A CAU­TION­ARY TALE

Ap­ple Tree Yard is be­ing lauded for its de­pic­tion of mid­dle-aged fe­male sex­u­al­ity, but Deb­o­rah Hill Cone begs to dis­agree

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Ihad the sub-ti­tles turned on when I was watch­ing the first episode of Ap­ple Tree

Yard (kids). “His belt buckle rat­tles.” (Take note: weirdly loud belt. Ma­cho?) She breathes heav­ily. Bucket rat­tles. (They are in a broom cup­board.) They pant and moan. Bucket con­tin­ues to rat­tle. He moans. He moans loudly.

Af­ter­wards, sci­en­tist Yvonne Carmichael, aged 50-some­thing, who has just had sex with a hand­some stranger while hang­ing on to a coat hook says: “I’ve never done any­thing like that be­fore.”

Dr Carmichael (oh yes, Doc­tor) is mar­ried, al­though her hus­band Gary signs his texts “see ya”, not even a kiss, so he de­serves to be cheated on re­ally, what with his work­ing class name and the fact he doesn’t even seem to know that tins go in the re­cy­cling. Not to men­tion his bor­ing si­nuses: “What’s the name of the nose stuff? Drops. Gary.”

He has sub­ti­tles too. “He snores. A beat. Snor­ing con­tin­ues. He grum­bles.”

It’s pretty hard to com­pare “You don’t need to be home in time for the Tesco de­liv­ery” with “You’re beau­ti­ful. Take your knick­ers off.”

So yes, plot twist, soon Yvonne is back with Mr X in a cafe toi­let. And a grave­yard. And an al­ley way. (The epony­mous Ap­ple Tree Yard).

Sub­ti­tles: She pants. Belt buckle rat­tles. (Again.) They pant. He moans.

Later, while the cou­ple are ad­just­ing their clothes, two hot young girls walk past. They snig­ger. Yvonne crum­ples and tells Mr X they should stop the af­fair. She feels ab­surd.

“Well look at me! I’m mid­dle aged and my body ... I look like a bloody jelly baby.”

Later Mr X signs his text “JBILF” “JBILF?” “Jelly baby I’d like to …” Just to catch you up, Ap­ple Tree Yard is the hit drama about a mid­dle-aged woman, an em­i­nent sci­en­tist, played by Emily Watson. Af­ter giv­ing ev­i­dence to a se­lect com­mit­tee she meets a hand­some stranger (Ben Chap­lin) who of­fers to give her a tour of lit­tle-seen parts, ahem, of the House of Com­mons.

“Have you seen the chapel in the crypt?” could be­come Pri­vate Eye’s new wink-wink leg opener (It used to be “They were up­stairs dis­cussing the Ugan­dan sit­u­a­tion.”)

With­out find­ing out his name, Yvonne suc­cumbs — no, that’s the wrong word — en­joys, a knee­trem­bler in the broom closet. (It has a plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing how a suf­fragette hid there. This is not sor­did; it’s made by the BBC) So be­gins Yvonne’s se­cret af­fair. In her re­spectable day-to-day life, Yvonne and hus­band Gary are bor­ingly mat­ing in cap­tiv­ity like up­stand­ing Guardian read­ers who own the full com­ple­ment of wooden salad bowls and Le Creuset cook­ware.

There is a swim­ming pool scene be­cause shows about adul­tery al­ways seem to de­note sex with wa­ter (I guess no one likes it dry) but in this pool there are no dis­carded plas­ters or pesky dis­abled peo­ple.

In­stead, there is a wacky best friend called Suzi, which gives Yvonne the chance to get her mis­giv­ings about her wan­ing sex­ual cap­i­tal on screen.

No mat­ter how good our scaf­fold­ing — $400 high­lights, Hel­mut Lang silk shirts, pelvic floor ex­er­cises, Guer­lain foun­da­tion with flat­ter­ing gold flakes — we are ter­ri­fied we are not hot, we are not even JBILFs any­more.

Yvonne asks her friend: “Still at­trac­tive. Do you think that’s what they say about us?

She con­fides that sex with Mr X is “like be­ing eaten by a wolf”. This could be an en­try in the Bad Sex Award (“Heloïse has lost all sense of how she ought to be­have ...”)

But on the con­trary. I find it ex­tremely horny. Not be­cause of the heavy breath­ing but the fact there is so lit­tle talk­ing.

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