I lived in England as a young boy a long time ago and my memories are faint. But I lived entirely in London so my knowledge of what life is like in a small English village is non-existent. So I was interested in what the British TV show Doc Martin showed about life there. I have watched the complete six seasons of the series so far and quite enjoyed it, as my earlier review indicated.
For those not familiar with this show, it features a brilliant London vascular surgeon Martin Ellingham who suddenly develops a phobia towards blood and quits his surgical practice and moves to a small seaside village in Cornwall where he is the local general practitioner and thus less likely to encounter blood-related illnesses.
Ellingham is socially awkward, to put it mildly. He is gruff, taciturn, never smiles, speaks his mind with brutal frankness, and has no time for small talk or the other social courtesies that smooth out the potentially rough interactions of everyday life. He does not suffer fools gladly, telling people off with no hesitation. It is this fish-out-of-water aspect that drives much of the humor and drama. The series is a good booster for English tourism because the village is really picturesque and every single day is sunny and bright and in summer, except for one very brief rainy scene.
There are features of village life in the show that puzzled me. For one thing, why is there no vicar? The only appearances of one were for a wedding and a funeral and their portrayal was not complimentary to the clergy. Although churchgoing in England has dropped off sharply, I thought that the local clergy did play a significant role, at least socially.
Also why are there no people of color?
The village people also seem to be quite rude and dogs seem to roam freely everywhere though they seem to be well looked after and not strays. People seem to have no compunction walking into other people’s homes unannounced, being nosy about their affairs, being presumptuous, and being frank to the point of rudeness. What happened to the legendary English reserve and politeness?
I would be curious to learn from readers who have current knowledge of English village life how accurate the portrayal is (apart from the unrealistic climate of course) or whether it has been greatly distorted for purposes of TV.
Another feature that is noteworthy is how narrow the streets are in these English villages and how fast people drive given those conditions. Here I have some experience. I remember on a visit to England a few years ago and being driven on a winding narrow country road with buildings right by the side of the road that made visibility around corners non-existent and yet the drivers went much faster than I would. I wondered why they did not have more accidents.