Cooking, Competition, Winning and Michael

Today has been a good day. This morning I got an email from Jennifer at Dar Roumana saying that she would be happy to give us a cooking lesson on the full day of our stay. She mentioned she was just about to go out with some young Brits on a cooking day and was looking forward to their reaction that it “should be a laugh when we get to the chicken slaughter part!”. This has me slightly worried, should I know about this? It’s not mentioned in the description on the website. I know Chickens have to be killed before they get eaten but the thought hadn’t crossed my mind that the chicken bought for our dinner might be alive when we purchase it in the markets. I’m sure we’ll be OK, I think.

I decided last night to take half coming afternoon off so I could put together my entry for the Wanderlust Travel Photography Awards. I talked with Craig and he didn’t mind so I left work at lunchtime and made my way to Romford, stopping off at stationary shops trying to find two stiffened envelopes. I hadn’t found anything suitable before I arrived in Romford so I went to the local Snappy Snaps and arranged to get seven photos printed (which wasn’t cheap but I know they do a good job – they printed my entry for the TNT photography competition).

Photos downloaded I then wandered the local mall trying to find the envelopes I wanted. I needed one to fit inside the other so I could get my entry returned, and they both needed to be quite stiff so the returned prints don’t end up looking crumpled and worn (though our postman seems to be able to fold anything in half to fit the mailbox – there’s a perfectly large slot in the front door, why can’t he use that?). Eventually I found a matching pair, one of which will fit snugly in the other. I had time to grab something to eat and then it was back to Snappy Snaps to pick up the photos.

I think the owner might be from New Zealand, or at least he has spent a lot of time there as his accent is quite Kiwi. I must inquire next time. Anyway, he served me and took great pleasure in showing me the prints. He had even sorted them into an order of his most favourite first. I do like it when people say they like my photos (yes yes, I know I should sell/exhibit but I’m just too lazy I suppose. I’ll try harder… soon… ish). As I left he said “It’s Brendon, right?” and I said yes. I didn’t think about it till later but I never told him my name (I had to enter DORN into the machine where I downloaded the photos as the A, B and C keys weren’t working). I think maybe he remembered me from last time, or he knows me some other way. Something else I’ll need to ask him about.

With prints safely stowed away I headed home to write up a caption sheet, choose which photos to send and write a CD of the RAW files to accompany the entry. Putting my phone on the coffee table I noticed a missed call and a voicemail icon. I listened to the voicemail, and then listened again. It was a woman ringing up about the Pinewood competition and asking me to call her. This was a little strange as there were no other details. I then checked the home line voicemail and there was another, slightly more detailed message. Turns out that Aisling was ringing from The Times and I had won a competition to spend a day on the underwater set at Pinewood Studios. The full prize details are as follows:

To celebrate the launch of Go Beyond, our season of exclusive preview screenings, The Times, Land Rover and Pinewood Studios are offering you the chance to win a spectacular film experience; a day as part of a feature film crew shooting at the famous underwater stage at Pinewood.

Recent work at the Pinewood U-Stage includes The Da Vinci Code and Keira Knightley’s stunning charity photo shoot for fresh2o, raising money and awareness for Wateraid. Win our competition and you will witness exactly how aquatic magic is made for the big screen.

After full safety training, you will join the cast and crew for a day’s underwater shooting on a feature film during which you will learn how special effects are made, see how the actors, director and technical crew work together and have lunch with the team, there may even be a chance for you to get wet.

You and a companion will also be given a tour of the studios and will spend a night in luxury, with dinner and breakfast, at nearby Cliveden, a magnificent and historic country house hotel set within 376 acres of glorious gardens and parkland beside the Thames.

That’s a very cool prize, Aisling was under the impression it was the best prize ever offered by The Times and I have to say that it sounds pretty amazing – the geek in me is going to love it and I really hope I get to take some photos. I find out more details in the next day or so, I have to arrange a time to go that’s OK for Keryn and I and also that coincides with filming on the stage.

I still had work to do so I put aside thoughts of the prize (I only just looked it up now and had to pause while I tried to imagine what it will be like. Must get back to writing) and continued with organising the entry. I finally got it all done just before 5pm and headed out to go to the post office. I realised two things as I headed out. 1, I had sealed the envelope without putting the return postage on the inner envelope and 2, I actually had more time than I thought to send off the entry, the cut off being three days away, not two. I decided to just pop into work and drop the entry off, I can finish everything tomorrow and post it at lunchtime. I was heading into town anyway to go and see Michael Palin give a talk (in the same series as Terry Pratchett’s talk the other day) about his new book – ‘Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years‘.

I arrived early enough to be able to buy a copy of the new book and then headed into the theatre and found a seat. I sat near the entrance, all the better to leave quickly and find a place in the line for the subsequent signing. This proved to be an excellent idea. Before Michael came on stage there was a brief commotion at the front of the stage as first one, then another and then many more people noticed that John Cleese was in the audience and people wanted things signed. This didn’t last long, people were politely told that John was present to see Michael talk, not to sign their books. He did sign a few but if the staff hadn’t have stopped things when they did it would have been pandemonium.

Michael and his interviewer were soon on stage and reminiscing about the Python years. There were many amusing anecdotes and stories given in answer to interesting questions. It sounds like the book will be interesting, funny and insightful. The thirty odd minute talk was followed by another half hour of questions from the floor which took in such gems as “What’s your favourite sketch”, to which the answer was “The Fish-Slapping Dance, it’s so irrelevant but so funny” (that’s an incredibly paraphrase quote I just gave). There were more interesting answers, including the fact that Michael is currently filming a new travel series taking him through Eastern Europe which should be on TV next year.

The time was soon over and there was a mass exodus out the door for the queue to get stuff signed (“only two items, one of which must be the new book”). My forethought put me very close to the front so I didn’t have to wait long to get my newly purchased book dedicated to Keryn and myself. While at home I had also grabbed our ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ DVD and got Michael to sign the cover of that as well. The friendly lady at the head of the queue directing everybody took a photo for me which you can see below. It was all over very quickly and after packing I was heading out into the strangely mild evening. And that was that, an interesting and rewarding day I think.

Michael signs while I babble.
Michael signs while I babble

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