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A very Mapp and Lucia Summer

In the chicken thread below, we got talking about Mapp and Lucia — the books, not the chickens — and it dawns on me, I’m not sure I’ve ever posted about Mapp and Lucia the books. Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Mapp and Lucia describes a series of six (or more, depending if you count short stories) novels about two middle aged, middle class English ladies in the Twenties. They wage deadly warfare on one another by way of gossip, dinner parties and musical evenings. If you have a taste for bitchy catfights, you’ll love these books (if not, they’ll probably bore you silly).

The author, E.F. Benson, wrote shit tons of books, but Mapp and Lucia are his greatest hits. They’re set in Tilling, which is explicitly modeled on the town of Rye. So closely modeled that a cottage industry sprung up leading people on walking tours of Rye, pointing out landmarks from the books. Benson lived in Rye and was its mayor for a while; his house is at the center of the Mapp and Lucia cycle.

Fun fact: Benson’s father, Edward White Benson, was Archbishop of Canterbury. He had six children and they were all homosexual. I read that somewhere, but Wikipedia says two of them died young, so I’m not sure how gay they had time to be.

Mapp and Lucia has been dramatized many times, most notably in the Eighties in a series starring Geraldine McEwan and Prunella Scales (remember her, Fawlty Towers?).

Welp, the BBC was in town for six weeks this Summer filming a new version, due to be released at Christmas. We live close enough to have turned up to watch the filming a few times. (Rye is used pretty often in film, because it’s gorgeous. Monuments Men was filmed locally last year, f’rexample).

This being the modern BBC, I’m sure they’ll eff it up, but I absolutely can’t fault their sense of set and costume. They took over Market Street and transformed it into the Market Street from the books (it’s mostly residential now, but it was the main shopping street in Benson’s day). It was fascinating to watch the prop people at work; the attention to detail was fantastic. They graveled the road so the markings wouldn’t show and put detailed false fronts on many of the buildings. One day to put it up, a week to film, a day to take it down, like they’d never been.

The picture shows a row of fake plastic pig carcasses hanging from the Town Hall. Guys kept spraying them down so they were shiny wet. I really, really wanted one.

They hired locals for extras and rented several houses for interiors. I felt for those extras when they bundled them up to film the Christmas scenes on a hot July night, fake snow and all.

We’re great M&L fans, if that’s not perfectly fucking obvious by now. I’ll let you know how the BBC manages to ruin these great stories with cheap politics.


Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: October 8, 2014, 9:55 pm

“fake plastic pig carcasses”
[Richard Dean Anderson (McGyver) Playing Col. O’Neil]

“there’s a joke there. wait for it.” [dramatic pause] “I got nothin'”. [elevator door closes] [Cpt Carter and Dr Jackson exchange looks]

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: October 8, 2014, 10:26 pm

They don’t give those things away: http://creepycollection.com/checkout/2012-haunted-house-props-and-animatronics/pig-carcass/

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: October 8, 2014, 10:31 pm

What puzzled me was the number of flies and bluebottles that had been fooled. The slab outside the ‘butcher’s shop’ was crawling with the bloody things.

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: October 8, 2014, 11:36 pm

Probably very small drone flies, for realism.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: October 9, 2014, 12:02 am

Sounds like an average day on THE VIEW, with Rosie ODonnell spitting venom at Whoopie Goldberg…

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: October 9, 2014, 12:20 am

“I’ll let you know how the BBC manages to ruin these great stories with cheap politics.”

I shudder to think of it.

Mapp will infer that Lucia only pays lip service to the Palestinian struggle, While Lucia starts a rumor that Mapp’s carbon footprint is far too large.

Comment from mojo
Time: October 9, 2014, 5:46 am

What would you do with an ersatz pig carcass? Hang it on the wall?

Comment from Som-Ham
Time: October 9, 2014, 12:37 pm

What would you do with a ersatz pig carcass?

You hang it up in the rafters of your ancient English cottage, and let it get covered with dust. Then, when vistors come, you wait for them to notice. If, in very UN-British fashion, they should mention it, you act shocked and swear-swear! that you have never noticed it before,and speculate that it must have been in the house for at least a hundred years.

It’s that or fakin’ bacon.

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: October 9, 2014, 1:47 pm

I always get him mixed up in the spook-story genre with M.R. James and have to look ’em up. Benson wrote one story I nominate for the creepiest title in literature: “Negotium Perambulans.”

It was James who wrote “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” and “Casting the Runes,” which became that dynamite Jacques Tourneur movie, “Curse of the Demon.”

Comment from Can’t Hark My Cry
Time: October 9, 2014, 4:26 pm

Benson also wrote “The Room in the Tower,” and “Mrs. Amworth” and “The Brick Kiln.” And, of course, to truly confuse things, his brothers Arthur and Hugh also wrote ghost stories …

Oooh, look: E.F.’s stories are on Gutenberg Australia! http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0605171h.html

But, to be honest–I’ve never really cared much for the Benson ghost stories. I am, however, a great admirer of James, whose work you have but scratched the surface of.

Comment from Pirata Viator
Time: October 9, 2014, 4:39 pm

I loved Rye when I was there this Spring. Perfect little postcard town and friendly people. The Tiny Bookshop on the northside of the church was great. Picked up an neat old A.C. Doyle paperback from 1919 for about 5 quid. The shopowner gave me a big “new penny” I think he called it (which was actually a bit old) and said I had to give it back when I returned. Intersting guy, from south London but half Greek half Navaho.

Also some snarky signage was posted around town. Who doesn’t love a town with snark?

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: October 9, 2014, 6:20 pm

I’m not interested in the fake carcasses, but I like that little running pig in the upper left.

Comment from 6079 Winston, S
Time: October 9, 2014, 7:15 pm

Steganography and other ways to kill time and test keyboards.

Comment from Subotai Bahadur
Time: October 9, 2014, 7:15 pm

Just pondering. Now I know that the ” ‘ealth and Safety” types would have all sorts of PC porcupines at the concept of having actual critter carcasses on display, and such are probably banned to a fair-thee-well. Plastic carcasses of pigs are another matter. I know that various food chains over there have banned pork products and become Halal to avoid offending The-Religion-That-Must-Not-Be-Named-Except-Respectfully. And it is Europe. Wouldn’t public display of plastic pork offend the perpetually offended?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 9, 2014, 8:03 pm

Actually, the props were very cool and interesting. About half of them were plastic and half of them real. Like, in a basket of oranges, half real fruit and half plastic.

Some of them — the plastic meat pies — looked very old and dusty, but I suppose that won’t show up on film.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: October 9, 2014, 10:18 pm

That last bit hasn’t changed. The Pork Pie museum used to be found in every pub. 1,000 diseases lurking beneath a grubby glass dome.

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: October 10, 2014, 1:33 pm

But, to be honest–I’ve never really cared much for the Benson ghost stories. I am, however, a great admirer of James, whose work you have but scratched the surface of.

I have never read many of Benson’s stories; that title, “Negotium Perambulans,” has stuck in my memory. But as for James, the old Alfred HItchcock anthologies — the old ones, beginning in 1946 or so and running to about 1964 — republished a lot of them, including “The Ash Tree.” So I made his acquaintance at an early (and impressionable!) age.

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