I must remember to give thanks more often. There’s so much that can happen in 24 hours…
Midnight Tuesday finds me standing outside Dartford Power Station – an enormous metallic edifice on the Thames Estuary bullied by cold winds coming in from the Channel and isolated on a patch of land beside the infamous Tunnel. We’ve been shooting Mel B here for two days and its been so cold (in the middle of July) that I had to borrow her green fury camo jacket to keep warm. Of course the need for thermal underwear and hot soup throughout the shoot didn’t stop me from making her writhe around on a bed of fur in her undies just for the camera but Scary Spice is anything but scary – she’s tough, resilient, frank and enormously sexy, well worth the transatlantic trip. We bid our farewells and I ride back into London encountering a traffic jam in Camberwell when you’d think most good citizens would be in bed.
I’m at my laptop by 7am on Wednesday. I have a video treatment which the label wants tweaking and though I tried to do the work on my return last night I was just too exhausted and had to turn out the light at 2. The band is Good Charlotte, their lead singer is called Sickboy and they’re full of ideas. The fax lines are humming to New York before 8 and I have three hours left to pack, iron and enjoy breakfast with Andy and Charley before the cab comes. The cab driver tells me he’d just dropped off Roger Taylor (Queen) at Heathrow who was on his way to Vegas for a few days and just the other day Keith Richards (Rolling Stones) had snoozed in the very seat I’m now sitting in – he was flying to Abu Dabi with his Dad to go and see some horse racing. I suppose that request I made to be in Keith Richards’ guitar-playing shoes got lost in the translation and I got his cab-seat instead. Rats.
There’s a mix-up with my ticket at Gatwick and they send me back and forth between the ticket counter and the check in desk. I’ve had too little sleep for this kind of palaver but my mood is lifted when I track down a copy of ?Playing The Moldovans At Tennis? in the bookshop and settle down with a full English breakfast to wait for my flight. Tony Hawks wrote ?Round Ireland With A Fridge? a hilarious tome about hitching round Ireland with a small white kitchen appliance as a bet. Amongst his adventures he winds up on national radio and has a one night stand with a cute girl in a large dog kennel! After watching the Moldovan soccer team get trounced 4-0 by the English on TV (they must have been bad) Hawks accepts another bet that he will play each member of the Moldovan team at tennis or strip naked on Balham High Road and sing the Moldovan National Anthem! The resulting paperback is a blast and has this warning printed on the front: ?Far too hilarious to read alone in a public place.? So I sit on my own by the window in a public place and proceed to chuckle and guffaw like a jackass much to the annoyance of the cell-phoners and lap-toppers in my vicinity.
Flight across the drink pretty unremarkable: Erin Brokovich on the video, more of the Moldovan adventure and a long snooze. We land in Boston in the late afternoon. I’ve been to Boston before but not for years and never by plane. We come in low over the harbour where, very kindly, the inhabitants of the city have taken the afternoon off work to put on a remarkable boating display which has the desired effect and makes me want to visit the city and enjoy a few days rest. Well, another time perhaps because today I’m on route to Toronto and I’ve just 70 minutes to clear customs and immigration make a few phone calls and check in on the next leg of the flight. As I step outside the plane it’s warm and balmy and it feels like summer again.
As we rumble off North and West for Toronto I’m reading and chuckling again. The stuffed shirt in the seat beside me is not amused. The earrings really upset him, my guitar case in the over-head locker totally pissed him off and now I’m enjoying myself. He’s not a happy camper… but I am.
And then there’s Toronto far below and I’m already thinking about the meeting I’ll be having soon…but the dramas aren’t over yet. We’re probably 100 feet above the tarmac in final, final approach tearing towards the threshold when the engines make an almighty roar, the aircraft lurches urgently and we’re all thrust back into our seats as the tons of alloy, luggage, passengers and duty free drinks scramble to get back into the sky again. I hear gasps from those at the windows behind me and the aircraft lurches again. I’ve never known a passenger plane this large jump through the air so violently this close to the ground. Stuffed Shirt is sufficiently ruffled to forget his previous inhibitions and turn to give me a look of concern. The speakers crackle into life as the captain dryly announces: ?We’ll try and land again in a minute…only this time we’ll pick a runway without a 747 taxiing on it!?
Just 24 hours after giving Mel B. a goodbye hug in cold and windy Dartford I’ve reached my third country of the day and a cab is whisking me along Lake Ontario to a hotel room where a cluster of producers and location scouts are ready to grill me about details for the Good Charlotte job. I feel happy to be alive – I must give thanks more often.
The near miss is headline news on the radio next morning.