My Friend Jane


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My Friend Jane

Documentary following Jane Austen's modern-day superfans as they reveal what a vicar's daughter from Hampshire means to them.


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I think when I'm reading her

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I can't help but smile.

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You feel elegant when you're reading it, I think.

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My ultimate goal is to be able to walk into a ballroom and go,

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"Ah, excellent, all the men are properly dressed."

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She is my hero in every way.

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She's witty, she's brave, she's fond of a good laugh.

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I think that the manners and the courtesies that people

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showed each other then, it was a nice way to live.

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How big of a fan am I?

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I try to explain it this way. On a scale of one to ten, I am a 12.

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I do often think, "What would Jane Austen think of what I'm doing?"

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I should imagine she'd make comments such as,

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"I do wonder what is missing from these people's lives that they

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"should hark back to old days, rather than modern ones."

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When I pick up a book by Jane Austen it is like catching up

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with a really good friend.

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"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man

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"in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

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It's just a brilliant quote. It's such a good opening line.

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I am starting to write my invitations to my ball.

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I've got 40 to get through, so it might take a while.

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I would consider myself a Janeite.

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You've sort of got people like me who have read all the novels,

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the unfinished work, the lesser-known works,

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read her letters, read everything,

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seen all the films.

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But there's not, like, a checklist of things you have to cover

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to be a Janeite.

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If you've just seen Pride And Prejudice, that's fine.

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-I'm not fussy.

-SHE LAUGHS

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Oh, no, don't put that in!

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My name is Sophie Andrews,

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I am one and 20 years old,

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and I have been a fan of Jane Austen since I was 16.

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I quite enjoy the motions of writing with this quill pen,

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although I can't imagine writing a whole novel like this.

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It would take forever.

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This is my bedroom.

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I'm not allowed to have too much of my Austen stuff

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around all of the house, so I have to limit it to just my bedroom,

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plus I've spread into my sister's old bedroom as well.

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I've got this lovely artwork,

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and then Mrs Bennet Bear,

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made for me by my friend.

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These are very pretty editions of my Austens.

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They're my personal favourites.

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These are my older editions that I've collected of her works.

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No first editions. I wish. Far too expensive.

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Artwork done for me by a friend for my 18th birthday.

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Cross-stitch done for me by a friend for my 21st birthday.

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Oh, there's all sorts of things going on.

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That's all my gloves, that's my fans, that's my shawls.

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Some more bonnets going on.

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That's all my jewellery.

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Anything that comes up on eBay that I just, I don't know,

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I just have to grab it.

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I could probably open up my own museum, I think.

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I always had a bit of a hard time at school, being a bit

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sort of "different",

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and struggled with bullying and all sorts.

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My home life at that time was just not nice,

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not enjoyable at all.

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It was not somewhere I wanted to be,

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and not something I like to remember.

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It was amazing to have Jane to escape into.

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A quote was, "Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery."

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And that's what she does,

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she doesn't include all of that in her stories.

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It's very nice to imagine yourself there

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and forget about the rest of the world.

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Through Jane Austen I found myself, I found who I'm supposed to be.

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When people do look, I mean, I really don't notice it any more.

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When I'm with other people they notice, simply cos it's unusual.

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The thing I particularly like about the Regency period has got

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to be the sheer elegance of it.

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People say, "Does it take you long to get dressed in the morning?"

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And I go, "No, it's just part of my routine."

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My name is Zack Pinsent, I'm 22, and I'm from Brighton,

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well, Hove, actually, down in Sussex,

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and I'm a period tailor.

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The only time people ever stop me is to sort of

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comment or ask, you know,

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"Are you in a play? Are you in a film?"

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And I'm just like, "No, this is just me generally."

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And they never believe me!

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What cup do you want?

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-Do you have my dog mug?

-Your dog mug?

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The one with the Chihuahua.

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People will say,

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"Well, don't you ever feel like throwing on jeans and a T-shirt?"

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And I go, "You know what? No.

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"I'd much rather wear an 18th-century banyan

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"if I'm going to slum it at home."

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Why dress up in jeans and a T-shirt when you can go along to Tesco's

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dressed as, you know, Napoleon or something?

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-Milk?

-Yes, please.

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I've always loved period clothing and all of this.

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From a very young age I've been fascinated with vampires,

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you know, the old Christopher Lee Draculas.

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A lot of the time when I'm out with the family they'll sort of forget

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that I'm dressed in period clothing and go, "Why is everyone staring?

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"Oh, yeah. You're wearing a top hat."

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I went through a phase of wanting to be an undertaker,

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which was weird.

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There aren't many seven-year-olds who are saying,

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"I want to be an undertaker!"

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I think it was more the pomp and ceremony that I enjoyed.

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Well, a lot of people would say what I make is costume,

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and, in the very essence, they're correct, in a way.

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But I'd say what I do is I make period clothing.

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I'm using 200-year-old tailoring systems to draft patterns

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and then using historical cloth and construction methods as well.

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Jane Austen's interesting, and she's funny.

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She's a very, very funny lady.

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And she describes what people are wearing in such detail.

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Well, you realise that this woman knew what she was on about

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when it came to fashion.

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BELL RINGS

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I still get really nervous whenever a client's coming over.

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Even if it's the toile fitting, you know, the first stages.

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-Hello.

-Hello. How are you?

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You're putting yourself on the line there.

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It's your work they're wearing.

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Gosh, thank you very much.

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-Oh, are these from your garden?

-Yes.

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You need to make sure it's right because once you cut the cloth

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there isn't really much going back from it.

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I've got the tail coat laid out over here.

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-It's in bits, clearly.

-Yeah.

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I think my clientele, the reason they come to me is

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because I will do it accurately, and they trust me to do that.

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-So we're going for three-button closure.

-Nice.

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If you're going to spend money on an outfit,

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why not do it properly?

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I think you've lost a little bit of weight.

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It's like you wouldn't build a Formula 1 car

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and not use carbon fibre.

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You know, I wouldn't make a Regency tail coat without using broadcloth superfine.

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-It's got the great big puff going on it.

-Yes.

-Yeah.

-Yes.

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Because you wanted the puff.

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-It's always easier to take things off than add.

-Yes.

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I've got a lot to thank Jane Austen for because without her

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we wouldn't have the sort of focus on the Regency period that we do in this country.

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You've got decorative flaps.

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-I love the collar.

-Oh, thank you very much.

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-Do you want to have a look at the buttons as well?

-Yeah, sure.

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We've got some lovely, lovely brass buttons from Savile Row!

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That fits quite nicely under there.

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He's got to get it right!

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Cos every single eye in the room will be on me.

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It is important, because if you roll up looking like you've

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made something out of curtains...

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Yeah.

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How's that feeling weight-wise?

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-Nice.

-Yeah?

-Nice. Balanced.

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Balanced. Thank you. I do try.

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"I'm not fond of the idea of my shrubberies being always approachable,

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"and I should recommend Miss Elliott to be on her guard

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"with respect to her flower garden."

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He's just such a snob.

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And taking the arms up above the head,

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if that's OK for you.

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My name is Yasim Zaman,

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and I work as a mindfulness and yoga teacher.

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Expanding the breath with this wide-focus lens of attention.

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My understanding of a Janeite is someone who really enjoys

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everything that she's written,

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her family, where she lived,

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how that had an influence on her writing.

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She has a way of getting people to just expose

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themselves as being ridiculous or hypocritical

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or totally heartless.

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"Being the means of bringing persons of obscure birth into

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"undue distinction, and raising men to honours which their fathers

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"and grandfathers never dreamt of."

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You always get to know them better with each reading.

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It's like watching a rerun on TV, you know,

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you just come across the same scenes and really look forward to it.

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I used to have a job that took me all over the world

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and sometimes I would be sent into quite difficult situations,

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quite tense or politically fraught.

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One particular posting I had, it was to North Korea.

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My room in the hotel I stayed in, it had, probably, a two-way mirror.

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You knew you were always been spied on.

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Um, and just for comfort, I used to just get into bed

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and just open my complete volume of Jane Austen and just lose myself,

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so I could forget how uncomfortable it was.

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"As it cuts up a man's youth and vigour most horribly,

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"a sailor grows old sooner than any other man."

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I'll always have, if not the complete volume,

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then I'll have something that can fit in my backpack or into my

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handbag, that I can just pull out and find my place, back into sanity.

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SHE CHUCKLES

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So I'm very excited, because I've got my first ball

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which I'm hosting myself

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coming up soon.

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It is a big year for Jane Austen, 200 years since she passed away,

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so I wanted to link into that a celebration of her life.

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I kind of feel obliged to wear it, you know...

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Having attended many myself now, I know what's involved,

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and what should be expected of me as host.

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-LAUGHTER

-I'm quite nervous.

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A cushion.

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We are here at Basildon Park in Berkshire,

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and I'm having a picnic with all my friends.

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-..the pineapples fancy or pineapples delight.

-Aawww!

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A bit of a pre-get-together before the ball in a couple of

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weeks' time.

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Just talking about the dances and what everyone's going to wear.

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-Oh, the bonnet's off!

-Bonnet's off!

-LAUGHTER

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Basically, the idea with the ball is that we're trying to dance

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-dances that were Jane's period.

-Can we dance cat in pattens?

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-We are dancing cat in pattens. Yes. We are.

-CHEERING

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But we did a dance at your birthday which had a little...

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-Ship's cook!

-That's the one.

-Yeah, it was great fun.

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We just want to come here and have fun and talk Jane Austen among

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other people that really appreciate Jane and love her in the same way.

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-Are you making a new dress for it?

-No, I'm just... I'm adjusting...

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REGENCY ERA DANCE MUSIC PLAYS

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-We're all really close.

-LAUGHTER

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It is quite surprising how close I feel to some of them.

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The fact that we've got the Austen love in common,

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that immediately connects us.

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-Oh!

-LAUGHTER

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I'm so sorry.

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You wanted some outtakes, right?

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You did want some outtakes, didn't you?

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All of her characters are still totally relatable today.

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I know plenty of flirts like Lydia Bennet

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and chatterboxes like Mrs Bennet, I know all of those.

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TYPING

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"Darcy sighed.

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"The task before him was as daunting as he had anticipated.

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"But at least she was not feigning ignorance as to his meaning."

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Jane Austen fan fiction, or JAFF for short,

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is a huge number of books, written by

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and for people who just can't have enough of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy.

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So far, I've written seven Austen-related novels,

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I'm working on my eighth now.

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One thing I can...I can say about myself is that I never thought

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I would do what I do now.

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I started off with a career in the sciences.

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I had trained as a doctor, worked as a data analyst in clinical trials.

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The career break after my son's birth changed all that.

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"She stopped and turned towards him, waiting.

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"He did not keep her waiting long."

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The genre is absolutely huge.

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Something in the region of 30-60 new ones are published every month,

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either on Amazon or on other platforms.

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I literally can't wait for the day to start.

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On a couple of occasions, I stayed up at night,

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caught into this scene, and before I knew it, it was actually daylight.

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I've been writing all through the night.

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It's absolutely...

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tremendously exciting.

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-Oh, maybe a coffee.

-OK.

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Yeah, yeah.

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My definition of a Janeite is someone who passionately

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loves Jane Austen and makes a conscious decision to live

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with Austen in his or her life in a purposeful way.

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CAMERA CLICKS Ooh!

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How big of a fan am I? I try to explain it this way.

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On a scale of one to ten, I am a 12.

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My name is Claudine Di Muzio.

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I am from Long Island, New York.

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I am an elementary school principal.

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And I am an avid reader and a Janeite blogger.

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I choose to blog about Jane Austen and think about Jane Austen

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and connect with other people who love Jane Austen in so many

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different ways that carry, really, many threads throughout my life.

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Look at that wallpaper. That is pretty, isn't it?

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Jane Austen fan fiction really appealed to me

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because I always wondered, "What happened to Darcy and Elizabeth?

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"What was their story after they were married?"

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We know how Jane brought them together,

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but I really wanted to read about them as a couple.

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We first came across each other online about two years ago,

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when she wrote to tell me how much she enjoyed my first book.

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I then discovered that she had many other books,

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so I started devouring all of her variations.

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I think I read them all consecutively.

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And I thought, "Wow, this is top-tier JAFF,

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"I want to reach out to this author

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"and just let her know she is amazing."

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We started communicating on social media,

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and for a long time I was hoping that she'd come over

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and we can do a Pride And Prejudice pilgrimage tour together.

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And I was just so excited that...

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it's going to happen very, very soon.

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Just knowing that she is going to be right next to me soon,

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and I'll be able to have a real face-to-face conversation with her,

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it's just incredible.

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Today, here, of all places, at Jane Austen's house, it's

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a very good moment.

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People who never would have met otherwise

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and they're brought together by their love of Jane.

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-So wonderful to meet you!

-You're here! Oh, my goodness!

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I'm so excited to see you! So excited!

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I'm never going to let you go.

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We're going to take you with us.

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-Oh, I'm going to keep you here.

-LAUGHTER

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Oh, wow!

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This is incredible. Look at this.

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Wow. Amazing.

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-This is amazing.

-It's wonderful, isn't it?

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Just to think that she lived here, wrote here,

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had her breakfast here.

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Just unbelievable to think she could sit there and write so much.

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My real-life friends who are not Austenites don't really

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get it, but people like Claudine just get it 100%.

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To think that just

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so many of the stories that millions of people loved for over 200

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years were generated at this very place, at this very view.

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I kind of see so many things in my life through this lens of

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how Austen experienced things as a woman.

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She was able to persevere throughout her life, even though she lived in a

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time when the course of her life was really very different

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from what most women either wanted or chose for themselves.

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-The ring.

-The ring.

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Jane's famous ring.

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She didn't have a lot of possessions. Right?

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-I mean, compared to what we have today.

-Mmm. No.

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-Just the average person.

-Absolutely.

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It's very unpretentious jewellery, just...just like her.

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Simple. Beautiful and simple.

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Right, next at the top. One...

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The thing that struck me, reading Jane Austen's novels,

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was that the society she wrote about, the genteel society,

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was exactly like the Bangladeshi Indian society that I grew up in.

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And start again.

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We are at my weekly Regency dance class,

0:18:490:18:53

with the Duke of Wellington's Dancers.

0:18:530:18:55

Ladies, right-hand...

0:18:550:18:58

Men, slide.

0:18:580:19:00

We're really being put through our paces today.

0:19:000:19:02

Garth's being particularly picky about our footwork.

0:19:020:19:06

Ronde, ronde.

0:19:060:19:08

It's a marriage market, when I was growing up.

0:19:080:19:12

And exactly like in Jane Austen's time.

0:19:120:19:16

You were a commodity, passing from your...

0:19:160:19:19

from your father to your husband.

0:19:190:19:23

Reading the books, I just thought, "Wait, I've been there.

0:19:230:19:25

"I know this situation."

0:19:250:19:27

Men, moulinet.

0:19:280:19:31

We've been together a very, very long time.

0:19:430:19:47

As one of my friends once said, "Life's too short to train two."

0:19:470:19:50

-Yeah.

-So, we remain married.

0:19:500:19:53

Yeah, OK.

0:19:530:19:55

We were married in 1980,

0:19:580:20:00

and our courtship was fraught with problems.

0:20:000:20:05

Every time I went along to Ros's flat, thinking,

0:20:050:20:08

"Oh, yes, this is it," there'd be a bloke there...

0:20:080:20:10

-SHE LAUGHS

-..playing the guitar or playing the saxophone,

0:20:100:20:14

-while she played the piano.

-This is true.

0:20:140:20:16

And I used to think, "Well, she's just giving me a bit of a hint,

0:20:160:20:19

"isn't she?" So...

0:20:190:20:20

I would leave it alone for a few months, and then think,

0:20:200:20:22

"Oh, I really do like her."

0:20:220:20:24

I'm a solicitor, and my work is to work in the Crown Courts

0:20:280:20:32

in fairly serious criminal trials.

0:20:320:20:35

These are called front fall breeches, and when the gentleman

0:20:350:20:39

wanted to go to the toilet, he undid these two buttons.

0:20:390:20:42

I'm a bit of a show-off. It's part of my job.

0:20:420:20:44

HE LAUGHS

0:20:440:20:46

I mean, I wear a wig on my work days!

0:20:460:20:49

And this flap folds down,

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enabling him to do what he wants to do.

0:20:520:20:54

SHE PLAYS REGENCY ERA MUSIC

0:20:570:21:00

My passion for music has always been there.

0:21:020:21:05

I always wanted to play the old instruments, and I don't know why.

0:21:050:21:09

I just knew I always wanted to.

0:21:090:21:11

I managed to buy a spinet, which I absolutely love

0:21:130:21:16

and is like a baby harpsichord.

0:21:160:21:19

I just adore it.

0:21:190:21:21

Having the sounds of that echoing round the house is absolutely

0:21:210:21:24

-wonderful, isn't it?

-Mmm.

0:21:240:21:26

This is the only piece of music that's referred

0:21:280:21:32

to in the Jane Austen books at all, and that's Robin Adair.

0:21:320:21:37

My father was an engineer.

0:21:430:21:45

I've had a practicality inherited from him.

0:21:450:21:49

And I always liked the idea of having something to

0:21:490:21:51

show for my efforts.

0:21:510:21:53

Well, I'm the luckiest woman in the world,

0:21:540:21:56

cos my husband makes my clothes.

0:21:560:21:58

I started making the first one.

0:22:010:22:03

Well, yes.

0:22:030:22:05

Because I do know how to make clothes from normal modern patterns.

0:22:050:22:08

And you said... You looked at it, and you didn't actually say it,

0:22:080:22:11

but you obviously thought, "Crikey, she's making a mess of that!"

0:22:110:22:15

To me, it was no more than engineering with cloth.

0:22:170:22:20

But then, of course, Ros can't wear the same thing twice,

0:22:220:22:24

can she? So we had to have new dresses all the time.

0:22:240:22:28

And now we've got several.

0:22:280:22:30

What do you think Jane Austen would think of this passion?

0:22:320:22:35

It's a brilliant question. I don't know.

0:22:350:22:37

-It's a very good question.

-LAUGHTER

0:22:370:22:39

She'd probably think we were a bit sad, really, wouldn't she?

0:22:390:22:42

She probably would.

0:22:420:22:43

I mean, if you read some of the things she says in her novels,

0:22:430:22:46

they're very cutting.

0:22:460:22:47

I should imagine she'd make comments such as,

0:22:470:22:49

"I do wonder what is missing from these people's lives that they

0:22:490:22:53

"should hark back to old days rather than modern ones."

0:22:530:22:55

SHE LAUGHS Yeah, she may well say that.

0:22:550:22:58

I have to say, the balls are what I enjoy the most.

0:23:120:23:17

So, it's a big day today.

0:23:210:23:23

The ball has arrived.

0:23:230:23:26

I can't believe it's here.

0:23:280:23:30

It's been a long time, sort of all the preparations and everything.

0:23:300:23:34

I just hope it all comes together today.

0:23:340:23:36

It's going to be different to the sort of, you know,

0:23:370:23:40

the hostess in the centre of attention.

0:23:400:23:43

Mostly I just want everyone to enjoy themselves.

0:23:430:23:46

The hair I am going for today is inspired by Jennifer Ehle's

0:23:480:23:52

hairstyle in the 1995 production of Pride And Prejudice.

0:23:520:23:56

We'll welcome them in with a bowl of negus, which is

0:23:570:24:00

a traditional Regency era sort of punch.

0:24:000:24:04

Just got to get the hair finished, get the dress on,

0:24:040:24:07

and then I'll be...

0:24:070:24:09

ready to hostess.

0:24:090:24:10

Going to balls is really an amazing experience.

0:24:160:24:20

It's completely different from normal life.

0:24:200:24:22

Welcome.

0:24:220:24:24

When you introduce yourself to people,

0:24:240:24:25

you just kind of automatically curtsy, and the men bow back to you.

0:24:250:24:29

-LAUGHTER

-I'm going to hug you.

0:24:290:24:31

I suppose my ultimate goal is to be able to walk into a ballroom and

0:24:310:24:35

go, "Ah, excellent. All the men are properly dressed."

0:24:350:24:40

Nice to see you again.

0:24:400:24:42

People will start to talk, as well, in a more Regency way.

0:24:420:24:45

Hello! Welcome.

0:24:450:24:48

I think that the manners and the courtesies that people showed each

0:24:480:24:52

other then, it was a nice way to live.

0:24:520:24:54

It's just amazing that all these people are stepping back in time.

0:24:570:25:02

I actually find it quite bizarre.

0:25:020:25:04

It's wonderful, but it's bizarre.

0:25:040:25:06

Hello!

0:25:070:25:09

I am just so excited and a little nervous,

0:25:090:25:12

because it's my first time at an event like this.

0:25:120:25:16

Hello! Oh, my gosh, hello!

0:25:160:25:19

It's going to be such fun.

0:25:190:25:21

It's the first ball that we are going to together,

0:25:210:25:23

and hopefully one of many.

0:25:230:25:24

Everybody, to a certain extent, is trying to recreate 200 years ago.

0:25:260:25:31

APPLAUSE

0:25:310:25:34

I'm thrilled to welcome you all here today,

0:25:340:25:36

to my "Gilder Of Every Pleasure" ball.

0:25:360:25:39

My sincere thanks to all of you for coming here,

0:25:390:25:43

and enjoy your dancing as we honour our friend Jane.

0:25:430:25:47

APPLAUSE

0:25:470:25:50

THEY PLAY REGENCY ERA MUSIC

0:25:500:25:52

To the right. And turn to the left.

0:25:520:25:55

And back again.

0:25:570:26:00

First couple, down the dance.

0:26:000:26:03

And back.

0:26:070:26:09

And pass.

0:26:090:26:10

A lot of dress-comparing and "Who's got the biggest fashions

0:26:100:26:14

"and things?" goes on.

0:26:140:26:16

The first thing you do is look at what everybody's wearing.

0:26:160:26:18

I mean, that is the first thing.

0:26:180:26:20

Well done.

0:26:200:26:21

So, I've been talking to the chap who's really keen on clothes,

0:26:210:26:24

and of course it makes me feel completely inadequate,

0:26:240:26:26

wearing this, you know.

0:26:260:26:28

You really put yourself on show,

0:26:280:26:30

and you open yourself up to a lot of criticism.

0:26:300:26:33

I wouldn't say it's quite as malicious or competitive...

0:26:330:26:38

Hmm, no, competitive, it can be competitive.

0:26:380:26:41

He came up to me and he said,

0:26:410:26:42

"Oh, no, that's a Laughing Moon pattern, isn't it?"

0:26:420:26:44

Just... "How did you know?"

0:26:440:26:46

"Oh, you can tell them a mile off."

0:26:460:26:48

You need to be all-inclusive, you know, which is exactly what we do.

0:26:480:26:51

You know, we don't discriminate against anyone in this hobby.

0:26:510:26:54

It's fantastic.

0:26:540:26:55

It all seems to be going really well.

0:26:570:26:59

Everyone seems to be having a really good time.

0:26:590:27:01

I still get that real thrill each time, with everyone dressed like

0:27:010:27:03

this and the music, and it feels, you know, a little bit like you're

0:27:030:27:06

200 years ago, in one of her novels.

0:27:060:27:08

It's great.

0:27:080:27:10

I loved it.

0:27:110:27:13

I loved the dancing so much more than I ever expected to,

0:27:130:27:16

even though I am not nearly as refined or as practised

0:27:160:27:19

as the ladies and gentlemen inside.

0:27:190:27:21

I think Jane would be absolutely amazed that, 200 years later,

0:27:340:27:39

we're all dancing jigs and having a wild time.

0:27:390:27:44

You know, she said she was wild for dancing.

0:27:440:27:47

So here we are, wild for dancing as well.

0:27:470:27:50

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:27:520:27:56

Thank you all for coming.

0:27:560:27:58

"The person, be it gentleman or lady,

0:28:010:28:03

"who has not pleasure in a good novel must be intolerably stupid."

0:28:030:28:08

LAUGHTER

0:28:080:28:09

I think Jane would be thrilled that her novels are still

0:28:090:28:13

enduring as much as they are.

0:28:130:28:16

I think she would approve of the way that we celebrate it,

0:28:160:28:19

and think that we're just having a good time.

0:28:190:28:22

What we do now, having picnics, going to balls, all of this,

0:28:220:28:26

it's all escapism.

0:28:260:28:29

It's your little sort of happy world to jump into.

0:28:290:28:33

You know, pop along to a ball every now and then

0:28:330:28:36

and just forget the modern world.

0:28:360:28:37

Jane Austen may have died 200 years ago but the Pride and Prejudice author's legacy lives on to this day. Prepare to be dazzled and charmed in equal measure by the writer's modern-day superfans - 'Janeites', who live, read and breathe the Regency period - as they reveal what a vicar's daughter from Hampshire means to them. Hold on to your bonnets folks, there's bound to be a Mr Darcy somewhere close by causing hearts to skip a beat.