Monday, 13 October 2008

When the magic of TV crashes into the reality that is real life

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.
As there were no bats available, at such short notice, the
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.
While Mrs B happily posed for this photo at Newark, The
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.)
That's the door to our room on the
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…
Some of Newark Parks neighbours, looking forward
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.


  1. Yippee!!! Mr B - your prey (Mrs B if she's having a bad day, or anything else you might be hunting) and you pray (hands together girls and boys, close your eyes etc). This was a wonderful post, and so interesting - we all loved Tash, and I dispute the presence of the alleged facial hair - we thought she was beautiful, though cheerless. We had no idea your proposal was so romantic, after all these years, I don't believe we had ever heard this tale before. Fascinating. What happened to all that romance???

  2. I guess I must have used it up in that one big gesture. Glad I could bring the teacher back out in you, I thought you had gone into retirement.

  3. The former Miss C13 October 2008 at 20:46

    What a good one - the pictures make it really special (apart from the one of me though....grhh!)

  4. Thanks Mr B

    Enjoyed reading the blog, hope you are both well,

  5. What a nice post. My husband sort of kind of proposed to me whilst at Uni in Edinburgh and it appears on TV all the time. I was however drunk at the time of the proposal and don't remember it, which might explain why it took a further 5 years before we actually got engaged properly. And why I don't get misty eyed if I see Edinburgh Uni on telly.

  6. Thank you Loth, although you are in danger of opening the, "Divide between men and women" debate. I can't see many men being able to get away with admitting that they were so drunk that they could not remember "a kind of big event" like that*. No wonder it took your husband another five years to stick his head above the parapet again. Still glad it all worked out in the end. Incidentally where did he propose the second time....

    * Not without a bodyguard and a team of over paid lawyers

  7. Interesting blog, I have not seen the ilk before.

    I must adnit I don't remember my proposal and I don't recall being drunk enough to cause that. I don't think we actually did the official ask and accept bit, rather just assumed we would and set a date. Not very romantic, maybe that's why it only lasted 10 years.


  8. welcome to the BlackLOG Argentum. I hope that it is interesting in a good way and not "interesting" help get me out of here...

  9. Not in the least blacklog, see, I even came back. LOL


  10. Nooooooooooo you've reminded me that I needed to watch the last part of Tess on iplayer and now the 7 days are up. I really wanted to see the grisley ending of Tess, the rest of it was too bleak and depressing for words.

    The pictures of Newark Park, particularly sheep, are good. It must have been a brilliant house to stay in as a child.

    Mr Imo proposed in the pitch dark on a beach in Turkey, which would have been romantic apart from the fact that we couldn't actually see each others faces!

  11. Imo are you sure the 7 days are up on iplayer - Tash got repeated last Sunday afternoon (Does it not work like a warranty after repair, you get another 7 days after the last showing?) . Tash's demise was not as good as it could have been - no holding her down while they shaved off the moustache and then watching the life ebb out of her - sort of Samson style, with Angel playing Delilah all weepy in the background…

    Turkey sounds romantic - a bit dangerous in the dark though, who knows who you could have ended up with….

    Turkey sounds romantic - a bit dangerous in the dark though

  12. Argentum - I was impressed by the number of blogs you seem to have on the go, a mighty fine collection. I will have to have a proper nose around when I get some time.

  13. Thanks for the compliment blacklog, I have turned my blogging habit (for surely it is an addiction) into a hobby, I guess. Sorry about late reply, Friday was teaching out of town, then we had a public holiday, sort of threw things out of kilter.



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