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Soapy secret

I’m not sure why this should be a ‘guilty secret’, but that’s often how such admissions are framed. Oh well, here goes…

I insist on watching Casualty, the BBC’s long-running hospital soap which airs on a Saturday evening, between the latest daft game-show and the late evening News. It has been a stalwart of the popular scheduling since September 1986. I looked that up so as to be sure, but I remember watching it occasionally in my ‘young professionals’ shared house all those moons ago, along with Cilla Black’s Blind Date (which Wiki tells me began 10 months earlier, but didn’t last! Haha – only 18 years that one!). 

In my time, I have watched Brookside (but not till its demise), EastEnders (until I finally couldn’t stand the misery any longer) and Coronation Street (which used to be funny, and only on twice a week, which was just about achievable) but not – I think – concurrently. Even back then, there were only so many hours in a day and I had a job and eventually children to deal with. I even tried El Dorado – do you remember that? – possibly for the whole of its one-year-only-cos-it-was-so-rubbish run. It may also be the case that I was briefly addicted to Neighbours, but in my defence this would have been during an exhausted postpartum period when it was a convenient accompaniment to breast-feeding. I must remember to ask my offspring if the theme tune sets off any saliva-based reaction.

Slightly worried about Casualty though – why do I cling to it? I have certainly not watched it for the entirety of its broadcasting life. In fact, this addiction is a relatively recent thing – six or seven years maybe.

It’s not even that I fancy any of the characters (which used to be a reason why I watched some rubbish when I was a teenager – or for many years anything with Martin Shaw in it, obviously). I’ve sporadically wondered whether Dr Dylan might be my cup of tea, but decided really not. I have just spent the last 10 minutes trying to remember the name of the other character I had considered as a possible attraction, but I think that the length of time scrabbling in the memory banks says as much about the level of attraction as it does the state of my general recall. (Iain, the paramedic, and I’ve decided against him too. Far too smarmy.) 

Some of the acting can be truly dreadful. I notice this in phases – for weeks it will seem fine, and then I’ll watch an episode and genuinely question my televisual judgment. How Charlie Fairhead can be one of the highest-paid soap actors beggars belief. If he really is so well-paid, he must surely know where an actual BBC body is buried. And yet, we love him still. 

Not only do I insist on watching it, but I have also developed a Malteser habit to go with it. Even when in the throes of a ‘being careful what I eat’ initiative, I will still allow myself some Maltesers to accompany my Casualty fix – the small pouches contain very few calories I’ll have you know, due to the air-holes in the malted centres (and the fact that there are only a handful of the wretched things in the pouch, of course – I buy larger pouches or boxes when my resolve weakens). Only once have I found the gory drama realistic enough to put me off these spherical chocs, but I still managed to wade through half a boxful before the nausea got the better of me.

I’ve tried hard to think why I feel the need to watch this programme. It is not that I need something to brighten a Saturday night; I frequently watch it at a different time on catch-up and I most certainly would never stay in on a Saturday evening because of it.

Is there a particular fascination with hospitals? Hmm, I think not. I cannot be relied upon to remain upright and conscious in such places, whether I am a patient or a visitor. Let’s gloss over that for now. Mind you, I watched the recent This is Going to Hurt series based on Adam Kay’s NHS memoir, generally through my fingers and with my legs crossed whilst cowering behind the sofa, and wasn’t tempted by a Malteser at any point, so gruesome and starkly realistic a picture it painted of NHS obs and gynae. (Brilliant series, by the way. Peculiar mix of fascination, horror, empathy, antipathy, humour, schadenfreude and surprise – ‘are they really showing that??’ And the lovely Ben Whishaw, playing good and bad and everything in-between – with added placenta.)

Calm down!

Back to Casualty, which may elicit fewer triggering childbirth flashbacks but definitely has its claws in my psyche somehow. Perhaps I have a need to follow another group of characters’ lives aside from my friends and acquaintances – without actually being involved with them, having to pick up their pieces or make any effort. Not sure about that. Maybe it’s escapism? Hmm – more likely it is habit and the equivalent of comfort eating (or indeed actual comfort eating, what with the Maltesers and all).

It’s a shame that they film Casualty in Cardiff. I could otherwise set myself the target of appearing in it as an Extra (sorry, I mean Supporting Artist) which might act as some form of closure. It seems that almost every actor I see on the London stage has at some point had a role in Casualty. Maybe that’s why it still exists – as part of the career path of aspiring actors. But, I’m not prepared to go and stay in some godforsaken Welsh Travelodge just so I can say I’ve sat next to a pile of pretend vomit in a pretend triage area wearing a borrowed cagoule and a realistic (but pretend) facial scar.

Well, I’m not proud and I’ve decided I don’t care if I’m addicted. There are worse things. And better things over which to ponder.

Mysterious? Nope – that would imply some hidden depths. And I’m firmly rooted in the shallows. 

Oh god – remember the Shallows? (Plays Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper on Spotify loop for 2 hours – Noooooooooo……..)



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