With Richard Briers’ untimely passing last month, I’ve been thinking more and more about the brilliance of The Good Life or The Good Neighbors as it was broadcast in the U.S. The 1970’s (gulp!) British situation comedy, which was written by Bob Larbey and John Esmonde, centered around Tom Good (Briers) and his wife/partner-in-crime Barbara (Felicity Kendal) and their desire to become self-sufficient. The series starts on Tom’s 40th birthday, when he decided to turn his back on office life and have the Good’s live off the land. Over the next two years, Jerry and Margot Leadbetter, their suburban friends and neighbors, watched on with a mixture of horror and grudging respect.
Over the years during our various productions for PBS about British comedy, in talking with Richard Briers and Penelope Keith, who played Margot Leadbetter, both felt that the series was even more applicable to the 21st century than it was some 30+ years ago. I’m not even sure the word ‘sustainability’ even existed when the series premiered.
Following Briers’ death, the Daily Telegraph came up with a brilliant Good Life Quiz to give readers the opportunity to determine for themselves (behind closed doors, if necessary) if they were more like Tom and Barbara or Jerry and Margot. It’s extremely lengthy so here are a few to get you started. For the entire quiz and also how you determine if you are a Good or a Ledbetter, here’s the full Good Life Quiz from the Daily Telegraph.
Take The Good Life Quiz…
What are you driving?
a) A company car
b) Mainly a rotary cultivator, especially since our methane-powered car stopped working
a) … make good neighbors
b) … make good fuel when the pig-powered generator breaks down
How would you define “dressing for dinner”?
a) I put on one of my 73 maxi-dresses, teamed with a corsage and a turban. My husband swaps his suit jacket for a sports jacket
b) I take off my wellington boots
Make do and…
a) … spend
b) … mend
Growing your own food is…
a) … self-indulgent
b) … self-sufficient
What’s in your spare bedroom?
a) An exercise bike
b) Home-grown onions under the bed, crab apples on top of it, leeks all over the floor and a couple of King Edwards in the wardrobe
Television is …
a) … frightfully common and not nearly as good as it used to be
b) … pointless when you can easily turn an old set into a useful pottery workbench
The telephone is…
a) … useful for barking instructions at recalcitrant tradesmen
b) … something I try to avoid at all costs, in case it’s the bank manager
How do you pay your council tax?
a) Direct debit
b) In person, in coppers
How much is in your bank account?
a) Which account?
You read something in the newspapers with which you disagree. What do you do?
a) Write a strongly worded letter to the editor
b) We don’t read the papers
a) … a necessary evil
b) … something I dabbled in for a bit
What does your boss call you?
a) The next big thing
What are you most likely to argue about with your spouse?
a) Money, work, family, neighbors, Christmas – in fact, arguing is pretty much a means of communication
b) Whose turn it is to feed the pigs
How would you describe your retirement plans?
a) We’re going to draw on our four pensions and play bowls
b) We’re going to start buying lottery scratchcards
The glass is…
a) … half-empty
b) … half-full, and I’d like a top-up since you’re asking
What are you drinking?
b) Home-made pea-pod burgundy
To find out if you are a Good or a Ledbetter….
HOW DID YOU DO?
Mainly A’s – You’re a Leadbetter. Solvent, successful, clean and, dare we say it, a little bit dull.
Mainly B’s – Congratulations. You’re living the good life. Just don’t mention the pension.