I must say happy though I am for the predictable recognition that Eddie Redmayne received on Sunday night for best actor at the Oscars - and the dedication he made to people with MND/ALS in his acceptance speech, I am disappointed that no recognition was afforded to Felicity Jones for best actress, portraying Jane Hawking. As I've commented previously his was a bravura performance of a bravura role. Her role was far from bravura and demanded a subtle contained performance, and that was exactly what she gave it: beautifully nuanced, tracing the patterns of shade and light in the highly condensed account of a relationship of more than forty years. I would have dedicated her Oscar to all the unheralded carers of us who have the disease in one form or another. As one of our friends whose wife had a frighteningly fast type of MND said to me after watching the film, "I thought it was brilliant but, oh, how painful it was to be reminded of that journey!"
On Sunday the BBC Songs of Praise team decided to base their programme round the Oscars. They interviewed Jane Hawking in Cambridge and filmed her singing in their church choir conducted by her present husband, Jonathan. She was great, very articulate and clear about her faith. Someone in the BBC had seen my previous post about the film, and thought that an interview with my Jane and me might fit in as an added extra. I suppose the parallels of my having MND like Stephen Hawking and our both having wives/carers named Jane worked nicely. So nine days previously, before we went on a short break, the film crew arrived with the presenter, Claire McCollum - loved her Ulster accent! - , and all their equipment. They certainly knew what they were up to. While Nick, the cameraman, Lindsey, the researcher, and Karen, the producer, worked away at setting up the equipment, removing the ticking clock (!), and arranging the shots, we relaxed and chatted to Claire. I suppose the actual filming took under an hour, mostly in one take - for which I was grateful as it's never easy to repeat exactly what you said (unless you're an actor, I suppose).
Anyway they soon packed up and zoomed back off to Media City in Salford, and next day we went off for a break in Devon. I put Songs of Praise on to record - of course. But we were actually able to watch it live, but it wasn't until half way through the programme that we were sure we'd appear. In what was a rather good programme over all, ours was, I think you might say, a cameo performance - being a minute or two long - but I must say I thought Karen had edited all my waffle very skilfully. As I've said elsewhere, there always things you wish you had added. When Claire asked me something about my strong faith sustaining me. My answer was something like, "I'm not so sure about it being 'strong'. Sometimes it feels I'm hanging on by a thread…". That's when I wish I'd said, "But I've discovered that God keeps holding on to me firmly." However our bit ended positively with Jane talking about hope and then an upbeat contemporary worship song.
Afterwards it was fun following the Facebook comments which dribbled in that evening and the next day. One of the nicest comments, on Twitter, was from Claire McCollum herself:
@mwenham you and Jane were just brilliant! So glad u enjoyed it. A pleasure to work on this one! Take care. Btw really enjoyjng ur book. C" (Which reminds me, you can get discounted copies of My Donkeybody by contacting me on firstname.lastname@example.org!)
So I'm happy on this occasion both to compliment the BBC for a job well done and to congratulate the Songs of Praise department on a nicely crafted programme. And finally I must say how good the film crew were and of course how lovely Claire the interviewer was!