Classic TV series

The holiday in Italy was lovely in spite of all the stress of locator forms , antigen tests and proof of double vaccination. Hot days. Meeting up with friends and simply being in the Pergola home after two year's absence.

In the evenings, after eating out on the terrace, we had a wealth of DVDs and box sets to watch. Over three nights we watched once again and hugely enjoyed 'The Cazelets": the dramatisation of Elizabeth Jane Howard's very successful quartet entitled 'The Cazelet Chronicles". These follow three generations of a middle-class English family before during and after the war and draw heavily on Elizabeth Jane Howard's own life and memories. A fifth book, "All Change" was published in 2013 the year before Elizabeth Jane Howard died aged 91.

By this time, Kingsley Amis, her third husband, had been dead for 18 years which exactly mirrors the length of his marriage to Elizabeth Jane Howard. I have often wondered how Kingsley Amis engaged with the upper class mores of the extended Howard family he found himself among. They all lived together in a large, Georgian house in Barnet, pursuing the kind of lives Kingsley Amis pretended to mock but secretly admired. When the marriage broke up Kingsley Amis was 61 and intent on presenting himself as a right wing, curmudgeonly drunk. He probably was by then but he gave us the glories of 'Lucky Jim' and heralded in a new era in the novel and in drama of the working class hero; only in Amis's case it was a wicked expose of the lower middle classes and their desperate aspirations. Territory he shared with his close friend Phillip Larkin.

But the man should not be confused with the work. On the basi of the latters Kingsley Amis and Phillip Larkin are among the greats.

It was amusing watching the Cazelets and trying to work out if any bits of Amis's character had crept into Elizabeth Jane Howard's creation of any of the characters. Aspects of him were probably in the philandering brother and in the disciplined work ethos of the father ; the disciplined writer was always part of Kingsley Amis, even when his health broke down.

The whole thing was beautifully done and perfectly cast with some very good performances. Lesley Manville , Stephen Dillane , Anastasia Hille and Ursula Howell all shone. And in the smaller parts Patsy Rowlands was wonderful as the ageing governess and John McArdle excellent as the chauffeur who suffers the break up of his family and the loss of the son he thought was his.

John is a friend and here he is reading an extract from my forthcoming memoir 'Inside Out' to be published on Oct 21.

And here is John