Friday, November 11, 2005

Brief Encounters

I was being served a pint of Guiness by a Latvian student in the bar of the Grasmere Hotel in Salisbury when Ioan Gruffudd joined me at my side and ordered a pint of a lager and a Hamlet cigar.

It's true. The barmaid really was a Latvian student whose boyfriend, a Slovakian, had returned to Bratislava to attend the funeral of his father. And the rest of the hotel staff, as seems increasingly common these days, resembled a cross section from a 'Russian Brides for Sale 'catalogue: two Poles - one a slavic-cheeked blonde beauty, and another who could have been a librarian; a taciturn Czech; a madly coiffured daughter of a Latvian shipyard worker from Riga, a friendly Hungarian and an elegant Belarussian.

The cleaner, in keeping with the cosmopolitan flavour of the hotel, hailed from Portugal but did not share the cultural aspirations and language learning of the Eastern Europeans with their obsessions with London and Stratford and Edinburgh, and could only manage a self conscious: "gud maw neening" each bom dia, as I routinely tripped over her vacuum cleaner hose before careening into her towel and sheet trolly.

How strange to find such an array of nationalities in a creaky, tired, old fashioned Wiltshire holtel; its only really claim to fame being its proximity to Salisbury cathedral and its famous spire.

But what of Ioan? Surely that is where this blog was heading. How strange to bump into him in such an unfashionable place.

Apparently, there is a drama based on the life of William Wilberforce being filmed in Salisbury at the moment, with Ioan cast in the eponymous role and he and some of the production crew and cast were also staying at the Grasmere. I know this because my Welsh speaking chum was getting himself bogged down in a little drama all of his own.

This drama involved his loudly expounded theories on what the drink 'black velvet' actually is - taking issue with what turned out to be a couple of WW bit-part players sat nearby - that a poor man's black velvet replaced cider with champagne in the Guiness, but that it was still a 'black velvet', and Ioan, in mid lager and hamlet order, picked up on his obvious Welsh lilt.

And there's nothing Welsh speakers like better in the world, than speaking Welsh - even Hollywood film stars. That's why they cannot be within spitting distance of each other without uttering the obligatory question: "do you speak Welsh?" And, once this point had been established here in the Grasmere, there followed a yickity-yack, yada-yada fest about why each other was there. I was reduced to my very own bit part in this scene and played the quiet background beer slurper, conspiratorially rolling my eyes in the direction of the two hams sharing an ignorance we hardly cared about.

I didn't speak to Ioan. Then again I'd never heard of him until that night.

Ahhh the man who should have gotten the role in the new bond film
Wiltshire - cosmopolitan? What is the world coming to?:-)
Very useful man to stand next to at the bar. His Fantastic Four stylee stretchy hand could have pilfered half the bar from that distance.
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