I'm sorry if it's turning out to be a critics forum here, but whilst the BBC are showing English classics every Sunday it would seem rude not to comment from an Unmitigated England perspective. And it's raining again. The latest offering I was dreading, the main reason being that The Go-Between of 1971 is quite possibly my favourite film, and L.P.Hartley's book one that I continually go back to. But I think it's probably unwise to compare Joseph Losey's two hour film masterpiece with a once again cut-down comfortable Sunday evening view in front of the telly. As it went on though I did find a lot of merit in the new attempt, not the least because of its concentration on the hurt and confusion that can ruin lives and leave poor old Leo Colston (Jim Broadbent) with his 'ashes and cinders' expression looking brokenly into the distance. So I'm going to restrict myself to just one big gripe, and if you saw it you'll know what's coming.
The opening caption told us 'Norfolk, 1900'. In the convention of such things we obviously know it ain't 1900, but by any stretch of the imagination we couldn't be fooled into thinking this was Norfolk. Perhaps the BBC creamed-off a greedy slice of the budget so that cast and crew had to drive an hour down the M4 to Theale everyday to shoot at Englefield House rather than living in Norfolk for a couple of weeks. It's just such a cheat. And it's that thing of producers thinking "well, who's going to know anyway, and what does it matter?". I hope I'm wrong, and that a determined effort was made to find an empty Norfolk house, after all there's enough of 'em. Anybody who knows the book and Losey's film will also appreciate that a Norfolk house and its surrounding acres are as much a character as Marian or Ted. But as usual I guessed that somewhere along the line (sorry) the green Southern Railway station at Horsted Keynes station in Sussex would once again be pressed into service, this time as a highly unlikely Norwich. Just as it is for Downton Abbey's local station, which they pretend is in Yorkshire.
The past is a foreign country, they don't bother with any of this there.
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)
"Open this book with reverence. It is a hymn to England". Clive Aslet
"Enchanting...delightful". The Bookseller "Cheekily named" We Love This Book
The Cigarette Papers
"Unexpectedly pleasing and engrossing...beautifully illustrated". The Bookseller
"Until the happy advent of Peter Ashley's Cross Country it has, ironically, been foreigners who have been best at celebrating Englishness". Christina Hardyment / The Independent
More from Unmitigated England
"Give this book to someone you know- if not everyone you know." Simon Heffer, Country Life. "When it comes to spotting the small but telling details of Englishness, Peter Ashley has no equal." Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph