Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Brief Encounter

I've been meaning to write a post on the Author's North day at Carnforth on the 4th July for some time. Carnforth is about 70 miles (I'd guess) north of where I live; and I went with my friend Jan, a fellow-writer, by train. This was a particularly appropriate choice of transport because Carnforth is the location of the famous film BRIEF ENCOUNTER directed by David Lean (clip above).

Carnforth Sation. One of the reasons the station was chosen was because it had a suitable slope for romantic adieux.

As far as I remember a housewife called Laura finds a mote of ash from a steam train in one of her eyes and a passing doctor called Alec helps her remove it. Following this moment of brief intimacy they embark on a chaste affair - full of meaningful glances, pregnant pauses and things unsaid. Eventually, after much soul-searching, they decide not to run away with each other because they both have responsibilities and she returns to her claustrophobic life of clipped vowels in the suburbs while he decides to go out to Africa. There are no car chases.

The café (here modelled by Jan who sets it off very nicely, I feel) has been reconstructed and based on the original set.

To me BRIEF ENCOUNTER has always epitomised English stiff upperlipness. I saw it once, on the TV, as a child and I remember thinking then that the heroine, in particular, needed a good talking to. Everyone seemed to be clenching every muscle that they owned, and nothing much seemed to happen - I suppose I was too young to appreciate the subtleties. I have never had any desire to see it again (and yes, I know I've got it on my favourite movies list - this was just so I could make a tongue-in-cheek coupling with FIRST ENCOUNTER).

However, Jim Friel's talk made me think about this anew. In fact he talked so enthusiastically about it, relating it to his experiences in transposing THE REMAINS OF THE DAY to Radio 4, that I am willing to give it another try as I approach my dotage. It was an excellent talk, and reminded me why teaching alongside him at Liverpool John Moores University was such a pleasure. I am sure I learnt just as much as the students. Jim is also the author of three novels (TAKING THE VEIL, LEFT OF NORTH and CARELESS TALK and several short stories and is the winner of a Betty Trask award. All of his novels are edgy and provocative with believable and fascinating characters. My favourite was TAKING THE VEIL which featured a murderous nun. He has recently won the Llura Press Fiction Quest with THE HIGHER REALM).

( In the above photo, Anna Ganley is in the background, Jim Friel, Carol Clewlow and Sarah Baxter. Sarah and Anna are committtee representatives from the Society of Authors).

He was introduced by Carol Clewlow (who wrote A WOMAN'S GUIDE TO ADULTERY which was made into a series on TV a few years ago. Her latest book is NOT MARRIED, NOT BOTHERED) who in turn was introduced by me. The thought of all this introducing amuses me still - I think it all went very well, though.


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