Tales of the Unexpected: An Eventful Commute and a Mysterious Stranger…

“We do not create our destiny; we participate in its unfolding. Synchronicity works as a catalyst toward the working out of that destiny.” ~ David Richo (The Power of Coincidence: How Life Shows Us What We Need to Know)

As I’m in a storytelling mood I thought I’d relate a recent audition anecdote.

Late Thursday afternoon I took my son William to London for a film audition. He was desperate to go, his last one was for a small part in Pirates of the Caribbean 5, many months ago. I arranged for my girls to go to an afterschool Halloween party so Will and I could enjoy some rare mother and son time.

We made our way to the casting agent’s office located on the colourful and vibrant Portobello Road in London’s trendy W11. Being to the west of central London I had considered driving, but I knew that the traffic would be stressful, and with my previous track record of parking in London I should find another solution!

Will had learnt his script on the train, and for once we arrived in good time. There was no-one else in the waiting room and Will had his usual 10 minute audition with the casting agent and we were back on the street just before twilight descended.

We had a pleasant walk, passing the candy coloured houses, even if I did manage to navigate a an entirely different route back to Notting Hill Gate.

old house near Portobello Rd

We normally grab a fast food meal when he’s done an audition, but Will was keen to go to Nando’s (his favourite restaurant chain), and persuaded me with gusto that he deserved a Nando’s because he had earlier that day been invited by the head of science at his school to study the single sciences for GCSE, (he’s been working hard and revising for exams to get into triple science, which is only offered to the top 10% of students in the year), so I could hardly refuse!

Nando’s was conveniently located near Notting Hill Gate tube station and he heartily tucked into a hot meal. When I say hot, I mean hot. He tried the extra hot sauce this time, handling it with aplomb. Only a really runny nose and a bright purple face gave away his perverse pleasure at eating their most feared dish. I was getting hot flushes just from the chilli fumes coming out of his pores!

I urged him on (he likes to eat leisurely when in Nando’s), as I knew we had to get to South Ruislip station by 18.59 where we had to change from the central line tube onto the mainline train that would take us to High Wycombe. Many of the trains between Marylebone and High Wycombe only stop at Gerrards Cross and Beaconsfield. I knew if we missed it we’d be sat on a cold, dark and deserted platform for ages…

We left Nandos at about 18.15 and settled in on the long tube journey. We finally trundled into South Ruislip at 18.56 and most of the commuters disembarked with us. I could see the mainline train waiting at the other platform, so we ran as quickly as we could down the stairs, dodging through throngs of people and bounding up the other side, only to see the train pulling out of the station. We must have missed it by about ten seconds.

As I was still struggling for breath from our little sprint I couldn’t even verbalise just how cross I was!

The driver had departed two minutes ahead of schedule, he hadn’t even bothered to wait and see if there was anyone from the tube who wanted to change platforms. William wandered up the platform as I cussed and cursed the train driver. Thanks to him we could get mugged, stabbed or robbed, as all sorts of scary images entered my mind.

By now it was dark and getting cold, so I sat down in resignation of the exact scenario I had so wanted to avoid. It seemed everyone had left and the station was deserted except for Will and I. About a minute passed and then a strange thing occurred.

Nancy Thayer

Without me really noticing a young Asian man appeared from nowhere and sat next to me on the bench. I turned to him and immediately felt comforted.

He was obviously not of evil intent, but well dressed in a suit, I would say in his early thirties. Will had walked back over and he started chatting to us. It seemed we weren’t the only ones who hadn’t meant to be waiting around on a shadowy, shivery platform. He had been travelling on the mainline train from Marylebone to High Wycombe, when, for some inexplicable reason as his train stopped at South Ruislip and lots of people got off, he got off too, without realising it wasn’t his intended destination.

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” ~ Albert Einstein

So there we were; an unusual trio. We learnt his name was Aaron. He showed us pictures of himself on the Great Wall of China and he told us about  travelling through Japan on the Bullet train in response to William asking randomly how fast they go after a fast train had whizzed past us on the way to Birmingham.

He asked about us, so we told him about the audition and he established a great rapport with Wills, asking him what he wanted to do. I jokingly pointed out that he didn’t appreciate his mother at the moment, being a supremely vain, confident, knowledgeable (and often ratty), 13 year old boy. Aaron told us that his mother lived with him and his family. He spoke with such wisdom and friendliness it had a profound impact on both of us.

He told us that in many cultures extended families were still at the forefront of life, but since the industrial revolution and the emerging capitalist culture of ‘me first’ in the west, families were more separated.

He said, “I’m a Muslim, and we have a saying: the gates of paradise lies at the feet of the mother.”

He seemed almost prophetical. He then went on to tell William that although he may not appreciate me, his mother at the moment, that would change and that he should remember me when he’s attending premieres on the red carpet. He told William that he had the right look to be a top actor and certainly the brains.


Twenty minutes went in a blur and the mainline train duly stopped at the platform. We got on, but didn’t sit together. It turned out that this train was terminating at Gerrards Cross, so two stops later the three of us found ourselves in déjà vu back on a cold platform, but this time under shelter and with plenty of lights. We wandered over to the taxi rank but it was too pricey, so went back to waiting and chatting on the empty platform.

We discovered that Aaron was an investment banker in the city, he specialised in recovery from the financial crisis, so I asked if he dealt with large sums of money, to which he replied, “Billions,” without even batting an eyelid. I think our mouths were gaping at this point. I asked if he got nervous working with huge funds, and he acquiesced that he did at first, but now he was used to it.

He explained that he was salaried on 200K, and showed Will his top of the range Rolex watch. He didn’t come across as being materialistic to me, I felt he was encouraging William more by telling him that he had worked hard, (degrees from Oxford) and that Will could achieve that if he worked hard too. He was preaching to the converted, Will is super conscientious and ambitious, but I could see that Aaron had made a very positive impression on him.

Soon the train arrived and we were once more hurtling towards High Wycombe. When we got off he quickly disappeared into the crowd and we went back to our car.

Both Will and I had a feeling of synchronicity – like we were meant to meet him on that platform. You had to be there to fully appreciate the profundity of it! So, Aaron, if you ever read this; thank you for being our companion for the evening!

Deepak Chopra - synchronicity

I love this short video by the late Dr. Wayne Dyer about synchronicity and strawberry icecream:

I narrowly avoided a car accident on the way back from the station, and I got thinking that maybe our encounter with the mysterious Aaron at South Ruislip and Gerrards Cross was a good omen for the film part and Will’s future career.

We were both exhausted by the time we got home. The things I do for love!

“Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.” ~ Carl Jung

During half term I’ll be taking them all to hopefully glimpse their brother as an extra (tribal boy) in the Warner Bros. Pan film:

Auditioning, Acting and Parallel Parking – Random Experiences of a Child Actor and his Mum!

My youngest son, William Chapman, who is now 12, has been attending the Jackie Palmer Stage School in High Wycombe since he was about 4 years old. He has learnt a great deal in his time there, and whilst he doesn’t enjoy singing and dancing so much now he’s a teenager, he is passionate about acting and drama.

rsz_wills_and_daniel2 (2)

At Madame Tussauds with Daniel Craig, aka James Bond.

Over the years he has attended many auditions, and I have a few stories to tell there…

The most notable one was when he went for the part of Alfie in ‘May Contain Nuts’ the ITV two part drama adaptation of John O’Farrell’s satirical book. I remember Emily was only about four months old at the time, and because it was in West London I drove rather than taking the mainline train to Marylebone (which is what we always do for central London locations). This was a mistake. I was running late, (as usual), and I couldn’t find anywhere to park. I was worried that Will might miss his slot so I parked on double yellow lines, thinking we’d only be a few minutes.

Mostly, it’s a whole lot of travelling for ten minutes in with the casting director – if you are lucky; but this day it was a bit more involved so we were there longer than usual. I was mainly concerned with making sure my infant daughter didn’t bawl the place out!

may_contain_nutsWilliam was only about 5 then, and unburdened by the nerves he can sometimes suffer from these days. He seemed to relax and thoroughly enjoy himself. We left and went back into the road, and walked to where I parked the car; only there was no car. With my car gone, and the kids in tears, I ran back into the casting agency and became somewhat hysterical. They were brilliant; they called Westminster Council and established where my car had been taken, then called me a taxi to get there. I had to walk along the most massive underground car park in Mayfair carrying a baby in a car seat with a 5 and 9 year old wailing and moaning beside me. I duly paid the £250 to get my car back and drove home. As you can image the air was somewhat blue inside my mind!

There is a happy ending though, despite my drama they cast Wills as Alfie, it was his first TV drama role. http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/may_contain_nuts/

When I look at him sitting in the car seat he looks so young and blond! Here he is in part 1 with his pretend family:  mum Shirley Henderson, dad, Darren Boyd, and siblings Bebe Cave and Andrew Byrne:

I also remember another more recent occasion when I took Will, Max and Ruby (who was also only a few months old at the time), up to central London for an audition. We visited Hamleys on our way back but while we were inside the store it began to snow. Heavily. When we struggled through the throngs of Christmas shoppers and emerged onto Regent Street we were faced with blizzard conditions and rush hour. By the time our train pulled into High Wycombe station the whole country had virtually ground to a halt under the white onslaught, and nobody could get their cars out of the station car park. I had visions of us sleeping over night in a freezing car, or making a kind of arctic expedition on foot, which I didn’t relish with a cold and hungry baby. I think it was about midnight by the time we eventually got home with a little help from our family.

He’s done some varied work over the years: radio, commercials, children’s TV, Panto (Snow White) at the Swan Theatre, filming & photo shoots for Oxford University Press, Breathless and May Contain Nuts on ITV and BBC Learning.

Being a proud mum I couldn’t resist showing off his efforts as the young Edward Jenner for BBC Learning: http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/true-stories-edward-jenner/13410.html

I finally persuaded him to write a brief account of his recent filming as an ‘extra’ (tribal kid), on the Warner Bros. summer blockbuster for 2015, Pan.

RAF-Cardington01-fullWorking as an extra in Pan is amazing; it’s such an awesome experience! But it’s hard work though, ten hour days plus one hour journeys each way to the studios. It was very tiring. I normally had a 6.45am start at the rendezvous, where we travelled by minibus to Cardington Studios in Bedfordshire.

Luckily we always had a warm welcome and a warm breakfast to wake us up. Costume fitting and makeup took about an hour, but it was good to admire all the costumes.

pan_wordsearch (2)Arrgghh! Tutoring! This was next in my day. Tutoring could be fun though, and so it was a lot more enjoyable than school. One time we did a huge planned court case which was really interesting. Sometimes we didn’t go on set but on this day we did.

Once on set we were sheltering from the pirates under the ship’s floorboards and we had to be terrified! Our chief gets shot by Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), so remember to look out for that scene if you watch the movie.

After lunch we just did more tutoring then we went back on set for a retake of the earlier scene, but we were lucky enough to meet and say hi to Hugh Jackman! We gave him a high five, awesome right?

Well, that’s my day as an extra.

movie clapper boardIt was great to collect him at the end of a busy day, and hear him enthuse about a multitude of impressions such as: exploding mud, the energy of being on set, watching the actors practising their sword fighting skills, the delicious meals they had for lunch, meeting other young actors from a few other stage schools, including Levi Miller who plays Peter Pan.

It has been a wonderful experience for him.  For most of June and some of July he was filming (about 15 days), so I’m hoping it won’t be a case of blink and you’ll miss him when I get to see it! It’s due for release on 26th June 2015, I can’t wait…

Okay folks, I guess that’s a wrap!