The Midland Hotel - Morecambe

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Tea at the Midland - 2010

Tea at the Midland on BBC Radio

No longer avaialable

I only spotted this recently so was very sorry to have missed the opportunity of listening to this short story featuring the Midland Hotel - since then I have found a website where the recording is still available to listen to - The Times Literary supplement. Unfortunately the content did not do an awful lot for me as it was an excuse to bestialise Eric Gill by someone who perhaps does not appreciate his specific artform. However it appears to have been well received as it won the 2010 National Short Story Award!

From The Guardian - 14th December 2012

Tea at the Midland by David Constantine – review

Alfred Hickling welcomes a collection of tales both moving and disturbing

A good short story captures a moment in time, but a great one captures the temper of the times. David Constantine's "Tea at the Midland", which won the 2010 BBC National Short Story award, could be credited with having achieved that: its subject, with fateful irony, is a fierce argument over the dubious sexual tastes of a dead celebrity emblematic of the BBC.

Whatever opprobrium has been heaped on Jimmy Savile, no one has yet accused him of having sex with his pets. In that sense he had some way to go to match the carnal appetites of Eric Gill, who was revealed in Fiona MacCarthy's 1989 biography as having intimate relations with his sisters, his daughters and practically anything else that took his fancy. Yet his artistic reputation remains largely undiminished, and his iconic sculpture of Prospero and Ariel still stands above the entrance to Broadcasting House.

If one were to erase all traces of Eric Gill from the BBC one would presumably also have to do severe damage to the recently restored Midland Hotel, an art deco gem overlooking Morecambe Bay for which Gill designed a set of reliefs. In Constantine's story, a man and a woman in the tea room of the hotel are debating the works. She admires them as objects of exquisite beauty; he cannot bear to look at them. "A paedophile is a paedophile," he says. "That's all there is to it." The woman persists: "Would you have liked it if you hadn't known it was by Eric Gill? Or if you hadn't known that Eric Gill was a paedophile?" "That's not the point," comes the reply. It's a masterful story, pregnant with fluctuating interpretations and concealed motives, in which Constantine allows the argument to erupt out of nothing. Prior to the outburst the woman has been quietly contemplating the sight of windsurfers in the bay, though even the restless, unsettled weather suggests that this relationship is doomed: "The afternoon winter sky was torn and holed by the wind and a troubled golden light flung down at all angles, abiding nowhere, flashing out and vanishing."

Constantine's prose and poetry contain many such instances of gazing out towards the horizon. It happens in a significant poem, "Watching for Dolphins", in which a crowd of expectant holiday-makers line up on a cruise ship: "Every face after its character implored the sea / All unaccustomed wanted epiphany." And it happens often in this collection, whose protagonists are frequently loners, such as the narrator of the long tale "The Island", who exchanges life in a monastery ("being amongst monks killed even my desire to believe in God") for the greater isolation of a remote Cornish promontory: "I could hear the sounds of it, the breathing of water over shingle, and this morning I felt something had been added to my stock of resources against disintegration: an ocean entering quietly and giving bearably."

Constantine's characters are generally engaged in a losing battle to shore up their resources against disintegration. It is impossible not to be moved by undemonstrative, desperate souls such as Mr Barlow, who puts on his best suit to read poetry, despite a growing awareness that his careful routine "henceforth would not be able to hold out the flood of loneliness of the years still needing to be lived"; or the more spirited Alphonse, who breaks out of a nursing home and cycles to France knowing he only has six months to live. But the most troubling narrative concerns a soon-to-be-defrocked canon who spends Christmas Eve in a derelict schoolhouse with a vagrant known as Goat, on account of the horn-like nubs on his forehead and delight in exposing himself. The story climaxes with a frenzied pagan dance during which "the canon unbuttoned his immaculate collar, removed it, buttoned it again and with unrepeatable sureness of aim, with the skill suddenly given you in dreams, hoopla-ed it over the risen vicar of Goat". Whatever this perverse hallucination might signify is left to the reader's imagination. But it seems a fair bet that Eric Gill would have relished coming up with the illustrations.

National Short Story award goes to David Constantine

Judges praise Tea at the Midland for its 'rich poetry' and 'deep understanding of the form'

The story of a relationship foundering over a quarrel in a Morecambe hotel has bagged poet and translator David Constantine the 2010 BBC National Short Story award. Constantine, who has published three critically acclaimed short story collections, most recently The Shieling, was described as a "master craftsman" of the form as he took the £15,000 prize for his story, Tea at the Midland, at a ceremony broadcast live on BBC Radio 4's Front Row this evening. The £3,000 runner-up prize went to novelist Jon McGregor for If It Keeps On Raining.

Constantine said his win was "deeply satisfying. I don't think I write in a way that's realistic, naturalistic, streetwise, and modern, so it's a confirmation of what I do – and I couldn't do it any other way." He also called the award "an immense boost" to his publisher, Comma Press, which had sought him out specifically because they wanted to publish short stories, a form often neglected by publishers.

Tea at the Midland Book

Chair of the judges James Naughtie said Tea at the Midland was "remarkable for the rich poetry at its heart and the economy with which Constantine creates a story with fully-formed characters and a memorable setting." Fellow judge Di Spiers, who is head of readings on Radio 4, described the story as "layered, thoughtful, and written with grace and a deep understanding of the form".

Constantine said his stories come from the same impulse as his poetry and are "almost an attitude of mind", far removed from writing novels. "I loathe the word 'closure', and hate the idea of exhaustiveness," he explained. "I don't write the sort of short stories that people who are interested in plot do. It starts with an image that is potent to me and I don't know where that will take me." Tea at the Midland started with two images, he said: The Frieze by Eric Gill, in the foyer of a Morecambe hotel, and the kitesurfers in Morecambe Bay. "The story is about a quarrel that is ostensibly about Eric Gill, but actually about other things," Constantine said. He also praised the ability of short stories to be "very open", offering glimpses of their subject, adding: "I hate short stories where all the ends get tied."

Jon McGregor, whose novels, including If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, have twice been longlisted for the Man Booker prize, said he was "deeply honoured" to have won second place for his story. If It Keeps on Raining tells of a man living on a leaking boat on the River Trent and McGregor described it as "about rain, and floods and damaged men". "What interests me about writing is to give the reader just enough to enable them to use their own imagination – hints and glimpses – that's what short stories are all about," he said. He added that he started out writing short stories, and only embarked on a novel when persuaded by his agent that "novels sell and short stories don't". Even now, he said, his novels are written first as fragments, then later assembled towards a full-length work. Both writers paid tribute to the impact of the BBC National Short Story award, now in its fifth year, which has seen all of the shortlisted stories receive readings on Radio 4. Constantine said outlets for short story publishing had begun to open up, thanks to the BBC. "The space it has given short stories, and the seriousness with which it has treated them, is exemplary," Constantine said. McGregor added that "the last few weeks have been fantastic".

Also shortlisted were Aminatta Forna's story Haywards Heath, Butcher's Perfume by Sarah Hall and My Daughter the Racist by Helen Oyeyemi.

From Amazon.co.uk

**Selected as one of the Books of the Year 2012 by the TLS and the London Evening Standard** **WINNER of the BBC National Short Story Prize**

To the woman watching they looked like grace itself, the heart and soul of which is freedom. It pleased her particularly that they were attached by invisible strings to colourful curves of rapidly moving air. How clean and clever that was! You throw up something like a handkerchief, you tether it and by its headlong wish to fly away, you are towed along... Like the kite-surfers in this opening scene, the characters in David Constantine s fourth collection are often delicately caught in moments of defiance. Disregarding their age, their family, or the prevailing political winds, they show us a way of marking out a space for resistance and taking an honest delight in it. Witness Alphonse having broken out of an old people s home, changed his name, and fled the country now pedalling down the length of the Rhône, despite knowing he has barely six months to live. Or the clergyman who chooses to spend Christmas Eve and the last few hours in his job in a frozen, derelict school, dancing a wild jig with a vagrant called Goat. Key to these characters defiance is the power of fiction, the act of holding real life at arm's length and simply telling a story be it of the future they might claim for themselves, or the imagined lives of others. Like them, Constantine's bewitching, finely-wrought stories give us permission to escape, they allow us to side-step the inexorable traffic of our lives, and beseech us to take possession of the moment.

Poirot in 'Double Sin' - 1990

Central Poirot Characters

David Suchet as Poirot accompanied by Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser) and Chief Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) at the Midland Hotel in Morecambe in the episode entitled 'Double Sin.' Image courtesy of the Lancashire Evening Post.

Double Sin book cover Double Sin DVD cover

l to r - one of the many book covers attributed to 'Double Sin' which is only a short story and one of many DVD covers for the television show

IMDB summarise this episode to "A young woman is delivering a set of antique Napoleon miniatures to an American collector when they are stolen from her suitcase. Captain Hastings, under Poirot's guidance, sets out to find the thief."

Hastings and Poirot with Morecambe backdrop

As can be seen from this IMDB poster - Morecambe has been thinly disguised as 'Whitcombe' - Poirot and Hastings are actually standing on the promenade at the rear (looking out to see) of the hotel and the board (a prop) shows various announcements including incoming and outgoing tide timings.

Midland Hotel and Mermaid

Double Sin Car Park Mermaid

With thanks to the Lancashire Evening Post for this image of the Mermaid gracing the Midland Hotel car park - this statue was specially commissioned for the episode and is not a permanent feature.

Still of MH, Hastings, Poirot in Double Sin

Although set in the fictional 'Whitcombe', the Midland's name was never obscured. Image courtesy and © of Rex Features via the BBC website.

The Entertainer - 1960

Laurence Olivier 1957

The steady heroism of a standup … Laurence Olivier in the 1957 stage version of The Entertainer. Photograph: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via The Guardian

The Entertainer Film Poster

The Entertainer Provenance

The Entertainer uses Morecambe as a backdrop and this rare film poster showcases the Super Swimming Stadium during a beauty pageant.

From 'Rotten Tomatoes' - "London schoolteacher Jean Rice (Joan Plowright) returns to her seaside resort hometown at a time of personal crisis. Her father, Archie (Laurence Olivier), is a star on the music hall circuit, but, in the television age, that old-fashioned entertainment is dying out. His second wife, Phoebe (Brenda De Banzie), is openly contemptuous of her husband's many affairs, and his son, Mick (Albert Finney), is a soldier fighting in the Suez. Despite Archie's unflagging optimism, tragic events unfold."

Film_Entertainer_Pool

Film_Entertainer_Crowds

Film_Entertainer_Prom

I took these three stills from the film and although they are not of the best quality the top image is clearly at the Super Swimming Stadium, the crowds on the beach have a clear backdrop of the Midland and the bottom still shows Alan Bates and Joan Plowright strolling along the promenade moving away from the Midland which is clearly visible in the backdrop.

Laurence Olivier recreates his stage role of Archie Rice in this in-your-face film adaptation of John Osborne's play. The son of a legendary music hall comedian (Roger Livesey), Archie is strictly a third-rater, headlining a tacky music hall revue in a seedy seaside resort town. Archie can't admit that he's a failure, and his grim insouciance destroys everyone around him. Archie finagles his dying father into financing one last revue; he cheats shamelessly on his alcoholic wife (Brenda De Banzie); and he all but forces one of his sons (Albert Finney) to run off to join the army, only to die in the Suez. Through all his personal crises, Archie jigs and jabbers before his ever-diminishing audience, but by the end of the film he isn't even entertaining himself. Joan Plowright, who married Olivier shortly after completing The Entertainer, plays the film's one sympathetic character: Archie's daughter, whose love for her father blinds her to his flaws. The Entertainer was remade for television in 1976, with Jack Lemmon as Archie Rice and original songs by Marvin Hamlisch.

From IMDB - "Archie Rice, an old-time British music hall performer sinking into final defeat, schemes to stay in show business."

Honour Restored

It has to be said - Lancashire & North West magazine responded swiftly and magnificently!

Revised article screen dump Credit changed to reflect origins of image

Honour restored - appropriate credit given.

Apology and restitution

I try to avoid plaigarism at all costs, if I do 'borrow' or 'use' someone else's information it is chronicled srupulously by links (in the page it appears on) either to the original or on occasion links to the original via my copyright page where I explain the use of the material and how it is protected by copyright law - so it's a bit mean to steal from me!

Tribute to Ravilious at the Midland Lancashire Magazine Narrative accompanying article.

The article as it has been seen on the web for over a year with no effort to credit me with the image and/or information relating to 'Double Sin' as seen on my 'Court on Canvas' page.

Accusatuion of plaigiarism by me

In the event that the comment is refused by the moderators - it will remain visible on my website and Fb page.


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