Many years ago in one of my first sorties into a BBC tv studio, I met a slight energised elderly woman who was utterly calm, welcoming without gush, organised without hubris and somewhere along the line, I asked her name and whoever I asked answered adding “ but we all call her Mum. “
It is surely significant that, after all these years, she stays with me with the nickname that was obviously given her in affectionate respect of her personal professional continuity.
If you said continuity to me, I think of films. The person in charge of continuity – often a woman – keeps the integration of the piece in order. Often, meticulous order. Shots match, (“No, the other way round, left profile”) clothes match, china on the table matches, the position, the colour. I think of the mice embroidering the coat in Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor of Gloucester.
No mice, no embroidery.
I remember a photograph in a film annual, which showed a scene from a historical movie in which a sleeve had slipped back revealing a hefty watch on a male arm. And one or other of my parents (who loved films) said “Somebody will get a flea in their ear for that, bad continuity.” So I asked (I was brought up to ask) and got my first explanation of continuity, what it meant, why it was important, why it mattered.
can’t help noticing continuity, just as they notice (depending upon the bias of interest) script, cinematography, costume and so on. And as the television wagon or aspects of it pulled alongside movie, the same standards were applied and praised or found wanting.
The other aspect of continuity major in my life has been my psychotherapeutic experience. Not in the NHS. I paid for all of it. And I thus found a marker in my life at a time when there wasn’t a sign of land from the sea or a drop of water in the sands of bereavement that stretched from my bewildered feet to the world beyond, as far as I could see. But once I had found my “shrink”, I had a day and a time and barring his negotiated absence, it was that day and that time and it became significant to me.
I could get through to Thursday at 6.00. Thursday at 6.00 was real, it was there, I only had to get through Monday to Tuesday and then another day and then just a bit more and then … I never pass the door of the building where I went without smiling in gratitude. There are all sorts of things that mattered but I believe the continuity was very important.
Years later, I could not convince a very troubled if sort of functional young woman, of whom I had had the acquaintance for many years – I am not going to say “known” because I didn’t know her and she didn’t know herself – that the continuity of such a treatment was at least part of its value. No course, no crock of herbs would make the same difference. She wanted breakthrough and I knew if you want a breakthrough, you need an axe
and you become your own. And if you shy away from the violence of that image, let me tell you, there are lots of different kinds of violence and bloodless is not without pain.
There are of course lots of ways of working and only some of them involve continuity. I can only speak whereof I know. This morning into the silence of The Funeral, I could hear all the people who make up the Royal continuity, the hiss of ironing, the jingle of buffing harness, soft feet to many rooms, hairbrushes tugged through hair, clothes brushes on the shoulders of the mourning.
Before I started to write this, I looked up continuity in the dictionary. Oh I love a dictionary, still so often more satisfactory than on line. And I have an Oxford Concise, an Oxford Shorter (two volumes) and a two volume illustrated Readers Digest which I have learned to appreciate.
And I came on this, one of several definitions, “uninterrupted duration (rare) 1646.” It is an end but every end is a beginning. And a continuum.