Diary… What I like about ‘Last Tango in Halifax’

I even like the bad things about this remarkable TV saga


Saturday 7 March, London

>> A new series of ‘Last Tango in Halifax’ started recently. Series 5.

As we’d never bothered with it before, we looked the other way while the world tuned in. To try catching up now would be insane.

Our friend Liz was a big fan of LTIH and she’d been right about ‘Death in Paradise’, but still we resisted. The task just seemed too big.

Then, as the afternoons got cold and dark recently, we surrendered and went right back to Series 1, Episode 1 to plug into the complicated lives of Celia & Alan and Gillian & Caroline. Soon we were hooked.

Superb actors… (L-R: Sarah Lancashire, Anne Reid, Derek Jacobi, Nicola Walker)

First impressions. Some of the plotlines were ridiculous bordering on plain daft.

Then the penny drops that behind the soapy domestic drama is a comedy always looking for a chance to escape.

So you suspend all disbelief and settle into Yorkshire’s unique way of looking at the world.

That no-good husband Caroline can’t get rid of is there to prop up her jokes. In any other British county he would have had his balls chopped off by now. But this is Yorkshire. Bad pennies are worth a million pounds.

Other things that are so bad they’re good. No one can keep a secret. Confessions flutter in the air like confetti. Caroline fessed up about her lesbianism; Gillian came clean about doing in her half-dead husband because “it’s what he would have wanted”. Yeah, right.

Alan and Celia are at it too. Everything their dysfunctional daughters tell them gets passed around.

The words, “I specifically asked you not to tell anyone” are a signal to put up a big sign across an M62 bridge saying, “Alan shagged Mary Kershaw”.

Later, the confessions continue to hemorrhage, but the secrets get born so fast at the other end of the production line it’s hard to keep track of who is the keeper of the BIGGEST LIE.

It is all endlessly entertaining, especially when the writers slot in a bit of Yorkshire argot. Like when Judith refers to Caroline’s rekindled interest in lesbianism as “went shopping round the corner”.

Then there is Yorkshire’s famous class divide: Posh Harrogate versus agricultural Halifax; private school headteacher and earthy sheep-farming widow. 

All of this works only because the acting is superb. We happily buy into the cheesy story of septuagenarian newlyweds Alan and Celia because the actors (Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid) play off and against one another so well they appear actually to be living the stupid dream.

The same applies to Sarah Lancashire (Caroline) and Nicola Walker (Gillian). They hate each others guts, but the corny progression into sisterly love somehow seems perfectly natural.

These characters lend a plausible realism to the show that in the hands of different (inferior) actors could have made it a turkey.

>> For reasons no one can explain, babies are fascinated by my wife. I can understand it, but I can’t explain it.

This morning in Mola on Whitecross Street a grinning three-month-old child fixed his attention on her, mesmerised by her best efforts at the goo-goo-gaa-gaa nonsense.

She thinks it might be something to do with her eyes. They are very brown and one of the first things that attracted me to her all those years ago. But I actually think it’s her dangly necklaces babies are interested in.

>> Watching the Liverpool vs Bournemouth game today, it became clear that the season’s biggest losers are the Premier League match officials and their assistant technology (aka VAR).

Liverpool sneaked another win, 2-1.

>> Some men are just hopeless. Or are they all hopeless, but a small number are quite handy to have around?

Down at the allotments, the simple task (to me) of fitting a nut to a bolt on a wheelbarrow was beyond one man, who finally managed it, with supervision. You’d think he’d split the atom by the look on his face.

I imagined him running home to phone his parents: “Hi Mum, you’ll never guess what I did today!?”

>> Shirley says there are online car-hire firms that operate just like airbnb. No keys, just a code on your phone that unlocks the vehicle and lets you fire up. Less than £60 a day. Or you can do it PAYG by the month.

>> There’s been a lot of debate  about how thoroughly you should wash your hands to avoid being contaminated by Coronavirus.

Consensus held around singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice… until today.

An email arrived from an editor at The Conversation that tells of someone who swears by Lady Mcbeth’s famous soliloquy, the one that gave life to “the milk of human kindness”.

Other handy tips are to dry with paper towels rather than hot air.

Pop Quiz… Name That Tune
“The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old ladies’ eyes
Just for fun he says, ‘get a job’



 Read yesterday’s diary.

 Go here for Pop Quiz answer.