For those blessed to come from a loving home, the idea of moving out for the first time can be intimidating. Laura Timmons, the youthful protagonist of the BBC series Lark Rise to Candleford, faces this dilemma in the late 1800s when her mother gets her a position at the local post office, to work for her cousin Dorcas. Eager to help Laura join the working world, Dorcas opens her heart and her home to her.
Almost no time passes at all before Laura faces her first mini crisis, in the separation between her previous home in the small community of Lark Rise, and the individuals of Candleford. Because Lark Rise lies outside Candleford’s limits, they must pay any telegrams delivered there for, an extravagance the poor people cannot afford. When one such telegram goes undelivered, informing a resident of an illness in the family that then resulted in death (not allowing her to hasten to their side to say farewell), the long-time quarrels between the two communities come to a head. Dorcas sets out to smooth over the conflict by proving Lark Rise lies within the post office limits (even if they must go cross-country), but it still leaves Laura attempting to figure out where her true “home” lies. Is it the place she grew up, among the people who know her best, or where she currently sleeps, above the post office? Who should receive her loyalty?
This theme carries through the series, as Laura tries to navigate that difficult circumstance known as “growing up.” Again and again, she wanders back to Lark Rise to spend time with her family, but also, she becomes accustomed to the privileges of life in town. Such as warm baths and running water and plumb cakes. Her father accuses her several times of being ‘ashamed’ of her childhood home, where the children all slept crammed into the same room. And that is partly true. Laura can be vain and not want to admit to their poverty, a spot upon which her father is also “touchy.” The easily insulted, social-rabble-rouser Robin Timmons feels preoccupied both with the beauty of his stonemason’s work (he will add decorative flourishes even if they go unpaid) and his need to provide a stable home for his family, even if it means he must leave them and work elsewhere, to maintain their comforts.
Dorcas starts out as having a modest little home only for herself, and her housekeeper, but soon takes in Laura, and then other lost souls find their way to her. In a later season, she brings in Minnie to do the work—a flighty, imaginative, and naïve girl, Minnie had a terrible home life with an abusive father. Although she ruins things often (such as when she plays with the dress Dorcas hoped to wear for her own wedding and spills wine on it, then destroys the lace when she tries to scrub it out), Minnie has found a home with Dorcas. One that even her mistakes cannot take away from her. Dorcas loves her enough to forgive her, and keep her safe, even when Minnie tests her patience.
Sydney, the illegitimate son of a local businessman, also finds a home with Dorcas after his mother’s death. Affectionately called by Dorcas “little man” because of his mature attitude and interests, Sydney seeks a sense of permanence, stability, and motherly affection after his losses. Dorcas provides it. Far from now being a half-orphan, Sydney inherits an entire houseful of people who love and care about him, who encourage his interests, and hug him whenever he needs it.
“Home” is also a frequent theme among the characters in Lark Rise, because often they are in danger of losing theirs! Gambling debts, lost money pouches, a woman who drinks all the wages her son brings home from the fields, poor harvests, and greedy landlords make up their small but poignant crises. But the one message that comes through again and again, whether it’s Laura struggling to find her place in the world without leaving her home behind, or Alfie keeping a roof over his siblings’ heads in his mother’s absence, is the reminder that home is not a place of mortar and stone. It is the people that surround you, and the trials, tribulations, and laughter they bring to your life. Laura does not need to live in Lark Rise to still call it home.
I wrote this for the Home Sweet Home Blog Party. Please click below to see other entries.