"What are those?" asked one of the (very young) kids.
We swung round to look. They were pointing at a splendid array of nude girlie pinups.
While the team tore down the pics, I went to distract the parents. Pictures of talented offspringhad already come out, when one parent paused and said, "Hang on - I know you..."
My heart sank. I knew what was coming.
"Marlon Dingle!" I looked up from the restaurant table. A man's hand was outstretched, a nervous smile on his face. "It is you, isn't it?"
"What?" I said, spilling noodle. Lorraine and Paul had put down their chopsticks, and were watching as the man was joined by a jolly, blushing wife with a camera.
"Marlon! You're Marlon Dingle out of Emmerdale." The man boomed, proudly. Waiters were slowing down, and people were starting to notice.
"I'm afraid you must be mistaken..." I began.
"No, he isn't!" valiantly put in the wife, readying the camera. "As soon as I saw you I knew it was you. We've been watching you for ages."
I stared sadly down at the dirty table in front of me, the pile of crumbs, and the plum sauce on my shirt.
"No, really, really, I'm not...."
There was no stopping them. "Come on mate, I know it's your evening off, and I don't want to disturb you, but we're fans. Great fans. We'd love a signature or something."
"I can't, I really can't-"
A pause. A nasty one. "Don't you have any pictures on you?" He asked.
"No. I'm really not Marlon Dingle." I pulled a card out of my wallet with my name on it.
The man barely glanced at it. "Of course you aren't Marlon, really. That's just your screen name. But we'd love you to sign something. Then you can get on with your evening."
Lorraine kicked me under the table.
"But, I'm sorry. I'm really not the actor who plays Marlon Dingle."
"Well then," said the wife in a steely tone, "If he says he's not, dear, then I'm sure he's not. Let's not disturb his important evening."
She turned and walked away. The man went to follow, but leaned over and said in a way that was both disappointed and matey, "It's alright, mate. You enjoy your evening. Marlon."
"It is! Ooh!" cried delighted stage mother. "Of course, I don't watch it, but I'd recognise you anywhere."
There were delighted gasps from the assembled stage mums. Except for one who was slightly hard of hearing. "What's that?"
"He says he's not Marlon Dingle, love."
"He's Marlon? How lovely!" came the reply.
A firm hand shot out, squeezing my cheeks. "You're a little chubbier, mind."
At that point, thank god, a harrassed Assistant Director turned up to give me a bollocking for nicking his child actors.
In case you were wondering:
So there you are. Not only will I never be famous in my own right, but I look like a z-list 'sleb. Only fatter.