Todday Revisited…

With the Winter nights slowly closing in on us, it is now time to dust off an old friend in my DVD collection of classic British films. Earning its place, rightly so, is Ealing’s wonderful comedy drama “Whisky Galore” and so with a dram in one hand and a comfortable armchair the film took me on a cosy outing with the inhabitants of a little Scottish Island by the name of “Todday”

It was in the summer of 1948 when the Ealing crew arrived on the beautiful Island of Barra in the Western Isles of Scotland. Michael Balcon, head of Ealing Studios had not been happy about the production, saying as he looked at the story board, he just did not understand it!  “It holds few laughs” he was heard to comment. Based on a Compton Mackenzie novel, shooting almost entirely on location presented huge problems, everything, including cast and crew, and a huge amount of camera equipment, had to be shipped from mainland Scotland. Actors were billited with a number of the Islanders, and in fact, many of the inhabitants appear in the production. Their view of the film people was… That they were quite mad! Prefabricated sets were constructed at Ealing Studios in London then shipped for assembly on Barra. Under the brilliant direction of Alexander Mackendrick, an American born Scot, the film gently eases you into a world of warmth, gentilityand innocent skulduggery. I think this was partly due to Mackendrick’s insistence on being present during every scene, however, this did push the budget over by 20,000, and in those days that was a lot of money…as Michael Balcon soon pointed out, and when he saw the rushes he hated it, and ordered the film to be cut and released as a B’ supporting picture! At this point, Mackendrick asked Charles Crichton, a top editor, if he would look at the negatives. He did… And Recut, and Recut… the result was a more acceptable product for the Ealing Studio boss. Being based on a true maritime sinking means that some facts had to be changed. The real sinking took place off the Isle of Eriskay, and the local Islanders did profit from their huge haul of ‘Scotch’… Unlike the movie that had to deal with the moral issue. In America the movie was given a new title and called “Tight Little Island” because a number of States, were at the time ‘Temperance’  If one looks at the stills today Alexander Mackendrick is always there beside the camera operator, and I think, that is what made it such a lasting and enduring, warm and attractive film.

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Author’s Note…

Back to Back catch-up episodes of ‘The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp’ are available @ patrick-callaghan.blogspot.co.uk

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 78… Rebecca’s Help… (Part Three)

That thought puzzled Charles for some time. He turned it over in his mind, time and time again. To put Herbert in some form of danger, enough to bring Rebecca to his aid was simply daunting. It had to be convincing or it would not work, but what could he do. If he tried to fake anything Rebecca would know. Her all-seeing eye and inner feeling would expose him as a fraud and that would undo everything. The dilemma was real.

He carefully remembered something in the past. It was a day at Ruislip Lido. He had taken to the lake like many others on that hot day. Herbert had been with him and yet refused to take a dip, saying he hated water and had never learnt to swim.

Others in their group, numbering some half dozen, and all from theatrical backgrounds, began to goad Herby for not taking to the water.

‘Just strip off to the waist Herb’s’ was the retort. ‘Go Go Herby,’

‘Are you ashamed or unclean.’ Some of the words were unkind and clearly upsetting Herbert.

Charles thought this was going too far and began to be concerned. ‘Ok guys, this is out of order. Just leave him alone.’

‘Sorry Charlie, we are just having a little fun, I’m sure Herb’s doesn’t mind.’

‘Well, I think he does, and as so called friends of his, you should know better.’

‘I will go into the Lake Charlie, I will show you all, that I am not scared,’ Herbert looked determined and yet frightened.

‘No you won’t Herby’ Charles looked at him with absolute conviction. ‘These guys are just messing around. Cool it.’

‘I have to do this Charlie, if not for you, for myself.’

The words played around in Charles mind, he knew Herbert would try to prove himself.

‘I gotta do it Charlie. I ain’t gonna be shamed.’

He stripped to the waist, just his trousers remaining, and walked carefully to the edge of the Lake. Its muddy bank was slippery and he almost fell into the water that covered him in an instance. Seconds passed, and he bobbed up, much to everyone’s relief. He laughed and thrashed his arms about him.

‘This is easy!’ he shouted, then suddenly he began to sink below the disturbed water.

‘Oh no’ this is what I feared.’ Charles voice rang out. ‘Get him out of there!

 

 

 

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Snap Around…

You know, when it comes to family you just gotta be there, and my family is no exception… Ok, the family is large and well dispersed, but we just keep in touch and if there is any sort of crisis, well, we all know we are goanna be there…

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 77… Rebecca’s Help… (Part two)

It really was not very clear to Charles how he should set about making contact with Rebecca. In the past she had simply been there in his mind and her embodiment just materialised. Now the difficulty, was how to make that all happen again!

This puzzled him for some days, whilst he busied himself with the routines of running his photographic business. He had passed his word to Herbert, and that must stand, he told himself.

‘Herby’ himself had returned to the confines of his small upstairs living quarters in Brick Lane, confident in the endeavours of his dear friend.

Much thought passed through Charles mind in those coming days, even to the point of perhaps employing the services of a ‘Medium’ then it suddenly struck him, what was staring him in the face all along! Toby and Barney, they were both instrumental in ways of the Astral Plain, they could see certain visions that others could not.

He would talk to them the very next morning. He would seek their advice and hopefully their co-operation. Yes, this would be his best course of action and would be his way back into that spirit world and of darkness that surrounds the human soul.

‘She has returned to the darkness’, Toby said with complete certainty that very next day. ‘There is little we can do. She has had her window, now that window is closed.’

‘But, do you know that for sure Tobias, do you really know that?’

‘Barney and I have no entry there, it’s as if the door is closed.’

‘There must be a way Toby. You must find me a way. I need her help.

The only course you have and there are no guarantees, it’s very tricky! You have to enact something or someone that is strong enough and memorable enough for her that will bring her out from the darkness to be mortal once again. That will not be easy.’ In that single moment of his life Tobias was never more sincere. The others looked on with dissolute hearts.

Suddenly Toby said, ‘Herby must be in peril of his life. Rebecca in her mind knows that he is a dear friend of you. It just might work. It needs working on, but it’s an idea. We must stage something that is quite spectacular.’

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 76… Rebecca’s Help… (Part One)

Charles, Esme and Herbert pay a visit to The Kings Head in Bayswater…

‘Well, thanks Charlie, for labelling me as a blooming nutcase.’ The three sat within the confines of the most respected and formatively noted Kings Head on the Moscow road within Charles beloved Bayswater. They looked upon with envy the wonderful food now placed before them on three over filled plates happily brought to their table by the welcoming arms of the landlady of this very cherished establishment.

‘It was the only way ‘Herby’ and it got you out of a hole, did it not?’

Herbert laughed, ‘It sure did. I knew you would come through Charlie, I knew I could rely on you. You’re a diamond Charlie, and that’s for sure!’

‘Herby, my very dear friend, that’s very human of you. But tell me, how did you meet such a formidable lady?’

‘I was weak Charlie, very weak. It was one night at “The Palace” she got talking to me and took me into her confidence. Said she had been very lonely since her husband had succumbed to a terrible chest condition. Well, you know Charlie, I’d had more than me fair share that night and felt sorry for the dear. She made arrangements for me ta see E’r agin that I forgot about, next minute she’s on me doorstep saying I had agreed to a settlement on a binding and she wus gonna see the Vicar and git me and E’r announced.’ Poor Herby paused for a moment and took a long thoughtful look at the dark brown frothy Beer now having been placed in front of him.

They ate heartily, the roast beef on old England, washed down with several glasses of The Kings Head’s finest French wines and some excellent single malts, by midnight they were all quite happy and ready for sleep. Charles insisted that ‘Herby’ should rest his weary ‘soul’ on the ‘put you up’ in the small  studio, a choice that was met with some gratitude.

Sleep prevailed into the late hours of a sunny 11.30 day, but it was the enticing smell of fried bacon and eggs that brought them all to their daily senses.

The “Brothers” had produced a sumptuous breakfast come dinner by the time everyone had emerged from their sleep, plates that displayed an array of interesting items procured from Charles newly acquired ice refrigerator.

Some days later Herbert did receive a writ from a certain dubious solicitor claiming that Mrs.Plum had been the victim of a arrangement that was breach of promise.

Charles advised Herbert to ignore this, feeling the woman had been hurt enough, and to pursue this would be more hurtful to her.

“I will talk to her, she is clearly very lonely. stated Charles, ‘She wants something out of life that she does not have.’ Esme and myself will go and see her. Perhaps some spiritual guidance will be help.’

The days began to pass and Charles gave much thought to this new role he had elected to take. Much crossed his mind over this time, until finally he knew where his stance would lay. In the days to come, he would once again, request Rebecca’s help, from that time in his past.

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Author’s Note…

I guess I just wanted to feature this lovely watercolour study by my dear friend Loraine Northwood, who has subsequently turned this into a rather beautiful greetings card… Well done Loraine!

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 75… The Return of Herbert Marks… (Part Three)

Charles and Esme try to convince Mrs Plum to change her mind…

It was somehow in that moment of time that Charles could see the side of Esme that only her mother could have provided for her from childbirth. In that instance, he felt he was listening to Constance and in a way it warmed the cockles of his heart, just as a dram of whisky would have taken on the same effect.

Mrs Plum seemed to retreat a little at this relaxation in this revelation, seemingly, this had not been part of the singular mental state of her mind just now.

‘I have known Herbert for many years.’ said Charles. ‘He is a very dear and loving person. But he would not make a good husband for he has some terrible afflictions of the mind that trouble him from time to time. Do you know that just a few years back he was sectioned at Rampton for almost strangling his former wife to death!’

‘You mean to say that he has been married before.’ Mrs Vera Plum looked even redder face than before. ‘ My Herbert has been married before!’

‘Twice!’ retorted Charles. He knew he was not telling the truth, but this was the only way to rid this opportunist woman of her hold on dear ‘Herby’.

‘His first wife divorced him on the grounds of mental cruelty.’ he added for good measure.

‘Mental cruelty! exclaimed the now surprised woman. ‘Mr Charles, it would seem I’ve been very wrong in my affections for Herbert, I’ve been a foolish woman.’ Tears suddenly began to well in the eyes of Vera Plum. Charles too, then felt he had been a little cruel and yet, reassured himself that he was being loyal to his very dear friend.

‘You have been very honest with me, Mr Charles’, she added at last, ‘and very truthful, I know you do this out of friendship for Herbert and not wishing to hurt my feelings, I’m sure.’

‘A foolish woman thought Charles. No! that’s not it. To hide her vanity more like, then we all need a certain discretion in our lives.

The veritable Mrs Vera Plum had been shown a different path, very much to Herbert’s rejoiced state of mind, Charles suggested a slap up dinner of sliced roast meats and  potatoes for all at Kings Head public house in Bayswater’s Moscow road.

It’s on me,’ he declared, ‘So pick your tipple folks’

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Author’s Note…

Back to Back catch-up episodes of ‘The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp’ are available @ patrick-callaghan.blogspot.co.uk

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 74… The Return of Herbert Marks… (Part Two)

Charles and Esme visit Herbert’s shabby office in Brick Lane…

The sign above the door simply read Herbert Marks Theatrical Agency 3rd floor. Herbert’s long association with The People’s Palace as a placement agent was well known to Charles. That was an establishment of quite reputable entertainment on The Mile End Road serving up nightly its form of working men’s enjoyment. Now, here in Brick Lane, that venue seemed just a distant memory. Pushing the door inwards he and Esme took to the well worn and rickety stairs carefully counting each step in front of them.

‘I’ve been here before’ said Esme quietly. ‘More than once, and when I was looking for you again.’

‘I know sweetheart, I know, and I’m so thankful you did. The horror of Hinckley Common and that dreadful relative you had in France is all too vivid in my memory.’

They stove their thoughts, wishing Herbert could afford something a little less tiring on their limbs.

‘He needs looking after Mr Charles and that’s a fact. He’s in no fit state to see to himself.’ A rather rounded plumpish woman with a bright red face and a large black hat, sat squarely beside a forlorn looking Herbert and facing the visitors from the opposite side of Herbert’s unkempt cluttered desk.

‘You’re welcome to sit down, but that’s the extent of my hospitality’. She beckoned to the two chairs facing her. ‘I don’t know why he wants you here and there’s no need for it. He is in my charge now… For his own good!’ Her thrustful words silenced the two guests and for a moment they said nothing. Finally Charles ventured: ‘So you want to be married I understand?’

‘It’s for the best and he has agreed to the arrangement.’

‘Have you agreed.’ asked Charles, looking at Herbert.

‘Of course he has,’ was a sharp reply. ‘He has brave prospects and I have the ways to see that he gets them. He could be a master, a rich man and I’ll see to it that he becomes that!’ The determination in the woman’s voice was obvious to the three sat in homage, in the dingy little upstairs workplace, that Herbert called his home.

The woman was predomintant and clearly had set her mind on this rather shabby and yet, likable friend of Charles.

Charles could see diplomacy was called for and posed the simple question: ‘Is Herbert happy with those thoughts.’

Still Herbert had said nothing, his head bowed, looking down at his desk.

‘Herbert! retorted the woman. ‘Is quite sure! Aren’t  you Herbert?’

Herbert remained silent and sat quietly, declining to comment, perhaps wishing he might put his head in his hands.

At last, Charles forwarded politely, ‘May I ask your name madam?’

‘I am Mrs Vera Plum!’ was the curt reply.

A slight smiled creased across Charles mind. Somehow it reminded him of the game of “Happy Families” He said nothing.

‘Mrs Plum’ ventured Esme. ‘Are you divorced, is your husband still alive. These are considerations, you must admit?’

‘My dear Henry is no longer with us. A loving and devoted husband, if ever there was.’ A tear rose in one eye and she patted it gently from a crumpled handkerchief.

‘You say he was a loving and devoted husband, of which we have no doubt. But do you honestly think Herbert can ever replace him in your eyes.’ Esme looked thoughtfully at the soulful expression on the woman’s face. ‘Do you really think you would be truly happy with dear Herbert. Herby’ is at heart, a singular being, of singular habits, yes of kind habits to others, and in order to be that way, he has to be singular unto himself, and to be truthful to his beliefs. A simple belief in himself and what he is doing for others.’

Esme sat back in her chair. She looked seriously at the woman, and added, ‘I have a man like that. A man that has his own driving determination and I love him for that. Can you really cage Herbert like a bird, simply there to accept your will and determination and in turn to live out your fantasy life for you! Can you? You are wrong Mrs Plum, very, very wrong.’

 

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