The story centres around the (attempted) construction of a motorway (the M101 in the book and the M399 in the film) through the Cleane Gorge in rural South Worfordshire (a fictitious gorge in a fictitious English 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 loyal 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 SAS on Blott's home.
The 1985 film (which was broadcast as six episodes of 50 minutes each) was filmed mainly in South Shropshire. Handyman Hall was filmed at Stanage Park, near Heartsease, Powys. Ludlow stood in for the fictitious town of Worford, and Deddington near Banbury 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 Castle 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 accurate portrayal of a brass band, when in fact every instrument was performed by multivocalist Viv Fisher.
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.
Rwanda strikes a contrast; The country has come a long way in its 15 years of civil war, writes Peter Fabricius.(News)
Mar 03, 2009; Sitting on the patio of the Hotel Des Mille Collines in Kigali, looking over a neat, orderly and peaceful city sparkling in the...