Written by Roy Hall

“You’re going to see that wee, fat conceited bastard?” said the owner. “Why?”

On one of my many trips to London to visit a hi-fi show and some of my suppliers, I decided to see some theater in the West End. London theater in the year 2000 was relatively inexpensive, and if you went to a matinee performance you could find great seats at a reasonable cost. Before leaving New York, I heard a review of a one-man show about Charles Dickens. As a child, I read a fair amount of Dickens and was curious about the man himself. It starred Simon Callow, a British actor and director (known to most as the chubby, bearded gay guy in Four Weddings and a Funeral).

I had flown into Heathrow Airport the day before, and decided to go around 11am on Saturday morning to buy a ticket. Having purchased a great seat, center row, dress circle (mezzanine), I decided to have lunch and a pint of beer. I found a pub very close to the theater and ordered some food. The barman had a strong Scottish accent and I asked him if he came from Glasgow, my hometown. “Call me a bastard but don’t call me a Glaswegian,” he sneered. “I’m from Ayr and don’t you fucking forget it.”

We hit it off immediately and after I ordered lunch we started to chat. He told me his life story and I told him mine, and when he asked me “What brings you here today?”, I told him about the play, and that’s when he started on about Simon Callow.

He said, “You see that poster across the road?”

He was referring to a blow up of the actor dressed as Dickens on the wall of the theater.

“Well every day before the performance that wee arrogant man struts down the road, stops in front of his picture and with his arms on his waist, preens himself like a peacock.”

As if on cue, Mr. Callow came walking down the street, stopped in front of the poster and did exactly that.

“See what I mean?” he laughed.

By this time I was on my third pint of beer, and ordered a fourth and one for my new best friend. By the time I left the bar, I was somewhat drunk. The theater wasn’t very full but the seat was perfect. It was in the front row overlooking the stage. The performance started and I have to admit, that the “wee arrogant man” was very good and believable as Charles Dickens. I was enjoying myself when I felt someone slapping my head. I turned to the person who had hit me, and he pointed down to the stage where Simon Callow, with his arms on his waist, was looking up at me, smiling. Probably because of the beer and jet lag, I had fallen asleep and my snoring had stopped the show. When he saw that I was awake, he looked straight ahead and said, “Now where was I…” and continued his performance. After that embarrassing moment I still had great difficulty staying awake so, as discreetly as I could, I left my seat and slunk out of the theater.

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