I'm currently collaborating on a new puppet show called The Chalk Giants. It's to to be premiered next weekend at Norwich Puppet Theatre where it will run for just over a week before we take it up to the Edinburgh Fringe early in August. Without giving too much away we are incorporating moving images taken at key points along the chalk escarpment that forms the geological divide between the south-east of England and the rest of the country. We began by filming on the beach at Hunstanton in Norfolk a week ago last Thursday. The chalk cliffs there have a spectacular pink seam running through them which caught the sun very well. In case you are wondering at the way the chalk has separated itself by colour I can tell you that it is down to human intervention. One Michael Joseph Kennedy, an Irish accented denizen of the town, has spent the last fifteen years shoring up the sea defences by piling rocks from the beach against the base of the cliff. The colour scheme is his doing.
It takes about 80 minutes to get to Hunstanton from Norwich, whichever route you take. However, this was nothing compared to the next day's odyssey.
I set off a little before 6am to collect Kevin the cameraman and off we drove to our first port of call. Sally, one half of Indefinite Articles, lives just outside Cambridge by Grantchester Meadows, immortalised in song by Pink Floyd. I couldn't resist a quick look and found it just as peaceful as the song suggests. At 7.30am I saw one jogger and no one else.
Next stop was Buckingham for breakfast and I took a picture of the famous gaol. And then on to do some filming at Uffington White Horse, south-west of Oxford. It was a bakingly hot day and we wore black for the shots but the location and the views it provided were worth the effort. There is are other white horses in England, made by cutting away the top soil to reveal the chalk beneath, but the one at Uffington, thought to be about 3,000 years old is both the oldest and finest. It is highly stylised, its lines full of movement.
Next we took what was to be a short detour for a drive by shot of Stonehenge. A wrong turn, a pause for lunch and one of those traffic jams on the A303 where people get out of their cars to stretch their legs meant it took somewhat longer than we had hoped. I was driving so no picture. However, the light was poor and the famous landmark was not looking its best. I remember going for picnics there as a child - free parking, hardly any visitors and the stones, the fallen ones at least, were great for climbing on. Now it resembles a military compound.
Finally we made it to our goal, the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset. Here we met up with Steve, the other half of Indefinite Articles, who had been in Stratford directing a puppet for the Royal Shakespeare Company's rehearsals of A Winter's Tale ("Exit, pursued by a bear...")
The Cerne Abbas giant may be a relative newcomer, the first historical reference dating from 1694 and no real evidence to demonstrate greater antiquity. One theory suggests it was carved to poke fun at Oliver Cromwell during the protectorate. He is very well endowed - a giant in every sense - and another theory explains this as being the result of a Victorian re-cuttting which accidentally (?!) extened his member by incorporating his navel.
We performed for several takes using the hillside on which it stands as a backdrop but didn't climb the hill to peer over the fence that guards it. Instead we retired to the Royal Oak in the village for a well earned pint of Badger and the best pub food I've eaten in years.
The drive back was not quite as long but it was 2.30am by the time I parked up back in Norwich. Still, it's great to get out and about from time to time. And now to work on the music for the show.