Curious moments of the last week:
Sitting in D’s restaurant, watching him haggle with one of his
Back in London, sitting on a rug in Hyde Park for the last night of the Proms, watching the full moon rise over forty thousand people all wearing or waving Union Jacks and singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, while I swat midges and watch a woman dressed as Britannia crowd-surfing near the stage. Two Americans nearby are wearing stars-and stripes t-shirts and Stetsons and looking tentative. All the patriotism is oddly inoffensive, and a bit goofy, although I can’t help noticing that virtually the only non-white faces belong to the security staff and the cleaners. There are hordes of children shuffling about in sleeping bags wearing flashing red devil-horns, which for some reason are being sold alongside the Union Jacks and Pimms. Later we are backstage with a friend of I.’s, and Terry Wogan, Sue Perkins, Lesley Garrett, José Carreras and some military trumpeters (buglers?) in full uniform are blinking in a series of slightly grim, fluorescent-lit portacabins which have the air of a film POW camp. Terry Wogan has noticeably the biggest portacabin.
Later still, and even more weirdly, back in some terrible, lush Knightsbridge hotel lobby, crammed with the kind of outsize flowers that are so ugly they must be terribly expensive – the kind of place where I feel like mounting a soapbox with a copy of the Little Red Book – two shortish, powerfully-built Americans cross the hall. I swear I notice the change in the air before registering, several beats behind everyone else (because to be honest, I hate gangster films, anything involving shooting, anything where the female characters are usually expendable hookers, and all the Godfather films), that this pair of prosperous suits is Robert de Niro and Al Pacino. It occurs to me that the reason that some kind of chemical reaction is taking place in this slick marble atrium, with its dead-eyed concierge, is that everyone here genuinely believes these two men who pretend to be other people for a living are more important than they are, and these two men believe it themselves, because why wouldn’t they? Fame is a kind of toxic caste system, powered by other people’s belief in it. The only one not twitching is Carreras, because in some way opera trumps film. By the time they’ve finished throwing around a couple of genial how you guys doin’ lines, I’m outscowling Travis Bickle, and