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Looking over London

Ryssa and Pete: Flying free ...

Posted on 2005.11.01 at 14:18
Current Mood: goodgood
Current Music: Roy Orbison - Pretty Woman
It’s a warm day.

I put the bits and pieces I bought this morning in the trunk of the car and decided to go for a walk, wandering aimlessly around the streets of my new home, noting where various stores and shops of interest are, checking out a couple of little clothes shops that I found. There’s a couple of little deli’s too, and I decided to treat myself to something tasty on the way back. When I turn the next corner, I find myself on the edge of a park, and continue my wandering along its broad paths, reminded of walks through Hyde Park. But I push the memories away. I need new ones, ones that aren’t attached to a man with pale hair and dark eyes …

There’s an ice-cream seller not far ahead and by the time I reach him, the small crowd of kids surrounding him has been served, and I ask him for a vanilla cornet. He pushes a chocolate flake into the two scoops of ice-cream and hands it to me with a wink, taking the note I give him and giving me my change. I’m still not used to this new currency; it’s different, like so many other things. Not outlandishly different, but just enough to remind me that I’m halfway around the world from everything I know.

A familiar buzzing sound brings me out of my musings, a sound I haven’t heard for a long time.

A model plane.

I look out over a wide expanse of grass and sure enough, there it is, swooping and diving around. So I wander in that direction, licking at my ice cream and nibbling on my flake. It’s easy to get engrossed in watching it, and before I know it, I’m almost standing next to the guy flying it.

Giving him a friendly smile I watch as he brings it into land.

Pete: I spent a few hours this morning giving the bi-plane's engine a tune up. It's nitpicky work, quite engrossing, and has to be done every now and then. Seemed the right time to do so this morning, it gave me a reason to stay out of the way as Fran quietly packed a couple of boxes, gently wrapping long stemmed paper-thin champagne flutes to keep them safe on the trip downtown. They were her grandmother's, and I'll be the first to admit that it's a miracle they didn't crack, being in a house with me for so long.

Course, I could say the same about Fran these past three years. Or can I? She's taken it all very quietly, everything that's gone on since things changed in Wellington. When she had seen quite enough, she quietly informed me of the lease on the condominium downtown. It's all happened so quietly. Every few days, she slips in the door and packs a couple boxes, leaving again with a peck on my cheek, an admonition to get some rest, and the door slipping gently shut. All quite civilized, all quite private. All very disconcerting.

It's been the most peaceful winter of my life, for all the wrong reasons. But my bi-plane splutters along, healthy and graceful, coaxing the smile back to my face. A shadow falls on the control box, and I glance to the side. Seems someone else finds it a sight worth a smile, too. "Afternoon, miss. A beautiful day, isn't it?”

Ryssa: “Good afternoon.” I reply a little formally, smiling. “It is a lovely day, and just right for flying.” He’s got a friendly smile, the guy holding the control box. I would even have said jolly if he wasn’t so slim, as I always think of “jolly” as describing someone the size of Father Christmas.

“That’s a nice plane you have. My father had one he would fly every Sunday when I was little, but it was very basic compared to that one. I’m guessing there have been a lot of improvements in the last 20 years.” And it shocks me to think that it’s actually been well over 20 years since I stood in the park with my Dad as he flew his.

Impulsively, I stick my hand out towards you. “I’m Ryssa. Alryssa, actually, but no-one bothers with the Al.” I smile again, realising this is the first conversation I’ve had for days that wasn’t with someone behind a shop counter.

Pete: I blink and fumble with the controls to free up a hand and shake yours. "Pete. Good to meet you, Ryssa. And really, this bi-plane's older than you are, any big improvements in this hobby are lost on me, I'm a fan of the vintage models." Speaking of models, you look like you could be one yourself.

Now, this isn't the first time I've talked with a beautiful woman. But usually I'm explaining something in a script, telling them what I want the camera to see. I can't remember the last time I spoke to someone this pretty that wasn't involved in one of my projects.

So, naturally, I can't think of a damned thing to say.

"So, Ryssa without the Al, are you one of my neighbors? I've never seen you around, and I think I'd remember if I had."

Smooth, Pete. You've still got it. When it comes down to basics, you're still a nerd of a thirteen year old boy, aren't you?

Ryssa “One of your neighbours?” I smile at you and shake my head, wondering where you live. “No, I’ve just moved here from England. London actually.” There’s an innocence about you which is quite appealing and you have kind eyes, so I’m opening up a little before I think about the fact you’re also a stranger in a park. “Wellington is very different from what I’m used to. Cleaner for a start, and quieter.”

London had pulled me in the minute I’d arrived. And I’d fallen in love with the tiny attic flat that had been my home for most of the years I worked for Vivienne as soon as I walked through the door. It had been so different from my sprawling childhood home in the country, and I’d finally felt as if I was in the centre of things, that I could feel the vibrant pulse of the city in my own veins, and it was addictive. It’ll take more than moving halfway around the world to stop feeling the tug on my heart every time I think of the place.

Bending down to get a better look at the little plane, I realise it is very similar to the one my Dad flew and I run my fingers along the wing. “She’s a beauty.” I stand up, catching a dribble of my neglected ice-cream with my tongue before it gets too far, and finishing off the rest of the cornet, wiping my hands on a hanky. “Do you get to fly her often?”

Pete: "Ah! London. Fine, fine city, I've visited it quite a few times, and always end up wishing I could stay a little longer." I chuckle at your description of Wellington - obviously you weren't around in February, when the skies were black and the looters ran amuck. Thankfully that's all be set to rights, I've got my inklings about some of what's gone on, but honestly, I'm not sure I want to know all the details. Anyway. This lovely woman missed out on the mayhem, and I find myself quite grateful for that. "I'm sure you'll like being in Wellington. I've been here nearly my whole life, and never get tired of it!"

I bend down and pick up the plane, and set her on the picnic table I always use as home base for these outings. "I bring her down to fly every couple of weeks, when I can. It's a good way to unwind from work. Sometimes I forget, I get lost in my job, and by the time I realize it's been ages, it just feels so good to get out here."

Ryssa: “Yes, it does get under your skin, but I needed a change of pace and this certainly is a beautiful part of the world.” I’m curious about what takes you to London. You don’t look like the jet-setting type. Not that that’s a criticism, and I know from experience how deceptive outward appearances can be.

I laugh a little as you talk about your work. “I know how that is. Once I get my teeth into something, it’s hard to let go until it’s finished. When I’m working on a design, I like to spend time in the environment alone, get a feel for the space, and then let my pencils fly over the paper, see what comes out.” I smile a little sheepishly for babbling at you. “I’m an interior designer. What line of work are you in?”

Pete: You babble nicely. And in ways I understand. "I guess we're sort of in the same general universe as far as work goes. I'm a filmmaker. I know just what you mean about that immersion process, letting the creativity fly free when you've gotten in tune with the concept." I can feel myself warming up to the topic, but I've sent folk running for cover before when I've gotten too talkative about the craft of making movies.

And on a slightly surreal note, you're the only person that's dared mention pencils around me in over a year.

"So, do you prefer a standard #2 yellow pencil, or do you use a mechanical refillable one? Personally, I think the #2's have a better grip, you can feel the solidity, the history in them.... Oh! And there's even a pencil museum back in England, you're from there, did you ever visit it?"

Oh, geez, Pete. Just shut up!!!!

Ryssa: “A filmmaker?” And one who’s passionate about his work if the way you talk about it is anything to go by. Perhaps that’s what takes you to London. And I can’t help smiling widely at how enthusiastic you are about #2 pencils.

“I don’t like those propelling pencils at all. They have no soul. I always carry a set of proper pencils with me, and a sketch pad, just in case. And I do like a #2, but it depends on whether I want crisp lines or soft curves when I’m sketching as to which one I use.” I put my bag down on the picnic table, and pull out a soft leather roll, tied in the middle. I unfasten it, and unroll it up to reveal my pencils. “I never leave home without them.” I wink at you conspiratorially. “But I’m afraid I hadn’t heard of the museum. Perhaps it would be worth a visit someday.” You’re quirky, and more than a little nervous, I think, but very sweet with it.

Pete: "Exactly! Those flimsy yellow plastic crank-up pencils, they try to look like a solid wooden one, but there's nothing inside but air and a lead that's too thin and won't write a decent line of script!"

I carefully pick up a pencil, balance it on my fingertips, and poke the sharp tip with the pad of my thumb. "Perfect." I realize too late that I'm beaming, looking right at you as I make my proclamation of perfection.

I never thought I'd meet another pencil fanatic. Hell, a couple of years ago I never thought I'd be a pencil fanatic, but sharing headspace with the Professor's worn off on me, more than I'd care to admit.

"Um.... this isn't normally my style, but would you like to go get a coffee, maybe a raspberry Danish? There's a great bakery round the corner, it's mostly overlooked since they haven't repaired their awning in forever, but they really do make great pastries. My treat?"

Ryssa: “That would be lovely.” You grin at me, and I can see it took a lot to ask. Don’t think it’s the sort of thing you do every day, chat strange women up in the park, and I really appreciate the offer. More conversation and pastries is just what I need. It doesn’t take long for you to pack away the plane and its bits and bobs, and I give you a hand where I can. Then we wander out of the park in the direction of the café you mentioned, and I ramble.

“When I first arrived in London, I found a little place in Soho, Franco’s that served the best breakfasts. Every morning on my way to work, I’d stop in. If I was in a hurry, I’d get a breakfast burrito to eat on the way, which for a country girl was a revelation, but if I had time, I’d sit in and indulge myself. It had the most interesting customers. A handful of professional people who, like me, had discovered the place, and clubbers looking for something to fend off the munchies. There were always market traders hanging around too, and a couple of working girls on their way home.”

I haven’t thought of Franco’s in quite a while. It was somewhere that had welcomed me with open arms, took in a shy girl who knew no-one, and showed me that there was warmth to be found in the heart of the city. Haven’t thought of Heaven for a long time either, the dark skinned beauty that had plonked herself down at my table one morning, and never really left. I left her behind, and Franco’s, when brighter, shinier things beckoned, when I was dazzled by glitz and glamour and empty promises.

“Outward appearances can often be deceptive.” I say with a smile and surprisingly little bitterness in my voice. “All that glisters is not gold, as they say.” Shame I forgot my Shakespeare for a while.

Pete: I blink, surprised that we're here already. I'd just let my feet find their way, my mind was quite taken by your rambling. You've really got a nice voice, perfect for storytelling. Which is good, cause you sure don't have any trouble keeping up your end of the conversation! Luckily, I can multitask grandly, cause while I'm imagining you at Franco's, I'm having a rousing silent conversation with myself, too. You'll have to reciprocate soon, Pete, quick - think up something interesting about yourself. No, nothing about Director-Pete, that's too easy and everyone likes him, just guy-Pete stuff. You know, the real you? And at that thought I shake my head slightly, chiding myself. She sees you as a friend, maybe, but really, Pete, don't go reading anything more into it. Besides, you're still working yourself out of your last relationship, and don't forget those darker parts of your life that pushed you and Fran to finally call it quits.

We duck under a tattered bit of awning and I hold open the door to Harry and Mary's as you wind down. You glance up at the sign in curiosity, and as we settle at a small table, I realize I can give you a story about this place. "Harry and Mary's. One of those homage titles that old timers around here consider a salute to a few of the best. Harry Seresin ran a bookshop and cafe back in the '70's, and did a lot for local arts and culture. The theatres in town all owe a debt to him too. Town's a better place for his visions, I tell ya. Oh, and Mary? She had a cafe called the Monde Marie, turned into one of those places that drew in the bohemians and folk singers, the like." Yeah, my city's got quite a few stories to tell, and until I work up the nerve to talk more about myself, I can always rely on Wellington to keep the conversation going.

Ryssa: They’ve certainly captured the spirits of the two people you mentioned. There’s a relaxed atmosphere about the place with soft music playing in the background that I don’t recognise, but that adds to the ambience. A waitress arrives who obviously knows you, and you swap a few comfortable words before ordering coffee and one of those raspberry pastries you mentioned. When she asks me what I would like, I order the same.

“I’m putting my trust in a regular knowing what’s best.” I smile at you, and let my eyes wander round the room, looking at the old posters and photographs in frames that adorn the walls.

“You sound really passionate about the arts and the town yourself. Are you involved in the local scene?” I’m still curious as to what kind of movies you make, and wonder if they are based in and around Wellington as you obviously adore the place.

Pete: Maybe I'm being an idiot, but there's a battle going on in my brain between Pete the Ordinary Guy, and Peter Jackson the Producer. I'm pretty sure Ryssa would recognize that damned Rings trilogy if I mentioned it… and Pete the Ordinary Guy wouldn't be sitting here having a pastry with a pretty girl anymore. And that's what I want right now. Just to be Pete. Well, it wouldn't be lying if I just sorta forgot to mention what I've done lately, right?

"Definitely local! All the best locations, actors, crews… they're in New Zealand." I laugh and take a bite of my pastry. "Well, Australia has a few decent sorts, but I wouldn't be anywhere but here. Been making movies around these parts since I was a teenager. That's be just after the bronze age, my dear." Sophie stops by to refill our coffees, and snickers at my wit.

"Don't let him fool you. This one was an old man during the last ice age."

The icy glare I give Sophie makes an ice age seem like springtime, but she knows I'm kidding.

Ryssa: “Bronze age?” I chuckle as I cut my pastry in two. “I think you’ve got a long way to go before you can be called old, Pete!” The very minor compliment makes you smile, and if I’m not mistaken, that is a blush rising on your cheeks. I smile back and change the subject, not wanting to embarrass you.

“What about theatre? Is there anywhere in Wellington you would recommend? I know I’ve been spoilt for choice living in London, but I always preferred the smaller venues anyway. I’ve never been a fan of big flashy Andrew Lloyd Webber type productions, they leave me cold.” I shudder at the thought of Starlight Express. “I’d like to see what the local theatre companies put on.” I finish my pastry and brush the crumbs off my fingers. “I’ve got a soft spot for Shakespeare too, ever since my school days. Every director’s vision of his work is so unique, whether it’s a small company or the RSC and it would be interesting to see what a local director would do with it.”

Pete: I laugh and slurp my coffee, starting to feel more relaxed now that we're figuring out some common interests. "Oh, we've got local theatre, all right! It's nearly Halloween, I usually go BATS for that." You give me a puzzled look, and I tell you all about the strange little BATS theatre I like so well. "And there's the Circa, and Te Whaea, Drama Christi, and for movies, we've got the Embassy. It's a beautiful building, just restored a few years back. I got involved with that project, it's where I spent so much of my childhood, I love the place, am so proud of it…" I'm on the verge of going off on a major ramble about that project, but manage to catch myself in time. "Whew. Sorry. But, well, it's theatre." I give you an apologetic smile that really doesn't apologize at all. "Somehow, I think you know what I mean."

Ryssa: “Yes, I do know what you mean.” I smile back, liking the way your face lights up as you talked animatedly about something you obviously have a passion for. “And I’m impressed! I suppose I wasn’t expecting there to be so much going on here.” I hadn’t really thought about the entertainment possibilities when I arranged the move, so it’s a pleasant surprise, as are you. I feel like I’ve made my first friend in my new city, and that widens my smile.

“BATS sounds interesting. You’ll have to recommend something.” Finishing off my coffee, I realise that’s another first. A quirky local café that serves decent coffee and wonderful pastries. And maybe it’s because I suddenly get that feeling of beginning to sink into place here, the same comfortable feeling that I remember from my early days in London, that I don’t really think about what I’m saying. “Or we could go together sometime.”

Well Ryssa, you’ve never been accused of being shy. Forward? Yes. Impulsive? Definitely. But never shy. Although you probably have a wife or girlfriend who wouldn’t understand if you took pity on a waif and stray you met in the park and kept her company for an evening.

Pete: I think over what's coming at BATS soon. Hmm. My Brother And I Are Porn Stars. No. No way can I ask her to that! But, Head is playing soon, I saw some of the rehearsals, and it looked like something Ryssa might like, actually. "Well, there's a little thing coming to BATS soon, about how we tend to skew what's important in our lives – the little things take on huge meaning, and the big events sorta slip to the back of our minds. Would you like to see that with me? It's called Head, sometimes those nebulous titles slip past the public's eyes, which is a shame." It feels fitting. Just a chance meeting and a coffee shop conversation. A little thing in life, but right now, it feels like a very big deal to me.

Ryssa: “I’d love to.” The idea behind the play resonates with the way life has been over the last year or so. “It does sound interesting.” And I know the company will be good. Smiling, I dig around in my bag, and pull out a pencil and my note book. Flipping past all the scribbled notes and sketches of odd details done on the run, I finally get to a blank page. I write down my number, pause for a moment then decide maybe my cell number would be a good idea too, and while I’m at it, you may as well have my email address. I tear out the page, fold it in half then hold it out to you. “So you can let me know when and where. And if you sort out the tickets, I’ll buy us dinner. Deal?”

Pete: I take the sheet of paper, a little awestruck that I'm being given so many ways to contact you. I tear off a strip of it, and scribble down a number for you, too. "That's my private cell. Bypasses my scheduling secretary and other nuisances of life."

Okay. So, it would seem I have a date with a pretty woman, and her phone numbers. I should be mentally yelling 'score', I suppose, but that's not how this feels. Sure feels nice, though. And a little scary. I'm acting like a single man. Which, I am, just haven't gotten used to being one.

I wonder if she'll still like me after she finds out what kind of movies I make?

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