I’m very big in Sudan

Ever since I uploaded my ill-advised Metersbonwe advertisement to YouTube, the response has been underwhelming (which is to say, entirely as expected). A total of 58 intrepid souls have watched the thing in just over two months, which is probably about the hit rate you’d get if you uploaded a video of someone silently reading a book or quietly sipping a glass of water.

Oddly, however, of these 58 imbeciles, the majority appear to come from Sudan.

Unfortunately, due to poor cartographic standards on YouTube’s part, I am unable to determine at this stage whether my fame burns brightest in the newly created South Sudan or in the Republic of Sudan to the north. Equally unclear is just how big of a part my video played in cementing the official separation of the two countries after a long and protracted series of civil wars (stretching back to 1956) had made it seem that peace was impossible.

The potential impact of the video on the ongoing humanitarian situation in Darfur also requires more work.

Discussions with Jeremy Bowen are currently at a stalemate. Jim Bowen is a maybe.

Heedless Acts

I once had my hair plaited into cornrows following a bonkers decision to allow a friend to plait my hair into cornrows. I went to a first-year seminar on Troilus and Cressida looking for all the world like an alabaster Craig David, rosy scalped and tit-like. The look didn’t last long, and thankfully there is no photographic evidence. But cornrow comedown is a capricious beast, and I was beset with a King-like ‘fro that took many washes to dampen. Yet another life-event to be filed away under Heedless Acts, perhaps. Much like the time I spacked a wad of Florints on a furryball equivalent of Find The Lady on a hillside path in some distant Eastern European capital. Or perhaps that misty evening in East London when I was struck down by a pizza delivery scooter only to be rescued by Kevin Whately and his wife. It is an ever-growing and bewildering category, possibly of booklength.

There are times, though, when this Heedlessness pays some sort of dividend. My recent appearance in a local independent film, Yum Cha Gweilo, is a good example, and one which has seen my (imagined) showreel extend by a third in duration. I now have a skillset including and limited to: eating competently under pressure, jumping on command (see below), and impersonating a physics geekboy drinking in a London bar. My hairslicked nerd-flick completed the transformation from bookwormpansy to wormholeshowoff and I delivered my lines with all the aplomb of an untrained novice actor. Fortunately (and stereotypically) they were looking for a wooden and pipelike (nerdlinger) delivery, so it took very little effort and I was done within four or five immaculate takes.

“I love quantum electrodynamics and the potential implications of string theory … So this is what you should do. Don’t call her today, wait about a week, maybe two, and then just when she thinks you’ve forgotten about her …” Acting go(l)d.

And speaking of glorious glowing deities:

A Gregg Wallace dungeon? Yes, please!

Writing a fabricated sex-scandal about a relatively well-known (and largely disliked) British television celebrity—see my Gregg Wallace post(s) a few weeks back—grants an unsettling insight into people’s off-the-cuff Google habits, which display, on almost a daily basis, an ardent belief (or maybe that should be “desire”) that anyone off the telly is a philandering sex-pest (among many other things).

This insight comes virtue of the WordPress.com stats package, which ensures that every time someone stumbles upon my site via Google (or any other search engine for that matter) I am told exactly what was keyed in to get them (t)here. Below are the search terms and hits relating only to our brave, bald pioneer:

Search term(s) Hits
greg wallace 365
greg masterchef 30
gregg wallace scandal 14
greg wallace sex scandal 12
greg wallace scandal 8
greg from masterchef 5
gregg wallace sex scandal 4
greg wallace pics 4
greg wallace hat 2
wallace barrel 2
greg wallace picture 2
pictures of greg wallace 2
greg wallace sex 1
gregg wallace + gay 1
greg wallace glasses 1
gregg wallace face 1
bald rich 1
greg wallace smile 1
gregg wallace sex 1
masterchef judges england 1
greg wallace big eyes 1
greg masterchef photo 1
famous bald people wearing glasses 1
bald rich man smiling 1
masterchef wiki 1
greg wallace cup 1
greg masterchef spoon in mouth 1
greg wallis masterchef 1
greg wallace photo 1
bald masterchef 1
greg wallace pictures 1
greg wallace images 1
greg wallace dungeon 1
bald masterchef judge 1
is greg wallace gay? 1
gregg wallace gay 1
is gregg wallace gay 1
is greg wallace gay 1
masterchef judge wallace 1
gregg wallace kerb crawler 1

There is a chance, of course, during my absence from the UK, that Gregg Wallace has acquired a media personality whereby connotations of sexual depravity, solicitation and homosexuality are par for the course. Maybe, à la Richard Keys and Andy Gray, our hero Wallace was seen rutting near the bread-bin in-between takes, or carving up a turkey with his hands behind his back.

These things I cannot claim to know.

What I can be sure of, however, is that my post on the (imagined) matter back in August hasn’t spawned this flurry of rumour and hearsay—I know how few people visit this blog—which suggests that there is a committed band of internet snoopers constantly on the lookout for the next celebrity scandal to dribble out of the internet and into our gaping brains.

Hmm … I wonder if there’s anything about Adrian Chiles’ reach-around hell? A Sooty and Sweep love-hotel, you say? I’d better check. And what’s that? Jamie Theakston has admitted he has a vagina growing on his arm? Well I’ll be!

God bless the internet.

Excuses

It’s been some time now since I promised an update on my burgeoning acting career.

The glamorous lie accounting for this absence is that following the filming of the advert I was snapped up by a leading ad agency and have since been jetting off round the world at the behest of Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent; that I’ve been sipping cocktails with supermodels, hobnobbing with the rich and famous; that I’ve made millions and then lost it all on some atrocious sex scandal involving Gregg Wallace, the bald Masterchef judge.

The mundane truth, however, is that several thousand pages of exam practice material had to be published, the world cup happened, and I was struck down with gastroenteritis (which as illnesses go, is up there with scabies in the glamour stakes). I’ve also been hospitalised following a botched wisdom tooth removal that saw me ingest gallons of blood, but perhaps more on that another time …

I will still, someday, complete my casting story with a description of the fitting (where they dressed me up as a clown), and the filming (where, jibbering uncontrollably at the madness of it all, I was asked to jump in the air about 700 times whilst holding a film camera), but perhaps not until the actual denouement of the story, where the thing finally appears across all mediums like some horrific carpet bomb of embarrassment.

I believe this will happen in the autumn, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I promise to share this car crash with the world.

It’s interesting though, during my absence from this blog, that there’s been a certain amount of ‘heat’ (intentional or otherwise) around my purgative tale of dancing shame, with searches such as “casting shame”, “shame casting”, “casting first video shame” and, most peculiarly, “casting jeans on myself” all being submitted to the WordPress search engine. Quite what these people were actually looking for baffles me, but one way or another they stumbled upon my ignominy and humiliation.

And for that I am eternally grateful.

Casting shame upon myself

On only my second day in Hong Kong (all those many months ago) I was accosted by a girl calling herself Apple Wong. She said she worked for a casting agency and asked if I would be interested in coming down to the office in the next day or two to sign myself up, get a few photos taken, stuff like that. Being alone in a brand new city, I hastily agreed, thinking that it would at the very least be an opportunity to fill a little time before work started.

The signing-up process itself was painless enough, involving little more than a few photographs and a few seconds of video. I filled in a couple of forms, left some contact details and then headed out in the early-November Tin Hau sunshine. From memory, I walked back along King’s Road towards my hotel in Fortress Hill, unaware of the terrible chain of events that I had just set in motion.

In the months that followed I heard nothing back from the agency. No calls, no emails, no nothing. So for all I knew, those five minutes in the heady, showbiz world of casting were nothing but a dream: a wish of something greater; an aspiration. All I had to cling to were the words printed on the reverse of Apple Wong’s business card, which detailed a ‘No Child Left Behind’-style company policy that would surely see me considered for something:

“I don’t believe in pretty faces. I don’t believe in ugly faces. I don’t believe in ordinary faces. But I do believe there is something unique behind every single face.”

~ ~ ~

After several more weeks of outright rejection, a call finally came in from Apple Wong. ‘A San Miguel advert,’ she said, ‘tomorrow at 1 p.m.—can you make it?’ I couldn’t make it, no, not at such short notice—work was frenetic, and there was really no question of taking leave. ‘Not to worry then,’ came Apple Wong’s reply, ‘maybe next time.’ Yes, maybe, I said.

~ ~ ~

Then came my big break.

For those who didn’t witness it, my performance on NowTV’s hit show ‘Cooking Mama’ combined the atmosphere and brutality of Stanley Kubrick with the charm and wit of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. In fact, not since the Dogme 95 movement have the rules of world cinema been so thoroughly rewritten. The ease with which I dealt with the meal scene, for example—which, for those out of the loop, is the summam bonam of every episode of ‘Cooking Mama’—demonstrated just how comfortable I can be in front camera when put to the test.

In hindsight, my decision to adopt the character, appearance and physicality of a nervous, jabbering pipe was perhaps a little misguided. But by the date of the recording it was already too late to change course. Like Christian Bale in The Machinist I had become my character. The divide between myself and the shambling wreck of incompetence I had decided to portray was tracing-paper thin. I ate like a toddler, I babbled like a madman, I grinned maniacally: I had given myself up for my art.

Needless to say, after such a peerless day-boo, my desire to return to the glamorous world of television grew only more fervent. I had a niggling doubt that I had not given the best of myself during ‘Cooking Mama’, and I was keen to rectify this in my next project, whatever that may be.

Fortunately enough, I didn’t have to wait long. Just a few short weeks after my first appearance on the small screen, an email came in from the agency (I’m not, by the way, inferring any sort of corollary between these two events):

Dear Nick

You had a casting for us a few years ago, and we recently got a job from a Chinese clothing brand (promoting jeans) that will be shooting on either the 10th or 11th of June. If you are okay with the shooting day, we would like to have a casting with you for TVC.

Please kindly call us for a casting appointment.

Yandy

So I called. And the casting was arranged. 27th May, 18:30.

~ ~ ~

I was a few minutes early for my appointment, so I took a seat in reception while Yandy printed off a couple of forms and went to find the camera. When she returned I was ushered into an adjacent room and asked to stand under one of those high-powered lights that you sometimes see on television sets or in cannabis factories. I immediately started to sweat.

Stand there. Now look at the camera. Small smile. Now smile with teeth. Okay, and now turn forty-five degrees. Small smile. And smile with teeth. Now the other side. Small smile. Great. And now smile with teeth. Thanks very much. Now turn and face the camera again …

Right, so what poses do you have?

… What poses do I have?

Unbeknown to Yandy, I had already exhausted all of my poses. My pose cupboard was bare. And that’s despite the recent 300% jump in poses my pose catalogue had recently experienced. (Forty-five degree angles, you say? Whatever next.) Clearly something more was required of me, I just wasn’t quite sure what, so I simply repeated the question—’What poses do I have?’—which as a stalling mechanism was worse than useless.

I think there are probably two kinds of people in this world: those who can answer a question like ‘what poses do you have?’ with a series of off-the-peg H&M model stances, and those who, like me, believe the best course of action is to roll up into a ball and gently weep. In fact, there was evidence of this divide when Yandy, sensing, no doubt, my imminent psychological breakdown, brought out a whole catalogue of the posing H&M-types for me to mimic like a sweating monkey.

I stood and looked through the catalogue for a few seconds, praying for Armageddon. Everyone looked so angular and weird. Yandy picked a few poses for me to copy, and I reluctantly obliged. I was in too deep to make good my escape now, and there were boxes of wigs blocking all but one of the exits. Okay, so if you could just stand over by the wall again …

I actually can’t remember very much about what happened next, which I put down to traumatic erasure. Maybe in a few months time I’ll see an advert on the telly for Just For Men hair dye and tumble into paroxysms of grief. But for now at least, all I can really remember are flailing arms, awkward stances and, at one terrible moment, a jump into the air. All of which, in my mind’s eye, has condensed into an image not too dissimilar to this:

As mortifying as this was, though, I at least had the familiarity of photography to fall back on. Everyone owns a camera and everyone poses for photographs. It’s a ubiquitous aspect of twenty-first-century life; an aid to modern memory. When someone asks you to smile for the camera you have a bank of past experiences to refer to. It isn’t a strange request to make. It’s normal, every day, quotidian, boring even.

This is not so true of video.

Video exposes everything that a photograph tries its best to conceal: awkward movements, twitches, nervousness, aching self-consciousness. It’s inescapable.

Just say, for example, that you’ve been invited to a casting for an advertisement—I don’t know, let’s say it’s for a Chinese company that sells jeans—and as part of the casting they’ve asked you to pose like a twazzock in front of camera. If you’re lucky, then in that split second that the photo is taken you may have the look and demeanor of a calm, confident and self-assured person. It’s possible to trick the eye. Drop this freeze frame into a few seconds of video, though, and it gets lost in a white noise of jitters and spasms.

And so it was with the second half of my torturous casting, which now represents, hands down, the most embarrassing five minutes of my life to date …

And here’s why: I was asked to pull a series of poses, whilst dancing, to no music, on video. (If this footage ever reaches YouTube I will dig out my eyes with a soup spoon.)

Once again, much of what actually happened during these five minutes has been consigned to a locked-up section of my brain labelled ‘horrific trauma’. But when someone who can’t dance to music is asked to dance without music, the results can only be momentously bad. What I can remember hoping though, as I jibbered feebly from one leg to the next in my own patented Year 6 school disco dancing style, was that my legs would shear off at the hips and that my torso would bounce out the window. Neither of which happened.

If you’re still looking for some kind of visual representation of my performance, then watching the following video (on mute) should just about do it (I play the part of the purple dog):

The absurd punchline to this tale is that I actually got the part. Expect another 1500 words of cathartic brain-mush post-filming.