Panic on the Streets of London

It’s official. London is too small. Loosen the green belts, extend the northern line, flatten The Pennines and lets expand this tangled smoke spewing mess of a city all the way down to The White Cliffs of Dover.

It seems one can’t so much as set foot out the door these days without bumping into someone one once babysat for/ met at pony club/ bought courgettes from/ took ketamine with.

Sometimes it’s nice to bump into people… ‘oh hairlo’… ‘haaaaiirrlo hower you?’… ‘i’m fine thank you, hower you?’ …’I’m fine thank you hower…’. Then before you get stuck in the ‘hower you loop’ someone pipes up with some small talk ‘you look well’ (read as ‘you’ve gained weight’), ‘I’m so busy with work’ (I’m single and I spend most evenings wondering if my cat would notice if I died) ‘we should go for a drink sometime’ (I will never, ever go for a drink with you, let fire rain down from the sky and let this ma effin city burn to the ground before I ever go for a drink with you.)

Other times, it’s not even half this pleasant. A friend of mine swears that every time she leaves the house in her ‘cleaning the bathroom sweatpants’, you know the ones, (the ones with the bleachy bits that look a bit like piss stains), she bumps into an ex boyfriend. Heart jumps into mouth. Arms suddenly feel like somebody else’s. Words exit mouth at random. Can’t breathe. Musn’t breathe, haven’t cleaned teeth.

Fortunately for me, most of my exes have left the country… really, I’m that great. But actually, I did bump into an ex, no lets call him an ex lover, at a casting. That’s fine, you say, actors do these kind of things all the time (go to castings, take lovers), except that I was the only person auditioning for my role who wasn’t a dwarf. The situation read as follows…

Me: Oh hi Keanu (yep, I’m calling him that). Hower you? You’re up for the ‘Nivea Man’ role ci? (I sometimes throw in a bit of foreign when I’m nervous)

Keanu: Yeh I am, you’re going for the role of ‘Dwarf Mermaid’?!

Me: Yeh, well I’m only 5ft3 and I still look ok in a bikini so…. JHnkLdjhej>€$*** F.M.L

So why does bumping into people throw us off so badly? It’s not just the surprise… I love surprises. Is it the small talk? Can’t be, we all exchange pleasantries with countless strangers all day and survive to tell the tale. I think it’s the lack of context. I once bumped into a guy who works in the coffee shop in the library and was so genuinely alarmed to see him without a flat white in his hand that I almost threw Tess of the D’Urbevilles at him. Sometimes we (sorry), I, can be so bloody self centred I forget that the world continues to revolve without me and it’s a shock. So no knickers Natasha Banks is pregnant, who’d have thought it? And there I was thinking she had just ceased to exist after university and had hired robots to update her Facebook page. Well. I. Never.

And it’s not that Natasha doesn’t matter as a person, it’s just that we don’t swim in the same seas anymore, dwell in the same woodland. She drinks lapsing suchong and I drink too much and smoke in bed.

So what can we do? Wear a fake moustache and hide behind broadsheets in bistros? Not so much. Maybe we shoukd just accept that people continue to live and breathe sans nous (nerves again) and face the fact that the world keeps on turning and thanks to some puzzling algorithms in the universe’s composition we occasionally cross paths with people from our past. So… next time you bump into your Maths teacher at a sex party, give him a hug, because he probably feels just as awkward as you do.

Hey there fellow child of the Universe…

At uni in Cardiff my mate Mike and I, mainly because we were twats (and actors, these things go hand in hand) used to refer to people we didn’t know as extras or supporting artists. I’d be all ‘hey boyo’ (one can’t help but pick up the lingo) ‘you at welsh club? Is anyone there? Should I come down?’ and he’d be like ‘yeh a couple of faces, but mainly extras… I wouldn’t bother mate, stay in bed and watch the O.C.’ So I would….

London life in all it’s cinematic glory is full of them, the general public or G.P – hired at great expense by God’s own casting director to clog up the transport system, the streets, coffee shops, bars and offices. They give this little set I like to call Earth some substance, thus enhancing the overall production values of this little movie I like to call Life.

But lately, since I started reading books about spirituality (because I am perhaps STILL a twat, albeit a more enlightened one) I’ve been making a conscious effort to connect with the humanoids and make Joe Public my friend. The Indian dude who wrote one of the aforementioned books informs me that we are all ‘children of the universe’ – I like this, for a moment it makes me feel like one of the blue people in Avatar and then suddenly I feel guilty that we don’t make enough of an effort to recycle. As an only child (read as: reason for being a massive twat) this notion of one large family excites me somewhat so I head out on onto the neighbouring streets of Dalston (read as: another reason for being a massive twat) for a spot of jogging.

There’s something liberating about jogging, the idea that you are just ‘zipping through’ is emboldening some how, so I begin my assault on the notoriously unfriendly people of London with a few wry smiles. Nothing major- just enough to say ‘I see you there brother, fellow child of the universe, let’s connect’. Some people smile back and most don’t seem to mind, apart from one guy shopping with his girlfriend who seems to think I’m giving him ‘the come on’ – no bother, I just run a little faster to get away.

Overall I’m inspired by the generally positive response so I decide to give it a little more… a toothy grin if you will. Of course, being January, it’s balls cold so the grin is a little forced and post Christmas I’m pretty unfit so I’m panting, no, wheezing. Fortunately, as I hit the home stretch the iPod shuffle gods select my soundtrack- Siouxsie and the Banshees and I find myself ‘walking on sunshine’ all the while grinning inanely through clenched teeth, panting, sweating and shivering my way down the street. A lady outside the post office gives me a look in which I detect a trace of concern, a bus driver laughs, a child buries his head in his mothers thigh and then I nearly get hit by a car. I try to laugh it off, but coupled with the panting I forget to breathe and have to stop and put my head between my legs. I decide to call it a day. I walk home wondering whether I would have got a better response in California, after all, displays of unbridled joy are not commonplace on wintry London streets. I’ll try the good people of London again in the summer, I’ll also try and save up for a flight back to L.A.