Contributor: Aileen Downham
In the last couple of years, aided by belonging to a book club, I was usually reading a book a month. When the first lockdown began in 2020, there were two dozen or more unread books on the shelves, but I felt the need to stock up on some new titles. These were mostly inspired by Radio 4’s ‘Good Read’ or book dramatisations and the like. I had a good mix of genre, no doubt pandemic-influenced.
Mistakenly, perhaps, I began with ‘The Plague’ (Albert Camus), but didn’t get far! Next, I dipped into sections of the ‘Frederick Douglass Narrative’ (on slavery). Painful, but important, reading. I thought of starting Claire Tomalin’s ‘Samuel Pepys’ for some balance, but 400 plus pages looked too daunting. I should’ve persevered! Lockdown life had adversely affected my concentration. It was easier to opt for newspaper articles (not pandemic-related), occasional poetry and some mini-autobiographies in the Sunday Supplements. On the whole though, much less reading during lockdown.
Several months into the pandemic, I was dealing with (non-Covid-related) health problems, trips to A&E and a few stays in hospital. Life became hugely stressful. Diagnosis unconfirmed. It was after many months of this uncertainty that a close friend recommended watching the drama series ‘Life on Mars’. This is a drama like no other. A masterpiece. It instantly lifted my spirits. I was hooked, and watched daily until the last episode! It’s a multi-layered piece, dealing with all human emotion. When you’re stressed and worn out, any viewing ideally needs to be something that won’t totally drain you, but provide you with some light relief. This it certainly achieved.
Episode by episode, the story became comforting and the characters familiar. One could identify and empathise with them and their own personal troubles. ‘Life on Mars’ is a moving tale, thought provoking, challenging, and never dreary. During all of this visual/mental stimulation, you forget your own problems and become more outward looking. The stress inevitably lifts for the duration, and in some cases, even longer. This, of course, is helped by an outstanding cast, headed by the main character ‘Sam’.
Watching this series bestowed a real sense of wellbeing, and remains go-to viewing whenever I feel overwhelmed by personal events. ‘Life on Mars’ allows you to forget about yourself for a while – no bad thing. One has to say that this is a drama with definite health benefits!