I like to tell people I went to school at Hogwarts. It’s not actually very far from the truth – my Latin room was but a stone’s throw from the cinematic version. Sometimes, my mind wandering from Caecilius or Pliny, I would gaze through the glass and see a Roman soldier walking up the road. I’d blink and shake my head, then reality would return. Obviously, someone was filming at the castle again.
I met my first famous person standing in front of the castle. At the time, I had no idea who Brian Blessed was. To me, he was great bear of a man wearing a crown. I knew who Rowan Atkinson was, though; I’d seen him on Not the Nine O’ Clock News. The filming of The Black Adder added further texture to my first term at high school.
The following summer, it was the turn of Robin of Sherwood. Michael Praed gave me his autograph: he wrote like a girl. But that was the only girlie thing about him; he made my teenage hormones quite giddy. Shortly afterwards, he decamped to Dynasty and I knew I’d been in the presence of greatness.
Northumberland’s castles have starred in numerous films and TV dramas. Alnwick also made an appearance in Disney’s The Spaceman and King Arthur when I was small, and more recently, featured in Elizabeth. Bamburgh – my favourite castle – was also a location in Elizabeth.
The county’s cinematic successes are nothing new: when my mum was young, they filmed Beckett at Bamburgh. It starred Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton. Elizabeth Taylor was there with Burton and she gave Mum her autograph. Burton, however, refused because he was “busy”. I have never liked the man.
Our Friends in the North was shown when I was living in Norfolk. It made me dreadfully homesick. Daniel Craig played the drunken bum Geordie; unfortunately that means that, tight swimming trunks or not, I can never consider him to be a sex symbol.