Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Why Can't I Be Stephen Fry???????


We went to see Stephen Fry on Saturday. That is we went to see him at the theatre - we didn't pop round to his for tea or anything. I like Stephen Fry: I love him on QI, he's a great actor, a clever mimic, and I am in awe of his brain, his wealth of knowledge and his wonderful use of words. This theatre performance was to promo part two of his autobiography - so it was Stephen talking about the early and middle chunk of his life. Did I enjoy it? Yes, most of it - although being honest, some of it was way too elitist for me - but then I'm definitely a pleb. Stephen was warm and garrulous and rambling and told several lengthy and intricate tales about how he was a lost cause in his youth and sort of stumbled into stardom. Sadly, because I'm the aforementioned pleb, some of it was just a touch too luvvie for me. However, the man is without doubt a genius.

But the whole thing was ruined because I got the nutter sitting next to me...

You know how you always get them on a bus or a train? It isn't just me, is it? Oh, right... Well, anyway, on Saturday night I got the theatre equivalent. There was one empty seat next to me in a sell-out full house. And, just before curtain up, in he came. Bustling along the row, treading on toes, all multi-patterned jumper, cagoule, and haversack. As the lights dimmed, he dumped the haversack and rushed down to the front of the stalls, stood on tiptoe and peered on to the stage. Then he cantered back, threw himself down beside me and said excitedly "I can see him in the wings! He's ready to come on!"

I smiled weakly and edged further away - difficult in theatre seats. He leaned towards me. "I saw him in Cambridge last night and Norwich the night before and tomorrow I'll see him in London!"

Oh, great. I'd got a Stephen Fry groupie...

Fortunately, Stephen made his entrance then, and Mr Groupie was on his feet whooping and hollering. I shrank down in my seat as everyone turned to stare at us. The Toyboy Trucker, safely out of the spotlight on the other side of me, laughed. A lot. Anyway, once Stephen got going, Mr Groupie, who clearly hadn't wasted his time on the tour, loudly spoke every line along with him, albeit slightly out of sync. It was like having a slightly bizarre echo. Mercifully this came to an end when Mr Groupie burrowed into his haversack and brought out his sandwiches and flask of coffee. Generously he offered me a sardine and tomato. I declined. And by this time The Toyboy Trucker was, naturally, doubled up...

Maybe it was the stench of the sardine sandwiches, but I was getting pretty tetchy. So, when Stephen said that as a writer he was arrogant because all writers are arrogant I wanted to yell WRONG! I was absolutely itching to leap up and say WRONG, WRONG, WRONG - but, given that thanks to Mr Groupie our row was already the centre of attention and The Toyboy Trucker was giving me One Of Those Looks, I didn't. I just sat and simmered and tried to ignore the pungency of the sardines.

Then, just to add to my irritation, Stephen announced that the entire tour had been organised by his publishers (Penguin) to promote his latest book - and that after his hour and a half on stage he'd be doing a book selling-and-signing session in the theatre.

Well! Fancy that! Stephen Fry gets a publisher-paid tour of theatres - a sell-out nationwide tour of theatres seating thousands - and I get the local book shop if I'm lucky. Stephen Fry has queues and queues of hundreds of people winding for miles round our major cities, I get a few friends and people sheltering from the rain or waiting for the next bus to Kingston Dapple. Now I wonder why that is? And why, oh why, can't I be Stephen Fry?

Sadly, my book-signings always remind me of the days when I travelled with my Dad, the fairground organ and traction engine to do shows in remote rural locations. I've lost count of the times that Dad used to peer out on a bleak field with the rain falling horizontally in a force ten gale and say (in pre-PC days) - "good crowd tonight - three paraplegics and a daft bloke with a dog"... because it seemed that at every country fayre we attended, all the minders used to dump their charges in front of the organ with a cheerful "Never mind a bit of rain...let's park you here! Oooh, look at the pretty lights! Listen to the pretty music!" before sodding off to the beer tent...

And then I'd trundle on and dance the can-can in a monsoon to a less-than-impressed audience. Actually, it's funny with hindsight, just how much of my early life could have been lifted straight out of Cher's Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves...

Anyway, those less-than-packed performance days are EXACTLY like my book signings - except of course that I don't dance the can-can any more - maybe I should....

So - the picture at the top of the post is Stephen's very crowded book-signing and this one is mine.... Spot the difference???????????????

16 comments:

Groovy Pumpkin said...

I don't think you'd want to be Stephen Fry - all the work on TV: QI, etc, and all the speeches he has to do, I think you'd soon get quite tired of it all. He doesn't write books for a living, you do - and at least I can understand your books, LOL!!

Take care,
Jane xx

Karen said...

I had to laugh about The Nutter, but it must have been a horrible experience. My husband had A Nutter next to him in the theatre recently, & he was chomping on sweets the whole time....luckily for me I had no idea, tho The Nutter's appearance was similar to that of your Nutter. Perhaps it's those jumpers?

Anyway, if you ever do a book signing in Nottingham I will come, I promise. And so will my Mum & sister as we all love your books. So you'd have 3......

alzamina said...

"all the minders used to dump their charges in front of the organ with a cheerful "Never mind a bit of rain...let's park you here! Oooh, look at the pretty lights! Listen to the pretty music!" before sodding off to the beer tent..."

LOL - that sounds so much like the 40's events we do. Substitute lights and music for the horse and you are about right!!! "can I feed/stoke/ride your horse??" Never mind - we then disappear to the beer tent - have discovered the horse can do the Palais Glide!

All your book signings are too far south for us northerners!

Christina Jones said...

Groovy Pumpkin - ah, yes - now you come to mention it - far too much hard work involved! Okay, I'll be happy to be me... And I'm SO glad you understand my books - no, I don't understand *his* either - but then I'm a pleb... Cx

Christina Jones said...

Karen - sympathies to your husband - there's nowhere to run once you're squashed into a theatre seat is there??? Maybe there's a Theatre Nutters Collective and they all have to wear jumpers their nan knitted??? Will let you know the minute I get anywhere near Nottingham - you can be a crowd!!! Thank you! Cxxx

Christina Jones said...

alzamina - had a feeling you'd recognise the scenario somehow... Will ask if I can come ooop north next year!!!! And will let you know this time! Cxxx

Debs said...

I love your posts, they're always so funny, even though I do sympathize with your nutter experience. I remember sitting next to a woman at the Opera House over here who scratched her head all the way through a play. There's only so far you can move from someone sitting next to you.

I'm sure people enjoy your books far more than they do SF's and I say this as a SF fan. x

Phillipa said...

Oh Christina, I love your blog posts. I've had a thinly attended signing or two. Ha! In fact, about two people I knew turned up to one and I was far too shy to introduce myself to anyone else in the shop. Yuk.

Your nutter sounds horrendous. And if you were Stephen Fry you'd have to pretend to be celibate...

Phillipa said...

Chris - I love your blog posts and I' had one signing where the only people were a woman from Writers Forum and two people from my ex rnning club. Ewww... horrible. You can't be SF or you'd have to pretend to be celibate.

Karen said...

Hilarious. I think I've gone off Stephen Fry now actually ... I'd rather go to one of your book signings, especially with the threat of a can-can on offer!

I went to see Legally Blonde with my daughter last Friday and the woman in front was wearing such over-poweringly strong perfume it almost spoilt the evening. I had to alternately breathe through my mouth and cover my face with my scarf. Sardine would have been preferable!

Christina Jones said...

Debs - thank you for laughing... Sympathies re the head-scratcher because you're right, there's nowehere to run in those situations, is there? Hmmm, I'm not sure about your last remark - I write froth and bubble, SF writes Proper Books... Cxxx

Christina Jones said...

Phillipa - Thank you for your lovely comments but oooh, so sorry that you understand only too well about the empty-signing-session syndrome... Maybe we could do one togther sometime and double our audience???

Christina Jones said...

Karen - thank you - and I'll still dance the can-can at the drop of a hat (much to TTT's horror)! Oh, the perfume thing is awful - it's like being gassed isn't it? My daughter kindly mentioned the other day that my over-zealous drenching of Angel was like breathing in Domestos...

Lesley Cookman said...

Just think - next week we could have a joint signing! I bet the Cotswold Bookstore will never have seen so many novellists in one place. Trouble is, they'll all be there for the chat and the wine - no-one will buy anything!

I've had Waterstone's signings with tumbleweed.

Zola the Gorgon said...

Oh dear, I am choking with laughter here. You are far, far better than Stephen Fry - and not even arrogant :-)

Christina Jones said...

Z the G - thank you so much for laughing - and even more for thinking I'm not arrogant - oh, and even more for comparing me to SF and not finding me wanting. Am HAPPY! Cx