Saturday, September 20, 2014

Grand Budapest Hotel

Finally saw this last night. What a wonderful movie. Am looking forward to watching it again. Such good storytelling, so many talented actors having fun with their roles, such overall excellent film making.

Dear Idiot Jihadis

D

Dear idiot Jihadis,

You evil, fucked in the head morons. You are so dumb it defies words. You are such idiots. It's like you have Idiot Disease or something. What the fuck is wrong with you? Don't you realise how fucked in the head you are? Beheadings? Really? You fucking morons.

If there is a God, and there well may be, he has created this amazing universe and this amazing planet. He has created this amazing diversity of life on Earth. He has instilled in us all the capacity for love and respect. If there is a God, and there could be, he would probably expect appreciation for this wonderful gift. To create beauty is wonderful.

But you choose hatred and killing. For some some virgins in some imaginary paradise.

You dumb, misogynistic fuckwits.

If your delusional idea of paradise is so perfect, just go. Go now. Don't worry about us infidels, just go. Slit your own throats and go to paradise and your multitudes of virgins. You go to your paradise now and let the rest of us live in our civilised, infidel, kaffir peace, you murderous idiots.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Happy Father's Day

Apparently it was Father's Day today.  Meh.

Friday, September 05, 2014

A Tip: Treat Good People Well

One of the reasons The Dreaded One and I started our own cafe was because we both had terrible experiences at roughly the same time of working for awful employers. We're hard workers, it's just how we roll. And we were treated like shit and taken for granted. At roughly the same time, we both said enough, and quit.

We both decided that if we were working this hard, we should be doing it for ourselves. That way, we can choose the people we work with, choose the music we want to listen to while we work, and we can do nice things for the people who choose to work for us, like having the decency to give them the tips they have earned.

We are now still working hard. We're very much hands-on. It's a bit of a struggle. Who knows what's going to happen.

But you get these little, lovely moments, these small gestures that mean a lot to you. You get good customer feedback. You get the random positive online review. You enjoy a lengthy conversation with someone who has chosen to work for you, and they're talking and you find yourself thinking I'm really glad I met you. You're pretty fucking cool. Whatever happens in the future, right now I like you a lot.

And if you're really lucky, these employees you quite like will describe you as pals, and will want to hang out and have drinks with you after work hours.

And they will bring this up with you prior to you giving them the previous couple of months' tips.

I think we're getting some of this thing right.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Stephen House Interview, Almost Face To Face





Stephen House, Almost Face To Face.

 

Written by Lee Bemrose


Almost Face To Face
is the latest dramatic monologue from peripatetic award-winning writer/performer Stephen House. It's been a couple of years since the South Australian drifter performed his quite powerful Appalling Behaviour here, so I caught up with him to find out what he's been up to in that time, what drives him, and what to expect from his latest work.

So, what have you been up to since your last visit to Melbourne?
 My last show, Appalling Behaviour, kept touring. I did an Adelaide return (local council shows), a Tasmania Theatre Company season and a season at The Street Theatre in Canberra. I then spent some time in Sydney. I did an incredible writing development project with some blind artists at Tutti Ensemble SA, and had an extended stint in Whyalla SA doing a community youth theatre project for D-faces Youth Arts. Then as I often do… I disappeared from Australia and spent many months in Bali, Thailand and India – travelling, writing and existing.  

How was Appalling Behaviour received in those other cities?
The Hobart and Canberra seasons were both very successful and had incredible responses and reviews. It was wonderful to see it sit in a bigger company program at The Street Theatre (where it saw its 100th show). It always astounds me how that show pulls people in and sees them discuss what it means to them and what it says about our current world. It still feels like it’s an important theatre piece for the here and now. And that’s rewarding. Also, it was selected for publication by The Australian Script Centre. 

Have you ever taken Appalling Behaviour overseas? Or is it something you would contemplate? 
Well no, I haven’t, but just recently I’ve been in a conversation with a company in New York who are keen – which would be awesome. Also, for the last year or so I have been chatting to a company in India who are also keen. And if I do take it overseas next year I’m pretty sure I’d head to Edinburgh Fringe. I’ve never done an Edinburgh Fringe. So yes, it is kind of looking like maybe travelling overseas in 2015.  

How long has travel been important to you?
I’ve been pretty much on the road since living in the back of my station wagon for a few years when I was an 18 year old hippie surfer. And I still am on the road (not in the back of the car... well, not too often these days). That’s about 35 years travelling. Fuck… where has my life gone! I’m always travelling. Though I do have occasional bouts where I settle in somewhere for a few months a time.  

Why is travel so important to you?
I feel alive, challenged, inspired, amazed, free, on the very edge (sometimes), and excited. I’m addicted to being on the road, often alone, but not always. I love new people that come into my world for an hour, a day or night, or a month… or forever – crazy, beautiful encounters that come along, like unexpected gifts. But also sometimes I feel isolated, lonely, frightened, confused, excluded, and wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life. But all the feelings that go with just disappearing into the world and sometimes not knowing where I’m going are real, and make me feel so very much like I am living life.  

In what circumstances do you feel excluded?Just now and then in another place in the world, watching locals go about their familiar lives, it hits me that I am often an outsider, a wanderer, a nomad… this isn’t my place, or my home or my way. I have flown in like a migrating bird stopping off on a long flight to somewhere else. Excluded kind of; but that doesn’t always mean feeling bad though, sometimes it means just being on the outside of, looking in. It can also be empowering, to not be a part of something.  

Do you feel you are more creatively stimulated when in a foreign country?
I’m quite creative wherever I am. Even in my new Melbourne life (a room I just scored in Brunswick Street), I will feel inspired, I’m sure. I often have a current project I’m working on when I travel. I’ve just come back from several months Indonesia and Thailand. I was learning lines for Almost Face To Face while I travelled. I was also thinking about my novel (still in thinking and writing stage). Often when I’m in another place I do have a new idea, so take a few notes. In fact the first draft of Almost Face To Face, was written years ago on an Australia Council Irish literature residency, then put it away and forgotten about. Sometimes it takes me years to get back to something that sprung into my mind while travelling around somewhere. 

You don't exactly do the tourist thing when overseas, do you. Typically, what do you do when in a new city? What kind of experiences do seek out?
I’m generally looking for somewhere new that I want to live for a while, or returning to a place from before. I have a few regular stops. One is Rishikesh in India. In Rishikesh, I do Yoga classes with amazing masters, I wander alone along the banks on Ganges and bathe in her clean icy holy waters – direct from the Himalayas. I wander through dense city throngs and lose myself, completely. I catch up with old local mates, meet travellers from all over the world, and I write, think, and wonder. In big cities, I usually have different routines than in quieter places (more art, music, theatre, partying etc.) After Melbourne I’m heading back to Bali, where I’m making a life. My days there are often writing, swimming and surfing, and wonderful mates from all over Indonesia… and the world, other nomads. I also try to work out how the hell I’m going to survive! But don’t get me on to that! How the hell am I going to continue to survive, like this? 

Your new play... tell us a little about it.
A fragile travelling writer arrives in Dublin after a devastating stint in Paris. His trip to Dublin is not without a few dangerous elements. He quickly falls into a chaotic underworld, inhabited by off-beat characters, and finds himself living in a small upstairs room with a woman trapped there by the way her life has gone. But he ventures out on to the street and falls further into the hidden underbelly of Dublin. His creative muddled and indulgent life sees him fall into this new world and write it all down (again). But nothing comes without repercussions and consequences, and he is finally forced to face up to what he has become in life. It’s a play about having the courage to move on from what is no longer needed or valid, and having the empathy and understanding to realise that not everyone else can do that. Some of us are trapped by who and what we are, and always will be. And that’s ok. The play hits that home, I think. 

So how autobiographical is it?
There is a part of me and my story in every work I create. Even
Appalling Behaviour had more elements of me in it than people could ever know. There are parts of me and my life in all of my plays, and there are parts that grew from those parts and took their own life. My characters are not me, but they are a big part of me and my life, and I’m a big part of them and their life. But I never reveal too much about what (exact) part is me and real. I fall into worlds and write about them. I utterly live the worlds I write about.

What kind of play is
Almost Face To Face? Drama? Comedy? Other?
It’s a drama with elements of stream of consciousness story-telling and streaks of dark comedy. But others are better judges of that than me.


Given that
Almost Face To Face is set in Ireland, a country famed for its story tellers, do you thing you will take it to Ireland?I would love to take it to Ireland, and have thought about it. If fact regarding your question, the story telling tradition of Ireland had an effect on the style of this play and my inspiration for writing it. I performed a story telling type piece in Dublin many years ago. That experience has always stayed with me and had an effect on me as a writer performer, as did my time living in Ireland.

The dramatic monologue (it is what you do, isn't it?) would appear to be the most difficult form of story telling. Why do you do it when you could simply write a story to be read or a play for actors to perform?
Each time I embark on this journey with this form, I think why, why, why? It is so hard to crack. You can’t tell, not completely. It needs to be crafted in a way that some things are told, some are discovered and that the story filters out through a range of forms working together. Maybe the reason I do it is that it is such a challenge to get right. I love literary challenges. I never know if it is working until I get it in front of an audience. Its okay if they don’t like it (not everyone falls into the unusual worlds that do), but if they are with my story and engaged, then it has worked. That’s what I aim for. That they follow my story and want to know what happens. Dramatic Monologue for an hour alone on stage is a real challenge. Ah, scary! Why am I doing this, again?

What kinds of people will Almost Face To Face appeal to most?
I like to think that it’s a moving, human, sad and sometimes funny and beautiful story bubbling out of the underworld of Dublin. I think (and hope) that most people who see it will be taken on a real ride, somewhere special. My work is written for everyone; not only those who like to take risks. People that are interested in the human experience and condition should go with this work.

Do you have a line or passage from the play that encapsulates its spirit?
I don’t know if it encapsulates the spirit of the play but it encapsulates that moment of the play, and it’s a piece that often brings tears to my eyes, performing it…

Don’t’ go, he says. His call is like a knife in my heart. I so want take him away from this and them – from all that I am and have been too… find some of what is dragging me to escape and try for change and offer it up to him. But I can’t… I just don’t know how to give him anything at all, except money… I’m incapable… because I am struggling so hard to somehow help myself… to try to not be what I‘ve been for so, so long… that I have nothing left to help him along. And I’m nearly an old man. Fuck, what happened? Where do the years go?

Almost Face To Face is part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Season is at La Mama theatre from September 17 - September 28, 2014.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Master Class, 45 Downstairs, Review




Master Class

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose.



Initially, I confused Maria Callas with Diamanda Galas. The latter, I thought, would be a great subject for a play. When I realised my mistake I was a little disappointed because although Maria Callas did indeed lead an eventful life and was obviously worthy of celebrating in the form of a play, I don't really like opera. And after reading the press release properly, Master Class was going to contain some singing. Oh Dear. I wasn't sure about this. I mean, opera, really?

Right from the start, however, this play cast a spell. It's a loving tribute to La Divina, very funny, warm, and gives great insight into what it takes to be a great performer, to really excel at any creative vocation. I loved the writing, the acting, the structure of the story and – get this – the singing. Not ever having been to a live opera performance I have no idea why I thought I didn't like opera. The power of this kind of singing is extraordinary, and I do believe I'll be following up on this epiphany.

In 1971, after her career had peaked, Maria Callas conducted a series of master classes at the Julliard School in New York. Maria Mercedes takes to the stage as Maria Callas, an imposing, demanding figure oozing confidence, an acute sense of self and an enviable reserve of quips, one liners and comebacks. The character comes across as hard, driven and passionate. At times she seems more passionate about the artistic process than the feelings of her students (we, the audience, are addressed as her students), but there are moments where a couple of the students stand up against her and prove their talent when their tutor softens. You can't be this passionate about creativity and be a complete ice queen.

As the students finally get to sing, memories are triggered, actual recordings of Maria Callas are cued in their aural sepia tones, and Maria Mercedes does a wonderful job of revealing what it was like to be Maria Callas: to grow up poor through the Second World War; of what it was like to struggle with her weight, her craft and the importance of her perfectionism. We hear of her relationship with Aristotle Onassis and of what it was like to triumph against the odds to become La Divina. It's all quite nostalgic whilst remaining current and relevant to anyone unfortunate enough to want to succeed in the arts. These more personal, nostalgic sections are perfectly counter-balanced by the frequent laugh-out-loud ones.

And so we come to that singing. Other cast members were Cameron Thomas, kind of a piano-playing sidekick, and Georgia Wilkinson, Robert Barbaro and Anna-Louise Cole as the students in the spotlight. It was a revelation to me to be so close to fellow human beings with access to such rich, stirring vocals. Clearly there is a magical recipe of natural talent and rigorous training at play here, and these voices, mere human voices, have the power to stir emotions. It seems I don't dislike opera as much as I thought I did.

45 Downstairs was the perfect venue for this story to be told. It's a very open space, much like a small lecture auditorium, making the whole experience quite evocative of being back there, back then in the presence of La Divina.

Bravo.

At 45 Downstairs, Flinders Lane, Melbourne until August 28.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Conversations With Our Customers: Oh Lord



A guy places his coffee order. I ask him if he wants a copy of the receipt. He says, "Yes, I should take it or my boss might get angry.

I go full Hoges Ozzie wink 'n nod as I look at his preist collar and say, "You don't want to make your boss angry."

I really don't know if this was funny or lame Dad joke.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Silver Screen Daydream


(c) Lee Bemrose, obv.

And just as suddenly as she had come into his life, she was gone. For a while Ewan was in a mild state of shock. He felt the way you do when you walk out of a movie into the real world but your mind is reluctant to leave the movie behind. He was stunned that the whole thing had happened at all. Things like that simply didn’t happen to him. He was Ewan. Loner. Loser. He was not without some off-kilter charm, and he was not entirely unattractive, and at least he had a job, but he was still just Ewan.


They met in a bar. Only unlike in the movies, Ewan was drunk and alone, his mind some place he would never go to, playing out some scene that would never happen. Reality had dissolved. Ben had left but Ewan had decided to stay for one more drink. There were loud people all around, normal people with lots of friends and good jobs and interesting things to say. A B-grade comedy was playing silently on the wall-mounted television, and Ewan could pretend he was watching it, if he needed to. But he was thinking about this place, Paris, thinking about being an artist in Paris. He wondered what the air smelled like in Paris, wondered what the sky looked like, wondered what it felt like to stroll down the Champs Elysee at night, wondered how the sun felt on your skin sitting on the grass by the Eiffel Tower. He imagined a whole life where it was okay to be alone, where he didn’t have to speak, where his art justified his existence. He spent a little time wondering what kind of artist he might be. He thought about Lucy Jordan. He liked that old song, “... at the age of thirty seven, she knew she’d never...”

That’s when she sat down at his table. She spoke to him like they were old and comfortable friends.

What are you thinking?” she asked him.

It was only then that Ewan realised he had been smiling. How long had he been smiling like that? Jesus Christ, he must have looked mad. Alone and smiling at a sad song. And drunk. How did he get so drunk?

Sorry?” he said over the noise, desperately stalling for time, wondering what was wrong with her. She looked normal enough, even a little on the attractive side. She was thin, serious looking, was wearing a scarf because scarves were fashionable this season, and a soft leather jacket that he would later learn she had bought in Portobello Road. She pushed her thick-rimmed glasses back up on her nose and sipped her red wine, then asked him again.

What are you thinking?”

Ewan shrugged and sipped his beer and wished he had been drinking wine. What was going on here?

Nothing.” Ewan replied. “Nothing really. Why do you ask?”

You looked, I don’t know, far away, like you were dreaming of another life, in another place.”

Ewan looked at her properly then. He wondered how he looked as he smiled at her. He hoped he looked friendly and not just creepy. She was sitting at the table, her elbows resting on the table top, arms folded. She was looking right at him. They could be good friends, Ewan thought. Mates. Maybe more. To anyone who looked. Ewan wished that Ben would come back now. God that would be perfect. He wanted someone to see this. He looked around the pub as though there might be someone he knew.

I was thinking about... I’ve been thinking about going to Paris,” Ewan said. “For a holiday.” And thought what? He’d been thinking no such thing. But he sounded so convincing he almost believed himself.

She folded her arms tighter, scrunched that cherry red leather. “Ah, Paris. I like Paris.”

It was then that Ewan noticed she had a slight accent. She sounded Australian, but British too. He liked that. It made her exotic. This was too good. Where the hell was Ben? Ewan thought about texting him and asking him to come back. But no, that would be stupid. She would end up leaving with Ben. Ben could fuck off and find his own exotic girl.

You’ve been? To Paris?”

I go all the time. I used to live there.”

Ewan swooned a little. He’d never had anyone this cool talk to him like this. She had lived in Paris and she was talking to Ewan. Ben’s not going to believe this...fuck Ben, stop thinking about Ben. Think about her. Don’t lose her. Don’t scare her off. Act cool. Play the role. Be cool. Can you be cool? Yeah, yeah, I just need to relax. Offer to buy her a drink... holy shit, why did you get so drunk? She finds out you’re pissed she’ll be out of here. Fucking hell, how do I keep this going? What do I say? She’s lived in Paris and I’ve been nowhere...say something and say it now or she’ll get up and go to another table...

Wow. That must have been good. Living in Paris.” Ewan was a little impressed with how calm he sounded, and soon they were talking. Just talking. They told each other their names and she told him about Paris and he listened and nodded as though he were taking notes for his planned holiday. They had more drinks, and lost themselves in talk, and Ewan was funny and she laughed and she made him laugh, and somewhere in the back of Ewan’s mind was the realisation that this was possibly the happiest he had been in his entire, uneventful little life.

But it got better. In the following weeks there was more laughter and more drinking and more talking and more sex than Ewan had ever imagined. Well perhaps not more than he had imagined; he had a lot of imaginary sex. But it was more sex than he had ever really expected to have with the same person. They even fucked in the park a couple of times, in broad daylight. But mainly they did it at his place or hers, on the couch or in the shower, sometimes in the middle of cooking a meal when their mouths tasted of wine. It was delicious, raw, dirty sex and Ewan couldn’t shake that feeling that he was living in a movie. It was all just too good. It made Ewan feel like a different person. It made him feel like the person he always should have been. It made him feel like the lifetime of bumbling fuck-ups and mistakes had never happened.


And then she was gone. She went back to London, back to her life. And Ewan went back to his life, back to being Ewan. They both agreed that it had all been fun, but that was all. It was just one of those things. Ewan hoped that the manner he adopted indicated that this kind of thing happened to him all the time. Like, hey, I’m cool, whatever, it’s been a blast, have a happy life.

But that feeling lingered long after she had gone. Did that really happen? Had a woman really walked up to him in a bar? Had they really had what would have been referred to in a review, if it had been a movie, a torrid affair? How had it happened? Why Ewan? Was it ever going to happen again?

For a while Ewan tried to make it happen again, but it just didn’t work. He took to smiling at strangers in bars and pubs, but they didn’t see him. Or they ignored him. Just as they always had. In time he stopped trying to catch their attention and just accepted that it was never going to happen again. The world was simply too preoccupied with itself to bother with Ewan, just as it had always been. And in any case, the truth of it was, when he dug down deep enough and forced himself to look, the truth was that he didn’t want it to happen again. Not with someone new. Cora, it seemed, had taken something of Ewan away with her.

Ewan went back to his mundane job and his small group of misfit friends and getting quietly drunk with Ben, and dreaming of another life, in another place.


Ewan laughed when the first postcard arrived. It was so kitsch. A red double decker bus, a London Bobby, Big Ben and London Bridge, some stupid line about London. He flipped it over and read and smiled to himself. It was just a short note saying that she had been thinking of him and hoped he was well. He smiled until there were tears in his eyes. He had not really expected to hear from her, but he was glad he had. He went to the newsagent and bought the worst postcard he could find. It was so tacky it was brilliant.

Over the months he built up quite a collection of awful postcards from London and Paris (she had to catch the train to Paris from time to time for her job. Imagine!) and he visited all the tawdry souvenir shops in town to hunt down the ugliest of them from Sydney. It made more sense, of course, to email or instant message, but somehow they knew that this was better, that they both enjoyed this little game, the suspense of checking the letterbox each day and the small thrill of receiving the postcard. Ewan even enjoyed, in a strange way, the disappointment of the empty letterbox. It meant there would probably be something there the following day. Or the day after that. They had such a similar sense of humour that he knew she would be doing the same. That was the thing; they had clicked. And it got Ewan thinking.


Ewan looked at the ticket. He couldn’t believe it. Who would have thought? And his passport. His own passport. He shook his head in wonder. He looked at the photo again. He should have held his chin up a little more. Slight double chin. Never mind. He smelled the passport. He looked down at the blank pages. He smiled. “Thank you Lucy Jordan,” he said quietly.


Ewan had everything planned. Mrs Thompson, his neighbour, would call in and water the plants and feed the cat. He had considered asking Ben or his mother but they would snoop; Mrs T, he felt sure, would not. But he hid his stash of porn in a locked suitcase just to be sure. He said goodbye to Owen, trying, he knew, to load the moment with more drama than was reasonable. He just about conjured tears, but it was no good; the cat quite clearly did not give a shit. One last look around his neat unit, and it was time to go.

Ewan knew he shouldn’t feel as excited as he did as he swung his suitcase into the boot of the cab. But he couldn’t help it. He closed the boot and walked to the side and hesitated before taking the back seat.

Domestic or international, the driver asked in a thick Mediterranean accent and with little interest.

Ewan paused a beat before intimating “International,” as though it was the kind of thing he said all the time. The taxi driver grunted as he pulled out into the traffic. Ewan looked at the security camera mounted above the rearview mirror. He did something subtle with his mouth before turning to gaze out the window. Three quarter profile. Perfect.


This is no good at all, Ewan thought as he took his new woolen coat off and wiped the sweat from his brow; he was trying to get into the spirit of things, but the London weather was not co-operating. 26 degrees and sunny? He wanted fog and frost and bitter cold, not summer heat. Didn’t fly half way around the world for something I could have at home. He considered saying this out loud so that a passerby might realise that we was an international traveler, but he realised he was being foolish; he was not here for the weather. He would save this line for another, more appropriate time. An uttered complaint about the food perhaps. Or the wine. Yes, he would peruse a wine list and mutter “Koonunga Hill?” And deliver his line and the waiter would be suitably impressed.

Ewan walked and walked that first day, eventually taking in too many tourist attractions. He had not intended to walk so far, nor see so many tourist attractions. He had actually intended to go for a bit of a stroll, wait for the tiredness to set in and go back to his hotel room for a sleep. But he got lost. Each time he thought he knew where he was it proved to be a trick, and there was another tourist attraction which he decided to see in case he never found it again. Eventually, hot and tired and unable to take in another single piece of historical information, he placed his fate in the hands of a London cabbie, a nice enough bloke who didn’t have the decency to ask where Ewan was from. Back in his hotel room Ewan lay down on his bed, his body aching, and closed his eyes on the blur of centuries of history.


And woke confused. Such dreams. But what is this? This place? These dreams. This room. What time? But day or night? And why don’t I know? Oh god, they were beheaded on this very spot? What? What? Beheaded? Who beheads? Who got beheaded?

When his world came back into focus, Ewan giggled a little; he was already looking forward to being home and telling anyone who cared to listen about all the things he had seen.


On the second day Ewan decided to deliver the postcard. He hadn’t wanted to visit on the first day; that would have seemed odd, he knew that. He had hoped he might bump into her in the streets of London. But no such luck. So it was back to the original plan. And here he was, standing on her doorstep thinking yellow, her door is yellow. As yellows went it was not bad, but yellow was not his favourite colour. In fact it was probably his least favourite colour. Sometimes purple really bugged him, but purple was usually in some sort of context, like hippies or something, and it could well have been the context and not the actual colour that bugged him; what use had hippies ever been? But yellow... yellow needed no context, and in fact it was doubtful yellow even had a context. Certainly there was no connotation or implication that sprung to mind... canaries perhaps, although it’s not like you always look at yellow and immediately think ah, canaries... why do you do this? Just knock on the yellow door and get this started. She will laugh so hard when she sees you... but what if she doesn’t laugh? Or worse, what if she laughs too hard? It should be okay. Waited two days. Wait on – flew half way around the planet and waited two days and that makes it all right? My God - is this not a case of stalking? Am I a stalker? She will let you know soon enough if she thinks you are stalking her, now will you just knock on the yellow door please?

Ewan raised his hand to the yellow door and paused. He thought about the thing, the part of him that Cora had taken. It was a small thing. He imagined it sitting in the palm of a hand, so bright you couldn’t see it properly. But it was the most important thing. The single most important thing. Whether she laughed too hard or didn’t laugh at all, he was going to tell her. He was going to say the words just like they do in the movies. And if it was wrong it would hurt, but he would turn and walk nobly away –

The door swung open.

Jesus!”

An expletive apology tumbled from Ewan’s mouth.

What are you doing? Almost gave me a heart attack.”

I’m... er, I’m Looking for Cora,” Ewan said. He realised he was speaking in a slight British accent, similar to this woman’s accent. And he realised that he was blinking rather a lot. He resisted the urge to run his hand through his hair; a little bit of Hugh Grant went an awfully long way.

Oh?”

Yes, I was, erm, I... I was in the area and thought I’d pop in and... is... is she in?” Ewan asked as he squinted a little. He wasn’t sure where this Hugh Grant business had come from, but he was committed now. The accent stays, he told himself, so does the stammering and the blinking, but do not touch your fucking hair.

No. No I’m afraid she’s not. She’s staying with her boyfriend for a while. Can I giver her a message?”

Ewan felt everything stop. He wanted someone to say cut! He wanted someone to say no no no that’s not the line! First positions everyone, get ready for another take and let’s get it right this time people. Aaaand...action.

Boyfriend,” Ewan said flatly as he felt the postcard being screwed into the palm of his hand. “Ah.”

The woman stepped fully outside and locked the door.

Yes, bless her. Think she’s in love with this one. Who shall I say called?”

He almost said Owen, but it was too close to his own name. Under no circumstances must she ever know that he had been here. Cora had not known the clumsy part of him, the stupid version the rest of the world knew. So instead he said that his name was Grant, told her twice so there could be no mistake, and said they had gone to university together and that he had been in the area, and that it had been several years since they had seen each other, and that he would call again soon.


Ewan had never been so embarrassed and depressed as he was for the rest of his stay in London. He stayed in his hotel room. He ate little. He drank a lot. He sent postcards back home. He berated himself and fabricated fictitious versions so that no one would ever know what a fool he was. For Ben and his friends, he had spent a wonderful month with her but it had not worked out. They would expect photos - he had lost his camera, and in any case did not want reminders of this beautiful thing gone wrong. His mother would be saddened to hear that the position he had applied for at the BBC had given to someone else - never mind, the company had paid for the flight and it had been an invaluable experience. Mrs Thompson... oh God, why had he told her he was going to Paris to get married to a woman named Lucy? Why had he done that? He would tell her that poor sad Lucy never made it, fell ill and didn’t make it. He had attended her funeral, not her wedding. Yes, that’s what happened.


As Ewan stood in the line amid the chaos of Heathrow Airport, shuffling closer to the check-in, he knew he had everything covered. He knew that no one would ever know the details of this mistake. He knew they would never guess the stratospheric level of his stupidity. His shame would be forever his own. And he knew their correspondence would cease.


What Ewan might never know was the turn his life might take. He might never know that if the story had been in the hands of another director, Ewan would have been told look up, look up now. Look at the passengers streaming through the arrivals gates. See the tired ones and the happy ones, all these lives streaming through and branching off into their own worlds. Look up now Ewan, look at the faces, find that one face in the crowd, that one in a million. There. Yes. That’s her. She’s the one. Read her face. She looks tired, yes, it has been a long flight, but there is more, so much more. Your reaction? You piece it together, you realise the misunderstanding. You are relieved and amazed, and somehow frightened by how infinitesimally close you came to missing each other. Go to her now, this director would have said, that’s what you must do, Ewan, before it’s too late, before you lose each other forever. As she turns and heads to the baggage collection area, that is your cue to go to her. You will not have to say anything. You will simply know, both of you will know and you will move into each others arms hold each other like you never want to let go, and it will be exactly like it is in the movies, the happiest of endings. But you must look up now, Ewan. Stop looking at the blank pages of your passport and look up...