Screening – The Long Hello

Dateline: London, October 6th 2003. No matter what anyone may say, chocolate fondue *is* a proper meal. I mean, take a look at me. Am I not the epitome of health? No, take a proper look.

I’d never been to Harrods before, partly due to the association with the Phony Pharaoh but mainly due to the fact that I didn’t really know where it was. When Laura suggested we go, it seemed like a fine plan. And it was, as Laura plans so often are. It really is worth a look, especially the place where they serve chocolate for dinner and the food courts where I wasted too much time staring at things. This resulted in us getting back to the hotel slightly behind schedule. My fault.

We raced to get ready. For some reason Laura wanted to leave her passport safe in the hotel room. Not in the room safe because I’d already broken that on the first night. How was I to know that it only wanted the credit card one way up? And not the normal way up? So we took out the passport and left it with the other bags, in a pocket. We also changed the chip on Laura’s camera for a fresh one. There were photo opportunities approaching. This shuffling of essentials turned out to be almost prescient.

By now, I was fretting that we’d be late for my own screening evening for The Car and farewell to the UK party. I’d scheduled everything so tightly between 4 and 6 that I wasn’t sure I could squeeze it all in if people were late, so I was worried. I made us run, well walk very briskly, to the train. Never a good idea because it makes you all hot and bothered, a bit too flustered, which makes it harder to relax. We arrived at Soho House in good time, slightly breathless.

Our projectionist for the evening, Paul, took us up to the tiny preview theatre which was through a maze of doors like a series of airlocks. We spoke of sound and ships and sealing wax (delete where not applicable) and he ran through the tape. It looked good. A little private screening just for two of us. Nice. Perks of the job. Then I went to greet guests. They were nearly all late. Or early. Or not there, where they were supposed to be at the time and place I’d set for them in my head.

I spent the first three hours of the evening saying, “Hello,” to people, worrying about where the missing ones were and trying to circulate. Must speak to everyone if you’ve invited them. Must also get them in and out of the tightly scheduled screenings. And introduce the films with some kind of shpiel. I didn’t even get to sit in again and gauge the audience reaction. I spent the next hour doing a combination of “Hello” and “Oh, are you off already?”. Then the last three hours saying, “Goodbye!”

In short, it felt like I never really got to talk to anybody. A lot of speaking, very little talking. Hello. Goodbye. Thank you for coming. It’s good to see you. There were some really good people turned up and I think I had a chat with most but I kept moving before the conversations developed properly. Always someone else coming or going. It’s hard being the host. Sixty two people, at the final tally, came. And went. I hope everyone had a good evening and enjoyed the films. The feedback has been very positive, so fingers crossed for a good response from festivals.

Our evening ended with Laura somehow losing her bag with digital camera and other personal effects. We think it got left in the taxi. Dark, gloomy places, those black cab interiors. Full of other people’s misplaced property until a nasty tea leaf gets in and no Sherlock Holmes to be seen for miles. To say the least, this was a bit of a downer but survivable with travel insurance–especially as we’d done the chip changing thing. Pure fluke. We still have all our pictures of a wonderful weekend’s holiday break in London, another fine plan in which everyone should indulge themselves.

I tried the London Transport Lost Property Office several times after, but alas, the poor bag was never seen again. There is a rumour, however, that London’s walking guides are planning a tour to commemorate it in years to come… Fog swirls in from the Thames. A boat with raucous guide calls out the landmarks. “This is one of the most important bridges on the river,” he shouts, “it stops the trains falling in.” Lights speed past our cab in a blur and I hold my most precious treasure next to me. Shops. Museums. Castles. They come and go. My love remains, as sure as day follows night.

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This coming Tuesday is a screening of Fate & Fortune hosted by the British Society of Cinematographers at Pinewood Studios. Very exciting. Especially as I don’t have to be the host.

2 Responses to 'Screening – The Long Hello'

  1. kerrie lloyd-dawson Says:

    Pete and I had only just arrived back on an overnight flight from holiday in Turkey and after an inadvertant oversleep in the afternoon were running very late for the screening of ‘The Car’. We snuck in just as the film was about to run, for the third time! and were very pleased to see it. It was great to see lots of Keith’s friends there to say farewell and we had a great time. Laura was pretty drunk so the lost pictures probably wouldn’d have come out very well anyway! Hopefully we can have a wonderful reunion in Michigan when the lovely Laura and Keith tie the knot in Jaunary. I’m searching for a hat and furry boots now …

  2. Laura Says:

    My first thought was ‘how cheeky of her to say I was drunk’ but then, well, I was. Way. Oh well. Keith tells me it just means I could be a good Brit. Not sure what was worse, the camera loss or the hangover…

    Mittens. Bring mittens. And I do hope you can make it; it would be lovely to see you both.