Friday, October 31, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

It's time for this month's Cephalopod Coffeehouse.

The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.

To join us or to visit other participants, please click on The Armchair Squid, the blogger who is the host with the most. Here we go:

I love the movie Philomena, which I reviewed HERE. I think Dame Judi Dench should have won the Academy Award for Best Actress. 

When I watched the movie, I hadn't yet read the book on which it is based. I'm glad I did. The book is very different from the movie.

Philomena the movie focuses on Philomena's relationship with journalist Martin Sixsmith, who discovers what happened to Philomena's son, born in 1952, who was taken from her and given up for adoption by nuns in Ireland who kept unmarried pregnant girls as their slaves.

Philomena the book, by the aforementioned Martin Sixsmith, includes information about Philomena and the loss of her child, but it zones in on what happened to her son, Anthony, who was adopted by Americans (or should I say purchased?), and had his name changed to Michael Hess. The Hess's took Anthony/Michael because they were adopting a little girl named Mary, who was Michael's best friend. Their prospective mother could see that Michael comforted Mary and made her happy.

Michael and Mary when they were adopted.

Michael doesn't seem to have had a very happy childhood with the Hess family. His new brothers teased and belittled him. His adoptive parents were such dolts that they couldn't figure out why Mary spoke only in "gibberish," which Michael translated. It took a visit by an Irish priest to explain that the children spoke Gaelic. 

This book is my favorite for the month of October because I learned so much about Michael and Mary Hess and their lives in the U.S. I am troubled, however, by Sixsmith's recreations of conversations and his descriptions of Michael's feelings. Yes, he has sources, but the book has no notes nor citations. 

I learned undisputably that Michael Hess grew up to be very intelligent. He became a lawyer for The Republican National Committee. He was gay, and he died from AIDS.

Michael Hess as a lawyer for The Republican National Committee.
Note his high forehead.
It's the result of forceps used to pull him from his mother's body.
He was a breech birth, delivered by a nun.
No doctor was in attendance, and Philomena was given no pain reliever then,
nor when her child was sold.

Knowing the few facts I've included in the above caption should be enough to make one curious about this book. And that's why I like it. It satisfies my curiosity about the story behind the movie:

The morning shift in the laundry lasted until a short lunch break, when the mothers were allowed to see their children. Another shift followed and evenings were spent in cleaning and chores around the building. The hour after dinner was set aside for knitting and sewing. The girls had to make the clothes their children wore, and many became accomplished seamstresses. There were no radios or books, but the girls were allowed to sit in the nursery with their babies or in the day room with those who were already toddlers. It was this hour––the time they looked forward to most--which brought the girls close to their children and established the bond that would haunt mother and child for the rest of their lives. To allow such love to blossom seemed crueller even than taking the babies away at birth.

This passage demonstrates Martin Sixsmith's sympathy for his subject. He also helps to expose a practice in Ireland that had gone on far too long and didn't end very many years ago; that is, sending unmarried, pregnant girls to convents and then selling their babies to Americans who wanted to adopt them, followed by the nuns' refusal to tell mothers where their children were, and their refusal to tell the adopted adults who returned whence they came. Michael Hess visited the nuns more than once, and was never told that his mother was looking for him.

Philomena, in spite of its flaws, earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Approval.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Martin Sixsmith and Philomena Lee at the premier of the movie,


Thursday, October 30, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

wipe away a tear
let loose with a sob


Yes, it's a two-hankie movie today: The Fault In Our Stars (2014, PG-13, Available On DVD).

This movie got a lot of attention. It's based on a young adult novel, which I haven't read, and it's a tearjerker. I was afraid it would be sappy. It isn't. I didn't cry while I watched it, but I felt moved. It's tender and poignant and happy in a way that most stories can't possibly be happy.

Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort) meet in a cancer support group for teens. They know they're going to die.

Augustus Waters: What's your name?
Augustus Waters: No, your full name
Hazel Grace Lancaster: Hazel Grace Lancaster

Gus calls his new friend Hazel Grace. She insists they are just friends. Her cancer has expanded from her thyroid into her lungs, so she carries an oxygen tank everywhere she goes.

Augustus (Gus) was an athlete. He had to have a leg amputated because of cancer. Gus has a cocky joie de vivre that brings out the best in everyone around him. He likes to keep an unlit cigarette in his mouth. The sight of Gus with a cigarette in his mouth made me smile from the start.

Hazel Grace Lancaster: Really? That's disgusting!
Hazel Grace Lancaster: What? Do you think that is cool? Or something? You just ruined the whole thing.
Augustus Waters: The whole thing?
Hazel Grace Lancaster: Yes, this whole thing.
Hazel Grace Lancaster: Even though you have freaking cancer, you are willing to give money to a corporation for a chance to acquire even more cancer? Let me just assure you that not being able to breathe? SUCKS. Totally disappointing. Totally.
Augustus Waters: They don't kill you unless you light them. And I've never lit one. It's a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don't give it the power to do its killing. A metaphor. 

Hazel and Gus agree to read each other's favorite novels. Hazel gives Gus An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe). The books means a great deal to Hazel. Its plot is similar to her experiences. She longs to ask the author some questions about his book. Gus arranges a visit for them with Van Houten, who has become a recluse in Amsterdam. While they are in Amsterdam, they visit the Anne Frank house. Anne Frank, of course, was doomed, just as Hazel and Gus are.

Gus and Hazel have a bond that continues to develop. Gus knows he's in love with Hazel Grace, and eventually, she realizes she loves him, too. 

Hazel Grace Lancaster: I fell in love with him the way you fall asleep: Slowly, and then all at once.

Woodley and Elgort play their parts naturally and with seemingly little effort. The screenplay is excellent. Laura Dern deserves a shout out for playing Hazel's mom. 

My favorite funny scene is when Hazel and Gus, with Gus's friend Isaac (Nat Wolff), egg Isaac's former girlfriend's house. 

Augustus Waters: Hello, are you Monica's mother?
Monica's Mom: I am...
Augustus Waters: Hello, ma'am. Your daughter, she's done a great injustice, so we've come here seeking revenge. You see, we may not look like much, but between the three of us we have five legs, four eyes and two and a half pairs of working lungs, but we also have two dozen eggs, so if I were you, I would go back inside.
[Monica's mother looks freaked and goes back inside]
Isaac: Did... That actually worked?
Isaac: That was the stupidest speech I've ever... That actually worked?

I feel as if I took part in their experiences, which makes the story a great example of writing that can convey feelings most of us never have.

A few bits of trivia: 

  1. Don't look for An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. It's a made-up book within a book.
  2. When Gus and Hazel visit the Anne Frank House, they're on a set that recreates the house. The Frank House did not allow filming.
  3. Some of the details from the book have been changed, according to online sources.
I wouldn't show this movie to children. Teens? They might wallow in grief, or laugh at the absurdity of a couple getting together when they know they will die. That's my way of saying that I have no idea how teens will react to the movie, but a lot of them have read the book on which it's based.

This movie is difficult to describe. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. It's unique, and that's a word I don't use lightly.

The Fault In Our Stars earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Approval. 

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Hazel Grace Lancaster: But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

If you haven't visited Pickleope yet today, I suggest you go while the gettin' is good.

Pickleope is moving to WordPress to start a new blog called Strangely Naked. I know you'll want to add  to your blog roll, and/or follow by email. Pickleope as Pickleope or Strangely Naked is not to be missed. 

Because of a promise made long ago, Pickleope includes me in this final post.

Yes. I am now a Pickleope. 

You have to see it for yourself. The drawing taught me things I never knew about me.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

I'm sorry, but I'm too tired for more of the inquisition. I've spent most of the last two days putting potting soil and plants in the pots that surround my deck.

I lifted things I shouldn't lift and contorted my body in ways it didn't want to go. I have mosquito bites on my eczema.

Go ahead. Burn me at the stake.

Or wait until I feel better, and I promise to finish answering the fifty questions.

Fishducky sent me this cartoon. I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks, fishducky!

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

We've just hit the halfway point of The Spanish Inquisition, but I don't think I'll get far today. My tummy is unhappy. It's probably the result of being tortured. Let's get on with it, though, and here's number . . . 

26. The reason I started blogging?

Marriage (30 years) + Cheating (Him) + Gambling (him) + Not A Nice Person (him) = Divorce

Blogging is my therapy.

27. Fears?

Something on this corner cabinet could be out of its designated spot.

How will I find people tiny enough to use this china cabinet and tea set? And when I find the people, what if they don't like the kind of tea I have?

What if someone moves the tiny grandfather clock in this grandfather clock?

A poodle wearing a poodle skirt, and dancing.


Something on this dry sink could be out of its designated spot.


Please don't make me go back to work at the nursing home. I don't know why, but all the old men kept goosing me.

Palmetto bugs

Bad grammar

I hate it when Paul comes home from a tour and he has this crabby look on his face:

I hate it when Jon comes home from a tour and catches me with Paul.

Someone might take away the medicine I bought from that nice man in the back of the bar.

This could really be me, and I don't mean the woman in the mirror:

I hate it when Ryan comes home before Johnny leaves.

I hate it when Johnny comes home before Ryan leaves.

What if this is me and I don't know it?

You don't really think I could get pregnant, do you? I'm 55.

Maybe this is me:

What if this is my ass?

It's a good thing I don't scare easily.

28. Last thing that made you cry?

The conclusion of Billy Elliot (see HERE)

29. Last time you said you loved someone?

Carol's son was here this morning and he fixed my gate, my front door, and my roof. What's not to love?

30. Meaning behind the name of your blog, WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME?

First I called my blog Dumped First Wife. That was kind of a downer so I went all triumphant instead.

31. Last book you read?

Nothing In Particular by Kate LeDonne (not really--I'm lying because I want to give Kate a big, fat SHOUT-OUT). The last book I actually read is In The Midst of Life by Jennifer Worth. She wrote Call the Midwife.

32. Books you are currently reading?

This question said "book." The next person can change it back to "book." I read books--one in bed, one in restaurants, one or more in the family room, one at the pool during August. Here's my current list:

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
The Blogger's Survival Guide by Lexie Lane and Becky McNeer (I edited this book quite some time ago and I had forgotten a lot of the good tips in it)
Ashes by Brandon Ax (currently editing)
Wild Tales by Graham Nash (Cherdo shared this one with me. If you don't follow Cherdo, you should get on over to Cherdo On The Flipside.)
Little House In The Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (I'm reading this one out loud to my pretend grandchild)

33. Last show you watched?

Lillyhammer on Netflix Streaming

34. Last person you talked to?

Franklin--I just told him we need to close the backdoor because mosquitoes are getting in.

35. The relationship between you and the person you just texted?

Favorite Young Man--not sure how I met him.

Oh, wow! We got through a lot of questions today in spite of my unhappy tummy. I think we should celebrate by going back to Brian Setzer's rockabilly roots with The Stray Cats:

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Monday, October 27, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

To see my answers to the first three parts of The Spanish Inquisition, click HERE, and HERE, and HERE. I can't believe some bloggers answer all fifty of these questions in one post. My attention span is not that . . . what? Whatever. Let's get on with it.

19. Loud music or soft?

20. Where do you go when you are sad?

I find Franklin or Willy Dunne Wooters, and I put out my arms and HUG. Sometimes I call or email a friend. So I guess the answer is that I go wherever I need to be in my house to do that stuff.

21.  How long does it take you to shower?

Not nearly as long as The Wooters Man. Probably fifteen minutes, including make-up.

22.  How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

I don't understand the question. What is "morning"?

23. Ever been in a physical fight?

Beaten up? Yeah. Fought back? Once.

Would kill for my children.

24. Turn on?

The Wooters Man 

Beautiful music and works of art
Laughing with friends

25. Turn-off?

Noise and/or bright lights

Well, all righty then. We're halfway done. I wonder how long I can stretch this out. If I'd done one question/day, then fifty days.

Last week on Thursday I posted a video of In The Mood, which you can see HERE. The video led to some discussion of big band music. I remembered that "the guy" from The Stray Cats had started an orchestra. The Silver Fox from The Lair of the Silver Fox (C'mon, where else would he be from? Oh my god I just ended a sentence with a preposition) reminded me that the guy is Brian Setzer. He added that Brian Setzer has almost as many tats as Favorite Young Man. 

Now that I've seen Brian Setzer's arms, I suspect he may be FYM's tattoo equal.

I want to finish today's post with The Brian Setzer Orchestra because if this music doesn't get your week off to a good start, then I don't know what will.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Sunday, October 26, 2014


A weepy conclusion:

Billy's dad holds back his tears. Michael's face, fills with joy and pride for his friend.

This movie gets me every time.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Today I continue to answer the fifty questions passed on to me by two other bloggers. To see the first answers, click HERE, and for the second part, click HERE.

We are ready for Number . . . 

17. Favorite Actor?

Jimmy Stewart. He first acted when he was in prep school––the same one The Hurricane attended.

Of course, they weren't there at the same time. When Jimmy Stewart went to The Mercersburg Academy, they didn't allow girls. When I worked at the nursing home, a resident said to me, I think it's a shame they let girls in there. Don't you think so? My reply: No. My daughter goes to school there, and she's kicking all the boys' butts. 

Can you say valedictorian?

18. Favorite Color?

Pink. Like a new baby's sweet little bottom when it's not covered in poop.

Now that we've gotten to the bottom of things, we'll stop for the week. We can start again on Monday, when I'm a little less tired and I'm feelin' groovy because I've seen Willy Dunne Wooters, who has a very cute bottom.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

I'm sorry, but I'm not in the mood for MOVIE WEEKEND today. I'm in the mood for . . .

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Yesterday I started answering fifty questions passed on to me by two bloggers (see the first part HERE.) I got through seven of the questions, so here we go with . . .

8. OTP (One true pair, favorite fictional couple?)

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Duh.

9. Favorite Show?

  1. The Sopranos
  2. Breaking Bad
  3. Sex and the City
  4. Seinfeld
  5. The Mary Tyler Moore Show

10. Favorite Bands?

Andi said Kansas on this one. I don't know if she noticed it, but I pointed out that some of the members of Kansas went to my high school. They are quite a bit older than I am. I never met any of them, and have never seen Kansas perform, though I'd like to do so. I like Beck (does Beck count as a band?), America, Green Day, Bon Jovi, and The Beatles.

11. Something you miss?

Small boobs, small butt.

12. Favorite Song?

Oh, gosh, I don't know. Yes I do! I sang this with Paul in RFK Stadium. It was pretty cool.

13. How old are you?


14. Zodiac sign?

Pisces. Someone did my "chart" recently. It seemed quite accurate. I wonder if it was accurate because the descriptions apply to most people.

15. Quality to look for in a partner.


16. Favorite Quote? 

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

La di da, la di da, la la.

Hey, Boo.

And we laughed and sang la, la, la, la.

This stopping point seems a good one for today. My fingers aren't really broken, but Filante threatened me. 

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Monday, October 20, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

I signed up to do the Bucket List Blog Hop today and forgot to do it, so I'm keeping my promise right this minute.

This blog hop is hosted by Mama, a.k.a. Sherry Ellis of  Mama Diaries and  Susanne Drazic of Putting Words Down On Paper. The concept is simple: What do you have on your bucket list? In other words, what are some special things that you'd like to do before you kick the bucket?

I've never had a bucket list. My bucket list is called Goals, so here are some of my goals:

  1. Travel all over England, wander the moors like the Bronte sisters, and then die--very dramatically--of tuberculosis. 
  2. Part of the trip to England before the dying dramatically part will be visiting Sylvia Plath's grave in Heptonstall to pay homage to her.
  3. Also before dying dramatically, scoot on over to Wales and spend a day hanging out with John Gray of Going Gently. Kiss Winnie, wave to Gay Gordon, eat scones with Auntie Glad, greet Affable Despot Jason, go to John and Chris's wedding. Not much here.
  4. I want to meet lots of my blogger friends. I've met a few, and I want to meet more. I could have met Rick and Jilda Watson if Rick had bothered to tell me they were in Jacksonville that one time. Lazy lout.
  5. Have some more stuff published. I'm fortunate to have been published a number of times. It would be nice if I could write outside of my box and maybe publish a book or a poem.
  6. Force my children to give me grandchildren. I don't know how to accomplish this one, but I swear I'll do it. I WILL have a grandchild. I will I will I will.
  7. Wear a red dress to X's funeral and dance on his grave.
  8. Hang out with Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and, maybe, Ryan Gosling.
  9. Make up for all the stuff I did wrong as a parent. I don't think this one is possible, but I sure wish I could do it.
  10. Die a peaceful death and be reunited with all my dogs in Heaven, where I'll have tea with Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath.
  11. Star in a Broadway show.
Okay. We're getting out of control here. It's time to stop. 

Thank you, kind ladies, for hosting this blog hop. I'm sorry I arrived a bit late.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Friday, October 17, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Today I present for your reading pleasure a book that is well written and tells an interesting and unusual story. It is SPLIT at the ROOT: A Memoir of LOVE and LOST Identity by Catana Tully.

I first discovered Catana Tully on Twitter. The small photo on her Twitter page captivated me. I adored her beautiful smile. When I realized she had written a memoir, I had to order it.

I'm so glad I did. Her book is beautifully written and tells quite a tale.

A white German couple who settle in Guatamala during World War II make the baby of a black woman their own child. They call her their "little Moor." She calls them Mutti and Vati. Their older daughter, Ruth, becomes yet another mother to young Catana, who speaks German, English, and Spanish. She attends excellent schools and becomes a fashion model and actress. Eventually, she earns a Ph.D. and teaches at an American college.

But she is uncomfortable around most black people, which leads her to question her identity. Mutti, Vati, and Ruth became her family, yet she was never adopted. Who were her real parents? What of the vague memories of a black mother who sometimes arrived on unwanted visits? When she travels to her biological family's village, she hears the legend of the Germans who stole a child from her true parents.

Who is that true family?

According to Mutti, when Rosa found herself pregnant and unmarried, she assured Rosa that if the baby was a girl, she, Mutti, would raise the child. "See," Mutti would say to me smiling and pinching my cheek, "you wanted me to be your mother because you came out being a little girl."

"You would not have kept me if I'd been a boy?" I asked Mutti. How horrible . . . where would I be? Where the Black people lived! What a terrible thought! It's not that I had reason to worry. I just wondered . . . 

"Now Mohrle, what would I have done with a little Black boy?" Mutti said raising her eyebrows and shaking her head. And so, without another word, it was absolutely clear in my child's mind that something was seriously wrong with Black boys. In my evening prayers I made sure to add a silent one thanking God for giving me a vagina.

Catana Tully sweeps us up in the story of her life and the search for her self. Try to imagine becoming an adult, comfortable with yourself, without really knowing who you are. It would be a daunting task for any of us.

I purchased my copy of this book on Amazon at

SPLIT at the ROOT earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Approval.

Happy reading! I wish you a blessed weekend.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Today I have for you a fairy tale of a movie about a lonely man who finds a woman to love, but first he must rescue her from an ogre. I adore Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School (2005, PG-13, Available On DVD).

A baker named Frank Keane (Robert Carlyle) comes across a severely injured man who has just been in a car accident. His name is Steve Mills (John Goodman). Paramedics encourage Frank to join Steve during the ambulance ride to keep him talking. As they drive, Steve tells Frank the story of his childhood love, whom he's supposed to meet on the fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year of the new millennium.

Steve begs Frank to take his place and go to Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School to find Lisa Gobar.

Thus begins a dance through time as Steve tells Frank about Lisa; Frank meets with his support group for men whose wives have died; and Frank begins attending classes at Marilyn Hotchkiss', where the teacher is now Marienne Hotchkiss (Mary Steenburgen), the daughter of the late Marilyn Hotchkiss.

The acting and the screenplay in this movie are excellent and pure. I must single out Mary Steenburgen for her work. She seems a fantasy, yet she is real.

I love the way the movie is shot. You might want to listen to the DVD commentary to learn more about Marilyn Hotchkiss' beginning as a short film, and its eventual expansion to a feature length film.

I doubt if children would be interested in this movie. Perhaps teens of a romantic nature would enjoy it.

Willy Dunne Wooters did not watch this movie with me, but I feel quite certain he would like it. He loves a good romance.

Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Fantastical Approval.

Marienne Hotchkiss: Dance is a very powerful drug Mr. Keane. If embraced judiciously, it can exorcise demons, access deep seated emotions and color your life in joyous shades of brilliant magenta that you never knew existed. But, one must shoulder its challenges with intrepid countenance if one is ever to reap its rewards.

Happy viewing!

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

P.S. Thank you for your kind comments and expressions of sympathy. Franklin and I are trying to adjust to life without Harper. It's very difficult.

Friday, October 10, 2014


Hi Every Buddy. It's me, Franklin the Bordernese.

I don't have funny stories or snicker snorts today. My best friend, Harper, has gone to Heaven to be with Faulkner, The Original Dog.

I will miss him lots.

Faulkner taught Harper to walk on stairs, and Harper taught me how to walk on stairs. None of us lived in a house until Mom made us part of her family.

I told Harper all my secrets.

He didn't feel so good yesterday. He hardly moved. He stayed on a doggy bed next to Mom while she worked on her laptop.

She says she'll miss him even more than she does now when the weather gets chilly at night. He slept with her and would put his back up right against her back, really close. It made her broken back feel better. She said he was like a big furry heating pad.

Last week he couldn't get in the bed anymore. His legs were too weak and shaky.

Mom asked me to tell you this quotation from a poem by W.H. Auden: He was my North, my South, my East, and West, / My working week and my Sunday rest. 

Harper, Mom and I will miss you so much.

Okay. I love you. Bye-bye.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

This week's show isn't a movie. It's a BBC series that has six episodes and is also called a Netflix Original Series. It's Happy Valley (2014, Available on DVD and Netflix Streaming).

I noticed this advertisement on Netflix Streaming and thought it looked interesting because the actress is on Last Tango In Halifax, another BBC six-episode per season series that I've seen on PBS. Two seasons of Last Tango are available, and a third is in the works. Willy Dunne Wooters and I are smitten with Last Tango. WDW says it is about us (the love story with the older couple).

Then Rita of SoulComfort's Corner mentioned Happy Valley to me. Rita and I tend to like the same movies and TV shows. I rely on her opinion. She said she had watched Happy Valley on Netflix Streaming and gotten so caught up in it that she stayed up till two a.m. to finish the series.

I told Willy Dunne Wooters about it. He agreed we should give it a try. The weekend before last we watched the first two episodes. After the second one, WDW said, If I didn't have to go to work in the morning I'd stay up till two to watch the rest of this show.

This past weekend we viewed the rest of the series--four episodes. Heavens to Betsy! We couldn't believe how compelling and frightening and poignant this show is. We felt as if we were watching real life.

The actress from Last Tango is named Sarah Lancashire, and she's now the top of the pops with me. She's good in Tango, but in Happy Valley she's nothing short of amazing. She plays a police sergeant named Catherine Cawood who lives with her eight-year-old grandson, whose mother (Sarah's daughter) committed suicide; and her sister, a former heroin addict. Catherine's husband left her because he couldn't bear to be around Ryan, the grandson, who exists because their daughter was raped by a man named Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton, who is just about as creepy as it gets).

One day Cawood thinks she sees Royce, and she's right. He's been released from prison. Nothing good will come of that. Royce's presence, Ryan and Catherine's problems at home, Catherine's problems at work, and the kidnapping of a local girl had us spellbound. I cried a few tears three or four times because the show is so intense. It also features some comic relief sarcastic asides. I don't think WDW cried, but he loves the show, too.

Happy Valley is brilliantly written, and I'll go so far as to call it a show about female empowerment. The women demonstrate great emotional strength most of the time; they have the occasional breakdown or fit of temper--only human, they aren't hysterical females. Moreover, Catherine Cawood is quite the kick ass cop. She holds her own against some very tough men and shows no fear. She's a great role model. She does whatever it takes to perform her duties.

This show is not for children, and I'd think twice about allowing teens to watch it. In fact, if you're of the sensitive variety and prone to nightmares, it might not be for you.

Here's a piece of trivia about the series that's not so trivial: The show is set in Yorkshire, as is Last Tango. Catherine says she's going to Heptonstall to visit her daughter's grave. I thought, That sounds familiar. I believe that's where Sylvia Plath is buried (Plath is one of my two favorite poets; the other is Emily Dickinson).

Catherine kneels at her daughter's grave. Nearby, I see a grave that looks familiar. It has a great number of tulips on it. Could that be Sylvia Plath's grave? I wondered. Her devotees often leave tulips on her grave. I've never been there, but I've seen photos of it. It's a rather distinct grave. I checked in with my friend Google and learned that yes, the scenes with the daughter's grave were filmed very close to Plath's grave. Ryan mentions pens on the grave, too. I learned online that Plath's fans also leave pens on her grave.

At first, I thought, What an interesting coincidence! They were near Sylvia Plath's grave, and I recognized it.

Then I gave it more thought. Catherine's daughter killed herself; Sylvia Plath killed herself. Catherine's daughter had a young son; Plath had two young children. Catherine's daughter had been treated horrifically by a man; Plath was treated horrifically by her husband, who left her and their two young children to have an affair with another woman. Catherine's husband has "replaced" her with a new wife; Plath's husband, Ted Hughes, replaced Plath with the other woman, although he did not marry her. Eventually, the other woman killed herself.

I can't imagine these connections are mere coincidence. I believe that shooting near Plath's grave was a deliberate decision. Plath has become a feminist icon as a great poet and as a woman who tried to have it all (poet, writer, wife, mother, homemaker, promoter of her husband's career--Ted Hughes eventually became the poet laureate of England), only to have her husband destroy their family. Plath had long been subject to deep depressions, yet her husband left her to fend for herself and their two young children. I'm not saying he didn't provide her with money for their care. He withdrew his emotional support and abandoned her.

Shooting scenes where Plath's grave can be seen seems to me to be an announcement that this series is a feminist show. It's about women who are remarkably brave. It's also about women who can be brought low because they are female, who are trampled on by men. The feminist struggle continues.

Happy Valley, created and written by Sally Wainwright--also the creator and writer of Last Tango In Halifax--earns The Janie Junebug & Willy Dunne Wooters Seal of Highest, Exceptional Love and Approval. It's as good as watching an excellent feature film. Better than most.

A second season of Happy Valley is scheduled to appear in 2015.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug