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Monday, December 30, 2013

The Bionic Woman & UFOs

"You know, Ray, some days I really miss 
my little private practice in Florida."

Some TV shows are like meteors hurtling across the midnight sky.  For a short while, they outshine everything else in the heavens.  But whether they reach the Earth or not, we forget about them in time, while above our heads hang the stars night after night, year after year, never decreasing in prominence or illumination.  From its continuing popularity on websites, conventions, and fan clubs, it would appear that The Bionic Woman resembles one of those fantastic orbs that burn for billions of years, rather than for just a short time.

In the third season episode "The Martians Are Coming, The Martians Are Coming," we see more proof that Dr. Rudy Wells' expertise extends far beyond the field of Bionics he's so successfully pioneered.  After overseeing development of a new radar tracking system at a secret government base, Rudy and fellow coworker Ray head for the Pacific Ocean to do a little fishing.  As they walk onto the dock, the sky fills with a strange hum, and a glowing craft appears in the sky.  The strange craft zooms toward them, hovers above the dock, and then the two scientists disappear amid a cone of orange light.

We find Jaime sitting on her couch, relaxing after a tough week teaching the children of service members at the nearby Air Force Base.  While surfing channels, she comes across TV coverage of the incident. When her German Shepherd Max whines, she assures him she'll feed him later. But Max can't wait any longer, and as another patient of Dr. Rudy Wells, he doesn't have to!  Max grabs a can of dog food from the cupboard, opens it with his bionic jaws, and dumps his self-serve meal into his bowl.  It's just as well, for when Jaime learns of Rudy and Ray's disappearance, she leaps off the couch and heads for her car.  

This episode continues the story-direction begun with "The Pyramid," and reminds us of our fascination with the stars.  While most of us may think of Flying Saucers and UFOs as outmoded concepts, these were mainstream stories in the 1970s.  Not only did Steve Austin, Jaime's boyfriend and star of The Six Million Dollar Man, occasionally encounter aliens, but later TV series such as "Project U.F.O." and "The X-Files" would remind us that governments will always investigate potential extraterrestrial incidents.  And why not?  With so many stars shining in the sky above us, is it so difficult to believe that another planet capable of hosting sentient life might circle one of them, and that its inhabitants might visit us?

Or that they might already have visited us?

In his novel One Door Away From Heaven, Dean Koontz tantalizes us with the idea that aliens might currently live among us.  We meet a shapeshifting alien named Curtis, who arrives on Earth to help us, only to see other aliens arrive and chase him across the United States, intent on killing him before he can do so.  Ironically, a group of U.F.O. enthusiasts take in Curtis, and he travels with them in their RV, going from one U.F.O. gathering to another.  While Curtis still wants to help us realize our potential, he also desperately wants to stay alive.  Like The Bionic Woman, Dean Koontz' novel takes us on a rousing adventure, while tantalizing us with the idea that we might actually be sharing our world with extraterrestrials.   And how knows?  Maybe there's less fiction in either story than most are prepared to believe.

Warning: The Next Paragraph contains Plot Spoilers!

As the episode continues, we follow Jaime's attempts to track the mysterious craft and rescue the two men.  Then we learn that the U.F.O. that abducted Ray and Rudy was actually a helicopter projecting a holographic image.  Worse, Ray has committed treason by selling his newly developed radar tracking system to another government, and their agents staged the abduction to quietly spirit Ray and his wife out of the country.  But they weren't counting on Jaime Sommers, the bionic woman!  Jaime cares so much about Rudy that she'd willingly lay down her life for him.  And she nearly does, when the enemy agents lock her in an industrial freezer, cooling her bionics below their operating temperature.  It'll take all her determination, creativity, and the help of an unlikely friend she meets during her investigation, to escape the freezer, rescue Rudy, and prevent the bad guys from stealing America's new radar tracking system.  The episode embodies all the ideas we love in the show, and reminds us why we continue to care about Jaime Sommers, 35 years after The Bionic Woman originally aired.  

But then, some stories and characters shine as brightly, and for as long, as the stars in the midnight sky.

Dragon Dave

Friday, December 27, 2013

No One Likes Hulk-Dalek When He's Angry

Hulk Dalek: Fresh cobbler smell good, fresh out of oven!  Hulk ready to serve to Mistress and Master.
Iron Dalek: Sorry, Hulk, but I think we may have to wait on this blackberry/apple cobbler.  It's still too hot.
Hulk Dalek: Hulk want to serve hot cobbler!
Iron Dalek: Yes, but Master and Mistress don't want the cobbler to melt their ice cream before their spoons reach their mouths.
Hulk Dalek: Forget ice cream!  Hulk want to serve fresh, hot cobbler!!!
Iron Dalek: Forget the ice cream?  No wonder people don't like you when you're angry!

Hulk & Iron Daleks

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Force More Powerful Than Daleks

Denim: What'cha makin', boss?
Pocket: Just something for Master's lunch.  It's called a Turkey Loco.
Denim: What's that mean, you crazy turkey?
Pocket: How dare you call me a crazy turkey!
Denim: I didn't.  I just--
Pocket: Yes you did.  My audio receptors heard you call me a crazy turkey!
Denim: No, I was translating.  Loco means crazy in Spanish, right?
Pocket: I suppose so.  But this is a variation on a Hawaiian dish called a Moco Loco.
Denim: You mean, the one with rice, beef, an egg, and lots of gravy?
Pocket: Yep.  I'm just substituting Turkey for Beef, that's all.
Denim: Great!  What's for dessert?
Pocket: I've no idea.  We were pulled off Dessert Duty after your stunt with the cookie plate, remember?

Denim: Uh...
Pocket: I mean, he was supposed to get six cookies, not just two--
Denim: Um--
Pocket: And a few crumbs.
Denim: Uh…right.  About that--
Pocket: It wouldn't have been so bad if, when he had gone back to the box for another cookie, Master had actually found the ones you removed from the plate.
Denim: I'm sorry, boss.  For some reason, I can't explain, or excuse, my behavior.  Those cookies just called to me, and I couldn't resist their siren song.
Pocket: Yes, well…I suppose I can understand that.  Cookies--especially Christmas cookies--can conquer the firmest resolve.  They're powerful things.
Denim: Might they be the strongest force in the universe, boss?
Pocket: Okay, now you're getting a little weird.

Pocket & Denim Dalek

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Dalek Invasion of Christmas

'Twas the day before Christmas, 
And all through the room, 
Not a creature was stirring,
No spaceships went boom.

The Daleks were set 
On the limbs with care,
In the hope that the Doctor, 
Soon would be there.

Then unto my eyes 
Such a Dalek appeared,
It climbed to the top, 
And a clamor was heard.

A fight ensued 
Like few humans have seen,
The tree glowed with laser blasts, 
Blue and yellow, red and green.

"Exterminate, Exterminate, 
Exterminate all,"
Their voices rang out; 
They filled the hall.

By nightfall the battle
Had been put to rest,
And silence descended,
For they all were the best.

Dragon Dave

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dalek Photo Shoots & Christmas Cookies

Pocket: Yes, that looks good.  Now top it with whipped cream and take it out.
Denim: Um, I'm not sure…that it's good enough for Master.  Don't you think we should taste it first?
Pocket: Don't be silly.  Mistress made the tapioca, so of course it's good enough.  Now get a move on.  I'll get started on the cookie plate.

Denim: You know, this job requires a Dalekanium-hard constitution.  It's a good thing I'm impervious to temptation.

Pocket: Oh good, just in time.  Take this out so Master can enjoy these with his pudding.
Denim: Haven't you given him too many cookies?
Pocket: He won't eat them all.  I just want to offer him a little variety.  
Denim: But they look so good!  I mean, they might tempt Master beyond his ability to resist.  What if he eats them all, and then gets sick?  He would blame us for giving him too many--
Pocket: Don't be silly. By the way, has Fury arrived for his photo shoot yet?
Denim: Yes, he's in Make-up now.
Pocket: Make-up?  He's a fearless leader.  He's got an eyepatch.  Why does he need time in Make-up?
Denim: I think he just wants to look his best for tomorrow's appearance in your Advent Calendar.  Oh, and he's complaining that you didn't furnish his dressing room with red and green Mini M&Ms.
Pocket: Red and green Mini M&Ms? That was never in the contract! Why is it always the tough ones who need the most pampering? I just hope he's finished writing his introduction.  I'd better go. Now get those cookies out before Master finishes his pudding!

Denim: You know, I'm sure Master will appreciate my efforts to reduce his Christmas temptations.  After all, he doesn't have a Dalekanium-hard constitution like me.  

Pocket & Denim Dalek

P.S.  Don't miss Fury Dalek's Advent Calendar appearance tomorrow at

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Exploring Stanmer Park

From E. F. Benson's descriptions in The Blotting Book, I imagined a small park adjacent to Falmer Train Station, surrounded by a wooden picket fence.  We spent a good hour exploring the nearby Stanmer Park, and probably only saw a small portion of it.  

It's got wide open expanses, full of room to walk and explore.  It amazed me, with how cold and windy it was, how many people were out walking, pushing baby carriages, playing with their children, or exercising their dogs.  Stands of trees share the land with vibrant grass, allowing the visitor a measure of privacy.

Spoiler alert!  If you have not yet read E. F. Benson's novel, and my descriptions have aroused your curiosity to a fever pitch, you may wish to skip the next paragraph!

In The Blotting Book, after Godfrey Mills' absence can no longer be explained, his partner Edward Taynton files a missing person report with the police, and an inspector is assigned to investigate.  Eventually Mills' body is found in Stanmer Park, lying amid the coppiced trees.  In my wanderings, I saw no examples of coppicing, a traditional method of harvesting trees in which mature trees are cut down, new shoots allowed to rise from the trunk, grown to maturity, and then harvested in an apparently stable and renewable pattern.  So perhaps coppicing is no longer practiced in this area of England.  Then again, I found no bodies among the trees either, so that was a plus.

I saw numerous examples of how the park proves useful to the nearby universities,

and to local farmers as well.

I even met a few colorful characters along the way.  But then, you never know what you'll find, until you follow your interests, get out there, and explore.

And no, in case you're wondering, this dragon doesn't eat sheep.  Well, at least not cute ones, anyway.

Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries
The Story of Herbert the Lamb  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Finding Stanmer Park

In The Blotting Book by E. F. Benson, attorney Godfrey Mills has spread slanderous allegations regarding young Morris Assheton.  As a result, the parents of Miss Templeton, the woman he loves, have forbidden her to see him.  Morris has stormed all over Brighton, including to the office of his solicitor and legal guardian Edward Taynton, who tells him that his partner Godfrey Mills has left for London, and not yet returned.  Taynton advises Morris to calm down, and promises he will investigate this matter when Mills returns, and sort the situation out.

That night, Morris dreams of driving his motor (car) to the train station in the nearby village of Falmer Station.  There, he sees a man get off a train, and follows him through the park.  In his dream, he feels at peace about Mills: somehow the situation seems preordained to work itself out.  Then he sees Taynton watching from a tree, as if blessing his actions.  At last, Morris leaps over some palings, and beats the man until he collapses.  The man’s face is revealed: it is Mr. Taynton.

When he wakes, the dream seems so real that Morris fears it must have happened.  This scares him so much that he resolves to set aside all the anger and madness that seized him yesterday and look toward his eventual meeting with Godfrey Mills dispassionately.  After all, has not his guardian and ally, Edward Taynton, promised to sort the situation out for him?

Much has changed in the 105 years since this novel was published.  A major thoroughfare now bisects the village of Falmer.  On one side of the road stands a football (soccer) stadium and the University of Brighton.  On the other resides another busy campus, the University of Sussex.

And yet, a short walk from the train station, the visitor is welcomed by this sign:

It reads: Stanmer House was built in 1722 by Henry Pelham (a descendant of the Buckle guy) & the park laid out by Thomas Pelham, who in 1801 was created the first Earl of Chichester.  The estate comprises over 5,000 acres and contains the villages of Stanmer & Falmer.  So thankfully, despite a century of development, the park still provides the E. F. Benson enthusiast like myself the chance to explore it, and compare the author's descriptions with what exists today.  

More on that tomorrow.

Dragon Dave 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

History Where You Least Expect It

Often, we're unaware of meaningful aspects of history that hide in plain sight.  But then, we tend to overlook things we don't immediately recognize as important, such as this baptismal font in St. Laurence Church in Falmer, England.  Let's face it: after my visit last year to St. Mary's Church in Thirsk, it's doubtful any baptismal font can ever impress me again!

Nevertheless, this booklet, which the church provided for a small donation, no doubt represents a fair amount of research into the history of this little church.  The Domesday Book, a survey of England and Wales completed in 1086, mentions the church in Falmer.  I'm not sure how much the building was worth back then, but by the year 1334, the village church was valued at the incredible sum of one pound!  Still, nothing lasts forever, not even buildings worth a single English pound coin, so in 1815 the building was taken down, and work started on the old foundation.  Lord Pelham, the present Earl of Chichester, laid the foundation stone for the new building in May of that year.

And why is Lord Pelham important, you ask?  Well, he's just one of many in a long family line.  One of his predecessors fought in the Battle of Poitiers in 1356.  This was one of three important English victories during the Hundred Years War, and resulted in the capture of John II of France.  In recognition of his service, Sir John Pelham was given the buckle of the king's sword belt.  

So what about the baptismal font, you ask?  Well, many places in the English county of Sussex proudly display the symbol of the buckle, in recognition of how the Earls of Chichester have overseen their lands, homes, and communities throughout history.  They remind us that as God oversees the spiritual realm, we must care for each other.  

So the carving on this baptismal font is not mere decoration, but a ring of Pelham Buckles that recognized the Earl's ongoing protection and support to the village of Falmer throughout the centuries.  It surrounds the bowl in which a child is baptized to initiate its spiritual life, and holds the water which is sprinkled upon the congregation at special services throughout the worshipper's life.  It represents the interlinked nature of life: the merger of the sacred and the secular, the spiritual and the physical, religion and politics, and yes, even history and the present.

And there you have it, history where you least expect it.  I'm grateful to the Reverend Canon Andrew N. Robinson, who wrote this little booklet. For the stories he shares highlight important aspects of history, and remind me of a pleasant worship service, in a quiet English village, on a fun little adventure during my stay in Brighton.  

Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries
"Let Me Show You This!"

Related Internet Link

Monday, December 16, 2013

An Unusual Bionic Blog

Ordinarily, there's a thousand-and-one things to write about, and I do my best to pick one topic and develop it in a sensible and worthy way.  But this weekend has flown by so quickly!  My wife was supposed to have Friday off, but right now she's got an unusually high workload, so she had to work part of the day.  This allowed me to put in a few pages on the Science Fiction novel I'm currently writing.  It's set on another planet several hundred years from now, and the rough draft is coming along nicely, even if my direction sometimes waivers, and the inspiration comes in fits and spurts.  Then we went out to lunch, ran errands, did some Christmas shopping, and spent some time wrapping up gifts.

Of course, that didn't mean that we couldn't bring a friend with us.  Or, for that matter, buy him lunch!

The manager, who always goes the extra mile to make his customers feel special, surprised us with two small orange ice cream shakes as we finished up our burgers and fries.  What a wonderful way to express the meaning of the holiday season!  

Of course, we shared our shakes with our friend.

Saturday we worked out at the gym, enjoyed another lunch out, ran more errands, and wrapped more gifts.  Sunday ditto, except that we stayed home all day, and took advantage of a few really nice hours outside to do some yard maintenance.  Oh yeah, and during lunch we took out an hour for Jaime Sommers.  As the third season of The Bionic Woman progressed, producers Harve Bennett and Kenneth Johnson departed the show.  (Kenneth Johnson would go on to helm The Incredible Hulk, and Harve Bennett to oversee the Star Trek movies).  

The episode we watched represents the direction the new production team wanted to steer the show, more toward science fiction topics than just slice-of-life or secret agent stories.  In "The Pyramid," Oscar Goldman oversees a program in which Saturn V rockets deliver chemical payloads to the upper atmosphere.  These are then exploded, and the dispersed chemicals intended to rebuild the planet's ozone layer.  Jaime accompanies a friend in Launch Control to investigate a radio signal that caused interference during a test launch.  

Warning: The next two paragraphs contain plot spoilers!

Underneath a former military bunker, they discover a forgotten pyramid, which has sunk down under the ground in the centuries since it was built.  During their exploration, they are incapacitated by an ancient Indian (Mesoamerican) warrior.  Jaime and her friend awaken to find themselves paralyzed by an old man with telepathic abilities.  From him they learn that another spaceship containing his people will arrive soon, but unless he can signal them to turn back, the chemicals recently dispersed into the atmosphere will destroy the ship, and his people will interpret its destruction as an act of war.  

Jaime and the Aztec warrior must steal an experimental crystal from Dr. Rudy Wells' lab, and Jaime must give up the atomic power pack in her bionic replacements, and hope that the old man can signal his people in time.  Needless to say, it's important to her that, in her weakened state, she can nonetheless return to Rudy's lab, and get a new power pack installed before she dies.  It's a fun episode, and a neat look back at the topics that fascinated us in the late 1970s, from Chariots of the Gods (the book that explored mankind's possible extraterrestrial origins), telepathy, pyramid and crystal power, UFOs and alien contact, and our depleted ozone layer.

Well, that's all from me for now.  A rather unusual (and bionic!) blog, covering topics of interest from a show made nearly forty years ago, many of which remain as relevant today as when the episode was filmed.  But then, this is a rather unusual season of the year, in which we all put out a little extra effort, to remind others that, even if we don't get to see each other as often as we would like, we still care for each other.  Now, I need to do my part, and stop by the Post Office this week, so that Santa can deliver all his gifts by Christmas day.

If my discussion of The Bionic Woman episode intrigued you, follow the link below, and watch "The Pyramid" on your computer.  Consider it my gift to you this holiday season.  Enjoy!

Dragon Dave

Related Internet Links
Watch "The Pyramid"

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Daleks of Falmer

Artist: I hope Master starts sketching soon.  He's losing his light.

Rex: Relax.  He's had a busy morning.  He'll get around to it, if he has the time.
K-9: At least he's eating healthy.  That's what's really important.

Artist: But the light!  Right now, he's got a moody atmosphere that Ashley Jackson would kill for.  Every moment he delays, he risks losing it.
K-9: I concur.  But it's not just the lighting; the temperature is also falling.
Artist: See, K-9 agrees with me. Master should cease eating now, and at least draw that bird at the edge of the pond, if he doesn't want to attempt to capture the entire scene.

Rex: Break off his lunch to draw the sky or a bird? Are you kidding me?  He can draw those at home.
Artist: But this is an English sky, and English birds!  He's missing an important opportunity!

Rex: Master's got his priorities right.  See, he's enjoying his Quavers. He can't get those back home, so it's important he really take the time to savor those now.

Rex: Uh…gee, thank's Master.  I'm, uh…honored.  Hey, would you two be quiet?  It's not that funny!!!

K-9, Rex, & Artist Daleks

Thursday, December 12, 2013

St. Laurence in Falmer

According to Wikipedia, that online fount of knowledge, St Lawrence served as a Deacon under Pope Sixtus II in the third century.  During a period of Roman persecution, Sixtus was executed, and St. Lawrence given three days to gather all the riches of the Church and hand them over to the government.  Instead, the Deacon dispensed all the Church's material wealth to the poor, and then presented these needy folks to the local prefect as the wealth of the Church.

The Prefect, and Emperor Valerian, were not amused.  

St. Laurence welcomes us to his church.

Because of his actions, St. Lawrence suffered a martyr's death in the year 258.  Despite the different spelling of the name, I assume this is the saint whom St. Laurence in Falmer honors.  

No one met me in the narthex, but when I walked into the sanctuary, I found a man with a clerical collar bustling about.  When I told him we were sorry we had missed the service, this confused him.  I explained that the midweek service time posted on the notice board stated 9:30 a.m., not 11:30 as we had seen on various online sources.  He shook his head.  "That can't be right," he said, then assured me that the service would commence in a few minutes.  Then he left to put on his liturgical robes for the service.  

My wife selected a pew, and I took this quiet time, before anyone else arrived, to take a few photographs.

The Priest's view of his congregation
 and the church organ.

When he returned, his arms full of altar guild necessities, he explained that the congregation sat in the choir loft for the smaller, midweek services.  We moved camp to oblige.

When 11:30 a.m. had come and gone, the priest decided that his eight or ten regulars wouldn't be coming today, and started the service.  The liturgy was similar than the one used in Episcopal church in the United States, but the priest seemed understanding when we fumbled our responses.  At certain points, he kindly gave us instructions, which we found helpful in following along.  

A beautiful royal crest hangs below the organ pipes.

After the service, we spoke with him for a few minutes.  He politely asked where we were from, and which areas of England we were visiting.  He explained that the congregation wasn't big enough to merit a full time pastor, and thus eighty percent of his time was devoted to the nearby university, where he was an instructor, and also as a chaplain.  When I asked if the students frequently sought his counsel, he shook his head.  He said that England was a largely secular country these days, and that the media had an anti-religion bias.  As such, young people tended to view churches as relics of the past, categorizing them as they would museums.  

While we enjoyed talking to him, it quickly grew obvious that he wished to get on with his day.  So we thanked him again for leading the service, and bid him good-bye.

Watching British TV shows, reading stories by English writers, and making a few short visits to the country hardly makes me an expert on what makes their society function, but one thing bothered me as we left St. Laurence.  Perhaps it was an oversight on his part.  Perhaps he's just more naturally reserved than most Americans.  Still, as I told him, we had set aside a day of our vacation to visit his church.  You would think that, at the very least, he would introduce himself to us, and ask us our names.  Yet he never did. 

Perhaps he's wrong about English society.  Perhaps the Church of England will grow more relevant to the up-and-coming generation.  But I have to wonder.  Unless you show people you care about them, and that they really matter to you, how can you make them believe in a God that they cannot see, and convince them that He cares for them?  A fundamental part of making others feel special, important, and treasured, is learning their names.  Unless you're willing to overcome that basic reticence, and committed to breaking down the barriers between yourself and others, you're just another social worker or instructor.  And the church in which you worship, in which people may have worshipped for hundreds or even thousands of years?  It's just an old building.

Dragon Dave

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Beautiful Day in Falmer

We had journeyed to Falmer because E. F. Benson used it as a setting in his novel The Blotting Book.  We had arrived on this day, and at this time, to make a day of it by attending the midweek worship service.  Yet we arrived to find the church door closed, and a different service time posted on the noticeboard.  

Oh well.  It was a nice day.  The sun was shining.  We could at least wander around the churchyard.  St. Laurence in Falmer might not be mentioned in E. F. Benson's novel, but according to online sources, it had been used in an episode of "Waiting For God."  The TV series was set in Bournemouth, but apparently much of the location shooting was conducted in and around Brighton.  While I couldn't immediately link St. Laurence with a particular episode, it did look familiar.

"Waiting For God" was a favorite TV series of mine when it came out in the late 1980s and early '90s, and occasionally I'll dig out my DVDs and watch it again.  The series starred the energetic and irrepressible Graham Crowden (who was approached once to play the Doctor in "Doctor Who," but turned the role down), and that embodiment of strength and fortitude, Stephanie Cole.  The show was created and written by Michael Aitkens, and produced by Gareth Gwenlan, the latter of whom would go on to serve as the Head Of Comedy for the BBC.  So the characters were strong, the stories interesting, and the series beautifully filmed.  

"Waiting For God" still makes me laugh.  But more important than the comedic aspects of the series (which sometimes drifted off into farce) were its underlying themes.  While the series poked fun at all aspects of modern culture, it also served as a platform for meditating upon the proper role of faith and belief versus science and reason in an individual's life, as well as the role religion contributed (or failed to contribute) to society.  So St. Laurence Church reminded me of how Michael Aitkens' show had contributed to my life.

I wondered about this grave marker.  If I pushed aside the top, would I find an embalmed body inside?  Perhaps it occasionally performed double-duty as an altar-table for outdoor services.  The priest would have quite a view as he led the service.

There: the uncluttered hillsides E. F. Benson described in The Blotting Book!

In any case, the visit was hardly a write-off.  It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and the birds were frolicking on the village pond.  

I could sit down and sketch for awhile, then enjoy the picnic lunch we had purchased at the train station back in Brighton.  

During my meanderings around the churchyard, I heard someone bustle up, turn the lock, and open the door.  By the time I reached it, the door was shut again.  I squeezed the handle, and the door opened.  Well, even if I had missed the service, there couldn't be any harm in having a little peek inside the church, could there?

Dragon Dave

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dispelling My Illusions About Falmer

In the novel The Blotting Book by E. F. Benson, Edward Taynton acts as the guardian of Morris Assheton, managing the young man's finances until he turns twenty-five, or until he marries.  Morris learns that Godfrey Mills, Taynton's partner, has been spreading allegations about him. These have prompted his girlfriend's parents to forbid her to see him again.  As Mills has traveled to London, Taynton counsels him to calm down.  When Mills returns, Taynton assures Morris that he will sort everything out. 

Mills' usual practice is to disembark at the train station in the nearby village of Falmer, and walk down to Brighton.  Taynton and Morris wait for him, putting in frequent calls to his home, and checking at the office. No one has seen or heard from him.  Eventually, the two men part company, and Taynton takes his exercise.  He reverses Mills' route, and walks up toward the train station at Falmer.  

He does not meet Mills along the way.

From Benson's descriptions of Taynton, I formed the mental picture of a heavyset, laid-back individual.  I didn't realize until I mapped out the journey that the distance between Falmer and Brighton was over five miles.  So Taynton was far from a sluggard.  I was curious about the village that plays a small but crucial role in the novel.  So one day in Brighton, we walked up to the city's big train station (a distance of over a mile in itself), and boarded a train for Falmer.  As there was little more to the village of Falmer than a church, we timed our visit to coincide with their 11:30 a.m. Wednesday service.

Brighton Train Station

In Benson's novel, Taynton walks across lonely, quiet hillsides.  This is what we saw as we left downtown Brighton.  Perhaps a few more people live here now than in 1908.

Falmer Train Station was moved to this location in 1865, and rebuilt in 1890, so this is the same building that inspired Benson to include it in his novel.  

It's probably received a new paint job since then. 

I'm guessing the American Express Community Stadium probably wasn't here in 1908, though.  It's home to the Seagulls Football team.  ("No, not soccer, football.  You're in England now, mate.")

Beside it now lies the University of Brighton.

Finally, after following directions from two different people (and only getting lost and having to retrieve our steps once), Falmer's St. Laurence Church appeared on the horizon.  And we still had a half-hour before the worship service started!  

So why was the door closed and locked?


Dragon Dave