North and South DVD is not the Same as Netflix!

For my birthday in early September, I bought myself the DVD version of North & South.  I’ve watched it a bazillion times on Netflix and wanted to be sure to have a copy I owned in my possession for whenever Netflix loses the streaming rights.  Due to back-to-back local getaways before school started, I didn’t really have time to open the DVD, let alone watch it.  So as the days ticked down to school, I decided that my T-minus-4 and T-minus-3 late night watching would be two episodes each of the DVD version.

I was surprised to find that the DVD extras were not the only things different!  There are extra scenes in the episodes themselves that were probably in the original BBC airplay of the miniseries.  Most of these scenes are small additions to Netflix scenes and/or transitional, but some added extra depth or explanation.  We see Fanny tell Margaret about the water mattress that she later comes to Malborough Mills to ask about on the fateful riot day.  We see Margaret remember seeing Mr. Thornton for the first time as she returns to the now empty mill at the end of episode 4 (mirroring John’s remembering their first meeting in the mill as he goes in one last time).  There’s a great added scene between Nicholas and Margaret just after he starts working at Thornton’s, where they talk about his new job and Mr. Thornton.  (It actually breaks up the late night mill scene with Nicholas and Thornton into two distinct parts on different days.)  The most touching was a brief scene of Mrs. Thornton coming to see her son sleeping hunched over his desk at the mill.  She takes off her shawl and places it gently on him, pats his head, and turns off the light.

Now I wish I had had the time to open this earlier!  I would have loved to view this version a few times to appreciate its differences.

In short, if you enraptured with the Netflix version of North & South, consider buying the full DVD version!  You’ll get more than the extras of deleted scenes, a Richard Armitage interview, and director/writer commentary!

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In Honor of Fallen Comrades…

Nursing school is hard.  You hear that it is hard before you enter, but you have no idea of the magnitude of the difficulty until you are in it.  Tomorrow, I start my second year of the ADN RN program at my local community college.  I can’t quite believe that the craziness all starts again.  I’ll admit I don’t feel ready for it.  Summer wasn’t what I hoped it would be, with my own hand surgery in July and with now the added complication of my elderly mother being in the hospital with pneumonia and heart failure.

The only consolation in looking at the hard work ahead–both personally and scholastically–is that I will be toiling with an amazing group of people, my cohort, the Class of 2016.  While I knew some of them at the start of last school year (we all have to take the same pre-requisites, though some take them at different campuses), we got to really know and depend on each other during the course of the last school year.  We truly did band together, making and sharing study guides and offering encouragement, support, and laughter via Facebook as well as at school and in the hospitals.  Even when the strongest of us faltered, the others were right there and “had their back” with such kindness and compassion; I can truly say it would be an honor for any of my cohort to be my or my family’s nurse down the road.  I hope the new first years form such bonds and come to rely on each other.

Unfortunately, though, nursing school is so hard that not everyone makes it through.  Each of our cohort made it through the first term, though some did struggle with lab/practical skill testing and dosage calculation.  (Yes, you can be dropped from the program for lapses in those areas.)  Winter term, while bringing us four new faces in the LPNs who were bridging into our program, brought the first painful cuts to our cohort.  Winter and Spring terms are especially hard and more like a marathon than a sprint.  You not only have two clinical days where you have to be at the hospital at 0545 (meaning I was up at 0345 when I had to go the hospital 30 miles away) after having spent the previous day writing 2 papers and doing other clinical paperwork, but you have 3 “classroom” classes…nursing, pharmacology, and pathophysiology.  I found pharmacology relatively easy and straightforward, thanks to an amazing textbook (thanks, Lehne!) and a wonderful lead instructor (thanks, PN!).  Patho was difficult due to an incredibly dense text and a struggling freshman instructor.  (The text was so bad, I actually wondered what further schooling I would need to be able to write a patho textbook myself!)  Nursing, as a class, is hard because it seeks to get you to develop critical/clinical thinking, and that is not an easy task for a first year student.  Test questions are often obtuse; there is usually more than one “right” answer…you have to pick the most right!  While I maintained my 4.0 throughout the first year, it was a nailbiter in NRS each term.  I think only one other person managed to get all A’s in the first year; we did start out with a solid group of people who never had gotten a B in their lives.  One very smart young man, by the end of the year, was just hoping to pass.  Yes, it IS that hard.

Shock reverberated through our small cohort when 4 people did not survive Winter term due to grades.  Two failed nursing; two failed patho.  It was a blow that was hard to recover from, to lose any of our number; the first weeks of Spring term felt subdued as we felt the palpable losses.  I personally tried to help two of the students, going over to their homes for marathon study sessions.  One was a very dear friend who had incredible faith in me and encouraged me with such conviction, and her kind smiles every morning meant the world to me.  Our final term of the year found us shy one other member of the cohort.  While I hadn’t known him at all before nursing school, we became friends, and I enjoyed our conversations before class and at breaks.  I would PM him late at night to both encourage his study and to get some rest.  (We are both night owls.)

So, before I start my next, final year before becoming an RN, a shout-out to my friends who will be very missed:

LisaW — A kind and gentle soul whom the world needs as a nurse.  I was amazed to watch you in action on Teen Night; your compassion and way of being with others are natural to you.  I hope you decide to try again.  You are one of the best of us!

AshleyT — I didn’t get to know you well, but I didn’t want to lose one of our new LPNs so soon!

AlonzoS — The life of the party to be sure!  A big guy with an even bigger heart.  I hope the world treats you well, my friend, for it is a better place with you in it.

LauraM — Smart and beautiful with a fiery spirit, an amazing combination.  She was the ringleader of extracurricular activities, the instigator of “Friday Fellowship” (setting up places and times for get-togethers after class…at local restaurants and bars [yup, you can tell the nursing students as ones who are drinking at 1100!).  No one organized things like you, Miss Laura!  Friday get-togethers were never the same!

DavidJ — A newfound friend whom I hope will be a friend for a long time.  An all-around decent guy (as all our future male nurses are) whom I always enjoyed chatting or PMing with.  I will still give you a rematch at air hockey…though pinball and air hockey are my thing!

North & South Obsession

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS ABOUT THE BBC MINISERIES!!

Being a fan of British actors, TV, and movies, I’m surprised I haven’t run across North & South before.  Originally airing in 2004 in Great Britain, it came out at a time when I was busy working at making my specialty food store a success; there was little time for TV and movies.  (Honestly, I’m not sure when it leapt across the pond.)  If you haven’t seen it and have Netflix…go watch it now!  There are only 4 episodes, less than 4 hours total viewing time

Thanks to Netflix, I’ve watched and rewatched it many times; I’ve bought the DVD so I could see deleted scenes and interviews.  I actually can’t recall my true initial reaction to it because it has become a part of my daily existence; I do remember that I had to watch Episode 2 immediately after Episode 1.  Rarely have I become so completely enthralled and enamored of–well–anything.  I’ve since bought the book on Kindle and as a Penguin Classic.  For the first time, I’ve purchased fan fiction (and read it greedily).

At first glance, North & South seems unlikely to inspire in such a way.  At its heart, it is a gritty story of loss, death, violence, class struggle, and the harshness of the Industrial Revolution.  But its soul is the budding romance between two very different and unlikely potential lovers (and I use that term in the most Victorian of senses).  Against the brutal backdrop, their true characters are revealed and refined by their ever-changing feelings for each other.

What makes it so compelling for me?  Here are some thoughts:

  1. Music that I can’t get out of my head!
  2. Stellar performances by Richard Armitage, Brendan Coyle (of Downton Abbey fame), and Sinead Cusack.
  3. Strong hero and heroine, each of whose hard edges are softened by knowing and–ultimately–loving the other.
  4. Our first glimpse of Mr. Thornton is somewhat monstrous, of him beating an errant factory worker whose pipesmoking threatens the safety of the mill.  Not only is Margaret Hale stunned; the viewer is as well.  Is this our hero?  Is this the one that the heroine (and, by extension, the viewer) is supposed to fall in love with?
  5. While Margaret is not privy to it, the viewer gets to see a touchingly tender relationship between Mr. Thornton and his stern yet loving mother (superbly played by Sinead Cusack).  While the hero has a steely exterior for the outside world, the scenes with Mrs. Thornton show a desperately vulnerable person who believes he is unworthy.  Achingly sweet and touching!  The vulnerability and worthiness themes are even stronger in the book, where the author allows the reader in to Mr. Thornton’s private thoughts.
  6. Armitage peels back the layers of the onion that are Thornton, both for the viewer (more quickly) and Margaret (more slowly, with lots of Pride & Prejudice type misunderstandings along the way).  He might be a hard and sometimes ill-tempered businessman (though usually fair and straightforward), but he has a boyish tenderness for those he loves, incredible self-doubt when it comes to his own worthiness, and a strong sense of responsibility for those under his protection (whether family or workers).
  7. For both Mr. Thornton and Margaret, there are recurrent themes of duty, obligation, and responsibility.  As this is something I deal with myself taking care of aging parents with both physical and mental issues, these themes resonate with me.  The miniseries only hints at this; the book does a much better job exploring these themes.  In fact, one particular passage in the book about it nearly had me in tears because it so aptly expressed exactly how one feels in that situation–something I was not expecting to find in such a novel.  Across time and culture, Mrs. Gaskell speaks certain universal truths in this regard!
  8. Margaret is a bit of a square-peg-in-a-round-hole wherever she is (even at the Harley Street wedding of her cousin).  While at first completely repulsed by Milton and all it stands for, she comes to appreciate its working class people.  She is first not well received by any class in Milton–Masters or men–though her true compassion and caring allows her into the hearts of at least one working class family.  She eventually comes to see that not all Masters are heartless and money-grubbing, as was her first thought.
  9. Yeah, I’ll admit it.  Richard Armitage is exceedingly handsome/sexy here, with those expressive pale blue eyes, dark hair, and deep baritone.  The furrow between his brows is its own character.  And if you’re a heterosexual female, the look he manages to give Margaret–such tender adoration–at the final train station scene (both when he presents the Helstone rose and before The Kiss)–even while she is in a bit of a blither–will melt your heart into a gooey puddle if you have even the tiniest bit of hopeless romantic in you.  Any woman would love to be on the receiving end of such a look!
  10. Amazing scenes that I replay in my mind:
    1. Margaret first enters the mill in the flurry of white
    2. Margaret first sees Mr. Thornton, first powerful then merciless
    3. Margaret first castigates Mr. Thornton (in her father’s study) on beating his employee
    4. Mr. Thornton and his mother before the tea, when he assures her she has nothing to fear from Miss Hale finding him a catch
    5. Tea with the Hales, where Mr. Thornton tries to show Margaret his more charming side and she has none of it.  Also, the wordless tea pouring has a little bit of, ahem, tension.
    6. When Thornton shows his tempestuous side to both Mr. and Miss Hale after the union rally, and Margaret literally turns up her nose at him
    7. The final scenes of Episode 1…I’ve seen Hell…and it is white…snow white.
    8. The Thornton dinner party, where Margaret is a little more friendly after having heard Mr. Thornton’s story and seeing him in his element amongst other business owners as Master of Marlborough Mills (and perhaps seeing how dashing he looks in his dress outfit).
    9. The riot, especially his concern that she not be frightened about what’s happening and then how she dashes out to save him from the angry mob after he went out there at her insistence.
    10. The pre-proposal scene between Mr. Thornton and his mom, where he tells her he must propose to Margaret because of his feelings but that he “daren’t hope that such a woman could care for me.”
    11. The proposal scene, which just goes wrong in so many ways, but does offer memorable lines like, “I spoke to you about my feelings because I love you; I have no thought for your reputation” and “I don’t wish to possess you; I wish to marry you because I love you.”  The book scene is quite different and lovely in its own right, revealing the seriousness and the depth of Mr. Thornton’s feelings.  (In fact, I wish the screenplay had used more of it!)  Indeed, I was inspired to write my own fan fiction after hearing RA read an abridged version of the book scene on YouTube; that scene deserves some of the original writing to be left in (and some of the clunky TV writing to be left out).
    12. The post-proposal scene between Mr. Thornton and his mother, where he tells her about the proposal refusal: “No one loves me, no one cares for me but you…I knew I wasn’t good enough for her, but I think I love her more than ever.” Awwwwwwww.
    13. Episodes 3 and 4 (most of) to me are bittersweet; this is the “love lost” part of the story; you really just want these two to get past their misunderstandings and move on.  Instead, the misunderstandings build, and you see the characters’ torment.  The little bit of rivalry (and posturing) between Lennox and Thornton at the Great Exhibition is fun but still tinged with sadness.  But it goes far darker after the scene at the railway station.  Mr. Thornton’s anguish at the event and all that ensued is palpable in every scene he is in afterward.  You get the sense that he is grappling with his deep feelings for her while being certain she is in love with another man.  Margaret’s deep shame turns her into a shadow of her former self; I do miss the little spitfire that challenged Thornton, set him on edge, and spurred him on to be a better man.
    14. Back to smaller descriptions…Mr. Thornton gently helping the young Boucher boy to read.  (Awww!)
    15. Mr. Thornton and Higgins starting to understand each other after-hours at the mill while they devise a plan to help feed the workers.  Miss Hale has clearly gotten under his skin and is firing up some compassion!
    16. After tea at the Hales, Margaret looking back at Thornton is a visual ostinato: as she goes up the lyceum steps after the tea, after Mr. Thornton has to excuse himself at the dinner party to talk to an associate, after they have a chance meeting on the street after the proposal refusal, etc. When Margaret is set to leave Milton, ostensibly for the last time, Mr. Thornton watches her carriage go and, as he wistfully watches, breathes, “Look back.  Look back at me.”  Short, but amazingly powerful scene.
    17. The empty mill scene with Mr. Thornton, where what he sees in his mind’s eye is flashes of Margaret and then the final revelation that the man at the railway station was her brother who had run afoul of the law.  The flicker of emotions in this scene is amazing!  The business might be gone, but other things are possible!
    18. The railway scene.  As I said above in #9 about The Look.  And The Kiss is amazing, at first very gentle then more urgent…then broken up by a call to board the train!  The look he gives when she separates from him to return to her train and then the, “Coming home with me?” when she returns to his train with her bag.  Sigh….
    19. ….really, basically, I love any John and Margaret scene, any John and mother scene, any scene with RA, any scene with Mr. Bell (whom I find just a really fun character), and a few other scenes….
  11. Oh, and did I mention Richard Armitage??  🙂

Gratitude — Paying It Forward

I just got back from the fall brunch sponsored by the local chapter of AAUW (American Association of University Women), part of which was honoring their scholarship recipients.  I am proud to have received a scholarship from them for my second year of nursing school.  (I have been very fortunate that my entire nursing education has been paid for through Pell grants and local/national scholarships.)  The ladies I met were very friendly (not letting a lone person wander too long).

During new people introductions, two other scholarship recipients were first year nursing students at my school!  I could barely contain myself in my seat for the rest of the official program.  I wanted to jump up and introduce myself to them.  No one understands nursing school like one in nursing school!  I wanted to let them know that they have an amazing journey ahead of them and that I am here (as are my fellow second years) to assist them succeed.  One was a lovely young woman, HeidiS, recovering from a bad divorce and forging a new life for herself.  (I completely understand that–as my own divorce is what impelled me to follow my heart and go to nursing school–though my divorce wasn’t as bad as hers sounds.)  The other was a young husband and father, Nedd, looking to provide better for his family.  Heidi had some very specific questions (school hours, when scrubs needed); Nedd was concerned about the difficulty of nursing school.  (Sorry to tell you, son, but it is HARDER than you’ve heard…but worth it, we hope.  You can do it, as 30+ of us did last year!)  Contact information was exchanged, and I hope that I didn’t overwhelm them with information (or scare them with hard truths) and that they feel they have an ally before school even starts.

Seeing those fresh faces made me feel a little invigorated, more than the trepidation I’ve felt these past few weeks (knowing that I will have to give up every day, night, and weekend of my life to school/NCLEX for the next 10 months).  We have an official mentor program in our nursing school, and I think I will very much like working with the enthusiastic newbies!  As we say in our class, we’re all in this together; we will be adding to that group as we welcome the first years!