Sunday, 2 October 2011

Cushing's View versus Notting Hill

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.


  1. I am an out and out sucker for a good romantic movie... and I LOVED that bench in Notting Hill. I'm a bit miffed about the whole thing too now that you've told me about it! That was the best bit (apart from the violin playing goat line of course) in the whole movie..... the fact that they found that sort of 'secret garden' and then ended up on the same bench at the finish of the film.

    The Peter and Helen love story is very moving.

    I feel so sorry for him... I hope he spent his years after her death not being horribly disconsolate for all of them, and managed to find some happiness in the little things. That would be very heartbreaking and sad if life was just 'grey' for the rest of the time he had left.

    I suppose many people would have said he should've 'got on with it' after a while. But, there are those rare cases/stories you hear of when two people seem to be in a different sphere to the rest of us... seem to reach a different level of knowing, or something, and it's just something that's bound within the two of them.

    She (Helen), sounded like a beautiful soul.

    My mum has a friend in her 70's who would say her life was a love story like that. Her and her husband were terribly sad if they weren't with each other.... were joined at the hip, did everything together, never wanted to be apart, spent every moment they could together for the decades they were married.

    But, unlike Helen, when the husband was dying, he asked the wife if she would take her own life after he died because he wanted her to come with him. I think that was very unhealthy and that their love, even though whilst they were both alive seemed truly romantic and all encompassing... was a stultifying, suffocating, and (from him at least) selfish.

    It's many years now, and because she didn't end her own life as he requested, she feels constant and ongoing guilt, still grieves constantly, and will never move on in any way that's healthy (I don't mean another relationship).

    I guess that sort of all encompassing love can walk a fine line.

    But, I really like the Peter and Helen story.... and the bench is just a beautiful, heartfelt monument to their love and the place/people they also loved.

    Sorry about babbling on... I am a romantic, however, perhaps I'm just a bit more jaded and cynical than I used to be in matters of romance - lol. But, I truly do believe in love, and fighting for love, and giving yourself over to love. I think the only way to experience the best of it is to let yourself go.... which means greater hurt in the end if it all goes pear-shaped.

    All feelings help us learn about ourselves though, and that includes love and pain. When I get to the end of my time on Earth, I hope to know myself pretty well, as long as I haven't lost myself along the way.

    That's the trick I think... to love without losing who you are. But then, the true romantics may argue that losing yourself is the epitome of that 'romantic' type of love.

    Sheesh, I think I need to go to bed....

    Linda. xox

  2. Hey Sacha, LOVE this one too - my new favorite :-) xoxo

  3. Heee heee - I love it when you 'babble' Linda!

    And yes, very well said. It would be heartbreaking if Peter's remaining days were just filled with a desire for the end. And I do think the sadness and the loss never left him. But he did keep busy, in his career for one and he did find joy in other things. His friendship with Christopher Lee must have been a very special one - and what this friend said about him after his death tells you what a special person he must have been (and it tells you something about Christopher Lee too!):

    'I don't want to sound gloomy, but, at some point of your lives, every one of you will notice that you have in your life one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. For example, you can call that friend, and from the very first maniacal laugh or some other joke you will know who is at the other end of that line. We used to do that with him so often. And then when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again'

    Obviously Peter was someone who managed to inspire great love and friendship.

    And, obviously, I agree with your observation on your mother's friend and her husband. I think it is selfish to want your spouse's life to end just because your's is ending. No matter how much you love the other person.

    And yes, opening yourself up to love is scary. My last romance went every shape including pearshaped and it left me bleeding. To such an extent that I need to peel off the layers of extreme cautiousness again. However hard it is to trust (men, the world) again after betrayal, the alternative just isn't an option.

    Now I need to get me some sleep! ;-)

  4. What a lovely quote that was from Christopher Lee about Peter... it must have been a very special friendship indeed. How lucky they were to have each other.

    Sorry about your last romance... I know the 'bleeding' feeling. A year and a half of counselling was an excellent way of getting me back on track and sorting out why I invited 'dangerous' people (mentally and physically) into my life.

    Turns out my childhood fascination with being swept off my feet by a 'knight in shining armour' probably had something to do with the fact that I believed words said by charmers who knew exactly which romantic buttons to push. I didn't know/trust myself well enough to set boundaries that kept me safe from dangerous people and people who could pretend to be what they weren't.

    And yet, I still love romantic movies, and I still believe in love, and I still believe in marriage (done it more than once - lol). People think I'm nuts I suspect... because I will still open myself up. But, I now do it with a firm knowledge of who I am, and I set boundaries that don't let 'me' get lost, and I'm strong enough to send anyone who doesn't treat me the right way straight to the door.

    It's amazing how many of the romantic movies we see out there, feature treatment (particularly of a female) that's not actually an indication of romance, but of stalking or some sort of personality disorder. For instance... it's not romantic if a guy asks you out 30 times, persists and persists, keeps sending you little presents and generally doesn't give up... that's stalking. In romantic movies if he's darn cute and really sexy it can end up being made to seem romantic.

    The Twilight series is a good example of a relationship with too many red flags to count that's made to seem soooo romantic. And, it's pitched at our young girls.

    In the end though, I think you're so right. The alternative isn't an option. And, as long as we trust ourselves as being able to deal with whatever happens in the end, then the risk is worth the outcome no matter what it is. Dealing with it and getting through the pain (heartbreak) may not be pleasant (it's crap at the best of times), but I know I can do it and come out the other side... so it's worth it.

    I've been with my partner for 3 years now, and we joke that if we're still together when we're 60, we might get married then. That way I won't feel like I've turned into the Elizabeth Taylor of Ballarat - lol. Although I have to say, I've pretty much gotten over hating myself for failing at the whole marriage thing 3 times (yep, there I said it!!).

    After that little revelation... I'm off to watch Dr. Phil. (I'm on holidays!!)

    Linda. xox

  5. What a sweet and romantic post...I LOVED it!! Notting Hill is one of my favorite movies and you totally reminded me that I need to watch Four Weddings and a Funeral again!

    I love a good romantic story as well but also like to have some comedy in it so I don't get too sappy and meh - lol!

    The story of Peter Cushing and his beloved wife though is one of the sweetest that I've heard. It also makes my heart break a little for him that he had to continue on for 20 years without Helen and never got over her. I wish they could have sat together on that bench in Whitstable...sigh.

    P.S. I was soo excited to hear that you got the print in the mail!! And I am so happy that you still love it after waiting so long :)

    Jenn xo

  6. Boundaries! Linda, you've just said the magic word! I used to be good at setting boundaries but I lost it - and me - somewhere along the way. After the last heartbreak however I vowed to stay true to ME at all times. I hope those won't prove to be famous last words!

    Sorry to hear about the marriages that didn't work out - but as you said earlier, all feelings help us learn something about ourselves. I would have wished for you and me though that the learing curves would have been less steep at times!

    Ah well - at least we won't bore the other old biddies at the nursery home with tales of an uneventful life eh??


  7. Thanks for the comments Jenn - yes, I wished they could have sat together at that bench... But I believe the old saying better to have loved and lost etc. is true - at least they did get to have their great love for many years.

    And yes - I'm going to dig up those DVDs too - as a matter of fact, I think I might arrange a PJ party for the occasion! ;-D

    Can't tell you how thrilled I am with my print - and it's bigger than I thought too (I did do the inches vs centimetres thing but still)!

  8. Nursery home!! AAaaah - I meant NURSING home!

  9. Nursery home - lol!!! I bet it feels like that sometimes when you're there, haha!

    Yep, the learning curve has been really steep at times... and despite the fact that I had some truly horrendous times that only my counselor knows the worst of... I'm grateful. Those times made me who I am today, which is all the good caring and compassionate bit tempered with the part that knows about that magic word (boundaries). I'm a better person for it in the end!

    Life has many lessons to teach us doesn't it!

    Hey Jenn... you're a quick 'postie'. That print arrived super fast! Well done. :) A great start to your Etsy empire.

    Linda. xox

  10. I really admire you for saying that - that in spite of everything that happened (and by the sound of things, a lot of bad shit happened!), you are grateful for the lessons it taught you. I'm not quite there yet. I still wish I could rewrite certain bits and delete a few chapters...

  11. And people - not to mention deleting a few people...

  12. Hi Sacha,
    Love your feature on Peter and Hlen Cushing ..and Whitstable's 'Cushing's View'. I manage the Peter Cushing Appreciation Society, it's website and facebook page ( and would love to post a link and share it there for others to read too. I am sure they would love it too! Would that be ok?

    Marcus Brooks

  13. Hi Sacha,
    Love your feature on Peter and Hlen Cushing ..and Whitstable's 'Cushing's
    View'. I manage the Peter Cushing Appreciation Society, it's website and
    facebook page and would love to post a link and share it there for others to read too. I am sure they would
    love it too! Would that be ok?

    Marcus Brooks

    1. Dear Marcus, I'd of course be delighted for you to link to this post. Apologies for the late reply - I was offline during the weekend!

    2. Thank you, Sacha. Apologies for my late reply also. I will send you a link as soon as it it's posted this weekend.

      Thank you, once again!

    3. Hi Sacha, Could you email me as soon as you have a moment. Hope you are well.



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