Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Memories Are Made Of This

Here's another one from the IE archives - this one is specifically for this blogger's old mucker, yer man Ian Abrahams:

We always believe that the summers were better when we were young, don’t we? Hotter, longer. Actually, they weren't. This blogger knows, because he was there.
A favourite game that myself and some of my friends used to indulge in, when we got together for dinner, or for a beer, was 'Do You Remember…?' This was where we all got to show-off evidence of our misspent youth by dredging up the most arcane and dust-covered memories of telly and movies of the distant past. And asking if anybody else knew what the hell we were talking about. We still do it sometimes. Of course, in the days before the Internet, it used to be much more fun. We’d vaguely remember something, nod sagely, say 'yeah, that does ring a bell,' but be completely unable to provide a title. These days… Want to know, as my mate Abie did recently, the name of a TV movie starring Bill Shatner concerning a plane crash? Visit the Internet Movie Database. Sole Survivor. We found it in about three minutes. In t'days gone by, it was all so different.

‘Do you remember’, somebody said at the Fitzroy Tavern one Thursday in about 1986, 'a children's TV show about a skull…?' And, yes, I did. Really vividly. Most of my friends did too, but nobody could remember the title. It was a BBC serial about a girl and her little brother who had been evacuated to Wales during World War II. It was an evocative and rather charming story about the mystery of childhood. There was an alleged curse involved in the story and, at the end, the girl removed the skull from the house where she had been billeted, deliberately daring the mystic powers to bring down a terrible vengeance on the family with whom she had lived. Then she watched in horror at the house, ablaze, from the train taking her back home to London. There was a coda, as she returned, a grown woman with children of her own, to find that she had not, as she'd always imagined, been responsible for deaths.
I remembered it so well. It was from the same period as Tom's Midnight Garden, The Changes, The Phoenix & The Carpet and all those other brilliant early 1970s BBC literary adaptations. I thought, for a while, it might have been called Escape Into Night, but that turned out to be a completely different (and, also, very memorable) ATV series about a girl's lucid dreams.

Then, by pure chance, sometime in the late 1980s, somebody (I think it might have been our friend Helen Lane, actually) told us what it was called. Carrie's War.
Thanks to UK Gold a few years later, I even have a video copy of it now. I can tell you, for instance, that it was five episodes long, directed by Paul Stone and based on a quite beautiful book, which I recently read, written by Nina Bawden. The cast was headed by fourteen year old Juliet Waley as the eponymous Carrie Willow. It also featured such well-known character actors as Aubrey Richards, Rosalie Crutchley and Patsy Smart.

Waley’s subsequent career, as with other teenage starlets of the 1970s like Vicky Williams (The Changes), was somewhat stillborn. She turned up in another schoolgirl role in The Duchess of Duke Street followed by five years of growing up in private before she starred, briefly, in Angels and The History Man.
Carrie’s War, tragically, isn't publicly available on DVD at this time. But, for thirtysomethings like me and my mates, it brings back many memories (not always happy) of the short wet summer of 1974. Of clackers, Chelsea pants, chopper bikes, The Goodies, kung-fu fighting, Hai-Karate aftershave, Slade, Look-In and Star Jumpers.

There are some things, you never forget!


Ian Abrahams said...

You know, I really must get around to reading the book sometime! Yes, it was a wonderful adaption - the recent version with Pauline Quirke wasn't bad as well but the BBC serial had something extra to it really. I think it's out on DVD this year - time to replace that UK Gold copy I think!
Now, what was that one with the steam engine hiden under a viaduct?

Keith Topping said...

I think that one was, actually, called The Viaduct although I've been unable to track down any more information about it than that and the same vague memories that you've got!


dougggie said...

Carrie's War traumatised me when I saw it...the whole flames thing!

BBC kids drama had a brief revival around the time of Century Falls, Dark Season, Earthfasts etc. God bless RTD and his minions :-)

Gill said...

See, I was at the Tavern for most of the 1986 thursdays (although I did miss a few). I would have known it was Carrie's War. You were obviously mixing with the wrong people!

Keith Topping said...

>You were obviously mixing with
>the wrong people!

That, Gill love, is THE story of my life...