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Natacha's trips around London
23 October 2010

Today I took the lovely Natacha on a tour of the London landmarks associated with The Archers (or some of the major ones). We've done the regular London tourist tour on her previous visits but not the Archers tour.

We started with a tube ride up the Northern line stopping off at the Embankment to see where Sammy & Susan argued in The Small Back Room after Sammy thought Susan had stood him up

Susan: Where were you going Sammy?
Sammy: I don't know.
Susan: A woman?
Sammy: Maybe.
Susan: How about me?

I originally thought that that was a great example of Emeric's sparse but precise writing. But then I found that the exchange is exactly like that in Balchin's book

Does she know the danger she's in?
Back onto the tube and up to Googe Street to visit Newman Passage & Rathbone Street and the Newman Arms (only the outside). That's where Mark follows Dora at the beginning of Peeping Tom The pub, the alleyway and even the doorway are still there. But if you go through the doorway you'll see that instead of the stairs going up ahead of you like they do in the film they actually go up to the left, up to the pie shop above the pub. The magic of cinema.

Then we made the huge trek, all the way from where Mark follows Dora and where he watches her body brought out the next day, all the way to the newsagent which sells the "views" and has the studio upstairs. It's actually only about 200 yards away along Rathbone Street :)

Where's that Blue Plaque?
To Victoria Station and then 65a Chester Square where Michael lived from 1939 - 1948. That's where English Heritage want to put up the Blue Plaque to him but we haven't heard back from the owners yet. However, we haven't given up on it.

Is Larry at home?
Just around the corned is Eaton Square where Emeric lived at number 54. Vivien Leigh lived downstairs and there's a Blue Plaque to her (but not to Larry) there. We initially thought it would be good to try for the Blue Plaque for Emeric there as well as it's so close to where Mick's plaque will (hopefully) be, but he was only there for a short while in 1954 after his Austrian money-pit venture and before he moved to Shoemaker's Cottage.

Time for a spot of lunch so we walked down to Sloane Square and lunched at the Chelsea Brasserie. Very nice food with good service.

We were due to meet Natacha's friend Leïla Wimmer later on. I'd met her at Bangor in 2005 where she presented a paper on Peeping Tom and its critical reception in France. So we called Leila from Sloane Square and arranged to meet at Liverpool Street station at 5pm.

From Sloane Square we took a cab to Ovington Gardens and Ovington Square, just round the back of Harrods. 15 Ovington Square was Aunt Margaret's house in Colonel Blimp. Clive appears to have inherited it because it's where he arrives with Barbara and where they pledge to stay just as they are until the rains come and the basement is a lake.

The later scenes, where Clive is seen sitting in the gardens and then Theo & Clive go to the bombed house where the basement is now indeed a lake. But that couldn't have been shot on location for many reasons.
1. They couldn't blow up the house just for the film and none of those houses were blown up during the blitz.
2. The gardens in the middle of Ovington Square are much smaller than the one Clive is sitting in
3. The position of the house in relation to the garden is wrong.
So I suspect the whole of that end scene was filmed in the studio. We thought for a while that he might have been sitting in Berkley Square but the geography and the skyline of the buildings isn't right, even allowing for changes since 1942/43. They might well have modelled the studio set on Berkley Square though.

It was a bit overcast

"Promise not to change"

"Until the basement is a lake"

Walking along Brompton Road, past Harrods, to Knightsbridge tube and then to High Street Kensington (via Earl's Court because the whole of the Circle line was closed all day for maintenance work).

Back along Kensington High Street to Melbury Road, pausing to admire the Blue Plaque to David Low, creator of the Colonel Blimp character, at Melbury Court. Into Melbury Road to see Micky's house at number 8. He was there from 1948 and that's where Columba & Kevin mainly grew up.

There's a Blue Plaque on 8 Melbury Road to the artist Marcus Stone (1840 - 1921) who lived there and a plaque to Micky from the Directors Guild of Great Britain. The house has very tall windows upstairs and it's presumed that Marcus had those installed to light his studio.

Mark's house in Peeping Tom just across the road an number 5 - but that's no longer there. It's now a set of much newer houses.

The scene in Peeping Tom young Mark is sitting on the fence looking at the couple kissing next door was (Columba tells me) filmed in the back garden of number 8. Also, in Return to the Edge of the World there's a brief interview with Frankie while she's sitting on some grass. The documentary makes it look like she went back to the island with Micky & the others, but she didn't. That was filmed in the back garden at 8 Melbury Road as well.

And that was just about the end of our tour of the major Archers sights & sites in London. So we went back to High St Ken tube intending to get the tube back to Liverpool Street and to meet Leila. It was about quarter to five by now so I texted her to say we'd be a bit late. And we waited for a train, and waited, and waited. After 10 minutes with no sign of a train and no announcements to say one was on its way or when the next one could be expected, we gave up and caught a cab to Liverpool Street, keeping Leila informed as to our progress. We were only half an hour late, sorry Leila.

But we finally met up and began to catch up with what had been happening recently. Astounding Leila with all our adventures. We went for a drink at the Pride of Spitalfields and then for a curry in Brick Lane (the Aladin Balti House - very nice). An ideal way to entertain two French visitors to our shores :) Actually Leila's been living and lecturing here for many years, but the curry has become traditional English fare, especially after a pint or two.

A nice wander through the East End to Old Street and the tube home. Watching the interesting night life on a Saturday night in East London

See also, our trip around Pinewood and our trip to Canterbury

Other P&P trips