Tuesday, 28 July 2015


No movies for months and suddenly two in a week. This weekend there was Woman in Gold and last week there was Far From the Madding Crowd.

I was doubtful about Far From the Madding Crowd, because the earlier version meant a great deal to me. Not because I especially liked it, but because I had a friend who did.

Her name was Katherine, and we used to take the bus to school together. On the way, she would describe Far From the Madding Crowd to me in great detail. This never grew boring, because Katherine didn't know how to be boring. She must also have been pretty good at description, because when I eventually saw the film for myself everything appeared precisely as I expected. It felt exactly as if I was seeing it for the second or third time.

The BBC showed the old version recently, and we looked at it after going to see the new one. I can't think why I didn't notice how peculiar Julie Christie seems as Bathsheba. Possibly my attention was focussed elsewhere, as Katherine's main interest was Terence Stamp, who played Troy in the film.

In fact, more vivid even than the film in my memory is the occasion when Katherine and I looked down from the top of the bus and saw Terence Stamp emerge from a shop on the King's Road and get into a mini. Ah the sixties.

Katherine died aged 49, thanks to NHS doctors imagining that people her age don't get the disease that killed her, despite all her symptoms pointing clearly in one direction. When I asked my own doctor in Australia about her treatment, while circumspect, the doctor did admit that she would never, ever let a patient with anaemia go away without investigating very thoroughly. Very often there is a benign reason for the condition, but it is very important to find out what it is. If this piece of information helps anyone avoid what happened to my friend, I'll be glad.

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