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Normal People brings back memories of young love? Who’d want to remember that?

PUBLISHED: 06:00 09 May 2020

Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne in Normal People.

Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne in Normal People.

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Helen McDermott is not a fan of the new BBC drama, Normal People, from the acclaimed novel by Sally Rooney. Young love, she says, was actually quite horrible!

I must say I couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for Neil Ferguson, the professor who had to resign over that indiscretion when his lady friend turned out to have joined him at home a few times in spite of the lockdown. Considering what the prof had been going through I wasn’t surprised that he felt the need for a bit of tender attention. His big mistake was not thinking about the consequences of his tryst and how it might look, bearing in mind his job as a government advisor, telling all of us not to play away from home. Get found out putting a foot wrong these days and you’re stuck with being plastered all over the press and online for weeks.

He did the right thing by resigning (did he have any choice?) but I wonder if his problem might have come from watching Normal People on the TV. It’s the steamy drama about a good-looking and lusty young couple who get together and ... well, you can guess the rest.

It got such a lot of hype in advance we thought we might as well give it a try. After about ten minutes we switched off, even before things started hotting up. It wasn’t because we couldn’t watch it. It was because we couldn’t hear it. The Irish accents might have been lovely but as the dialogue was being filtered through what might have been piles of bath-towels hardly a word was reaching our telly. We know our set wasn’t the problem because we checked other channels and the sound was clear as a bell.

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Was Normal People’s dialogue worth hearing anyway? Somebody had recommended the book it was taken from so I actually bought a copy and I couldn’t get on with that either. I suppose they could have used subtitles for the telly but they might have spoiled the effect, especially if the words on the screen got in the way of the action. Now the book has disappeared and I’m wondering if that might be an omen of some sort.

In spite of all I’ve said Normal People has been getting glowing reviews. Although it was aimed at the 16 to 34 age group, on the iPlayer it seems that the majority of viewers were from an older generation whose hearing was obviously better than mine. Apparently, what made it appeal to them was that it brought back memories of that first flush of youth and love.

Lucky them, if that’s really how it was. Frankly, I’d rather not be reminded of what it was like to be sweet sixteen and mad about a bloke called Alan who really preferred my better-looking friend Alison. Oh, the angst of having all those feelings which more often than not went unrequited. I’ve never quite understood why it is that a lot of the time we seem to be attracted to people who aren’t attracted to us, all that wasted time sitting by the phone (there was only landline in those days) waiting for him to call, and then he doesn’t. You get over it, of course, but you think you never will.

I’d always thought I was the one whose love went unrequited, and yet the other day while clearing out a lot of old stuff I found a love letter from a bloke. I remember liking him a bit but I was never consumed with passion. Now here he was telling me I was the love of his life and how sad he was that I’d found someone else. It was a letter that I don’t even remember getting, let alone reading. Poor boy. How cruel young love can be. A friend and I were chatting and agreed that generally we were glad to be older. Youth really is wasted on the young, and it always will be, though in my case a lot of my youth was wasted for me. I was brought up as a strict Catholic and sex was never discussed, not in the McDermott household. I did find out about it eventually.

But sex scenes, no matter how tastefully done as they seem to be in Normal People, still leave me a bit embarrassed. I am pleased to see Midsomer Murders, especially the John Nettles ones, and The Bill’s re-runs can be satisfying. If they bring back Crossroads my life will be complete. Oh dear, how sad is that?


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