In the dark days between Christmas and New Year 2007 I went to Northern Jamaica to be the second camera operator on a crew making a pilot food programme. It was an incredible trip. Sun, sea, sand, beautiful scenery, friendly and interesting local people and lovely food, of course. We worked long days and there were some tough moments – standing on a chair inside a small beach hut with thick black smoke from the patty pan billowing painfully in to my eyes as I tried to get some delicious closeups wasn’t my finest hour – but I have great memories.
After the work was done we went our separate ways to relax. I went west to Negril to go on some long walks, swim in the sea and lounge about reading novels in my wooden shack hotel room. After a man accosted me kindly on the beach for walking too purposefully (“Whatever it is will still be there when you get there, darlin”) I stopped wearing a watch and learned to look around more. I experienced the most incredible massage I’ve ever had from a massive lady whose technique was reminiscent of a punch up. It was a bit of an ordeal at the time but I felt amazing afterwards.
On the last day I met up with Amanda (the presenter of our show) back in Montego Bay, and we dallied as long as we could on the sandy beach, sipping Red Stripes and marvelling at the perfect weather. As the sun beat down on me I waded knee deep in to the clear blue water and peered in to the sky, watching the planes ascending and descending and feeling sad that I would soon be on one myself.
At the airport, I hunched in to my plastic chair, the technicolour memories of the past few days flashing through my brain. I felt relaxed for the first time in ages and vowed, as all holidaymakers do, to try and recreate that feeling back in the craziness of London life. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew it was important.
Suddenly I was shaken from my reverie by Amanda, who stood over me with an urgent look on her face. “You have to come with me”, she said. Paul McCartney was in the airport bar, she told me, and she thought it was very important that we go and have a look at him.
I sprang up and went with her, making my thoughts clear along the way. I didn’t want us to accost him, it would be rude to disturb him while he was on holiday – but standing near him would be fine. We could just stand in the bar and get a drink and then we could tell our friends that we’d stood near Paul McCartney in Montego Bay airport. It would be a great story!
Amanda agreed, and as we entered the bar we saw it was empty save for Paul and his little daughter. The bar staff were very excited, chattering away to him but loudly mistaking him for a member of the Rolling Stones. I stifled my laughter and went in to smooth, standing-near-Paul-McCartney-and-not-making-a-scene mode, chatting nonchalantly to Amanda about absolutely nothing.
Within moments Paul turned around and said “Hello girls, would you like a drink?” I can only surmise that, tired of being told he was in the wrong band, he’d heard our English accents and wanted a change of conversation. In shock, I requested a Red Stripe and started making small talk about how beautiful Jamaica was and asking had he enjoyed his trip. I think the entire conversation must have lasted for 6 minutes tops, because First Class boarding started for our plane and he politely excused himself.
When he’d gone Amanda and I stared at each other incredulously, then quickly vowed to always stay in touch so that if ever someone questioned our story the other would be there to corroborate. I thought of all the things I could have talked about with Paul McCartney as a musician interested in hearing the wisdom of a songwriting legend – being a bassist, making albums, touring, pushing creative boundaries – and was pleased that we’d just had an easygoing, natural conversation about nice places to go in Jamaica. It would have been too easy to blurt out “I love your band!”, but I’d rather be remembered as the mysterious British woman at Montego Bay airport who kept her cool.