Stories

Character Sketch : Hotel Grand Amour (This Is It)

January 21, 2017

The people-watching in Paris is on-point. Seeing characters in real life and imagining their stories is one of my favourite things to do. Here is a short piece I wrote about one character who caught my eye at the Hotel Grand Amour one exceptionally chilly evening last week …

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Camp Lo 3

Hotel Grand Amour

Camp Lo 2

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His style reminded me of Camp Lo in the video for “Luchini.” Sitting facing the bar at the Hotel Grand Amour he wore a camel coloured overcoat, matching newsboy hat, pale cream coloured poloneck, a gold hoop earring and assorted thick gold rings. He must have been in his early or mid seventies, with white beard stubble peppering his angular chin. He used an old-fashioned gold magnifying glass to read something, presumably messages or some article, on his iphone, whilst methodically working his way through a bottle of IPA and twelve oysters. He didn’t strike me as Parisian. More an old Harlem soul somehow lost in the 10th arrondissement. I would have loved to have spoken to him and found out his story. But alas, my friend arrived and the important task of dinner and gossip was to commence. Maybe another day, maybe another lifetime …

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Summer Camp Love

February 16, 2015

I was recently drinking with a friend in a small wine bar in East London, when the conversation turned to long summers. My friend had worked a couple of summer camp stints in America on the East Coast, and recounted the experience all rather fondly.

Hearing his memories reminded me of the time I met a kid called Peaches on a plane from London to New York in 2012. We were sat next to each other, and as the plane prepared for take off we began chatting a little about why we were both travelling solo to NYC. I was attending a music conference at NYU and also linking up with various friends and music heads in the city; a nice mix of work and play. His stakes were a little higher however. He told me how he was visiting his girlfriend who lived there, a girl who he met working the summer with Camp America. He seemed a little nervous and continued to explain that the girl had no idea he was coming. He was flying out to surprise her and propose.

Our conversation then was fuelled by young idealistic affirmations about shooting for dreams, taking risks, and following your heart. When we arrived and went our separate ways in New York, I told Peaches to email me and let me know what she said. It was right at the end of my trip and just before I flew home that I saw an elated message in my inbox, telling me that she had in fact said yes. (!)

I managed to keep in touch with Peaches a little after, and when I found myself back in NYC auditioning for the New School in 2013, we met up in the Lower East Side for cheesecake. It was so cool to see my plane-acquaintance again, this time a snapshot of a newlywed expat living in Brooklyn. I truly wish him and his wife all the beauty in life.

I felt inspired by Peaches’ courage and story to write a little sketch, imagining his headspace just before I met him (with plenty of creative license..).

In the spirit of it just being Valentines weekend, I thought I would share it here .. Enjoy!

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Summer Camp Love 

Conspiring with the Stars to turn Desire into Divinity

Floor to ceiling glass windows, yellow signs, and wide leather seats sitting unoccupied were the rudiments of Gate 25. The stillness and underlying implication of great movement in this limbo only magnifying Sam’s feeling of space and impending uncertainty.

His mind was filled with pressing thoughts, and yet, he felt strangely put at ease and calm by the vastness of the stripped back setting, as he stood amongst the laissez-faire few boarding the Boeing 402 to New York’s John F. Kennedy airport at last call.

His reason for nearly missing the flight was pure, characteristic distraction. As the flights filing had begun, he had become mesmerized by the movements of aeroplanes and memories of just a few months previous. Summer’s perpetual haunting. Those glassy blue eyes stared out at the runway, as the projector of his memory began to flicker and spin; a private screening for one of what had become his favourite screenplay.

“We would like to invite our Sky Platinum passengers at this time…”

-He thought of the time he first noticed that thick ebony hair, of how it bounced, how he saw that she had three studs in her ear, two in the lower lobe and a ring up top. Remembering how the gymnasium had smelt of varnish that afternoon and how he had felt as though he were back at his first day of university again. This time in a parallel life where he might have been born in Illinois, Idaho, or New Jersey, not a sleepy town in Surrey. To a nuclear family with a mother who wore oven mitts and lay apple pies to cool on windowsills, and a father who talked about ‘the company’ and called him ‘sport’-

“And now we would like to extend this welcome to Sky Privilege…”

-He thought of that awful ice-breaker they played where you had to go round the circle and alliterate an adjective with your name, how his mind blanked as it neared his turn, and when he was up, all he could muster was “Silly Sam.”

But then he remembered that late afternoon  when walking back to his dorm, the orange sky and  how she, appearing as if from nowhere on that dusty path that only camp advisors used as a shortcut, passed him and in that honeyed drawl simply said “Silly Sam.” Simultaneously his stomach sank and his heart had leapt. For some reason she remembered, and wanted him to know. The ebony haired girl named Kyla.

“And now Sky Premium passengers in Zone 1, we would like to welcome you on board…”

-Catching her eyes across the bonfire, flickers of attraction and glimmers of hope reflected on her face in the warm, smoky glow. In that look he felt the moments that were to come: fiery sensations as fingers touch, the heady smell of burnt wood, giggles in the darkness, and all the stars of the New Jersey night sky conspiring with them to turn desire into divinity.

“We thank you for your patience with the boarding process, and would now like to invite zones 2 and 3 to board the aircraft”

-He thought about the little notes that she would leave for him from time to time. In his pockets, under his pillow. From one advisor to another. The sky lost colour at the idea that he should ever stop finding them. He wanted to be eighty years old, reach into his thinning corduroys for a pair of reading spectacles, and pull out a shaky scrawl: “From one to another.”

“And now we would like to extend our warm welcome to zone 4.”

-He recalled that one morning, humid before the summer rainclouds broke, when one of the kids had received bad news about a parent and was called home. The little girl had been in Kyla’s group, and, he had fallen in love in a way entirely new to him as he watched Kyla comfort that little girl. Bringing forth a glimmer of a smile through salty cheeks and a glistening philtrum with her calming tones and innate maternal instincts. Before he knew any better, he had imagined that she must have had plenty of siblings herself.

“Zone 5. We ask that all passengers seated in our final boarding zone would now have their passports and boarding cards out ready to board the flight.”

-The long summer days initially lay stretched before him like the deep ocean with no land in sight; an eternity of campfires, dorm parties, dragonflies, and rich kids. But in those final weeks he felt the days slipping through his fingers as the waters of time took his memories like silt to lie on the bank of his past. The more he fixated on their impending departure, the sooner it came upon him. Two tender souls brought together by Summer humidity and Passion’s smoke, soft, peachy tissue bonds savagely ripped apart by booked flights, enrolment, and Fall.

“Final call for passengers joining us on Flight 402 to New York’s John F Kennedy airport”

-Thinking of that pleasing smile, he felt a reassuring conviction to be in the open airport lounge. Upon hearing that terse final call, he fumbled in his duffel coat pocket and pulled out the butterscotch brown velvet box for one last look. A modest diamond eye winked out at him, and his spirit swelled. He hastily secured it back in his inner coat pocket, reached for his passport and crumpled ticket, and set out to write out his sequel.

“Your boarding pass, please.”

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