As soon as she opened her mouth I recognised that I disliked her. I knew it wasn't fair. She was taking the hit for someone I had met half a world away, and had only had to be moderately objectionable to trip the switch and have my full-watt annoyance blaze away at her. Whatever she said was overlayed with the other girl's grating, nasal voice. Any dissonance in tone or subject sounded like a radio caught between two stations and just served to irritate me further. In response I turned up my pleasant smile a few notches. I don't think she was fooled.
Like Cambridge, I find New York a town full of ghosts. Most days I pull in a sharp intake of breath on unfamiliar street corners where I think I spot a familiar face. The winter makes it worse - people wrapped up in scarves and hats could be whoever you half-want them to be. The backdrop too, plays its part. It's hard to put on your London blinkers when you're walking through a film set every day, hopping on those so-familiar silver subway trains and stepping in the shadows of sky-scrapers.
Back at my old college I see the ghosts of undergraduates past in the open faces and mannered gestures of the fresh batch of students. Here there is a new randomness to the ways my eyes assign characters in a crowd.
Yesterday I saw Matt Lucas stepping out of a car in Queens. He looked to be going for take-out. Walking past I muttered "What are the scores, George Dawes?" but he was busy fumbling for change in his pocket. I didn't turn to check it was him. Even comedians like their privacy.