I first came across The Voorman Problem when I read David Mitchell’s 2001 novel, Number9Dream. It’s a short story, an Easter egg, hidden inside the larger story. In my copy of the book it can be found between pages 28 to 36.
Set in Tokyo, Number9Dream follows the story of Eiji Miyake, a young Japanese man searching for his father. In one scene, he has tracked him to a cinema where The Voorman Problem is being screened.
In 2012, film makers Mark Gill and Baldwin Li, decided to make the film a reality, scripted the idea and created a 12 minute film based on the David Mitchell’s story. Starring Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander the film went on to critical acclaim and was nominated for: the best live action short film at the 2014 Academy Awards.
The Story/film has sinister overtones and a tentative grasp on reality. Supporters of Brexit could enjoy reading/watching this.
Update: 18th October 2017
Until recently, someone had downloaded the film onto YouTube, however, this has now been removed due to copyright infringement. There are still trailers and additional information about The Voorman Problem, available on YouTube. If you do get the chance to watch it in full, it’s worth a view, if nothing more then to see how a short story can be converted into a superb, little film.
Hopefully, Voorman’s last line, in the film, will not turn out to become prophetic!
Copyright for the film belongs to: Honlodge Productions Ltd
Deserted by the sea that once provided its livelihood, Parkgate stands on the Dee estuary. The village is a fascinating place to visit; many of its buildings are unique and some have stories to tell. Nelson Cottage in Station Road has a story, and the property is easily identified by its cobbled frontage.
Early in the 19th century this cottage was the holiday retreat of the portrait painter Albin Roberts Burt. Albin had a good reputation and specialised in miniature portraits. Half a dozen of his pictures hang in Britain’s National Portrait Gallery. In November 2016 a London auction sold Albin’s two inch sketch of Lord Nelson for an estimated £12,000.
Albin moved around quite a bit in his lifetime, but in 1822 he was living in Chester. In early December that year he decided to visit Liverpool, and took his nine year old son along with him.
Historic facts can be difficult to verify, but reports suggest that the journey was done by boat using the Shropshire Union Canal from Chester to Nether Pool: now part of Ellesmere Port. On route he would have passed St Lawrence’s church at Stoak which may have been undergoing restoration at that time. The church dates back to the 14th Century, but was restored in 1827. At Nether Pool, father and son transferred to a ferry to cross the Mersey basin to Liverpool.
Having finished their day’s business they began the return journey home. That evening, however, tragedy struck. The Prince Regent steam ferry ran out of fuel and the boat was at the mercy of the strong winds. A hurricane struck the Liverpool Bay area, and nine people fell overboard from the ferry that night including Albin’s son Nelson.
Saddened following the loss of his son, Albin walked along Parkgate beach and collected black stones. On returning to Station Road he used the stones to spell out his son’s name in front of the cottage. The stones remained loosely in place until the 1920’s when they were set in cement.
I often cycle along the canal towpath between Chester and Ellesmere Port, and think about the young boy and his father making that last fateful journey. At Stoak, I can see St Lawrence’s church three hundred metres beyond the canal. I have family resting in the churchyard. I’m aware that a small boy lost in a storm almost two hundred years ago also lies there. I’ve known this for many years but until recently didn’t know his name.
Whilst researching my article on Parkgate for Best of British magazine I discovered this grave was the final resting place of young Nelson.
On a summer evening I visited St Lawrence’s churchyard. I could look up my relatives and see if I could also find Nelson’s grave. It wasn’t hard to find; it was the one closest to the south of the church tower. Nelson may have the oldest grave in that churchyard and its position means that he probably gets the maximum amount of sunlight. The headstone inscription explains the circumstances of his death. An interesting thing about this grave is that it has both a head and a footstone.
On the 5th December 1822 a small boy died under tragic circumstances. Maybe he could have become a famous painter like his father, or a great leader of men like his namesake. We will never know, but today we still know Nelson Burt’s name because it has been set in stone.
Painting reproduced with the kind permission of Claudia Hill @ Ellison Fine Art. http://www.ellisonfineart.com/
Welcome to my blog. My name is Peter Linfield, I write, I cycle, I’m a Christian and I live in the historic city of Chester.
Back in 2013, I encountered an Anglo Saxon warrior, only two miles from my home. He was guarding the most northerly point of the Mercian Way. He didn’t speak – but told me I was 101 miles from Bewdley in Worcestershire. At that time I’d never heard of Bewdley, let alone been there.
I discovered that the Mercian Way was part of Sustrans’ National Cycle Route (NCR) 45, the other end of which was 270 miles away in the cathedral city of Salisbury.
At the height of summer, I took advantage of the long days and packed my tent into my cycle panniers and made the train journey south. Sustrans signs would direct me home.
For five days I followed the signs as I meandered my way north through the English countryside. The route took me over Salisbury plain, past Stonehenge, through the Vale of Pewsey and the stone circle at Avebury. I crossed the River Thames north of a town called Cricklade and cycled along canal tow paths through Gloucester, Worcester and Chester. I crossed the Cotswolds, the Wrekin and the Peckforton Hills. I got lost in Swindon but found my way out with the aid of a compass. On day four, I reached Bewdley and spent a Sunday morning searching the Wyre Forest looking for the Saxon warrior that marked the southern end of the Mercian Way. After that I joined the Severn Valley Way, sharing my route with its river and famous railway. This took me through Bridgnorth to Ironbridge. Leaving the River Severn, I carried on to Whitchurch in Shropshire and back to my home in Cheshire.
At the end of my journey I wrote an account of the trip and called it ‘Following the Signs’. I have adopted this name also for my blog. Here, I will tell you about my cycling trips, my writing journey and other things I’d like to share.