Letter: Why Catherine is my new heroine

Programme Name: Happy Valley series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *GENERIC* Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE) - (C) Red Productions - Photographer: Ben Blackall
Programme Name: Happy Valley series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *GENERIC* Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE) - (C) Red Productions - Photographer: Ben Blackall

I have a new heroine. A new benchmark to help navigate what life throws at us.

DS Cawood (played brilliantly by Sarah Lancashire) of Happy Valley, the BBC drama whose second series ended this week.

Catherine is flawed and human yet stamped through, like Blackpool rock with goodness and humanity, despite the terrible events she has to battle personally and professionally.

Every week her gently delivered deeds of simple basic kindness have brought a lump to my throat. It is said Sally Wainwright writes female characters brilliantly, every word and gesture a distillation of the million and one thoughts we navigate every day.

Happy Valley centres around my home town of Sowerby Bridge. The people are complex, naive, interesting and ordinary. The actors have got their portrayals so accurate.

These people are literally my DNA. The homes, farms, millstone grit walls and the breathtaking views are in my blood and my soul.

It’s the sort of place where the police came to the door of our farm one year as we were sitting down to Christmas dinner to check my father’s application to renew his shotgun license.

It was ‘a bit quiet down the station’ that particular day, apparently. We didn’t invite the officer in to share our festive meal, this wasn’t the movies. Incidentally, my father was registered as partially blind but that didn’t seem to affect the renewal of the gun license. I grew up with a shotgun leaning against the corner of every room in the house and ammunition on most window ledges. We children just knew not to touch them. You couldn’t make it up!

The farm featured in this series was like the one I grew up on, full of accidents waiting to happen, but hey, they (mostly) didn’t.

If you are brought up in Happy Valley, you feel sorry for the rest of the world who seem to live lives much less colourful and exciting.

The writer Sally Wainwright and I went to the same school, Sowerby Bridge Grammar, yards from where Ryan goes to school at Tuel Lane Infants and where Community Police Officer Gallagher was imprisioned in a cellar in the last series. I don’t remember her. You don’t remember those in the years below at school. I wonder if she remembers me and my drippy friends in the way that younger kids are aware of those in the years above them?

The word around Sowerby and Hebden Bridge was that the TV production team were scouting for a derelict farm to blow up for the finale. So...I expected a more explosive ending. However, I was happy with the slow and gradual close up to Catherine’s worried face, acknowledging what she had survived but also anticipating the next inevitable event to turn her life upside down, particularly as Ryan grows up and his dad (great portrayal of a psychopath by James Norton) thinks up further evil schemes to hurt our Catherine.

So, in the meantime, and until the next series, I want to tap into the wisdom of our heroine: a harassed, scared but not defeated, sleep deprived and under valued police officer with a massive dose of humanity.

I wouldn’t want to be Catherine Cawood but I do want to give her a hug and make her some nourishing food.