I suppose it really hit home when I opened the letter from Lord Brett Sinclair, with the Gold Napoleon ticket inside. I was going. So, confirmed I made the arrangements to go to London on the 10th September…
So when I left home on the 10th I felt as though I was well organised; nothing left to chance. It was 11.45 and I was over half way to the Swindon Train Station. It was then, as I checked my iPhone for messages, I realised the charge was down to 65%. I would need to charge that when I got to the hotel…
Then I remembered I hadn’t packed my charger!
I thought about going back but decided against it. It would have meant a hurried journey to the Station. Also, I was sure it would last until I got home tomorrow…well, fairly sure….well, ok, I did not think I would need it urgently if it ran out…
I was off to London and I could not remember the last time I went to London. Well, if you do not include Paddington Station, where I stopped a couple of times this year to wait for a tube train to take me to the Greenford arm of the Company I work for.
I used the service where you collect your tickets from the machine at the station. I have to admit I am not over impressed with the bloody things. I mean, what if they had a tantrum and decided not to give you your tickets…
Well, it was funny I should mention that. I looked at the booking number on my iPhone note pad, Then I put my debit card in and nothing. The option to buy or collect never came up.
Out came the debit card and I tried again….and again….and again….and again. The Corporal Jones in me was beginning to surface…
Finally, after trying every conceivable way of putting the card in, it worked with the way I put it in the first time.
I entered the number only to be told it was not recognised. Three more tries and the machine had obviously got its sight back because it recognised the number I keyed and the message came up:
“Please wait for your tickets.”
As if I needed to be told!
I moved away from the machine. I was now suspicious and decided to check the tickets before I went any further. Were they all there, were they printed correctly? After what I had been through my confidence level was not high.
Now the second hurdle of the day. I got to the machine stations had put in all over the country whose only purpose, from my experience, is to assist passengers to miss their trains. Of all the journeys I have made since they installed the bloody things only twice has the ticket opened the barriers; nearly every time the guard has to let me through with his over-ride ticket.
The same thing happened today and I got about twenty feet from the machine when I was called back. Time was running out and the last thing I needed was some officious guard…
“Sir, sir,” she cried.
I turned round rather impatiently and I noticed she was holding something, but didn’t really register what it was.
“Is this your wallet,” she asked
“No,” was my first answer, then I looked more closely. It was!
My manners improved here, somewhat, and I thanked her after telling her some of the things that were in it. That was careless and could have made a big difference to the day I had planned out.
I thank her a couple of times more and then dash off to the platform.
The weather, when I got up looked quite bright, now it was dull. As I waited on the Station, I wondered if I would regret not bringing a my Columbo style raincoat. I shrugged. It was too bloody late now.
The train turned up on time – a pleasant surprise – and having got a reserved seat I did not hurry too much. I was placed on an Aisle seat and was next to some chap who was reading a football magazine. A little further up the train were some youths wearing football shirts.
I began to think. Why did they do that, wear football shirts? I suppose it was a tribal thing; bit like national flags. I looked at an overweight, seat busting chap, thinking how big the sizes must go up to? An injury in their favourite team and suddenly there is an announcement:
“Will the fat bastard in the team shirt report to the team manager…he’s needed to replace our star striker!”
Hmm. Ok. Too much time on my hands…
I decided to read for the hour or so I would be on the train. I removed my Amazon Kindle and opened up ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by Ian Fleming; the last Bond novel written by the original author. Over the last couple of months I had been re-reading all the James Bond books again.
The train journey passed by quite quickly, and as we drew into Paddington I looked out of the window to see high-rise flats, most of which displaying the week’s laundry over the balcony. One had a bike. I thought about living in one of those high rises, especially with my fear of lifts and insistence on taking the stairs. By the time I would have got the bike down all those flights of stairs I would have been too tired to ride it!
Again, I avoided the rush and stayed seated until most people piled off. Then, once on the platform I needed the toilet. I found it quite quickly and looked at the price. Thirty pence.
I got in, walking to the left, which the sign says is the way in. By the turnstile where you put your money in, is a chap, in a chair, looking relaxed.
“Go in the other way,” he says.
“Thought this was the way in,” I smiled.
“It is, but you need to go in through the way out.”
“Right…” I said, dubiously. I had never been one for riddles…
I turned round and went to the way out and got to the turnstile. I could not get my coins in because it was blocked with coins. I fiddled with it for a good ten minutes, the pressure in my bladder increasing. I was rapidly approaching the Red Indian war-dance stage of wanting to go.
Then some chap from behind just strolled through the turnstile. It was not locked and dependent on coins to release it. I watched two other blokes walk through before the urge in me focused my mind and I dashed in and to the nearest cubical, nearly knocking down to other blokes on the way. When you have got to go, you have got to go!
I stood there for around three minutes or more, my eyes glazed over as I emptied my bladder. The simple pleasures in life are often the best…
Once out of Paddington Station the changeable weather decided sun. I could live with that. I figured it might be a good idea to check out exactly where the venue for my evening in London was in relation to my hotel. I wanted to make sure I would allow enough time to get there later; I hate to rush.
I put the postcode in on the iPhone map app and it plotted the route for me, telling me how far and how long it should take me on foot. The positive was the route took me through Hyde Park, a lot of people about either jogging or walking. There were quite a few families about and events which seemed to be catering for them.
It was Kent House in Rutland Gardens that I was looking for. After thirty minutes or so I found it, tucked down a side-street, with a barrier and gatehouse vetting the cars who came and left.
At around 6pm tonight it would be hosting an event for a company called Network. It was through this Company over the last half-dozen or so years that I managed to collect numerous DVD collections of some of my favourite ITC series of the sixties and seventies. Series like The Saint, The Champions, Man In A Suitcase and many of the Gerry Anderson TV Series along with The Sweeney.
Tonight I would be attending the launch of the 40th Anniversary of The Persuaders! To mark this event there would be a showing of two episodes of the new digitally re-mastered series. The two episodes had been chosen by Sir Roger Moore, who would be at the event that night and was probably the main reason I decided to go.
At the entrance to Rutland Gardens was a gatehouse with a guard working the barrier. I decided to make sure I was at the right place so went and spoke to him.
“Hello,” I said, being all for original openings. “But is Kent House down there?”
“Yes, sir, first building.”
“I’m attending an event by Network DVD tonight…”
The guard frowned. That caused a tingle to run the length of my spin. Had I got it wrong? Surely not? I checked my ticket – probably for the hundredth time. No, it was all set up for today…
“Yes, it’s being attended by Sir Roger Moore…” I said, old name dropper me.
Another frown, then a “Really.”
He looked up a list, then smiled at me. “Ah yes, hadn’t noticed that before. I only got on an hour or so ago. We don’t get told in advance. His driver is booked in. He’s been here before for some other event, some sort of awards, I think.”
It was my turn to say: “Really?”
“Yes, very nice bloke.”
“I’ve heard that,” I replied.
“Yes, that night he’d been inside for a couple of hours and then came out with a plateful of food and a drink for the driver outside. Didn’t have to bring it himself, could’ve sent someone else.”
We talked for a couple of minutes then I decide to walk to the hotel. It’s this part of the journey I needed to measure for that evening. It was now 1.30pm. I programmed the iPhone and by coincidence it was around two miles to the Hotel.
The bulk of the journey was quite straightforward, along Kensington High Street. About forty minutes later I found the turn-off just eight minutes after it had turned cloudy again and began spitting with rain.
I checked in at the hotel and found the room to be cramped with bunk bed, metal but felt comfortable; the bathroom was a small room with a toilet, basin and shower. One window, about eight inches square. It was open and let in little air. The room was stuffy and I was feeling hot.
I took a quick shower and decided the room was not a place to hang around in. The weather had brighten a little so I thought I would go for a stroll. It was less than ten minutes before I would be on Kensington High Street where the shops were.
I suddenly realised I had not eaten since 9am, so bought a couple of sandwiches, a drink and a Snickers bar. I know how to live!
The event called for formal attire and I had dressed in jacket trousers, shirt with tie but my footwear was the walking trainers. I had brought along my only pair of shoes. Heavy and steel toe-capped. They were uncomfortable like most shoes I had worn in my life. However, needs must…as some chap once said…
So around 16:45, with the shoes on I begin the walk, deciding as soon as I find a cash point I would take a bus, I managed to work out they ran regularly up and down Kensington High Street.
However, by the time I found a cash point which would give me my money without having to pay for the privilege I was almost fifty percent of the way there. I walked the rest as well and get to the venue twenty-two minutes early. But I got a few pub shots on the way; even if everyone seemed to try to get in on the photograph.
My feet were already beginning to hurt, and there was at least three hours or more to go. I hoped there was seating inside other than the screening room.
It was 17:38 when I got there, very much on time. The reception was at 18:00, the two episode viewing was supposed to be at 18:45.
About ten minutes later myself and other Gold Napoleon ticket holders were called in. A majority of the people seemed to have come in seventies gear; as suggested but fortunately was not compulsory.
In eight minutes the crowd started to move then a woman calls out if the Gold Napoleon Ticket holders would like to come to the front…
The time-table was changed, as I along with other Gold Napoleon ticket holders, walked in. Sir Roger Moore was to sign the copies of the Box Set. As I queued I got to see the original Aston Martin DBS, that Roger Moore drove as Lord Brett Sinclair. The boot was open and in was signed by both Tony Curtis and Roger Moore.
Maleclipboard checked by name and let me through and Femaleclipboard took me to the room where Sir Roger Moore was signing The Persuaders! Blu Ray box sets.
As I entered the large room I saw the man himself. In front of me in the queue was a bloke who told me the man to Sir Roger’s left was his PA. Much to his delight, my fellow queue mate saw another bloke stood in front of the desk where Sir Roger was seated, signing box sets. He was taking each person’s camera or camera-phones and taking pictures. Although a lot less outwardly demonstrative than my queue mate, I was pleased that there was an opportunity to get my photo taken with the man himself…
I had not brought my camera as I had read the blurb when the ticket arrived which indicated no cameras. However, all was not lost as my iPhone has got a perfectly good 5 megapixel camera which should do a good enough job. So, as my turn arrived I handed over my iPhone to the bloke in front of the desk and handed over the box set to Sir Roger Moore and showed him where I would like him to sign it.
“Thanks for such an entertaining blog and your work in the children’s charity,” said Sir Roger to me.
I raised an eyebrow in surprise. “I didn’t think you read my blog?”
“Ah, you’ll be surprised,” he responded…
I woke up from the daydream. Yep the last bit of dialogue was a lie…
I said a few words, none of which were what I planned, and then moved on after getting back my iPhone.
It was then onto the reception room. I was given a glass of Champagne and then mingled amongst a bigger crowd than I would have expected. There were sandwiches, small cut without crusts available. There were egg and cress, chicken and Caesar salad, Brie and cranberry – not a proper cheese as far as I’m concerned, rather tasteless but the cranberry was ok though – beef and mustard. I ate about 12; but they were no more than 1.5 mouthfuls each…well I was hungry and had done quite a bit of walking that day!
After twenty minutes or so my feet and back were killing me; a combination of the walk to the venue and walking around the room with only two chairs and both of them in use by disable chaps. What made it worse was there were quite a few people wearing trainers! I need not have caused myself such grief!
I drank about two and half glasses of the bubbly, then went onto orange juice and was relieved when they announced the episode screenings. A chance to rest the old dogs…
In the viewing room was quite a big screen. In front of it was a small stage and I did not need to be a detective to work out it was for the question and answer session after the screenings.
Once most people were seated, I got a bit of shock when Barry Norman came onto the stage and explained there was to be a change in the schedule. They would show the first episode then there would be a Q&A session which Barry Norman would moderate. Then the second episode chosen by Sir Roger Moore would be shown.
I was surprised Barry Norman was there, even more surprised to hear his high praise for Sir Roger, especially as behind the man’s back Norman was quite critical. Thinking about it, perhaps I should not have been surprised as he had always tended on the hypercritical in my opinion.
The first episode was shown and I enjoyed the novelty of seeing it on the Big Screen. Of course, it would have been better had people not insisted on holding up their mobile cameras at various intervals but there we go, for every advantage of today’s devices there are disadvantages.
So through the first ever televised episode of The Persuaders! (Overture) we went. It looked rather good up on the big screen. Projected from a Blu Ray player using one of the box sets.
The Q&A’s came. After regularly watching Barry Norman’s Film programme over the years, hearing the way he ran down old Sir Rog, I was quite surprised at his gushing praise for the man now…or was I? Years of watching his Film ‘whatever year’ programme should have prepared me for his ‘style’.
Anyway, despite Barry Norman’s probing, trying to dig up the ‘dirt’, so to speak, about things like Sir Roger’s working relationship with Tony Curtis, Sir Roger never dished out the dirt only the positive. It was the same with Sir Roger’s autobiography, where he made it clear from the outset his biography, ‘My Word Is My Bond’ was not going to be seedy revelations…
Once Barry got his questions in he generously allowed others from the audience to ask questions before the introduction to the second Persuaders! episode chosen by Sir Roger Moore.
The session must have gone on for forty minutes at least and ended with a standing ovation. I was one of the first three to stand up. I would like to say it was purely because I enjoyed it but that was only part of it. My arse was dead and standing up helped restore the blood supply.
Quite a few people left with the exit of Sir Roger Moore. But despite my protesting arse, I stayed on to watch the second episode ‘A Death In The Family’. I probably would not get the chance to see any episodes on the big screen again.
After the episode I left. My feet and arse were still killing me so I decided I would take the bus, it would drop me off near enough to the hotel to give the dogs only a short walk.
I bought a litre of orange juice and two Oatmeal bars in a shop before getting back to the hotel, tired. I drank half the orange juice, ate the bars and then went to bed; which was surprisingly comfortable.
As I drifted off I reflected on an episode of Inspector Morse, the one where he meets one of his heroes of Opera. It turned out to be a great disappointment to him; as did most things for him, which was why he (probably) was such a misery guts. I felt rather luckier than that because I had met one of my heroes and he had turned out to be very much as I imagined he would be…
Of course, it was a brief meeting in very amiable circumstances, but still, it was nice to be left without disappointment….