Britain and fandom

Every so often I get contacted by someone who wants me to slip a commercial post into the blog. Or to get out of the way so they can slip it in. They swear that what they write will blend seamlessly into my style, to which I can only say, “Oy vey.” (That’s Yiddish–most of the Yiddish I know, in fact. It means, roughly, oy vey. You can translate it to holy shit if you like, which preserves just the tiniest bit of the spirit and is an extremely non-literal translation.) But back to the commercial posts: The writer would have to be as unlikely as I am to make a post blend.

I’ve also been asked to review products, during which review I’d have to swear blind that I haven’t been paid/asked/whatevered to promote whatever it is. I’d need to present myself as objective and moved by who knows what spirit to let you know about this thing. It’s not clear what happens if my post consists of “this product is crap.”

The whatever that they offer in return for any of this is generally a bit of promotion–tweets, mentions, that sort of thing. Whether anyone pays attention to their promotion they don’t say.

Admittedly, Notes isn’t such a massive blog that I get approached often, but it does happen.

Irrelevant Photo: Why Wild Thing hasn't been able to take a photo of the puppy.

Irrelevant (and blurred) photo: Why Wild Thing hasn’t been able to take a picture of the puppy.

The most tempting approach was a request to review the Poldark series that PBS had picked up from the BBC to broadcast in the U.S. It wasn’t tempting because I like the show but because it just screams to be made fun of. (Note: I don’t dislike the show, I’m just lukewarm on it.) But I’m never going to win the making-fun-of-Poldark sweepstakes, so what’s the point of trying? It’s already been won by whoever put together the Proper Poldark series, which adds a new soundtrack to the clips from the show. The characters look serious and discuss silly topics in the thickest possible Cornish accents. I don’t know why they haven’t been sued, but—. Oooh, come to think of it, I don’t know that they haven’t been sued, I’m assuming it. I hope they haven’t.

Poldark’s strengths seem to be: 1. Aiden Turner taking off his shirt to (pant, pant) cut hay. I welcome the scene as a counter-balance to all the under-dressed women who get shoved in front of a camera (although the scene is less gratuitous than under-dressed women’s usually are), but personally? Not interested. Men’s pecs just don’t do it for me, even when you add in a nice set of stomach muscles. 2. The scenery, which is beautiful, although I don’t think that’s what keeps the ratings up. 3. I’m sure there’s something else but I’m not sure what it is. The costumes, I guess. The re-creation of the period. Aiden Turner without his shirt, which if you’re into that sort of thing is very much that sort of thing.

Last fall we were down west (translation: in the part of Cornwall where the show’s filmed) and fans were so busy mobbing an outdoor set that the crew could barely get its work done. Did Aiden Turner have his shirt on? I don’t know.

Anyway, I said no to the invitation to review it. I don’t do reviews, and that saves me a lot of grief.

Then last week I got an email with a link to a map of Downton Abbey locations, in case my readers might be interested in using it to plan their vacations. Did I want to mention any of my favorite locations, review them, and link to the map? No, I didn’t. No language on the planet can hold a description of how much I don’t want to do that.

Wild Thing and I did watch Downton Abbey for a while—I’m usually a sucker for a costume drama—but after a while we just couldn’t stand it anymore. All that sentimentality about an ossified class system got to us. Plus we weren’t impressed with the writing and Wild Thing passionately wanted the noble valet, whatever his name was, hanged. Or hung. Whichever form of the verb would get him off our screen fastest. And since the scriptwriters wouldn’t cooperate, we found our own way to doing him in: We turned the TV off.

Why am I writing about this? Mostly, I think, because when I wrote back and said I wasn’t a Downton fan, the woman who’d contacted said she hadn’t been sure I was (translation: she’d figured I wouldn’t be) and she came off as an actual human being, which is rare in this sort of interaction. But also because her email started me thinking about fandom in general and fandom of all things British in particular.

I live near where Doc Martin’s filmed. Now the character Doc Martin started life in a very funny movie, Saving Grace, about a widow and quintessential English gardener who turns to growing weed as a way to keep from losing her house. Which is in Cornwall. If you haven’t seen it, you should. (That’s as close to a review as you’re likely to find here.) For reasons I can’t begin to understand, someone gave the Doc Martin character a personality transplant and a TV series all of his own. I’ve watched it once or twice and don’t like it. (That’s close to a review too, isn’t it? You see how easily a person can abandon her principles?) The scenery’s great and any number of people from our village have been extras, but that hasn’t been enough to hold me.

But never mind what I think of it, because its fans love it and have turned Port Isaac, the village where it’s set, into a no-go area in the summer. They love the show so much they want to crawl inside it and live there.

What is it about fans? I understand fantasy. I understand loving a show or the world it takes place in. I understand wanting to live inside it. But I also understand that it’s not possible. No matter how much you rub yourself against the stones of Port Isaac, you won’t be transported inside Doc Martin. You’ll be the same person you started as. Even if you moved there, you’d still be you. The people who do live in Port Isaac have real lives, with real problems, not TV-show problems.

Ditto Downton Abbey and its locations.

But here’s the link to the Downton Abbey sites anyway.  If you want to rub against the stones of the great houses, I won’t stop you, but someone who works there might ask you to stop before you scare a busload of other tourists.

If you’re non-British, be aware that there’s an entire real country over here and it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than the pretend places we watch on TV.

And all that should be enough to get me in trouble with the fans of both Doc Martin and Downton Abbey. It’s also enough to remind me of my own hypocrisy, because I’m not above trying to tempt fans into reading me.

But whatever you want to say, go ahead and throw comments. I welcome them.


On an almost related point, my thanks to the people who’ve suggested topics for new posts. I’ve followed up on some of them and haven’t written about others. If I haven’t tackled your topic, it’s because I just couldn’t make it work. It may have been a brilliant suggestion, but nothing I wrote did it justice. Maybe at some point the light bulb will switch on and I’ll come back to it. In the meantime, I’m not ignoring you. I look at the list nearly every time I start a new post and check for the switch that would illuminate that light bulb.

If anyone wants to suggest new topics about life in either the U.S. or the U.K., I’ll write about them if I can. I love getting suggestions.

79 thoughts on “Britain and fandom

  1. I haven’t watched any of those shows, but completely agree that there are a lot more interesting parts of the UK than fictional places. The places the fictional pieces are set might be interesting in their own right, I don’t know…but that should be decided on merit not tv showness!

    Unless the show is Doctor Who…then that is different… sort of… but that is ok because a lot of that is on other planets that I am unlikely to visit! ;-)

    ALso…I love love the expression on the cats face in the background of your photo!! :-D :-D

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Being old enough to remember both series of Poldark, the recent one has much going for it (and yes I’m an Aiden abs fan – an old girl needs something to dream about!). Yorkshire, where I live, was generally known as the land of coal mines and steelworks (ok there aren’t many left now), but head out in the car for a quiet Sunday tootle around and you can’t move for day trippers by the coach load on a pilgrimage to the land of Open All Hours, Last of the Summer Wine, Heartbeat, All Creatures Great and Small, Emmerdale etc. We’ve become a film set for anything requiring a flat cap and strange accent. We do have some damn good scenery though – wonder if Aiden would look good in a flat cap ..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure he would–especially without the shirt. (I do wonder how he feels about that.) But, yes, it’s bizarre seeing a real place turned into a sort of Disneyland, with tour buses (or coaches, or whatever we want to call them) instead of little trains running through.

      Liked by 1 person

    • With an ego that size, I’m sure he thinks he could hold down both positions simultaneously. I think it was PT Barnum (of Barnum & Bailey’s circus fame) who said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” And Trump hadn’t even been born then. I’m not sure how much more I can say about him. The response he’s getting is bizarre and endlessly depressing. Wild Thing thinks he has a chance to win if he gets nominated. I don’t. I really, really hope I’m right.

      Liked by 4 people

      • As someone who will hopefully shortly be living in America, I also really, really hope you are right. I can’t imagine anything more ironic that leaping out of Cameron’s frying pan into Trump’s fire. I’m still hoping that he is there to make all other Republican candidates seems reasonable by comparison.
        On the subject of Downton, I have to confess that Downton is a guilty pleasure of mine, even if they do work rather hard at putting the drama in costume drama. On the plus side most of those houses need money from visitors to remain standing so as a big supporter of the National Trust I’m all for TV tourism in this case.
        I’m guessing you didn’t see the Christmas finale, where all ended so happily it made me think of the Nicholas Nickleby (I think) version of Romeo and Juliet an even the nasty footman was redeemed.
        As Oscar Wild would say “the good ended well and the bad did not, that is what fiction means” which I fear brings us back to PT Barnum and Donald Trump!

        Liked by 1 person

        • It turns out it wasn’t Barnum but (I’m told) H.L. Mencken. Never mind; it applies anyway. May both countries have sorted out their political insanities by the time you move to the U.S.–and may it not take as long as that statement would seem to suggest.

          And I agree with you about the great houses. Good point.


  3. Awhile back, I received a free subscription to Acorn TV, which is a streaming service for British television shows, and other than the $4.87 I received for a post I wrote on another website that got 7,000 views (I got paid per page view so I think I would have needed about six zillion views to even reach the minimum wage), it’s the most significant compensation I’ve gotten for blogging these five years.

    Anyway, I haven’t watched much there because there’s just so many detective shows I can handle (does everyone in the UK get murdered in some sleepy seaside village under curious circumstances that need to be investigated by a disheveled DCI?) but my husband, who doesn’t even like television, became enthralled by the show Vera which stars (as you may know) Brenda Blethyn, who also starred in Saving Grace. He binge-watched six seasons over a weekend and began mimicking that accent (I just did a quick search and apparently it’s something called “Geordie”?) which I, unsurprisingly, found way more annoying than attractive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like Vera, although I’m damned if I know why. Maybe because it’s so unshowy and undramatic. I wouldn’t dare try to match the accent–my friends would be in hysterics. But to answer your question, yes, our villages are facing severe depopulation. It’s getting to a point where we have to ask for volunteers: Who wants to be murdered in order to save someone who seriously doesn’t want to be?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for confirming the fact that I wouldn’t want to visit these places “in season” and I hope that nobody ever films anything set anywhere around me. That’s unlikely, so, one hope that will come true. I’m not usually a fan of serial type shows, but I do like Doc Martin. I don’t watch it religiously, and I couldn’t actually outline the story for anyone, but I like some of the characters. I particularly like the Doc’s way of handling whiny-self-appointed-important-people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s an odd sort of compliment: We noticed your blog and think you’re dumb enough to believe us when we say no one will notice the difference between your writing style and ours. But I guess we have to take our compliments where we can get them. Thank you for yours, which are more flattering.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love Poldark. I am a low-level Aidan Turner fan, but I don’t particularly seek the scenes where he’s underdressed (I think of those as you do: approximation of fair play to females being underdressed). I also enjoy the scenery and the history hinted at in the plot. When that’s a bit thin, we play where-have-we-seen-THAT-supporting-actor-before-and-can-we-remember-their-name. I don’t ask much from my telly. :-)
    As for Downton Abbey, well, I watched the first season faithfully, but after that, just couldn’t dredge up enough interest, even for Maggie Smith, who I absolutely adore as an actress.
    I suppose that all says I’m not much cut out for fandom of the traditional variety. But make it easy for me to talk to you, and hey! I’m in there. ;-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • On her blog (click the blue letters of her name) she describes herself as “impromptu artist, a photographer, an engineer and document writer, a Morris Dancer and an avid hat wearer!” What more could you possibly need to know?


  6. OH I love the Downtown. The whole house of us does.
    I have no idea who Aiden Whatshisface is. I’m always up for nudity of any kind, but I like it to correspond to something crucial, like when the Turk died in Lady Mary’s bed, I felt the nudity conveyed exactly what it needed to. That Lady Mary, she’s a real slut for her time.
    Anyway, I wouldn’t watch a show to see anyone, let alone Aiden Whathisface take his shirt off.

    I enjoy the blurry pup photo, which I believe is a wonderfully blended promo for what it’s like to have a puppy. (Actual puppy included.)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sadly, I can’t talk about TV – I cut my cable around 4 years ago, so I don’t get immersed in all the newest latest and greatest shows advertisements. I stream the old stuff I remember fondly, or take advise from friends on what to look up.

    I can’t really talk about Trump, either – because all I know about him I learned from Facebook. So he’s either the savior of our country or something far too impolite to type on another’s blog. At least he’s not milquetoast, because everyone seems to have a very strong opinion on him.

    I CAN talk about cats. They are the undisputed leaders of the world – we just don’t know it yet…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dear Ellen,
    I am here to offer my apology for noticing your lovely comment belatedly, in an area of my wordpress which is called, “awaiting approval.” I am posting your name and another fine person who was in the same “cell” in the penitentiary which I hate to admit I forget to check for nice folks as yourselves are. The post tomorrow will have raspberries and it is a light hearted post where at the end you and a nice woman named, Madelyn will be “featured.” I don’t know if the British people stick out their tongues and let a ripping noise out when they are “giving somebody the raspberry” but I hope you will forgive me and maybe someone will come over and look at your lovely blog. Thank you for not reviewing “Poldark” and wondering if you like the “Sherlock” where he thinks like a computer and is played by Benedict Cumberbatch? I do so love that series. He was very good in the movie where he plays the man who “beat” the Enigma machine. Anyway, I am very sorry to have not featured you on the fellow bloggers who are authors in a timely manner. Hope you will stop by for a bowl of fresh raspberries and cream. Smiles, Robin

    Liked by 1 person

    • No apologies needed. That sort of thing happens easily. But thanks so much for rescuing me. I’m not sure whether anybody here (other than me, of course) blows raspberries. I’ve never heard anyone do it, but that’s not really deep research.

      I do like Sherlock. I think it’s the sheer unlikeliness of it, given that the story was originally set in a different century. They handle it with a light touch.


  9. When I came to England in 2014, I visited my friend, who lives in Newbury. She was excited to show me Highclere Castle (practically her neighbor), and I was just excited to be doing anything in England with her. I *like* Downton Abbey, but it was the Egyptian museum in the basement that really revved my motor. And then sitting in the courtyard with her, sharing our stories, and watching the current Earl among his minions.

    To be honest, my whole reason for going to England (my maiden voyage, so to speak) was all about being a fan-girl. I came specifically to see Richard Armitage in “The Crucible” at The Old Vic. Got myself a front row seat, waited along with the other fan-girls at the stage door, got my blurry picture. Immersion Fannishness.

    But the best part of my 2-day trip (I didn’t think my bipolar disorder could tolerate any more than that), was meeting my friend (we’d gotten acquainted through my blog), and then her friend (who came from the same part of Ireland as my great grand dad), and spending an afternoon wandering through his garden.

    Yes, I’m a devoted fan-girl, but I can’t wait to come back to Newbury to see my friends (and maybe take a side trip to Cornwall).

    Liked by 1 person

    • The first time I came to Britain, the oldness of it knocked me out and I was–okay, I didn’t rub up against any stones but if I’d thought something would rub off on me, I would have. It’s pretty amazing. Enjoy your next trip in whatever way does it for you.


  10. Lots of comments here, so I’ll keep it brief: Love the cat in the background of the photo, only one in focus, acting above it all. Feel the same way about Downton Abby. To translate it to U.S. vernacular, after a while it felt like a Republican’s wet dream, a romantic ideal that’s not an American narrative on its face, but wealthy conservatives, in their secret white man clubs, wish it were. Sorry to offend any U.S. conservatives, truly. I’m sure there are exceptions. I just haven’t met any yet. Always looking for a first!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So sorry if my last comment was in bad taste. The Internet makes one bold and irrational. I may have said something too divisive. Politics are tricky and I am not one to tread as lightly as I should. Delete if you want. But, I still love that cat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nope, I’m not deleting it. It’s provocative but not, I think, going over the edge into personal invective. I’m happy when we have people here who don’t all agree with each other but I don’t want this to be a place where people bury their opinions in the name of harmony. Speak up. Don’t get abusive. We can all still agree that the cat’s wonderful.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I vaguely remember a first Poldark series that I never watched. And haven’t seen a single episode of either this one or Downton Abbey. Now wndering who Aiden is and if I’m missing some dubious viewing pleasure.
    Which brings me to subjects for suggestion.
    Maybe this has already been suggested to you. But what do you make of the voyeuristic culture of essentially watching paint dry? I listen to folk all talking about The Kardashians, The Only Way Is Essex, Big Brother, etc and I just don’t get it. Why do people watch these things and make famous folk who’ve done absolutely heehaw to warrant fame? I don’t really do TV much any more so maybe I’m missing the point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t watched any of them either, so I haven’t a clue what the attraction is. I think I saw the first Poldark series (I do remember that a friend lent us tapes–that’s how long ago it was) but I’m damned if I can remember it. I’m told it’s better than the current one. For whatever that’s worth.

      Liked by 1 person

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