Sometimes life takes you where you just don’t want to go
Last week whilst driving through central London I found myself inadvertently heading into a bus lane. With London traffic being what it is, nobody allowed me to change lane and thus I drove for quite some time (certainly long enough to have been caught on camera) where I wasn’t supposed to be driving. It wasn’t a nice feeling.
It made me think about other times that I’ve ended up somewhere I shouldn’t. About a year ago I was walking to a meeting in London, minding my own business, and I turned a corner just behind Trafalgar Square to find myself facing a wall of five or six mounted police officers. One of them indicated that I should turn around and head back the way I’d come. Despite the fact that both the police officers and the horses were wearing full riot gear, I initially resisted their attempt to ‘kettle’ me by saying, in a confident tone “I have a meeting” and I waved my briefcase at them, as if to prove it. Sadly, this failed to impress them enough to let me through and I was obliged to turn back and join the Free Palestine protestors gathering in the square.
Sometimes, of course, I’ve been places I shouldn’t have been on purpose. As far back as 1989 I was working on a film in Budapest, Hungary. I had just finished a huge photographic job in the USA but hadn’t had time to process all the films (no digital back then) so I had my assistant fly in with the rolls of film with the intention of us hiring a lab to work in on the days I wasn’t acting. This was before the fall of communism and it hadn’t occurred to me that it would be hard to find such a lab. As it turned out, the only lab in the whole of Budapest, possibly all of Hungary, with the processing equipment that I needed was the central press photographic lab, owned and operated by the government. As you can imagine, it was not available for hire. With a deadline for my photographs fast approaching, I somehow managed to bribe my way into the building at night for a week.
Under cover of darkness, my assistant and I, sometimes with large rolls of paper on our shoulders to hide our faces, would walk past security in the most nonchalant manner achievable under such circumstances.
Getting away with being somewhere you shouldn’t is almost entirely about attitude. I’ve taught my daughter that the best loos in London are at the posh hotels and as long as you walk in with confidence there’s no reason anyone will question your presence. I’m sure many of us who take the train to and from Paddington station have realised that the adjoining Hilton Hotel has a delightful ladies’ powder room on its first floor. Unfortunately it’s at the top of a large, curved staircase, requiring Dynasty levels of charisma to counter an illegitimate ascent or descent.
Sometimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time has unexpectedly positive consequences. A dear friend of mine just happened to be leaving Claridge’s Hotel at the same time as Mariah Carey and her spectacularly large entourage. Unbeknown to my friend he was right behind Miss Carey when the paparazzi outside the hotel took the pictures they’d been waiting hours for, resulting in photos all over the internet the next day that mightily impressed his teenage children.
So far I’ve yet to receive notification that my car and I were caught on camera in the bus lane by Waterloo Bridge, but if I do, it’s a fair cop. I was definitely somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. Though, annoyingly, with no good reason.