Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Born to Royalty BBC Film

OK, I am not the only one who is unreasonably excited about the impending birth of William and Catherine's royal baby, am I? Then I am also not the only one who will be seeing (OK, perhaps ordering) the new BBC film Born to Royalty on how to raise a British Royal Baby.

Narrated by Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville, it opens in select theatres on July 19th and is released on DVD August 6th it is timed to coincide with the blessed event that the British tabloids have been waiting so patiently for.

And while we wait, here is a little tidbit for you. The new royal baby will not have to have a surname, as HRH Prince or Princess and about 4 or more given names is all that is required. However, both William and Harry have taken Wales as their surname so the new royal baby will likely have the surname of either Mountbatten-Windsor, Wales or Cambridge. I am betting on the latter.

Bets for baby names have Charlotte, Alexandra, Elizabeth, Diana, George, James, Phillip and Arthur in the running. Please leave a comment below with your baby name suggestions. I like Victoria for a girl personally, although Sophia or Caroline would be nice! How about Frederick or Ernest for a boy?

So if you, like me, got up early to watch the wedding of William and Catherine (heck, I watched the Chuck and Diana nuptials live) you will likely be interested in this Royal Baby film. The trailer can be viewed here and the link to purchase the DVD on Amazon is here.

And don't forget the last of the "Secrets of" series on PBS at 8pm tonight, Secrets of Chatsworth.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Mayor of Casterbridge 2003

Oh, Thomas Hardy...why so tragic? I have had my copy of The Mayor of Casterbridge kicking around my house for about a year now, still with the wrapping on it. I know that Thomas Hardy is a wonderful writer but he can be such a downer that it took until this week for me to get this one into the DVD player. Why did I wait???? It is wonderful!

I should have known with Ciaran Hinds in the title role that it would be good. But this one is really good! Now, don't get me wrong, it is Thomas Hardy and the subtitle of the book is "The Life and Death of a Man of Character" so don't you be expectin' any happy endings. I mean it starts with the main character Michael Henchard selling his wife and baby daughter to a sailor at a country fair after he has had too much to drink.

Then we pick up the story 18 years later, when Henchard has made good and is a respectable grain merchant and Mayor when his wife Susan shows up in Casterbridge as a widow with a grown daughter. And then the story gets complex and really dark as it always does with Hardy.

I have to say, if I knew James Purefoy had such a prominent role in this I would have cracked open the DVD much sooner. My goodness, that man looks good in Victorian clothing! And he does a fairly good Scottish accent as Donald Farfrae, the man who unwittingly complicates Henchard's life over and over again.

Mmmmmmmm....sorry, I got lost in those dreamy eyes and adorable smirk in the photo above.

But seriously all of the actors in this are top notch, from Jodhi May as Elizabeth-Jane, Henchard's daughter right on down to the wonderful Jean Marsh in a small but pivotal role as the Furmity Woman who gets Henchard intoxicated at the fair. You know a production is fabulous when even the tiny roles are perfectly cast. And Polly Walker is captivatingly gorgeous as usual as Lucetta, the love interest of both men.

I think what I liked most about this story is how Thomas Hardy humanizes his characters and doesn't try to make them all good or all evil, which is a refreshing change for Victorian literature. Everyone has depth, even if there seems to be just a little too much coincidental tragedy for my liking.

So, there you are. By all means this has my two thumbs up but make sure you are in a good mood when you decide to watch it. It is quite a roller coaster ride. And of course it makes you want to read the book. I think this will be cottage reading for me this summer!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Time Team- An Archaeological Gem loses a member and comes to an end!

Time Team is one of my favourite British shows ever. Described by Channel 4 as "Tony Robinson and a team of experts travel the country to investigate a wide range of archaeological sites of historical importance", this is the kind of reality show I really love. Not a lecture but a real archaeological experience.

Even if you think you have no interest in archaeology, you will love seeing the kind of things which can be dug up in the fields and backyards of England by this quirky group of Brits.

Tony Robinson is the host, and you may know him as I did from the Blackadder series. Baldrick he is not in this show, but he is a friendly interpreter of the science behind each episode's 3 day long dig.

Mick Aston, who sadly just died a few weeks ago, was partly responsible for the creation of Time Team after telling series producer Tim Taylor that it would be possible to evaluate a site in only 3 days. He loved all things medieval and monastic and was passionate about communicating archaeology to the public. We will miss this sweet man with his colourful sweaters and his flyaway hair, but most of all his down to earth demeanor and love of digging in the dirt!

Phil Harding, with his pirate like West Country accent (Arrr mateys) and his Indiana Jones hat adds a bit of spice to every show. He can be cantankerous, especially if Tony is giving him a hard time about his current trench and it's lack of artifacts, but he is always up for a laugh. He loves to do recreations of the history of the site being dug, especially if it involves his fave era, prehistory.

Helen Geake is always a ray of sunshine with her rosy cheeks and her lovely smile. She is an expert on Anglo Saxons and small finds and she loves to sift through historical records to find documents relevant to the dig.

John Gater is the geophys expert on Time Team. "What is geophys?" I hear you ask. The geophysics team has to survey the site before any digging begins to see where potential walls or buildings might be found. And he often gets flak from Tony about leading them on a merry chase, however most times the geophys is impressively accurate!

As the Time Team "Landscape Investigator", Stewart Ainsworth looks at aerial photos and generally marches around a site to see if any clues about the area can be found by just merely "looking". He is a quiet, gentle soul who often brings a lot of information about the dig from his observations.

So if you find it interesting that people in Britain can dig up Roman coins and medieval pottery in their own backyard, you may want to check this out.
In Canada you can find episodes on the TVO website (I loooove TVO, our public broadcaster) and in the UK they are on the BBC4 website

The rest of you will have to catch episodes on YouTube. Here is a great place to start, 20 years of Time Team:



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