The last few months have been a little challenging. In addition to the usual stresses of dealing with our oldest son, my wife developed pneumonia and during her treatment, blood tests seemed to reveal a condition that used to be fatal, but can now be treated with chemotherapy and steroids. We weren't told this straight away, but I had a feeling that something was wrong when my wife's GP started phoning us in the evening to ask how she was feeling.
I was pretty upset at the prospect of seeing my wife undergo chemotherapy, but she was more concerned about the steroids: "I can cope with the treatment, but I can't bear the idea of becoming fat."
At one point it was all looking pretty grim and, selfishly, I wondered how I was going to cope with caring for four people, including an 83-year-old woman and a boy with special needs. At least I now had a working life with flexible hours, but was I really up to the challenge? I found myself becoming increasingly grumpy and anti-social towards the world at large.
During this period, one of the things that helped to keep me sane was a boxed set of the original 'Upstairs Downstairs'. I am now halfway through the fourth series and when I reach the end, I'll probably feel compelled to write a blog post about the programme. In the meantime, here's something else that has been a source of huge delight.
This is from the BBC Radio 4 website:
'Upshares, Downshares', the PM programme's daily business and economics slot with Nils Blythe, charted the economic crisis daily from November 2008. Once the listeners (David Cartwright in fact)
had named the slot, we began to play the original theme fromUpstairs Downstairs but then, unbidden, listeners began sending in their own renditions and interpretations of the tune.
Here's the original:
And here are some of the different versions created by Radio 4 listeners:
First, "in the style of George Shearing":
Next, Spaghetti Western:
Third, Bossa Nova:
And crumhorn trio:
One of my favourites - 'acid house':
Ancient handbells version:
The Elvis version:
Junior school recorder club version:
And finally, the splendid 'Retro arcade game' version:
This is only a small sample of the wonderful selection that bears witness to the ingenuity of BBC Radio 4 listeners. If more people devoted themselves to harmless pursuits like growing roses, collecting stamps and creating different versions of theme tunes, the world would be a better place.
My wife and I are rapidly working our way through the 68 episodes of Upstairs Downstairs and when we reach the end, I feel that the it will also mark the conclusion of something else. Further blood tests have now shown that my wife doesn't have the condition that was initially diagnosed. There is something, but it's not life-threatening and won't require a gruelling regime of medicines (we hope).
My wife is delighted that she won't have to put on weight. Sadly, I have, as a result of several months of comfort eating - those Waitrose macaroons are like crack cocaine - and I shall have to resume the tedious business of dieting. I'll make sure that the next drama series I watch isn't mainly set in a kitchen.
However, it will have to have lines like these: