Tuesday, September 18, 2007

3. The Film

Well, I started to forget about it all. I got busy: Jody and I are gearing up for college, we’ve got a pile of reading to do (and the flat is littered with exploded dolls’ houses, Jody’s sculpture based on her fears that our landlord is about to kick us out). And then Ahmed asked the house if we’d like to be extras in a film he was working on.

Even Brenda was up for it, and Magda said she’d come too, and on Saturday afternoon we all set off variously into town.

Summer at last, although it was meant to be autumn, and the city was like a huge playground, or a theatre: Albert Square had been turned into an athletes’ racetrack with spectators cheering; outside M&S a grinning crowd was watching girls dancing with the drum band; the big wheel turned above the massed drinkers outside the toytown ancient pubs moved wholesale for redevelopment like a living stage set. In the square behind Urbis some girls were dressed for some reason as fairies, in luminous colours. A vast crowd of kids was hanging out on the green there, which Mike pointed out was the very location of diabolical nineteenth-century slums. Brenda added that before the bomb it had been a car park, and they went on describing the different ways it had been in Manchesters Past, which made the current one seem pretty flimsy, and you couldn’t avoid the feeling that we were in a film already, a film of the present.

We’d met up in Starbucks (Mike had refused to order on political principle), and now it was time to leave the crowds and go to the modern footbridge across the Irwell which looks like the deck and mast of a ship, and where all the film directors like to get shots. Ahmed waved from his mixer over the other side of the bridge. The film was about a couple of cat-and-mouse business rivals, a man and a woman, who solve their rows by falling in love and setting up a monopoly instead. We had to walk onto the bridge towards the actors playing them and pass them in the middle. The first time we did it, the sound wasn’t working at all. The second time it wasn’t right. Halfway through the third, a drunk homeless man on the riverbank shouted up to all of us filming, ‘Fuck you, you wankers!’

We were about to do a fourth take when I froze. Someone strolling by on the far side, someone in a stripy hat, had stopped to speak to Ahmed. The guy from the library! The friend of my mystery caller… And then he strolled on and was gone. For a moment I wondered if I’d really seen him.

But Ahmed knows him! Or rather, he knows him slightly: he knows he’s in a band, and that they’re doing a gig next Friday evening, an early session. Ahmed said he’ll go with me if want.

And then I switched on my phone and there was a message from my mum: Don’t forget, it’s Nan’s birthday Friday.

Turns out they’re giving her a party, seven o’clock, way out at her house. They’re fully expecting I’ll go.

And I want to. This is me, right? Cat Smith, loving granddaughter. And Nan would be so disappointed if I didn’t.

But I also really want to talk to this guy and find out what’s going on...

You voted for Cat to try and do both things: go to the gig with Ahmed and to her nan's birthday party. Tune in Tuesday morning to see what transpires.


Elizabeth Baines said...

Huge thanks to everyone who has voted so far, and huge apologies to those who found they couldn't vote last week - there were problems with the poll site, and we've changed to a different one this week, so fingers crossed it will all be all right.

Elizabeth Baines said...

It's an interesting process, this. I think at the start I was a bit scared of the story going where I couldn't control it (just as am in fact, whenever I write, although here the whole process is being writ large, and of course I'm sharing it). So I viewed the choices I was giving voters as not particularly radical: a choice of venue, a choice of companion - these seemed peripherals. But in retrospect I don't think they were: the implications for the identity of the stranger and his motives were radically opened up for me by the different milieus they created, which left the way the story could go much wider open in my head.

This week I thought I was creating a much more radical choice for voters: the choice of three different courses of action for Cat, but it became clear as the voting went on that there wasn't much choice really: the third choice was obviously the most interesting as it would dramatize a conflict, always the best ingredient for narrative.

Interesting. As if the internal logic of the story is taking over both me and the voters (which I find is always what happens in writing).

But then we'll see next week.