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First day’s filming today, on the NEW POLDARK.

The twittersphere is alive with anticipation as the cast and crew embark on the journey.

I’m looking forward to joining the caravan in May.

Jacqueline, make-up supremo, emailed this morning with ideas and images (facial hair!) and I’m already experiencing moments of anxiety about my first day.

First days are fraught.

My first day at my pre-prep school, aged 4, I left the school mid-morning and walked home– a mile at least.

A couple of days later, I’d fallen in love with beautiful Miss Rosemary and nothing could keep me away–much to my mother’s relief.

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From my memoir, Making Poldark, the first day’s filming in 1975 –a typical spring day in Cornwall:

It was bitterly cold and dank.

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Another bitterly cold and dank day!

We were in Towednack churchyard near St. Ives. I remember it well.

Contrary to rumour, I was born without a scar–so on went the first scar of many, made unromantically of glue; on went the make-up and the back-piece of hair.

My hair had been dyed darker with copper tints for the part.

I put on my black mourning coat–the scene was Uncle Charles’ funeral–and my specially-made boots and there I was: Captain Ross Poldark.

But as the day wore on and they still didn’t get to my bit, I began to wonder. I saw the director looking worried and thought at first it must be the weather.

Then I thought maybe it’s my hair, then my scar, then my FACE.

Then I thought: my God, it’s ME!

They don’t want ME!

They think they’ve made a mistake. They’re re-casting–the lines are hot to London and actors are streaming into the producer’s office with the sun in their eyes–it was fine in London–and they’re all Olympic equestrians.

Robin, will you come to the graveside please?’

Of course, I’ve got it–I mean–of course I will.’

I’d started at last.

 

Good luck to Aidan and Eleanor and everyone–(me included)!

 

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PoldarkB&W

That was then!

The BBC have just announced the news–Mammoth Screen have offered me a cameo in their new production of Poldark.

Poldark has brought much joy to my life–I’ve often called them Poldark Perks–which doesn’t do them justice.

It continues to deliver.

I am delighted to be invited to play a role in the new venture which has got off to a flying start with superb scripts from Debbie Horsfield (I have just finished reading them) and a tremendous first tranche of principal casting.

I am cast as Dr. Halse–the clergyman with whom Ross shares the coach on his journey home to Nampara from Truro in the opening scene of the first series. Back then, a benign figure–in the new series he comes over as rather less so!

I fear I’ll be exchanging the marvelous leather coat and boots for drab, black church cloth and a sneer.

Joining the Cornish establishment that Ross so despises (though he was born into it) will be a challenge!

Joining the new Poldark will be exciting–but also poignant for me, bringing back many wonderful memories of 40 years ago.

Not least in my mind will be fellow members of the original cast–especially those no longer with us: the beloved Angharad Rees, Ralph Bates, Richard Morant, Frank Middlemas, Paul Curran and Mary Wimbush.

I’ll be there for their memory–and for the late Winston Graham–as well as for the intriguing prospect of acting with the new cast to help bring this wonderful saga to a new audience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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and Ross Poldark remounts…

Today the BBC announced the name of the actor who is to play the lead in the re-working of the series  first screened in 1975.

Irish actor Aidan Turner has bagged it.

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Just needs to add the scar and he’s away!

Congratulations to him–I hope he has as much fun as we did filming this wild and wonderful saga written in 12 books over a sixty year period by Winston Graham.

Forty years ago this November I went for the first of three auditions for the part, knowing little about Winston Graham and less of the books.

A brief glance at the first book of the saga, Ross Poldark, was enough–I seriously wanted him to be me or vice versa.

I had to go through two more nail-biting sessions in front of producer and directors before finding myself in the position Aidan is in today….

…Cast to play Ross Poldark.

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Now–two generations on–this great piece of storytelling will be enjoyed again by millions on TV and in book form.

The time is right. The wheel of fashion turns and Poldark, an unashamedly romantic tale, can be told again with a straight face.

The new series has the advantage of being adapted from original books written by an exceptionally gifted storyteller–Winston Graham.

The characters develop at their own pace and seem responsible for their own destiny.

No visible puppeteer, no obvious manipulation–just the telling of stories through the characters involved.

Aidan and I share a common debt to Winston, for giving us the chance to play a difficult, contrary, complex man often out of his time.

It’s a roller coaster of a ride!

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For the past few days I’ve been holed up in bed with the “lurgie” (a tummy bug).

In a reversal of roles, Meredith has been cooking and caring (she was ill first)–serving up simple, delicious, restorative vegetable soup and scrambled eggs.

Yesterday I had stomach enough to read a brilliant piece in The Observer newspaper by food writer Jay Rayner challenging people’s reluctance to give a second try to food they have detested eating (or in my case, the thought of eating)–tripe for instance.

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It transported me back nearly 35 years to Madrid.

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Angharad and I were in Spain to promote Poldark, which was proving enormously popular there.

At that time there were only two TV channels–and the other one was devoted to parliamentary debates.

The visit was an extraordinary experience.

Two thousand plus fans at the airport to welcome us. We were mobbed everywhere we went–it felt momentarily like being a Beatle. (Nobody waiting for us at Heathrow on our return, however….)

Years before Angharad had spent some months in the city au pairing for the family of a well known psychiatrist–a friend and professional colleague of her father Professor Lynford Rees.

Her return had a particular resonance for her and the Spanish family.

To celebrate, they threw a lunch party for us at their home.

It was a moment of peace, an escape from the craziness of the celebrity culture that was new to me and which I was finding both exciting and at times hard to handle.

(At one point, the tabloid johnnies were crowding me with questions about how it was that at the age of 35 I wasn’t married. Angharad–sensing the danger of an explosion–whispered in my ear, “Smile, Robin, for heaven’s sake, SMILE!”.

The party was delightful, of course, except for one detail: The main dish was tripe in tomato sauce.

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Photo found on the Internet–but strongly resembling the dreaded dish.

Tripe, I’m told, is a delicacy in Spain–and cooked by an expert (I have to take Jay Rayner’s word for it) it’s delicious.

I eat most things–growing up in the fifties, fussiness about food was not encouraged in our house. The starving children in India featured often at meal times when a reluctance to polish off the last crumb was shown. My mother never tried tripe on us though.

I remember looking down at the plate I’d been offered and after a moment mastering feelings of politeness, guilt and hunger, turning discreetly away from the crowd and parking the plate of offal, untried, behind a palm tree.

There have been moments since–in Florence for example where street stalls selling steaming piles of tripe are a regular sight–when I have thought about giving it a second try. So far I have managed to resist the temptation.

Anyone else willing to own up to a food phobia?

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The second group of Bravehearts (participants in my cooking workshops here) are enjoying an aperitif in the sunshine, on the terrace of the magnificent and aptly named B & B, La Terrace de Lautrec.

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We are about to sit down to a well deserved final meal (prepared by us of course).

Lunch, al fresco, overlooking the historic parterre–newly-clipped and  immaculate.

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Suddenly we hear a ruckus from inside the house. The sound of a voice that has a familiar and unwelcome ring to me–is of a particular timbre.

Loud, angry and Scots! 

It triggers unpleasant memories and I find my overall sense of well being and satisfaction at completing a second workshop is swiftly turning into a feeling of anxiety–as I realise I am about to be nabbed!

Like the dour Scot he was back in the days of Poldark, dear old Captain McNeil never gave up the chase, it appears! His persistence (some would say his obsession) has finally paid off for him and I am cornered by a red faced redcoat on horseback!

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Donald Douglas as Capt. McNeil

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IevZBj6Yisw

Happily for all concerned, the redoubtable Captain (aka Donald Douglas), after agreeing to hang up his musket–sits down, at the head of the table and charms us all with his highland banter.

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Old enemies bury the past.

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Making Poldark has been Nooked at last!

Nick it on NOOK–it’s a steal!

It’s available now on NOOK.

Making Poldark: Memoir of a BBC/Masterpiece Theatre Actor
Making Poldark: Memoir of a BBC/Masterpiece Theatre Actor
by Robin Ellis
This revised version came out in April 2012 and is greatly expanded–including new photos from Winston Graham’s personal Poldark photo album.
And while we are at it…
Delicious Dishes for Diabetics
Delicious Dishes for Diabetics 

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I have been commissioned to write another cookbook!

Publisher Constable and Robinson proposes the title:  Healthy Eating for Life–and  I like it.

It widens the remit of Delicious Dishes for Diabetics a little–and straightforwardly tells you what its’s about.

Hope Jameswho did the wonderfully atmospheric illustrations for DDD–has agreed to a repeat.

It is due out in January 2014.

Head down!

P.S.   Poldarke be out!

  My expanded and revised memoir of the Poldark series–Making Poldark–released earlier this yearis now available as an eBook for Kindle via Amazon.com ($10.29). It will be out for Nook and other platforms soon!

 

 

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A week nearly since Angharad died. The response on the blog has been extraordinary.

Over twelve thousand hits and an outpouring of emotion that has astonished me.

She touched so many hearts with her performance and–for those that met her–with her charm and zest for life.

Her early death at 63 is shocking and promotes a feeling of disbelief–how can this be?

Many people are watching Poldark again on the newly-reissued DVDs or on Netflix in the USA  and there she is in her prime–fiery and proud–in full flood, giving as good as she gets and eventually winning through.

It seems impossible that she’s gone.

Karen H in her comment recalled Demelza’s words in the final scene of the series.

“The last sentence Angharad says as Demelza rings so true,There is no tomorrow. All we have is now.”

Carpe diem–Karen adds.

Life goes on.

Il faut l’accepter.

The hay is in and the sunflowers are beginning to bow to the inevitable.

The tomatoes–better tended than last year–are ripening.

Even the two courgette plants are surviving.

Meredith and Alice collected five kilos of honey from the hive this week in the second harvest. It has a deeper hue this time due to the different plants the bees are working on.

The chicks are no longer chicks and are roaming wider each day on bug patrol.

The garlic is drying in the barns as the Lautrecois, (us locals!), look forward to the annual Fete de L’Ail Rose–held always on the first Friday of August–in a week’s time.

If the weather holds we can expect over 10 thousand people to mill through the narrow streets of the village.

Sawle Feast was a more modest affair back then but surely no less anticipated and prepared for by the Nampara household!

It has touched me deeply to read the many comments and learn how moved people are by Angharad’s passing.

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I have just heard that Angharad Rees has died aged 63 from pancreatic cancer.

It is devastating news.

Angharad was a wonderful friend and talented professional colleague.

Her portrayal of Demelza in Poldark was definitive and the series could not have enjoyed the success it had without her unique spirit informing the role.

We shared a very special time.

I will always remember her with enormous affection and respect.

She was a person who took pains to care for others.

She spread her magic where ever she went.

Her sense of humour was a joy and often for me a morale booster.

It was a privilege to know her.

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Winston as a Cornish gent, eagerly awaiting his debut as an extra in the second series of Poldark!

Today would have been Winston Graham’s 104th birthday!

He was born in 1908 in Manchester. His family moved to Perranporth in Cornwall in 1925 after his father died prematurely at 53.

There he married Jean Williamson–whom he’d first met when she was 13 (Demelza’s age when she first met Ross at the fair). He was just 18. They lived there for the next 25 years, bringing up their two children, Andrew and Rosamund.

Winston–a meticulous researcher as well as a great storyteller–steeped himself in Cornish history and customs. He wrote the first book of the saga–Ross Poldark--in 1945.

Eleven more books followed. The last in the saga– Bella Poldark–written when he was 92!

A month ago I checked out the Desert Island Discs archive ( a popular BBC radio series where guests choose eight recordings to comfort them after supposedly being shipwrecked on a desert island) . I remembered vaguely that Winston had been the subject some time around the screening of the series.

I found it and enjoyed listening to his choice and being reminded of his voice.

Last week when sitting with my back to his son Andrew–whose 70th birthday we had gone to Corfu to celebrate–I heard a voice say–“and what are you going to do this afternoon?”.

It was uncanny–the voice and the intonation were Winston’s!

Winston and Jean at our wedding in 1990.

I will always feel appreciative of Winston for writing such a wonderful tale that has meant so much in my own life.

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