I love this time of year. The first shoots of Spring start to push through, the days become longer, the sound of lawnmowers travel on the cool evening breeze and chavvy folk meander through shopping centres without any tops on. It's this time of year that my thoughts turn to Carol.
The story stretches back a fair few years and starts with an excited phone call from my agent, Bernie Shimshelwitz, telling me that he’d just landed me the role of a Vietnam Vet in a new ITV drama fronted by (surprise, surprise) Martin Clunes. I was well up for it, especially as I’d just played an American Marine in an episode of ‘The Brittas Empire.’ My enthusiasm was short lived however, as when the script came through it became apparent that I was quiet literally playing a veterinary surgeon from Vietnam.
I was, of course, completely mis-cast and it was a miracle that I got through the screen test. But this was back in the day when Bernie was on top of his game and Shimshelwitz in his pomp was magnificent. He could’ve sold Vanilla Ice to the Eskimos (and he did! But convincing the 80’s rapper that, after having a number one album on both sides of the Atlantic and bumming Madonna, that the next logical step in his career would be to ‘crack’ the Inuit market was a bridge too far and something that would come back to stitch Bernie right up (but that’s another story for another day.) ) So, there I was, faced with the task of playing a convincing Vietnamese man. To be fair I did put some man hours in perfecting the character, basing it on Ustinov’s celebrated Charlie Chan but in truth, coming over like a combination of Renee Zellweger, Mr Miyagi and Kim Lee from my local Chinese chip shop. The upshot was that it was too late to re-cast and the director had no choice but to throw me in the first scene. The set up involved me and Clunes trying to shoe a grumpy Shire Horse and from the get go we were in trouble. The first problem was my allergy to animal hair which led to my head and eyes swelling up like balloons which in turn made my portrayal of a Vietnamese male (unbelievably) “More racist.” The second issue was the Shire horse’s gargantuan erection which, despite numerous camera angles, refused anonymity. The next thing I know the director’s yelling for the consulting vet, that’s when cupid’s arrow struck, hard, fast and in the face. That’s when I met Carol. I couldn’t make her out at first, my puffed up peepers were dripping like a window cleaner’s sponge. I felt her hand on my shoulder. “You look like utter, utter shit.” She said. “Take these.” She handed me three industrial strength antihistamine tablets which reduced the head swell instantly. She gave me a smile (lots of teeth) and set about sorting out the horse’s hard on. Six Ketamine tablets later and the offending appendage was back in barracks, the crew cheered and pointed as the erection wilted but I only had eyes for Carol. Our eyes met and in that one moment I was Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, in that one moment I knew my ‘mind would never romp again like the mind of God.’….Basically I wanted to shag her. To cut a long one short, the director took us all down to the Brewer’s Fayre that night and I properly got off with Carol In the overflow car park and we ended up back at her flat above the veterinary surgery. We made love (full sex) for 36 minutes straight and afterwards collapsed exhausted (and itchy.) I held her until she drifted off to sleep then I pegged it to the bathroom and sneezed my arse off. It didn’t take me long to work out that I was having an allergic reaction to the animals that dwelled beneath and I knew I had to get those super strength antihistamine down my neck before allergic meltdown. I had a vague idea where Carol had left her medicine bag but my eyes were ballooning so fast I had to zombie my way into the hallway and locate its whereabouts. Like a frantic Stevie Wonder I rummaged around until I grasped the bottle of pills and downed four at once. I felt so much better and navigated my way back to Carol’s sticky pit where we spooned until I sparked out. When I woke the next morning I knew straight away that things weren’t as they should be. Carol was standing at the end of the bed fully dressed and holding a suitcase. “Don’t speak” she said “just listen.” She went on to tell me that she was flying out to Las Vegas that morning to work as an advisor on a new Siegfried and Roy show (It had always been her dream to work with those two jokers apparently.) She went on to tell me that she’d never planned to meet a man like me and never planned to fall in love. “Don’t say a word.” She said “I know you need time to think.” She placed her flight details on the bedside table, lent over and kissed my ear and whispered “Stop me.”
… Then she was gone.
…My dear old Nan will, on occasion, bring the subject of Carol up in conversation with her friends as if the whole story was a huge complex riddle. “I will never understand why that boy didn’t go to Heathrow and stop her from getting on the plane.” She’ll say. After which each of her friends will, In turn, offer their theory as to why I didn’t stop her. None of them right.
The truth is, as I lay in Carol’s bed that morning, as she lent over and kissed my ear, I was completely paralysed from top to bottom by the four Ketamine tablets I’d mistakenly downed the night before. It took 10 hours for me to get the feeling back in my thumbs which allowed me to text Bernie and get him to come and recover me. As he carried me downstairs past the cages of guinea pigs and chinchillas my allergy to fir masked my plippy, ploppy tears of loss.
William Shakespeare wrote: ‘The course of true love never ran smoothly.”
Monday, 30 March 2009
Posted by by Steve Banks & Chris Harris at 00:53