Toe Curlers

Once upon a time, I could be fairly sure that anything too fruity that we saw on TV would be going over the girls’ heads. You know the kind of thing – a double entendre here, a slightly risque remark there. It’s not that I wanted to preserve their innocence by hermetically sealing their world from corrupting influences (although of course I did) but more that I didn’t want them to find out about relationships and sex from television.

There is also, of course, the fact that it’s pretty excruciating watching rude bits en famille. No one knows where to look, no one knows whether it’s ok to laugh, it’s all a bit, well, toe curling. I usually say loudly, ‘don’t listen to this bit’ or ‘don’t watch that,’, which is partly so I can pretend they aren’t going to watch, and partly to acknowledge that a pachyderm has entered the room, and may shortly be stripping off/snogging/swearing or otherwise behaving with an unEnglish sense of inhibition.

Normally things are fine – if we are watching Fresh Meat, say, then we can expect some drawing of cartoon penises or drug references. But sometimes, things take you by surprise. A few years ago, I suggested to Child Two that we watch House of Eliot, as we are both into bonnetty shows and I remember it dimly being an ok prog from my youth. If you don’t know it, it’s the story of two sisters (played by actresses who couldn’t look less related, one of whom has a broad Scottish accent which is never explained, the other about 20 years younger and apparently from South London) who become dress designers in the roaring 20s. The elder is having a fraught affair involving angst and hand-holding, the younger flaps about a bit. All perfectly tame.

So we started watching, and the first startling event was that the younger sister was on a train! I had never before seen either woman leave their shop-cum-studio-cum-house. In fact, French and Saunders once did a brilliant skit on the show and its claustrophobic and unconvincing set. The younger sister (whose name escapes me) was sitting next to another youngish flapperish type, and before we knew it they were discussing, not skirt lengths or the Charleston, but sex! Yes, really! I couldn’t believe it. Child Two definitely wasn’t ready to watch something like that with me then, so we turned it smartly off and have referred to the series as House of Inappropriate ever since.

Alas, we had a similar experience this weekend. We’d booked to see Jeeves and Wooster at the Duke of York’s theatre, but rang as we were getting the train to say the show was cancelled due to illness. Oh dear! As we were already en route, and we were meeting a phoneless Child One at Charing Cross, we carried on and then tried to find a good film in Leicester Square.

You might think this would be easy, in the throbbing heart of London’s cinemaland, but it turned out that the girls had seen all the good ones, TL wanted to see Rush which no one else wanted to see At All, and we ended up watching Le Weekend as a compromise.

I partly sold the film to the girls as the lovely Jim Broadbent had played Professor Slughorn in Harry Potter. Sadly, this film was nothing like a Potter. Lindsay Duncan played his wife, who was about as horrible a woman as you could meet, whereas Jim was wet enough to wring out. It was a ghastly and harrowing marriage. As if marital strife wasn’t bad enough, there was a hugely yucky sex scene, featuring Lindsay Duncan lifting up her dress, while Broadbent crawled towards her on his knees, begging her for a ‘sniff, just one sniff.’ Euwwwww.

My toes curled, which was difficult as I was wearing my ‘going to the theatre’ boots. All four of us were frozen into statues of denial. Tell me I’m not alone. Have you had any toe-curling moments?

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