The Long and Fantastic Tale of Whitney’s Magical Deerstalker

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Alternative title:  That One Time I Met Famous People In England.

I spent three weeks in England this summer.  I was really hoping I’d meet somebody super-famous, like Stephen Fry or Tom Hiddleston or someone.  Unfortunately, I met neither of these wonderful gentlemen (though to be honest, I would probably melt into a quivering puddle of fangirl were I to meet Tom Hiddleston, so it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t run into him).  However, I did meet some other people.

It all started on the second weekend of the trip, when I went to London with five friends and spent a day seeing the sights.  The last place we went was the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street, and although we didn’t end up going in (we got there at 5, the museum closed at 6, and the line was horridly long), we took a spin through the gift shop.  I saw the shelves full of deerstalkers and was unable to resist the temptation.

(Alright, so maybe the story of how I met famous people doesn’t start there per se, but I feel like the deerstalker purchase lent a certain… fittingness, for lack of a better word, to the following events.)

The next Tuesday, I had my tutorial.  I went back to Brasenose after it finished, and I decided that I should really go shopping (I had a few things to pick up for a friend) and coffee-drinking.  So I left Brasenose again and turned onto Brasenose Lane, which (fun fact!) used to be the Ye Olde Englande version of a sewage pipe but is now a quaint little lane, bordered on one side by Brasenose College and on the other by the gardens to… well, I don’t remember which college exactly, but they’re very pretty gardens.  While on Brasenose Lane, I encountered a largish white truck with “Take 2 Films” emblazoned in black on the side.  I was slightly bemused, but I walked on.  Then I noticed that there were a lot of vans and film equipment straight ahead of me, on Market Street (which runs along the backside of the Covered Market).  So I trotted down Brasenose Lane onto Market Street and joined the scraggly line of people leaning against the wall opposite to the Covered Market.  I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, so I asked the lady next to me if she knew what was happening.

Lo and behold, Inspector Lewis was filming that day.

I could barely believe my luck.  Lewis is one of my favorite TV shows ever (for which you can thank Sydney, my roommate from last year), so I was understandably thrilled out of my mind that I’d stumbled across this.  (Well, to be fair, Lewis is set in Oxford, and they do basically all the filming there, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, but still.)

It didn’t seem like anyone was doing much of anything, so I just waited for a while with the lady and her friend.  I got to talking with them.  The lady’s name was Anja and she was from Finland, and her friend Peter was British.  Lovely people, both of them.  Old friends, apparently.  Eventually, some crew person told those of us on the street that nothing much was happening right then, so we could go into the Covered Market if we so pleased.  Peter – very much the jovially confident sort – figured if we went inside and talked to a crew member, we could find out where all the action was going to be.  So they went inside, and I kind of glommed on to them.

Peter talked to the script supervisor (really nice lady), and she told us they were filming a chase scene that day (!).  It was going to culminate in the middle of the Market, in an open area surrounded by a butcher shop, a little Italian place, and a shoe store (among other things).  They even had a special prop set up – a flower stall.  So Peter, Anja, and I wandered about for a bit before deciding to sit outside the Italian place and have snacks.  I got a cookie from Ben’s Cookies (most heavenly food ever – I’ll rhapsodize about my British food angst in a later post, though) and a lemonade from the Italian place (can’t remember what it was called), and we sat there for a while.  Numerous crew members were around, and a couple people appeared to be staging the scene near the flower stall (which apparently involves Hathaway tackling the perp and the two of them crashing into the flowers).  But other than that, not much of anything was happening.

Flower stall

I got a picture of the flower stall.

Then the script supervisor (I think it was her, anyway) told us that everybody was basically just relaxing out back.  No actual filming was going on at that moment.  So we left our table and went out back.  Kevin Whately (who plays Inspector Robbie Lewis) was already there, going over some lines.  Eventually I saw Laurence Fox too.

As I mentioned before, Peter was the jovially confident type, so he basically just went up to Laurence Fox and asked if he could take a picture of Anja and him.  Laurence graciously agreed.  And what do you know, after Anja got her picture taken with Laurence, Peter took a picture of me with Laurence as well.  Like I said, lovely people.

Laurence Fox, who plays Detective Hathaway in Inspector Lewis, and me.

Laurence and me.

(Now you see why I mentioned the deerstalker earlier – I was wearing it that day.  Actually, I wore it basically everywhere after I got it, even to my tutorial.)

We did about the same thing with Kevin Whately, just inside the Covered Market.

Kevin Whately, who plays Inspector Robbie Lewis, and me.

Kevin and me.

Then they were about to start shooting, so Peter and Anja and I had to go back out into the street.  Before long, the script supervisor came by again and told us that Colin Dexter, author of the original Inspector Morse novels on which Lewis is loosely based, was on set that day.  Anja had mentioned earlier that she was a huge fan of the Morse novels, so the script supervisor figured Mr. Dexter would appreciate it if Anja told him how much she liked his books.  So we found Mr. Dexter (can’t bring myself to call him Colin, honestly), and he and Anja had a nice little chat (with Peter taking pictures in the background).  Then I got to talking with him, and Peter took a picture of that too.

Colin Dexter, author of the original Inspector Morse novels, and me.

Yes, that’s me (and the deerstalker) awkwardly protruding from the corner of the picture.  Mr. Dexter is in the far chair.

When I told Mr. Dexter I was from the US, he told me a story about the first time he went to the US, way back in the 1970s or something.  (Unfortunately, I don’t remember all the details.)

He landed in NYC, at JFK (#alphabetsoup), and a cab was waiting to pick him up.  So were two TV cameras and assorted TV people.  I guess he was on live TV or something.  One of the cameramen asked him, “So, Mr. Dexter, what do you think of New York City so far?”

Mr. Dexter replied, “It looks like the trash hasn’t been picked up in about three weeks.”

The other cameraman asked, “Well, what would you do about the litter problem, Mr. Dexter?”

And Mr. Dexter jokingly said, “First thing I’d do is shoot the bloody mayor!”

Cue a bunch of TV people wincing and mouthing, “No, no, no, no!”

Eventually, Peter, Anja, and I parted ways, with Peter promising to email me the pictures.  I went back to Brasenose, my shopping and coffee forgotten.

BUT THAT’S NOT THE END.  *dun dun dun*

Two days later, I woke up early so I could go visit Christ Church College (site of several scenes in the Harry Potter films) right when it opened, at 9:00.  I walked down High Street and turned onto St. Aldates, spent about five minutes figuring out where the heck the entrance to Christ Church was, wandered through their beautiful gardens for a bit, and finally figured out where the entrance was.

And that’s when someone told me that the college wasn’t opening till 10 that day…

…because Lewis was filming in the dining hall.

(I suppose I should have known something was up when I saw the white trucks in the driveway, but oh well.)

So I went to a cafe across the street and had a pot of Earl Grey tea while I waited for Christ Church to open (and couldn’t figure out how to pay, but my British restaurant blunders are a story for another day).  At 10:00, I headed over again… and they still weren’t open.  Since I was scheduled to climb up Magdalen Tower and tour C.S. Lewis’s house with some friends that day, I decided just to go back to Brasenose.  I walked back with two nice American women who (surprise!) were also from Oklahoma (one of them was named Elaine – I think – and sadly, I don’t remember the other woman’s name).

Later that afternoon, after my friends and I got back from C.S. Lewis’s house, my friend Leah and I went to the Covered Market.  Guess who I saw there?… yep, some of the Lewis film crew.

Eventually, Leah and I ended up at a store on High Street.  We were standing on the corner of High Street and St. Aldates, when a black car came around the corner, not twenty feet from us.  And guess who was in the passenger seat?  Kevin Whately himself.  (I totally didn’t freak out at all.)

All of this happened while I was wearing my deerstalker.

I joked about it being a Lewis dowsing rod of sorts.  My friend Carl dubbed it my “Lewisstalker.”

Now I can’t wait for fall so I can wear the deerstalker again.  Hopefully it’s still magical.

Yeah, I really like this thing.

Elementary, dear Watson.

…screw it, I’ll wear it anyway.

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