Last year, while dining with an old friend at the Assembly House, Norwich’s delicious Georgian gem, we stumbled upon the making of ’45 Years’ starring Sixties starlets, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtney. I caught the ravishing Ms Rampling rushing past in a dressing gown as I emerged from the little boy’s room. It was quite a shock, I can tell you. So when the film recently came to town, we went to see what we had inadvertently gatecrashed. I’m so glad we did. Filmed entirely in Norfolk and around Norwich, 45 Years tells the story of long-buried secrets disinterred with devastating consequences just days before a 45th wedding anniversary. Atmospheric and suffocating, comforting certainties are chipped away to reveal a marriage un-fulfilled. Norfolk’s low wintry skies, normally big and uplifting, only add to the bleak claustrophobia. Both Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtney are superb.
45 Years is a very British film. There are no Hollywood moments, no overwrought emotions, no final redemption, just the stoicism of a seemingly rock solid relationship in silent crisis. Classy and brilliant.
English weather at its worst is a depressing and insipid affair – no drama or performance, just days of persistent damp greyness. A few weeks of low-lying gloom were brightened by a warm front of visitors to the Norwich micro-loft. The high pressure pushed the clouds aside, to leave the flatlands basking in sunshine. First up were vintage friend, Clive and his partner, Angus. The generous day trippers brought booty : a ‘corkcicle,’ a nifty little ice fairy’s wand that magically chills wine in an instant, and a fabulous hand-thrown bowl that Clive lifted from the souks of Marrakesh. From the practical to the decorative; they know us so well. We lunched in Wild Thyme, a vegetarian restaurant with a Dickensian address you couldn’t make up if your tried – The Old Fire Station Stables, Labour in Vain Yard – and bread and butter pudding to die for.
A few days later came Karen, our very own Mrs Madrigal, who, during our Turkey years, stored us in her en-suite loft on our trips back to the motherland. It was a significant birthday for her (discretion prevents me from revealing which) so we dined at the opulent Assembly House, one of the most gorgeous examples of Georgian architecture anywhere.
Spending a penny found us accidentally caught up on a film set with the cast and crew milling around waiting for the cameras to roll. As I emerged from the gents, a familiar face flashed past wrapped in a white towelling robe. A little digging later revealed that we’d stumbled upon the making of ’45 Years,’ a film starring Tom Courtney and Charlotte Rampling. It was the ravishing Miss Rampling, the classy lead of many a Seventies’ film noir who I’d seen rushing to her close up. Men over fifty will remember that, unlike page three stunnas, Charlotte got her baps out for her art and not for their titillation (or so it was claimed).
After dinner, it was back to the loft for a little more fizz and a lot more gossip. At the end of the evening, we poured Karen into a cab which conveyed her to the Maid’s Head Hotel, reputedly the oldest in England. Next day, Karen’s verdict was that, unlike the well preserved Miss Rampling, the depressing old pile is in dire need of a facelift. Time to call in the Hotel Inspector?