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The Crown, Beckham, For All Mankind

I’m better, but not nearly enough. Have managed to do laundry and some tidying, teach another Zoom class and do some editing work, but that’s about it – still weak and aching, little appetite. A good weight loss scheme, this bug; I’m down a kilo, at least. But joy: there’s the television, and there’s Netflix, and there goes two days.

The Crown: I kept thinking, I’ve already seen this bit dramatized, how many times can they go over the same scenes? And yet I watched till the end. Elizabeth Debicki is simply astounding as Diana, inhabiting the princess to her seductive, lonely core; Dominic West provides an ever more sympathetic portrait of fumbling unloved-except-by-Camilla Charles, and Khalid Abdalla is haunting as Dodi Fayed, in thrall to his monstrously ambitious father. A Greek tragedy. Yes, I cried. Harry asks, as he walks behind his mother’s coffin, why people are crying for someone they didn’t know. “They’re crying for you,” he is told. And they are.

An unexpectedly thrilling documentary I’m only partway through: Beckham. For someone with no interest in soccer – football, as it’s called in England – I was kept on the edge of my seat by this brilliantly assembled doc about the scrappy Cockney son of a father obsessed with the Manchester United team who grows up to become the most famous player in the world. He’s stunningly beautiful, extremely talented, and yet down to earth and nice, and then he hooks up with Posh Spice and the world explodes.

What I didn’t know is that he was perhaps unfairly ejected from a game that resulted in England losing the World Cup, and was for years subjected to the most vile abuse by just about everyone in England – unforgivable, brutal, incessant, people screaming obscenities at him in the street, spitting at him, hanging him in effigy. And yet he puts his head down and plays, as the crowd boos and then sings an obscene song about his wife. Human nature at its worst.

He comes through, stronger than ever. We discover he’s a neat freak and that he would not have got through any of this without the support of his parents and his wife. It’s about the fraying bond between fathers and sons, about leadership, teamwork, the power of friendships between men, the insanity of what a sports win means to a nation. It’s a portrait, too, of a marriage, a family, that somehow survives in a relentless media hailstorm nearly as destructive as the one that murdered Diana. Riveting.

And finally, something else I never thought I’d enjoy: For All Mankind, a documentary about the Apollo II moon landing; I watched only from lift off through to the landing itself, there was still the docking and return, but what I saw was, again, riveting – the infinite skill and expertise necessary to get those men there and back boggles the mind. What emerges is the humanity of three guys floating around up there thousands of miles from home, especially Neil Armstrong, the definition of heroic, quietly competent, brave and accomplished, simply getting it done.

I read a book someone left in my Little Library – In-Between Days, by Teva Harrison, about at the age of 37 being diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer that had spread – how to live with a death sentence. A heartbreaking book, honest and profound.

It’s dark and wet out there. The news gets worse; the war has resumed, Putin is winning, the lunatics are in control. Terrifying. Forgive me if as my lungs gradually clear, I go into the living-room, turn on the gas fire, and watch a gorgeous British sports star and his gorgeous, unfortunately now Botoxed wife live their crazy, distressed, ridiculously wealthy lives.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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