About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Assumpta, Peter & the Baby Polar Bear

A tall open-faced young man is hiking the last three miles into Ballykissangel carrying his belongings in a large backpack. When he left the bus a few miles back, the sun was shining. Before long the famous Irish showers poured down on him. A blue-green Renault van slows as it passes the hiker; the driver rolls down her window and offers him a ride into the village of Ballykissangel. Assumpta Fitzgerald, publican, meet Peter Clifford, priest.




I just recently watched the first three series of this engaging BBC Ireland comedy of life in the fictional village Ballykissangel. And, like one of the fan video producers for the series, I can't get the characters out of my head. Especially Peter and Assumpta. So, reader warning: this will be a very long post that may overestimate your interest in the everyday joys, comedy and heartaches of the inhabitants of this small Irish village. Read as much as you have time and, if you've watched the series, I'd love to hear what you think of it, especially the Assumpta-Peter connection.


In that short ride down the mountain in the rain you can begin to see the contrasts between Assumpta Fitzgerald and Peter Clifford. Peter is friendly, enthusiastic, and excited about his assignment as the priest at St. Joseph's in Ballykissangel. Things are "beautiful" to him--Assumpta's unusual name, his new church. Assumpta is complicated. She is a keen observer of people, their behavior and motivations. More importantly, for this relationship, she is the resident cynic about organized religion, especially the Catholic Church. In their short conversation in the van she needles Peter about how much they "need" an English priest. She calls him a hippie priest for his sunny outlook. And when Peter thanks her for the lift, she says that the people are used to "carrying the clergy." And then there's her stock response of "uh-huh", accompanied by a sly glance. Peter does not rise to her bait, though. He's gentle with her but doesn't let her digs go unchallenged.


Peter and Assumpta are friend/adversaries from the time he arrives in the village. He doesn't have suitable living quarters for a priest. The resident wheeler dealer, Brian Quigley, has rented the house he was supposed to have to some vacationing young women. He has no reliable transportation, only an motor bike that usually won't start. His initial meeting with Father MacAnally, the parish priest, didn't go well. Father Mac ruled as priest/politician and was not impressed that his new priest was more concerned with getting to know the people and figuring out how to minister to their needs than suitable housing and transportation. He ordered Father Clifford to sort both problems out immediately. Before that happens though Peter gets a middle of the night call to administer last rites to a mountain parishioner. As usual, his bike would not start. He races to Assumpta for help. . .



On that second ride up the mountain, Assumpta sees Peter in a different light. She sees how he tends the dying and bereaved. She sees that he cares. What he does matters, especially to those who are left. He would give her the last rites, even if he couldn't understand her--just as he did with the mountain man. He thanked her for coming out with him, especially when she didn't believe. She said he left her speechless. . .


As time went on Father Clifford made a place for himself in Ballykissangel. The village people liked having him as their priest. He married them after getting them through some pre-wedding jitters, he baptized their babies and even babysat for Kieran, the child of Niamah and Ambrose Egan. He involved himself in the parochial church school and community activities. He fought teen pregnancy through sex education with the local Dr. Ryan. And, he joined the regulars at Assumpta Fitgerald's pub for a pint. And, par for the course, Assumpta observed from behind the bar, handing out challenges and advice to Father Clifford. In time, there was no denying that they were more than friends. The pub regulars saw it and so did Father Mac. Even though they never crossed the line, the love between them was there--"even the dogs in the street could see it." Finally, Father Mac sent Peter on retreat, ordering him to "scrub this woman from his mind forever."


Peter left Ballykissangel for awhile, but when he returned Assumpta was still in his heart. . .





This evening the two of them were thrown together by accident, both agreeing to babysit little Kieran so Niamah and Ambrose could have an evening out. The yearning and despair is palpable in that kitchen as Peter busies himself preparing his oriential dish for the community fund drive. They try to make conversation, but there is too much between them that can't be said. He tries to explain his feelings, admitting that, like the baby polar bear, he is confused. He desperately wants to do the right thing, but cannot deny her. He asks, "Why am I always thinking about you?"


That evening was a turning point in Assumpta and Peter's relationship. They make plans. They burn bridges. And then the lights go out one more time in the pub when everyone is gathered for the oriental supper. Assumpta goes to the basement one more time to fix the problem. . . I won't reveal any more of the plot in case you'd like to see the series. Instead, here's the most recent video montage of Ballykissangel--by someone who, like me, can't stop thinking of Assumpta and Peter.

16 comments:

Debs said...

I never watched Ballykissangel when it first appeared on our screens, but they're now rerunning it, so I must try and have a look.

Cousin M said...

I loved that show! Many a tearful episode from Father Clifford & Assumpta and Ambrose & Niamh's problems, as well as chuckles from Brian Quigley's two inept "go-fers." Can't remember their names, but they reminded me of Larry, Darryl & Darryl from "Newhart." Wish we could see more of it.

Gerald said...

I still say you should be a movie critic Faye...you love your shows and remember every little name n detail. I forget things as soon as I'm done watching. This does sound like an interesting show. I am hosting FM next week come on over and sign up on Wed.

The Church Lady said...

I have rarely ever watched anything on the BBC, but this certainly looks like a great series. The name Assumpta is interesting in itself! I can't help but think of what her nickname might be??

Gattina said...

Indeed it's a very long post and I must admit I didn't read it all, lol ! but I don't know anything about this film !

Faye said...

debs-I don't remember Ballyk showing on TV, usually we get this kind of programming on PBS. I found it through Netflix. The romantic writer in you would love this series.

cousin M- that would be Liam and Donal. They certainly provide much needed comic relief as the "hard way construction company" when your heart is sore for the young lovers.

gerald-unfortunately a lot of our first run TV shows are forgettable. That's why I so appreciate BBC. I'm in for next Fun Monday, whatever the assignment may be.

church lady- our main chance for seeing this kind of programming is PBS or BBC on cable. The writers of Ballyk had a wicked sense of humor to give Assumpta such a "religious" name, right?

gattina-quite all right to not read all 20 paragraphs and 20 minutes of video in one post! Usually try to think of readers when writing posts. But sometimes I just need to say more about the topic. . .

laurie said...

oh god it took us months to get this show out of our system. months! maybe years!!

laurie said...

though i have to confess a soft spot for the Leo character. a journalist and all, you know.

and i love the quote from ambrose; "before you even heard of ballykissangel, father, there was enough love here for assumpta fitzgerald to light up the sky!"

Faye said...

laurie-I hear you. I've re-watched the first three series that starred Assumpta and Peter. The Ambrose line is great. I also can't forget Peter's asking Assumpta, "Where did it all go so wrong?" That voice of his when he speaks lovingly to her. . .

Peggy said...

I have just finished watching the series one, two and three of Ballykissangel. I am heartbroken. I love the characters...all of them, but the "love story" between Assumpta and Peter is captivating. I watched all 26 episodes in the last week and I cannot stop thinking about these characters. I want to live in Ballykissangel, but only with Fitzgeralds open and Assumpta behind the bar. :-(

Have you continued on with series four? I feel like I have lost a friend and I am not sure if I can continue watching. Thoughts?

Autumn said...

I find myself watching the first three seasons over and over and over. I agree, the Assumpta/Peter connection is incredibly haunting.

BallyK is my comfort food!

Dockildare said...

As a 58 year old male I felt embarrassed at how deeply this story touched me. I shed tears watching Peter hold Assumpta's hand for the first time as they kept watch over Quigley's field. I spent two restless nights barely able to sleep at end of "The Reckoning." The script was fantastic but the real power of the narrative was conveyed through the actors' skills: Eye contact, facial expressions and body language spoke volumes more than any script could convey. Dervla Kirwan and Stephen Tomkinson are unbelievably talented and their performances awakened feelings and memories hidden deep within me which had, somehow, become insulated from my conscious self by layers of normal, day-to-day anxieties.

Elisabeth said...

I, too, have just finished watching the first three series of Ballykissangel, and I too have been moved by these two characters such that I can't get them out of my head. and here I am in Australia on Google trying to find out more about all things Peter Clifford and Assumpta Fitzgerald.

I'm relieved to find I'm not alone. The success of these characters is obviously a composite of many things: the writer, his imagination and his writing, the two main actors and their acting, the setting in which the story is set, the relationships between the two primary actors and other actors, and then finally that something, that ability to resonate deeply, for me especially from a Catholic background, as I've just recently noted on my blog, and for others with a different background. There's something magical there and maybe it comes about because of death.

It reminds me of the ways we eulogise the dead in ways we do not eulogise the living.
Thanks for a fantastic post.

dawn agnese-west said...

I know I am commenting a year to 2yrs later- but was glad to see that there are many more people who felt the same as I did after watching the first 3 seasons of BallyK (I cannot seem to move on to season 4). I cannot seem to stop thinking about Peter and Asumpta and what could have been. It's amazing how two characters can affect someone's emotions the way those two have. I loved your post and will continue to check in. Thank you all for your posts!

Mrswindy1 said...

I have been trying to find the music that was played during the "Polar Bear" scene and after Assumpta died. I know that Shaun Davey wrote the music and that there is a BK soundtrack on Amazon but it doesn't include Season 3. Anyone ever try to find it or know if it is available anywhere?

Mrswindy1 said...

I have been trying to find the music that was played during the "Polar Bear" scene and after Assumpta died. I know that Shaun Davey wrote the music and that there is a BK soundtrack on Amazon but it doesn't include Season 3. Anyone ever try to find it or know if it is available anywhere?