I was tired, hungry, and covered in my friend’s blood.
It had been six hours since we'd first entered A&E, and I had spent at least the last two of them staring haplessly at the out of order vending machine. I hadn’t had a drink since sunset — beer — and the mechanical hum, and icy droplets of residue glistening from the cans trapped inside were beginning to drive me insane.
Perhaps I’ll never leave, I thought irrationally. Cameron (my wounded friend) had disappeared into one of the four doors situated at the far end of the waiting room three quarters of an hour ago. At least five other people had exited from that same door since, which struck me as odd seeing as when I had tried to peek inside, the room itself seemed incredibly small.
Having failed to unlock a can of Iron Brew from the broken machine using only the power of my mind, I decided to cut my loses and go for a cigarette. I don’t smoke often, but I felt that this was the sort of occasion that merited a cigarette. If but for no other reason than to communicate with the gaggle of other pale faced smokers hovering outside the hospital entrance and remind myself that escape was possible.
Of course, it hadn’t meant to turn out this way…
Cameron — a bio-anthropologist, and photographer — had approached me several weeks prior, to ask if I had wanted to help him with his zombie film. After a breakdown of the storyboard, which (I don’t want to give to much away) focuses on Britain’s aging population, and rather ironically the recent budget cuts to the NHS, I was sold and excited to begin preproduction.
Our first job was a location hunt. Cameron is planning on recruiting a large number of elderly people for the project and there are certain restrictions in terms of health and safety, travel distance, and due to the likelihood of cast members using mobility scooters — terrain. Also, from a filming perspective certain considerations have to be made in terms of light, accessibility, space, and of course appropriate atmosphere. What might appear to be a fantastic location on a sunny day with only the director and camera-person, could be an entirely different kettle of fish when filled with a full crew, and a motley band of senior citizens.
We had decided to do the location hunt by bike. It seemed to make sense, as we’d likely be stopping and starting to take pictures and explore, also I had heard word of a nice ale pub in Newbourne called The Fox, which I thought — as we were in the area — it was only right to visit.
This, I think, might have been our fatal flaw…
We had been cycling for well over an hour, when we discovered the abandoned waterworks and dilapidated flourmill just outside of Newbourne. Set deep in a valley, the water works industrial, east German esc architecture contrasted perfectly with the wooden framed, and ivy ridden country mill. It was anarchically beautiful and Cameron and I both agreed, a prime location for some Zombie action. However, hunger pains had set in and The Fox was enticingly close. We made the executive decision that we’d go for lunch and return later to get our shots.
The Fox, it turned out, was an archetypal chocolate box pub nestled in the centre of Newbourne; a stone throw away from the church (it seemed that the original village inhabitants had their priorities firmly set.) With its bright pink stone exterior, terracotta low slung roof, hanging baskets and a beer garden fit for the May Queen, it was hard not to draw clichéd comparisons between The Fox and a country picture postcard. This, and the fact that we’d been riding fixies with slim line seats on uneven roads for at least the last nine miles, made the allure of the pub all the more enticing.
All thoughts of zombies had been forgotten as Cameron and I marched (slightly bow legged) to the bar to inspect the beer situation. Suffolk is synonymous with ale, the county is home to three prestigious breweries — Adnams, Green King and St Peters — and by result the local public houses have become testing grounds for new ales (it’s a wonderful thing). The Fox was no exception. We each ordered a pint of Adnams Broadside; it’s a strong dark beer, and my personal favourite.
Like any village pub The Fox is home to a group of locals. Ol’ boys who sat stooped at the bar, sheep dogs panting at their feet, muttering to each other in thick Suffolk accents. Cameron and I perched on a table close by, gulping our ale and discussing the film script. The faster we drunk, the louder we got. Our debate was becoming increasingly heated when the closet ol’ boy, who had a large grey beard, green flat cap, and bright blue eyes, leant over to us and said with a seriousness neither Cameron or I had expected.
‘So you youngens are making a film then, I’ve always been interested in film, I like the new Russian Movement, particularly Mikhalkov, why don’t you let me buy you two Scorsese’s a drink.’
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little shocked by the ol’ boy’s statement. However it turned out that Alf (which was his name) and his small group of drinking companions were quite the film buffs. Slowly one pint turned to two, two to three, three to four, time passed, and the sun slipped from the sky stretching it orange and pink waves over a hazy deep dark backdrop.
Cameron suddenly stood up, almost knocking his head on the pubs beamed rafters — his 6ft 4 frame oddly comedic as he stooped to fit in the low ceilinged room.
‘We must go Katherine. Look at the light, I must get my shot!’
‘Yes you must go, go get your shot,’ echoed Alf, raising his arms and gesturing to the heavens like a dishevelled, slightly hairier Julius Cesar. I staggered to my feet, increasingly aware of my limbs and the fact that they weren’t cooperating with my desire to move. Cameron had become unnecessarily animated in his sudden wanderlust to reach the waterworks, and his excitement had stirred Alf into a frenzy of movement that I think even he was shocked at, and made me feel a bit sea sick.
‘Fine’ I said, ‘Lets go.’
Riding a fixed gear bike when drunk is a little bit like riding a fairground-bucking bronco — fun and exciting, but hard to stay on top of. I unlocked my bike; aware that Alf and the group of ol’ boys were standing at the entrance of the pub to wave us off. I threw my leg over, wobbled, and immediately fell off.
‘I’m Ok!’ I shouted, leaping to my feet. ‘I’m fine!’ The ol’ boys cheered behind me.
‘She’s Ok,’ they chanted, ‘she’s fine!’
I tried again (pleased that I had their support) and slowly but surely cycled after Cameron and away form the bright lights and waving audience of The Fox.
We arrived at the Waterworks much quicker than I expected.
Cameron abandoned his bike at the edge of the road, and with uncharacteristic aggression ripped open his camera bag. Slightly caught up with the exhilaration of it all, I followed his lead. Chucking my camcorder together in a manner that would suggest that I knew exactly what I was doing (which in hindsight really wasn’t the case). Cameron was prowling the circumference of the barbed wire fence, like a velociraptor assessing a goat pen. His eyes fixed on the roof, and the industrial beauty of the buildings illuminated by the setting sun.
‘We must get there,’ I said in a hushed whisper, ‘we must get to that place.’ Cameron nodded in agreement. We launched ourselves over the fence and onto the grey stoned building beyond. Camcorder dangling from my neck, I reached the first rooftop and saw the bleak zombie landscape shot that I wanted. I filmed a minutes worth of footage. During this time Cameron had continued his conquest of the building. It didn’t take him long to reach the summit, he looked pleased with himself and began waving erratically from his lofty height. Bastard, I thought, I would have liked to have had beaten him. He stuck his tongue out, gave me a competitive two fingers, stepped back — and disappeared with a thud.
‘Bloody hell,’ I shouted, running to the building ledge. Cameron was lying on his back, legs in the air, in a rather convenient pile of bog waste. Cursing he pulled himself to his feet. I laughed loudly, and he looked at me with venom.
‘I got the shot,’ I giggled, ‘safety first!’ I clambered down and met him at the foot of the fence. We hopped over, and then something very peculiar happened. Cameron, whist holding on to the fence, jumped, and didn’t let go. His hand stayed stuck to the barbed wire. He yelped loudly, and ripped his arm free. Blood sprayed everywhere. I stared at him and, fearing the worst, timidly asked if he was OK? To which Cameron replied — clutching his streaming hand — ‘I can see fat, Katherine, I can see fat.’
Now, I’ve spent the last 5 years studying in London, which means I’ve grown accustomed to city living, a major feature of which is that your never stranded. No matter where you are there is always a means of escape. Sure, transport may be in the form of a rickety route master, the packed Piccadilly line, or a Boris bike, but it exists and its constant. This is not the case in the backwaters of south Suffolk.
‘I’ll call a cab,’ I said becoming increasingly aware of the gravity of the situation. I whipped out my trusty IPhone, I had no idea of any local taxi numbers, or indeed, where the closest hospital even was, but I assumed that the power of the Internet would provide me with the answers that I so desperately needed — which of course it would have done, had I had any bars on my signal. I had forgotten we were deep in a valley. Cameron had grown quiet and was standing, staring at his hand.
‘I’ll be right back,’ I said, hopping on my bike. I knew if I could get out of the valley, I could call for help — and be a hero. I peddled as quickly as I could up the steep hill, panting and wishing I were fitter (or riding a bike with gears). I reached the top and praying to god, brandished my phone to the sky…
One bar – limited Internet access.
With no way of calling a cab and my beer jacket wearing thin, there was nothing else for it. I had to do the one thing that nobody over the age of 18 ever enjoys doing. I had to call mum.
Half an hour later she sped round the corner. She wasn’t happy; she was supposed to be attending a jazz concert. Cameron and I shuffled into the back seat. Muddy, blood-stained and shame faced — the early tinges of a hangover setting in.
‘At least we got the shot,’ I said.
‘Yeah,’ Cameron replied grinning, ‘lets have a look.’
I opened up my camera, and hit play.
In my excited and drunken state I had completely forgotten to press record. Cameron looked at me with despair
‘Next weekend then,’ he said.