Sunday, 24 January 2010

A Day of Photo Shoots + the BBC in London

What’s that they say about London buses?: you wait ages for one to come along them three turn up in succession.

Originally, my plans for last Friday (24th Jan) were simple: a few weeks ago, Imants of the Eccentric Club ( asked would I mind being snapped and interviewed by a student photographer Ainsley Towli from the Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication in Kent. She’s putting together her degree show and part of that is to make a book profiling English Eccentrics…… “over the age of 65” !!! [Bloody cheek, I thought- but vanity was triumphant, and I agreed].

So, the plan was to meet her at my now-regular London base, the Arts Club in Dover Street (just off Piccadilly). The time we set was 1.30pm.

Then a couple of days before the meet, Imants said that the BBC Local News planned to film the next Eccentric Club monthly drinks evening (Thursday 28th) and would I mind being interviewed by one of their reporters. Maybe I’m a softie (and I don’t do this stuff for ego or self-promotion) I agreed.

Again, after some negotiation, we settled on the Arts Club location. And seeing as I knew the BBC reporter - Gareth Furby - and was well acquainted with his body of work, I told him to turn up at 3pm. (He said he’d turn up at 2pm but I kept telling him that 3pm would be much the best time).

And then, on the very day before the event, my tailor Ayres asked me if I would mind being photographed by a fellow Portuguese chum of his, Ze Cabral, who has a fashion blog: / . I looked at the calendar and suggested we meet up at Green Park tube (on Piccadilly) about 12.15pm.

As is typical for London, everything is dependent on the weather!

So, come the morning of Friday, I am preparing my ablutions and choosing my clothes for the day - from silk topper to spats - and beyond the windowpane it is fair pissing down with rain out there. Contemplating the day ahead: three shoots and two interviews, at least I was consoled that at least two of them were to be done indoors.. Just pace myself, I thought.

Again, typically for London, the tube lines were in various states of delay. I eventually got into town by 12.30 and we decided to meet up under the arches of the Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly and for the next forty minutes he snapped away. At least, standing under the arches onto Piccadilly, it was relatively dry [I am a bit sniffy about ruining my silk top hats especially] and there was enough light for Ze to get some shots he was happy with. I shall post up some results when I receive them. (They will not just be on his blog - link above - but also on his Flickr site:

Then Ze, Ayres and I went for a coffee; I texted Ainsley that I was running a little late (mostly because, when I’d finished the coffee, I planned to nip into Crombie, just round the corner in Conduit Street ( ), and look at some particularly spiffing polka dot silk pocket handkerchiefs in their sale for just £10 ( ) - I couldn’t resist the maroon one and the lilac one….so shoot me!

1.40pm - I crossed the road and nipped into the Arts Club in Mayfair
( ) to meet Ainsley Towli, who was already waiting quietly for me in the inner foyer.

She was absolutely charming, in her early twenties I should say (I guess everyone over the age of thirty looks ancient to these youngsters!) We went upstairs, found a quiet place in an ante room and she set the tape recorder running and I just prattled on my merry way for an hour. Even when the Beeb’s Gareth turned up at 2pm, I kept rattling on, and sent him down into the basement bowels of the Club to amuse himself.

Ainsley and I sat by one of the windows on the first floor of the Club, with plenty of light, and eventually she managed to take about a dozen stills, and then a few more outside on the steps of the Club. (Whether she wants to take more at a later date, I don’t know; but I shall post them here when I get copies). And I shall certainly plug the book when it comes out and her final Show when it is organised.

All in all, a rather pleasant time was had by us both - AND she paid for our cappuccino and pot of tea (let’s just say it was over £7.00).

And so we reached 3pm. Time for my close-up, Mr. DeMille. Poor Gareth, all on his own in the basement, flicking through endless magazines and not a drink passed his lips. In the old days, the BBC would send a Reporter (him), a camera chap, a sound operator and probably a driver too. These days, it is a completely one-man operation - it‘s called multi-tasking - although some might call it cutting corners. And the camera, although smaller than the ones of yore, was still a substantial piece of kit. You could tell by the shredded left shoulder of his sweater that the camera really does pound and rip into the clothes (one dreads to think what it must do to his suits). I suggested he buy one of those Barbour shooting sweaters with leather/suede shoulder patches.

Actually the interview went rather well, although I must’ve disappointed him when he asked me “So what made you want o to join the Eccentric Club?”, and I replied: “I didn’t….Someone nominated me for the Eccentric of the Year Awards last April, and I still don’t know who that person was”…. and to be honest, I still don’t really consider myself to be an Eccentric - Individualist, perhaps, but not necessarily eccentric; I just live my life the way I wish to live it and don’t really care about what others think or say about me”.

I suppose to a certain extent, in these interviews, you tell the interviewer what you think they want to hear; but a couple of his questions really started me thinking. I said to him that when I wear these clothes (which I do about 70% of the time these days), and especially when I go into town, I do feel like I am connecting to a more civilised lifetime, a slower body clock, experiencing an almost Zen-like sense of peace and contentment.

I said it felt a little like being a walking embodiment of The Slow Movement (the one that started in Italy, of going back to the land and organic foods, the cultural shift of slowing down life’s pace, about quality of life and a sense of Community.
[ ]….whatever next?: living without a television set?!

And I quoted Henry David Thoreau: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a Different Drummer”. I was getting to be the right little philosopher…an Englishman in, er, London!

After the chat and the filming in the Club, we took a few shots outside, walking along the streets of Piccadilly, tight-shots on the spats, that sort of thing (luckily the rain had pretty much stopped by then).

And so we packed up and headed back to Cafe Nero for a couple of coffees to discuss the state of the nation. Gareth is 46 now, a remarkable achievement I thought, seeing as the BBC seems to cull everyone over the age of 35 these days. Hang on in their Furby, you are the voice of sanity for us middle-agers!

He’s back at Dover Street next Thursday night for the Eccentric Club’s monthly drinks get-together.

Let’s see how it all cuts down in the edit after that! (Mind you, I didn’t sign a Release Form, come to think of it!)

Here’s the final transmitted version from BBC iPlayer (I am trying to get someone to make a copy for me): [Not bad at all, considering he only had less than two minutes; and it could have been so so much worse].

...Here is the Eccentric Club's own blog about the film:

...and here are a few pics by Raymondo Marcus ( from the Eccentric Club's gathering a few days later on the 28th, where the Beeb did more of their filming:

And no I didn’t get paid, sadly, but if the BBC stuff brings in any work via Extras-type work from agencies, fine.

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