The Children of Green Knowe
“I wondered whose face it would be out of all the faces I’ve known…they always come back.” So says Mrs Oldknow on first clapping eyes on young master Toseland, who is henceforth known as Tolly to avoid confusion with all the other young master Toselands that have gone before him. Many of whom have befallen premature and tragic deaths, but hey lets not get into that now, the little lad’s only just got here. Mrs Oldknow is Tolly’s maternal great grandmother and has spent the best part of the last century living in the uncanny house of Green Knowe eating crumpets and going slightly mad. An old family estate, the Oldknows have lived there for so many generations everyone‘s lost count, constantly accompanied by a succession of manservants called Boggis. They’re very economical with names at Green Knowe.
Tolly is at boarding school with no one to spend the Christmas holidays with on account of his mother being dead (ping! goes my trope counter) and his father being away in India with his new wife, who sounds a bit annoying. Enter strange elderly relative who lives in the back of beyond (ping!) with no earthly companionship bar old Boggis our requisite old guy that knows a bit more than he lets on (ping!), like the fact that the male line of the family was cursed by some gypsy horse rustlers several centuries hence.
For a BBC period drama Tolly is a surprisingly likeable chap, small and earnest he buys into the mystery of Green Knowe without question. Tolly really just wants someone to play with and he’s in luck as the house and gardens happen to be haunted by three of his distant relatives killed by the back death. Our Toseland spends quite a lot of the four episodes running around shouting ‘where are you?’. Note to self, Ghosts are rubbish at hide and seek.
Maybe I’m just feeling overly emotional today, but I did find something immensely poignant about all of this, though I am a bit of a sucker for things that hint a little bit at the underlying sadness of childhood, i.e. that it is so fleeting and then we all grow up and die. Or don’t grow up but die anyway. But as always, I digress. It’s not all loneliness and premature death, there are some light moments too, like Boggis easting an onion like a apple and a brief cameo from King Charles where he looks like he’s being played by Boycie from Only Fool and Horses.
Based on the first of Lucy M. Boston’s Green Knowe novels unlike From Time To Time the recent Julian Fellows Green Knowe inspired film, the adaptation is faithful both in storyline and pace. Boston’s writing itself was directly inspired by the house in which she lived and where all the novels are set and you can read a bit about the background to her writing, and the books’ original illustrations by her son Peter in an excellent two part interview with her daughter in law, the houses current custodian here.
The Children of Green Knowe is a great bit of escapism for winter evening, a timeless bit of warming BBC magic of the kind they regularly used to bring out around Christmas, a la Box of Delights and the Chronicles of Narnia. It also has the bonus of a Peter Howell (BBC Radiophonic Workshop) score, some pretty decent acting and only about two instances where the special effects are cheesey enough to make you giggle, not bad for something of this vintage.
Not currently available commercially if you’re not adverse to a bad quality copy you can find one on YouTube, there is also some kind of Facebook petition to get it re-released you can also add some weight to should you so wish.