No shit Sherlock

He’s had a haircut, I observed of the young gym manager handling someone’s query at the hotel reception desk.  “Hello mate,” I said, and bleeped my membership card under the scanner to unlock the door, not commenting on his haircut.  He replied in kind and I flicked a glance over my shoulder at his customer, just as the customer looked up from his administration towards me.

Millions have been snared by the soulful eyes of Benedict Cumberbatch, from the stage, screen, magazines and newspapers.  He’s especially great for the page, almost naturally 3D, and this week vying with Dr Who on the Radio Times cover.  Seeing him there wasn’t entirely out of context as I’d just read an excited tweet from a writer of the Sherlock series which Cumberbatch was in town to shoot.

Ooh look, it’s him, I thought, as we both looked away.  Thought he’d have had a better hotel.

I hauled myself into the changing room with the faint shame that comes from visiting the place without intending to do any sort of workout.  Tired from a family weekend involving entertaining children and charming old people, I just wanted a steam, sauna and maybe a soak.

As I began to undress, he glided into the otherwise empty changing room behind me, radiating the easy grace of someone well-used to commanding attention.

Faced with celebrity at such close quarters, you’re never quite sure whether to engage them, or just let them get on with what they’re doing.  I’m sure many females would have happily traded position with me at that moment and simply watched, entranced by his being.  The comments below and wildly inflated traffic directed from numerous fansites would seem to support this.

Yet here was the sort of setting – empty gym changing room, Sunday evening – when it was natural to exchange a few civil words with someone, so I chanced conversation.

“Filming starts tomorrow, right?  I saw one of the writers’ tweets just now.”

“Oh, he’s been tweeting, has he?”

There ensued a few minutes debate about Twitter, only broken when he realised he didn’t have a pound coin needed for the locker and I offered him one.  He declined: “God no, it’ll be fine.  There’s nothing of value in there anyway.”  Really?!  I thought.  Selling his mobile phone to a tabloid fleetingly scurried through my brain.

The chat even continued while he used a urinal.  It was clear he had no time for Twitter and couldn’t see how others did.  I understood why it holds no appeal or necessity for him: a widely admired, successful young bloke with an instant audience and network.  However, I tried to persuade him that there are many others who really do have the time, in fact far too much of it. Like me.  There are others not blessed with a network or audience as immediate.  On top of this, it serves all kinds of purposes in business and socially.  I wanted to transmit this without giving a strong impression that I was the kind of needy tosser he derides.

“Have a good swim,” he said, leaving the changing room before me, his antipathy towards Twitter unshaken.  Again I felt guilty that I wasn’t planning on swimming or doing anything that required exertion.  Hampered by an aching lower back I even felt slow changing into swimming shorts, then doubled back for a pee before heading to the steam room.

After several minutes of solitary time in the steam room, a heavy breathing Cumberbatch entered.  I wasn’t sure if he was disappointed to see me: oh, not him again, don’t talk to me – so I showed no sign of recognition for a couple of minutes.  He’d just done his lengths in the pool and glugged hungrily from a water bottle.

Ah, bollocks, I thought.  “Good scripts then?” I asked, as if seamlessly resuming our earlier conversation.  Still recovering regular breathing and taking in water, he nodded.  “Very good,” he said, “less establishing is needed for this series so they’re quite different.” I didn’t know what else to say after that, so let the silence hang.  “Going to the sauna,” he added soon after.  “See you in a bit.”  He stood up and left.

This left me with a dilemma because the sauna was my next planned stop.  But I didn’t want him to think I was stalking him so gave it a few minutes.

Hell, I wasn’t going to be guilt-tripped into not taking a sauna by Benedict Cumberbatch.

I exited the steam room, showered, walked several footsteps, opened the sauna door, enjoyed the warm blast, and sat down.  It was empty except for him.  He probably hates me now, I thought.  I won’t say anything else.  Instead I stared blankly at the floor, like people do in saunas.

“This your local gym then?” he asked.  Quickly followed by “lived around here long?” and “what do you do?”   Fuck Ben, I’m an aimless freelance nobody with an anonymous online identity because I’m a spineless lonely man necessarily protecting a boring professional identity.  Let’s not talk about me.  You’re an actor at the top of his game who’s short skip away from Hollywood, if you want it.  That’s a bit more interesting.

I didn’t actually say that, of course.  By way of compromise I steered discussion onto areas of London we were both familiar with, the things Cardiff and Wales has to offer.  We each shared a dash of family history.

There was a brief but comfortable pause.

I expressed my guilt at going to the gym without doing any work.  He said I should swim, just a few lengths to get the heart pumping.  I didn’t impose the story of my dodgy swimmer’s ear.  He told me he’d just done thirty lengths, really fast and really badly, but it was enough.  It was true.  The naturally neon Cumberbatch face was glowing even more than usual.  I could easily imagine him doing meditative exercise too: yoga, pilates, or Tai Chi.

Rising to leave, he said that regular exercise was good because filming could get really boring at times; lots of hanging around on set, just as bad as any office job.  I openly spluttered my disagreement and his expression conceded that it was probably an unfair comparison. We bade each other goodbye for the last time.

He was replaced in the sauna by two local guys, some distance apart in age but joined by their love of Cardiff City Football Club.  We discussed the club’s PlayOff chances and the decapitation of a British holidaymaker in Tenerife.  The younger man threatened to chop someone’s fuckin head off if Cardiff lost to Swansea in the PlayOff final.

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23 Responses to No shit Sherlock

  1. nuttycow says:

    *swoon*

    (that is all)

  2. Blonde says:

    You were in a sauna with the ‘Batch? *Dies of jealousy*

  3. kylee says:

    OMG!!! if u have a twitter, can i follow you sir?!?!?! please?!?! 😀 xxx

  4. V says:

    I constantly sort of fantasize in my head about how I’d react in that situation. Though, your point about the whole gender-issue in the locker room is highly apropos. To put your stalker vibe in comparison, I actively intend to meet Mr. Cumberbatch one day, gears greased with the truly excellent screen play I have not yet written. How the hell am I going to keep from going tits up with fangirlish sensory overload?

    I think it’s going to require a good solid notebook, a new Pilot gel pen, and a healthy measure of alcohol. Then I can just outright say, “you see this notebook? This is my artistic credibility right here, and it’s going right between you and me. The first round’s on me.”

  5. Somebody says:

    All I can think is “Wow, he sounds like a right prick.” All my suspicions have been confirmed. Now, let the fangirls kill me, I assume.

  6. zephyrdragon says:

    Wow! I would’ve been far too tongue-tied to have even said a word…

  7. Thirteen says:

    Thanks for a very interesting read! Not only because you met Benedict Cumberbatch in sauna of all places but the whole story is very well told. I enjoyed that a lot. I myself would manage to strap only a few non coherent sentences together if I were in your place… But then again, I’d probably won’t be able to say anything to him at all (I’m like that with all attractive men whom I don’t know, famous or not famous). 🙂

  8. swashbuckled says:

    Thanks for comments. Slightly overwhelmed by the unprecedented traffic – perhaps naively given a subject who was always likely to have a number of fan-sites. This blog doesn’t command very much at all.

    Kylee – do as you wish, right panel of the blog.
    V – good luck with that and keep going.
    Somebody – not sure how you got that impression. Certainly wasn’t one I was intending.
    Thirteen and others – thank you for comments and for reading.

    I’ve seen from places this has been linked from that a few have questioned the integrity of publicly blogging about the meeting in this way. This guy’s a public figure and also just a guy: a fairly regular-seeming one based on my experience of him. I’ve blogged about strangers here who have interested me here before, albeit none of a similar profile. There’s little essential difference. I said nothing personal about him and was actually deliberate in omitting some details for this reason.

    I understand “awkward” is an over-used word of the current teenage / youth generation – possibly as a defence mechanism because it’s a tricky, uncomfortable time for many, but there really wasn’t too much about this meeting that was awkward. Not even any sexual tension, though I did envy his pecs a bit. And everything else about his life.

  9. Haley says:

    Wow! That’s the kind of chance meeting I daydream about. 🙂 Kudos to you for just being yourself and not going all wibbly and star-struck–I can only imagine that folks with Cumberbatch’s level of visibility appreciate being treated like people once in a while.

    On another note, your writing style is lovely. Elegant, expressive and with a distinctive voice. Good luck with future written work, and thanks for sharing this rather remarkable little anecdote. 🙂

  10. Lorz says:

    Just read this; first of all, good entry, I mean if I’d have met a female celebrity in the sauna, and was slightly familiar with her work, I think my reaction would have been much like yours, even with the “Hell, I wasn’t going to be guilt-tripped into not taking a sauna by Benedict ” bit…that if I would have been able to get a word out of my mouth, assuming I would have get past the thought that because they’re celebrities, they’d be short and not very friendly.
    Anyway, you sound like a good bloke, don’t get bothered by those who don’t agree with you writing this. After all, it’s your blog, and you’re not giving away details of the gym or important and maybe personal bits of info he may have told you. Keep on writing, and do take Ben’s advice about swimming!
    Cheers!

  11. Pingback: Inés y los famosos | MUNNYLAND

  12. Lights says:

    Wow, was it really necessary to go into all that detail? I understand wanted to share an “I met a celebrity” story but it seems you kind of stalked him into the sauna & then told the world about him taking a piss in front of you?

    Thought I was reading fanfiction at first.

  13. Holly says:

    I thoroughy enjoyed your report. You have a lovely style of writing. Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you. As a fan of Benedict I appreciate that you didnt mention the name of the hotel because sure as eggs he’d be bombarded. I wish I could still afford to be a member of a gym. Those days have gone.

  14. jules says:

    Nicely written.
    I’ve always gotten the impression (from interviews and such) that Cumberbatch is an actor who likes his privacy, but is also a friendly, polite sort of man who likes to talk (a lot) and nothing you wrote changed that impression. So thanks.

    I use Twitter, but I can see why others might find it a ridiculous waste of time….because it is.
    On the other hand I hate Face Book…..

  15. Mya says:

    I haven’t got a clue who Benedict Cumberbatch is, in fact I had to ask my husband. He said something along the lines of ‘Oh he’s one of those over-rated t***s like David Tennant – Google him, you’ll be underwhelmed’. So you see, I wasn’t attracted to your lovely weblog because of its’ hot and heavy Cumberbatch action. Am I the only one feeling that perhaps the moniker Cumberbatch is a little cumber-some? Hardly trips off the tongue. I’m off to see what I have been missing. Beautifully told nugget, btw.
    Mya x

    • Somebody says:

      Nope, you are not alone. “You will be under-whelmed.” I think I might love your husband a little bit.

  16. hendrika says:

    How nice of you to write down a personal conversation just because that person is a famous actor and there for a “public” person.
    Not only is it akward(and No i`m not a young person,though thank you for the assumptions) it also shows you really have no class at all.

    As for the 2 people who are negative,I suspect that both of you never ever have seen one thing of Mr Cumberbatch work nor do you had the pleasure of meeting him.
    It shows pretty much both of your ignorance and disrespect to Mr Cumberbatch and to the people who actually like him as an actor.

  17. swashbuckled says:

    Thanks again for comments. All are pretty interesting, positive and negative, and throw up tricky zeitgeisty questions. Can a chance conversation between two strangers in a public place be private or ‘personal’? Is mentioning that someone took a piss an excessively graphic detail? (Be careful using the internet). I’m comfortable not knowing the answers and certainly not plagued with guilt about anything here. I’m sure, if ever he were alerted to this trivial post, Mr C wouldn’t give two hoots either.

    Mya – idly curious in how / why you came to read this with no idea who he was?

    Apologies if the earlier ‘awkward’ comment came across snooty. Given most traffic came from fansites, tumblr and livejournal, I didn’t think presuming a younger audience was grossly unreasonable.

  18. Mya says:

    I arrived chez toi by way of Against Her Better Judgement, via Brennig Jones. I look at people’s blog rolls, you see. I’m weird that way. Glad I do though, because it’s a good way of finding interesting new blogs to read, like this one. I’m going to stick you on my blog roll too, if you don’t object.
    Mya x

  19. Thanks for sharing this little meeting–it was a funny and interesting read. I’m a big fan of the show (saw your blog in the BBC One Sherlock FB page) and I’m just excited that they are finally shooting the second series 🙂

  20. Sir Itch A Lot says:

    Oh, haters hate. I’d read or listen to a conversation about anyone. I’m a nosey parker that way.

    I’d probably do the nonchalant, ‘don’t know you from Adam but like to chat’ route myself because I have that attitude of ‘Don’t look at the asshole’s $$$ car! $$$ watch! $$$ bag!’ I’m petty like that.

    Did he wash his hands after said wee?

    I’d have gone on about all the fungal infections you can catch in the gym. People love disease talk, especially if it escalates into topics such as Apotemnophilia, a neurological disorder causing otherwise sane, rational people to desire and demand an amputation of a healthy limb or Peduncular hallucinosis, a neurological syndrome causing visual hallucinations such as people or animals appearing smaller than real life, scary or deformed faces and heads and many people walking in straight lines.

    But, yeah. Plantar warts, Staph infections, Ringworm, Athlete’s Foot and, finally, CA-MRSA infection aka “flesh eating” disease, which is a hop. skip and a jump from scintillating topics such as Epidermodysplasia verruciformis or ‘weird-ass tree bark type skin,’ Pemphigus vulgaris, a chronic blistering skin disease and Rabson–Mendenhall syndrome, symptoms starting as early as childhood, hirsutism, mental precociousness and phallic or vaginal enlargement.

    Trust me, he’d have stayed for hours and made you a Facebook friend.

  21. JI says:

    What a lovely article! I especially love the way you end it:)

  22. Wow, what a fascinating article. You are very lucky to have met him in such a low-key environment and to have kept your head! Your writing style is very readable, too. He seems like a very normal and down-to-earth guy who is very cultured (the bit about the locker was great). I especially appreciate that kicker of a last paragraph where you contrast your conversation with him with your conversation with the two guys who love football. I doubt Benedict cursed as much. Thanks for sharing this with us–fans hardly ever get a sense of who he is in a more private sphere, so it’s a treat to read. 🙂

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