For a brief period in 1989, English class was my favourite favourite. Why? Because we were doing Jane Eyre, a novel that hadn’t quite captured my attention, probably because I hadn’t much bothered to read it. Every week, during one of the lessons, we’d head off to the AV room, a dank, dingy wannabee-amphitheatre that stank of damp and mouldy furnishings. Mrs. Douglas had unearthed the 1983 BBC version for our viewing pleasure. So far, so dull. And then, he roared onto the screen, knocking over the erstwhile Jane with his blazing horsemanship. Mr. Rochester. Or, more to the point, Timothy Dalton. And my little schoolgirl heart flutter-fluttered. I dashed home, and finished Jane Eyre. The whole thing in one go.
Twas not the first time I’d encountered that Welsh lilt, those narrowed green eyes, that dark, sleek hair. Ohno. A Flash Gordon fan of note, I remembered him in his green spandex suit as he faced off against blondie on a revolving, spiky turntable suspended over thin air, got jerked about by that bitch-emperor’s daughter (I would have been so much nicer), and challenged Ming the Merciless for his throne. My Prince Barin had shown up in English class. The gods were clearly smiling.
Every Tuesday, I think it was a Tuesday, I got to watch my crush up on that plastered screen, as the romance played out. (Tip: maybe if Mrs. D had mentioned it was a romance, I would have actually read it first). I imagined I was Jane. Heck, I wished I was Jane. Me, in my billowing skirt, having my palm read by TIMOTHY DALTON, being wooed in Thornfield Hall’s grounds by TIMOTHY DALTON, me getting married to TIMOTHY DALTON. I do acknowledge that the whole bit about the wife-in-the-attic got me a little upset. When Jane vanishes off into the night, leaving him, leaving TIMOTHY DALTON, I was yelling inwardly, turn back, turn back. (With the hindsight of experience, blah, blah, blah, I would never suggest such a thing now. I’d help her pack, and hand her the name of an excellent therapist.) And then of course, he was Bond too. Swoon.
You’d think that the years would cool this ardour. You would, wouldn’t you? I had other crushes. Crushes that will remain nameless. Crushes of the what-the-hell-were-you-thinking kind. But not our Timothy. Ohno. “Have you watched Penny Dreadful?”, was the question. “No/I’ll get round to it/Just now”, was my response. But, had someone asked this, “Have you watched Penny Dreadful? It’s got Timothy Dalton in it”, I would have bargained away my soul to get my hands on a copy. And he’s seventy-ish. Seventy-ish. I love that series. It’s got TIMOTHY DALTON in it. And witches, and werewolves and Frankenstein and his monster - really, go watch that series.
Why do I mention this schoolgirl crush that seems to have persisted? Well, turns out it’s his birthday today. Happy birthday Timothy (I wonder if he’s a Tim or a Timmy? Happy birthday our Timmy? Nah.) If it wasn’t for you I doubt I’d have read Jane Eyre more than once over the years. During that time, the words, that relationship has shaped my idea of romance. See teachers, dragging us off to watch the movie can sometimes be a good thing.