Sorry, guys. I’m too fibro-y for a proper post again this week. This is partly due to the heat, and partly due to the fact that I’m in the middle of adjusting my medication … although mostly due to the general cussedness that is fibromyalgia.
Here’s a top tip: don’t get fibro.
So I’m too tired to sit at a sewing machine tonight. In fact, I’m too tired to stand, or do anything that isn’t lie down and toy listlessly with my iPad or phone. So I’ve been catching up with The Doctor Blake Mysteries on iView. (Non-Australians, if there are any of you reading, I can’t help you find these.)
It’s taking me some time to get through these, not because they’re bad, but because they’re too good; most of the time I spend watching TV isn’t spent watching it at all, but listening to it while I sew. But the DBM have been too distracting to listen to while I sew, because I want to stop and watch them.
I know that some of my friends are fans of a good cozy mystery; Eszter and I spent some time at the last vintage social gabbing on about them. And I’m especially fond of mid-twentieth-century cozies. I started reading Agatha Christie in primary school, wolfed them down in year 7 when I had an easy access, and turned back to her again during the trauma of my last break-up. Kerry Greenwood I’ve been reading for nearly as long; I used to borrow my mother’s library books. I remember the old covers that used to have photographs on the cover (that may have been before they moved from McPhee-Gribble to Allen and Unwin, I don’t remember). The first one I read, I’m pretty sure, was Blood and Circuses. Dorothy Sayers came much later &emdash; once I was in my second attempt at university (long story). I wish I’d found her much earlier, truthfully. I love her Wimsey books entirely too much, although Phryne will always be my cool bohemian older sister, to whom I turn to for advice on life and effortless self-confidence. I’m still working on having a wardrobe fabulous enough for Phryne, although I’m getting closer.
I am old enough to remember Craig McLachlan as a teenage heartthrob, with curly blond hair. I see none of that young man in the serious and quietly damaged Doctor Blake.
It’s 1959, and Lucien Blake is taking over his dead father’s medical practice in country Victoria (Ballarat), as well as his role as police surgeon. He’s far too clever by half, and chafing at the constraints of small town life by getting far too involved in solving the murders of the victims that cross his examining table.
So far what we know about Lucien is that he was in Singapore when it fell to the Japanese, and that he was a POW. It has been excellent to see someone from the Pacific Theatre deal with the aftermath of the war in a way I cannot express. I was geekily obsessed with WWII as a child, but mostly the European Theatre. It’s hard to get excited about Australian history, generally, but I think there is a lot to get excited about. It’s just harder to find good resources because most books deal with European history. Even now, we still look back to Europe, as well as to America (a relationship very much fostered in the Pacific Theatre of WWII) in order to define ourselves as a country.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Australian part in WWII (and I wish I could say that I was more of an expert than I am, and that I still remembered half of what I have studied), the fall of Singapore was a tremendous blow to Australia, as well as its self-definition as more British than anything else. Singapore was the location of a British army (airforce? My memory is rusty) base, and as far as Australia was concerned, it was also one of the bastions from Australian invasion by Japan. However, as Japan marched on, Britain decided that fighting two fronts at once (Europe and Singapore) was too much, and withdrew. Singapore fell, and so did the self-identity of Australia as purely a child of English antecedents, clinging to Britannia’s skirts. Australia, rightly or wrongly, felt very much abandoned in its hour of need, and from then on looked increasingly to the United States as an older brother of sorts. (See also: why the Australian Labor Party spells its name the way it does, Australia’s involvement in Dubya’s war in Iraq, former-PM Howard’s mimicking of former-Pres. Bush’s marriage act, the difference between the Macquarie and Oxford Australian Dictionaries vis-a-vis American spellings.)
I do apologise for any flagrant errors in my armchair history; I’m refusing to look things up as this is meant to be a quick non-post.
The other thing we know about Dr Blake, as at episode 3 (five episodes have been aired so far; I told you I was behind). He had a wife and he’s looking for someone. I noticed in the opening credits of the second or third episode that there is a family portrait of Blake with an Asian woman and what seemed to be a boy (I didn’t pause to look closely). So we can assume that once Singapore fell, Blake lost contact with his wife and possible-son. Since we also know he was in a POW camp, it’s unsurprising that he lost contact. I don’t think we know for certain that his wife is dead, but I think that Blake suspects it by now. And 1959 is over ten years since the end of the war. I think one could safely assume that anyone not found by now either is beyond such searches or doesn’t want to be found. I think we’ll find out the answer as the series continues.
Blake himself is probably closest aligned to Wimsey, when comparing him to classic sleuths. He doesn’t have Wimsey’s silliness facade, but rather presents one of calm: a normal family doctor. But like Wimsey, Blake is kind-hearted and understanding to a fault. The show’s treatment of homosexuality in the third episode was particularly well done. And, of course, both men are damaged by their experiences in war. One could argue that damage is partly what drives them to turn their intelligences towards solving crime. One pleasant thing about the DBM is that Blake’s “Bunter” is a woman &emdash; his housekeeper, Jean Beazley. I’m not quite sure what their previous relationship is, and what leads Jean to stay through at least the first episode or two. I think that Jean was his father’s housekeeper, and I keep wondering if she was something like his brother’s widow (we know from episode two that she’s a war widow). Hopefully we’ll find that out too.
So if you like crime drama, give The Doctor Blake Mysteries a go. It’s a show with warmth and nuance, and thus probably a better bet than yet another episode of Midsomer Murders (which I understand has gone down in quality in the last while since I stopped watching).