Earlier this week I gave a minute-by-minute commentary on the 1998 Hugh Grant slice of cinema verite, Notting Hill.
But I didnt give much of an introduction. Last night I had a curious dream about writing a Victorian style ghost story about Hugh Grant.
So I've attempted to merge the two. Read the short piece below, then the minute by minute commentary. Watch the film at the same time for a fully immersive experience of what it was like to be alive at the moment neither Arsenal nor the Labour Party were a joke.
I remember clearly that it was the week of Michaelmas when the Dean
invited me to dine in his quarters. I was glad of the invitation, the
first anniversary of my wife’s passing had found me in varying shades of
maudlin and the opportunity to distract my mind – if only for a few
hours – from sad and dismal contemplations was to be gratefully taken.
was an excellent meal. The Dean’s cook, a plump lady in her middle
years, had rendered us quite invalid with roast beef, carrots, potatoes
and peas – all quite drowned in the most succulent gravy I had ever
tasted. Our passage to invalidity, I am almost ashamed to say, was aided
by a bottle and a half of a most splendid claret. My comfort would have
been unsurpassable were it not for the knowledge that outside the
weather had turned most treacherous. Having retired to the Dean’s
drawing room, warmed by both the excellent beef and the glowing hearth
by which we now sat, I had begun to feel the first stirrings of
tiredness when the Dean suddenly spoke.
“Do I strike you as a good man?”
I replied that he did.
The Dean poured two more large glasses of the claret.
the most proud soldier of Christ has weaknesses, my boy. Strange
proclivities, curious wants and illicit desires haunt us as they haunt
all men. I have seen things that would shock even the hardest of hearts.
But there is one terrible vision which I feel compelled to share with
you if you would be so kind as to indulge an elderly fool.”
The rain grew bolder outside.
“Mrs Trilby will make you a room up. No point in wasting your warm belly in that storm.”
thanked the Dean and reached for my glass. The Dean went to a locked
cabinet and pulled out a curious book. Opening it, he withdrew a flat
disc of shimmering light. Before I could enquire as to what this disc
was for, he placed it in a most curious contraption. All of a sudden,
an unusual picture frame that I had hitherto paid little attention to,
was lit with moving figures. A strange music came from it too,
orchestral, giddy and joyous.
“What magic is this?” I cried.
Dean pressed a button on a small block next to his left hand and the
previously unremarkable picture frame filled with words.
me to share with you the torments of a man called Thacker. A most
unfortunate wretch whose dismal predicament has haunted me these many
years. Let us watch the DVD of Notting Hill.”
Though it is some
time since that evening, there is not a part of me that wishes I had
taken leave of my host there and then. For though the storm that raged
outside that night would pass by the time the sun had risen, how I wish I
could say the same for the tempest that has troubled my mind ever
Hawkney Chess, “The Night of the Glittering Disc.” (1874)