My life is a film and I’m a bit-part player

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Jardins 4

(Yes, yes, I know Shakespeare put it far more eloquently but I can’t help it that he got all the best lines.)

A long time ago in a relationship far, far away, an ex-boyfriend accused me of expecting my life to play out like a movie. He said (condemningly) that I require all the people that I meet to be in some way interesting, for my work to be fulfilling and afford me travel to fascinating places, and for every day to have some kind of poetry to it, even (or perhaps especially) in times of unavoidable suffering. Get real, he said. Life just isn’t like that. Well, if you’re reading this, ex-boyfriend (and you know who you are), it turns out that life kind of is.

Sometimes bits of my life end up in movies in a literal sense. After the Great Johnny Depp Experience of 2005 (is there an expiration date on stories about brief but exciting brushes against someone else’s fame?), I decided to retire from the movie extras game for good. I believe in going out with a bang, as it were, and I had to face the reality that it was all going to be downhill from there. (“A sex scene with Ryan Gosling? Pah! I wouldn’t get out of bed for that!”).

But you just never know where life is going to take you and last Sunday I found myself back in the role of an extra once again, this time at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, the home of the Large Hadron Collider.  It turned out that a guy who works for the CERN audio visual service is making a feature film and needed some people to dress as lab staff and sit in a boardroom looking fascinated while a glamorous French neurobiologist (a real one, incidentally, not just someone playing one) talked in depth about her field. It was revealed in conversations between shots and over coffee that my fellow lab staff hailed from Venezuela, Italy, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Ireland, Latvia, the USA, India and Belgium, while I represented the UK and Australia. I don’t think my performance will be attracting the attention of the Academy (I was wearing makeup, after all, and no-one in my scene died), but it was a fun and unexpected way of spending a Sunday morning.

At other times, my life can feel like a movie just by the sheer good fortune of being in the right place at the right time. A few weeks ago, when one of my four gorgeous sisters was visiting from Australia, we decided to stop for coffee in the Haute-Savoie town of Annecy on the way back from a hair-raising morning on the Aguille du Midi. (The experience of the ascent to the highest restaurant in Europe, the imaginatively named “3842”, is one that my sister will not soon forget…).

As we walked through the streets, of the “Venice of the Alps”, it became apparent that this was no ordinary Saturday, but a carnival day. I was so mesmerised by the costumes, the music and the throngs of people on the cold and beautiful streets of the Old Town that it didn’t even occur to me to get my camera out. (Stupid, stupid girl!) As we roamed the streets in search of a favourite shoe shop where my sister was to purchase the perfect pair of European winter boots, we found ourselves marching to the beat of a different drum… Literally. Under a series of arches we finally found the drumming band, a group of about 20 enthusiastic amateurs beating their drums and stomping their feet until my sister and I felt it not just vibrating in our chests but also coursing in ridiculous rivulets down our cheeks. Easily moved to tears, my fellow Scorpio sister and me.

As I sit writing this, in the garden of the chateau my partner and I are renting in south-east France, the sun is making its slow descent behind Mount Grand Colombier, there are two birds sitting on the feeder about a metre from my seat, and the slight breeze carries both the smell of spring flowers and the sound of church bells from the nearby village. It may not be Quentin Tarantino but this is a scene from the kind of movie I’d pay to see.

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