In May 2010 I was fortunate enough to be given a phone number of a chap who was looking for an old Reliant for a film but not the sort of Reliant that is featured on the BBC series “Only Fools and Horses”. (A Reliant Regal Supervan). After a few phone calls everything was arranged and photos of my 1961 Reliant Regal Mk VI van (Lucie) were sent off to the film folks to see if they liked her. Thankfully they did and once Lucie was accepted I then found out that she was to be used in a BBC 1 drama called “Toast” that stars Helena Bonham Carter and Freddie Highmore. The film is based on the book of the same name and is about the story of food writer Nigel Slater’s childhood.
The colour of Lucie was not right for the film as was still wearing her TV make up from The Royal. I therefore resprayed her in beige primer and she was then handed over to the BBC a few days before filming so that they could “scragg her up”. In addition to applying dirt and fake bird droppings they also applied signwirting on the side reading “Ward & Sons Gardeners Wolverhampton 6228” which all looked superb once finished. The final touch was a June 1968 tax disc in the window as the film is set in 1967.
Lucie was in scene 44 which was towards the end of the day so we (my girlfriend Caroline and I) having got there at 11:30am sat in a car park for just under six hours waiting to be called onto set. On the positive side the canteen wagon ensured the wait wasn’t a hungry one and luckily the sun was shining. At 5:20pm the call came for us to go to the set which was set in a road in Moseley which was just a half mile drive round the corner. We fired Lucie up and off we set, pootling down the road until we got to a rather splendid house where everything was being shot. There was another 30 minute wait as the last scene was finished but this was far more interesting being able to watch the filming process and the amazing amount of equipment that is involved.
When our scene came, Lucie was just down the road so I charged down to her, said to her “This is it, your moment has arrived” and drove up the road and was ushered onto the driveway where she would be parked. There was then a swarm of folks all round her measuring the distance to the cameras and marking the floor with where the actor should stand and where the contents of the van should be placed.
As the driveway was on a slant I thought it would be best to chock the back wheel the hand brake was working fine though I was just a bit concerned incase she did roll backwards. As I chocked the rear wheel I caught the eye of one of the ladies in the production crew. I said “Just in case” meaning incase the van starts to roll backwards and she jested that it would be one of the out takes if it did.
As Lucie was a gardener’s van she was loaded up with gardening tools and a few plants and then filming progressed. There were a couple of pre-takes as folks tried to see what the best way was to do things and then the final take. The scene is between the gardener and a young Nigel Slater.
On screen it seems the whole will only last around 29 seconds and has about six lines of dialogue in it. The camera man appears to be in front of Lucie filming the front end and then pans across to show the gardener unloading the van. Despite being a short scene it took about 30 - 40 minutes or so to film and so after a few quick photos, Lucie was taken back to the base, loaded up and taken home in her new make up.
Addendum: December 2010
After much waiting the drama was finally shown on BBC1 at 9pm on 30th December 2010 and although the scene was slightly cut from what we saw filmed, Lucie appeared at 20 minutes and 28 seconds into the film in a scene that lasted just over 30 seconds. As delighted as I am that Lucie was used for the film, it was a shame that you didn’t get to see Lucie in her entirety and all the work that the Art Department at the BBC had put into the van to make it a gardener’s van. What I did find strange is that in the film, when the young Nigel Slater ask his dad here Joshua (the previous gardener) has gone, his dad refers to the new gardener as Mr. Watford where as on the side of the van it has ”Ward & Sons Gardeners”.
The scene from the movie can be viewed here.