I’ve been muttering this for weeks in the best insultingly generic West Country accent I can muster. “I got enemies in South Cerney, I got enemies in North Cerney, I got enemies in Cerney Wick. I got enemies in Bourton-on-the-Water.” I want this written on a T-shirt and I want it now.
You’ll need a nodding acquaintance with Cotswold towns to realise that these plush, prosperous communities are unlikely refuges for anyone’s enemies. But the self-pitying, self-justifying Kerry Mucklowe in the BBC3 comedy This Country sees persecution everywhere. God help you if you are from Swindon, by the way, the cradle of all evil. Kerry is routinely, or so she claims, set upon by its lurking “smackheads”.
I love This Country, a faux fly-on-the-wall documentary about the social disadvantages of growing up in Britain’s rural communities. Kerry and her cousin, the inexplicably nicknamed Kurtan, are the nexus of a silly, funny, sometimes poignant, oddly warm-hearted little soap set in a Gloucestershire town where there’s nothing for them to do except hang around the swings.
The pair are played by siblings Daisy May Cooper and Charlie Cooper (a dead ringer for Mackenzie Crook), who also wrote and created This Country. Kerry and Kurtan are bored, maundering teens who lounge at Kerry’s home having pointless circular arguments about sharing a pizza while Kerry’s unseen tyrannical mother shrieks, Mrs Wolowitz-like, from her bedroom.
I’m strangely protective of them both, particularly after, in one episode, Kerry’s house is “plummed”. That’s when someone throws plums at your house. This is taken by the self-aggrandising Kerry as a Mafia-level warning from her enemies. She has “enemies everywhere”, in case you hadn’t realised this.
And just see if your heart doesn’t contract even a little bit when Kurtan falls victim to someone taking his pitch in the town’s scarecrow competition, something he’s looked forward to all year. His revenge is wildly disproportionate, but you might sympathise with the crushing of his dreams.
This Country is incredibly well observed, not just the tics and nuances of Kerry and Kurtan’s accents but in its dark folklore. Kerry’s useless dad confidentially tells her: “The last Thursday of every month I used to play pool with Fred West. I know he done some iffy things but as a builder he was top notch.”
Read cold, I’m sure this looks completely tasteless. But please trust me, there are certain parts of Gloucestershire where you can throw a stick and hit someone who knew Fred West, however tangentially. Maybe he did a bit of building work for them, maybe they, too, played pool with him – West was nothing if not sociable. Maybe they accepted a lift in his van… and nothing happened.
Kerry and Kurtan aren’t stupid. They might be self-absorbed, but they have passions and ambitions. Kerry wants to be a businesswoman, like Deborah Meaden from Dragons’ Den. Their favourite star is Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen because Kurtan met him once, so Kerry and Kurtan launch a Twitter hashtag campaign aimed at “getting Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen back on the television”.
They are tender souls, too. Just listen to Kurtan on Kerry’s dad (played by their real dad Paul): “He doesn’t give a rat’s arse about her because she’s a girl and all he ever wanted is to bore [sic] a son so he can teach him how to concrete.” Now tell me that’s not poetry.