Now you must bear in mind when reading this, that I had not had a television since leaving home when I was 18 and had not really been absorbing anything I did watch, even then. This is attested to by the fact that I have no idea whether I have watched loads of really classic films that I’m guessing I probably did watch at some point in my childhood. That is my defence.
This incident happened about six years later, when working in a little coffee kiosk in a train station.
A man came in one day and got an espresso and an orange juice. His face looked really familiar. When he left, I asked the others if they recognised him. One was Portuguese and the other Polish and they hadn’t recognised him at all. I’m not sure how well he is known outside the English speaking world but neither knew his face.
The next day he came in and I decided to be brave and asked him.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to sound over familiar but I recognise you from somewhere and I can’t think where. Are you off TV?”
Yes. I said that. Those exact words – “off TV.” Are you off TV? Like some chav who can’t speak properly. Me. I said that. To Simon Callow.
What an insult.
He good-naturedly said, “Well, some of the things I’ve been in have been shown on television, yes.”
After he left, a poster on the station wall caught my eye. A poster for a pantomime showing at the nearby theatre. The man was on the poster! I quickly googled his name on my phone and realised, with a sinking feeling, that it had been Simon Callow. The famous Shakespearean theatre actor, Simon Callow. Yes, him.
And I’d asked him if he was “off TV.”
The next time he came in, I apologised and he was lovely and gracious about it, obviously. He asked my name and every time he came in, most days for the next few weeks, he always popped his head round to where I was tucked away making coffee and said, “Hello,Laura.”
Thank goodness he was so nice about it!
Gita from Eastenders
This one is from the same coffee job. A lady had been in every day for a few days and I had a real feeling that I knew her, or had known her, from my childhood in Liverpool. Now Liverpool isn’t the whitest place in the world but in comparison with London’s ethnic make-up, you just do notice people of different ethnicity a bit more because there are fewer of them.
This lady obviously had an Indian background and a slight Indian accent and, for some reason, my first thought was of my Maths teacher at school, who was also of Indian origin but had a Liverpudlian accent. So the picture didn’t match exactly but I couldn’t think of anyone else Indian I had known during my childhood. Other ethnicities, yes, but not Indian.
But she was really familiar so I knew I knew her somehow.
“Hi, I hope you don’t think I’m being rude but I feel like I know you somehow. Did you ever live in Liverpool, I grew up there. Have you taught before?”
“No, I’ve never lived there. I was an actress about ten years ago though. You might have seen me in something?…”
It started to dawn on me and my face started turning red.
“I was in Eastenders. My character was called Gita.”
And there it was. That was how I knew her. My mum used to watch Eastenders so I’d been peripherally aware of her via TV. And then, years later, I’d seen a face that I knew from my childhood and asked her if she used to be my Maths teacher! What a let down for someone who spent a significant amount of her life doing a job she presumably loved, being recognised at the time and being in a well established television series which has won awards. Then you go for coffee ten years later and someone says, “Did you used to be my teacher?”
Big fat fail by Laura. Oops!