Saturday, October 04, 2008

My Fantasy Girlfriend - Barbara Good

Oh, the insidious influence of television! Here we have yet another example of my romantic life being blighted by premature exposure to a too-perfect paradigm of womanhood. Barbara Good (played, of course, by the lovely actress Felicity Kendal - I bumped into her in the street in London a few years ago, and she's still looking gorgeous) was one of the lead characters in a classic BBC sitcom of the mid-70s, The Good Life. The premise of the show - beguilingly simple, but rather revolutionary and far-sighted for the time - was that her husband Tom (the wonderful Richard Briers), tiring of 9-to-5 wage slavery as he hit his mid-life crisis on his 40th birthday, abruptly decides to resign his job and adopt a back-to-nature lifestyle, trying to become entirely self-sufficient by transforming his suburban home into a small farm. Predictably cutesy adventures ensued, as they coped with raising (and killing) pigs and chickens in the back garden, and learned to do without most of the familiar comforts of the consumer society. However, the show was distinguished by the quality of its writing and acting: it was essentially a four-hander between the Goods and their friends/next-door neighbours, the snootily disapproving but affectionately supportive Leadbetters (Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith) - and all four characters were subtly and convincingly fleshed out.
Barbara, I'm sure, represented the ideal woman to many British men of my generation. Not only was she devastatingly pretty, she also had wit, intelligence, and an irresistible vivacity. (She was far too short for me..... but I'm somehow prepared to ignore that!) She was, moreover, an impressively tough cookie, resilient and determined - often providing a necessary counterweight to her husband's impetuosity. And, oh, that voice - it had a slight edge of hoarseness or huskiness to it sometimes, a purr; and it was sexy as hell.
It's such a pity she was married! Even her relationship with Tom, though, was an inspiring - and perhaps unattainable? - ideal, one of the very few really positive depictions of a marriage I can ever remember seeing on screen. Though married for many years, they still patently adored each other (curiously, their childlessness was never discussed); they tolerated and even cherished each other's foibles; they were unflaggingly supportive of each other; and, best of all, they got each other's sense of humour - their communication was characterised mostly by a playful teasing: they bickered a lot, and had a few full-blown rows, but these confrontations were always defused or reconciled by their use of humour.

I recall particularly fondly that in the very first episode Barbara sent Tom a birthday card that said: "Mozart and Mendelssohn were dead by 40. Why aren't you?"

Why has that been playing on my mind so much lately???


Anonymous said...

Yes, and at one point she was Rear of the Year. What a lovely picture of her you found!

But you did well not to pursue her: today she is appearing in commercials and looks AWFUL, with a false face. Penelope Keith has worn better.

Froog said...

I bet the husky growl in the voice is still there, though.

I'm sorry to hear that bad plastic surgery is undermining her now. Penny Keith doesn't wear better in my memory - which is what I was talking about here.

I'm so glad someone picked up on this post. I had been expecting quite a flood of "Oh yes, I remember...." comments from my university contemporaries.