Archive for the Investigations Category

Meeting Graham Carter

Posted in Books, Investigations with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2009 by mrtoppit

Graham Carter

Last week I lunched with a legend. Without this man’s guile, temerity and good grace we, the people of the world, would not have had the pleasure of reading Arthur Hayman’s Hayseed Chronicles.

Graham Carter, Arthur’s onetime editor and publisher, now divides his time between his role as a literary agent and family life. During the leisurely lunch Graham, a natural raconteur, regaled me with his recollections of Arthur, Martha (pictured below in the Darkwood), Luke and Rachel as well as his experience of the Hayseed phenomenon in the 1980s.

Martha Hayman

While he turned down Charles Elton’s request for an interview (out of respect for the Hayman family) he is, like myself, curious to see if Penguin’s publication of Mr Toppit will spark a revival of his ‘old books’ as he calls them. As shrewd as ever, he has suggested to his successor at The Carter Press to rush through some re-editions of all five books of The Hayseed Chronicles.

Carter Press Catalogue

After lunch, Graham took me back to his rather palatial office on the Strand to show me some of his own ephemera, which he kindly allowed me to photograph and reproduce here. My particular favourites are these samples of his correspondance. In a letter from Arthur to Graham, Arthur notes his humbling pleasure at receiving finished copies of Garden Grown.

Letter from Arthur Hayman to Graham Carter

Martha’s caustic wit is on full show here, as she argues with the direction the dutch publisher’s design department are taking with their edition.

Letter from Martha Hayman to Graham Carter

His collection also included this wonderful Poloroid of Luke Hayman standing uncomfortably next to the actor Toby Luttrell, on set at the BBC. As a slight aside, I have just read about this very moment in Mr Toppit, and Charles Elton does have a knack for conjuring the excruciating awkwardness this incident produced in Luke.

Luke Hayman and Toby Luttrell

As lunch drifted into late afternoon, and the sun began its decent over the Thames, I thanked Graham for his time and kindness. He had given me so much in those brief hours I was in awe and indebted. As I made my way from his office I left this remarkable man, blue in the lip from wine and wet in the eye from memories of a dear old friend, long gone, but not forgotten.

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Journey into the Darkwood

Posted in Investigations with tags , , , , on January 29, 2009 by mrtoppit

[Disclaimer: After several attempts of sountracking the below narrative to the above video, I have dear readers, given up. I reproduce the original script below for your pleasure.]

On a cold January morning I took a journey into the Darkwood. To Linton in Dorset. To the Hayman estate. Where Arthur wrote his great works, where Luke outwitted Mr Toppit and where Martha still lives to this day.

Upon arriving at the Hayman House I found the gate open but marked private, strictly no access. I guessed this was to prevent fans like myself from walking up to their door. I decided to follow the road round to enter the Darkwood from a bridleway a few miles from the House. On route I passed the now legendary graffiti warning on the periphery wall.

On entering the Darkwood I noticed a ‘T’ made up from sticks on the floor, I presumed I wasn’t the only fan talking a walk through the woods that day.

What started as a bright sunny day quickly turned bitter. I noticed several markings in the trees, ‘Mr Toppit was here’, I followed them to see where they lead. As more appeared, I thought I must be getting close to the Hayman house.

As I ventured deeper into the woods, I came across a series of strange pyres and bivouacs, perhaps built by other fans camping out in the Darkwood in search of Mr Toppit, or a rare glimpse of Martha Hayman.

At last, I caught sight of the Hayman House. But a strange lady with a dog shooed me away, the dog’s eyes were ablaze with warning. I took one final photograph of the house and then rushed back through the woods to safety.

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What Does Mr Toppit Mean to You?

Posted in Investigations with tags , on January 28, 2009 by mrtoppit

Last weekend I took it, as they say, to the streets. I was interested to hear what the people thought of The Hayseed Chronicles and the imminent publication of Mr Toppit.

Here’s what I found out.

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Remembrance of Things Past

Posted in Films, Investigations with tags , , , on January 23, 2009 by mrtoppit

Haydenseek_Tuned

Continuing my investigations, I recently spoke to two very kind archivists at White City. William Hammond and Phillip Birch are currently buried deep in the bowels of BBC head quarters digitising a wealth of old Radio programmes for posterity. After some intense cajoling they were persuaded to rummage through a cavernous hard drive of untold terabits to find and pass on this absolute gem of a recording.

The following sample is from a long forgotten staple of the BBC’s Home Service, Film Time. Originally airing in 1949, the quintessentially BBCish Mr Lewis discusses and (somewhat) favourably reviews Arthur Hayman’s Love’s Capture, a film he describes as a ‘challenging exploration of contemporary British mores’.

Enjoy.

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The Life and Death of a Nearly Man

Posted in Investigations with tags , , , on January 12, 2009 by mrtoppit

Arthur Hayman Obituary

During a recent research trip to Dorset, I unearthed this gem at a local library (apologies for the reproduction, but the microfiche was slightly damaged). The obituary originally ran in the Dorset Evening Echo and was then syndicated for those nationals who deemed Arthur’s life and passing worthy of comment.

It’s humbling to note the brief mention of The Hayseed Chronicles, described here as ‘too dark and uncompromising to achieve success’, for Arthur was never to see how just many lives his extraordinary books touched.

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You’re in a Safe Place Now

Posted in Investigations with tags , , , , , , on December 16, 2008 by mrtoppit

Old Compton Street and Dean

Last week, to mark the anniversary of the start of Arthur Hayman’s life, I decided to take a detour from my usual path to work to pass by the place where it ended.

Old Compton Street

I often find myself gravitating to the corner of Dean Street in Soho wondering if I may find anyone else there leaning, as I often do, against the lone lamppost imagining the concrete truck rounding the corner and knocking poor Arthur from his feet and the life from his body.

Mysterious Cords

When I arrived I was taken aback to discover that someone had affixed several dressing-gown cords to the post. This is of course reference to the cords stolen from Mr Toppit by Luke in Garden Growing where Luke used them to hold up his rather unwieldy trousers. In Lila Loewenstein’s original artwork for The Hayseed Chronicles the cords were rather plain, here however, they were bright and multicoloured, suggesting the bereaver was more familiar with the successful television series than the books.

Was it you? Please let me know.

You're in a Safe Place Now

Nevertheless, I found myself moved by the tribute and the simple words scrawled on the post. Youre in a safe place now (sic) Arthur, and you are greatly missed.

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