Archive for Luke Hayseed

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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Songs in the Key of Darkwood

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on January 16, 2009 by mrtoppit

to Dr Bumble’s Magic Drone Machine and the Colony of Bees Perform Songs from the Darkwood

This, my readers, is a truly awful record. I discovered it digging through a second hand vinyl shop on Berwick Street and was instantly drawn to the sleeve illustration. At first glance it seemed to be inspired by the original jacket for Arthur Hayman’s final book in The Hayseed Chronicles, Darkwood. Lifting the record from the rack, my suspicions were confirmed.

Darkwood by Arthur Hayman

I immediately snapped it up and spent a giddy half hour on the bus home wondering what on earth it might sound like. However, the subsequent 62 minutes of actually listening to Dr Bumble’s Magic Drone Machine and the Colony of Bees performing Songs from the Darkwood was a little less fruitful. I was left feeling as if an hour of my life had been irrevocably lost and that the blame for this intense melancholy lay squarely on the shoulders of this so called ‘Doctor’.

Let me try to explain. The album consists of five songs or ‘movements’ in which the narrative of Hayman’s Darkwood is set unconvincingly to music. The album progs through one and a half sides of terminal mediocrity before culminating in a 15 minute finale consisting of Arthur’s now legendary closing line

And out of the Darkwood Mr Toppit comes, and he comes not for you, or for me, but for all of us

repeated ad nauseam in a delivery that makes David St. Hubbins sound Shakespearean by comparison. These words are violently accompanied by a quintessentially Wakemanesque keyboard and Theremin solo.

That said, its rarity is intriguing. I wonder how many are out there. Has anyone else had the pleasure?

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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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Mr Toppit Zerstört Mein Leben

Posted in Merchandise with tags , , on January 5, 2009 by mrtoppit

I am currently working my way through the many emails and responses I have received and I will endeavour to get them all up on the blog soon.

 

I start with this haunting vignette, included in full below, from someone who wishes to remain anonymous…  

On the way back from Frankfurt this year I decided to spend some time in East Berlin. After taking brunch in the Berlin fashion I took the advice of one my colleagues and strolled up to Prenzlauer Berg to visit Flohmarkt am Mauerpark.

For the uninitiated, it’s an intense experience as thousands of people search and shovel though millions of items and curiosities from cracked crockery to antique art. Weaving through this labyrinth of hawkers I came across a forlorn looking man crouched at the back of his stall enshrouded, despite the heat, in a large woollen jumper.

The Hayseed Chronicles Annual

His ruddy stand presented little of interest at a glance, but on closer inspection I saw the very tip of the 1985 Hayseed Chronicles Annual sticking out from under a stack of aging German comics. I quickly rescued it from the pile and rummaged through the rest of the stall looking for more.

The Hayseed Chronicles Plate

My efforts were rewarded and I discovered a rather dirty Luke Hayseed dinner plate (which after a comprehensive clean, looks in rather good condition).

When I asked the man for a price for the deuce, he stirred from the folds of his jumper and muttered something I couldn’t catch. When I asked again, he jumped up from his position and started shouting ‘Mr Toppit zerstört mein leben’ with a wild look in his eyes and spittle from his cries catching in his rough beard. I quickly pulled Five Euros from my wallet, grabbed the items and left the strange, haunted man shouting at his stall. Mr Toppit zerstört mein leben…Mr Toppit ruined my life…

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Lila Lowenstein

Posted in Books with tags , , , , on December 19, 2008 by mrtoppit

The Lance Hostler Centre in Islington is currently curating an exhibition of original artwork from classic children’s books. Excited at the prospect of seeing the star attraction, I took a break from Christmas shopping to visit the museum last weekend.

 

Original Drawing of Luke by Lila Lowenstein

 

This is a sketch in ink by Lila Lowenstein of Luke Hayman, Arthur’s son. The picture is drawn from life with Luke dressed simply in school attire. Lila later adapted this picture into the famous figure of Luke Hayseed, pantaloons and all, for the illustrated edition of the first book in the series, The Garden and the Wood.  

 

Little is known about Lila, except that she was German, very close to the Hayman family, and by all accounts quite mad.

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eBay Excitement

Posted in Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2008 by mrtoppit

Fifty Great British Pounds seems like a lot to spend on a little over 130mm of plastic in these times of economic turmoil. But this Luke Hayseed action figure from the BBC adaptation of the Hayseed Chronicles is worth every penny.

Luke Hayseed Action Figure 1

Once Hayseed hysteria hit America, The Carter Press was inundated with requests from Hollywood to option the series into a full scale motion picture. Despite the astronomical figures running across Graham Carter’s desk, it was Arthur Hayman’s widow, Martha, that had the final say on the matter and her mind was swayed by a hand written note from a Junior Script Editor at the BBC.

Luke Hayseed Action Figure 2

Jake Cotton (known to colleagues as “Joke Cotton” due his general ineptness) had languished in White City for longer than he cared to remember and saw The Hayseed Chronicles as a way to make a name for himself. Legend has it that he wrote to Martha directly, mentioning his interest in her PhD on the First Crusade in his covering letter. A lunch was organised, a contract signed and the rest is history.

Luke Hayseed Action Figure 3

The action figure is based on the likeness of Toby Luttrell, a regular in Grange Hill, a bit part player in Bugsy Malone, and the young British actor cast to play Luke Hayseed in the six-part BBC miniseries of The Hayseed Chronicles. The series was a huge success both sides of the Atlantic and my old VHS tapes are practically worn out from extensive watching. Does anybody know if the BBC are planning to reissue them on DVD?

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The Hayseed Chronicles

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , on December 17, 2008 by mrtoppit

It has arrived. After protracted dealings with The Strand’s collectables department in New York, it has finally arrived.

The Hayseed Chronicles Boxset

The extraordinary success of The Hayseed Chronicles in the mid-Eighties was largely down to one woman, Laurie Clow. It is believed that coincidence and chance led her to be by Arthur’s side on that fatal Soho morning and since then she decided to dedicate her life to his books.

On returning to America she achieved fame and national syndication reading the Chronicles on the radio, before crossing over to the big-time with her own chat-show. She singlehandedly brought the books to life for a generation of Americans and with hysteria at fever pitch The Carter Press was quick to cash in on their recently acquired pop culture cachet.

The Hayseed Chronicles Boxset 2
Graham Carter, sensing an opportunity, produced a limited run of this box set to tie in with the programme and marketed during the credits at the show. I have been trying to get my hands on one of these for years.

But there is more. Stuffed in the back of the box was this letter.

Fan Letter

Susie is thanking Jeanie for sending her the entire set. This set, which has found its way from sunny California to London via the 18 miles of books at the Strand in New York. The letter is printed on Hayseed Chronicles notepaper (extensive merchandising was another shrewd idea from Mr Carter).

Fan Letter 2

Bees hold a special significance in the world of the Hayseed Chronicles as both a terrifying sign that Mr Toppit had been there as well as a sign of Luke’s bravery in the face of such terror.

Fan Letter 3

I wonder what Susie and Jeanie are doing now. If you are out there, reading this, let me know!

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