Wednesday, 19 February 2014

My Friend, Charles Dance



About fifteen years ago, we took the night ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland, and from there a bus into Amsterdam. 

The trip was part of a week's short-haul holidays, the first to Amsterdam, spending a long day there before catching the return ferry back, then home for a day, after which we caught a short flight to Dublin, where we stayed an hour up the coast from the city, coming and going by train between the city and our accommodation.

In Amsterdam, we visited the van Gough museum, a few bars, and the usual tourist haunts. Amsterdam is well known for its graphic sex literature on view in any shop and on every street corner. A postcard stand might contain a pretty picture of Dutch flowers along canals, as well as an enormous erect penis (our oldest daughter, as we passed, covering her younger sister's eyes and shouting, "Don't look, Erin, don't look!").

On the return ferry that night, I felt a little seasick, lying there, quietly munching on a cracker to settle my stomach, and listening through tissue paper walls to a couple in the next cabin, having sex. At least I assume that's what they were doing. The woman was shouting, "Oh Ray, Ray, oh oh," with attendant grunts and voice flutings.

The beer in Amsterdam, by the way, is excellent.

The flight we took to Dublin should have been uneventful, only an hour's flying time from our local airport, but as we walked across the tamac to the plane, my wife stepped along an uneven section and twisted her foot. By the time we boarded, and then during air time, the ankle became so swollen she could hardly stand. 

From Dublin, we made our way up the coast to our accommodation, where, at the tiny local train station, my wife duly informed me she was now going to faint, and did. A young Vietnamese doctor happened to be at the little station, and the stationmaster and another man, a hapless civilian conscripted for the occasion, carried her from the platform opposite, back down the connecting pedestrain tunnel, to a small waiting room, where she revived a little, and the kind young doctor stayed with us until my wife recovered.

At our accommodation, we borrowed a cane, or walking stick, from our landlady, and my wife hobbled around the city, the colleges, the streets of James Joyce statues and Guinness pubs, so all we planned to see, we were able to see after all. 

After a couple of days, her foot was better, and we thought we'd spend our last day in Dublin visiting a couple of interesting restaurants. As we passed by a little bar, outside of which were a few tables on the pavement under an awning, I glanced across at one or two people having coffee, and noticed a man sitting on his own, reading a book. He wore a bulky jacket and a flat cap pulled down low over his forehead. It was the film actor, Charles Dance.

I said to my wife, "That's Charles Dance," which she doubted, then agreed it was indeed him. I said I thought I'd just go and say hello. Quietly, so as not to attract attention, I said, "Hello, Mr Dance. We just wanted to say how much we admire your film work," looking back towards my wife and daughters. He nodded, smiling a little, and replied, "Thank you."

Since then, whenever he appears on TV, or we see a film of his advertised at the cinema, my wife, in mock excitement, and with just an edge of sarcasm in her voice, notes, that it's my friend, Charles Dance.











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