Everyone should visit Wolverhampton. Just once. Visit it in the same exploratory way that you might visit Easter Island or Hollywood or Hell. It’s a highly life-affirming town in that it reminds you that there are places in the world far more bleak and frightening than your own poorly mind.
Circa 2001, a friend and I sit giggling at our usual table of the Wolverhampton Costa coffee shop. We are students. We are high on caffeine and Socrates.
Across from our table sits a lonely looking bald man, impeccably dressed and indefinably handsome, poking absently something white and frothy with a long-handled spoon.
“Hey, look at that guy,” I mutter to my chum sotto-vox, “I didn’t know Malkovich was in town”.
Back in 2001, anyone in our field of vision who happened to be bald and at all rugged would be John Malkovich. I think we had developed something of a fixation with Spike Jonze’s movie, Being John Malkovich or more specifically with the acoustically pleasing words “John Malkovich” or, even better, “Malkovich Malkovich”.
In this case, however, the man in the coffee shop really did look bit like the actor in question. When I try to remember the situation I actually see John Malkovich himself in the role of his lookalike.
This was all too much for my silly friend so he decided to turn around, attract the attention of the Malkotype (“Excuse me, sir”) and inform him articulately that:
“My friend and I were just your startling resemblance to the actor, John Malkovich.”
“And that your pastry looks suspiciously like a horse’s willy,” I whispered.
“And that your pastry looks suspiciously like a horse’s willy.”
How the guy responded to this purile double-whammy I have no recollection but the two of us spent the next few minutes laughing like idiots presumably before being distracted by something else; perhaps a barista vaguely resembling John Cusack or a sticky bun in the shape of a donkey’s bottom.
We really were a pair of morons. The bleakness of Wolverhampton truly brought out the worst in us.
Weeks passed. It was a Tuesday. We were to attend a seminar on Information Literacy: someone would come from the university library to demonstrate the ins and outs of how to search for books in the library catalogue etc. That person, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, was the very same man we had once likened to John Malkovich in a Costa coffee shop.
John Malkovich, it transpired, was the head of university library services. Knowing that I had interests becoming a librarian after graduation, we joked that our cruel Malkovich/Horse’s Willy routine would irrevocably mar any career I had in libraries.
Well, what goes around comes around. Six years later I live over three hundred miles away in the city of Glasgow and am invited by the University of Wolverhampton to attend a job interview for a very well paid and comfortable position in their library.
If Malkovich is on the panel, I am fucked.