Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Albert


I'm currently in Albert in France on some kind of honeymoon. I say some kind of honeymoon because we're not alone. In fact, we’ve come here with a screen writer, an Olivier award-winning actress, and a choreographer from Scarborough. I don’t believe we’ve managed to tick off a single wedding stereotype. No cake. No chair ties. No bride. No honeymoon.

We’ve had some lovely reviews for our film in the papers today, however. I think I was probably most touched by what was written in the Telegraph; “the flow of tears down Till’s face as Taylor crooned his undying love was more powerful than anything all the romcom writers in the world could have put together.” I’m not sure I’ll ever garner a better quote than that!

So why am I in Albert? Well time stops for no one, not even a happily married groom, and I’ve got the rest of my life to be getting on with. The five of us have come here on a research and writing trip for Brass and we’re revisiting all the places I discovered with my parents in September last year.

In fact, it’s a little like ground-hog day, for although the fields are a different colour, and instead of yellowing leaves on the trees, there’s blossom everywhere, we are bumping into the same local characters, who seem to want to have the same conversations with us.

As we pulled into Serre today, the same farmer who’d come up to us last time, collared Sara Kestleman and asked if she knew Judy Dench, which was exactly what he’d said to my Mum when we were last there. It became all the more surreal when Sara assumed the farmer was asking if she knew Dame Judi personally, which of course she does.

As we pulled into Bus-les-Artois, the same man popped out of the yellow house opposite the church and invited us in to see his wonderful “in-a-shed” museum, which of course was exactly what we were hoping he’d do because I’d found the experience so profoundly moving the last time.

It feels a little like we’re being rewarded for our return visit. When we pulled up to the Lochnagar crater, that terrifying, incomprehensibly large shell-hole, we found a bloke selling First World War souvenirs by the side of the road. It was something I was desperate to find the last time we came, but we were unlucky. Sara bought all sorts of things to show to the cast. I bought a button. I only had five euros!

The other thing Nathan and I had spent ages doing on the last trip was scouring the sides of fields just in case something interesting and metal-like from the conflict had been thrown up by a farmer’s plough. We found nothing, but today, a veritable treasure trove of ancient metal had found its way onto the edges of the grassy walkways including a few twisted pieces of metal fence, and three shells. We managed to freak ourselves out at the thought that one of them hadn’t been detonated, and that, by hitting it with a stick, we were facing terrible calamities.

Our two other travelling companions are Philippa (my best man, and dramaturg on Brass) and Matt Flint, (who’s doing our choreography.) They are, of course, brilliant travel companions. It’s a bit uncomfortable with us all squeezed into the back of the car in bizarrely warm temperatures (21 degrees today,) but there’s a lot of laughter, a lot of bonding, and a lot of sensible chatter about Brass.

We were up so early this morning, and in bed so late, that all of us keep drifting off to sleep at inopportune moments; me mostly in car journeys! This evening we went into Albert, managed one course and then swiftly came back to the hotel to go to bed. My eyes have stopped focussing on the page which surely means it’s time to sleep!

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