It was 8 o’clock and I had to go to bed. I was perusing the bookshelf in my Grandmother’s holiday house in Grace Town for a new book. The Carpetbaggers? Nah, looks like it has too much of that ‘adult material’ that is really too boring for a nine-year-old. Bloodlines? Ick, that had so much ‘adult material’ it put me off trashy novels for quite a while thanks. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? It was a thin paperback, just the title and author on a discreet rainbow squared background. Considering how it changed my life, it really should have had
DON'T PANIC!on it as well.
I settled down in bed and started reading. I finished about 2am, which was definitely my very first extremely late night due to a book, and when I got up the next morning I read it all over again, trying to work out if I had dreamt the entire thing.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is my first concrete book memory, my first taste of the humour of a generation of English writers and I have not looked back since. From 42 to towels and just how one can fly (you have to throw yourself at the ground and miss!), the wonder of Douglas Adams’ writing is a preciously personal experience for me; I am convinced that I developed my humour and my writing style under the influence of my Dad, Douglas and Alan Coren.
It was 10 o’clock and the sun was as strong here in the backyard of my first house in England as it was in Australia, left just three days ago. I had The Salmon of Doubt in my hand, the only book deliberately carted across the world so I could read it on the soil of Douglas Adams’ country. I had wanted to go to England for so long to meet him and since his death had robbed me of that, I at least had to read his tribute in the right country.
In the next 20 months I was able to observe the land that produced Douglas and Arthur Dent and I fell in love with a country and it's special absurdities that were often more disturbing than anything Douglas could have dreamt up.
It was 6 o’clock and I was straining the muscles of my feet bouncing up and down on my toes to see over the crowd to the movie stars on the bright blue carpet. It was my very first Leicester Square Premiere and I was feeling simultaneously embarrassed and excited.
Embarrassed because Ozy and Ely were patiently standing next to me listening to me repeat the same three phrases;
‘Stephen Fry is going to be here!’ *bounce* *bounce* *crane*
‘Sam Rockwell is so hot’ *elbow annoying girl next to me*
and ‘I am SO excited!’ *heft camera* *eye up the cute male TV presenters in the press pit*
and kindly holding an extra camera and notebook for the autographs.
I was excited because this was the premiere of the one movie for which I really, REALLY wanted to share in the excitement. The saga to get The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on screen has been decades in duration and it had always been present in the part of my life that housed Douglas, Arthur, Ford and friends.
For my first premiere I was quite lucky – I didn’t wait for long, I was in the perfect place to get photos and autographs and it was clement weather. Ozy and Ely were instrumental in getting me to conquer my politeness and elbow the crowd so I did get autographs and I walked away from my moment of High Geekiness with a hard-to-beat grin on my face.
The autographs? Arthur Dent himself, Martin Freeman; Zooey Deschanel, who plays the lovely Trillian and Anna Chancellor, a coup for me more for her role as Miss Bingley in Pride and Prejudice than her role in this movie.
The biggest star? Stephen Fry. I’m sorry, but my adoration of the man leaves me almost unable to articulate it in words. Suffice to say that two quotes from his great friend Douglas Adams will do the trick –
‘a brain the size of a planet’
(Marvin the Paranoid Android)
‘that is the least benightedly unintelligent organic life form it has been my profound lack of pleasure not to be able to avoid meeting.’
(paraphrased from Marvin again)
The biggest surprise? Movie stars really are titchy little people. REALLY small. Like I said, titchy.