|The Famous Blue Door: Number 21|
All during the week we stayed in our apartment in Holland Park, I kept telling myself that it wasn't important to visit Jean & Lionel's house in the British TV drama/comedy "As Time Goes By." Watching the show, over the course of nine seasons, had made me yearn to visit that particular part of London, and see how the people there lived. But the house in which the characters made their home was just another house, chosen by the film crew, with all the interiors shot on a sound stage. It wasn't a real place, like the Dutch Garden in Holland Park, where Lionel asked Jean out for their first date in thirty-eight years.
|A look to the right from Jean & Lionel's door.|
But as the days flew by, the notion of visiting the house kept pestering me, and defied all my attempts at rational dismissal. For it was here that Jean & Lionel first saw each other on the series, after the events that separated them. We were staying in the Holland Park area after all, and who can know what the future holds? Despite our love of England, it was entirely possible we might never visit this area of London again.
|The small neighborhood park directly opposite |
Jean & Lionel's house.
As it turned out, the house lay within easy walking distance. So after breakfast, we left our apartment, and soon arrived at the heart of Jean & Lionel's world.
|The church in the park across the street.|
As we arrived, the church bells were tolling. We could have attended the Sunday worship. But somehow, that felt wrong. For religion played no part in Jean & Lionel's world. Unlike Lionel's father Rocky, who married Madge in a church, Jean & Lionel brooked no pretense of belief. Apart from the other members of their family, and those (like Sandy and Alastair) whom they allowed into their lives, all they had was each other. That was all they wanted, all that mattered to them. So they married in a registry office. And they were happy.
|The view to the left from Jean & Lionel's door.|
If you remember the show fondly, these surroundings will look familiar to you. Jean & Lionel often ventured outside their door, and something important happened there, something that drove the episode forward, or enhanced their love for each other. But it was just a location, selected by the film crew, as the exterior for Jean & Lionel's house. It wasn't as if Jean & Lionel were real people: they were just fictional characters, brought to life by two actors (Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer), in scripts written by Bob Larbey. The whole time I stood there, I felt tremendously awkward. Other people lived here--real people--and I was standing on their porch, photographing their house, and reminiscing about a show that ceased production a decade ago. I shouldn't be here, standing on their steps, invading their privacy and their world. And yet...
It's hard to explain to myself, let alone to you, exactly why it meant so much to visit Jean & Lionel's house. But I'm glad I did.