The period pains of Location-in-the-Wold

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The Independent Online
There was a spirit of unrest abroad in the small Cotswold village of Steeple Netherby, and this was a most untoward thing, for until very recently Steeple Netherby had been marked by a contentment which almost bordered on self-satisfaction. Not to put too fine a point on it, Steeple Netherby had become famous. There may have been people in the village who were unaware of the recent fame, but there could not be many. For it was in this unassuming, unchanged and picturesque spot that the filming for the recent TV adaptation of Jane Austen's little-known novel Risk and Risibility had taken place.

Much of the exterior filming for this very successful realisation had been done outside the house belonging to Colonel Sands, who, as his rank suggests, had been in the army and gave people to understand that he had seen much exciting action, though as he had been in the catering corps, the excitement had been generally limited to the thrill of supplying bread for the men on time and withdrawing broccoli soup when it had proved unpopular. He had been out of the army some little while, but had taken his rank with him when he left, and had indeed even carefully improved the rank as time went by, for he had been no more than a major when he left, and was now a colonel and he very much hoped to become a general if he should ever move house again.

"I am going to the shop," the Colonel called to his wife Susan one morning in May.

"My dear, there are some people outside the house taking photographs. Perhaps you should wait a moment."

"I'll give them and their blasted photographs!" said the Colonel. Yet despite his strong words, he stayed tamely inside the house and peered through the curtains until the strangers had gone.

"We cannot complain," said Mrs Sands, coming downstairs. She paused at a window where she noticed a vase of anemones looking a little underwatered, gave them a brisk box on the ears (for she was more military by inclination than her husband) and passed briskly on. "We made a lot of money from the TV company for the use of our house in the film, and we cannot complain if viewers come to gawp at it. It is not as if they try to break into the house and take souvenirs or ask for a cup of water."

"I am sure you are right, my dear," said Colonel Sands, who had indeed answered a knock on the door the previous day and charged the TV pilgrim 10p for a glass of water, for which he now felt slightly ashamed. "It is just that it seems to go on and on. Just when we think it will all die down, the TV company repeats the blessed film. Or Country Life does a feature called `The Village in the heart of Austen Country'. And everyone comes flocking again. I wish to high heaven we had never been involved. I certainly hope we will never be involved again."

"Then you will be pleased to hear that the danger has been averted," said his wife.

"I'm sorry?" said her uncomprehending husband.

"According to the local paper, a TV company intends to make a new comedy series called Period Pains. This comedy is set in a picturesque village which is fed up to the back teeth with being used as a period setting, somewhere like Castle Combe."

"Or us," said her husband.

"Very like us," said Mrs Sands. "It is indeed based on us. It is based on many of the things which happened to us. Like the time the lorry bringing authentic 18th-century manure overturned, and the village stank for three days. Or the runaway reindeer. Or the time they put back the wrong TV dishes on the wrong houses ..."

"Yes, yes," said the Colonel testily. "So they're making a film about a village like us which is always being plagued by film companies, and they are coming here to film this ... this comedy, are they?"

"No," said his wife. "They are going to Lower Ashby."

"Lower Ashby?" said the Colonel aghast. "Lower Ashby? They can't do that!"

Lower Ashby was a nearby village, smaller but equally picturesque, and, if the truth be known, more unspoilt.

"Oh, but they are," said his wife. "Lower Ashby is going to play the part of us. I thought you'd be pleased. I know how fed up you are with us being Location-in-the-Wold, as you so wittily call it."

"Lower Ashby?" repeated the Colonel, as if it were a mantra. "I cannot believe it ! It must not happen."

An extract from `Art and Adaptability', a new Jane Austen-style novel by the authoress of `Tact and Taciturnity', `Ink and Illegibility', etc, and soon to be a major TV success.