After a Wednesday of meetings and reports and meetings and phonecalls, I was thoroughly relieved to escape the office to spend a few enjoyable evening hours at the rather lovely BAFTA building on Piccadilly at a screening of Veep, Armando Iannucci’s latest nose-thumb towards the political establishment (The Writer went in an official capacity; I’m merely a hanger-on and canapé-snaffler at the more interesting of these things he’s invited to).
After the screening and Q&A (dominated largely by the palpable love that Richard Bacon clearly has his own voice), members and meeja types headed to the bar to hoover up the free booze. After barely enough time to gulp down a mouthful of white wine, TW was ushered away by a PR to go and interview the writers, and I stood by the window having swiped a large glass of (rather pleasant) red with my eye on the cured salmon and beetroot nibbles that were making their way round room.
As I crammed a morsel into my mouth, an older chap sitting on the bench next to me started to make conversation. It soon moved on from what we thought of the show (fine, if not brilliant, if I’m totally honest, but still probably half a country mile better than most other things on telly now we’re Game of Thrones- and Mad Men-less) to politics and film and what I did for a living and the play his son is currently in.
Over the space of half an hour, I had learnt the names and occupations of each of his three children; the film he worked on with a Python; the documentary he made on the seminal work of one of the best-regarded film directors of all time; that his wife bought him membership to BAFTA about 20 years ago as a Christmas present; whereabouts he lives in West London; that he doesn’t particularly love technology and that he is currently having difficulties getting his printer to work; that he abhors poor grammar, and thinks accurate use of the colon is a wonderful thing; his precise age; that he used to review films for a Sunday broadsheet and that he’s written books; the type of credit card he used to use; that he loved the West Wing; and that he doesn’t normally eat sausages.
And all that before I had the foggiest clue what his name was. Only when TW came back to the overstuffed and increasingly loud bar having completed his interview with the writers and attempt to recover his lost and lonely glass of white wine did my conversation partner offer his name as TW stuck out a hand by way of introduction.
It seems to be one of those peculiarly British foibles that we’re happy to share all sorts of snippets of really quite personal information about ourselves with complete strangers, and yet pausing halfway through a conversation to say, “by the way, I’m Blonde,” seems to be an awkward intrusion too far.
“I’m not like that – I introduce myself to people all the time,” said TW over peach and apricot yoghurt the following morning as I pondered the theory out loud.
“Well that might be true,” I said, watching him scrape the last vestiges out of the pot with semi-messianic fervour. “But you’re also a journalist, and you’re paid to do this sort of thing.”
“Actually,” he said, licking the spoon, “it’s because I like telling people who I am.”
Well, there’s always one, isn’t there?