BBC Radio 4, 1 May 2013
Ian McMillan's verse
drama told of the wedding of his mother Olive (Verity-May Henry) and father John (Billy Boyd) in 1943. They
started off as pen-friends, and their relationship bloomed in epistolary form until they met. After a couple of encounters,
they married in Peebles, Scotland, on a 48-hour pass. Olive had gone AWOL from her job in the north of England to be
at the wedding, while John returned to his ship as soon as the nuptials had concluded.
Although straightforwardly plotted, Love,
War and Trains was a haunting piece that worked on several level. John and Olive's burgeoning relationship was
recreated both on the imaginative and factual levels: we not only learned about their relationship, but we understood how
popular songs of that period (the early 1940s) summed up the lovers' emotions (a technique fondly remembered from the Seventies
television series Pennies from Heaven).
At another level, McMillan's drama was about the act of remembering; how the past has been
imaginatively recreated in the poet's mind, summing up his feelings about his parents, their marriage, and the ways in which
the exigencies of war brought them together. Although their marriage was hurriedly completed, it proved the strength
of their relationship: Olive was arrested and confined for a fortnight for going AWOL - all in the name of love. For
McMillan this was something worth recalling, providing an object lesson for couples who might be considering marriage in the
McMillan has a wonderful speaking voice that wraps itself round the poetry, bringing out its humorous and poignant elements.
I just loved it. The director was Gary Brown.