Location: Sydney, Australia
Starring: Orlando Bloom
I've been holding out on a story - not for any special reasons, just that I kept forgetting to tell it. First, though, I need to set the scene.
While we were back in Australia last year, we had to pay a visit to the US Consulate in Sydney. The specific visas that allow us to live in the US require us to reapply if we leave the States for any amount of time. Annoying, expensive, and it seems to be a mere formality. I have to say, Americans do love bureaucracy (that word is my Achille's Heel of spelling).
Naturally - being the US Consulate - the location itself is super tight with security. It's in one of the tallest buildings in Sydney, split over two levels. First, visitors need to arrive fifteen minutes before their appointment so they can 'check in' with security, on the tenth floor. It's not unlike going through an airport - passports need to be presented, then shoes removed, a walk though a metal detector, then all personal belongings (barring your actual paperwork and passports) handed over to a cloak/bag check in. Yes, even your wallets and phones. Especially your phones, and they must be switched off.
Once your load has been lightened on the other side of the metal detector, you need to present your paperwork to one of the staff members who are sitting at a large wooden table. Generally, two different people can be seen at a time. The staff members look over your paperwork to make sure you have everything you need for your appointment upstairs.
Did I just say upstairs? Because once your paperwork has been checked, you are then ushered to one of four rows of seats and instructed to wait until your row is called. When your row is called, you are then escorted to a lift and whisked up - from memory - to the 59th floor. Once you step out of the lift, there is a lobby, filled with large flags for each of the Australian states and territories, an Aboriginal flag, and - of course - the stars and stripes. There is further security waiting there, to open (what appears to be) the heaviest bomb-proof door, into the main part of the consulate.
Once through that door, it looks like any standard place which involves taking a numbered ticket, waiting... waiting... and presenting your paperwork, being 'interviewed', and having your fingerprints taken. If you're Australian, think of the RTA (in NSW) or Centrelink. If you're American, the DMV. British, where you go to get your NHI number. In other words, there are rows and rows of bored-looking people, sitting in plastic seats. Except, they are extra bored because nobody has their phones or reading material to kill their waiting time. One wall is lined with numbered windows through which to interact with consulate staff. The only feature which makes this place any different is that there are pretty American tourism posters lining the walls, and the end wall has a very large window that overlooks part of the city and the sparkling harbour - quite breathtaking, in fact.
So there you go - scene set.
We had a morning appointment at the consulate, and managed to get all four of us there without any drama. We did the check in, walked through the metal detectors, and handed over the stroller - along with all our personal belongings. No phones. No kiddy snacks. Definitely no water bottles. Then J sat down at the large wooden table, next to another fellow, as the staff sitting opposite them went through and checked the paperwork. Meanwhile, I wrangled the girls as we sat in our row - waiting to be given the all clear to head up the 59th floor.
Of course, being a two-and-a-half year old, Miss Pie had no interest in sitting quietly. Why would she? This was a confined, security-tight place... time to run around, in other words. She began to charm various other people nearby, then I heard giggling and she said, "Aww... cute baby! Mumma, there's a cute baby there!" My gaze followed to where she was pointing, and sure enough, there was a sweet looking little boy, about eighteen months old. The two of them pulled funny faces at each other, giggled more, and ran around together. I was just relieved that she had some form of entertainment.
After about a minute or so, I watched as the little boy wandered over to his father, who was sitting at the wooden table next to J. Both men were sitting with their backs to us, but when the father turned around to his little boy, I realised he was Orlando Bloom.
My first reaction was to swivel around and see where Miranda Kerr was. I've always thought her to be gorgeous so it was only natural that I wanted to ogle... but she was nowhere to be seen. It was just Orlando and their kid.
Holy shit, my kid is playing with Orlando Bloom's kid.
I looked over at J, to see if he'd noticed who was sitting right next to him. J's not the type to get starstruck but he's seen most of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, not to mention the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He definitely knew who Orlando Bloom was. I was unable to see J's face, so I tried to will him to look over. I was ready to do all kinds of crazy faces to convey Somebody Famous was sitting next to him.
To be honest, until this day I'd never really had a thing for Orlando. Plenty of my girlfriends did though, so I was mostly just looking forward to gloating about seeing him in the flesh.
Eventually J was told he could come and join us, so that we could go upstairs when called. Frantic whispering ensued, and yes, he'd seen who was next to him.
Orlando and his little boy were escorted to the lift a few minutes before us - after getting Miss Pie to say goodbye to her new playmate, I thought that was that. End of encounter. Not even polite chit-chat with Orlando, just the polite smiles that parents exchange in playgrounds when their kids are playing together.
We were ushered up to the 59th floor shortly after, took a number, and waited. Rather than sit down amongst all the bored people, we were drawn to the window with harbour views, where warm sunshine was spilling in. After a while, J was called over to one of the numbered windows - which was thankfully nearby, meaning I didn't have to yank the girls away from the window.
Then I noticed the person at the numbered window next to J's was Orlando... and his little boy was running around, looking for someone to play with. Sure enough Miss Pie found him, and there was a lot of giggling together.
Over the next forty-five minutes or so, J was called to his window a number of times, as was Orlando (yeah, I'm going to pretend I was on first-name terms with him... you would, too). Back and forth. Visa and passport issues can never be a straight-forward matter, right? Basically, there was a lot of waiting around. Us. Orlando. Our kids playing (by this time, the Faery was in on the action too).
The polite 'playground' chit-chat was inevitable. At first, despite my prior non-crushing status, I felt a little self-conscious every time my mouth opened. To Orlando's credit, he was utterly charming, without coming across as too smooth.
The usual small details were exchanged - such as the kids' ages. Miss Pie is a year older than Orlando's son and - as he watched Miss Pie - he said was trying to imagine what it would be like when his little boy was another year older and talking more clearly, but couldn't imagine. Like most dads, he sounded excited at the thought.
Orlando asked us if we lived in the US, we told him which part of LA we live in (and the studio where J works)... and I was tempted to point out the obvious about us being the same nationality as his wife, and that we should all get together some time for pavlova (yes, I really did have that thought - jokingly, sort of - so it was a good thing there was no wine around to loosen my tongue).
I didn't, though - I couldn't. I'm not even the type to ask for autographs, or to have my photo taken. I used to have a job which involved meeting famous customers often enough, and I decided a long time ago I could never gush or act girly in the presence of someone famous. A little tongue-tied, maybe, but that's it. My personality is far more that of an aloof cat than a friendly puppy.
Mostly, though, our little chats centred around the kids playing together, little observations and expressions of pleasure that they were playing so well, and were keeping themselves entertained, not getting bored. The sort of relief that only parents know when stuck in a situation like this - a confined space, long waits, no toys or snacks to dole out. And truly, it wasn't just mindless comments. The kids were playing beautifully, and compared to many of the little boys I've known, Orlando's was one of the most well-behaved, easy-going, polite toddlers I've encountered. I was impressed. Had we been in this situation when Miss Pie was a year younger, I'm certain that a meltdown would have been unavoidable.
Okay, so this was hardly a rock'n'roll encounter. I probably haven't made it sound terribly exciting... but at the time, it seemed so surreal. I mean, if I told anyone I'd met Orlando Bloom, they'd immediately assume it was somewhere in LA - not in a US Consulate in Australia. Also, I was struck by how much of a regular person Orlando seemed to be when he was chatting to us. There was no ego evident. It was like talking to someone sitting on the same bus or train ride. He appeared genuinely interested in our answers and came across as a warm, friendly person. He clearly adored his son, and my friends who are in love with him probably would have quivered helplessly if they'd witnessed the quick, casual nappy-change he had to perform.
A movie star in a black T-shirt, black jeans and boots, whipping a travel pack of baby wipes and nappy from his back pocket... sounds like one of the Ryan Gosling memes, right? (I'd like to know how he smuggled those upstairs, by the way... I certainly wasn't allowed to bring... stuff...)
Anyhow, everything drew to its natural end. Paperwork and interviews sorted, we all shared the lift back down to the tenth floor and collected our belongings. On our way out, I saw Orlando being greeted at the exit by two or three people - assistants? - and handed a bag, sippy bottle, coats and so on. We said our farewells, and that really was it, this time.
Except now, I'm no longer immune to the movie star appeal of Orlando Bloom. I confess: I've joined the ranks of my girlfriends who crush on him. A little...