Monday, 21 February 2011

The Bowels Of London.

I had occasion to travel to this countries fine, noble and ancient capital the other day. Anyone who works in the TV industry tries to go for one of the three days that is the Broadcast Video Expo at Earls Court, London. Not everyone can make it, but on this day, i was able to take my wallet out on a cameraman's day trip to the big smoke. But first i had to get there.

I didn't want to drive into London. Excuse me, what i mean is, i mean i didn't want to pay the petrol, the extortionate parking charges or congestion charge, nor did i want to get stuck in the London traffic jams caused by two miles of traffic cones with one man on a tea break behind them. So, i decided to go by train. Now any freelance cameraman will tell you, we rarely travel by public transport, such is the amount of kit, lights, sound and batteries we normally lug around with us. No...  A large, petrol swigging, earth destroying, four wheel leviathan is my mode of transport in my day to day working life, so its rare that i step foot into the world of commuters, day trippers, pick pockets, drunks and other assorted scary people.

Trains... Multi coloured.
Public transport has indeed come a long way, but i still don't like to use trains. Or planes for that matter. Long steel tubes of sweaty people with no control over where they go, or at what speed. And no control of who sits next to you. It could be that a kindly old Army Colonel with a handlebar moustache sits next to you, with a pleasing waft of pipe smoke lingering in his tweed jacket. Or it could be the student, all gangly legs, boyband hairdo and pus. Or, as is likely in my case, the stoned gangsta wannabe with a blade in his pocket and his eye on my valuables. So i avoid it if i can.

The London underground therefore, makes my heart pound and causes beads of sweat on my forehead to rise. If anything should happen to this intrepid cameraman, there would be nowhere to go and everyone in your carriage would ignore you. It was packed with the what seemed like the entire human race. Every conceivable type of person wanted to stand next to me and make me smell their armpit, every language could be overheard, including a rather irate woman who swore someone tried to steal her mangoes. Bloody cheek, i never touched her....

However, my nosey journalistic instincts surfaced and i began to take in the seething mass of humanity that surrounded me, reminding me that us humans have always sought out the big crowds, the city life and the interaction between others. Not me though...

It wasn't the boots that gave it away...
You see, i was nearing my destination within the great metropolis, when out of nowhere she came. I say she because she was dressed as a woman, but no woman that i have ever met. ( Except that time in Hong Kong... but i digress. ) Head to toe in shiny black leather, long blonde hair and kinky boots. She stood directly in front of me although there was plenty of room by this stage as many passengers had left at Westminster. She stared directly at me... and winked.  I looked left and right to see who she was winking at. I was alone.

The tannoy announced: next stop... Earls Court.

I had about thirty seconds before i could run, sorry... walk at speed to my final destination, so i smiled weakly and stammered something totally British like... " Hello.. Lovely day isn't it?"

She arched her eyebrow, and laughed in a deep masculine throaty way and said... " You're not from London are you?" At which point i came over all Hugh Grant and stammered that i was not. Too bloody right i wasn't. I'm a local news cameraman on a day trip to the capital city. I forced myself to suffer the cloying crowds, the smell and the niggling feeling that i was so very insignificant in the great scheme of things. It was then i realised just how detached i had become from everyday life. I normally eavesdrop and turn my lens on other unfortunates who succumbed to the advances of a mad, leather clad transvestite. Normally, some politician or other branch of the British nobility.

I can see the headlines now... "Local news lensman caught in Transvestite kerfuffle..." But to have it... Ahem... thrust in your face without the protection of seeing it through a lens, with a heavy density filter, shook me up a little.

I filtered what had happened via a large frothy latte when i arrived at the Expo. And you know what?... i'm a middle aged, unshaven news cameraman with a lifestyle to match, and she walked up to and winked at me... Yep.. Me.

I winked at myself in the reflection of a nearby window. Yep my man, you've still got it.....

Paul Martin