If you think this didn’t make Chris and me dance in the streets of Soho and sing ‘Everything’s Comin’ Up Roses and Daffodils’ then you don’t know us.
Actually, you’re right about Chris. She whipped off her cap, threw pennies in and shouted ‘Roll up, roll up’ (ever the producer) (we made £1.20). But we were both high with feeling.
We met Our Publicist (OP) in Soho House last October. The entrance to this private members’ club is so exclusive that you could mistake it for the goods’ entrance of Tesco if you didn’t know better. And I didn’t know better, having to ask directions not once but three times on my way to the meeting – twice inside the club itself.
The House is a renovated 19th century building, a rabbit warren of half-landings and mysterious floors that vanish when you look away, reappearing at another level, doors that lead to screening rooms, dining rooms, the kitchen or possibly Tesco (I haven’t opened them all yet).
‘It’s this way,’ Chris said that Wednesday autumn afternoon, standing half-way up the stairs on the second floor, looking towards a roped-off room. ‘We’re meeting him in there.’
‘It’s roped off,’ I said, vaguely.
I peered through another open doorway at handsome people leaning over good-looking drinks and better-looking computers surrounded by muted green walls, leaning on soft linen table cloths.
‘I don’t think that’s it,’ she said, unsure. ‘It’s too dark. We wouldn’t meet him in a room that dark. Let’s ask someone.’
She was about to interrupt one of the friendly staff in starched white shirts moving past us with trays and clipboards when I stopped her.
‘What are we going to say? “Where’s our publicist”?’
(We realised two meetings later that Opie spends so much time in Soho House that you can ask for him by name. They run a card through the computer, look at the screen and say ‘Ah. Third floor. Say hi.’)
In the end we closed our eyes, held our breath and fell into a room of scrubbed oak floors and teal furnishings, heaving with animated conversation and casual designer jackets and jeans. A table by the window was free.
We sat down and ordered tea from the pretty girl who waved the menus towards us then, courteous, pulled them away again when it was clear ‘tea’ was it for us. We’d budgeted 20 minutes max. Opie was a busy guy.
‘What does he look like?’ Chris said, glancing across the room at the heads lowered over Notepads and iPads and lined yellow pads, everyone writing and drinking and talking.
‘You don’t know?’ I panicked.
‘How could I ask?’
‘You say “What do you look like?”’
‘What if he has a club foot or something?’
‘He might just not mention the foot. He might say ‘Oh, I’m 5’10’, blue eyes, slim. A tattoo of a snake on my face.’
‘I’ll look for the snake,’ Chris said.
Seven minutes later a slim, blue-eyed, attractive young man – 5’10”, no snake on his face – showed up at our table, smiling, warm, eager, asking if I was Christine.
‘No,’ I said. Accurate as ever.
A pause threatened.
‘I am,’ Chris said quickly, smiling and we shook hands.
He led us upstairs - ‘much roomier’, he said - ascending by way of ladder-like steps, as though we’d emerge into someone’s attic or the deck of HMS Victory , but instead finding ourselves in a smaller but emptier room with French windows that looked onto a terrace.
Our tea had mysteriously followed us up and was placed, lovingly in front of us by invisible hands as Opie ordered a coffee, beamed at us and said
And, reader, I was in love. His dynamism, enthusiasm, open-heartedness – all of this was evident in that monosyllable. ‘So!’ (He is also cute which every man ought to be if he possibly can.)(Yes, yes, he’s gay but gayness has never kept anyone from enjoying cuteness.)
Wanting to make the most of our twenty minutes, we charged into a history of the company, described our half-dozen projects, and got ready to show Opie our new tag line and mission statement, expecting an ‘Oh yes, fine’ or ‘Maybe a larger font?’ Instead he looked us brightly in the face and said ‘Right. Which is your favourite project?’
I took a small breath. This was unexpected.
Next to ‘Do you want chocolate sauce on your chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks?’ this has to be my favourite question. Like a mother being asked, asked I say, to talk about her children. Which of the half-dozen scripts in development was our favourite?
We spoke at the same time.
‘The stage play,’ I said.
‘The telly adaptation,’ Christine said.
Opie smiled, enigmatically.
‘Ah. Not the same. Fine. Tell me why. What are these stories?’
We gabbled for a delicious quarter of an hour (so much for 20 minutes), taking turns, regaling Opie with the two plots we loved – romantic longings, twists, the human spirit indefatigable. He ‘oo’ed and ‘aaah’ ed appreciatively, sitting forward, putting his hands to his face, shaking his head. We finished. He looked from one to the other.
‘All right. I’m going to say something you might not want to hear.’ I steeled myself. Was it my lipstick? My hair? (Couldn’t possibly be the scripts.)
‘I think you’re both right.’ (Wasn’t the scripts.) ‘These are good stories. Shelve the rest. Focus on these two. I’ll do what I can to help.’
Two months after we met Our Publicist – who since then has placed the stage play with a West End and television actress talented and fameuse, is introducing me to agents and has got the telly adaptation to an international producing house – I was in the departure lounge of the Ottawa airport preparing to fly back to London, having spent Christmas with my family in Canada.
The flight is only 6 ½ hours but still, in economy, it’s 6 ½ hours you want to spend comfortably. Inspired by an exercise Chris and I practised when we formed the company, I opened my journal and wrote ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if’ and described every luscious thing I wanted to happen:
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a great trip? Wouldn’t it be nice to have lots of room, to sleep easily and beautifully and wake up hugely refreshed? Just be easily, comfortably, sweetly, wonderfully asleep for the whole flight?
I put my pen down. I looked about at the families and couples filling the lounge. I tried to calculate the fullness of the flight – what were the chances of an empty seat beside me? There were a lot of people. Why were there so many people? It was the second week of January. Shouldn’t they all be home by now? Maybe the guy who was supposed to sit next to me had changed his mind and decided to spend an extra day with his ailing mother in Petawawa and I’d be able to put my feet where his bum was going to have been. I went back to my journal.
Wouldn’t it be great to sleep easily and beautifully the whole -
‘Stephanie Young. Will passenger Stephanie Young please approach the departures desk?’
Hel-lo. What was this? Was there some formality I had to go through, having booked on line? Did they need to confirm my passport? I shoved my journal away, wheeled my carry-on bag to the desk and stood in a queue. A woman behind a computer looked up and waved me forward.
I passed the half dozen people waiting. The attendant took my boarding pass. I had a moment of mild anxiety. Was she going to give it back? Had I been moved from the window I’d purposely chosen so I could sleep? Was I being kicked off the flight?
She casually ripped up the document I had printed off, so efficiently, the night before and handing me another, said, in quiet tones, some of the most agreeable words in the English language:
‘We’d like to upgrade you to business class.’
After choosing between champagne and orange juice, finishing my seared salmon steak and risotto main course and using the operating instructions to get my seat to transform into six feet of cushiony, blanketed, pillowy space – I slept for five hours.
I was right. It was nice.
When I got home I found the notebook in which Christine and I had written, eighteen months before, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if’’ about MY Production Company:
Wouldn’t it be nice to meet eager, open-hearted, enthusiastic people of means and influence who will help us launch these stories we love into the world? To love our colleagues, to co-create, with hilarity and joy and enthusiasm these stories that inspire and move us? So we can inspire and move other people? Wouldn’t that be nice?
As I tap-danced on Old Compton Street that sunny October afternoon and Christine sold tickets, both of us feeling that Opie would invite us to up our game and prospects, I thought to myself, as I expect to think again and again throughout the course of my professional life, meeting like-minds, making, promoting and celebrating art with them, ‘Yeeeeeeeeeeeess. I was riiiiiiiiiiiiight.’
It is nice.