Tuesday 13 April 2021

Fare Thee Well, Ross Poldark


Sigh ... the Affair is now over ...

It's been forty-three years but I've finally shown Ross Poldark the door. The affair is over, the love is gone, and I should be bereft but my heart is stoney cold. It must be the shock. 

Best-friend-Abigail and I were utterly devoted to the machinations of the Poldark dynasty when their lives first came to our television screens when we were twelve. She of the classy taste and my partner-in-crime in devouring the scores of Jean Plaidy books in our school's library, we were utterly romantically ripe for falling for broody Ross when he walked into our living rooms. It was the first adult drama we both got to watch - high school and all meant homework and no more 7:00pm bed-time! - so the impact was decades-lasting, as it's turned out.

When my family moved back to Sydney from Our-Nation's Capital after the heady year of our best-friendship, the weekly letters between Abigail and me the next year were filled with the minutiae of the Poldark-Warleggan goings-on each episode. In the way that television used to be, you only got to see these things once, but the detail lives on for ages. History, romance and intrigue and dastardly blood-feuding set on the Cornish coastline in the late 18th Century is nigh on perfect entertainment for a twelve-year-old me, and a fifty-five-year old me. Or so you would think.

The first seven Poldark books up for grabs!

Fast forward to the early years of this century and lo! a tidy package of Winston Graham's novels were sitting on a shelf in a quaint country-café-cum-second-hand-bookshop and I immediately pounced on them. These beauties brought everything back in a rush. How could I not have realised before then that these books were just out in the world waiting for me? They went straight to the top of each and every book pile in the casa and were then foisted onto Mr. P who had only hazy memories, if at all, about the 1970s television sensation, his own family's single television at the time being likely tuned to the Other Station.

And then, joy of joys, the fabulous and coincidental announcement of another retelling of these stories coming to our screens! In our excitement, we tracked down the originals on DVD to binge watch in anticipation. It was all as I remembered and surprisingly not too dated, but reading the books did fill in a lot of detail about the whys and wherefores of the characters, the country, Cornwall, Methodism and mining, politics and banking, indeed the whole shebang of the era.

Then in 2015 the new Ross Poldark in our lives enters, a.k.a one Aidan Turner!

Ross Poldark surveying the Cornish scene
With the infamous torso under wraps

Everything was fresh yet familiar, Demelza and Elizabeth impossibly glamorous, Ross and George Warleggan nicely at odds with one another, the sets and costumes lush and spot on. Series 1 had us seduced, and probably most of the boxed-set-addicted world.

As familiar as an old slipper, Chavenage House a.k.a. Trenwith
A costume drama staple location

It was gratifying to know that all the actors in the land who’d learned to ride and wield a sword were in gainful employment, and while Demelza looked confident on a horse, it was a good couple of series before she was kneading dough in the kitchen scenes like a proper olden days kitchen wench, as it appears rusticated domestic skills aren’t taught at Actors School. But she becomes capable with a broom, too, and Ross seemed a natural with a scythe.

Prudie and Demelza busy at the Costume Coalface 

So the years roll by. Initially, the year-long wait was agony until the next series pops up. Technology is also moving at a pace, so we can start storing earlier series digitally and do catch ups before each new series. But by the fourth series I’m starting to flag. I’m not sure what’s wrong. Is it the lack of, well, verisimilitude that’s starting to get to me? The impossibly modern and perfect skin and teeth on the peasantry? The alarming amount of time Ross & Co. need to whip their tops off? The sub-plots aren’t of any interest to me? I don’t know. So Ross Poldark and I have a trial separation.

I’m not even sure how long it was that we stopped seeing one another but earlier this year I felt I needed some closure. The latest series had been waiting neglected and unwatched and sort of cluttering up the bandwidth and so I dusted it off and watched the final series on my own. 

In truth, it was with some determination that I saw it through to the finish and all the aforementioned niggling complaints I had were magnified. I had absolutely no interest in the side stories, I disliked most of the characters and in the end, the only character who I cared for was Horace, so it was rather gratifying that he had some lines and a bit of drama around the penultimate episode. He was such a good little actor and he kept me going.

Horace the Pug

So that’s the story. We’ve officially broken up. Production has ended anyway but this last version won’t ever be played again. The books have gone down to the condominio book exchange as shelf space is precious here and the year of plague has brought more books into the casa. The 1970s DVD boxed set will stay in the cupboard and might get dusted off, just for old time’s sake, when I’m in my dotage, for I’m going to be mature about this and fare him well, and Ross Poldark can go off to be fascinating for decades of someone else’s life now.

Image credits: 1, 3: via Pinterest; 2: Flying With Hands; 4: Wikimedia Commons; 5: via Twitter; 6: via Google


  1. Hello Pipistrello, Naturally as an American I have never heard of this series, but that is quite a run. One of the few shows I had great affection for was the Munsters, but even then I had to wait until the dvd's came out to see the entire series, which most unfortunately lasted only two seasons. However, if it was romance you and your friend were looking for, there might not have been much to offer. Grandpa was rather dashing in his cape, but little Eddie was only in elementary school, and of course Herman would remain faithful to Lily in the face of all blandishments. For other viewers, both Marilyns were bombshells, and Lily (Yvonne de Carlo), even with all that make-up, was quite striking.
    p.s. Let me loyally state that the Munster house puts Chavenage House to shame!

  2. I'd never watched the 1970s version so ounces in the latest one with some glee. I enjoyed all of it except the last season. It was a bit bleh and that disappointed me. Unfortunately, I am still under the delightful spell of Aidan Turner. Hope we get to see him in some other swashbuckling series soon.

  3. Should have read *Pounced on the latest one...

  4. Jim: Mr. P wishes to inform you that he was a Munsters fan as well. I'm not sure I saw this, or I may be confusing it with the Addams Family. But I like the idea of a cape on Grandpa, and of course the clue to where my affections drifted whilst on my trial separation with RP lies in the first image, so that's only natural. I'm guessing and hoping that the Munster House is gothic extremis, and will go off to investigate ... As an American, you may be surprised to learn that your countrymen do troop off to Cornwall on Poldark Tours, no doubt bumping into those doing the Daphne du Maurier Tours. Cornwall has a rather lucrative literary tourism industry.

    Loree: Glad to read I'm not alone with the final series fizzer feeling. Aidan Turner has gone all "Renaissance era hair" in the preview shots of the Leonardo da Vinci series which is coming. Not quite swashbuckling, as such, and one has to wonder if there's to be any whipping off of the artist's smock. He does look made for the tricorne hat, so hopefully he'll come back to the C18th before long.

  5. Not seen any of it, but of course I've seen those pix of the actor with his vest off. Am I presuming that the series had more female viewers than male?

  6. Cro: The naked torso shots are all over the place so I thought I'd offer up something different where we can all admire the Costume Department's handiwork. As to the demographics, I suspect you may be right but cannot confirm. It's not quite as absurdly XXX like the bodice-ripper Outlander, rather just a general wandering about or chatting in bed with your manly musculature and sleek pelt on display. The books probably have a wider appeal as there's quite a bit of historical meat in them, that period of time being witness to so much.

  7. Having had it with shows filmed for the male gaze, I enjoy being offered eye candy more to my liking. Aidan Turner looks yummy.
    Re actors' wench skills, long, long ago, I took a fencing class, being utterly incapable of any sport involving balls of any size. I was surprisingly good at it, because it didn't need strength or endurance but rather flexibility and quick reflexes--it was very much like ballroom dancing, which was my other major sport. Anyway, the class (in NY) was full of actors learning how to handle an epée for the stage and screen. Quite funny.
    Just watched "The Dig," which is both before and after Poldark, not to mention a world away. But it was truly excellent. Shocking that the eye candy of "The English Patient" has turned into the craggy old man.

    OH MY GOSH JIM...........I LOVED THAT SHOW cannot recall the detail you described here but you brought it all back to LIFE!THE ADAMS FAMILY AS WELL.....on my old instagram that GOT HACKED I had a follower who's MOTHER was in that SHOW!
    YOU MAKE ME SMILE with your descriptions and words!

    BE WELL and don't do TOO MUCH CLEANING!!!

  9. Sorry Jim, but you must be one of very few Americans that have never heard of Poldark.
    I know Chavenage House very, very well, it is literally just down the road from me and I have been there often.

  10. ToF: Aidan Turner is very easy to watch, yes! "The Dig" is sitting bookmarked for watching; for some reason time can be found in the evening for watching an episode or two of a show but not a film, why, I cannot fathom. Is it Netflix that puts the current pix up of the actors in a show? It's quite sobering to see how everyone is rushing toward pensionhood. I like your fencing story - I'm sure these days horse riding and fencing are compulsory skills needing mastery before you get your license to act.

    Contessa: If you've never heard of Poldark, I can indeed recommend the first series, but you just don't need to go the whole hog with it! xx

    Rosemary: The more I glean from where you live in the world, it seems more to me like a positively magical place! I would say barely a month goes by without Chavenage House popping up in some show or other we're watching. The family was wise never to landscape that front drive - it may have proved limiting in its suitability for locations!

  11. It never ceases to amaze me that something we loved to read, watch or listen to in high school makes its mark for the rest of our lives. You got lucky and could share Ross Poldark with a close friend. If you ask people now, they may not even know who you are talking about.

    I always remembered every word of Little Women and Little Men, but my children always thought I was being too girly.

  12. Hels: I agree. I'm not sure if it was the youthful age (and sponge-like memory) or just the novelty of it all, but old films and shows typically only got the single viewing and became imprinted forever. Little Women was a fave in my girlhood, too, but it was never chewed over with a friend.

  13. Hello Everyone, Of course I was teasing with my comparison of Chavenage House with the Munsters'. Chavenage House is very handsome with the advantage that it is not so huge that it is beyond a domestic scale. The Munsters' house was basically a studio set (although surprisingly detailed and accurate) that was rigged for all the special effects that made the series so funny.

    Chavenage is now officially on my places in Britain to visit "next time," especially if it will increase my chances of running into Rosemary!

  14. Jim: And I look forward to you reporting back!

  15. Aiden Turner's Poldark was oh-la-la! The original Poldark, as far as I know, wasn't broadcast here. I dug the acting, the costumes, the stunning scenery, and, of course, Turner's bare chest. :)

    I've not yet seen the last series as it requires a subscription. My hope is that it makes its way over to Netflix at some point.

  16. I find the Robin Ellis/Angharad Rees version of Poldark very old fashioned now .... for me, Aiden Turner WAS Poldark. His new venture ' Leonardo'{ a portrayal of Leonardo de Vinci } started yesterday on Amazon Prime .... perhaps that could be your new ' Poldark ' ? XXXX

  17. Bea: Ah, the last episode could be a bit of a fizzer for you, too, so wait until you get to see it for free. I think Aidan Turner has a pretty loyal fan base - it was an utterly inspired choice to have cast him!

    Jackie: I don't mind a bit of cheesy 1970s televisual pleasure :) But, yes, the adult version of me does agree that AT really owns the rôle now. The Leonardo show will be on the hit list whenever it comes to our telly! xx

  18. I do hope that your abandoned love is not too desolate at your departure. As for yourself, will you ever find another to fit the hole in your heart?

  19. Andrew: I’ve recovered now, and RP has enough on his plate to be worried about my fickle nature, anyways, so I figure he’ll just soldier on without me. My latest fascination is, ahem, Sherlock Holmes, & I’ve furnished his portrait above.

  20. I have never heard of this; I learned something !

  21. Ur-spo: I'm glad to be providing a Cultural Exchange Programme around these pages.


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