From Beer to BAFTA

Sometimes my days are so full I forget myself.
Today was such a day.
It started out with a blitz of the flat,
a call on the phone,
a write of the diary,
a call on the phone,
a meditate,
an email check,
a wash of the bod,
returns of the mail,
a call on the phone,
an application of lippy,
a booking of the congestion charge,
and then

Rupert Ponsonby, he of the Titled Pedigree and encyclopedic knowledge of hops, drove down overnight from Liverpool so that he could pre-record a segment for the radio show on Sunday. I was really touched that he did.
This week is a nod at Halloween. So Rupert brought along his assistant AJ, who, in turn, brought along a box of tools, a case of beer and a big orange pumpkin.
There’s a pumpkin carving competition in Oxfordshire at the weekend,with a cash prize. Go to Hobgoblin’s website for the details.
Anyway it was probably a radio first as Rupert carved the pumpkin whilst giving a running commentary on its progress. From sellotaping a paper stencil on the pumpkin, to pricking out the shapes with a sharp pointy object, to dusting it with baby powder, to make the outline more defined, to cutting out the flesh, to rubbing on some vaseline to smooth out the edges then cutting off the lid at a 45% angle thus making it that much easier for AJ to pop in a candle.
12 minutes later we were all lit up in Latimer Road – lovely.
Rosalind, the producer, took a photo for the website and then we all kissed goodbye.
Rupert gave a me a bottle of ‘Hobgoblin’ pumpkin beer and strong ale as well as a bottle of 11% proof champagne-type beer before he dashed off to prepare for a cheese tasting with the heir to the throne and then a ride in a hot air balloon to determine whether champagne bubbles change with altitude. Its a tough job but somebody etc. etc.
I leapt in my little red car and got back to the flat in time to change my shoes, put on a yellow anorak and brave the sharp cold rain. I ran for the 239 which took me to Victoria.
I had been invited to take tea with John Travolta at the ‘Soho Hotel’ in Dean Street. I knew if I was too late I would miss his entrance so I grabbed a taxi.
I had a big, slobby, miserable cabbie who thought I knew nothing about London and was just about to sting me with a route that would have taken me twice the time and four times the fare when I told him that, actually, I knew London well and where I wanted to go and, furthermore, needed to be there ‘yesterday’.
He begrudgingly got me there a fashionable 15 minutes late.
Needless to say I did not tip him.
The drawng room of the hotel was set out for afternoon tea. One long table with dainty little sandwiches filled with cucumber, smoked salmon, spicy vegetables, egg and cress, egg and mayo, and ham. Not all in one sandwich you understand but lots of little triangular nibbles scattered around the opulent room.
We were a select gathering. Film makers, financiers, publicity agents, musicians and me! Why I was invited is a mystery, but I’m pleased I was.
I stocked up on my buttie intake for the next 12 years, had five cups of perfectly brewed English Breakfast Tea served up by a delightful Polish waitress and removed by a wonderful Slovakian waiter. The crumbs were cleared away by a delicious Latvian cleaner and the scones piled high by an out of work Romanian stripper.
I then set about working the room. By working I mean talking to Toby and Pia, Cassius and Eleanor, Larry and Lynne and Sally and Paul.
We chatted aimlessley as we awaited what, we believed, would be a Travolta lookalike.
But we could not have been more wrong. To a sizeable gasp the REAL Mr T. glided into the room. The man who we’ve all seen in GREASE several thousand times, the delicious dancer from PULP FICTION, the angel from MICHAEL; there he was in all his portly glory, his wrinkly smile and the gentlest of manners. We talked about HAIRSPRAY, which is after all why we were there, and which incidentally everybody should go and see, and I asked after his legs which, in the film, look like Jambon Hams.
He hugged me and I placed my hand on his substantial belly. I had a photograph taken which I’m trying to put on my webpage and several more triangles of carbohydrate heaven.
Look, if John Travolta can look damn sexy with his wobbly bits I’m damn sure I can too.
I’m not at all starstruck but he really is a splendid fellow. I did not talk about Mr Hubbard, Scientology or Uma Thurman, but I did offer him my personal details which surprisingly he declined!
I then walked to Leicester Square and took my seat in a huge movie theatre along with several other BAFTA members. The talk stopped as the lights dimmed in preparation for, ‘INTO THE WILD’, the new Sean Penn film.
A beautiful film about Christopher McCandless, a real young man who dropped out of college, his life and family and went in search of himself.
At the end of the film Sean Penn, two producers and lead actor Emile Hirsh took their seats to take questions and answers from a rapt audience.
Mr. Penn told us how the film came about. He had read Christophers book, immediatley re-read it, called up the family and bought the rights.
Mrs. McCandless then pulled out and refused to give him permission to make the film.
For ten years Sean Penn carried the film around in his head. When he finally got the go ahead from Christopher’s family Penn described the film as being ‘Touched’ as everything came together so easily from the money to the cast and crew.
Penn descibed himself as a ten page man. If a script does not grab him by page 10 then he cans it.
The quietly spoken actor-writer-director described his writing process. (all the while the woman next to me kept saying how handsome he has become, I agreed. Sssh!)
He wrote the first 75 pages of INTO THE WILD then abandoned the pen preferring to smoke cigarettes and dictate the rest of his vision to his assistant. It took him 28 days he had, after all, been mentally writing the script for ten years.
The 8 month shoot was gruelling on a limited budget but his carefully picked team worked with care and committment. Emile hirsch is remarkable as Christopher, the cinematography incredible and the story painful and tender. I have to admit to sniffling a little.
As it was a BAFTA showing the respect of the audience was palpable.
I came away feeling elevated.
The No 19 came immediately. Jim met me at the Bridge where we bought two boxes of Japanese food and walked home talking.
B and Clarence were eating their takeaway; we joined them with ours.
The four of us shouted at each other over our rice about class, ‘square’ teaching and racism, then we all settled down to different computers until the job was done.
Now everyone is either in Camberwell, reading, or in The Land of Nod – which is where I’m heading.
I hope you had a good day too; mine was one of the best this week.
ttfn and cul8tr.

1 thought on “From Beer to BAFTA”

  1. Hi Jeni, Wow – what a day! Will look forward to hearing about and imagining the “Ponsonby Pumpkin” on Sunday’s show (or seeing it on the LBC website which is I presume where it will be?). Also hope you manage to put the JT & JB photo on your webpage.
    Take care, Sue Campbell

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