I was watching “Tash of the D’Urbervilles ” the other day (was it just me or did anyone else notice the moustache that Tess sported for most of the program? This had the unfortunate effect of making her look far more butch than her wimpy husband Angel. I hope and prey that she is not the first Bond girl in history to have a Tash. That just wouldn’t do at all). I was not totally engaged with “Tash”. Mrs B was ready to ditch it after the first episode - like most of Hardy’s output, it was very downbeat and depressing. Fortunately, we stuck with it, I guess mainly through my mild fascination with what other inappropriate facial hair might make an unwelcome appearance. I’m glad I did, as just at the end of the second episode I spotted some very familiar sights to me – parts of Newark Park in Gloucestershire. Newark is a 16th Century Hunting Lodge built from the stones of a local Abbey, after Henry VIII got a bit antsy with the religious fraternity (better known in the history books as the “Dissolution of the Monasteries”). This is a National Trust property that my family and I have had the good fortune to be associated with for over 30 years. My mother and father were friends with Bob Parsons, a soft-spoken Texan, who became a sitting tenant of Newark in the mid 1970’s and he and Michael Claydon, who joined him in later years, managed to save this wonderful building from falling into ruin. For my sister and myself it became like a second home during school summer holidays and despite the rumours that Newark was haunted by Friars from the Abbey, we never actually saw any ghosts. There was a rather trouser-staining moment for me one night, however, whilst I was watching a Dracula movie. What should pop in through the open window but a rather large and, I am convinced, particularly tooth-laden bat. I can’t actually confirm the part about the teeth as I was too busy hiding under a cushion and, I suspect, out-screaming even the most vocal of heroines in a hammer horror movie. The mixture of sound and obnoxious smells was enough to drive the wee beastie away.
agency sent a couple of substitutes instead. I'm not sure
they quite convey the same sense of menace as the bat, but
if one of these had flown in through the window I would
probably still have had to replace my underwear.
As we grew up our association with Newark continued. My sister held her wedding reception there. I had the honour of giving my sister away (after I failed to find a buyer) and, with her permission, I proposed to Mrs B during my Brother of the Bride speech at the bottom of the stairs. (There can’t be many people who see the spot where they proposed during a BBC Drama.) Mrs B often reminds me that she never actually accepted my proposal because she was so emotional -after all, I had kept her waiting for over ten years. I then counter that if I had aimed my proposal a couple of degrees to the left I would now be married to a 90-year-old lady in a wheelchair. I have a horrible feeling that whilst Mrs B may not have replied in the affirmative, the old woman actually did say yes. I chose to turn a deaf ear. Is it wrong to ignore old people like that? After all, I had known the former Miss C for a considerable length of time but I hadn’t even been formally introduced to the befuddled old dear. For all I know she may have been a gatecrasher.
befuddled old dear was having none of it. I fear she may
never forgive me for rejecting her.
Mrs B and I had dinner with the Duchess of Westminster at Newark. I suspect the Duchess never mentioned to anyone that she had dinner with us, how rude… In short, we know Newark very well. I would even go as far as to say that it is one of my favourite places on earth. This is how I now know that what they call “TV magic” ,with clever use of locations, really plays with your head if you happen to have a little knowledge about the location used:-
The murder of Alec by “Tash” took place in the very bedroom that Mrs B and I use when we stay at Newark. This is a trifle troublesome to us - I do hope that Michael manages to remove the bloodstains before our next visit. When the blood dripped through the floor of the bedroom it appeared on the ceiling of the drawing room, which in reality is on the other side of the house. My mind kept screaming “That’s not right!” (There may even have been some chuntering.)
right. If it wasn't haunted before.....
When Tash walked out of the front door, she walked onto a busy Victorian street, instead of the real gravel drive and open countryside. “No, No, No, No!” That just felt so wrong - more chuntering (even leading to some monobation). Fortunately, Mrs B did not join in and thus manages to keep this week’s BlackLOG just about respectable.
Oh the memories! It certainly made Tash of the D’Urbervilles far more interesting than it would otherwise have been for the Black household. I’d even go as far to say it made it watchable…
to having them for dinner, next time we visit.....
Follow up from last week
Much excitement when I was informed that you can Googlewhack * last week’s post.
Just type “Monobation” into Google –
*Well almost. Monobation doesn't quite adhere to the proper rules of Googlewhacking ** but it's close enough so I'm going to take it (Thanks to Martin for finding that out for me - I think he was checking that I had not stolen Monobation in a Shakespearean-style raid on literature.)
** in that the google search only uses one word instead of two and that word does not appear in a dictionary ***. After all, if Monobation already existed in a recognised dictionary I could hardly make the claim that I had been its creator and guardian, could I? Give it time, I’m sure it will make it into one.
Rustling of paper as I look it up in the Oxford English dictionary
....... “Not there”....
More rustling of paper
......”Damn - Still not there”....
“Obviously these things might take a bit longer then I had hoped….”
*** Since I have now added it to my Word dictionary,technically it does.
I'll leave you with some other shots of Newark Park. If you are in the area you should drop in, it truly is a unique place. Who knows, in the unlikely event that Mrs B and I become famous and you ever happen to be at a dinner party where the conversation is dying on its feet, you could always put it out of its misery by telling people that you have been to the spot where Mrs B almost said yes.... With an anecdote as uninteresting as that you are sure to be requested to leave. No need to thank me, just write to any publishers requesting them to commission me to write the best selling novel "101 ways to get out of dull commitments". Please note that this publication will not include tips on how to get family and friends out of their commitment for reading the BlackLOG.