One of the interesting aspects of filming a hidden-camera show is the opportunity it gives you to become someone else. Every morning I get up and spend three hours in make-up, donning wigs, fake noses, different-coloured eyes, and then get into costume. It gives me a unique insight into how difficult life must be for some people.
For instance, when filming Trigger Happy TV, I had a traffic warden character. After an hour or so filming, I'd head off with the crew to get a spot of lunch and wonder why people would sidle up to me and whisper the crudest of expletives, as I selected a sandwich in Pret A Manger. The people doing this seemed totally normal in every other respect and I would feel quite paranoid until I remembered that I was dressed as public enemy number one – the traffic warden, who is seemingly on the same appreciation level as a child molester. Drivers would hurl abuse at me as I walked down the street and I had to remind myself constantly that they were abusing the uniform and not, hopefully, the man.
This week I was on the island of Portland in Dorset, where we were supposed to be filming several scenes on its windswept cliffs. I was dressed as a heavy metal fan: long hair, torn jeans with a denim jacket, and an assortment of studded bracelets and skull rings. However, the weather was appalling and we abandoned filming for a while and took shelter in a pub called The Pulpit, a pretty depressing place half-full of a motley collection of pensioners sitting in pairs and eating their lunch as slowly as possible to delay having to go outside again.
Five of us slumped down at a corner table and started to think about drinks. We'd only been there about three minutes when a large man approached our table.
"Are any of you planning to actually have anything here?" he said, in an accusatory fashion that indicated he presumed we were just there for the ambience. He was particularly looking at me, but I wasn't fully concentrating.
The man, who turned out to be the landlord, went mental. "'Eh!' What do you mean, 'eh'? Would you talk to your father like that? You need to learn some manners..."
I was speechless at his almost magnificent rudeness. It would have dumbfounded Basil Fawlty himself. Then I remembered that I was dressed like Status Quo's roadie, which may have upset him.
Looking round the pub, the dress code seemed to be "anoraks and despair" and we probably didn't fit in, as some of us had matching shoes. I was about to take on the rude man, but it was too late. He was now being incredibly patronising to my costume lady who was trying to explain that we were filming nearby and wanted some drinks while we waited, not normally an odd request in a pub, but clearly off the charts at The Pulpit.
We got up and headed out to face the elements. Outside, a forlorn-looking children's ride sat empty on a rusty spring. Doubtless, any child that tried to ride the thing would be shouted at by the landlord and asked for payment. Life is tough for a metaller...