This is one of my favourite Mirabilis pictures (from episode 3 “A Pottage O’ Trouble”) and it conceals an iceberg’s worth of inspirational source material.
Jack’s visit to Selsey was a nod to the town’s most famous resident, the great British eccentric Sir Patrick Moore, who has instilled an interest in astronomy in many generations of young TV viewers. The germ of the idea for Comet Meadowvane will have been planted one of those magical evenings in the '60s when I was allowed to come down after midnight to watch The Sky at Night.
The cricket pavilion that houses the local museum was inspired by the collection of Sidney Sime’s artworks in Worplesdon. Sime is most famous these days as the illustrator of Lord Dunsany’s fantasy stories, and as Dunsany is probably the #1 influence on Mirabilis it was quite satisfying to be able to loop the loop with our hommages like that.
The witch bottle itself is very similar to one that I have often found myself drawn to in the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Mr Massey, the Selsey museum curator in the story, owes his name (but no other characteristics) to Dr Alan Massey, who analyses the contents of witch bottles for real.
The daffy ideas for the curios in the museum came partly from the library at Magdalen College, which still displays the fossilized wig worn by Dr Routh, president for half the 19th century and more, and partly from local museums that Roz and I have explored while staying at a whole string of Landmark Trust properties.
Lastly, though it has nothing to do with how the scene came to be inspired, take a look at that bright wintry glare in the doorway. I doubt if Nikos has ever been in England to see the quality of light on a January morning after heavy snow. But he has caught it perfectly, just as Leo has caught the grain and even the smell of the wooden planks of the hut. When you find a couple of geniuses like these guys to work alongside, you don’t have any worries. Whatever I write, inspired or not, I know they’re going to make it look fabulous.
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