Anakana Schofield – Award Winning Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

Loach Tank

I have been scuba diving in the warm tank of early Ken Loach’s films the last 2 days. Poor Cow (1967) Looks and Smiles (1981?) and Family Life (1971).

In Poor Cow I was struck by the many references to council housing, the housing list, and getting a flat and how central housing was to everyone’s lives. How your life could only really start or settle if you obtained housing. In a parallel to Betty Lambert’s Vicky in her novel Crossings(1979)  the character Joy (played by Carol White) sees her possibilities improving only if she meets a nice fella.

Vicky’s situation in Crossings is different in that she cannot cease or chooses to return to Mik and is unable to define any life of her own minus him, even going as far at the end of the novel to suggest she actively set him up to be part of her epic destruction. Maybe it’s that I happened to read and watch these two pieces in close proximity that the parallel struck me.  Crossings was a novel that both enthralled me and at time did my head in. The last chapter felt like the final 3 miles of a 26 mile run. Lambert’s novel is like an overbouncing basketball landing in so many corners of the pitch … but it’s also deeply interesting and I’d love to know if those who felt so ardently against it when it was published would feel the same now rereading it and reconsidering it. I think it was a brave and difficult book for Betty Lambert to write. If it has a weakness it is that of the playwright coming to the novel with  a chaotic “everything in”. That said I also enjoyed the chaos.

Back to Loach:

Looks and Smiles is all dole, unemployment and army recruitment. Set in the early 80’s the posters at the job centre included “Go to London”. My favourite line in it is when Mick (another!) when he visits his ex-girlfriend (who been at the curling tongs and has sublime Geordie accent) to attempt to win her favour back says “You never told me you had a budgie.” “What’s there to tell,” she replies. God is in the details I sighed.

I am winding my way through Family Life, trying to figure out who the psychiatrist is based on. It reminds me a tad of Allen King’s Warrendale (documentary). Just as Looks and Smiles was redolent of Wiseman’s Welfare.

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