Category Archives: Of Potential Interest

THE SCREENING ROOM: CONFESSIONS OF A BBC BINGE WATCHER

CONFESSIONS OF A BBC BINGE WATCHER:  CALL THE MIDWIFE

By Sue Wurster

Years ago, I was having lunch with actor friend John Newton at my local corner diner in NYC.  It was one of those places which tends to be stuffed with at least three too many tables, and on this particular occasion, every seat was filled.

John had just landed a role on the then popular soap opera, The Doctors, and was bemoaning his fate.  “I have to confess,” he said.  “I hate being a doctor.”  And when I asked why, he replied, “Well, I can never pronounce the diseases, and all of my patients die.”

There was a distinct gurgling sound from our right as a woman  struggled to down the gulp of coffee she had taken before John’s admission.  And there was an even clearer harrumph from our left. Glowering looks galore–and an elbow to John’s right ear as a tall, thin man in a three-piece suit maneuvered his way out.

I have to confess as well.  I have never liked medical shows.  I know, I know.  That makes me probably one of the only inveterate couch potatoes in the universe who did not get into the likes of Dr. Kildare, Marcus Welby, ER, or Gray’s Anatomy.  As a naturally squeamish being, I spent just way too much of their air-time with my hands over my eyes.  So, how on earth did I end up watching this season’s Call the Midwife on PBS?  I’m still not sure–but I think it may have been a simple case of mistiming.  I was headed for Masterpiece Theatre and got there an hour early.

However it happened, I was soon hooked, and I found myself looking forward to each new episode in a way I hadn’t looked forward since, oh, probably Downton Abbey.  And, upon the season’s close, I ended up hitting Netflix for more.  So, what makes this one work for a squeamish viewer (who still turns away during most of the actual birthing parts)?  The characters, the setting,  the writing…

So, if you have not partaken of this particular BBC gem, it’s well worth your time to do so.  Based upon the memoirs of nurse Jennifer Worth (who, sadly, died shortly before the first episode aired), this family drama is set in Post-WW2 London’s impoverished Poplar district.  Nurse Jenny Lee arrives at Nonnatus House, a nursing convent in the district, to take on a job as midwife.  A host of truly engaging and endearing characters, played by an outstanding cast, provides multi-layered interest and appeal.

Sister Monica Joan, for example–played by Judy Parfitt (Jewel in the Crown, Pride & Prejudice, Girl with a Pearl Earring to name just a few credits)–is a brilliant, and compassionate yet eccentric older sister beset with bouts of dementia.  The equally quirky Camilla “Chummy” Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne–played by actress/comedian Miranda Hart (perhaps best-known for her semi-autobiographical series, Miranda) –is a gawky, uncertain midwife who has just finished her training and finds her niche, leading her to defy the expectations of her aristocratic family.   Beyond the lives and loves of the inhabitants of Nonnatus House, we are immersed in Poplar of the late 1950s and 60s–with all of the social issues that such an environment hosts.

And the writing, of course, is top-notch.  From the voice-over narration of “older Jenny” (provided by Vanessa Redgrave, which may, in itself, have been what pulled me in) to the ensuing dialogue, the language is both rich and real.   When dealing with the complex issues that accompany poverty and the altering of social structures and values in changing times, there is no cloying or preaching note.

It’s a wonderful ride, this series–well worth a good binge!

BOLL Matters editor Sue Wurster

A confirmed snow day couch potato, Sue has an affinity for the British approach to both film and TV.  

 

 

LUNCH & LEARN: AN OPPORTUNITY TO GET INVOLVED!

LOOKING FOR INTERESTED NEW MEMBERS!

The Lunch and Learn Committee is responsible for bringing approximately 30 speakers to BOLLI each semester.  We try to create a program which meets the requests and interests of the membership.  Our committee meets 3-4 times per semester and works from a suggestion list for which dozens of folks provide input.  We then contact those that we think are most applicable, and our track record is about 60% acceptance, despite the fact that recompense consists only of our gratitude and lunch.  We are looking for a few more members who would like to take an active role in developing the program for all BOLLI participants.  Please contact one of the co-chairs if you are interested.  The next meeting is in early September as we start work on the Spring 2018 program.

John Rudy   John.rudy@alum.mit.edu

Mimi Halperin-Maya    mimi.phm@verizon.net

RETIRED–BUT NOT FROM LIFE: By Eleanor Jaffe

Dear BOLLI Friends,

I write to you from Florida, the state where a lot of people  have moved when they retire.  Why not? After all, the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay are beautiful, the weather is terrific, and here in Sarasota, cultural pleasures are sophisticated and plentiful. Even life-long learning programs abound. The easy path is for retirees to sit back, read the papers, watch TV news, critique the world from their armchairs, and then share those critiques only with those whose politics agree with their own.  After all, retirement has its rewards, and some might believe that inaction and armchair “jawing” are among them.

A certain caution is discernible here in Florida when people meet one another for the first time.  Is it “safe” to discuss politics?  (And what other subject is so front and center these days?)  We don’t, after all, want to offend and argue.  Who among these strangers voted for Trump and who voted for Hillary?  Who didn’t vote at all?  Who watches with complacency and agreement as liberal institutions in government and in society are attacked and dismantled?  Communication across the great political divide not only grows more limited but is increasingly full of disbelief and rage.  What are we to do with our passionately held beliefs and accompanying angst?

My beliefs and personality dictate action, constructive action.  The question for me is, what kinds of action will be the most constructive?  In other words, what will help to defang our present administration and re-establish a more liberal democracy that reflects our values as a welcoming, fair minded, constructive, and positive force in the world—- a Marshall Plan kind of world.  Of course, some of you who read this will not agree with me, and so, I urge you to respond.  Let’s communicate!

Two events that I attended here were heartening.  The first was the Women’s March in January.  Here in Sarasota, police estimated that 10,000 people marched!  We women and men carried signs, wore pink hats, and shouted slogans as we marched along the beautiful Marina Bay and across the bridge connecting Sarasota to Bird Key.  It was peaceful, and it was wonderful to be among so many like minded demonstrators.  Clearly, they were not “retired” from politics and life.

This past Saturday (3/18), we attended a “town hall” where the local Congressman, Representative Vern Buchanan, held his 75th meeting of constituents since taking office five terms earlier.  The Sarasota Herald Tribune said that this 75th town hall meeting (attended by more than 1,300 who packed Van Wezel Auditorium and an estimated additional 800 who couldn’t fit into the room) was unlike all his previous town hall meetings and would not soon be forgotten. We have seen television news reports of other town meetings with Republican congressional representatives and senators—full of people with strong opinions becoming raucous, erupting in chants, and even booing. That’s what this meeting was like.  Retirees do not want their health benefits messed with, want veterans and people with disabilities cared for, want fair immigration policies, and more.  And this meeting occurred in Florida, a state that voted for Trump.

We have been away from Massachusetts now for three months.  I read The New York Times and watch MSNBC, which, of course, indicates the nature of my own political bent.  I admit that I am not current with politics in Massachusetts where our citizens are overwhelmingly “democratic” and liberal, despite having a Republican Governor,  Perhaps you don’t feel the need to watch your words or wonder who supported whom in the election.  Perhaps you haven’t felt the need to become an activist, armchair or otherwise.  Some of my friends, including BOLLI friends, are becoming active and have been eager to tell me about their involvement in church and immigration groups, grandmothers’ groups, civil liberties groups, and more.

I wonder if it is time to create a BOLLI clearinghouse for organizations and actions in this perilous time for democracy, a place where actions and activism can be discussed, and information shared.  I know that beliefs and actions supported by like-minded others are more likely to be effective and succeed.  Perhaps in my absence from BOLLI, a group has been formed and is already active?  If so, count me in.  If not, let’s do it!

See you soon around our BOLLI “campus.”

Your snow-bird friend,

Eleanor Jaffe

Need Help with Medical Equipment? A Suggestion from John Rudy

As we mature, we increasingly need Durable Medical Equipment including items like canes, wheelchairs, crutches, and more.  After surgery or an accident, we may need such devices.  Sometimes, these items may be available either free or with a co-pay through Medicare or other insurance.  There is another solution possible in the greater Boston area–The Massachusetts Masons.             

The Massachusetts Masons are located at 500 West Cummings Park, Suite 1150, in Woburn.  (Take Route 128N, get off at Washington Street, Exit 36, and take a RIGHT.  Go about 1/2 mile and turn right when you are opposite Staples.  Bldg 500 is in the back of the enclave). They are open ONLY from 9-12 on Saturdays, and the line moves very fast.  While I was there, I saw wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and shower chairs taken.  If you need something a bit more unusual, call 781-322-1052 before showing up.  I was told that they have 30,000 pieces in circulation and ask that you return what you borrow.

I have been successfully able to use the Masons as a source three times.  I was even able to get a Hoyer Lift for my mother, something that would normally cost about $800.  They ask that you return items when they are no longer needed and are happy to receive donations.