A Trip to Haythornswaite
So it's Summer. Or at least, it's supposed to be. T'is the
for sunshine and ice creams and sandcastles. But it's raining.
Teeming, in fact. And it feels like it's been chucking down
dogs and no shortage of small mammals every bloomin' day since
Easter. Oh, what is The Hound to do, stuck in his kennel all
I know, I'll go on an adventure from my armchair. I'll pop
on a DVD
and head to the coast, to Haythornswaite with Sam
and his Magic
released the second series of Brian Cosgrove and Mark
Hall's first tv show as a web-only purchase a wee while
but, inexplicably, it escaped my attention when it launched.
Then, earlier this year, Network's newsletter reminded us that
disappearing from their catalogue towards the end of 2012, at
which point I came to my senses and snapped it up, only
to let it
slip away down the pecking order in my viewing pile. Until now.
And now I'm thinking there might well have been some higher
for all this delay, because the rain and gloom has conspired
me in just the right mood for this clasic toon, and these
magic adventures have inveigled their way into my heart
You see, there's something both shimmering and heartbreaking about
this production. It's steeped in a seductive melancholia.
It's in the
illustrative backgrounds by Peter Clarke, Valerie Pownall,
and Mark Hall, so evocative of their time. And it's in
narration from Eric Thompson, and the stories he put together with
Mark Hall. It's shares much with Mr
Benn, certainly. It has a shop
and a visitor who is transported away on small-but-perfectly
formed adventures in time and space, and Aunt Mill is as enigmatic
as the fez-wearing Shopkeeper. But Sam's stories have a very
particular lingering solemnity to them. He keeps encountering
same group of characters in different guises, and that brings
it a whole new perception, that maybe these stories are reaching
for something still deeper. Oh, and that abiding sad sense.
This second series opens with Sam visiting Trooper Tarquin.
He's a sad Mountie who's pining for his sweetheart, and fearing
that their love may go unrequited unless he can impress his
Commander. And it goes on, one episode after another.
of sad souls turn to Sam for help. And occassionally, it steps
even further. In "The Story of the City of Machines"
we are taken to
a bleak existential realm where humans are ruled by tyrannical
and all nature has been quoshed. Further still in "The Story
Comic Book" we enter the blank pages of a strip cartoon,
of its characters and creator. Yes, we're reaching towards
strange and intangible higher meaning here, I just know it...
Or maybe not.
Maybe, I've simply been seduced by that all-pervading melancholia.
It's there again, in the music that crawls into your head, kaleidoscopic
and twinkly, and so very haunting, as if Coogar
& Dark's Pandemonium
Show is about to appear. Even Haythornswaite itself appears
oddly subdued and sun-faded. It's a busy little coastal town, we're
yet its streets are empty and the high cries of the gulls are
all we can
hear above the narration and the music. It feels so out of season.
Daughters of Darkness might even be lurking behind those
Alright, so I'm taking Sam's ball and running with it, but
this is truly
a classic production to place beside those extraordinary SmallFilms
series. Like Bagpuss
and The Clangers it both seduces
and intrigues. And in the end, it's not all doom and
Sam's adventures end rather favourably. He helps a Knight and an
Eskimo and a Giant and a Witch and there are wry smiles all
as the lad returns to Aunt Mill's antiques shop and muses on events.
Thus, as the series closes and I eject my disc I can spy a
ray of sunshine peeking through the clouds above my kennel.
And I declare, there really is some hope left
in this drowned
Summer, after all...