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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Sunday, 24 October 2004


Having lived a fairly conservative life over the past - ooh, it must be - three years; never in bed much after 1am at the latest, and my circle of 'real' friends hasn't had much chance to grow. I've more than compensated with on-line activities, though - which brings to an end a brief, yet tedious prelude to my activities this weekend, as this is where it all started.

I may have mentioned the hilarious ten minute spoof schools programmes called Look Around You - if you've visited in the last six months you'll have been forced to watch an episode or two (you have been warned!) Well, I joined the Yahoo! group for the show, which had been set up by a clutch of fans, and was surprised to see that Robert Popper (one of the writers - the other being the terribly famous Peter Serafinowicz) occasionally posted.

It was by mere co-incidence that only a few weeks after I joined, he mentioned that they were hoping to invite group members to be extras in some parts of the filming of series 2 of Look Around You, and - after a brief period of indecision - Beth and I put our names down to be considered. There were two filming sessions - one during the day, during the week, which I couldn't have attended even if I'd wanted to, and the other on Friday night, into Saturday morning. It was the latter that Beth and I met in London to attend, and this blog entry concerns the night in question...

just - look around you

We arrived at a primary school on the White City estate, a few minutes walk from the BBC's swiffy new Broadcast and Media Centres, in the car-park of which, a small collection of lorry trailers and double-decker buses were assembled. Neither Beth nor I had any idea what to expect, as we'd never done anything like this before - I was rather apprehensive when I was directed to the big bus marked "Background."

The other folk on-board, and those who arrived subsequently, turned out to be very friendly, though - I'm not really a shrinking violet, so it wasn't long before I introduced myself to the people with whom I'd be spending much of the night. The filming was expected to go on until half-past six, so I was going to be stuck with them either way! We ate at probably the most impressive burger van I've ever seen (it was more of a mobile kitchen, I suppose) and, while we waited to be called to wardrobe, I read out some 90s lyrics from a quiz I just happened to have on me.

*the* Mr Bloke lookAmusingly, I became known as "Mr Bloke" - it's the name I use for my Yahoo! email, but one that I haven't heard used since my Chiltern FM days. It was rather judicious though, as there was another James Hart - the husband of another group member - who'd come along for the filming, too. It led to a little confusion in wardrobe and when the visitor passes were given out, but I had brought my own early-1980's clothes (I hadn't mentioned that it was a 'period piece' had I?) and BBC ID card, so all was not lost.

The outfits were amusing - Beth ended up wearing almost all of her normal clothes, with the addition of a big (mostly pink) fluffy jumper. We'd raided the charity shops during the week, though, and I had found some wonderful "maths teacher" brown corduroy trousers, and bought a scarily authentic white/brown graph-paper type shirt from Littlewoods. Add to this a woollen tie and beige blouson (provided by the wardrobe people) and some almost-NHS glasses, and the ensemble was complete.

Time, also, went much more quickly than I'd anticipated. There was a good level of banter between us - the extras were there to provide a 'crowd scene' outside Television Centre, awaiting the arrival of a Royal Person to the final of the Invention Of The Year competition. For the first couple of scenes I and a number of others weren't needed, so we stood around on the periphery having a joke. Top Of The Pops had been recorded that evening, and the audience trooped past at one point, bewildered by the collection of unfashionable folk hanging around the place. One of their number, who was haplessly engaged in conversation with a couple of the more entertaining young men there (I was almost definitely the oldest of the non-paid extras there - makes me feel quite old!) turned out to be Jessica Lever, the 17 year old who made a speech at the Conservative Party Conference this year. Darius went past at one point as well, apparently.

Take after take, camera-battery-change after camera-battery-change (why they weren't plugged into the mains, I just don't know) and then 'lunchtime' came; we were driven in minibuses the quarter-mile back to the school, and had a very passable roast chicken with vegetables and apricot stuffing. This was brought to a premature close as Rob and Peter came on-board to sign DVDs, arms and scraggy bits of paper (sorry!) and have lots of camera-phones pointed at them.

Also in attendance were Nick Frost (Mike from Spaced) and Olivia Colman, who nobody seems to have heard of but has been in all sorts of things from The Office to a dodgy car advert, and is lovely.

The whole thing had finished not long before three o'clock, and we sat on-board the bus for a while. I didn't have any coach times, so I ventured to the Broadcast Centre for a fix of the internet, and returned with fairly good news; there was a coach at 3.30 and another at 4.30. When I returned to the bus, one of the paid extras had arrived and was telling the story of his first job (which was as a soldier in Gladiator - although he also appeared in the turkey-flavoured spoof Gladiatress). We were spared the "captive audience" experience when one of the assistants with a walkie-talkie arrived and told us that we could be dropped off in town, where there were more night buses available to take the bedraggled masses to their respective stations for the first trains home. Beth and I were really lucky - the driver dropped us off at Marble Arch just in time to run for the half-past four bus, which dropped us off in time to pick the car up and get to bed before six o'clock. We managed four hours sleep before we went to pick the children up - enough to ensure we made it through the day!

So - probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you see the next series of Look Around You and see a confused, frightened looking maths teacher in the back row of a crowd scene, that will represent my [probably much less than] five minutes of fame (not counting my role as confused, frightened audience member in the finale of Back To Reality in which, as I recall, Beth figured on-screen a little more than I did ... not such a surprise, I suppose - she's a lot more camera friendly!)

The rest of the weekend's been relaxed - we've tidied up a bit, had a couple of friends round, and Monday's just around the corner. There've been no entries for last week - I'll remedy that as soon as I get the opportunity. It's a busy old life.

Before I go, though, I finally found my copy of "Wizball" for the Commodore 64 - what a fantastic game! I still can't complete it though. Well, OK, I'm having trouble getting off level one. I think I'm getting old.

Posted by james at October 24, 2004 10:42 PM

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