As the evening began to wind down I spotted Martin on the other side of the room in conversation with a young lady. By now well ensconced in the party and being in a mingling sort of mood, I drifted over. I’d just about managed a “hello again” before Ian McDiarmid came over to say his goodbyes. The awkwardness of not being able to participate in the conversation sent my synapses into overdrive. How do I involve myself in a conversation of which I know nothing about? Should I just laugh/smile/frown/nod in an appropriate manner? I should say something. This looks ridiculous. I’m just standing here with a vacant smile on my face. In the end, I simply stood there with a vacant smile on my face. I’m not entirely sure how I made the connection but, as McDiarmid then bid us farewell and departed, it could have been an attempt to fill an uncomfortable silence, but I turned to Martin and said, “D’you know what, you should go speed-dating.”
I know, I know…and I still don’t know why I said that. In context, I’d just been a couple of nights before and it was clearly something in the forefront of my mind. I think I’d been trying to think of a gambit to start the conversation again, in that attempt to get ‘chummy’ when one thinks a famous face is someone to befriend. My colleague Stirling made a good point when I related this anecdote the other day. He said that the trouble when you meet someone in the public eye is that you already know (or think you know) about them, but they know nothing about you. And that’s exactly what happened. Like Hugh Grant’s sappy sister in Notting Hill, in my head, Martin and I could forge a lifelong friendship on the strength of our meeting that evening. And what do friends do when they go out together? Speed-dating, naturally. Martin’s retort to my suggestion was an exemplary put-down, “Have you ever had a girlfriend, Toby?” It transpired that the lady to his left was his, and is now his wife.
I tell my other half this story and she laughs. Come to think of it, she dines out on it. “Tell everyone about the night you met Martin Freeman, Tobes.” Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. Thanks, I’d rather not.
8 Years Later…
As luck would have it (depending on how you look at it) I had an opportunity to redeem myself not two weeks ago. As part of the publicity for the brilliant Sherlock, I was due to meet the cast and creators. The thought of running into Martin again filled me with a slight sense of unease. I’d been wondering how to act/react. Will he remember me? What if he remembers what an idiot I am? Should I say anything? I had visions of him recognising me and saying “Oh, you’re that twat I met once” and then punching me in the stomach.
When he entered the room I slunk further into the sofa as he greeted the others. Finally, he came to me and said, with a degree of familiarity, “I know you…” as he offered his hand. Off his quizzical look I gave him my name and reminded him that we’d met a few years ago at the Charles II party. “Oh, yes,” he said. I should have left it there. But this is me we’re talking about. I continued, “…where I believe I’d had a bit too much to drink and was a little embarrassing. Embarrassing for me, I mean.” He dismissed it, “Really? Oh, I don’t remember that. That was a long time ago. Not to worry, I’m sure,” or words to that effect. And, with that, it was settled and we moved on. I had a sneaking suspicion he was being polite. He remembered. But the rest of the evening went swimmingly and professionally and, while we didn’t exchange much more after that, I felt redeemed. And he didn’t call me a twat or punch me in the stomach. What a thoroughly decent chap.
To any famous names and faces out there reading this that I may meet in the future, can I offer my apologies now if I come out with anything daft/over-familiar/inappropriate/otherwise. It’s not really me, I promise. But if you’re single, I can thoroughly recommend speed-dating.
Sherlock: The Complete Series 1-3 is on blu-ray and DVD on 20th January 2014 and is available to buy from amazon and all good stockists.