It’s good to have a healthy head-to-head battle between dramas being played out in the peak slot on a Sunday night. With the shows also available on demand, everyone’s a winner. However, the programme makers still want to capture the live audience, claiming that this initial pull of viewers remains crucial to the drama’s ultimate success.
If this is true, then it was ITV’s Home Fires that won the battle in our house. Last night saw the third instalment of this World War Two drama based on the novel ‘Jambusters’ by Julie Summers, which is a history of the Women’s Institute during wartime. With a strong ensemble cast, this series has gripped from the very start. Sensibly, the programme makers have allowed us to get to know the menfolk just as well as the women of Great Paxford, so that when many of them are finally called up to fight we feel genuine concern for their wellbeing. This series is classic Sunday night telly, but it is beautifully and accurately made. I’ve been talking and blogging a lot about the role of empathy in the writing process recently and Home Fires is a perfect example of the concept in action. War is distilled down to its most human level. We feel acutely the pain of the mother, desperate not to see her only son go off to fight – the 1914-18 conflict having cast a long shadow in her family’s consciousness.
BBC 1 offered up quite contrasting fare with Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, this series being based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Susanna Clarke. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, this supernatural extravaganza catalogues the battle between two ‘practical magicians’, determined to prove their superiority in the dark arts. The production values of this series are superb and for fans of the gothic it is the perfect mix of sorcery and black humour. However, in our house we aren’t fans of gothic fiction or of dark fantasy. My daughter watched the trailer and immediately dismissed it as too much like ‘Atlantis’ or ‘Merlin’. She is very much a realist when it comes to books and drama!
So it was Home Fires who snatched the victory. It better suits our viewing tastes. But it’s great to have a choice. A strong female cast and a heavy dollop of History will always win me over, but from the responses I have read online, it seems to be that wonderful choral score that has been the run away success of the series so far, with many viewers wanting to know how to get hold of the music. The theme tune is bold and beautiful and is probably going to prove the making of the show.
Amidst current speculation about a potential name for the new baby princess, I have been considering a different name related issue entirely.
The press coverage of the birth of William and Kate’s new little girl yesterday was difficult to miss and what struck me most from the media reports, as a fellow Katherine, were the variations used in the spelling of the Duchess of Cambridge’s given name. From what I could work out, Her Royal Highness’s full name is Catherine (with a C), which she shortens to Kate (with a K).
This struck me as unusual. I’ve always assumed that only Katherine (with a K) could adopt the diminutive, Kate. Does it really matter? I hear you cry. Well, it doesn’t really, of course. But I find it interesting. Altering the first letter of your name can provide an entirely different feel to the title by which people will come to know you.
The name Catherine (spelt either way) has been popular in Europe for hundreds of years, reaching the peak of its usage in the 1880s. It is a common name given to heroines of romantic fiction, from Shakespeare to Emily Bronte and means ‘pure’ or ‘innocent’. It is also one of those names which has multiple diminutives and very rarely will you find a Katherine who doesn’t refer to themselves as a Cathy or a Kate. There are also plenty of women’s names which are similar to Catherine, and have evolved from the same root such as Kathleen or Caitlin.
Despite the many derivatives and pet names which stem from Katherine, I still believe it is unusual to change the first letter of the name. If the same was done with the name Christopher, for example, substituting the letter ‘K’ for the ‘Ch’, it would create a quite different impression of the man who possessed it, being much more bold and modern.
When I fell out with a friend in sixth form once, a quite pompous boy who had a rather abrasive personality, his complaint against me was that I continued to stubbornly insist that my name was spelt with a ‘K’. He clearly thought this was an extremely irritating affectation that I had adopted. In fact, it had never crossed my mind to spell it in any other way, that was how it appeared on my birth certificate! This chap and I soon forgot our little fall out, but his jibe was firmly fixed in my memory.
Was ‘K’ actually the more subversive letter, sharp and spiky as opposed to its curvy counterpart?
In reality, Catherine is one of those names where the spelling has historically been interchangeable. Look at Henry VIII’s wives, for example. And perhaps, no one is really interested except us Catherines.
Interchangeable or not, I shall continue to refer to myself as Katherine, with a ‘K’, because it’s part of who I am and a change of first letter would feel like a challenge to my identity, somehow.