Lying To Strangers

Things returned to normal this week after my little adventure the other day. By “normal” I mean I did a live interview for BBC Radio Wales on Wednesday morning (about Star Trek being 40 years old) and a TV interview for BBC4 on Thursday afternoon. Which wasn’t live, thankfully, and will be shown in the autumn as part of a series they’re doing, though I won’t watch because I hate seeing myself on TV. I did ask them to film me from the head up because then I won’t get that whole “the camera puts 10lbs on you” thing, but sadly they didn’t listen.

I had to talk about Star Trek (again), Buffy, Futurama and, best of all, David Niven’s fabulous 1946 movie A Matter Of Life And Death, which was why I did it in the first place. Unfortunately the filming took place in a room as hot as a sauna, I had a sore throat and all the questions about that film took place at the end of the 90-minute interview when I was tired, croaky and probably a little sweaty. Still, as long as I sounded enthusiastic, I s’pose…

Onto stranger matters:

A few days ago I was approached by a woman tugging a huge suitcase behind her outside Baker Street station. She was flustered, upset and loud, demanding to know how to get from Baker Street to Marylebone Station. I told her I was walking that way and she followed me, complaining the whole time about the lack of a sign anywhere to tell her where to go.

“I mean,” she grumbled, “what kind of stupid place doesn’t have a sign pointing to a train station? How would I have found it if I hadn’t asked you? What a stupid city London is!”

I don’t know if it was because she was being rude about my home town, but a wild madness overtook me.

I started to lie.

“There used to be signs,” I explained, politely, “but they’ve been stolen.”

“Stolen? Who’d steal a road sign?”

“There are some crazy people in this world.”

“But who would do that?”

I thought quickly. “Sherlock Holmes fans.”

She stopped on the pavement and stared at me. “Really?”

I should have felt guilty, but I didn’t. “Yes. They all come to Baker Street on a pilgrimage to his house, but then they don’t want to leave empty handed, so they steal street signs. The council keep replacing them but they just keep vanishing. They must have gone through hundreds.”

The woman looked amazed. “That’s crazy! I’d never have believed it!”

If only she knew, I thought. But I couldn’t stop myself now. “I know,” I said, trying to look outraged. “It always makes me angry. I mean, Sherlock Holmes was all about solving crimes and upholding the law, wasn’t he? So all these people stealing in his name… it’s against everything he stood for. He’d have hated them! I really don’t understand why they don’t realise that.”

“Yes,” said the woman, firmly. “He would have hated them. Well… That’s very interesting. I feel a bit better about there not being any directions now.”

Later, when I got back to the office and guiltily told one of my colleagues what I’d done, she replied: “I’m lovin’ your work.”

I’m so bad.



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5 responses to “Lying To Strangers

  1. neil h

    You are an evil genius … 😉

    When’s the BBC4 series on?

  2. Jayne Nelson

    All I know is that it’s the autumn and it’s part of a series called “Time Shift”. The one I did was about parallel worlds.

    Will keep you posted!

    And I am an evil genius, aren’t I? *winks*

  3. Iain

    If that stolen signs thing doesn’t end up an urban legend within the next year, I’ll be shocked.

    Take it one of the BBC channels is showing something about alternate universes, if TS is doing a parallel worlds show. Well done. 😀

  4. Stuart Ian Burns

    I live about a quarter of a mile away from Penny Lane, as in the Beatles song and for many years the council actually did have to replace the street sign because visiting fans were nicking them as souveniers. Eventually they had to paint the sign on the wall — which someone eventually also stole, sandstone bricks and all. Now they’ve reverted to a plastic sign on stilts which is frankly asking for trouble.

    Which wouldn’t be that depressing if the song itself was at all true — far as anyone can tell they were actually describing the bottom of Church Road on the corner of Smithdown Road which is actually directly opposite Penny Lane — but obviously wouldn’t scan in the song.

  5. Lizwc

    heh heh heh
    I think you let her off lightly. You could have pointed her towards Regent’s Park and said “it’s just the other side of that Olde London village green”

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