It is compulsory I put the charming Benedict Cumberbatch in the title of this blog. It may increase my stats and I won’t apologise for that, but also it’s my thank you for the fun I had today, centred on hopes of spotting you and Martin Freeman.
For the best part of the afternoon, I lurked on a street off the Euston Road, attempting to delicately impose myself onto the set, and for second best, soak in some excitement from the filming of BBC’s Sherlock.
Strange. Intoxicating. The atmosphere pushes my frustration into over-spill. I should be doing this sort of thing. My work should be on TV and in cinemas. I will do a movie of my novel Fancy Nancy, and Benedict Cumberbatch can be the male lead. Yes. Please. World, and the forces of good…. get on with it.
Strange too that three days earlier I was IN hospital. I don’t do reveals about dull trauma in hospital. It is tedious and annoying, believe me. I came home Monday evening and have been up to my local hospital on Euston Road a few times since-and so, here I land, agog, to witness, by marvellous happenchance of Sherlock in the making.
The whole machinery of filming on this scale was in process when I arrived around 11.30 for treatment. As I park on this street regularly, I guessed it was Sherlock. A friendly bouncer-type with the crew told me filming was taking place till 9pm, and the actors would appear in two hours. Hence the barriers, fans and photographers.
I went to my appointment, indulgently smiling in the sun, wondering whether I would catch a glimpse of the Cumberbatch later. I worked for a little on an article (the treatment is boring and it’s good to keep up) then made my way back to my car.
It is pandemonium. The expanded crowds bulge behind the barricades, there’s crew and equipment everywhere, cameras on dolly tracks, on high cranes. Staff mutter on walkie talkies. We are gentled herded.
But I don’t take to herding, which as a wheelchair-user can happen all too easily. With my best smile and rising chutzpah, I scoot off to a man in a hi-vis vest who appears to be top crowd controller. I am in the road, I am opposite the seething young fans behind their barriers, who from then on give me the evil eye all day. I laugh and I dither a bit, and look at him hopefully, asking if I am in the way. He says no, starts to chat and asks me if I like Sherlock and the actors. I show discrete interest.
Benedict strikes a dashing, lanky pose in that Sherlock coat and it is true I consider him a rather handsome chap, in a quirky, unsettling way. Yet I confess to a squirm of embarrassment to see the girlie ‘cumberbitches’ in mass horde. A tad calmer are the few geeky boys interspersed with gazing middle-aged mums, and gawping kids. All heave in the heat, on the pavements opposite the shoot, corralled by staff. Enjoyable mayhem, perfect London magic.
With my usual cheek, I mooch along the road, proclaiming my car was parked around the corner. Which it was, just about. Of course, I wasn’t there as one of the fawning masses, was I?
The London sun streams into my delight and I hover behind the bulk of the crew. The scene is Sherlock leaving his flat next door to Speedy’s café. The magic happens. Orders are given, silence requested. We’re rolling.
I spot Benedict get into a black cab. The jostling fans freeze. The shot is taken, and the cab reverses. As is the way of these things, it is done again and again.
Crowd-boss chats some more. He asks if I would like Benedict to sign something, or did I want to pass something on to him.
It’s not often I am unprepared. After a life as a writer so much on the verge of success, I grab any chance I can. So I have soft-back copies of my book Desires, on hand for such occasions. You never know when serendipity may strike. And here we have a handsome talented actor who I like and, me with my drive to make good stories. No room for hesitation. Yes, a subtle shake throws nerves over my body; pure childish buzz, amusement and, I own up, sheer pleasure. Crowd-boss says Benedict is a lovely man, he will see what he can do between scenes.
The wait is on. I am not leaving. Not till all hope has run off with its horrid tail between its scabby legs.
All of us are caught up in the shooting. The takes go on. And on. The fans scream, yet cautiously, as if they don’t quite know if this is the done thing. Maybe Crowd-Boss keeping them in order, and makes them nervous.
Dr Watson (also a splendid Bilbo) – as in, Martin Freeman, goes to sign some autographs, and there is a flurry of frenzy. Is Benedict coming over too? Teenage girls hold up scribbled notes: Sherlock we love you. Russia Loves Sherlock. Love me please. I stay smug in my position with Crowd-Boss, who promises once more to pass on my book. I pretend I am with the crew, with the staff. No one seems to mind.
A small gaggle of photographers – actual paparazzi – hang around behind me. I turn to them with a grin when there is a lull in filming. One, who I discover is called Ian, asks me if I am enjoying myself. This leads to a surprising conversation, which includes mention of Steven Hawking, disability sex, the Paralympics and my political activism. I spin the Penny narrative, naturally. I give him my card, tell him I want to be the most famous and respected disabled writer in the world, and want Benedict in my movie. Ian is game, and humours me in a friendly way.
Another twenty minutes and the scene is winding down. Martin Freeman is driven away and Benedict walks off to a hotel on the corner.
I decide to act, though now we are moved on with stern insistence. I have to at least track down Crowd-Boss to pass on my book to Benedict. After some confusion, I find Boss, and with an appropriate message to Benedict (and contact details) scribbled in the book, he assures me he will do his best to make sure BC gets it. There, it is done.
A shame I didn’t get to see Benedict hold up his political statements, now viral on the interweb; but interesting, as the Paps did grumble about him being ‘difficult’. But I say, Mr C, you go young man, say it like it is.
At home now and winding down. Happy and contrary days. Life lived and crazy. From one hospital to another and then this delightful unexpected interlude in-between.
I do have tough times, yet worse than my sometimes unstable health is the frustration I feel at the abominable treatment of disabled people by the coalition government, which leaves me angry and incredulous on a daily basis.
Days like today reinvigorate me with inspiration, flood my imagination and fill me with a sense of pure fun. We all need that, especially in challenging times.
So thanks again Benedict Cumberbatch and the friendly crew of Sherlock.
And let me say, to the last. Life, I will damn-well enjoy you.