LAURA HOWARD AND JANE WYMARK

The hero of Midsomer Murders is DCI Tom Barnaby, and his succession of sergeants are the other important characters. However, his wife and daughter are also important, and the program as a whole has plenty of female characters. I’ve been watching it as I work on this season’s SWAP.

Mrs. Barnaby doesn’t have a paying job, but she does lots of genteel volunteer work and has little hobbies. Little because they consist of her taking a class in something like watercolor painting or getting a recipe for jam from a friend and potting up a batch. The hobbies never seem to last beyond one episode. She doesn’t even knit.

In fact, there is very little knitting going on in this series, for a program set in a series of English villages.

I’m sometimes reminded of Desperate Housewives; the sheer number of murders in such a small space is incredible, and there’s a remarkable amount of kinky sex. But the women of Wisteria Lane spent their free time jogging, shopping, drinking, and baking. The ladies of Midsomer have much more far-ranging pursuits. Amateur dramatics, singing in the choir, gravestone rubbings, hunting and fishing, historical research, intense amateur nature study, book clubs (not always what they seem), and of course there are all those fetes and festivals to keep up with.

Sometimes they’re evil, of course, but often they’re very interesting. One of my favorites is the elderly lady who, having had a lurid career in Russian intelligence in her youth, couldn’t resist her natural response to physical attacks. She polished off several ne’er-do-wells before she got caught, and I assume she got off with a plea of self-defense, if not sheer absent mindedness.

In general, older women are much better off in this program than in its American counterparts, and the people are much more ordinary looking — without that fact becoming a plot point.

I expect to witness a few more murders today as I get the rest of the jacket pieces prepared. Last night I watched the lesson on sewing the pieces together, and it seemed pretty straightforward. Apparently, if you cut things right and get the right amount of structure in your pieces before you sew them together, they all behave better once you sew them together.

I have a bit of work to do today, and church, and I ought to do some housework since I’m hosting a meeting here tomorrow. But all I actually want to do today is to continue with my jacket class and see what happens next in that surprisingly dangerous imaginary English county.