I am a very romantic person.
Anyone who has ever been subjected to my own special brand of sarcasm may find that hard to believe, but it's true: I'm really a deeply romantic girl at heart.
So on occasion I love watching romantic films. They do need lots of humor and wit or suspense in them as well, otherwise I don't know, they're just a bit meh.
Now when I first watched Notting Hill I did think for a moment I was watching Four Weddings and a Funeral in a rather flimsy disguise (quirky yet adorable people, the huggable gay character, the handicapped friend, the elusive American girl and not to mention Hugh Grant doing the awkward yet lovely British guy routine for the umptieth time). It was good fun nonetheless. Hey, if the formula works, it works. Who am I to argue? Plus, the film contains one of my favourite quotes ever: 'happiness isn't happiness without a violin-playing goat'. Perfection.
In case you haven't seen the film yet: spoiler alert!
I loved it when Anna/Julia and William/Hugh were out walking and found their way into one of London's hidden gardens. In which they came upon a bench that had the following words carved in it:
For June who loved this garden. From Joseph who always sat beside her.
To which Anna/Julia quietly says: 'Some people do spend their whole lives together.' And you can hear in her voice and tell from the look on her face that that is what she wants too. I know - only good acting.
Eventually they (of course!) do find each other and the whole thing ends with the two of them on a park bench in London, she lying heavily pregnant with her head in his lap. Ahhhh.
I was quite disappointed therefore to learn that 'the' Notting Hill bench had been nothing more than a prop. There was never a June who died leaving a bereaved Joseph behind. With a garden and a bench and memories. The bench has now found its way to a park in Perth, Australia. It was never even a London garden bench. I know it was silly of me to want it all to be true because it was Just A Film after all. But there you go. Deep down I was miffed.
And then my mate KT took me to Whitstable a couple of weeks ago. As you may recall, I had never even heard of the place. Yes Mr. S.C. from E. - I did already admit that that was a huge flaw in my upbringing. Don't rub it in.
Here's the thing though: I might not have been familiar with Whitstable, but I had definitely heard of one of its most famous residents: actor Peter Cushing. You probably know him - he played opposite Christopher Lee in many a Hammer film. He was in Starwars at one time. And he did Sherlock Holmes. He had just the face for it too. Some aquiline nose that was.
What a lot of people don't know about Peter Cushing, is the great love story of his life. Run for the hills now if you don't want to hear it.
Peter Cushing married his Helen in 1943. They were devoted to each other and felt they were meant to be together. That they had met before somehow. How lovely is that. They were inseparable until her relatively early death in 1971, leaving him heartbroken. He was quoted as saying: 'Since Helen passed on I can't find anything. The heart, quite simply, has gone out of everything. Time is interminable, the loneliness is almost unbearable and the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that my dear Helen and I will be united again some day'. He kept feeling this way till the day he himself died in 1994. Helen had left him a letter when she died however, saying: 'Let the sun shine in your heart. Do not pine for me my beloved Peter as that would cause unrest. Do not be hasty to leave this world because you will not go until you have lived the life you have been given. And remember. We will meet again when the time is right. This is my promise.'
Some people might find their story too sentimental. And consider the fact that he never quite moved on after her death an unhealthy thing. There is something to be said for that. All the same I can't help myself, I still find it a very touching love story.
And wait - there's a bench in there too. And this one is real.
Peter and Helen loved the pretty coastal town of Whitstable and bought a house there in 1959. Peter had this bench placed at the spot that is now called 'Cushing's View'. It is said that this is where Peter used to sit and enjoy the view. The plaque on the bench says:
Presented by Helen and Peter Cushing who love Whitstable & its people so very much. 1990.
Sadly Helen never actually got to sit on this bench together with her beloved Peter. But at least the love story attached to it is real this time. And when I first saw it (before they got up and I could take a picture of it), a middle-aged couple were sitting on it, hand in hand, looking the very picture of contentment. Don't you think that's exactly what Peter and Helen would have wanted? I'd like to think so.
Whitstable pictures taken by me with my iPhone.