Vera Stanhope - An Idol of Mine
Many of us have been watching more TV and accessing more video on demand than usual in the last few months (I can't think why!). Before the pandemic, me and my wife had scrapped our Netflix subscription in favour of a BritBox one, and it's definitely come in useful during lockdown and the quasi-lockdown we now find ourselves in.
As well as starting a rewatch of Downton Abbey, I introduced my wife to the delights of Vera. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it's based on a set of books by Ann Cleeves and follows a no-nonsense detective in Northumberland as she leads a team through gritty and often unsettling investigations.
The main difference between Vera and many other crime dramas fronted by women is that the title character played by Brenda Blethyn is unashamedly interested in finding answers while hanging around in clothes that've seen her through dozens of winters. When the first series of Vera aired in 2011, it was refreshing to see that kind of character being put centre stage, and she's one of the most iconic figures to come out of British TV in the last decade - in my humble opinion.
Why do I like her so much? I think it's because there are certain elements of her personality that I identify with, for better or worse. She wears what she wants and what she feels comfortable in. To be honest, it's taken me years to accept that my "style" is the equivalent of every day being a dress-down Friday, and why shouldn't it be? I can put it on when necessary like Vera can, but why shouldn't I be comfortable in my own skin when I'm in a position to do so? After all, sitting behind your computer all day has certain perks.
Another reason I identify with Vera Stanhope is that she treads a line between wanting people around to help her and wanting to be left alone. She might not be interested in meeting anyone at this stage in her life (although that doesn't mean certain gentlemen don't give it a go) but she recognises she needs her team around her to solve cases. That doesn't stop her saying she'll meet everyone at the pub to celebrate a result and disappearing off into the night instead - something I'm definitely guilty of!
A third and final reason why I find Vera such a compelling character and, indeed, the series itself so engrossing, is that she knows there aren't any easy answers in life. The cases she deals with and the people she comes across are complex, and even finding the truth and ostensibly locking up the villain doesn't magically cleanse the lives of those left behind. This ethos is something that blends into my own fiction and, yes, there might be elements of Vera in some of my characters because she's an inspiration to me. I'm sure she'd shrug her shoulders, call me "pet" and walk off if she knew.