Saturday, 23 August 2014

The way to Warwick's is uncertain...


I can't remember how many years ago it was now when I happened to tune into the very first episode of 'On Mardle Fen', by Nick Warburton, and that is partly because I immediately drifted off to a sublime and blissful sleep as soon as the first few notes of its haunting theme-tune began to play.

I didn't fall asleep through boredom, I believe that the whole series is so good, so English and so super-real that, in order to immerse myself in it to the maximum, I had to hover half in this world and half in the world that sits uncertainly on an isolated fen - home to Warwick's restaurant.

Warwick: "Mardle Fen is a dark and horrible place - I love it deeply." and "There are more things that lay eggs on the Fen that you might imagine. Some of them are edible, and some of them are not."

Soon after episode one of series one, I Googled up Nick Warburton to see if I could tell him how much I loved this radio play, and I found someone who seemed to know him, who ran a blog about growing potatoes. This seemed to fit with the strangeness of it all, and I asked the potato-grower to please pass on my appreciation to Nick the next time he spoke to him.

A week or so later, I received an email from Nick direct, thanking me for my appreciation and saying what a wonderful team of actors he had for its making - this is indeed true, Warwick himself being played by Trevor Peacock, and every other actor brilliantly cast and brilliantly portraying the dysfunctional family and supporting staff who run a restaurant which, although surrounded by eels, does not actually offer them on its menu.

I also apologetically admitted to falling asleep every time I listened to an episode, but Mr Warburton seemed to know that this was not a slur on his work - far from it.

I have been in sporadic communication with him ever since, just stopping short of badgering him as to when the next series is out, and after the last (there has been six in all, I think) he told me that On Mardle Fen had reached a natural conclusion and there would be no more. Somehow, the journey down the shifting, umarked road that leads across the fen to Warwick's had come to an end.

I resolved to buy all the series as downloads so I could go back there for more dark humour whenever I felt like it, but had a little trouble finding one series which, at the time, wasn't available on Amazon or anywhere else, and I mentioned this to Nick.

About four days later, the complete series arrived on four CDs in a Jiffy-Bag, together with this map of Mardle Fen, just in case I ever went East to visit Warwick's.

Even with the map, I know it is next to impossible to find the place, so I may not bother to try.

11 comments:

  1. Nick Warburton has written so much more than just Mardle Fen, much of which you have probably heard. His plays are so touchingly human and kind - just like him - that you would find it difficult to suppress a tear at the close of many of them.

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  2. Rachel will know where it is. It's sugar beet country.

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    1. Where it say 'university' is obviously Cambridge, and where it says 'cathedral' is Ely. Take it from there. Good luck.

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    2. If we can find a night when you're not washing your hair I'll meet you and show you the way.

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    3. A night? On the fens? With you? Would I ever get back? (It's still a beautiful, warm and sunny day here, btw.)

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    4. Yes, I knew that, Cro - one of the episodes was recorded inside Ely Cathedral. I think the town and the church would be all you could find, especially on a dark night.

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  3. Don't know the series at all - but how wonderful that something could be found that would have that effect on you. I know the countryside round there fairly well Tom - it has lots of deep in the country villages (and natives to match) - don't go there - it might well spoil the magic.

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  4. Incidentally, mardle is a Norfolk dialect word for gossiping, chatting. It is often used still around here. Is Nick Warburton a Norfolk boy I wonder? People around here often talk about going to the pub for a mardle.

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    1. Cambridgeshire, but well travelled I think.

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