by MARY CRAIG
NEXT time you thrill to the song of a robin redbreast, just close your eyes for a second and imagine you're a worm. All things being relative, that innocent chirrup will then sound as romantic as the rattle of machine-gun fire.
All animals are hunters of something or other. We may shudder in distaste at the hideousness of the slaughter, but if nature were not red in tooth and claw there would he no nature at all. Killing Trade was produced by Dr John Sparks of the Bristol Natural History Unit for the World About Us series (BBC 2).
It was a film which subscribed heavily to the theory of man the aggressive animal — in fact the most cold-blooded killer of them all: the one whose methods of killing are so sophisticated that his prey doesn't stand a chance.
In the light of the events of the following week, it was hard to disagree. Most other animals hunt for food, and however repellant their techniques appear to us (hyenas hunt in packs, tear their wildeheeste quarry in pieces-and eat it alive) they are obeying the laws that evolution has forced on them.
Even when there is individual enmity or tribal warfarc within the pack, there is never any question of the whole species being eliminated. What of man? We must have had to invent words like genocide and megadeath and overkill, because we had already created the reality that the words represent. We are set apart by the sheer scale on which we kill.
In spite of which, I refuse to lose faith in man. The capacity. of homo sapiens for good will somehow survive. Where would he he without such hope? Too much self-hatred destroys us.
The novelist Arnold Bennett had the ability to cast a kindly eye on his fellows, to depict their failings with acuity but without dislike. Benevolence in a writer is rare today, but it is a much-needed salve.
Bennett's trilogy. Clayhanger, I lilda Lessways and These Twain have recently been published in paperbacks and were a subject for discussion on the newly returned. refurbished and extended Read All About It (BBC 1).
I was intrigued to note that as Melvyn Bragg discussed the Bennett novels with Margaret Drabble, Michael Foot and Caroline Coon, they managed to avoid all mention of the new ATV series Clayhanger, which is certainly the raison d'etre of the present re-issue.
This major new 26-parter (ITV, Thursdays at 9) has been dramatised by Douglas Livingstone and stars Harry Andrews, Peter McEnery, Janet Sunman and Denis Quilley. Clayhanger is set in the Five Towns and tells the story of the people who lived, worked and died in the Potteries around Stoke-on-Trent in the late 19th century.
In particular it is the story of the Clayhanger family; and in more particular gill it is the story of young. Edwin Clayhanger's love for the wayward Hilda Lessways. Although some of the episodes have been filmed on location in and around the Potteries, most of the filming has been done at ATV's Elstree studios where a special town was built on the studio lot. With market place, two streets, half a do/en dome-shaped kilns, pavements of genuine Stoke blue brick: and cobbles specially manufactured for the streets.
Clayhanger has begun well, but we may need to adjust to its leisured pace. It does not promise action-packed excitement, but a carefully authenticated account of life in late 19th century industrial England.
The early episodes are dominated by the figure of Edwin's father. Darious Clayhanger (Harry Andrews) who opposes his son's desire to strike out on his own. Andrews plays the part with an underly, ing warmth which forces us to feel affection for the gruff and bigoted autocrat. Also set at the end of the 19th century. BBC 2's How Green Was My Valley is more
emotional, more full of incident, less concentrated. This six-part dramatisation (Mond ay s. 9.25) of Richard h Llewellyn's hest-selling novel (also re-issued now in paperbacks) follows the fortunes of a South Wales mining family.
If you saw the Hollywood version some years ago, you should take this opportunity of coming a little closer to reality. Here, too, we have a dominant patriarchal father. Gwilym Morgan, played (actually, astonishingly, underplayed) by Stanley Baker. whose background is the background of the hook.
Whereas the Five Towns women of Clayhanger seem to have accepted their role of handmaiden-cunt-serf, in the mining community, it is the women (notably Beth Morgan, played by Sian Phillips) who really holds things together at a time when they seem to be falling apart.
It goes without saying that a novel set in a mining area at the turn of the century is largely concerned with growing awareness of political issues and a growing rejection of the established order.
The coal-mining theme is a perennial one a rich exploitable seam for dramatists. BBC I's new I3-part drama series When the Boat Comes In is a Geordie variation. set among the Tyneside communities ill the Depression Years which followed World War 1. James Bolam (Terry of "The Likely lads") stars as Jack Ford, the army sergeant who returns from a hard war with a medal, total cynicism. natural authority and a determined ambition.
The character is in many ways the exact opposite of the skiving Geordie Terry. workshy and forever propping up his inadequacies by reference to a phony war wound. In this first episode Jack has not yet shown any political colours, but as the overweight platitudinous Liberal candidate has been marked out as local Enemy No I and Jack has been eyeing hint for size, I should think it's only a matter of time.