Stephen Fry: the Oscar Wilde of today, and perfectly cast star for the biographical drama, ‘Wilde’, depicting the Victorian’s triumphs and struggles. I cannot remember how I was first introduced to Fry as an actor/ author/ commentator/ Apple promoter, whether it was first through Blackadder, QI, Jeeves and Wooster, or a novel. I do, however, know it was only recently (the past five or so years) that I discovered ‘A Bit of Fry and Laurie’. Probably my favourite comedy sketch show. Period.
On an evening, (winter or spring, it must have been as I rarely frequented the area in question except for work) I had an appointment to meet with an old colleague for cocktails and a chat. A relaxing C&C in a bar tucked down a side street, spitting distance from bustling Piccadilly.
I confess here: I am always early. Always. For practically everything. To anticipate lateness of even a few minutes puts me in a panic, pushing ‘send’ on a flurry of text message apologies to those I am expecting to meet. Usually, I arrive punctual, left solo to await the tardy arrivals of my friends/ colleagues/ family. One would have thought I would have learnt by now…
This evening, I was loitering, as one does on a corner in Soho (no, not in that way), watching the people come and go. Then, my brain piped up, ‘that tall person, there, look!’. A bearded chap, strangely familiar with his tallness, strode past (for it was indeed strides he was taking). Something drew the connection between familiarity and his identity: his iPhone. Tall, iPhone, strides – Stephen Fry. The beard threw me, but I knew it was him. I remembered his fondness for the friendly Apple interface!
I set off, hot-heeled, in a casual (not so casual when keeping up with such a tall gent) pursuit, and successfully avoided toppling over my own feet and uneven cobbles.
He stopped. I reduced my speed, and strolled (in as relaxed fashion as I could manage) towards his side. This spot was a theatre stage door. He was now with company.
Not wishing to impose (more than I already had by my uninvited arrival, nor with my future actions) I waited for a break in their friendly greetings to one another. Perhaps they thought I too was one of the crowd (such a thing has happened before), as it wasn’t until I shakily spoke to Stephen that they realised I was an intruder.
(An imposter in their inner circle of culture!)
‘Would you mind, awfully, signing this please?’, I asked, trembling, holding out some academic journal article I had to hand (it was the only thing I had to hand that resembled blank paper, and I believe was part of some research on The Great Gatsby).
He was polite, ‘of course – do you have a pen?’ I fumble for one.
Now, let it be known that at that time I had a stint as a professional writer under my belt, and was in the throws of studying English. I should have a pen – somewhere….in the bag that now seems to contain everything EXCEPT a pen!
Typical me, foot-in-mouth disease and assuming others are psychic – that Stephen would know I had dabbled in rendering words on a page. ‘No, I don’t think I do….Seriously, a writer without a pen. Who would have thought?’
I see now that my self-directed critique could only have been construed as an insult. He being an author, playwright, comical scripter, all of the things that warrant the title ‘writer’. Of course he, truly deserving of the title ‘writer’, unveiled a marker pen from his inside jacket pocket with a flourish.
I made a swift retreat, rattled from the chance encounter, embarrassed at my lack of a pen, realising I am not a writer not having a quill/ ballpoint/ pencil/ felt-tip/ fine liner/ crayon/ graphite stick/ anything inky-pigmented available at opportune moments. It’s taken years to subconsciously process the event, and realise my faux pas: the insult I had no doubt delivered to the true writer, bard, sage that is Stephen Fry. So, to Stephen Fry, I apologise.