My bowl of home-made sweet potato soup, (a little on the spicy side if I’m honest), has been delicately splashed by a small tear of laughter falling down my right cheek.
As well as doing some soup-slurping, I’m using my lunch hour to greedily devour the new series of This Country and have just watched 20-something, skinny-framed, Kurtan Mucklowe attempt to push a wheelbarrow up a plank into a skip.
He falters, he flails, he clings to the barrow like a distressed limpet in a polyester T-shirt as the weight of his load causes him to lose balance. Meanwhile his two indifferent labourer colleagues, Dan and Martin, watch blank-faced just yards away and do nothing to assist him.
It’s beautifully-observed, gentle humour with nothing remotely slap-stick or Mrs Brown about it and that’s part of the reason why I love this mockumentary series which had its first airing last year and, after pulling in nearly 5 million viewers, returns for a second helping.
Set in the sleepy Cotswold village of Northleach, where the height of excitement is the annual scarecrow making competition, a duck race or a Secret Cinema Grease night in the village hall, it follows the day-to-day lives of cousins Lee “Kurtan” Mucklowe and his cousin Kerry played and is written by real-life brother and sister Charlie and Daisy May Cooper.
First aired in February last year on BBC3, series one was a comedy triumph that I lapped up in two back-to back sittings on iPlayer, not least because, having been born in the Cotswolds and grown up in similar sleepy village in West Somerset, This Country strikes an extra loud-twanging chord for me.
A typical episode sees a wide-eyed Kerry lumbering around the village in one of her England football tops, bored and on the hunt for entertainment, shouting out greetings to her fellow villagers, “Mad Mandy” or neighbour, “Slugs”, while her enthusiastic cousin Kurtan resembles a more upbeat, rural, (and less nerdy), version of MacKenzie Crook’s Gareth from the Office.
Their mundane activities, in a village where nothing much ever happens but where events such as attempting to buy a second-hand computer, track down an old school mate on Facebook or agree which shelf in the oven to place a pizza on, can be the comedy crux of an entire episode.
Meanwhile it’s the assortment of village characters, many of them played by real relations, -(Daisy and Charlie’s father, Paul Cooper plays Kerry’s screen father Martin and their actor uncle, Trevor Cooper, is grumpy Northleach dweller, Len) – that make This Country so brilliant.
From the ever- smiley vicar Reverend Francis Seaton, who has a penchant for Midsomer Murders and has been helping Kurtan to grow cress, to “Mad Mandy” who does a side line in bad Grant Mitchell tattoos, once stalked a member of S Club Seven and is keen to complete her collection of Compare the Meerkat stuffed toys, they are all beautifully-observed and incredibly funny.
As series two opens, Kurtan has “sacked off’” Swindon college where he was doing a GNVQ in health and social care, but he’s got a spring in his trainer soles thanks to his new girlfriend, Sophie, meanwhile Kerry, who’s been helping out the vicar with his veg patch and getting in some golf practice with the rev says, ‘I’ve changed massively since you saw me last, I’ve been hanging out with the vicar and reformed myself’, (I’m pleased to report she hasn’t changed at all).
Meanwhile, Kerry’s cantankerous mum, who we never actually see, (and who is voiced by Daisy May herself), continues to screech accusations and orders to her unfazed daughter from her bedroom upstairs, “Can you put me Poldark on to record, I don’t want to miss me Poldark”.
It’s very rare that I laugh out loud while watching TV programmes, (although anything involving Sharon Horgan or Romesh Ranganathan will usually get me going), which is why I’m delighted to have Kerry and Kurtan back on my screen.
Thank you Cooper siblings for creating perfect slices of rural comedy. I confess I’ve rewound Kurtan wobbling on his plank three times already and it just gets funnier.
Meanwhile I love the idea of “Cake Tuesday”, as introduced by Kerry’s slightly-scary dad Martin in episode two, coming soon, which requires his fellow labourers to bring a home-made confection into work. “Whoever has the least delicious cake has to buy the rounds in the The Keepers” barks gruff Martin to his anxious new recruit Kurtan.
I think it could catch on, just don’t even THINK about bringing in a shop-bought Lemon Drizzle like Kurtan…the consequences could be terrible.
Series two of This Country is available on BBC3 iPlayer from 10am today Monday 26 February, and will be on BBC1 at 10.45pm, Tuesday, March 6