Yep, I am totally
Guylty guilty of dreaming. And I am indulging in that particular pleasure at the cost of R___ A___. Here is the collection of ficlets so far – always prompted by the images that I *ooof* in my weekly posts here and previously on me+richard. I am linking to the original post via the headline.
Enjoy – and if you like, leave me a comment. Please 🙂
[All image rights accrue to their owners. No copyright infringement intended.]
A Look in the Boudoir [January 13, 2015]
This was a good sign, she knew. After he had tidied away their lunch in the cosy mountain hut, he had donned the big, bulky coat. She loved seeing it on him – it meant he was warm and happy, and they would spend time on an extended walk. Just him and her. That meant alone-time. No phones ringing, no one coming to the door and visiting. They would be outside on one of their peaceful walks, enjoying their time undisturbed, and together. In the short time she had known him, he had become her sole focus. Away from it all, he cared only for her, and even when he had to look at his work, he would allow her to cuddle up to him, nudging her blond head under his arm. He didn’t have to talk to her. She enjoyed his mere presence, even if she didn’t have his attention. But on their long walks she knew she always had his attention…
She was out of the door of the chalet before he had even closed the buttons on his coat. It had snowed the night before, and the air was chilly despite bright sunshine. She ran ahead kicking up the deep soft snow that surrounded the hut. “Wait”, he shouted with a laugh, “not so fast.” Not turning back, she ran on, but stopped with a start when something soft, wet and white exploded on her head. She playfully growled. What the??? Today he meant serious fun, it seemed, and when she turned around, he was already running towards her, grabbing another handful of snow and hurling it into her direction. She ducked and shrieked with joy. “The fun is in the chase, eh”, he panted as he continued to follow her, “wait til I get you!” She shook her blond tresses and made a sharp turn, just about missing his big powerful hands that were ready to grab her. She knew how to keep him chasing after her… and yes, there was nothing better than that.
By the time they were both exhausted from the chase, not a single snowflake of the previously virginal snow around the chalet had been left unturned. He smiled at her, his rapidly coming breath leaving clouds of steam in the chilly winter air. “Come on, let’s go back inside, I need to catch my breath”, he softly said to her. She sidled up to him and together they leisurely walked back to the entrance porch. She was enraptured, observing him opening the buttons of his coat, and before she could slip in through the door, he held her back, leaned down to her and smoothed a few bits of icy snow from her hair, finishing up with a tender kiss on her head. She sniffed softly, the warmth of his breath on her head sending shivers of affection through her, and pushed past him into the hut, sneaking into the warmest room in the house.
He was close behind and fell on the bed with a loud sigh. “That was exhilarating fun, my sweet”, he exhaled. He hadn’t even taken his coat off, but with a contented sigh he pushed his bum up further on the bed and pulled himself up by his right hand on the metal bed frame. He closed his eyes contendedly. When he opened them again, she was standing by the fireplace, warming herself, her chest still rising and falling from the frolicking in the snow a minute ago. He smiled and winked at her. “You look like you need some warming-up…”, he enticed her to join him. “And so do I. Come here and be a good girl”, he patted the white duvet with his left hand. She had waited for that sign. Tail wagging, she jumped on the bed with a “woof”.
Personal Favourites [December 31, 2015]
He lounged in his comfy chair with his iPad and a glass of Pinot Noir. South Island, of course. Ahhh, the rich, earthy aroma of the fermented grapes spoilt his taste buds. He closed his eyes with a sigh and savoured the luxurious warmth of the wine, as a wide smile graced his stubbly cheeks. The perfect accompaniment for the task his fans had set him for New Year’s Eve: Accounting for his year. They had sent him a list of “essential questions, 2014 edition” that he was supposed to answer. As the dust settled on the closing year, he reflected on the challenges he had mastered. Three promo tours, two films, two stage productions, numerous interviews, one con, lots of photo sessions, recordings, public appearances. He had achieved a lot.
Right, let’s get to it, he thought. He reached for his wine glass again, swirled the ruby-red liquid and took an appreciative sniff before he downed a generous sip for courage. Then he opened the document on his iPad.
“Dear Richard – congratulations on 2014. As your fans we were delighted to see more of you than ever before – off and on-screen. We particularly enjoyed all the public appearances, photo shoots interviews, and tweets where you allowed us a glimpse at you, the man. However, could we please get the fundamentals right? You keep contradicting yourself in your interviews. You claim that socks and aftershave are the perfect Christmas pressies, and a week later you say there is nothing worse than receiving such. What is it then? Our essential list of questions is attached at the bottom. Please answer and tweet. And finally, please tell us the question that you were never asked in an interview but would love to hear.
With fond greetings – your fans”
Richard curiously opened the attached list of questions. “Please add your answer in red.”
Hariclea asks Favourite premiere: BOTFA London
Micra asks Best Independent Styling Choice: pink socks (match that, Ilaria)
Linda60 asks Proudest Moment: Opening Night, The Crucible
Austoz asks Best Taste encountered: Salted Caramel
Sofia asks Favourite interviewer: eh… controversial
Jazzbaby asks Most played song: Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now by Samantha Fox
Obscura asks Favourite hobby: Praising others
cRAmerry Least favourite hair length: Chop, extended edition
Zee asks Most creative moment: my first tweet
Guylty asks Most enjoyable photo shoot: Selfies
Perry asks Least favourite characteristic: Vanity
Hedgehogess asks Favourite past time: 11 am
Kathy Jones asks Biggest Challenge: Ice Bucket
Helen asks Best Day in 2014: Sunday
Abby asks Favourite Party: Labour
Jollytr asks Best new skill: hashtagging
KellyDS asks Biggest mistake: Tweed jacket over bulky jumper
Mezzmerizedbyrichard asks Greatest success: Not getting lost on way to BOTFA premiere
Armitagebesotted asks Most graceful moment: Getting out of the limo at the London premiere
The list went on – many more fans had submitted questions: Katia, Barsine, Alyssa, Stephanie, Raoverload, Mimi, Katharine, Dededotti, Christine, Herba, Judit, Jennifer, i.f., Katie, Miapatagonia, Richardiana, Riepu, SH, susiederkinssd, sahraobsessed, suzy, nokisuu, Richardtreehouse, Utepirat, Fedoralady, Donna, April – but it was getting late, and his wine glass was empty.
Time to wrap, he thought. But one more request to fulfill. He extracted himself from his comfy chair and took his iPad to the kitchen counter. Propping up the iPad to stand in its cover, he pulled one of his silver kitchen chairs under his lush bum and plonked down. With his arm outstretched, he fumbled with the apps on his iPad. When the little red light started flashing, he pulled back his arm, and looked up at the iPad camera. Here is my question for you, friends. And I cannot give you the answer. But I hope you can? He drew an audible breath, and the slightest flicker of insecurity flashed over his stubbled face. But then he quickly added Will you follow me another year? He paused and leant forward, his hands folding between his knees. He switched on his sparkling puppy eyes from under his softly folded frown.
da-da da-Dunn, da-Dunn, da-Dunn-da-Dunn-da-Dunn [November 26, 2014]
Shopping. Never his favourite occupation. But his curiosity had been piqued. His Hobbit buddy had talked about a shop that catered for the needs and demands of the celebrity shopper. “Your star is rising, Rich, and you probably need to prepare yourself for the changing needs of your new life in the eye of the public.” Well, he had assumed that that was why he had signed up with his personal stylist. But his colleague had emphatically suggested he drop into the shop when he was in London for the Hobbit premiere and mumbled something about “discreet”, “innovative” and “napkins”. A bizarre combination, but simultaneously intriguing.
“This menswear shop better have some classy threads”, he thought to himself as he ambled to the shop. “Need new red carpet outfit after sofa prints, gandalf-greys and black tie. Maybe some moleskin velvet?” 23, Clouseau Road – this had to be the shop. He looked at the unassuming exterior of the shop. The windows’ opaque glass did not provide any clue that this was a shop at all. Only the large shop sign reading “Q” indicated that he had reached his destination.
He stepped into a small room that was almost completely stuffed with shelves containing boxes of all sizes. A few garments were displayed on racks, an odd assortment of objects sat on the small floor space. The gleaming steel and glaring marble luxury of the shops he was used to frequenting to fulfill his brand-name clothing needs, were ominously missing. In fact the shop looked decidedly unglamourous if not down-right shifty. He hesitated, his hand still on the door knob. An elderly man, as unassuming as his shop, looked up from behind the counter. “Good afternoon, Mr Armitage, Sir, how can I help you?”
Richard closed the door with a thud and directed his curious gaze at the man. “Eh, how…?” The shop keeper smiled. “It is my business to be informed about potential customers, Sir. Your recent success on stage and off has made you a prime target for what we are offering in our shop. Have you any particular needs I may cater for?” “No, thanks”, Richard hurriedly answered, “Eh, just looking.” “Very well.”
Richard looked around. A board with numerous fake moustaches attracted his interest. He carefully brushed over a particularly impressive handle-bar moustache with his hand. On the shelf behind the board he spotted dark sunglasses in all shapes and colours. There were boxes with pictures of mobile phones, pens and watches printed on. Was that a periscope peeping around the corner of a shelf? Why on earth had B___ sent him here? “Excuse me, is this a joke shop?”, he eventually plucked up the courage to ask the shop keeper.
The man’s expectant mien dropped. “Oh no, Sir, this is deadly serious.” “Well”, Richard fumbled for words “I was sent here by my colleague B___ C___ who said you catered for people who are in the public eye…” “Well, Sir, we do. Mr C___ is a valued customer of ours and bought our Napkin Invisibility Solution earlier this year. You may have seen him with it…” Richard shook his head. “Ah, pity. Ingeniously used.” He paused and then explained with proud emphasis, “We provide the latest in celebrity gear, Mr Armitage”.
Richard raised his eyebrows inquiringly at the shop manager. “Sun glasses with built-in rear-view mirror to check you are not being followed by fans, elegant permanent ink pens for never-ending autograph sessions – they even work upside down”, he pointed at a shelf, “wet suits with inflatable ducks for discreet exit in the water, mouth-held air supply for those eventualities where you may hide in a stuffy cupboard to avoid paparazzi, down to simple but British quality-made baseball caps with extra long points for hiding under… we have it all.” Richard’s eyes had grown bigger and bigger. He felt like a child in a toy shop. “I need it all!!!”
“Well, I have just the right equipment for a fashionable man like you.” The shopkeeper pulled a dark woollen coat from one of the racks. “If you would slip into that, Sir… Suits you very well, if I may say so, Sir.” He yanked on the sleeves of the coat to make it fit. “Yeah, but what does it do?” “Allow me,” the shopkeeper turned up the collar of the coat. “Stealth mode collar. You can hide behind it.” “And that is all?”, Richard huffed. “Well, the collar has a built-in communication device that will connect you with your driver, agent or loved one of choice for discreet contact. Or extraction from sketchy situations. No wires, totally invisible. Infinite battery life. Operated by body heat. 100% Shetland wool. Can be dry-cleaned.” The shop keeper patted the collar back down.
“Well, bugger me senseless. Lucas North, I am back!”, Richard exclaimed. “I’ll take it!” “Very good”, the man replied. “Shall I wrap that for you, Sir?” “No thanks, I’ll wear it straight away.” He paid, and turned around on his heels. Hunching into the coat he turned the collar up again and headed for the door. His coat tails flying behind him he whispered into his coat, “Testing, testing. Harry, I need your help. I’m a celebrity, get me out of here…”
The Portrait of a King [November 17, 2014]
The big day had come. He had led his people to and from exile, he had searched for his father, the rightful king, he had gone on a journey of redemption and revenge, he had defeated his enemies – and he was crowned the King under the Mountain. The line of Durin was re-instated. For the coronation of Thorin II., son of Thrain, son of Thror, Balin had arranged for the pomp and circumstance that was custom among royals of any race. When the raven crown was placed on Thorin’s head in the cathedral darkness of the Erebor halls, his people had cheered, and many a dwarven eye had sparkled with the give-away twinkle of joyful tears. And his royal peers had accepted him as an equal among the monarchs and rulers of Middle-earth.
He himself had not even nearly been overcome by the moment. All his adult life he had worked for this. It was the culmination of his hopes and yet also the fulfilment of his destiny. The line of Durin was safe. He was due the crown, and he accepted it with the almost-arrogant haughtiness that he was known for. Rituals had to be celebrated, an age-old choreography of symbolic gestures and moves in acceptance of the homage that was paid to him, followed by a celebratory dinner with his guests of honour, among them the wise wizard Gandalf the Grey without whom he would never have attempted the journey that led him back to his kingdom.
Once the guests were sated after dinner, and the celebrations moved from the official to the informal, Thorin was swept away to the throne room where a portraitist was to take his likeness to mark this momentous day. Dressed in his coronation robes, in heavy armour under a luxuriously fur-lined and ornamented ceremonial robe, Thorin had ascended the throne of his ancestors. His right arm authoritatively placed on his sword in a gesture of confidence, the magnificent ornamental shield balanced on his left knee, he had stared directly at the portraitist, laying all the determination and power of the Durin dynasty into his piercing, assertive gaze. There was no defiance in Thorin, no regret, not even undue pride. He *was* the King under the Mountain, and nothing could take away from that.
As it finally dawned on him that his journey was at and end, that he had reached his destiny, and his future was now that of the ruler he was born to be, he became aware of sudden wisps of sadness that touched his heart, like gusts of an ice-cold breeze on a golden winter day. His heart froze as he realized that there was one glaring omission in this fulfilment of his destiny. The place to his left was empty. She who was to share the glory of his reign was absent. Grief took hold of him as he remembered his betrothed – a princess of a distinguished line, but also the love of his life, fair and beautiful, determined and yet compromising, wiser than her years and still joyously innocent like a child. Where he was hot temper, she was cool reason. She was soft- to his hardness, forgiveness to his vengeful fury. She was his measure, and his balance. And their love for each other had been perfectly matched. She had not survived the devastation of the dragon’s attack, and not a journey to the end of Middle-earth would bring her back.
Pangs of sorrow clawed at his heart. A tell-tale sparkle entered his eyes. He lowered his head and looked away from the painter scratching his likeness. No one could replace his Queen. The shield slipped from his hand with a clang and came to a rest by his foot. He would forever be defenseless against the grief for his beloved. She would be the rightful Queen under the Mountain for as long as he lived.
The Selfie [October 17, 2014]
“Seriously, Elliott”, the man grumbled at his director, shaking his head in exasperation, “I’ve been getting complaints here on Twitter about the quality of your Twitter pictures of me.” He pointed at the iPhone in his hand. “It’s all very well that we have to keep teasing the public about your film, but this is getting annoying. I have 45k followers, you know.” Another notification flashed over the screen of his iPhone while he was speaking. “There! Speak of the devil.” He sighed. His director was unmoved. “That’s the game, Richard”, he said. “But hey, feel free to do your own thing”, the director shrugged. Richard was not so sure about that after an initial disaster with an unintended centerfold image that had launched his Twitter career months ago.
The two men were having lunch during a pause on a day-time shoot. The director busied himself with his food again, taking a hearty bite off the healthy sandwich. “Really, this just won’t do”, Richard mumbled. “I’m known for looking after my fans. I better give ‘em something before my phone explodes.” iPhone in hand Richard got up from the table. “See ya on set in ten”, he said and ambled off. He was going to put an end to this. “Give ‘em what they want. I’ll do a quick selfie. That’ll shut them up”, he thought. “Sure, it’s only gonna take a minute.”
He opened the iPhone while absent-mindedly walking to a quiet corner of the catering area sheltered by cheerfully glowing drinks dispensers that created a U-shaped area. No crew members and colleagues to be seen. Good opportunity to get it over and done with. He turned his back to the drinks machines and pointed the iPhone at himself. Click. “Shit. Forgot to switch the camera around.” He impatiently tapped on the screen and held the camera phone away from himself again. Click. A blurry picture of his bearded mug appeared on the screen. “What the…”, he swore. This was harder than anticipated. Honestly, he had never given photography much thought. Apart from shooting with his favourite photographer, shoots were always a bit of a chore. “You would think I’d have a clue after observing photographers prancing around me for ten years”, he shook his head at his cluelessness. “How does this selfie business work?”
He stretched out his arm with the camera once again. Click. Half-closed eyes. He looked like a somnambulist. “How fitting”, he grimaced. Delete. “Ok, eyes open now”, he stared unblinkingly at the little eye of the camera phone. Cl… “Hi Richard – doing some experimenting?” …ick. Damn, the passing crew member had made him turn his head just as he was releasing the shutter. Delete. Camera back in position, chin up, smile. Click. Too arrogant a look, he wanted to come across as the people’s heart-throb, not a dickhead. Delete. He tried more, dissatisfied with the results. Blurry, fat. And more. Closed eyes, overexposed, cut off head. And more. One-handed release, two-handed release. No joy. “I need help.”
He closed the camera app and opened the browser of his phone. “HOW TO TAKE SELFIE” he typed into the search box. A list of links appeared on the screen. He tapped on the first. “Now… Number 1 – rule of thirds. Don’t place your face in the centre of the image. Number 2 – Choose a flattering angle. Number 3 – Don’t put shoulders parallel to camera. Number 4 – Jut out jaw to avoid double chin…”, he scoffed. “No problem there, mate”, he smugly thought. “Beard covers blub. Number 5 – crop close to your head. Number 6 – Stand near a light source.” This went on and on…
Perusing the tips Richard was unaware of the group of colleagues that had gathered in the canteen. “Shit, nearly ten minutes gone”, he thought. “Must get back to the set. Let’s put it into practice then.” He held the phone out again and looked at himself in the live view. Head in upper left corner. Shoulders hunched left, head tilted, chin out, light source covered. Click. He impatiently opened the photo view to check the result. A smile lit up his knitted brows. “Yes”, he hissed under his breath, “this will do”. He nearly dropped the phone when spontaneous applause erupted around him. “Well done Richard.” “Your new profile picture?” “Say, that took really long, didn’t it?” “A Vanity project?” “Can we see it, too?” The crew was having a field day with his selfie antics. “All in the name of fan-star-relations”, he grinned. One out of 50. He’d have to work on his hit rate.
An Ode to Thorin [October 16, 2014]
Heavy footsteps echoed in the halls of Erebor. The king was on his way. A new seam of precious metal had been discovered in the depth of his mountain, and as was his habit, the king himself had gone down to take the first pick with his axe, beginning a new mining gallery for the exploiting of the precious metal. This should have been an occasion of joy for the recently re-instated king of the dwarves, but much to his own dismay Thorin had realised that the long exile from his kingdom, the subsequent journey to recapturing it, the exhausting battle against his enemies and finally the months it took to re-instate himself on the throne had taken their toll. His mining technique was not what it had been. He grimaced just thinking about it. Like a rookie dwarf he had swung his pick-axe too far back – and grazed his own regal brow when he brought it down on the shimmering stone of gold with his inaugural hit. He gingerly touched his temple. He had drawn blood. Dwalin had jumped to his side and started to make a big fuss over the little cut, drawing even more attention to the embarrassing lapse. Thorin had swatted him away like an irritating fly – and thundered off in a huff after the traditional “Salab Nurjundul”* chant. Once soured, his mood was seldom lightened very quickly. With knitted brows and clenched fists Thorin stomped his way back towards the Royal quarters. Nothing could save this day today, that much was clear. And it was only half past 10 in the morning.
Turning the corner to the Mekeb-fahan**, he was aware of a faint whistling that switched to a gentle hum as he made his way closer to the side-chamber to the library where his administrative council had their quarters. All dwarves were currently attending the festivities for the newly opened seam, as was the custom on a feast day such as this, “so who is faffing around up here”, Thorin grumbled into his blood-stained beard. With a determined step he approached the heavy door into the council chamber. A fair but human female was sitting in the chamber, surrounded by parchments and quills, humming unself-consciously to herself. “What keeps you here, woman?” Thorin boomed from the doorway, slightly harsher in tone than he had intended.
This was, he knew very well, the woman employed for the translation of the Royal documents. She had not been invited to the celebrations; foreigners were excluded from the dwarven festivities. He had noticed her before on the few occasions that he had had reason to visit the administration quarters. She had a most pleasing way of blushing whenever Thorin stuck his nose around the door of the council chamber. But she also had a rather annoying habit of humming romantic ditties with the most ridiculous lyrics that some of his council members had complained about. Dwarves simply did not entertain sentimental drivel such as “I can’t smile without you, I can’t laugh and I can’t sing, I’m finding it hard to do anything…”And some of the older council dwarves had hinted to Thorin that the woman was clearly in love – and therefore unfit for work. He had waved off the demand, but idly wondered who had the woman in thrall…
Now the woman jumped to her feet, her blush darker than he had ever noticed before. “I… I… was sorting… and copying some documents, my King…”, she stammered, straightening her dress to make herself presentable in the presence of the king. Thorin nodded impatiently as he stepped closer. “I wonder what is so urgent that you would be working on a feast day, woman?” “I… nothing… I… was just…” Mahal, had the woman a speech impediment? If this was an example of her articulateness or rather lack thereof, he’d worry about her translation work.
Before Thorin could reach the table, the woman suddenly turned back to the table where she had been sitting, swiping across the documents in an obvious attempt to conceal her true business. With a swift step Thorin was by her side. “What are you hiding from me? Are you a spy, taking notes off our council papers? Let me see what you have just failed to hide from me”, he demanded in a voice that allowed no resistance. The woman’s face and shoulders fell. King Thorin was well-known for his alert eyes and his sensitive nose that seemed to sniff out anything that concerned his affairs. No wonder, regally as it sat in his face. She slowly pulled a document from underneath the pile of papers. “I am no spy. I was just entertaining myself, my Lord, with some rhymes. But I beg you, do not waste your time with them. They are rather bad…”, she made a desperate attempt at distracting him. But Thorin snatched the parchment from her trembling fingers. “Let me be the judge of that”, he grumbled. The woman cringed as Thorin’s eyes flew back and forth over the lines of neatly written words.
At last he had finished. He lowered his hand with the parchment and focussed on the woman who was expecting the wrath of the king. But her fearful gaze met with a mirthful smile. “An ode to my nose? How flattering. But just to let you know – I have a fine ear for poetry, too. 200 words. Jambic pentameter. An ode to his ears. Tomorrow. In my private study.” He left the woman standing, her mouth agape, and stepped sprightly out of the chamber. “An ornament in his face…”, he whispered to himself with a smile. The day was suddenly not as dark as it had seemed before…
*busy newly opened
** North Library
This ficlet was inspired by Hedgehogess who sent me the poem way before I had a picture to attach the poem to. The English translation is mine, all artistic credit to Hedgehogess, though.
Moving [September 9, 2014]
She was in the makeshift kitchen in the corner of the warehouse, rustling up a cup of tea for herself and her helper. Returning from the last trip down the ramp to the moving van, he stood in the middle of the floor, his gaze flickering over the empty space. “Ach, I’m exhausted”, he spat. “What the hell have you got in your boxes? Moving your stuff has really taken it out of me! I need to sit down.” She smiled at him and pointed at the last remaining box in the corner. “Why don’t you sit there?” He glanced at the wooden crate and quipped with a wink “Well, that is certainly thinking outside the box, but if you say so…” He moved languidly towards the box, then pulled it out from the wall and sat down on it, facing her, raking his hands through his hair and taking a breather.
She looked at him from across the room – and caught her breath. He looked delicious, with his shirt the exact shade of his dark hair, open at the collar and the sleeves casually rolled up to reveal his strong forearms. She could see the dark hairs standing out against the white skin of his forearms, the veins protruding slightly from the strain of having carried the boxes into the lorry. He was holding on to the box with his bum perched on the top and his legs open and dangling. She felt a shiver going down her spine. Her gaze skipped to the thighs straining against the confines of his tight trousers, and trailed further down his legs. When she reached the end of the denim garment, she choked on the swig of tea she had just taken in order to hide behind the steaming mug.
“Are you alright, luv?” he asked in a concerned voice, moving forward as if to get up. She hurriedly waved him off to indicate he needn’t get up. She felt the blood draining from her face. He was not wearing any socks in his Chucks!!! “No, stay on the box!”, she replied hoarsely, trying to catch her breath. “I don’t like to get up on a soap box, but is everything ok, though?”, he insisted, with a concerned but cheeky grin. “You look a bit pale.” She nodded vigorously. “I’m very ok. I am just enjoying the view from over here. You’re grand. In fact you are ticking all the boxes!” She blushed and threw her hand across her mouth. But he laughed out loud, throwing his head back and then leaning forward with a wide grin. What an image! “Boxing day has come early!!!”, she thought with a grin…
The Stage Door [August 8, 2014]
Review: “The Stage Door”
New Experimental Drama Takes West End by Storm
by Guylty Pleasure
Experimental drama has the habit of being, well, experimental. It is hard to tell nowadays where reality starts and fiction begins. A new experimental drama that is mid-way through its eleven week-run in London’s West End is braving new ways in bringing the reality of modern life to the audience. Never-seen-before stage management, audience involvement and improvisation methods are making this innovative new work the must-see performance of the season. And best of all – it’s unticketed and free in.
Devised and staged by impressive director/writer/lead actor Richard Armitage, the play opens to a street scene on a balmy summer evening in central London. The seemingly calm and peaceful scene is cosily illuminated by street lights, accentuated with the warm glow of the orange “stage door” orb. Sparsely furnished with the occasional car and a few lonely signposts, the set however displays a staggering level of detail, allowing the audience to feel immediately at ease with the familiar setting. It is on this set that the audience assembles in a single-file, carefully co-directed by That-polite-Security-Guard under detailed instruction from director Armitage.
With the audience in place, Armitage allows the atmosphere to settle before the action starts rolling. And this is where the experimental spectacle starts. Unbeknownst to the audience, the assembled spectators become part of the play, jostling for a place in the line, conducting hushed conversations, swapping the occasional giggle, adjusting bra straps and waistbands, and holding pens and posters at the ready. Armitage allows the tension to rise until almost palpably at breaking point, and finally enters the stage himself.
In a remarkably choreographed movement of grace and speed the lead actor works his way along the lined-up audience. His journey is the reward, both for him, but mainly for the audience, as he twists and turns in a stunning improvisation from one spectator to the next. Outmaneuvering any requests for conversation, Armitage launches into a mantra-like, Beckett-esque monologue. “Thank you. Thank you. Aw, thank you for coming. Thank you. Yes, of course. That’s so kind of you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for coming.” The result is a mind-blowing, awe-inspiring blur of pale skin and dark beard, overlayed with the soothing baritone hum of his calming voice that leaves the audience speechless and incapable of anything but compliance.
Involving the audience in the drama of the action is a stroke of genius by the 42-year-old actor. Known for the meticulous preparation of his roles, the Hobbit star has researched his subject in-depth and portrays his character as a public figure conscious of the cult of celebrity. Bowed down in humility, the modest character accepts the ovations of the audience with grace and a modicum of embarrassment, acknowledging the power of female mass adoration but politely refusing to reap the rewards of his celebrity. The towering presence of a burly security guard on the stage is the obvious reminder that the fourth wall is only breached on the celebrity’s terms, and can be re-sealed at any moment.
All too soon the spectacle is over. The twenty-minute-play relies heavily on the cooperation of the audience, and kudos to Armitage for braving and sharing the unpredictability of improvisation as well as reacting with wit and aplomb to the occasionally rowdy crowd. On the night the reviewer attended the performance, a fellow attendee veered off the unwritten script and demanded the signing of a plastic puppet instead of the customary books, photos or posters. Armitage elegantly interrupted his monologue with an unrehearsed but smoothly inserted “You want that signed?” and continued the performance unfazed. It speaks for Armitage’s impeccable professionalism that he signed his customary “RA” without the slightest quiver and launched back into his monologue with hardly a twitch of his impeccably coiffed eyebrows.
No doubt the close-contact performance takes guts, sweat and tears, and the audience rewarded the inspiring writer/actor/director appropriately with spontaneous standing ovations on the pavement. (Only cynics would claim that the audience was already standing, anyway.) If you are a socially aware theatre-lover, this is the must-see event of the season for the scenes of spontaneous fangirl heart-break, the searing commentary on 21st century cult of celebrity and an up-to-date look at current menswear fashion.
“The Stage Door” opened outside the Old Vic Theatre, London, on the 21st of June 2014 and runs until September 13th, 2014. This is an unticketed, free event. The play is rated PG 13 (Parents strongly cautioned – some material may be inappropriate for children under 13). Observers welcome, participants are advised to bring writing material and/or camera as only autograph and photo requests will elicit reactive involvement in the performance of Mr Armitage.
Full Frontal Arsitage [July 11, 2014]
“Richard?” The soft knock on the door to the dressing room caused the man to look up from the manuscript he had buried his nose in. He cleared his throat. “Yes?” “Just to let you know the journalist has arrived”, a muffled voice spoke through the door. “She’s got a photographer in tow, too. They are waiting downstairs. Whenever you are ready…” Ah yes, an interview request. There had been quite a few of them recently as the play he was starring in was heading towards premiere night. He sighed and closed the manuscript with a resolute thud. Getting up from his chair he adjusted his waistband and cleared his throat.
A critical look at himself in the mirror revealed a middle-aged, tall grump. Oh dear. Interview mode, Armitage, interview! He moved closer to the mirror, peering closely into his own eyes. There was already a backlog of exhaustion in his face, from several weeks of intense rehearsing, and the strain of the first week of previews. Three and a half hours of live acting, under the scrutiny of an audience, his name in big letters over the door. He felt the responsibility heavily on his shoulders. The director was still adjusting the play to its final version, which meant constant re-learning of the stage directions and intense concentration on his co-stars for the lines and actions that would prompt his. Christ,I look knackered, he exhaled. No. I look my age. He huffed at the indignation of the inexorable advancing of his age. At least I am wearing my biker outfit today. That should shave at least ten years off. He patted his green trousers with a smug smile.
Good thing I had the beard and hair dyed again last week… His gaze moved over his face – tolerably handsome, forehead too angular, villainous. How did he ever procure the part of such an inherently good man as Proctor??? Ah yes, the man had a blemished past. Of course that required a scary face. Porter. Thorin. Thornton. Gisborne. Men with definite shadow. A smirk fluttered over his mien. A man with *eye* shadow! He chuckled at the memory of the heavily eye-lined medieval knight. Hang on. He reached out for the jar of make-up utensils that stood on his dressing table. After a rummage he found what he needed – a soft, black kohl pencil. Leaning closer to the mirror he accentuated the shape of his eyes with the black eyeliner. Thank goodness the eyelashes had been part of the whole-body hair-dyeing procedure in preparation for the run of the show. Personally, he would’ve drawn the line beneath his chin, but the make-up artist in charge had insisted on applying the dark colour to his chest hair, too, claiming it had to match his face for the shirtless scene…
The paintwork finished, he leaned back to get a look at himself in the mirror. Not too bad – the look had “cool” written all over him from the peaks of his widows to the steel caps of his boots. “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the sexiest of them all?” he intoned into the sparkling looking glass over his dressing table. “Famed is thy smoulder, my King. But hold, a sultrier man I see. Scars cannot hide his sexy grace. Alas, he is more sultry than thee.” He jumped at the mirror’s answer – but not for the extraordinary rarity of being spoken to by an inanimate object, but for the impudent reply. “Sexier? I’ll give you sultry!” With an angry hiss he turned around and exited through his dressing room door.
He found the journalist in the front of house bar on the first floor. “Hi, my name is Richard”, he boomed into the empty room. Then he fell into the corner of the squishy sofa and made himself comfortable. “Ask away”, he purred as he adjusted his right foot on the sofa and slowly spread his legs…
Dignity [May 30, 2014]
Weekend! Rehearsals over and done for the week, he had a few things on his list – get home quickly, pick up a bottle of red on the way, to help him learn his lines, then reward himself by a little stint on the internet, checking the sales of his latest audiobook (he might bump them up with a little review on amazon under a false name, making sure the spell check was activated and none of his characteristic typos slipped through. Really, his well-wishers were far too observant), followed by a little bask in Social Media glory under the Richard Armitage tag. Let’s get out of here, and quick.
Despite the approaching summer it had been chilly out, the last few days. He pulled on his woollen coat in a hurry and slung a black scarf around his neck. It was essential to keep his vocal chords well insulated. Only three weeks until show-time. The beard was actually great for that, too. With a quick wave to his colleagues, he was out of the dressing room and on the way.
He enjoyed the anonymity of the metropolis. He still felt more or less unrecognised in the crowd, and so decided on the tube as his preferred mode of transport this early evening. Brandishing his oyster card, he made his way into the underbelly of London, his legs automatically finding the way to his usual spot on the platform. Hells bells, it was busy. A whole group of young people occupied the platform. French students on a class excursion, by the sound of them. He stepped into the carriage of the arriving tube, the students piling in behind him. He closed his eyes and leant back against the carriage door as the train started to move.
Suddenly he felt a tickling sensation on his face. Blinking fast he opened his eyes, only to catch a blushing girl averting her eyes quickly. The carriage was abuzz with the excited chatter of the students in a strange mixture of French and the odd English word thrown in. “Tonnerre de Brest“… “vegetarians”… “fuzzy wuzzy”… “mille sabords“… “abominable snowman”… Really, it was too funny what people were talking about. “… thundering typhoons…”. He caught the blushing girl whisper loudly over the train sounds to her giggling friend. Oh right, they had recognised him from his upcoming tornado disaster film. He sighed. To be expected. Into fan encounter mode, Armitage, he reminded himself as he stretched his spine and stood back from the door. He plastered a friendly smile on his face, signalling that he had caught them catching him and encouraging them to ask for the customary selfie.
“Can we take a photo with you?” the blushing girl timidly yet struggling to suppress a grin came forward. “Sure of course”, he automatically obliged. The giggling friend sidled up to him and grinned into the camera. “Regarde“, the friend piped up. “Souris a le Capitaine!” “Oui. Billions of blistering barnacles!” her friend grinned. His head popped up with a jolt. As he turned his head to see his reflection in the carriage door he was faced with Captain Haddock. Grim. Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles, indeed…
Stunner [May 14, 2014]
[Edit: IMAGE REMOVED – follow link to see image on artist’s page: Sarah Dunn Photography]
Gnomon [May 4, 2014]
When we walk, my step falls in with yours,
trying to catch up but still glad to be behind.
To give me time to observe.
Cos you show the way and lead me along,
Your shadow anchoring me to your side.
The easy confidence of your step gives me courage
To face what is waiting for us.
Allow me to walk with you.
When we walk, I take the lead.
Not pushing, but guiding.
I am by your side to shield and protect.
But I will let you take your own steps,
Hoping that I will be the gnomon to your dial
When the time comes.
An Act of Philanthropy [April 29, 2014]
“You need some good press, Thorin.” Balin was unhappy with the latest press coverage that Erebor Mining Co had received after the debacle with the Industry Awards. Not only had Thorin’s childish, abrupt manner at the Elrond dinner filtered through (some of the house staff obviously could not keep their mouth shut), but Thorin’s dance floor escapades after the awards ceremony had also found their way into the tabloid press. With new revelations about the apparently hereditary greed of the Erebor family – in the light of multiple acquisitions that Erebor Mining had recently and quietly conducted in the background, industry commentators had warned over an impeding market monopoly, should Erebor win the contract on the Lonely Mountain site against Elrond Industries, Thranduil Co, the Eagle Estate and Dale Developers (dubbed by insiders the “Battle of the Five Armies”) – Thorin badly needed something to boost his reputation.
The opportunity to prove Thorin’s philanthropic credentials to the press vultures, and the wider public, arrived in the post a couple of days later. Balin practically bounced with excitement, as he handed his CEO a letter from a little-known charity. “This is it. Read this, and I tell you what to do!” Thorin carefully scanned the letter.
A wide smile plastered itself on the handsome mining tycoon’s face. “I see. An unrelated cause to show that I care. This is made for me. A few donations, some public appearances in support of ASS, heck, I will suggest myself as patron of the ASS! They need a figure head for their cause, and I have got the right head for that”, Thorin’s eyes twinkled. “Good thinking, Balin. Now, get me that photographer on the phone. I need a portrait session. And I have just the right pose in mind that will cement me as the benign patron of a good cause.” He paused. “Let’s just hope I won’t make an ass out of myself in the process…”
[Edit: IMAGE REMOVED – follow link to see image on artist’s page: Sarah Dunn Photography]
April is the Cruellest Month [April 8, 2014]
“Ok, we need to do that again, Richard.” He sighed. Another take. Another try at getting it right. He was supposed to walk across an inner city waste land of rubble and rubbish. How difficult could that be, especially under cover of the night, where he was in half-shadow, just walking. The rehearsal had been perfect. He had walked across the rubble hill, carefully setting his feet on the bricks, balancing on the broken bits of concrete, propelling himself forward in a gracious dance until he was out of frame. With the sound of the clapperboard, he seemed to have lost his mojo. The first take had apparently taken too long. “A bit faster Richard”, the director had demanded, “you’re not on Seventh Avenue here.” On the second take he had made it two thirds through the frame when a passing truck had fucked up the sound. “Cut! We have to shoot that again, Richard.”
10.30 pm. It was cold. An April night. April is the cruellest month. For filming outdoor scenes. He had resumed his position and waited for the third attempt. A simple walk across the rubble. How hard can it be? He had acted with tennis balls, survived white water barrelling and smashed his face with fake weapons. But half way across the rubble he had tripped over a half-obscured piece of wire and nearly landed on all fours. Fuck! “Sorry, boss”, he had tried to make light of it, but he was tired and exhausted after a long day of rehearsing and filming, preceded by a weekend of promo work. “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” or what? This was getting ridiculous. Back to square one.
“And action!” He made his way across the rubble, not too fast, not too slow, keeping an eye out for sneaky pieces of wire when the breeze picked up and started flapping his open coat in the wind and blowing his damned 90s bob into his face. “Cut!!!! Hair please – I need to be able to see Chop!” The stylist sprayed a ton-load of hair spray onto his head in an attempt at fixing the strands of hair on his skull. His hair felt like a helmet at this stage. He coughed. Damn, he was thirsty. If there were water we should stop and drink. Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think. Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand. If there were only water amongst the rock… Impatiently swatting away the hands of the stylist, he made his way back to the starting position. “Action!” He walked, singularly concentrated on the task of setting one foot in front of the other. Yes, he could do it. His head bowed down, his eyes carefully scanned the ground. Another step taken. He ploughed on, his hands in his pocket. So thirsty, Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop. Chop Chop Chop. But there is no water. He walked on. He could do it. He walked. Yes.
By the time the director cried “Cut!” he was already out of earshot.
Sir Chop of Armitage [March 28, 2014]
BAFTALA had become a wake-up call. At least in *his* book. What the…? When he had been faced with his larger-than-life likeness in the shape of a poster at a recent interview, he had pissed himself laughing. Ok well, he had nearly choked on his own tongue. “Do I have to pull that face??” Really, he had had no idea. *That* was how the photos had come out? Goodness. He looked like a trout suffering from heart-burn. Eyes – too far closed. Head – damn straight. Mouth – thin line. And btw, why had his strategy not paid off? Why was there a large colourful adjective describing his nationality over his best bit? The glimpse of chest hair had been meant as the coup-de-grace!!! He had to revise his photocall check-list, quite evidently. Clearly, he also needed a new media strategy. He would take matters in his own hands, just as he was wont to do on a regular basis.
And now the opportunity had arisen. Another media occasion to tout his pout. Or rather, not to. Blow them away with beauty if the hotness doesn’t do it. The check list had come out again… He was showcasing his long slim legs in shiny black trousers. Tight little black number for the jacket *yum*. Went nicely with 1980s retro slim tie. Out of spite… no, make that “wounded pride”… he’d punish the ladies by keeping his chest hair under tight wraps – or rather a brown shirt, demurely buttoned up. A nice, tactile design, that shirt, with some black patches to match his Gisbornesque stubble. Enough to light a match from. Ahhhh, yes, they’d always liked the black henchman. His romantic nape-curls had blown their ovaries to smithereens. “I can’t be shown up by a fictional character”, he huffed to himself, as he was jostled in front of the backdrop for the customary photo call. “This is ME!” No full-on smoulder this time. There would be no frowny trout… eh pout. He hadn’t had his choppers replaced by pearly whites for nothing.
He assumed his tried-and-tested chocolate pose. “Leg forward, shoulders relaxed, hand in pocket, Armitage!” he said to himself. “Social workers are hot Hot HOT!” he repeated the mantra in his head, thinking of the project he was currently involved in. He inclined his head in a momentary pause of thought. A little glimmer of humour appeared in his eyes, and his lips opened to follow the smile. “And what is a drug-addicted, promiscuous ex-social worker if not an urban henchman? I’ve got the stubble, I wear the gear, I have the mullet!”
It was time to advertise Chop to the ladies.
Pretty or Vacant? [March 18, 2014]
[Edit: IMAGE REMOVED – follow link to see image on artist’s page: Sarah Dunn Photography]
He was tired now, after a long trans-Atlantic flight from New York to London. The porter at the door was as imposing as ever. “Good evening, Sir. Your room is ready for you. Will you be taking dinner in the Club?” “Yes, Arthur”, he answered, signing his name into the ledger on the mahogany desk in the hall. “Would you like me to take your luggage to your room, Mr Armitage, before you take dinner?” “No, I can take it myself. I think I’ll be retiring to the library before dinner, anyway. Thank you, Arthur.” He turned and headed up the grand staircase to his accustomed room on the second floor.
Fifteen minutes later he was refreshed and correctly attired on his way back down the stairs again. Adjusting his cuffs and waistcoat – this was a tie-only establishment – he walked into the members’ library. He scanned the room. A nice and quiet evening, mid-week, in the distinguished atmosphere of the grand Victorian mansion. Only a few old codgers were sitting in the comfortable leather armchairs. A couple of past-their-prime politicians were having a hushed conversation by the big bay window out to the street, swaying their whiskies in the cut-glass tumblers. He sighed. Just the right atmosphere to wind down after a day of travelling. A couple of armchairs in the back of the dark, wood-panelled room were empty. He grabbed today’s issue of the Times from a sideboard and headed for the leather fauteuil that was in front of the Velvet-curtained double-door leading to the dining room.
A waiter dressed in black tails appeared out of nowhere and quietly asked for his orders. “A glass of Spätburgunder, please”, he carefully enunciated the vowels of the strange German word, already imagining the rich red wine flowing in luscious sips over his taste buds and down his throat. He sighed contentedly. As anachronistic as a Gentlemen’s Club might seem in the 21st century, the old boys certainly knew what they were doing when they had invented these establishments. And it was so convenient, being a member of a club. Not only could he escape life for a quiet hour at the member’s bar anytime he needed a break from London, the club also provided bedrooms for members who were from out of town and needed a place for the night. Much preferable to the exchangeable sterility of an anonymous hotel. Besides, he did not want to impose on his London friends and oblige them into putting him up for the night.
He wriggled his bum discretely into the soft leather of the armchair and leaned back with closed eyes, exhaling softly. “I say, I know your face, don’t I?”, a raspy, dark voice with an unmistakable Eastern accent dragged him out of his lazy musings. His unamused gaze fell onto a fellow member of roughly his age, tall and darkly handsome, who had carefully folded himself into the empty armchair in front of his. “Good evening. I don’t know we are acquainted?”, he said suppressing his irritation and forcing a polite smile onto his face. “Viktor Sanowitz, entrepreneur”, the stranger mirthlessly smiled at him. Since when did the Club allow bespectacled, unsavoury Russian oligarchs into its midst? The days of the Empire were obviously long gone.
“How do you do?” he forced through clenched teeth. There was his quiet pre-dinner wind-down gone. “Yes. – I know you from the Television. You are Richard Armitage.” There we go. He was going to have to play the actor now. “Indeed.” “Tell me, what do you think of Russia reasserting its right in the Crimea?” He nearly choked on the sip of Spätburgunder that the attentive waiter had served him. “Politics? I am afraid I am not up-to-date on that”, he waved the question aside, “who wants to know my opinion on anything, anyway?” “Very well, a tricky topic, I agree. Well, tell me about your celebrity lifestyle then. You must be invited to many parties.” “I’m afraid not. I am rather boring.” “Don’t actors party all the time?” “Not really my scene.” He tried to be as monosyllabic as possible. “What about all the other celebrities?” “I don’t really go out much.” “Well, what are the perks of being a sought-after actor these days?” He sighed. “I don’t know.” “Do you not get many freebies? Designer clothes? Free holidays? Surely, a free upgrade to Business Class when you travel?” He emphatically shook is head “No. Hasn’t happened to me.”
The business man smiled maliciously. “Your life sounds boring.” His contrariness was finally piqued. His life was far from boring, but he was not willing to share details from neither his professional nor his private life with an offensive stranger. Discretion was his middle name. But he couldn’t help but push it that last little bit. “Oh, I have fans, groupies. Many interested ladies? A whole Army, in fact.” The stranger was literally drooling now. “I am all ears”, the Russian pushed. “Are they all Armitage-besotted?” A chuckle involuntarily escaped Armitage’s lips. Now, there was a topic he had lots to say on… If only the dry Russian knew. He had stories to tell that would make the insufferable twat gag and turn green with envy. He slowly leaned back in his armchair with a satisfied smile on his lips. Nonchalantly he turned his head to the side and sneakily directed his gaze to the floor. “Yes. But a gentleman never tells…”
Boom [February 26, 2014]
Finally. The day had come. He had found out where they gathered for their annual Army gathering. After much searching and discrete background digging his people had found out where the legendary Armitage Army headquarters were situated. It had taken quite some effort – and a number of well-placed and well-planned hints and teases in interviews to make his “lady well-wishers” get careless and inadvertently disclose where they were based. They had had no chance, incidentally. References to making them drunk – “all of them” – and visiting the Armitage Army headquarters under an invisibility cloak had done the trick. Even the hardiest of his “soldiers” had succumbed to his cunning charms, and it had only been a matter of time before his research team had identified the secret location of the HQ. Once he had found out, he had let it be known that he wanted to inspect the troops – and they had rallied and organised to meet up with their “commander”.
Right now they were in their office. About 25 of them had been delegated to meet with their master… oops, commander. It had been a fierce competition which eventually had to be settled by a raffle, and delegates had been sent from all over the world, representing the territorial Armies from Australia, Indonesia, Russia, Poland, North America, Italy, France, Spain, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland – hell, even Monaco had sent a delegate. The British Home Army had thankfully taken on the catering, and a massive brownie cake with plenty of chocolate filling had been organised and was now placed in commanding position by the window of the HQ. The Army delegates were gathered around it, ruffled by last minute preparations for the appearance of their esteemed leader. “Is he really going to come?”, the Italian delegate asked for the umpteenth time, “are you sure?” “Yes,” the British Army major assured the speaker, “he’ll be here for tea. His people said so! Keep calm.” One of the American delegates snorted. “Need I remind you? Armitage Army cannot keep calm!” The gathered delegates giggled nervously – and loudly.
A surprisingly upmarket area of London, actually, he pondered as he was on his way to the event. He had dressed carefully – not too casually, in a dark blue suit that brought out his blue eyes, and a tight black shirt. No tie, though – he didn’t want to appear too formal, either. His hair freshly darkened and the shoes polished into blinding lustre, he felt devastatingly handsome. Nearly there, he was crossing through a little park that separated the river front from a block of flats across the street. Faint voices attracted his attention as he was walking along the footpath. On a quiet Sunday afternoon this otherwise busy central London street was quiet and empty. But dulcet tones of happy, sweet laughter flittered from somewhere above him. He raised his head and his gaze immediately found a focus… A group of women. By an open window. He swallowed nervously and felt with his hand under the stiff collar of his black shirt. That must be *them* … He had spotted them.
And so did they spot *him*. “Girls – he’s here!” “Shhh, shhh, Ladies, I think he’s coming. I can see a tall, dark, handsome man across the street…” All heads turned towards the window. “What, where? What do you see?” “He’s making his way through the park…” Among the ooohing and aaahing there was a soft *pop*.
He could see the group at the window suddenly moving their heads in unison. Excited giggles floated from the first floor window. Still, after all those red carpets and fan events it made him smile to see such a reaction to himself. He blushed, realising that he felt moved, and raised his head to look up. But what were those strange popping sounds? As he was coming closer, the faint *pop pop pop POP* had become louder, a noticeable, irregular rhythm, not unlike the sound from an old VW Beetle engine.
“OMG OMG OMG.” *pop* “He’s really here!” *pop* “He’s all alone.” *pop pop* “My God, his legs are so long!” *pop POP* “Thighs of thunder!!!” *POP pop* “Look at his shirt, so tight!” *pop pop POP* “OMG, I can see his nape curls!!!” *POP POP POP*
He raised his head, but the frown reflecting his confusion over the strange popping sound was immediately replaced by a brilliant smile directed at the ladies at the window who were following his progress across the path with unabashed curiosity and dreamy looks. Ahhh, they were evidently happy to see him. His heart contracted with a sudden flash of delighted happiness, and his smile widened into a bright grin. He raised his hand in a little wave, not unlike the cheeky Guy-of-Gisborne-wave at the Sheriff, and he winked conspiratorily.
*pop pop POP poppoppoppoppoppoppopop* *BOOOOOOOOOOOOM*
A bright flash of light blinded him as he was suddenly thrown through the air. Split-second, elliptic thoughts raced through his mind, instead of his life flashing before him: An assassination attempt? Why? Where? Who? What about his Army? Were they alright? He barely registered the sound of breaking glass and concrete as the force of an explosion flung him backwards. Instinctively bracing himself for the impact of his body on the cobbled path, he caught a fleeting look at the Army Headquarters where the sound of the explosion had originated. Thank goodness, they were safe and standing, unhurt, horrified looks on their faces. How come they were still standing??? As his body connected with the hard ground, his arms and legs flailing, he noticed the ladies simultaneously clutching their abdomens. Suddenly it dawned on him as he braced himself for the fall-out of debris from the explosion with the remains of a chocolate brownie cake scattering himself in a cloud of brown, soft pieces. Spontaneous ovary combustion. He’d assassinated himself.
Trying to be Cool [February 11, 2014]
He had to admit – this was one hell of a nightclub. The kind of classy establishment you would only find in capital cities. It was all the rage now to convert disused buildings that had formerly had a grand or practical function and to leave the fittings intact. He had been to one or two “Warehouses” in his time, and the occasional “Church”. The “Abattoir” was a little too sterile for his liking (the acoustics on the tiles really did his finely tuned ears in), but a council chamber – nice one, very cosy, very plush. And well suited for well-suited people like himself. He sniggered and took another sip from his glass and surveyed the dancefloor from his position at the edge.
Thorin’s thoughts drifted. How had he ever ended up here? He vaguely remembered an awards ceremony where he had nearly head-butted the guest of honour. Whats’isname… that fella… in the grey three-piece suite, eh, suit… the minister of industry, Giraffe the Great or something like that. The “Captains of the Industry” Awards, yes. What a boring, dreary affair. The last straw had been when the winner had been announced. Erebor Mining had been shortlisted. Surely, a wild card. But trust the panel to waste their award on some esoteric eco-friendly shite. Greenwood Realm Engineering. Since when was wood-processing part of industry??? Greenwood MD Thierry Thranduil’s sick and false smile upon accepting the award had nearly made him retch. The vote was fixed! And he had drowned his wounded pride in a few glasses of wine. Well, barrels, more like…
He had been glad when his nephews had suggested they leave the poncy awards to the Elfin winners and check out the hottest nightclub in town. “The Council” had only just opened. A bit too much wood-panelling for his taste, but maybe that was only because he had had enough of woodland produce for tonight? He attempted to fix his flickering gaze back on the dancefloor. The music was class, though. One of his favourites was playing. He tapped his left foot in rhythm with the music. “Mint-julep testosterone… tell me that you want me”. Very catchy electro-rock. “Cool, I’m just tryna be cool”… he hummed along. Kili and Fili were in the middle of the heaving throng on the dancefloor, surrounded by adoring females. “To part-time holy bachelooooors… tell me that you want me, tell me that you want me”. Thorin snorted. Too right. That song had wormed its way right into his brain. Fuelled by the copious amounts of Pinot Noir that he had consumed, Thorin was unable to refrain from bobbing his head along with the music. “Cool, I’m jus’ try’na be cool… iz’all because of youuuu… some fanatic attitude”.
It escaped Thorin’s notice that his senior business partners Dwight Dwalin and Barry Balin had taken up position further behind him to his left, observing their CEOs drink-affected attempts at coolness with chuckles and barely contained glee. They nearly broke into loud laughter when Thorin accentuated the beat of the music with jerks of his tight little tuchus. “Open for bizniss sayzitalllll…”, he sang along at the top of his voice. “You can’t go wrong…Compliments sound too cynical where you’re from”. Too right again. Man, this was clairvoyant music. He had to rip that album off the torrent when he got back to Erebor. Thorin gave himself to the music and shoulder-danced the last verses of the song. “Gruesome… I don care whea ya froooom… Nothin’s that personaaaaal…The’s no physical evidence of cannibal boyfriends”, he giggled at the nonsensical lyrics and was just about to finish the song with a twirl, when his glance finally met Balin’s and Dwalin’s grins.
Behind the Scenes [January 28, 2014]
In the end it was one of the servants in Rivendell House who took pity on him. He had been standing by the door for most of the meal, his stomach growling and his mood with it, observing the rest of his company being wined and dined by Lord Elrond. He could not sit down again without losing face, so he had sulked by the door, occasionally throwing a glance at the table. He wasn’t missing much, apart from the food. And even that had looked far too Vegetarian for his carnivorous taste.
But his stomach had protested with loud rumbles, and with the conversation at the table strained, dried-up and died-down to the occasional monosyllabic comment after his abrupt exit, a passing servant had heard the slurping rumbles from his belly. Humiliating. Unmajestic. The next time the man returned from the kitchen, he had discreetly lingered outside the doorway, whispering to Thorin “I have left a plate with hors d’oeuvres in the room right here behind you. If you feel peckish…” Thorin did not like the kindness of strangers, especially when they were domestic servants. It made him feel obliged and he did not like that.
He was about to dismiss the man with a condescending swat of his hand, when the door to the dining room opened and a latecomer emerged. “Oh no”, Thorin moaned through clenched teeth. “The Minister of Enterprise. Elrond is pulling out all the stops. He obviously wants to put the pressure on”. Before Sir Reginald Gandalf, the eminence grise of industrial relations, could spot him, Thorin turned in one swift move and slipped through the doorway behind. “Listen…”, he caught the servant by his sleeve as he was scurrying back to the kitchen, “what’s your name, man?” “I am William Beaumont?”, the servant answered with a frown. “Well, ‘Bill Bo’,” Thorin sarcastically shortened the name of the man, “I may make use of this room yet. Can you organise me an ashtray, I feel like a sneaky fag.” Bill Bo nodded and hurried off.
Thorin turned fully into the room and arched his eyebrows. A stack of chairs was piled in the corner of the room. “Not all that grand and glamourous behind the scenes, eh, Elrond? This kind of shoddy untidyness would not go down in Erebor”, he thought to himself. Fishing a silver cigarette case from his trouser pocket, Thorin pulled one of the bentwood chairs from the pile and sat down with a grunt, resting against the back and spreading his legs in an effort to find a comfortable position. He lit up one of his small cigars and inhaled deeply in an attempt to subdue the rage that was slowly building in his stomach. As he was leaning over the armrest to stub the ashes off his cigar in the ashtray that had appeared from thin air (“That Bill Bo has a way of moving soundlessly…”), he suddenly heard the lowered voices of two men, talking on the other side of the doorway. The upper-class twang of his host…
“Have you forgotten a strain of madness is running deep in that family? His grandfather has lost his mind over his gambling habit, his father succumbed to the same greed. Can you swear, Thorin Oakenshield can not also fall?” Thorin’s hands tightened on the lapel of his jacket with the effort of restraining himself. He caught the eye of Bill Bo who had crept back into the room with the stealth of a Hobbit. He had to get out of here…
Dinner [January 21, 2014]
His heart had sunk the moment he had seen the menu. Not only was he not overly fond of his host – a snotty aristocrat who sported ridiculously long hair and spoke in a fancy-schmancy accent – but the whole setting of his host’s company headquarters was far too faux-fine for his liking. The overly dramatic setting of Rivendell House on a sheer rock face just grated with him. It was all done for show, this architecture. And those waterfalls, he snorted inwardly, surely they were the tackiest artificial water features he’d ever seen. All that was missing was one of those pink and purple light shows… Lord Elrond had looked down his nose at him, he was sure, and not just because he was two feet taller than him.
Nevertheless, he had been convinced by his CLO Barry Balin – and old family friend who had already been his father Thrain’s right-hand man in Erebor Mining Co. – that it was advisable to accept the invitation and play it by ear. Civilised and elegantly. However, he had insisted on bringing the whole management team along – among them his Chief Risk Officer Dwight Dwalin, CCO Bo Bombur, CAO Ori Onassis, Chief Content Officer Boris Bofur as well as his nephews and heirs Kilian and Filibert. He felt better that way, back-up for navigating the sleazy business tactics he was suspecting Elrond Inc. to spring on him.
After the initial negotiations, dinner had been called. Refreshed and suited in their formal dinner wear they had been seated at Elrond’s table. “Stuck up”, was all he could think of. Tinkly music in the background and tacky romanticist artworks dotted about the room made him snort in derision. Show-offs. Wispy but no substance. He felt uncomfortable in the fancy dinner jacket he had rented in an upmarket version of the Black Tie tuxedo rental shop. Gieves + Hawke? Thieves and sharks more like, he grimaced. 1,500 Pounds for a bit of scrap that wasn’t good enough for a cleaning rag in the Erebor canteen, flimsy as it was! Bloody expensive, too. He’d had to sign a liability agreement – in case of any damage to the precious piece of couture, he sneered.
Which brought him back to the embossed menu card that had been placed in front of him. A starter of a Vichysoisse (hearty potato soup, for robust dwarves), followed by a main of “Hand pulled glass noodles with veal and crab meat” (to be eaten with chopsticks, he surmised by the presence of two intricately engraved silver chopsticks beside his crystal wine glass), the dessert “a selection of hand-rolled chocolate truffles dusted in cocoa powder”. How the hell was he supposed to eat this without making a mess on his poncy suit? Suddenly his temper flared. “I’ve had it”, he pressed through clenched teeth. “Fuck this – I’m not risking my hard-earned gold for this shit.” He abruptly pushed his chair back and got up from the table, snarling “You can eat. I will not.” He stormed away, coming to a stop at the door. “Thorin, wait!”, Balin called after him. He could hear the condescending chuckle from Lord Elrond and his sycophants. Still growling and scowling he turned around and settled against the doorway, glancing darkly from under his brow at the dinner party at the table.
His stomach rumbled.
Armitage Times Four [January 14, 2014]
He had arrived a day before the event, a Sunday, on his own. Perfect. An opportunity to do some Christmas shopping before the family – professional and private – arrived. He whizzed from the airport to his hotel in the city centre, dumped his bags in his suite – Damn, they don’t do sheets here, I have to sleep under a drafty duvet – quickly changed from his comfy sweater into something slightly more respectable – you never know who might recognise me… it was happening more and more these days – and wandered out into the December day. It was uncharacteristically mild, wasn’t Berlin supposed to be quite far East and therefore bitter cold in winter? Poland, practically? He didn’t even need a coat. He turned right from the hotel entrance and walked down the street.
Rather quiet for a capital city of *this* scale and historical importance, he mused to himself. Where are all the people? He crossed a large road and found himself behind a large, old cathedral-like building. Suddenly he was aware of a faint din, some tinkly Christmas music, and what was that delicious smell? The Germans do sausage pretty well. Wasn’t there some Berlin speciality every visitor was supposed to try? His stomach growled perceptibly. He followed the tempting waft and found himself on a small open space where the path widened to the entrance of a bigger square. Suddenly there were people, all streaming towards an arched gateway into the square. “Vee-nackts Zuber Jen-dar-men-markt”, he read the lit-up lettering above the gateway.A market for men? Bloody foreign customs. A Christmas market by the look of things. Ah, but the Germans did Christmas well, he had heard, he followed the throng of the towards the gate.
[Edit: IMAGE REMOVED – follow link to see image on artist’s page: Sarah Dunn Photography]
Suddenly there were massive crowds. Or should that be ‘Krauts’? He chuckled. Man, it was busy here. This really must be quite something. The Germans, much unlike the English, had evidently not heard of the civilised concept of lining up in an orderly queue in order to get through a bottleneck. When in Rome, he sighed to himself. I’ll do anything to get to that sausage stall. Edging closer to the gate, he felt himself crushed from all sides. Tall Teutons on the left, giant Germans on the right, a high Hun in front of him. Whoops!He jumped. What was that? Had someone just pinched his bottie? He clucked but had no time to think as the crowd was moving in one big wad towards the entrance. There, a gap. Richard saw his chance, pushed and moved forward. He turned his body to the left, balancing on his toes, and tried to squeeze through the opening, his hands held protectively in front of his best bits.
“Halt. Stop. Stehenbleiben.” A booming voice stopped everybody in their tracks. A security guard stomped through the crowd, muscly arm stretched out, a finger pointing at him. “Who? Me?” Richard looked around, a question mark in his eyes, but immediately rooted to the spot by the authoritative tone of the solidly-built guard. “Sie da! Ja, Sie mit den dunklen Locken! Eintrittskarte!” Richard frowned. He had no idea what the burly German had been saying to him. He stopped, shrugged and put as much innocent cluelessness on his face as he could muster. “Sie brauchen eine Eintrittskarte für den Markt”, the guard barked and pointed towards Richard’s hands. “I have no idea what you are saying”, he said calmly and apologetically, watching the security man gesticulating in front of his crotch. “Ein-tritt”, the security man articulated extra loudly and slowly for the benefit of the foreigner, rolling his eyes, and for emphasis he held up his left hand, thumb and index finger, spread apart in a measuring gesture, while his right index finger pointed towards the general direction of Richard’s crotch.
“What the…”, Richard bristled. “How dare you?! My assets are not…”, he copied the guard’s finger gesture and shook his head violently. With a scowl worthy of Guy of Gisborne post-humiliation he took a threatening step towards the security man. “They are more like…”, he huffed and indicated an impressive length between his two hands. The security man looked on in disbelief. “Was?” He stared at Richard. “Ein-tritts-karte, Junge. Du musst hier zahlen!” He didn’t budge a centimetre, and Richard was lost in translation. “What? I don’t understand. Ich sprechen nicht deutsch. Or rather, that’s the only phrase I know…” he trailed off, simultaneously putting both hands in his hair in a universal gesture of despair, still scowling. “Und ich nicht englisch. Zahlen. Geld. Eintrittskarte”, the guard reiterated. Richard was at a loss. He scratched his head with his right hand, now arching his eyebrows in an expression of helplessness. The security guard rolled his eyes. Touristen! “Ticket!”, he forced through clenched teeth with a mirthless smile. Oh for fucks sake! What a stupid muddle. Bloody foreigner himself.
Shadow Man [January 7, 2014]
[Edit: IMAGE REMOVED – follow link to see image on artist’s page: Sarah Dunn Photography]
The man felt close to cardiac arrest when he turned the corner into a dark alley off the Boulevard. Had he not been so out of breath, he would have sighed with relief, when he spied the shadowy doorway in the gloomy shadow. He slipped into the entrance, leaning against the inconspicuous door and to his surprise the wood gave way. Just what I needed, the stranger thought, and made his shaking legs walk into the gaping darkness beyond the door.
He found himself in what could only be described as a sleazy dive. Thank God it was so dark in here, noone could see him – he immediately went to his right where he had noticed a flickering neon sign indicating the jacks, clutching a soft bundle to his chest. No sooner had he entered the grimy dungeons of the men’s toilet, he could hear muffled shouts and conspicuous kerfuffles out in the bar he had just vacated. He hurried into one of the wooden stalls, locking the door behind him and taking care not to touch the splintered wooden walls and soiled tiles behind the loo. Where the hell had he landed? And for fucks sake, where had that momentary madness come from?
He strained to make out what was being shouted outside. Moments later the hubbub on the other side of the toilet doors had died down. This time the sigh came from the depth of his stomach. They had not seen him nip into the jacks, he was safe. The man busied himself with the bundle. Thank God he still had everything. His hands ached from the iron grip in which he had clutched the bundle. He untangled his things and then balanced on his toes, trying to make himself half-presentable again. There, the tie was last. All in place. He took a deep breath. I have to get out of here. He opened the door of the stall and stepped back into the toilet. Stepping up to the dingy hand basin, he caught his reflection in the spotted mirror. The light from broken lampshade cast an eerie light onto his face. Richard peered at himself. Naked Day on Wilshire Boulevard. Never again.
Midnight [December 31, 2013]
11.20 pm on New Year’s Eve. He had flown into town from his holiday back home the day before. After the festivities with his family, he had been looking forward to a quiet, calm New Year’s Eve. No obligations, nobody to entertain, nobody’s expectations to meet. Noone to meet, full stop. Just himself and a bottle of Pinot Noir. Perfect company. At twentyfive past 11 he was not so sure anymore. The bottle was already three quarters drained, and the apartment felt decidedly empty with just himself in there. “I could go to bed”, he mused. “But that feels a bit boring…” He scratched his head.
His eyes came to rest on the pile of unopened mail that he had dumped on the dining table when he had arrived the day before. He had briefly registered an unusual envelope addressed to “Richard Armitage, Esq.” with bold, flowing letters before he had discarded the mail. His curiosity got the better of him. Reaching for the envelope, he noticed how stiff the letter felt – containing a card, maybe? Impatiently he ripped the envelope open and pulled the ivory card out.
Ten minutes later he was on his way out. A bit of wax in his hair, a quick wash of his armpits and that delightfully tight tux that he had bagged at the end of that grumpy shoot in the summer snugly fitted on his lean and slim body – he silently thanked his ancestors for the good genes they had bequeathed to him. He waved down a cab and settled into the back seat. “The New Yorker Hotel, please”.
He whistled to himself as he strode through the brass doors into the hotel foyer. “Classy.” Brightly lit by a massive art deco chandelier, he almost felt blinded by the reflection of the light on the marble floor and the golden panelled ceiling of the hotel lobby. “The Crystal Ballroom?”, he asked a hotel employee on his way to the stairs. “Second floor, Sir. Just follow the music!” He nodded and strode up the stairwell.
Soft music greeted him when he opened the door to the ballroom and stepped in, nervously checking the appropriate straightness of his tie. “Maybe I should’ve put on the bow tie”, he mused. Straining his eyes to look down to that unreachable spot under his chin to fuss with the tie knot, he did not notice the hush that had suddenly settled over the assembled guests. And neither did he notice that there were hardly any men in attendance. A phalanx of ladies, dressed in ball gowns in all colours of the rainbow, was slowly making his way towards him, as yet unnoticed by the handsome newcomer. It was only when his gaze fell to the high-heeled feet on the floor in front of him that he became aware of someone standing close.
“We are so glad you followed our invitation, Richard”, a soft voice purred. He raised his gaze in surprise. “We have been a bit short for dancing men”, a second voice said to his right. And before he could look to the direction of the second speaker, a third voice chimed in, “You’ll be in much demand, Richard…” Before he could say anything, he found himself in the middle of the dancefloor. “You are just in time”, the warm voice of a woman said to him. “Only ten minutes to make a lot of women happy, Richard.” The deep brown eyes behind the dark specs twinkled full of warmth and humour. “But you will Serv us well…” He blinked uncomprehendingly and automatically swayed her to the music. The careful placing of a hand on his shoulder made him look to the left, and before he could say anything, the owner of the hand had replaced his dancing partner. “I had been hoping for a red carpet encounter, Richard”, a clipped English accent said to him, “but I’ll take this patterned carpet encounter any day… Szczęśliwego nowego roku…” He opened his mouth to ask her what language she was speaking, but before any word came out, a new lady had taken the place of the tall stranger. Brown eyes twinkled at him beneath blond tresses… “So it is true what they say – you *are* even more handsome than in my edits. Tell Sir Guy that Angie sends her love”, she breathed, as she left his embrace with a twirl. Before he could take a breath to thank her, a new dance partner took his hand. Ms Gigglepants swayed her hips tantalisingly, a trained dancer for all he could tell, and they fell into an easy rhythm together. “Remember to smile, Richard” she whispered against his cheek with a soft giggle. They danced for a minute before they were interrupted by a tall brunette. Richard sighed with relief “I know you, I finally know someone. Prof Obscura, long time, no see. What is going on here? Can you enlighten me?” Obscura winked conspiratorily. “You are making a lot of dreams come true, Richard, just keep dancing…” and with a flourish she vanished from his embrace.
He had no idea where they were coming from. They seemed to appear out of nowhere, but rather than feeling disconcerted or alarmed by it, he just fell into an easy flow of following the music and welcoming another softly feminine form in his embrace. He smiled when he recognised the shape of the brooch his dance partner was wearing. “You hold the key to Erebor”, he offered with a smile. “No, *you* hold the key”, Linda60 said. She sighed deeply, and with a regretful glance passed him on to the next lady in waiting. He did not know their names. Nell. Chaifreak. And he did not need to. Richardiana. Micra. His eye settled on a bright, glittering stone on his latest partner. “The Arkenstone”, he breathed. “That’s me”, she smiled… Blondes. UtePirat, Mezz. Brunettes. Lady Oakenshield. Siriusly. Exotic beauties. Morrighansmuse. Mujertropical. Lamaruca. Gratiana. Antipodean. Bollyknickers, KatharineD, Groovergreene. American. Crystalchandlyre, Perry, Kelbel, Marieastra. Katie. “Have I met you before?” he asked, recognising the long brown hair and the bright smile on his partner. “Yes, we have. Armitage Army cannot keep calm!” she said enigmatically and danced out of his arms. European. Kathrynruth, Joanna, i.f., Herba. He closed his eyes, being danced into the new year by a whole alphabet of admirers. Kathy, Leigh, Peggy, Teuchter,Verbosa, Zeesmuse.
He opened his eyes. The music had stopped playing. His arms were empty. The ballroom was deserted. “What???” He blinked in confusion, incomprehension. Had this been a dream, a figment of his imagination? He could still feel the whispering breath of his dance partners on his cheek, soft fingers in his own, the press of a hand against his shoulder, the faint memory of a floral scent in his nostrils, the echo of music. His legs moved out of their own accord. With big strides he made it to the door, into the corridor, onto the empty stairwell. He stood on the bottom step – surveying the empty lobby in front of him. The clock struck 12. From the corner of his eyes he noticed a swish of a ballgown, a billowing swirl of tulle, vanishing through a door to his left. His gaze fell onto a see through, high-heeled slipper, lost and forlorn on the wide expanse of the lobby floor…
Smile for Santa! [December 24, 2013]
“Mate, you really come across quite grumpy lately!” His film star colleague obviously didn’t approve of this, as Jed was known as an extremely cheerful fellow. “I mean, it’s alright on set where we know you try to maintain concentration by keeping yourself apart from the out-of-character fun. But, mate, if you wanna hang around with me, you better wipe that grumpy Thorin look off yer face!” Richard scowled. “See, that’s exactly what I mean! If you could see your face now – the thin of your lips as sharp as a Samurai sword. The knitted brows. The thundercloud eyes. Lighten up, mate, seriously!” Richard took in a deep sigh. “I hear what you are saying, Jed, but to be honest, I am just not made for smiling. I feel like an utter goof when I smile. Ever since Trudy Styler pinched my chin, in fact…” He trailed off, a shadow of sadness flittering over his face. Too many years of hiding his smile were conveyed in the wistful gaze on his face. “My face is not made for happiness. I am better at darkness”, he suddenly said with a decisive shake of his head. “UBC. Utter. Bull. Crap!” Jed interjected. “I’ll prove you wrong, mate, so wrong!”
They met again the next day. “Wear some formal clothes, do everything you would do if you were really going to a premiere, Rich.” Jed had asked him to meet up in Dean’s make-shift photo studio for some “red carpet practice”, as he had called it. When he finally got out of his car in front of Dean’s house, he could hear loud laughter from the garage to the side of Dean’s house – the photo “studio”, in fact, that Dean had knocked together. He followed the noise to the side door into the garage. Politely knocking and shouting a hearty “Well, hello, lads – didn’t realise you were all going to be here”, he entered the garage. The laughter stopped for a split second, only to roar up again, and he was vaguely aware of something pink scuttling to the back of the garage. But he was quickly distracted by the many voices of his friends. “Richard, old boy!” “Talking of the devil, here’s our boy!” “Come ‘ere, Richard!” – Mark, Adam, Graham, Dean, Jimmy, Stephen all surrounded him with heavy claps on his backs and hearty hugs from Graham and Stephen. On second look he noticed that they all had cameras on them. “What… What the hell are you planning, lads?” He asked suspiciously. “Well, Richard,” Dean decided to jump in, “Jed said you needed a lesson in smiling on the red carpet, and we’ve decided to play the press gang, for authenticity’s sake.” “With that???”, Richard said, pointing to Jimmy’s Canon Ixus. Jimmy smiled cheerfully and waved his little compact camera at him. “Remember Richard, it’s not all about the size, you know.
“Anyway, let’s start!” Not allowing any protest, Dean pushed Richard towards the side of the garage where a large movie poster obscured the breeze block structure of the wall. “Now strut your stuff, Richard. And remember, we want to see your teeth!” Richard smirked darkly. These guys were mad. What the fuck had Jed told them. And where the hell was the little bugger anyway?? “Richard!” “Richard, look left please!” The voices came as one big cacophony of sound. After a couple of irritated blinks – while the cameras were already flashing – he decided to just play along with them. The boys should have their fun, who was he to spoil that. “Right, Richard, to the right!” He turned his body to the right, setting his right foot in front of his left and hiding his hand in his pocket. “The bugger is not really smiling”, he heard Mark say under his breath. “Jed said to make him smile.” Graham sniggered. “Ah wait, I have an idea.” He waved his arm at Richard and then drawled in a loud voice, “Look here, Mr Ahmitaaaaaj, look here.” Richard’s left corner of his mouth twitched, and his eyes crinkled – coming from Graham it was actually funny to hear his name mispronounced. But he did not break into a full blown smile… “Where the fuck is Jed?”, he heard Dean whisper under the din of cameras clicking and flashes going off. “I am not sure if we can get the man to smile!”
It was as if a magic word had been spoken – for suddenly there seemed to be only silence, and the lads who had been milling about in a scrum in front of him, all of a sudden pushed back to the sides, leaving a gap in the middle through which Richard could see a fuzzy female apparition… His eyes adjusted on a pink hoodie, a pink mini skirt and fish net tights, all topped by a peroxide blonde wig with a big pink bow on top. In a split second he took in the sharpie and autograph book in her left hand and the little camera in her right. A fan, quite obviously – but with the cut-knife Brophy cheekbones and the caterpillar monobrow wiggling with badly concealed laughter. “Richard, Richard, please can I take your picture?” Jed intoned in a falsetto voice. And just before Richard could guffaw, he added “I’d like to show Santa what I want for Christmas!” Too much. Richard’s howling laughter was drowned in the hiss of cameras going off. “You cheeky bugger – that’s fighting by unfair means!” Richard grinned widely. “Told ya I could make ya smile”, Jed mumbled with a satisfied smile.
What Happened in the Studio, part 3 [December 2, 2013]
Richard had found it hard to get back into the swing of the shoot after his little lapse earlier. The slip of the tongue had not gone unnoticed by me. But neither had he missed my reaction to it. After he had eventually prised his hands off his face again, I had suggested a little break – not least to regain my own composure. Richard toddled off behind a folding screen in the corner to change into another shirt for a different look. I was still fiddling with the backdrop as he ambled back,
“D’you think this’ll do?” He said behind me, as I stood up from smoothing the white paper backdrop – and turned right into wide chest dressed in a checked shirt and a waist-coat. “Ya… yes, you are gorgeous… I mean… that looks great”, I stammered. He put on a pleased smile and stepped around me to sit down on the bar stool again. “Shall we just pick up where we left off?”, he offered. Jesus Christ, no, I exclaimed internally, but I merely nodded, jerking my camera back up towards my face to hide the spreading blush behind. I have to take control of this again!, I told myself, and to him I said, “Yes, Richard, let’s just do that. How about I get you to do some poses? Is that alright?” I stepped up beside him with the light meter to take a new reading. I held the little gadget under his chin and released the flash. “F 22, 1/160th”, I murmured. “Yeah, sure”, he agreed to my request, “listen, I’ve done this before. I’ll do some modelling poses for you now”, he suggested, turning his head to me. I could feel his breath on my nape and involuntarily shivered. I moved back to my shooting position and brought the camera up again. “Ok, give me some poses, Richard.”
“What would you like me do?”, he asked. A lot of things, but most of them not printable, I thought to myself. I lamely suggested “Give me one of your Guy of Gisporn… eh, GisBORNE smoulders.” I stumbled. “Ugh, not that old chestnut!”, he replied. Was that an almost malicious twinkle in his eyes that I saw through the lens? “I’ve seen some really nice shots recently of some of my friends. I’d like to try some of their poses, if you don’t mind… How about this one?”, he offered sweetly.” He quickly shifted on the stool, moving his body sideways with the left shoulder facing the camera. Before I could say anything, he turned his head towards me and glanced back over his shoulder., looking up from under his lashes. I involuntarily-automatically released the shutter and then swore under my breath. Unusable. “Or maybe more like this?” He turned full-frontal to the camera again, squared his shoulders back, brought his right hand up to his face and stuck his index finger between his teeth, giving me a fake-innocent smile, worthy of a 13-year-old Lolita. “Like that?”, he asked in an innocent tone. “Ehhh, mh, well…”, I ummed and ahed. “Eh, I don’t know, Richard, it’s all a bit…”, I stumbled, wondering how to break to him that male pin-up photography was not my forte… “I am not sure if that pose is… appropriate… eh…”, I meekly added. “Maybe a little less… suggestive???”
His eyebrows arched. “Not good? Well, then let’s do the predictable stuff!” For a split second, he put on a disappointed pout, then he stretched his back up again, inclined his head forward, looked at the camera and brought his right hand up to his chin. “The thinker!”, he captioned his own pose. Click! Richard doubled over, laughing. “Gotcha!
Iconic Antics [November 26, 2013]
“So what are your next plans, Mr Armitage?” The interview was drawing to a close and the journalist was getting to the customary outlook on the future. They had already gotten up from the table in the café where the interview had been conducted and were on their way out. He stopped and scratched his chin thoughtfully. If he was honest, he’d have to admit that he still hadn’t found a project that his heart was aching to commit to. He’d rather say nothing – keeping everyone guessing was actually quite fun to observe. Granted, his PR people were getting a bit impatient, they were talking of “deliberate stalling” on his part. The words “choosiness” and “diva” had been mentioned somewhere. Far from it. He was just a careful guy. And with the role of his dream under his belt, he was simply taking his time to check and choose what was out there. Plus, it greatly amused him to see the suggestions his fans were coming up with. The Bond chestnut repeatedly came up whenever he was seen in a tux, and he was fuelling the flames of the Poldark suggestions by lately growing his hair out. (Never mind that he actually just didn’t want any more fuss around his head after all the hair drama on the Hobbit set.)
“Is your new look any indication of what you are planning for the future?” Sure enough, there was the question from the journalist. Now, what would this look be suitable for? He scanned back over his previous roles. Ricky Deeming! The cool biker guy from George Gently. Dark rakish looks with a characteristic quiff that looked quite dramatic on his pale forehead. Straight from the early 60s. Biker feel. Rock’n’roll poet. The journalist looked at him with a quizzical look that prompted him to say something. He raked his hand deliberately slowly through his black quiff and put a dark pout onto his face. “Guess”, he growled, and bringing down his hands to his belt in a split second, he balanced on the balls of his feet in the iconic Elvis pose. He turned to go before the journalist had a chance to react. Already on his way out, he could hear a gasp go through the café. “Elvis has just left the building!”, he smirked to himself.
Pushing Buttons [November 19, 2013]
[Edit: IMAGE REMOVED – follow link to see image on artist’s page: Sarah Dunn Photography]
“Chin up a little bit, please. Ya, that’s it. Hold it.” Click. She pressed the shutter release and looked up from her camera at her subject again. Only 15 minutes into the shoot and she was already feeling hot. But strangely exhilarated, too. Photography does that. To outsiders the job often appears glamourous and privileged. Getting to photograph people is, of course, interesting and rewarding. Interacting with clients was what she appreciated about her chosen profession. Getting up close and personal required tact and sensitivity. A healthy dose of curiosity and the ability to light-heartedly swallow her pride helped to get along with the best and the worst of the clients. But she had been through enough years of studying and assisting, of making the tea and carrying the battery pack and the tripod, of sitting through hours of Photoshop until her eyes burnt, of adjusting the lights minutely to someone else’s specifications, to fully appreciate that photographing people was also a technical craft. That needed her undivided attention.
“Are you ok?”
She was yanked out of her meandering thoughts by her sitter.
“Sorry, Richard, just thinking. Back to you.”
He smiled at her and almost imperceptibly nodded from under his brow. “It’s intense work, isn’t it, photographing? “
“Portraiture is very intense work, yes. Very intimate, very personal. But it’s great when you like people.”
“Like people? Or do you need a personal interest in your model?”, he asked with a smirk.
Oh God, don’t let me blush, she thought. “Um, I guess the former. The latter would probably detract from the work in hand too much…”, she fumbled for words.
Clang! She had dropped the lens cap while exchanging lenses. Her fingers trembled. – Why? she thought to herself. She had done this hundreds of times before. It was not the first time she was shooting an attractive man. Get a grip, woman, this is ridiculous!, she chided herself. She finished clicking the 50mm prime onto the camera body and turned her attention back to her sitter. After some half-length shots it was time for some close-ups.
“I am shooting with a prime now, Richard”, she explained to him. “So that means I will have to physically move closer rather than have a zoom to get you bigger in my viewfinder, is that ok?”
“Yeah, yeah,”, he mumbled absent-mindedly while rearranging his bottom with a wriggle on the barstool she had placed him on, “I am already getti… Eh, never mind.” He angled his head back down with a sharp jerk of his head and threw his hands to his face with a groan, while she let out a surprised gasp in response to what he had let slip. She grinned. He looked at her through his fingers, a burning mixture of curiosity and embarrassment in his half-obscured eyes. A faint blush had spread all over his face… She pushed the button.
Sassy, Armitage? [ November 15, 2013]
When I opened the door, I looked straight at a broad chest. I had expected him, of course. This shoot had been organized months ago and I had done my homework. Richard Armitage. 42 years of age. Actor. Best known for his portrayal of the stern but passionate Mr Thornton in North & South, or for his love-struck and villainous Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood. The fallen hero Lucas North. The unbeatable John Porter. And lately of Hobbit-fame. 6’2″. I had not realized how tall that was, hence my eyes settled on a wide, well-formed chest, clad in a black casual shirt before glancing up into light blue eyes that were now focussed on me with a friendly twinkle.
“Mr Armitage. Hello! Come in ! How are you?”
I was babbling, a reaction I am prone to when momentarily nervous. I had been looking forward to this shoot with excitement but also with trepidation. Armitage was my biggest catch yet for my project – and I was determined to do this shoot well and get something out of it besides my own artistic work. If I could get his agent to use my images, maybe more work would come out of it. This was to be a test of my professional abilities.
“Please, I am Richard”, he said and offered his hand for a cordial handshake. “Oh, and I am Sophya”, I answered while ushering him in. We walked through to the studio at the back of the house. “Would you like a cup of tea before we start or are you in a hurry?”
“Tea would be lovely”, he intoned with a warm baritone voice that was made even warmer by the smile that swung on his answer.
Dang, was that amusement on his voice? Had he detected how nervous I was? “Get a grip, woman, keep your cool”, I berated myself for my teenage-crush nervosity.
“No hurry. I have only the weekend scheduled after this.”
I busied myself in the corner of my studio that held a make-shift mini-kitchen. While the water was getting to boiling point in the kettle, I grabbed a couple of mugs and put the teabags into the pot. I poured the water into the pot and placed it with the mugs, sugar and milk and some bourbon cream biscuits on a tray.
When I turned around, Richard was standing in the middle of the studio, hands in his pockets, looking around at the gear. I placed the tray on a coffee table at the back of the studio where a sofa invited my clients to relax before a shoot.
“Damn, today it is me who needs to relax”, I thought to myself. “Here, make yourself comfortable, eh, Richard”, I beckoned him to sit down and join me. He came over, taking off his tight-fitting black jacket, carelessly throwing it on the sofa’s armrest.
“Ah, tea. Always makes you feel at home, doesn’t it?” He took the mug I had poured for him and added a generous dash of milk to it. Leaning back he glanced to the studio wall opposite him. “Your work?”
I nodded. I had some arty nudes in black frames on the wall, a previous project that was all about light and shade. “Niiiiiice.” He winked and sipped on his tea, finally giving me the opportunity to say something.
“Thanks for indulging me with this project, Richard. I really appreciate that you are giving me your time. I hope it’s not going to go over-time. We should be done in a couple of hours, give and take” and depending on our rapport, I added to myself. “You obviously have done many of these before and are used to being looked at through the big black eye”, I added. “So I’ll try to be pretty short and sweet.”
I felt his gaze intensely and appraisingly on my face. “Pretty, short and sweet, yeah…” he repeated.
The Armitage Stress Test [November 8, 2013]
“Right, the promo season is beginning.” He was looking through his wardrobe, glancing at his dark suits. The old trusty Ford number had stood him in good stead. The fashionistas among his fans had approved. “But can I really wear my go-to red-carpet outfit a third season?” No, he really had to get some new gear, he was becoming too recognisable at this stage. It would all be easier if shopping for clothes wasn’t such a chore. He sighed. A waste of time really. Plus, more often than not he didn’t really trust his own fashion sense. If only Thorin had worn a tuxedo when dining in Rivendell – he would’ve bought the gear after shooting and be done with it. Ah well, Thorin’s girth wouldn’t have been right for him, anyway. But it was just so handy bagging the clothes that he was wearing for work… Gary the windbag hadn’t really had any occasion to sport a tux, either. Beige slacks – good grief, no. His wardrobe could do without them. Maybe the next project… Hm… Eureka! His agent would fix it.
Several phonecalls and weeks later, he found himself on a fashion shoot. His agent was worth his weight in gold – formal menswear. Just what he wanted. And some classy brands, too. Gucci, Gieves & Hawkes, Armani… They all looked the same to him, but he could tell by the stylist’s oooing and aaahing which suits had looked particularly good on him. “One more clothes change, Richard”, the photographer informed him. Good, the last one. Then the choice. He ambled back into the hotel suite that had been turned into an impromptu changing room. This was a slightly more informal number – nifty thin tie, not a bow tie. He donned the jacket and pushed his arms back, testing the fit of the jacket. Not too tight on the shoulders. Yep, nice. He glanced at himself in the mirror. Classy, edgy, slightly retro with the narrow tie. He nodded self-appraisingly at his reflection. “Not bad, Armitage. You could do a season on Mad Men in that!”
He turned and walked across the room. “Nice swish to the material. Frou-frou. Very fancy.” The suit actually felt as if it had been made especially for him, perfect trouser length, his hands fitted nicely in the pockets, the jacket closed tightly over his belly. “But the trouser seat is where the cookie crumbles”, he thought to himself. “Richard, are you ready to come out and shoot the last set-up?” The assistant was knocking at the door. “Just one moment, with you in a minute, sorry”, he mumbled. He had to make a decision. He walked back to the mirror, turning his back to the glass, pulling up the coat tails and looking over his shoulder. “Nice arsitage, Armitage”, he grinned, “but is it comfy? Only one way to find out.” He walked back to the large Chesterfield in his suite. “This is it.” He lowered himself into the sofa. “Comfy stretch across the bum.” He sat down and wiggled into the seat. “No wedgie. – Waistband comfortable.” Another knock on the door. “Ya!” he called back impatiently. He wasn’t ready yet. One more thing. Was there enough space for the important bits? He shuffled his bum back on the couch and sat up straight. “And now for the stress test”, he grinned at himself, opening his legs widely. Could the seams take this, would the material hold? The fabric tightened around his thighs in a most pleasing way. He stroked up his right leg with the palm of his hand. “Yup, that’ll do.” He glanced at the door as the assistant knocked again. “Richard?! The photographer is waiting!!” He smiled to himself. “Better go, old boy, otherwise this bargain may be not be struck. – I am coming!” he called out.
Nos(e)talgic Armitage [November 5, 2013]
“Majesty, the portraitist is here.” Thorin hardly lifted his head and sniffed derisively. Another half-baked idea by his advisors. To have his likeness taken – for posterity. As befits a king. To be forever present in the annals of history. He had written history himself – with actions, not pretty pictures. He was damned if he was going to be pictured placidly on his throne, like an old granny spinning her wool. “Tell him he has ten minutes to sketch me. No more than that.” He waved his hand in a gesture of dismission and turned back to the balcony from where he was surveying the entrance to Erebor.
Scuffling noises were heard behind him. A small cough announced the arrival of the portraitist. Thorin drew himself up to his most impressive height and turned around. His gaze landed in empty space. His eyes flickered down. A small figure stood before him, clad in a gown, clutching a small box and a stool. A woman. “Who are you? What do you want?” he grumbled. “Advisor – why is this woman here?” “That, my prince, is the portraitist.” “A woman???” The woman straightened her spine. “Forgive me, my Lord, but I have been chosen by your advisor to take your likeness for I am the fastest portraitist in Erebor.” Thorin’s eyes narrowed down to slits, not unlike those of the hated dragon-pest he had most recently killed – and for the glory of which he was now going to be immortalised in pencil and hide. “You have ten minutes, woman. Be quick. I do not entertain self-indulgence for myself and dilettantism in others.” He stood with his arms crossed over his chest, his legs steadfastly spread wider than his shoulders.
The woman nodded. “Just stay as you are, my Lord.” She started opening her little box. “What has she got there?” “This is my invention, my Lord. This box will capture your likeness. I will point it at you and it will do all the work in a mere second.” The king had trouble keeping his eyebrows under control. They were threatening to go up under his widow’s peaks. “All the better”, he growled extra rumbly, trying to mask the curiosity which was taking hold of his thoughts. “May I place you over there, closer to the window, my Lord, for the light to catch your magnificent countenance ?” Thorin shuffled closer to the window while the woman placed the stool on the ground and stepped up on it.
“Wait, how much of myself will be captured in your box?” “I was going to take a likeness of your kingly visage only.” Thorin thought for a split second. “Can you catch more than that in your magic box?” “Indeed I can, my prince.” “I would really like for my magnificent tresses to be part of the portrait”, Thorin decreed with a flick of said locks. “As you wish, my Lord.” He tossed his tresses over his shoulders, pulling a few strands back forward over his chest. “How is this?” “Splendid, my Lord.” The portraitist brought her box up in front of her face. “Wait!” Thorin bellowed. “Is my armour in the portrait?” “It is not very well seen, my Lord, the shadow obscures it.” “I want my dress armour in this portrait”, Thorin demanded. The woman sighed softly and stepped off her stool. “Of course, your majesty. Just turn to the side and let the light from the window catch your armour.”
While Thorin turned sideways, the woman moved the stool and stepped up again. “I am ready to capture your likeness now.” Thorin held his chin high and put as much princely determination and kingly power into his gaze as he could muster. “Hold on”, he interrupted her suddenly, with a wave of his hand. “The Durin Proboscis must be in the shot!” he demanded. “Just turn your head towards the light, if you please”, the portraitist suggested, “a profile will depict your majestic frontispiece most advantageously.” Thorin shifted his head towards the window. “Does my nose look big in this?” “Most magnificently, my Lord. I am ready.” “Then capture me” he ordered. The portraitist brought the box up to her face and turned a lever. “It is done, my Lord.” “Good”, he rumbled, and without another word he leaned forward and moved out of her sights onto the balcony, leaving the portraitist on her stool.
Thorin Onslaught [October 29, 2013]
He lowered his gleaming sword and flicked the strands of his long hair from his face. Despite his aching arms and his tense muscles, he was irritated by the pause in the action. They had been fighting orcs, and screaming their battle cries. He was hoarse and sore, but while his companions were dropping their weapons and already half way off the platform to take a rest, he was catching his breath and trying to get the surging adrenaline under control. He hated unforeseen interruptions. And he was confused. Who had given them leave to turn their backs to their leader? His task had to be finished, the goal was so near, why stop now? A growl was building up inside of him, making its way from the depths of his belly, forcing itself up his throat. When a hand touched him softly on his quivering biceps, he jumped irritatedly. “This way please, we need you over there.”
“What is this interruption?” he demanded authoritatively. But the young woman did not answer his question. She had already turned her back and was walking away from him, expecting him to follow. Him, follow? He was the leader of the dwarves, the king under the mountain, he didn’t follow, he barged ahead. He had a mind to ignore the woman, insufferable peasant. Did she not know who he was? But seeing that he was standing all alone among the greenery, looking a bit of a fool, he turned and followed her… Grudgingly.
He was brought before a young man of Elvishly slim build with a curious black box in his hand. “Sorry to interrupt you, but I thought we could…” “What is it that you want me to do?” “Just… actually, hold that, that’s great…” He glared. Was he surrounded by imbeciles? Hold what? “Hold what, you fool? My tongue?” He was getting more irritated by the second. Not least because of the breeze that was pulling at his hair. He had to fish in his mouth with his stubby fingers and retrieve some greying hairs. He nearly spat them out. The peasant had the gall to giggle. “No, just stay as you are, turn towards me, a bit to the left.” “You dare command me, as if I were a lowly peasant?” he rumbled as his eyes began to glower dangerously with barely subdued rage. He pulled himself up to his most impressive height, leaning forward to tower over that ignorant rat of a stiff-necked Elf impersonator. “You shall taste the pain of your forefathers’ own creation, Elf-filth!” He raised his sword in a gesture of threatening menace. “Great, that’s fantastic!” Just as he was about to bear the sword down on the dim-witted cretin, a flash of lightening blinded him. He closed his eyes, Orcrist nearly slipping from his fingers. He swayed unsteadily for a split second. And then something snapped in his brain. When he opened his eyes again, the photographer was nodding at him with a wide grin. “Thank you Richard, you acted that marvellously. Done in one shot! That’s a new record.” He blinked. That could have been a close shave, he sighed inwardly.
In the Bag [October 22, 2013]
The therapist stroked his stubbled chin in a thoughtful gesture. His latest client was a tough nut. He had been referred to him for anger management issues. “De-snarking”. Under pressure, the small man would easily snap, become extremely rude and pour buckets of acerbic vitriol on those who were unlucky enough to be around him. Apparently it was affecting his working relationships, hence his client’s boss had sent him to see a therapist after a few unsavoury scenes in the workplace, involving an inordinate amount of expletives, a number of thrown items and several big contracts falling through because of inappropriate slandering, reviling and abusing of customers.
The therapist was an expert in the field of anger resolution, and his ever rising number of clients and subsequent success stories was testament to that. This client, however, had him in a fix. The man was extraordinarily pleasant to him whenever he came for his scheduled therapy sessions. All smiles, compliments and an obvious friendly approval and consideration of him. The therapist had yet not been able to catch him out on one of his outbursts. And he needed to get him to blow his top, before he could address the issue. He obviously didn’t push the client’s buttons. Or his own calm and collected personality was too decent for the client to pull his usual stunts. He needed to come up with a plan… draw the client out and make him spew his fire like a dragon – which, he had been told, the man was still doing at work, much to the despair of his boss and colleagues. Heck, the case was beginning to have him vexed. “For fuck’s sake – I am *the* authority in anger resolution. I’ll be damned if this guy gets away with it.” He slammed his fist on his desk and his teacup wobbled theatrically on its saucer. Damn. It was himself who’d be needing anger management lessons soon, if he couldn’t get his client to show his real self. Some drastic measures had to be taken.
Today was the day. He was taking him on a field trip. “Mr F___,” he had said, “I’d like to accompany you on your next business trip and see you in action.” “Sure”, the client had agreed. “I like having you around. You’re a good influence.” The therapist had gritted his teeth at that. We’ll see about that, mister!
So here they were. The therapist was taking the client to the most stressful environment known to 21st century man – the airport. If you didn’t already hate flying, then the long queues, the overpriced cups of coffee, the lack of smoking facilities, the annoying fellow travellers, the rude security officers, the long waiting times and the restrictive airport security rules would certainly get you. Yes, he had this one in the bag. So far the client had kept his cool, despite having been charged 7.50 Dollars for a cup of tepid, vile coffee and being run into his ankles by an octogenarian traveller and her out of control baggage trolley (an assistant, who had surreptitiously followed them around). They had joined the longest check-in queue and the air steward on the desk had been sufficiently discourteous, informing them that the flight was delayed and Business Class was overbooked, so they’d have to sit in Economy. No eruption, yet. But the client would break, he’d make sure of that. They were striding towards the security check, already, and he couldn’t help but smile self-satisfactorily at the mayhem that was bound to erupt as soon as they got there. A 200ml bottle of baby oil, a small pen-knife and an envelope filled with icing sugar would do the trick. He shouldered his bag. The client would not live this one down, he’d capture it on film, with the camera hidden in his bag. Oh this would be the highlight of his professional career… His clinic’s name would be all over the academic journals. “RA – Resolving Anger”. He definitely had this one in the bag!
Here’s Looking at You, Armitage [October 15, 2013]
He surveyed his kingdom from the bathroom door. He really liked his new flat. Apartment, he reminded himself, they call them apartments over here. It wasn’t big – just a large living space with a little office area to the side, a comfy lounge space with a couple of sofas, a small kitchen, raised on a platform at the rear, fully equipped, mind you (time to get the Jamie Oliver app out again), and two doors on either side of the living space leading into his bedroom and the other into the bathroom opposite. Big industrial windows that harked back to the industrial use the building had been built for, let lots of light into the room, making the space bright and airy even on the dullest day. Pretty cool loft for a provincial chap like me, he smirked. It wasn’t quite up his street, all this coolness, but he had softened the look with the help of an interior designer and added a designer chair here, a few colourful cushions on the sofas and angled a rather large mirror above the sofa to throw some light onto the lounge area.
He felt at home – in this home away from home, so much so that old habits had crept in again. Books and magazines were piling up on the coffee table and beside his egg chair – perfect for reading in, one leg tugged under his bum – and he hadn’t bothered to tidy away the wine glasses he had consumed the last few nights while studying manuscripts, either. But now was not the time to think about that, he was getting ready for the day, and after a slovenly breakfast in only his boxers – he liked to sleep as unrestricted as possible – he had dawdled in the shower. He padded back, naked, into the living room, still damp. Or maybe it was the right time. Thank God there were no flats directly opposite his, he’d be done in for indecent exposure, prancing around in the nip like this. Haha, what a joke. Bending down to pick up the manuscripts from beside the chair, he wriggled his bottom teasingly towards the kitchen, then arranging the papers neatly on the coffee table, and straightening the magazines and books into stacks in tidy right angles. He grabbed last night’s bottle of Pinot Noir with his right hand. Oh, the dregs. Too precious to throw out. He downed the two sips from the bottom of the bottle, kicking his head back, pushing his chest out and brushing over his hairy chest with his left hand in a gesture of comfortable tactility. Ugh, oxidised. Maybe not such a good idea after all. He scratched his privates absent-mindedly. Making sure everything was back in its place and hanging smoothly, he shook his head at his disgusting habit of emptying the dregs, schooled by many years of frugality, gathered the wineglasses between his fingers and ambled back to the kitchen. Now for getting dressed, and quickly…
All done up in his new finery – that red-backed waistcoat really was delightfully tight around his chest, a pity the flaming, shiny red would be hidden under his jacket – he padded back from the bedroom into the living space, the shoes in his hands. He perched his bum on the window sill to get his shoes on and tie the laces by the light of the window. Suddenly he caught a movement from the corner of his eyes. He looked up, irritated. It was one of those minor distractions, like the movements on a TV screen in the corner of a pub – you can’t see the details, but the flickering movements on the screen compel you to look. Except there was no TV here. His telly was in the bedroom.
But there was the large mirror above the sofa to his left. In it he could make out the fuzzy shape of a person, half obscured up to waist-height behind metal railings, the rough stonework of red bricks partly visible, moving a hand to the face. Where was this coming from, he frowned. There were no houses opposite. He narrowed his eyes. Following the line of vision from the mirror, he turned his head to the right, in confusion, with a frown.
He cursed to himself, suddenly remembering his naked house-husbandly antics from earlier on. His next-door neighbour was having a fag on the fire escape, her gaze fixed on something slightly below his back. She was so close, he could see the blush spread all over her face as his eyes met hers.
Armitage as a Sitter [October 8, 2013]
It could have been a day like any other. I got up, got ready, and then I got a phone call. “Listen, honey, I have a favour to ask you!” My boss from the photo agency. His excruciatingly sweet tone didn’t bode well. “Yeah, Tony, what is it?” “I booked Larry to do a quick photo-call at half past 11, but he just called to say his gear was stolen under his arse on his way to the shoot. I need someone there NOW. You’re nearest, can you haul your obliging self over there pronto and take over?” That didn’t fit my plan at all. I had scheduled a long overdue post-production day today, and I hadn’t even changed out of my nightie yet. But he was the hand that feeds me, refusing a job meant giving someone else the opportunity to get in there. And I needed the money. I sighed. “Ok. Where? When?” “RTV studios. Half an hour ago.” “Fuck. Ok. Any info?” “Nothing big, hon, just some actor type, promo. Outdoors. Done in 10 minutes. Contact is Laura Walker.” “Already on my way.” I pulled on my dress and leggings from last night and grabbed my gear from behind the door while switching off my mobile and headed out the door.
I arrived out of breath. Damn, how I hated to be thrown into a job without preparation. I had no idea who I was shooting, what the location looked like, even what kind of photos were required. Plus, it had turned out to be a bright sunny day, and the quick cycle on my bike had left me sweaty and flushed. Laura Walker was already waiting for me by the door of the studios. “Guylty Pleasure? So glad you are finally here. He’s already waiting for you. He hasn’t got much time. You better get this done quick…”, she said curtly, chastising me for a mistake that wasn’t mine. Fuck, more pressure. I shot her a lethal glance, shouldered my bag and followed her.
She led me into a courtyard at the side of the studios. Obviously the place where the employees hung out for a sneaky fag. I took it in within a second: concrete slabs, a chest-high grey wall, some non-descript greenery. Bland City. This was getting worse by the minute, especially considering that the best looking side of the little courtyard was right in front of the sun. A pain to shoot. My subject was already there, sitting on the end of a lonely-looking bench, the bright sunlight behind him obscuring his face.
Ok, so quick quick quick because Mr Impatience needs to get away. I hurried towards the bench, fumbling with the clasps on my camera bag, pressing a cheerful “hellotheresorrytohavekeptyouwaitingIamreallysorryI’llbeasquickaspossiblejustonesecond” into Mr Impatience’s general direction. I busied myself with my gear, dumping the camera bag on the ground beside him, pulling out my 5d2. I could feel his eyes on me while I was rummaging in my bag. Shit. I had left my tripod at home. I would have to shoot hand-held. This was just not my day. Mr Impatience hadn’t moved an inch, probably icily surveying my desperate attempts at getting ready. Cool as a cucumber, Guylty!, I implored myself. I took the lens cap off, holding the camera to my eye, taking a couple of experimental shots of the hugely fascinating wall in front of me, to check if the metering was alright. With the camera still in front of my eyes, I turned to the left. My heart stopped when I stared right through the lens at the man who was anything but icily observing my struggles. My right index finger released the shutter in shock…
Candid Armitage [October 5, 2013]
“You have to do something, Richard!” He frowned. On her regular weekly call his publicist was going over the general trends in his popularity. Not that he really cared that much, but it was all part of the package, and part of the game. “I have monitored Social Media for the last four weeks, while you have been on set in Wellington. And it’s not good, I can tell you.” What? Why? Sure, he hadn’t done anything different than usual, he’d done his work during the day, hung out with his mates in the evening, the occasional public appearance. Plus, a whole slew of interviews had been done in Australia just before arriving in Wellington. As far as he was concerned, that Popcorn Taxi appearance had been received very well. From his lush bottom in his tight black trousers to the carefully askance tie, the fans had reacted positively to his participation at the public interview. The coup de grace had been his answer to the interviewer’s last question. If you could ask Tolkien anything about your character, what would you ask? – About Thorin’s romantic past, a possible love interest. Time and space had bent for a split second, in that cinema, at that moment, he was sure, as the energy in the room had positively surged, the collective heartrate risen through the roof. How did they call it in fan circles? “Ovaries burst”. He sniggered at the memory. How he had maintained that innocent smile without breaking into a grin or blushing… sure, a sign that he was a great actor, he snorted self-ironically at himself. He had to distract the attention from himself quickly to the interviewer, gently mocking him, so that noone could see how pleased he had been with the reaction to his inspired answer. Climactic, he thought. Anyway, no use in basking in past glories.
“Well, what is happening? Tell me.” “I have noticed that a lot of fans, although still seemingly committed to you, have become quite vocal and loyal fans to your co-stars.” “What’s wrong with that? I am a fan of Graham and Deano, too?” “But they have signed up for their Twitter feeds and are communicating openly. They are actually flirting. They are into the whole mature and youthful macho thing that those two embody.” “Good for them. I am sure Graham and Deano appreciate that.” “Richard, you are deliberately failing to see the problem. Your fans have not entirely defected.” “Good”, he triumphantly interjected. “Don’t interrupt me, Richard! I am not finished.” He flinched and hunched up his shoulders. His publicist continued, “but Graham and Deano have had enough. They have copped on that the fans are only following them because they are trying to find out through *them* what *you* have been up to. Not good for the ego. Graham told me that he is looking forward to that cage fight, and he’s going to settle the issue once and for all…” Richard smirked. No chance, McTavish. “So, what do you suggest I do, then?” “Well…” He leaned into his handset to listen intently to his publicist’s suggestions.
The phone conversation had been mulling on his mind all the next day. He had surreptitiously watched Graham and Dean all during the shoot, and later the same evening when they had gone for a drink after work. Lads. So they had something he had not? Impossible. Or if so, then he’d emulate that for the benefit of the ladies. Observe and learn. He was quick at that, and good at imitating and converting it, adding the elusive and devastating Armitage je-ne-sais-quoi. Ha!
Another day over, he was ready to roll home after shooting. Nearing the barrier of the Stone Street Studios entrance, he could see a huddle of fans outside. He clenched his teeth. “Showtime! I can do rough, masculine laddishness, bitches.” He winced. He detested slurry-pit language. But maybe that was expected of Testosterone superheroes? Quick on repartee, but curt and monosyllabic. A bit of man-handling tactility. Innuendo. He reminded himself. He decided to put a certain brash, testicle-brandishing confidence into his gait, walking towards the barrier. Yeah, this was rolling, dude. Here comes King Kong, girls, watch out! Good thing he had put on his leather jacket this morning. The thoughtlessly thrown-on, worn-out open-jaws t-shirt was just right for *this* performance. Never underestimate the power of costume, he smirked to himself.
“Richard! Richard! Hello.” The girls had indeed been waiting for him. “How are you, Richard? Will you sign an autograph for us?” He nearly broke into a smile. No, not today. He had to do this manly thing. “Yo. Yeah. Pen?”, he croaked. This was hard. Manly, Armitage, manly, he reminded himself. Poker face! There was excited chatter and happy smiles among the girls, as he signed a few pieces of paper that were held out to him. He had to bite his tongue to not sweetly suggest a photograph to the girls, as he was wont to do. In character, Armitage, stay in character, he reminded himself. There was a slight hesitation in the group, as he turned to scribble his name on the last of the papers they had been waving at him. “Your name?” He rumbled gruffly at a girl, maintaining his hard-boy image, avoiding her dreamy smile. “Carly…”, the girl said. He signed his name on the piece of paper. Carly sidled up to him. “Smile for the camera”, her friend piped up. Before he knew it, his arm had snaked around Carly’s shoulder and a happy grin had settled on his face. Click! “Got your smile, Richard, thanks!”
Shit. He was out of his depth. This just wasn’t his gig.
Armitage in Context [October 2, 2013]
Whoever said that being famous was easy? Dammit, working on the weekend was a real bummer. He had of course known that actors had bad working hours – working on stage in the evening when others went out to enjoy their free time. But that had changed when he switched into TV and film work. And if he was honest, he had really liked the regular routine of film schedules. Even if there were long hours involved, he always had the weekend off, time to recharge the batteries and switch his mind off a bit. He hadn’t reckoned with his increasing celebrity. Promo occasions were taking up an increasing amount of time of his schedule nowadays.
He yawned as he stretched a last time before getting up. He was still exhausted from the jet lag from his recent flight back from LA to good old Blighty. Press meetings on a Saturday morning, for fuck’s sake! He groaned. And he had to get from his leafy, increasingly poshified, quiet London suburb to the central London hotel where the press gang were waiting for him. At least there was going to be less traffic than on a normal work day. – Their normal work days. Not mine. He grimaced.
Damn, it was already 8.30 am. He’d have to get a move on to be there at 10 am. Shower. Shit. The jet lag had fucked up his regular shaving schedule. He felt his stubble with his hand. A bit thicker than usual. He peered at himself in the bathroom mirror. That bit of stubble above his lip was turning into a veritable handlebar moustache. Fuck it. No time. Thank God this was going to be a press meet only. No photography. No styling needed. Another quick comb through his growing hair with his hand, and he was ready. Now, for breakfast he’d have to rely on the hotel to provide some pastries and a pot of tea.
– – –
“Did you really start your acting career in a circus?” The bland colour schemes in corporate hotels really are not very conducive to staying alert. How do the suits manage to stay awake in such surroundings? He tried to stifle a yawn but knew that his chin wobbled with the effort of suppressing his body’s need for fresh air. “What characteristics do you share with Thorin?” Shit, did I just nod off? “How was working with Peter Jackson?” He had answered these questions a thousand times. “How do you rate yourself on the open-ended Richard Armitage scale of sexual hotness?” “Whot???”, he barked as his head jerked up, wide awake all of a sudden. “A question from your fans on tumblr. Are you hot or not?” He laughed. That was really one of the searing, central questions of 21st century cinematography. He eyeballed the journalist. The bloke looked rather normal, actually. Hm. He had to answer this nicely non-committally, with a bit of mystery, a bit of humour. Was what he was thinking too forward? No, they would know he was being impishly mischievous. Totally his style. “Gimme that piece of paper!”, he growled. His hands were shaking when he wrote his answer. He held up the paper and looked at the camera, trying hard to smile innocently. But a little snark escaped the corner of his mouth…
Ladykiller [September 25, 2013]
Mystery bug strikes at industry event.
Los Angeles/Guylty. A mysterious epidemic is sweeping LA, leaving the victims vision impared and incapable of speech. The first signs of the epidemic were discovered on Saturday, September 21st, at an industry event in the run-up to the Emmy Awards ceremony.
In a bizarre pattern, the killer bug was spread in the hospitality area of the hotel first where actors and celebrities were met by the waiting press for the customary photo call. A number of female journalists and photographers spontaneously fainted and had to be attended to by paramedics. The victims were unable to articulate themselves even after they had been stabilised and taken to the surrounding hospitals. After clearing the area of attendees, the bug spread to the terrace outside where celebrities and guests had assembled for a reception. LA hospitals are still trying to cope with the appearance of an as yet unseen epidemic of worrying proportions. Isolated cases were later reported in an upmarket, downtown-LA hotel and at an ice-cream parlour on Sunset Boulevard.
The line of investigation is focusing on a number of leads, trying to find common denominators among the currently known facts: Almost all of the victims are women, however, they are coming from all age groups and ethnic backgrounds. It is yet unclear why particularly females have been struck down by the mysterious killer bug whereas no male attendees were affected. However, a growing body of evidence seems to point to an as yet unproven hypothesis that puts actor Richard Armitage at the centre of the investigation. According to a police spokesman, the actor left a trail of fainting females in his wake when he appeared at the BAFTA Tea Party event in Beverly Hills. Armitage has refuted any wilfull action on his part, citing his own participation in rescue efforts when a number of victims collapsed directly in front of his eyes. Armitage’s publicist was not available for comment.
Reports have also reached this publication that milder symptoms of a similar epidemic have been noted all over the world, soon after the press reports of the BAFTA event were published on Saturday evening. While none of the international victims required immediate medical assistance, unconfirmed reports state that temporary speech empediments and bouts of fainting affected a number of women engaged in remote-covering the event.
Previously, similar symptoms had been seen at the London premiere of the Hobbit and the Wellington event for the film “The World’s End”. Medical experts and police investigators are still trying to find the common denominator for the occurrance of the epidemic bug that has been informally christened the “Ladykiller”.
Check Mate [September 22, 2013]
It was beginning again. He had had a fantastic summer. Starting off with the reunion with his friends from his biggest film project so far, and only a small number of photo engagements and a few meetings with the press, he’d really enjoyed his summer. His new pad in New York was delightful, right in the heart of the city, in a place where he could venture out unseen and generally unaccosted by the blasé New Yorkers who were far too busy to recognise celebrities. And he was hardly the biggest fish in the pond. Luckily Jackman was keeping the fans happy – thanks, mate. But with autumn also approached the renewed promotion cycle for the Hobbit. Time to ease myself back into that, he sighed. His publicist had arranged for him to attend a press event on the occasion of BAFTA week. “An opportunity to bring out the Oscar-stance and the carefully measured camera smile, Richard!” she had said to him.
He was standing in front of his suitcase. A press event. What to wear? There were going to be photographers. What kind of message did he want to convey? Hot rising star? Sophisticated serious actor? Casual boy-next-door? Fuck it. He just wanted to feel comfortable. To hell with fashion – I’d pad out there in my comfy crocs and a pair of jogging pants, if I could. He sighed. No, it would not do. He had an image to maintain, his publicist had reminded him. She had also let on that his fans had been quite enamored with some of the incidental images that had been shot of him over the summer. The non-professional twitter kind of stuff, and the fan shots from signings and events. He growled. I wish there was a checklist. He paused. Hold on. He was not an actor with a colourful imagination for nothing. If I were my own fan, a youngish, 40-something, straight woman with a penchant for tall dark British actors, what would appeal to me? He stood for a second, chewing on his index finger, lost in thought. Then he started rummaging in his suitcase again.
Long slim legs… tight denims. He pulled on his trousers. Check.
Accentuated narrow hips… chunky leather belt. Around the hips it went. Check.
Narrow waist and wide shoulders… tight little jacket. Best not too casual. So not the leather number. Grey jacket then. Check.
Broad chest… under a suit jacket, so has to be a collared shirt. Stripy number. He tucked the shirt tails into his waistband and straightened up. Check.
He looked at himself in the mirror. Yeah. Sufficient. But sufficient is not stunning. He ran a hand through his hair which he had grown out a bit in preparation for an upcoming project. And then it hit him. The checklist was not quite complete. His audience needed a bit more.
Romantic hero look… Sir Guy nape curls. They had always liked that. He fluffed his fingers through the hair at the back. Yup. A few of the unruly curls standing out cheekily. Check.
A slight grin appeared on his face. He remembered the reaction to an impromptu shot taken in a designer shop earlier in the summer where he had tried to gauge the reaction of his fans to his showing a little bit more. His hands went up to his collar. This would be the broadside.
A man in his prime… chest hair. He opened up the top two buttons. Check.
And check mate, girls. He grinned impishly. Off we go.
The Historical Advisor [September 16, 2013]
He felt like a little school-boy. Some important background information. Should help him in piecing the story together. Expert knowledge. Opportunity to ask questions. He huffed inwards. Really, he *was* able to read and research for himself. God, he was known in this business for writing extensive character biographies, immersing himself in the role by creating a whole pre-plot background. It was what he was being cast for – the meticulous, method-acting professional approach to his work. And now his schedule was hijacked by the production secretary for a “chat” with an “advisor”. Three weeks into the shoot. He rolled his eyes to the heavens. He really could’ve spent the time better, working out in the gym on the stairmaster (his leg muscles really needed a bit of toning up – those skirts were pretty unforgiving, he thought with a shudder, remembering a short, previous cinematic excursion into antiquity from his early acting days). He really needn’t be lectured to. He threw himself resignedly back into the soft armchair and sighed. This “Prof O___” was most likely going to be some dried up history type, all pleated skirts and grey roots under her perm. Kind of my target group, though, he chuckled self-deprecatingly. Nah, she’s probably never even set foot into a cinema and only watches the History Channel on her ancient, wood-encased picture tube TV, straight from pre-history like herself.
A door opened behind his back. This would be her. He sighed again. Let the games begin. As she was approaching, he peeled his long limbs from the armchair to get up. At least keep up the good manners if you can’t muster up much interest, he thought. “Hello Mr Armitage, pleased to meet you”, a warm and polite voice intoned behind his back. Before he could turn around, the woman had circumnavigated him and stood before him, tall despite fashionable high heels, long waves of auburn hair, luscious curves packaged in an understated but nonetheless elegant burgundy coloured dress, hand outstretched. His eyes widened in surprise, and for a moment he seemed unable to speak. “History type, my arse!” “Pardon?”, she cocked her head in confusion. Did he say that out loud? “Eh, I mean… history delights my hours… eh, Latin quote?” he fumbled. She smiled indulgently – as if I am a silly schoolboy indeed, damn, she’s seen through that impro – and softly said “Historia magistra vitae – history, teacher of life. ”Eh, thank you for coming in, Prof O___”. “Oh, please, just call me O___”, she offered. “I am Richard”, he said. “I know”, she answered.
Five minutes in and Richard’s previous ungracious defiance had been replaced by open-mouthed admiration. Not only did he listen to her well-articulated instruction with rapt attention, but he was literally on the edge of his seat, his long legs folded in front of him. Roman gender relations were actually a fascinating subject. Plus, he was more and more taken with the glittering doe eyes above the dancing cherry-red lips. The word “domination” caught his attention. Was it getting hotter in here? He pushed up the sleeves of his grey cardigan and slightly loosened his tie. “It’s important to remember that males in Roman society largely followed a cult of virility – which has implications for the way Roman men dressed, their posture, their associations and their physical attitude towards women. Something you might want to remember when characterising your… eh… character”, she paused, licking her lips, looking up. Richard’s breath hitched. This was much more interesting than he had thought. “Please tell me more”, he whispered huskily, pursing his lips and leaning forward with a smile.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside [ September 10, 2013]
“We are leaving in ten minutes, dear. Are you up yet?” The soft but insistent tones of the female voice roused him from a deep sleep. He was momentarily disoriented. Where was he? Why was the light so bright? Why was he being woken by a woman’s voice? And why was he being roused in broad daylight and not the usual crack-of-dawn dimness of his filming work-days? Oh, yes, the weekend. He yawned and rested his head back on the pillow. He was allowed to sleep in. Scratching his unruly mop of black hair, he threw a quick glance at the alarm clock on his nightstand. He blinked and yawned, attempting to shake off the remnants of sleep from his fuzzy mind. A moderate morning hour. In fact – he drew a sharp gasp – it was half past 10, and he suddenly remembered that he had agreed to accompany her. “Darling??? We have to go in five minutes!!! Come down. You won’t even have time for your porridge!!!” The voice from downstairs carried the weight of a thousand question-marks. And the promise of a million exclamation marks if he didn’t get a move on.
He jumped out of his bed. Sugar. No time for his morning routine. He surveyed the room. Underpants. Socks. A quick splash of water under his arms. Yesterday’s denims. She’d left a shirt out for him and the new grey jumper. She had said it was getting colder and he ought to wear a nice woolly jumper in the autumn chill. “I’ll be waiting outside, Richard!!!” The voice had taken on a decidedly chilly tone, to match the seasonal weather. Blast. He hastened downstairs, cursorily brushing his mop of hair into place with his fingers. Hopping on one leg, he pulled his boots from where he had left them at the bottom of the stairs, putting them on. No time to tie the laces. He grabbed the black coat from the rack, pushing his arms through the sleeves and tugging on the woollen cuffs, as he hurried out the front door.
She was already waiting, impeccably dressed and coiffed, as usual, arms impatiently crossed over her bosom, neat little handbag dangling from her wrist. He came to a stop in front of her. “Oh, look at you!”, she sighed exasperatedly. “Really Richard, I have no idea how you get any jobs in that business of yours. Or why all those lovely ladies consider you a handsome catch. You can’t go out like that!” She moved towards him, her arms already outstretched towards his sleeves. “Now, pull down your trousers properly, Richard.” She busied and herself at his cuffs, pulling the coat sleeves over the cuffs of the jumper. “And for God’s sake, tuck in your shirt!!!” He rolled his eyes with an amused grin. “And now let’s go.” “Yes, mum!”, he demurely and obediently mumbled, as she turned on her heels and marched off, expecting him to follow. “Once a baby, always a baby”, he smiled to himself, as he glanced after her.
Armitage á la Surprise [August 27, 2013 ]
31st of October, half past four in the afternoon. My boss had let us all go early because it was Halloween, and most of us were heading to a monstrous party that evening. On my way home, I decided to stop at a Halloween store that had popped up around the corner from my office, in the hope of picking up a little seasonal, gimmicky gift for the hosts of the party I was going to later that night. “Lots of junk, I thought to myself”, as I entered the shop. “Will I find anything in here? Why did I leave it this late to get a pressie? Plus, I am not the only one, getting some kind of small present or last minute decoration.” Too many last-minute shoppers squeezed by each other in the tight space of the overfull shop. I perused the knic-knacks and decorations on offer. “Ghosts, posters, plastic spiders, a giant severed hand seeping blood *yum*, lots of webbing, a pair of denim peaches… Wait, wot?” My gaze got stuck on a handsome bottom, a hand’s reach away from me. “Snugly packaged”, I appreciatively pondered. “Broad shoulders, mhhh. Tight haircut. Nicely tall!!!” My assessment was going overdrive. “I love tight jeans on slim, athletic hips.” I found myself edging surreptitiously closer, covered by the throng of the shop. “I’d love to feel *that* spot. Where the hipbone meets the loins. Bone beside soft flesh.” I came closer, just centimetres away from the broad, beknitted shoulders. I was so close that I could smell a faint whiff of cologne from the handsomely be-bottomed stranger. If I wanted to get past him in the overcrowded shop, I would have to brush along him, anyway. With the unaffected non-chalance of a polite fellow-customer, I whispered a quick “Pardon” and simultaneously placed my right hand on the stranger’s hipbone, signalling my intent to pass and indicating a request to make room. I skimmed the hollow between his hipbone and his loins with my thumb for the merest, briefest second, and brushed past, as his head shot up. I could feel his eyes on my back, lit up by surprise and confusion as I innocently made my way out of the shop…
What Next, Mr Armitage? [August 20, 2013]
“Stop, stop right here!” “What, now? But we are not at the hotel yet.” “No matter, stop the cab right now, I need to get out.” The cab driver managed to weave out of the traffic and brought the taxi to a stand-still at the curb in a Manhattan side-street. “24 Dollars”. He shoved a few Dollar bills into the cab driver’s hands. Why did these American notes all have to be green and grubby-white. They all looked the same. He had no time to sort this out now. “Keep the change”, he said curtly, didn’t even bother to put the remaining bills back into his pocket and reached for the cab door. — There she was, just a few paces away from the cab, walking up the street, with a determined step. He’d spot his old theatre-classmate from miles away, the dark long locks and the womanly, curvy shape, even when hidden under a knee-length winter coat. How lucky to catch her here, just while she was playing somewhere off-Broadway. He opened the cab door into the path of the sun-shade-clad woman. “A___, fancy meeting you here”, he beamed at her. — Katharine stopped dead in her tracks. It couldn’t be. Was this? Was this really? Was it her moviestar love interest, accosting her on the street? She nearly ripped off her sunglasses in an attempt to have a closer look. His ecstatic expression darkened. This was not his friend A___. How embarrassing. “Oh. No.” He was taken aback and surprised. “Not you.” It all came out wrong. Katharine scowled and threw her head back. “Well. I see. Not you, either”, she growled back. He opened and closed his mouth like a carp panting for air. “I mean, I… “ he scrambled for words while the attractive brunette with the lively twinkle in her eye shook her head and took a step to her right to pass around the door and move on. “Pardon me… I am so sorry… That was rude.. I didn’t… How can I… ” — The words still jumbled from his mouth unsystematically. Katharine moved on, reaching in her purse. She let the little white card fall onto the pavement at his feet with a noticeable flourish. “Favourites are roses.” He frowned, uncomprehending. She was already two steps away. “First drink is on you”, she threw over her shoulder, then flounced on without turning back. He bent down to pick up the business card. Richard steadied himself on to the cab door when he got back up and turned around, searching for her in the crowd. — She was gone.
The Trip Hazard [August 13, 2013]
He has been standing there for a while, patiently anticipating his date for the evening to appear. She caught his attention earlier that day, when bumping into her in the building they both work in. After he had helped her gather the folder that had slipped from under her arm when they collided, he plucked up the courage to ask her whether she would like to meet him later for a cup of coffee – to make up for crashing into her. Here she is now, she has stepped out into the staircase where they agreed to meet, and after initial introductions he is now listening to Katie telling him she wasn’t sure if he really meant his suggestion for a cup of coffee. “After all I bumped into you, too.” He is leaning in slightly to Katie, his brow furrowed, worried if this is the pretext to being dumped nicely, and yet still hopeful that she will not. His hands are burrowing defensively in his trouser pockets. ‘I don’t want to be sent packing by this lovely woman. I’d like to get to know her’, he thinks. He inclines his head in an effort to regain her trust. There’s the first flutter of a smile on her face. ‘Maybe, after all, she doesn’t think I have been coming on too strong’, he thinks. Katie’s heart is beating in her chest. Jesus, this man is quite the trip hazard. “The coffee is on me”, he suggests softly.