Saturday, January 29, 2005

Nationwide Airlines, Somewhere Between Durban and Joburg

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Service: * * * *
Food: *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Shaft is the director I'm working with at the moment. What a good dude. Styles himself as a film revolutionary. And he is exactly that. Gonna go far, this chap.My crew and I are flying back from our two-day visit to Pietermaritzburg. I'm heavily sunburnt on my arms and neck. Ntobeko, our camera-dude is sitting on my left. Across the aisle, to his left, is Shaft, our director. Musa, the sound-fellow, is sitting behind shaft. I'm the producer.

"Did you get that at the Exclusive Books sale?" I ask. Beside me is a delicious waif.

She hefts the book on her lap. "Nah, it's just in-flight reading," she says.

She must be a speed-reader. The flight from Durban to Johannesburg is only about an hour. Turns out she's been back in South Africa for a month on holiday from Dublin where she now lives, and she's heading back there, making a connecting flight in Joburg.

I try some small talk, asking her what she does in Dublin. Her name's Ashika. She's a psychologist. Specialising in children. I notice that she's being very polite with me. "Uh," I say, "if my chit chat is bothering you, just let me know, and I'll try and hold myself back from talking to you. Would you like me to shut up?"

She looks at me. One beat. A second beat. "Yes please," she says.

"Done," I say.

But I can't stop glancing over at her. And she's totally aware of this. So I decide to do an airplane sketch. I struggle to reach my cargo pants pocket in the cramped seat, but eventually get my palmtop out. I run my sketching software, and start drawing.

The fine art of using sketching as spadework. Ashika. A super-beauty.Of course, she notices instantly, and closes the book just as I get the curve of her nose down. "What are you doing?" she asks. She's not angry. Just a little wild.

"Drawing you," I say, and show her the screen.

"Isn't it customary to ASK permission before you draw someone?"

"I normally don't ask. Would you like me to ask?"

She glares at me, but her eyes are sparkling, and she can't hide a smile.

"May I draw you?" I ask, sketching another line.

"Okay," she says.

"Read your book," I say. "I need your profile."

I notice some activity in the seat beside me. Ntobeko is conferring with Shaft. I glance at them. They both give me a hubba hubba thumbs up. They're impressed with my spadework.

I keep drawing, then start doing the colour. That's always time-consuming. It normally takes me a good thirty minutes to do a detailed colour portrait. The 'fasten your seatbelt' sign pings on, and the captain announces that we're preparing to land. Technically, I'm supposed to stop using electronic equipment when this happens.

But I figure a palmtop is just like a watch, and I'm fighting against time here. This will only serve as spadework if I can actually finish the drawing. So I keep sketching, and ask Ntobeko to warn me when the stewards are approaching.

He nudges me. I hold the machine face down, and hope they can't see the glow. They see nothing. I keep colouring Ashika's picture.

"Here," I say, just as we start the final descent.

"Isn't that supposed to make me look beautiful?" Ashika asks.

"Oh, I can't make you look more beautiful than you actually are," I say.

I show Shaft and Ntobeko the pic, and they give me big thumbs up signs.

Then I hand Ashika my business card and say, "I'll email it to you if you send me your email address when you get back to Ireland."

"I'd like that," she says.

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