I stayed in a monastery once and could barely keep my eyes open. Blame it on the serenity, but I hit the sack when I arrived and hardly left it. I made a game effort to attend morning prayers at something silly like 6am. Afterwards, the monk in charge of guests came up to my room to see how I was getting on and found me back in bed, fast asleep.
So, my heart goes out to the girls who volunteered to live in a nunnery in Channel 5’s Bad Habits, Holy Orders (Thursdays, 10pm). It sounds like a dreadful idea for trash TV: five “modern” lasses swap iPhones for rosary beads. But there’s something oddly endearing about the outcome. The nuns, like all nuns, are a delight. They are patient and dutiful but thoroughly human (“I like my lie-ins,” admits one, while another says her ideal man is “tall, with lovely eyes. Must be a carpenter.”).
But it’s the girls who shine because underneath all the bluster about one-night-stands, they see modernity for the shallow thing it really is. We are shown endless film of Tyla shaking her booty on the dance floor, the two gelatinous mountains thundering together with all the power of the San Andreas fault, but she is, by her own confession, missing something.
So much for the punk rockers; they’re more like naughty girls at school. During prayers they giggle and whisper. One of them actually starts to paint her lips. Holly has her big fluffy lamb toy to cuddle at night, and Rebecca remembers fondly when she was a better girl and won all those awards for ballroom dancing. In an act of rebellion, Gabbi steals a bottle of vodka. The most serious nun of them all confiscates it and sees it poured down the sink.
The show asks portentously if in an age of drink, gossip and sex, Britain is at risk of losing its morals. But it’s hard to think of an age when all those things weren’t in fashion, and what’s surprising isn’t the girls’ supposed wickedness but how easy it is, with only the tiniest application of religion, to make them children again. And they make it to prayers more often than I ever did, so they’re not all bad.
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