The good, the bad, and the ugly…

I move up the A-list but down’n’out on the tube

Damian Clarke
Jun 20 · 4 min read

The good

I rise up the A-List.

I was walking into The Hospital club last week. I signed in and headed for the lift, aware of a man in a sliver-grey suit behind me, some words, and a gravelly reply…

“Hi Tom — she’s upstairs on the second floor. The lift is over here…”

The gravelly reply came as I pressed the lift call button and half turned to see who was behind me. Tom — not just any Tom. The foxiest of silver foxes, Tom Conti — legend of stage and screen, nominated for, or winner of, almost every award worth winning, the man with the voice — and, I can say now, custodian of one of the most beautiful peacock blue silk ties I have ever seen. It popped against the metallic grey of his suit and hair.

Tom Conti dressed head to toe in tweed, pouring himself a whisky, as poet Gowan McGland in Reuben Reuben.
Tom Conti dressed head to toe in tweed, pouring himself a whisky, as poet Gowan McGland in Reuben Reuben.
Tom Conti as Gowan McGland in Reuben Reuben (Photo, IMDB)

We traveled up in the lift together — me wanting to say that I loved his work, but crippled because while images of Reuben Reuben played in my head, the only name that came to mind was Aunt Julia and The Scriptwriter — where his role was played by Peter Falk.

Peter Falk as Pedro Carmichael in Aunt Julia and The Script Writer (Photo, IMDB)

Awed by celebrity, and always willing to let age and beauty go before me, I stood back to let him exit the lift first, following him out onto the second floor. The Great Conti approached Dupé, the lovely receptionist at The Hospital. He was about to open his mouth to speak to her when Dupé leaned around him and said, almost over his shoulder, “Hello Damian — how are you?”

I am further up the A-List than Tom Conti!

(Of course I slipped down the list as soon as I sat down and texted my brother Dr Jewels. He replied, “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence is one of my favourite films!”, but it was too late —The Great Conti had already ordered a drink, greeted a staggeringly beautiful young woman with brown hair VERY warmly, and sat down to chat. Frankly, I was a little scandalised that he was so intimate with a woman who was clearly young enough to be his daughter.)

Nina Conti surrounded by her best-known puppets, the monkey, the old man and the owl.
Nina Conti surrounded by her best-known puppets, the monkey, the old man and the owl.
Nina Conti (Photo courtesy of Nina Conti)

Update, 10 June 2020:

Now that she is more famous than she was then, I realise that the reason The Great Conti was so intimate with the woman young enough to be his daughter is because she IS his daughter, Nina. She is one of those people whose real-life looks far surpass what a video or still image can capture.

The bad…

I broke the rule that says “Don’t speak on the tube unless you know the person.”

I saw a seat on the tube last night. I sat in it and read my free commuter paper so I wouldn’t make eye contact with anybody elderly and feel pressured to give up my seat. A few more people got on after me, including a lady in her late 30s, who stood in front of me, holding the pole, and pulled out her newspaper.

At the last minute, the girl opposite me leaped out of her seat. She’s cutting it a bit fine, I thought, until I realised she had touched the lady in front on the arm, and nodded to her, while standing in the gap between the doors. Nobody else was sitting in the vacant seat. Happy that the girl opposite had given up her seat for the pregnant lady — and I wouldn’t have to — I looked up from my paper.

The lady in front of me appeared to have misinterpreted the touch as a request to get out of the way, and hadn’t seen the girl nod to her. She didn’t know the seat was hers. She was square on to the seat — all she had to do was stick her bottom out and bend her knees. The tension was building, as it only can around a vacant seat on the Central Line at 7.30pm. Sooner or later some opportunist was going to crack and the seat would be theirs — pregnant lady or not.

People crowded into a Central Line carriage on London’s tube system.
People crowded into a Central Line carriage on London’s tube system.
The Central Line (Photo courtesy of Metro)

She was facing me. My neighbours were looking on expectantly. The people standing between the doors were looking on longingly.

I said, “Excuse me…” and nodded to the seat.

Silence.

The people looked on — expectantly.

The train lurched away from Tottenham Court Road.

She looked at me, huffed and shuffled her paper angrily.

…and the ugly

She was NOT pregnant!


Copyright © Damian Clarke, 2020. First posted on the Our Albion blog, June 20th, 2007 under Oh Shit!, London life.

Our Albion

he story of a guy with a hammer, some nails and an old…

Damian Clarke

Written by

I’m a writer and publisher working in Sydney, Australia and London, UK. I specialise in finance, technology, insurance, property, medicine and sustainability.

Our Albion

he story of a guy with a hammer, some nails and an old house to use them on.

Damian Clarke

Written by

I’m a writer and publisher working in Sydney, Australia and London, UK. I specialise in finance, technology, insurance, property, medicine and sustainability.

Our Albion

he story of a guy with a hammer, some nails and an old house to use them on.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store