Before you begin, as much as you may doubt what you are reading, please believe me when I say that absolutely every single word of this is 100% true.*
I have to admit, just minutes after I’d written the post before this one, I kind of regretted it. I mean, what was I thinking? “I will be writing about my own real life… so I will attempt to live a more interesting, eventful, and entertaining life”. Am I insane???!!! I couldn’t live an entertaining life if you wrapped me in cellophane, painted me pink, glued live rabbits to my back, and dropped me into the middle of a maximum security prison (I haven’t got a clue what all of these things might add up to, but they seem like they should result in something mildly interesting). My life is as eventful as a three-nippled turnip at a stamp-collectors convention (again, haven’t got a clue what any of that means, but it sounds pretty dull). Or so I thought…
Last week I took the family down to see my parents, and, whilst there, we took a day trip to action packed, centre of all excitement Stratford-Upon-Avon (home of the Royal Shakespeare Company). As I waited in line to take the kids on a fifteen minute ride in a row-boat down the River Avon, I overheard an elderly Canadian couple discussing how peas taste different in England, and it was slowly becoming extremely obvious that something outrageously fun was about to happen. And then an short old lady turned around to talk to me, and the excitement-ometer went from crazy to absolutely frickin’ insanoOo!
“I’m ever so sorry to trouble you, and please feel absolutely free to decline, but I don’t suppose you would be so kind as to row my boat for me, would you?” said the lady who looked uncannily like Judi Dench, sounded very much like Judi Dench, and bloody well WAS Dame Judi Nobbing Dench! (That isn’t her real middle name, just incase you were wondering).
Yes, the queen of British film royalty was stood directly in front of me, looking straight at me, and speaking words towards my face! Once I’d overcome the initial shock I very nervously and eagerly agreed to row her boat for her (not a euphemism), dumped the kids with my wife, climbed into the row boat with the wobbly clumsiness of a seasoned rowing maestro, then watched, very un-gallantly, as someone else helped her into the boat.
“Away we go!” she giggled once she was seated comfortably, and I compliantly began to waggle the oars in the water.
“Don’t worry, I have done this before, but it always takes me a while to get the hang of it,” I assured her. I waited for a reassuring reply, or possibly a mocking reply, or ANY kind of reply, but, when I looked up, I saw that she was already lost in a world of her own.
She said absolutely nothing for the next three or four minutes, and just stared, misty-eyed, at the rippling water, seemingly oblivious to the fact that my rowing was getting worse, not better. When she did finally speak I got the impression that a wibbly-wobbly boat ride on the splashy-sploshy waters of the River Avon may not have been a very good idea, as she was actually a little bit tipsy.
“This might not have been a terribly good idea,” she said. “You see, I’m actually a little bit tipsy right now.”
She went on to explain that she had been out to a party the night before, and was yet to return home. I guessed that she may have been a little bit more than slightly tipsy when she used words and phrases like “out on the lash”, “completely shit-faced”, and “twatted a hamster in the face with a cotton bud.” I’d love to embellish on these details, but I’m sorry to say that I didn’t have a clue what the hell she was babbling on about.
I noticed that she was turning slightly green, and began making barely perceptible vomit convulsions in her chest, so I did my inept best at turning the boat around, to take her back to the bit where you take the boats back to, but that was when she lurched forwards, yanked the oar from my right hand, then began bashing the hell out of a semi-submerged Tesco carrier bag that was drifting past us.
“Piss off!” She yelled at it. “Go on! Get bent, you arrogant, prima donna! I’ll give you what for if you ever show your face around here again, you prissy little bald twat!”
Then she sat back down, and a look of realisation came over her. First she looked shocked, then she looked embarrassed, and then she threw her head back and laughed so loud she practically screamed. And she continued to laugh like this until I too began to laugh. And she continued to laugh like this until I stopped laughing and wondered if she was alright. And she continued to laugh like this until it really began to freak me out. And then she took a breath, leant forwards and said ‘I thought it was Patrick Stewart!’ And that got her laughing all over again. And then, when the insane laughing was finally over, she leant forwards, clutched my oar-less hand and said, ‘one word of advice for the future, my dear, never drink absynthe before you’re due to perform Shakespeare.’
‘Are you performing today?’ I asked.
‘Yes, yes, but not until one o’clock,’ she replied, for some reason adopting an Irish accent.
‘Erm…’ I said, pulling my phone out so I could just check how many minutes were left until one o’clock (which I know was not many). And then she snatched the phone from my hand and tossed it into the water.
‘Feck!’ she yelled at me, still in an Irish accent. ‘Feck you and yeh fecken enternet, trying to get me on your YouTube or some fecken shite!’
By this point I was not very amused, and my moment of being stars truck was officially over, so I clenched my jaw, bit my tongue, and paddled (with one oar) as fast as I could, back to the riverside. It took about three minutes,
and, for every one of those three minutes, she continued to shout swear words and other phrases, like “wanky apple farts!” and “wobbly chair-legs!” at myself and on-lookers, still in an Irish accent. She also produced handfuls of drinking straws from her handbag, which appeared to have been stolen from McDonalds, then tore the ends of the paper wrappers off, stuck the exposed parts of the straws into her nostrils (sometimes two at a time), then attempted to launch the paper wrappers off the ends of the straws, towards the gathering on-lookers, using nothing but nostril air. Only one wrapper actually made it beyond the perimeter of the boat, and on two occasions she actually performed complete nasal evacuations into the water. I could not believe that this was the same woman who played the Queen in Shakespeare In Love.
When it came time for her to get out of the boat she suddenly began to act perfectly normally again. She thanked the boat guy who helped her back onto dry land, she thanked me in a very genuine and courteous manner, and then apologised for drowning my phone, and promised to compensate me for it. And then she turned around and walked away.
I do not know if she was genuinely drunk, or if she was doing this for a joke, or maybe as part of some hidden camera TV prank show (if it was, then I know for a fact that they need my consent before they can air it on TV, and I saw nobody hanging around with a consent form and a pen) but it was, without any shadow of a doubt, the most bizarre and interesting nine minutes of my life.
PS. I went online that evening, to look for reviews of her performance at the RSC, wondering if she remained at the same level of insanity whilst on stage, and I discovered that she isn’t even in any plays there!
PPS. I haven’t got a clue how she intends to compensate me for my phone, but I’m hoping she will read this blog post and try to get in touch with me.
I’m not sure how I will ever top this.
*that part isn’t entirely true.