“You’re not a proper comedian are you?” said the AA man. “Not like Bernard Manning”.
It has been a sinister few weeks. A man who I don’t really know terribly well, and have only met on a handful of occasions, asked me to accompany him to watch a film at the London Film Festival. It was at three o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon in Leicester Square, and it was also Halloween.
I agreed to meet him because I’ve never known anyone like him in my life and I need the material. He is a lot older than me, has a red face, white hair like Father Ted, and wears a green tie with shamrock on it. I said I would meet him only if he dressed up as a wizard: of course I was only joking.
As I walked up to Leicester Square on this cold afternoon, I saw a man perched on a bench in a big black pointed hat, green face, white string beard, white shirt, bow tie, long black jacket, and a silver wand. The public were walking past pointing and laughing at him. For a moment I thought it was a setup and that Jeremy Beadle would soon jump out from behind a tree and laugh in my horrified face.
As I stepped closer, I recognised his shoes and then his hair. It was him: he had dressed up as Harry Potter. I felt a chill running down my spine, sweat pouring from my legs and the hairs on my chest stood on end. I thought I was turning into Fatima Whitbread.
“I did it for you,” he said. “Thanks, but can you just put your normal clothes on and act your age?” I replied.
On Friday night, while driving up the M6 north to Bradford in horrendous traffic, the accelerator cable on my car snapped. I quickly pulled over to the hard shoulder and called the AA. It was extremely efficient and a van arrived promptly. The mechanic said: “I’m afraid I won’t be able to fix this at the roadside. Could you get in my van and I’ll tow you to Bradford.”
This all seemed fine, till I got in his van and there was another man sitting there. “Hello,” I said, to which he blanked me. The mechanic said: “We’re very busy tonight and I just need to drop this man off first and then I’ll take you to Bradford.”
There was silence in the van, till the first passenger got dropped off. Then I moved into the front seat and the AA man asked me where I was going? I said: “The Beehive Inn.” “Oh, Peter Sutcliffe’s old joint,” he smirked. The venue where I was performing was an old haunt of Sutcliffe’s and, as the man kindly pointed out, it was situated in Bradford’s red light area and down the road from where a few Ripper murders had taken place.
The battery on my mobile phone was very low, it was pitch black outside and the conversation in this van was very weird. As we travelled up the motorway past a sign for Saddleworth, he said: “Are you into Hindley and Brady?” “What?” I shouted. “Are you fascinated by them? Read any books on them?” “No,” I said, and tried to change the subject. AA men have obviously been trained in making women feel comfortable when they’re on their own and their car has broken down.
“Will we get there on time?” I asked. “We’ll get there at around 10pm. What do you do?” he said. In a desperate attempt to lighten the conversation, I said: “I’m a comedian.” He laughed in my face. “I had you down as a singer. You don’t look like a comedian; you’re not a proper comedian though are you? Not like Bernard Manning.”
I tried to divert the conversation back to serial killers but it didn’t work. “Oh, I loved Manning, he was hilarious, funniest man I’ve ever seen. We need more like him these days. What do you talk about luv?” “Oh, just everyday stuff,” I replied. “What, like this journey: will you be talking about that?” “Yes I will, it’s been a laugh a minute. Thanks for the material.”
I couldn’t wait to get out of the van; where is a wizard when you need him?