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DIARY OF A CITY GUARD – PART 6

I exit the main costume tent and find myself, naturally, in another huge tent. Or is it a really big awning? Or one of those other tent-adjacent things, like… um… well, my tent jargon isn’t really up to scratch to be honest. We used to go camping when I was a kid, and part of this activity would involve visits to various camping stores where my brother and I would have a great time running in and out of the display tents and wondering when we could get one of these big ones with the separate rooms. But, despite my enthusiasm for this, it never translated into a dedicated study of the subject in general.

Tent or otherwise, ‘tis a communal space full of plastic tables and chairs, dotted with lots of people wearing ponchos who looked like they were usually asleep at this time of day, and a steady bustle of crew – costume, makeup, assistant directors, catering, drivers – who all look remarkably lively and happy.

Sorry, I’m reflecting on it again now and after googling assorted tents, I’m thinking it was a huge gazebo, the walls being supplied by the three tents it stood between. Of the other two tents, one is catering, the other is make-up.

As I wander aimlessly, taking in my surroundings, I’m grabbed by a young lady covered in ID tags, walkie talkies and clipboards and various belt attachments who has clearly spotted me as an idiot in need of assistance. She is correct. There’s a bit of a wait for makeup, so I’m ushered off to the catering tent to grab some breakfast. I ate on the way up to the studio – having no idea what to expect in terms of food when I got here. So I’m delighted to say that this is now my second breakfast. This is surely a good sign.

Pippin trying to keep it together after I tell him I got second breakfast and could have gone back for a third if I wanted.

There is a breakfast buffet thing going on here, which really is the only way to breakfast. I’m sure a hobbit would agree, although I suspect they’d turn their noses up at the paper plates.

Pippin: “What’s that?”

Merry: “This, my friend, is a paper plate”

Pippin: “It comes in paper? I’m not getting one”

Nevertheless, I’m pleasantly surprised that I can stack up on freshly cooked hash browns, eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, toast and all the usual stuff. Plenty of bacon too for those who like such things. There’s a coffee wagon too and they make an acceptable cup of tea. I wish it was like this everywhere else that I’ve worked.

I just told them what I had for second breakfast

I sit down to eat, and quickly realise that things have changed. Firstly, I’m wearing a cape. Capes are awesome, mostly, but they do make it somewhat trickier to sit down. Secondly, I’m wearing armour. As I sit the breastplate wedges itself into my neck, so to get comfy I have to lean back a little, making eating a much trickier proposition. This will get no easier any time soon!

There’s a reason you never see him sitting down.

Into the make-up tent. There must be twenty or more make-up stations, all with their own mirrors complete with lightbulb frames. Make-up paraphernalia is absolutely everywhere, and if you thought my tent-jargon skills were sub-standard well that’s nothing compared my almost total ignorance of the various accoutrements of the make-up trade.

As I wait to be seated I get a chance to take in my surroundings. I am, as you may remember, desperately looking out for clues as to what this show is about, what story is being told, which era of Middle-earth are we in? In the Tolkien fan-community speculation is rife but we still know very little other than that the Second Age seems likely. I can see no big clues here, but the walls are plastered with headshots of characters. I can see the races of dwarves, elves and men represented, and some of the photos are amazing, but it doesn’t really tell me anything. Besides, my attention is being drawn to the people sitting in the make-up chairs. They are all shapes, colours, sizes and some of them look just amazing. There are some fantastic head-pieces being woven into hair. I catch glimpses of costumes under ponchos, flashes of armour, hints of rags.

I am at this point getting a little nervous. As you may also remember, I’m still unsure if the original shave-off-the-guards-beards directive did become official policy or whether I’ve dodged that bullet. Nothing has been said and my beard is still where it belongs, as shabby and colourful as ever. Shaving it off feels like I’d be losing an old friend, like the death of a pet. Actually I probably stroke my beard more than I stroke my cat. You can’t help yourself, it’s part of the beard deal. Oh well, if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen now.

One of the make-up crew grabs me and I’m seated in front of a most unforgiving mirror. I don’t have my glasses on, so the effect is mitigated slightly if only for my own relief.

“Ok, what have got here… city guard”

“That’s me”

NOT THE BEARD NOT THE BEARD NOT THE BEARD.

“I’m just going to tidy up your beard as it’s a bit messy, then we’ll add a bit of make-up and do your hair, ok?”

“Sure, go for it”

THANK YOU GOD.

Under the circumstances a shorter tidier beard is a definite win, and she makes a far better job of tidying my beard than I ever do, so this is a double win. I’m surprised how much this relaxes me.

“Can you just take your wedding ring off?

“Actually, no. I can’t. It’s been there for the best part of twenty years in which time I’ve grown about twenty kilos heavier and now it’s stuck – much like I am with my wife”

I didn’t really say that last bit. But had she been there, my wife would have absolutely said that bit.

They’re going to see if they can get the ring off. It’s not going to happen. I’ve told them this. I’ve been trying for years. It’s a plain silver band, I’m not sure why they’re bothering. Perhaps the silver clashes with the gold of my costume. I mean it’s not like they didn’t have rings in Middle-earth. Hell, they had famous rings. They had names for their rings. This is, in fact, a pretty ring-obsessed culture when all is said and done – and it ain’t a healthy obsession either. It crosses my mind that perhaps the only way this ring is coming off is if someone bites my finger off. I refrain from suggesting as much. 

Jeez give it up guys

They try soap, gel, thread, all the usual tricks but to no avail. And now my finger hurts. No wonder Gollum went straight to the teeth. In the end they settle for covering it up in a flesh-coloured tape, which will pick up dirt throughout the day and stand out fare more as a result than the ring ever did.

After about twenty minutes I’m done and I’m back out in the gazebo tent awning lounge canopy area. I presume I’m ready to be on set now, which shows exactly how much I know about being an extra e.g. absolutely nothing. I’ll get there in the next installment. Actually I don’t think I will. The one after that though, for sure. Sorry.

1 thought on “Second Breakfast”

  1. “…it never translated into a dedicated study of the subject in general.”

    I seem to recall that TRtN does indeed include a reasonably in depth analysis of tents and their intersection with festivals.

    No need to hide your light under a bushel…nor, indeed, a large sheet of rip-stop nylon.

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