Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Real & The Reel

 Last Saturday I was at Medway Comic and Screen Festival in the county of Kent, UK. I had a moderately successful day, sale wise with a few purchases from punters and the requisite "I'll just take a look round and buy one later" from people who didn't.

As an exhibitor I was entitled to use the Green Room, or as it's otherwise known, the Canteen For Important People. Around half twelve I got peckish, asked the guy on the next stall to keep an eye on mine and then trundled off for a free lunch.

When I got there, a bored looking 'guard' was sat outside and the VIP guests were inside chatting. In one room you had Ian McElhinney who played Ser Bariston Selmy in Game of Thrones along with John Chalice who played Boycie in UK sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

In the other room you had Ian Beattie who played Ser Meryn Trant in Game of Thrones and Virginia Hey who was Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2. Oposite them was Ian McNeice a famous character actor, appearing in a multitude of BBC dramas including Doctor Who and movies like Bridget Jones.

Ian B and Virginia were having an animated chat about the trials of giving up smoking. Occasionally Ian M would chip in while all three held paper plates loaded up with fruit, crisps and sandwiches.


Being an avid fan of both the Mad Max franchise and Game of Thrones, it was a real treat to see all of them in the same room I was in. However, something I never realised until this moment is just how my subconscious beliefs and opinions shape my outlook on probably ALL my social interactions. To break it down...I had formed opinions on all 4 people without even realising it based on (deep breath) HOW THEY APPEARED IN THEIR RESPECTIVE SHOWS OR FILMS.

It's best to illustrate this scenario by repeating what the Little Voice in My Head was saying at the time.

"Bariston Selmy's in that room. Ooh, you don't wanna go in there. He's having a chat. That looks like a staff room from school. Remember you weren't allowed in there either? As they sat there passing round the Ready Rub and trying not to think of when the lunchtime bell would ring again. Best not to go in there. They might tell you to leave again. After all, that's the former head of the Kingsguard of Westeros and he's a badass, even if he is in his late 60s. You don't want to get told off or worse, get your arse handed to you by an old man do you. He probably just wants a little peace and quiet before going back to signing autographs. Try this room instead. Look there's seats and stuff and you can have some food and listen to what they're saying but for FUCK'S SAKE don't try and talk to them. That's better, look at the sandwiches. NO YOU IDIOT don't look at Virginia, she wasn't called Warrior Woman for nothing. You saw her slit that guy's throat who was trying to open the compound gate. Yes, I can see that her and Ian are talking about smoking. FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!!! That's Meryn Trant, the Kingsguard who hits little girls and got blinded and killed by Arya Stark. Yes, I know he's dead but he obviously came back to life again. He might take you outside and skin you alive for interrupting him. Now they're talking about school dinners and lack of nutrition. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!! You're fucking joining in their conversation? Right, screw you. I'm outta here!!"

As Virginia and Ian were talking I interjected with a comment about my school dinners and they, without a drum roll or crack of thunder, included me in the conversation. As my inner voice wailed in despair, the sound gradually fading away to a tinny whine, we talked for about 10 minutes on how things have changed and Jamie Oliver's attempts to turn things around. When they stood up to go back to the main room I asked if I could get a photo and both said no problem but to come to their tables and it would be free. As we were standing there, Ian M walked up and it occurred to me (and my now re-emerging inner voice) that I was stood between two Westeros Kingsguard and a lady Mad Max hung out with.

A little later I grabbed 3 copies of THE CATASTROPHE OF THE EMERALD QUEEN and had a chat with Virginia, then Ian B and finally Ian M. All were nothing except friendly, amiable and pleasant without a shred of ego**. All accepted the signed copies of my book and all posed for photos with me. Virginia even said "This is the only freebie I'm giving today" as she signed an A4 Warrior Woman photo with the words "I was wrong about you and I'm sorry" (her best line from Mad Max 2).

Ian B saw me walking up and began signing the Meryn Trant photo before I got to him. Taking in gingerly in my fingers in case the ink hadn't dried I asked "How did you know my name?"
He smiled and replied "I heard Virginia say it in the Green Room."

Photos, handshakes and a good chat with all three (Ian M agreed that Bariston and the Unsullied getting annihilated by the Sons of the Harpy wasn't a good send off for the most feared warrior in Westeros).


While this was a superb day where I got to sell my books and chat to people about them and meet three people from entertainment that I love, something occurred to me later.

When I walked in to the Green Room I was, in some way, expecting them to react like they did in the shows and films I'd watched them in. Having never interacted with any of them before, my only reference point was the fictional characters they'd portrayed. Ian Beattie's Ser Meryn Trant was a woman beating, cowardly, bullying, paedophilic thug who would have made Jimmy Saville weep. My rational brain was and is only too aware of just how naff and childish this sounds. However I can still remember the increased heart rate and anxiety that was bubbling under the surface of my rib c as I walked to the food table to get some grapes and a sausage roll. 

When I see people, either famous or not, and my only interactions with them are from what I've witnessed on a screen or from afar it is WAY too easy to simply assume I know tons about them and expect them to react as per my preconceptions.

I know this isn't just me because of all the stories such as the rather pathetic "FREE THE WALFORD ONE" campaign after someone from Coronation Street got sent to prison (on the show, not real life) or more depressingly when people were sending money to the BBC in the 1980s so that Arthur Fowler could pay for his daughter Michelle's wedding.

People who've read this blog before will know that I have waxed lyrical many times on timidity around human contact. It occurred to me a long time ago that people look so stone faced in public because 99% feel the same way, i.e. we are 100% convinced that everyone else is in someway scary.

Preconceptions are useful as a survival tool if walking through Brixton's back alleys at 3am. However they can cloud and taint life if you don't keep them in persepective.

Nuff said.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your turn to speak...
Feel free to disagree but insults and insinuations
will get your comment deleted.