When the movie circus rolls into town, Darcy-fanciers vainly search for Colin Firth – although Dave and Bart are the real stars-in-waiting
Maldon has become Tinseltown, the go-to destination for nautical big-screen dramas.
In fact, if we had a hill in Essex, we’d probably put up a ‘Maldonwood’ sign. The latest movie epic to be filmed here is the tragic story of Donald Crowhurst’s ill-fated effort to win the Golden Globe trophy for the first sailor to sail non-stop single-handed around the world, directed by James Marsh who made The Theory Of Everything.
But celebrity hasn’t gone to our heads; it’s gone to our lips! And that really is pretty weird.
The star of the movie is the historic Downs Road Boatyard, which carried out the first refit on Noah’s Ark, and where owner Jim Dines and his crew have just created a fully-functioning full-size replica of Crowhurst’s trimaran, Teignmouth Electron, which by all accounts is far better built and more seaworthy than the original.
For the movie the boatyard was also transformed into the 1960s, which required considerable modernisation.
Apparently even some of the Grade 2-listed cobwebs had to go as they were considered a bit too Disney, and not at all authentic.
Now, I’m not starstruck, but my dog is. And every day the film crew were here, Bart forced me to dress up in my old man’s 1960s clobber and parade up and down Downs Road, on the off-chance he might get a gig as an extra.
I have to say Bart let himself down yet again, not least because he’s the most untrained, most high-pitched and vocal Jack Russell in the world. If they were making a silent movie featuring a dog in a straitjacket he might have stood a chance, but as it was they passed on the opportunity and asked if I could walk Bart elsewhere, Kent for example, as he was blowing fuses on the sound equipment.
Next, Bart made me putt-putt by in my pork-pie helmet and dad’s old anorak on my 1960s moped with Bart in the basket on the front. This time they suggested Norfolk.
I went to the Queen’s Head instead, and that’s where I came across the oddest spectacle I’d ever seen. The bar was heaving with a rare sub-species known as women.
In fact, I never knew Maldon had so many of them. What’s more, the few I recognised had antifouled their lips with scarlet boottopping – I think the correct nautical term is lipstick.
They also had something wrong with their necks, probably caused by the precarious high-heeled splatchers which gave them the posture of meerkats as they craned to look over my shoulders out of the steamed-up windows.
When I asked one what was going on, she mentioned there was a rumour that Colin Firth might be popping into the Queen’s Head. Now, I don’t know who Colin Firth is as he doesn’t own a Sailfish 18, but from what I gather he’s an actor who made his name in a TV series about a frilly wet white shirt.
Further research revealed that his character’s name was Darcy, so in the spirit of willingness I started asking the men if they were Colin Firth.
This was no easy task, for as in all pukka historic and honest waterfront towns, most men in Maldon wear grey beards, partly to preserve their modesty, as well as a host of other practical,personal, financial and legal reasons. Beards strain lumps out of beer, while also concealing identity from husbands, the authorities and the King’s Revenue men, all of whom spend most of their time hunting down a bloke with a beard as a result of tip-offs from helpful citizens.
Needless to say, my first foray for Firth drew a blank. Next I tried asking if anyone was Darcy, but in the hubbub of the pub it seems the ‘D’ wasn’t always heard, which involved me being invited outside by some and having to buy others several pints to calm the situation.
Turns out Darcy Firth never made an appearance, but the Queen’s Head did very well that night. But if some elements of Crowhurst’s sad story remain a mystery, there was another one that remains unsolved.
Why had men who normally wear fish-splattered smocks for a night on the town chosen to wear white shirts on a day when none of them were in court? Some people really are desperate!