Heathrow terminal 5

All of a sudden I was working.

From out of the blue I had to do a self tape.

A self tape is me sitting in front of a screen, Jim’s phone on a tripod, and me identifying myself as an ageing actress with an ageing profile and wrinkled hands. Jim joined me on the stool to identify himself and that was that.

Three days later we took the train to London. Met with one of our young supporters – who bought us coffee and one slice of sour dough bread with a spread of marmite and butter, a mere £3.70. We then walked across Oxford Street and turned left into a narrow road where the casting studio resides.

We were sent down stairs to sit with a group of Jewish actors and then we were called in for our recall. To meet the team. We had to walk 20 steps towards the camera, him on my arm then me on his. The director was fascinated by Jims jacket and badges, interested in his hat with its badges and loved the cut of his  jib. I stood behind my husband like the dutiful wife I am.

We took the train home.

Then last Tuesday we parked the car  and took the 11.02 from Tunbridge Wells station. Arrived in London Bridge in plenty of time for our costume fitting. We aimed for the 141 bus to Dalston but the case was full of our clothes; it was heavy, it was raining and the bottom of my trousers trailed. So I hailed a cab, something I never thought twice about doing twenty years ago. Now it’s £25 to go down the road and round the bend. Still we got to the costume building with thirty minutes to spare. We left our bags and went next door to a vintage showroom full of very expensive armchairs from the fifties and light shades from the 50’s, trannies  from the fifties, and us from the forties. The owner made us a drink and we went back for our fittings.

Jim ended up looking like a young ‘old’ man, with a jacket and Argylle sweater, beige Chinos and his own brown Brogues. I ended up looking like my mother when she was eighty. Horrendous trousers, cream blouse, rusty cardigan and a rusty coat that didn’t do up. We left at 2.00 and took the 141 bus, with a driver who swung round corners and ignored our out-of-date bus passes. Dawdling through London Bridge, to platform 7, mounting the escalator we arrived two minutes before the train came.  He hissed at me because I didn’t have a pen for the crossword with me and I hissed at him because his crosswords irritated me.

A day in a warehouse full of clothes and a team of four costumiers stripping us, took but an hour to transform us into suburban oldies.  Luckily I had brought a pair of granny knickers  so the changing into several elasticated trousers was not offensive.

Now at 9.00 on Tuesday morning a man in a big car came to collect us. We slid onto the back seat, the suitcase in the boot – the film company  had kept all our clothes to return them to us after the shoot – and off we drove. We arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 by ten.

Down the escalator into a room that had been allocated to the costumiers. We were dressed in our abominable clothes and Anna, the Ukrainian runner, brought us tea n croissants, then a hummus wrap and ham toastie.  Eating is always the first option when you’re waiting for your call.

And we waited. And we waited.

Then all of a scurry the AP handed out passes, which we hung round our necks,  in single-file  we followed him to security. Every member of staff who works on the floor of Terminal 5 has to go through this rigmarole every single day when they go to work. With my high vis jacket and security pass hanging round my neck, wearing a rusty coloured coat and ankle boots, I swanned through the security portal not a beep in sight. The old git was asked whether he had anything sharp on him, ‘Only my wit’ he declared. He went through the gates and the beeper beeped.

‘Keep hold of his shoes’ the security guard was ordered. ‘Keep hold of his shoes’. The ‘oosbind was then searched; his belt, his crotch, his armpits. The blue coated security men arrived. The idiot Northerner had his wooden handled penknife in his pocket. The kind of knife a lumberjack uses to trim a Redwood Pine. The fierce security guard  took the offending article and eyeball to eyeball told Jim, in no uncertain terms, he was lucky not to be banged up. ‘Give him back his shoes’ cried the security girl, and the elderly actor put on his shoes and walked free.

We walked into terminal 5 where Bulgari, Burberry, Chanel, Dior and a bundle more luxury brands displayed their wares. Me and the old man were seated behind the filming equipment.

We waited. I couldn’t buy anything because I had been scammed at the weekend and didn’t have a credit card. So we sipped from plastic water bottles.

And we waited. As real passengers flew to Brussels and beyond.

And we waited.

By  four O’clock we had been seated on our suburban tushes for 3 hours.

It would take three hours more before we were ushered into Yves St. Laurent’s beauty outlet. I put my arm in Jim’s, then we had to smile  for 15 paces. Then we had to do it again and again and again . Ten minutes later the second AD called ‘That’s it’. We were marched back through security, and customs, the only things we had to declare were our achy bums and boredom.

An hour later at 7.30 a Vietnamese driver opened the doors to his all electric car, and we left Heathrow. By 9.o’clock we entered our cottage. A fire was lit, a plate of food was dished up, and before you could say  ‘it’s a wrap’ we wrapped up in our duvet and were away with the fairies.

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