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From Hitler to Hepburn: A Winter Week With the Flu

It’s been an emotional week for Matt Roper - slayed by the flu and under siege from an unopened tax return on the doormat, he found himself sobbing when Breakfast at Tiffany’s Holly Golightly kicks the cat out of the taxi and into the New York rain at the end of the film

It’s been a terrible few days here in New York City which began with a nasty wave of the flu, followed by a huge flood in the bathroom, then finally ended in a tsunami of mail that turned out to be tax return documents requiring my immediate attention.

About three hours before the gig last Sunday I started to feel dreadful. Suddenly I came under attack from a huge headache with a congestion in the face (translation: full of snot) but thinking of the fee I was to earn a few hours later (translation: nominal stipend) I found myself downing two anti-cold tablets (translation: nasty but useful pills available over-the-counter at almost any deli/bodega/supermarket) to get me through the show. Why? Because I’m a bloody trouper (translation: I need the cash).

By Monday morning I could barely lift my body out of bed.

Just plenty of soup, sleep and a few films.

But the one thing that has been dancing around my mind since the start of this bout of illness is how I could endure three hours of The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler without feeling even an ounce of emotion, yet the way Holly Golightly – the incredible Audrey Hepburn – treats her cat towards the end of Breakfast at Tiffany’s had the tears rolling down this puffy, snot-filled, flu-ridden face of mine.

I understand how and why the Führer rose to power but what I don’t understand is why Audrey Hepburn kicks her cat out of the taxi door and onto the street into a nasty rainstorm on her way to the airport. People say they find it such a charming film but I didn’t find it charming at all. I think there’s a dark and cruel current running right the way through its godforsaken story. And the coldness with which she ejects that cat from the back seat of the car before casually lighting a cigarette and telling the driver “let’s go!” had me thinking that Audrey Hepburn would have been perfectly at home addressing the Nuremberg rally.

You know what that is? It’s the sign of a good actor.

What isn’t the sign of a good actor is the flatmate who swears it wasn’t her who left the taps running in the bathroom, while rushing around trying to find towels and becoming increasingly red in the face about it. But why deny it? Accidents happen. My flatmate is not living in Germany, 1936 and we are not trying to survive life under a fascist regime. Yet.

The old cliché about life in this city is that you never really get to know your neighbours. Perhaps the established cliché these days should be that you never really get to know your flatmates. But one way of getting to know your neighbours at least is by sending water down to them via their ceiling.

You can’t write this stuff. Who needs fiction when you live a life like this?

Yes. The flu is a horrible thing, the way it knocks your body and your brain about. It has even managed to kill people this season and all of this makes me realise that we should never take our health for granted. Especially in this country where people’s laptops have better insurance than they do.

As for the tax returns, the envelopes remain unopened and  safely out of sight in the second drawer down until I’m back on my feet and ready to deal with them.

But isn’t government-related mail a strange thing? I can almost hear it crying out for attention as I sit here writing and if I was half the person Audrey Hepburn is at the end of Breakfast at Tiffany’s I’d be kicking it right out of the flat and onto the street in the pouring rain.

 

Matt Roper is a British comedian based in New York City. His relationship with Lush goes back to 2011 when he appeared before the muddy festival-goers of Lushfest, returning the following year to curate the line-up of the comedy stage. As he travels around the world, he shares his musings with us here in a series of writings - a sifting of thought from a restless but always seeking imagination.

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I understand how and why the Führer rose to power but what I don’t understand is why Audrey Hepburn kicks her cat out of the taxi door and onto the street into a rainstorm on her way to the airport

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