Thursday, August 4, 2011

To Serve Them All My Days

A wonderful image of the heath of Devon from wikipedia:  the beautiful green countryside
of Devon added to the appeal of the television series "To Serve Them All My Days."  It
ceertainly would be nice to visit the place where the film was set and view the magnificent
scenery.   I did once visit Cornwell and the south of England which is quite beautiful. 

To Serve Them All My Days  (A review)

A wonderful thirteen part series from the BBC
set in the beautiful English countryside of Devon.
This story is written by R F Delderfield who also
lived in the south of England.

I have recently finished viewing the series and for people
who are interested in the old school system, the English public
boarding schools and education the series is well worth watching.

It is set during the peace time after the First World War over a
time span of many years before the Second World War.
The politics
of the time is very much also in the forefront as the lead character of
the series, David Powlett-Jones, (often referred to as PJ) is from a
coal-mining family from Wales and has endured hardships, tragedy
and also serving time during the First World War (the war which PJ
believed was the war to end all wars.)
PJ enters the
education system as a teacher at a young age.

His life revolves around the school and its pupils, the head-master
and teachers.

It is interesting that later in the series PJ is informed that Bamfield
School cannot be isolated and that what was occurring in Germany
was very close. The school gives refuge to a Jewish boy who has
been brought to England by the good intentions of a girl-friend who
at the time was involved in politics and contested a
nomination for a parliamentary seat but was unsuccessful. There
were difficulties at the time for women trying to enter politics. After
a second unsuccessful attempt she gave up politics, however, she felt
that on the second occasion it was because she had been too outspoken
regarding foreign affairs at the meeting. She could not see an amicable
peaceful solution
prior to the Second World War and at the time was not in favour of
disarmament. This may have been because she had
been in Germany and had seen the consequences of what was happening
to people.

The political background and dramas do not take over the film. It is also on a
more humanist and personal level.  PJ's life and  romances very much also
play a major role in the film and the authenticity of the subject matter,
the school, girl-friends, marriages, other teachers and another head-master,
their foibles and personality conflicts make this a very interesting drama.

PJ does at times spend more time often on school matters at the expense
of his elderly mother and also his wife.  At one time his wife may have felt
insecure and at a loss as to what to do with her day
until she became involved in school activities, Christmas concerts,
plays and also teaching. 

 Coming as he did from a coal-mining
family in a Welsh village, his life was quite a success story, of which he was told later
that his mother was always very proud of him, though he was not always enamoured of his brother who had remained in the Welsh village with his elderly mother. If there was not a letter one month for the mother to read to a visiting parish minister she would re-read a letter from a previous month.
The mother's pride in her son may have been a source of discontent with the other brother
who had remained at home or perhaps is was difficult for the brother to see PJ seemingly
leaving his socialist loyalties to live in a different world. However, in this different world
he was making a difference and contributing to the welfare of the school boys and the successful
running of the school, eventually becoming a Head-master.
Bamfield School became PJ's life.
It was a great academic institiution as well as focussing on rugby and cricket
for the boys.
 Humour is also apparent in the film, especially with speeches given from
the first Head-master also his cheerful manner and way of life at the school with his wife, which may have seemed like a closeted life but also happy, and also towards the end of the film when an elderly teacher told PJ that he believed
that he had spent many previous incarnations in cold class-rooms and draughty
corridors and that in his next incarnation he wished to be a lizard reclining on
a rock in the sun.

The film also portrays England from another time, a time which seemed
very different. Class distinctions were evident and I am reminded of a book
which I have been reading “The Shifting Fog” by
Kate Morton, which is also set in England during these times.
It certainly
was a time of change and it is fascinating to read and see films depicting
England in magnificent rural settings before the Second World War and
the vagaries and life-styles of people of different social classes.

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