Let us talk of something frivolous

Life under the present conditions has become very monotonous. It’s impossible to plan anything and, although I’m never bored—having access to books, paint and nature helps—I must confess I find it hard to come upon interesting subjects to write about. There are no cultural outings or trips to be had, and I do miss dinner with friends in a restaurant (oh, the luxury!) and occasional evenings at the cinema, theatre or a concert.

Books aside, we’ve been obliged to fall back on Netflix for entertainment and the really good films or series are few and far between. Thus I have found myself watching the extremely popular series, Brigerton, which has managed to accrue over 80 million viewers—and one can see why: a steamy romance set in Regency England, full of family secrets and racy subplots. Pure froth and escapism, just right for this dreary winter.
Those of you who have not watched this extravaganza, or are planning to watch it and want to avoid spoilers, switch your laptops off now. Anyone else who feels like a trivia-fest, feel free to weigh in.


I greatly enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek look at the racially-mixed high society, the—at least partial—disregard for historical fact, the anachronistic musical scores, the petulant character and gravity-defying wigs of the Queen (see above), the lovely settings, the exquisite clothes and especially the beautifully choreographed ballroom scenes.
However, even more gravity-defying than the Queen’s wigs was the plot, or absence of it: instead of being a skeleton on which to hang the different parts of the story, it seemed to have been cobbled together with the sole purpose of taking the viewer from one set piece to another, necessitating a major suspense of disbelief.



Tell me, dear reader,

Why would the Queen be so determined that her nephew, who surely must have had a bevy of princesses and duchesses at his disposal, should marry the daughter of a minor lord?
Why was the Duke of Hastings’s vow to his father such a big secret? Couldn’t Daphne have asked her mother to find out, or asked Lady Danbury directly? (Well, I suppose that if she had, the story would have been over by Episode 2…) 
What happened to the Prince’s necklace? Daphne can hardly have just dumped it in the shrubbery.
How does Penelope, who is meant to be penniless and, surely, chaperoned, have access to a printing press and a horse and carriage in which she is seen gallivanting by herself in the middle of the night? (spoiler alert, in the ultimate twist she is revealed to be gossip columnist Lady Whistledown).
How does a ball held outdoors, which ends with the guests being soaked by a sudden shower, have chandeliers hanging above the dancers? (See below)

And what the hell is ratafia? (I admit I looked this one up—it is a kind of sweet wine, much favored by the ladies at the time. Also, I should have known this: my mother was a fan of the Georgette Heyer books, which I devoured at the age of around twelve—too long ago to remember…)



Lastly, all the male characters strut around in calf length riding boots, which seem to just …vanish (melt away?) when they decide to get naked with their love interest. In my experience, however, this kind of boot takes ages to pull off, or necessitates a boot-pull or a third party to help. That’s why modern riding boots have a zipper down the back of the leg…

I can hear you saying, who cares? No one, it’s just a bit of fun. But please, Shondaland, pull yourself , and the plot, together  before season 2!

The women’s gowns were ‘exquisite’ but I’d kill for that waistcoat



And just so you don’t think I’ve gone completely daft, I have two new recommendations for you: I greatly enjoyed Girl, Woman, Other by Booker Prize winner Bernadine Evaristo—a very shrewd look at human relationships via some avant-garde writing. Also a quietly elegant film called The Dig, about the pre-war archaeological discoveries at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, starring Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes and Lily James (new on Netflix).

25 thoughts on “Let us talk of something frivolous”

  1. I really don’t want to cause offence to anyone, but I have serious issues with the historical value of so-called ‘colourblind’ casting. We had a remake of David Copperfield with British Indian actor Dev Patel playing the title role, and now the hugely popular Brigerton taking liberties with the Regency period by casting black actors in lead roles. I love history, and I am also very old-fashioned. For me, as delightful as they may be for viewers, playing fast and loose with historical periods in this way doesn’t appeal to me in the least.
    Sorry, Marina.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. I’ve only watched the first episode so I scrolled past the middle section of your post in case I read any spoilers. I saw the trailers for this but wasn’t sure and it is not up Mr. Tialys’s street at all so I put off watching it. Then my daughter said it was like a funnier and saucier Pride and Prejudice so I could resist no longer and watch it when DH is doing something else of an evening – like cooking dinner 😉
    I loved Bernadine Evaristo’s novel ‘Mr. Loverman’. I listened to it on Audible and the narrator was perfect. One of my favourite books recently and I do intend reading ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ too.
    We watched ‘The Dig’ the other night – such a typically British film – loved it and was interested enough to read up about the real life version afterwards too.

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  3. I haven’t watched any of it – but I don’t it matters about spoilers as there’s been so much in the media about it. It sounds fun and the costumes and the hairstyles look amazing.

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  4. I don’t have Netflix, so I won’t be watching it. I think it would annoy me too much, anyway, with all that daft hair and the frocks (gorgeous though they are) being wrong for the period. The plot holes would annoy me more and I can only suspend my disbelief so far.

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  5. We loved “The Dig” as well – a great piece of TV. Did make me wonder about the legislation about finding archaeological artfacts on ones land, though!!

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    1. There are laws, but they’re probably more strict now. In Greece it’s complicated—the minute you find anything, you have to stop digging and call in the archaeological society. That’s why it took them so long to finish the Metro. However, if what you find is not rare, you’re allowed to keep it as long as it stays in Greece.

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  6. I have determined not to watch it despite the hype. I’m irrational about historical costume detail, having studied History of Costume at art college. Just that photo of the couple dancing (no, I *don’t* want to know who they are) annoys me. Her hair should be UP: it’s one of the rites of passage for young ladies that their hair should be dressed up once they ‘come out’. WHERE is his cravat?! Why are the men wearing boots at a ball? It should be knee breeches, silk stockings and buckled shoes. You see what I mean? And don’t even get me started on the fact that that Queen and presumably ladies in waiting are all wear the costume of a generation earlier…

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    1. Go, Kate! April said the same. I’m happy my post inspired some discussion, always fun. And I quite see your point; actually, your remarks reminded me again of reading the Georgette Heyer books, which my mother said were accurate in their descriptions (are they? are the photos worth re-reading?) Anyway, we live in a period where taste is very dumbed down: think of all those ‘influencers’ and their millions of followers…It’s all about ‘likes’ and ratings, and very little content. Oh well, there are still some treasures to be discovered. I once met a person who was the historian advising Downton Abbey: he said many of his comments were ignored, because of the ‘demands of the industry’, or something like it. They happily went along with anachronism etc.

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      1. It’s often a very large ask to demand full historical accuracy from a commercial production, especially one that lasts for weeks, months or even years, such as a series. You can tell the difference between a handmade garment and a machine made one, between a pattern cut today to suit the modern aesthetic and something made at the time. There are enough surviving quality garments left to show how things *should* look. The reality is that modern bodies move differently, are more demanding on their clothes and accustomed to things feeling a certain way. The second reality is that virtually no production can afford the hand-crafted garments in the quantities they’d need for a series or long run. There is an excellent YouTube video on just this subject, which you can see here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_615_hW3Q1Y). Oh, and Georgette Heyer? She was famous for her meticulous research and period accuracy in both costume and language. Sorry, this has been a very long response, but it’s a subject dear to my heart!

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      2. On the contrary, thanks for taking the trouble of explaining. It’s interesting to think about modern bodies—yes, I don’t believe anyone would tolerate corsets nowadays, and we’re all so used to things having stretch (the invention of Lycra!) I’m old enough to have worn Levis that could stand up on their own, and needed to be washed zillions of times until they were comfortable. And riding boots that had to be broken in for months, and meanwhile felt like plaster casts…The video was fascinating. I’m useless at sewing, so was full of admiration for the beautiful work done. Surely though, a lot of the costumes can be kept and re-used in a different production? There’s so much quality work and fine material going into them.

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