Following on from the travel post a couple of days ago, I’ve had a memory prompted by a post on Moving Feet, which illustrates her point.
I was in Los Angeles, killing time before a meeting, having lunch in a restaurant on Ventura Boulevard. Perfectly happy eating alone with a book to read or notebook to scribble in, I was irked when some woman sat down at the table right next to mine. The restaurant was almost empty – she had the whole place to choose from. *sigh* Then she committed the un-British solecism of interrupting my reading. ‘That looks good,’ she said, nodding at my plate. ‘Mmm,’ I responded with a polite smile, and returned to my book.
‘Are you here on holiday?’ my tormentor asked. I put my book down, irritated, knowing that she wasn’t going to give up. So we began a conversation. She was a youngish woman, very chic and elegant, beautiful, slender and well-dressed, bobbed black hair, olive skin, almond eyes – familiar face. This was Hollywood, so there was always a chance of seeing someone one recognised. I couldn’t place her, though.
She said she had just finished a run at a theatre in San Francisco, so she was an actress. Still couldn’t place her. Turned out she was British, and came from Marple – a small town in the North of England, where I had been only a week earlier, by coincidence. She was thrilled by this; when she said she used to stay with her grandparents in Hindhead (south of England), and I said I went to school in the neighbouring town, Haslemere, she was thrilled again.
We spent a very pleasant hour talking about England, about books, about life in general, but we never introduced ourselves or talked about our own lives. She left, and I asked the teenage waitress who the woman was. The girl had no idea but brought me the credit card slip that she’d signed.
It was Nancy Kwan – Suzie Wong, to those who remember the 1960s film with William Holden. Wow – Nancy Kwan. I thought she was about 35, and she must have been over 60. I could have talked films to her, asked her about William Holden and… but we talked about Hindhead, and Marple, and utterly un-starry, un-Hollywood things. Proper conversation with a perfect stranger. Just right.
What were your most memorable encounters abroad? Most fascinating strangers met? Best or worst conversations?