Granny’s Moving In Review: 83 Going On 18..

GRANNY’S MOVING IN – A WONDERLAND FILM: Wednesday 7th March, BBC2, 9pm

Paddy Wivell’s inquisitive and low-key interview style is back after last week’s docu-delight, Two Jews on a Cruise, in another episode of the Wonderland series.

This time, Wivell has found another ordinary story – an elderly mother with dementia moving in with her daughter and son-in-law – and made it extraordinary due to the peculiarity of the characters involved. How he found a subject like Peggy, an 83 year old “Londoner of the old-schoolâ€? with vascular dementia and a passion to “rock around the clockâ€?, is testament to his distinctive panache for documentary-making.

The slightly tenuous peg for this piece is that the costs of retirement homes are growing with life expectancy, causing an increasing number of families to take elderly relatives in to their homes.

In reality, Granny’s Moving In is a tender and humorous piece about a stubborn, almost adolescent old lady who values her independence too fiercely ever to be sent to a home, preferring to travel from Essex to London seven times a week, hanging out in Spitalfields Market, staying out after 10.30pm with strange men, going dancing, wandering around Trafalgar Square conversing with all present – instructing nonplussed tourists to put out their cigarettes and wrap up warmer – and even assaulting Ken Livingstone.

“We have everything, there’s so much to seeâ€?, says Peggy, her touching joie de vivre in the city that she loves undiminished after 83 years. “Have freedom pass, will travelâ€?, is her long-suffering daughter Sue Caroll’s wry remark, after another evening sitting up worrying about her mother’s whereabouts.

The documentary follows Peggy moving in to Sue and her unfailingly tolerant husband Phil’s house, and the clashes that inevitably ensue. Peggy is engagingly facetious throughout – “I’m causing a rumpusâ€? she gleefully reports to the camera – particularly in her obstinacy when Sue is begging her to throw things out before she moves. “I’m going to clean my teeth with itâ€?, is her characteristically sarky justification for keeping hold of an ancient garden broom.

The film avoids being a patronising observation of an idiosyncratic old woman in her dotage, giving Peggy the respect and attention she deserves as its main subject. When she chooses to sing at random intervals, cackling “Stupid Cupidâ€? after a ticking-off from her daughter and crowing “Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be?â€?, to her 90 year old male companion down the phone, we feel a sense of mischief and joy, rather than sympathy for a woman whose mind is in decline.

Despite this light-hearted tone, there are poignant moments that make this everyday story particularly moving. Harangued and unappreciated by her mother, the weary Sue is often brought to tears of frustration, but when she converts her garage into a “Granny Annexâ€?, Peggy sits contently in her new home and insists: “I couldn’t wish for a nicer daughterâ€?.

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