Well, the tandem refurbishment is on temporary hold for a few days (weeks??) as I tackle the remodelling of our cloakroom & kitchen to provide a new and relocated washing machine, refrigerator and downstairs loo. Fortunately my previous life was in kitchen design, so one of my old fitters, the excellent Chris Kendal, has been doing the real work whilst I have flapped around the edges and generally got in the way.
But Diana is once again vitually inaccessible behind a pile of tiles, sanitaryware and Chris's amazing range of tools and gadgets. So, I have spent the past couple of evenings looking back at past adventures on the old machine, and came across some photos from a trip to France back in 1988 - and in particular photos of the castle of Commarque.
When we visited, the castle was abandoned, unrestored, and covered with ivy and weeds. It felt truly spooky ... and yet somehow familiar. And then I realised: this was the setting for the final scenes of one of my favourite films, 'The Duellists', directed by Ridley Scott, his first feature film, and in my view, much underrated. Not a masterpiece, but a still a brilliant and faithful interpretation of the Joseph Conrad novella, "The Point of Honour" (also sometimes entitled "The Duel").
These days the castle is open to the public, and I guess that like many other historic sites in the Dordogne it is now quite a tourist attraction, being only a skip away from Les Eyzies, Sarlat and Lascaux. It was cleared and 'made safe' and opened to the public in 1994, but I've not been back. That would destroy the memory of coming upon the ruins as we followed a dark shady path through scrub oak and undergrowth. The vast keep rising like the prow of a stone ship, with black ravens wheeling around the broken battlements. The huge Great Hall, riven in two, the ruined and overgrown out buildings - mill, chapel and so on, all being slowly reclaimed by brambles and small trees.
We spent half the day there, absorbing the atmosphere (you could almost feel the presence of Templars and Routiers, English soldiers and the Seigneurs of Beynac). And of course we explored the film locations - even finding the meadow with the stream and little bridge where D'Hubert and Feraud meet for the final duel.
It was a truly magical place, full of ghosts (Peewiglet
would have loved it!).
So if you can find a copy of The Duellists on dvd
- do give it a look. Many of the scenes are beautifully composed and lit, like contemporary paintings. And bear in mind that this was made on an absolute shoestring budget, which makes the photography, the historical accuracy of the costumes and the visual impact of the film all the more impressive. This was a stunning debut by Ridley Scott (the producer was David Puttnam).