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Blott on the Landscape is a novel written in 1975 by Tom Sharpe. It was adapted into a 6-part television series, made by the BBC, in 1985.

Plot

Lady Maud Lynchwood, of the Handyman family.
Sir Giles Lynchwood and Mr Dundridge (secretly) having lunch.
Mr Hoskins, the local town planner, in his office.
Blott in Hoskins' office, with Dundridge.


The story centres around the (attempted) construction of a motorway (the M101 in the book and the M399 in the film) through the Cleene Gorge in rural South Worfordshire (a fictitious gorge in a fictitious Englishmarker county). At the heart of the gorge is Handyman Hall (again, fictitious), the residence of Sir Giles Lynchwood and his wife Lady Maud Lynchwood. Sir Giles is secretly in favour of the motorway as it will mean he will get a large compensation from the demolition of the hall, which he hates. Things are further complicated by the on-going marital problems between Sir Giles and Lady Maud.

Lady Maud's family has lived in the gorge for "over 500 years" (as she likes saying throughout) and she has no plans on leaving. She also wants children, something which Sir Giles hates the thought of. Her most trusted ally in the events that follow is her gardener Blott, a foreigner and former POW who crash-landed while navigating an Axis bomber during World War II. He is strongly patriotic towards his new home nation and to his rural surroundings. With his military training, and some leftovers of the war found beneath the hall, he gets to work against the construction of the motorway.

Other major characters are the civil servants and other government figures, various folk from the nearby town and the elderly planning inspector, who acts more like a judge when presiding over the inquiry meetings. The story involves a riot, a demolition rampage and an attack by the SASmarker on Blott's home.

1985 television edition

The 1985 film (which was broadcast as six episodes of 50 minutes each) was filmed mainly in Southmarker Shropshiremarker. Handyman Hall was filmed at Stanage Parkmarker, near Heartsease, Powysmarker. Ludlowmarker stood in for the fictitious town of Worford, and Deddingtonmarker near Banburymarker became the village of Guildstead Carbonell, where several mock buildings were demolished in the market place for the film. Ludlow's Butter Cross, in the busy and constricted town centre, was used as the courtroom. The Lodge, where Blott lives, was built on land at Blaise Castlemarker Estate near Bristol. The original broadcast was between 6 February 1985 and 13 March 1985.

The film was scripted by Malcolm Bradbury and Sir Giles Lynchwood was played by George Cole, Lady Maud played by Geraldine James and Blott by David Suchet. Roger Bamford directed and the producer was Evgeny Gridneff. The music was composed by David McKay. The title music is notable for its faithful portrayal of a brass band, when in fact most instruments were imitated by multivocalist Viv Fisher.

Other actors and actresses involved were Paul Brooke as Mr Hoskins, Clare Grogan as the receptionist at the Handyman Arms hotel, Julia McKenzie as Mrs Forthby and Simon Cadell as Mr Dundridge.

In the TV version, a series of flashbacks provides glimpses of Blott's past. Since the series took place ten years later than the book, Blott would have presumably been too young to have served in WWII, and so instead the flashbacks reveal that he was an incompetent Eastern European soldier who accidentally found himself on the western side of the Iron Curtain, was refused re-entry to the east, and was brought back to England and employed by Lady Maud's father.

Thirty years after the original book was written, the 1985 televised version came out on DVD in the UK.

Trivia

  • Blott on the Landscape was released as an audiobook in two formats: abridged by Listen for Pleasure read by George Cole (ISBN 1858481538), and unabridged by Chivers Audio Books read by David Suchet (ISBN 0745142036).


  • It could be that the actual story is based on the proposed construction of a motorway through the South Shropshire area, something that has been proposed various times (to link the West Midlands conurbation with the Welshmarker tourist resorts). So far no motorway has been constructed through the area (though not because of anything the book or film portrays).


  • Ludlow bears more than a passing resemblance to the town of Worford mentioned in the book - except, of course, for the lack of a gorge. There is such a gorge a few miles west at Downton; and certain aspects of this do resemble the description of Handyman Hall - approached through a gap in the gorge - and in the nearby church and park. There is, of course, no safari park (unless you travel a modest distance east to Bewdley).


  • Tom Sharpe was at Lancing College during World War II and was evacuated to South Shropshire for safety. According to contemporaries, he spent time exploring the area around Ludlow and it is highly likely that he based Handyman Hall on Downton Castle.


  • A few miles south of Ludlow lies the village of Ashford Carbonelmarker - again sounding and spelt very much like the village near demolished by workmen in the book.


  • In the film Sir Giles is shown drawing the proposed motorway route on his Ordnance Surveymarker road atlas. The page he draws on shows South Shropshire/Herefordshire, with a few minor amendments showing names of places used in the book and film. Also in the film, the maps in the town planning offices show Ludlow and the South Shropshiremarker district, and the map shown at the planning inquest shows the north Herefordshire/south Shropshire area.


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