Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Operation South Downs. Part Five.

It was a cold crisp morning that saw us ferried to London Victoria for the pleasant rail trip down to Lewes. The hour long journey was to be used profitably in reiterating that our outing was to be filmed for an official documentary, and it was vital that everyone was thus aware of their personal responsibility in conducting themselves in an acceptable manner whilst at the same time retaining an air of nonchalant reality. I was particularly worried about young Depp’s inability to control his legs and mouth after the smallest of quoffings of alcholic beverages and had had a quiet word with the elder statesman of booze, Mr.Hopkins, with a view to him taking young Depp under his wing as chaperone to the young fellow.
This, in retrospect, was not one of my better ideas, being likened by one later, to my “dousing the flames with gasolene.” But the beauty of the medium of modern filmmaking is the ability to edit, enhance, computer generate and generally tell a story that bares no relation to the actual reality of events that occurred on that fateful day in Lewes.
I’m sure when the documentary reaches the television screens of the western world, both Depp and Hopkins will appear only as they should, completely captivating and completely sober, and that’s not to mention that Horrocks! But more of her later.

The reality of the situation, as previously inferred, is somewhat different and will form one of the many contradictions that will become obvious between the “official” documentary and my own “unofficial” personal diaries. I shall not gild the truth or indeed hide it from the public. In fact I shall expose all, presenting in its ghastly and very human glory the whole and very sordid truth. That will include some very embarrassing revelations regarding my own behaviour in Lewes on that fateful day. Hopefully it will make for interesting reading.

So there we were, 8:00am that morning, the whole of the first class carriage to ourselves, full English breakfasts all round, the veritable works, and all washed down by the finest champagne.
Just enough time to eat, drink one glass of bubbly and have a short nap before arriving in Lewes. Anyway, that was the plan. We failed to allow for the notorious service that is British Rail. Three hours and twenty bottles of champagne later, we arrived in Lewes.

It was lucky that the platform was empty, apart from one unfortunate person, as young Depp fairly managed to project the contents of his stomach a fair old distance. I was just glad that his chaperone managed to get him to the window on time.
Not that his chaperone would get any thanks from me, given his obnoxious behaviour towards Horrocks. Not a good start to their on-screen romance (more of that later), were his rude comments as to the extent of her facial hair.

The Horrocks “beard” is well known within the industry but for it to be referred to as a “pensioner’s muff” was much too much for her to bear. Under normal circumstances she most probably would have left the carriage in disgust, but due to her being slightly squiffy herself, she somewhat lashed out, catching Hoppy squarely across the jaw and knocking him completely unconscious.

This was to prove very unfortunate for all those of us remaining conscious. You see, the ability to consume large amounts of champagne is something that Hoppy does with great aplomb, equalling his skills as seen on the big screen. In fact, his continued consciousness would have ensured that most of the twenty bottles were in fact consumed by him, to minimal effect, whereas his early removal from the drinking pool was to contribute severely to the sordid events of that day.
He in fact, only regained consciousness as we were pulling into the platform at Lewes, just in time to help young Depp to the window for a spot of projectile vomiting. By then it was too late, everyone else was by then completely inebriated, including myself.

That solitary person on the platform, now covered head to toe in champagne breakfast, via Depp’s gut, was in fact the Marketing Director of Harvey’s Brewery, who was there to greet us.

I have to say that the cameraman has captured the barfing moment most beautifully.
It’s just a crying shame that it will never be seen by the viewing public due to the very real threat of court action by Harvey’s.
More important a consideration has been their very real threat to withdraw funding on the project due to the further sordid actions that followed that day.

We did manage to placate the Marketing Director somewhat by offering him a free choice of replacement apparel from the entire M&S range, all completely without cost to him, or us of course. These things have a habit of working themselves out eh?

April 4th 2001:

It is only now, over two weeks after that fated research trip to the brewery in Lewes, that I can bring myself to put pen to paper in admission of the further despicable goings on of certain individuals who shall not here remain nameless.

It was as a direct result of their atrocious behaviour that saw myself drowning my frustration and sorrow in too copious an amount of Harvey’s most wonderful product, and as a result almost drowned in a large vat of Armada ale.
Health and Safety regulations stipulated that the entire contents of the vat had to be disposed of as undrinkable due to my partaking of a “swim” within.
I, of course, agreed to pay all costs incurred in that respect but I make it known here that in no way did I agree to pay for all other damages that were incurred on that day.
Certain “celebrity” actors involved, with more money than you can shake a stick at, agreed afterwards to cough up the required amount as calculated by Harvey’s accountants.

Anyway, after having alighted on the platform of Lewes station, and having apologised most profusely to our host for the day, we bundled young Depp into the limousine with instructions that he be cleaned up ready for the official tour of the brewery. This duty was bestowed upon Hopkins. After all, his participation in the sordid events on the train were partly responsible for young Depp’s condition.

Understandably, this was a big day for Harvey’s, with the arrival of Hollywood legend Hopkins and up and coming young star Depp to their illustrious premises. It hadn’t got off to a wonderful start, but with god’s help, it could yet prove to be a glorious day.

Horrocks and myself had decided to walk from the station with the intention of regaining our sobriety and composure on the short walk down the hill.

After having caught Hoppy across the chin with a fine outswinger, Horrocks had unfortunately decided to drown her grief at Hopkin’s insult, in further amounts of free champagne. She was now in quite an extreme state of drunkenness and it required all my skills to keep her on her feet and walking in a straightish line towards our goal.

As I previously alluded to, the young lass has an acclaimed reputation as a fine chanteuse. This she demonstrated clearly in a recent, quite successful film, taking on the voices of Bassey, Munroe and Minnelli among others.
Unfortunately, when afflicted by the over-consumption of alcohol, her singing voice
assumes all the best qualities of a Mel Blanc voiced cartoon creation - How so sweet a voice can be so changed in such a few short hours should warn anyone as to the damaging powers of alcohol.

Anyway, she was proving that fact ever so loudly as we swaggered down towards the brewery premises. By this time I’d had to place an arm around her to keep her reasonably upright. You see, as she “sang,” her legs suddenly stopped working in any sort of co-ordinated fashion, but as soon as she stopped “singing” they magically regained their powers of propulsion. She obviously had only enough unaddled brain power left to perform one task at a time.
I begged her to “shove a sock in it” so to speak, with no obvious success, as she continued from one crooner classic to another.

By now, my arm was becoming weaker in its efforts to support her, even though she’s actually a tiny slip of a thing, and I’d had to move her over to my left arm to avoid a nasty accident.
Further pleas for her to cease were falling upon stony ground. By now it was not just my arm that was pained but my senses too!
And obviously not just mine; a number of persons passing had asked for her to “shut the f**k up” but without any success, so I decided drastic action was required to avoid a major incident in Lewes.

Just to explain:

It is only fair, if I’m willing to expose others’ misdemeanours in the fullest technicolor, for my own shameful actions to be so exposed also.

A few days after the particular incident to which I’m about to refer, Horrocks was back in the city filming a second series of a successful TV sit-com.
Rumours on set were abounding as to a possible rift in her “marriage;” rumours brought on by the large bruise on her cheek combined with a story circulating about her “involvement” with her leading man on the set of Operation South Downs.
The fact that Hopkins had a bloody great bruise on his chin also, only helped to etch deeper in peoples’ minds the story that her partner had caught them together “inflagrante” and had given each of them a “bunch of fives.”

The truth of the matter I am now going to relate, and only hope that the persons therein involved will see the funny side of it. I did it for the right reasons and in the long run believe it can only add to the growing worldwide interest in our great British production.

The “drastic” action to which I earlier referred, in relation to Horrock’s continued awful whining, disguised as singing, involved a small “slap” to her cheek by way of “helping “her out of her “trance” and hopefully putting an end to her “crooning.”
That I “slapped” her with more force than was necessary is debatable, but it certainly did the trick, as her “singing” ceased immediately.

Anyway, I picked her off the ground and sat her down on a nearby park bench,
and while I waited for her to rouse, I dabbed at my bloodied knuckles with a hankie, hoping that some good may yet come of the day’s events.

And there it was, just before she regained full consciousness, I came up with the plan to circulate a rumour as to the possible “involvement” of our leading man with our leading lady, by way of taking advantage of their respective facial abrasions and also to heighten interest in our great production. The success of this plan is not yet confirmed but as far as I was concerned, on that day, all news regarding our great production was good news.

That there is no truth in the rumour of their “involvement” is patently obvious to all those involved on set. The “pensioners’ muff” incident has seriously diminished the “chemistry” between them and will have to be rectified as soon as Horrocks returns on set from her city stint. I shall have to use all my cunning on that one to help build a bridge between them. But that’s for later. Back to that day in Lewes.

Horrocks quickly regained consciousness, smiled warmly towards me and then puked all over my nice new M&S suit.
This was a difficult situation. The suit itself didn’t matter as I had over one hundred M&S suits back in London, but at this particular moment in Lewes, the one that I was adorned in, was the only one I had on my person. I’d just have to buy another one here in Lewes before finally partaking of the arranged visit to the brewery.
So off to the shops then, Horrocks in tow.

What a stroke of luck, an M&S in the sleepy little town of Lewes. I dragged
young Horrocks across the road in its direction and entered their fine establishment.

I fatefully left Horrocks browsing in the ladies section while I searched the suit racks for an identical suit to the one I was wearing, minus, of course, vegetable broth decoration.
And it seemed that the tide was beginning to turn in my favour. I found an identical suit in my size and walked over to the pay point.
I off course did not have enough cash on my person and had left all credit cards in London. After all, the day was to be a freebie, with no need to part with any monies at all, at any point during the day. It was unfortunate that I hadn’t allowed for this unlikely occurrence and would live to regret it later.

Eventually the store manager made an appearance. By now I was getting impatient and admit I may have used a few choice words in my explanation of the situation.
In any case, the store manager obviously had no desire in retaining his position of seniority, as I made it clear to him the grave mistake he was making in refusing to let me have the suit I’d selected.

I scoffed at his confirming that this was a £250.00 suit and asked that I pay for it.
I told him squarely that I don’t pay for M&S goods and it’s unlikely that I will ever have to again when this great picture of ours takes the world by storm next year! In fact, M&S will be begging me to take whatever I want!
He wouldn’t listen to me so I told him quite plainly to kiss goodbye to his job.
What a complete arse!!

Anyway, not to be beaten by some two-penny yokel, I raised myself up, tilted my head at him with a haughty demeanour and made a gracious exit.
I’d quickly decided that when reaching Harvey’s the vegetable broth decoration would no doubt have dried out somewhat anyway and could be lightly brushed off with no apparent ill effects. After all, it did say on the label “supremely stain resistant.”

I then made a search of the store for the lightly bruised Miss Horrocks.
Nowhere to be seen. Damnation!!

I ventured outside and debated whether or not I should abandon her to her fate and make my way to the brewery alone – I was by now gagging for a pint.
But no, being the gentleman that I am, I decided to locate her person and gallantly accompany her to our official engagement with that fine establishment of Harvey’s.

Her location made itself known forthwith:-

A small commotion was occurring immediately outside Tescos; a supermarket that will be forever associated with the erstwhile delightful Miss Horrocks. I could only assume that she’d stopped to say hello. After all, they were almost family to her. But I was wrong. Whatever she’d said or done had not been received warmly, and when I approached, I found her being pinned against the wall by two security guards.
I immediately demanded they unhand her or face the direst of consequences for their actions.

My obvious authority had cleared a space for me – it was like the parting of the red sea as I approached and the crowd magically parted in front of me.
Unfortunately Horrocks started “singing” again which only re-affirmed the crowd’s non-believing in her true identity. It is true, the bruising and swelling on her cheek had somewhat temporarily altered her features, and that, combined with the awful din that spewed forth from her mouth convinced all that she was not who she said she was.

I did my best to try and convince them of her star status but to the eternal shame of the Lewes populous, they tossed us both aside like some human detritus.

It has been that one sole incident that has convinced and decided for me, not to have the world premiere of our great film in Lewes, as was previously concurred upon.
This will no doubt prove to be a great loss to the town of Lewes but one they will have to accept given the circumstances surrounding my decision.
So now you know!

On our eventual arrival at the wonderful Harvey’s brewery, I excused myself in order to somewhat remove as much of the Horrocks breakfast splash as possible.
By then I’d gotten used to the smell, though it was obvious from the comments of others in our group that their nostrils were not also suitably accustomed.

I was eventually convinced to don a white overall in place of my M&S apparel, and in so doing, was somewhat likened to the Harvey’s Marketing Director who like me had had an unfortunate accident with a celebrity and had also donned same.
Unlike me however, he had decided not to have his suit dry-cleaned, but instead intended to keep it in the freezer until such time as it could be sold at auction for a substantial sum of money to some rich Depp fan.
Everyone laughed when I said “maybe I should do the same with mine!” And that was how I ended up at the receiving end of a Horrock’s outswinger which sent me flying into a vat of Harvey’s Armada ale!

After a welcome lunch, which absorbency factor was desirable in relation to the continued consumption of various of Harvey’s products; our tour of the premises and production facility resumed.
By this time I was now necessarily completely attired in Harvey’s product, from the embroidered logo sweatshirt to the equally adorned, rather tasteless baseball cap.

Their Marketing Director was in now in full flow, describing the ale brewing process,
whilst also responding to various questions from his “esteamed” guests, when I sidled up to Horrocks and whispered a few choice words in her ear as to the origins of the brewery’s name.
I immediately took rear-guard action, beating a most hasty retreat, as Horrocks raised her voice with an informed question directed towards the Marketing Director.
He replied with a smile, “No, the brewery was not named after an imaginary over-sized rabbit from a Jimmy Stewart film.”
All hell broke loose after that!

To be continued

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