Nice steno you
2012-04-24 | 9:58 p.m.

Today I bumped into my erstwhile Old Bailey judge in the street whilst walking to Bank to catch the DLR home.


Well, that we still work within a mile of each other, yes, but it was nice and chance-y nevertheless and I enjoyed talking to him about his various murder cases that have been sent to the Court of Appeal.

I'm still getting used to this new working life, but there are many familiar faces about which are helping the ongoing transition much more enjoyable than it otherwise could have been. Did my first day in the Royal Courts of Justice today (apart from the one time I was sent there whilst training five years ago, the digital audio failed and the court clerk screamed at me, 'WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?!') and, really, I have just been turning up at wherever I'm sent and trying to just Do My Best (with as many shortcuts as possible). Lex was at the RCJ too today, so we ambled over together from our Fleet St office as I announced 'It's like the blind leading the blind!' whilst walking out and having no idea where I was going.

I'll see how things are in a couple of weeks.

Oh yeah! I was in the RCJ recently actually, being part of a new film coming into existence! (I wish theswordsman was still with us as I bet he'd love this.)

So what happened was several weeks ago the assistant director contacted the Old Bailey when we were still all there and enquired about borrowing steno machines for the film. Would you let a complete stranger handle and incorrectly poke the most expensive thing in the world you own? Well, exactly. And so they quickly learned that it would be cheaper from a budget point of view to hire any enthusiastic real life stenographers (four of us in total, I think) to play the role of stenographers in the film!

I did my day on Sunday 15th April and it was quite an experience and fun in parts but the world of film is most certainly not for me. So I had to rock up to their base which was by Waterloo station at 7.00 am (I got up at 4.00 so I did not go out a-boozing the night previously!), sign my life away and whatnot, have the outfit I selected checked by costume, have breakfast and then be shipped over to 'set' (the RCJ) with all the other extras.

Then the waiting began. They were shooting the scene from the opposite side of the courtroom to where the stenographer sits so I had nothing to do for a while (brought a book, listened to some of the extras yapping on about their acting pipe dreams, went out to get a cup of coffee) and...then I was on!

So I sat where I would traditionally sit and, disappointingly, my machine was hidden by the desk. The crew did all they could to make me (a not especially diminutive 5 foot 7) as high as possible by having me sit in the chair on wooden pallets (eek!) and my feet on platforms but, eh, I still think I was too low down. I then got asked to not press the keys of my machine as they were 'too noisy' so I ended up having to mime in most of the shots.

They shoot one scene five, six times and then you're lulled into a false thinking of 'Ah, that's it,' but no, they want to shoot the exact same scene from a different angle. And then another. And another. I was steno-ing Eric Bana who has a lovely face, so that eased the tedium somewhat.

And then at about 1.30 pm, I'm starving and it's lunchtime! They put on full catering outside and you can go and sit on buses to eat.The food is great - they had cold stuff like breads and olives and couscous and pork pies, hams and cheeses. Hot food like baked chicken breasts, salmon, potatoes, vegetables, curry and finished up with carrot cake and apple crumble - you're well looked after. The most exciting part of the day was walking back to the court after lunch and I thought it was our film but it wasn't and some dude with dark hair walks past me and I think 'Hmm, he looks somewhat like Alan Partridge,' and it turns out it's Steve Coogan and Anna Friel filming some paparazzi mob chase scene. Awesome!

So the afternoon and I've turned from stenographer extra into normal extra who's going to get bossed about by the moody runners (one of them shouted at the extra playing Grandma FFS! 'You've come back to the waiting room instead of going to the set. WHY HAS THIS HAPPENED???') and we're filming in the RCJ hall (Eric Bana chatting to Kenneth Cranham about some bollocks) and I'm a little ant in the background getting scanned by the extras playing security guards and ad libbing by wandering up the enquiry desk to pretend to make a phone call, which always seemed to be answered by the pervy guy playing the role of Judge who suggested a 'subplot of the judge having an affair with the stenographer' *vomit*.

Might have ruined continuity by scarpering off mid-shoot to put my passport away, which was given back to me by one of the moody runners to ascertain I am a UK citizen, but ah well!

Finished the hallway scene at 6.30 pm, was offered sandwiches and pastries outside and then bussed back to the Waterloo base to have our payslip thingies signed. Went for swift cocktail with four of the extras after a declining a lift home from the 'judge' in his 'Rolls Royce' and then cheerfully went on my way home. The end!

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