30 November 2008

Revisiting 'Brideshead Revisited'

"We ate the strawberries and drank the wine. As Sebastian promised, they were delicious together. The fumes of the sweet, golden wine seemed to lift us a finger's breadth above the turf, and hold us suspended."
I'm having something of a Charles Ryder moment tonight: I can't quite believe it's been 26 years since I watched Brideshead Revisited when it was first broadcast. I was 17 years old, still living at home and in my final year at high school.

The following year I would turn 18, leave home, start at a grand old university, fall in love and be dazzled by new worlds outside the one I grew up in. I found my own Sebastian Flyte (or was I Sebastian and found my Charles?) and didn't have a clue what I was doing. I was immortal and reckless and life was magnificent and hectic and hopelessly romantic, just the way it should be.
"Here, at the age of 39, I began to be old."
Although I'm now even older than Charles Ryder was as he begins his "Sacred & Profane Memories", I don't feel like I'm beginning to be old at all. While my original infatuation with Waugh's novel was completely shattered by my subsequent literary "education" and the discovery that Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews were both 33, playing 18-year-olds, if I listen carefully I can still sense the echoes of that first, innocent thrill at my initial encounter with Brideshead.
"I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognised apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city."
The series is being rebroadcast on ABC2, all 660 minutes of it over the next 11 weeks, starting tonight. For my readers who had the temerity to be born in the 80s, it's just like Queer as Folk, but with much better accessories.

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