Officially the unofficial official feature on new features trailer.
This story concerns a friend of mine. I shall call her Jessica, though that is not her real name. It also concerns her father. And if I tell you that her father was an academic who specialised in the history of trade union disputes you might get some idea as to just how socially awkward this man was. He had no inter-personal skills whatsoever. Next to him, Rain Man was a champion of wit, charisma and general dinner-party-pleasing repartee.
Jessica’s dad was also a marathon runner, which meant long training runs throughout the year. One particularly delightful habit of his was entering the kitchen-diner, fresh from a three hour jog, removing ALL of his running gear and stuffing it into the washing machine before climbing the stairs for a shower, plums and manhood swinging freely all the while. It made no difference to him if there were visitors in the kitchen who might be alarmed at his nudity, and neither did he cater to any expressions of shock or dismay, he simply wished to distance himself from the sweaty clothes and commence his ablutions.
This particular story happened to Jessica when she was nine years old. She had a play-friend over on the evening in question. And yes you are right to begin blushing in anticipation of where this is leading.
Jessica and friend were playing upstairs. Jessica was in her bedroom and the friend was perched on the two stairs that separated each stretch of the family’s split-level landing. Imagine the friend’s shock when Jessica’s 100% nude dad rounded the corner and headed straight for her. She wasn’t to know that all he cared about was moving beyond the small-girl-shaped-obstacle and into the shower. Her embarrasment intensified a thousand-fold when the two of them began that awkward-at-the-best-of-times shifting to the left and then to the right and then to the left again dance of clumsy passing attempts.
Frustrated that he was now three and a half seconds overdue for his shower, Jessica’s dad took matters into his own hands and attempted to step over the cowering friend. To his credit, he DID succeed in getting past her, but not before his penis had slapped the poor girl in the eye.
I suspect that’s something that took a while to recover from.
I had just been cast in my first ever television advert. It was for thomascook.com and I was required to be one of three zookeepers. At my wardrobe fitting I had tried on the generic zookeeper costume of workers’ jeans, big green wellies and a big green jumper and I was ready. The shoot was to take place on Battersea Park and my call time was horrifically early as is often the case with these shoots.
Determined to make a good impression, I arrived at the park in plenty of time. It was early summer and the thrill of experiencing the park waking up was only slightly tempered by my nerves and by the realisation that I didn’t actually know where the production base was. No matter, for I still had plenty of time. . .hadn’t I?
Thirty minutes of increasingly frantic searching later I STILL had a few minutes to spare before I was required to report in, although my ample window allowing for mishaps was about to close. Suddenly, a guy pops up from behind a bush and shouts “ARE YOU MARK?”
“Yes!” I replied, delighted that someone attached to the shoot had come to find me.
“Come on, then”, he urged, “you’re late! The boss is going mental!”
I sprinted off close behind him , distraught that I’d managed to screw up my first commercial shoot before it had even started. In truth I was also confused, for I was still technically early, even though my call time was now only minutes away. Perhaps my agent had got the details wrong?
Anxiety levels shot through the roof when I rounded a corner and came face to face with a few hundred other zookeepers, all dressed in the generic uniform: workers’ jeans, big green wellies and big green jumpers. Had there been a script change that I wasn’t aware of? I’d only ever read a version using THREE of us, yet here was a veritable convention of animal carers. There was no time to be confused, for the gathered throng was being given a stern talking to by a midget (I PROMISE I am not making this up) standing on an upturned wooden crate. The midget stopped in mid-sentence when he saw me. The Pop-up Bush Guy I had followed here indicated to his Midget Overlord that I was the missing “Mark” at which point I became the target of the Tiny One’s unimaginable rage.
Left: An artist’s impression of how the tiny angry boss man might have looked as he shouted at me from atop his bossy box. The more I think about it the more I think he DID carry a spear and wear a cloak. I’m pretty sure he had some kind of magical power as well. . .
“HOW DARE YOU BE LATE!” he screamed at me. “HOW DARE YOU! THESE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN HERE FOR FORTY MINUTES AND YOU CAN’T EVEN BE BOTHERED TO. . .”
He was so beside himself with anger that I couldn’t get a word in edgeways. It was only when he threw a shovel at me and told me to do a circuit of the park collecting doggie doos that I began to sense an almighty misunderstanding. I turned to a fellow zookeeper and asked what the hell was going on, and he replied that this was the morning brief for South London Park Keepers. I edged away, apologising for being in the wrong place, and all the while the Midget-on-a-Box was spitting hellfire and damnation in my direction.
I could still hear him bellowing “DON’T WALK AWAY FROM ME WHEN I’M GIVING YOU A BOLLOCKING” as I stumbled upon the production base for the thomascook shoot.
It just happened to be in the same park as where a bunch of midget-managed park keepers were gathering, who just happened to be wearing the same uniform as I was about to put on for the advert, and who just happened to be looking for a late-comer called Mark.
I only ever saw the advert once. I hope the vertically challenged angry man saw it and finally understood why I’d walked away from a day’s park keeping.