lots more juicy murders to solve.  That’s my wish for him.  That and digging up some more of his hidden talents, last season it was snake charming and ballet, maybe this season it can be hot wiring cars and shiatsu massage?  Because why the hell not?  Otherwise, while I am totally against his getting together with Dani, I would, instead, be interested in meeting some former girlfriends.  His sister said he hadn’t had a relationship in years, not never.  I do wonder what kind of girl would have stuck around with a boy who gets shackled to his bed each night for long enough to be called a ‘relationship’?  On the flip side, I do also hope that we can perve over him just a little bit less.  It must have been around the second or third time he was being hit on by a random supporting character that I started to think that maybe this was all getting just a little bit creepy. We are talking about a character who has a resident swooner.  I’m not sure I’ve seen this much attention drawn to character’s sexuality outside of James Bond.  Yes, yes, I had noticed, hard not to really, but the same could be said about my boobs and that doesn’t make the attention they’ve gotten over the years any less, well, creepy.  I can’t help but think that the poor boy has enough problems without adding sexual harassment to the list.  Just sayin’. 

Anyway, that’s quite enough of that.  Three pages devoted to a TV show must be some kind of record and I have to protect at least some of my dignity.  (‘Haha, what dignity?’  I hear you cry).  I have really enjoyed writing it though and it has really wetted my appetite for what is to come.   I have no idea when the second series of ‘Prodigal Son’ will finally wend its way over to the UK.  Until then, I’ll be waiting, with a little excited ‘Eeep!’ in my heart. 

On growing up with alcoholic parents, part 1: Dad

Four years ago, when my first-born child was just four months old. My father was admitted into hospital.  He’d had an epileptic fit.  He hadn’t had epilepsy before but, as an older man, he started to have ‘funny turns’ that would cost him a chunk of his memory.  This time he had a fit, several in fact, and eventually he aspirated some vomit and ended up on a ventilator.  They were quite worried about him.  He was more unwell, they said, than a man should have been for simply having had a fit and aspirated some vomit.  He was delirious and was eventually intubated.  We spent Christmas and New Year in the waiting room outside of the intensive care ward. I quietly researched the effects of alcohol withdrawal and worked out when we might begin to see an improvement.  I was spot on.  He was placed on anti-epileptics which meant that he shouldn’t drink.  As soon as he got home, he had a drink. 

A little over a year later he went into hospital again, this time with a urinary tract infection.  His brain checked out again and this time he picked up pneumonia.  I was told that, with no captain at the ship, the body was not able to fight the infection.  He was placed on end-of-life medication and he died.  Just before the twenty-week scan of my second pregnancy.  They had tried to ascertain the cause of his mental withdrawal but had been able to find no physical cause.  The only conclusion that could be reached was alcohol related brain damage. 

I loved my Dad.  If I let myself, I would ache with the loss of his eyes and his warm hands, the sound of his voice and the love he had for me.  The love he always had for me even when he was at his worst.  I was told once not to hate the man but to hate the disease, alcoholism, but alcohol is so mixed through my memories of my father that I hardly know how to tell them apart.  It wasn’t always bad and it wasn’t all bad even when it was.  I have a secure attachment style but I am insecure.  It is swings and roundabouts.  My Dad was not what you would imagine an alcoholic to be.  He was high functioning.  He had a job and friends and most people who knew him thought very highly of him but alcohol can do funny things to a person. 

The truth is that for a long time I didn’t know that my parents were alcoholics.  They lived normal lives, just ones that were soaked in alcohol at the end of the day.  It got worse after they stopped going out to work and my Dad become self-employed and worse again when my father’s parents died.  It was after that that I used the word, ‘alcoholic’, to them.  It wasn’t until much later that I used it within family circles.  Later still that I used it with friends and only now that I make it public.  It felt disloyal and unjust.  I told my Dad’s best friend that he died of pneumonia, it is on the death certificate.  ‘I didn’t know people died of that anymore’ he said.  How could I tell him?  What right did I have to destroy what he remembered of my father? If you ever read this Uncle Michael, I’m sorry.  I’ve wanted to call you a hundred times, but I can’t.  There is no straightforward path through all this, I am shutting down and baring up and breaking and wading through and drowning all at different times.  Even now, writing this as a form of therapy, I will not share it amongst family circles.  I fear how it will make them feel.  My father’s issues feel like shame.  My shame, his shame.  I don’t want them to be cross with me. 

When Dad first died, I was recommended a book written by the children of alcoholics.  I didn’t read it.  I felt like a fraud, complaining about nothing, my story couldn’t possibly compare to theirs.  But the more I think on it, the more I realise that the road has been far from smooth and that maybe it might be okay to admit that, while I loved him, my Dad hurt me very badly, and not just because he wouldn’t listen to the doctor’s advice. 

Ours was an argumentative household.  Alcohol drives extreme emotion.  I often felt like the piggy in the middle in my parents’ arguments.  I felt compelled to try and keep the peace; they thought it was all part of the fun. To me, it was always a matter of controlling my reactions, what I did could drive how well a situation unfolded. Mothers talk that way about their children. A well timed hug or distraction could keep Dad calm, an expression of anger or frustration could blow everything up.

My Dad was also a pass master at gaslighting.  Not because he meant to be, just because he couldn’t remember.  For a long time, even before I acknowledged how bad things were, I knew not to talk to him about anything important after midday.  When I still lived at home, he could say awful things and then deny them in the morning.  His rational brain would tell him that he’d never say such a thing.  He was quite right, he wouldn’t, not rational, not sober.  But under the influence, he would.  Then he’d accuse me of making things up, he’d tell me that I was unbalanced.  He’d follow me around the house relentlessly pressing an opinion on me until I would scream at him to stop, feeling overwhelmed and unheard and wondering if maybe he was right and I was unbalanced after all. 

There was a time when I was cooking dinner for my parents.  I was only about sixteen or seventeen and I was making a Chinese style watercress soup.  I dropped a handful in, without chopping it first, and it all clumped together, I should have reached for scissors but I was young and I panicked and I reached for one of Dad’s kitchen knives, the ones that he kept so carefully sharp, and tried to slice it against the side of the pan.  Dad went ballistic.  He stormed off up to bed, saying he was leaving us because of my appalling behaviour.  I was on my knees, sobbing, begging him to reconsider.  It was a mistake.  A silly mistake really, but that night is etched on my memory as one of the worst in my life, feeding my fear of failure and of making mistakes.  He didn’t leave but I was utterly broken for days afterwards.   I put myself back together because that’s what I do.  I’m an emotional girl but I’m resilient. I’ll get back up, every time, just you watch me.

Every Christmas we would have a party around lunchtime.  My parents would drink and not eat and once the house had cleared, they would open a bottle of champagne and we would open our presents.  After we’d opened our presents, they would fall asleep.  When they woke up, with their blood sugar somewhere down by their shoes, Dad would often be irritable.  One Christmas, I carefully tidied the living room while they were sleeping, put away all the presents.  I wanted to surprise them.  When Dad woke up, he didn’t notice, he flew into a rage over the state of the kitchen.  I tried and tried and tried to help and to placate but his anger wasn’t rational and I was ignored until eventually I lost my sh1t too.  Completely.  The worst Christmas ever.  I’m not proud of myself, but you can’t be the emotional regulator, of everyone, all the time.  It’s like a pressure valve that eventually has to blow.  

Once I moved out, things got easier.  I’m ashamed to say that I was probably at my happiest when they lived in Thailand for a year.  There were still problems, but they were only problems when we tried to spend time together.  We would invite them round, they’d try to turn up for dinner at midday, eventually when they realised we weren’t having it, they just started cancelling at the last minute.  Then complaining that we never invited them round.  We’d have blazing rows on the phone as Dad became less and less rational over everything from xenophobia to his attitude towards our extended family.  The relationship became more strained. 

But for all that, I loved him.  So very much.  In amongst the awful, there was wonderful.  The nights sat outside putting the world to rights, toasting french bread on the embers of the barbecue, eating it with cheese and washing it down with red wine.  Talking about everything and nothing, following the same star, as my father would say, even if we had very different paths to reach it.  The Dad that would do stupid magic tricks at my childhood parties, the one who supported me through teenaged breakups, the one I would call home to from university because mother would rather watch the TV than chat on the phone.   The Dad who would enlist boys to carry my bags up the stairs at halls (they didn’t even realise what he’d done until they were half way up the third flight of stairs).  He was like the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead.   When he was good, he was very, very good but when he was bad, he was horrid.   

For a long time, I thought I had nothing to complain about, not really.  I figured all this stuff was normal.  Maybe it is.  Maybe I’m just whining.  Maybe I shouldn’t complain.  But at least I have finally, got it off my chest. 

New beginnings

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills.’ – Ernest Hemingway 

Hello, good evening and welcome to my blog.  It’s a been a few long years since I last put fingertip to keyboard and the excitement is palpable.  It’s been so long that all the publications, I used to write for, no longer exist.  If you ever read the old blog, bless you, well done, I’ve no idea whether this will offer more of same because I can’t remember what I wrote about before.  An awful, awful lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.  The coming weeks and months are likely to be little more than a splurge of the inane ramblings of my mind.  A mind, that if you read, is likely to be exposed in all its glory.  I am nothing if not honest. 

The truth is that coronavirus has really worked a number on me.  In a matter of months, I’ve turned from a (mostly) happy yummy mummy who spent her days running around the dining table shouting ‘fee fi fo fum’  and making copious amounts of cloud dough, into a giant ball…no, that’s a lie… a teeny tiny, pint-sized ball of unfulfilled….(gesticulates wildly searching for a good word and settles upon….) EVERYTHING.  It’s like a kind of coviderangement has set in.  I have returned to my teenaged self, my head bursting with thoughts, and the only sane thing to do appears to be to write them all down before I explode. 

It is possible that some of this may be due to the fact that I have had the virus and, for me, it was a nasty cold.  No temperature, no breathlessness, just a blocked-up nose, a loss of sense of smell and a bit of a tickly cough.  While people younger than me are dying and suffering long term health implications, I had a cold.  I’m sure that there are probably far more like me, and I am in no way special, there is, nevertheless, a tremendous feeling of ‘there but for the grace’.   If I’m still here, whole and hale, I feel that allowing myself to continue to drift through life is no longer an option.  I need to embrace the possible. I need to embrace myself, right or wrong. Maybe the crazy girl was always here, maybe I just hid her away at the back of mind and now she’s come out to play again.  I do hope you like her because she doesn’t seem to want to go back. 

As a result, you can look forward to a feast of my thoughts and feelings on a multitude of different subjects.  I’m fairly sure that I should be working to build a ‘brand’, if I want people to pay me again, but I firmly believe that a good writer can write about anything, in any tone, that their client desires, so I’m not writing this to showcase what I can do.  It is entirely a self-indulgence, a therapy, if you will.  An opportunity to express myself. 

Welcome to me.