Last week I walked to see Peter, our main character, on two separate occasions and with every step my heart sank deeper. I arrived at his shop on Tuesday to remind him of the conversation we had about our short documentary. I was full of smiles but I could tell in his demeanor that he had other things on his mind. I handed him my only printed copy of the proposal and his response was to shake his head and say, ‘no, I’m sorry but I can’t be involved’. After getting over my initial shock I sat down to talk to him and tried to persuade him of the importance of this film. Rather than rush him with an immediate and definite answer I pressed the precious printed proposal in his hands and said I would be back on Thursday to get his final answer.
After two sleepless nights I took a slow and considered walk to his shop. My head swirled with methods of persuasion, panic and resigned re-planning. ‘I am going to disappoint you’, were his first words and the narrative did not improve after that. Suffice to say I spent the next three hours listening to his fascinating stories from his well-lived life with growing gloom. We would never be able to put this on film. I understand his reasons and I respect them. Then reality dawned, what next?
After spending a blistering, heat becalmed, weekend in London searching for an alternative we settled on a great, British house-clearer called George from Leyton. He is an ex-butcher who, after a quadruple heart bypass, wanted a quieter life and now works with his grandchildren in the house clearing business. I had a long conversation with him on Monday and he is a very proud and dignified man that I think would enable us to tell our story of re-using old materials and relishing all things of age. I think George would offer a fantastic, although different, take on the work of a house clearer. From his clean shoes, to his butchers’ apron and his well turned-out tie, I think we found our man. A good traditional Londoner who looks you in the eye with a firm handshake and a gaze that says, I have known life and all its troubles.